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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
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Treading Water - 3. Chapter 3 Tsunami

Waves of emotion rolling over a rocky shore.

Treading Water

 

 

Chapter 3- Tsunami

 

 

The grass beneath his feet was turning from coarse and stubbly to a lush, springy type the closer he got to the treeline. Craig too was changing as he neared his goal. Turning around to look back at the house, he took sudden notice of how high it perched. The bottom half was concealed by a small rise he hadn’t even realized he’d walked over. It registered that he’d been traveling down a steady but gradual slope; Craig hoped his conversation with Jared didn’t follow the same trend. There was a possibility he would say the wrong thing, and Trina’s words of concern echoed in his head. He remembered thinking, when Jared returned to his mother’s garage earlier that he looked like he was headed to slaughter. Craig wondered if he was starting to look the same way. He needed to lay eyes on the man, and soon.

Stepping over the shade line, the splash of water hitting water could be heard. It was an oasis in the sea of surrounding hay-fields. At any other time he would have sighed in pleasure, and relaxed in the sublime coolness, but this wasn’t any other time. Peering through the huge, leafy trees, Craig spied the trail leading further in. It was now or never, just like his earlier approach to Carly. Swallowing down some apprehension, he didn’t hesitate, and took the path around a curve that opened up onto a light-dappled glade. The pattern of the sun's rays peeking through, sparkled on a long, narrow pond. It was being fed by crystal-clear spring water spilling from a plastic pipe arcing over one end. He looked straight across, and into the widened eyes of an astonished Jared, perched knees up on a large flat-topped rock. He immediately planted his feet on the ground, the quick motion resembling that of a spooked animal.

“Craig?”

“Yeah?”

“How did you… why are you here?”

“I’m sorry for intruding, but you didn’t leave me any choice. Trina… she told me you’d be down here.” He looked around, taking it all in. “This is amazing.” Craig felt strange talking across the pond and over the sound of the musical water. It struck him as symbolic of a discernible barrier between them, despite a recently shared and still-felt kiss.

The man looked torn, and Craig saw rather than heard, his sigh. “You’re right. I left you hanging, didn’t I?” He looked away, but not before Craig saw pain etched in blue, noticeable even across the span of water separating them.

“Can I come over there?”

Jared faced him again. “Would you leave if I asked you to?”

There was the tiniest flicker of amusement Craig witnessed, and it reminded him of the brother-in-law… the man he used to know. “No.”

“I figured that. When did you get so persistent?” It was a serious question. He was asking something more than the obvious.

“If you’re thinking I’m still that broken guy, you’re wrong. I’m not him anymore. I’m not vulnerable.” There… he’d refuted Jared’s earlier comment. “So, can I come over to your side or do I have to keep yelling?” He felt like he was under a microscope as he watched Jared contemplate what he’d said.

It was obvious Jared was skeptical at his declaration, and Craig wondered why. It shouldn’t be so difficult to believe. “Pull up a boulder,” he conceded. “Not that way… it gets marshy over there.”

Craig switched directions and was soon in front of Jared. “Which rock is mine?” he asked with attempted levity.

Jared pointed to the one next to his, and switched positions so they’d be facing one another, similar to how they were situated in his mother’s garage earlier. The rocks looked like they’d been placed there for just such a purpose.

“So, what do you want, Craig? What is this going to gain us?” He didn’t exactly look relaxed.

“Gain us? Seriously? Okay, if this is the way you want to play it; I want to know what’s going on with my friend.” All of a sudden Craig’s trepidation turned to anger. So far today, he’d encountered a lot of questions and no real answers, and he was quickly tiring of it.

“Friend,” Jared muttered bitterly. “That’s the problem… we can’t be friends.” Again, he chose not to meet Craig’s eyes.

That didn’t help his annoyance at all. “Yeah, you’ve already said that. You can kiss me, but we can’t be friends. Got it, loud and clear.” This time he did receive eye contact. “Are you gay, Jared, or were you just playing with me?”

“Jesus, man, I would never play with you. Yes, I’m gay… one hundred per-cent.”

“One hundred per-cent?” That answer was unexpected. He thought he would hear Jared was bisexual. “Yet you married Carly… and you never confided in me until now? She says you don’t know what you are.”

“You ever notice your sister doesn’t accept what she doesn’t want to?” he uttered with a contempt Craig didn’t flinch at. He understood it. “And what would have been the point of confiding in you?” Jared mumbled, as if to himself.

“Because we were friends, but that was your choice to make… not mine.” Craig sensed some import in Jared’s question, and he let silence blanket them for a minute. “So, when did she find out you were gay?” The anger was leaving now that they were talking and Jared’s body language had changed.

“Ha! Good fucking question. I told her when she asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance in senior year. It was the first time I’d said it out loud to anyone. My temporary reprieve from the closet,” he said bitterly. “You know, I thought she was pretty cool because of having an openly gay brother, so I agreed to go as friends. I told her I had this huge crush on someone, and she appeared to be totally fine with it. It turned out your sister is a real piece of work, Craig.”

“What the fuck? You’re trying to tell me Carly knew way back then?” Craig was having trouble grasping that revelation. “Even before you went out with her?”

“Yes, Craig. She knew. Like I said, she’s a piece of work.”

“I won’t argue that, but you had a baby with her. Sorry, but I’m not getting this.” Christ, Carly was full of surprises. “That’s not exactly how it works when you’re gay. You stayed with her for a year after Bailey was born, and you guys seemed happy.”

“I stayed with Bailey… not her. And as far as looking happy? I guess I’m a good actor, because I was miserable the whole time… well, most of the time. Your mom was always good to me, and I’m pretty sure she understood a lot more than she ever let on.” Craig’s words echoed what his mom had said earlier, about the man never being truly happy.

Trina’s voice replayed in his mind. Get him to talk. It appeared it was working. “So how in hell does a gay man get into a situation like you did with my sister?” His mind was still trying to grasp what he’d heard so far.

