By the time we pulled up into the driveway my hands were shaking so violently that I was just glad to be off the road. It felt dangerous to be driving a car under such emotional conditions. My heart was beating so fast and so hard that it was almost painful. My stomach was a bit unsettled. I felt like crying and I was about to start hyperventilating.
When I got out of the car, Ryan could see how upset I was. He grabbed my hand to comfort me but I jerked away, scared that my parents would look through the window and see us. At the moment I wasn't worried about offending Ryan.
"Sorry." I said, quite insincerely.
"Don't worry, Jamie." He said quietly, "I'm here for you."
I didn't respond, simply because I didn't feel like talking. I was actually afraid that one word out of my mouth would be followed by vomiting or passing out. My fear was forming and uncomfortable lump in my throat, making it difficult to swallow without gagging.
I started for the front door anyway, pushing my emotions aside so I could simply get the job done. All I needed to do was say two words. Sure, the consequences of uttering those two words to my parents could be disastrous. But I'd worry about that later. For now, I just needed to get it over with.
With each step towards the door, I found myself feeling unsteady. My feet felt heavy and my joints felt stiff, as if my body was doing anything in it's power to prevent me from reaching that front door. My body was protecting me from the pain it was about to feel.
Ryan placed a comforting hand on my back as I reached the porch. His touch certainly made me feel better, but the relief only lasted a few seconds. The lump in my throat returned and the horror of what I was about to do came crashing down.
I turned to him with watery eyes. "I can't do this." I whispered.
"Yes you can." He encouraged, "You'll do great."
He reached up and kissed my cheek. My body nearly collapsed.
"I love you, Jamie." He said, "I'll be there the whole time. I won't leave you, I promise."
That notion is what encouraged me to continue. I hesitantly opened the front door and stepped into my house.
It was the house I grew up in with my siblings. Although Kendall and Peter were significantly younger than me, I still had fond memories of growing up with them in this very house. I used to babysit them when our parents were at work. But it was never really babysitting. It was just playtime. We would build forts in the living room with blankets and pillows. We would watch old Disney movies and eat popcorn. We would bake things in the kitchen and make a complete mess. We would run around in the backyard. Even though Kendall was now thirteen and Peter was eleven, I still loved them to death and still enjoyed being with them. I loved growing up with them in this house. I loved it when our grandma came to visit. I loved when our mom would cook us dinner or our dad would put up the Christmas tree. I loved my childhood, and now as I walked through the house into the living room, I felt as though my childhood was being wiped away. Goodbye blanket forts, goodbye baking in the kitchen, goodbye Christmas tree. It was about to be over, because I was an adult now, a college student. And I was about to end whatever lovely fantasies my parents might've had about how their oldest son would turn out.
Turns out I'm just a fag.
Ryan and I returned to the living room, and my parents were pretty much in the exact position we'd left them in. Mom was sitting on the couch watching some daytime talk show, and Dad was sitting in his old recliner, reading the newspaper that he hadn't gotten a chance to read this morning. They were the epitome of typical middle-aged parents.
"Hey, you're back!" Mom greeted, turning the TV off, "Did you have fun showing Ryan around town?"
I didn't answer her. I couldn't.
Luckily, Ryan came to my rescue. "Yeah, it was loads of fun." He said, appearing completely natural.
"James, you ought to introduce Ryan to your buddies from high school." Dad suggested without looking up from his paper.
I still didn't have to strength to speak.
"That sounds like fun." Ryan said, "James has told me a lot about them already. I'd be glad to meet them."
By now my parents started to notice that I hadn't said a word. They both looked at me questioningly. Mom must've noticed a strange look on my face. I felt my cheeks burning red hot.
"James?" Mom asked, "Everything okay?"
"Uh..." That simple utterance was all I could manage.
There was a pause for a moment while my parents stared at me curiously and I stared between them.
"Wanna sit down, James?" Ryan asked, acting totally casual. I was starting to think this theater major idea wouldn't be so bad for him.
