Coming Out with the Truth Ch. 03byzolia_lily©
It was a couple of weeks later that I arrived at the oval to coach the boys slightly later than usual. They'd already started to dribble in. I was about to head over to them and get started setting up when I heard a yell, and turned to find a large, angry man striding up behind me. His fists were clenched. Not a good sign.
"You, you fucking faggot!" he yelled. I sighed inwardly and stood my ground.
"Can I help you?" I asked coldly.
"You shut your fucking face, you bloody cock-sucking fairy!" he yelled. I was distantly aware that there were other parents around, that the kids were stopping and staring, that blood was slowly but surely heading for my cheeks. "My own son!" he yelled and I blinked. I had no idea whose father this was, but he obviously didn't like his son associating with 'one of us'. "You keep your fucking queer hands away from him!"
"Are you accusing me of something?" I asked him coolly. I should have realised that this was not the man who backed down. I should have realised that this was a man who saw gayness as a threat to his masculinity, and apparently to his son's as well.
"Damn right I am, you arse-fucker! You leave my son alone! You hear?" I felt my temper rising.
"I don't know which boy your son is, but I-" I began firmly. I wanted to yell back, but I was aware that I was supposed to be a role model for these kids and I wasn't going to enter into a fight like this.
"You been after that many of them, you sick son of a bitch?" he asked me with a gleam in his eye. Ah, shit. "You hear that?" he yelled at the other parents. "You hear what he's doing to your sons?"
"Now you listen to me," I said loudly, deciding that this was the point at which I should stand up for myself and raising a hand to point at him. He turned back to look at me. He'd used the movement to disguise his real intent. He took a swing at me, I didn't react fast enough so he connected with my eye. I saw stars, swung blindly as I lost my balance, felt my knuckles hit soft flesh and hard bone and something sharp. I stumbled back until I found my footing, blinked and saw (with my good eye) that I'd hit him in the mouth. He spat blood. Oh shit. Not good. He roared, blood leaking from his mouth and launched himself at me.
It took five other parents to get him off.
Half an hour later we were at the police station.
Guess I'm lucky it wasn't the hospital.
John interviewed me. I told him what happened, trying not to shake. It had upset me more than I realised. I'd been in town for two months, and so far everyone had been really nice. I hadn't had any comments or eggs thrown at my house or any problems I might have expected in a small town at all. I guess I'd thought by now that there wouldn't be any.
He let me leave his office and I walked down the hall to leave the station. McGuiness had the angry father in cuffs since he was refusing to cooperate, and thoughtfully waited until I was out of the way to take him to John's office.
The hallway was sort of narrow and I didn't fancy walking right by him there.
I exited the station and stuck my hands in my pockets. I was pretty sure I had a shiner. My knuckles were cut up. My ribs felt pretty badly bruised and my right shin stung like blazes. But my dignity was the worst hurt. I debated whether to head back and see how training was going, or whether to just go home and hide.
Then I noticed a skinny figure sitting on the curb.
"Joel." I said, sat next to him, pretending that didn't hurt as much as it did. He was the tall shy boy I'd had my suspicions about. And surely there wasn't any other reason he was sitting in the gutter outside the police station on his own. It was a pity to have my suspicions proved right like this. He looked pretty shaken up. "Sorry I hit your dad." I offered. He managed a quick grin before he looked away.
"I came out to him. Today." He blurted. I nodded. That made a whole lot of sense.
"You alright?" I asked. He shrugged.
"I didn't think he'd go mental, you know? And I did tell him you never- I mean- that you're not-" I cut him off.
"Yeah. It's ok." He rested his chin back on his knees.
"I've never met anyone else who was... you know – gay – before. And everyone just accepted you, you know?" he said softly, staring determinedly across the road.
"Yeah." I agreed. "But I'm not from around here. I'm a strange exotic creature from the city." He smiled sadly and closed his eyes.
"Is it always like that?" he asked.
"Sometimes." I said. I had to be honest. "Not everyone is open minded. Doesn't matter what century it is. Mostly though, the people who aren't ok with it just avoid you."
"Everyone's going to know, now." he said thickly.
"Yeah." I said gently. "But you know what? That's the hardest part. Once you're out then you don't have to worry about that anymore. You don't have to keep worrying about how your friends and family will react. You get it over and done with and then you can get on with living your life and everyone else can damn well deal with it or not."
