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Ethan

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  1. Ethan

    Chapter 11

    Clearly part of the minority. Thanks, CK!
  2. Ethan

    Chapter 11

    I put that part in on purpose because Jamie needed to be honest with Ali. He didn't say they were dating - only that he was seeing someone else, which is true. Their relationship was ruined by lies - so I think Jamie needed to be super honest. Also, sorry @crystalline @Bft @FanLit ... at the moment I am not at all motivated to pick up my pen again. After my first story, I was uncertain whether to post anything here again. And this experience didn't exactly help (see end of comment above) So who knows. That may change one day. I half wrote another story - but it is way more intense than this ... so if people couldn't handle this ending ... Yeah, don't think I want to do that again. Plus, that story still needs A LOT more work. And my actual job is about to get extremely busy for the next few weeks. Plus, there are only a few more weeks left until it snows ... so I'm going to try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. @FanLit a big thank you for defending my work ... if I ever post again - it's cause of people like you
  3. Ethan

    Chapter 11

    Okay, wow. I thought I might get a bit of push back, but not to this level. At the end of every chapter, I always welcomed comments, feedback and criticism. If you don’t like something, or feel a part of the story could have been better, I’ll never take offence. I may push back, but I know it is not personal. If you hated the story that’s fine too. However, there is also a level of decorum one assumes and expects, which I don’t think was the case with some comments. At the end of the day, as the author I can tell the story however I see fit. I do not feel I have to defend my work, but I will say a few things What I promised on, I delivered. The premise of the story was understanding who Jamie accidentally slept with, and after the first chapter, why he hated that person as much as he did. We learn the answer to both questions. And I did it in a timely manner. I didn't drag this story on forever or abandon it. Unlike “The Lady or the Tiger” (which I read before responding, and came to a different conclusion) — and to those angry the story finished on a cliffhanger - it did not. If the ultimate goal is to know who Jamie ends up with, the answer is there - you don’t have to guess. Yes, I left it open - but the right answer is my answer. Now, why did I hide the answer as opposed to say it openly? Isn’t that the whole point of this story? We always assume we know the truth, that reality is right in front of us, when that isn’t always the case. Sometimes we have to search for the truth like they did. Sometimes reality is hidden. As for closure - again I think there is closure in this story (as to who Jamie ends up with), though it is not obvious closure. Was Jamie’s mom involved? We don’t know. We may never know. They may never know. It didn’t make sense to tie up every loose end because that’s not how life works. Tying their story up in a "bow on top” goes against the essence of this story. As I literally say in this chapter: “We assume the truth is always obvious. Either something is true or it’s a lie. But sometimes it’s more complicated. Sometimes the truth is messy. Our story is clearly messy.” Their story is messy. To be true to their story - I had to leave part of their story messy. And that is where the reader comes in. Again, I disagree that everything has to be laid before you. You bring something to every story you read - your own experiences. And no matter if you want to or not, you do inject that into the story - and that doesn’t make any less worthy. And yes you’re left with questions - but so are Jamie and Ali. Again, it goes with the theme of the book. Finally - going back to decorum. Look, you can have an opinion and that is fine - but in no way is saying I bastardized the story “and get back to the key board and finish the damn story” appropriate. Neither does it motivate me to actually write more. I’m also a bit disappointed by how many people liked that comment. First, I don’t owe anyone here anything. I have a extremely demanding job. I normally work 11-12 hours a day. So I don't get too much time to write - and when I do I write for myself. This is FREE content. You may have spent 10-15 minutes reading this chapter - I spent weeks writing it. I think I can speak for other authors on this site when I say, we’re not expecting anything in return - but it would be nice to have some level of engagement. When I joined GA I thought this was a community of authors and readers. That's not entirely true. I got tonnes more meaningful engagement on nifty, a site I didn’t think had any. I’d say I’m relatively lucky with how many people have interacted with my story - but looking around that doesn’t appear to be the norm for most others. And that is very discouraging. Never commenting on anything, but then popping up to make demands — no one is going to take you seriously. And that doesn't motivate anyone to post more on this site.
  4. His face lights up when he sees me. “You came.” “Of course, I said I would,” I reply. I faced a stark choice tonight, one that I debated in my head for what felt like hours. I thought I could either try to let go of the past, think about my future, and go to Oliver, or confront my past again, maybe get some real answers, and meet Ali. Weighing heavy on my mind through all of it, the letter. The emotion, the raw pain was clear in every word. I know the turmoil and angst one feels inside when confronting your sexuality. A gay guy wrote that letter, I’m sure of it. And as I read it over and over again, in my heart I knew that guy was Ali. The guy in that letter was the same one I met all those years ago north of Cedar Creek. It was the guy who captivated me as we rode our bikes. It was the guy I risked it all to save. Even when I put the letter down, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he wrote. It raised several new questions and doubts, including doubts about my own father. Despite my initial reluctance I knew I had to ask my father if he was involved, so I called him. I asked if he ever found a letter and gave it to Mr. Easton. He had no idea what I was talking about. He said he didn’t know anything about a letter. He was genuinely confused. My dad is good at many things, but lying is not one of them. He was telling the truth. Instead of getting clarity, I was left with even more confusion. Now, despite that confusion, after speaking with my father it was clear what I had to do. I needed to think about what would make me happy in the long run. In the end, I chose my future. I think I made the right call. What drew me here was my strong sexual attraction to Oliver, but that only lasts for so long. There needs to be an emotional connection too, and there is. Oliver, or Ollie as he prefers, is kind, funny, and smart. With him, there is also no drama. Or well, less anyway. “You know I almost got in