I opened the door on Friday evening to find Lark and Jude standing on my front porch after having rang the doorbell. They had a damn key. I didn’t know why they didn’t use it. “Where’s the key?” I asked. Both of them were notorious for losing shit, and I’d had to have my locks changed three times within the past year because they kept losing the fucking thing.
“It’s at my house somewhere, I swear. Don’t get mad, okay? I’ll find it, Kennedy. We already ate, did you?” she asked as they came inside. I hugged my son, happy to see him. We’d had dinner on Wednesday night because I’d missed seeing him the previous weekend while he was out of town with his mother.
I was glad to have him home, so maybe he could offer a distraction from the memories and thoughts circling my head. I needed to think about something other than Thornton Marsh and Judah provided me with the perfect disruption.
“I had a late lunch,” I lied. I turned to Jude. “Why don’t you go put your stuff away? I got us tickets for the Bulldogs’ game tomorrow. Sound good?” I asked with a bright, though fake, smile. Ridding myself of thoughts of Thornton was a lot harder than I anticipated.
He gave Lark a funny look, and she sighed. “I’m sorry. I forgot to tell him.” She turned to me and smiled. “He’s got a birthday party tomorrow afternoon. I was going to pick him up at ten in the morning, so we can get a gift on the way. It’s his first boy/girl party,” she stage-whispered.
I turned to look at him, seeing his flaming-red face. “God, Mom,” he chastised. I scrubbed my hand through his dark brown hair and gave him a playful shove.
“So, is there a birthday girl or boy? I can take him shopping and drop him off at the party, Lark,” I offered.
“Jude, go put your things in your room. Maybe Dad can help you with your homework later,” she suggested. I saw the eye roll from him, and I held the laugh, not wanting to piss him off. He was eight, and I couldn’t begin to comprehend I had a son that age.
He stomped off like an eight-year-old boy would do, and when we heard his bedroom door click shut, I looked at Lark. “Isn’t he a little young for a boy/girl party? I don’t remember even contemplating the existence of girls until I was about eleven,” I complained.
She laughed as she walked into my kitchen, opening my fridge to grab a soft drink. I knew she was looking to see if there was any alcohol because Lark didn’t drink soda as a rule. It meant she’d talked to my big-mouthed sister and knew what was going on with Thornton and his book.
“Feel free to search the place, Officer Nutter. I’ve been going to meetings damn near every day, but I’m not drinking, Lark. Now, this party?” I reminded, hoping I put her mind at ease and onto another subject.
“Look, Kennedy, I know what’s going on because I had lunch with Rory. How are you doing? Have you talked to him?”
I had to be honest. “I’ve called the man, but I hang up when it goes to voicemail. He doesn’t want to talk to me, Lark. The hate that rolled off him was just… hell, it was palpable. I don’t think there’s anything I can do or say to even get him to give me another chance,” I admitted. She toyed with the unopened can in her hand before I took it from her and put it back in the fridge, knowing she wasn’t going to drink it.
After a minute, she snapped her fingers. “What if I spoke with Thorn Marsh? What if I told him what happened that day—why the two of us were there, together, that day? I mean, it makes me sound like a desperate schemer, but I’d be willing to tell him what happened, Kennedy. I’m not blameless in this you know,” she reminded as it all came back to me.
Nine Years Earlier…
“You wanna get coffee? I have a few questions I’d like us to compare notes on. If I’m going to fail the fucking final, I’m going to need to sign up to retake the class at the community college near my parents over the summer break. What’s wrong, Kennedy? You seem like something’s really bothering you,” Lark observed as we walked out of the lab, having finished our final early.
I looked at my watch, seeing Thornton was still in class. What I needed to talk to her about wasn’t something I could discuss in a public place. “How about we go back to my place? My roommate’s still in class, and I need to… I need to talk to somebody,” I requested—hell, I was actually begging.
Lark Nutter was a wisp of a girl. She was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met, and I could sort of tell she had a crush on me, which I wanted to quash. I’d steeled myself to tell her the truth about how I felt about Thornton, who she only knew as my roommate.
