Forsake Me Not
“There's a ship out, on the ocean
At the mercy of the sea
It's been tossed about, lost and broken
And God somehow you know that ship is me.”
- When You Come Back To Me Again, GARTH BROOKS
* * * *
“Trying hard not to hear, but they talk so loud
Their piercing sounds fill my ears
Try to fill me with doubt.”
- Bleeding Love, LEONA LEWIS
* * * *
“I'm not in love
It's just a phase that I'm going through
I try to tell myself all the time.”
- I'm Not In Love, ENRIQUE IGLESIAS
“Lord Jesus, we pray that you lay your hands on our brother, Noble, and deliver him from this affliction of the enemy. We stand in agreement and understand this persecution of his body, soul and mind is not of you, but a lie of Satan, the father of lies.”
Hands touched Noble from all sides as he stood in the center of the small group, head bowed, eyes closed, tears sliding down his face. Sincere compassion and concern flowed in on him from Rebecca, Colleen and Mason, as well as Pastor Rick and two of the deacons who had been called to join them – it was comforting, having others care enough to try and help him. He hadn't expected this.
It will happen this time. God will heal you. You were just too weak to fight this on your own. But you're not alone anymore. You can overcome.
He trembled and one of the hands squeezed his shoulder as if to assure him he would be okay. Keeping his head down, he slowly opened his eyes and saw it was Mason gripping his shoulder with added assurance. As if sensing Noble's gaze, the man opened his eyes. Noble didn't understand the anxiety behind his eyes. A shadow of fear as he looked back at Noble.
Mason had been the one who had said it was okay if he didn't want to do this. But he did...didn't he? This was his only option to be delivered from his affliction once and for all. Rebecca had insisted this is what he needed to do, that it was the answer. She had shown such concern, and hope that he could truly be healed. How could he let her down? After all he'd done...he owed it to her to do everything he could to get better. To fix their relationship.
He tried to ignore the heaviness in the pit of his stomach as he stared at Mason...seeing so much of Jonah in the man. No. You can't let your mind go there. Put him out of your head. You should have never gone near the man. Fresh tears welled up unexpectedly and he looked down, away from Mason, and closed his eyes again, focusing on the pastor's words. Just listen to him, let God's spirit flow into you and wash you clean. Let go of your sin and open yourself to God. He will heal you this time. He will.
Noble didn't realize he was shaking beneath his sobs until Rebecca and Colleen moved in closer and wrapped their arms around him. But a tremor rushed through him as all he could feel was Jonah's strong embrace – and the reality that he still craved it crashed in on him hard.
Just be strong. It'll go away. You'll stop wanting him...you don't love him.
His dad's car was gone, but Noble's was parked out front. Yet the house looked empty with only one light on inside and the porch light glowing in the descending twilight. Not trusting the assumption that Noble wasn't there, Jonah parked and walked up to the door. It was locked, but still he knocked and called out, asking if anyone was home. Again, all he received was silence.
Dammit, Noble – where the hell are you?
Turning slowly, he looked back to the street. Rebecca's car was there as well. Only Mason's was missing. Had they all went somewhere together?
Jonah walked back to his car and leaned against the side then took out his phone. He had always been able to tell his dad anything, and it felt like a pressure building up inside, having to keep all this to himself. Yet...only Noble had the right to tell them the truth about himself.
A sigh squeezed out and he looked down the street. If they all came back right this minute, what exactly did he mean to say? To do? Back at Noble's apartment...had the man answered, he surely would have just grabbed onto him and kissed him. But in retrospect, that might not be the best course of action. Noble had to come out on his own – Jonah couldn't just grab him and throw him out of the closet...as much as he wished he could. The boy needed to breathe, and he couldn't do that being locked up inside himself.
He stared at his phone. If he called his dad, let him know he was back...would he relay that bit of information to the others? Would Noble comprehend that he had come back so soon...because of him?
“Noble.” Pastor Rick sat beside Noble on the front pew. Noble leaned forward on his knees, mouth resting against his palm as he stared blankly at the maroon carpet. A few feet away was a long, narrow polished wood alter bench. “I would like you to meet with Jack Hayden. He is the director of the Purity program...and has went through what you're going through now – and been healed.”