"Mine hit me with a silver serving spoon on my ear. Two stitches." I said. He looked at me with wide eyes. I laughed. "She's ok with it now." I told him. "She didn't mean to hurt me, she was just shocked. To be fair, I probably shouldn't have come out while she was serving Christmas dinner to the extended family. She was serving peas over my shoulder and I just blurted it out. The spoon was only about fifteen centimetres away, but she panicked because she drew blood and took me off to the hospital. Then she nearly broke my fingers holding my hand. Parents are like that. They love you no matter what. He'll come round. It might take a while, but they'll most likely come round." He nodded but didn't look up. He probably suspected what I already knew- that it might not happen. That there wasn't always a happy ending. "Here." I said, pulling a pen from my jacket and finding an old receipt in my pocket. I scribbled my phone number and my email address on the back. "If you want to talk about anything, then let me know, yeah?" he took the piece of paper and nodded.
I offered him a smile, then got up and began to make my way home.
Like this wouldn't light up the town with gossip.
I got some frozen veggies out of the freezer when I got home and iced my eye. It gave me a massive headache, so I took a couple of asprin as well. I was lying on my couch watching tv with a bag of peas on my head when my doorbell rang. I got to my feet and shuffled to answer it.
John stood there, looking slightly awkward. He was wearing dark jeans and a nice shirt, looked like he'd showered and shaved. He was so luscious I forgot to breathe.
"Hi." I said stupidly. My blood wasn't in my brain at that point.
"Hey. Want to get some dinner?" He asked. I blinked. What was he asking me, really?
"Oh." Eloquent. Nice. "Uh, I'm not sure I really want to head out." I said, touching my eye. He grinned.
"Yeah. Only I thought, you know, I could show some solidarity with you. You know." Yeah. I could guess. He wanted to be seen with me out in public so people knew he wouldn't stand for gays being attacked in his town. He wanted me to know he didn't have a problem with it. And maybe this was as good as an excuse as he'd get to ask me to dinner without actually asking me on a date. "Have you tried the Italian restaurant yet?"
"No." I said. "Do you like Indian?" he gave a nod, but his reaction was hesitant. I knew why. The Italian restaurant was family friendly, bright lights and chequered table cloths. The Indian restaurant was dimly lit, had little candle lit booths, soft cushions, deep, vibrant colours. More date material. I stood in the doorframe and looked him over, up and down.
I wanted to demand to know what he wanted from me. I was not in the mood to play games. And I was tired of avoiding him because I didn't know what to expect. I was still coming to terms with being single and I was not prepared for meaningless sex. If that was what he was after then my answer would be no.
I opened my mouth to ask him if this was a dinner invitation or something else, something more, but I caught the look in his eye.
He was nervous.
If he was gay then I'd never heard a peep about it. And knowing some of the women, Sarah in particular, they'd have been trying to set us up the instant I arrived if they had known. It wouldn't matter to them; so long as they got to play matchmakers. Sarah was his sister, and from what I'd seen they were close. If she didn't know then I was willing to bet that no one did. If he really was gay then he'd obviously been in the closet forever and ever; for his whole damn life. Hell, I didn't even know if he'd ever spoken to an openly gay guy before. There was even the possibility he was still a virgin.
That was definitely something I'd never thought about having to deal with.
"Ok." I agreed finally. I wouldn't ask. Not yet. I almost felt a peculiar kind of relief. Putting off the possibility of rejection, I guess. Call me chicken but I'll swear it was because I didn't want to put him on the spot. "Sure." He smiled and nodded and I wondered what I was doing. "Italian sounds good."
Dinner was actually really nice. We chatted and steered clear of any awkward topics, but still had a lot of fun. We found a lot of things to talk about. I checked him out every opportunity I got. His awesome shoulders and the breadth of his chest, his strong thighs and great arse. The way the denim cupped his package. A few people come up, too, to ask what had happened and express sympathy that I really didn't need. A couple of fathers came up to check I wasn't going to give up on coaching, too. That I really appreciated.
John noticed. "Not everyone hates gays, you know." He said quietly. Was this an invitation to ask him about himself? Was this a hint?
"I guess," I said slowly. "I just didn't expect it. Not when I've been here this long, now." He nodded slowly.
"Davies is an alright bloke, really. Don't know why he attacked you."
"I do." I said, taking a drink. "I coach his son. Joel. He said he came out today."