trouble because of you,” he says with that orgasm-inducing smile. “Because of me? How? I’m so sorry!” “It’s okay. My boss wasn’t too thrilled that you stayed at the bar without ordering anything besides water. He told me a few times to either get you to order something or ask you to leave.” “I’m sorry! You should have told me; I would have ordered something!” “I thought maybe you just wanted to stick around to talk to me.” I feel like the kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “The company, and the view, I must say, were both much appreciated. I just assumed you were straight!” “Yeah, that’s the difficult part, knowing someone’s orientation for certain. So many people flirt with me because I’m the bartender and they think I’ll give them free stuff. You should see how many girls try.” “They could also be flirting because, well, have you looked in a mirror lately?” “Have you?” he asks flirtatiously. “Yes, and there isn’t much to brag about!” I laugh. I know people don’t like self-deprecating humour and I should stop, but he just laughs along. “Not from my vantage point. There is a lot to brag about.” It’s nice of him to indulge me. “But yeah, it’s not always obvious if a guy is on our team, so, I’m a bit careful. My boss is also a bit of a homophobe, so ...” “Oh, sorry to hear that.” We cover all the normal topics people touch on when they first meet; hometown, school, hobbies. Turns out, we have a lot in common. He also worked a few years after his undergrad, but now is back getting his master’s degree in architecture. He’s much more than just a hot bartender. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I compare how I feel now, with how I felt when I was with Ali the first time we met at the bar. Back then I felt a different level of excitement. With Ali I felt a sense of adventure and danger, while Ollie feels safe. But safe is good. I need safe. “I’m really glad you came tonight,” Ollie says an hour into our date. “So am I,” I respond. I am glad, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit my heart is not fully here. I can’t stop thinking about that letter. I look at my watch. I still have time. “Shall we head out?” “Sure, perhaps we can continue this back at my place?” His leg lightly brushes against mine. I know that wasn’t by accident. Shit! That’s not what I meant at all. I was trying to end the date. But even if I didn’t have somewhere else to be, I don’t think I’d go with him. Two weeks ago, I would have seriously considered his proposal. Spending a night with Ollie was, and still is, a fantasy. But right now, I’m not sure I’m mentally there. My trust level in other people is pretty low at the moment. I think he can tell. I sense a bit of panic in his once flirtatious eyes. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to rush you or –” “No, no, no, it’s okay. I’d love to but maybe –” “It’s too fast?” he asks. “Yeah, a bit.” “I’m really sorry.” He genuinely looks sorry. “It’s honestly fine. I just would like to get to know you a bit more first if that’s okay.” “I’d love that. I guess that means you’ll agree to a second date?” he asks clearly full of hope. “I’d really like that.” I really would. We exchange phone numbers and a promise to meet again. As I watch him walk away, I know I made the right call coming here tonight. For one, I made a promise, and it would have been wrong to leave Ollie here waiting. And two, I could have a future with him. I don’t want to make the same mistake I made all those years ago – putting my entire focus on Ali. I don’t know what will happen when I see him tonight, but no matter the outcome, I know this time I’ll be able to move on, with or without Ali. It was always my intention to also see Ali tonight. Despite my doubts and confusions, one thing is clear – outside forces successfully pushed us apart. Both of us were deceived. We assume the truth is always obvious. Either something is true or it’s a lie. But sometimes it’s more complicated. Sometimes the truth is messy. Our story is clearly messy. By the time I arrive at the park it is 8:15. I have no idea if he is still here. But the park isn’t huge, and it doesn’t take me long to find him. He’s sitting on a bench, waiting. “You came …” he stands when he sees me approaching. “Yeah. I um, had somewhere else to be earlier.” “Right, I figured you might be busy, that’s why I thought I’d wait for a bit. I’m glad you’re here. I assume you read my letter?” he asks, a hint of nervousness in his voice. “I did,” I say. “And do you believe me that I’m the one who wrote it?” Being someone’s pen pal, you never get to understand their facial cues. You don’t know if they have a tell when they’re lying. Sarcasm, humour, concern, don’t always translate well in the written word. And so, I study him now before answering. That same sense of nervousness is clear in his eyes. Those are also the eyes I remember. He must have been wearing coloured contact lenses before. He’s squeezing his fingers, as he waits for my response. I didn’t spend enough time with Ali to know if he fidgets, yet if I had to guess, the guy in those letters does. “After everything that happened, honestly, I don’t know what to believe anymore but … yeah … I think you did.” I can see his body relax, the tension lifting from his shoulders. “I swear I did. I wrote all of them, Jamie. Every single word was mine.” “That’s not what your friends told me. They had my letters, Ali. They read them back to me. They made me feel like I was worthless, that I didn’t even deserve to breathe. They destroyed my self-confidence. And it wasn’t what they were saying; I’d heard stuff like that from those types of guys before. It was because they said those comments were coming from you, a guy I trusted. A guy I was falling in love with! I thought you were my fucking best friend!” I don’t mean to yell at the end, but it’s hard to keep my emotions in check. What his friends said that day scarred me, and those scars are still not gone. They hold me back to this very day. “I swear to God, Jamie, I never told them about you, or said anything negative about you. I wouldn’t do that. You are my best friend! Those weren’t my comments. I’m really sorry for what they did. You didn’t deserve any of that.” “I didn’t. I trusted you. You said your dad destroyed my letters.” “I didn’t knowingly lie. Everything I said back at the bar, Jamie, I thought was true. That is what I was told. But you’re right it wasn’t the truth. It took me a while today to find out what really happened. I called everyone but they kept lying, until I eventually found out what happened. “As you know, my dad got my last letter. He wasn’t thrilled that I was writing to someone from the east side, but that wasn’t the real issue. That’s not why he grounded me and kept me away from you. It’s what I wrote. He was ashamed of having a gay son. He thought it would further reduce his standing in society. A gay son meant he would never be accepted into the elite club. It was all about him. Not only did he blame me, but he blamed you. He thought I was confused because of you. “He searched my room and found the rest