Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo
Romeo, save me, they're trying to tell me how to feel.
This love is difficult but it's real.
Don't be afraid, we'll make it out of this mess.
It's a love story, baby, just say, "Yes."
- Love Story, TAYLOR SWIFT
* * * *
“This is not gonna last forever
It’s that time when you must hold on.
And I won’t let you surrender,
And I’ll heal you if you’re broken.”
- I'll Be Your Strength, THE WANTED
'Give your phone to Noble.'
Mason stared at the text message, lagging back behind Colleen and Rebecca as they entered the pastor's office. 'What are you doing, son?' He sent back. Mason waited, stalling. His cell buzzed.
'Just trying to protect my baby.' Mason's eyes stung and he blinked quickly. Another text came in. 'Let him read this.' Mason read what came after, then sighed, and sent back – 'Okay. Now stop texting – and don't worry.' His phone remained silent.
“Oh God,” he whispered. “Please let me be doing the right thing for Noble.” He entered the office. Noble sat in a cushioned chair, leaning forward, elbows on knees, gazing blankly at the floor while Rebecca, Colleen, and Pastor Rick spoke with Jack Hayden. Clearing his throat, Mason walked over to the young man and lowered to his heels beside the chair, resting his hand on the boy's back. “You okay, son?” he asked softly, quietly.
Noble didn't answer for a moment, then offered merely a slight shrug. His throat worked as a sheen formed over his eyes.
Glancing discreetly at the others, Mason opened his cell. “Here.” he murmured, handing the phone to Noble. “I was asked to let you read this.”
Noble's eyes focused and he turned his head. “By...who?”
Mason rubbed his back and smiled, then stood up without answering.
Noble's hands shook as he stared at the name at the top of the text; Jonah. He shot a quick look at Rebecca and the small group then read the words Jonah had sent – bible scriptures.
'But there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ...am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?'
Noble ducked his head, laying his face in his hand, throat squeezing, choking. He scrolled up a little to a previous part of the conversation. 'What are you doing, son?' Noble stared at the reply, heart pounding, tears burning – 'Just trying to protect my baby.'
Nearly dropping the phone, Noble closed it as dizziness invaded his head. Rebecca came towards him and he stuffed the cell in his pocket. So much for being one hundred percent honest. You haven't even started the session and already you're hiding things from her.
Rebecca sat in the chair next to him and took his hand. “It's good that you decided to come here, Noble.” she said softly. “I really think Jack can help you.”
“Yeah.” Noble whispered and glanced at Jack, in conversation with Mason and the pastor, and wondered just how healed the man really was. Or if he had ever truly been in need of healing. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to see how someone could even be healed of this; how did one just simply stop feeling the way they did?
With man it is impossible...but with God, all things are possible. Noble ducked his head and stared at Rebecca's hand holding his. He struggled to conjure up the emotions that should be there, but they refused to present themselves. Oh God, if you're going to deliver me of this...you better step up your game – 'cause Jonah sure has and right now...he's in the lead. But lately...Noble couldn't be certain if God was working against Jonah – or for him.
What he had – just a very short while ago – perceived as his crystal clear sign was beginning to waver in the face of Jonah's messages. Would he really go through all this, put up such a fight – for the mere sake of playing games? He cast a quick glance at Rebecca, recalling her story of why she had such distaste for Jonah. Though she had been sincere, and nothing in her tone had hinted at a lie, or even embellishment, his mind – or is it your heart – just couldn't grasp Jonah doing such a thing.
Have you so quickly forgotten what he did to you during your first couple encounters?
But he had apologized for that – hadn't he? Or not? It seemed a thick haze clogged his mind. Every encounter with Jonah seemed a blur, where the overall events were clear but the intricate details danced just out of reach.
“I think we're ready to begin.” Jack walked back to the pastor's desk. But rather than sit behind it, he again leaned casually on the front edge. Noble could feel the weight of every eye on him and suddenly wished he could just disappear. Somewhere in the far reaches of his mind, he envisioned Jonah – clad up in white knight garb – riding in on his trusty steed to rescue him. A smile was playing at the corner of his mouth before he realized what he was doing, and forced his mind to clear.
