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    Mrsgnomie
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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. 

Dichotomy of Love - 5. Part One. Chapter Five.

Kyan blinked awake. His body felt like he was waking from a drug-induced coma. When he moved his head, drool smeared across his cheek. He propped himself up and tried to clean his face on the pillow only to realize the pillow was Perry’s bare back, the spot between his shoulder blades. Kyan’s body was draped over his brother-in-law, his long leg thrown over the back of Perry’s hairy thigh. It was the most comfortable position he’d ever slept in.

With a sigh, he rolled off Perry and out of bed. He wiped the drool off with the back of his hand. If it wasn’t for his morning wood, which had been pressed against his brother-in-law’s hip, he might’ve stayed.

Kyan threw on a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie, laid an extra set of clothes on the bed, then padded out to make a pit stop in the bathroom.

He walked into the kitchen and stopped in his tracks. The sunrise was always showing off, but this morning, the orange and purple glowed like fire over Mt. Hood. He couldn’t take his eyes off the sky as he brewed coffee, leaning against the counter in complete awe and wonder.

With coffee in hand, he sat in the blue plaid seventies-style glider chair. Dayna scored it at an estate sale a few weeks after they moved into the house. She begged Perry to pick it up in his truck so she could surprise Kyan. It was hideous, but she was so excited he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. It was now his favorite spot in the house—just off the kitchen in the little nook next to the dining table—with the best view of the backyard, and Dayna’s pond.

He was halfway through his second cup when his bedroom door squeaked.

Perry lumbered into the kitchen looking like the walking dead. His black hair was hilariously disheveled, sections of it plastered to his head and others sticking out. His face was creased and his eyes were a little hazy.

“Sleep well?” he asked, smiling behind his coffee cup.

Perry staggered to the coffeemaker and grunted.

Kyan chuckled because, yeah, that summed it up. He knew what it was like to wake up from a coma. He watched with much amusement as Perry poured his cup, then leaned his hip on the counter and cherished the first few sips in silence.

“How long have you been awake?” Perry finally asked. His voice was deep and gravelly, like he needed to clear his throat. “I don’t remember you getting up.”

“Mmm, maybe forty minutes ago? I was quiet as a mouse when I left. The last thing I needed was for you to wake up to—” Kyan remembered the state of his body and decided not to finish that sentence.

“Wake up to what?”

Kyan laughed. In for a penny, in for a pound. “Let’s just say my body didn’t care who I was with, only that it had been three years since…” he paused and gave Perry time to figure out where he was going with this. Alas, Perry was too sleep-riddled. Kyan pressed him with a hard question look. C’mon, you got this.

Perry’s face reddened. “Ohhh.” He took a sip of his coffee and grinned. “No wonder I slept so great.”

Heat crept up Kyan’s neck, and he laughed. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Perry just smiled and sat in a nearby dining chair. He pulled another chair out and propped his feet on it. They drank coffee and admired the sunrise in companionable silence until the kids came out.

They were so cute in the morning, with their little pajamas and messy hair.

Despite being promised breakfast, Perry manned the kitchen while Kyan watched from the glider. The older kids were under Perry’s feet as they helped make breakfast, while Gracie kept her arms wrapped around his neck and giggled at the havoc being wrecked by her siblings.

By the time they finished, Perry had to scramble out. He looked at the kitchen and cringed at the batter splatter, crumbs, and orange juice spills.

Kyan shooed him off. “Get to work and make them big bucks.”

“Sorry,” Perry mouthed as he rushed about in yesterday's clothes. Kyan held the front door while Perry grabbed his keys and kissed the kids on the head before running out of the house.

Kyan held a rag under the hot water and wondered how pancake splatter ended up on the refrigerator. The kitchen was small, but not that small.

It didn’t matter. Perry could leave the house in shambles and Kyan would never say a bad word about it.

The unspoken truth, the thing that had been going on for a while but no one talked about, was that Perry was, essentially and for all intents and purposes, providing financially for Kyan and the kids. Kyan was sure of it. Dayna’s life insurance had been enough to get by for a little while, but it was nowhere near enough to keep him in the home three years later.