I merely nodded, and the two of us sat on the couch. I sat between Ryan and my mom, with my dad's chair on the other side of my mom. Ryan wouldn't be in the middle of this. It was another way of showing me that he was by my side, but ultimately I had to do this on my own.
I swallowed, trying to submerge that lump in my throat. But it wouldn't go down, so I ignored it and tried to speak anyway.
"I... have to tell you guys something." I managed.
My mom looked at me with extreme curiosity, even worry. My dad folded his paper and set it down on the floor next to his chair.
"What is it, son?" He asked. His paternal voice that I'd gotten so used to all these years only made it more difficult for me to swallow.
I drew a deep, shaky breath. My mom saw my anxiousness and placed her hand on my arm. Instinctively I started to flinch away from her, but I let her rest her hand there.
"There's just...something I've been keeping from you." I said.
Oh God, is this really happening? No turning back now. How the fuck did I let Ryan talk me into this...
"James..." My mother said warningly, taking her hand away from my arm, "Is it something bad?"
She was probably guessing that I'd done something wrong like fail a class or get a traffic ticket. I wish she were right. I wish it was something as harmless as that. Harmless in comparison to the truth...
"Well..." I said in response, "I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" Mom asked.
"I mean... I don't see it as a bad thing but you might."
I found it astonishing that I'd made it this far into the conversation. With the way I was physically and emotionally feeling, I thought I'd back out before I even sat on the couch. But here I was, in the middle of it all. My heart was still racing and my hands were still shaking and I still felt like puking, but I was here and there was no turning back now. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans.
My father spoke up. "James, is this something we should be discussing while Ryan is in the room? Or is this private?"
Immediately, I reached around and grabbed Ryan's hand. "No." I said quickly, "No, Ryan needs to be here."
I was holding Ryan's hand. In front of my parents.
Shit, shit, shit.
They were looking at our hands questioningly. They were about to start asking questions. They were about to start guessing. Maybe they already figured it out. I was holding his hand and he was intertwining our fingers. It was clearly affectionate. It was clearly a more-than-friendly gesture. We were clearly two homosexual boys who were very much in love with each other.
I had to do it. I had to spit it out now. Right now. Now before they could start guessing. Now before they could start asking questions. If they started asking questions, I wouldn't have the strength to answer them.
Do it, James. Spit it out right now. RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
I squeezed Ryan's hand so tightly that I felt his knuckles crack. I heard him whisper "Ow," but he didn't let go of my hand.
RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
My mom was looking at our hands with a suspicious look on her face. All she said was my name. Just once.
I felt every muscle in my body tighten. I couldn't believe how fast I'd said it. I couldn't believe that I'd said it at all. My mind didn't have time to process everything.
I hated myself but also admired myself. I hated Ryan for making me do this, but I loved him for encouraging me. I loved him in general. And my parents needed to know that. They could probably guess by our intertwined hands and by the closeness of his body to mine and by the fact that Ryan had even shown up at our house at all that we were a couple.
My mind was moving at ten thousand miles an hour and it made time seem to slow down significantly. Ryan was breathing softly but quickly next to me. He was squeezing my hand. My parents' expressions were somewhere between shock and confusion. My own body seemed to be curling up in pain and sickness. I didn't know whether to stay here and die or run away or vomit or pass out. I wanted to be locked up in my own bedroom under the safe covers with Ryan curled up next to me. I wanted to be at school, as far away from my parents as possible. I wanted to be in Japan. I wanted to be at the bottom of the ocean. But I had to sit here and face my doom. I had to face the torture that was about to wreck my body and mind and heart and soul into an even worse state. I knew what my parents were probably thinking. I knew how they probably felt about it. I had to accept it and let it hit me full-on. Hit me with it, you bastards. I can fucking take it. I can take it because Ryan's holding my hand.
That's when time started to move normally again. I was subconsciously aware of the fact that my hand was hurting from Ryan squeezing it.
