Will You Still Love Me
“I was so good at pretending
Just like an actor on the stage
But in the end, nobody knew me
Only the roles that I portrayed.”
- God Knows I Tried, RAY BOLTZ
* * * *
“Forgive these words I'm yet to speak
I feel so ashamed
Right now you seem so far away
So much confusion clouds my mind
And I don't know which path to take.”
- Devotion, HURTS
* * * *
“She says her love for me could never die
But that'd change if she ever found out about you and I.”
- Run To You, BRYAN ADAMS
He didn't remember the walk from the front door to the kitchen, only that he was suddenly seated at the table. Was he dreaming? Had he really come here...spoken the words that could never be taken back?
I'm gay. How could two such tiny words wield the power to destroy a man? Bring his whole world crashing down around him? This is a good thing. Admitting you're a sinner is the first step to redemption.
So why didn't it feel like a good thing? Shouldn't he feel relieved that now, finally, he could get help? That he had someone to help him through this? Why did everything feel wrong?
The polished wood table was cool beneath his palms as his hands lay limp, flat against the surface. A blank stare lingered in his eyes, his head hung down. His face felt numb beneath the warm tears dripping down. Why had he come here? What would happen when Rebecca and her mom came home?
Noble's head began to shake slowly. “I – I shouldn't have come here.” he whispered, his throat closing. His palms pressed against the cool table top as he started to push himself to his feet. “I...I need to go.”
“No.” Mason grabbed his arm, gently but with enough firmness to draw him back into his chair. “No, Noble. You need to be right here, son. With people who love you.”
His head shook more as new tears ran free. “They won't...love me...once they know.”
“They will.” Mason assured. When Noble lifted his eyes and met the man's gaze, there were things behind his eyes that Noble didn't know how to interpret. An understanding that hadn't been present before. But just what did he understand now? Had he put the pieces together and somehow figured out that there was more to his and Jonah's relationship than met the eye?
There's no relationship. There's no...nothing. Jonah is gone and he isn't coming back. And the sooner you realize that that's a good thing, the better off you'll be.
Noble's head lowered again and his hands raised up slowly and covered his face, a rush of sobs pushing through him. Mason touched his shoulder, assuring him Rebecca and Colleen would still love him. Let him think you're crying about them. Don't let him know the truth. No one needs to know.
When a car pulled up out front, Noble stiffened, his heart catching, sticking, then racing wildly. A sudden nausea welled up so fast he barely made it to the bathroom before vomiting up what little he had in his stomach. His hand reached back blindly as he hovered over the toilet, and shut the door.
God, I don't want to do this...I can't...please make it rewind...I don't want them to know...I don't want anyone to know...
His arm curled around his pinching gut and he began to dry heave until it felt his stomach had turned inside out, and a blinding pain stabbed the center of his brain.
Just let me die...what does it matter...no one will want me now.
He sank lower, his forehead pressing against the toilet seat, eyes clamped tight as hot tears pushed through, streaking his flushed face.
Jonah don't even want me anymore.
Why did that truth hurt so much more than all the rest?
Anxiety twisted Mason's intestines like a thin, red hot wire. He had hoped they wouldn't come home just yet. Noble was falling apart and he would have preferred a little more one on one time with the boy, get him calmed down and realizing it was a good thing that he took that step and told someone.
Mason was still putting the puzzle together, but enough pieces were in place that he could see what picture was forming.
Jonah...dammit, son...why did you have to choose now to lose your courage and run away? Get your ass back here and help fix this mess I know you had a hand in creating.
“Mason? Hon, what's wrong?” Colleen's concerned voice pushed through his thoughts. He realized he was just standing there with a tight, no doubt blank, look on his face.
Placing her purse on the counter, Rebecca glanced around. “Is Noble here?” she asked. “His car is out front.” Even now, she retrained a trace remnant of yesterday's anger. That was the last thing Noble needed right now.
Would you look after him? His son's request – that seemed more of a plea – suddenly took on a whole new feel and meaning.
“He's...in the bathroom.” Puking his guts out because he's so scared to tell you the truth. Mason had to wonder just what that said about their relationship. How had the boy hid it so well? Mason's own son was gay, for crying out loud – shouldn't he have seen some signs? But there had been none. Noble had played his part so well.