The question made Jared look even more haggard, like life was seeping out of him before Craig’s eyes. “We had sex one time, the night of the dance. I swear she got me drunk on purpose, and later in the car, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was like she was possessed or something,” he said, and Craig could see the anger in him. He also watched it lessen by degrees, before he spoke again.

“I’m not proud of it, but it happened. Carly wasn’t the first girl I’d slept with. To be honest, I’d had sex with a bunch of girls, trying to prove something to myself, so it was no big hardship. I could have thrown her out of the car, but I didn't.” He winced, as if remembering was unpleasant.

“It wasn’t something I wanted to happen, though. She told me she was on the pill, and that we didn’t need to use a condom, but I insisted… I almost had to fight her on it, so the last thing I expected was for her to get pregnant. The condom had to have torn, and Carly claimed she screwed up and missed one of her pills. I knew from health class this kind of thing could occur; I just never thought it would happen to me.” Jared looked away, studying something on the far side of the pond, and Craig waited.

“So anyway, I lived up to my responsibilities, like my grandpa taught me. I thought at the time I didn’t have a choice. I just gave in,” he said with a regretful expression. “It was all a colossal, fucking mistake. Not Bailey… but your sister and I definitely were. I know now I never should have married her; I should have just offered financial support. But my grandfather said it wasn’t proper, that a good man didn’t shirk his duty. Besides, the idea of me being a father had him over the moon because by then, we all knew Trina couldn’t have kids. Nothing had made him happy since my grandma died.” Jared looked at the ground before whispering in a harsh rasp, “I was stupid enough to think I could make it work, somehow.” He shook his head in what Craig interpreted as self-disgust.

He received a glimpse of the pressure Jared had endured, but there was a sinking feeling in his stomach for another reason, and he decided to move on. “Why did you kiss me, Jared?” The million dollar question, and once it was out, Craig’s heart began thumping in his chest.

“Why do you think?” he challenged, and there was a glimmer of defiance in his eyes.

Craig met the challenge. “Honestly? I think you love me… I know what it feels to be kissed by someone who loves me.” He waited for a response, but none came. “Jared?”

“Yeah well, what’s it matter what I say? I was married to your sister… your twin for fuck’s sake… and you’re still grieving for your partner. He was the perfect guy for you,” he said quietly. “I liked Harlan, and I understand why you can’t let him go.” He looked so sad, so defeated, and Craig had a problem digesting what he was saying. It didn’t sit well at all.

“Jared… why do you think I can’t let Harlan go? We haven’t seen each other for a long time, so how do you know where I’m at?”

Pain-filled blue again. “Look, I know, okay? Carly told me.”

“You know what? What the hell did my sister tell you?”

“I’m sorry… I... we shouldn’t be talking about this. Christ, I can be so fucking clueless. Can we just forget it?”

“Fuck, no! What did she tell you?”

“Oh shit, please don’t get upset… please… I know it’s been tough for you, and it’s why I’ve stayed away….”

“If you don’t tell me what the hell you’re talking about, I swear I’ll throw you in that pond.” Craig was seething with frustration.

“As if you could,” Jared said with a tiny glimmer of humor that went nowhere.

“Jared….”

“Okay. Look, I know about the… you know… the suicide attempt, and the intensive therapy.” The last part came out in a rush. “Carly said you were in a bad place, although I’ve got to say you look way better than I thought you would. I never would have kissed you, but… I’m not doing so well myself, I’m messed up, and….”

“Jared! Stop! Please, just stop. I don’t believe this. My sister told you I tried to kill myself?”

“Yes, and maybe she shouldn’t have, but I think she really was trying to protect you… I wanted to go see you, but Carly said I would just be a reminder of what happened to Harlan, and I should stay away… that your doctor insisted you had to avoid triggers.”

Craig stood up. He was shaking as rage hit him like a tsunami, rolling over him in waves. You didn’t think I would let that go on, did you? His twin’s recently spouted warning made sense now.

Jared stood up too, and concern and fear, combined with the pain that never seemed to leave his face, were all directed at him. “I’m so sorry, Craig. I fucked up. I know it’s a personal thing, but I really do understand, and I don’t judge you for it. It was a horrible thing that happened to you. You lost your fiancé, for God’s sake. I would never say anything to anyone, and I hope this doesn’t set you back any, now that you’re doing better.”

The hand Jared placed on his arm was comforting, and he found he didn’t want it to leave. Everything started clicking into place for Craig, and he wondered if he had the magnitude of it right. “Jared, I’m fine, so relax, okay?”

“Are you sure?” That concern again, just like a year ago. In that instant, he realized he was considering Jared in a totally new light.

“I’m angry, yes, but only at my so-called sister. You did me a favor by telling me, so don’t think you did anything wrong. I never attempted suicide, Jared. I swear to you. And I was on medication, but I’m off all of it, and I have been for about four months… the same amount of time I’ve been back to work. The bank saved a place for me, and I’m back there again, Tuesday through Thursday. I’m totally back on track, and I never, ever had intensive therapy. She lied, about all of it. It was all for the purpose of keeping us apart. She said as much today, but I didn’t get it at the time. There’s no reason we can’t hang out together.”

Jared whistled a short low sound. “Wow. That bitch. I shouldn’t be surprised, with the way she is, but I am. Wow. She sure has no qualms about lying. Jesus.” He whistled again, before becoming silent. He met the eyes that had never left his face, and sighed. “Anyway, it’s not as simple as you think it is. She’ll never allow us to be any kind of friends.” He sat back down, and Craig followed suit.

“How can she stop us?”

“She can’t stop you, but she can sure as hell stop me.” Jared looked guilty for some reason, so Craig waited for him to continue. “There’s stuff you need to know. You know how I feel about you, so there’s no sense pretending. I was a mess when we were dealing with Harlan’s passing. It was hard to be so close to you, but it wasn’t all bad for me. I’m sorry if that sounds terrible, but I’d been in love with you for a long time.”

