tagGay MaleThree Strikes Ch. 17

Three Strikes Ch. 17


A person can only tolerate so much self-reflection before it becomes detrimental to one's health. That's how I was feeling by ten o'clock the next morning. The realization that I was a fuck-tard was weighing heavily on me—so much so that I'd started to feel depressed, which wasn't a normal feeling for me. I was a good person—I worked with sick kids, was debt free (minus my home), ate relatively healthy, worked out (sometimes), and treated people with respect (more often than not). But mostly, I was a jerk who'd hid behind all of the good things I'd done.

I sulked my way to the kitchen. I'd just gone shopping and my kitchen was stocked with food, yet, there was nothing I wanted to eat. It was ironic, if I'd thought about it. Everything I needed was in front of me, yet I was too moody to see it or enjoy it. I'd probably end up dying alone. Who'd want a fool like me? I couldn't even grow old with a house full of dogs or cats to keep me company because I was too selfish to take care of animals. Also, ironic.

I opened and closed the refrigerator for the tenth time before settling on a glass of orange juice even though what I really wanted was a doughnut. I looked around the house as I swirled the juice around in circles. I needed something to keep me busy, something to keep my mind occupied.

The last thing I wanted to do was remember the most humiliating night of my life. In a selfish act to get closer to Shane, I'd embarrassed him, made him look insane in front of Davis, insulted him, and made myself look to be the biggest jackass ever—not only to Shane but everyone. I'd actually considered dropping out of the league because I didn't want to face anyone again.

I spotted my vintage blue hutch. Bingo. It was the black hole of my house, the thing that collected all homeless items, things I was too lazy to properly put away, things that needed to sit around a little while longer before I finally felt at peace enough to throw away, things that were odd shaped, or you know—the color, orange.

I was a half hour deep into the project when I started to regret it. It required more energy than I had and was a little more than I was prepared to take on, considering my emotionally deprived state. I had no clue what to do—the living room floor was full of piles of similar items and I was only half way through the crap.

I could've shoved it all back in, but then all of that work would've been wasted, or I could continued on finish finish it. I looked around at the mess I'd made.

Or, I thought to myself, I could burn the house down.

A knock on the door distracted me from my arsonous thoughts. Not only was I not expecting anyone, I was heavily counting on spending the day alone. There wasn't a molecule in my body that wanted to see anyone after the previous night's nightmare. Hoping it was a lost soul looking for directions or the random, but always welcome, Saturday delivery, I decided to answer the door.

"We thought we'd stop by and see how the wedding planning is coming," Aaron teased as he entered without permission.

The comment felt extra salty on the gaping wound that wasn't only my ego, but the weird insecurity I felt regarding Shane. Not wanting to appear as weak and vulnerable as I'd felt, I bit my cheek and held back my reaction. I guess I didn't school my reaction as well as I'd thought because Nick saw right through me.

"Calm your tits, we brought doughnuts. We figured you'd be having a hankering for half maple and half chocolate. Hashtag-depressed-Donovan."

Nick held up a pink box from a small doughnut shop we frequented whenever the need arose. It was true, I had a tendency to stuff my gullet with deep fried desserts when I wasn't feeling my best, which explained my hankering. I smiled as I grabbed the box and walked to the table.

"Do you know what would go perfect with this?" I asked as I sat down and pulled out a perfectly rationed doughnut. Aaron and Nick both raised a brow and waited for me to continue.

"Eating it...alone."

I was dead serious and I gave them a look that conveyed my seriousness. I appreciated the doughnuts, but had no desire for the company they'd come with. They were nothing but witnesses that had no problem rubbing the night into my face.

"Actually—" Aaron hesitated, but Nick looked at Aaron with a nod of encouragement and, when Aaron didn't continue, finished the sentence for him.

"We came here for a reason."

It was Nick's words that had made me realize Aaron and Nick had come together...alone, which was strange because I was unaware they were friends and Nick was rarely seen without Nelly. I felt my stomach drop with dread. There had to have been some sort of serious conversation, to which they'd decided the best plan of action was to join forces and tag team me. My mind started to fracture with the stress of figuring out why one of the DONNAS and one of the DAKS were standing united, with doughnuts, in my kitchen.

