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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 - 17. Stay Humble

chapter
seventeen
loren

 

“Cory brought lawn chairs to the Seahawks practice event. Don’t they have stands or like stadium seating?” I ask. Corey shakes his head as he grabs a couple of folding chairs from the back of his SUV and hands them out.

I put my hand up and block the glaring sun. “How many windows does the building need?”

Corey presses a lawn chair to my chest and waits for me to grab it. “It’s not so bad once we’re inside.”

“Look at that.” I flip the camera around so everyone can see the bumper to bumper cars coming into the parking garage. “Seems like a lot of fuss over a practice. I don’t get the hype. Jesus Christ—” I say as I spot the line of people waiting to get in. "There has to be a hundred people in line already and that’s nothing compared to the crowd behind us.”

“This ain’t my first rodeo.” Corey gloats as he opens his chair with a practiced flick of the wrist and sits down in line. I watch Cole and Isaac do the same thing.

Cole frowns as he adjusts in the ten-dollar folding chair. “What’s the point of dating Jay Petermeyer if we still have to wait in line?”

I flip the camera so it’s facing me again. “The first five people to tell Corey to stay humble get $100 cash-money.”

****

The guy behind us leans forward, almost falling into us. “Stay humble Corey!” he shouts before realizing we’re staring at him. He blushes. “Sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear you.”

“Because you were eavesdropping,” his friend says, calling him out.

I reach out and shake his hand. “I’m Loe.”

His eyes light up. “Silas. Huge fan.”

“Of me or the Seahawks?”

“Both,” he laughs. “I’m actually a big Petermeyer fan. Have been since he played college ball.”

“I’m a big Petermeyer fan, too. I guess we have that in common.”

Everyone laughs and I pull a hundred-dollar-bill from my wallet and give it to him.

He holds the bill up to the light and smiles. “This is awesome. I never thought I’d win one of your challenges.”

“Right place, right time,” I say.

Isaac looks past me. “The hunt is on.”

There’s at least ten people hunting, not-so-discreetly walking the line of people as they look for me. Ten becomes fifteen becomes twenty as more and more people join in. It's like watching sharks homing in on chum bait.

Silas and his friends watch with wild amusement as a small crowd descends on us in less than ninety seconds.

I’m humbled! I’m humbled,” Corey yells, laughing as twenty people pile around us, trying to beat each other to the prize. The five hundred dollars is gone, but the crowd lingers. It’s like a tailgate party, but for practice.

****

We might have had to sit our asses in line for two hours and pay seventeen-dollars per ticket, but Jay reserved us some sweet seats up front. The entire section fills around us with diehard fans.

I stand and face the crowd. “Who’s excited to be here today?!” the crowd roars. I smile and clap. “When Jay comes out, we’re gonna make some noise, okay? But here’s the deal…we’re only going to refer to him as Loe’s boyfriend, got it?”

The crowd laughs, ready to make some noise.

Hype music starts; All the Way Up by Fat Joe. The players come out one-by-one. Some of the bigger names come out first, pumping the crowd up. Then it’s Jay’s turn. We have the perfect location, right where they’re entering the field.

My camera is ready to capture Jay, while Isaac has his camera on me and the crowd behind me.

My mouth drops when I see him. “What the fu—”

Jay comes out like he always does when he enters the field with Marcus, Garrett, and Shawn. They’re huge, the biggest guys on the team. They flex their muscles and demand the crowd to make some noise. It’s fun watching them come out during games but today Jay is…well, he’s wearing gray football pants that really accentuates his thicc thighs and dat perfect football ass, but what has me completely shocked is…well, he’s only wearing chest pads.

I laugh. I can’t believe that fucking asshole.

When he’s done pumping the crowd up, he looks at me and smirks. His new nickname doesn’t even phase him. He has the upper hand, and damn well knows it. Fuck me. If this is practice gear, sign me up.

I look around the stands until I spot a man a few rows back. He watches excitedly as I approach. “Can I borrow that?”

