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    Jason MH
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Between the Shadow and the Soul - 13. Relationships Plus One

September 10, 2016

Simple white CK boxer briefs. A long-sleeved sea green fitted V-neck cotton shirt, snug across my chest and shoulders before tapering quickly into the waistband of my faded carpenter jeans that hung from my hips and hugged my ass. Thick brown socks and a pair of tan steel-toed work boots. A thigh-length brown leather jacket with a zipped-in Realtree camouflage hoodie. Hair lightly gelled and mussed for that just-out-of-bed vibe.

I stood in the large walk-in closet looking at myself in the full-length mirror.

There's no way I'm showing up at Keigan's place looking like I've had my gay card revoked.

Hell, you never show up anywhere looking like that.

What can I say? I'm definitely a stereotype.

After dropping keys and wallet and cellphone into various pockets, I headed downstairs. I had about half an hour before I needed to fetch Keigan at his place.

* * * * *

I typed a quick message and sent it to Nate: Hoped you'd be home before I left. Sorry I missed you. Enjoy your evening and see you when I get back.

And that was the sum total of my thoughts on his absence that evening as I steadied my nerves and readied myself for what I hoped would be a simple evening out with a friend. My mood was running hot and cold, anticipating one moment and dreading the next, feeling prepared at the top of the stairs and dabbing nervous sweat from my forehead once I hit the downstairs landing.

"Get a grip, Greg," I commanded as I twitched and shivered and leaned and bounced and pretty much felt like I was a bipolar schizophrenic.

It's a small step. That's all. We're friends and this is a friendly outing. On the outside chance I don't completely ruin everything and send him running for the hills, I'll take another step, then another, then another.

"Hoping I don't trip somewhere along the way," I muttered as I headed into the garage, the door humming quietly as it rose.

Even if things don't go well, I'm pretty sure I have a new friend.

"And you can never have too many friends."

* * * * *

Keigan's apartment was on the ground floor. After locating the right building and parking, I wandered into the beautiful courtyard and around the end of the building, the layout having made it easy to find his door. I rang the bell and waited.

"Shit!" came a muffled voice from inside the apartment. Then heavy footsteps moved quickly toward me until the door unlocked and swung open.

Jesus wept...

Dripping wet, holding a towel wrapped around his waist, the thick cloth hanging low on his hips, Keigan ducked his head and said, "You caught me getting out of the shower."

"I'm sorry." No I'm not. "Am I early?" From where I'm standing, I'm right on time.

"Only a few minutes."

Darn. Shucks. How unfortunate. Can I come in? Please?

"Oh. I can wait out here if that's best."

I'd rather you let me in so I can ogle your mostly undressed self and fantasize about what's behind the towel and pray to whatever gods that be that they grant my wish by ripping the cloth from your hand and blowing it across the room.

"Don't be silly. Come on in." He gestured me inside, closing and locking the door behind me.

Now! Throw him up against the wall and ravish him. Yank that towel out of his hand, toss it aside, and enjoy this new friendship and all its benefits.

Chill, dude. I'm looking for something more than a quick fix. Time's running out...

Does that mean it would be inappropriate to offer assistance with the drying and... well, whatever else he needs a hand with?

"I just need to finish drying off so I can get ready. Make yourself comfortable." With that he waved his hand toward the living room. "There are drinks in the fridge if you're thirsty."

His body is truly orgasmic, perfectly built and toned. And those nipples! Oh yeah, I'm thirsty.

Proportioned beautifully with his permanent tan and Nordic features, I gaped—momentarily yet obviously—before saying, "No problem. I'll be here when you're ready."

He chuckled and blushed simultaneously, an interesting mix on his face. Before I could make a bigger ass of myself, he turned and headed back down the hall.

Dude, like what the fuck, you were practically drooling on him.

Yum. There's a delightful visual...

Yet after those lustful contemplations, as I looked at Keigan's stunning personage vanishing through a doorway at the end of the hall, I set aside that carnal potential because I needed to be faithful to an idea if it had any hope of becoming something more.

