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Make Me Proud

“Babe, I’m sure they’ll like you just fine. My mom liked you, when we were on the same football team; This is no different.” Gable smiled at him.

“Yeah, that was because its perfectly normal to have friends on a football team,” Declan pointed out, “It’s another thing to bring a guy to dinner. A gay guy, at that.” He added

“I mean, you have a point... But, my mom invited you… I don’t think it’ll be that bad… Do you?” His tone had changed. Gable had yet to contemplate the downside to this dinner.

It would be the first time he had ever come clean about his sexuality to his family, and it started to scare him to his core. He shifted his body, as if to acknowledge its repercussions. As much as it had been his mother’s suggestion, after this, there was no turning back.

“Honestly, yes,” Declan confessed, “this is perhaps the worst thing we could do, at this moment.”

“Well, I can’t just cancel right now,” Gable’s brow furrowed, “my mom has been cooking since she got off work.”

“She knows I’m coming, right?” Declan worriedly inquired.

“Yes,” he shrugged.

Declan looked at him from the passenger seat. It was evident Gable grew increasingly nervous the closer they got to his house. His knuckles were beginning to whiten, because of his stern grip on the steering wheel. As if on cue, he lost himself in his own conscience.

Declan looked at his face and examined, not the rough exterior, but the concern and nerves emanating from his eyes. It was an intoxication known to few, and Declan was privy to all these moments. All of these brief passages of weakness Gable masqueraded behind a steel façade.

“You know,” Gable begun, snapping Declan out of his daze, “I’ve never cared for someone more than my family. Ever. There’s never been a girl that I’ve put before my family or their needs, and you’re the first person that has ever actually seen the real me. The guy that cries out of frustration, the guy that goes through so much pain because he wants to provide a better future for himself, his family… And well… I guess, our future.” He turned to look at Declan.

“I don’t-“ Declan wasn’t able to finish his assertion of the situation.

“Let me finish,” Gable begged, “All my life, I’ve been scared of falling for someone like you, because of what people would say. I never, in a million years, thought I would meet someone who just understands me for everything I am, and everything I’m not.” Gable ended. It was evident he wanted to cry, but it wasn’t out of sadness, he genuinely seemed happy.

“Gable, you know that you’re the only person in this entire world that makes me smile even from just hearing your name in passing. It’s as if you’re the answer to every single prayer I’ve ever had. You are my sun; you are the air I breathe. I’m yours… Mind, body and soul. You move me.” Declan, being the more emotional one, began to tear up, and as he concluded his proclamation, tears raced down his face.

“No matter what,” Gable started, “I love you, and you love me… And if they have a problem with it, I’m just going to have to deal with it, as will they.”

“I’ll be there. Next to you.” Declan beamed.

The final moments of the car ride were but a hazy memory due to the anxiety that lingered in the air. On one side, Declan feared for his life; surely they were conservative Catholics, and from experience, he knew that this could possibly end in violence.

Conversely, Gable grew fearful of the reaction his parents might have. The questions echoed in his mind, should he bring Declan? Is this commitment worth the money he was using him for? Did he truly care for him?

They pulled up to Gable’s house, and sat in the car for a while after turning it off. It wasn’t until Gable let out a rather large sigh that they finally talked for the first time in about an hour.

“So… Are you ready?” Declan asked the seemingly frazzled jock.

He was hesitant to respond, but he nodded, turned his head towards him and smiled, “Yes. More than ever.”

As they sat down to eat, Gable’s mom was the first to talk.

“So, Declan, how’ve you been? Gable tells me that you’re a gymnast?” She asked as she cut into her food. It was as if their previous encounter had never even happened.

“Um… Yeah, I… Uh, train up at West Texas Gymnastics Academy, in Rio Rojo.” He smiled.

“Oh, I know where that is… What all do you… Er… Compete?” She seemed genuinely interested; Declan could see the excitement in Gable’s eyes.

“Vault, high bar and floor. I used to be all-around, but it was really taxing on my body.” He confessed.

“Ah, I see… Vault… Is that the table thing you swing around on?”

“Oh, no, I think what you’re referring to is the pommel horse.” Declan corrected.

“Right, right,” she nodded, “So, you drive back and forth from Crest and Rio Rojo, or?”

“It depends, some days I’ll stay with one of the other guys on the team, or I’ll stay in Crest and make the drive early in the morning.” He smiled and dug into his own plate.

This isn’t as awkward…” he thought to himself as they all ate silently.

“You could stay…” There was an abrupt thud at the door. They exchanged worried glances, as whomever was on the other side extracted some keys, and finally the door swung wide open.

A man stumbled into the living room, it was evident he was under the influence, but of what? Declan hadn’t the slightest idea.

“Rance…” Gable’s mom began, she was genuinely worried; it was blatant, in the severity of her tone. She rushed over to the man, whom Declan presumed to be Gable’s dad, to help him. He swung his arm at her, and barely missed.

“Get the fuck off of me.” He slurred. As if he didn’t realize who she was, or where he was. Anna was relentless, she continued to try to help the man, but he soon turned irritable.

“Rance, we have company…” She insisted.

