All right. So this is a sappy story. It's not a "read this and get your rocks off" tale. It's corny, it's romantic, it's a love story. If you're allergic to any of those words, I'm sorry. This one's not for you.
This is a work of fiction. Please don't copy it or use any part of it without asking first.
Thank you to everybody who has e-mailed me about the story already. The prologue was kind of vague, purposely so, and I wasn't sure if anybody would like it. But the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Thanks!
This is the edited version of the chapter. I apologize to any of you who read the unedited copy. :)
With that said, I really hope you enjoy it.
And if you do, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six months earlier...
"I'm in a rut."
Ethan looked at me from across the table, his eyes looked like they were expecting me to say more. "Okay. And..." he asked when I didn't.
I looked over at my friend. "And... I'm in a rut. That's about the size of it."
He smiled. "You always were a man of many words."
I laughed. "I hate you."
"So you keep saying." He picked up his lunch and resumed eating. "Seriously though, what's the matter?"
"I don't know." I lied to him and shrugged. "That's kinda the problem." But it wasn't. I knew what the problem. I knew why I was in a rut. I just didn't know what to do about it.
He nodded as he chewed. "And this problem. It wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the fact that..." He looked around the restaurant. Deciding, I guess, that it wasn't the proper place to discuss what he wanted, he shook his head back and forth. "Well you know."
I laughed again. "Well you know?" I leaned in close. "I tell you that I'm gay and that's how you summarize it?"
He smiled. "Sorry. I'm still trying to process that little tidbit of information." He shook his head. "My gaydar has always been so good."
I gobbled down a few fries. "Apparently, you never discovered that lone Barbara Streisand CD in my collection."
Ethan shook his head back and forth, considering this new piece of knowledge. He smiled. "Babs is a tough call. She does have some male fans of the heterosexual affliction."
I smiled. "I'm glad that you have this all down to a science."
He nodded. "Oh I do. My mother knew about me the minute I started my extensive Cyndi Lauper memorabilia collection."
"No. Your mother knew the minute that you opened your mouth."
There was a lull in the conversation. Ethan continued to eat his lunch while I played with mine and mulled over the question that I'd been trying to ask him for four days. It was a simple question really. And I didn't know exactly why I'd been stressing over it. We shared everything anyway. There were no secrets between us. Still, it was hard to say and I didn't exactly know how to phrase it either.
He ran his fingers through his hair. "Is there something you wanted to say?"
I shook my head. "Um... no. Why?"
He smiled. "Just seems like there's something on the tip of your tongue." He shrugged when I didn't reply. "Hey... you wanna see a move or some..."
"How'd you meet guys?"
It came out in one big jumble of a sentence. I'd agonized over how to ask him that question for three days. It certainly didn't work as I'd planned. He sat there smiling just a little too long. I couldn't read his face like I normally could. That made the silence even more deafening.
"It's kind of cool, you know," he said, finally breaking it.
I rolled my eyes. "What is kind of cool?"
He finished up his sandwich. "I don't know. I just think it's kinda cool that we have this bond now." He crumbled the wrapper and put his head down. "We were close before but..." he looked up at me, "... I guess I just feel like this'll make us closer."
I mentally thanked Ethan for making my embarrassing outburst into something not so embarrassing at all.
I smiled at him. "Thanks."
He gave me a wink. "No prob." And then his smile turned wicked. "This is gonna be so much fun."
"Finding you a man." He threw his hands up in the air, as if I should have automatically known what he was referring to.
"Oh no." I shook my head vigorously. "I think not."
He pouted. "Why?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. I just... I don't necessarily think I'm ready for dating yet."
He nodded. "Then why the little Rain Man spasm before?"
He stuck his tongue out at me. "Says you." He looked down at his watch. "Shit. I didn't realize it was so late. You mind if we head out? I have a few errands to run before I go home."
I nodded. "That's fine." I reached for the check. "This one's on me."
Ethan smiled. "Well I'm certainly not gonna argue. But why?"
I smiled. "For being you."
I expected some witty comeback or some sarcastic retort. I didn't get any of those things though. For one of the very few times in my life, I was able to make Ethan McCormack speechless. I smiled in victory.