Fine, be that way. But you know you're going to revisit that image later, and you won't be such a prude then, will you?

Nope. I fully intend to enjoy the visual in a more intimate way as soon as I'm alone. That's a memory made for pleasure.

Several minutes later I heard his approach, so I glanced down the hallway. He looked delicious in a pair of snug tapered jeans, black deck shoes, a fitted black-and-white button-down shirt with the top three buttons undone, and a black leather jacket.

As he entered the living room I said, "Whoa, dude, what's up with the shirt?"

Something about the closeness of the narrow black stripes on the white material coupled with the fitted contours as it hugged his torso made it look like some kind of optical illusion, as though the pattern moved and shifted, as though the stripes remained in constant motion. It felt like my eyes struggled to focus despite the fact that I could see him clearly.

He chuckled. "Kinda fun, isn't it? Got it at Kenneth Cole shortly after I came back from California."

"Actually it's pretty damn cool, though I admit it also makes me wonder if I need my eyes checked."

"That's why I like it," he laughed.

"It's definitely different."

It took about fifteen minutes to drive to the theater. We chatted amiably the whole way.

* * * * *

After the movie we drove to an upscale restaurant and sat at the bar so we could chat over a few drinks. Given we'd demolished a large container of popcorn plus a few boxes of candy along with two large sodas, neither of us had much of an appetite for more than an adult beverage or two.

Because the restaurant was quite busy given it was a Saturday night, we settled at the end of the bar near the windows and huddled close together to hear each other over the tumultuous din of voices and clattering dishes and clinking glasses.

"I'm thoroughly impressed with how well the book translated to the big screen," he said before taking a sip of his mixed drink.

"I am, too. I think Nicole Kidman was a great choice for the mother—"

"And Dev Patel made a perfect Saroo—"

"Oh hell, who was the little kid who played the young Saroo? He was phenomenal!"

"Sunny something, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, that sounds right. Sunny something-or-other."

"He was incredible, wasn't he?"

"Without a doubt," I agreed, then took a swig of Modelo Negra.

Gesturing to the dark ale with his tumbler he asked, "Fan of Mexican beers?"

"More like a fan of imported beers. Well, to be completely honest, I'm a bit of a beer snob. And yes, if I'm not matching the beer to a meal, Modelo Negra is my go-to choice."

"I've never had it before."

Sliding the bottle toward him I offered, "Try it."

With a shrug he took the beer and sampled it, swishing it around his mouth for a second before swallowing. Then, as he handed it back to me, he admitted, "Strong. And I don't just mean the flavor."

"True that. It has a higher alcohol content than what you get in American beers." Catching the fleeting grimace he tried to hide behind his own drink I asked, "Not to your liking?"

After swallowing he replied, "No, not really. I'm not a huge fan of beer to begin with and that one's pretty strong. I think I'll stick with Jack and Coke." He lifted his glass and saluted me with it.

"We can't help what we like. It's just part of who we are."

My words were meant more for me than the conversation.

* * * * *

Being the gentleman that my mother and father raised me to be, I walked Keigan to his door. We chatted the whole way since we had an easy camaraderie and our conversations flowed smoothly no matter the topic.

"I'll have to read the book again," he told me.

"You have a copy?"

"Sure do."

"So do I. And I'll be reading it again as well. Partly because I like it so much, but also... well..."

"To compare it to the movie and see if they did any damage to it?"

"Yes!" I replied enthusiastically. "That's it precisely. I didn't want to sound like a translation purist by coming out and saying it, but that's exactly what I intend to do."

"Me, too," he smiled. "I always like to read the book first, obviously—"

"Same here."

"—but after I see the movie, I like to go back and compare and contrast."

"Sometimes—" I gave him a serious look. "—I do mean sometimes—the movie is better than the book."

"Oh my god! I'm so glad you said that. I've run into a few here and there that made me think the same thing."

