Hank had shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans again as they began their walk home. Chase felt this air of expectancy between them, like they should be talking about Hank’s first face-to-face encounter with his mother since he was a teenager, but he found himself reluctant to talk about anything. He was happy for Lilah, and even more so for his ex, so much so a second lump had formed in his throat at watching them share a hug goodbye. The first one had formed when Hank had finally addressed Lilah as ‘Mom.’
The man’s eyes had glistened as he watched his mother drive away. So had Chase’s. Now, they were walking side by side, but the distance between them was palpable, and Chase wasn’t sure he wanted to bridge it. He’d been able to put aside his anger while Hank needed his support, and he was pleased he’d managed to do so, but now his mind had settled back on the new and disturbing clarification he’d gotten from the café manager.
So what if it had taken the talk with Julio for Hank to believe he hadn’t slept with that guy? It shouldn’t matter one iota, but it did, and Chase couldn’t help feeling he’d been deliberately mean. Okay, maybe not deliberately. Not everyone thought the same way about things when emotions were involved—he’d learned that from Dr. Chorney—but eventually Hank should have realized he hadn’t been fair.
Was Chase being fair? Hank had known the irrefutable truth for weeks, but hadn’t let Chase off the hook he’d stuck him on for months, and that was hard to absorb. It was cruel. Did he not get what Chase had gone through after he’d accused him of sleeping with another man? Did he not understand how much it’d hurt when he hadn’t believed his honest denial, time and time again? Yeah, enough time had passed he should have figured that out. Right?
Even worse than sitting on the conversation with Julio, Hank let Chase think he’d reached his new conclusion because he remembered the kind of man he was… but that wasn’t the case at all, was it? Damn, it stung.
“You’re awfully quiet?”
“So are you.”
“I’m thinking about all the stuff my mom told me. What about you?”
“I’m thinking too, Hank.”
Chase didn’t know how he should answer that question, so he didn’t. “Did you really believe her like you said you did?”
“I want to hear what you think.”
“It all made sense, yeah, but at the same time, it’s so different from what I remembered. I mean, my dad was possibly gay? Maybe even probably, and in love with a man? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. And my mom, her story is so different from what I remember. How could I have been so wrong about everything?”
“You saw what you wanted to back then.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“Chill, Hank. I just mean you saw Cyril and your mom kiss, and that made her the bad guy… you were just a kid who worshipped his dad.” Chase felt Hank’s perusal but he kept staring straight ahead as they walked.
“Yeah… I guess. She should have told me sooner.”
“For God’s sake, man, she tried. What more could she have done, other than kidnap you and tie you up? Even then you probably wouldn’t have listened.”
“Hey, I listened today, didn’t I?”
“You did, but the difference is you finally got help.”
“You mean you?”
Chase couldn’t help groaning. “No, Hank! I don’t mean me. I’m talking about your therapist.”
“Oh, right. Hey, are you still angry with me?”
“More like frustrated.”
“Oh… well you sound pissed and… and you should be. I… I was thoughtless, but I didn’t mean to be, and I’m sorry I didn’t think things through about—”
Chase cut him off quickly. He wasn’t ready to talk about what Hank had done. “Yeah, well, I heard a lot of stuff today too, so... maybe I do sound pissed, but I told you I’d get over it… and I will. Anyway, this is about your mom, and all I’m saying is you dug your heels in back then, and you weren’t ready to hear what she had to say until today. I’m not blaming you, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame Lilah either. I saw letters she sent you didn’t open. I saw the texts and phone calls you wouldn’t answer, and you told me yourself you refused to talk to her after she left. You pushed her away at the hospital, and again at the funeral, and the way you described it, it wasn’t in a nice way. She tried to protect you and it backfired, but the woman I met today is nothing like the one you described… I hope you see that.”
“Chase? You already said some of this stuff outside the coffee shop… are you trying to make me feel bad?”
“No!” He stopped walking, and so did Hank. “I want you to appreciate this second chance you’ve been given. And for God’s sake, don’t overthink it like you appear to be doing now. You said she should have told you sooner, and I’m telling you that’s not fair!”
He hesitated at the pained expression on Hank’s face, and made a conscious effort to soften his tone. “You asked me a question, so I’ll answer it. I believed every word she said, and maybe you need time to sort through it all, but you should take her at her word. Just because you saw something different doesn’t mean she’s a liar.We only get one mom in our life, and I happen to think she’s pretty freaking great.” Yeah, no doubt about it… he was angry, and it was getting harder to control.
Hank was frowning as he stood facing him, and his mouth opened to speak, but he soon closed it. Sighing, he ran the fingers of both hands through his hair before dropping his arms to his sides. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes. You’re right we only get one mom, but I was lucky enough to share Christine with you, and she made it so much easier to forget how much I missed my own.”
