Hard Shot of Truth

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
After a bad break up, Tyler Ueda's friends drag him out for a night of debauchery and distraction...but it seems that distraction may just be the wake up call he needs to turn his life around. Sometimes self reflection takes a giant of a man punching you in the face before you realize there may be something wrong with your life.

Submitted: October 26, 2018

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Submitted: October 23, 2018

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Hard Shot of Truth

 

Why did he come out tonight? Tyler sipped his drink and stared at the dance floor. Everyone was so happy and so free. The music flowed freely, and the lights were other-worldly as they spliced through the fog on the dance floor. He could only imagine the body heat choking the dancers grinding on each other.

 

Lewd sexuality blatant and on display for all voyeurs like a damn Christmas window display. Who needed internet porn? Just come to the club and get a free show.

 

That was rude. He was bitter.

 

He rolled his eyes at his own thoughts as he fought back jealousy. That body heat. That passion. That life. That love. It would never be his. In his sights but never within his grasp. Envy gripped his throat and punched his heart. He quieted it with the whiskey burning down his throat in a single gulp.

 

This was stupid. He was a fool for coming out tonight. He knew he wasn’t in the mood…yet here he sat.

 

A hand slapped his shoulder, and he turned to see the bright smiles of Audrey and Mason staring at him. They were glistening with sweat, but they were all joy. Audrey rested her chin on his shoulder and blinked up at him. “Come on, Ty. Dance with us. I’m sure there’s a girl out there for you. You’ll feel better.”

 

“Yeah, the best way to get over a break-up is a good ol’ rebound. I’ll even loan Audrey to you for the night,” Mason offered cordially, wiggling his eyebrows, but his girlfriend was quick to smack him.

 

They were trying. They cared. It was all good intentions.

 

This was his mantra as he prepared to answer his friends without hurting their feelings.

 

They. Were. Trying.

 

Plastering a smile on his face, he danced the empty glass at them. “This is all the rebound I need tonight.” He slid the glass across the bar and gestured for the bartender.

 

The bartender in pants much too tight and leaving nothing to his imagination. The same bartender he was watching all night in the hopes of cheering himself up. But it was always short lived, and Tyler quickly berated himself.


Stop staring at the bartender. Drink your damn whiskey and just stop.

 

Stop being weird. Stop making people worry. Stop it. Just stop.

 

Mason pulled him to his feet. “Get out there and dance, dude. Mackenzie is a bitch. Stop pouting and man up.”

 

Man up.

 

Those words sank like a bowling ball and kept sinking further and further. Deeper down to the abyss until they made breathing impossible.

 

Man up.

 

Without another thought, he pushed past Mason and stormed out of the club. He didn’t care how he offended them at this moment. He was alone.

 

Man up.

 

The words kept circling around his thoughts, eating away at any hope of light. The clouds were growing darker, and soon there would be no light left. Tyler was trying his hardest to cling to ‘tomorrow is a new day’, but he knew it wouldn’t be. Tomorrow would be the same as today and yesterday. He would be trapped in the lies that he surrounded himself in. The image of who he was supposed to be.

 

Be a man, Tyler. Date the hot girl, Tyler. Continue the family name, Tyler. Take care of your business, Tyler. Don’t show emotions. Don’t cry. Don’t admit it’s hard. Don’t admit your drowning. Don’t admit you aren’t happy. Don’t be weak.

 

Man up, Tyler. Damn it, man up!

 

Fuck it all. Why didn’t he just stay home tonight?!

 

Slam!

 

His body crashed into a hard wall of flesh, and his face crinkled into soft Jersey cotton. He looked into the eyes of a very large, very pissed off man wearing a shirt that was 2 sizes too small and equally under-sized pants. Tyler looked him up and down, sizing him up just in case a fight was in order.

 

At least the guy’s boots looked big enough for him.

 

Gulp!

 

Being that far over 6 foot should be a crime…

 

Before he could offer his apology, the large man said, “Watch where yer walkin’, asshole.”

 

Sighing back his own nasty remark, Tyler settled for letting it go. “Sorry, man. My bad. I was distracted.”

 

“Tyler?”

