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    Libby Drew
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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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Great Restorations - 14. Chapter 14

A CHILL swept through Marc. “What are you talking about?”

“Not now, honey.” His mother tried to brush off the comment, but Marc refused to let it go.

“No. What did you mean?” He didn‘t wait for an answer. “I‘m sorry, but this isn‘t your house anymore. I thought you knew that. In fact” —he gave a shaky, humorless laugh— “I‘m sure you did.”

Marc‘s father stepped forward, putting a hand on his mother‘s arm. She dropped her eyes, but then she always had let him take the lead. Jonathon Wynn liked things a certain way, even when he was slogging through sand dunes or sleeping in mud puddles. Marc understood that his parents had dedicated their lives to humanitarian causes, but their work had done nothing to temper his father‘s controlling nature. He didn‘t have a humble bone in his body.

Jonathon‘s vision was everything. Maggie, Marc‘s mother, had always been a part of that vision. Marc had been quite young when he realized there was no place for him in his father‘s plan.

“This is not the time or place to discuss this,” Jonathon said. “There‘s been a tragedy.”

What gall. “There was a tragedy” —Marc‘s voice broke on the word— “nearly a week ago. Where were you then?” Not that he would have greeted them any differently.

“China,” Maggie answered. She slipped past Jonathon, shrugging him off when he tried to stop her. “We just got word two days ago, when we were able to access the Internet.” She lifted her arms toward him—a question. Grudgingly, Marc stepped into them, and Maggie folded him close. “I‘ve missed you, darling,” she whispered against his shoulder.

The sentiment bounced off Marc‘s heart, inflicting little damage. He‘d heard it one too many times. He returned the perfunctory embrace.

“And I‘m sorry about May,” she added. Now that did sting, but for all the wrong reasons. Marc stepped back so quickly that Maggie stumbled.

“Thank you. But as you probably know, the funeral was yesterday, so I‘m not really sure why you came.” His father‘s earlier statement tasted like ash in the back of Marc‘s mouth, and while it wasn‘t out of character for the man to be casually cruel, he didn‘t usually bluff. So what the hell had he meant?

His father stroked his beard, and his mother suddenly found the floor fascinating. She withdrew to Jonathon‘s side. A pressure built at the base of Marc‘s skull, keeping in time with the rising foreboding. “Well?”

“We found out about May when her lawyer contacted us,” Maggie said. “About the estate.”

“What about it?” Marc asked, finding his footing. The subject of May‘s estate was one he was well versed in. “I don‘t see how it affects you.” He tried not to be deliberately cruel. May had cut Maggie from her will when Marc had turned eighteen. She‘d brushed off his protests, but despite everything he‘d always felt a frisson of guilt about it. “You‘re not a beneficiary. Neither of you are.” He was sure of it. So why was his heart racing in his chest?

Jonathon‘s smug smile, maybe. “According to her lawyer, Marc, the last will May gave him is dated the year you turned ten years old.”

“No.” Marc shook his head. His legs felt shaky, but he wouldn‘t sit and leave his father standing over him. “That‘s wrong. She made a new will when I turned eighteen. I saw it. She gave me her medical power of attorney and made me executor of the estate.” She tried to give me this house, he wanted to yell, but didn‘t. Because he‘d refused her offer, determined to give her a fair price for the property.

“I‘m sorry, Marc,” Maggie said. “But there‘s no record of that anywhere.”

“The hell there isn‘t,” Marc countered, and this time he did yell. His mother had the grace to wince.

“Lower your voice,” Jonathon growled. “Show your mother a little more respect.”

He stepped forward and for one glorious moment, Marc thought they might come to blows. It was a scenario he‘d played in his mind hundreds of times. Jonathon had never struck him, but sometimes Marc had wanted him to, just to have the excuse to hit back, to show that he was furious the only way a child knew how. Furious and confused and hurt.

But one step was all Jonathon took before he lurched to a stop. His eyes focused on something over Marc‘s shoulder. “Who are you?”

Maggie glided closer, long skirt swishing, her expression curious.

Marc didn‘t even bother glancing back. “This is Sawyer Calhoun. Sawyer,” —he took a deep breath— “these are my parents, Jonathon and Maggie Wynn.”

He heard Sawyer walk forward, the sound of his bare feet on the wood loud and distinct, and although he didn‘t touch Marc, he stopped close enough behind for Marc to feel the heat of his body.