"What are you talking about, James?" Mom asked. Her voice seemed too close. I had almost expected it to sound far away and echoey like we were in a church with brilliant acoustics. But we were here in our carpeted living room and her voice sounded so dead. It surprised me and shocked me back into reality.
"You heard me." I said confidently. But my voice came out as a raspy whisper.
My father laughed a bit and said, "You can't be gay! You've had several girlfriends in the past!"
"I was just in denial." I said.
Dad laughed again and picked up his paper from the floor. "Whatever gay feelings you have are just part of a phase, James. Trust me."
"Dad, if it was just a phase I wouldn't be telling you." I said, nearly shouting now, "I wouldn't be telling you unless I was ten thousand percent sure."
"You're not gay." Dad said, "And I don't wanna hear any more about it."
"You can't tell me what I am or what I'm not!" I shouted.
"Yes, I can." He said angrily, "And you're not gay."
"Well if I'm not how do you explain the fact that I love Ryan?" I asked.
I heard my mother's breath catch in her chest in a sort of pained gasp.
"James..." Ryan whispered next to me. The sound of my name in his voice made me both weaker and stronger at the same time. It only strengthened my argument that I loved him and there was nothing my father could do to change that.
My father threw his newspaper aside once more. "What, you think you love him?" He asked in a loud voice, disbelievingly, "You think you want a... a gay relationship with him? Well you don't! It's just a phase, James! You'll get over it in two months, tops. Just the way you got over Lindsey and Alex and Loryn and all those other girls you dated."
"The only reason why I got over them so quickly is because I never really liked any of them!" I shouted, "You wanna know why? It's because I don't like girls! I'm gay! I like boys! And I love Ryan!"
He snorted. "It's not possible for two boys to love each other."
That set me off completely. "You don't know what you're talking about!" I shouted, on the edge of my seat.
"Oh really?" He asked.
"Yeah! I love him. You have a problem with that?" I asked sardonically.
"Yes I have a problem with that!" Dad shouted.
"James... how could you do this to us?" Mom asked softly, sadness in her voice.
"Excuse me?" I asked, nearly screaming.
"This is such a disappointment, James..."
"A disappointment? A FUCKING DISAPPOINTMENT?" I could feel my heart exploding in my chest. I couldn't believe I was getting so violent with my parents.
"James!" Ryan said, in an attempt to calm me. He placed his free hand on my back, trying to keep me seated. It was only then that I realized how much my body was trying to force me out of my seat and into a standing position. But Ryan kept me grounded. His voice and touch soothed me.
I lowered my voice and sincerely tried to explain things to my mom. "It's not like I chose this, Mom! It's not like I woke up one morning and thought, I'm gonna be gay just to piss off my parents! It wasn't like that! I was born gay. I may not have realized it until I met Ryan, but I've always been this way! How can it be a disappointment to you if it's not my fault?"
"It is your fault!" Dad shouted, "You're the one that likes another guy! You used to like girls, so how could you have been born gay?"
"Its complicated..." I said frustratedly.
"Well... I'm not allowing it!" He said, a sense of finality in his voice.
"What?" I asked incredulously.
"You're not allowed to be gay." Dad said.
It was almost comical the way he worded it.
"Oh really?" I asked, sarcasm flooding my voice.
"Really!" He shouted, "In fact... you're not allowed to see each other again."
I heard Ryan make a small fearful sound. I squeezed his hand again to let him know it would be okay. I wouldn't let my father get away with that.
"Well I'm an adult, you can't tell me what to do!" I shouted back.
"Well as long as you're living under my roof, I'm not allowing it." He said.
I had to think about this for a moment. There would be no arguing the matter any further with my dad. He simply wouldn't allow me to live in his house if I was to continue my "gay" lifestyle. And my mother didn't look too keen to jump to my defense. In fact, by the look on her face she seemed to be completely siding with Dad. They wouldn't allow me to continue my relationship with Ryan if I was living under their roof. So I just wouldn't live under their roof anymore.
"Fine. Then I'm moving out." I said, standing up.
