Can't Be Where You Are
“Stay here tonight, stay here tonight
'Cause when you're around me
Everything's right, don't go
Oh, don't leave me alone
I need you, I need you.”
- Stay Here Tonight, ENRIQUE IGLESIAS
* * * *
“Wish I could love you out loud
But I'll just keep it to myself
Wish I could hear how it sounds
To be with you and no one else
Don't make a sound
Don't tell a soul
Don't tell them anything
And I won't let you go.”
- Love You Out Loud, MEAT LOAF
Keep it together. Don't panic. She doesn't really know anything.
Fury burned in Rebecca's eyes and Jonah had to wonder if it was all really about his voice mail message...or something more. What had Noble told her? She obviously would have confronted him first. But he wouldn't have told her the truth, not about this. The man could barely admit it to himself.
And Jonah sure as hell wasn't going to confess and out Noble. He was dealing with enough stress.
What is she talking about, son? His dad's question hung heavy in the air and Jonah was wishing now the older man wasn't here. His ability to look beyond the surface was unnerving, and he was already watching Jonah like a hawk – for whatever reason – and Jonah strongly suspected the man had already been putting the pieces together – slowly, and perhaps disjointedly at times, but still fitting them in. And Jonah was certain his dad had figured out that Noble was involved, somehow. Though surely he didn't suspect the truth of the matter. No one had cause to think Noble was gay.
Jonah looked at his dad and could feel his own anxiety and fear resonating forth. He had to come up with a viable explanation, and fast. He wasn't prepared for this, hadn't expected Rebecca to listen to Noble's voice messages. I love you...please come home. God, the words had almost slipped forth into the message. He had almost called Noble baby. He'd never been so thankful for having not said something. For Noble's sake.
“I don't...” Jonah started the lie but it stuck in his throat.
“Tell me, Jonah!” Rebecca raged. “What did you do to Noble!”
“Nothing!” The word exploded out of him before he even knew his patience was gone. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“We had a disagreement.” Jonah forced himself to calm. That wasn't exactly a lie. “That's all. It was just a misunderstanding. I just called to let him know...I wasn't mad.”
Rebecca stared at him, disbelief in her eyes. “That wasn't what you said in your message.”
“I knew he would understand what I meant.” Again, not really a lie. “And what the hell business is it of yours anyway? Why were you even listening to his messages? Isn't that an invasion of his privacy?”
Jonah could feel his dad watching them, silently taking in every word, every look, body language. And Jonah knew that his body language, if nothing else, was betraying his inner tension.
“Noble and I are engaged.” Rebecca said tightly. “There should be nothing on his phone that he didn't want me to hear.”
“And I'm sure you're up front and honest with him about everything.” The sarcasm was low key but still present.
“I am!” Rebecca began to seethe. “Noble was fine until you showed up. We were fine!”
Fine? Noble might have been tucked away in his little illusion, but the guy was definitely not fine.
“Why did you even come here?” she cried. “No one wants you around! You ruin everything! Just stay away from Noble, you fucking faggot!”
“Rebecca Linn!” Mason cut in fast, sharp, his father tone surfacing in an instant. “Don't ever let me hear you speak to your brother that way again. That is uncalled for, and I won't stand for it.”
Rebecca trembled, jaw set. Tears swam in her enraged eyes. “He's not my brother.” she spoke with distaste, addressing Mason but staring at Jonah. “You ruin everything!” she accused again.
This wasn't about the message. It wasn't even about Noble, not really. And Jonah had had about enough. “Stop fucking blaming me for Keith!” He threw the words in her face so sudden it caused her to step back. Jonah thrust a finger at her, his face tight. “That's what this is really about, isn't it, Rebecca? That wasn't my fucking fault – it was yours! And you damn well know it! Get off my fucking back and take some responsibility for once in your fucking life!”
“What re you talking about?” Rebecca returned furiously. “This has nothing to do with that!”
“Bullshit!” Jonah shouted. “It has everything to do with it! Admit it, Becca! That's why you really hate me, isn't it? Not because I'm a fag – but because of Keith! And if you're still this pissed off and upset about it – maybe it's because you're still in love with the guy!” He stepped back and raked his fingers through his hair, chest heaving. “Have you been up front and honest with Noble about that?”
Rebecca's tears broke, her face twisting in anger. “You don't know what you're talking about!” she cried. “Just go to hell!” She left the house in a rush. Seconds later, her car sped away.
His hands clamping his hips, Jonah's breath puffed out of him, his face hard as he stared at the open door. He slowly shifted his gaze to his dad. During his little tiff with Rebecca, the man had obviously been quickly re-fitting the puzzle pieces because now he was staring at Jonah with a deeper understanding behind his eyes.