Even though he was already aware of how Jared felt, hearing the words thrilled him. Craig’s curiosity rose. He needed to know everything. “How long?”

“Since senior year,” he said, like it was something to be ashamed of. “I was interested in you before then, but it really hit me at the start of the first semester. I used to watch you for the entire period of European history. It’s a wonder I passed the class. You were the crush I told your sister about. I asked her if she thought you would go out with me, but she told me you were madly in love already, and it was serious.”

Craig was lost in Jared’s confession, but something broke through the haze. “Wait a minute,” Craig interrupted. "Didn’t you say you told her about your crush before the Sadie Hawkins dance?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said… about two, maybe three weeks before. It was the first time she approached me. You were already with Harlan.”

“No, that’s not true. I was single then, and to be completely honest, I had the biggest crush on you, and Carly knew it. I didn’t meet Harlan until the dance the following month. That was at least six weeks later. I met him at that actual dance, when he was a signed-in guest. Jesus Christ. This keeps getting worse.”

Jared looked stupefied. “Are you saying you would have gone out with me if I’d asked? And your sister knew that?”

Craig barked out a bitter laugh. “I used to go to all of your games… football, hockey, and baseball. I never missed a single one, whether they were on campus or off. That started in grade ten. Of course I would have gone out with you. You were the most handsome guy in school, and even without interacting with you outside of class, I knew you were the nicest. Everyone said so. But, I was sure you were straight. There were a few times I thought you were looking at me, and I did wonder, but I chalked it up to wishful thinking.”

Now it was Jared’s turn to stand up in distress, and as he did, Craig saw devastated tears form and fall. It soon turned to a torrent, and the sobbing that accompanied them broke Craig’s already bruised heart. When Jared bent over from the onslaught of emotion, Craig grabbed hold and pulled him close. Tentative arms wrapped around him, and a face slowly buried itself in his neck. Craig let his own emotions go, and he cried too, because for the first time in a long while, even though he felt the same pain Jared did, he also felt safe. This man had always done that for him. He tightened his arms, trying to give as much comfort as he could. It took a long time before the shudders became trembling, and then finally stopped. Craig knew, at this point, he needed to be the strong one.

“Are you okay?”

“Hell, no. But I’m better, sort of. It’s just not fair, you know? She had no fucking right.” Jared pulled back from Craig and seemed embarrassed about his running nose. He looked terrible, and Craig had the urge to laugh, just to relieve the tension, but he stopped dead when Jared pulled his over-sized tee shirt off to use as a snot rag.

“Jesus, I thought you’d gotten scrawny.” It came out as a whisper while Craig took in the ripped state of Jared’s body. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him… just solid, corded muscle everywhere.

Jared took the time to wipe his face and blow his nose before speaking. “I spend a lot of time working in my gym, trying to tire myself out so I can sleep, or at least not think. I don’t really eat very much, though.”

Craig forced his eyes away from the honed perfection and the intriguing treasure trail that started just above the navel, and looked into curious red-rimmed eyes. “You’re still the handsomest guy in school… or out.”

A flush spread across Jared’s chest and up his neck as he reached across his rock to grab the well-worn over-shirt lying there. He pulled it on quickly as if embarrassed by his leanness. He smiled when Craig gave him an obvious look of disappointment as the shirt was buttoned. “Thanks, but I know I could do with a few more pounds.”

Craig’s dick thought otherwise, filling with blood to the point he knew it was on display. It had been a while since he’d been affected this way. Sitting down quickly, he hoped his tumescence had escaped Jared’s attention. A poorly concealed smirk let him know it hadn’t, but there was a light in those blue eyes that hadn’t been there before, so Craig wasn’t as mortified as he might have been. His body’s involuntary reaction had served a rewarding purpose.

One thing he did regret, though, was the loss of physical contact. The presence of this man in his arms had felt right. There wasn’t the least bit of guilt to go with his interest. “I want to ask you some questions, Jared, if you don’t mind?”

“Go ahead,” he said in a hoarse voice as he sat down once more on his stone seat. Craig could see Jared was still roiling with emotion, but his had to be curtailed for now.

“Why did you say Carly could stop us from being anything to each other?” He’d deliberately refrained from using ‘friends,’ and he could tell, with the slight eyebrow raise, Jared had noticed.

“Like I said, I’ll clue you in on all the stuff you need to know, but it’s not good.” Craig said nothing, and Jared plunged ahead. “I was messed up when I moved out of your mom’s house. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t even be friends with Carly. I hated her for accusing me of trying to take advantage of you after what happened to Harlan. She didn’t want me to even touch you, but you needed me and I wasn’t going to turn away from you. Man, she used to get so mad when I would hold you in the waiting room, or at Harlan’s bedside. I thought she was going to blow a gasket at the funeral. As soon as you started functioning again, I knew I had to get out. Your sister was acting so fucking crazy… she scared me a few times.”

“You’re the reason I was able to start living again. You know that, right?”

“I hoped I’d helped you, but with Carly on my case, I wasn’t sure about anything. Anyway, she told me she was going to fight for full custody, and I’d never be able to see Bailey if I left. I told her there was no way I was staying, and that I would fight her with everything I had… only I fucked up, really bad.” He hung his head as low as he possibly could, and time ticked by.

“What happened?”

Sighing, he began to speak in a low tone. “The day after I moved out, I drove my truck when I’d been drinking, and I got caught in a spot check. I was over the limit, and I was convicted of impaired driving.” Jared kept his head down. “I lost my license for three months, was fined a thousand bucks, and I had to have this thing installed on my truck called an ignition interlock device. That was another thousand. It was on there for nine months. It’s only been off a few weeks. I had to take this required program called ‘back on track’ in order to get my full license reinstated, and that was more money… not to mention my insurance rates are through the roof.”

Craig was stunned. He hadn’t expected to hear something like this from such a responsible guy. “I don’t know what to say.”