"Ah." John said carefully. Added nothing else. My heart thudded painfully in my chest.
"Yeah." I decided to go on. "So he attacked me over it." John nodded slowly, didn't look up.
"Family... family's tricky." He finally agreed.
Was that it? He wasn't saying much, but I had to wonder. If he was really gay, and by now I was pretty damn sure he was, was he trying to tell me something? His family wouldn't accept him?
I wondered if I could ask Sarah about their family subtly enough that she wouldn't twig. And neither would John.
It was something to think about.
John drove me home and when he pulled into my driveway there was a moment where I thought I could have kissed him and he might not have minded. I found myself with a stomach full of butterflies instead. What if I'd read him wrong and he wasn't interested in me? I couldn't face rejection again, not yet. I wasn't ready for this.
I thanked him and hopped out of the car.
Sarah invited me to dinner with her family a few days later and I thought I had the perfect opportunity to ask about her family without John noticing... until she opened the door and John was already there with a nephew slung over each shoulder.
He grinned at me and carried the laughing and squealing kids into the next room.
"Favourite uncle, I see." I said with a grin. Sarah laughed and nodded.
"Definitely the favourite uncle." She agreed. "And he's made himself my favourite, too. He's an absolute angel when we need someone to look after them or babysit. He needs some kids of his own, I'm telling you." My ears pricked up. Here was an opportunity if ever there was one.
"So you have more siblings, then?" I asked.
"Yeah, two more brothers. They both live out of town." She didn't offer any more information and I felt like her tone was a little short, so I didn't ask any more.
John sat opposite me at dinner. I wasn't getting signals from him like I thought I had the other night, but I was pretty sure I could attribute that to being in the presence of his sister and her husband. All the same, halfway through the meal I managed to somehow smack my knee against his, and when I reached under the table to rub it, the backs of our hands brushed against each other.
My gaze flew to his. He was watching me quietly, eyes dark and calm. He looked totally unflustered. So unflustered that I had to wonder if this wasn't entirely unintentional... but his hand lingered...
After a moment I swallowed hard and pulled my hand away. I had to have a drink before I kept eating. My mouth was suddenly dry.
We saw each other more frequently after that. At Sarah's, since she was beginning to ask me to family dinners more frequently, but even if we happened to bump into each other in the main street we might have a coffee or a chat. He came to a whole lot of soccer matches and practices too, apparently to give a couple of kids lifts home, but he was always early. And he'd stand there with his arms crossed, leaning back slightly. I was fairly sure he was watching me.
There was always that tension between us. And it was building steadily.
And I was getting tired of waiting.
I was aware, too, that Graeme's wedding was coming up. I hadn't heard from him and I didn't expect to, but it didn't worry me quite so much anymore. It still hurt, but I was coping. It didn't consume my dreams anymore. I didn't think about him half a dozen times an hour and wonder what had gone wrong, wonder if he'd ever loved me at all or if he'd just fallen out of love with me, if this was the first time there'd been someone else I hadn't known about, if he'd considered leaving me before. I could think about him without crying. I was functioning and actually beginning to feel like I was getting my life back on track. I was starting to feel good about things again.
I had high hopes for the future.
A couple of weeks later I'd been sitting in the window at Jim's writing something I had high hopes for, when John dropped past and came to say hi.
A coffee together turned into lunch. He was so easy going and relaxed about everything, so easy to talk to.
He was just about to head back out when I took a fortifying breath and asked him.
"Hey." I said. "Do you want to come over for dinner on Friday?" he looked quite taken aback and I found myself keeping on talking to give him an out, to give him a reason, to tell him this didn't have to be more than a meal. "It's just that it's ... it's the wedding day."
John gave me a level look and I prepared myself for him to tell me it wasn't a good idea. "Are you telling me you found someone to sell you more rum?" He asked me dryly instead.
I laughed. "No. I just don't really want to be alone." He nodded slowly then smiled and nodded.
"Sure. Can I bring anything?" He asked.
"No." I shook my head. "I'll spend the day cooking. You know. Keep busy." He nodded and smiled, and looked at me again with concern and warmth.
I was tempted to lean over the table, grab his shirt and kiss him silly.
Somehow I managed to restrain myself.
Friday came and I spent the afternoon cooking. I was totally preoccupied with the thought of having John in my house. Having John come over for dinner. Graeme barely entered my head at all.