“What a surprise,” Sawyer said, voice neutral. “I don‘t believe Marc was expecting you.”

“I don‘t imagine he was,” Jonathon replied, doing a poor job of masking the confusion in his voice.

Maggie bit her lip. “What—pardon me, but what are you doing here so early?”

“What are you doing here so early?” Sawyer countered.

“That‘s none of your business, young man.” Contempt filled Jonathon‘s voice. “However, I do believe it‘s my business to know what you‘re doing in my house at seven a.m. on a Sunday morning.”

Your house?”

Marc glanced over his shoulder. Only then did he notice that Sawyer was similarly shirtless. And from the way his jeans were riding on his hips, he hadn‘t bothered with underwear. Despite everything, Marc smiled. “There’s a misunderstanding over the estate,” he said, believing it completely.

“I asked you a question, Mr. Calhoun.” Jonathon tilted his head back and looked down his nose at the two of them. “Do you often run around other people‘s houses half-dressed first thing in the morning?”

“No,” Sawyer said in a low voice, “not usually.”

“So what are you doing here?”

Sawyer didn‘t answer.

Jonathon snorted. “What are you, his boyfriend or something?”

Marc tensed at the blatant disgust in Jonathon‘s voice. Rage crashed over him, followed by the overwhelming compulsion to defend Sawyer. The door he‘d cracked open last night, the one that he‘d hidden behind for so long, blew right off its hinges.

“Yes,” Marc said loudly, interrupting Sawyer‘s stuttered reply. “He is.”

Shock bombarded him from all sides. His father‘s eyes widened. Clearly, he‘d expected a denial. Maggie gave a clipped cry. Her hand flew to her mouth. “Marc,” she whispered.

At his back, Sawyer‘s surprise was just as acute. He‘d stiffened at Marc‘s words, but when Marc didn‘t recant the statement, he gave an amused huff. Then, very deliberately, he laid his hand on Marc‘s back. “And now that that‘s out in the open,” he said, “perhaps you can explain what the hell you‘re talking about. Since I came in late.”

Jonathon sputtered.

“Marc.” Maggie‘s hands fisted in the folds of her skirt. “Why didn‘t you ever tell me?”

Me. Not us. At least his mother wasn‘t stupid. He‘d known that, small consolation that it had been over the years. “Because it was none of your business,” he settled on. After all, it was more truth than not.

Red-faced, Jonathon paced the floor. “I don‘t approve.”

Marc‘s gut reaction was to laugh, but Sawyer beat him to it, his amusement loud and genuine. His hand on Marc‘s back slid around to his waist. He stepped closer, pressing into Marc‘s side. “I‘m under the impression your approval means very little around here, Jonathon.”

“You treat me with some respect, son.”

“I‘m not your son.”

Maggie intervened before Marc could. “Jon.” She tugged him away from Sawyer. “Please don‘t do this.”

At Marc‘s side, Sawyer thrummed with tension. One glance at his face was enough to convince Marc that Sawyer would be quite happy if Jonathon took the confrontation to the next level. Marc wouldn‘t give his father the satisfaction. He stepped between them. There was a moment when Sawyer resisted, physically straining forward, then some of the anger left his eyes, and he backed down.

Jonathon snorted. “How sweet. Going to let Marc fight his own battle?”

“He‘s more than capable.”

“Not in my experience.”

Sawyer pulled a deep breath in through his nose. His voice emerged low and deadly. “What experience?”

Jonathon scooped his hat off the table. Marc glanced over his shoulder to find Sawyer tracking Jonathon‘s hands as he rolled the rim of his hat back and forth.

“We‘d like you to leave now,” Sawyer said, voice icy but polite.

“Would you? Mr. Calhoun, I haven‘t seen my son in five years. And there are obviously things we need to discuss. We‘re not leaving until they‘re sorted out.” There was an actual shake in Jonathon‘s voice. The situation had upset him, but as for which part had made him angry and unsure, Marc had no idea. He‘d bet it was the money.

To the side, his mother watched and waited, but something on her face caught Marc‘s eye. Her cheeks were like chiseled stone, and her eyes flashed. She was angry, but at whom? It was altogether an unusual moment, as, according to Aunt May at least, Maggie didn‘t have a confrontational bone in her body.

“There‘s obviously plenty to discuss,” Sawyer said. “But it‘s seven o‘clock on a Sunday morning. Some advance notice of your visit would have been appreciated.”