"Oh, god, what? I'm going to be sick," I mumbled as my eyes darted between the two.

The look on their faces gave me no confidence whatsoever and made my heart start to beat erratically. It had to have been Nelly, something must've happened. Nick and he were never apart.

"Where's Nel?"

"At home. Why?"

"Why isn't he with you? Is something wrong?"

"Nel is fine, mostly. But—"

It was Nicks turn to hesitate. Aaron straightened up and took a deep breath before continuing.

"But stuff happened last night. More accurately, things were said and now Nelly is an inconsolable wreck because he knows you're going to be upset, especially because of how things went down before you left."

I guess they thought that was enough of an explanation because neither of them felt the need to expand. I looked at them as though they needed to continue ASAP or die. Which I might have.

"Would one of you care to explain?" I shouted when neither of them continued.

That was all they needed to start spewing the events of the night. Eventually, after I'd made a fool of myself and left, everyone started drinking and I assumed they'd talked about my foolishness. They never explicitly said that but I think it was implied. Instead, they told me Nelly and Drew had been flirting. While trying to impress Drew, Nelly had started drinking more. It wasn't long before Drew started talking about sex, which he always did, and drunk Nelly was more than willing to share the details of his life in an effort to impress him.

"Drew started asking about three-ways," Aaron looked at me, sympathetically, and I knew what they were going to say next so, in a panic, I asked.

"Who all was there? Who was at the table?"

"Everyone," he confirmed.

"Everyone?" I softly reiterated to myself. I met Aarons gaze, shook my head, and begged him to tell me it was everyone except Shane. He shook his head, apologetically.


Nick lifted his hands and continued.

"The second he started talking, I tried to distract him. I tried to derail the conversation, but I couldn't. Ollie and Sammy were surprised, and upset, that they didn't know. Drew thought it was awesome. Everyone kept encouraging Nelly to talk. It wasn't until Shane spoke that Nelly realized what had happened and started to freak out—"

I'd put my hand up to stop Nick from talking.

"Wait! What did Shane say?" My stomach was in knots and there was no doubt that any quick movements would've made me expel my food.

"He asked when it happened. I swear D, Nelly feels terrible. He didn't realize. He was drunk!"

I sunk my face into my hands and screamed semi silently. Then, as I ran my fingers through my hair, I yelled into what felt like was the dark hole destruction.

"I really fucking hate my life right now! Fucking Allé! I didn't even want to do it! I didn't want to have sex with you guys, you guys pressured me. I didn't want anyone to know and now Shane will hate me forever. I'm such a fucking idiot! What is wrong with me?"

Breathing was becoming difficult so Aaron pushed me down until my head was between my legs. I definitely felt like I was on the verge of hyperventilating.

"First of all, fuck you, Donovan!"

I looked up to see one, extremely red-faced redhead.

"No one forced you to do anything. You're a grown-ass man who was more than willing! I've seen you put up a fight before, but that's not what you did that morning. And before you try to make excuses, both Nelly and I were awake when you and Allé were talking. Allen was a jerk for suggesting anything, but you're a jerk for agreeing. No one took advantage of you. If anything, you took advantage of Nelly who, by the way, feels really fucking terrible about last night, but in all reality, he shouldn't!"

I sat there, wide-eyed, as Nick continued to rant on about how: selfish I was; everyone always does what I want to do; I never consider anyone else's feelings; I never help anyone else get laid, but they're expected to drop everything to wingman for me; and even though Nelly had a crush on me, he'd decided a long time ago he wasn't interested because I was too selfish and self-righteous.

Next, he moved on to the fact that I've never had a relationship that lasted longer than a month or so (which was an exaggeration, but not by much). Apparently, everyone realized my habit of making guys feel like crap and never forgiving them for any of their shortcomings until I finally found all of the reasons why they weren't good enough and dumped them.

