Son of a bitch. It felt like my heart clenched in my chest. I stood and hurried after Dave. I could only hope he’d give me the chance to fix what I’d done. Granted, it hadn’t been done intentionally, but I’d still hurt him. All the little looks over the last couple of days suddenly made sense. If I hadn’t been being so dense, I would have realized the problem sooner. I no longer cared what my mom had to say about me moving in with Dave. I wouldn’t have him, or anyone else, questioning how I felt about him.
“Dave, wait.” I caught him as he reached the living room and gripped his shoulder to turn him to face me. “You’re not my secret. If I’d had any clue of how it was making you feel, I’d have talked to my mom when she first called.” I swallowed hard. “Will you at least give me the chance to fix this? The only reason I haven’t talked to her is because I didn’t want to deal with her bullshit.”
“And you do now?” Dave looked doubtful. “You can’t do it just because I want you to. It has to be your choice.”
“I care more about you than I do about whatever she has to say. I’m not ashamed of what we have and I don’t care who knows.” I leaned in and brushed my lips against his. “I’m not him.” I whispered against his unresponsive mouth.
Something changed. Whether it was those final words or my assurances that I wasn’t ashamed of us, Dave wrapped his arms around me, pulled me close, and rested his forehead against mine. I slipped my arms around his waist and realized he was shaking. Minute trembles shook his frame and I felt even worse.
“Shit, Reece. I’m sorry.” Dave’s warm breath ghosted over my face. “I let my own insecurities get the better of me.”
“You’re only human.” I tipped my head back so I could see his face. “Are we okay?”
“Yeah, we’re fine.” Dave sighed. “You don’t need to talk to your mom for me. Do it when you’re ready.”
“No.” I shook my head. “It’s past time to get it over with. I meant everything I said.” I pecked his lips. “If she calls again tonight, I’ll answer it. If not, I’ll call her tomorrow.” I had no doubt she’d call again, it was just a question of when. I’d call right then, but I didn’t want Dave to think I was only doing it to appease him. I’d already decided at the store that I needed to deal with it, and knowing how Dave felt only cemented my decision.
“I don’t know about you, but I could use some couch time.”
“Sounds good.” We almost always watched television the same way. Both of us stretched out on the couch, wrapped up together. “Anything in particular you want to watch?”
“Not really.” He grinned. “Besides, how often do we actually pay attention to whatever we’re watching?”
“Good point.” I chuckled and led him over to the couch.
We didn’t bother putting a movie in. Dave flipped through the channels and settled on something, but I had no clue what it was. It wasn’t something I’d seen before. It didn’t matter much anyways, since I dozed off partway through. I was woken up by the sound of my phone ringing, again. This time I answered it, despite it showing it was my mom. Dave looked at me worriedly.
“It’ll be fine.” I turned my head and kissed his neck, sat up, and hit the accept button. “Hello, Mom.”
“Reece, where have you been?”
“I’ve been busy.” That should really bust her chops.
“What’s this I hear about you moving in with some guy named Dave? Don’t you think it would have been appropriate for you to inform your father and me yourself?”
“Probably.” I fought to keep my temper in check. “Though I don’t see why you care. You and Dad have made it clear how you feel about me.” Maybe antagonizing her wasn’t the best idea, but I was tired of her attitude.
“So it’s true.” More a statement than a question. “Leslie was right, you are dating that guy you brought to dinner.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.” I grit my teeth. “How many times do I have to say he was there as Josh’s guest. I didn’t even know Dave at the time. But yes, after you and the rest of the elders”–I smirked–“drove us out of the house, we did go to dinner, and we did start dating. Have I thanked you for that yet?”
I rolled my eyes as I heard her ranting. She was going so quickly I couldn’t even make out the words, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to. She finally wound down after what seemed to be an eternity.
“I just can’t believe this.”
“Believe what? That I’m gay or that I’ve moved in with my boyfriend?” It was probably both, but I’d give her a chance to deny it. I felt like I was poking the bear, but it needed to be said.
“You are not gay. We didn’t raise you to be gay.” She huffed into the phone as though she was entirely put out. “Do you have any idea what the rest of the family are saying about your father and me? Wanting to know what we did that made you this way so that they don’t make the same mistake.”
“Mom, I’m not going to argue this with you.” We’d gone over this a couple different times. The only difference was that now I had Dave in the picture.
“Your father asked me to tell you that, until you give up this notion that you’re gay and come to your senses, you’re not welcome in our home.” She paused as though waiting for something, but I didn’t have to wait long. “You’re aunts and uncles have also requested you stay away from their children. They don’t wish for you to corrupt them as you have been corrupted.”
I growled. I couldn’t help it and I was quickly losing control of my temper. “I have no wish to come to your home. I’m not sure it can even be called that. I’m better off where I am. What I have here with Dave is a home. Your place is just a house. And one I haven’t felt welcome in for a long time.” I felt Dave’s hand on my back and tried to relax into it. I’d forgotten he was right there, listening to my side of the conversation. Hell, he could probably hear most of my mom’s words as well. Then my mind focused on the second part of what she said. “As far as my cousins go, most of them are old enough to decide for themselves whether they want to be around me. They, at least, understand that being gay isn’t a sickness you can catch.”