He laughed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough of that smug smile." His face turned serious. "The way I figure it, you were always there for me when I needed you. And lord knows, that was a hell of a lot when we were younger." He shrugged. "This is just me repaying the favor." He sighed, dramatically. "All right, we've so reached the gay quota for the day. Let's get out of here."
Before I could get up though, he stopped me.
The wicked smile was back. "And don't think that you've gotten out of that other conversation either. We will have it again."
"You have the gayest taste in music."
I tried to turn the radio off but Ethan slapped my hand away.
"Come on. When Cher comes on the radio, every homo has to listen. It's like the law."
I laughed. "I'm learning so much today."
He smiled and turned up the volume. I hummed along to "Save Up All Your Tears" as he belted it out in his typical diva fashion.
I'm sure it would have seemed entirely cliched to anyone else, but in that moment I couldn't have felt closer to him. He was indeed the picture of a flaming gay man. He didn't care that he wore his clothes way too tight. He couldn't have given two shits that his voice sounded as if he never hit puberty. He was unabashedly feminine. He loved Cher and Annie Lennox and Barbra Streisand and yes... Cyndi Lauper.
But that was all just stuff to me. Very minute details. I never saw Ethan as anything but my rock. And I knew that I was the same for him. I needed to be there for him when he first came out. When the taunts at school wouldn't stop. When he cried himself to sleep every single night. When his father left because he didn't want to have a son who was a fag.
And I knew now that the one person I could count on more than anyone else was him. I wouldn't have to go through the same things that he did. And that was a good thing. Because I was nowhere near as strong as Ethan. But I knew that the times ahead might not exactly be champagne and roses. It comforted me to know that I had somebody in my corner.
"Earth to Theodore."
The sudden silence and Ethan's voice broke me from my reverie.
He laughed. "You were in a whole other world there. Anything good going on?"
I nodded. "Just thinkin'."
"The good kind or the bad kind?"
I smiled. "Little bit of both."
He smiled over at me and there was silence again. The good kind. The kind of comfortable silence that you can only have with somebody that close. Close enough that there didn't need to be anything said. Things were just... implied.
"Wanna know why I'm a rut?" I asked, out of the blue.
"You're lonely." Ethan stated simply.
"I'm..." I stopped as I comprehended his last comment. I wanted to challenge his statement. I wanted to produce some witty, sarcastic reply. But he was right. He'd just hit the nail right on the head. Instead of disputing what he'd just stated, I nodded my head in agreement.
"You've got the lonesomes," he said with a smile.
I laughed. "Making up new words again?"
He shook his head. "My grandmother taught me it." He smiled. "When you have the lonesomes, you're not exactly lonely. You have family. You have friends. Fabulous friends I might add." He puffed out his chest.
"Incredibly egotistical ones too." I added.
He laughed. "Yeah, okay. That too." He turned serious again. "When you have the lonesomes, you have everything you need." He stopped the car in front of my house and turned sideways to look at me. He pointed a finger at me. "Except for love."
When I didn't respond, he continued.
"You just want somebody, right?" His eyes danced as he talked and I realized that my friend was speaking from experience. "You've finally come to terms with you." He held his hands up in the air. "That's no longer an issue," he stated more than asked. "But now... now you need someone." He looked at me expectantly. "Right?"
I sighed. Ethan had just summed up my life at the moment in three sentences.
"It came out of nowhere, right?"
I looked up at him. "Yeah. Like I didn't even see it coming."
He nodded. "I know. I felt the same way."
"Does it get better?"
He smiled. "I can personally guarantee you that it does." He looked at me intently. "You want some advice?"
"Do I?" I asked, wearily.
He laughed. "Have I ever led you astray?"
I nodded. "You really want me to answer that?"
Ethan smiled. "Okay, okay. True." He reached for my hand and sobered up. "You are a fantastic guy. You're my best friend and I love you like the brother that I never had." He sighed. "You were there for me when practically nobody was. And I'll be there for you til the end."
I smiled. "Thanks. It means a lot."
He placed his hand on my shoulder. "I wish I could tell you that the first guy you meet will be the love of your life." He smiled. "And who knows? Maybe he will." He pointed his finger at me again. "There's gonna be dicks and assholes." He smiled. "And not the ones that you fantasize about either. The literal kind."