 

Of all the places in the world, she would be here. Of all the guys in the city, she would be on his arm. And of all the people for him to run into, Tyler would bump into his ex-girlfriend’s new boy toy.


At least, her new arm candy was hot. No wonder she dumped him so quickly. He’d dump him too for this guy. Tyler was no schmuck, but this guy put him to shame.

 

She looked pretty tonight, even with enough body glitter on to drown a small village. Mini skirt, check. Stripper heels, check. Halter top with cleavage spilling out, double check. Purposefully controlled “chaotic” curls piled on top of her pixie head, check. Mackenzie was really going all out tonight. He knew this look. This was her huntress outfit. She only wore this when she had seduction on her mind.

 

Poor guy. Tonight, she would ensnare him around her well-manicured nails. At least, she was happy. He offered her a drunken bitter smile as best as he could muster. “Good evening, Kenz. Don’t you look lovely.”

 

A hollow smile crossed her face. “Tyler, this is Mike. Mike, this is my ex.”

 

Eyes widened as the giant looked at her, back to him, then snapped right back to settle on her. “This! This is the guy who couldn’t get it up for you?”

 

Red rage clouded Tyler’s vision as he launched himself blindly at the behemoth before him. A shrill scream echoed through the club but not enough to break the spell that had currently locked his better sense away in a trunk, then tossed that trunk into the Chicago River. He was all fury now.

 

Fury fueled by whiskey and heart-ache.

 

Too blinded by his own anger to feel pain, Tyler took his fair share of punches as he felt a crack at his jaw and a crunch of his nose. Lightning and fire should have doubled his gut over in a failed attempt to save itself, but Tyler’s pain from self-hatred gagged all incoming new pain. A lifetime of judo made his movements second nature; however, the alcohol made his body nothing short of pudding. So, when Tyler went for a takedown, both men slammed into the floor hard.

 

Black engulfed the red, and a deep sleep took over him.

 

By the time he awakened, he was staring up into Audrey’s face with his head in her lap. Relief shone brightly in her face. “Mason! He’s awake! Tyler Ueda, you scared the bejeezus out of us.”

 

Mason was on the phone. Blinking at the phone in his friend’s hand, he quickly realized it was Tyler’s own phone. He heard his best friend reassure the person on the other end, “Yes, he’s awake now, Mrs. Ueda. We’ll send him home now. You’re welcome. Bye.” As soon as he hung up, Mason looked at him and laughed. “You are one crazy motherfucker, you know that? That jackass was huge!”

 

“Shut up, Mason! Tyler held his own.”

 

“Held his own like a fucked-up Jet Li! Whiskey is no one’s sidekick.”

 

“Stop, please. You aren’t helping.”

 

Lightning shot through his skull as he tried to sit up. “Thanks, Audrey, but Mason’s right. I’m an idiot for picking a fight with a dude who was probably an Orc stunt double.”

 

His friend sighed and booted him off his girlfriend. His eyes closed as he nestled his head in her lap.

 

The sight of Mason prickling territorially was enough to make him laugh. He loved Audrey, but out of all the women in the world, she was the absolute last one he would ever think about trying to get with. He had known Mason since pre-school, and they met Audrey in middle school. It was love at first sight for his friend…it was also the start of a long arduous journey for his buddy to attempt to woo Audrey.

 

Convincing the girl Mason James wasn’t a complete fool and only part fool was the trick. Over the years, he watched their romance with both joy and envy. They were hardly fairy tale, but the beauty of their relationship was so real it burned Tyler every time he came too close.

 

Love was not for him. It was an illusory idea that simply would not exist.

 

Mason’s head in Audrey’s lap while she berated him for being insensitive was suddenly stifling Tyler. The hair on his arms stood; his skin began to flush as an all too familiar itch nagged at him. He had to get out of here. There he was standing an outsider to their love. They were a cruel reminder to him of all his shortcomings and failures.

 

Why couldn’t he just get it right? Round ball in circle hole. Just get it right. He was a square peg. There had to be a way to make it fit.

 

He thought Mackenzie was the one he could make it work with.

 

Once again, Tyler was wrong.

 

Plastering on his best fake smile, Tyler excused himself and laughed as Audrey flung Mason off her lap as she stood. “Let us walk you home. Or we can take the El. A taxi. Anything! I could even call Uber or Lyft. Your pick, Ty!”