Noble's eyes focused and he looked quick at the pastor. “He...was?” His throat worked and he swallowed hard.
“Yes.” Rick nodded. “He's been happily married for a few years now to a wonderful Christian woman, his life is on track with God. He can help you understand your struggles. But the good news is,” Rick placed a hand on Noble's shoulder. “there is hope, and there will be healing. Your SSA will fade, and you will be able to live a healthy, well adjusted, godly life.”
SSA. Same Sex Attraction. So far, the pastor had yet to use the word Gay. Perhaps because, within the LGBT community, it was used in a positive way and he didn't want to use any term that supported the sinful lifestyle.
“I can set up a meeting tomorrow, if you want to do this.”
Noble's lips pressed into a tight line as his gaze slowly drifted back to the carpet and the alter bench – an image from the past bursting in; his father shoving him down on the alter bench in their little church back in his hometown. 'Get on your knees, boy, and confess your sins. Pray for your poisoned soul.'
“Go ahead and set up the meeting.” Rebecca spoke up when Noble had yet to answer. “It will help him to talk to someone who has been through this as well.”
“Noble?” Mason sat down on the other side of him and leaned forward, his voice soft, low. “Son...you can take some time to think about this if you want. You shouldn't feel like you're being forced to do any of this.”
“Dad.” A notable tightness squeezed Rebecca's voice. “Why do you keep pushing him not to do this? He needs help. Just because you've accepted Jonah's...condition...doesn't mean it's right. Noble needs this.”
Mason stood up. “I'm not pushing him, Rebecca.” he spoke calmly, but with a barely detectable edge. “This is a choice he has to make. And if he doesn't feel it's right for him, then he shouldn't be forced into it.”
“Mason is right.” the pastor concurred. “This is an entirely voluntary program. No one should feel pressured to enter it.” He looked at Noble. “But it is a very successful program. It isn't conducted with a harsh attitude. Jack encourages the love and compassion of God.”
Rebecca knelt before Noble and took his hands. “This will be a good thing, baby. They can help you.”
Noble stared into her eyes and, though veiled, saw her desperation for him to be fixed. How disgusted are you really? He thought sickly. What if the program didn't work as quickly and smoothly as she seemed to think it would? Would she just give up on him? Get angry at him and accuse him of not wanting to get better? He flinched hard when Mason's phone suddenly went off.
Mason tugged it out of his jacket, casting an apologetic look at the pastor. He glanced at the display and his face tensed as he glanced quick at Noble then moved a short distance away and answered the call. “Jonah...”
An instant tension gripped Noble, his heart suddenly beating harder, faster. He wondered if the change in his demeanor was as evident outwardly as it was inside.
Mason spoke low, but Noble's ears strained to hear his every word, though he chanted over and over to himself that he didn't care...he didn't care.
“Yes.” Mason spoke low, as if attempting to conceal his words. “He's here.” he rubbed a hand over his mouth. “Yes...he's fine. Where are you?” His hand snaked up and rubbed the back of his neck as he slowly turned his head a little and glanced at Noble again as he murmured, “You're...here?”
A cold heat broke out all over Noble's body and only when Rebecca squeezed his hands tighter did he realize he was staring at Mason's back, eyes anxious, body rigid.
Jonah came back? His pulse surged, his heart thumping in his ears.
“Set up the meeting.” Rebecca told Rick, a slight cutting edge to her voice. “As soon as possible.”
He had silently willed Jonah to come back and help fix this mess he had a hand in creating, yet now that he was here...what kind of chaos would it create? He glanced quickly at Noble. The boy was watching him intently, more alert than he'd seen him all day. Nor was Rebecca oblivious to the sudden change in the young man.
Mason moved down the center aisle between the two rows of pews, away from the small group at the front of the church.
“Where are you, dad?” Jonah asked through the phone. “I...I need to talk to Noble. It's important.”
A measure of emotion strained his son's voice. What should he do? Noble had himself convinced this is what he wanted. Mason glanced towards the front pew where Rebecca remained kneeling before Noble, talking to him and the pastor. Colleen was now sitting next to Noble as well.
Was this really his decision...his choice? Or was it being made for him?
