by Vincent Berg
Copyright 2016, Vincent Berg
The doorbell continued ringing incessantly.
"I'm coming, I'm coming. Jeez! Give me a chance to put on a damn robe." Rudolf Morgan hurried down the stairs, his robe trailing behind him as he struggled to fasten it. His wife, Ruth, trailed behind.
Jacob stepped out of his room. "Be careful. You never know who it might be, especially at this hour."
"I know how to use a peep hole, Jacob." Rudolf finally got his robe fastened. The intrusion started with someone knocking and then pounding on the door. They switched to the door bell, starting with a single buzz, before progressing to a constant ringing.
Leaning in, Rudolf checked who it was, and opened the door.
"Thanks, Mr. Morgan. I appreciate it. I realize how late it is, but didn't know where else to turn. I was afraid you were asleep."
"No, you took care of that. What are you doing here at this time of night? Have you been drinking?"
"No, sir, but it's been a long night." Taylor stepped inside, glancing around. Seeing Jacob, he acknowledged him, but turned to his father. "Can I talk to the entire family? I've … I've got something to ask."
Ruth rushed down the stairs. "What happened to your face, Taylor? Were you in a fight?"
"It wasn't really a fight. Although I got hit, I didn't retaliate, so I took most of the damage."
"Let me get you some ice." She hurried from the room. "Jacob, get the medical kit."
Seeing everyone moving in different directions, Taylor patiently waited. When he closed and locked the door, Rudolf reconsidered him.
"Have a seat. Your shirt's torn and has … blood on it."
"No thanks, Mr. Morgan. The blood is from my own nose. I'm afraid if I sit, I'll mess up your couch. I can stand. I've been hurt worse during practice."
Ruth reentered the room, waving a bag of frozen peas. "Here, put this against your eye. We'll take a look at your nose and that eye when Jacob returns."
"What happened, Taylor? Should we call the police?"
"No, I'd rather not cause trouble. It was a … onetime thing, and I don't intend giving them a second chance at it."
"Who are you talking about? Who did you get into a fight with?"
"I've got the medical kit," Jacob said, reentering the living room. "You're dripping blood on your shirt. Take it off. Let's see if there's any other damage."
Taylor waved, trying to slow everyone down. "There's plenty of time for that later. I'm not injured. It was just a single lucky blow, but I've … got something to ask." When they surrounded him, waiting, he continued. "Can I spend a few … days with you. My parents and I had a bit of a … disagreement."
"Your father hit you?" Jacob asked, rushing forward to hold him. Taylor backed up.
"Don't. I'm not hurt, but I might start bleeding again if you squeeze me wrong."
The hell with that, I'll take my chances," Jacob said, wrapping his arms around him.
"If your parents hit you, we should definitely call the police!" Ruth insisted.
Taylor sighed, settling into Jacob's hug. "No, as I said, there was a single punch thrown in the heat of anger. This wasn't abuse, we had a … scene." Taking a deep breath, he started again. "They had an unexpected guest while I was out. It seems an old boyfriend stopped by, asking about me. My parents never had a clue about my sexuality until then. The stupid kid was so nervous he didn't pick up on my family's reactions. He explained how we knew each other. When I arrived home, he was long gone, and the whole family lit into me."
Jacob pulled back, considering him. "I thought you'd never dated before?"
"No, I said I was still a virgin. We met during a Boy Scout retreat years ago. All we did was make out, but … it was his first homosexual encounter and apparently he never forgot it. He saw my name in the sports section and came to see if we could build a new romance." Taylor sighed, shrugging. "Seems he's like you—he couldn't imagine anyone remaining in the closet. My folks weren't exactly pleased."
Jacob stepped back, unbuttoning his shirt. "We'll work through the details later. Let's get you out of these and into some new clothes."
Taylor let him continue, but focused on his father. "What do you say, sir, can I stay? It's late and I'd rather not tell anyone else what happened. I … doubt my folks will change their mind. They were pretty adamant."
"Of course you can stay," Jacob assured him.