He quickly hands the blanket over. I jog down the steps and hop over the railing. The security guard doesn’t stop me. He smiles and watches to see what I do.

“What are you wearing?” I ask as I approach him.

He’s holding a ball, spinning it in his hands. His white gloves have seen better days. “What? This?” he stretches his arms out and looks at himself. “It’s my practice gear.”

“Practice gear my ass.” I take the blanket and wrap it around his midsection—not so carefully tucking it under his pads and then stuffing it into his pants.

Jay watches me with amusement. “What are you doing?”

“If I came out wearing that, you’d shit yourself.”

“I would not.”

I look at Marcus and Garrett. They nod in agreement. “Sorry buddy, but you’d totally freak, splattie patties all over the place.”

All eyes, including the team’s camera crew and one of their photographers, are on us. They know a photo opportunity when they see one.

“You know I can’t play with this fleece blanket.”

“Shoulda thought about that before you came out here naked.”

Jay looks at me and smiles. Then he kisses me. “I’m taking your lead.” He unwraps the blanket and tosses it at me. The whole place explodes. Jay is still looking at me. “And…this is me not double standarding you. I’m embracing you.” Then he struts towards his coaches, who are watching and laughing.

The next time Jay looks at me, I flip him off. He’s completely unaffected by the lewd gesture. Instead, he blows me a kiss, which draws a chorus of ahhhs from the crowd. I snatch the kiss out of the air and toss it aside over my shoulder. Yeah, total middle school move, but hey, two can play at this game. The crowd gasps. Jay might actually look offended if he wasn’t smiling.

****

I’m not sure I’d call it practice. They run a few drills, but mostly it’s about the fans. Jay goes around the perimeter and tosses the football back and forth with the crowd. When he gets to our section, the crowd hollers. “We love you, Loe’s boyfriend!”

Jay laughs and shoots me a look that says I might be in trouble later.

Ooh, I’m shaking.

I cup my mouth. “Can someone get the man a shirt?” The sky darkens as shirts and sweatshirts fly through the air, descending over Jay and I like club confetti.

Jay grabs the railing and hoists himself up and over. He stands tall. “Does anyone have a problem with what I’m wearing?”

I raise my hand but find I’m alone in my conviction. My jaw drops. “What a bunch of traitors!”

“Their loyalties lie with Loe’s boyfriend, not Jay’s boyfriend.” He looks at the crowd. “Isn’t that right?!”

The crowd roars.

I look on, disappointed. How dare they! “I thought we were friends?!”

Jay wraps his arm around me and pulls me in close. He’s tacky with sweat and a bit smelly, but when he kisses me, I don’t protest. The crowd coos. Jay gives me one last chaste kiss before tossing the football a few rows away to a little boy with an oversized Seahawks hat. His whole face lights up and he hugs the ball like it means the world to him.

Jay hops over the railing and jogs back to doing what he does best; playing football and being loved by everyone.

****

We hang around after most of the crowd leaves. Jay is still wearing his practice gear, and I’m not mad about it. I can understand why athletes get drooled over. Jay doesn’t have ripped six-pack abs or a small trimmed waist. He’s built like a fucking tank and I love it. I love the way he looks. He’s hot as fucking hell. Everyone can look, but ain’t nobody touching that but me.

“You should wear that tonight,” I whisper as I drag my fingers across his stomach.

“When camp is over, I’ll come home in pads, okay?” he says, wrapping his arm around me. I forgot he isn’t coming home until it’s over.

“Promise?”

“Even better, pinky swear.” He hooks his little finger around mine. “I’ll call you tonight,” he promises.

We shuffle towards the exit. “Your boi pulled out all the stops today,” Corey says as we climb the steps. He and Isaac are in front of me, Cole beside me.

“He works the humble angle pretty well, but he’s a show off at heart,” I tell them.

The first five people to tell Loe’s boyfriend to stay humble gets $100!” he shouts. He’s joking, just trying to take the heat off himself. It will be months before Corey stops getting accosted every time we’re spotted.