Ryan stood with me and then my parents followed.
"Are you kidding me?" Dad asked, looking at me like I was stupid.
"Nope." I shrugged, "You won't let me be with Ryan if I'm living under your roof. So I just won't live under your roof anymore. I'm moving out."
My mother was crying now. I refused to look at her but I could hear her sobs.
"Well then you can pay for your own damn education." Dad said.
"Fine I will." I replied.
"You don't even have a job. How the hell do you expect to do make it on your own?" He asked.
"I'll make my way." I said, "I don't need homophobic parents like you to support me."
I started to walk away, but my mom stopped me.
"James... just stop." She cried, "Just stop this gay stuff. You can't possibly make it on your own."
I laughed in her face. "I can't just stop being gay, Mom. This is the way I am. And if you can't accept it... then good riddance."
I continued walking away, towards the front door, with Ryan in tow. I hadn't let go of his hand since this entire thing began. But suddenly he loosened himself from my grasp. My hand felt frozen without his warmth.
"Wait, James..." He said, walking back to where my parents stood.
But it was too late. Ryan had made his way back to my parents and was now trying to reason with them. It was futile, but he persisted.
"Why is being gay so bad?" He asked them, "Is it really so bad that you have to disown your son? There's nothing he can do to change it, so why punish him?"
I started tugging on Ryan's arm, trying to pull him along.
"It's disgusting." My father said, getting right up in Ryan's face, "It's probably your fault, isn't it? You're the one that turned him into a fag?"
"Hey!" I shouted angrily at Dad, protecting Ryan.
"Sir, James can't help who he is." Ryan continued, "Please try to understand..."
"I understand plenty!" Dad yelled at him, "I understand that you turned my son into a disgusting homo! Just think of the shame you've brought to our entire family!"
"Don't you dare yell at him!" I shouted at my father.
"You are sick and twisted." Dad continued to Ryan, "What, is it your job to make everyone gay? You disgust me. You turned my son into a disgrace. Now get the fuck out of my house!"
He then pushed Ryan by the shoulders, so forcefully that Ryan fell to the floor in shock. My father actually put his hands on Ryan. He actually touched him. He actually tried to harm him.
That was it for me. My mind became red and nothing else mattered except for getting revenge. I wanted to fucking choke the son of a bitch to death. I had never been so angry with my father. He seemed so different than the father I'd grown up with and loved all these years. He actually tried to hurt the boy I loved. He actually put his filthy hands on Ryan.
With all the strength I could muster, I balled my hand up into a fist and punched my own father in the eye. I hoped it was hard enough to leave a bruise.
My mother shrieked as my father fell back into his chair, holding a hand to his offended eye. It all happened so fast I had no time to process it.
"Don't you ever lay a hand on Ryan again, you sick bastard!" I shouted, not even knowing what I was saying.
I helped Ryan up off the floor and the two of us walked briskly towards the front door. We ignored the rude and horrendous things my father was shouting at us. We ignored my mothers sobs. I tried as hard as I could to ignore the warmth of my childhood home.
What I couldn't ignore was Peter, emerging from his bedroom to investigate what all the commotion was about.
"James?" He asked curiously.
I stopped and stared at my eleven-year-old brother, feeling my first ounce of regret about leaving this house for good.
Whatever I said to him, I had to hurry. I had to get the hell out of here. I had to leave with Ryan and never come back, except perhaps to gather my belongings.
I walked up to Peter, ruffled his hair and gave him a brotherly kiss on the head.
"I love you." I told him.
He didn't say it back but I knew from past experience that he loved me too.
I continued walking away with Ryan, but I turned to tell Peter, "Tell Kendall I love her too, okay?"
He hesitated, but eventually my little brother mumbled, "Okay..."
My father was still yelling and my mother was still sobbing, so Ryan and I hurried out the door. We got into my car and I sped off, driving as far away as possible. Both of us seemed frozen for a minute or two, but when I pulled into the same parking lot we'd stopped at earlier, that's when Ryan burst into tears.
