XIV. I’m Sorry
I swallowed as fear started clawing its way up my throat. We if he outs us? What if he fires me? What about Madison?
“As you could imagine I was shocked and confused when I saw this. I was mad even,” he said with a small chuckle. “But then I remembered that this isn’t my Madison. This isn’t my boy, nope.” He shook his head and stroked his facial hair, disdain and reluctance evident in his eyes. “He’s like this because of you.”
My heart dropped and my throat closed. Fear pumped through my veins and though the door was behind me I was frozen in place. Mr. Williams stood up, his eyes locked with mine. He was going to hurt me. For “making his son gay”.
I was terrified.
And even as he approached me and put a hand on both of my shoulders, I couldn’t move or speak and all of my self-defense tactics left my head, leaving me with nothing but white noise and an overwhelming fear.
“Now Noah, look. I know you’re a good kid and have a good work ethic. I just think that you’re confused and you decided to take that confusion and direct it toward my son. I know you haven’t had much luck with girls as your Nona tells me, which is honestly shocking, but what will not happen is you turning my son gay, inteso?(understood). I mean, it would be a shame if your Nona and church were to find out about this, since I’m guessing she doesn’t know considering that your still living with her. And I’d hate to have to discipline you myself, but I will if you don’t stay away from my son.” By the end, his voice was dark and low, sending a shiver down my spine. “Are we clear?”
I swallowed. Either continue being with someone who I’m very much in love with, or risk being outed, shunned, and possibly even beaten? I didn’t want to hurt Madison. In fact that was the last thing I’d ever want to do, but I just wasn’t ready to be out yet and when I am ready to be out, I want it done my way. But Madison brought me so much joy... Maybe I could work around this. I mean his dad will watch us closely for the first few weeks or months, but after that we should be out of the woods as long as we’re extra cautious, right? Plus, I didn’t want to ruin his relationship with his dad, especially when I’d do just about anything to get my own back, nor did I want to put his safety at risk.
The decision was clear: fake it until you make it...or that’s what I told myself.
I slowly nodded, my heart still racing out of fear for my well being and out of fear that he’d see right through me. “Good,” he said clapping me on the shoulder. “I’ve already changed your work schedule so that you won’t be in the same shifts as Madison. I don’t know what you two were but it ends right now. I wanna see you call him or text him or whatever you kids these days do. I just need my son to snap out of this and whatever you decide to do, you do on your own.”
My heart dropped through the floor. No, no, I couldn’t do this. This would crush him and I wouldn’t have the time to explain myself since once again, his father would be watching us very closely and that might include our texts. “Come on, Noah. The sooner we do this, the sooner you can help yourself. Or I could simply call your Nona and the two of you can handle this. The choice is yours.”
My heart sank even more as I slowly nodded and reluctantly opened my texts.
Me (16:57): I’m sorry Madison, but I can’t do this anymore. My heart was breaking more and more with each character I typed. I shouldn’t have dragged you into my confusion and I don’t want you to waste your life because of me. Mi dispiace. As soon as I hit send, I blocked his number and turned my phone off. I had to hold back a choked sob and quickly blink away my tears. It felt like my heart had been savagely ripped from my chest.
Mr. William’s hand clapped me on my shoulder, causing me to jump. “I hope you understand I’m also doing this for you, kid. You have so many opportunities, don’t waste them by being un bominio (an abomination).” Despite the Madison-sized hole I felt in my chest I numbly nodded, not meeting his eyes, before he said. “You’re dismissed. You still work the same days, but Madison has been moved.” I didn’t respond before I hurried out the door, tears silently sliding down my cheeks the whole walk to my car. I felt like I was going to explode, and it didn’t help that my car was facing directly toward Madison’s apartment.
I needed to let this all out. I had to get out of here. So I did the only thing that I could think of. I quickly pulled my phone from my pocket and opened my phone app. I had to scroll deeply through my call log before the desired name displayed on my call log. I eagerly pressed it, my heart pounding in my ears as I held the phone up to my ear and waited anxiously as it rang.
“Hello?” A familiar male voice said on the other line causing me to slightly relax despite the numerous tears sliding down my face.
“Hi, Mr. Hill. Is it okay if I come over?” I asked softly, my voice breaking at the end. “My world is falling apart and it seems that you’re the only one I can really talk to.”
“Oh, hey Noah. I wasn’t expecting you,” Jonas, Mr. Hill’s husband said as he answered the door before giving me a hug. He was dressed in a tank top and shorts, obviously getting ready to go to the gym.
“Ah, there you are Noah. I was starting to get a bit worried,” Mr. Hill said as he approached from behind Jonas. “Don’t stay out too late, babe. You know how bad you are at driving in the dark.”
“Hey, babe. No need to expose me like that,” Jonas laughed as he kissed Mr. Hill. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Mr. Hill smiled as the kiss parted, causing a warm feeling to instantly spread through my chest at how unapologetically queer they were. How unapologetically happy they were. But that warmth quickly disappeared once I remembered Madison and I couldn’t have that because of the hate that thrived in his father’s heart. I felt my throat close as I looked down at my feet, feverishly blinking away my tears as Jonas clapped me on the shoulder, causing me to slightly jump the way I had when Mr. Williams had done the same thing.
The look of hate in his eyes haunted me more than any horror character ever could or would.
“Noah, are you okay?” Mr. Hill asked, pulling me from my thoughts and causing me to look up at him.
“You’re...you’re crying. Gosh, someone must’ve messed you up if the almighty Noah Bruno is crying.”
I gave him a humorless laugh as I walked into his house and wiped away my tears. “You have no idea.”