But not so well that Jonah had missed it. You knew right from the start, didn't you, son?
Some of the nausea that had assaulted Noble was beginning to permeate Mason's gut. God, please don't let this erupt into chaos.
“We need to talk.” Mason's voice strained. He rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. “All of us.”
“What's wrong?” Colleen was instantly alarmed. “Talk about what?”
Mason's eyes darted back and forth between his wife and daughter – why did he feel he was suddenly facing off the enemy and about to enter a battlefield? “Noble.” he said quietly, tight. “We need to talk about Noble.”
“What about Noble?” Rebecca frowned, looking from Mason to her mom, then back to Mason. “Is it about yesterday?”
Oh Rebecca, you're about the get the shock of your life. Mason shook his head slowly. “No, hon.”
Uncertainty pinched the young woman's brow. “Then what?”
“Sweetheart,” Mason started slowly, his gut tightening. “This won't be easy for you to hear. But I need you to try and understand, and put aside your-”
“Is he calling off the wedding?” Rebecca interjected, fear and uncertainty in her worried eyes. “Is that what it is, dad?” Tears shimmered.
“No, Becca.” Mason assured. But was that true? Where would Noble go from here? Did it depend on Rebecca's reaction? Or deep down...did Noble want something else...someone else? “Please sit down. And I'll-”
“I'll tell her.” Mason hadn't heard Noble enter the kitchen. The young man stood in the doorway, face flushed, eyes red, wet, body tense. The look in his eyes was akin to – I don't give a fuck anymore, I just want this over with. It unnerved Mason, resonating a sense of defeat. The boy was expecting to be rejected...and if it went that way – what would his next course of action be?
“Noble.” Mason said softly. “I can...if you want me to.”
“Tell me what?” Rebecca asked. “Noble, what's going on?”
“No.” Noble said thickly, addressing Mason, ignoring Rebecca's question. “It shouldn't have to fall on you. I...have to...” He was shaking and seemed about to break.
Mason walked over and touched his back. “Sit down, son.” he said low. “Before you fall down.” Noble nodded slowly and followed Mason to the table then dropped into the chair he'd been sitting in earlier. Mason looked at the two women and motioned to the other empty chairs. “Please, sit down.”
His wife and daughter complied, glancing at one another uneasily. Colleen asked slowly, “Mason, what is this about?”
Mason's lips tightened into a thin line as he sat next to Noble and squeezed the boy's wrist, wanting desperately to comfort him, take away his fears...but the young man was inconsolable.
“Noble...” Mason murmured. “Go ahead...it's okay, son. We love you. You don't have to be afraid. It's going to be all right.” Please, God, let that be true.
That distant look crept into Noble's eyes, woven through with pain and loss. Yesterday, Mason hadn't quite understood it. Today...it made more sense. He released the boy's wrist and gripped his hand. Noble's fingers tightened around his hand instantly, squeezing desperately. The wall of tears rose up slowly in the young man's eyes but he didn't blink, just stared at the table...but it wasn't the table he was seeing. Mason was certain of that.
What happened yesterday, Noble? What happened between you and my son?
“Noble?” Rebecca was suddenly holding Noble's other hand, but Mason noticed he didn't grab onto her as he had to Mason. In fact, his hand lay limp in her grasp. “Baby, what's wrong? You're scaring me. Just tell us. It'll be okay. There's nothing we can't get through.”
Do you really mean that, sis? Mason wondered anxiously. Noble finally focused and turned his gaze to her, the same question in his eyes.
“Rebecca...” Her name slipped off his lips in a thick, broken whisper as the wall of tears broke. “I'm so sorry.” A depth of guilt resonated in his eyes that seemed unprecedented. What all did he have to be sorry for?
“Sorry for what, Noble?” Rebecca asked, squeezing his hand, but a guarded look crept into her eyes. Though she was clearly steeling herself for the worst – she had no idea just what she was about to be faced with.
Rebecca's soft brown eyes gazed at him with concern, but behind the concern were the questions; What did you do? Are you calling off the wedding? Were you unfaithful to me? Is there someone else?