“I told you it was bad, and it gets worse.” He shook his head in dismay. “Your twin sure knew what to say. I have a criminal record now, and she took full advantage. She said there was no way I would win any custody, let alone visitation rights. I got some free legal advice that said she had a point, that my conviction would hurt my chances, and I’d be wise to wait till I had it behind me before I tried for custody. According to Carly, her lawyer told her, because of the charge and conviction, the court would award her full temporary custody, and I would have to contest it later… take her to court after I completed my sentence. So, she offered me a deal. If I signed over full custody, she would give me one day and night with Bailey, every second week. It seemed like the best I could hope for at the time, and to be honest, I was in a bad frame of mind. With our agreed child support, I was too broke to go to court anyway. I’m making some headway now, but I’m still broke.”

“I can help you with that. I have all that money from Harlan’s life insurance I haven’t even touched, plus the money from the sale of our house.”

Jared looked horrified at the thought. “No way, Craig. I couldn’t let you do that. Thanks for offering, but this is my problem. I just have to make the most of my one day with Bails, and I do. I couldn’t let today go by without seeing her, though, and I think that is going to cost me dearly.”

“Jesus, man. What more can she do to you?”

Jared grimaced before going on. “Losing my license meant I couldn’t work steady for three months. I had to cancel a few contracting jobs, and I let some customers down, and that hurt my business. I was fucked up, Craig… and then my grandfather started going downhill. I moved in here, from Trina’s place, to take care of him. When he passed away, I got kind of lost. It’s why I come down here so much. The house reminds me too much of Grandpa, and it feels so lonely in there.”

He raised his head and looked at Craig. “I’m trying to snap out of this… Bailey’s been the only good thing in my life… I don’t know what I would have done without my days with her. I’ve started trying to round up contracting jobs again. But it’s hard to regain trust in this business once you lose it. I’ve let things slide for too long, and I maxed out my line of credit, and my credit cards.” He shut his eyes tight, and Craig felt the shame of his confession. This was hard for the dark-haired man. When his eyes opened again, Craig saw determination in them.

“I’ve been working every construction job I can now, and I've been chipping away, but the thing is, I’m still way in arrears on my child support. Your sister could possibly force me to sell this place. There’s something called dead-beat-dad legislation, and she could get this FRO involved, where I have to deal with them over support payments. I really don’t want that. If she takes me to court, anything could happen. There is a chance the court would allow me to follow a reasonable plan to catch up, but I am way behind in everything, and I can’t afford a fucking lawyer. I love this old place, but it needs a lot of work. It’s a money pit. Even if I could qualify for a mortgage, I doubt I could get one put on this old place; not in the state it’s in. It even needs a new furnace."

Fuck, he looked incredibly sad, and he failed miserably at trying to hide it. This was all so overwhelming to Craig, and he could just imagine how hard it was for Jared. “How much are your arrears?” When Jared muttered the amount, he took it in stride. “I want to help, if you’ll let me? I can handle that easily. It’s a drop in the bucket.”

“No, but thank you, Craig. Please understand. This is my mess. I’ll try not to rile Carly up, and you can’t either. Maybe I can buy myself some time, and try to hold onto this place. But If I lose it, I lose it. I’d rather say goodbye to an old house than think of myself as one of those dead-beat dads.

“The worst thing is, I have no way to prevent her from taking my one day with my daughter from me. You know she’ll do it just to keep you and me apart. So, do you understand now? As much as I want to be around you, I just can’t let her take Bailey away completely. It would kill me. One day, I plan to take that bitch to court, but I have to be in the right position to do it. I sure as hell can’t start proceedings when I owe her so much money, and she knows that. I think she actually likes that I’m in arrears. One thing for sure is that I want to be able to afford a good lawyer when the time comes. She has me walking on eggshells, Craig, and it's my own damn fault.”

“So, you’re saying we have to stay away from one another… let Carly have the power. For Christ’s sake, what was the point of kissing me, Jared?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to. When I came back, I was only going to explain some stuff, but you being there today put me off-kilter. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was so frigging rattled that I swear I almost passed out when I first saw you… I even drove after having a slug of whiskey. Christ, I was stupid. I still can’t believe I did that.”

He looked so ashamed, Craig’s annoyance at his actions lessened somewhat, but he still thought it was pretty fucked up. He really didn’t know what to say.

“When I left Bailey and you, I stopped at the corner and bought a pint bottle. I was going to come home and get drunk, but then I thought of how you looked… how I left you, and I knew I had to go back, but the thought of it scared the crap out of me. I only had one small swig before I came to my senses, and poured it out in the parking lot, but how messed up was that?”

At least you were smart enough to pour it out, Craig thought. “So, is this your way of telling me you have a problem… a drinking problem?”

Jared locked eyes with Craig. “That’s a fair question. I have a problem, for sure, but it’s not about drinking. I’m pretty down most of the time, and I do have a couple of beers down here at night, most nights to be honest, but today was the first time I had any liquor since my impaired charge. Still, there is no excuse for what I did today. I don’t think that swig would’ve put me near the limit, but who knows. I’m getting scared, Craig. I thought I was getting my shit together, but today showed me I’m losing control of my life.” He let out another big sigh, and looked intently at Craig. “I thought I would get over you eventually, but every night when I lay down, there you are, and it drives me crazy that being with your sister ruined any chance of you and me.”

His words touched Craig in a huge way, and he made a decision. “Jared, do you trust me?”

“Outside of Trina, who I know worries about me too much, and your mom, I think you’re the only one in this world I do trust. There’s only goodness in you, and that is one thing I’m certain of. I know there are lines you won’t cross.” He hung his head again, this time to hide the welling of tears. Craig chose to ignore them, as difficult as it was.

“If you’re saying you and I don’t have any chance because I wouldn’t ‘betray’ my sister, you’re wrong. My mom says we don’t own people and she’s right. I think Carly has tried to own you from the first time she went up to you. I think she trapped you, Jared, and any allegiance I may have had with her is gone after today.”