“Are you...” Mason started the question then let it go, still holding Jonah's eyes firmly.
Jonah just looked at him silently, then turned away, eyes stinging, heart aching, knowing his silence was answer enough to his dad's question – Are you in love with Noble?
You didn't have to leave...you didn't do anything wrong...please call me.
Noble sat on the edge of the bed, phone in hand, throat tight, aching. Guilt shoved at him for yelling at Rebecca, and basically kicking her out. He should go look for her, apologize, beg her forgiveness. But he just sat there instead, phone on speaker as he replayed Jonah's message repeatedly.
The ache in Jonah's voice clawed Noble's heart, digging in, gripping, holding on. His head ducked, chin hitting his chest as he squeezed his eyes shut against the burning sting. The events of the day rushed through his head and for a moment he was back at Jonah's, on the sofa, Jonah's arms around him, his lips on Noble's ear as he asked him to go back home with him that weekend.
For a bare, brief moment, Noble let himself imagine such was a possibility for him. Alone with Jonah all weekend, away from everyone and everything that tried to rip his mind apart. Just the softness of Jonah's bed, the warmth of his body, the satisfaction of his touch. Just...peace.
Noble cried softly and closed the phone, shaking his head. “No.” he ground out tightly. “Forget about him. You have to stop thinking about it. You have to...tell them. With their help, you can get better. You can stop...feeling this way. Stop...wanting him.”
His stomach suddenly twisted at the thought of not wanting Jonah anymore, not feeling all of this.
You don't want it to stop. It feels good to feel this way about him. So...satisfying, like nothing you've ever felt before.
“No.” Noble whimpered and hung his head, clutching the back of his neck with both hands. “I want to get better. I want to be healed. I do!”
So why, deep in the far reaches of his mind, was he searching for an excuse to give Rebecca as to why might be gone for the weekend?
The young man stood with his back to Mason, head hung down, body gripped with tension. One hand clamped his hip, the other was on his face, fingers pressing into his eyes.
“Son...we should talk about this.” Mason said quietly, his nerves wound out tight, stretched to the limit. He didn't blame Jonah for this. One couldn't help who they loved. But this was a crazy mess if he ever saw one. And he had to wonder...what did Jonah's message really mean? Because he was fairly certain that what the man told Rebecca wasn't exactly the truth.
“No.” Jonah whispered, audible tears thickening his voice. “We should just leave it alone. Don't worry – Rebecca's precious wedding is safe and sound.” He cleared his throat and walked towards the stairs. “But God knows, she doesn't deserve him.”
The man's personal anguish permeated his words, his tone. “Jonah.” Mason stepped forward. “Son, don't walk away from me, please.” Jonah hesitated but didn't turn around. “Talk to me.”
Silence settled heavy as Jonah just stood unmoving. When he spoke, Mason's heart squeezed at the thickness of tears in his son's voice. “I can't.” he whispered. “Not about this.”
“You can talk to me about anything, Jonah.” Mason insisted softly, then ventured cautiously. “Have you...told Noble how you feel?”
A short, humorless laugh escaped Jonah. “Why would I?”
It had been so long since Jonah had let himself love someone, why did it finally have to happen like this? Where the only option was his heart breaking again.
“I, uh...” Jonah cleared his throat. “I don't think there's any reason for me to wait till this weekend to go back home.” His breath shuddered. “Or to come back here.”
“Rebecca's right.” he said thickly. “No one wants me here.”
“Thanks, dad.” he whispered. “But majority rules. Rebecca, Colleen...Noble.” He faltered on Noble's name. “They'll all be better off if I'm not here. And so will you.”
Mason moved forward, his heart aching. “Son, that isn't true. I always want you around.”
“Well, I've learned that what someone wants...and what's good for them, aren't always the same thing.” He hung his head and pressed his fingers to his eyes again. “I know that the way Becca and her mom feel about me causes you stress. And if I'm gone...the stress will leave with me. It isn't as if I'm welcome at the wedding.” He shook his head. “I wouldn't want to be there anyway.”
“Son,” Mason gripped his arm gently and stepped around in front of him. “You don't have to go.”
Jonah's face pinch and he covered his eyes with his hand, his voice squeezing. “I can't do this.” His breath staggered and he shook his head. “I didn't...” He swallowed thickly. “I didn't mean for this to happen.” His chin trembled. “I don't know how to make it stop, dad.” His hand slid away from his eyes and rubbed down his face, trailed by tears. “I have to leave, dad. I can't be here...around him.” He raked his hand through his hair, his eyes refilling as he stared blankly at the floor. “It hurts...too much.”
