“What The Heart Wants”
“Praying won't do it, hating won't do it
Drinking won't do it
Fighting won't knock you out of my head
But if you know
How do you get up from an all time low?
I'm in pieces, it seems like peace is
The only thing I never know
How do you get up from an all time low?
I can't even find a place to start
How do I choose between my head and heart?.”
- All Time Low, THE WANTED
People like you are sick.
The words twisted round and round, spinning faster and faster like a whirlwind inside Noble's head. Had he harbored some flicker of hope that Rebecca would somehow understand his struggles, some tiny spark that she might be sympathetic and compassionate? If that hope had been alive somewhere inside him – it was fading fast.
It was no secret that she disagreed with homosexuality, but in the last two years they'd been together – this was the first time he'd heard her speak of it with such animosity and blatant disgust. He'd been watching when Jonah had touched her arm, and how she'd pulled away from him so quick, as if his very touch was vile. Diseased.
Noble's stomach cramped painfully. He hugged it tight and crossed in front of the concrete steps leading up to the front of the church, having circled around the end of the structure. Rebecca was looking for him but he didn't want to see her right now. She would show him love and concern, as if he meant everything to her and nothing could tear them apart. But it was all an illusion. He was an illusion. She only loved the man she thought he was.
When he came to his car, he leaned against the hood and hugged his stomach tight, curling over a bit. Sobs piled in his throat and his eyes burned. Scenes from his fantasy flipped through his head, faster every second, until they all became one and he was beneath Jonah again, the man's warm breath on his neck, his need for Noble filling him up, his words - I love you – falling soft and warm on Noble's fevered skin.
A sudden, unexpected and startling sense of comfort and safety rushed through Noble as the fantasy played out all over again in his mind.
“You can trust me, Noble – Let go...fall...I promise – I'll catch you.”
Noble's knees slowly buckled and he sank down to the concrete curb in front of the car. Tears began to break loose and run down his face as he hugged himself more fiercely. Why did Jonah's words from the fantasy hurt so much? Why should it matter if it was all his head? None of it real? He was engaged to Rebecca. He loved Rebecca.
So why did you run from her? Why don't you want to see her now?
He struggled for an answer, but nothing came.
Why does the fantasy about Jonah make you feel safe...at peace?
“I don't know.” Noble choked out and curled over more, crying softly, his breath breaking. Please, God...
He straightened up slowly and leaned against the car bumper, letting his head fall back on the end of the hood. The cross on the top of the church building was a hazy blur as he stared at it with empty eyes.
“My god, my god.” He whispered, warm tears sliding down his temples, his voice hollow...lost. “Why have you forsaken me?”
His dad waved to him from across the dining hall, motioning him to join them. Jonah stood in the doorway, just wanting to get out of there. This entire day so far felt like a mistake, as if it needed to be rewound and started over. But if that were possible – what would he do different? Shrug off Noble's hand when he gripped him in the fit of an anxiety attack? Ignore him when rushed back to the bathroom to vomit from the pressure of his stress? Just close his eyes and his mind to what was happening to Noble, tell himself it was none of his business – and just look the other way?
Don't get into this, he chided silently. It won't end good for anyone, and you know it.
He knew it was the truth. Already it was being proven to him. Noble was a mess – and it was his fault. If he'd just left the man alone...maybe he could have...
What? Stopped being gay? Pray himself straight?
As ridiculous as that was, who was he to tell Noble who he was or how he felt? Was he any different form those – like Rebecca – who would tell him he shouldn't have those feelings? If Noble wanted to believe he wasn't really gay – what right did he have to insist he was? Try to force him to admit it? How was he anymore in the right than the bigoted assholes who would try to push Noble in the opposite direction?
His exchange with Rebecca came back to him. She wasn't good for Noble. Jonah knew this without having to contemplate it. Even if at first she tried to show understanding to Noble, it would die out. Every time Noble showed any weakness at all, she would be on him about it, pushing him, tearing him down, shoving him closer and closer to that edge that – once he fell off – he couldn't come back from.