It filled Noble with despair to realize how many of those questions could be answered with a resounding Yes...and an I Don't Know for the second. Her hand was clutching his and he wondered why he wasn't gripping her in return, and yet he was clinging to Mason. But underneath it all, didn't he know? Mason was a safe haven, he knew this from the start. His own son was gay...he wouldn't turn on Noble. But Rebecca...and possibly Colleen...there was no certainty there, no sense of safety.
His lips parted and throat worked, but no sound emerged, no words formulated into a confession. Just say it and get it over with. Mason squeezed his hand tighter, reassuring him everything would be okay. But it wouldn't. Nothing in his life had ever been okay. Never.
Except for that moment with Jonah. Everything had been so crisp...clear...peaceful. Perfect.
His eyelids stuttered as he fought to shove away the memory. That perfect day...like a dream you awake from and long to return to but know that even if you close your eyes again, you can never find your way back. And all that is left is a sweet memory of what might have been...another time, another place.
An ache so fierce it stole his breath tightened Noble's chest and his eyes closed, praying his hurting heart would just stop and end his torment. A warm rush of tears ran down his cheeks as his eyes remained closed. He couldn't look her in the eyes as his shameful confession slipped, broken, off his lips. “I'm gay.”
The rejection was instant, though it didn't materialize in words but in her hand withdrawing from his own. Head ducked, he turned away, eyes refusing to open – and see the horror and disgust reflecting on her face.
Mason squeezed his hand tighter and Noble was certain, if it weren't for him, he might well be racing down a disastrous course. The man was his only life line and he clung to him, terrified if he let go just now...he would lose himself and never find his way back.
The hard plastic was slick and smooth beneath his caressing thumb. Jonah held the phone, staring at it as if it were an alien thing. He's just a phone call away. Open it and call him. He wasn't running away from 'you', he was just...running. It wasn't his fault, it's all he knows to do. Go after him, dammit!
Jonah's face pinched and he swallowed hard, nearly choking on the knot in his throat. He had been right before – Noble would always run from him. In the end, he would always leave. And as much as it hurt right now to be away from him...it would hurt so much more to hold him again and have to let go once more.
“Fuck.” he choked and stood up off the edge of the bed, stuffing the phone in his pocket. He needed to get out of the house. If he just sat there thinking about Noble, he would lose his mind.
Thirty minutes later, he was in town, seated at a small round table outside a quaint little coffee shop. He sipped a latté and watched people walk past, not really seeing them so much as merely being aware of them. Why had he thought being in the midst of others would distract his mind? It was a train on a single track and try as he might, he couldn't derail it.
Dammit, Noble...what the hell am I supposed to do about you? I can't help you if you don't want to be helped.
Jonah set aside the coffee and rubbed his eyes with his fingertips then slid his fingers through his hair, resting his head in his hand. God, I don't know what to do. Please just...give me a clue. A hint. Anything to show me you're even involved in any of this.
When a shadow fell over him, blocking the warmth of the sun, Jonah raised his head. His brow pinched as he stared at the man who had stopped at his table.
“Jonah?” the man said slowly. “Jonah Harrington?”
Straightening in his chair, a funny prickle sizzled Jonah's scalp. Was this eerie coincidence...or somehow God's quick response to his prayer? He cleared his throat and stretched out his hand as the man clasp it. “Keith Bradley.” Jonah smiled. “It's been a long time.”
Okay, God...I'm still confused. But I'll have a little blind faith and trust that you're going somewhere with this.
Just say it. What are you waiting for?
Rebecca had left her chair and paced the kitchen slowly, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. Noble merely caught glimpses of her as she passed through his line of vision, he didn't look at her, didn't seek out what she was feeling. He knew what she was feeling – whether she spoke it aloud or not.
“I don't...” She started, standing somewhere behind him. Confusion thickened her voice. “I don't...understand. Why would you...” Her voice cracked with emotion. “Why would you think that, Noble? We've been together almost two years...it isn't...I don't understand why you're saying this. You're not...gay.”
