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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home

Stepping Out in Faith - 17. Chapter 13

Warning: This chapter may contain sexually explicit content. Reader discretion is advised.

“Stop fidgeting.” Marcus reached over to grasp Andy’s hand. Andy looked down to see their fingers intertwined. The sight never failed to make his heart swell.

“I’m nervous.” He squeezed back. “I’ve never done this before.”

“Oh, right, I keep forgetting.”

Andy shot Marcus a good-natured glare.

“Don’t worry!” Marcus laughed. “She’s going to love you.”

“She hates me.”

Marcus looked like he was going to dispute Andy’s statement but then stopped himself.

“She’ll come around.” His shrug earned him a punch. “Ow, that hurt.” He rubbed at his shoulder with a pout.

Andy rolled his eyes but caught himself mid-roll when he spotted Cheryl step inside the restaurant.

Marcus had told him how angry Cheryl had been when things were at their worst. So, when they invited him to one of their mother-son brunches, Andy had been nervous about accepting. But now here he was, and he wanted to repair his damaged reputation. He just hoped Cheryl could forgive him.

She wove her way through the tables with an icy look on her face. Andy gulped. She looked like she could eat him alive.

He stood as she approached the table.

“Mrs. Clayton, hi. My name is Andy.” He took the hand she offered.

“Andy, very nice to meet you.” She smiled, and Andy felt a bit of his nerves ease. “And please, call me Cheryl.”

Maybe this wasn’t going to be as bad as he anticipated. Andy reached for her chair and held it out for her.

“Really, Andy?” Marcus eyed the chair in Andy’s hands.

“Huh? What?” Did he do something wrong?

Cheryl tsked. “Don’t pay any attention to my son,” she said. “Apparently, he needs to learn some manners.”

“Ugh, whatever.” Marcus rolled his eyes. He didn’t bother getting out of his seat.

Andy smiled shyly as he sat back down.

“You’re taller than I imagined.” Cheryl gave Andy a onceover, and he felt a blush paint his cheeks.

“Um, I’m 5’10, ma’am.”

“What does it matter, Mother?” Marcus glared at his mom. She glared right back at him.

“Marcus tells me you used to be a Catholic priest.”

Andy’s blush deepened, and he reached for his Bellini before answering.

“Uh, yes, ma’am. Up until about six months ago.”

“And what have you been doing since then?”

“I’ve been volunteering at the LGBT Center.” Andy smiled. “Actually, we’re discussing the possibility of me coming on as full-time staff, probably as youth director.”

“He’s started an a cappella group,” Marcus added with a smile. “Nerd.”

Andy glanced over to see Marcus with his chin propped up in his hand, elbow braced on the table. The sweet smile and admiring look in Marcus’ eyes calmed Andy’s nerves; he had come to appreciate that look and depend on it over the past months. It settled Andy’s doubts and encouraged him to push forward in his journey.

Andy smiled back at Marcus. The two of them oblivious to Cheryl’s examination of them.

She cleared her throat before continuing. “Are you still attending church services or anything like that?”

Andy tore his gaze away from Marcus. “Not really.” He ducked his head. “I haven’t been going to the public masses, but I have kept in touch with my previous colleague at the parish. He’s been generous enough to meet with me privately and do pseudo-masses together.”

“He still does his Liturgy of Hours thing.” Marcus chimed in.

“What’s that?” Cheryl asked.

“They’re like daily prayers.” Andy gave her a wry grin. “I’ve been doing them every day for pretty much my entire life. It’s a hard habit to break.”

“Well, don’t break the habit if you don’t have to,” Cheryl said. “If it’s important to you, you should cherish it. No point swinging from one extreme to the other, if you know what I mean.”

Andy did know, and he appreciated her affirmation of the practice of his faith. It had been one of the most challenging things about leaving the church so far: how much of his faith did he keep and what parts should he let go of? John—and even Kathleen from the Center—had been trying to help him find a middle ground.

“How about your family?” Cheryl continued.

“Mother.” Marcus sat up straight and glared at her.