"Jamie..." He cried, holding a hand over his mouth in shock, "I'm sorry... I just sat there... I should've said something, I should've helped you. I can't believe I just sat there. I'm so sorry, Jamie... I'm so sorry. I love you so much."
He reached for my hand blindly and I let him hold it. In fact, I pulled him over so that he was somehow sitting comfortably in my lap in the driver's seat.
"You don't need to be sorry." I said.
Ryan continued sobbing, resting his head on my shoulder and gripping my shirt tightly.
"I can't believe this happened to you." He sobbed, "I can't believe I forced you into this. I'm so sorry..."
"No..." I objected, "No, I'm glad you did. Don't be sorry. This had to happen eventually. I'm glad it happened while you were by my side."
That didn't make him feel any better. He wouldn't stop crying.
"I'm so sorry my dad pushed you... I can't believe he even laid a finger on you... that stupid fucking bastard..."
Ryan shushed me nicely and I stopped talking.
While Ryan cried against my shoulder, I took a moment to survey the damage. What kind of hurt had my parents inflicted on my body and mind and heart and soul? It was hard to tell at first, but then the emotions flooded.
I started sobbing and I couldn't stop. I'd just come out to my parents and they hadn't accepted me. In fact, they disowned me. My father had tried to hurt my love. I'd punched my father in the fucking face. The stress of it all was overwhelming. The nervousness I'd felt earlier while preparing to tell them had left me exhausted. The anger and frustration threatened to make me break something. The sorrow over losing my parents, my childhood, my home... it destroyed me.
As soon as I started sobbing, Ryan tried desperately to wipe away my tears. "Jamie, no!" He gasped, "Don't cry!" But his plea was merely hypocritical, because he was sobbing almost as hard as I was.
We cried together for a few minutes, with Ryan's arms wrapped around my neck and his face buried in my chest. It took at least ten minutes for us to calm down, and then we found ourselves wiping our noses on our sleeves.
Ryan lifted his head up to look at me, and his eyes were red and puffy but they looked gorgeous as always. His face was also red and splotchy. His cheeks were wet with tears. I realized I probably didn't look much better.
"That was so scary." I whispered.
"You're shaking..." He said.
I didn't realize it until then, but my entire body was in fact trembling. But it wasn't from cold, since the July heat was still making us sweat. It was simply from emotion and nerves and fear and the aftermath of that intense scene.
"You okay, love?" Ryan asked worriedly.
I almost said yes out of instinct. But I thought about it for a moment and realized that I was most definitely not okay.
"No." I said, breaking down into another crying fit.
He rested his head on my shoulder and rubbed my chest, trying to comfort me. He shushed me softly several times and I was able to calm down after a minute.
"I'm so sorry, Jamie." Ryan whispered, still keeping his head on my shoulder.
The sincerity in his voice was overwhelming and I had to fight hard not to break down again.
"I already told you, you don't have to be sorry, Ryan." I said.
"No... I just mean I'm sorry this happened to you."
I took a selfish moment to wallow in my own self-pity. My parents didn't accept me for who I really was. I might never have a decent conversation with them again. I'd have to fend for myself both financially and emotionally. I would never have my parents guidance or their support or their love. I was on my own.
"I can't do this alone." I whispered.
Ryan lifted his head up and looked at me. He grabbed my face with both of his gentle hands and looked me straight in the eye.
"You're not alone, James." He said firmly, "You have me. I know it's horrible that your parents aren't gonna be here for you anymore. But you have me and I love you. And who knows? Maybe my mom will come around and both my parents can be here for you too. I don't know about any financial issues, but I sure as hell can support you in other ways."
"Really?" I asked.
"Really." He replied, "You can probably live with me over the summer, or maybe there's a friend here who will let you live with them. You can get a job down at school and work your way up to being able to afford an apartment or something..."
"This seems impossible..." I said, "I'll probably only be able to get a job at a fast food place or something. How am I supposed to support myself with that little money?"