“How dare you speak to me that way. Perhaps you should call me back when you can at least have a civilized conversation.” My mom seriously sounded like she was the one who should be offended.
I was beyond done. I knew if I stayed on the phone with her I would say something I’d later come to regret. “I’ve been trying to have a civilized conversation, but I’m beginning to think that’s impossible. Why don’t I do us both a favor. I won’t call you, and you can call me when you’ve decided to stop hating me for who I am. I’m happy with Dave, and while I know that doesn’t mean shit to you, it means everything to me. So call me when you can accept me and the man I love.” I didn’t wait for her to say anything else and hung up.
I’d essentially cut ties with my parents, or maybe it was the other way around, but I didn’t feel remorse. At least, not yet. Maybe it hadn’t fully sunk in yet, but I was somewhat proud of myself for standing up to her. Unfortunately, talking to my mom had mentally drained me. I’d known it would be bad, though it could have been much worse than it was.
“You okay?” Dave’s voice pushed me out of my funk and I lay back down in front of him. His arms instantly wrapped around me and pulled me against his chest.
“I think so.” It was weird. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to feel. I couldn’t say I felt remorse or—the other end of the spectrum–elation. Neither description seemed to fit. I think I was actually more numb than anything.
“I’m sorry.” Dave nuzzled my hair. “I shouldn’t have pushed you to talk to her.”
I shook my head and laced our fingers together on my stomach. “You didn’t push me.” Maybe it was time to confide I’d already made my decision before he talked to me. “After finding out she’d gone to the store looking for me, I knew I’d have to talk to her soon. Knowing how my avoiding her made you feel only cemented it for me.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really.” I twisted my head so I could look at him. “I know eventually we should, but for right now I’d rather just focus on us. Is that okay?” I needed to take some time to figure out how I felt about what had happened. Then maybe I’d know how to explain my feelings, or lack thereof, regarding my parents and the rest of the family.
I closed my eyes and relaxed against Dave. I wasn’t worried about my cousins. I wouldn’t put them in the middle of the falling out between me and everyone else. Well, they probably already were, but I wouldn’t do it intentionally. We were already hosting a barbecue for those who had helped us move, but they’d been told they could invite the rest of the cousins. Josh was supposed to let me know who all was coming.
A part of me had thought about waiting and doing it the same night of the next family dinner, but that would just come across as me being vindictive and I didn’t want that. Dave and I had decided to do it the weekend before, instead. Not only would it give me enough time to take off work, which was important since Dave had asked if he could invite his family, but it would give me a chance to actually enjoy the day.
“You’re quiet.” Dave tightened his arms around me.
“I know. Sorry, just thinking.” I turned in his arms so we were face to face. “Are you sure it’s a good idea for me to meet your parents?”
“If you’re not ready for that, I can call and ask them not to come to the barbecue.” Dave didn’t look happy about the prospect. “But, I can assure you that you have nothing to worry about with them. When I first came out to them, it took a little while for them to understand and come to terms with it. I have no doubt that they’ll like you. Not only because I’m happy, but because you’re you.”
“No, don’t call. I still have time to get used to the idea.” I knew how much it meant to him, I just needed his assurance that it wouldn’t be like with my family. Not that I thought he’d ever put me through something like that.
“It’ll go fine, and if you change your mind, just let me know.” Dave gave me a gentle kiss and then pulled back. “It’s been a rough day, maybe we should make it an early night and head up to bed.”
“That would require moving, right?”
“Then I’m happy right where I am.” To prove my point I cuddled in closer. “We can move later.”
“I’ll remind you of that when one of us ends up on the floor.” Dave chuckled. “And remember, we both have to work in the morning.”
“Spoilsport.” I stood and held out a hand to help him up. He started shutting off lights and I moved to the kitchen to do the same. Once everything was off and the doors were locked, I followed him to the bedroom. I stepped through the door and started stripping. “Do you mind if we don’t do anything tonight?” The day had taken its toll on me and I felt completely exhausted. I simply wanted to crawl into bed, curl up against Dave, and go to sleep.
“Reece, we don’t have to make love every night.” Dave pulled the covers down on the bed. “I’m not only with you for the sex. I’ll be happy just holding you so that we can both get some rest.”
I knew that, but it was nice to hear. I nodded and headed for the bathroom to take care of my nightly duties. Dave went in as I came out and I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over me. I was nearly asleep when Dave slipped in next to me and pulled me into his arms.
“Love you.” Dave kissed the top of my head and rubbed his hand over my back.
“Love you, too.” I was too tired to say anything else and started to doze off despite it really being too early for bed. I startled awake when I realized we hadn’t even eaten dinner, but I wasn’t hungry. Not to say I wouldn’t have gotten up to fix Dave something if he was, but so far he hadn’t said anything. His even breathing told me Dave was already asleep and I closed my eyes. We’d wake up when we got hungry.