“What would I have to do to be your boyfriend?” Read the text.
Declan’s heart dropped. He’d never had anyone ask him that, much less someone like Gable. His breath shallowed.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked as they watched the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Olympic Team Preliminaries.
Declan looked at her, his mouth agape.
He handed her the phone. She read the text, and raised her eyebrow.
“Congrats,” She nodded, “Good for you. What’re you going to say back?”
Thing was… He wasn’t sure. What was it about Gable that made his world stop spinning? He’d never experienced someone who made his heart beat with the tenacity of a bass drum that resounded through his entire being like him.
“We’ve never seen that… It has almost been a cruel day for Team USA,” Al Trauwick’s voice boomed throughout his living room, as he searched his mind for an adequate reply.
“Sucks for Nastia,” Sarah commented stoically, “Did you see that?Your girl fell on her landing.”
Declan’s mind was in a distant place then; the only thing on his mind was Gable’s inquiry. He finally came up with the courage to send him the only response he could think of:
“Nothing. I like you… Just the way you are.”
That night, Declan went to sleep smiling, long after Sarah went home. His heart danced to the rhythm of the night. Miles away, Gable’s face was lit with the same elation. It was official; they were in a relationship.
“Okay, open your eyes!” the timbre of Gable’s voice indicated excitement, however the view before them was anything but.
“Gable, why are we at your cattle barn?” Declan asked, confused.
Gable owned a couple of cattle, and kept them a cattle barn down the road from his house. The pungent aroma of cow feed and feces was slightly off putting.
“Becauuuuse,” Gable started, “You have a front row seat to the best view in West Texas from here. We’ve got to celebrate! You made the team!” He smiled.
“Not too fast,” Declan started, “I’m not on the team, yet. I just train and help with the meets.”
“Oh… Well… Still. At least we get to celebrate us.” Declan beamed the moment the words left Gable.
The night sky above them glimmered with celestial bodies. The stars stretched as far as he could see, in an almost surrealist manner.
Declan was taken aback, sure they had come a long ways, since they started dating, but this was a whole different level. Gable had never shown this much compassion... Ever. He genuinely felt like the jock was proud of him. Them.
“It really is beautiful, Gable... Thanks.” Declan gleamed.
He knew he had put a lot of effort into treating him to something special, and, while corny, he wasn’t going to let him down.
“This is where I go to clear my mind. I’ve never really brought anyone out here to share this with me... I wanted to share this with you, because, you’re the only person I trust enough to open up to.” he smiled at him.
Declan looked at Gable with eyes he had never before had looked at anyone with. At that moment, he knew that there was no one who would ever make him feel this way.
Suddenly, Gable opened the door and coaxed Declan.
“C’mon, let’s lay on top.” He motioned towards the roof of his Oldsmobile.
Declan obliged, got out of the car and looked towards the top of the Oldsmobile. He was nervous that the car would cave under their combined weight, but trusted him enough to do it anyway.
Gable, effortlessly, climbed on top of his car, and helped Declan climb on. As they lay side by side, looking up into the heavens above, Gable looked at Declan and smiled... No one had ever rocked him to his core, until Declan.
As time went by, Gable’s hand brushed Declan’s and linked.
They lay motionless; both hearts beating with superhuman synchronization. Declan sat up, and looked at the guy beside him. He knew he’d never felt this way about a person until him. Gable’s gaze connected with his. They sat there looking into each other’s eyes, searching for answers.
Finally, Declan moved in. Their lips made contact, Gable’s hand rest on the back of Declan’s neck, and pulled him in. It was like magic. Fireworks. It was the greatest feeling in the world. Suddenly, Declan reached out his hand, placed it on Gable’s chest, and pushed him off the car.
Gable fell onto the ground below with a loud thud and immediately stood back up.
“What the fuck was that?!” he exclaimed
“Did you die?” he asked, a smile forming across his face.