It started innocently. Perry picked up the tab whenever they went out and randomly dropped groceries by the house after work. Stuff like that. After a year, at one of the monthly budget meetings, they went over credit cards. Kyan never used them, too afraid of racking up debt. Perry handed him a blue card and told him to use it for everything he could, that it would make things easy to track. Plus, something about points.

Kyan did as he was told.

Perry took care of everything else, like rent and utilities, the same as he always had. Kyan assumed it came out of his own account, but the budget meetings slowly disappeared. Kyan wasn’t sure when it happened. One night, Perry showed up with pizza, and by the time the kids finished watching a movie and went to bed, they had run out of time.

And they never picked it back up.

Part of him wanted to stop Perry from being so generous, but mostly he wasn’t ready to leave his kids in someone else’s hands. So, he put his head in the sand. It wouldn’t be forever, he reasoned. Jessica had a job waiting for him when he was ready, with her in the office of Jed’s trucking business. What he was going to do was still a mystery, but it was better than nothing.

But he wasn’t ready. Maybe when Gracie was in school full time, he told himself. Or until Perry asked for the blue card back, and the gas card, and stopped bringing groceries over, and brought the budget back.

Whichever came first.

The guilt he felt, knowing he was taking advantage of Perry, ate at him something terrible. He thought back to yesterday when he’d yelled at Perry to get out of his house. It was the house Perry was paying rent for.

He rang the towel out and scrubbed the dried batter from the stainless appliance.

****

Noah, Ava, and Henry stood in front of the pond in their very best clothes. It felt like just yesterday Kyan had walked Noah into pre-school. Now he was posing for his first day of second grade. If that wasn’t bad enough, the twins were entering kindergarten.

They were cute in their semi-matching outfits. A denim skort for Ava, jeans for Henry, and cream sweaters for both. The days of twins twinning were numbered. Kyan didn’t particularly care, but he knew Dayna would love it.

Henry’s hair was a simple buzz cut because he wanted to do what Noah did. Ava wanted her long wavy hair chopped into a short pixie style. A look she cried over for days, but had grown to love just in time for school.

Gracie marched over in her mismatched pajamas, inside-out sweater, and backward shoes. She stood in front of her siblings with her dark hair in a messy ponytail and smiled big with her hands thrown out to the side. Kyan snapped a few photos, then pocketed his phone.

“Let's load up!”

The twins got to pick the music. “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the win, thanks to cousin Charlie.

For Noah, Kyan followed the line of cars in the parent drop-off line. Tuck and roll, kiddo.That was it. Easy peasy. Kindergarten was another story. The only thing that had changed since he battled the pitying looks and gossipy murmurs with Noah were some new faces.

Ava pulled Kyan and her siblings through the front doors. She was ready to take on the world. Meanwhile, Henry kept his face buried in his dad’s side. Kyan laughed, remembering how much Henry wanted to go to school when it was Noah’s turn.

Kyan ran his hand over Henry’s softly bristled hair then, not looking, promptly ran straight into another parent. “Oh, sorry!” he said, as he pulled his three kids close to his body so they weren’t in the way.

A man turned and smiled. Kyan didn’t know much about fashion, but with carefully styled short blond hair and sharp features, this guy could be a model. Kyan would go as far as to say he was beautiful. A bit like Dan Stevens from “Downton Abbey.”

“No worries,” the stranger said, his voice smooth but with an upbeat inflection and a megawatt smile. The man then nodded down the hall, where the holdup was, and rolled his eyes. “Rumor is there’s some ‘mix up’ on who is in what class. The administration is involved now, all because some Karen is throwing a tizzy fit because her darling didn’t get the first choice teacher.”

Kyan held back a laugh. “Sounds dramatic.”

“You’d think this was Yale admissions, not a half-day at public kindergarten.”

“People are serious about their kids’ education.”

The dad—Kyan assumed he was some child’s father—rolled his eyes and stuck out his hand. “I’m Max.”

“Kyan.”

“I’m Keegan’s guardian. Keegan is—” Max looked around for his charge, then slumped when he spotted him wrestling with another kid at the end of the hall. “Nevermind.”

Kyan laughed and put an arm around the twins. “This is Ava and Henry. They’re in Mrs. Greene’s class.” He pulled his arm from behind his back, bringing with it the wild savage who had been trying to break free of his hold since they arrived. She looked and behaved like she had never seen the light of day, locked in a basement her whole life. Kyan wished she had been cooperative this morning, but he didn’t have the fight in him. “And this is Miss Gracie.”

