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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.
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Dichotomy of Love - 8. Part One. Chapter Eight.

Having kids was hard.

Having the twin’s birthday party at the trampoline park was not hard.

It was the first year since Noah turned four that they invited other kids. After Dayna died, it was too much work for Kyan. Granted, it was only Keegan and two other kids, but the twins were ecstatic.

Kyan picked Gracie up and tossed her into the foam pit. She flew through the air, squealing at the top of her lungs with her limbs flailing about. She sank so deep into the foam pit you could barely see her wide smile and rosy cheeks.

It was fun to bully his kids, pushing them into the foam pit or stealing their bounce. It was mean, but he couldn’t stop smiling. There were so many things that were difficult about being a young dad, but keeping up with his kids wasn’t one of them. While the other parents sat off to the side, chatting and playing on their phones, Kyan raced his kids from one end of the trampoline park to the other.

Noah pumped his arms as hard as he could, giving everything he had. In the end, he beat Kyan to the finish line by a nose. Kyan sweetened the victory by huffing and puffing before collapsing to the ground. Henry and Ava landed in a heap on top of him a moment later.

Gracie never made it to the end. She veered off at some point and was now perched in her uncle’s arms, giggling and laughing as he tickled her belly.

Max was standing next to them, grinning from ear to ear. He hadn’t left Perry’s side since the start of the party. He was definitely obsessed, which was hilarious to watch. Apparently, Perry was a funny guy. Kyan hadn’t seen Max stop laughing since he arrived.

As far as a love connection, Kyan still didn’t see it, but Max gave him a thumbs up, so he would heed his friend’s expertise on this matter. It was only the second time they were around each other, so it was still early on. Not everyone experienced instant connections.

Kyan kept his kids busy until the buzzer sounded, letting them know their time slot was up. Then he and Jessica shuffled all the kids to the little room they’d rented to finish the event.

Max was cool and collected, as always, if grossly overdressed for a six-year-old trampoline park party. He was also kind of puppy-like as he followed Perry into the alcove party room with a bashful smile and sat next to him while Kyan got the cake and presents ready. Max’s expression grew more animated as their conversation continued.

****

Jessica, Perry, Trudy, and Jed loaded party stuff into the SUV while Kyan finished picking up the party room when Max finally came over.

“Guess what?” he asked, looking like he had good gossip he wanted to share but couldn’t, or shouldn’t, but was definitely going to anyway. “I asked Perry if he wanted to head downtown tonight, to CC Slaughters. He said yes. So…that’s happening.”

Kyan wracked his brain, trying to remember if CC Slaughters was for dancing or for hooking up. If he was gay, what would he go to a slaughterhouse for?

Yeah. They were definitely hooking up tonight. But then he remembered the other place was called Scandals. And what’s more scandalous than random hookups? So maybe CC Slaughters was the dancing club?

Either way, it was good news, and he told Max that much.

“I know. Fuck. Everyone in the club is going to be jealous as fuck.” Max looked past him, then straightened up. Kyan looked behind him and saw Perry coming their way.

“I told Jessica about tonight and she wants to go,” he told Max. “She loves dancing.”

“Definitely!” Max said, and he seemed genuinely excited that Jessica was crashing their evening. He turned to Kyan, looking like he had a brilliant idea. “You should come too!”

“Oh. Well, with Jessica and Perry going, I don’t have a sitter. And it’s been a crazy day, so the kids will either be wired or cranky.”

Max deflated. “That sucks. It would have been awesome.”

“Maybe…” Kyan looked across the room at Trudy and Jed, then at Perry. “Do you think your parents might…” He hated asking, but he knew Perry would probably go to bat for him. He might even take the initiative to ask his parents on Kyan’s behalf.

He never expected Perry’s face to twist in panic. He couldn’t believe it. “You don’t want me to go?”

Perry stood awkwardly. He didn’t even look Kyan in the eyes, which took Kyan’s breath away.

What the fuck?

Max scoffed. “Surely that’s not the case.” He looked at Perry for confirmation that he wasn’t excluding Kyan from a night at the club.

“It’s… a gay club,” Perry said, as if that explained anything at all, which it didn’t. It explained nothing. Not one thing.

“So?” Max asked. “Kyan doesn’t have to be gay to go. You know that.”

“It’ll be weird.”

“It will be weird? You’re okay with your sister going to a gay club but not your best friend?” Kyan’s heart thudded painfully in his chest. That hurt. He looked around, acutely aware of his surroundings, of the weird rejection. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

“We’ve never hung out in that capacity,” Perry explained. “It would be uncomfortable.”

Kyan opened his mouth to say something, anything at all. He wanted to defend himself because there was absolutely no reason for it to be weird or uncomfortable. Kyan had no qualms about going to a gay club.

