#28 Why is everything so fucked up?
“W-what?” I stammer, not sure I heard my mother right.
“Five years,” Dylan replies without missing a beat. “We’re very much in love, aren’t we, Thomas?”
My brother roars with laugher, slamming his fists on the table while he cackles. Fucking asshole.
“We’re not a couple,” I tell my mother, shooting Dylan and Charlie a warning look. If they keep pouring gasoline onto the spark, it will turn into a fucking wildfire and Mom and Dad will for sure think I’m a closeted gay man. “Dylan is just kidding.”
“Bisexual?” Dylan’s father asks, paying no attention Charlie teasing me and my mother looking at me with even more disapproval than before. “Does that mean you’re into men?”
“Yeah, men and women,” Dylan confirms, looking a little nervous while he twirls his fork between his fingers. “I’ve known for a while now, but I wasn’t sure how to tell you.”
“My brother is bisexual,” ditzy blonde says, taking us all off guard. “He’s married to a woman now, with three kids and a fourth one on the way, but he had a boyfriend for a long time during college. Lovely guy. I doesn’t matter who you love, right? Things like gender are so unimportant.” She pats her husband’s arm. “Just like age. Who cares, as long as it’s all legal and consensual?”
Damn, maybe I really judge people too quickly. Dylan and I lock eyes, and I can tell that he’s taken off guard by his stepmother coming to his aid as well. And that she knows the word consensual. I once watched her try to pronounce the word rural for five minutes straight, going on to ask us what it even meant.
She may be ditzy, but she’s right on point. Gender and age don’t matter. If Dylan is happy, that’s all that matters.
“Hmm,” Dylan’s father grumbles, but his expression softens when his wife touches his face and hands him their son, who is so tired that he snuggles against the big man and closes his eyes, drifting off to sleep. He hugs his youngest son while he looks up at his oldest, and he smiles. “You’re right, honey. Love is love. Do you have a boyfriend now, or how does that work?”
Dylan slumps down in his chair, relieved. I press my foot against his leg for a moment, since I can’t reach his arm from where I’m sitting, and I want him to know he has my support. He was really worried about how his dad was going to react. His response is not the text-book definition of the supportive father, but I was a stumbling moron myself when Dylan came out to me, so who am I to judge anyway? His father is trying, and that’s good enough for Dylan. It’s way better than we expected him to react.
“I’m still single,” Dylan tells his dad. “I’ve been dating both men and women the past year. Mostly men though – because it’s new, I think. I’ve been with girls before, but guys are still… well, new.”
“Damn, that’s a lot of fish in the sea,” Charlie says, smiling while he holds his glass of wine up in the air. “To Dylan coming out.”
Dylan’s parents raise their glasses, and so do Jolene, Dad, and I. Mom is the only one who sits there with her arms crossed, looking like she wants to puke.
“Mom?” I ask, fearing what she will say.
“This isn’t right,” she bites out. “You’re living with a gay man, Thomas! That’s not natural.”
“Erm…” I look at Dad for some help, but the fucking coward looks away and starts eating again. “First of all, there is nothing unnatural about love, no matter the gender of the person you love. And I don’t appreciate you calling Dylan unnatural.” Mom’s eyes are shooting fire at me, but I don’t give a shit. “Second of all, Dylan isn’t gay. He’s bisexual. Not that it matters, but just be clear. And third of all, I’m not living with him, he’s got his own apartment. And even if we were living together and I was gay or bi myself, that still doesn’t give you the right to say shit like this.”
“So you are gay,” Mom says, throwing up her hands. “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you?” she asks my father, nudging him. “I told you he was gay!”
“I’m not gay!” I shout at her. How the hell does Dylan coming out as bisexual turn into me… well, coming out as straight man, I guess? “But I don’t appreciate the judgy tone. What if I was? What would you do if I told you I was in love with Dylan, Mom?”
She looks disgusted and wags her finger in my face. “Don’t joke about things like that, young man. Are you gay or not? Or bisexual, or whatever it’s called these days?”
“Mom…” Charlie says softly, trying to smooth things over. “He just said he’s not. Only Dylan is, and he’s bisexual. We’ve known him since he was a little boy, Mom. Who cares who he likes?”
“It’s not natural,” Mom repeats.
Dylan looks distraught by now, and it fucking kills me to see my best friend like this. His own father is okay with it, his stepmother turns out to be an advocate for the rainbow flag, and yet my lovely mother still turns his coming-out into a shitfest.
“Out,” I say icily, sounding way more in control than I feel. “I want you out of my house. Right now.”