Jonathon‘s control slipped a fraction. One hand twisted extra hard on the hat. Marc heard a distinct rip. “So now I need an appointment to see my own son?”

Bitterness flavored the air, all Jonathon‘s. Marc had let go of his regrets long ago. “I don‘t think an appointment is too out of line,” he said. “It’s seemed to work for you in the past.”

Jonathon‘s face went purple. “Maggie!” he barked. “We‘re leaving.” He took her by the arm roughly, and even though she‘d been little more than a face in a photograph all his life, Marc‘s body jerked in a primal reaction.

“Hey, take it easy,” Sawyer growled.

Jonathon stalked across the kitchen, pulling Maggie behind him. “You have no right to demand anything of me,” he spat, jarring Sawyer‘s shoulder as he passed. When Sawyer spun to follow, Marc grabbed his wrist. “I wasn‘t sure what we‘d find here, Marc,” Jonathon said, “but it wasn‘t this.” When he reached the kitchen door, he stopped and whispered something in Maggie‘s ear. She stiffened, but walked away without a parting word. Marc watched her go.

Jonathon‘s nostrils flared. “I won‘t sugarcoat it. This money will take our current project farther than I ever imagined. It will bring medical care and education to kids who wouldn‘t have dared dream of such things a week ago. I‘m sorry. I truly am. I figured your Aunt would have left you something, but despite her oversight, your mother and I were prepared to be generous with you.”

“Prepared to be generous,” Marc murmured. Dizzy, head spinning, he shook his head at his father. “None of this belongs to you.”

“I‘m afraid the law says differently.” Jonathon set his hat on his head. “You can stay here. For now. But you aren‘t to come near your aunt‘s place, is that clear? Tomorrow, when the will gets read, we‘ll see what‘s what. And don‘t think your behavior,” he spat the word, looking at Sawyer with plain hatred, “won‘t count for something when your mother and I discuss what portion, if any, of May‘s estate you‘ll be getting.”

Before Marc could form a retort, he was gone, boots clomping heavily down the hall. The front door slammed hard enough to rattle the front windows. Marc‘s labored breathing was the only sound in the room.

Shaking, he turned from Sawyer to stand at the same window his mother had been admiring a few minutes earlier. Sawyer sidled up and slid an arm around his waist. Marc leaned backward, relishing how solid Sawyer felt when everything else seemed to be crumbling around him.

“Okay, let‘s not panic,” Sawyer mumbled in his ear. “All we know is what they said. Your father could be bluffing.”

Marc placed a fist against the window. He had to swallow twice before he could work enough saliva to speak. “Not his style. He‘s not a gambler, but he knows how to make the most of a situation. If what he says is true, he‘ll have both houses sold out from underneath me as soon as the estate clears probate.”

Sawyer stiffened. “He wouldn‘t.”

There was little point in debate. Marc knew certain things about his father. Jonathon would sell both properties in a heartbeat and auction whatever else would bring a buck. No way would he let Marc keep his house; it was the most valuable asset in the estate. Jonathon truly didn‘t see it as greed. It was necessary: he wanted to do certain things, and money paved the way for those things.

Marc scrubbed his hands over his eyes, trying not to panic. “This has got to be a mistake. I‘d call May‘s lawyer now, but I doubt I‘d get anyone. Not on a Sunday.”

After a gentle kiss to Marc‘s temple, Sawyer stepped away to make a pot of coffee. “Monday will be soon enough. We’ll get it sorted, Marc. I’m sure it’s a mistake or some sort of oversight.”

Probably true. Marc tried to focus. Form some action plan. Instead all he could think about was watching the remnants of his aunt‘s life being sold off without a care, and his house—a place he‘d made his own—being ripped away from him.

No. Ridiculous.

“It‘s just a mistake,” he whispered. A big mistake. But repeating it in his head didn‘t help.

“I‘m sure it is,” Sawyer added, voice loud and sure. He scooped coffee into the filter, then slid it into the machine. Hearing such certainty in Sawyer‘s voice eased some of the dread. Marc took a deep breath for the first time since he‘d seen his parents standing in his kitchen.

“There‘s not really anything we can do today.” Sawyer strode back to the window, taking up his place at Marc‘s back. “So let‘s rest. We can watch movies and eat leftovers.” He pressed his nose into Marc‘s hair, and Marc shivered.

“All right. But there‘s something else I need to do first.”

Sawyer protested when Marc shared his plan. “Today? You have to do that today? On top of everything else?”