He gladly pointed out the similarities in my relationship with Shane. Having previously talked to Aaron, or someone else that was there the night I dumped Shane, Nick also reiterated that they'd collectively shut down Davis and the rest of the conversation was banter that had nothing to do with me. And he explained how I'd overreacted and dumped Shane because I was looking for an out, as always.

The previous night at the bar, I'd come to the realization (all by myself) that I was a shitty person. With the vail already pulled away, it was easy to look back and see everything Nick had said was true, albeit fucking harsh. It wasn't only Shane who got the shit end of my stick, it was everyone. I didn't stop him, no matter how much I'd wanted to jump in and defend myself, I allowed him to release years of hurt and frustration. By the time Nick had finished ripping me to shreds, I could barely hold myself together. I could barely bring myself to look him in the eyes as I apologized.

"You're right. I'm sorry."

If I said anything more, I wouldn't have been able to hold back the emotion that was pressing, like a freight train, against my chest. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to stop my lips from quivering and I stared off into space to stop the tears from falling. There was so much more I wanted to say, but my need to not fall apart was stronger.

I saw Nick run his hands over his face. "Fuck. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gone off like that."

"It's true, though," I shrugged.

He didn't respond. No one felt the need to confirm the truth out loud. We sat in a tense silence until I composed myself enough to give a proper apology and promised to talk to Nelly right away. After walking Aaron and Nick out, I flopped down on the couch. I still felt the emotion bubbling inside of me.

It was as if every cell in my body was trying not to explode while my skin pulsed and tingled. I stared, aimlessly, at nothing until I couldn't handle it anymore so I got up and stuffed all of the crap I'd left in organized piles on my living room floor back into the hutch. I wasted a few more hours on mindless activities until I couldn't stand that, either.

I slipped on my shoes and a jacket, grabbed my keys from the bowl, and as my fingers grazed the torn piece of paper that was left behind, I hesitated. My fingers lightly strummed over it as I mulled the option around in my mind. Without another thought, I grabbed it and locked the door behind me.

I don't have to go. If I happen to be in the area I can stop by.

I looked down at the paper, 38923 West Edison Drive #1109. It was across town where there was nothing and no reason to be in the area. That wasn't true, there was a reason to be in the area, but only one.

I slipped my sunglasses on and pulled out of the driveway. The resting bitch face was strong as I drove. It was the one thing that kept the emotional monster inside of me at bay. It was as if my body knew, if I tried to smile or move my facial features, even a fraction of a centimeter, the floodgates would break.

I was content to space out while I drove. Being void of thoughts, emotions, and self-loathing would feel like an exotic beach vacation. Instead, I was bombarded as snippets of my past as they played through my mind and slapped me in the face while Nick's words from the morning narrated like a Morgan Freeman documentary, but far less captivating.

The longer I drove, the less confidence I had. By the time I reached West Edison Drive, the only stable and consistent thing about me was my stoned expressions. Underneath my calm exterior was pure and total chaos.

After I reached a giant gate, I looked at the paper again. 38923 West Edison Drive #1109. I punched #1109 into the box and the gate opened. It was disappointing. I didn't really want the gate to open—I wanted to go home. And that's what I thought about as I passed the house. I should've stopped but I didn't. I kept driving until it was out of view. I couldn't do it.

*** *** *** ***

I worked as many hours as possible the following week. I didn't turn down a single shift, not even when it conflicted with baseball—especially when it conflicted with baseball. I felt like a zombie all week and it took everything I had to function like a proper human. My lack luster didn't go unnoticed by anyone, not even the kids. Normally I was an open book, but this week I was tight lipped. Even if I wanted to share, I was still trying to figure things out myself.

I should've talked to Nelly, but I didn't. I didn't talk to anyone. The daily calls and messages remained unanswered, day after day. I probably could've handled everything with more maturity, but I needed space to deal with my emotional shortcomings. As the week went on I slowly started to feel better, not much, but enough to talk myself into Friday's game.

I was nervous as fuck as I walked to the field. I'd ditched my no hat rule in lieu of the privacy and security of a hat and sunglasses. I had no clue what was coming, but I suspected my recent solo lifestyle wasn't going to go without comment.