After his third drive-by past the church, Jonah surmised he was being obsessive and drove down to the diner where, just that morning, he'd sat next to Noble and did his level best to be supportive, rather than abducting the guy and running off with him. Which right about now he was wishing he had done. They could've been in a nice warm bed, dancing to the rhythm of love against slick cool sheets...
“Shit.” Jonah gasped softly, quietly and thrust his fingers through his hair as he shifted in the booth seat, a sudden nagging ache assaulting his crotch. He stared at his cell sitting solemnly on the table next to a cup of coffee. It was a tempting little bastard, especially when he considered that his dad's phone was likely in Noble's hands at the moment. He thought about turning it off to ease the temptation, but thrust that idea out before it made it through his head; he'd learned his lesson. It wasn't likely he would ever turn his phone off again for as long as he lived.
If only you hadn't turned it off the first time, dumb ass. Noble would be with you now – instead of...
If Only's were futile. What's done was done, and he had to go from here, there was no going back to change things. “Ah baby,” he whispered low. “What kind of shit are they feeding you?” His hand dragged over his mouth and lingered as his gaze slid over to the phone again. Come on, Noble, I know you're too smart to buy into their bullshit. Listen to your heart, baby...and let it bring you home to me.
The ache in his heart was swelling to unbearable proportions. He needed to touch him, just feel him in his arms again. God, how long was it going to take to get Noble back?
“Noble,” Jack looked at the boy intently. “I need to ask you something and, as I mentioned earlier, it's very important that you are completely honest in your answer.”
Noble's lips tightened and he nodded slowly, silently, staring hard at the floor, brow pinched tight. Mason rubbed his chin absently, his eyes on the young man. He wondered if he was even really here...or somewhere in his mind with Jonah.
Shifting against the desk, Jack asked gently, “Has your same sex attraction manifested themselves beyond your thoughts?”
“What?” Noble whispered, raising his head.
“Have you...acted on them?” Jack posed slowly. “Have you been intimate with another man?”
Fear etched Noble's face as a whole new level of tension gripped him. “Intimate?”
“Any level of intimacy.” Jack explained. “Or any act that was inspired by this attraction to the same sex. Making an excuse to be alone with another man, and justifying it in your own mind. Something as simple as holding hands...kissing.” he gazed at the boy thoughtfully, and Mason had the sudden urge to hit the guy. Though he wasn't sure why. Jack continued, “Have you done any of that, Noble? Acted on this attraction in any way?”
Noble shot a quick, anxious look at Rebecca who was staring at him with an intensity that made even Mason shudder. “I don't see why-” Noble started.
“Answer the question, Noble.” Rebecca urged, with a nip to her tone.
Noble gave her a 'You already know the answer, why do you need me to say it?' look. He hung his head and laced his fingers behind his neck. “Yes.” he whispered tightly, tears audible in his voice.
“How intimate, Noble?” Jack asked quietly. “How far did it go?”
His fingers squeezing, pressing hard into the back of his neck, Noble shook his head slowly but didn't answer.
“Is this really necessary?” Mason spoke up. “The boy is barely holding it together as it is, what is the point of forcing him to say these things aloud? How is that supposed to help?”
Jack straightened. “I understand how difficult this is. Believe me, I do. I've been where he is now. But it's a part of the healing process. Admitting it aloud is a...wake up call, of sorts. Forces him to face it full on.”
Wake up call? Mason thought sourly, I thought that's what alarm clocks were for.
“Dad,” Rebecca looked at him with a 'can you please cooperate' expression on her face. “Jack knows what he's doing.”
And you know this how? Mason wondered dryly.
Jack returned his focus to Noble. “How far did you go with...this man?” he asked again, low, gentle. This man? Spoken as if this man were the enemy, someone to be eradicated from his life. This 'man' is my son, you prick. Mason tried to shake the obnoxious, defensive thought from his head, but it lingered as he watched Noble.
“Quite..a ways.” Noble whispered without raising his head. His fingertips pressed hard into the back of his neck, turning his skin a deep red.
Mason was beginning to wish he hadn't reined Jonah in. Maybe his course of action would have been best after all.
God, please don't let him ask these questions. I can't do this.
“Did you feel any sense of shame?” Jack asked. “Like you knew you shouldn't be with him?”
