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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.

Jay's Loelife - 15. Ninety-Nine Problems

chapter
fifteen
Loren

Hey all. Isaac is going to run you through a front squat today. Remember, this is an advanced movement compared to your back squat. A couple of tips from me; as you approach the bar, the first and most important thing is that you get your elbows nice and high underneath the bar and your wrists are back. See how Isaac is doing it here? This is good. The bar should be sitting in the crevice of your shoulder. Make sure you get nice and comfortable in here. See? Doesn’t he look as snug as a bug in a rug? Pick the bar up off the rack. It should be pretty much touching your neck, like you’re being choked. I know a lot of you like being choked,” I wink then kick Isaac’s feet apart. “Your feet need to be just outside hip width. Now, deep breath in, take it down low.” I press Isaac down. “I said low.”

He half laughs and half grunts as he struggles to maintain his form. “Fuck you.”

I smile. “Exhale. You’ll feel the bar wanting to roll forward so make sure you keep your elbows up nice and high. I keep my fingertips on the bar, pinky out. Remember, we don’t want our hips to come forward. We’re not shagging anything today. Just a little light choking is all.”

When I finish walking through the rep, the guys are biting their knuckles to keep from laughing on the video.

“You can’t joke like that when you’re having me max out my weight while being Vanna White.”

Corey laughs and slaps Isaac on the back. “Remember when he did a bit on lateral raises and was trying to get them to understand the importance of proper form. He was like, ‘none of this swinging shit, we’re not a rave’.”

“I do,” I answer. “And yet just last week some idiot was swinging his arms. So, what’s the point?” I ask, rhetorically. I can put out an instructional video every day and they still won’t get it.

“The point is—” Corey drawls, “—everyone loves you because you make this shit fun. Raves and BDSM choking and all.”

I laugh and re-rack the fifty-pound plates while Corey does the thirties. When everything is back where they belong and sanitized, we head to the sauna.

“It’s gotta be a quick sit in for me. I need to head back soon.”

I never bail early. Well, hardly ever unless it revolves around a sports bar, then I can leave fast enough. They’ll have something to say about this. Surely. But fuck them. There is no reason I can’t leave early. Aidan leaves the day after tomorrow and Jay wants to have a chill day. If I get stuck doing all the outing crap, then I should be able to enjoy an easy movie day. I’ve done nothing but work my ass off since I was fourteen. I haven’t dated or prioritized anyone in all that time. If they wanna give me shit…

Holy crap!” Cole waggles his phone in the air and does a little happy dance. “Guess who was nominated for Influencer of the Year?!”

The sauna door closes behind us and Isaac punches me in the shoulder for rolling my eyes. “I know it’s hard to be excited when you win all the time, but this is a big deal. It’s hard to stay on top in this industry.”

“I’m honored, really, but no one person needs to win five years in a row. There’s so many others who deserve it.”

“It doesn’t mean you’ll win,” Corey reasons. “It’s just an honor to be nominated.”

“Is that going to be my line when I lose?”

“Noooooo, your line is ‘I won five years in a row mother fuckers!’.”

“That definitely won’t be what you say,” Cole says, his dad tone full of displeasure. There’s always one in the group who has the least fun and, in return, mitigates potential issues. It’s not like I’d actually say that…

“Anyway,” he continues. “I’m with Loe. I hope we take a loss this year. I think Loe’s at a point where he can inspire those in the industry instead of running it. So, rather than win or not, we do need to celebrate the nomination. Not just ours, but everyone’s. It’s good publicity. I’m going to reach out to the other camps and see if we can pull together some last minute flights.”

“For when?” I ask. “Aidan’s here for two more days.”

“Saturday.”

“That’s cutting it close….” I don’t know what time Matt and Seamus are coming back, probably in the morning, but it won’t leave me much time.

He waves the whole thing off. “We’ll figure it out.” Code for he’ll finalize things and I’ll just need to figure it out.

Isaac slouches against the wall and takes a deep breath, inhaling the thick, steamy air. “What time do you need to take off today?” he asks.

“Five minutes ago.”

“Then what the heck are you doing here? Go. Get the fuck outta here. You got shit to do.”

I leer at my friends. Something's up. Not one comment?

Isaac makes a big show of staring back at me, mocking me with wide eyes. “Dude, what’s eating your pickle?”