"But they'll be part of your... I don't know... bigger picture. And they'll help relieve the lonesomes a little bit too." Ethan smiled the smile that he only used when he talked about one person. "And then one day, someone great, somebody absolutely wonderful is gonna come along and just take your breath away. Somebody who will make you want to love more than to be loved." He shrugged his shoulders. "That day might come sooner rather than later. Let's hope it's the former rather than the latter." He laughed. "Alright. That is all of the advice you get out of me today. I should not be giving this knowledge away for free."
I laughed. "I never knew you were this insightful."
He winked at me. "It's the dumb blonde act I got goin' on. It definitely works to my advantage."
I smiled and reached over to give my friend a hug. I knew how much he tried to shy away from any kind of emotional talk like the one we'd just had. And I appreciated the fact that he'd made an exception for me.
I pinched his cheek. "Thanks Eth. I'm sure I'll regret telling you this at some point..." I smiled, "... but I'm glad you sat next to me in Mrs. Jenkins' class back in Kindergarten"
"Ditto." He laughed his trademark laugh. A cascade of bells and giggles. "Alright, go and lift some weights or something. One of us needs a shot of testosterone."
I hugged him again and opened the car door. Walking up the steps to the house, I heard the window roll down.
"Hey Teddy?" Ethan called out.
I turned around.
He smiled at me again, for what seemed like the nine hundredth time that day. "Love will come to ya. I promise. It might seem all cliched and sappy but who would have guessed that me and Petey would still be going strong after two years? Certainly not me. You did though."
I smiled. "You deserve it."
He nodded. "Thanks." He flashed me a toothy smile. "Know what bud?"
"You do too."
And with that, Ethan, always one to know a dramatic exit if there ever was one, drove off.
Two hours later, his words still echoed in my mind.
I lay on my bed, trying to concentrate on the Economics work that I needed to get done but couldn't. Other things were floating through my head at the moment. Lots of things, truth be told.
Ethan was right.
I really wasn't lonely. And truth be told, I didn't have reason to be in a rut either. I had a great deal more than so many others. I was lucky enough to have both of my parents at home, still madly in love with each other. Sometimes sickeningly so. I had Ethan. I had friends. In short, I did have a good life. A life which seemed to included everything that I needed.
Just not love.
I was loved, of course. I knew that. And I loved back. But it wasn't that kind of love I was wanting at that moment.
The whole being gay thing took me by no surprise. I'd known it deep down inside for most of my adult life. Even a little before then actually. It was the admitting it to myself part that took the longest time.
And that wasn't even too hard either. I still hadn't come out to anyone, with the exception of Ethan. And I certainly was not naive enough to think that when I did, it would be like some cheesy after school special. But that wasn't even an issue to me. It wasn't even a factor in the equation at the moment.
I simply wanted somebody to be with. I wanted to be the half of a whole. I wanted to have somebody who I could in the middle of the day just to call. There wouldn't need to be a reason. Someone who I could call just to tell them that I loved them.
I sighed deeply and slammed my head into my pillow. I wasn't sure when it had exactly become this complicated.
There was a knock on the door. Suddenly welcoming the distraction from my increasingly dramatic life, I got up to open it.
I smiled at my mother as she stood there with a pile of folded clothes.
"You do know you don't have to knock? This is your house."
She smiled at me. "And you do know that if I didn't knock and you happened to be doing something incredibly embarrassing in here, we'd both regret it?"
I feigned disgust. "I'm going to pretend like I didn't hear that."
She laughed and placed the clean laundry on my bed.
She looked at me through squinted eyes. "You're in an awfully good mood today."
"Is that bad."
"No. It's just a difference from the past week or two."
I nodded. "Me and Eth had a long talk today. Talked about some stuff. Made me feel better about things I guess."
My mother smiled. "I'm glad." She looked at me intently. "You're so..." she laughed again, "... I was gonna say grown up." She ruffled my hair, the one practice that never seemed to stop, regardless of my age. Her face softened. "You're my son no matter what. You know that, right?"
I swallowed the lump in my throat, worrying what was coming next.
She smiled again. "You come talk to me when you're ready. Me and your father." She kissed my cheek. "When you're..." she emphasized the word, "... ready."
She walked away, aware I'm sure, of the stunned expression on my face.