“Trapped me? What? Why would she do that? You mean she got pregnant on purpose? That makes no sense. I told her I was gay… why would she want to trap a gay guy? As bad as Carly can be, Bailey had to have been an accident. I just never understood why she wanted us to get married, and stay married. I mean we had virtually no sex life at all, yet she freaked out when I told her I was leaving.”

“Let me tell you about Carly. She saw you as a prize. Hold on, Jared… I can see your reluctance to believe me, but just listen, okay?” When he got a nod from Jared, he continued. “Carly always wanted to be popular, and she wasn’t. When that clique of girls… you know, the one led by Monica and Sandra?” He received another nod. “Yeah, well they snubbed her big time, and she raged for weeks and weeks. They said something about her appearance, and I think Carly went on a mission to one-up them. You, Mr. Popular Jock, the best looking guy in school, became that mission. She didn’t care that you were gay, because no one else knew it, am I right?” Another nod. “Hooking you, getting you to marry her, when most guys would have said no fucking way, was the feather in her cap she was looking for. Like I said, everyone knew how good a person you were. That’s how twisted and petty my sister can be. You know she can hold a grudge forever, right?”

“That’s for sure. Craig… are you saying me being her ex-husband wouldn’t rule an ‘us’ out?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. My sister manipulated you and told huge lies to keep us apart senior year. And she did it again when she lied to you about my state of mind. As far as I’m concerned, she has no say in what I do, or who I may care for. She’s the one who stepped over the line, not me or you.”

“So, do you think ‘me and you’ is a possibility?”

“I think so, but you have to trust me, and you have to stop saying I can’t help. Otherwise, we can’t fix this mess… and if we don’t fix it, then we can’t figure out if there is something here we could build on.”

“Do you… I know it’s not fair to ask this but, do you maybe have some feelings for me?”

The neediness Jared was displaying tore at Craig’s heartstrings. “Really, that’s kind of a dumb question. You kissed me today, and I came looking for you, and I’m talking about a possible future for us. So yeah, I maybe have some feelings for you, especially since I saw you with your shirt off.” He gave Jared a loaded grin which became a laugh.

His reward was the first real smile Jared had given him all day, and it was a huge one. Craig did his best to tamp down the rush of feelings that sight filled him with. “So, are you going to trust me?”

“I trust you, but I’m not sure what you have in mind.” The brilliant but shy smile faded to seriousness.

“Look, Jared. You’ve refused my help twice, and I know how pride can affect us. You, doing this on your own, buying yourself time and trying to keep Carly off your back… I understand it, but it puts any ‘us’ at a standstill. Are you willing to risk killing our chance before it even starts?”

“God, no, and if it wasn’t for Bailey, I would tell Carly to go fuck herself. I don’t know what to do, because even if she keeps her from me for only a couple of months, it would kill me. Like I said, my little girl is what has kept me going. What do I do, Craig?”

“I’ve already told you. You have to trust me, and you have to let me help. Knowing my sister, as long as she has power, she’ll use it. She showed me more of her true self today, and I didn’t like what I saw at all. There is no way I’ll let her use Bailey as a pawn. I didn’t know any of this until today, but I have a few ideas.”

“Do they involve your money?”

“What if they do?” It was a direct challenge, laid out bluntly, and Jared had to decide how it went. Craig studied the man at war with himself.

“The fact is, I would agree to anything if it means I could be a part of your life, and you could be a part of mine. I trust you to do what’s best.”

“I want to be a part of your life too. I didn’t realize until today, just how much I’ve missed you. I meant it when I said you were the best friend I ever had. I’ve never forgotten what you did for me, and now that I know what Carly put you through because of it, it’s all the more precious to me.” They spent a quiet few minutes sitting in the cool, sweet smelling glade, before Craig got back to business. The wheels had been turning. “So you only slept with my sister the one time?”

“Well, until after we were married, and even then it was only a handful of times. Why?” Those haunted and haunting eyes were inquisitive as they searched the blond man’s face.

“No reason. I was just thinking. So did you guys go on any dates at all?”

“Just to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. She did hang around me a lot at school, and she used to hang off me every chance she got, but I didn’t mind at the time because we were friends. She wanted to have sex again, but I said ‘no way.’ I didn’t see her outside of school until the day she told me I was going to be a father. That’s how she said it too. She never considered ending the pregnancy, and when I brought it up, she shut me down. No discussion at all. Again, why? What are you thinking?” Jared’s suspicious look made Craig back off.

“I never knew much about how you two started up, and I was curious. I always thought you were a couple for a while.” That seemed to satisfy Jared, but Craig’s mind was racing, trying to piece things together. “Okay, I should go back to Mom’s and face the music. I want to clear this up, once and for all.” He thought of all the devious crap he’d learned about today, and where Carly was concerned, the gloves were definitely off.

“Okay.” Jared swallowed a few times. “To be honest, I’m afraid and happy at the same time. I trust you, Craig, but I’m afraid to get my hopes up for you and me.” His nervousness was something Craig understood.

“Can I have a hug before I go?” He laughed at how quickly Jared leapt up. Standing, he was wrapped in those muscular arms, and he melted into them, and the man. They both held on and breathed. Craig allowed himself to remember this dark-haired man’s scent, and how important it had been to him in the past. “This feels good, doesn’t it?”

Jared nodded before loosening his grip. “I know how much you loved Harlan, and I don’t expect a thing… I just want you to know that.”

Craig shivered from the breath on his neck. “I did love Harlan, very much, and he loved me, but he wasn’t my first love, Jared… you were, so keep that in mind when you think about us, okay? I’ll never forget Harlan… ever, and while I may have put it away, I never forgot what I felt for you either.”

“Really?” Jared pulled back, and there was disbelief in those revealing blue pools.

“Yes. But first things first. We need some stuff resolved before we head down any path.”