Pulling his son into his arms, Mason held the young man tight. “I'm sorry, son.” He whispered. “I wish there was something I could do.”
Jonah clung to him, struggling with his emotions. Mason closed his eyes as pain shot through his heart. There were only two other times in his life that Jonah held onto him this tight, this desperately. The day his mother died and the morning...
Mason forced that last memory from his mind; Jonah had never really recovered from that. His heart had never come back together enough for him to love someone else. Until now.
God, don't do this to him...he can't take it...and neither can I.
Drawing back, Jonah cleared his throat and wiped his face. “Would you...look after him? Just...let him know you're there for him if he needs to talk?” He licked his lips slowly, his breathing uneven. “I think...he's dealing with things that...he shouldn't be trying to deal with alone.”
Jonah shook his head slowly. “I don't know.” But the look in his eyes said he did. “I think he's...going through a rough time. He needs someone to be there for him...understand him...no matter what.”
A slight frown tightened Mason's brow; what was Jonah not telling him? He sensed a lot more going on than his son was admitting to. “Of course.” he murmured. “I love Noble like a son. I'll always be there for him to talk to.”
Jonah looked at him, eyes wet. “Make sure...he knows that. Don't...leave him to himself.”
“Jonah.” Mason said slowly, uncertainly. “What's going on with Noble? You said you didn't know, but...I think maybe you do. Just tell me, so I can be better equipped to help him.”
Shaking his head slowly, Jonah said thickly, “It isn't my place to say. Noble...has to be the one to tell you.”
Mason rubbed his mouth slowly. “Okay.” he said quietly. “And how do I get him to do that?”
“I don't know.” Jonah whispered.
“Did he tell you?”
Silence struck his son again. His eyes were distant, as if seeing something beyond Mason's viewpoint. “Not...in so many words.” Jonah murmured.
“I don't understand.” Mason admitted, and he didn't. In some ways, if felt as if Jonah were speaking in riddles.
“I can't say anything more.” He turned to the stairs. “I need to go pack.”
“Jonah.” Mason said anxiously. “Don't go, son. Please. Not like this.”
Tears welled in the young man's eyes. “There's nothing for me here, dad.” he swallowed thick, with effort. “I shouldn't have come here in the first place...everyone would have been better off.” He started up the stairs. “Rebecca's right...I ruin everything.”
“Son...” Mason started but Jonah ignored him and jogged up the stairs.
The pork chops had just been slid into the oven when the front door slammed – hard. Colleen frowned and peeled off her apron and walked towards the kitchen doorway when Rebecca suddenly appeared – face tight with anger, eyes wet with tears.
“Rebecca?” Colleen's eyes widened. “Honey, whats-”
“I hate him.” Rebecca choked harshly.
“What? Hate who?”
“Jonah!” she cried. “I don't ever want to see him again! Not ever!”
Colleen stared at her daughter, confused. “Jonah? I...thought you were over at Noble's.”
“I was.” Rebecca said tight. “He...told me to leave.”
“What?” Colleen was growing more confused by the moment. “Why would he do that?”
“I don't know!” Rebecca cried. “He just got mad at me over nothing, and told me to go.”
Colleen drew the young woman to the table and sat her down in a chair then sat before her. “That doesn't sound like Noble. What was he upset about?”
Shrugging, Rebecca picked at the table cloth, her face twisted tight. “I don't know. I just asked him about a voice mail message from Jonah and he got all...evasive about it, and wouldn't tell me what it meant. And when I said something about Jonah, he...” she hugged herself and fresh tears rose up. “He told me to...shut up and to leave, to...get out of his sight.” She shook her head. “He screamed at me to get out.” The tears rushed down her cheeks.
Noble did that? He was always so gentle, and soft spoken, it was hard to imagine him even yelling – much less yelling at Rebecca. “Why is Jonah leaving messages on Noble's phone?”Colleen wondered. “They've barely spoken two words to each other since they were introduced.”
Rebecca shrugged. “I don't know.”
“Why...are you angry at Jonah?” Colleen asked.
“Because,” Rebecca's anger flared up once more. “I think Jonah did something, or told Noble something today when he went out there. So I went out to ask Jonah about the message he left. And he yelled at me too. Said I hated him because of...because of Keith.” She clenched her jaw, more tears flowing. “He had no right to bring that up. He only did it to hurt me, said it wasn't his fault what happened – when it damn well was!”
“Rebecca.” Colleen scolded lightly. “Calm down, honey.”