of your letters. He told me he destroyed them. I didn’t see him burn them, but they were gone when I checked. Now I know that’s not what happened. “As I told you the other day,” he continues, “the night we kissed at the hospital, when I got home, I got into a fight with my dad. He threatened me that if I told anyone else about you or, as he put it, this ‘lie’ that I was gay, there would be consequences. I was so angry I told him it was too late, that Hugh knew everything. I believe I told you about Hugh. We hung out together a bit, but we weren’t close friends. Most people found him rather irritating. I hated him because he thought he was better than everyone else. Like my dad, he looked down on and didn’t trust people who had less than him. He was also really fucking stupid and gullible. We only really knew each other because his father is my dad’s best friend, so I knew it would really piss off my dad. I was right. My dad was livid. But just to be clear, it wasn’t true. I didn’t tell Hugh a thing. “Assuming Hugh knew the truth though, my dad called him the next morning. He told him it was all a misunderstanding, that I wasn’t gay, but just naïve. He said you were trying to manipulate me to get money, and I didn’t realize that since I have a soft heart like my mom. My dad can be very convincing, and as I just said, Hugh was an idiot. My dad had two goals. One, to convince Hugh that I wasn’t gay. And two, to get you to hate me. He told Hugh to find you and tell you it was all a prank.” This is a lot to take in at once. I don’t know what to believe yet or how to react; it sounds so far-fetched. And yet, at the same time, from what I know about his father from those letters, it sounds true. There are still gaps in this version of events though. “How did your dad or Hugh know about the kiss?” That part still doesn’t make sense. “I told my parents when I got home that night from the hospital. My dad kept saying it was just a phase, that I’d get over it, that I’d get over you. I was so angry. I told him about the kiss because I wanted to prove to him that he was wrong, that it wasn’t a phase. After that night I knew I was gay. I knew before, but I was certain at that point. I told him when we kissed, I finally felt something. I had kissed girls before, but every time I felt nothing. I felt numb. But with you, it felt right. It felt …” he clearly is struggling to find the right word. “It felt like someone finally loved the real me. My dad mentioned the kiss to Hugh because he thought Hugh already knew about it. He’s the one who made up the whole bet lie.” Ali’s struggle hits close to home. I know that feeling of numbness. I also know how it was temporarily replaced when he first kissed me all those years ago. He can’t fake those emotions. Yet I’m still having a hard time reconciling all of this. “How is it that you know all of this now but you didn’t before?” “I called my dad and confronted him. He wouldn’t tell me anything at first, but my dad’s done some ethically questionable things in the past, and I may have used that to my advantage. He was still cagey and didn’t say much, but I got the rest out of Hugh. He admitted he grabbed another friend and confronted you. Hugh thought he was helping me. I asked him why he never told me any of this. He said my dad warned him not to because I was ashamed of what happened. Plus, if he kept quiet, we would become better friends. That didn’t happen. Two months later he moved across the country to go to school, and I also left town to go to university, and we lost touch. I didn’t really keep in contact with anyone from Cedar Creek. Also, if you’re wondering, Hugh is still a giant fucking idiot.” Okay, so he has an answer to that too. I have no fucking idea what to believe right now. I’ve never been this confused in my life. He can tell. “You don’t believe me,” he says. “I don’t know, Ali. I don’t know what to believe! All of this it’s … it’s so. Fuck! I don’t know!” That frustration is back again. “I understand,” he says calmly. “You also said it was my dad that found your last letter, that he went to your father and demanded money. I asked my dad. He had no idea what I was talking about. Are you going to admit that was a lie?” He looks down and starts to fidget with his fingers again. “Um, you’re right, it wasn’t your dad who found the letter … it was the park manager. He saw me go into the shed one day and went in after I left. He’s the one who found the letter. My dad told me the other story so that I’d hate you. He actually defended himself. He claimed he was right because your family was just after his money.” “That doesn’t make any sense,” I respond. “If my dad wasn’t the one who found the letter, then how exactly was my family after his money?” He looks unsure whether he should continue. “It’s obviously just another lie, and it doesn’t matter.” “It matters to me. What did he say?” Ali sighs heavily before continuing. “Just to be clear, I don’t believe him. My dad said the day after the accident, your mom came to the house. She allegedly blamed me for the accident, she thought I was the one driving the car that hit you. She demanded my dad pay for your recovery. He said they came to an arrangement, and as part of the deal you guys would leave. They agreed to make it seem like your dad got a promotion. He also said he made your mom sign a non-disclosure agreement. But again, I don’t believe him. It’s clearly a lie.” I shake my head. First it was my dad, now my mom. “My mom doesn’t even know you. She asked me several times that day if I knew who brought me to the hospital, but I lied and said I didn’t know. I just said I was walking to the store when I was hit. My parents still don’t know it actually happened up north.” “Look, Jamie, you don’t need to explain, I believe you. I know my dad is lying,” he quickly interjects. “Though, I guess now that I think about it, one of the nurses could have told her your name.” “That’s true. A lot of people saw me there.” “My mom asked me a few times that night if I knew who hit me. At one point in time she even thought that maybe I was covering for someone. She was convinced it was someone from the west, since the police didn’t get involved in a hit and run. I just assumed that was taken care of by your dad.” He nods. “The chief of police is my dad’s golfing buddy. But again, as I said, I don’t believe him. I know you, your dad and your mom were not after my money.” Is it possible my mom learned Ali’s identity? It’s possible. But why would she go to his house? Did she really think Ali was responsible? And if she did go, why would she hide that from me and my dad? Also, now that I think about it, that first night my mom asked me a ton of questions. But the next day she didn’t. Only my dad brought it up. Maybe it’s because she believed my story. Or maybe she signed an NDA. I don’t know. “Also, if it was allegedly my mom who demanded money … why would your dad say it was my father? Why wouldn’t he tell you it was my mom? Why lie about that?” That doesn’t make any sense. “I had the exact same question, but he wouldn’t say. If I had to venture a