Never Saw Blue Like That Ch. 03byvelvetpie©
Gay. The word struck him like a cold slap of water in the face and he shook as if he had been assaulted. Gay. He'd had a hell of a long time to think about that word and still, he could not put his name and the word gay together in the same sentence. He thought about Garrett often and ruminated over the feelings he had for his childhood friend but he was unable to attach the word 'gay' to that relationship.
And so his life had continued. It had taken him nearly a year before he could reach out to anyone else for friendship. Even Jodie had found him more icy than normal and a chance sighting of Carlton Sheets at a street fair had turned him onto the world of real estate and with that discovery, he'd escaped the confines of the backward state of Florida. He'd hopscotched to West Palm, then Miami, then up the coast until he reached New York and there, he'd become a force of real estate nature, dropping million dollar deals and toasting with Cosmopolitans while he left the past behind.
"Wow." The word escaped him like air from a deflating balloon and all at once, he was jealous of his friend for having the courage to not only speak the truth but also to say it out loud.
"Does that surprise you?" Garrett laughed again, winking at someone behind the camera which was Neal. "I hope that you felt the same thing that I did that day when I left; that you loved me, that if I would have stayed, we would have become lovers. That I would have spent my last breaths dying in your arms." The ensuing silence was punctuated by Cal's swallowed sobs and the sniffles of Garrett's son. "Since I haven't heard from you, I can only hope that you felt the same."
The epithet that Neal snarled was almost lost on Cal until the videotape version of Garrett spoke again. "But I know that you never heard from me." On the television set, his old friend hefted a plastic bag filled with what looked like envelopes. That same plastic bag landed in his lap, deposited by Neal and Cal glanced from son to father. "These are the letters that I wrote to you and each one was returned by your mother."
Cal looked down at the bag, anger heating his face. How could his mother have done that to him? He already knew the answer. Neal's expletive explained everything. "That bitch!"
"Anyway, I won't harp on that. If you're seeing this, I'm long gone and hopefully, she is, too." He laughed. "I've left something to you and you'll have to visit my lawyer's office with my son, Neal, to receive it." A wide smile creased his still-handsome features as his eyes temporarily focused on the person behind the camera. "You'll love him, Calvin. My son is the man I wish I would have been." The uncomfortable stretch in the silence was broken by Garrett's laugh. "And I'm sure that he'll tell you that as well."
Cal wiped tears away, glancing over at the young man and laughing. "That sure of yourself, eh?"
"Goddamned right." This time, the words were a little quieter and Cal had no doubt that Neal was the man he and his father had professed him to be. "Goddamned right."
"I hope that I'll see you in heaven, Calvin. Until then ... " Garrett saluted and Cal stood, returning the gesture as tears poured down his cheeks, remembering their childhood farewell. "Live well."
* * * * *
Neal watched Cal's reaction to his father's video recording and felt conflicting emotions. Part of him was overjoyed that he was finally meeting the man who had stolen his father's heart all those years ago but another part was angry, inconsolably angry that he had stayed away so long. If he so loved his father, why hadn't Calvin Butler come for him?
"I loved your father, Neal. I loved him with all my heart."
"Then why ... "
"I don't know." Cal bowed his head, still struggling to bite back tears. "It was complicated. We were so young and I didn't know what my feelings meant. By the time I had some kind of idea, Garrett was gone, whisked away to Colorado and out of my life forever." He took a deep breath, trying to come to terms with his own feelings. "I didn't know what the word 'gay' meant until high school and even longer before I knew the word applied to me. Then everything sorted itself out and I finally understood what everything meant."
He shook his head in response to Neal's whisper. "Yes, too late. Much too late." Cal didn't notice that the young man had stood and was kneeling at his feet any more than he felt the tears striping his cheeks. "When I heard that he had died ... " The words wouldn't come and before he knew it, he was sinking into Neal's embrace, sobbing his heart out as he released the emotional demons of his past with no knowledge of what lay ahead.
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