“Tell me about it. I’m actually kind of worried about you, Noah,” Mr. Hill urged as he led me to his kitchen where he wandered over to the refrigerator as I took a seat at his bar. His home was very modern and chic, one of those houses you’d see on HGTV or Lifetime, but it still gave out a homie vibe to it, especially with Lily’s toys scattered all over the floor.
I sighed and looked at my hands. I wanted this with Madison.
“My love life has fallen into complete disarray and I’m crushed,” I admitted, causing Mr. Hill’s eyebrows to knit as he poured two glasses of water.
“Not to sound insensitive, but how come you couldn’t talk to your Nona or even Connor about this? I mean, not to date myself, but I’m not really the best person to talk to when it comes to millennial straight relationships.”
“That’s the thing,” I said, my focus falling onto my hands once more. I took a deep breath. This will be my first time coming out to anyone ever. The words travelled up my throat and before I could stop them they tumbled out. “I’m in a relationship with another guy. I’m...I’m gay.” I closed my eyes and waited for the judgement or teasing or something, but it didn’t come. Instead I felt a hand gently settle itself on my shoulder, causing me to open my eyes to see Mr. Hill looking down at me with sympathetic and understanding eyes.
“Well first off, congrats. I’m happy for you, Noah. I know even in this day in age, it’s not easy coming out, so I’m happy you decided to tell me. And based on your tone I’m the first person you’ve come out to?” He said more as a question than a statement. I nodded, causing him to hum in understanding as he slid me a glass of water. “Well, I feel honored that you trust me enough to tell me, and I want you to know that I’m here for you no matter what. But let’s take this from the beginning so that I can hopefully give you the proper advice.”
So I took a deep breath and explained everything to him from waking up in Madison’s house to finding out that we worked together to our first kiss to our unforgettable first date to my panic attack at church to now. By the end I was in tears. I felt like there was a dagger in my chest and every recollected memory twisted it deeper and deeper into my very being.
“Oh Noah,” Mr. Hill whispered as he hugged me and allowed me to cry into his shoulder.
“I just miss him so much. I mean I thought I could find a work around for this but I can’t and...and I think I love him and there’s just so much that I want out of this relationship and it pisses me off how his father’s narrow mindedness ruined it all for us.” My heart slightly sank due to the fact that I’d admitted to loving Madison, but I wasn’t able to tell him to his face. I cried harder. “God, why am I such a coward and didn’t just come out to my Nona so that he’d have nothing to dangle over my head? I doubt Madison would want me back considering I’m too weak to stand my own ground even when our relationship’s on the-”
“Noah, you can’t beat yourself up for not being ready yet,” Mr. Hill said as he held me by my shoulders and looked me in my eyes. “This generation is far more accepting, but there are still a lot of extremists out there and some of them might reside in your church or might be some of your closest friends, and I understand that you don’t want to lose them. But Noah, you need to look out for yourself too, do you understand? You can’t stay crammed in a tiny closet and risk losing the one you love because of fear. You need to listen to your heart and do what Noah needs, not your Nona or your friends or even Madison. You need to do this for you, and if some people decide to walk out, that’s their loss, do you understand me?” I mutely nodded. “Good, now wipe those tears from your eyes. They’re not a good look on you and you’re kind of making me sad, which I don’t need on a date night.”
I chuckled as I followed his instructions. “So, how am I doing this?”
“However you want to,” he said. “A giant parade. A musical. Jumping out of a cake wearing a sign that says ′I’m super gay’. Whatever you want Noah, it’s yours. Just be safe and make sure that you come out to people that you know care deeply about you then work your way out from there.”
“Thanks, Mr. Hill. I just don’t know what to do about Mr. Williams yet.”
“I’ll take care of him. No one threatens and blackmails you and gets away with it-”
“No, I don’t want him to go after Madison nor do I want to mess up their relationship.” I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair.
“Son, his father messed up their relationship the minute he decided that you two were an ‘abomination’,” Mr. Hill said with a humorless laugh.
“I know it’s just...I know what it’s like to live without a father, and I don’t want to do that to Madison. I care about him too much. I just think that’s a conversation those two need to have and...ugh, I need to breathe and figure this out.”
“Okay, but remember Noah, we’re always here for you for anything, especially when it comes to this homophobic man who’s trying to dictate your life.”
I offered him a grateful smile as I hugged him. “Thanks Mr. H. I’ll remember that.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay here for a little while longer? I just want to make sure you’re okay and don’t do anything stupid,” Mr. Hill asked as we walked through his house and I approached the front door.
“I’ll always do something stupid, but as for your offer, no thanks. I need to figure this out by myself or at least try to. I’ll see you tomorrow and tell Lily I said hi.”
“Will do,” he said with a nod. “Take care of yourself Noah, and be careful.” I mutely nodded before I headed back to my car, finally letting out a breath I didn’t know I was holding once I crashed into the driver’s seat. I felt a tiny amount of the pressure leave my chest, but a lot of it still remained. I still missed Madison. Like a lot.
I was tempted to go to my blocked tab in my messages and see if he’d responded and instantly tell him I was sorry. To run back to his apartment and feel his lips on mine again and tell him how much I loved him and how much it hurt me to type out that message, to hell with what his father wanted.
But I couldn’t. I guess I’m still a coward...
No, Noah. Stop thinking like that. Madison will understand...eventually. He has to. He said he’s in love with you too...but being in love and loving someone are different, aren’t they?
Ugh, I needed a distraction. Luckily, I have a whole inbox filled with those and I’m really good at going to school with a hangover.
I turned on my phone and was instantly greeted with a text from Connor telling me about a party at our teammate, Henry’s house with endless keg stands.
Distraction, here I come.