Jared was watching him intently, and must have seen what he was looking for. “I don’t know how you can resolve anything, but as long as I don’t lose Bails, I’ll keep the faith. Thank you for being willing to take a chance on a fuck-up like me. Do you want me to walk up with you?” He let go with obvious reluctance, and Craig smiled.

“No, you stay here and relax. Don’t worry, okay?”

“I’ll try not to. When will I see you again?”

“I’ll call you. Is it the same number it’s always been?”

Jared fished around in his front pants pocket, and Craig couldn’t help but see his partial arousal, nor the fact that Jared noticed him noticing. An embarrassed grin accompanied the card he handed him. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“I’m not,” Craig teased, “Not at all.”

“Well good, then.” A sexier grin, Craig couldn’t remember ever seeing, and he turned quickly to start his little trek back to his Jeep. He got about ten feet before turning around and heading back. “I forgot something.” Taking the surprised brunette’s face in his hands, he leaned in, giving him the sweetest of kisses. “There, now I’m ready,” he said as Jared’s eyes slowly opened. “Oh. Just one more thing.”

“Yeah?” Jared breathed out.

“No more drinking and driving, all right? No matter what.”

“I promise. No matter what.”

Craig smiled when he saw Jared’s fingers touch his lips.

 

 

  

Many thanks to my friend and editor, Timothy M., and to those who have shown me such amazing support...

Please drop by the COTT forum and say hello:

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Chapter Comments



Well....Craig's sister truly IS a piece of work! Devious doesn't even come close. But, at least now the air is cleared between Jared and Craig.
But I really can't wait for the fireworks when Craig confronts his sister....I'll have popcorn ready for that show!
Fine writing job here!

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Pregnant first time? Possible? Of course. Suspicious? You betcha. It would kill Carly's ex if it turned out Bailey wasn't biologically his. :o

 

Okay, Carly has burnt her bridges with me and is now officially the bad guy as far as I'm concerned. :pissed:

 

Another great chapter Gary. Will look forward to the next one :)

 

:hug:

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On 02/09/2016 10:00 AM, Robert Rex said:

Well....Craig's sister truly IS a piece of work! Devious doesn't even come close. But, at least now the air is cleared between Jared and Craig.

But I really can't wait for the fireworks when Craig confronts his sister....I'll have popcorn ready for that show!

Fine writing job here!

She is, isn't she? And the thing is she's based on a real person. And yeah, there is now a clearer picture for Craig and Jared. Fireworks are coming... the gloves are off. Thanks for the review, buddy... I appreciate the comments... Cheers... Gary...

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On 02/09/2016 10:00 AM, Caz Pedroso said:

Pregnant first time? Possible? Of course. Suspicious? You betcha. It would kill Carly's ex if it turned out Bailey wasn't biologically his. :o

 

Okay, Carly has burnt her bridges with me and is now officially the bad guy as far as I'm concerned. :pissed:

 

Another great chapter Gary. Will look forward to the next one :)

 

:hug:

Thanks, Caz. I think Carly had burnt her bridges with everyone. But still, there is more to come. I am thankful you enjoyed the chapter, and I really appreciate the review, and the kind words... cheers... Gary...

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Grr! :pissed: Carly is a b*tch!

 

Okay, with that out of my system, time for the review! :)
Gary, the first thing I noticed was the symbolism you used at the beginning of this chapter. As Craig got closer to Jared, the grass become greener and more lush. It held more life. And then at the pond, where Jared was, it felt like a garden... paradise. It was so beautiful to see how that complimented what Jared and Craig have as friends, and what more they could have as a couple.

 

I love how they are now working through everything; Carly's lies, their feelings, and and so on. And it was a delight to see the old Jared come out when they talked, the friend that Craig knew before Harlan died.
Gary, I'll be rooting for Craig and Jared as this story continues! :D

 

Thanks for this fantastic chapter, Gary! :hug:

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On 02/09/2016 10:39 AM, Drew Espinosa said:

Grr! :pissed: Carly is a b*tch!

 

Okay, with that out of my system, time for the review! :)

Gary, the first thing I noticed was the symbolism you used at the beginning of this chapter. As Craig got closer to Jared, the grass become greener and more lush. It held more life. And then at the pond, where Jared was, it felt like a garden... paradise. It was so beautiful to see how that complimented what Jared and Craig have as friends, and what more they could have as a couple.

 

I love how they are now working through everything; Carly's lies, their feelings, and and so on. And it was a delight to see the old Jared come out when they talked, the friend that Craig knew before Harlan died.

Gary, I'll be rooting for Craig and Jared as this story continues! :D

 

Thanks for this fantastic chapter, Gary! :hug:

Thanks, Drew. I'm glad you pointed out the symbolism. I pictured this glade as the perfect place for Craig and Jared to try to reconnect. The pond represented that huge gulf between them in this 'oasis'... as you said... paradise... I don't think either one had any clue what they would find out during this meeting on neutral ground, but it helped them move closer towards one another as revelation after revelation was disclosed. A wonderful review, my friend... so glad you liked it... cheers... Gary...

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A very interesting chapter Gary!

 

My fondness for Carly grows :puke:
Jared has himself in a bit of a bind. Craig seems to think he can work some magic, somehow. At least he seems to have some means.
I suppose a DNA test is in order, but as Caz mentioned, how would it affect Jared to learn he wasn't the father.
I can't see Carly voluntarily agreeing to anything good, so it might be time to lawyer up. :pinch:
But knowing you, we're on our way down Lombard Street. ;)

 

A fine story Gary!! Can't wait for more.

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Oh Gary...what a great chapter! I'm pretty sure we're (you're)moving toward the HEA. Carly is definitely the epitome of bitchdom, but...should we spare a tiny moment of sympathy for her as Bail's mother? Hmmm? Nah! Enjoying your story and the way you write.
Cheers!