guess I think it's because – and this likely won’t come as a surprise – my dad is a giant misogynist. If what he said is true – and just to be clear I’m not saying it is true – but if it is, then I think he probably was too ashamed or too proud to admit he had to capitulate to a woman. I don’t know, but that’s probably why.” “Maybe …” I guess we may never know. “Also, speaking of mothers, you said your mom backed up your dad’s story. Where was she during all of this?” According to his letters, he was always close to her, yet she is almost completely absent from this story. “My dad got his assistant to lie to her. He also showed us both the bank transfer. It had your dad’s name on it. We both believed him when he said it was proof your family demanded money to keep quiet. That could also be a reason why he said your dad was behind the threat – because the money went to your dad. That made it more believable. But now I know the money was really my father’s way of making sure you guys left town.” “As for my mom,” he continues, “she actually was away for a few weeks after my birthday. She went to this yoga and wellness retreat at a remote spa in the mountains. You weren’t supposed to have much contact with the outside world, but she did call a few times. I never told her what was going on because I knew she would be upset and it would ruin her trip. She was far away and couldn’t really do much. Plus, I didn’t want to come out to her over the phone. I desperately counted down the days to her return. I was so happy when she came back. She gave me a hug and told me just how much she loved me and missed me. And that’s when my dad decided to out me. She had literally just walked into the house. Her bags were still by her feet. And you know what he told her? ‘This is why your pathetic piece of shit son is a fucking faggot, because of all of our coddling’. Those were his exact words. I was humiliated.” Fuck, that’s bad. The pain on Ali’s face is undeniable. I would be humiliated too. “I ran to my room,” he continues. “She came after me and I told her everything, about you and the letters. I actually showed her my last letter. My dad confronted me with it. He threw it at me in anger. He didn’t realize I took it out of the envelope. He tore up the envelope after, thinking the letter was still inside. But it wasn’t. I kept it all these years. When my mom read it, she wasn’t angry like my dad. She hugged me and she cried. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry like that before. She thought she was the worst mother in the world for not realizing how much pain I was in before. She also told me that she loves me unconditionally, and accepts me for who I am. It was … I’ll never forget that moment.” I know how frightening it is to wonder if your parents will accept your sexuality. I can see that turmoil in his eyes now as he reflects on that memory. “She’s the one who helped me get away the next day,” he says picking up his story. “It was because of her I was able to come and visit you at your home. She’s always been in my corner.” Right, he did tell me his mom had been away the day we met. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this the day you came to my house?” “I was going to. I was going to come out to you and … and tell you I was in love with you. That’s why we were biking to the falls. I wanted to go somewhere special. But as you know we didn’t make it.” “Right, we didn’t …” His story is starting to add up. “Look, I know you don’t trust me,” Ali continues, “and you have good reason not to. You were right. You didn’t betray me. I betrayed you. But in my defence, I didn’t know what was going on. Their lies seemed real. I tried to find you the next day, but you were gone. Years later I tried again ... but in retrospect hiring my dad’s former private investigator wasn’t the smartest idea. He told my father I was looking for you, and my dad paid him even more to lie. Clearly using him was dumb.” “Yeah …” I agree. “If I were still lying, Jamie, why would I have kept the last letter, and this watch and the tattoo. I could have had the tattoo removed. I could have easily purchased a new watch. But I kept it all because it reminded me of you,” he passionately argues. “I always doubted that you betrayed me. There was always this nagging feeling inside of me that something wasn’t right. I thought maybe you were also unaware of what was going on – that even if your family was after my dad’s money, that you didn’t know. I was always trying to find an alternative theory as to what could have happened. I didn’t want to part ways with you. Also, if it was all a prank, why would I get a tattoo on my back? Why would I get a permanent reminder on my body? And that isn’t just any heartbeat … it’s yours.” “It’s mine?” That completely throws me. “I don’t understand.” He pulls out a small pink piece of paper from his wallet. “That night you were in hospital, I took this from your chart. It’s your heartbeat. I kept this too.” He passes it over to me. Sure enough, it has my name on it, and it’s from the hospital. “It’s the same,” he says turning around and lifting his shirt. It really is the same. He drops his shirt and turns back around. “It’s your heartbeat. Not only did I keep that paper, I got your heartbeat tattooed on my skin, near my scar. I thought it was the least I could do to say thanks for saving my life twice.” “Twice?” I ask confused. I still don’t understand why he thinks I saved his life more than once. “There was only the one time.” “There were two. The second was when we were biking. The first was when we met … when I was hurting myself and I um …” he sighs heavily while looking at the ground. “You saved me then too.” He doesn’t say it, but I think I know what he means. Fuck. After reading his last letter, at first there was just a trickle of doubt that I could be wrong. Now it feels like the floodgates are open. Looking at him now, the pain and sorrow in his eyes, the way they plead with me to believe him … I know in my heart he’s not lying. His version sounds real. Clearly, we were both lied to. And he’s right about the letter, the watch, and the tattoo. He clearly didn’t want to let me go. People do not go that far to pull a prank. They just don’t. “Did you ever hurt yourself again after?” I’m actually worried for him. “No,” he says quickly. “I thought about it after everything that happened with you, but I didn’t. I promised my mom I would never hurt myself again, and that I would see a therapist. It also really helped that my mom accepted my sexuality, though after everything that happened with you, I tried to ignore it. I thought the only guy I ever loved possibly betrayed me, so nothing else mattered. I even started to think my dad was right that it was only a phase. I tried to date girls, but that didn’t work for obvious reasons. I came to a point where I thought I didn’t deserve love, so I didn’t try to find it. It’s why I still have douchebag friends. Also, I’m not proud of this but I had a couple of meaningless one-night stands with a few different guys. But that wasn’t the case with you. That night we