Half way up Isaac stops dead in his tracks, no regard to the people behind us. We stare at him, waiting for him to move along.

Cole looks at him with concern. “What’s up?”

People bump and jostle us as they walk by. Isaac stares at the exit, then shakes his head and frees himself from the fog of confusion. He looks at us. “Nothing. I just—” he glances at the exit once more. “—I thought I saw someone.”

Blocking the walkway is not the time to figure out Isaac’s cryptic message, so we force him to move along. We load up in the SUV.

Isaac still looks stressed.

Corey squeezes his shoulder from the backseat. “You sure you’re alright, Dude?”

“I swear to God I saw Lars.”

I turn slowly. I’m not sure I heard him correctly. “My brother Lars?”

“No, Lars Christian Anderson.” He looks at me and rolls his eyes. “I swear it. I swear it was him.”

“It’s Hans Christian Anderson, and are you sure?”

“Fuck, I’m not sure at all. It was just a glimpse before he disappeared around the corner, but whoever it was looks just like you, minus thirty pounds.”

Everyone stares at me because…Lars. A name that hasn’t been spoken between us in a long time.

“Did you see…them?” Cole asks.

My parents.

“No, and I looked. It was just Lars from what I could tell. If it was him at all.” Isaac looks at me. “What’s going through your head? Are you freaking out?”

I should be but— “Surprisingly, no.”

“Are you finally ready to face them?”

“Them?” I scoff. “Fuck no. Lars? I don’t think I’ve ever been against it.”

“You still worried he has a relationship with them?”

“Not worried. Curious, yeah. Anxious maybe?”

I never blamed Lars for what happened. He was seven when it went down, same as me. I always thought we’d reconnect one day. But the future of our relationship hinges on his relationship with our parents. If he still has a relationship with them after what they did to me…after what they did to the both of us, then there could be nothing between us. It would be too big of a mountain to reconcile.

“You always said he’d have to track you down,” Corey says. “Maybe he’s finally doing it.”

“Maybe.” It would be so easy to read too much into this situation. To get my hopes up, to get too excited. “It might not have even been him.”

“Maybe…”

“I know you don’t want to, but you should probably tell Jay about your family,” Isaac says. “In case shit goes down. If Lars shows up out of the blue, it might be nice if Jay knows what the fuck is happening. The last thing either of you need is miscommunication coming between you.”

This particular subject hasn’t gotten a lot of air time since it happened all those years ago. Being abandoned by my family isn’t something I enjoy re-hashing and my friends have always been nervous of saying the wrong thing. So, it’s mostly stayed at bay. I wish it hadn’t. I wish we normalized it. It’s a part of all our lives. You can’t change the past, but you can talk about it.

“We’ve talked about it. Remember coming to my aid on the side of the road when I found Aidan alone?”

“Oh yeah, I guess it didn’t register that you would’ve told him everything.”

“I actually told him everything back in January during the Championship game. I had a panic attack, I think. I ended up telling him everything.”

Isaac looks at me with a pained expression. “Twice in six months. Have you always struggled like this? Have we been terrible best friends?”

These guys are as good as it gets. “Not at all. Honestly, my parents barely cross my mind these days. Lars sometimes, but my parents? Almost never. Not until recently.”

“I feel bad that we haven’t talked about it more. We should have.”

“I agree, and we can. I don’t mind it. Despite what my two episodes make it look like, I’m really okay with it. We’ve built a good life that I’m fucking proud of. I wouldn’t be where I am today if they were in my life. They never would’ve let me. The older I get, the more I realize how shitty they were. It could’ve gone down differently but I think they did me a favor.”

“Why do you think you’ve struggled with it recently?” Cole asks.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think it’s because of Jay?”

I look at Isaac like he’s gone fucking mad. “Not possible. Jay’s amazing.”

“I didn’t say he wasn’t,” he says calmly. “Are you happy with him?”

“Yes.”

“You feel safe?”

“Yeah...”

“Do you see any kind of future with him?”

“Sure.”