“Thomas…” Dad shakes his head at me. “Leave it be. It’s not worth it.”
“Not worth it?” Oh no, this is not happening. I’m done. “Dylan is my best friend. He’s my business partner. I spend ever single fucking day with him. I have since I was 7 years old and his family moved to this godforsaken city. Don’t tell me he’s not worth standing up for. Everyone who is not okay with him being bisexual can get the fuck out.”
“Thomas, don’t,” Dylan says, pulling a trembling hand through his hair. “It’s okay. It’s Christmas, for crying out loud. Let’s just finish dinner. Have another beer.”
“No,” I bite out. I’m not gonna let my mother put him down like this. “Mom, get out.”
“You’re throwing out your own mother over an… an…” Her lips purse for a moment while she tries to find the right word. “…an abomination!”
Oh hell no.
“Get. The. Fuck. Out.” I get up, grab her arm and yank her up from her chair. I’m not hurting her – I’d never hurt my own mother – but I do hold her tightly enough so she can’t get free. I pull her to the hallway, throw her coat at her and shove her straight out the door.
My father rushes after her, and our eyes meet for a moment. I can tell that he doesn’t agree with her words, but the fucking coward isn’t going to stand up to her. He never has. When I get back to the living room, Charlie and Jolene are taking to Dylan, both looking appalled.
“We drove with them,” I hear Charlie say. “Jolene is the designated driver for the night and they’ve both been drinking, so we need to go. Just so you know, man, I don’t agree with anything my mother just said.”
“Neither do I,” Jolene agrees, her hand firmly wrapped around my brother’s.
“Thanks, guys.” Dylan smiles weakly. “Go ahead, catch up with them. I’m fine.”
I say goodbye to my brother and my sister-in-law in the hallway, hugging them both tightly. “Sorry for making a scene,” I grumble. “But the bitch had it coming.”
Charlie chuckles. “I know. I get it. She’s still our mother, though.”
“If she’s going to be like that, she’s not mine,” I say, and I mean it. I love my mother, but I’ve never understood her. We’ve never had a warm, fuzzy kind of relationship. I can deal with her disapproving of my hair, my tattoos, my job, the fact that I’m single… But this, putting Dylan down like that, calling him unnatural and an abomination? No. I won’t stand for that.
If I have to choose between my mother and Dylan, I don’t even have to think about my decision. It’s him. Of course it’s him.
The General has been throwing up for three days now, and I can’t put off taking him to the vet any longer. I could find a different clinic, of course, but Dr. Randalf is really good with him, and I refuse to let Tracy picking Michel over me dictate my life. So I lure my cat into his carrier and drive him over to the clinic, walking in one minute before the appointment, praying I won’t have to interact with Tracy.
At the same time, I’m praying that I will get to see her.
I don’t know what would be harder for me, but I do still miss her. This whole thing with Dylan and my parents has put a strain on the past two months, and it would have been nice to talk to her about it. After three more fights with my mother over the phone, I’ve cut her off completely. In doing that, I also had to cut ties with my father, because he refuses to take a stand. It fucking sucks, but it’s the only thing I can do.
Dylan doesn’t agree. He wants me to patch things up with them. Truth be told, though, it’s not just about him. It’s also a matter of principal. What if I’d been bisexual, or gay, or pansexual, or whatever? What is it had been me coming out at Christmas, and not Dylan? Mom was disgusted by the mere idea of my and Dylan being a couple. Of me being anything other than straight. That’s not unconditional love. That’s not the way I want to raise any kids I might have one day. It’s fucked up and I won’t stand for it.
What would they say if they knew that I’ve had a threesome? That I fucked a girl’s mouth while another man shoved his cock up her cunt? I bet Mom would pass out if she ever found out. Hell, she would start throwing up if she knew about me being with two girls at once as well. Or me kissing a guy in a dare in college.
I don’t think my mother has any idea who I am, or what I stand for.
It’s a lonely feeling. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for Tracy to truly have no family. To have no one who has known her since childhood. At least I’ve still got Dylan and Charlie, even now that I’ve cut my parents off. Tracy has no one. My heart aches for her.
“Hey,” a soft voice says, and I shiver when I recognize it.
“Tracy.” I look up into her gorgeous green eyes.
“Thomas,” she replies with a smile. “Follow me, please.”
I walk behind her with The General in my arms, and I have to force myself not to look at her tight little ass. Fuck, I miss that ass. I miss all of her. It’s been more than three months, and I still thinking about her every single day.