spent together was different. I didn’t know who you were when we first met at the bar, I swear. But something drew me to you. I think it was fate.” Fuck, that makes me feel awful. All this time I assumed I was the only one hurting. He was clearly hurting too. “I’m sorry to hear that you went through all of that.” “I’m not,” he says. “You’re not?” I asked surprised. “No. It helped me grow as a person.” We both just look at one another, breathing heavily, as our hearts race away. This has clearly taken an emotional toll on both of us. “So, what happens now?” I’m the first to break the silence. “I don’t know. I need to have a long conversation with my dad again, but I’ll wait until I see him in person. One thing is for sure though, I’m done wearing masks. I’m gay, and my dad will have to accept that whether he likes it or not. I don’t care if it ruins his social status.” “Someone wise once told me, ‘This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow,’ that uh …” I don’t remember the rest! “‘As the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man’,” he says finishing the Shakespearean quote. That makes him smile, but it quickly fades. “And speaking of truth … do you believe me?” It still is a lot to take in, but my gut tells me I can trust him. “It sounds crazy, but, yes, I believe you. I still have many questions and so much still doesn’t make sense. I think your dad is lying about my mom, but after everything we’ve been through, clearly you never know who is telling the truth. So, I guess at the very least I should have a conversation with her. Otherwise, yeah, I guess I do believe you.” His smile grows. “Thank you. I know I don’t deserve your trust, so it means a lot. And sorry.” “For what?” “For causing you pain. I will forever hate that I did that.” “It’s not your fault, you didn’t know.” “I should have though. I should have known what my family was capable of, and I should have done a better job protecting you from them.” “We can’t control what others do, Ali. And I should apologize too. I shouldn’t have doubted you and believed your friends, that wasn’t fair to you.” We both fall silent, again unsure where to go from here. “So, what does this mean for us?” This time Ali is the first to break the silence. That’s a good question. “I don’t know.” I really have no idea. I didn’t expect the night to go this way. “Clearly, there is still a connection between us,” he pleads. “I can’t tell you how many times I dreamed of being close to you all those years ago. I thought I knew what it would feel like. I was wrong. It was nothing like what I felt the other night when we were together. And I think you felt something too.” He’s right. There was a connection. But I thought I was connecting to a stranger I barely knew named Cameron, not the Ali who significantly shaped my life. “Look, Ali, this is a lot to process, and we clearly need to still sort through some stuff. And I want to be honest with you, I’m kind of seeing someone now.” I feel like he deserves to know that. His smile vanishes. “Oh, I’m um, I’m happy for you.” He doesn’t look happy. “It’s going to take some time to figure all of this out.” “That’s completely fair. I guess I’ll just see you around then.” I can’t tell if that’s a statement or a question. He looks broken, and it breaks my heart. Even after all these years, he knows the path to my heart. We’ve already lost so much time together; I don’t want to lose anymore. At the very least, I don’t want to lose my friend again. “I guess you’ll see me next week.” “Next week?” he asks confused. “Yeah, we have bike club Saturday morning, remember?” There is that puzzled yet hopeful look again. “Um, yeah, I guess we do.” “You promised, as my friend, it would be our escape, remember? I’m still holding you to that.” “Absolutely.” “Perfect. Have a good night, Ali.” “Bye, Jamie.” I was wrong. I thought coming here wouldn’t change the past. While it doesn’t erase those years of heartache, it does put it all into a new perspective. It also opens up many more possibilities for the future. ––––– Our bodies tightly pressed together, Wandering hands, explore his soft skin, Navigating the uncharted terrain. Staring into those dreamy eyes, Enthralled by his aura, Longing for even more, Fearlessly, I lean forward. Breaking away from all that doubt, Eagerly, I bring my lips to his. Tenderly, yet passionately, Readily, I give in. Undoubtedly, this was no accident. Ending up here with him … it was meant to be. ––––– The End.
  5. Ethan

    Chapter 10

    Sorry to keep you all waiting -- I ended up redoing two really important sections in the next chapter. I wasn't fully satisfied before, but I think I'm happy now. I just sent it off to my editor to take a look. He's usually pretty quick. As long as he's happy too, I'm hoping I have it up in the next few days. Again, sorry! But I think the wait will be worth it. Plus, it's the longest chapter yet in the series.
  6. Ethan

    Chapter 10

    Ali's last letter was taken from the shed before Jamie could retrieve it. What we know is that it was seen by whoever took it, by Ali's father, and now Jamie. We don't know if anyone else ever saw it.
  7. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    Age doesn't matter. I'm still young at heart 🤪
  8. Dear Jamie, Thank you so much for the birthday wishes and the card! I’m 18, an old guy, just like you I can already feel my knees starting to hurt! It’s weird knowing I’m officially an adult now. I can vote! So much responsibility! As expected, my mom completely ignored my wishes and threw a gigantic party. It was beyond excessive. Her argument – your only child only turns 18 once. She invited everyone, and I mean EVERYONE! It felt like the entire world was there. Well, everyone except you. I’m still a bit pissed that you didn’t come! Who says no to the birthday boy? But I understand why you weren’t there. Though, as I said before, I would never let anyone make you feel out of place. The truth is, you’re the only person who actually deserved to be there. I didn’t want a party. I didn’t need any of that. All I wanted was a super delicious chocolate cake, and your company. Just to be clear, I wasn’t going to let you eat any of the cake even though I know how much you love chocolate. I just wanted to smear some all over your face (insert evil laugh here). What’s the point of celebrating a milestone birthday without my lifeline, right? I’ve actually been thinking a lot about that word lately, lifeline. I know you scoff when I use that nickname, but it’s true, you’ve helped me so much this past year. I don’t think you fully understand just how much this friendship means to me, and I realize that’s kind of, maybe, just a little bit, my fault. I’ve hidden parts of my life from you, but I think it’s time I told you the truth. I'm ready and I trust you. I know in my heart you’ll never betray me. I told you once how I’ve always known I’m different, that I don’t belong among the rich and pretentious. I’m not like them or my dad. I’m only an Easton in name. Unlike everyone here, my life isn’t consumed by the clothes I’m wearing, my