“Is it possible that he’s triggering emotions because you’re finally with someone you love, someone who you could have kids with…someone who, if they left, would cause you great pain?”

“Fuck you,” I say, mildly irritated that he’s seeing more than I am.

“Am I wrong?”

“Probably not.” Jay leaving is the worst nightmare. It would scar me worse than when my parents left. I don’t think I’d recover. To think I was perfectly happy before I met him…

But there’s one thing that Isaac’s got wrong, really wrong. “I’m not having kids. And before you say anything, it has nothing to do with what happened. I’m just not a kid person. I’m too selfish and I’m okay with that.”

“I want kids,” Corey says.

Cole nods and smiles. “Me, too.”

“Me three,” Isaac echoes.

“Great. Less pressure on me. I’ll be uncle numero uno. But you know y’all have to get girlfriends first?”

“Uhh, I have a girlfriend.”

Isaac slams on the brakes and looks in the rearview mirror while my head snaps to the backseat. All eyes are on Corey.

“It’s new, but I think she’s the one.”

“Why are we just finding out?” I ask. “We’re bros.”

“Yeah, you’re also intimidating as fuck.”

I grab my chest in shock. “Me?”

Everyone chuckles. Dating has always been kind of difficult. It might be my account that has the followers, but Corey, Isaac, and Cole are in the thick of it. They were with me on day one, when we were pre-pimple faced teens who thought two hundred followers on YouTube meant we were big time.

They are livingtheloelife just as much as I am. It’s hard to date in our world.

And my status/popularity has caused issues. It’s possible that more than one girlfriend used them to get to me. The confidence some girls have, thinking they can convert a very, very gay man is baffling.

“I can bring Jay,” I offer.

He levels me with an unimpressed look. “Yes, because Loe and Jay Petermeyer in one room will guarantee she remembers who I am.”

“If she’s the one, then that won’t be a problem.”

We spend the rest of the car ride laughing and teasing. A quick bathroom stop at my house turns into barbequing some burgers for dinner and beers around the fire pit. I put my feet up on the cinderblock and bring the bottle of light beer to my lips.

Jay Petermeyer for a boyfriend and these dudes as friends? That’s some kind of luck. Anyone who thinks I’ve had a shit life can go fuck themselves.

****

Jay’s gone for two weeks. More than gone, he’s incommunicado. He needs to ‘stay focused’, and ‘team bonding’, and blah blah blah’. I get it. I respect it. It’s what makes Jay, Jay. It’s what makes Jay an asset to his team and to the NFL.

What a perfect fucking asshole.

I end up at his house, wandering around, doing what Jay does. Cleaning up and washing laundry. All the mundane stuff.

One of the first things I did when I was young and making more money than I thought possible was hire Anita. She has come twice, sometimes three times a week, and does what every teenager hates doing. Now she comes because I’m too busy to worry about housekeeping. Time management for the win.

I carefully read the directions on the back of the laundry soap and stare at his washing machine.

I need help but you can’t judge me,” I tell the camera. “I’m helping Jay while he’s at football camp but I can’t figure out how to use his washer and dryer. Any tips? Share your best laundry practices in the box below.”

I’m flooded with responses. Most are helpful. Some are rude. Others have nothing to do with laundry at all. Either way, people love that I’m at Jay’s.

I’ve never used Jay’s home gym until now. I make a big deal out of it. “While Jay’s away, Loe plays.” Actually, that’s a good theme. I roll with it.

Food demos in his kitchen, workouts in his gym, driving cars from his garage, wearing clothes from his closet, movie night in the theater room. The possibilities are endless.

I bring the guys over to help. Like I said, while Jay’s away….

I save everything to a highlight and wonder how long it will take Jay to find it and, when he does, what his reaction will be. He pretends he doesn’t watch my stuff. I guess we’ll see if that’s true.

‘Don’t you think Jay will be pissed you’re up in his business?’ Someone comments. I smile to myself. Jay can’t resist me. I’m his biggest weakness.

****

99: Finally heading home. C U soon?

My skin tingles. No amount of mischief can replace my need for Jay.