“NO?! Why’d the fuck did you push me off?!” he exclaimed.
“To show you that being with me wasn’t going to kill you.” he giggled deviously.
“What do you mean?!” Gable looked at him bewildered.
Declan explained how’d he’d found out that Gable had been talking about him to his friends. Slater and Robert had brought it upon themselves to make sure he knew everything, or at least what they wanted him to know. At the time, he thought they were just being friendly, but, by the look on Gable’s face, they were being everything but.
“Look, I’m sorry.” Gable said as they finished up their argument, “It’s hard, you know... Doing this. I don’t know how you do it.” he glanced at Declan.
Declan slid off the roof and joined Gable on the ground.
“How I do what? Date you?” he asked
“No, how you don’t care about people judging you, mocking you, talking shit... Just because you’re... Gay.” his voice cracked.
“Well,” he began, “Most of the time, if I really think about it... I just don’t give a mother crap, a brother crap, or, hell, a family crap for that matter.” he leaned against him, “Sure, sometimes it gets to me,” he continued, “But then I remember I have you. You’ve come back from a completely broken leg, but yet you work through that. Your dedication to sports is remarkable, and... You make me happy. You’re the greatest man I know, Gable Cask.” he smiled.
Declan meant every last word. Above being in love with him, Declan admired Gable for the person he was. He may have a rough exterior, but he’d finally opened up to Declan, and the guy within was just as amazing as the guy outside.
“The funny thing is,” Gable grabbed Declan’s hands, “I feel the same way about you. You just make it look so easy. I wish I could bring you around everyone and it not be a big deal. It seems like every time your name gets brought up, I’m being trialled for treason or something.” Gable winced at the analogy… Treason... Really?
Declan raised his eyebrow.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” He continued, “It’s just…”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. There’s this new thing called communicating. You should try it,” Declan smiled. “You’ve got me. A relationship is a support system two people obsessed with each other create. I’ve got your back, no matter what.”
“I feel like we’re reciting our vows right now.” Gable joked, “Actually... let’s see...” he fumbled around looking for a ring of some sort, and finally had to make do with a key ring, “Declan... really long name Gardner... I vow to never let anyone hurt you. To always cheer you on at the meets I can be at, to be there when you need me, to be your one and only, to never let you down, and... Um... Yeah... Uh...”
Declan rolled his eyes, “Just put the ring on my finger,” he smirked.
Gable obliged and slid the piece of bent wire onto his finger. Declan then took off his class ring and began.
“Gable, you are my rock. My everything. My superman, my best friend, my support system, my personal headache machine, because lord knows you give me the worst migraines, but most of all... You’re you, and that’s all I want in life. I swear to… Well… Try, at least, to never lose a meet, and to make you as proud as I can. So, with my class ring, I vow to do all you said to me, and much more.” he beamed as he slid the ring on his finger.
“Why do you, always, have to one up me?” Gable asked jokingly.
“Oh, God, don’t even...”
“Every time. You always have to give more than me...”
They playfully bickered into the night. Both fully aware of what they’d done, but completely oblivious to the struggles they’d face, for their road to happiness was one filled with many an obstacle and naysayer. They both knew that, at that moment, nothing else mattered, except the love and the bond they both shared. No matter what anyone thought, they were going to love each other until the end of time.
“Declan, anything you’d like to share with the group today?” Dr. Anderson asked, after the patient next to him finished his series of events.
Declan looked up, visibly annoyed, and unwilling to participate.
“Declan.” Dr. Anderson pressed on.
“I’ve nothing to say.” Declan shrugged.
It was his tick. His poker face. Every time Declan held something in, he would shrug; a physical affirmation towards the emotional baggage he withheld.
What his fellow inpatients had said really stuck with him; they’d burned themselves into his subconscious. He couldn’t do this anymore, he couldn’t keep telling them about he and Gable’s relationship, or even his gymnastics career. The grief that came from recounting those anecdotes had been far too emotionally jarring.