“I need to talk to you.” Mason said quietly. “But not over the phone. Go out to your house. I'll come out in a few and we can talk then.”
A notable hesitation from Jonah, then - “Just tell me where you are. I'll come there.”
“No.” Mason answered a little too quick, instantly regretting it. “I'll just come out to your place.”
“Okay.” Jonah said slowly, with uncertainty. “But...can you put Noble on the phone? I need to talk to him...just for a minute.”
“He's...” Mason looked again at the young man at the front of the church – leaning forward, head slightly ducked, but still retaining a measure of alertness as if discreetly trying to grab onto Mason's words. “...preoccupied at the moment.”
“Jonah.” Mason interjected. “Just...go home. I'll be out there this evening.”
“Fine.” Jonah sighed with a note of irritation. “But bring Noble with you.” he added with a slight sharp edge to his voice – then hung up.
I don't think I can do that, son, Mason thought as he slowly closed the phone and returned it to his jacket pocket. He sighed as a weight settled on his shoulders and a heaviness pulled at his heart. Everything seemed to be steadily pointing in one direction, and if it, indeed, escalated that way – it could very well rip his family in two.
“What is he doing back here?” Rebecca hissed low. She walked down the aisle, approaching Mason as he was coming back up to the front of the church. Noble's body tightened, his ears straining, not sure why he was so intent on hearing their conversation.
“Rebecca...” Mason started.
“Dad.” She said tightly. “I know he's your son, and I don't mean to sound rude about it, but...” her voice lowered, but still Noble managed to catch her words. “I don't know if...anything happened between them, but...he is the last person Noble needs to be around right now.” She went silent a moment, then added, “He's confused and struggling. Having Jonah here is only going to make it worse. If you really care about Noble, you will back me up and help me convince him to join the program. He needs to be delivered from this...sickness.”
Noble flinched as surely as if she'd jabbed red hot daggers through his gut. His hairline dampened as sweat broke out across his brow and a slight dizziness invaded his head. He closed his eyes and rested his head in his hands, trying to dispel the unpleasant sensation. A hand touched his shoulder and squeezed gently.
“I understand how frightening all this must be for you right now, Noble.” Pastor Rick said softly. “I strongly recommend you meet with Jack, and just talk to him. If you don't feel comfortable about the program after speaking with Jack, then you don't have to join it.” He sighed. “Though it is imperative that you make some form of effort to deal with this. The church is here to help you in every way possible...but you have to want to be helped. But...we can't condone parishioners who willingly live a sinful lifestyle. If you decide you don't want to be helped, then...” he shook his head slowly. “You will have to leave the church, Noble.”
“What?” Noble's head jerked up and he looked at the man, his throat tightening. “You would...kick me out of the church?”
“You have to understand, sweetheart.” Colleen said gently, taking his hand. “If the church allows in folks who are unrepentant, with no intention or wish to change their ways...it's the same as condoning it.” She squeezed his hand as he stared at her, nausea winding through his intestines. “But that isn't you, honey. You want to get better. Don't you?”
Fuck you all! The sudden, harsh thought caused his breath to catch and he looked away. Why would he think such a thing? She was right – he did want to get better. He wanted deliverance. Had prayed for it for years. So why was he suddenly angry at those who were now trying to help him? He stared at the maroon carpet – and nodded. “I do.”
But if that were true...why was the only thing he could focus on at this moment – was Jonah coming back?
It doesn't matter if he's back. You can't see him. You can't talk to him. Just stick to this course, it'll take you where you need to be. Where you truly want to be – with Rebecca, living a normal, godly life.
As if on cue, Rebecca returned. Colleen stood and allowed her daughter to sit beside Noble. “Babe, you need to meet with Jack Hayden.” she said. “Okay? Tomorrow.”
Noble twisted his head and glanced past her to Mason, who now stood at the end of the pew. The man's face was pinched with tension, uncertainty tightening his eyes as he slowly met Noble's gaze. Why, suddenly, was Mason's advice the only advice he trusted to be in his best interest?
“Can I...” he swallowed thick. “Can I...speak to Mason...alone?”
“Why?” Rebecca asked stiffly.