“And? What the fuck do I care. Hi. I’m Rance. Good to fucking meet you.” He sarcastically introduced himself to Declan.

She turned to them and nodded towards Gable. It became clear that it was best for Declan go home. This wasn’t something just anyone should witness.

While Gable walked him out, Julia cleared the table. He’d been audience to what most people would never admit to. It was clear Anna was embarrassed.

She bid them a hasty farewell, as she helped Rance stabilize, and once the door shut behind them, Gable turned to him, his brow furrowed.

“I’m sorry for that.” He too seemed embarrassed, “My dad… He hasn’t really been here for us much.” Gable confessed in between pauses.

Declan had never seen him be so overcome with emotion, it was raw, it was ugly, it was… Natural. It was the real Gable, and he couldn’t help himself but love him in that moment.

He grabbed his hand and held it. Gable grabbed him and pulled him in for a hug. They stayed like that for what seemed ages, but they finally succumbed to the cold.

“Let’s go to that Asian place you like,” Gable smiled at him, “I know how much you like it there. It’ll be on me.”

“Don’t worry, I can pay for my own meal; it’s not a big deal.” Declan retorted with a cheeky grin, as he reached for Gable’s car door.

“Your money is no good here, sir,” He winked, “Besides, I should make this up to you.”

They both climbed into his car and departed towards the nearby town, Dillette. The drive was a smooth, yet silent one. Neither of them knew how to address what had happened, and it wasn’t until Gable put his hand on Declan’s that they resumed their conversation.

“Look,” Gable finally broke the silence, “I should explain about my dad.”

Declan turned to look at the jock, the embarrassment had yet to completely drain from his face. This was one of those instances when Gable’s tough façade disappeared and left the raw emotion of a teenager filled with conflict and angst. He couldn’t bring himself to get over the fact that not were privy to this side of him. At that moment, Declan knew he loved him, for better or worse.

“People don’t really know this, but he has a problem,” He began. He was poignantly hesitant, but as he looked towards Declan, his nerves eased, “You know, when people do terrible things? You want to hate them, but you know you can’t?” His voice cracked. “Well, my dad is one of those people.”

“What do you mean?” Declan’s curiosity was piqued, what could his dad have done to be deemed as ‘terrible’?

“I don’t know if I can even say it.” Gable’s voice continued to crack. It was noticeable this was hard for him. This was another layer that he had peeled back around Declan, and it was perhaps the hardest he would have to. No one knew this, outside of his family, and once he told him this, there really was no looking back… At least, emotionally.

“You don’t have to. Just know, that I’m here for you, and I will never leave you.” Declan assured him.

“I was little, when I first saw him do it,” He began, reluctantly, “I knew he drank a lot, I mean… Who doesn’t? But… One night… After my parents fought… It was late… About three or four… I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water… And I saw my dad… Doing it.”

Silence overcame them. What exactly his dad was doing, Declan didn’t know. Tears had begun streaming down the jocks face; the wall had fallen, the layer was peeled.

“At the time, I did really know what it was, but… As I grew older, I realized that he was doing meth.” He muttered after what seemed an eternity. Tears were now free flowing down his face, Declan knew no one had ever seen this side of him. He had to be there for him now, more than ever. He grabbed his hand and squeezed it, the jock squeezed back.

Finally, they arrived at their destination. The place seemed a bit rundown from the outside, but, on the inside, the atmosphere was intoxicating; it was warm and welcoming. The staff was extremely friendly, and the food was delicious.

“Can I ask you something?” Declan asked after a while.

“Of course you can.” Gable obliged.

“How does your mom handle it?”

“What do you mean?” Gable inquired.

“Well, your dad, I mean.” He brokenly asked, “I don’t know much about drug problems, but, by the looks of it, she doesn’t like it.”

Gable leaned back in his chair; jaw clenched, and crossed his arms. It was evident this was a very personal issue; not one that he spoke of openly, or with just anyone. After a brief silence, he sighed.

“Well, no one likes an addict,” He began, “Addiction consumes you. Hell, anything in excess can consume you. Working out, smoking, drinking, not eating… You name it; it can take over you and kill you. As for my mom, well… She’s the strongest person I know.” His voice cracked. “She supports Julia and me. I’ve seen her work her ass into the ground just to get us what we want or need.”

Declan looked at Gable intently, and for the first time he saw him at his purest. He wasn’t just the sports star of his high school, or the Adonis everyone made him out to be. In that very moment, he was human; raw, uncensored.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. The IRS has levied her check because we can’t afford to pay our taxes, or even really live. I know it may seem like I don’t want to take you out… It’s just that I don’t have the money to. Hell, we barely have enough money to have cars. Julia’s truck is on the edge of breaking down, just like my car.” His eyes were glistening now. It was clear he was holding back tears.

“You know, I could help you.” Declan confessed.

“I know, but I couldn’t ask that of you. That, and my mom is far too proud. She’d sooner die than ask anyone for help. She’s the reason why I work my ass off; I want to give her everything she’s ever wanted… Wished for… And more.”

Declan knew that he meant every single word. It was admirable for him to speak so highly of his mom, and, in that moment, he knew that he would risk it all for the person before him. Mind, body, and soul.

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