So Much for Subtlety

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Review Chain

This is for the Review Chain contest.

If they weren’t in the middle of Gramps’ birthday dinner, Juliet would punch the smirk off Jonathan’s stupid face.

“Come on, Julie.” He won’t let it drop. “You aren’t a prude, are you?”

“Don’t call me Julie.” It’s the worst when people call her that like they can’t be bothered to finish her name, and her cousin knows it.

Madi touches her arm as she reaches past Juliet for the butter dish, a reminder to not let Jonathan get to her. “Like you’d know what to do if a girl ever had the misfortune of kissing you.”

“Who’s Jonathan kissing?” They’ve caught the attention of towheaded Roisin taking a break from the younger end of the kid table’s squabble over the bread basket to listen to the older cousins’ relationship drama. 

“His pillow, probably,” Juliet’s brother Ethan mutters, and she has to stifle a snort. “Also, Juliet had a boyfriend in high school,” he says pointedly to Jonathan who understands subtly as well as he does tact.

Jonathan’s smirk sours as everyone is more interested in mocking him than discussing Juliet’s lack of a boyfriend. He glances towards the adult table, and Juliet tenses—whatever he’s about to spout next, he doesn’t want to be overheard.

“Really? ‘Cause everyone kind of thought you were…y’know…”

“I don’t.” There’s an edge to Juliet’s voice now that she hopes her cousins will take as annoyance and not the panic that’s tightening her chest like a slow vise. They couldn’t know—her parents had no idea until she told them yesterday. Ethan only knows because he’s overly perceptive—and he caught them kissing once. She must have hidden it from the rest of her family.

Jonathan watches her like a wolf waiting for its prey to tire out before striking. “Need me to spell it out for you? I thought you were smart since you go to Harvard and all.”

Juliet has a death grip on her fork although she can barely swallow her saliva much less food. Calm down, calm down, calm down. Her other cousins are staring. A few still argue over the bread, but Jonathan’s taunts have drawn enough attention that Ethan’s second attempt to redirect the conversation with a joke fails.

He knows. 

How could he know?

He must know. 

“Are you trying to ask if I’m gay?” Juliet spits out, almost amused by Jonathan’s aborted flinch when at her response—apparently, he hadn’t expected her to be so blunt. 

“Quit being a jerk, Jonathan,” Ethan says, voice flat without his normal humor.

“That’s way over the line,” Madi hisses at the same time.

Juliet inhales against the familiar tightness in her chest, remembering what her mom said in the car earlier in the fake cheerful voice she always uses to smooth over awkward situations. We don’t want to cause a scene. Her parents are going to be pissed, but then, her dad hasn’t spoken to her in over 24 hours—she’s already screwed. Juliet glares at Jonathan, the death glare that earned her reputation of a bitch in high school, and he shrugs like he isn’t perfectly aware that he’s taken his teasing too far for the umpteenth time.

“Yes, I’m fucking gay.” 

“What?” It’s Uncle Amos who says it, and Juliet realizes that both tables have stopped talking to stare. How loud had she been?

Her throat closes over any sound that could possibly explain or excuse. She hadn’t meant for the adults to hear—she just wanted to wipe the smirk from Jonathan’s face. Oh fuck, she’d sworn too as if she needed more trouble.

The chair squeaks on the hardwood floor, and all Juliet can think of is away, away, away. Away from the stares and shock and the judgement and disappointment to follow. Someone calls her name as she flees—her mom maybe. 

Even the kitchen with its modern counter tops and exposed beam ceiling feels suffocating, and Juliet keeps moving as if she can outrun the words she’d said, the secret she’d buried and hid for years. Except, running has never let her forget before.

Outside is better with the stars rising in a dark sky lacking the light pollution of Boston. She runs into the barn and up the creaky wooden stairs to the hay loft. Pausing to plug in the string lights so that she doesn’t trip over one of the many of holey bean bags, Juliet flops on the woven rug in the center. Madi revamped the loft a few years ago to create a hangout space, and it’s an obvious place to hide, but she couldn’t stay in the house with all the looks and whispers.

Alone in the semidarkness, Juliet forces deep breaths until her chest loosens and the maelstrom of thoughts slows. She came out. She actually came out to her entire extended family that she was gay. God, what a clusterfuck. Digging her phone out of her back pocket, she hesitates. As much as she wants to tell McKinley about what happened, it isn’t exactly something she can explain over text.

Juliet hears a creak and footsteps on the stairs and sits up, bracing for her mom to come scold her for making a scene or her dad to give her the disappointed look like she just failed a test. She relaxes when Ethan’s blonde head appears followed by Madi’s freckled face. 

“So, how bad is it?” Juliet tries to keep her tone light but fails when it cracks in the middle.

They flop down on the rug beside her, and Madi grins to Juliet’s surprise. “Well, after you took off, Ethan decided to try to upstage you by calling Jonathan a homophobic asshat and dumping the pitcher of water in his lap.”

Ethan shrugs but is grinning as well, and Juliet loves him dearly in that moment. 

“Gramps laughed, I’m pretty sure,” Madi adds. “Everyone else was still in shock when we left.”

Juliet spins the phone in her hands, feeling almost hopeful in spite of what happened. It’s not how she thought her family would find out, but it’s a relief that she doesn’t have to hide it anymore.

“So.” Madi wiggles closer. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

“She does,” Ethan says before Juliet can speak. “Her name’s McKinley.”

“What’s her Instagram? I need to stalk her,” Madi demands, and Juliet rolls her eyes but shares McKinley’s username because Madi will find it whether Juliet tells her or not.

Ethan nudges her leg with his foot raises his eyebrows when she looks at him. You okay?

She smiles. Okay.


Submitted: July 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Greythereadaholic. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Archia

That certainly isn't the most subtle way to share that news, and it wouldn't be easy news to share either. I really liked where you went with this story, it built up really nicely and it was lovely to see the support she had at the end.

Fri, August 14th, 2020 12:47pm

smircle

You described the panic she felt at the table so well, I really felt for her. I was worried the ending was going go even further downhill, but the support they showed her - especially Madi's remark about Instagram - was heart-warming. Ending it on 'okay' was perfect; thank you for writing and sharing this :)

Fri, September 11th, 2020 1:04am

Author
Reply

So glad you enjoyed it!

Fri, September 11th, 2020 10:21am

KatV

I love this story with the perfect title! You hooked me at the start, and carried me all the way thru, building my interest and emotion. I was at that table, invisible but all in! Your ending perfect; so uplifting! Bravo!!

Sat, September 26th, 2020 12:04am

Author
Reply

Thanks; so glad you enjoyed it!

Fri, September 25th, 2020 7:40pm

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