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Although I detest drama in my personal life, I am so loving this!!!!!! Can't wait for Craig to "neutralize" his twin.......Happy that there is now a clear and honest line of communication between Craig and Jared without Carly's lies keeping them apart...in fact that may be the catalyst in bringing them together,
Great chapter....happy that it was somewhat longer than most...gave us more info and descriptions of the pond and the snot covered shirt....I love it....A true breakthrough for C & J............:)Mike

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On 02/09/2016 10:54 AM, skinnydragon said:

A very interesting chapter Gary!

 

My fondness for Carly grows :puke:

Jared has himself in a bit of a bind. Craig seems to think he can work some magic, somehow. At least he seems to have some means.

I suppose a DNA test is in order, but as Caz mentioned, how would it affect Jared to learn he wasn't the father.

I can't see Carly voluntarily agreeing to anything good, so it might be time to lawyer up. :pinch:

But knowing you, we're on our way down Lombard Street. ;)

 

A fine story Gary!! Can't wait for more.

Thanks, Skinny! I think you can understand that I felt like I was walking a tightrope here, so it means a lot that you approve. Lombard Street... love it... there may be a few more twists and turns yet lol. :) . I think Craig is trying to work everything out in his head, but at least he now knows he owes his sister NOTHING. Thanks for a great review, and the awesome support... It is so appreciated... cheers, my friend... Gary...

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On 02/09/2016 10:58 AM, Coastguard said:

Oh Gary...what a great chapter! I'm pretty sure we're (you're)moving toward the HEA. Carly is definitely the epitome of bitchdom, but...should we spare a tiny moment of sympathy for her as Bail's mother? Hmmm? Nah! Enjoying your story and the way you write.

Cheers!

Thanks, Coastguard! I'm glad you are enjoying this story. I feel no sympathy for Carly, so I don't expect anyone else to. HEA... maybe :) . Thank you too for saying you like the way I write... that is so encouraging for me to hear... wonderful review... and so appreciated... cheers, my friend... Gary...

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On 02/09/2016 11:11 AM, flamingo136 said:

Although I detest drama in my personal life, I am so loving this!!!!!! Can't wait for Craig to "neutralize" his twin.......Happy that there is now a clear and honest line of communication between Craig and Jared without Carly's lies keeping them apart...in fact that may be the catalyst in bringing them together,

Great chapter....happy that it was somewhat longer than most...gave us more info and descriptions of the pond and the snot covered shirt....I love it....A true breakthrough for C & J............:)Mike

LOL. I'm the same, Mike. I hate drama! Glad you are loving this. This was a huge chapter, not just in length, but how it changed Craig and Jared's perceptions. I'm surprised someone brought up the snot covered shirt, but I have to say I loved writing that little scene... you just can never tell what hides under a big tee shirt sometimes lol. Thanks for such an affirming review, my friend... cheers... Gary...

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I know I seldom review, but this is a special occasion.

 

Your writing improves with every chapter. While your stories have always been well crafted and well told, there were little things that drew away (just a little) from the enjoyment, like over use of speech tags and nicknames. You are now writing in a more natural flow and it is improving the overall enjoyment greatly!

 

Good Job bro- I am looking forward to the next chapter!

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On 02/09/2016 11:39 AM, Kitt said:

I know I seldom review, but this is a special occasion.

 

Your writing improves with every chapter. While your stories have always been well crafted and well told, there were little things that drew away (just a little) from the enjoyment, like over use of speech tags and nicknames. You are now writing in a more natural flow and it is improving the overall enjoyment greatly!

 

Good Job bro- I am looking forward to the next chapter!

Wow, Kitt! Thank you! I have been working hard on those exact things, as well as a few others, such as not only the overuse of speech tags, but improper ones. Also repetition of words, clumsy phrasing and the like. It took me a while to figure out what I like and don't like, and I doubt I will ever stop learning, and changing. This review means so much to me... for you to notice is very special indeed... and I'm also very pleased you are enjoying this new story. Thank you, Sis... you rock... cheers... Gary...

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Great story. I'm sure Craig and Jared have a few more obstacles to clear, but I'm really looking forward to reading about their growing relationship :) And about Carly's comeuppance :lmao:

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Carly is certifiable. I can't imagine how you can redeem her at this point. She's been a bitter, vindictive and cruel person for so long that I just can't see anything changing with her any time soon. How can someone be so jealous of her brother, and so determined to be popular that she nearly ruined so many lives in one foul swoop? Why would someone WANT to be in a marriage where they KNOW their partner doesn't love them and isn't even sexually attracted to them? I get now that it's not Craig and Jared crossing the line in this story.. Carly demolished that line a long time ago. I would hate to think that Bailey isn't Jared's, but I can see that being Carly's next club out of the bag if strong arming Jared doesn't work.
That rant on Carly aside, I love the progress Craig and Jared have made. Jared was Craig's first crush... I can't really say love because they didn't know each other well enough at that point... and now they have a chance to be happy. I can't wait to see what Craig has planned. :D Next chapter please! *chirp chirp*

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Mother of pink just knock me over with a feather! While I still have a need to know the root of her evil, I will concede that Carly is as hateful, vengeful, deceitful and what ever other 'ful' you can think of, as they come.
Carly has been competing with her brother and fighting for attention from her peers. Her self esteem must be shattered, and rather than retreating she went into battle mode. She manipulated this situation, managed to keep it a secret for so long, and still lost. No wonder she's spitting nails.
Should that baby turn out not to be Jared's, it will be so disappointing to say the least. And if she's using the baby knowing that, well then I just give up.. There should be a good lawyer in Craig and Jared's future..
I am glad that Jared and Craig talked though. Now they get to move forward with the truth in hand. I'm kinda scared for Carly, when Craig unleashes. Where the hell do they go from here..
Also, did I miss mention of where their dad is? I'll have to go back.. I'm curious as to what his role is/was..
Great chapter Gary!

