The Pretender Ch. 03byJaycobMatthews©
The next day at work Michael cornered Daniel in the lab.
"Come to dinner with me tonight..."
Daniel stared at him. "No"
"Come on its Friday and you don't work tomorrow. Seriously I won't take no for an answer." Michael said.
"Well, guess what, I just said 'No' so you're gonna have to." He retorted.
Michael stared back, waiting.
"Look, I'm sure you didn't realize it, but I'm not a 'going out' type, nor whatever happened the other morning type, okay?" Daniel tried to push Michael out of the way, but the smaller man refused to move.
"I'm gonna keep invading your personal space until you agree to it, so unless you want some rumors floating around..." Michael lightly threatened.
"Fine. But just as friends. None of 'this'." Daniel said gesturing to Michael.
"Cool. I'll drive." Michael practically skipped away.
Daniel begrudgingly slipped into Michael's car. Michael turned to him
"So, what do you like? Want to do something around here?"
"Doesn't matter to me... I'm not to picky."
"Alright." A few minutes later they were at a hole in the wall bar.
"What is this? Some hick bar?" Daniel asked disbelieving.
"Well, you said just as friends tonight, so I wasn't thinking romantic restaurant. Although, that is on my To Do List. Besides they have great food here."
Daniel shook his head.
They sat down at a small table and Michael ordered for them.
"Combo platter and two of your most popular microbrews."
The bartender went to go place the order with the kitchen and promptly brought back their beers.
"So, Daniel, what was life like growing up as you?" Michael started.
"Well. Obviously I had a pretty sheltered life. My parents are pretty religious. I haven't decided if I want that or not yet."
Michael realized that was the root of Daniel's fear based anger at himself in the shower the other morning. After a moment of thought, he said,
"I think you should come to church with me this weekend."
"I'm serious, you should come to church with me this weekend, get a different perspective on religion to help you decide." Michael already was thinking about calling his friend, Ben whose dad was the preacher. The food arrived and momentarily disrupted their conversation.
Daniel looked at him warily.
"Decide what exactly?"
"Look, Daniel, I understand what you are going through. You struggle with it on a daily basis, and you're hardwired to think you're a freak, an abomination, whatever." Michael leaned forward. "I've been through it myself, and was shocked once I found out how many people supported my decision to be who I was meant to be."
"I don't know what you are insinuating."
"Okay Daniel, I get it... look, if you want help, let me know, but don't lie to yourself. Obviously it's already causing you pain, and it'll just keep festering." Michael said firmly.
Daniel looked like he might get up and leave, but Michael saw a flicker of hope light his eyes. At that point, Daniel decided to change the subject since the conversation was not something he wanted to discuss, much less in a public area.
"So what led you to veterinary medicine?"
"Well, I always loved animals growing up. My grandpa was a vet, and my sister is too, but you knew that. I guess I always wanted to work with animals since I was young. What about you?"
"Well, I always loved animals even if we didn't have any growing up. I never wanted to be a vet though, I didn't like school that much, and wasn't sure I wanted to have that much responsibility. When I was in high school though, I started watching Animal Planet and had an epiphany. I knew watching Emergency Vets that I wanted to be a vet tech. I had no idea what a tech was until I watched that show. I never knew that something like this existed. Most people still have no idea what we do."
"Like run the place..." Michael joked. "You guys do everything! One of the first things they teach us in vet school is to not just respect your elders, but respect your techs. They are your eyes, ears and heart of the clinic. They will make your life miserable if they want too."
Daniel laughed. "That's so true. The doctors at the clinic wouldn't know how to run any of our lab equipment or x-rays if they didn't have us."
They continued talking long after they'd finished their food. Daniel reluctantly agreed that the seedy bar did serve great food. Michael settled the bill and they walked back out to his car.
"Want to come over for a bit? Maybe a night cap?" Michael asked once they were in the car.
"I don't know Michael"
"Well, I'll drop you back off at your car, but if you change your mind let me know. No funny stuff though, since my parents will be home. Not that they'd care, they've known I was gay before I even told them..."
Daniel looked shocked.
"What do you mean?"