By the time my phone rang I was a bit of a mess.
"Hello?" I asked breathlessly.
"Hey Keithy- been running?" It was my kid sister, Emma.
"No." I hoped I didn't sound too sullen. "How are you?" I asked to cover the moment.
"Good. Wanted to see how the writing's coming. I have a friend who just got a job in publishing, and I thought you could show her your manuscript. Last time I spoke to you, you said you thought you were nearly done and-"
"Oh, Em, thanks, but I'm kind of expecting someone. Can I call you back?"
"You can just email, that's ok. Someone special then?"
"Just a friend." I said defensively. "Sort of. Who is freakin' h-o-t, by the way." I added with a grin. Em laughed and I chatted to her for a few moments before the doorbell rang.
"Well I want to hear all about it, ok?"
"Gotta go. Thanks Em."
I shut my phone and hurried to the door.
"Hi." I managed to get out in a close to normal voice as I opened it, then forgot to breathe. John smiled at me slowly. He was wearing a close fitting t shirt and jeans, with a belt which had a big cowboy buckle which drew my attention straight to his groin. Did he do that on purpose?
"You going to let me in?" He asked after a moment.
"Right. Yeah." I answered blankly, inwardly kicking myself. He was too gorgeous to be real, wasn't he? He grinned at me and I let him in. I felt suddenly self conscious, even thought I was just wearing jeans and a shirt as well. "Get you a drink?" I asked. He looked at me suspiciously and I had to laugh. "No one's been selling me alcohol, I promise. I've got coke, juice, cordial..."
"A glass of water would be great to start off with." He said. "I'm a bit thirsty." He suddenly looked a little awkward and I smiled and nodded. He was feeling this. He had to be.
"So," John asked when we were eating dessert. I'd made banoffee pie with bananas and strawberries and extra chocolate and it was pretty damn good, if I did say so myself. John really seemed to appreciate it too. I nearly leapt at him and wrestled him to the ground when he moaned and closed his eyes and tipped his head back like that. "You seem pretty ok about this."
"Huh?" I asked. I hated that. I was a writer, and yet sometimes around him I could barely string a sentence together. I definitely couldn't gather my thoughts.
"You know. Graeme getting married."
"Oh. Right." I said, frowning. He was right; I was actually feeling pretty good. I shrugged. "Well. It's been a couple of weeks past three months since he left me. I've sort of had time to get myself together, I guess." John was watching me like he wanted me to continue, so I sighed and put my spork down. "It still hurts." I said. "But my heart's not breaking anymore. I can deal with it, now. I'm more angry than anything, because everything was about him and I had no part in this. So I've tried to let go. And about this time tomorrow," I said with a smirk, "he'll be wondering what the fuck he's got himself into."
"Really?" John asked quietly. "You think he'll change his mind and come back?"
"In all honesty, I don't think he will." I admitted. "I think maybe I wasn't... what he needed, in the end." John scowled.
"That's not a reason for cheating."
"Yeah. I know. But I think maybe being with a woman will suit him better."
"How do you mean?" John asked quietly.
"Well. Same sex relationships aren't simple, just like normal relationships aren't always simple or easy. There are still stereotypes of men and women, and I don't think Graeme ever really... liked the blurring of the boundaries. I don't know. It's hard to explain. I mean, he was in a gay relationship, but he-I think he felt threatened if I was too masculine, you know? He liked that I cooked. He liked that I had long hair and that I was smaller than him. He didn't like me playing too much sport. I got a promotion at work and he didn't like that. He never said, but I could tell." I smiled at John. He seemed to be drinking up what I said. "I passed it on to someone else after a few months. Partly because I thought Grae would be happier again and partly because it was more work than I was prepared for. But then he worked longer hours, so I tended to do things around the house. You know. I didn't mind doing it, but sometimes I didn't like his attitude to it. I feel like he wanted me in what he saw as a woman's role, and he didn't like it if things didn't fit." John was looking at me like that was crazy. "I know." I agreed. It was crazy, especially seeing as we were both men. We weren't exactly ever going to be a traditional couple. "So yeah. I think he'll have married a nice traditional girl and be really happy. And I'm ok. I think seeing the engagement notice was the final straw. I got drunk, but I think... that was sort of the last of what I felt. I could finally really let go. So I think... I've got it out of my system. I'm ok now."