We were getting ready to part ways for the summer, and I thought if I let her down easy and talked to her about my fear of coming out to my parents, she’d understand there was no “us.” That was, only if I could haul up my balls and tell her the truth about me. It was sort of like a dry run for what I planned to say to my parents, so I decided I’d test the water with Lark.
We went to my apartment where she looked around with an appraising eye. Of course, being as observant as she was, she immediately noticed the size – or lack thereof. “Your bedrooms must be closet-sized,” she joked as I poured her a glass of iced tea.
I froze, immediately regretting I’d brought her to the apartment. I quickly checked the clock over the fridge to see I still had enough time before Thornton got out of his final. I took a deep breath and turned to her. “Yeah, um, it’s a one bedroom.”
“Oh, do you have bunk beds or does the couch fold out?” She was giving me the up and down, and when she licked her lips, I knew I had to come clean before she went off in a direction I didn’t want to begin to contemplate.
“Sit down, okay?” She followed me to the living room, and we sat down on the couch, facing each other.
“I want you to know I think you’re a great girl. You’ve become a good friend since we met in January, and I need to tell you I haven’t been honest with you about something major in my life,” I began, taking in her demeanor. She was smiling, so I was sure she had no idea what I was about to tell her.
She nodded, so I plowed forward. “Thornton and I aren’t just roommates. We’re boyfriends. We share the bedroom,” I announced rather ineloquently.
Her face screwed up in disbelief, and then she forced a smile. “So, you’re gay?”
That was the big unknown, wasn’t it?
“I’m…well, I don’t know. I mean, I care deeply for him, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m gay or it’s just Thorn. See, I’m the top, so I don’t know if I’m…well, I’ve never been with…”
She held up her hand. “Have you ever had a relationship with a woman? Have you ever fucked a girl?”
I hated to tell her I’d never been interested in anyone — boy or girl — before I met Thornton. During high school, I spent way too much time in front of screens—computer, gaming, and television—and I didn’t have close relationships with anything that wasn’t artificially generated. That was until I met Thornton.
“So, you fuck him, right? I’m not insensitive, but I don’t know much about gay relationships. Do you give him head?”
I felt my face glowing. “Um, I do. Thorn likes to do me…” I immediately shut my mouth because I was betraying confidences… confidences between lovers who trusted each other to be discreet about the private things that happen when you’re with the person you profess to love.
She seemed to contemplate my response, and then she smiled. “I think you need to do a comparative analysis. Kiss me.” She got up from the couch and plopped her iPod in the iHome on the entertainment center, turning on some very soft music. I, however, was about to swallow my tongue. I’d never kissed a girl. Hell, the only person I’d ever kissed was Thornton.
“Um, I don’t know if…” I began sweating profusely, even though the A/C was on.
“Look, kiss me. If it does nothing for you, then you know, right? Kennedy, listen. I really, really like you, and I’ve thrown myself at you all semester. If you’re struggling with your sexuality, let’s figure it out so I can move on? Kiss me.”
She launched herself at me, crawling into my lap and kissing me gently. When she moved against my cock, I felt myself get hard. Her tongue was in my mouth, and my hands instinctively wrapped around her body, settling on her ass just as they always did with Thornton when he straddled me. I had to stop those thoughts, or I’d never get my answer.
We made out, and I lost myself in the feeling of having her small, delicate frame against mine when I was used to a much harder, muscular frame rubbing up against my body and tempting my cock. The fact I was erect surprised me, and when she pulled away, we were both breathless.
“Um, so?” she asked.
Hell, I didn’t know how to answer her. I was hard, but I was a twenty-year-old guy. A stiff breeze could make me hard on a bad day. I still had no conclusive proof, so I merely shrugged.
“Kennedy, I’m a virgin. Do you know what that means?” she asked. Naturally, I knew what it meant to be a virgin. I was one until I met Thornton.
“Of course, I do,” I responded as she continued to grind on my hard cock.