Taylor wouldn't take his word for it, searching Ruth and Rudolf's faces.
"You don't even need to ask," he said. "Though we might need to rearrange a few things."
"Nonsense," Ruth insisted, carefully dabbing his face with a damp washcloth. "You can stay in Jacob's room. We'll pick up a separate bed tomorrow."
Shrugging, Rudolf changed the topic. "We can pick up your school supplies tomorrow. You'll have to decide how much of your stuff you want to move out. Your parents will likely change their minds, given enough time."
Taylor, holding the bag of peas to his eye as Jacob removed his shirt, shook his head. "That's unlikely. They're … rabidly homophobic. Unless I renounce my homosexuality, they're unlikely to allow me back in the house. This," he said, indicated his facial injuries "were my father's frustrations. Once he punched me he backed off and I got out of there."
"I don't know," Ruth said. "It looks pretty serious. I'm guessing you'll have a shiner in the morning."
Jacob stopped in front of him, as if defending Taylor. "I agree. You need to give them leeway. Whatever their views now, it's always a shock the first time someone in your family comes out. They need time to adjust."
Taylor raised an eyebrow. "How long was it before your parents accepted that you were gay?"
Ruth laughed. "Honey, we knew long before he ever said anything. When he finally did, we'd already read all the literature on how to respond."
"When you're as flamboyant as I am, there's little doubt," Jacob said, laughing himself. "But that doesn't matter. There's still an adjustment period. My parents' was just more gradual than usual. They had more time to adapt than yours. Your parents just need time. There's no telling how much they'll need, but it's familiarity which has won us so much acceptance. As more people discover the gays in their own family, they eventually come around. Once they do, it becomes personal for them. My parents attend the LGBT parades with me, even while I'm wearing those flamboyant outfits you dislike so much. Hell, I've met the parents and siblings of men who died from AIDS. Ten, twenty years later, they still attend those events. Once converted, their commitment is real. It stands the test of time. Give them a chance, they'll come around."
"You don't understand my family," Taylor said, shaking his head. "My father is … a real macho dude. He pushed me to excel in football because he thought it would make me a man. If a gay character appears on a TV show, he'll storm out of the room. Hell, once he threw a beer at the TV. We had to buy a replacement. He never explicitly said so, but I've always believed he assaulted a couple gay men when he was younger." He shook his head. "He won't get over this. What's more, neither will the rest of my family. My mother isn't as adamant, but she's also not as functional. They both drink, but my mom's an alcoholic. This is likely to crank up her addiction several notches, so she's unlikely to change her mind any time soon. And don't mention my younger sister, Caitlyn. She's as bad as my father."
"Wait, Caitlyn's your sister?" Jacob asked. "The cheerleader? Isn't that likely to screw up your 'remaining in the closet' plan?"
Taylor held his hands up and shrugged. "I don't know. I'm assuming she'll be too embarrassed to admit it, but it depends how angry she is about it."
While he'd been speaking, Jacob peeled his shirt off. Seeing the stains on his undershirt, he motioned for Taylor to remove it, so he did. Ruth cleaned the wounds as best she could, while Jacob applied the disinfectant and bandaged his cuts.
"He's right," Jacob said. "None of the wounds are bad. They look worse than they are." He leaned into his face, examining it as well. "The nose will be sore, but it should be okay. He'll need to sleep on his back for a while. His eye will be black and blue by morning. You should consider what you'll tell everyone."
"I still think you should file an assault charge," Ruth said, speaking as a lawyer. When Taylor reacted, she continued. "It gives you more latitude and provides background if he ever…, escalates his responses in the future."
"I won't testify against my family."
"People with a criminal history, whether documented or not, don't always change over time. If he assaulted people in the past, he may attack either you or Jacob when he learns about the two of you. Filing a police report now might help protect him in the future. Once he discovers you're living here, he'll put two and two together. If there's no history of abuse, neither of you can get an order of protection. If he's arrested, he'll walk without a prior history."