He hated this. Some days he felt ready, excited even, to be here and to recover, but others… He hated it. He loathed this reality, and wished himself dead. Then again, he feared death couldn’t deter him from having to remember the pain of losing Gable, Skylar, his life…
It pained him to cycle through the rolodex of emotions and memories these past two years had tattooed upon his life. Every teardrop he had cried was a symbol of the weakness he had allowed envelop his life.
It was as if he knew that by letting even the tiniest of details out, the wall he’d worked so hard to put up would crash, and, by proxy, so would he. Letting people in was the reason he and Gable ended. Letting people in is what got him to this place. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Trust was a foreign concept to him, now.
Having been busy with training, and his budding relationship with Gable, Declan hadn’t had an opportunity to really hang out with his friends, or even really pay attention to the happenings in Crest.
So much so that he barely remembered it was the first day of summer football, and being that he was part of the film crew, he was expected to be there, as soon as it commenced.
Also, summer football in Crest coincided with the Cheerleading camp the Varsity squad would throw for little kids in the community. Many of the people he thought to be his friends were on that squad, so as soon as he arrived at the field house, he headed to where they were warming up.
“Declan!” One of the girls shouted. They all glanced over. Not one of them had her mouth closed. The thing about losing weight when you’re obese is that you lose it fast, and, in high school, when one person notices, the entire world notices.
“Hi, Emeli!” He waved enthusiastically.
“You look great!” Another complimented.
“Thanks, Kris!” He beamed.
They all rushed towards him, and gushed about his weight loss. The attention that his transformation garnered invigorated his passion towards losing even more weight. He saw the encouragement in their eyes, just as he’d seen it within his father’s eyes. If he threw himself into this with reckless abandonment, he, honestly, felt as if he could conquer this goal.
“So, does this mean you have a man now?” Ellie, another of the cheerleaders, and perhaps the one he clashed with the most, asked.
Declan was taken aback, but he wasn’t going to let anyone let him feel less than, so, Declan pulled up a picture of Gable.
“Funny you should say that,” he chuckled, “I do have... Kind of a thing going on with this one guy.”
“Who is it?” Emeli asked.
At that point, Declan hesitated. His world froze. He debated on whether he should tell them about Gable, and show them the proof. Was it safe? Would they tell? They pressed for more information, until he finally obliged, and explained to them the juicy details of his torrid affair with Gable Cask.
The news was received by gasps. Many of them pulled their phones out, and began furiously drafting texts. Apparently, Gable was pretty well-known, and when something like this gets out in a small town, it spread like wild fire.
Their coach called for them to begin working the camp and Declan was left to his own devices.
The walk to field house was a short one. He was relieved to see that players were still arriving. He looked around the vast weight room and found Sarah.
“You look skinny as shit.” She blurted.
“Thanks!” Hearing that would never get old.
“What have you been doing?” She pried.
“Working out, eating healthier... Just small things here and there.” He shrugged.
“Nice, well the results really scream for themselves; you’re looking good.” She smiled at him.
“Thanks.” He plopped down beside her, “Can I talk to you about something?”
She looked at him and nodded.
“So... Remember that guy... From the snow cone stand?”
“Guy... Snow cone stand... I’m going to need a little more.”
“Ashton’s cousins’ friend?” He added.
“Oh... Cable… Stable... Whatever?”
“I was getting there. Gable... The one that asked you out?”
Declan nodded in acknowledgement.
“Yeah, I remember. What about him?” She asked.
Declan began to explain the situation he was in to her, and then what had happened outside on the field.
“That was, perhaps, the dumbest thing you could’ve done. You know how Ellie, Emeli, and Kris are. You know how much they like to instigate shit. Not to mention,” she narrowed her eyes, “They’re friends with Ashton. I really hope... For your sake... They don’t make a big deal out of this. You knew better, Declan.” Her eyes searched his face intently.