"Thank fuck," I laughed.

We'd stopped outside his door, which he unlocked and pushed open. Then he turned back to me.

"I had a really nice time, Greg."

"Me, too, Keigan. Very enjoyable."

"Just the movie?"

"No. I enjoyed the drinks, too."

"Asshole," he chuckled, shaking his head in amusement.

"Were I to be honest, I'd have to admit I liked the popcorn as well. Fresh and buttery. Mmmm..."

His scowl might've been convincing had it not been coupled with a silly grin.

"All right," I started, holding my hands up in surrender, "since you're pushing so hard. Fine. The candy was a bit sweet but enjoyable as well."

"You're such a dufus," he snickered.

Through my own laugh I admitted, "Fine. Fine. Have it your way. The company was nice since I couldn't have eaten all that popcorn by myself."

"God, you're incorrigible."

"I do what I can."

With that marvelous smile of his, dimples on full display, he said quietly, "Yeah, I enjoyed the company as well. So thank you for that in addition to the drinks and the movie." Slightly cocking his head he asked, "Assuming we want to do this again, is it my turn to ask?"

"I don't keep score like that, so don't think I'll be marking it on a spreadsheet or anything. If I think of something first, I'll ask; if you have an idea before I do, you'll ask. It is what it is."

"Sounds like the way friendships are supposed to work."

"I'm pretty sure I read that in the textbook."

"You're a funny man, Greg Beaumont," he quipped sarcastically. Then: "Eventually, if things work out, maybe we'll check the textbook about being more than friends." He looked hopeful, though I knew he was fishing for something I couldn't give him yet.

"Yeah, I think that's how it usually works when things click. Eventually."

"Well, enough yammering for the evening. You might not have to get up early tomorrow but I still have a restaurant to run."

Sheepishly I grinned as I said, "Ah shit! You're right. I'm being thoughtless standing here chewing your ear when you need to get some sleep."

"It's alright. I wasn't complaining."

"Still, I should get out of your hair."

Before I could think about it, before I could consider alternatives or escapes, I stepped forward and pulled him into a hug. He was three inches shorter than my six one height and he was probably thirty pounds lighter than my one hundred ninety, so he made a perfect cuddle buddy when I wrapped my arms around him and held him against me.

The embrace was short, nothing sexual about it, just a friendly squeeze, but in that brief moment I inhaled and realized Keigan had a marvelous smell. I picked up a hint of the body wash he used, the citrus of his shampoo, a trace of not unpleasant sweat, maybe a whiff of deodorant, and the underlying aroma of pheromones and man and him. It was heady and even a bit erotic.

Something about the unique aroma of a man always enticed me, reached into that primitive part of my brain and registered there the wonders and delights of the male form and all its perfect imperfections, each smell as unique as the man who produced and wore it. After a surreptitious second inhale I released him.

"Thanks for coming along tonight, Keigan. We should do this again."

He looked rather pleased and content when he said, "I'd like that."

"Goodnight then."

"Goodnight, Greg."

Taking a few steps backward, I smiled as he stepped into his apartment. Before he shut and locked the door he gave me a lopsided grin, a single dimple making an appearance. Then he disappeared.

* * * * *

When I arrived home just before midnight, Nate had already gone to bed. Seeing his car reminded me of the text I'd sent earlier that evening. So I checked my phone, thinking I might've missed his reply, though that would've been very much unlike me. I didn't treat my phone like a lifeline to the world as so many others did but, because of work, I was in tune with it and rarely missed notifications of any kind.

Nate hadn't responded.

The disappointment I felt was disproportionate to the perceived slight.

* * * * *

September 16, 2016

"So we're going to talk about relationships?"

Uncle Farid nodded as he explained, "I don't want to focus on the situation with Richard, though you might touch on it in passing. What I want you to focus on are the romantic relationships aside from Richard—"

"I'd hardly call it romantic. And a relationship? Not."