“No, what I mean is I’ve never had sex, and I want you to pop my cherry. You’re trying to find out if you’re gay, so I say the pussy needs to come out. You can close your eyes and think about a guy when we kiss because I’m relatively flat chested, but when faced with the vaj, if you get it up, it’s one of two things. Either you’re bi, which would explain why you can fuck boys and girls, or you’re straight and allowing your roommate to manipulate you into being something you’re not. I say we test it out,” she offered.
I’d never seen a live, naked girl. I’d only seen online porn, and I told myself the reason it did nothing for me because it wasn’t something I could touch. Putting my dick in Lark was definitely one way to test the theory, though, in the back of my mind, I had an idea it wasn’t something I should do. The devil on my shoulder told me I should at least have sex with a woman before I confessed to my parents I was gay, so without too much thought, I reached for the button on her shorts.
She stilled my hand. “I’m not a bitch, but I’d really rather not lose my virginity on a couch. Could we at least do it on the bed?”
She climbed off of me, and I had a flash of why it was a mistake, but I tamped it down. When she took my hand and led me back to our bedroom… mine and Thornton’s. She slipped off her shorts and panties, lying on the bed at the bottom and opening her legs. I stared at her bare pussy, and swallowed, feeling a little intimidated.
I decided just to get it over with, so I went to the nightstand and grabbed a condom, checking the clock on Thornton’s side table to see I still had some time. I dropped my pants, having decided standing was the best idea because I couldn’t begin to imagine the two of us on the bed together. I didn’t pull the spread down either because it didn’t seem right to have her on the same sheets where—I had to stop that train of thought.
After I had the condom in place, I positioned myself at her entrance, feeling my dick beginning to soften a bit. I’d never imagined I’d be in the position to have sex with a woman, and I actually didn’t want it to be bad for her since it was her first time, so I closed my eyes. I imagined she was Thornton, and I pushed inside her. I felt resistance, so I drove harder, and then I heard a gasp, so I opened my eyes to take in her appearance. Her face was screwed up, and I stopped.
“What’s wrong? Does it… Do you not like it?” I asked.
She let out a large breath, and I saw tears in her eyes. I started to pull out when she wrapped her legs around me. “No, don’t. It just hurt for a second. It’s fine now. Go ahead,” she requested.
I began moving in earnest, and my mind couldn’t help but replace her face with Thornton’s gorgeous face. When I made love to him, he was so animated and expressive. Lark just looked pained, and I decided I was at least going to try to make her experience an orgasm, so I licked my thumb and began stroking her where I hoped her clitoris was located. When she gasped, I was relieved I’d found it.
I continued to move into her, feeling my orgasm on the horizon because, hell, she was tight. “God, yesss,” she hissed. I hoped I was at least giving her a little pleasure, so I sped up my movement, feeling myself on the brink.
“Almost… I’m almost there,” I moaned to myself.
I closed my eyes because I couldn’t look at her, and I tilted my head toward the ceiling, trying to think about Thornton so it could just be done. I felt her pulse around me, so I pumped into her a few more times. I heard something behind me, just as I let go.
“You. Motherfucking. Son. Of. A. Bitch!” Thornton yelled at me from his place in the doorway.
My head whipped around, seeing him standing there in shock. “Thornton, baby…” I began, feeling frozen to that spot. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I had no idea what to do.
He was staring at the two of us, and then I saw his face screw up in pain. He hurried out of the room and was down the hallway before I could move away from her. I reached down and held onto the condom as I pulled out of her body. When it dripped on the floor as I slipped it off, I knew we had a problem.
“Fuck, I think it broke,” I complained.
“Shit, I’m not on the pill,” Lark informed. That wasn’t something I ever had to worry about with Thornton, obviously…
I hurried to the bathroom and quickly turned on the water, filling the condom and seeing that there was definitely a thin stream that leaked from the tip. That wasn’t good news at all.
Lark walked in, having redressed. I was still standing in the bathroom with my pants around my ankles and a pain in my heart rivaling anything I’d ever felt in my life.