“You don’t think...” Declan began.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to think. All I’m saying is that... You better text him now and tell him what happened or make up some elaborate...” She was cut off by Declan’s ringtone.
“Who is it.” Her voice tinged with anticipation.
Declan pulled his phone out and saw his name. Gable had texted him.
“It’s him.” He looked at her.
“Well, fucking check the message.” She shook her head.
He opened his phone and navigated to the text.
“What did you tell Emeli and them?” Is all it read.
“Told you. I told you.” Sarah burrowed her head in her hands, “Those c-u-next cuntsdays have been the bane of my existence since the fifth grade.”
“What should I say?” Declan was panicking.
“How should I know?!” She threw her hands out.
“Crap.” Declan muttered.
“They asked who I had a crush on, and I said you; I didn’t think it’d be a big problem. We were just playing around.” He typed and then flashed the phone to Sarah.
“Yeah, that’ll keep him at bay... For now.” She nodded.
He sighed and grimaced. She was right; he’d committed a huge mistake by telling them about Gable, and even though he didn’t want to accept it, it could very well mean that he could lose Gable. All because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
“Why did you tell them?” Karen asked.
Declan hesitated to find a good enough answer. He looks toward Dr. Anderson in search of one, but it was clear he wasn’t going answer the question for him.
It was up to him; only he could provide insight into what had transpired and how it was that he ended up here, in treatment.
His gaze shifted to Karen; she was hauntingly beautiful, yet somber. He could see the pain screaming from within her eyes. Her cheeks blazoned with the trail of tears past. It was as if he was staring into a mirror.
“I don’t know.” He finally muttered.
“You’re the one who told them, though,” she inquired, “You must have had a reason. You basically betrayed this boy’s trust, and yet you’re here crying about being betrayed. It takes two to tango.”
Declan was taken aback. The crown of his head prickled with rage, he furrowed his brow, but he knew that yelling at her wouldn’t solve anything.
“Now, Karen, there’s no need to insult anyone, and Declan...” Dr. Anderson narrowed his eyes at him, “You can’t get mad at someone for pointing out the obvious.”
His jaw clenched. It was true; he couldn’t be mad at the truth, but he didn’t want to accept responsibility. As far as he was concerned, Gable had been the one to destroy their relationship. Gable had betrayed him.
“I was just pointing out the holes I saw in his story. I’m sorry, Declan, I didn’t mean to overstep my boundaries.” She apologized.
He didn’t bother to look at her. There was no use for him to even acknowledge her; he wasn’t here to make friends.
“Alright, well... We’ll go ahead and finish with that.” Dr. Anderson dismissed them, “Don’t forget to write your journal entries tonight.” He called after them.
Declan attempted to crutch back to his room briskly, he didn’t like to interact with any of the other patients. He refused to believe he was one of them.
“Hey, Declan,” a voice called after him. He turned around to find that it was Karen who’d called his name.
He stared her down, shook his head and sighed, but she sprinted to catch up with him.
“You are relentless…” He muttered.
“Look, I’m sorry, alright?” She put her hand on his shoulder, “I know what it’s like to not want to be here. I know what you must be feel-” he cut her off.
“You don’t know shit about me. Don’t pretend like you care just because you’ve heard a couple stories.” Declan snarled at her.
“Listen, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but you’ve got to get over yourself. It will only get harder, if you don’t change your outlook on this place; it’s not that bad.” She said.
Declan surveyed her face. She had the same dark rings around her eyes he did. Her eyes radiated with the same pain his own did.
“Look… I’m sorry,” he sighed and shook his head, “it’s just hard.” His voice broke, “It’s so fucking hard.”
“Do you want to hang out or something? Maybe we can talk about things one on one?” She suggested. He obliged.
They walked around the center until they found a bench covered by a majestic tree whose branches and leaves danced about with the tender Arizonan breeze. That day, he began to unravel and let all the dark memories he’d quelled inside to pour out.