The word was thrust from her lips as if vile to the taste. Noble's chest squeezed tighter and tighter until it became an effort to breathe. He sucked in a breath and it hitched and caught in his throat. Mason still clutched his hand. Had he not – Noble would have fled this scene unfolding around him.
“Rebecca...” Mason spoke low, sincerely. “You need to listen-”
“No.” Rebecca's voice sharpened a fraction. “This is...crazy. We're engaged to be married. Is this something you just...that you just forgot to mention? Did it simply slip your mind? What? Tell me, Noble, because if this is...true...and you've been aware of it...how could you just not...tell me?”
Noble rubbed his hand over his mouth and let it linger as he stared blankly at the table, tears thick and shimmering. “I thought I was...better...” he shook his head slowly, and whispered, “Healed. I didn't believe I was...gay...anymore.” Tears slipped from his eyes one by one, sliding slowly down his face. “I didn't think...it could hurt us.” A sob lodged in his throat. “I thought I was okay.”
Silence settled over the kitchen, pressing down on Noble's mind. Colleen hadn't yet said a word, but he could feel her eyes on him.
“And now...you're not okay?” Rebecca said, breaking the silence. “Why, Noble? Why – all of the sudden – are you not okay anymore?”
“Rebecca.” Mason interjected. “Noble doesn't need your third degree right now. He needs our love and understanding, and support.”
“Your father's right.” Colleen finally offered softly.
Without looking at her, Noble could sense Rebecca shaking her head. Tears tightened her voice. “And I don't have the right to know why my boyfriend of two years never thought to inform me he was queer?”
Noble's head slowly lowered into his hand, shakes gripping his body.
“Rebecca.” Mason said sternly. “That's enough. Noble came to us for help and support. All your time together you've been telling him you love him – so fucking show it.” His words silenced Rebecca as surely as a slap in the face. Colleen stared at him, shocked, but said nothing. “Not five minutes ago you sat there and told him there was nothing you couldn't get through. What was that – bullshit?”
“But, dad–” Rebecca started, her voice strained.
“No.” Mason said. “No buts, Rebecca. It isn't love if you only love someone when life is running smooth. Now sit down and we will talk about this like rational adults.”
“What brings you here?” Jonah asked the man after inviting him to sit.
“I just started a contracting job up here.” he said, then shrugged. “I didn't know you lived in this area.”
Jonah nodded. “Yeah, for awhile now. I opened an art gallery.”
“That's right.” Keith smiled, then reached inside his jacket and took out his phone when the ring tone went off. “I remember you were an artist.” He opened his phone. “Pretty good, as I recall.”
Jonah shrugged. “I'm all right.” he grinned as the man held up an apologetic finger and pressed the phone to his ear.
“Hey, what's up-” He frowned, face tightening, then lowered the phone suddenly and looked at it. “Shit.”
“The damn battery just died.” Keith groaned. “That was my client calling. Dammit.” He glanced towards the coffee shop. “They should have a pay phone in there, right? I really need to call him back.”
He stood up when Jonah tugged out his phone and slid it across the table. “Use mine.”
Jonah shrugged and flipped his hand absently. “Yeah. Of course.”
“Thanks.” Keith sat down again, picked up the phone and opened it. He glanced at Jonah. “Did you know it was turned off?”
Nodding, Jonah murmured, “Yeah. Trying to avoid calls from my dad.” He chuckled and shook his head when Keith raised an eyebrow in question. “Long story.”
“I see.” he nodded. “Been there.” He pressed the power button on the cell.
I doubt you've been here, Jonah thought, his stomach knotting slightly at the sudden rush of too recent memories.
“Oh hey, you have a text.” Keith said. He looked up. “Do you want to read it before I use the phone?”
Jonah shook his head. “I'll check it later.” He nodded. “Go ahead. Call your client, I'm sure it's much more important.”
“All right.” He dialed the number and got his client back on the phone.
Leaning back in his chair, Jonah gazed off down street, tuning out the man's conversation as his own thoughts crowded back in on him. The image of Noble standing at the bedroom door, about to walk out, rose up behind his eyes. I wish we had made love. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and stared at the ground. So do I, baby. He resisted the tightness in his throat and sting in his eyes. So do I.