Me: Meet you at ur house?

99: I have my practice gear ;)

I look at the time. He’ll be here in twenty. I run upstairs and get ready. When I hear the hum of the garage door, I dart downstairs. I jump over the coffee table and skitter to an awkward landing on my back. I prop my feet on the arm of the sectional and turn the TV up. Just chillin’.

All in a day’s work.

The garage door opens, footsteps, and the thud of a duffle bag being dropped. My body warms as I pretend not to notice him watching me from the other side of the room.

“Who are you and why are you in my living room watching Sports Center?”

I tilt my head. Jays leaning against the wall with damp hair, short athletic shorts, chest pads, and a happy smile.

“NFL training camp highlights,” I say, even though they’re clearly talking about baseball. I look back at the television. “Fascinating stuff.”

Jay half hums, half laughs as he walks across the room until he’s blocking my view of the sports show I couldn’t care less about. I look at him and frown. “I was watching that.”

He laughs because I’m the biggest fucking liar in the world. “What’s the name of the show?”

“Sportsball.”

“Sportsball?” he laughs. “Name the host.”

“Denny…Moron-o.”

“Dan Marino?”

“That’s what I said.”

Jay’s eyes are bright with amusement. He secretly loves that I don’t know much about sports. It makes it fun. His eyes go from humored to heated as they trail down my body. “You think you’re cute, don’t you?”

I glance at my body. Two-hundred-and-five pounds. Ten percent body fat. Years of work in the gym. Covered with nothing but an old jersey of his that’s a little tight and a lot cropped. Oh, and a jockstrap I found in Jay’s closet. “Cute wasn’t what I was going for…”

Jay pulls me up until I’m as flush up against his chest as I can get with the pads in the way. “I wasn’t referring to your body. Just the cheeky things you do.”

“I’m not being cheeky,” I lie again. “Consider it a gift basket of your favorite things.”

“My favorite things?”

“Yep. Me, on your sofa, watching sports, wearing your stuff.”

“You are my favorite thing. Everything else can get thrown away.” He shifts his body and runs his finger over the pouch of fabric covering my crotch. “Except this. This can stay.”

I smile. “My dick or the jock?”

“Both.”

“I knew you were a freak.”

Jay ignores that quip and wraps his arms around my waist. “I missed you.”

I do the same, sliding my hands over the hard plastic gear. I breathe him in. He smells like generic shower gel and a hint of stale sweat. “I missed you, too.”

With the superhuman strength that a professional athlete of Jay’s caliber has, he hikes me up like I weigh nothing and wraps my legs around his waist. “I enjoy coming home from training camp to this.”

I’m dying to get him naked. I pull him into a two-weeks-too-long kind of deep kiss.

“I didn’t touch myself once at training camp.”

Fuck,” I moan. That’s sexy. The thought of Jay abstaining makes my balls hurt. It’s not like I touched myself much while he was gone, but I was no angel. “Were you hard?”

“Every night and every morning.”

“Did you think of me?”

Jay trails kisses down my neck and nips near my collarbone. “Only every second.”

“What did you think of?”

He lays me down, deftly removing his sexy practice pads and moves down my body, slowly driving me crazy. He lavishes every inch of my skin before giving me the slowest, laziest, and absolutely mind blowing blowjob.

We only stop when our bodies fail us. Jay lies on his side and lazily drapes his arm across my abs. Fucking paradise if there’s such a thing.

“So…” he drawls, his voice deep with sleep. I’m exhausted as fuck, but it’s been two weeks. I’m willing to fight the good fight for a few more minutes. “Jay’s away, Loren plays, huh?”

“Ah. You can’t talk to me but you can stalk my socials?”

“Not me, my teammates.”

“You mad?”

He inches closer. “Nah, I liked it. Even if they made fun of me. According to them, I’m a disappointment because I don’t have the garage full of cars like I should.”

I chuckle because, yeah, he’s got shit for cars. He drives a seven-year-old Toyota Sequoia and that’s it.

“I had fun rippin’ the golf cart around the block.”