Chase was caught completely off guard, and started walking at the mention of his mother. He hadn’t expected Hank to bring her up in this moment… when he was struggling so hard for self-control. She’d loved his ex as if he were her own. He swallowed down another lump as Hank caught up with him. “Mom would say she was the lucky one.” The words came out naturally, and they were the truth.
“Yeah, I know she would.” They walked in silence for the next few minutes before Hank spoke again. Apparently, he’d been thinking about Christine. “I miss your mom a lot… she was a wonderful person.”
That softly spoken statement took the remaining edge off his anger, and he released his tension in a long, slow exhalation of air. “She was… she was the best… I think Lilah is a wonderful person too… just… give her a chance, Hank.”
He nodded, looking thoughtful as they turned into the apartment driveway. “I’m going to. Coming up?”
“Oh… no. I’ve got to get going.”
“Are you sure? I thought we could talk some more… or do you feel like getting something to eat?”
“Sorry, no, I’m not hungry.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks for coming tonight. There’s no way it would have gone as well as it did if you hadn’t been there.”
“No problem. I like her, Hank. Concentrate on the good stuff when you get together next week… and ask about Cyril.”
“Cyril? Why would I do that?”
“Because she loves him, and to show her you don’t blame him either. He’s an important part of her life, so if you want this to work, you have to accept him.”
Hank nodded again, in that same thoughtful way. “It’s good advice. Thank you. I’ll make sure I ask about him.”
“Good. Ah, I should go….” The look of disappointment he received, confused and irritated him. What did Hank expect? He done what he’d asked of him.
“Are you sure you don’t want to grab something to eat… I’m starving.”
“Maybe another time. I think I might go dancing and… let off some steam.”
“Oh, right, dancing. Sorry I screwed up your plans.”
“No worries… it’s still early enough.”
“Yeah, it is at that. Well, have fun, and don’t drink and drive.”
“I never do. See ya.”
“Can I have a hug before you go?”
Chase tried to make it quick, but Hank held on and squeezed. “I’m sorry,” he said into his ear. “I keep fucking up. I should have told you right away about talking to Julio… just add it to the list of mistakes I’ve made. Take care of yourself.”
He stepped back and turned quickly away, giving Chase no time to respond, not that he had anything to say. As Hank walked towards the entrance, Chase slumped against the back of his car. Was he being too hard on the man? He obviously needed a friend after his emotional day. He returned a quick wave as Hank went through the door to his building. Dancing had just been an excuse to leave, mostly because he didn’t want to lose his cool with his ex. If they were to have any chance at real friendship, he had to get past his disappointment… and his anger. Maybe dancing was exactly what he needed.
The bar was loud and packed, just the way Chase liked it. Encompassing two levels, the upstairs was where he wanted to be. The dance floor was already crowded, a given since it was a Saturday night. He hadn’t even gone up to his dad’s condo when he’d arrived back home, deciding he was dressed well enough. He’d parked his car and cabbed it to Endings, having no interest in talking to anyone, not even his for-sure-curious father.
Maneuvering his way through a crowd of milling people to the bar, a space opened up almost immediately. He ordered a Corona and retreated to a darkened corner. Squeezing the lime quarter, he dribbled its juice into the bottle, and began to chug the contents. Three quarters of the way through, he stopped and breathed deeply. He looked at the remainder, thinking how the last time he’d drank heavily in this place, he’d fucked up his entire life.
Getting drunk hadn’t solved anything then and it wouldn’t solve anything now. Setting the bottle down and pushing it away, he moved towards the dance floor, sidestepping his way to the edge. “Believe,” the old dance version by Cher, started up, making Chase smile. It was still one of his favorites, and the perfect invitation to lose himself in music. Instantly immersed in its beat, he began to dance.
Hank didn’t care for this bar—said it was too loud—but he’d come with him anyway. He used to say Chase had a rhythm like no one else, and that he never tired of watching him. It was true he never consciously thought about how he danced… he just did, and his body decided its movements.
It’d been an escape for him during his mother’s illness, but after she took her final breath, he’d lost interest in just about everything, including this. It wasn’t until the night of the proposal he’d come back here… that he’d done any dancing at all. Now it was like finding an old, long lost friend he hadn’t realized he’d missed.
A dozen songs must have played before he began to tire. He’d been approached a few times and had partners for a song here and there, but he never encouraged anything, and moved off whenever someone got too handsy.
Like now, when someone behind him began to shadow his moves with hands lightly placed on his hips. It was the kind of thing that happened all the time on the dance floor, and there really was nothing wrong with it, but Chase was here for himself and no one else. After a few futile attempts to move away, he stepped off the dance floor, only to be followed by hands that weren’t letting go. He pushed the hands away and picked up speed, but turned to see he was still being followed.