“He said I was still in love with Keith!” she cried. “Just because I was still upset about everything that happened back then. Why shouldn't I still be upset?” She stood up quick. “He ruined everything with Keith – and now he's ruining things with Noble too!” she hugged her stomach, crying, rage contorting her face. “He's doing it on purpose! He doesn't want me to be happy! He hates me!”
Colleen stood and hugged her daughter. “Rebecca, Jonah doesn't hate you.” she assured. “And how is he ruining things with Noble?”
“I don't know.” Rebecca choked. “All I know is Noble was fine until Jonah showed up.” She drew back away from her mother and wiped her eyes. “Maybe he's telling Noble...horrible things about me.”
“Oh honey.” Colleen said. “I don't think Jonah would do that.”
“I do.” Rebecca admitted, suddenly vehement. “How can you trust someone who would embrace that kind of...lifestyle? And after everything he said to me today...” She sniffed and wiped her eyes again. “Even dad yelled at me.”
“He was there.” Rebecca said. “He heard everything, but he yelled at me. Not Jonah. He didn't say a damn thing to Jonah. As if everything Jonah said was perfectly fine!”
Colleen couldn't remember a single incident since she'd married Mason that he had out and out yelled at Rebecca. Spoke sternly, yes, when it was required, but never had he yelled at her. Was this a first – or was Rebecca blowing it all out of proportion?
“Well, I'll talk to your father when he gets home.” Colleen said quietly.
“Why bother?” Bitterness clogged her daughter's voice. “He'll just stick up for Jonah. He always does. How can he think he's so damn perfect when he screws other men?”
“Rebecca Linn.” Colleen berated. “Watch your mouth.”
“It's true.” she choked. “It's sick. They're all sick. They should all just be rounded up and locked away-”
“Noble...” Colleen's eyes darted past her daughter to the young man suddenly standing in the doorway.
“What?” Rebecca turned quick. Noble just stared at her, a look in his eyes that Colleen had no interpretation for.
“I'm sorry.” Noble murmured, his voice so tight it mangled his words. “Obviously I came at a bad time.”
Rebecca looked at him with a storm of emotions roiling in her eyes. “Why are you here at all?” she asked tightly. “If not to apologize...then you can just go.”
“Fine.” Noble bit sharply and turned away. Colleen hurried forward and grabbed his arm.
“No. Just wait.” She looked from Noble to Rebecca. “What is going on?”
The tension in the air hit Mason the moment he stepped through the door. Then he heard it – Rebecca's raised voice.
“Ask him!” she nearly yelled. “He started it when he told me to get out of his apartment.”
Frowning, Mason went quickly to the kitchen to find Noble and Rebecca about to come to blows, it seemed, with Colleen playing referee.
His wife appeared deeply confused as she asked Noble, “Hon, what is wrong? Why did you tell Rebecca to leave?”
Noble's face tightened briefly as a distant look crept into his eyes; strangely reminiscent of the look that had seeped into Jonah's eyes not so long ago. When he focused on Rebecca again, the tightness was gone, replaced by what looked to Mason as surrender. “I don't know.” Noble murmured. He suddenly seemed tired, weary. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you.” A barely detectable dullness entered his tone when he added, “Please forgive me.”
The three didn't notice Mason until he stepped deeper into the kitchen. His gaze shifted between Rebecca and Noble then settled on Colleen as he asked slowly, “What's going on?”
Colleen shook her head, confusion on her face. “I'm not entirely sure.”
Anger flared in Rebecca's eyes when she looked at Mason. Without a word, she stalked away, hurrying down the hall. The loud slamming of a door reverberated back to the kitchen. Noble flinched and just stared at the floor, a myriad of emotions tumbling behind his eyes.
“Mason?” Colleen asked quietly, uncertainly. “Did you...yell at Rebecca,..when you were out at Jonah's?”
At the mention of Jonah, Noble snapped to attention and suddenly his eyes were sharp and focused on Mason. Holding Noble's stare, Mason answered low, “No, I didn't yell at her.” His attention shifted to Colleen. “But I did scold her for talking to Jonah the way she did. It was very disrespectful.” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, his throat squeezing. “Now Jonah is talking about going back home, for good.”
“What?” A notable tremor shook Noble's voice, drawing Mason's full attention. “I – I thought he wasn't going back until this weekend.”
Mason gazed at him, curious of the young man's sudden, sharp attention. “You knew he was leaving?”
Shifting anxiously, Noble nodded. “He mentioned it today, but...he said he was coming back.”