“So, you came. I think that means you’re not gay, Kennedy,” she determined with a triumphant smile.
I felt the tears in my eyes because I knew how wrong she was. “No, Lark, it actually means I am gay. The only way I was able to come was because I closed my eyes and pretended you were Thornton. I’m sorry.”
She ran out of the apartment, sobbing all the way, and I felt like shit. I’d broken three hearts with one horrible decision. I was an awful person.
When she called me at my grandparents’ place six weeks later to tell me she was pregnant, I was despondent. I had no idea how to deal with it, so I cried until I had no tears left in my heart. Then, I found my granddaddy’s stash of corn liquor in the barn and began my relationship with alcohol.
After Thorn left Spokane, I searched for him everywhere. I canceled my ticket to Galveston so I could try to find him, and I called my parents and told them I was gay. Of course, they pitched a fit, but I didn’t care. When I couldn’t find him, and his aunt and uncle wouldn’t speak with me, I went to my grandparents’ place to try to figure out what to do. I got the call from our landlord he’d moved out and paid out his part of the lease, and I never heard from him again. I even drove to Portland to talk with his family. They told me he’d dropped out of school and moved away.
“I don’t think he has it in him to forgive me, Lark.”
She sighed. “Kennedy, don’t give up on him just yet. Let me see if I can get in touch with him. Give me his number. I think if he knew how much I goaded you into sex that day, he might be a little more understanding. Gimme,” she demanded as she held her phone out. I programmed in the number Rory had given me and handed it back to her.
“Just, um, please don’t upset him any more than I have already, Lark. I broke his heart once. I don’t want him to suffer that pain a second time,” I begged.
“Kid gloves, I swear. Now, I’ve got a date tonight, and not the kind of dates you’ve had in the past. You’re not still doing the man-whore thing, are you?” she asked. Unfortunately, our friendship had gotten to the point where I talked to her about the passionless fucking I’d done over the years since I got sober.
She told me it was damaging my self-esteem as she continued to pursue true love, and I said in response I’d already had true love, and I’d fucked it up, so I didn’t deserve it again. I picked up guys, fucked them, and went on my merry way. No emotions involved at all. Hell, even that became stale after a while, so I swore off in favor of self-service when the need arose.
“No, Lark, I’m not. Hell, I don’t think I could get it up if I tried,” I whined.
She giggled. “I’d suggest we have another go, but we both know that won’t work. I’ll be back at ten in the morning.”
“I told you I can take him shopping for the gift,” I reminded.
“Okay, what would you get an eight-year-old girl?” I thought about what I knew about girls and figured out… nothing. “Point taken.”
She laughed as she hugged me and left. I went back to Jude’s room to see what he was doing. He was playing his Xbox, so I sat down and placed my hand on his back. “What’s up, Bud?”
He paused the game and turned to look at me. “Can I ask you somethin’ without gettin’ in trouble?”
I immediately became concerned. “Of course. You can ask me anything, Jude.” I placed my hand on his shoulder and looked into his mother’s dark eyes, waiting nervously.
“What’s a faggot?”
I felt my stomach drop. It wasn’t that we weren’t telling Judah about my sexual orientation; we weren’t going to overwhelm the boy with anything regarding sex until he started asking questions. Lark told me she didn’t tell him when she went on dates and had never introduced him to any guy she dated as far as I knew. I didn’t have him around my hook-ups because I didn’t ever bring them home with me.
“Where’d you hear that word? That’s a bad word, Jude,” I told him carefully.
“Like a swear? I said a swear the other day, and Mom washed my mouth out with soap. I burned my hand, and it just slipped out,” he defended. I wanted to laugh at the vision of seeing Lark, who was undoubtedly petite, washing out our son’s mouth with soap. He was equally as tall as her, getting height from my side of the gene pool.
“It’s kind of like a swear, but it’s more a mean name to call someone. You know how you’re not supposed to label people with bad names just because of where they come from or the color of their skin? It’s that sort of thing,” I tried to explain.