“I’m sure my neighbors loved that.”

“Didn’t your teammates tell you? Hank fired up his two-seater and we cruised. Ended up with quite the mob by the end of the day. Your neighbors are badasses.”

Jay yawns and snuggles into me. “They might’ve mentioned it.” There’s a moment of silence. Jay’s clearly exhausted. “Move in with me,” he whispers in the half-sleep way one does when they’re being pulled under.

“Okaaaay,” I laugh. “Time for someone to get some shuteye.”

“I’m serious,” he mumbles. I don’t think he’s even awake. Sleep talking, maybe. Hallucinating is more likely.

“I liked the videos. You look good in my home.”

I don’t comment. I simply run my fingers across his arm until his breathing evens out, then I close my eyes and follow.

****

If his head wasn’t in the game when we started seeing each other, it is now. Football or bust. Practice, practice, practice. Hosting BBQ for the rookies, dinner for the veterans, and breakfast for the captains. Jay takes his role on the team seriously and his dedication to being the thread that holds everyone together is well known and well documented.

Pre-season games are in full swing. I still don’t know the difference between them and the real thing, only that my attendance is required this year, apparently, for both.

My friends are stoked. If Jay wants me to go, they go.

The sky is blue, the sun is out, but it’s windy as fuck. I end up buying an overpriced hoodie from the shop next to the beer vendor. It says WILSON on the back with the number 3. I tell myself it doesn’t count. It’s still a pre-season game.

The cameraman is setting up his gear. He looks at me and grins when he sees my sweatshirt. “Where are you sitting?”

“H16.”

He nods towards the jumbotron. “You mind?”

“And get Jay riled up?” I laugh. “Fuck yeah.”

When I get back to our seats, there’s an older man standing in my spot. Slacks, Seahawks windbreaker, brown hair. He looks important. His smile is big and genuine as I approach. The guy sticks his hand out.

“You’re Jay’s boyfriend. Or should I say, Jay’s your boyfriend,” he says with a wicked smile. “I’ve been meaning to introduce myself for a while. I’m John, the Seahawks General Manager.”

I take his hand. “Nice to meet you.” My friends are fucking buzzing because the GM is here, so I take mercy on them. “This is my team; Corey, Isaac, and Cole.” Now that we’re all acquainted, I expect him to move along—finish making rounds with wives, girlfriends, and families or whatever political stuff he does. Instead, he sticks around.

“We’ve had an incredible couple of years. I think we have a real shot at Lombardi this year.”

I look at my friends for help.

“It’s the Superbowl trophy,” Corey says with a low voice, filling me in.

“Uh, yeah,” I say, as if I know fuck about fuck. “That’s what I’m hearing.” Lies.

If John thinks it’s weird that I have no clue what he’s saying, he doesn’t show it. “We want to increase engagement. It’s not that we’re coming up short or anything, but with tickets at an all-time high, we want to reach a wider demographic. Not everyone can afford two-hundred-fifty-dollar tickets.”

I whistle.

John nods. It’s clear he’s aware of the downside of these ticket prices. “That’s the starting price.”

“There must be a lot of people missing out.”

“There is. We’re actually hoping to talk you into a collaboration.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Tickets to every game that you can pass along to your followers…including box seats and the fifty-yard-line.”

Now it’s my friends who whistle. John smiles. He knows these are good tickets.

“What do you gain from this?”

“You have thirty-eight million followers on Instagram alone. Jay has five. We have two-point-seven. We’ve already seen a small uptick just from your relationship with Jay. If you’re actively going to every game and bringing people with you?” He looks at me like ‘see where I’m going with this?’

I pull a card from my wallet and hand it to him. “Email me the details.”

John looks at the card for a moment. I think he expected me to fall at his feet.

As he leaves, the guys stare at me.

“What? Agreeing with him means I have to come to every game. That’s a big obligation.”

“Every home game, Loe. Home game.”

“Wha’ev. It’s still a big commitment. I won’t agree just because I’m dating Jay.”