She frowned, then made a run for it again. She had a lot of confidence for someone still in pajamas. And again, she was inhibited by her dad’s mighty strength.

Max brightened. “We have Mrs. Greene as well,” he said, ignoring the threenager’s theatrics. He leaned in closer and whispered. “That’s also who ‘Karen’ is fighting over. Which is why we’re still in the hall.”

Max looked at the crowd and realized everyone was watching them. He frowned. “Yikes. Who died?”

Kyan had to laugh. “That would be my wife.”

“Ha ha. Nice try.”

“I’m serious.”

Max studied Kyan, then paled. “Ohmygod. You’re serious.”

Kyan nodded. “Three years ago but still big news, I guess.”

“Oh shit. Just shoot me,” Max groaned. “Unless that’s how she…”

“Delivery complications.”

Max frowned. “That’s just terrible.” The line started moving. “I’m sorry I opened my mouth. I didn’t mean to—”

“You didn’t know. Besides, you're the first person to say something to my face, even if accidentally. Most people skirt around it. They probably assume it’s polite to avoid the elephant.”

The guy still looked like he wanted to throw himself off a bridge. Normally, Kyan would have said something more to ease the discomfort, but he needed to get the twins checked in.

Kyan, now carrying a squirming Gracie, walked around with Ava and Henry and oohed and ahhed at the cubbies, the whiteboard, the charts for weather and days of the week. Everything looked identical to when Noah was in the class.

When Kyan and Gracie left, Ava was already at a table, chatting with girls. Henry was being led off on a new adventure by a couple of kids with bright smiles. His nervous Nelly was going to be just fine.

He walked Gracie back to the Honda Pilot. Leftover muffin crumbled under Kyan’s knee as he leaned in to secure the straps over her shoulders. “Maybe we’ll swing by the car wash and get this thing cleaned out,” he told her. “You always like going through the car wash.” Which was a total lie. She hated it and was about to let everyone in a fifty-mile radius know exactly how much she despised it, but Kyan smiled. “Just kidding.”

Kyan double-checked Gracie’s harness, brushed the crumbs from his knee, and then brushed as much as he could out the door. He’d get the rest later.

He turned … and ran straight into Max.

“Long time, no see,” he singsonged. Before Kyan could respond, Max continued. “Anyway, it appears you and I are the only STADs in a hundred miles.”

“STADs?”

“Stay-at-home dads. Even though I’m not technically a dad. Anyway, there’s like one million mom group-type things, but they’re lame—I assume. That’s why we should start our own club. Stand united and all that. Maybe get coffee once a week or something? I mean, the moms flock over there—” he nodded in the rough direction of the local cafe, “—while they wait for the kids to get out. But it’s good, right? Probably worth it.”

“Uhh.” Kyan blinked. “Yeah. Coffee sounds great. I do have Gracie, though.”

“Perfect! Kids are the best. Here, give me your phone.” Kyan slowly held his phone out. When Max finished programming his info, he handed it back. “Are you busy Thursday?”

“Eh, not that I know of?”

“It’s a date! Let’s meet at Mo’latte. Be discreet. I don’t want these moms butting into our time. They’re so territorial. Anyway, gotta run.” Max’s expensive, camel-colored wool jacket blew in the wind as he strode away. No way his baby blue oxford shirt and crisp khakis were purchased at Coastal Farm and Ranch.

Kyan watched as Max got into a shiny black Range Rover and drove away. He had a feeling that man would be interesting, to say the least.

****

In the middle of breakfast, brushing teeth, and threenager tantrums, Kyan’s phone beeped.

Max: Don’t forget to be incognito!

He pocketed his phone, then immobilized Gracie’s head and wiped the food from her face. While he was at it, he tidied her hair with some sparkling clips to match her dress and wondered what Max had in mind. What did it mean to be ‘incognito’? It was probably a state of mind more than anything else, but he grabbed a black hoodie to be funny.

****

 

“I said ‘be discreet,’ and that’s what you wear?”