Taylor shook his head. "My father is … a complicated individual. When he was young, he did like many kids do and experimented with a neighbor. His mother caught him and paraded him around her Brazilian neighborhood, telling everyone she knew about what a 'sissy boy' he was. It deeply affected him, and he's been trying to prove her wrong ever since. That's why he's always pushed me to excel in sports, so it would reflect on his own masculinity. He keeps insisting my sister and I 'man up'. Hell, he tells my sister 'not to be such a pussy'!"
"Do you think he might actually be gay himself?" Jacob asked.
"I don't know, but it doesn't really matter, since he'd never admit it."
"That still doesn't answer whether he's dangerous," Ruth insisted, "or whether he might be abusing others in your family."
Taylor sighed, his shoulders falling as he revealed his family's closely-guarded secrets. "No, the person who told us about his attacking gays was my grandmother, who took it as a great moral accomplishment. However, every time she related the experience, my father would recoil and wince. He's never been terribly imposing. I think they did it once, but the next time he tried, they didn't just stand there and take it. Instead, they gave him a beat down. As a result, my father's taken it as a reflection of his own lack of masculinity, internalizing it. Now, he's terrified of exchanging blows. Instead, he focuses on emotional abuse, where he continually belittles us for not being tough enough."
"Again," Ruth reminded him, "that's a hallmark of behavior that frequently escalates over time."
"Except it never worked. While he's always pushed me to excel at football, I actually love the game because it gave me an out. By spending hours practicing, or in physical training the rest of the year, I can escape my father's influence. My sister's as bad as he is, but she's already emotionally checked out. She's planning to move out as soon as she turns eighteen, though I'm not sure she's revealed that to her current boyfriend yet.
"In my case, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. He's unlikely to change, but I've had enough. I'm not going to stand for it anymore."
"Okay," Ruth conceded. "You've convinced me. As long as you don't think your sister or mother is being victimized, I'm okay with your not reporting this." She walked to a corner cabinet. "Just in case, let me get some photos before Jacob applies any more bandages. It's essential in case he ever retaliates or escalates in any way. You'll have documentation of prior abuse if you or your family requires legal protection."
"Have you eaten?" Ruth asked as she took a few shots.
"No. We got into it as soon as I arrived home. We fought for several hours. I'd storm off to another room, trying to get away, and he'd sit and stew for a while. He'd continue drinking, then come storming after me again, banging on my door. My mom never stopped drinking the entire night. She kept in the background, nursing her bottle of wine. She hardly said anything, looking like I'd broken her heart."
Jacob had Taylor strip off his pants, handing him a pair of his father's jeans to change into. "She'll probably get over it, but it'll take time. You can't rush acceptance. I won't lie, it'll be rough. That's the advantage to coming out on your own. You have time to set the stage. It's still a shock, but they need time to adjust. If they can invest that time before you drop the news in their lap, it helps."
"Thanks. I'll remember that the next time this happens!"
Ruth stuck her head in the door, holding the phone. "I don't think cooking a meal makes sense this late at night. What kind of pizza do you want?"
Taylor laughed. "Man, I'm starving. Order two large all meat pizzas. You might need an extra one for yourselves." As the others smiled, relaxing, he reached for his pants, now sitting in a laundry basket beside him. "Don't worry. I've got money to cover it."
Rudolf marched forward, stopping in front of Taylor. "Young man, as long as you're staying with us, you're officially our son. That means we pay for your meals. If you want to help pay for your keep, you do like Jacob does. You do odd jobs around the house, and keep your room and nose clean. Understand?"
Taylor laughed. "Since you put it like that, what can I say? Thanks for taking me in, Pops."
Rudolf snorted. "I think I prefer 'Dad'. If you don't want two dads, then 'Papa Rudolf' works. Nobody calls me 'Pops'."
"You got it, Dad." Taylor stepped forward, still not wearing any pants, and enveloped Jacob's father in a bear hug. "Thanks for everything."
"Hey, watch it," Jacob objected. "If you start crying, you'll spoil the bandages."
To Be Continued ...
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