"My mom guessed when I was 14, but I didn't come to terms with it until after I met Ben. His dad is the preacher at the church I want you to come with me to. Ben knew who he was right from the start and his parents and support group never told him he was anything but normal. God that kid grew up the way any gay child should. He was never bullied or told he was different or anything! They both helped me come to terms with what I was feeling. It was so weird how it happened though, because I was never the stereotypical gay guy and after starting to feel that way, I thought I was a total freak, you know? Like I'm not a normal straight guy, and I'm far from a normal gay guy. Anyway, I was seriously depressed with that thought, and was contemplating what to do. I mean I wasn't close to hurting myself or anything, but I think if I hadn't met Ben I would have. I was walking home from an after football practice the one day, frustrated with myself since I almost popped a boner in the shower. Man the one wide receiver was so freaking hung..." Michael laughed. "And it started to pour, the wind picked up and all of a sudden I was caught in a terrible storm, so I ducked into the first public building. It happened to be a church. As I wandered around, Ben found me. He could tell I was upset, didn't let up his questioning, and he finally got me to admit I was concerned I was gay. His dad came around the corner then. I was terrified! Hugh in his preacher clothing sure was intimidating, especially after hearing all these horror stories about the Westboro Baptist Church and whatnot... I was about ready to bolt out of there, but Ben stopped me. We talked for hours while it rained outside. It was life changing; they helped me come to understand that God doesn't make mistakes. What's the famous saying? He doesn't ever give you more than you can handle. And I can handle this, and so can you Daniel. You don't have to worry about whatever people think. You need to be safe and comfortable in your own mind. You have to be okay with yourself first, before caring about others." Michael fell silent. Daniel was speechless, and for the first time ever he opened the door in his brain shut for so long.
"I think I would like to meet them. I think I might be ready to find out who I am." Daniel said before he could stop himself.
That Sunday, Michael showed up on his doorstep bright and early. Daniel, although he was nervous, was ready, dressed in a nice pair of khakis, and a light blue collared shirt Michael almost laughed, because although he was wearing black pants, their shirts were very similar in color. Daniel followed Michael out to his car.
"Nervous?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, I'm not sure why though. This should go fine. I'm just going to church, right? Ha!" Daniel said.
"Well, we are talking about possibly changing all the ideals you grew up with... it's kinda a big deal. But I hope it works out. As your friend, I'm concerned about you."
"I almost just want to skip this and maybe meet your friend later"
"Daniel, really, what's the mantra you keep repeating to yourself?"
"Let's just get through the day?"
"Right." Michael said as he pulled into the parking lot of the church. It really was a small non-descript church, the parking lot only had about 20 spaces, and only half were full. The building itself did look like a church, but for some reason had a homey feel. Probably due to the fact that other then the large cross on the sign explaining what the building was, there were very few religious figures decorating the outside. Daniel followed Michael into the church. Instead of sitting in the back like Daniel would have preferred, Michael walked up the small row of pews and sat in the third row next to two young men. One was skinny, lean and quite short compared to Michael and Daniel. The other was a bit taller, and had a muscular build. Michael sat down near the taller of the two, and they shook hands. Before Michael could introduce them to Daniel, music started playing.
Michael was a bit disappointed in the service, Hugh talked about honesty today, and after the first part Michael had truthfully drifted off into his own thoughts. Maybe after today though, Daniel would be more open to visiting again, and then they could catch a sermon on sexuality. He peeked over at Daniel, who looked a bit shell shocked.
Daniel could hardly believe his ears as he listened to the preacher talk. When he first started talking, it was more so about being honest to those around you, but it blossomed into being truthful to yourself. About lying to yourself about who you were, leading into lying to others, causing your soul damage. Daniel realized then and there, he had to stop pretending. He had to stop lying to himself about the possibility he might be gay. It was damaging him, and although he knew it would be a long road to accepting himself, he had to start- right now. He turned to Michael.
"I need to go home." He quietly said. Michael seemed taken aback, but noticing the tears starting to form, he complied.
"I'll talk to you guys later, maybe we can do lunch." He said to the men sitting next to him. Daniel started duck around other parishioners leaving. He made it to the car before Michael did. Michael unlocked the car, and they silently got in. The drive to Daniel's apartment was just as quiet. When Michael pulled up to the curb, Daniel just about leapt out of the car and ran to the door. Concerned, Michael put the car in park, and followed him. He hoped that taking Daniel to church wasn't a mistake. Fortunately, Daniel was in such a rush, he hadn't locked the door behind him. He found Daniel curled up in a fetal position on his bed, crying softly.
"Daniel?" Michael whispered from the door.
No reply. Michael crept up to the bed and sat down. He placed a hand on Daniel's shaking shoulder.
Daniel jumped a bit at the touch.
"Thank you." Daniel whispered.
"For what?" Michael was baffled.
"I never thought.... I never guessed... I just, well, today was eye opening. To be religious, and be accepted as not being normal, you know?"
"Look, just because you might be gay, doesn't mean you're not normal,"
"If it wasn't for you, I don't know if I'd ever be able to see it that way. But now there might be hope."