“Because I asked to.” he said tightly, then quickly reined in his irritation. “Please. Just for a few minutes.”
Mason walked around and stood before him. “Of course you can, son.”
Standing, Rebecca's annoyance resonated off her in waves. “Dad, I don't see why he needs to talk in private. We're all here for him. Why can't he just say what he needs to say – to everyone?”
“Because, Rebecca,” Mason said with controlled patience. “He is a grown man...not your child. If he wants to speak to me alone, he can.”
The woman's lips tightened into a thin line. “Fine.” She turned and walked down the aisle.
Colleen gripped Mason's arm lightly and said quietly, “Just remember...he needs help, Mason. I don't interfere with matters relating to Jonah, but...Noble doesn't need to be going down that road.” She sighed softly. “Please don't imply to him that it's an acceptable path.”
The anxiety in the man seemed about to match Noble's own. He understood Mason's dilemma; having a gay son, and being married to a woman who believes it's a sin to be gay. The man was between a rock and hard place.
“Whatever Noble has to say,” Mason told her. “I will give him my honest opinion.”
The woman didn't seem overly satisfied with his reply, but followed after her daughter nonetheless. Pastor Rick stood and simply excused himself, offering no advice either way. Mason seemed grateful as he sat down beside Noble and released a long sigh. “So how you holding up?” he asked gently.
Noble rubbed his hand over his mouth and let it linger as he slowly shook his head. “It would have been better...if I hadn't told anyone.” he whispered.
“No.” Mason said. “It wouldn't have. It takes a toll on a man to try and be someone he isn't. Always hiding...that isn't good.”
“Maybe.” Noble's throat knotted. “But it's safe. When you just pretend to be who people think you are...” he looked at Mason, eyes filling. “Everything is...better.”
When Jonah entered the house, the chill slipped around his body, pressing into his bones. The place was dark and he walked into the kitchen, switching on the overhead light. He went to the living room and turned on a single lamp at the end of the sofa.
His eyes were instantly seized by the album that still lay on the floor. And with it came the recent memories of yesterday afternoon; Noble teasing him about the gladiator painting, wrestling for the album, and...
Jonah sat down on the edge of the sofa cushion and picked up the album, placing it on the coffee table. In that moment, Noble had seemed so...free. Entirely at ease and allowing himself to just be. And when things had turned intimate...the man's passion and need to just let go had overwhelmed Jonah. Spun his world on its axis.
“Come on, dad.” he whispered, blinking against the burn. “Bring him with you.”
Less than an hour later, headlights flashed in the driveway as a car drove up. A tiny part of his mind held out against hope that it was Noble's car pulling in. Had he been home yet? Found his note? Would he come out and see him when he did get it?
When footsteps echoed dully on his porch steps, Jonah went to the front door and opened it before the doorbell could ring.
“Dad.” Jonah's eyes darted past him, but finding no one else.
“I came alone.” Mason said. “We need to talk...just the two of us.”
Jonah nodded slowly as disappointment squeezed his chest. His dad stepped inside and he closed the door behind him. “Coffee?” he asked, a dull tone to his voice as he walked towards the kitchen. He glanced at his dad. “Or do we need something stronger?”
“Possibly.” Mason admitted and took a seat on a stool at the counter as Jonah began preparing a pot of coffee.
“So what did you want to talk to me about?” Jonah murmured, his back to his dad. He found himself dreading what the man had to say. Something in his tone of voice on the phone, and even now, his whole demeanor...it didn't give Jonah hopes of a warm, fuzzy conversation.
Rather than answer his question, Mason asked one of his own. “What was so important that you needed to talk to Noble about?”
Jonah shrugged, his gut squeezing. “I just...” he sighed. “...needed to clear up a misunderstanding.”
“Seems to be a lot of those going on between the two of you.” Mason suggested quietly. “Misunderstandings.”
Jonah nodded slowly and closed the filter tray and turned on the coffee maker. But he didn't face his dad right away. “Yeah...seems that way.” he murmured then took two cups down and set them on the counter.
“Jonah.” Mason spoke low, soft. He paused, waiting. Finally, Jonah turned and faced him, his eyes wanting to burn but blinking back the sting. He looked at his dad and knew he wasn't fooling the man in the least. “Noble...told us.”