Marc held firm. “I don‘t want to put it off.” There was no sense, and both he and Rachel needed to move on. “The sooner the better.”

***

RACHEL had said to call. Maybe she‘d thought Marc would appreciate how it distanced the discussion. He couldn‘t say it hadn‘t crossed his mind, especially considering his fractured emotions, but a phone call would be the easy way out. Rachel deserved better.

He‘d reconciled himself over the years to hiding his sexuality, considering it just one more personal detail the rest of the world had no right to know. Some considered it cowardly, he was sure. Even Sawyer. And Marc supposed it was, depending on one‘s perspective. And in this case, it had been. There was no middle ground here. No gray area. He‘d misled Rachel for months. Lied through omission. The least he could do was face her in person, even if it meant a slap in the face. He certainly deserved it.

His plan to see her right away hadn‘t gone over well with Sawyer. “Give it a little time,” he‘d said. “You don‘t have to do this today.”

“I don’t want to wait. I don’t want anything between us to fester,” Marc had replied, believing it.

But now, standing at her door at barely nine in the morning, he was having second thoughts. The warm safety of Sawyer‘s arms was a near physical pull, urging him to turn around, get back in the truck, and run home.

No. No more running. He rang the doorbell.

Rachel answered promptly, one arm in her jacket, balancing her purse and travel mug in her free hand. She froze in place when she saw Marc, then relaxed. Her eyes went soft with fondness. “I‘m impressed.”

“Thanks.” He ran a hand over his cheeks and chin. “I didn‘t want to wait.”

“Like pulling off a bandage, right?” She laughed at his shock, waving off his stuttering. “Have a seat,” she said, pointing at her front steps. “It‘s too beautiful a morning to do this inside.”

At one time, Marc would‘ve refused. He would‘ve scanned the neighboring lawns for snooping neighbors, protesting the public tête-à-tête. Not anymore. Let them listen. “Sure. Whatever you want.” He took her coffee and slipped the purse off her shoulder. Rachel shrugged the rest of the way into her coat, then pulled her cell phone from her pocket.

“Just a minute, okay? Let me call the diner and tell them I‘m going to be late.”

Marc nodded and stepped away to give her some privacy. It was a beautiful morning, brisk but brilliantly sunny. Red and orange leaves littered Rachel‘s small patch of lawn. The houses that bordered hers were close, joined by short picket fences. Small, but attractive and well-kept, they gave the neighborhood a homey feel. Here and there, pots of yellow mums decorated the landscape. Most of the other houses on the street were quiet, sleepy with Sunday morning lethargy. Marc turned up the collar of his jacket and lowered himself onto the top step, setting Rachel‘s bag and coffee beside him.

“Everything okay?” Rachel asked whoever was on the other end of the line. “Good. I‘m going to be late. Call me if things start to get out of hand, but I should be there well before the after-church crowd. Okay. Bye.”

She pocketed the phone, and with a sigh, sank onto the porch beside Marc, pressing against his side. It felt natural to slip an arm around her waist when she laid her head on his shoulder. They probably made a pretty romantic picture. Yet another illusion.

Rachel sighed again. “Who starts?”

Marc pulled her closer. “I‘m so fucking sorry, Rachel. I don‘t even really know what to say beyond that.” He shook his head. “No, that‘s not true. I do, I guess.” Everything sounded trite in his head. Too rehearsed. Not rehearsed enough. “I‘ve been a real bastard.”

“Maybe.” She lifted her head, brushing the dark hair from her eyes. Again, Marc was struck by her beauty—how many times had he cursed himself for not being able to respond to it? On the hard days, the long ones, when all he had the energy for was to climb the stairs to his bed, when the fatigue was as emotional as it was physical, he‘d thought of how much easier things would be if he could imagine her as more than a friend. Those were the times when he‘d been at his weakest. When he‘d been the loneliest, he realized, even though he‘d never identified himself as so at the time.

He wasn‘t lonely anymore.

“Maybe you‘ve been a real bastard.” Pensive, pressing her fingers to her lips, Rachel stared into the distance. “But I‘ve been no better.”

Marc was still processing that statement when she took his face gently in her grasp and turned him to face her. “You know what I went through. With that guy.”

“Yeah.” He knew. The details had come out a few at a time, and after each story, Marc had needed to go home and hammer a box of nails into a spare piece of lumber until the urge to hunt the bastard down had passed.