The simmering anger from earlier began to bubble and rise up. He was startled and confused by his own sudden hostility and bitterness towards Rebecca. She'd treated him this way for years, and he'd learned to accept it – rather than let it get to him. But now, with Noble in the mix, her attitude was beginning to truly piss him off. She couldn't hurt him with her hate. But she could hurt Noble. Break him. Perhaps beyond repair.
And what're you going to do? Take a front row seat, kick back and watch it happen?
What was he supposed to do? Noble didn't want his help, had told Jonah to stay away from him.
Jonah weaved his way around chairs and people and approached the table his dad and Colleen were seated at. It was a long table that could be folded up after use and stored out of the way, along with the folding chairs. Jonah sank down in the one of the metal chairs across from his dad.
“Aren't you going to eat?” Mason asked. The concern in his voice was low-key, but still detectable. His dad knew something was going on with him.
“Uh, no.” Jonah leaned against the back of the chair, his hands resting in his lap. “I'm not hungry.”
“You feel okay?” Mason asked, then added with a note of hesitation Jonah didn't quite understand. “I'm starting to think Noble is coming down with something. Maybe there's a bug going around.”
Believe me, we're both inflicted with the same...bug.
He nodded slowly. “I'm feel fine.” A lie. He didn't feel fine. His dad was pretty good at detecting lies, and wondered if he would zero in on this one as well. He hated it that he couldn't just talk to the man about all this, but Mason was – in his own mind – Rebecca's dad too, and had been for years now. How was he supposed to tell his father that he had a thing for his future brother-in-law? And almost from the moment he'd laid eyes on the man – he'd wanted to take him to his bed? And then tell his dad that Noble was gay? It wasn't his place, or right, to out Noble. The choice to come out had to be Noble's, and his alone.
“Is Noble and Rebecca coming back inside?” Colleen asked. “Did you speak to them?”
Jonah shifted in his chair and pressed his lips tight, then shook his head slowly. “I didn't talk to them. I don't know if they're coming in or not.”
Had Noble waited for Rebecca to find him? Or left before she could discover him so close by? Though he hadn't been looking directly at the man, he'd felt his despair when he had stepped back out of sight. He found himself hoping that Rebecca hadn't located the guy.
Just stay away from him.
Jonah had had to bite his tongue to prevent himself from telling her that she was the one who needed to stay away from Noble. It was her attitude – and the attitude of people like her – that had poisoned Noble in the first place.
“I think I'm going to take off.” Jonah sat forward and rested one hand on the table. “I have some things to do.” Another lie.
“It's Sunday.” Mason said, then smiled. “Take a break and relax. Hang out with your old man for awhile. It doesn't seem like we spend much time with each other anymore.”
Guilt needled at Jonah. Regardless of how Rebecca, or even Colleen, felt about him – he knew he was always welcome in his dad's home. Jonah had made the decision to keep his distance, not wishing to disrupt the peace just by being there. But he knew it also hurt his dad that they didn't see enough of each other.
So even though he just wanted to leave now, he felt compelled to stay, visit with his dad. He leaned back in the chair again and shrugged, then offered the man a genuine smile. “Okay. If you insist.”
“Oh, well, your enthusiasm lightens my heart.” Mason chuckled. “So nice of you to spare a moment for your old man.”
Jonah laughed softly and shook his head. His fingertips drummed lightly on the table. “Well, that is a son's duty, right?” He met his dad's eyes. “Humor the old man?”
Colleen smiled and, at the moment, it seemed sincere, genuine. There were times, like now – when Rebecca wasn't around – that Jonah felt more at ease with Colleen. Perhaps not entirely accepted, but like he could be...if her daughter didn't despise him so much.
When Noble heard Rebecca call for him, he pushed back up on his feet and sat on the hood of the car. He resisted the urge to climb in the car and just drive away, though he desperately wanted to.
She's going to be your wife. You have to learn to deal with the unpleasant things and make it work. You can't just run away every time something doesn't set right with you.
So he stayed. He hooked his heels on the bumper and rested his elbows on his knees, staring at his hands. His tears had dried but his eyes still felt thick and puffy. Hopefully they didn't look as bad as they felt.
The light clack of Rebecca's high heels on the concrete heralded her approach. Noble glanced up. The warm breeze played with her dark hair, causing thin strands to wisp across her face which she absently raked away with her fingertips.
