“That’s not how a relationship works, Preston. Look, I know I’m no expert in this area, but I know that in a relationship, you should want to be there for the person you’re with; you want to go places and do things with them, not hide them away from the world because you’re scared.”
Marshall runs his hands along his head, his fingers skimming through his short brown hair. I hate that I’m the reason for his frustration tonight, but I understand why he’s upset.
We left the bar an hour ago, and I’ll admit, I hate that I took the coward’s way out tonight. We had plans to meet up with Marsh’s friends, his family, tonight, and officially come out as a couple.
However, I chickened out on my way to the Eagle’s Nest. After another hour of back and forth in my head, I went….Only as Clark and not Preston.
All of Marshall’s friends, the group he considers a close knit family, I know. I’ve worked with a majority of them over the past two years, but being military, they’ve only known me by my last name. I’ve been lucky that they haven’t connected the dots and put two and two together, realizing that Marshall’s ‘Preston’ is their friend, Clark.
“I spent the past two years thinking you were shy about being gay. I didn’t think you were ashamed of it.”
I start to speak but he holds his hand up in the air, stopping me from getting a word out.
“Don’t try to deny it. If you’re scared to come out to your coworkers, that’s one thing, but you don’t want to come out to anyone. I don’t know if your family rejected you when you told them you’re gay, and you’re holding onto that or what. But it seems like you think everyone will do that to you, without even giving them a chance to know the real you.” He shakes his head, and breaks my heart with his next words. “I don’t even know if I know the real you.”
The sadness on his face is enough to make me wish I would have manned the fuck up and came out tonight.
If only we could go back…
“Of course you do, Marsh…”
“Do I? One minute, I see one side of you and the next, I see someone completely different. If you’re gay, then be gay. I’m not asking you to plaster rainbows all over your car or wave a Pride flag around everywhere you go, I’m just asking you to be fucking real. You can’t be gay here in the privacy of these four walls with me, then straight in the eyes of everyone else. It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to yourself.”
I know he’s right, but my primal instinct is to protect my lifestyle by hiding it.
“I don’t act straight in front of everyone else. I just don’t flaunt my sexuality.”
He rolls his eyes at my lame attempt to defend my behavior.
“But you see, that’s where you’re wrong. When you’ve been working with people for this long and they still don’t know if you’re gay or straight, that’s when you know you’re hiding it.”
He shakes his head again and we’re both silent, contemplating what to say next, where to go from here.
He finally stops pacing the length of the couch and takes a seat beside me. Well, on the other side of the couch actually. With his elbows resting on his knees and his head in his hands, he delivers another blow I wasn’t expecting.
“Look, I’m too damn old to play this shit. You wanna be with me? Now’s the time to prove it. We have a family dinner coming up in a week, it’s way past time for you to meet my friends.”
“Marshall, I don’t know.”
He looks at me with a harsh glare that silences my plea in an instant.
“I do. I hate to be the one to dictate shit like this, but I’m done. If you still, at this point, can’t come out to the people who mean the most to me, then we don’t need to waste anymore of each other’s time.”
“No, I need some space and you need some time to think, Preston. I know you already have all the details for the dinner. You, or should I say Clark, were already invited. I guess it’s up to you who you decide to be that night.”
With that said, he walks over to the front door and opens it, waiting for me to take the hint and leave.
Unsure what to say or do at this point to make anything better, I quietly walk out with my head down, too afraid to see the anger and disappointment in his eyes.
Closing the door behind Preston feels so…wrong and final. I don’t know if I did the right thing or not.
Scratch that, I hate what I did tonight. I treated him like shit all night, then gave him an ultimatum.
Who the fuck does that?
This asshole right here, apparently.
I sit on my now empty couch and consider the best way to get a hold on this mess. I hate not being in control of a situation. Any situation. I’m a control freak to the max. And this unsettled feeling is already eating a hole in me.
Calli, my calico cat, sits in Preston’s vacated seat, glaring at me. She’s only been around a few short weeks, but she already runs this house. And judging by her intense glare, she’s not happy I sent Preston away tonight; I swear she likes him more than me.
Refusing to backtrack now, I do the best thing I know to do; head into my kitchen, open my liquor cabinet, and pull out a bottle of Hennessy. Foregoing the glass, I sit on my counter and take swigs from the bottle.
As much as I want to fix this, I know I can’t. Pushing Preston into a take-it-or-leave-it deal wasn’t the right way for me to handle our relationship, but something needed to happen. I’m ready to snap from all of my frustration at the dodgy persona I’ve acquired to keep this ridiculous secret.
I take another long pull of the amber liquor and relish in the bitterness as it courses down my throat.
My friends would accept Preston without a second thought. They already do, he just won’t give them the opportunity to see it for himself.
The burn of the alcohol does nothing to wash away the guilt I feel after that fight, nor does it blur the memory of Preston’s crushed face and sagging shoulders as he passed me when I kicked him out of my house.
I bring the bottle to my lips again for another long drink and slide off the counter. With the bottle in hand, I head to my room.
If nothing else, maybe I’ll knock out shortly.
I can only hope Preston finds the resolution to our problem by daylight. If not, this is going to be one shitty week.
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