 

Mason wiped himself off, and his eyes met with Tyler’s. For a silent moment, something passed between them. An advantage of close to twenty years of friendship was this moment. Mason put his arm around Audrey and started guiding her towards the nearest El station. “Come on. Let the man be. Dude needs some space. Later, Ty! Call you tomorrow.”

 

Audrey was sweet, but Mason knew him best. All Tyler wanted was to be alone with his thoughts. It was easier than faking it all the time. He just needed that space. When he was alone, it was finally time he could be himself without the pressure to perform.

 

The walk home alone was cold, and the Chicago wind bit at his face. No matter how he shook his jaw out, the lightning along his jawline let him know of his stupidity. He cursed Mackenzie and her dragging her new boy toy out. He cursed Mason and Audrey for not just letting him stew in his break up. He cursed his parents for refusing to gift him with an arranged marriage and take the high-stake choice out of his hands. Most of all, he cursed himself.

 

The problem wasn’t any of them. It was him. It was his own fault relationships never worked out for him. Mackenzie wasn’t the first to break up with him. Nor was she the first to list the problems she did when ending things. No matter how he tried to take the complaints to heart and change them, he always came up short. He was always failing. Sooner or later, he would drop the ball.

 

Angrily, he shoved his hands into his pockets, hoping to warm them up before they became as numb as his heart.

 

That wasn’t true.

 

He wasn’t numb.

 

Far from it, if he was lucky enough to be numb, it would make it easier to fake it with everyone. Alas, his heart knew the truth of it and was constantly arguing with the logic of his brain. Neither of them could ever agree on a course of action. Always bickering. Always yelling. All the screaming inside of him was beginning to drown out the voices of those that cared about him. Even his own voice was defenseless in the matter. He was dragging himself down and couldn’t even scream for help.

 

The closer he got to home, the heavier his legs became. There was no avoiding his mother. From the moment he would open the door, there she would be. Waiting for him. Waiting for answers.

 

Answers he didn’t want to give her.

 

How could he tell her that her baby boy sucked at life?

 

Sighing, he scuffed the road with his foot and cursed the Heavens for bringing this upon him. It was so easy for everyone else, but him? Pah! He couldn’t even make one relationship work.

 

There it was. He had arrived. He stared at the townhome and dreaded the short walk up those stairs. The moment of truth had arrived, and there was no avoiding it. Unless…

 

He scratched his chin and eyed the side of the house. If he didn’t walk through the front door, then he wouldn’t have to face her. Maybe, just maybe, he could scale the side of the house and make his way up to his room. Standing on the concrete banister, Tyler tried to channel Stretch Armstrong as he contorted his leg as best he could, reaching maximum extension in futile hope of reaching the window ledge.

 

Just a bit more…

 

“Tyler Morris Ueda! What are you thinking?!”

 

Damn.

 

Caught.

 

The shrill sound of his mother’s voice crushed his dreams of reaching his room. Carefully, he kept his position but turned to face her, offering the most reassuring smirk he could. “Trying to connect with my ninja ancestors?”

 

From the look on her face, she was neither convinced nor amused. Shaking her head, she helped him down with a firm yank. “That is stereotypical and inconsiderate. You should know better. Get your ass down before you hurt anything else on the precious body I created for 9 months and have carefully, lovingly raised for the past twenty-one years. You want to be Mike Tyson or Spiderman, you do it after you’ve moved out, please.”

 

As soon as they were face to face, her hands were immediately cupping the sides of his face as she examined the damage, only offering the occasional tsk here and there. The disapproval was obvious until their eyes met and her eyes glittered with concern. She was not masking the sad worry with faux anger very well. Even her voice was shaking as she chastised, “Honestly, getting into a fight over a girl. Drinking yourself into a barrel’s worth of whiskey. I have to say I am surprised. I have to say though, there isn’t a doubt in my mind this tantrum of yours is about hurt pride. I’m your mother. I could feel it in my bones you never loved her.”

 

Trying to escape her talons, he failed to pull his face from his grasp. He didn’t need this right now. Nor did he want it. This was not a conversation he could stomach. The liquid courage was still rampant in his veins. “I’m fine, Mom. Can I go to bed, please?”