The black hoodie was not discreet compared to Max’s trench coat, sunglasses, and fedora hat. Kyan was not dressed for a 1950s stakeout. But he had one last card up his sleeve. He grabbed the hood and pulled it over his head for full effect.

Max pointed toward the door. “Get out. Leave and don’t come back.”

Kyan laughed. “I thought I did good. I didn’t realize I was coming to a costume party.”

“If this is what I get when I try to have fun, then forget it.” He snatched off the hat and aviators. Kyan worried he offended Max, but the man’s smile gave him away. He seemed like a really genuine and kind person. The least Kyan could do was humor the man, so he held out his hand and waited.

Max narrowed his eyes but handed over the accessories and watched as Kyan put the fedora and aviators on. Max crossed his arms, but smirked. “You look like you’re going to stand up and read poetry.”

“Maybe I will…after coffee.”

Max’s eyes lit up. “Then coffee is on me!”

They walked across the cafe, attracting interest from the cliques of moms who were sipping coffee and kibitzing. Kyan kept his eyes forward and adjusted the fedora so it sat lower on his face. “I don’t think the costumes are working,” he murmured.

“They’re just jealous bitches, angry that the token gay dad and the cute widower are forming an alliance,” Max stage-whispered. “They’re trying to figure out how to be the mom that gets invited so they can have bragging rights. Ha! Fat chance.” It was their turn to order. Max grinned at the barista. “Hi, can I get a twenty-ounce, one pump white chocolate and one pump praline iced mocha and a—” he looked expectantly at Kyan.

“Medium latte and a very small kid’s cocoa.”

When the order was ready, Gracie was under Kyan’s feet, then trying to climb his legs like a cat to get to her drink. Thank god she didn’t have claws.

He gathered her grabby hands in one of his and held them above her head (so she couldn’t climb) and walked her to the other side of the cafe. “Let’s sit at the table first.”

She scrambled onto a chair and pushed back the loose strands that had fallen from her sparky clips, then cupped her hands together like she was accepting a priest's offering. Kyan laughed and held the cup out. Despite her vibrating excitement, Gracie took it carefully.

“She’s pretty dang cute,” Max complimented, as he watched her take her first sip.

“God made her extra cute to compensate for making her extra—difficult”, he mouthed.

Max looked genuinely sympathetic. “I feel that. Keegan has always been easygoing, but his mom left for rehab a few weeks ago, and he’s been acting out, which is understandable. I just hope I can create a stable and safe place for him.”

“How long will she be in rehab?”

“With my sister? Who knows? I love her to death but she’s the captain of the hot mess express and always has been. I wish I could say I’m hopeful this is what she needs to turn her life around, but it’s hardly her first time down this road. When she got pregnant with Keegan, I thought things would change, but that hasn’t been the case. I don’t know…” Max sighed heavily. “Part of me hopes she figures it out this time, and part of me hopes she walks away from Keegan completely. He is such an amazing kid, and she keeps jerking him around.”

“I’m guessing you’d be okay taking him long-term?”

“Of course! I love that kid. He’s my favorite person in the entire world. I wish my sister was good for him so I could be the best uncle ever, but I’m more than willing to be his primary provider. Whatever he needs, I’m there.”

Kyan smiled. “Sounds like you are the best uncle ever.”

“Damn right I am. Are you an uncle?”

“I am. My late wife’s older sister has a daughter, Charlie. She was a teenager when we met. We’ve always gotten along great. I love that girl.”

“There truly is something special about uncles. It annoys me that society gives men an out from being engaged with their nieces and nephews. I think if a man is a good uncle, it says a lot about who he is as a person.”

Being a stay-at-home dad came with its own battles, Kyan thought. If it was hard for society to understand a man wanting to be engaged with his own kids, then uncles had it considerably harder.

Then Kyan remembered the argument he and Perry had the other day. God. He was a terrible person.

“What’s that face you're making?”

“Thinking about a fight I had with my brother-in-law the other day.”

Max sipped his coffee and waited for Kyan to continue.

“Perry is one of those great uncles you’re talking about. He’s always around, helping with anything and everything. Wee were out shopping, and I made a comment that he probably had better things to do than spend the day with us. It pissed him off. I felt terrible at the time, but now I feel worse. I hate it when people make judgments about me wanting to be with my kids all the time, and here I am, doing the same to Perry.”