“Just waiting for the shoe to drop. You guys always have something to say about everything I do. No quip about me leaving early?”

“Why the fuck would we do that?”

“Because you always do.”

“About shit that doesn’t matter,” he defends. “This isn’t leaving to get laid or whatever, this is leaving because you have good things in your life. We’ve always wanted you to have something that's just for you.”

“I share it with everyone, so it’s not just for me.”

Isaac scoffs. “You can share this bit of your life with millions of people, it doesn’t diminish Jay’s importance. He’s content because he’s part of your life, not part of your life because he’s content. There is a big difference.”

Corey and Cole each grab a shoulder and shove me out the door. “Go do your thing with Jay. We’ll set up the celebration and text you later. Enjoy this time in your life. You deserve it.”

****

I tiptoe into the house with a smile. Jay promised that we’d just lie low today. Maybe play a movie. The shower upstairs turns off as I set my gym bag by the laundry room. Jay’s up. I wonder if Aidan is, too. If he is, he’ll want my iPad. I stretch my muscles and head to the kitchen for a post workout shake. The burn is welcome after so many months off.

Speaking of the IPad. It’s not on the counter charger where I usually leave it. Aidan used it to play that bright game with an annoying catchy tune he discovered yesterday. The game was ‘free’ but he kept coming to me because he didn’t want to wait to play another round and it cost ninety-nine cents to do a bypass. Jay smirked and said its fate and to pay the boy. Easy for him to say. It wasn’t his money. I don’t even know how much I ended up paying for Aidan’s happiness. A lot. Aidan just looked at me and expected me to pay for it like money was no object. I did as asked, of course, but how dare he assume.

I walk halfway through the living room in search of the device when I see Aidan on the sofa with his blankie. He’s staring out the giant window that overlooks Centennial Drive.

“Hey Aidan…”

He startles and loses his balance, almost falling over, but smiles when he sees its just me. He puts his hands in the air, so I have no choice but to scoop him up.

“What’s this?” It’s big fucking tears hanging onto his lashes for dear life. I glance out the window where he’d been staring, waiting. It hits me faster than a lightning strike. The unwelcome memory makes my stomach twist like an electric screwdriver and my heart races so fast I have to tell myself to breathe because I suddenly feel weak enough to pass out.

I try to take a measured breath. It’s shaky. Stop it Loren, this isn’t about me. I somehow put on a brave face, give Aidan a kiss on the cheek, and rub his back. “How’s my buddy? Hungry? What does a two-year-old eat for breakfast? Jay usually feeds you while I’m at the gym so I don’t know. I don’t know how any of this works. Kids aren’t really my thing.” I keep rambling as I attempt my first ever diaper change, somewhat successfully. Lopsided is okay, right? I balance a diaper-clad Aidan on my hip and rummage through the kitchen. “Do you like oatmeal? I have tons made already. I could make pancakes. I’ve seen how much you like those. I’m guessing this whole milk in the door is for you?”

Aidan doesn’t take his eyes off my face as I talk and talk and talk. I end up making oatmeal because my brain is too fried for pancakes. I set him on my lap and feed both of us from one bowl, talking incessantly between bites.

Jay comes in a few minutes later and kisses the back of my head, then the back of Aidan’s head. He’s cheery as the morning is bright. No doubt there're birds waiting to dress him, sweep the floors and make him a pie. “Good morning,” he sings, fresh from the shower without a care in the world.

I don’t look at him. I can’t.

“How was the gym?”

“Fine.”

“Mmm. Breakfast looks good.”

I give Aidan another bite of oatmeal. “Yep.”

An eerily silence fills the room like water filling a sinking ship. I stare at Aidan while Jay stares at me. When we finish our food, I put Aidan back on my hip and, in auto-pilot, take the dirty dish to the sink, hose it off, and load it in the dishwasher. I grab a rag and let Aidan help wipe the counter off. Then walk to Jay and hand him Aidan.

I stare right into his eyes. I want him to see what he’s done. I want him to understand the hurt. “When I came back this morning, Aidan was staring out the window in the living room, alone. He’d been crying, thinking he was abandoned. Imagine that, Jay. Imagine waking up, crawling out of your crib, making your way downstairs to find no signs of life. How long had he been staring out the window, waiting for someone to show up?”