Dr. Randalf is waiting for us, and he asks me questions while he examines The General. Tracy helps out, holding my cat still while the vet checks all of his vitals. I let my eyes travel over Tracy while they work, and I notice that she’s skinnier than she used to be, and not in a good way. She’s muscular, like she’s been working out a lot – although I wonder where since she’s not at my gym anymore – but muscle and bones are the only things I see underneath her skin. She’s not soft anymore. She was never a big girl to begin with, so the weight loss concerns me a little.
Not like the dark shadows under her eyes do, though. She looks tired as fuck, and her eyes don’t have their usual glow about them. She’s Tracy, so she’s still beautiful to me, but she doesn’t look good. Not at all.
She catches my eyes and smiles, but I can tell it’s fake. Completely and utterly fake.
“Everything seems alright,” Dr. Randalf says when he’s done examining the little furball. “He probably ate something he shouldn’t have, but I see no reason for further examinations or scans.”
“Oh,” I breathe in relief, looking at him for a moment before letting my attention drift back to Tracy. “That’s great.”
“Just to be safe, we’ll adjust his diet a bit, see if that helps,” the vet goes on. “Miss Packard will tell you all you need to know. I need to head to my next appointment. Nice to see you again, Mr. Riley.”
We shake hands, and then it’s suddenly only me and Tracy in the room.
“I’ll go grab the tins of cat food,” she says, turning away from me immediately.
“Tracy, are you okay?” I ask, cutting right to the chase. “You look… different.”
“I’m fine.” She gives me her best fake smile, but it’s worn at best. “Just a little tired, I guess.”
I take a step closer, but she backs away from me. Damn, that hurts.
“You still with Michel?” I ask, hating how pleading I sound.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
For the first time, I realize that she always says that. She always asks me that when I ask about her and Michel. She never says: yeah, of course, he’s the love of my life, or something along those lines. Always that question. Why wouldn’t I be? Like not having a reason to leave is a good reason to stay.
“Is he treating you right?” I can’t help but ask.
She rolls her eyes, and little of the old Tracy shines through, her spunk returning. “We already had this conversation, Thom. Once was enough for me. I’m happy, Michel’s great, and General Fluffington is healthy, so I will get you the cat food, give you a pamphlet, and you can be on your way in about five minutes.”
“Look, Thomas,” she says, that rare vulnerability in her eyes now, even though she’s trying to hide it. “Cutting you out of my life was really fucking hard, but I needed to do it for the sake of my relationship. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be, okay?”
“Okay,” I agree, knowing that she’s not going to open up to me. Not here. Not now.
Five minutes later, I am indeed back at the front desk, with the cat carrier in my right hand and a box of cat food tucked under my left arm. Tracy rushes off with her next client and their bunny, and I lean against the desk for a moment, staring after her.
“You’re Thomas, right?” the woman behind the desk asks.
I turn and look at her, recognizing her from the other times I’ve been here. “Yeah, I am. You’re Delilah, right? Tracy talks about you all the time. Or well, she used to back when she still talked to me. Is she… is she okay? I’m a little worried about her.”
Tears swim in Delilah’s eyes. “I don’t know,” she breathes, glancing down at her hands. “I’m worried too, but you know Tracy. She doesn’t talk about things. She ignores problems and shoves feelings deep down so she won’t have to confront them. I don’t think she’s doing well, to be honest. She’s lost a lot of weight and she seems even unhappier than she usually does. I don’t think she sleeps much these days. She’s always tired.”
“Is Michel…” God, I don’t even know how to ask her this. “Do you think he’s… hurting her?”
Delilah shakes her head. “I don’t think he’s hitting her or anything, if that’s what you think. I’ve seen no signs of that. But… I know she’d kill me if she knew I was telling you this, but I don’t think she’s happy with him. She works late all the time, volunteers at the shelter on her days off, goes to the gym almost every single night, especially when he’s not working at The Stable… She never seems to want to go home.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” I agree, still a little relieved that he’s not hitting her. Then again, Tracy is already pretty fucked-up without ever getting beaten. Wounds don’t have to be physical to fucking hurt. “Listen, my number is in the system, right?” I ask, gesturing at the computer. “I get that you’re Tracy’s friend, and that your loyalties lie with her, but I’m worried, okay? I care about the girl. Please call me if anything changes or if Michel needs his ass kicked after all.”
“Okay,” Delilah agrees, reaching out to put her hand on mine for a moment. “I will.”
As much as I want to barge right into the examination room, grab Tracy, and take her home with me, I do no such thing. I go back home with my cat, feeling worried as fuck.
If it turns out Michel is hurting my girl, he’s going to pay for it.