I do collaborations on things I’m passionate about. Football means nothing to me. I’m here for one player. Any obligation outside of him needs serious consideration.

****

Jay is smiling. “This makes me happy.” He’s practically dancing as he cooks a massive pre-game breakfast. It’s this happiness that convinced me to work with Jay’s team. I don’t love the sport but I love the man who loves the sport. His excitement made the deal impossible to turn down.

Oh oh oh!” Jay rolls over in my lap so he’s looking at me, smiling. It’s been a long week of practice and media interviews as the team prepares for their first season opener. This is the only real time we get together. “The last question should be where we went on our very first date.”

“They won’t know,” I tell him. “I never shared it.”

“There were people there. Someone will guess it.”

I make Jay ask the question. People are nicer when he’s in front of the camera. Much love for the giant, all-American, boy-next-door, sack master.

Hey all. It’s trivia time. The first person who can tell us where we went for our very first date will get the last two tickets to the season opener this Sunday!”

My phone starts pinging immediately, but it takes almost a half-million DM’s before we get the correct answer. Even then, we can’t agree.

“I thought Rock Solid was our first date.”

Jay smiles and shakes his head slowly. “Our first date was Anchorhead coffee. Remember?”

“Was that even a date? I thought it was a business meeting. You talked about my car’s extended warranty.”

“It was definitely Anchorhead. You were just playing hard to get.”

“I was playing the role of uninterested, which came natural because it’s how I felt.”

“The role of a liar must come naturally, too,” he teases. “Because look at you now…lying like a lying liar. Better go catch your pants because they’re on fire.”

I laugh. “I guess your failed business pitch can be our first date. Whatever.”

“Doesn’t look like a failed pitch after all. Biggest commission I’ve ever made.”

Ignoring Jay and his gloating, I look at the account of the girl who guessed our first date correctly. “Hey, she was the barista.”

“Told ya, people are always watching.”

I tag her in a post, letting everyone know who won. Then I put my phone on the side table and spoon Jay.

****

I snap my fingers in front of his face. “Keep your eyes on the road.”

His eyes snap back to the road but the smug smile remains. He’s tickled sideways that we get to drive to ‘work’ together. “This makes me happy.”

It’s the tenth time he’s said it today. The thousandth since I agreed to be an ambassador for his team. See why I couldn’t say no?

****

I travel for the next three games. All wins. Then we’re home and I have four box seats.

Four wins, turn into seven wins.

Not we, Jay. Jay has seven straight wins, including an OT game against his brothers. He’s having a phenomenal year. Killing it. The big heads say it’s the best he’s played in years.

Watching some of the hits, though, the way he charges into another player, stopping them in their tracks, flipping them like pancakes…that part is hard, it makes my stomach churn. Caring for him after the more brutal games is harder. That makes my heart churn.

He’s quick to pull his shirt down when he sees me eyeing the blotches on his chest and side. His body doesn’t look all that different from the one I was sporting less than six months ago. That pesky double standard.

“Week eleven is our bye week.”

I stare where his battle wounds now lay hidden under his shirt. I look at him. “Bye week?”

“It’s our week off during the season. It happens to be Thanksgiving week.”

“That’s some luck,” I say, pulling out my laptop. I’m behind on some editing. I’ve been so busy being Jay’s groupie that I’m pretty behind on my own stuff.

“No one’s complaining.”

“I imagine not.”

“I’m probably going to Wisconsin for the week. Thanksgiving and all. I usually spend most of the off-season there. I only did three weeks this year, and it was all spent training. Mom and Dad are getting antsy to see me.”

“Makes sense.” He has a close family. They miss him.

Jay kneels on the floor in front of me. He sets the laptop to the side and moves between my legs. He’s as calm as he is serious, like he’s approaching a spooked animal, which is ridiculous… “I’d really like you to come with me.”

Or not so ridiculous.

“Pass.”

“Loren…”

Jay…” I mock. I knew this was coming. I’ve been preparing. I’m about to meet his parents on a major holiday, which is not how I wanted to do it, but that’s how life is sometimes. Not everything about me. That’s fine. I take a small breath.