 

“At least, let me clean you up first. Come inside.”

 

“No. The cold is sobering me up.”

 

She shrugged, but it was clear she wouldn’t fight with him as she headed inside. Tyler knew he had to collect himself before she came back out. So, he closed his eyes and counted to ten several times before the door opened once more.

 

His eyes opened once more, but the result was nonexistent. Nothing had changed. His veins were still on fire. His flesh itching with the concerns nipping at him. His feet begging to run until his body collapsed with exhaustion. The prison walls were closing in on him, and his heart was threatening to explode out of his chest as his lungs revolted against breathing. Mutiny was afoot, and his body was throwing him overboard. No longer was he himself as his soul departed his body. There he was, inches above the both of them, watching this delicate woman carefully care for him. Her motherly medicinal ministrations trying to return his face to the little boy she cherished so deeply.

 

Those tender green eyes holding back tears as she avoided his hazel ones that were also refusing to look at her. Neither of them truly wanting to make eye contact. His black wavy hair and her curly auburn gently blowing in their faces as the night air assaulted them. On he watched as her tender touch moved a small ebony strand from his face.

 

It was that tender moment, that soft nature…that broke the dam. His body released the words, “I’m gay,” before his soul could call them off. The out of body experience ended as he slammed back to reality. Now their eyes met; now they were truly looking at each other.

 

Tyler was frozen as his mother’s eyes widened, releasing a flood of silent tears to cascade ruthlessly down the sides of her face. Her mouth opened to unleash words, but Tyler’s feet rescued him from whatever they may be.

 

He ran.

 

He ran harder than his legs could possibly fathom.

 

They burned with the need to escape. He had to get out of there. He said it. He actually said it. The words locked away deep inside had escaped their dungeon. He should have been free. But now he was more trapped than ever. Those two words had forced him into a corner. There was no facing her now. He had said it. The shame of it was overwhelming as the hard truth buckled his knees beneath him.

 

He was gay.

 

His chest heaved as his stomach lurched. Sobriety was cold, and Tyler was alone. Faceless people walked by him, and cars drove by. Only the sound of water beneath the bridge reached his ears. He stared at the water as it beckoned him in. This was the moment his world was crashing in on him. Just let it go. Fall in. The pressure would be gone, and he would finally be free. Just fall, Tyler. You can do it.

 

Fall.

 

“Are you planning on throwing up in the Chicago River? Because that would be so lame.”

 

Without looking, Tyler recognized the source of his present predicament.

 

Mackenzie.

 

A deep sigh relaxed his tension as his chance passed. No falling tonight. He pushed himself off the sidewalk and leaned on the side of the bridge. His eyes sought the solace of the stars. “I was going to until someone interrupted me.”

 

“Well, don’t let me stop you. I’m just coming back from the store. Mike wanted some snacks.”

 

Now when he looked at her, the makeup was gone, hair pulled back in a simple braid with a beanie, girly sweatpants with ill-matching men’s hoodie, and raggedy Converses. A humorless laugh escaped his mouth as he shook his head at her. “Looks like your vixen outfit didn’t work out.” He winked at her. “Or maybe it worked too well.”

 

Her face contorted in anger and pain as she tried to storm away from him. Regret was quick, and his response to stop her almost not quick enough. “I’m sorry, Kenz. That was a dick move on my part.”

 

Forgiveness stopped her feet, but pride kept her from turning around. “You ever think why I wore those clothes?”

 

“I don’t know. You wanted some?”

 

With a sharp turn, she faced him and caused him to stumble back some as her anger was full force in his face. “No, jackass, I wore those clothes because they made me feel pretty. Something my boyfriend was failing to do. Those clothes make me feel sexy. Towards the end, even that wasn’t working. I’d wear them, and you would get that look on your face.”

 

“I had a look?”