Noble trembled as that afternoon with Jonah replayed through his mind on fast forward – and yet in excruciating detail; Jonah's strong arms around him, holding him so tight, so secure. What had he felt in that moment? Guilt? Shame? Peace. I felt at peace. He couldn't say that. It would simply be taken as one more thing that needed to be fixed in him. Maybe it does need to be fixed. I mean, that's why you're here...isn't it? To fix what's broken inside you?
“Did I feel it...when?” he asked thickly.
“At any point.” Jack said. “During...afterwards? Was there any sense of regret?”
“Yes.” Noble murmured. “Afterwards.”
“And how did you feel when you were with him?”
Noble closed his eyes. “Free.” he whispered thickly. “Like I could just be...me.”
“And you can't with me?” Rebecca asked tightly. “We're going to be married and you feel more free with...him than me?” The ice was seeping back into her tone.
Jack held up a hand. “I know this is difficult to hear, Rebecca.” he told her softly. “But this is very natural.”
“Yes.” Jack explained. “When you spend years with a secret like this suppressed inside, it's very natural to feel a sense of liberty when in the company of someone who knows that secret. Especially, “ he added, “if that person tells you that it's okay to feel the way you do. It's human nature to want to be accepted as is...even if we know we need to change.”
Noble opened his eyes slowly and stared at the floor, eyes burning, vision beginning to blur.
“This is a good thing for him to admit...to himself as well as to you.”
Are you just making this shit up as you go along? Noble cringed at the sudden cynical thought. The man was trying to help him. He'd been through this as well, so he knew how to go about helping Noble get healed.
“Noble, are your parents aware of your...struggles? Did you ever tell them?”
The sudden, unexpected question snapped Noble's head up. “What?” His heart thumped hard against his ribs; his parents? “My...parents?” Tell me you're not a fucking faggot! “Why?”
“It's important that they be a part of this.”
His pulse racing, Noble's breath rushed through his nostrils. Say you'll never think about fucking another boy again! He shook his head and gripped the back of his neck again. “No...they don't need to be.” he choked. “They...don't need to know.”
God hates fags, Noble...Are you a fag, Noble? Are you!
“Noble, sweetheart,” Colleen spoke up for the first time. “Your parents love you. They will want to help you get better.”
“Continuing to hide from loved ones,” Jack said, “it will prevent you from healing. I think it's very important that they are here.”
Loved ones? Noble shook his head again, and tears began to slide down his face. “I don't want them here.”
“Noble.” Rebecca frowned. “Why are you acting this way? Your parents are wonderful people.”
God is watching. He's always watching. And He will burn you, boy. Don't think He won't.
“I'll call them tonight.” Rebecca told Jack.
Noble stood suddenly, his hand shaking as he wiped his face. “I need to...use the restroom.” he walked out without waiting for a reply, crossed through the sanctuary and through the door at the back that led to the bathroom. He stopped just outside the bathroom and leaned against the wall, bending over, gripping his knees, tears rushing out.
They wanted his parents here? His dad? “No.” he choked, shaking his head. He straightened up and hugged himself tight. “No...he can't be here...he can't...know that I'm still...” A fag.
Hands shaking, he took out Mason's phone and opened it, found Jonah's name in the contact list then opened a new text message. He trembled, heart pounding so hard at the base of his throat he could barely catch his breath.
What're you doing? You're here for help – this isn't helping!
Noble's eyes turned glassy as he slowly began to press the tiny buttons on the keypad.
The fresh cup of coffee just touched his lips when his phone sang out its musical tone. Jonah choked on the small amount of hot liquid that entered his mouth then set the cup down quick, splashing a little onto the table. He grabbed up his phone, pulse suddenly racing like a locomotive.
He snapped the cell open to see the text message notification – coming from his dad's phone. Was it just his dad trying to contact him? He hesitated, afraid of the disappointment of it not being from Noble.
Open the damn thing already!
He hit the button and the message opened. If he had thought his heart couldn't beat any harder – he'd been gravely mistaken. In a hurry, he tugged out his wallet, dropped a couple dollars on the table then rushed out of the diner.