"I can help you out, Jamie." Ryan said, "I can get a job too, and we can get an apartment together! That would be fun, right? It might be difficult to keep us afloat, but I can help!"
I thought about the absurdity of the idea. It would be downright impossible to find an apartment in Southern California that we could afford on the salaries we'd be able to get. But the fact that Ryan was so willing to try gave me hope.
Then I remembered something. "Oh fuck...how am I supposed to pay for school?"
"You can take out a student loan!" Ryan encouraged, "Don't worry, Jamie. I won't let you get sent out on the streets with no money and no place to live. You can live with me and my parents if it comes to that. I don't care what my mom says."
"I'm so scared." I admitted.
"We can do this." He said softly, placing a hand on my chest, "You and I are in this together."
I sighed uncertainly. I hated the entire thing. I didn't expect to be thrust out on my own so soon and so suddenly. I thought I'd be able to finish college before my parents expected me to be able to provide for myself. I thought it would be three or four more years before that happened.
"James..." Ryan sighed, "This is just a big challenge for us to face. It'll be hard, and it'll be stressful. But we can get through it because we have each other. I love you and I know you love me too. We can make this work. Let's not think about money right now. Let's think about your emotions. You must be so upset..."
"I'm just worried about my future..."
"Don't be." He said, "Worry about yourself, right now in this moment. How do you feel?"
"Like shit." I admitted.
"Then let's focus on getting you happy. Then we'll worry about our financial situation."
He leaned in and gave me a kiss on the lips. It was tender and sweet and also somewhat sexy. It was full of love and devotion and loyalty. Somewhere deep down, I felt the tiniest ounce of joy.
"I love you, James Radine." He said, smiling, "We can get through this."
My eyes watered again, but I held the tears back. "I love you..." I said, my voice a strained whisper.
He and I held each other in that car for the longest time. Partly because we didn't know what else to do. There was no place for us to go, and we were putting off going back to my parents' house to get my things. But mostly because we loved each other. We just wanted to savor this one moment, where the stress hadn't rained on us yet. Where money was not yet an issue exactly. And in that moment, money didn't matter. All that mattered was that we loved each other. And although we were preparing for the most difficult part of our lives, we were in it together. And it was only the first chapter. Losing my parents was almost like a death, but the idea of starting a new life with Ryan was more of a birth.
And so, our lives began, with a somewhat unexpected start.
A/N: Well... that's it. Not much else to say. I really hope you enjoyed it although the ending was a bit stressful and sad. And I admit, it all happened really fast. But I loved this chapter. Because sometimes life does happen really fast. Almost too fast. In other news, I might try to continue Mental but I'm still not sure. And I have a new story idea in mind, but I haven't even come close to starting it yet. But we'll see. Hopefully you'll see me again soon. I love you guys a lot. You inspire me :]
DawnSister: I'm interested to know what kind of "clues" you saw in the last chapter that might've hinted at how the coming out process would turn out. I didn't mean to give any clues hahaha :]
LittleMonster13: Once again, I love your username thingy! Lady Gaga is my life...
Zakiyya: Hahaha :] Not necessarily 2x as long, but I hope you were satisfied :]
Jake: Thank you so so so much. It always amazes me when my characters or my stories can really make a mark on a reader. Thank you :]
Billie Tyler: I wish things were easier between you and your parents. Homophobia sucks, especially when it occurs in people you truly care about. I'm sorry that you can't tell them who you really are, but maybe someday you'll find the courage to do it. I just hope to God that it doesn't turn out the way it did for James. Just keep swimming! You'll be fine :]
6xXBladeXx9: I'm so glad to hear that these characters have become your friends :] I love hearing that. I'm sorry it has to end, but it has to end. Look for my other stories in the future! Keep reading :]
JHeartbreak: I know what you mean by the "slice of life" concept. I'm very bad at doing that, but perhaps I'll practice in the future. :] Thank you so much for reading my stories.
ixdookiie: Of course, of course. ;]
Thank you everyone for reading and reviewing. You guys are the best :]