 

She leaned against the bridge wall with him. “Yeah. I could just see the obligation written all over your face. The dread. I felt guilty for wanting to have sex with my own boyfriend. I love you, Tyler, but I just can’t apologize for wanting to kiss you anymore. It should be natural. But I always knew when you were forcing yourself. I want you to want to touch me. I wanted…no. I needed you to barely be able to keep your hands off me. Instead, it took everything in your willpower to hold my hand because you knew it’s what I wanted. Do you know how that felt? If you had fought just a little. Begged just a little for me to reconsider breaking up. Asked for a second chance even.” There was no denying the catch in her words. “But you didn’t. You threw your hands up and said, ‘whatever you want.’ If I thought for an instant that fight was about me-”

 

“It was about me.”

 

“I know, Tyler. I know! Your feelings were hurt. You were embarrassed. I got it. That fight was all about your pride and you. Not once has it ever been about me. But even after all that, know that Mike is a good guy who is only a friend. I never cheated on you.”

 

Now that was surprising. Their sex life sucked. It wasn’t any wonder if she had cheated. Apparently, she heard the scoff he made and playfully punched his arm. “I mean it, loser. I didn’t. Mike was a catalyst. I’ll admit that, but he wasn’t the cause. I haven’t felt like a woman in a long time. No offense, but you’ve kinda like totally killed my self-esteem. I met Mike while getting coffee, and for the first time in a long time, I felt good about myself. I knew something was wrong. Our breakup wasn’t about Mike. It was about us. Me going out with him tonight was him trying to cheer me up. I loved your stupid ass. If he was a jerk tonight, it’s because he’s my friend.”

 

He could see the pain in her eyes, the slumped shoulders, the shaking of her elfin frame…it was taking everything in her power to keep from crying her eyes out. For the first time, Tyler saw the shell of who Mackenzie had been before they had started dating.

 

Fuck…

 

His arm went around her shoulders, and he kissed the top of her head. It was the first genuine affection he had shown her in a long time. Pulling her close, they sheltered each other from the bitter night. “Kenz, it was never about you. Even the times it should have been, it wasn’t. You deserve what you wanted. If Mike makes you feel loved, then don’t hold onto a heartache with a man who never deserved your patience and love. Me not wanting you…” He sighed as he prepared to say those words once again, “I’m gay.”

 

For a few moments, neither of them moved. Tyler surprised himself and didn’t run. Funny. The last time he said those words, he saw the tears, and he bolted. He wanted to escape from whatever it was his mom was about to say. But this time, he stayed right where he was, and he held onto her. Holding Mackenzie was just as much for himself as it was for her.

 

When she still didn’t speak, he prepared to coax a response, but she chose that moment to say something. Maybe she felt him tense. Tyler would never know. “Wow. I feel like I should be surprised or mad or upset or just anything else than what I actually am.”

 

“What are you?”

 

“Relieved.”

 

They both laughed, and warmth flooded Tyler’s trembling body as Mackenzie embraced him. The hold she had on his body physically relaxed him in a way it never had before. Any affection she showed him in the past made his skin crawl, but this hug in this moment, he never wanted it to end. This was exactly what he had been wanting.

 

When she pulled out of the moment, she smiled up at him with happy tears running down her flushed cheeks. “I’m going out on a limb here and guessing I am the first person you’ve told?”

 

He shook his head and took a step away from her. “No. I just told my mom. It’s why I’m out here. She just started crying, and I ran.”

 

“Oh, Ty, I’m so sorry, honey. Give her time. I know your mom, and I’m sure she’ll come around. She adores you.” Her eyes widened and pointed behind him. “I think that’s your dad coming.”

 

When he turned around, sure enough, walking towards them was his father bundled up to the brim no matter the season. Yuki Ueda hated even the most infinitesimal amount of cold. The most cliché image he had of his father was this right here, bundled up like an Eskimo. Nothing but his dark brown eyes, glasses, and a few strands of black hair poking out from the mountains of chill protection.

 

Tyler sighed as Mackenzie touched his shoulder. “I’m going to go take Mike his snacks and let you have a talk with your dad. Call me later if you need, babe.”

 

Too transfixed with watching his dad approach, Tyler didn’t even notice her leave. Seconds, hours, or an eternity: time was lost as to how long it took Mr. Ueda to approach his son. By the time he did, they both were wildly uncomfortable.