For whatever reason, Perry did.

Fine. Whatever.

Kyan wouldn’t go.

But he couldn’t stay there, either. Not without starting a fight, and he wouldn’t do that to Ava and Henry. So, he walked away. He knelt next to the twins and asked if they could show him their new toys. Then he found something to load into the back of the Honda Pilot, said goodbye to his in-laws, wished Jessica an epic evening, and smiled like nothing was wrong when Max cautiously approached him as he was leaving.

“I’m not going,” he told Kyan. “I wouldn’t feel right.”

“You should definitely go.”

Max wasn’t buying it. “I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t know what happened, but it’s weird now. I don’t like it.”

Kyan shoved the last of the discarded wrapping paper into a trash bag and spoke quietly. “The only reason I had this party was to get you two together. I guess I’m a homophobe or something, and Perry can’t be himself around me, or whatever. I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. But seriously, you should go. There’s no reason for me to go, anyway. I already did my part.”

He took the bag to the SUV and tossed it in the back with everything else, then drove home without a backward glance.

Kyan was right about one thing. High on ice cream, birthday cake, and attention, the kids were wired. No matter what he tried, he couldn’t slow them down. Instead of fighting it, he let them stay up. They wanted to watch a movie, so he let them sprawl out on the living room floor and eat popcorn with M&M’s. When they finally fell asleep, he covered them up, then went to bed himself.

Not that he slept. Tossing and turning, he replayed the conversation in his head, overthinking it to death. The panic on Perry’s face had cut like a knife. He might not have been the greatest friend ever, but what had he done to deserve that?

What had elicited such a reaction? When Dayna broached the subject of Perry’s sexuality, it hadn’t phased him. Not once had he thought differently of Perry for who he loved. Or anyone else, for that matter. It wasn’t even something he thought about most days.

Perry was his best friend. But was he Perry’s best friend? Maybe Max was on to something.

Anger and hurt ping-ponged all night and into the next day. He smiled and laughed while he cooked breakfast, but inside, he was seething. From hurt or anger, he wasn’t sure. Maybe both. But he couldn’t stay cooped up in the house, so he got the kids dressed and drove to the aquatic park in Clackamas.

They swam the entire day and ate lunch at the little food court with its mediocre chicken nuggets and overpriced rubber burgers. Inside, it was warm and humid, like a tropical island. Their own little oasis. Outside, storm clouds loomed dark and heavy while rain pounded the glass ceiling.

When everyone’s fingers and toes were wrinkly raisins, they hit the family changing room and got dressed. The energy from the night before was gone. The kids were completely quiet as the SUV warmed up.

Kyan looked at his phone and found a text from Max.

We didn’t go to the club last night. As much as I wanted to hang out with Perry, and boy did I, I would never do it at your expense. I don’t want to do anything until you guys are sorted. I just wanted you to know.

The corner of Kyan’s mouth curved upward. Max was such a good guy.

He typed back. You should’ve gone! Tho I appreciate the gesture. UR a good friend. Perry and I are fine. See you Thur.

The text made Kyan feel better as a chunk of emotional tension dissipated. He sighed and slid his phone into the cupholder. The last thing he wanted to do was fight with Perry. Kyan’s feelings were hurt, but he trusted Perry had a reason for saying what he said and feeling how he felt. His brother-in-law was a reasonable guy and had never done anything to hurt Kyan.

In fact, Perry was probably waiting at Kyan’s house, ready to mend things between them. That was the kind of guy Perry was. So Kyan put the SUV into gear and got to it.

But when he pulled into his driveway, there was no truck. Kyan slumped in the front seat as he shut off the engine. It was fine. Perry would show up after work on Monday, he thought.

Except he didn’t. Nor did he show up on Tuesday or Wednesday. Kyan racked his brain to remember if Perry had a big job or something that would keep him away. Not that that ever stopped him before; Perry would swing by if only for thirty or forty minutes. Which meant—

Perry was upset. At Kyan? No. That didn’t make any sense.

Kyan grabbed his phone and stared at Perry’s number. He almost hit the call button like he had every day when the kids pestered him with questions about Perry’s whereabouts, but he locked the phone instead.

Thursday at Mo’latte, Max wanted to talk about the fight and not going to the club. He was respectful, but he was obviously dying to analyze it all. Kyan wasn’t keen to talk about it. He and Perry had never fought like this before. They had never gone this long without communication, and Kyan didn’t want to hash that out with Max.

He wanted to hash it out with Perry.