I shake my head. Fuck this shit. “I didn’t want to be a part of this. I didn’t want to play house but you made me do it. You made me stay here. You made me like him. You put me in a position where I hurt him, where I scared him.”

 I take my hat off and set it on Aidan’s head. I adjust it so it sits just right. “Have fun with Uncle Jay.”

“Loren—” Jay reaches out but I shift to the side, avoiding his touch.

I grab my keys, my bag, and my phone. I look at everything but him when I reach the door. “Don’t leave him alone, okay?”

 ****

My grip is tight on the wheel. I pull the van into a turnout and empty my stomach over the guardrail. I’m only halfway to Puyallup. I close my eyes and breathe in. All I can see is a stop motion movie of me as I run down the flooded street to Isaacs’ house in sour pajamas and an empty stomach.

I lean over the rail again.

After resting for a minute, I pull out my phone. “Can you pick me up?” My voice is haggard even to me.

Isaac hushes whoever he’s with, silence, and then, “What the fuck is wrong, Loe?”

“I just need to be picked up.”

“Where are you?”

“Bi Mart exit between Renton and Auburn.”

Silence. “Okay. Give me five.”

I’m on the ground, leaning against the guardrail, away from my breakfast remains, with my head on my knees when Corey’s Mercedes SUV pulls up like the brakes broke, sliding through the gravel Dukes of Hazzard style. Corey, Isaac, and Cole get out at the same time, slam their doors, and run to me.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I say as they gather around me.

“You’re pale as shit. What the fuck, Loren? You were happy when you left us an hour ago.”

“Fuck. I don’t know. I got to Jay’s and found Aidan standing by the front window, staring at the street. He was all alone and had been crying.” I press my palms into my eyes. “I started panicking.”

They sit in the gravel around me, each laying a hand on me.

Cole squeezes my knee. “That is triggering, but you know Aidan wasn’t abandoned. You know that, right?”

“Aidan doesn’t know that. You didn’t see him. You didn’t see his tears.”

“We didn’t. We don’t know why he was crying but it seems extreme to assume he felt abandoned. You guys have spent every waking second with him. You said he was sleeping in Jay’s room, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Wouldn’t he have seen Jay when he got up?”

I think about it. “Jay was just getting out of the shower when I got home.”

“You think Aidan got up, somehow missed that Jay was in the bathroom, considering how unlikely it is that he fully shut the door, and assumed that you and Jay just left him?”

“No,” I say quietly. “Probably not.”

“What do you think actually happened?” Isaac asks. His hand is on my back, rubbing in circles. It feels good, comforting.

I think for a moment, then it hits me. I smile. “He was probably upset no one was there to pay for his game. He just discovered the joys of the iPad last night. It was kind of funny.”

The guys laugh. “Yeah, that seems more realistic.”

Fuck. They’re right. Jay wouldn’t have. He’s not capable of such neglect. And I was so mean to him. I snapped at him like a snake and accused him of a terrible thing. A pained sob escapes me.

“Hey there,” Cole says, shaking my shoulder. “I thought we were on the right path? Aidan didn’t feel abandoned after all, you know this, so what has you panicking again?”

“Jay.”

“Why Jay? Jay’s good.”

“Jay is so good, yet I went off on him. I basically blamed him for ruining Aidan’s life.”

Isaac removes his hand from my back and scoffs. Then he gets up and brushes off his pants. “That’s it? You’re worried you upset Jay? Then get your ass up and go apologize. Don’t sit here on the side of exit seventy-one, feeling sorry for yourself.”

Everyone gets up. Corey grabs me a juice box from the trunk. I raise my brow.

“What? We stopped and grabbed some stuff at the store after the gym. Bought juice boxes in case Aidan comes to the big celebration. That’s why we were so close. How else did we get here in five minutes?”

I give him a hug. Then I hug Isaac and Cole. “Thanks.”

“Anytime.”

Cole stops me on the way to the van. “Are you okay to drive? We can take you to Jay’s if you need.”

“Nice try. I’m not showing you where he lives.”

Isaac and Corey laugh but Cole doesn’t find it funny. “I’m serious.”

I give him a soft smile and hold up my half empty juice box. “I know. I got my juice box. I’m good.”

He still doesn’t think it’s funny but the others drag him away and wish me luck before reminding me to be at the house by ten Saturday morning.