“No, it’s fine.” Andy’s smile was sad. He reached for his Bellini again and felt his heart constrict as he remembered what happened.

“Marcus came with me to visit them a couple of weeks ago,” Andy said. “I’d already told them that I was resigning from the clergy but hadn’t told them why. I told Marcus they wouldn’t take the news well, but he didn’t believe me.”

“Humph.” Marcus sat back in his chair, with crossed arms and a scowl.

“Unfortunately, I was right.” Andy said with a dry chuckle. “I’m sure they wanted to kick us out of the house as soon as I told them I’m gay. They probably thought they were being gracious by letting us stay for dinner.” Andy exchanged a sad look with Marcus. “I think we both would have preferred skipping it.”

“Sweetheart.” She surprised Andy by reaching over and clasping his hand in her own. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Andy gave her a sad smile. He was okay for the most part. He had come to terms with the fact that his parents likely would never understand.

“Well, my dear, don’t you worry.” She had that same look of care and concern that Andy so often saw with Marcus. “You have a new family now. You’re not alone anymore.”

Andy’s chest constricted at Cheryl’s words. She was right, he realized. Here he could build a new family with people who knew and accepted who he was. He glanced at Marcus and saw more love in those eyes than Andy knew was possible to feel for someone. Yes, he had a new family now.

“And besides,” Cheryl continued after a sip of her Bellini. “I could use another son. The one I have now needs more positive influences in his life.”

“Andy’s definitely been a positive influence,” Marcus said.

“Has he told you about the exhibit?” Andy asked Cheryl.

“Exhibit? No, what exhibit?” She turned to Marcus with the question.

“Andy’s been pushing me to shop around a series I’ve been working on.”

“Marcus is amazingly talented. I just think the rest of the world should see it, too.”

“I think it’s less about talent and more about the subject.” A smouldering smile spread across Marcus’ lips, and Andy flushed at its suggestiveness.

“Which is?” Cheryl asked.

“Andy.” Marcus continued to stare. “It’s a series of portraits of Andy—you know, in the nude.”

How could Marcus be so nonchalant about that? Andy felt his cheeks burn as Cheryl turned toward him. He resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands.

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”

“Please do.” Cheryl smiled and patted Andy’s hand. “Don’t worry, hun. I’m sure Marcus has told you that we have a pretty open relationship. You’ll just have to get used to it now that you’re part of the family.”

Part of the family—that sounded so nice. Andy smiled. He belonged to a family now and it felt right.

 

*****

 

“I think that went well,” Marcus said.

They strolled through Central Park after brunch with Marcus’ mom. The leaves had changed color, and the park was painted in shades of golden reds and yellows. The air was crisp and fresh, tinged with the hint of the coming winter.

Andy squeezed Marcus’ hand. “Yeah, I think it did. Thank you.”

Marcus turned to him with a smile. “For what? You did all the talking.”

“For everything.”

Marcus lifted their clasped hands and kissed the back of Andy’s, his eyes smouldered behind the dark lashes. Andy’s breath caught in his chest; he would never get tired of looking at Marcus, never get tired of seeing him smile and laugh, never get tired of them holding each other.

This was it, it dawned on Andy. He had spent his whole life striving and failing to live up to some false standard of perfection; he had repeatedly lied to himself and to others about who he was, all so he could protect that ideal image of piety. But God never asked anyone to be perfect. He only ever asked people to love others because He first loved them.

Yes, this was it. Marcus was it—the person Andy had been called to love and serve in that unconditional way that Christ demonstrated in the Scriptures. This was Andy’s calling, the true calling that would propel him forward and give him direction for the rest of his days. The realization took his breath away.

Marcus cocked his head as Andy continued to stare. “Are you okay?”

He nodded, unable to turn his gaze away.

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “What’s going on in your head?”

Andy chuckled. “I’ve been a mess the entire time you’ve known me. Heaven knows I don’t have everything sorted out yet.”

“I don’t have everything sorted out, either.” Marcus shrugged. “Life is messy. I’d rather it be messy with you than without you.”