"Come now, Greg, we both know the extent of the flirtations between you two and the emotional investment you had in him. I understand you weren't in love with him, but it's a disservice to your own honesty as well as the intent of these sessions for you to pretend no emotions were involved."

Duly chastised, I dropped my face and mumbled, "I know."

"As I was saying, you might touch on the situation with Richard, perhaps tangentially or as a comparison, but I don't want you to focus on him. Instead I want to discuss the other romantic interests you've had."

"Are we counting one night stands?" I asked sarcastically.

He smirked, a naughty twinkle in his eye, then he replied, "I think we can skip the quickies. What we're focusing on are the emotional attachments, even if brief."

"But—"

"And while I know you're emotionally attached to the part of you that does the thinking during a hookup, I'm fairly certain we both know that's not what I mean."

Even biting the inside of my cheek didn't stop me from chuckling, Uncle Farid's throaty snicker joining my own.

"Now," he said in a more serious tone, "shall we get back to business?"

"If we must."

"Working backward in time, then, from newest to oldest... Should we include Keigan?"

"I don't know. Should we?" I wasn't sure if that was a trick question or not, nor did I know the right answer.

"Are you romantically interested in him? Or do you harbor the beginnings of a romantic interest? Or is it only platonic with potential?"

Tough questions there. I'm not really sure—

"Please use your outside voice, Greg," he directed with a friendly scowl.

"Oops. Sorry." I paused a moment. Then: "I don't think Keigan counts. We met at his restaurant. He's pretty damn hot, so there was an instant physical attraction. But I know it's time for more, especially now that I can think about my past without wanting to run and scream.

"We've been meeting at the coffee shop several times a week, chatting, getting to know each other. And there's been a not inconsiderable amount of flirting, though it hasn't been distasteful or forceful. Just... well... just there between us, I guess, subtle but not secret, hints showing we both have some interest in seeing if there can be more than friendship.

"But I want a friendship first, someone I come to know well and trust and can spend time with aside from anything romantic and sexual."

"That's a healthy approach." He scribbled a few notes as he gestured for me to continue. "So you'd say there's no romantic involvement as yet, only potential?"

"I don't think there's any romantic emotions involved at present. Not yet anyway. He's a friend, he could be more, I like spending time with him, we have enough similar interests to have a common frame of reference and we have enough dissimilar interests to be interesting to each other."

I shrugged, uncertain if he wanted more. His eyes were on me and he saw the gesture. But he said nothing.

"But other than being fun to flirt with and being very easy on the eyes and being a potential good friend, I'm not sure if I have other interests in him beyond sexual."

"Meaning what?"

"I'm not sure if I have any romantic interest in him. I think I do, though it's clouded with the desire to jump his bones—" Uncle Farid coughed to cover a laugh, but his smile showed beneath his trimmed mustache and the smoke drifting from the end of his cigarette. "—which fogs up the situation enough to keep me guessing. Time will tell, I think, and I'm comfortable with feeling out the possibilities with him as our friendship grows.

"I'm scared, though, as I told you previously. I'm scared I'll mess it up. I'm scared I'm not going to be what he needs. I'm scared he won't be what I need. I'm scared that I might not be ready yet."

"All of which we've discussed."

"Right. We've talked about that stuff. All normal healthy concerns when it comes to any kind of relationship. Gotcha."

His pen scratching across his notepad didn't stop him from prodding, "Then let's move on. Or let's move back, I should say, to the gentleman before Keigan. I believe you said his name was—"

"Andrew. Andrew Smythe. Not Andy, though, ye gods no, never Andy." I couldn't hide the snide tone in my voice. Nor did I want to.

"Yes, let's talk about Andrew-not-Andy."

"Uh... I guess I met him at Nate's gym. I was there picking up Nate since his car was in the shop. I was just holding up the wall while he gathered his gym bag and whatever. Nate, that is, not Andrew.