He was barely aware when Keith finally closed the phone. Jonah straightened up. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” Keith nodded and smiled. He set the phone on the table, gazing at it absently. “You know...I saw Rebecca and her mom in the city yesterday.”
The note of emotion caused a slight strain to the man's voice. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” he smiled, his eyes distant. “She...looks great. Life seems to be treating her well.” He nodded slowly and murmured, “I'm glad.” He lifted his eyes to Jonah. “She mentioned she was getting married.”
Jonah's gut pinched tighter. “Yeah. She is.”
“Is he a good guy?” Keith asked sincerely. “The one she's marrying?”
Tears struggled to well up, but Jonah forced them down and cleared his throat. “Yeah, he's...one of the best.” The best.
“That's good.” Keith lowered his eyes again. “She deserves the best.”
Jonah bit his lips between his teeth and simply nodded. She doesn't deserve Noble, he thought with a note of bitterness, recalling too vividly her words to him yesterday. Her attitude towards him would carry over to Noble, and in fact were already affecting the man. Jonah recognized the look in Keith's eyes...it was the same one he saw in his own when he ached so bad to be with Noble.
Please, man – take her! She still loves you, I know she does. Just get her away from Noble, she isn't good for him.
The words rested on his tongue, but rather than speak them out – he swallowed them instead. It wasn't his place to throw Keith in the middle of it all. And who's to say the man wouldn't get hurt in the process? There was enough pain going around, he wasn't going to risk causing more.
Keith stood up. “I hate to take off so soon, but I got to be getting back.”
Nodding, Jonah reached up and shook his hand once more. “Well, it was good seeing you again.”
“Yeah, you too.” he hesitated then looked at Jonah. “Noble.” he said slowly and for a moment, Jonah thought he was hearing things.
“What?” His heart punched at the inside of his chest. God, just the sound of the man's name sent his heart into a frenzy.
“That's the name of Rebecca's fiance?” he said. “I think that's what she told me.”
“Oh...yeah.” Jonah murmured. “Yeah, that's his name.”
“I thought so. Anyway,” he nodded at the cell. “that text on your phone was from him.”
Raising his head slowly, Noble's hand lowered and rested on the table as Rebecca came back to her seat. From the corner of his eye he watched her, noticing how her hands remained close to the edge of the table, away from him. She didn't take his hand, didn't seem to want to touch him at all.
“Can I ask a rational question?” Rebecca asked thickly.
The pressure in Noble's chest increased. Mason nodded. “Yes.”
“In light of this...new information.” she looked at Noble, but he couldn't bring himself to meet her eyes. “What did Jonah's message really mean? Because I can't help but feel, now, that you lied to me.”
What did you expect? That she wouldn't put it together?
“Rebecca.” Mason said. “I don't think now is the time.”
“Then when, dad?” she asked tightly, tears cracking her voice. “What did he mean, Noble? What did he mean when he said you didn't do anything wrong?”
He didn't realize he was squeezing Mason's hand extra hard, until the man gripped him as fiercely. When he didn't answer, Rebecca stood up quick, raking her fingers through her hair as a sharp sob broke in her throat. “God.” she choked, anger and disgust mixing with her tears. “Did you...did you fuck him?”
Noble flinched hard and his head snapped up, hot tears streaking his face. “No.” he choked out. He wasn't lying...he wasn't! They hadn't...went that far. Not for lack of intention.
“Rebecca Linn!” Mason was on his feet instantly.
“Don't lie to me, Noble!” she cried. “Did you and Jonah fuck?”
Colleen was out of her chair as well. “Rebecca, that's enough!”
Shoving up out of his chair, Noble stepped back away from the table, legs weak, shaky. “I told you no!” he choked, sobs rushing up his throat, anger swelling. “But I fucking wish I had!”
He spun around quick and fled the kitchen, vision blurring as he headed for the front door. He heard Mason's tight, angry voice swell at Rebecca but Noble's fractured mind was no longer putting the words together. He just needed to get out...get away and...
Noble choked on a hard cry and swiped at his wet eyes. And just make it all go away...once and for all.
© Copyright 2017 AMS1971. All rights reserved.
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Book / Gay and Lesbian