Isaac tosses me a juice box before I close the door. “Save that for Aidan!”

****

I feel more light-headed pulling into Jay’s driveway than I felt pulling out of it an hour ago. There’s no way of knowing what I’m walking into or how bad things are, so I sit in the car, watching the house to prolong the inevitable.

He doesn’t look out the window or come to the door.

Fuck. Whatever. There’s no point in stalling. I grab the juice box and head in, debating if I should knock or just go in like I always do.

The cry is quiet at first but with every step the screaming grows louder and louder. Fuck knocking. Something is wrong. I open the door and beeline it towards the noise, stopping short as I enter the living room. Aidan’s on the floor, rolling around, throwing a temper tantrum like I’ve never seen while Jay reclines on the couch a few feet away, scrolling through his phone without a care in the world.

Jay looks up the second I slide into the room. He’s usually the kind of guy that doesn’t hide how he’s feeling. Except now. His expression is blank. The only thing I have going for me is that he doesn’t look pissed, which is a miracle. I’d be pissed. I’d lock the door and make him stand outside with a boombox and play Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes while I ignore him. But I’m a stubborn asshole like that.

As it is, I’m torn. I’d have to step over Aidan to get to Jay, and that seems harsh. But giving attention to a temper tantrum when all I really want to do is grovel on my knees isn’t much better. I don’t get a choice in the matter. Aidan spots me first. Like a citywide blackout, everything stops. No crying, no screaming, not flailing his arms and legs like a crazy person. He smiles, red, tear-stained face and all. He actually fucking smiles. Faster than premature ejaculation, Aidan reaches under the sofa, grabs the iPad and runs to me.

“Lowen! Hi. Hi.” He says a bunch of other stuff I don’t understand, but I can guess it has to do with the ipad he’s shoving into my thighs. There’s what sounds like ‘peas’ but I’m pretty sure those are not on his radar, so I can only surmise he means ‘please’.

I shouldn’t reward such sinister behavior, but I type my password in and pay the ninety-nine cents. It’s not a terrible price to pay for a few minutes of peace with Jay. Let Seamus and Matt deal with the fallout of a spoiled child. I hand the IPad back and watch as Aidan runs to the other side of the living room, practically face planting in excitement as he lies on his belly.

Kneeling down in front of Jay, I take his hands. I feel kind of stupid and sappy for the hand holding thing but it’s nothing compared to feeling like an asshole of epic proportions for my actions earlier. “I came back from the gym and saw Aidan standing in front of the window and crying. All I could see was myself at seven and I panicked. It was my nightmare, right here in your living room. I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. You would never abandon him, I know that. You wouldn’t do anything to harm him. I don’t know what else to say. I feel fucking terrible—”

“Loren—” he says gently. “It’s okay. I forgive you.”

“You shouldn’t. I was such a fucking asshole.”

“No. You had a knee jerk reaction.”

“I think I jerked the wrong knee.”

He shakes his head. “I saw the look on your face. Terror. You were terrified. You know what I saw?”

“Terror. You just told me.”

Jay laughs. “Yes. Terror. But I also saw this amazingly protective side of you. You could’ve seen Aidan and let your panic run you out of town. Instead, you went to Aidan, you cared for him, you fed him, you even changed his diaper—”

“How do you know?”

“Really?” Jay pauses, tilting his head slightly. “Because it was a terrible job. It was backwards and fit like a thong, but you did it.”

“I told you I’m not good at this shit. I’m not good with kids.”

Jay pulls me onto the sofa next to him. “You saw a kid in need and you mother hen’d him. You went to him and took care of him. Just like you did when you came back just now. I saw you slide into the room. You heard Aidan crying and came in with a charge.”

“Anyone would do that,” I defend.

“No. Not anyone.” Not my parents, is what he means. “You’re great with kids. All week you’ve been great with Aidan.”

“I don’t know about all that. I just know I’m sorry. I never should’ve blamed you and I never should’ve ran out.”

“I thought I was gonna have to track you down. Honestly, I’m surprised you came back within an hour. That’s huge.”

I snake a hand under his shirt and burrow in. He smells good. “The guys snapped some sense into me.”

“Give yourself a little credit.”

“I don’t feel like I deserve any credit.”