"Anyway, maybe I was zoned out or, as Nate often puts it, maybe I was aloof, standoffish, whatever." I waved my hand dismissively. "The point being I was waiting, not paying attention to anyone there or anyone walking by or anything happening around me, all my senses and synapses locked on Nate and waiting for him to get his shit together so we could head out.

"All of a sudden this tall, handsome, sexy guy stepped right up into my personal space, but he had this disarming smile and this cheery wave he was doing as he said, 'Hey there.' It snapped me out of my head and I realized several people had come and gone and I'd missed all of it.

"So there's this hot guy looking way too happy in his sweaty gym clothes—obviously this was after his workout, so anyone that energetic hadn't worked out enough, or at least that's what I thought. But he's really good looking and had a nice voice and even sweaty he smelled good and he's trying really hard to grab and keep my attention. Which was nice, I guess, since, back then at least, I was blind to advances and flirtations.

"I said hello and asked him if I could help him in some way, and he said, 'Actually, I was wondering if you'd be interested in having a drink with me sometime.'

"I was gobsmacked. He was so forward. He didn't know me, he knew nothing about me, so how in the hell did he even surmise I was gay instead of some straight gay-bashing freak who'd kick his ass for even suggesting such a thing?

"But there he was, all smiles and happy-go-lucky attitude and confident and damned good looking, with wavy brown hair that was just sweaty enough to be sexy as fuck and emerald green eyes that were bright and crinkling at the corners with his smile and pale skin without a single blemish and a really nice body that wasn't bodybuilder big but wasn't scrawny either, and he just overwhelmed me. Before I could engage my brain enough to consider what was happening and how best to handle it, my dick forced my eyes up and down his body before forcing my mouth to say, 'That would be nice.'

"We went out a few times, he didn't push for sex, didn't act like that was all he wanted, and we started talking on the phone and texting. He seemed like a really nice guy, a bit more energetic than most, but otherwise normal and endearing and friendly and able to hold a conversation about a variety of topics and into healthy living without being a Nazi about it. What wasn't to like?

"So we started dating regularly, getting to know one another, and eventually I invited him in after one of our dates. The sex was phenomenal! That boy knew his way around a dick and everything necessary to make one feel good. And he knew just as much about the male body, all the right buttons, all the right caresses, all the places to kiss and lick and nibble. He loved to cuddle, which thrilled me to no end, and he didn't push for more than I could give."

"You mean sexually?"

"Yeah, sexually. I wasn't ready to bottom and that was just fine with him. He was versatile, he told me, but he was an insatiable bottom without being pushy about it. He had a huge romantic streak, didn't make everything about getting off, focused on bringing me pleasure without being selfish about it—don't get me wrong, I was the same way, but a real lover wants to bring pleasure to their significant other even if it's not always reciprocated immediately. He was the perfect combination of giving and wanting in that regard, so we were duplicates of each other that way.

"Maybe a month down the road and things were going fine, better than fine, and I was feeling like maybe I'd met someone with whom I could build something lasting, something real. Then one day at my apartment, after I'd dragged my tired ass home from a long twenty-four hours at the office due to some stupid emergency that had nothing to do with me or my department, I sprawled out on the couch with my head in Andrew's lap. I'd told him I was too tired to do anything, we could order out later if he was hungry, and I just wanted to rest. I don't usually take naps, but I was wiped out and told him to let me sleep if I did crash and burn.

"I fell asleep. The last thing I remember seeing was him looking down at me as he stroked his fingers through my hair and massaged my chest and abs in a most relaxing manner. Then maybe an hour or two later I woke to an empty apartment.

"No big deal, right? He had to go do something, he figured he'd let me sleep, whatever. So I got up and stumbled into the kitchen for a drink of water, thinking I'd wet my whistle before climbing into bed and forgetting about the world until the next day—assuming I could get back to sleep, which usually I can't if I nap, but that's beside the point and you don't want to hear about that. So... On my way out of the kitchen I happened to notice my keys were gone. When I looked more closely I also noticed my wallet had moved.