 

Tyler swallowed hard and stared into the merciless blank eyes hiding behind thin-rimmed glasses. What did he want? Why was he just standing there staring at him? He wanted him to speak. He needed him to say something. Anything.

 

Speak, damn it!

 

Words gushed out of his mouth in some attempt to crash through the ice quickly freezing everything around them. “I’ve tried to be a good son. I have woken up every day and worn the image of what was expected of me. I played baseball and soccer. I’ve done fucking judo since I was three, which by the way, I was grateful for tonight. I dated the sweet, delicate, wifely girls I thought you two would approve of. I’m studying to be an architect, just like you, Dad. I look like a man. I act like a man. I bottle it all up and sweep it away. I am as much a pillar of manly strength as anyone out there. I have done every damn thing expected of me. I have manned up like you’d want me to! Here I am, damn it! You have something to say to me, then say it. Don’t just stand there! I have done everything expected of me. You want me to marry the right girl, pop out a few babies, carry on the Ueda family name, I’ll do it damn it. I’m trying! Please, I’m trying. I’m sorry. Sorry I’m failing you! Please say something. Dad? Please…”

 

Silence met him as his father slowly removed his glasses. The older man pinched the bridge of his nose and simply sighed. What emotions was he trying to collect hidden behind that mask of neutrality? The tension was killing him. How the hell was his father so composed right now? The man was just standing there in his silence, gathering the words in his head.

 

Gather faster!

 

Tyler wanted to reach out and shake the words out of him, but somehow, he managed to stand in place with fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. Firmly, he stood with the breath hostage in his chest.

 

Finally, his father gave one firm nod of his head as he met his son’s eyes once more. “Tyler, when I was a you-”

 

“Ah, Dad, come on!”

 

A single eyebrow raised as Tyler silenced once more. “As I was saying, when I was a young boy growing up in Takayama, I used to think I had my whole life laid out in front of me. From birth to eventual death, my whole life was written out, and Takayama would be the only backdrop to that story. But life has other plans, and my expectations meant nothing. I got into Kyoto University, eventually got a job in Tokyo, and was chosen to transfer to our American branch. It was here I met your mother, and the rest has led us to where we stand now. Where I stand now and where I expected myself to be standing at this point in my life are entirely different places. It doesn’t mean either one was wrong or bad. Either would have been fine. Either would have worked. But I was meant to take the path I did. If I hadn’t, would I have had a wife and kids too? Probably. But she would not be your mother, and none of those children would have been you, son. I cannot imagine my life without you in it. It has been an honor being your father.”

 

A proverbial hand gripped Tyler’s throat tightly as he pushed out the words, “I’m gay.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I know, you know. You talked to mom.”

 

Surprisingly, Mr. Ueda’s head began to shake from side to side. “I’ve always known, Tyler. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I have known since you were twelve. The magazines stashed away under a boy’s bed are not typically their father’s GQ or Men’s Health.”

 

Humiliated horror and aghast amusement stole the air out of Tyler’s lungs. “Dad!” he croaked out.

 

“What? Your sexual business is your business. You don’t pry into your mother and-”

 

“No! Stop there! I’m good.”

 

The apples of his old man’s cheeks bunched up over the edge of his scarf. “My point is, what you do in the bedroom is no one else’s business.”

 

“But what about the church? Doesn’t God hate fags?”

 

Those apples disappeared once more as Mr. Ueda’s eyebrows furrowed deeply. “Do not ever use that word. That is an ugly word! God hates no one. Hate is for humans. God only loves. Even the hateful, miserable assholes of this world. God only pities them for their chests are empty. Their souls hollow. God loves you as I love you. You are a fine man. The only people who would hate you are fools.”

 

Emotions overflowed from Tyler as he collapsed into his father’s arms. Tight arms held him near, and he was that little boy again. That small child who had just lost the game for his team. That kid who failed his science test. The son who was scared of monsters in bed at night. Those arms took him back to every time he needed to feel his father’s love.

 

As soon as the embrace ended, insecurity reared its ugly head once more. “But what about Mom? I’m sure she hates me now.”

 

“Hates you? Don’t be stupid. Your mother could never hate you. The only thing she hates is lemons.”

 

“I made her cry. You didn’t see it. She started weeping. Profusely. Like crazy profusely.”