His eyes widened. “Oh, you mean like when the boys at school called Paul ‘chief’because he’s part Navajo? Like that? What about the Kansas City Chiefs? If it’s a bad name, how come they call the football team that?”
We were getting completely off topic, and it was in unfamiliar territory on which I was embarking, but I needed to know what he knew and where he’d heard the word. “It’s more complicated than I can describe at the moment, but if you tell me where you heard the word, maybe I can explain it better,” I offered.
Judah screwed up his face and tipped his chin a little before he spoke. “Last weekend when I stayed at Grandma and Granddad’s while Mom was at her meetings. I was comin’ down for breakfast when Granddad said, ‘Lily, our son’s a faggot, and that girl’s a whore. We need to get that boy away from them before they ruin him.’ When they heard me, they quit talkin’, and it didn’t seem right askin’ what they meant. They didn’t talk about it anymore, and they didn’t know I heard,” he stated, his voice just above a whisper. I wanted to bite nails in two…
“They say anything else?” I asked. How in hell would I ever undue the damage my parents had done during one conversation?
“Later, they got into an argument about it, and they didn’t talk to each other the rest of the weekend. When Mom came to pick me up the next mornin’, Granddad took her into the study and talked to her while Grandma packed up some cookies for the flight. When we left, Granddad didn’t come say goodbye, and Grandma told Mom she was sorry. I think Mom was cryin’ when we were flyin’ home.” Oh, god…
I needed to talk to Lark because she had apparently suffered an altercation with my father that she wasn’t telling me about. At the moment, though, I had bigger fish to fry. “Okay. Look, this might be hard to understand, but you know how your mom dates guys?” I asked.
His eyes shot open, wide, which led me to believe he didn’t have any idea. “Let’s start over. Your mother and I aren’t married. You understand that, right?” I asked. He nodded, so I plowed forward.
“Well, when you’re with me, your mother goes out on dates with other guys. She wants to meet the right guy for her, just as I have,” I responded without thinking much about my words.
“I know she goes on dates, but I didn’t know you knew it. What do you mean you’ve met the right guy for you?” he asked, not missing a damn thing.
I took a deep breath. “Jude, I date men. I know it’s odd for you to think about it, but I care deeply about a man. I’m gay. Have you ever heard of anything like that?” I asked. God, every day I have to come out to someone new, including my son.
He looked at me for a minute and grinned shyly. “Sam has two dads. Is it like that?”
I didn’t know who Sam was, but if he was the product of a gay couple, maybe I should get to know them. “Are you friends with Sam?”
“Yeah. We play kickball and stuff at school. Sam’s dads take turns pickin’ him up, and I’ve talked to them a few times. They seem really nice. Am I gonna have two dads?”
I sighed, wishing like hell I could give him an answer. “Well, right now, you just have me. I don’t know if you’ll ever have two dads. Maybe if your mom meets a man, or if I can get my sh…figure things out with my special someone, it might happen. You’re not upset, are you?”
“I, um, I like girls. The party I’m goin’ to tomorrow is for Kylie. She’s a girl I like. That’s okay, right?”
I chuckled at him. “It’s very okay for you to like Kylie. Do you think she likes you back?”
“I don’t know, Dad. She talks to me, but she sits next to Jack for lunch. I don’t know if she likes me, but I wanna get her a good gift… ya know, just in case?”
I held the laugh. My son, the ladies’ man. “Jude, I’m sure your mom’s all over it. I’m gonna eat something. You hungry?” I asked. He nodded as he stood and turned off the television, following me to the kitchen.
I heated a frozen pizza, knowing Lark would get pissed about him sharing it because she only fed him fresh things, preservatives be damned. I didn’t care too much about her wrath.
After we ate, we watched a little television, and when his eyes started to drift closed, I helped him to bed, tucking him in and kissing his forehead after his teeth were brushed. He didn’t look like me, having his mother’s darker features, but he was an adorable boy, and I loved him very much.
To be continued…