"By then I was suspicious. I looked out the kitchen window and noticed my car was gone. Back to the wallet where a quick perusal revealed two of my credit cards were also gone.

"He showed up an hour or so later with groceries. I was fuming but the groceries took the steam right out of my anger engine. He told me he'd forgotten his money, wanted to cook something for dinner, didn't think I'd mind. And I didn't. Not really. It was a sweet gesture, thoughtful, what with not waking me and trying to do some shopping and get back in time to make a meal for me.

"Definitely a keeper, right? Well, not so much. The next day it was still rattling around in my head, so I jumped online and checked my credit cards. He'd bought more than groceries. And he'd used my credit cards on more occasions than just that day.

"In the final reckoning he'd spent almost ten thousand dollars on electronics, alcohol, movies and music, and clothes. All in about two weeks. Needless to say that was the end of our relationship."

"How did it make you feel?" Uncle Farid asked.

"Stupid! Blind, I guess. Gullible even. And a list of other adjectives that don't show me in a good light. I was hurt, betrayed, angry. I blamed myself as much as I blamed Andrew. Once again my blind spot had brought the wrong kind of person to my door. Had I been mindful and watchful rather than pushing all the indications and input into that damnable black hole in my head, I probably would've noticed something. Or I would've noticed some other nice man at the gym or somewhere else and I wouldn't have been suckered by this con artist."

"Did you contact the police?"

"You bet your bottom dollar I did. And I pressed charges. And I hope while he's in jail he meets Bubba and Bubba makes him his bitch and Bubba treats Andrew like a piece of meat with something he can take. Because that's how he treated me..."

Though I was looking out the windows at the time, I was aware of Uncle Farid's concerned gaze. But my hand never moved to the phoenix tattoo even as the idea of being treated like a piece of meat spun my thoughts briefly around Richard. Maybe I was making progress.

"Stepping back in time again to before Andrew," he prompted, "the next previous romantic entanglement was with Marc. Is that correct?"

I let slip a noisy sigh that spoke volumes about what I thought of Marc and having to discuss him. But therapy didn't work by avoiding uncomfortable topics, and I knew my sessions with Uncle Farid were working because a lot of what I'd pushed behind my blind spot was once again clear to me. Which wasn't all good news.

"Marc..." I muttered. "Right. Marc Estevez. Latino hunk, exotic, sensual looks, fantastic body, and a dynamo in bed. The boy could rock my world three ways from Sunday and keep me begging for more."

After a deep breath I told him, "I met Marc at work. He was a consultant with a marketing firm we'd hired. Some of their product had to pass through my office for approval. He was the liaison from the marketing department for the project, so we spent some time together here and there. He told me later he flirted with me the whole time. Clearly I missed it.

"Right before the project ended and the consulting company moved on, he came to my office, closed the door, backed me up against the wall and proceeded to tickle my tonsils with a toe-curling kiss that left me breathless and wanting. I never saw it coming.

"Once he'd finished exploring my mouth with his tongue and exploring my body with his hands—favors I readily returned, I should point out—he stepped back and said he had to do that before he left because he didn't think he'd get another chance. With a dumbfounded look on my face, which he mentioned, he had to tell me about all his failed flirting and his eventual decision to get in my face as he put it.

"Oh yeah, he got in my face alright. Went right in between the lips and as far back as his tongue could reach. After that second kiss I was so turned on I had to leave the office early. Despite what seemed the obvious next step, we didn't jump into bed. Instead we went and had lunch and we talked.

"Marc was smart and interesting, a real marketing guru in his niche, and he had a wicked sense of humor. We got along well in business and the lunch showed we could get along just as well outside of business. So we started dating casually. A movie here, a meal there, drinks one time and miniature golf the next, and then suddenly we were in bed together. I just remember he kept up those kisses that drove me wild and eventually I couldn't refrain from stripping him and throwing him in bed and having my way with him.