"That's all she said?"
"Well what else more did she need to say? Gee Teddy, we know you're a homo and when you're ready, come and talk to us about it."
"I don't understand why you're so upset about this?" Ethan's voice was soft.
I sighed into the phone. "I don't either."
"This is a good thing bud."
"I know. I just... I don't know. I've become a whiner, haven't I?"
Ethan laughed. "No, you haven't. You've become a twenty one year old guy who's recently come to terms with his sexuality and doesn't know from Adam how to deal with that." I could hear the smile in his voice. "That's why I'm here."
I smiled, somewhat relieved by his words. "So how go things by you?"
He groaned. "Let's not even go there. I have a ten page paper due in two days that I haven't even started yet."
"Procrastination was always your best subject."
"Yep. And sarcasm your's."
I laughed. "If it makes you feel any better, I've been doing the same Calculus problem for about a half hour now."
Ethan laughed heartily. "That does kinda make me feel a little bit better." I heard a noise in the background. "Hang on a second."
I knew by his squeal of delight that Pete had probably stopped by. And a few seconds later, I was proven correct.
I heard Pete's rich, baritone voice through the phone.
"Peter." I said, completing our standard greeting.
"My man here tells me we have some need for celebrating tonight."
I laughed. "Did he now? Did he also tell you that he's got a paper due in two days that he hasn't even started yet."
"You traitor." I heard Ethan's voice in the background.
"Shhh." Pete laughed, I'm sure at some dramatic, theatrical face Ethan made. "I'll tell you what Ted. We'll take you out tonight and celebrate. And in return, you help my little damsel in distress here with his paper tomorrow."
"I'll help him with his paper but I think I might opt out of tonight. I'm not really in the mood."
"You deserve a night out Teddy. If not for anything but to get smashed. Alcohol always makes our problems seem slighter than they actually are." Pete laughed. "And Ethan says that if you don't come, he'll stand outside your window and serenade you."
I laughed. "Well... at the sake of having my best friend get shot by one of my neighbors, I'll go."
"Ouch..." I heard come from Pete before Ethan was back on the line.
"Good. I knew you'd agree."
I nodded. "And I'm already starting to regret it."
Ethan's voice turned serious. "Would I ever take you somewhere you didn't wanna be?"
I grudgingly admitted he was right.
"Alright. Enough chit chat. Go get ready. We'll be there in an hour."
I hung up the phone and walked over to the full length mirror hanging on the back of the bedroom door. I surveyed the guy looking back at me. I'd never really considered myself handsome or good looking. I knew I wasn't Quasimodo. But at the same time, I never really thought of my looks as anything more than average.
I walked over to my closet and started rifling through.
Maybe with a little help from Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, I could muster up a little more than average tonight.
I heard an obnoxiously loud whistle as soon as I opened the door and walked down the stairs.
"Damn." Ethan drawled from the passenger's seat of Pete's car. "You look hot tonight Teddy boy."
I glared at him as I hopped into the backseat.
"What?" he asked, feigning innocence. "I only speak the truth." He looked over at his boyfriend for affirmation.
Pete nodded his head in agreement. "I'd be lying if I disagreed with him."
I groaned. "I thought you were on my side."
He laughed. "Gotta call it like I see it."
I nodded. "Okay, okay. I'm hot." I said, sarcastically. "I practically had to butter myself to get into these jeans."
Ethan laughed. "The tighter the better."
I didn't know about that. The outfit that I'd rustled up was something that I bought while I was with Ethan on one of his many outlet excursions. I tried the jeans on because he insisted and when he saw just how obscenely tight they were, he insisted that I buy them or he'd do it for me.
And so here I was, in Pete's car, on our way to a gay bar, my first trip to a gay bar, in clothes that probably would have fit me correctly when I was in the sixth grade. To say that I was a bit uncomfortable would have been an understatement.
Ethan turned around and looked at me. "If you really don't wanna do this, we don't have to."
I appreciated his concern. And I almost took him up on his offer.
I shook my head. "It can't possibly be as bad as I imagine." I smiled. "Plus, much as I hate to admit this, I do feel kinda hot with these jeans on."
Pete laughed. "Spoken like a true narcissist. You'll be just fine tonight."