Jay wraps his arms around me and squeezes me. I’m never this open with anyone. I’d never admit I don’t feel deserving to anyone else. I always come across confident, something I don’t have to feel with Jay.

After a minute, Jay kisses my temple. “Could you grab me a glass of water?”

I get up without hesitation. It’s the least I can do. I come back and hand him a glass of water. He looks at it. “Uh, could I get it with no ice?”

I turn around to get him water with no ice but stop short of leaving the room. When I look back, he’s grinning at me. The son of a bitch. I set the glass down on the coffee table. “Get your own damn water.”

He rolls off the couch and grabs me, dragging me back to the sofa, and forces me to sit next to him. “So…light BDSM choking, eh?”

I bite my cheek. “Watching my stories, eh?”

“Can you blame me? You took off and I couldn’t follow you because Aidan was freaking out. The next best thing was stalking you online. The segment was hilarious by the way. I thought Isaac was going to collapse when you kept pushing him lower. Do you always torture your friends like that?”

“Nah, usually I’m the one being tortured, but I can’t hold the bar on my shoulder like that. Not yet.”

“So you took your frustration out on Isaac?”

I grin slyly. Of course I did. “The guys are great. I’m lucky as fuck, but sometimes they need to be brought in and knocked down a little. It’s easy for them to forget the extent of the burden of being up front. I’m not doggin’ on them. They’re always good about keeping a balance, but sometimes I like to put the pressure on them a little bit.”

“Makes sense.”

The sofa dips on the other side of Jay. Aidan’s holding the ipad with both hands and trying to get on the sofa using just his feet. Defying all things science and logic, he does it. He smiles proudly and awkwardly stumbles his way over, landing on Jay with an unceremonious blop.

“Hi.”

Jay and I look at each other and smile. “Hi.”

Aidan drops himself between us and continues playing his game.

Okay then.

Jay looks at me softly. “You know, he came into the shower this morning looking for his Lowen. When I told him he was gone, he left with a quivering lip.”

“Of course he did. He wanted his game.”

He shakes his head but doesn’t call me out on the deflection. I slide my fingers between Jay’s. “Is the plan still to do nothing today?”

He kisses my hand, then turns his head and rubs his cheek on the back of my hand like a cat. “Not a damn thing. Just hang around the house. Maybe order some food—”

Aidan grabs Jay’s face and turns it toward the iPad. “Swee?”

He looks at the game and smiles. “Yes, very cool,” he says, placating the kid. He returns his attention to me. “Anyway, I thought we could order food from—”

Aidan grabs his face again, forcing Jay to watch him. The little guy looks at me and smiles happily. He turns the iPad so I can see, too.

“Very, very cool.”

He beams at the compliment and for the next thirty minutes he forces us to watch as he moves shiny objects around the game. I feel like I’m part of the King's court and my sole purpose is to make the guy with a big complex and a small penis feel good about himself when really I just want to correct him because he’s absolutely terrible at the game.

“I could’ve beat that game last night,” I whisper to Jay.

He laughs and shakes his head. “Does that make you feel good?”

“That I can beat a two-year-old at a video game made for kids? No, that doesn’t make me feel good. But neither does holding court for him either. What have I been reduced to? Before I met you, this never would’ve happened.”

“You’re welcome,” he says proudly.

“No. I’m definitely not welcome. That’s not the point I’m getting at. This isn’t a proud moment. I’m not the man you fell in love with anymore. I’m a shell of that man.”

“Nice try, but you’re not fooling anyone. You’re a wine that’s gotten a lot sweeter in the last year.”

I gag, making Jay laugh so effortlessly and sweet. Aidan looks at Jay and, maybe thinking Jay was laughing at the game, or maybe because he’s feeling left out, Aidan mimics Jay’s laugh. It’s neither sweet or effortless. It’s fake as fuck but cute as hell. I throw my head back and laugh.

I mess his hair up. “What, are you a mockingbird now?”

He holds his iPad up and smiles. “Peeeeeas?”

I shake my head but thumb in my passcode, anyway. Ninety-nine problems and Aidan ain’t one.

Almost half way through. I cannot express how much I appreciate the support I get in the comments and the DM's. Thank you. Without authors there are no readers and without readers are would be no authors. Reaction, comments, and recommendations are tokens of appreciation that go a long way with any author whose works you enjoy. So, thank you.

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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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