Ebony locks teased, dropped across the forehead, swept away again.
Noble shuddered when Jonah's face rose unbidden behind his eyes, the fantasy scene as he'd approached Jonah, just before the man had turned and walked into the woods. He'd been transfixed on how the breeze had played with Jonah's black hair.
A slight tingle ran through his fingers at the memory of combing them through Jonah's soft hair while the man...
“Noble, sweetheart?” Rebecca's concerned voice snapped him back. His heart was suddenly racing again. “What're you doing out here? I thought you were going to come inside before long?”
Noble tried to answer but his throat had swelled shut. The quick memory recollection of the fantasy sent a powerful shock straight to his crotch, causing a near unbearable throbbing ache. It had felt so real, all of it.
Stop thinking about it. Put it out of your mind once and for all. You're stronger than this. You have to be.
“I was...about to come inside.” Lying to her was becoming routine. That wasn't a good sign.
“Are you feeling any better?”
Stop asking me how I feel. The sudden irritation seemed to come from nowhere, and he quickly shoved it down. He continued to stare at his hands, and simply nodded. He couldn't bring himself to look her in the face. Her words to Jonah were still strong in his mind. Would you despise me as much...if you knew?
He wanted to believe she wouldn't. That she would help him be the man he desired to be, support him, understand his struggles and love him through it. But the level of disgust she had displayed towards Jonah prevented him from fully trusting that her love for him would remain unchanged.
He jumped a little when her fingertips touched his chin and lifted his face, drawing his eyes to hers. There was only love and concern gazing back at him, and he wanted to believe in it, needed it to be real – through good times and bad.
“Baby.” Rebecca moved closer. She cupped his face with both hands, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs, and held his eyes. “Are we...okay?”
The fantasy rushed back in like a flood, bringing with it other recent memories. Begging for Jonah's kiss in the wine cellar. Accepting his kiss at Mason's. Having a conscious erotic fantasy of the man – and still reeling from it even then, at that very moment as Rebecca stared into his eyes.
He wanted to look away. Could he lie to her while looking her in the eyes? But the truth...it wasn't acceptable. For either of them.
“Of course.” he said quietly, afraid his voice would crack and break if he spoke any louder. “We're good.” Her hands were soft, warm against his face and he closed his eyes briefly as her thumbs continued to stroke his cheeks. He longed for the way her touch used to make him feel – so safe and loved. When she would take his hand, it was as if she were showing him the future...that it was bright, and nothing to be feared. But at that time he'd been convinced he was healed, truly in love with a woman. There had been no anxieties that he might have to one day tell her everything.
But everything had changed. In the twinkling of an eye.
Deep violet eyes.
A sudden breath shuddered through Noble and he wanted to cry, wanted Rebecca to hold him and make him feel what he felt before, tell him this was all a bad dream and he would wake up soon – and everything would be good again. Everything erased. The feel of Jonah's touch. The taste of his kiss. The strength and warmth of the man's body pressed against his.
Noble quickly swallowed the whimper that bubbled in his throat. He pulled Rebecca against him, slid his arms around her waist and held her tight, his face buried in her hair. He squeezed his eyes shut and drew in her scent. “Kiss me.” he whispered.
Please kiss me. He squeezed his eyes tighter and fought the memory of his plea to Jonah.
Noble drew back as her fingertips caressed his face. “Kiss me, Becca.” he said quietly and trembled. “Just hold me...and kiss me.”
He didn't wait for her to reply, respond, act. He kissed her, hard, and tightened his arms around her, crushing her against his body. She started to resist, then slid her hands up the back of his head, her fingers shoving up through his hair.
Jonah's fingers replaced hers, his kiss trumping Becca's, and the memory of his hard body crushing against him.
A hard sob stabbed up into his throat, sticking, choking him. He pulled out of his and Rebecca's kiss with a suddenness that left them both panting. He gripped her waist and moved her back then stepped off the car, breathing deep, fighting the tears burning his eyes.
“I'm sorry.” he choked, his back to her. He raked his fingers through his hair. “I didn't mean to...”
“It's okay, Noble.” Rebecca's breath was quick, unsteady. She touched his back and he flinched before he could stop himself. She withdrew her hand uncertainly. “Noble...what is with you? Why won't you talk to me?” A notable hesitation. “Do you...still love me, Noble?”