"Wow. That's the word that describes sex with Marc. Just wow. He sure knew what he was doing and he sure liked doing it.

"We grew close. I felt maybe we had a connection, something we could build on, something that we could nurture into something even greater.

"But it went downhill quickly. Once he got me in bed that first time, his real self began to surface.

"He didn't like Nate but he liked Mom just fine, though she didn't return the favor. Within weeks of meeting he was essentially moving in, spending most of his time at my apartment. He became increasingly dominant during sex, which isn't my thing at all—I want give and take, equals as it were. His requests that I bottom went from suggestive to strident to demanding.

"He didn't give a flying fuck why that had to wait, why I needed trust and comfort before I could give that to him. I wanted to—shit on a shingle, Uncle Farid, I want to, present tense intended—you have no idea how much, but I'm so scared. It comes down to trust.

"No matter how many times I explained to Marc that it would take time and sincere trust between us, that eventually I'd tell him why I couldn't just hand my ass to him after the first date, he became angry. That anger quickly evolved into an attempt at abuse.

"Needless to say I kicked his ass. I don't play that game. Violence is taboo with me unless it's necessary.

"Obviously," I added quickly when I realized Uncle Farid hardly needed to know why violence was a no-no with me. "Anyway, after I cleaned the floor with him, I kicked him and his shit out of my apartment and out of my life."

"From what you've told me today and what you've told me previously about the situation with Richard, in all three cases the men in question approached you. Would that be a fair assessment?"

"Richard... Marc... Andrew... Yeah, you're right. They came to me, hit on me, filled my vision so I couldn't see anyone else even if I'd been looking. But I wasn't looking. Not with any of them. At least with Marc and Andrew I was so tuned out of the dating frequency that I'd forgotten where to find it on the dial. With Richard... I was young and dumb and lacked maturity and experience, so I didn't know what hit me. I thought being attracted to him and even crushing on him would grow into something greater, and I thought he had real mature feelings for me. You see what those assumptions caused...

"But suddenly with Keigan I realized I wanted to do the asking for the first time, that I've been looking and I like what I see inside and out. I don't know if I'm rushing things, scrambling to fill a void I know is coming when Nate gets his act together or scrambling to fill a void I've had in my life ever since I realized love was a thing. Or, if the planets are aligned, maybe I'm doing the right thing and this is the right path for me to follow."

"Isn't there another one?"

"Another what?" I asked in utter confusion.

"Another romantic interest."

"No. Of course not." I sounded defensive but I couldn't stop. "There have always been just the three, just Richard, Marc and Andrew. Well, four now with Keigan. So, yeah, four. Any others you can think of were quickies, hookups, whatever you want to call them."

"I believe we're using the same standards by which to identify them. That means you're leaving out one romantic interest, right?"

"No. No, I'm not. Of course not. There's just the four."

Looking studiously at me, he fished another cigarette out of his pack, stuck it between his thin lips and lit it, then exhaled a cloud of smoke. His eyes never left mine. After another hit of tobacco, he pushed himself back in his chair a bit and regarded me with stern concern.

Finally he said, "Self-deception is a form of denial."

"Uh... Okay. And...?"

"Denial is the engine that drives your blind spot."

He'd already said as much, though it hadn't sounded like an accusation before.

"Right..."

"There is another romantic interest we haven't discussed."

"That comes as a surprise to me." Even I didn't believe me, but what I suspected to be true wasn't something I could talk about. Not yet anyway.

He regarded me coolly, probably trying to ascertain if I was lying blatantly or innocently. After a few moments he said, "I'd say it's behind your blind spot."

Yeah, it's there alright. I just can't see it clearly yet. But what I can see changes everything.

Thanks to all of you for your interest in this story as well as your support and feedback!

Copyright © 2018 Jason MH; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Interesting.

 I think It’s Nate.

Even tho they are in two different sexual zones (more or less), the relationship he has with Nate gives him everything he’s looking for in his Mr. Right.  