And after a little too long, rather uneventful ride that consisted of me getting more nervous by the minute and Ethan and Pete continually ribbing me, we finally did arrive at our destination.
Pete turned the ignition off. "We ready gentlemen?"
I guess I was. I still wasn't quite sure. I followed them into the dimly lit bar.
It definitely was not what I'd imagined at all. Though, so many images flew through my mind on the way there, I guess I wasn't sure if I was relieved or disappointed.
Ethan nudged me. "Not so bad, right?"
I nodded and smiled.
It really wasn't bad at all. It was pretty crowded. Not overly so though. There were guys of different ages. There was a long bar with stools that lined the left side and tables were scattered all over. A make shift dance floor took up the right corner, though for now it just housed a group of guys chatting.
It certainly was not the nightmare that I had imagined and after taking the surroundings in, I realized that it was definitely a place that I could get used to.
"You boys go get a table and I'll get us some drinks."
Ethan grabbed his arm. "You want me to drive tonight?"
Pete smiled and pecked him on the lips. "Nah." He rubbed his hands up and down Ethan's sides. "I like gettin' you tipsy." He kissed him again and walked over to the bar.
I smiled at the affection that they showed each other.
"You are okay with this right?" Ethan asked me.
He smiled. "I was afraid that it might be too much." He shook his head. "This has been a rather eventful day for you."
I laughed. "That it has been." I looked around. "This is place is nice though. It's not what I expected."
He nodded. "Yeah I know. Wasn't what I expected it would be when I first came here either." He motioned around. "It's pretty low key. I figured low key would work for you tonight."
"I appreciate that."
Pete walked back over, skillfully holding three drinks and with an incredibly good looking guy in tow.
"Look who I found?"
Ethan embraced the hunk, who was, as my mother would have put it, a tall glass of water. "Jon. How are you?"
Jon, who I continued to stare at, smiled. "Same shit, different day." He looked over at me. "Jonathan Delacroix," he said, offering me his hand.
I recovered from my gawking and shook it.
"This is my bestest pal in the whole wide world, Teddy Markum." Ethan said, introducing us.
Jonathan smiled. "Haven't seen you around here before."
I nodded. "I'm kinda new to the whole scene."
He smiled again. His smile was absolutely electric. "Well, you make sure Ethan and Peter take care of you. And have a good time." He put his hand on my shoulder. "Now if you boys will excuse me, the drinks won't pour themselves tonight."
I laughed, I was afraid a little too enthusiastically. Though nobody seemed to notice. "Nice to meet you."
He nodded. "Likewise." He threw the three of us a wink and an incredibly toothy smile before he turned around and walked back over to the bar.
Ethan looked over at me. "Wanna get a seat?"
"Umm... yeah." I said, a little absent mindedly.
He laughed softly. "Uh-uh buddy boy. He's off limits."
I rolled my eyes. "Come again?"
Ethan turned to Pete. "Wanna go get a table for us babe?"
Pete nodded like the dutiful, and whipped I might add, boyfriend that he was.
I looked over at Ethan who was eyeing me curiously. "Relax yourself. I just thought he was good looking. That's all."
My friend nodded. "Okay. Just seemed like you were a bit... interested."
I smiled, trying to shrug the absolutely preposterous, and unfortunately absolutely true, accusation off. "We haven't even been here ten minutes. You think I've already fallen in love. Give me some credit."
Ethan nodded and continued to stare at me. "Okay." He paused and sighed. "He's damaged goods bud. He's a fine man. And a hot one to boot. I'll give you that. But he's also a train wreck. And the last thing that you need right now is THAT kind of drama in your life."
I nodded, absorbing my friend's warning words. I suppose that they should have discouraged me from... from what I guess I didn't know yet. But they didn't really discourage me from anything. Intrigued me more than anything.
Ethan smiled. "Let's go have some fun." He turned and walked towards the table Pete had gotten us.
I started to follow and then, out of curiosity, turned around towards the bar, trying to get another glimpse of the now mysterious Jonathan Delacroix.
And when I did, much to my surprise... he was staring right back at me.
Okay... so that was a busy little chapter.
Again, I just want to thank everybody who's written me already to tell me they're enjoying the story. I hope that after this chapter, you still feel the same way. Let me know.
There'll be more to come.