Do you still love me? When the answer didn't come to him immediately, panic began to set in. He did still love her. He had to.
“Noble...” Rebecca's voice quavered, his silence clearly alarming her.
He turned quickly and pulled her back into his arms. He buried his face in her neck and squeezed her tight. “I do, baby.” he shuddered, his throat thick, the knot swelling larger and larger, cutting off his breath. “I do love you, Rebecca. I do.” Tears slid down his face and his words crumbled. “I do.”
I want your heart...I want you to love me.
Noble squeezed his eyes shut, warm tears dripping into Rebecca's hair as the confession floated on the warm air, staring at him, accusing him. Challenging the truth behind it.
I do...I love you...Noble...
He shuddered, Jonah's voice filling his head, pushing out everything but his words. His confession.
Stop! Just shut up! It isn't real!
Images from earlier swelled and pulsated in his mind...other words he couldn't put down. Couldn't erase.
People like you are sick.
Rebecca held him tight. His eyes opened slowly and he gazed blankly at the front doors to the church. It was all an illusion; the love they professed, the compassion. They wouldn't understand. They wouldn't even see him anymore. Only his disease. His vile, disgusting sin.
He could never let them find out. He had to be what they wanted him to be. What they believed him to be. There was no other way. No other option.
Rebecca could never know.
He drew back and cleared his throat – and smiled at the woman he would marry in just a few short weeks. “Lets go inside.” he murmured then kissed her lightly. “Get something to eat. I feel better now.”
You can trust me, Noble. Let go. Fall. I promise – I'll catch you.
Tears began to sting but he forced them back. It wasn't real. And he was thankful it wasn't. Jonah wasn't his salvation. He wasn't...anything.
As was everything, and everyone, else in his world – Jonah was just an illusion.
A trick of the eye.
He wasn't real.
Where one moment the man was at ease, smiling, relaxed – for the most part – enjoying their light conversation...he transformed into a visible ball of tension the instant Rebecca and Noble entered the dining hall and approached their table.
His light movements and gestures ceasing and turning stiff, rigid, Jonah's lips pressed tight as he gazed distantly at the table top where he began to twist a Styrofoam cup of cooling coffee back and forth. The urge to flee was etched all over his face, along with a flurry of emotions that shoved slivers of anguish through Mason's heart.
He didn't know what was going on with his son, but he couldn't deny that it somehow involved Noble. Whatever had went down between the two young men, Jonah clearly felt unable to speak of the matter to his father. That in itself frightened Mason somewhat. How bad did it have to be before Jonah refused to talk to him about it?
“You're looking better.” Mason smiled at Noble. The young man held Rebecca's hand and returned his smile. It appeared genuine, but Mason wasn't buying it. Not entirely, anyway. Though Noble came off as relaxed, more or less, there remained a smidge of notable tension in him.
“I feel better.” Noble spoke low, his eyes moving between Mason and Colleen – without so much as a glance at Jonah. Though it may not have been obvious to the others, the boy was purposely avoiding looking at the man.
And it seemed to Mason – it was taking an act of sheer will not to do so.
Every nerve in his body surfaced and sizzled his skin. His thumbnail gouged the side of the cup, drawing incoherent patterns in the Styrofoam. He could feel Rebecca deliberately not looking at him. That was all right, he didn't need her acknowledgment. But neither did he sense Noble's eyes on him either. Not even flickering glances. And for reasons he wasn't ready to admit or accept – that stung him.
From the corner of his eye, he noticed Noble gripping Rebecca's hand. Holding it tight as if he never wanted to let go.
How could you hear her words...and still cling to her?
“Sit down, hon.” Rebecca said. “I'll get you something to eat.”
“You don't have to...” Noble started, his voice low.
“I want to.” There was a smile in her voice, a softness to her tone.
Aw, aren't you just a sweetheart, Becca? So thoughtful and caring. Looking after your man.
Jonah's thumbnail dug deeper into the cup and his face tightened. Rebecca kissed Noble's cheek then left him standing alone as she went to fix him a plate.