“I didn‘t think I‘d ever be able to trust another man. I really didn‘t,” she said, swiping a tear from her cheek. She sniffed and blew out a breath. “And I thought when I met you: wow, now here‘s what you need, Rach. A guy who doesn‘t pressure you. Who doesn‘t demand anything. Who‘s content to go slow because you‘re just a little bit fucked up.” Her voice caught on a sob.

Marc curled her against his chest. “You‘re not fucked up.”

“Oh, stop lying through your teeth, Marc Wynn,” she groused, slipping her own arms around him. “My point is, I was using you too. I didn‘t mean for it to go past one date. I just wanted to get these small town vultures off my back, you know?”

With a laugh, Marc nodded. He knew.

“But you were so sweet and so nice. And easy to talk to. And undemanding.” She waved her hand in the air. “And I kept dreading the night you decided we‘d talked enough and you wanted something more than a good-night kiss.”

Cold fury rose in Marc. He‘d thought a lot in the past year about pushing her to press charges against the bastard. He mumbled something of the sort now, and Rachel snorted. “It wouldn‘t have done any good. And I‘d be no less messed up, to be honest.”

“It would have made me feel better,” Marc volleyed. The tension cracked, then shattered. They both laughed.

“If there was harm done,” Rachel said, voice dreamy once more, “then it‘s only fair to say it was done on both sides. “But…” She kissed his cheek, lips lingering near his ear. “I‘d rather we didn‘t remember it as something so tainted. We each gave the other something important. Something the other needed. Isn‘t that what relationships are all about?”

Marc frowned. He knew what Rachel had given him. “Doesn‘t seem like a fair trade. You just said I scared you.”

“No, Marc. No.” Rachel slid down a step. She clasped his hands in hers and squeezed. “You never scared me. I scared myself. And that‘s the thing, don‘t you get it? I stopped being scared while I was with you. I think….” She sniffed. “I think I‘m going to be okay now. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But eventually.” Tears leaked from her eyes and tracked down her cheeks, but she laughed. “That‘s what you gave me. Time. Time to believe in myself again.” She cupped his cheek in her palm. “Thank you.”

“Seems like I‘m getting off a bit too easy here,” Marc said, voice rough.

Rachel rolled her eyes. She stood, retrieving her purse and mug. “Why is it that people think life has to be so hard all the time? Sometimes it just falls into place.” She bent to kiss his cheek. “So roll with it. See you ‘round, sweetie.” She threw a parting wave over her shoulder as she headed for her car. A minute later, she was behind the wheel, the engine on her old Volkswagen rattling the quiet morning air. A minute after that she was gone, leaving Marc alone on the steps to her house, filled with relief and wonder.

Copyright © 2022 Libby Drew; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. 
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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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O.M.G. @Libby Drew Kate's 'Get Out Of My House' was playing in my head at such an intense volume at the start of this chapter it almost caused me to fall off my dining chair. What a showdown between good and evil, truth and dishonesty, humility and arrogance, beauty and ugliness.

@Doha expressed my sentiments perfectly "Marc's father is a single-minded, domineering man. His mum is a doormat." Given Jonathan's behaviour I find it difficult to believe, although not impossibly so, he is so altruistic. Unless Marc has witnessed his parents engaging in humanitarian work, I am very sceptical this has been the reason for their prolonged absences from his life. Perhaps I am reading more into this than what you intended @Libby Drew, but I believe it may be quite telling that you have written "Marc understood that his parents had dedicated their lives to humanitarian causes, but their work had done nothing to temper his father‘s controlling nature. He didn‘t have a humble bone in his body". The word understood implies to me that this is something Marc has been led to believe is the case, hearsay in fact, when in fact it may not be.

Sawyer, Sawyer, Sawyer! What can one say about his "performance" in this chapter, but sexy, sweet and all so sassy. He was magnificent in his interactions with Jonathan and Maggie, his acerbic responses worthy of Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame. She came to mind very quickly as Sawyer's responses barely disguised the contempt he felt for both. And what a surprise (NOT), Jonathan is a narrow-minded bigot when it comes to homosexuality. Sawyer is going to have fun with that; perhaps he can invite Bruce to join them. And if Finn proves to be the ace up Marc and Sawyer's sleeve that others are predicting, then we are in for fun times.

I want to see Jonathan and Maggie working in the equivalent of Wal-Mart and living in a trailer park in Texas. They will be able to do their "humanitarian" work a little closer to home. I hope Marc turns his back on both of them, permanently. 

 

Edited by Summerabbacat
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