car, or the size of my house. Yet, that’s all that seems to matter. Status is everything. But money alone doesn’t bring you happiness. The smiles, the laughs, the friendships, all of it is fake. Including me. I’m fake. All my life I’ve felt like an outsider. Even this weekend at my own party, I felt like I didn’t belong. I wear this fake smile to hide the discomfort, angst and pain consuming my soul. It’s as if all my life I’ve been wearing a mask, pretending to be someone I’m not, pretending to be who they want me to be. A mask to hide my loneness. A mask to hide my insecurities. A mask to hide the real me. The truth is I’m different in other ways too. I tried to ignore it, I tried to change, but it didn’t work. Nothing worked. The harder I tried the deeper I fell into despair. I lost hope. I lost faith. And I started to spiral out of control. It felt as if the walls were caving in. Trapped in thick fog, there was nowhere to run, no one to turn to. I couldn’t breathe. All I felt was misery. I felt numb. I wanted to feel something, anything. And so, I did things to myself. I thought I deserved to feel pain, because that was all I was truly worth. I was caught in a vicious cycle, and the clouds just kept getting darker and darker. But against all odds, somehow, by some miracle, a single ray of light broke through. You. For the first time, I had something to look forward to, a reason to get out of bed. Your letters gave me hope. You were the escape I so desperately needed. All my life, all I’ve ever wanted is for someone to see me, the real me. Not for people to like me, or want to be my friend, because of the dollar signs attached to my name. But to care for me because of who I am on the inside. I know not all the people I hang out with are actually my friends. They think they’re better than everyone else, and they feel better by putting others down. They don’t get me. And if they knew the real me, they would never be my friend. But you’re not like them. You’re different. You’re the first person who actually understands me. Just me. For the first time in my life, when I’m writing to you, I feel like myself. I don’t feel judged or ashamed but accepted. You’ve helped me become comfortable in my own skin, to learn to accept my true self. That’s a gift more valuable than any stupid watch. It’s taken me a long time to get here, to be okay with who I am. I still feel like I am on shaky ground sometimes and I do have bad days, but I don’t feel as scared anymore. I don’t feel as trapped, or as hopeless. There is finally light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s all thanks to you. But there is one thing I truly am terrified about – losing you. It’s why I’ve hidden my truth even from you all these months. But something tells me you’ll understand, that you’ll be there for me, that you’ll accept me for who I am. And if you can’t accept my truth, that’s okay. I won’t judge you. The truth is I’m not like other guys. I don’t want a girlfriend … I want a boyfriend. I’m gay. So, that’s the first time I’ve ever written that word. It’s the first time I’ve expressed my truth outside my own head. I can feel a chill going down my spine right now. My hand is shaking. My heart is racing. Part of me wants to quickly grab white out and erase it all, and then rip this letter up and burn it. But I know this is the right decision. I know you’ll understand. I have so much more to say, so much more I want you to know, but I will refrain for now. I will wait for your response (and for my heart to calm down) to see how you feel before telling you more. And again, if this is something you can't accept, that’s okay. I know this is a lot to put on you at once, and for that, I’m sorry. Just know that I will always value your friendship. And that brings me back to your nickname, and why I call you my lifeline. You saved me when I was lost, when I was alone in the world. Because of you I have faith again. Because of you I know I don’t deserve to only feel pain. Because of you I no longer harm myself. Because of you I’m hopeful. That is why you’re my lifeline. If it wasn’t for you, I honestly don’t know where I’d be today. I eagerly wait for your response. In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go puke now. Yours, Ali. P.S. I totally puked. At the bottom of the page, clearly written later in different ink, in giant letters are the words ‘TURN OVER’. There is more on the back. Jamie – You were the first person I ever came out to. You may not believe anything else I say, but after the night we spent together, you know I’m not lying about being gay. I wrote that letter, just like I wrote all the ones that came before it. There is still so much more I want to explain. I hope you’ll give me the chance. I’ll be at Riverside Park tonight after 8:00 o’clock waiting for you. I really hope I’ll see you there. Always yours, Ali.
  9. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    My aim is to have it up sometime tomorrow
  10. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    Hahahah! Maybe it will, maybe it won't 🤷‍♂️. But that would be one long letter! Or maybe, I'll try something new, and just skip to Chapter 11, and let you all figure out what was in the letter. I almost did that the other day. I was uploading Chapter 8 and when I went to hit publish it didn't work because I was no longer signed in. Because I'm an idiot, I made several changes on the webpage, as opposed to my Word doc, so lost them all. Frustrated, I went back to re-post and accidentally grabbed Chapter 9 instead (which still needed some tweaks). It took me a few minutes to realize my mistake ... but that would have been bad, and very confusing!
  11. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    @Bard Simpson you make several great points about Jamie and his behaviour. In his defence, all I can say is, he was deeply hurt by what happened with Ali, and has become overly protective to shield himself from that again. And he's held onto this lie for 10 years now, and isn't sure what to believe. Yes, he could go about it in a better way ... and he should have stayed to talk to Ali. But that's mostly my fault! I thought it would be fitting given their relationship was based on letters that it should all climax with Jamie getting Ali's last letter, and that being the document that (possibly) changes how he feels.
  12. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    Interesting theory. This is not to say you are either right or wrong -- but if Jamie's father took Ali's letter, he probably would have taken Jamie's follow up letters too. Jamie signed his named on those letters, so his father would have likely been able to figure out they were from his son. Just something to think about. Thanks for the comment
  13. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    I don't think I've ever received so many comments right after posting a chapter. Feels kinda nice ☺️ (can't let this get to my head)
  14. Ethan

    Chapter 9

    I don't think Oliver is preying on Jamie ... he's a guy who likes another guy and took a chance and asked him out.