“Well, take a seat, son.” Mason said. Jonah's eyes flicked to his dad and saw him indicating the chair beside Jonah. “Jonah don't bite.” He chuckled. “Well, not since he was five anyway. Sit down,I'll tell you the story.”
A sight hesitation then Noble sank down in the chair next to Jonah.
Jonah groaned low and shook his head. “Dad...”
“What?” Mason grinned. “It's a funny story.” He glanced at Colleen then to Noble. “When Jonah was five, we told him he could get a dog, right? So we go to the animal shelter and let him choose which one he wants.” He laughed lightly and Jonah squeezed his lips between his teeth, still tracing his thumbnail across the surface of the cup. “So we're thinking he's going to pick one of the cute puppies. I mean, he's a kid. Kids like puppies. And he's checking them out – when down at the last kennel these two older kids are antagonizing this dog, making fun of how it looks, just being all out mean to the poor creature.”
Colleen was listening intently. Jonah didn't look at Noble, so his interest level remained a mystery. All he was really aware of was the closeness of Noble's body and how desperately he wanted to touch him.
“So anyway.” His dad continued. “Jonah walks down there and tells them to leave the dog alone, then kneels by the kennel door and tries to soothe the animal. The kids ignore him and go on tormenting the poor thing.”
Noble leaned forward into Jonah's peripheral vision and rested his elbows on the table, looking at Mason. A polite smile worked at his lips, but whether or not he was actually enjoying the story was hard to decipher.
“I'm about to reprimand them myself when Jonah suddenly turns around and bites the nearest kid in the leg.”
“Oh dear Lord.” Colleen laughed and covered her mouth with one hand.
Mason chuckled, shifted and grinned at Jonah then turned his attention back to Noble. “The kid screams and they take off. And Jonah tells us he wants this dog. And I tell you, it was about the ugliest critter I've ever seen, but he was insistent this was the one he wanted.”
Shaking his head slowly, a smile twitching the corner of his mouth, Jonah messed with the cup.
“So anyway, on the way home, Jonah is in the back seat of the car with this dog.” Mason smiled. “And it's frightened, clearly doesn't trust Jonah, but he just sits there quietly, petting the dog until it calms down and stops shaking. Pretty soon, it's head is resting on his leg and its fast asleep.”
Noble stared at Mason, his interest seemed genuine.
“So I ask Jonah – why did you bite the kid?” Mason chuckled and shook his head. “And he tells me simply – 'cause the dog couldn't do it, and God says to help those who can't help themselves.”
Colleen laughed. “Out of the mouth of babes.”
“I don't know why you insist on telling that story.” Jonah groaned and smiled, his eyes focused on the gouged up cup.
“It's a good story.” Mason grinned.
“It is.” Colleen smiled. “It's sweet.”
Mason glanced at Noble as if to gain his input. Jonah found himself listening intently to what, if anything, Noble had to say.
He emitted a quiet laugh, with notable hesitation. “That's funny.” he murmured.
The comment was genuine, and Jonah felt the fool for taking such pleasure in it. He raised his eyes to look at Noble.
Rebecca's sudden presence, and question, knocked Jonah's gaze back down to his cup. The lightness of the moment vanished in an instant. And not only for himself. He literally felt the tension grab hold of Noble and lock on.
Rebecca's question hung on the air as she set a plate of food in front of Noble. Though it smelled good, his stomach twisted up so tight he doubted even a bite could make in.
“Oh, I was just telling Noble the story of Jonah's first dog.” Mason chuckled. “Want to hear? I don't mind reciting again.”
“Please, don't.” Jonah mumbled, but there was no trace of humor in his low voice.
“I liked it.” Colleen smiled, then looked at her daughter. “It was cute, and very heroic.” Her gaze suddenly grabbed Noble's eyes. “Wasn't it?”
His heart thumped hard against his ribs. Jonah was sitting too close, and the mild scent of his cologne was beginning to make Noble lightheaded. Play your part. Don't let them see. Don't let them know.
“Uh, yeah.” Noble glanced up at Rebecca as she set her own plate on the table and he pulled up a chair for her next to him. “It's a good story.”
She smiled curtly and sat down. “I'm sure it is.” She clearly had no interest in hearing anything about Jonah. “I'll hear it later.”