“Ah, sorry. I’m done for the night,” he said loudly, talking over the music.
“Yeah, I’ve had enough too. So… how are you?”
“I said, how are you?”
Chase had heard him, but his familiarity was confusing him. “I’m good—”
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
Chase peered at him, seeing his face sporadically in the flashing lights. “No, sorry. Do we know each other?”
“We sure do.” The tall, dark-haired man smiled. “We had a lot of fun last time I saw you here, until your boyfriend showed up and ruined it. He still in the picture?”
Chase felt his legs go weak as it dawned on him. “That was you?”
The man grinned broadly before he leaned forward, speaking directly into Chase’s ear. “Sure was, and we have some unfinished business, don’t you think?”
Chase shivered and stepped back, feeling ill. “No… no we don’t, because that never should have happened.”
“Ah, I get it… boyfriend is still around, eh?”
“But what? Want a drink?” He moved closer again, acting as though he’d received an invitation.
Chase took another step back. “No… no, thanks… I’m leaving soon. I’m getting a bottle of water and then I’m going.”
“I’ll get it for you.”
“No!” Chase said sharply. “Look, I only came here to dance, and what happened that night was a drunken mistake. I’m sorry….”
“Hey, don’t be sorry… I’m not. Shit happens, you know?”
His cavalier smile made Chase’s stomach churn, and he tried to move back again, but the way was blocked by closely-packed bodies lined up for drinks.
“You were pretty freaked out when your boyfriend crashed our little party. I was worried about you, but you left so fast, I couldn’t find you.”
“Yeah, well, my world was falling apart, so….”
“Like I said, I get it, getting caught like that. I thought it was kind of hot myself, though, knowing he saw us getting it on.”
Chase, lost for words at the guy’s stupid grin and unbelievable lack of sensitivity, glared in response.
“Okay, well… you sure you don’t want a real drink? I promise I’ll listen this time when you tell me to keep my hands off you… won’t be easy, though,” he said with a smirk.
His words hit Chase hard, and he didn’t understand why this jerk was still grinning. “I did tell you that, didn’t I. Of course I did. Why the fuck didn’t you listen the first time?”
The guy stepped even closer, and his boozy breath washed over Chase’s face. “Because you didn’t really mean it, and you were so damn adorable. You’ve got some sexy moves… the way you move those hips… man, oh, man.” He openly leered, and Chase’s temper got the best of him.
“You’re an ass, you know that? It might have been some game to you, but it was my life, and you had no right. I was drunk for fuck’s sake, and no means no!”
Finally, the man’s stupid grin disappeared, replaced by a sneer. “Don’t give me that crap. Maybe I’m an ass, but drunk or not, you let me tongue fuck your mouth, and you didn’t seem to mind me feeling you up, not until your pretty boyfriend showed up… then it was all ‘woe is me’ bullshit.”
Chase shuddered at the crassness coming from this slimy bastard, and it all slammed back into him again—the shock of seeing Hank’s face outside the bathroom stall, and the horror and sheer pain in his expression. How it must have looked to him, to see Chase like that.
Chase had been naïve to think he could have handled this guy without any drama that night, and if he was sober he would have realized that. He was a fucking pig, way bigger and stronger than Chase, and it was obvious now he could be a mean sonofabitch. Ironically, Hank’s appearance might have helped him dodge a bullet.
His thoughts darted back to a couple of hours earlier, and what Hank had said to his mother about seeing her kissing their neighbor in that backyard shed with his hands all over her ass. It was exactly what he’d seen between Chase and this loser, only this time the shed was a bathroom stall, and Hank wasn’t looking out his bedroom window with his face pressed to the glass. He’d had a front row seat. “Stay the fuck away from me,” he said with a growl as he pushed by him and headed for the exit.
“Count on it, you fucking tease.”
Chase hesitated for a second, and turned to face the man. “Go find yourself another drunk guy to take advantage of, you piece of shit. You’re a fucking creep.” He’d yelled at the tops of his lungs and people close by were staring, but he didn’t give a flying fuck.
The guy smirked in response, but his eyes glittered with anger. Chase turned away once more.
“Nice view,” could be heard as he walked away. This guy wasn’t one to quit, but Chase resisted the bait. He squared his shoulders as he edged through group after group of people. He was furious. It had been a mistake to come here, and forgoing politeness, he began to barge his way through the crowd… until he ran smack into Hank.
Thanks for reading. What did you think of Chase's face to face meeting with Mr. Charming? Please leave a story 'like' on the front story page under the story description, and a chapter 'like' if you are enjoying Endings. It would be appreciated. Thank you to my editor, Timothy M. for his hard work. Cheers!