Edited by FanLit
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Another interesting chapter...

 

It could be Nate, but I'm thinking that's unlikely, if only because they've had sex in the past and appear to have moved on from it. And Nate comes across as basically heterosexual (with maybe a little bit of curiosity thrown in).

 

That seems to only leave Kyle... But I can't really see that either. I know Kyle has a some of the qualities that would appeal to Greg, especially being able have an adult conversation. But he's half Greg's age, still only 15, still at school, not able to have a drink with him in a bar or restaurant, not working and able to pay his way. I think all of that combined would stand in the way of a genuine sexual relationship between the two. (Plus the fact that Greg would be concerned about being another Richard?)

 

Sudden thought! ... Uncle Farid was asking about romantic attractions, not sexual ones. Maybe that could include Kyle..? (And maybe Uncle Farid will ask about sexual attractions in a later therapy session...?)

 

I just love a story where I find myself second guessing what will happen. Sometimes I may be right; sometimes wrong. But I'm happy enough to let the author decide for me (although sometimes the author will tell me that he had no hand or say in the matter, and it was the actual characters themselves who led the story).

 

Nate and Uncle Farid both told Greg to talk to Kyle. I'm sure he said he would. But nothing so far has indicated that he has...

 

Thanks, @Jason MH for a great story! :)

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I'm always loath to give away anything until the appropriate time, though I considered adding this as a chapter note somewhere (and still might), but I should point out something: The fact that this story is told as a first-person narrative from Greg's point of view is no accident; in fact, therein rests the biggest piece of information that's been hidden in plain sight (an example of "the forest for the trees"). Everything you know and think you know has come from someone with a distorted view of the world and the people around him. To assume that Greg's impressions of the motivations and thoughts of others are given without flaw is to engage in incautious acceptance. Aside from what other characters say and do directly, everything else has been filtered through Greg's blind spot, including what they're thinking or feeling, or why they did what they did. Now that he's finally made inroads toward dismantling the blind spot, I think you'll see some things differently just as he will.

 

Does that add more confusion to your conjecture? Honestly? I hope so!

 

All of that said, you'll have an answer soon for Uncle Farid's question. With it you'll also learn some things that'll make you question some of what you've already assumed. And, of course, you'll also get more reasons to hate The Fiend/Richard--or maybe just reasons to be so angry with him that you'd like to hunt him down and kill him.

 

Three more chapters and then the third interlude, after which the story gets as real as it can. I said in an early comment that the three main characters each had a need; I never said those needs would be satisfied, but neither did I say they wouldn't be. But there are big changes and problems coming up for each of them.

 

Oh, and you still need to know what Richard did on Greg's fifteenth birthday as well as what ultimately happened to Richard. Those are mysteries for which more clues are forthcoming and that'll ultimately be solved once the story moves forward from the next interlude.

 

12 hours ago, Marty said:

sometimes the author will tell me that he had no hand or say in the matter, and it was the actual characters themselves who led the story

 

That's precisely my response, @Marty. My characters are formed from a mold when I start a story, but after that they're free to develop and grow as circumstances and experiences warrant. More often than not, I'm surprised by what they become as a tale progresses. I like to think I give birth to them then run along behind them with a pen and paper recording their lives as they exist within the world I've written for them.

 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when an author forces characters to do what they want them to do after the characters have already developed into people who'd do no such thing. As they respond to the story, as they say and do things, they become more than the author's creation. To then tell  them "you have to do this" when it's obvious they'd rather go in a different direction makes the story unreadable IMHO.

 

I start with some inspiration and start writing. If I know where I want the story to go (which I don't always) and the characters I have won't get me there, I go back and add more so we can arrive at the proper destination without feeling like it's all been a charade.

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The words "after the characters have already developed into people who'd do no such thing" interest keenly.  A room inhabited by characters and people would be an intriguing, even unsettling, room to enter.

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