There was a definite unease in my stomach as I saw everyone hanging out together. DAKS had a game before us and were probably staying to watch. It was normal enough, it's what we did, but now I was the odd man out and everything was weird. They were probably talking about me. I would've been talking shit about me if I was them. Luckily it was almost time for the game to start and they were over by the opponent's dugout so I was able to sneak past with no fuss.

Or so I thought. After hanging my bag up, I glanced over to see them staring at me. I turned away and grabbed Randy, who was standing in the dugout with a few others, and asked if he'd warm up with me. I managed to warm up in peace, but all bets were off when I got back to the dugout.

"He lives and breathes!" Nelly said with a none to subtle sarcastic note.

"You know, work. Lots of extra shifts."

I gave my best forced smile and headed to the huddle, then out to the field. My anxiety was starting to spike. I thought I was doing better, but being around everyone was sending me spiraling. Once they realized I was inverting, they stopped flicking me shit. Nick even tried to talk to me, but I shrugged him off. I knew it hurt his feelings, he probably thought I was angry at him, but I was back to feeling extremely emotional and if I didn't get out of there fast, I was going to break down.

As soon as we won and shook hands with the other team, I was out of there. I was faintly aware that there were members of DAKS trying to get my attention, not Shane, of course, but the others. As a distraction, I thumbed through my phone like a teenager as I walked away.

If I thought space was what I needed, I'd been wrong. By Sunday afternoon the treat that held my life together was fraying to the point of breaking. I needed to talk to my friends, to apologize or something. It's just that everything was so overwhelming and I didn't know where to start. Hell, for all I knew I'd pissed them off past the point of return. I had to try.

With every intention of starting with Nick and Nelly, I grabbed my keys and got in my car. It wasn't until I was punching the gate code in that I realized I was a long ways from my destination.

I drove around the block until I couldn't avoid 38923 without having the cops called for suspicious activity. I parked and walked to the door. Knowing I couldn't hesitated, I knocked and waited.

And waited.

I heard rushed footsteps, obviously in a hurry to get to the door, moments before it was whipped open. The look on Shane's face confirmed he hadn't expected me to be standing there. He leaned against the door frame and looked at me with a quizzical brow.

"Hey. What's up?"

Being face to face with him was a bit overwhelming in my brokenness. I was already biting the inside of my cheek, trying to keep away from the emotional edge that I was teetering on. I couldn't talk. It was as if uttering a single word would send me spiraling over the edge. I knew that speech would've made the tears fall, for sure. I shrugged and averted my gaze, thankful that I was still hiding behind the protection of sunglasses.

His confusion was obvious in both his voice and his hesitated movements as he opened the door wider.

"O...kay. Would you like to come in?"

I stepped in and looked around. The sheetrock was up and mudded but not textured, the flooring was plywood, plastic sheeting was draped over the doorways, and it smelled like construction. I remembered that he'd mentioned remodeling. I didn't have the vision to see past the mess, but I could tell it was going to be nice because the layout was open and the house was a decent size.

"I'm not exactly prepared for entertaining, but there's a stool in the kitchen."

I nodded and followed him through the house until we reached the kitchen, which was large and the closest thing to being finished that I'd seen. Sure enough, there was one stool sitting at the island. He motioned for me to take a seat as he stood and leaned against his elbows on the opposite side. We sat in silence as he watched me nervously fidget with my fingers. I knew he couldn't tell, but I was trying to compose myself enough to say something...anything.

My bottom lip started to quiver, which signaled the start of an avalanche of emotion. I bit my cheek harder, then my lip, and then my tongue—anything to stop it—but it was too late, I felt the silent tears escaping as they cascaded down my cheek.

I wasn't shaking, I wasn't sniffling—just lots of tears. Where did they come from? They started tickling so I wiped them from my lips. The movement must've alerted Shane that something was off because the next moment, he was standing next to me.


The genuine concern in his voice broke me. Whatever thread of self-control I had was obliviated by his close proximity. He pulled the sunglasses away and I hid my face against his chest, I wasn't ready to face him.

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