Friday, after dropping the kids off at school, he swung by Jessica’s office. It was a small building attached to a giant shop full of dump trucks at the end of a long gravel road in the middle of town. Kyan usually stopped by once a week or so to see Jessica. Sometimes they went to breakfast, sometimes he and Gracie hung out in the office while she worked. It was weird to think he’d work there one day.

Jessica turned in her office chair and squealed, “Ohmygod!” Her black hair was pulled back into a simple pony and she wore an oversized green sweater. God, she reminded Kyan so much of Dayna. Besides feeling no attraction at all, the only difference was that Jessica was ten years older and had a few laugh lines, which she wore well.

She held her hands out and wiggled her fingers, summoning her niece. Gracie wiggled out of Kyan’s arms and went straight to Jessica for a hug, which was only a cover for what the sneak really wanted. The snack drawer.

Kyan chuckled as Jessica helped Gracie pick the perfect snack. She opened a small bag of chips for the too-excited threenager before pulling at the IPad she kept for these precise moments. With Gracie preoccupied with shiny bright lights, Jessica turned to Kyan. Her expression was one he recognized all too well.

Now he knew where Dayna had gotten it.

She leaned back in her chair and tapped her fingers together evilly. “Have you talked to Perry lately?”

He laughed. She wasn’t even hiding her intent. “You know I haven’t.”

She nodded, confirming she knew more than Kyan. “When are you going to talk to him and put him out of his misery?”

Kyan’s jaw dropped. “When am I going to put him out of his misery?” he scoffed. “He’s the one who didn’t want me to go to the club with you guys because … I don’t know! I don’t know why it would be so terrible for me to go, but he’s the one who said it, not me. I wanted to go.”

Jessica sat patiently while Kyan word vomited all over the office. When he finished, she raised her brow, asking if he was done.

He crossed his arms sullenly.

“Once, when Perry was ten, he got mad at me for being bossy. He took my favorite doll, one that was passed down from my grandma to my mother, and then to me, and threw it in the swamp on the backside of the property. I had every right to hate him, but Perry was so stricken with guilt that he hid in the back of his closet for hours. I had to swallow my anger and coax him out. I know it doesn’t seem like it, because Perry seems so stoic and even-keeled, but he’s kind of emotional. He internalizes a lot of things. He’s also a people pleaser, and when other people are mad at him, he shuts down. He’s a lot like Ava — or Ava is a lot like him.”

Now that Jessica mentioned it, Kyan remembered Dayna saying something similar. A story he couldn’t quite recall, but it sounded an awful lot like Jessica’s.

He had never seen that side of his brother-in-law until now. But if Perry could be Kyan’s boulder for the last three years, the least he could do was put his own frustration aside if Perry needed him to. Determined, Kyan nodded.

Jessica smiled victoriously. “What time should I come over tonight to watch the kids so you can go talk?”

****

Perry wasn’t home.

Kyan looked towards the side door, which he knew was unlocked. It would be the easiest route. But, the front door would set off the motion-activated surveillance and alert Perry that someone was on the porch. It was petty, but if Kyan had to do the work, the least he could do was make Perry aware of his presence and hopefully give him a stress-induced aneurysm.

A consolation prize of sorts.

Once he was sure the system had alerted Perry of his presence, he went around to the side door and made himself comfortable inside.

It was eight when Perry arrived home. Kyan laughed. Not only was it way later than Perry normally got off, but Perry would never unload his work van before coming in and saying hi.

His friend was avoiding him.

Kyan grabbed a soda from the refrigerator and leaned against the kitchen island. From there, he had direct sight down the hall to the garage door.

An entire can of soda later, Perry came in. He sat on the bench in the hall and took off his boots, then carefully hung up his work jacket before he finally looked at Kyan.

“Hey.”

Kyan tossed his empty can into the recycling bin. “What’s up?”

Perry shrugged and kept his gaze low as he grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

Kyan rolled his eyes. He walked over, snatched Perry’s hat, and tossed it toward the living room.

Perry’s hand darted to the mess of black hair plastered to his head as he glared at Kyan. “What was that for?”

“You’re being ridiculous. You insulted me and then ignored me all week. I shouldn’t be the one coming to you, but here I am, and you’re still ignoring me.”

Perry walked into the living room to retrieve his hat from the floor and put it back on. “I didn’t mean to insult you.”

“Okay,” Kyan said, although he didn’t buy it. “Then what the hell? Seriously, Perry, why the fuck did you not want me to go with you guys? How was I not supposed to take that as an insult? I know I haven’t been the greatest there ever was, but I still thought we were best friends.”

Perry’s head shot up, his eyes brimming with hurt. “We are.”

“Oh my god!” Kyan threw his hands up. “Then give me something. Anything! Explain to me what happened. Why were you against me going? Why would it be ‘sooo weird’? What did I do wrong?”