 

Mr. Ueda took his hat off and smacked his son with it hard. “She was crying because she never realized it. Because you’ve been feeling miserable and guilty all this time, thinking there is something wrong with you. She felt like a terrible mother. She was crying because she felt bad not because she hates you. Stupid boy.”

 

“So, I can go home?”

 

His arm went around Tyler’s shoulders, and he started leading him back to the house. “There will never be a reason in this world why you can’t go home…unless I am busy with your mother.”

 

“Dad! Gross!”

 

Once more, those cheeks appled over the scarf. “It’s good to see you smiling, Ty.”

 

Truthfully, it was good to be smiling. Clouds collected at his feet as they threatened to sprout wings and lift Tyler to the heavens. It was the middle of the night, but he swore he felt the sun on his face. He stared at the buried face of his father and felt more tears pooling over the brim. “Thanks, Dad.”

 

“Eh, no matter. Just apologize to your mother for running out. I thought there was a yokai in the bedroom. Imagine my fright waking up to that hysterical face instead. I’d rather the yokai.”

 

The rest of their walk was in silence, but it wasn’t bad. It was a comfortable blanket cocooned around them as his father’s arm remained around his shoulders. They had said all that needed to be said between them. Passing beneath the street lamps in the still of the night, Tyler realized this was the freedom he had sought for so long. No longer was he a prisoner to himself.

 

Breathing was easy. In. Out. Let it go.

 

His chest was light, and his back relaxed as, with every step, pound after pound dripped off.

 

Freedom. Life. Happiness.

 

Maybe even love.

 

There, pacing in front of the stairs, was his mother in her robe and slippers, hair like a wild woman, cheeks flushed, with nails bitten to knuckles.

 

He laughed and nudged his dad. “She does look like a yokai.”

 

As if summoned from his joke, her gaze caught them, and she bolted across the street, arms flailing in the air as she wailed his name. Tyler nearly fell over from the force of her desperate love embracing him frantically. She wept her apology into his chest, and guilt nipped at his heels.

 

Shame fueled his arms to push her off of him. “Mom, stop apologizing. It’s not necessary. I should have told you the truth sooner.”

 

Once more, her hands delicately cupped his cheeks in her chilled hands. She had been waiting outside this whole time for them. Her eyes were all love as they stared into his soul. “I’m just happy you’re safe and are being true to who you are. Have you told anyone else?”

 

“Yeah, I met up with Mackenzie on the bridge. I hurt her more than she hurt me. She needed to know the truth.”

 

“Have you said anything to Mason? Oh Mason! Are you two…you know…an item? Has Audrey only been…what do they call it? Oh! A mustache. Is Audrey the mustache for the two of you?”

 

Unwanted images of Mason and him popped into his head; at once, his stomach rebelled, lurching. Tyler swallowed it and shook his head violently. “The phrase is beard, and no, Mason is 100% straight, and even if he wasn’t, that is just…no. I assure not in a million years.”

 

“So, what is your taste then? I have so many questions. I think the nice trainer at my gym is gay. He’s cute too. He is always more hands-on with the men than he is with the ladies. I’m sure he is.”

 

“Mom, he could just be more careful not to offend the women. Plus, I don’t need my mother to set me up on dates. Once I figure all this out, I will set up my own love life. Thanks, but no thanks.”

 

Now, his dad swooped in and began ushering his mother towards the house. “Leave the boy alone, Cassandra. He’s probably tired and doesn’t need you badgering him.”

 

“I wasn’t badgering. I was only trying to be helpful and supportive.”

 

He watched as they walked into the house together, and love filled every pore in Tyler’s body. This was probably the greatest night of his life. He was nauseous from the whiskey, his face hurt from the pummeling, and he was exhausted from how late it was…but he was free.

 

He was free, and he was loved. There was no greater moment than this. Who would have thought that what had been shaping up to be the worst night of his life would end on such a glorious night? One bad break-up, one shot too many, one punch from a behemoth, and Tyler had never been more grateful for the disastrous equation that equaled the happiest he had ever been. Sometimes, it takes a storm to replenish the barren desert.

 

The End


© Copyright 2018 Irene Daniels. All rights reserved.

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