  15. Bullshit. He’s lying. There is no way in the world my father gave his father the letter. To this day neither of my parents know about the letters or what happened. It was difficult to hide all of it from them after we moved, but I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want to burden them. I want to challenge him, but not yet. For now, I bite my tongue as anger builds inside of me. I need to hear more. “I thought we were friends,” he continues, “and because I thought I could trust Jamie, in my last letter, I shared a lot of personal information. I revealed truths I hadn’t shared with anyone else. But it turns out Jamie was just using me. He was waiting for information he could use against my family. They said they’d publish the letters unless my dad paid them thousands of dollars. So, my dad paid. Now, normally I don’t believe my dad. He lies all the time. But he showed me the bank records. It was all there. And my mom backed up his story. She said it was true, and I trust her. She isn’t like my dad, she never lies to me. I was furious. I felt like such an idiot. My mom held me as I cried. “I didn’t sleep at all that night. I didn’t want to believe it was true. I didn’t fully believe it was true. Why would Jamie put himself in harm’s way to save my life? That didn’t make sense. My dad said it was because people will go to extreme lengths to make money ... but I don’t know, that wasn’t the Jamie I knew. The next day I jumped into my car and drove to Jamie’s house. I wanted answers. But they were gone.” Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. This isn’t true. We did not extort his family for money! We also left right away because my dad’s new job basically started the next day! It was clear his father wanted us gone as soon as possible. “As to why I still wear the watch, I guess to remind myself to keep my guard up. It’s worked up until now; you’re the first person I’ve ever told this story to, which might not be the wisest thing to do but … at the same time it’s good to talk to someone about it all. I also wear the watch to remind myself of him. Even if it was all a lie, it did still mean something to me. He helped me grow, even if his motives were wrong. “Then a few years ago,” he continues despondently, “I hired a private investigator to track down Jamie. I wanted answers. If all he was after was money, why would he turn down my multiple offers to help? Why wouldn’t he take the watch? Why would he reject my offer to help pay his tuition? I still remember how upset he was when he thought he wouldn’t get to go so the school of his dreams. If all he wanted was cash, he could have gotten that easily from me. Plus, if we stayed friends, over time he could have gotten thousands more. So much didn’t make sense. “It didn’t take the P.I long to find him. He told me Jamie did attend the prestigious school he always wanted to go to, so at least the money he got from my dad went to good use, I guess. But soon after he graduated, he was walking home when he was uh … he was hit by a car. It was a drunk driver. Jamie um ...” he looks down and stares into his empty glass, “he unfortunately didn’t make it. He uh … he died. He’s gone and I’ll never get to hear his side of the story.” Unbelievable. He’s clearly concocted this entire story, this new reality, all to make himself feel better. None of that explains why his friends knew about the letters, he just said he never told anyone about them, or how they knew about the kiss. And if my dad really did threaten his father, why would his father give my dad a promotion? It all doesn’t add up. And you know what, that’s fine. There is nothing he can say that will ever appease me or change what happened. Maybe it’s the three drinks I had while he spun his web of deception, or maybe I’m just fucking fed up, but I’m done being part of all these lies and games. It’s time for some brutal honesty. “You should never say never,” I reply. “All the answers you need may have been right in front of you this entire time.” “I’m sorry?” he asks confused. “You can stop pretending, Ali. You can stop lying. Oh, you were right. The other night when we met, I called you Ali.” At first, I couldn’t remember if I had used his nickname, but when I thought about it, my uncertainty started to wane. I think I did use it. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” I knew he was a good actor. “You’ve clearly known all along.” “I’ve known what all along, James? I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.” I guess I’ll have to spell it out for him. “Cedar Creek forest. Diamond trail. Just past the small foot bridge. Turn right. Ten steps in. Oak tree. Two letters. A and J.” He engraved our initials in a tree the day we met. It was meant to be our secret meeting spot. But we never went back. His expression slowly changes to one of a mixture of shock and disbelief, as I outline something only two people in the world know. “It’s not possible. No. It can’t be,” he says shaking his head. “I guess I’m back from being fake dead.” His reaction is almost convincing. “No. He showed me a newspaper article, he showed me a fucking death certificate!” he yells. “Well, I guess your P.I. was good at faking documents, or like you, faking an entire story.” “This isn’t real.” “Well, I don’t know what to tell you, but it is. Whether you’ve known who I am all along, I can’t tell. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. But I’m not going to sit here and let you spin some delusional, sad tale, where you’re the victim. I did not betray you. I saved your fucking life. You betrayed me! I know you didn’t write those letters. Your friends told me the truth about that stupid bet to ‘turn me’. But I guess now I know why you were so obsessed with getting another guy to love you. “As for me, you never cared for me, let alone loved me. It was all a farce. And my dad did not extort your father for money. He didn’t even know about the letters. Your dad paid my father to make me go away. That’s the truth. You’re a shitty person who did a shitty thing. Stop peddling this false narrative just so that you can feel better.” Throughout my entire rant, Ali just sits there stunned, like a deer caught in headlights. “I wish I had recognized you before I slept with you, and not after. I don’t know if you knew my identity when we met, if sleeping with me was a mistake, or a continuation of that stupid bet. And you know what, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not going to believe whatever you say because you’re a pathological liar. All I know is that I’m done with you, and all of this bullshit. I never want to see or hear from you again. I know you’re the rich kid with all the connections and you can probably ruin my life again, but you know what, I don’t give a shit. I’m not going to run again. I moved here first. If you have a problem with me, you’re welcome to fucking leave.” Before I storm off, I slap some money on the table. “I never wanted your money, and I still don’t. I can pay for my own shit.” ––––– Angry. Enraged. Furious. Indignant. Irate. Outraged. Seething. None of those words truly encapsulate my state of anger. When I left the bar, it felt as if my insides were burning with rage, that steam was literally about to come out of my ears at any moment. That the piece of shit would blame me and my father is almost laughable, if it wasn’t so infuriating. I almost fucking died trying to save him! After I stormed out of the bar, I went straight home. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. My mind was racing, revisiting and dissecting every part of our conversation. I tried to see if I could get my version to mesh with his somehow, if there was a way to force it all to make sense. But there wasn’t. Our stories are too different. There are too many gaps. I know my version of events is true, yet he seemed equally as confident. Perhaps the real truth lies somewhere in the middle. I even at one point in time considered calling my father to ask if he knew about the letters, or if he went to Ali’s dad, but I dismissed that idea. I trust my parents. They don’t lie to me. Also, my dad would never try to get ahead through extortion. It’s not like him. I’m not going to disrespect my parents – the parents who continue to work their asses off to give me a better life – and give that lie any credence by asking my father about it. I also kept coming back to another point – he never said anything after I confronted him, not a single word. Granted, I didn’t really give him a chance to respond, but he could have interjected and said something, offered some defence. But he didn’t. He didn’t because he knows he’s wrong. In the end, I realized fixating over all of this is not healthy. This morning I made a commitment to myself – it is time I move on, properly this time. Last time I told myself I had gotten over him, but I hadn’t. Part of me was still stuck in the past. This time I’m not doing that. I’m actually putting all of this behind me. And the best way to do that is to get back to my regular routine. So, I got up, had breakfast, did some schoolwork, and ran some errands. I was supposed to call Will this morning, but I didn’t. I knew he’d ask about last night, and I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I’m still not ready. So instead of sitting at home, I came to the gym. I’m still there now running like a mad man on the treadmill. Yes, I’m trying to move on, but clearly, I’m still thinking about him and taking out my rage on this machine. It’s not like I can just forget it all right away. It will take some time to get that stupid fucking douchebag out of my head. That’s when I notice someone who does make me forget about everyone else in the world. Out of his element, but still in a perfectly tight shirt, it’s the hot bartender. I notice him walk into the gym, his bag flung over his right shoulder. He notices me and smiles. Fuck me. I smile back. Wait, is he coming over here? He is. I slow down. “Always on the run, I see,” he says standing next to me. I look at him perplexed. “Sorry?” “You ran out of the bar in a hurry last night, and even now it seems like you’re in quite a rush.” “Oh, yeah, you know, just um, just getting my steps in.” Getting my steps in? Wow, I’m super lame. “Of course, have to burn off all those calories from those multiple orders of water,” he says with a smile that really should be classified as lethal. “Well, enjoy your workout. I’ll see you around.” He returns from the change rooms a few minutes later. I almost trip over myself when I see him walk out. Gone is the tight shirt. Instead he’s wearing a loose sleeveless shirt that does very little to conceal his upper chest. And those shorts, what can I say? Just that whoever made them did this world a gigantic favour. I assume he’ll go to the other side of the gym where all the weights are, but he doesn’t. He does squats fairly close to the treadmills. When he goes down, I get a spectacular view of his ass. I try not to look – I'm not a creepy stalker – but I feel like he is putting on a show just for me. One can dream, right? Okay, he is totally putting on a show. He stays close by for the next exercise, and the next. When he finishes, he lifts his shirt up to wipe the sweat off his face, revealing his very flat stomach. How could I not look? He sees me looking and smiles. That’s when I decide it’s probably a good idea to end my workout now; I’m starting to get hard in the middle of the gym! To be honest, the delusional, or one can argue optimistic, side of me thought he’d follow me into the locker room. He didn’t because he’s obviously not gay! I need to stop living in a fantasy world, though I have a feeling that will be the case for a while. I look for him as I walk out, but he seems to have disappeared. He’s clearly just doing his own thing. Ah well, c’est la vie. “Done burning off all that water?” I almost jump out of my skin when I hear his voice. I look back to find the hot bartender leaning against a machine. His hair and shirt are all matted with sweat. Normally, I’d say gross. But, honestly, fuck, fuck, fuck! How is it possible that he looks even hotter covered in sweat! Life is truly unfair. “Um, yeah, you know, yeah.” Honestly? That’s the best I can come up with! What’s wrong with me? My mouth is dry. I could actually use some water right now! Or I could just lick his chest. Okay, that’s gross. Seriously, what is wrong with me? I clearly have a problem. He just smiles. “You’re cute when you’re nervous.” I’m sorry, did hot-as-fuck just call me cute!? I can’t help but smile. Dammit, now I’m blushing. “Thanks, um, you’re not so bad yourself.” What is going on!? Is he gay? Can dreams actually come true? That makes him laugh. Oh, lord, I’m going to have an orgasm right here. As a guy in his 20s, I feel I have a normal sex drive. I’m normally not this amped up. This guy clearly has cast a spell over me. “Well, I try. I’m Oliver, by the way.” “James,” I reply. He raises an eyebrow. “Oh, I thought your name was Jamie?” How did he know that? “James is my actual name, but my family and some friends call me Jamie.” “Ah, and here I thought I was in the friend category,” he says. “Guess I’ll just have to try and change that.” Now it’s my time to raise an eyebrow. “Perhaps we can start tonight. If you’re free, maybe we can grab coffee. 7:00 o'clock, Starview Café?” Okay, that sounded like he was asking me out, right? Right!? “Um, yeah, sure. Um, I’d love to.” Keep it together, man! “Excellent. It’s a date then.” It’s. A. Date. Fuck me. “I look forward to it.” “As do I. See you soon.” I should just let this go, but I’m curious. “Sorry, how did you know my nickname is Jamie?” “Oh, the guy at the bar called out your name as you left last night.” “I see.” It was him I seethe. No, not thinking about him. I’m pushing that all down. My focus is Oliver. “You know, I was actually going to ask you out the first night we met. I saw you looking at me a few times and I was pretty sure you’re also gay,” he says the last word quietly. There are still many intolerant people in this world, unfortunately. “I was actually kind of disappointed when you left with the other guy. I thought maybe the two of you were a couple, but last night it didn’t seem that way. Then running into you again today, I figured it was a sign and I should try my luck.” Interesting. “I’m really glad you did.” “So am I.” “I’ll see you soon, Oliver.” Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I have a date with the hot bartender!!! This is just the distraction I need. I’m no longer thinking about him. Fuck, now I’m thinking about him again! You know, I wonder how different life would be right now if that first night I had gone home with Oliver instead. It would have saved me so much trouble. But you can’t change the past. The good thing is I still have my shot with Oliver. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to wear! I’m so consumed by thoughts of Oliver that when I open my apartment door, I fail to notice the envelope on the floor. I almost slip and fall! Someone must have pushed it under my door while I was out. All it says on the outside is ‘Jamie’. Instantly, I know who it’s from. It’s from him. I wish he’d just leave me alone. I honestly should just rip this up and throw it in the garbage. I’m trying to move on! I have a hot date waiting for me. And yet, because I clearly never learn, here I am opening up the envelope. Inside is a letter. Dear Jamie, I wish I could explain how badly I’ve wanted to write those words, to write to you again these last few years. I never thought I’d get the chance. All of this still feels so surreal, as if I’ll wake up any moment and you’ll be gone again, and that void will be back in my soul. Life has given us another chance and I don’t want to mess this up again. I know you likely won’t believe me, but I wrote every single one of those letters. Every word, every line, every paragraph, every story, every emotion was me, and only me. There was no bet. I wasn’t trying to fool you. All I ever wanted was a friend. I can prove it to you. Enclosed is the last letter I wrote to you all those years ago, the one that was given to my dad. I know when you read it, you’ll know it came from me. I can explain why I still have that letter, and everything else that I said last night. Please, just give me a chance to explain. You’ll understand after you read my letter.
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