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Just when I thought Carly couldn't be worse than she is...the :devil: incarnate is what she is! Any sympathy I might have had for her has been washed away permanently by her diabolical shenanigans.
I'm glad that Jared has come to his senses and let go of his pride and accepted Craig's help in whatever form that comes.
I know this mess cannot be cleaned up over night but I do so look forward to Carly finding out that she has been outmanoeuvred by Craig and Jared. :P
Excellent chapter Gary! Can't wait for next Monday! :D

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nice chapter Gary. Carly must be the most dense woman ive heard of before. How you think you could be happy married to someone who isnt interested in you i dont know.
and talk about ships passing in the night...Craig and Jared crushing on each other. Well I hope they choose to do what is right for them. This is a second chance.
Nice chapter Gary.

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On 02/09/2016 12:07 PM, Zenith said:

Great story. I'm sure Craig and Jared have a few more obstacles to clear, but I'm really looking forward to reading about their growing relationship :) And about Carly's comeuppance :lmao:

Thank you, Zenith! I'm so glad you are enjoying the story. Yeah, it isn't clear sailing by any means, but at least the have a chance, now that some of the air has been cleared. It would seem that Craig has something up his sleeve, but is he a match for such a devious woman as his sister? I guess we'll see :) . Thanks for a very encouraging review... keep your thoughts coming... cheers... Gary...

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On 02/09/2016 12:08 PM, LitLover said:

Carly is certifiable. I can't imagine how you can redeem her at this point. She's been a bitter, vindictive and cruel person for so long that I just can't see anything changing with her any time soon. How can someone be so jealous of her brother, and so determined to be popular that she nearly ruined so many lives in one foul swoop? Why would someone WANT to be in a marriage where they KNOW their partner doesn't love them and isn't even sexually attracted to them? I get now that it's not Craig and Jared crossing the line in this story.. Carly demolished that line a long time ago. I would hate to think that Bailey isn't Jared's, but I can see that being Carly's next club out of the bag if strong arming Jared doesn't work.

That rant on Carly aside, I love the progress Craig and Jared have made. Jared was Craig's first crush... I can't really say love because they didn't know each other well enough at that point... and now they have a chance to be happy. I can't wait to see what Craig has planned. :D Next chapter please! *chirp chirp*

Yeah, I'm not thinking Carly is redeemable. There is something warped in that woman. You have to wonder whether Carly believes herself worthy of true happiness... or maybe this is her joy in life... At any rate, it looks like she is losing at her games, and Craig and Jared have the shot they should have had years ago. Next chapter is ready, but you have to wait, my friend :) . There was a lot revealed in this chapter, and I worried it may be an overload of sorts, but I figured we needed most of the picture. Yet, there is more to come... thanks for an awesome review, and your constant support, Lit.... cheers... Gary...

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Great chapter! Can't believe that bitch Carly kept Jared and Craig apart for her own evil, selfish reasons! So happy they're reunited and Jared is letting Craig help him. Can't wait to see what they have in store for the she-devil! Hope they rake her over the coals!!

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On 02/09/2016 12:12 PM, Defiance19 said:

Mother of pink just knock me over with a feather! While I still have a need to know the root of her evil, I will concede that Carly is as hateful, vengeful, deceitful and what ever other 'ful' you can think of, as they come.

Carly has been competing with her brother and fighting for attention from her peers. Her self esteem must be shattered, and rather than retreating she went into battle mode. She manipulated this situation, managed to keep it a secret for so long, and still lost. No wonder she's spitting nails.

Should that baby turn out not to be Jared's, it will be so disappointing to say the least. And if she's using the baby knowing that, well then I just give up.. There should be a good lawyer in Craig and Jared's future..

I am glad that Jared and Craig talked though. Now they get to move forward with the truth in hand. I'm kinda scared for Carly, when Craig unleashes. Where the hell do they go from here..

Also, did I miss mention of where their dad is? I'll have to go back.. I'm curious as to what his role is/was..

Great chapter Gary!

Thank you, Def! LOL. Carly is spoiled and willful for sure. All I can tell you is that a battle of sorts is coming. I think it's safe to say that Craig has conceded to Carly in the past because she is manipulative, and I think he feels bad about her resentment... like it was his fault somehow... but that has all changed now. She went way too far, and he knows it...and yeah, their father passed away years ago... but that hasn't come up yet :) . There is still more to unfold... thanks for such an awesome review, Def... hang in there, my friend... cheers... Gary...

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On 02/09/2016 12:19 PM, Reader1810 said:

Just when I thought Carly couldn't be worse than she is...the :devil: incarnate is what she is! Any sympathy I might have had for her has been washed away permanently by her diabolical shenanigans.

I'm glad that Jared has come to his senses and let go of his pride and accepted Craig's help in whatever form that comes.

I know this mess cannot be cleaned up over night but I do so look forward to Carly finding out that she has been outmanoeuvred by Craig and Jared. :P

Excellent chapter Gary! Can't wait for next Monday! :D

Thank you, Reader! This was a day of revelations for these two guys, and while it threatened to swamp them at times, the fact they had each other to commiserate with allowed them to cope. Now we get to see hoe they both deal with the truth. I think Jared letting go of his pride was paramount in this chapter... and Craig didn't push... he allowed Jared to decide for himself. I hope you like next Monday's offering :) . Great review, buddy... cheers... Gary...

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On 02/09/2016 12:20 PM, Mikiesboy said:

nice chapter Gary. Carly must be the most dense woman ive heard of before. How you think you could be happy married to someone who isnt interested in you i dont know.

and talk about ships passing in the night...Craig and Jared crushing on each other. Well I hope they choose to do what is right for them. This is a second chance.

Nice chapter Gary.

Thanks, tim! I like what you said about ships passing in the night. Carly interfered with fate here I think. If any deserve a second chance, these two men do. Carly believes what she wants, but the game is up. She has been exposed in all her glory... and it has moved Craig and Jared closer together. Thank you so much for supporting this story, my friend... it means a lot... cheers... Gary...

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