Was it possible for one person to have so much grace?

“How are you able to forgive everything I put you through?” Andy asked. “And everything I’ll probably put you through in the future.”

Marcus furrowed his brow before breaking out into a big smile. “Because love suffers long and is kind. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Andy laughed out loud. “1 Corinthians 13?”

Marcus laughed with him. “Hey, I grew up going to church, too. I memorized my fair share of scripture.”

Andy loved moments like this when they laughed with no reservations and no pretense. He could be himself and know that was enough.

When the laughter faded, Andy decided there wasn’t any point in waiting. He hadn’t prepared anything; he hadn’t expected to be doing this now. But it was the right moment and Andy didn’t want to let it slip away. He tugged Marcus to a stop, then dropped to one knee, smiling up at the confused look on Marcus’ face.

“Marcus.” Andy’s heart raced in his chest.

Marcus opened his mouth, but no sound came out.

“Marcus, I love you with my whole heart, my whole mind and my whole soul. I love you more than life itself. I want to spend the rest of my days loving you and serving you. You’re right, life is messy. And there is no other person I’d rather be messy with than you. Marcus, love, will you marry me?”

Marcus shook; Andy felt it in their clasped hands. For a second, he thought Marcus would say no, they weren’t ready to move forward. Doubt flooded his mind while he waited for Marcus’ answer.

Then a giant smile broke out across Marcus’ face. “Yes! Of course, yes!”

He pulled Andy to his feet and crushed him in a tight hug and hard kiss. Before Andy could pass out from lack of air, Marcus pulled back and nibbled at the corner of Andy’s mouth until he opened and let Marcus’ tongue inside.

Andy moaned at the taste of strawberries and whipped cream from Marcus’ pancake brunch. He always found Marcus’ kisses to taste divine; now they were Andy’s to savor for the rest of his life. His heart hurt with joy.

A light applause broke through the haze of desire building low in Andy’s stomach. He whined when Marcus broke off their kiss and looked around. It was only then that Andy realized they had an audience.

Andy flushed bright red when he saw the number of people gathered. He let Marcus step in front of him, wave at the crowd, and lead them toward the closest park exit with their hands tightly clasped.

Like! Comment! Tell me what you loved and what you hated. I love hearing from you!

Copyright © 2017 Hudson Bartholomew; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Your words and pacing in this chapter were wonderful!  Life is messy and I love the way you have captured that idea with these two delightful characters and their love story.  I'm sure my eyes must light up (I know my insides do) when I see that you've posted another chapter.

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Hmm... As romantic as a proposal is, I wonder if they aren't rushing into this? To add the seriousness of a marriage when Andy still must be struggling with his faith seems a bit too soon. I don't doubt their love for each other, but they should perhaps let things develop at a slightly slower pace. 

 

Heart breaking to hear Andy wasn't accepted by his family, but good to see Cheryl embrace him so fully.

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53 minutes ago, Job said:

Aw, what a sweet and tender chapter! I am glad the conversation with Marcus Mom went well.
I like that you used 1 Corinthians 13, there is a lot in it that we all can use. I did not expect that Andy would propose, I thought that
Marcus would be the one, but I am really glad for them. Sounds maybe weird, but I am a tad sad that the last chapter will be next week.
They both have grown on me. Again a great chapter!

 

 

 

I couldn't agree more about the last chapter!

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Crying like a baby (again)... your writing really reaches me...

I really love it! Congratulations on another beautifully written chapter! :D

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While I can agree that it seems too soon for a marriage proposal, these are two men who also have had major life experiences.  They can grow together through the messiness that makes up all our lives.  Time of resolution has come.  It's time to move on.  

Tony

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wow, oh wow! such a great chapter. ups and downs, but i'm so glad it was Andy who asked. he has grown so much.great job

  • Like 1
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It's so terrific that you spent time exploring the angst and pain of coming out and dealing with self-acceptance. This story shows the meaning and value of love in its pure and raw state, and what can be achieved by showing, receiving and giving love. 