Noble stared at her as she picked up a fork and began poking at her food. He resisted the thoughts that tried to force into his head, and the underlying anger that simmered beneath them.
She's going to be your wife. It's your duty to support her, be on her side. What she said before – it's true. It is a sickness. A disease. And to think that God could ever condone it...
“Are you going to eat, hon?” She was looking at him, one neatly shaped eyebrow raised. The story of Jonah dismissed and forgotten.
“Yeah.” Noble murmured and looked down at his plate.
Beside him, Jonah downed the remainder of the cold coffee in the Styrofoam cup, set the cup on the table then scooted his chair back and stood.
“I have to get going.” he said, his tone casual – on the surface. Underneath, Noble heard the tightness, the tension.
“So soon?” Mason asked. “I thought you were going to hang out and humor your old man.”
“That story was my quota of humoring for the day.” He tried for lightness, but his words dropped heavy on Noble's ears.
“You should stay.” Colleen said, but Noble caught the hesitation in her soft voice and the quick jump of her eyes to her daughter.
“Thanks.” Jonah said. “But I can't.” He stepped behind Noble's chair and the hair on the nape of his neck prickled, his skin tingling, half expecting Jonah to discreetly run his fingertips against him. But the man seemed to take great care in not touching him as he moved past both his and Rebecca's chairs.
An unexpected twinge of disappointment coiled in Noble's gut, and he quickly stomped it out.
Jonah stood at the end of the table. His violet eyes swept over them, grabbing Noble's gaze very briefly then releasing him with just enough force to leave a lingering ache.
“I'll talk to all you happy people later.” he flashed a smile that failed to reach to his eyes.
“Ok, son.” Mason nodded. A hint of sadness floated in the man's eyes.
“Bye, Jonah.” Colleen smiled.
Noble cast a quick look at Rebecca who showed no signs of bidding the man farewell. Again he found himself battling thoughts and emotions that he couldn't allow to take root. He glanced briefly at Jonah and offered a slight nod.
A faint working of the man's throat and he tossed them an absent wave and walked away. Noble watched him discreetly until he passed through the doorway and was gone. Beside him, he felt Rebecca relax, then smile and strike up a conversation with her mother as if Jonah had never been there.
Noble looked at Mason and the man was gazing at Rebecca, the sadness thicker in his eyes. His stare shifted suddenly and grabbed Noble's look for a brief moment. The question was there – Do you hate my son too? – and it curled around Noble's heart, squeezing until he could barely breathe.
I want your heart – I want you to love me.
He looked away before the man could peer too deep into his soul and see everything he desperately needed to keep concealed. A low throb thumped in his temples as he picked up his fork and began to mess with his food. His stomach remained pinched, cramped.
Rebecca's light words and soft laughs only seemed to twist up his guts even more. Behind his eyes all he could see was Jonah's beautiful eyes casting him one last look before the man walked away. Though he'd held his shoulders up and gave no indication of the immense weight pressing down on him, Noble recognized the invisible burden quite easily.
A slight squeeze to his wrist drew him back to the here and now. Rebecca was still speaking to her mother, and now Mason as well, her hand resting on his arm as if she hadn't – just a very short while ago – confessed to being sickened by his kind.
Noble caught himself just seconds before ripping his arm away from her touch, and let it remain. She wasn't talking about you. She loves you. And you love her. You never have to tell her.
The weight resting on his shoulders pressed down harder.
Forget about Jonah. You don't want him...and he doesn't want you. Don't think he will ever love you.
Noble turned his face away from Rebecca, startled and scared by the sudden sting to his eyes. His gaze settled absently on the Styrofoam cup, indentions webbed all over the outer surface from Jonah's thumbnail. It blurred before him and he blinked quickly at the hot tears trying to well up.
When his vision cleared a bit, his pulse quickened and heart squeezed tight in his chest as the nearly invisible indented image beneath the gouged lines seem to peek out hesitantly, and his eyes traced each crudely gouged letter – then followed the course of the rough line that drew a heart around his name.
© Copyright 2017 AMS1971. All rights reserved.
Book / Erotica
Book / Gay and Lesbian
Short Story / Gay and Lesbian