Perry stepped back like someone had hit him. “Ky, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry if that’s how you felt. Honestly, it doesn’t have anything to do with you personally. It’s me. I—” Perry paced the kitchen. “I haven’t been myself around you. I didn’t want you to go to the club because—”

Kyan waited.

“Because I’ve always straight-acted around you.”

“Straight-acted?”

“Yes.”

Kyan couldn’t believe it. He was gutted. “Why?”

“It’s not like I haven’t been myself. I just toned certain things down to not scare you off.”

“Scare me off?”

Perry sighed. “It’s dumb.”

“No, I want to know. You think you’d be, what? Too gay?”

Perry shrugged.

Seriously?” Kyan gaped. “What does ‘too gay’ even mean, anyway? Aren’t you just gay? Sure, there is the Kinsley scale or whatever—”

“Kinsey scale.”

“Okay, Kinsey scale,” he said sarcastically. “And what, you’re a ten? Is that about as gay as it comes?”

“The highest you can be is a six.”

“Fine.” Kyan took a breath and stopped himself from rolling his eyes. The corrections were really taking the wind out of his sails. “A six. Can you be gayer than a six?”

“No.”

“So, what is the problem?”

Perry held his hand, then let it go slack. Limp wrist.

“Jesus Christ.” Kyan put his hands on his hips and marched around the kitchen. He was upset. Kind of mad. Not at Perry. Okay, maybe a little mad at Perry. Mostly mad at himself. “I’m trying to keep my wits about this because how you feel is valid, but I’m trying to figure out what I’ve done to make you feel like I would ever treat you differently.”

“It’s not like you would have shared a bed with me if you saw me acting more…”

“‘Gay’?”

“More or less.”

“Fuck you,” Kyan said with no actual heat. He pointed down the hall to Perry’s room. “Get your shit packed. You’re coming to the house.”

“What?”

“You’re sleeping at the house tonight. And tomorrow, if I can find a sitter, we’re going to the fucking club.”

Perry smiled awkwardly, but took the stairs two at a time.

****

Jessica was grinning when they walked in. She didn’t ask why Perry was there, just hugged them both. “I have to go. I haven’t heard a peep from the kids in about thirty minutes, so I think you’re clear.”

“Is Charlie in town this weekend?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m leaving. She’s almost home and we have TV shows to binge.”

“Do you think she can stay over tomorrow night?” Kyan asked as Jessica reached the front door. “I think we’re going to—” He couldn’t remember which club was which, “—the dancing club?”

Jessica’s face lit up. “Text her right now! She can’t say no to you.”

He did and got several thumbs-up emojis in response. Then he texted Max and got an onslaught of excited emojis.

As they stripped down to their underwear for bed, Kyan shook his head at Perry. “You know what else you were hiding all these years? What a fucking asshole you are.”

Perry tossed his shirt on top of his duffle bag and laughed. “Am not.”

“No, of course you’re not, but I’m still pissed at you.” Once under the covers, he waited for Perry to settle in, then asked, “What exactly have you been hiding? Dayna never said anything about you acting strange.”

“What you see is who I am, mostly, but we haven’t gone to gay clubs or Pride events together. I enjoy myself differently.”

He still didn’t understand why Perry felt he had to hide any part of himself, but then again, Kyan was straight. He never had to hide any part of him, ever. So, he didn’t press it. Besides, he’d find out what the fuss was all about tomorrow.

“Turn around,” he demanded.

Perry hesitated, then flipped over so his back was to Kyan. Kyan wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close, if only to prove a point, to make Perry feel his acceptance. “Do you make it a habit to share a bed with people you don’t feel comfortable with?”

“That’s not—”

“We’ve slept together at least a dozen times, in nothing but underwear! I’ve cried myself to sleep next to you, shared my deepest insecurities and fears, woken with a fat boner against your ass, and somehow you think I’m going to judge you?

Perry stayed silent.

Kyan sighed and hugged Perry tight. “I’m sorry if for one minute you felt like you couldn’t be yourself around me. And if I truly gave you a reason to think that, then walk away from me. You deserve more than that.”

Perry scooted onto his back and looked at Kyan. “It wasn’t you. Just my insecurity. And it’s not like I go crazy or anything, but it sucks to be judged. As much as I know you wouldn’t judge me, it would kill me if you did.”

“I won’t.” Kyan grinned and drew a cross over his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye if what I say should be a lie.”

The next thing he knew, there was a finger poking his eye. “Hey!” he said, laughing as he swatted Perry’s hand away. “That’s my eye.”

Perry chuckled. “Just a preview of what happens if you’re lying.”

“I’m not! I swear. Just wait, you’ll see.”

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow.”

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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