Just because so many bigots didn't know how to properly interpret scripture – Jonah damn well could, the verse in the text scrolling behind his eyes as he pulled away from the diner and headed for the church. 'I sought him whom my soul loveth...I sought him, but I found him not.'
“That's okay, baby,” he murmured. “Say it however you need to say it – I hear you loud and clear.” An ache wound up his throat and he rubbed his eyes. “Just sit tight...I'll find you.”
Noble's hands were shaking so bad he nearly dropped the phone as he closed it and clutched it in his fist. Why had he run to Jonah for refuge? The one person he should be running from. Yet, if that were so...why had Mason given him his phone, to read Jonah's message?
“Noble?” Rebecca stepped through the door and closed it behind her.
Noble's hand dropped to his side, concealing Mason's cell. He leaned against the wall and looked at the floor.
“Noble, I know this is hard.” Rebecca approached him and touched his arm. “But Jack does know what he's doing, and he's trying to help you.”
Shaking his head slowly, Noble closed his eyes. “I can't do it, Rebecca.” he whispered thickly. “I can't...answer those questions.”
Silence swelled between them a moment, then Rebecca drew her hand away. “Noble,” a faint tightness strained her voice. “What did you mean when you said...quite a ways?”
“Did you and him...” she led the words go, her face tense.
She stared at him. “But you came close...didn't you?” Noble didn't answer as his gaze wandered to the large window that looked into the daycare room, and settled on the cartoon picture of Jesus holding out his hands. I Love You. His vision blurred. Do you?
“How close, Noble?” Rebecca was asking. When he still didn't answer, she shook her head. “Were you...in his bed? Your clothes off?”
He squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Please don't do this, Rebecca.” he whispered.
“You're not denying it.” Rebecca released a short, bitter laugh. “So it went that far? You just...let him touch you?” she shrugged. “Did you...touch him too?”
“Stop it.” Noble choked softly, head ducking.
“Did he...have his mouth on you?” a shimmer of disgust permeated her voice. “Did he?”
“Shut up!” Noble shoved away from the wall, hand raking through his hair in agitation. “Just...shut up.”
Rebecca stared at him, then her eyes slid down to his other hand and her brow tightened. “Why do you have dad's phone?” her breath quickened, eyes crawling back up to his face. “Did you...come in here to...text Jonah?”
Noble swallowed hard, wanting desperately to just tell her to leave him the hell alone. But he'd been raised on guilt and shame, and didn't know how to get out from under it.
“Don't you see what's happening here, Noble?” she said stiffly, almost accusatory. “Didn't you hear anything I said earlier? Jonah is a player. He doesn't love you. He's just using you.”
Noble moved over to the window and stared into the other room.
“I get being blind when you don't know, but I told you. And still you're...” she released a hard breath. “You can't seriously want this, Noble.”
He stared blankly at the picture, not really knowing how to respond.
“Noble...you owe it to me to go back in there and listen to Jack.” she said.
Turning slowly, he stared at her. “I owe it to you?”
“You cheated on me – with a man. I have never been unfaithful to you. The least you could do is try to get help...after what you've done.” she shook her head, eyes glistening. “Everything was perfect. We were perfect, until...he came back here.” Her eyes hardened a bit with determination. “I won't let him ruin this. I refuse to let him manipulate you...even if you allow it. I won't just throw us away. And I...” she bit her lip, tear welling. “I can't believe you're so ready to do just that...for something so...unnatural.”
She was becoming a master at delivering that punch of guilt and shame with just enough force to drive Noble to his knees. She stepped forward and covered his hand, taking Mason's phone.
I'll never be free. The thought squeezed his mind, causing a sick feeling deep in the pit of his stomach. He'd never learned how to fight back against the shame of what he was. It had always beaten him down – at times, quite literally.
Feeling as if the weight of the world were resting on his shoulders, he followed Rebecca back to the pastor's office. Like a dog on a leash. But how did one break a chain that had been there all his life? Was there even anything that could break it and turn him loose?
Rebecca halted so suddenly that Noble almost ran into her. He followed her burning glare to the newcomer in the room.
Violet eyes passed over her without care and locked with Noble's startled gaze – and his heart took off before he could catch it, diving into those deep purple depths.
© Copyright 2017 AMS1971. All rights reserved.
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Book / Gay and Lesbian