Swallowing thick, pulse quickening, Jonah frowned. “Told you...what?”
His dad just gazed at him for a long moment before answering, “What you knew all along.”
His heart pounded. Noble...came out?
“I'll fix you something to eat, hon.” Colleen walked into the kitchen.
“I'm not hungry.” Noble said quietly. “But thank you.”
Both Rebecca and her mom had come back to his apartment with him while Mason went out to Jonah's. Try as he might, he couldn't get his mind away from Jonah. But he needed to. If he could really be healed...he had to try. God wouldn't heal someone from this if it wasn't wrong to feel this way. And Jack Hayden had been healed. If him – then why not Noble as well? He could live a normal life...a life pleasing to God.
“You should eat something.” Rebecca stood beside him. There was still the faintest edge to her voice. She was still pissed that he'd wanted to talk to Mason alone.
“I'm really not hungry.” he was tired and just wanted to sleep. “I think I'll just take a shower then go to bed. I'm fine...you and your mom, you don't have to stay.”
Rebecca sighed. “I thought we could talk...just you and me.”
If he said no, she would get angry about that too. And he didn't have the strength to fight with her tonight. “Okay, sure. But let me take a shower first.”
When he stepped beneath the spray, he closed his eyes and tried to let the hot water soothe his troubled mind. But all the voices came back on him – Rebecca, Colleen, Pastor Rick – pushing at him, telling him what he needed, how to get better. And if he didn't try to get rid of his sickness...he wouldn't be welcome in the church anymore. Wouldn't be welcome in God's house. The God he had served...and loved...all his life. He wouldn't be welcome in his Father's house anymore.
The sobs hit him hard and sudden. The strength went out of him and he sank down to his knees, his face in his hands, crying. Please don't leave me. You're all I have. I'll do anything, I'll get better, I promise...just please don't send me away from you.
He cried until his stomach hurt then remained there on his knees as the sobs slowly faded and left a hollow despair behind. When the water began to run cold, he slowly stood up, let the cool spray wash some of the redness from his face and eyes, then left the shower.
A towel wrapped around his waist, he walked into the bedroom, then stopped short in the doorway; Rebecca stood beside his bed, her back to him. She was holding something in her hand and reading it. But Noble's attention was pulled to his broken cell phone laying on his pillow. He glanced over to the wall where he'd smashed it...so hurt and angry at Jonah.
Had Rebecca picked it up? But why put it on his pillow?
“Rebecca?” She jumped a little and turned, dropping her hand quick, concealing whatever she'd been reading. “What're you...looking at?”
A small piece of paper was in her hand and she folded it up small, encasing it in her fist. “Nothing of consequence.” She walked towards him. “Go ahead and get dressed. I'll make some tea and we can talk.”
There was a stiffness to her smile and her tone, as if she were struggling to be pleasant.
She left the bedroom and he went to the bed. Something about the phone laying on his pillow caused his pulse to spike. Wouldn't Rebecca have just set it on the night stand? Who would have...
No. He wasn't here. Noble's heart raced suddenly and he tried to calm it. But your door was unlocked. You forgot to lock it when you left. He could have come in...Noble swallowed hard and massaged the back of his neck anxiously as he stared at the phone. You're imagining things. He wasn't here...and even if he had been...it doesn't matter.
He turned and looked at the door Rebecca had just walked out of. What had she been reading?
It doesn't matter! If it was a note from Jonah – it's good she took it. You don't want to know what he has to say. You don't want to know him. You have to get better. You have to stay with God.
He sat on the edge of the bed and opened the night stand drawer, then took out his bible. He slid his thumb over the gold letters. Holy Bible. His heart refused to calm as his mind battled thoughts of Jonah.
“Just go away.” he choked softly. “Please...I can't love you.” The words on the bible cover blurred and distorted as Jonah's face hovered behind his eyes. A warmth seeped through his lips as he again felt Jonah's kiss...so soothing and comforting. He closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest, resisting the sobs clogging his throat, choking on the lie - “I don't love you.”
© Copyright 2017 AMS1971. All rights reserved.
Book / Erotica
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Short Story / Gay and Lesbian