Max shook his head with great disappointment. “The first time I saw you, I remember thinking to myself, ‘this guy looks like a stand-up dude’. But really, you're just an asshole like everyone else.”

Kyan laughed. “I really am.”

“So, what are you going to do about it?”

“About how I treated Perry?”

“Of course. You should make sure he knows you know you messed up. As an uncle who loves my nephew to pieces, that kind of acknowledgment would go a long way.”

“Then it looks like I’m making him dinner tonight. Although… he eats dinner with us almost every night, so that isn’t really a special gesture.” Kyan strummed his fingertips against his cheek as he tried to figure out what he could do for Perry.

“He eats dinner with you guys every night? No wife or kids?”

“Perry is gay, so no wife, and also no husband. And nope, no kids.”

Max sat up with newfound interest. “You’re telling me you have this brother-in-law who is a wonderful uncle that does so much for his nieces and nephews, and he happens to be gay?”

Kyan smiled, knowing exactly where this was going. “Yes.”

Max leaned forward and rested his chin on his fist. “I have so many questions. First, and most importantly… is he single?”

“He hasn’t mentioned anyone or brought anyone around.”

“Have you ever asked directly? You know, ‘hey super amazing uncle, are you seeing anyone?’

Kyan thought about it. “No, not explicitly. But I’m sure he would’ve said something.”

“Ugh.” Max rolled his eyes as though Kyan’s lacking interrogation skills majorly inconvenienced him. “Is he a Grindr kind of guy? Or, like, more wholesome?”

“Grindr is a hookup app, right?”

“Yes.”

“I think he’s more wholesome than that, but I could be wrong. For all I know, he’s a giant slut when no one is looking.”

“Okay…” Max took a calming breath. “Do you know his batting preference?”

“I don’t know about his batting preference, but he’s a strong second baseman. He’s played that position since high school. He will cover third if the team is in a pinch.”

Max palmed his forehead. “Do you ever talk to this man about his personal life?”

“He had a serious boyfriend when I met him,” Kyan offered.

“Why’d they break up?”

He searched his memory. “Dayna said they split on good terms. Nothing special, she said it just didn’t work out.”

“But you never talked to him about it?”

“Well, I guess not…” Kyan felt pretty damn guilty for not being able to answer these questions. Was he really so self-absorbed?

“New plan,” Max announced. “Instead of telling Perry you’re sorry for assuming he shouldn’t be a great uncle, how about you take an actual interest in his life? Straight men afraid of hearing gay stuff is a tale as old as time. Gay men have so many obstacles, don’t be one of them.”

“I’m not afraid of gay stuff. In fact, I tried to set him up with someone after his breakup, but Dayna told me to leave it alone. She said it was too soon.”

“How long ago was that?”

Kyan slumped in his chair because he knew his new friend would not like the answer.

Max grinned like a smug cat. “That’s what I thought.”

“I know a lot about Perry,” Kyan said defensively. “He’s my best friend.”

“Are you his best friend?”

Kyan growled. “Anyone ever told you how annoying you are?”

Max’s eyes sparkled. “Sure, all the time. It’s part of my charm. I’ll be annoying as fu—dge—” he glanced at Gracie to see if she caught his faux pas. She hadn’t. “—if it means helping straight men be better friends to gay men. There is nothing to be afraid of.”

“I might not know if he uses Grindr or why he and Jerrod broke up, and I don’t know why Perry and I haven’t had more conversations about personal stuff, but it’s not because I’m afraid. I have no problem talking about stuff. We’ve just never done it. I can admit the last few years have been a little rough, and I haven’t been the best version of myself. ”

“That’s understandable, but I think now is a good time to make changes. If you’re ready.”

“Happily.” As stupid and ridiculous as Kyan felt for falling short on his friendship with Perry, he was eager to turn it around. He had a lot to make up for, but he was ready.

“Oh—” Max’s eyes widened in excitement. “Is he cute?”

Kyan didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

“Oooh, you finally have an answer! Good for you.” Max looked at the time, then grabbed his stuff. “Time to grab the munchkins. The next time I see you, you better have all the deets for me.”

Copyright © 2023 Mrsgnomie; 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.
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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