Jay calmly rubs my thighs. “I understand why you don’t want to go, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go…”

My knee bounces. Hurry up and ask again. Not that I want him to, but I want to rip the Band-Aid off.

You and I have been together for a year. We’re serious, serious people go to family functions. I wouldn’t invite you to go if I thought it was a bad idea. My family is good people. They’re kind, thoughtful, and full of love—”

Blah blah blah. He does not need to sell it. It’s like trying to get a poor person to buy rice and beans; they may not want it but they have to have it. Just bag it up and take their money. Damn.

“They’re all the things I want you to experience. I think it could be really good for you.”

Whoa…whoa, whoa, whoa. I put my hands on his shoulders and keep him at a distance. “Good for me?” This I gotta hear.

“Yes. I think it would be good for you to be around them. To be a part of a family that loves the way mine does.”

I blink. “Hold up. Wait. You want me to meet your family because—”

Jay tilts his head and smiles softly, like he’s Mother Teresa and I’m a child struggling to get the answer. “With everything you’ve been through, don’t you want to? Don’t you want to be surrounded with love? I know my family inside and out. They will love you. More importantly, they would love on you.”

“Erchhhh. Stop right there. Your family doesn’t have the market for being good, kind people. I have family. I have Corey’s family. I have Cole’s family. I have Isaac’s family. I have a whole giant community of people that are kind, thoughtful, and full of love.”

“You spend the holidays with them?”

“I don’t spend the holidays with anyone.”

“Loren…” he says with big, sad eyes. He can’t fathom a world where you can be happy and content without a big giant nuclear family to keep you warm on government issued holidays.

I stand up. I’m offended. “You know, if you asked me to meet your family because you love me and want us to meet, I would’ve said yes despite not wanting to, or feeling ready to, but asking me because you think I need them…because I’m broken? Thinking that I can’t possibly survive another year without surrogate parents is really offensive. It feels like a big, giant fuck you kind of offensive.”

Jay hurries off the sofa. “Whoa. I didn’t—I only meant it to be helpful. It still haunts you,” he continues. “I can tell. I just want to do what I can to right those wrongs and give you everything you deserve.”

My jaw clenches. “And what’s that?”

“Happiness. To know you’re good enough every single day. A family you want to spend holidays with. Stuff like that.”

Every fiber of my being wants to punch him in his goddamn face and walk away. Instead, I take a breath. He means well; I know he does. It’s Jay. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. But Jesus fuck, his delivery is hitting wrong. He can be so fuckin’ obtuse sometimes.

I take another deep breath. “I’ve spent a lot of years building myself up. You were the first person I was weak for. That’s what you do when you love someone, right? You let go of the pride, be vulnerable, all that shit? I didn’t want to do it. It was hard, uncomfortable, and honestly, pretty fucking embarrassing. There was even a little shame there. Shame for crying in front of you, not once, but twice.

“My parents didn’t see the best in me and now it feels like you don’t either. I’m good but I’ll be better if I have your family? What the fuck is that? Like, fuck the family that’s been here for me? That’s some real shit, Jay. Some real fucked up shit.”

I scratch my head, roughly running my fingers through my hair. “What were you planning to accomplish with this? I already had nauseating anxiety about meeting your parents. Did you want to hit me on the knees? Cripple me? Fuck. I need to go—”

I collect myself, my keys, and my wallet. Before leaving, I grab the door jamb and turn around. “I need some time. A few days. Maybe a week. I don’t know. Then I’ll need an apology. Asking me to meet your parents because you think I’m not a complete person is…something I need to talk to my therapist about. Hell, maybe you need a session, too. So, you know, use this time to figure this shit out, okay? Figure it out. I’m begging you.”

My knees shake as I walk to the van. My hands shake as I try to start it up. I hold on long enough to get home. As soon as I kill the engine, my whole body shakes. Damn you Jay Petermeyer. Damn you.

Copyright © 2022 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.
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