A new tension was gripping the boy as all thoughts of his fight with Rebecca having seemingly fled. Mason replied, “He was. But now...after his argument with Rebecca...he thinks it's in everyone's best interest if he just goes away.” He studied Noble's face as he added, “Seems to think it's what everyone wants.”
Jonah is leaving...and not coming back?
The sudden burn was in Noble's eyes before he could fight it. His heartbeat spiked and he felt like he couldn't breathe. Did Jonah think he wanted him to leave?
It's better if he does leave. You don't need that temptation. You're not strong enough yet. Just let him go. Forget about him.
His face pinched as he was suddenly pissed at his own thoughts. Yet they were right...weren't they? Jonah was a temptation he didn't need constantly thrown in his path. So why was the news of him leaving like red hot daggers piercing his heart?
Mason was staring at him, with far too much intensity...as if searching for something behind Noble's eyes. Why had Rebecca gone out to Jonah's? What had been said? Jonah wouldn't out him, he was certain of it. But something had taken place, or been spoken, that seemed to have put Noble under Mason's radar.
He struggled to turn off his emotions, hide the fact that he was falling apart inside. He tried to tell himself that his emotions were just heightened because of his fight with Rebecca. But even before the thought completed itself, he knew it was a lie.
Get out of here before you lose it and have to explain yourself. Noble took a step back towards the doorway. You can't let Jonah leave.
It felt to Noble that he had an angel and a demon, one on each shoulder, whispering in his ears.
But which one was telling him to forget about Jonah and let him go...and which one was screaming at him to run to the man and beg him to stay?
He backed away. “Excuse me.” he whispered and slipped into the hall,walking quickly to the bathroom. As soon as he locked himself inside, the shakes hit him. He hugged himself tight and leaned against the door, head ducked, tears breaking.
God, please...help me...I can't feel this way...I can't.
His head raised and he stared at his reflection in the mirror across the small bathroom. He'd told himself he was going to tell them – almost – everything. But how could he now? With Jonah in their sights? They would see it instantly, he was sure they would.
“You can't go on like this.” he trembled, choking on a sob. “You have to do something.”
Call Jonah. Talk to him. At least tell him you don't want him to leave.
“No.” Noble shook his head slowly, warms tears coursing down his cheeks. “No, if you hear his voice...hear him tell you to come back...you will...you know you will.” He ducked his chin and shook his head harder. “You can't.” his teeth clenched, tears burning hotter. “You can't go back to him. You can't.”
Still, his phone tugged from his pocket and opened in his hand, tears dripping off his face and splattering the small keypad. The display blurred and swam as he searched out Jonah's name in his contact list. His hands shook as his thumb hovered over the call option. At the last second, he moved the option to text msg and pressed OK. He hesitated then quickly typed out the message before he lost his nerve.
The pounding of his heart echoed so loud he barely heard the knock on the door. He jumped away and nearly dropped the phone. His breath raced in and out of his lungs, his head growing light.
“Noble?” Mason called quietly from the other side. “Are you okay, son?”
Swallowing hard, Noble stared at the message waiting to be sent, his eyes pulling the words in, reading it over and over. His heart thumped harder as his thumb hovered over the send option.
'If you wait till this weekend, and promise to come back – I'll go with you.'
“Yeah.” Noble said thickly. “I'll...be out...in a minute.” His thumb trembled.
If you're going to do it, then do it, dammit. Stop fucking around and make a decision already.
A cold sweat laced his body.
Who is it going to be – Rebecca or Jonah?
He pressed send, and watched numbly as his words were propelled away from him, beyond his control or ability to pull them back.
A strange sense of peace washed over him at having finally made a concrete decision...though everything he had ever been taught, all his lessons learned, insisted it was the wrong decision and he would burn for it.
The small display screen went black as his thumb slid off the power button and he threw the cell phone into his suitcase. Jonah moved on autopilot as he closed the top of the suitcase and zipped it. In no time, his dad would start calling, trying to talk him out of leaving. He didn't need that right now. What he did need...was some fucking peace of mind. Staying or leaving, he knew he wouldn't get it, but at least in leaving...he wouldn't be so close to the source of his disjointed thoughts.
In a few days, maybe he would turn his phone back on and call his dad. Until then, he just wanted to be left alone. Only one person's contact was welcome – and there was no way in hell he would be trying to call.
Jonah lifted the suitcase off the bed, his mind numb, heart hurting so bad he wanted to scream in anguish. He'd lost Noble the moment he walked out the bedroom door.
It was all an illusion...you never really had him to begin with.
© Copyright 2017 AMS1971. All rights reserved.
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Book / Gay and Lesbian