 

A lovely story, well done and many thanks for sharing. :boy:

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Wonderful chapter, Hudson! :)

 

I was surprised Marcus' mom was so nice to Andy! I'm glad she was, but I'm still surprised.

 

And, like some of the other readers, I thought if anyone was going to propose, it would be Marcus. So it was nice to see Andy getting down on one knee. :)

 

 

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On 9/3/2017 at 9:26 AM, Job said:

Aw, what a sweet and tender chapter! I am glad the conversation with Marcus Mom went well.
I like that you used 1 Corinthians 13, there is a lot in it that we all can use. I did not expect that Andy would propose, I thought that
Marcus would be the one, but I am really glad for them. Sounds maybe weird, but I am a tad sad that the last chapter will be next week.
They both have grown on me. Again a great chapter!

 

 

 

 

Thanks for sticking with me through to the end!! And yeah, I always thought Marcus would be the one to propose, too. But then, marriage is more important to Andy than Marcus, so it made sense that Andy would want the sanctity of marriage over their relationship. :heart:

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On 9/3/2017 at 9:36 AM, donaldbirwin said:

Your words and pacing in this chapter were wonderful!  Life is messy and I love the way you have captured that idea with these two delightful characters and their love story.  I'm sure my eyes must light up (I know my insides do) when I see that you've posted another chapter.

 

Aw, thanks so much! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to hear your reaction to my posting new chapters! Life is definitely so messy, and I'm so glad that came across in this chapter. Thanks again!!

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On 9/3/2017 at 10:09 AM, Puppilull said:

Hmm... As romantic as a proposal is, I wonder if they aren't rushing into this? To add the seriousness of a marriage when Andy still must be struggling with his faith seems a bit too soon. I don't doubt their love for each other, but they should perhaps let things develop at a slightly slower pace. 

 

Heart breaking to hear Andy wasn't accepted by his family, but good to see Cheryl embrace him so fully.

 

Haha, in my experience, religious couples tend to get married very quickly rather than date for years and years. I grew up in an evangelical christian tradition and sex before marriage was a big no-no. So people got married quickly so they could jump into bed! Not that that necessarily applies with Andy and Marcus since they've already been in bed, but bringing their relationship under the sanctity of marriage is important to him. :P

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On 9/3/2017 at 10:21 AM, Dyaus said:

Crying like a baby (again)... your writing really reaches me...

I really love it! Congratulations on another beautifully written chapter! :D

 

Aw... thanks!! I've said this before, but I love making people cry. Sorry for being evil! :gikkle:

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On 9/3/2017 at 11:17 AM, pvtguy said:

While I can agree that it seems too soon for a marriage proposal, these are two men who also have had major life experiences.  They can grow together through the messiness that makes up all our lives.  Time of resolution has come.  It's time to move on.  

Tony

 

True! I don't think I could put these two through anymore emotional torture. I don't think I could put myself through anymore emotional torture to write it! :gikkle:

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On 9/3/2017 at 2:46 PM, mogwhy said:

wow, oh wow! such a great chapter. ups and downs, but i'm so glad it was Andy who asked. he has grown so much.great job

 

Thank you so much!!! :heart:

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On 9/8/2017 at 6:03 PM, Mym8te said:

It's so terrific that you spent time exploring the angst and pain of coming out and dealing with self-acceptance. This story shows the meaning and value of love in its pure and raw state, and what can be achieved by showing, receiving and giving love. 

 

A lovely story, well done and many thanks for sharing. :boy:

 

Thank you so much for reading and sticking with the story through all those ups and downs! :heart:

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On 9/9/2017 at 0:40 PM, Lisa said:

Wonderful chapter, Hudson! :)

 

I was surprised Marcus' mom was so nice to Andy! I'm glad she was, but I'm still surprised.

 

And, like some of the other readers, I thought if anyone was going to propose, it would be Marcus. So it was nice to see Andy getting down on one knee. :)

 

 

 

Thanks!! Yeah, I think Andy needed to be the proactive one with this :) 

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