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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 - 28. When a Compromise Is No Compromise At All

chapter
twenty-eight
jay

 

I have to keep myself in check as I peer out the large patio door. Lars and Loren are sitting on the deck laughing. I knew they were identical, but it’s crazy how many of the same mannerisms they share. They even have their feet propped up the same, their right leg bent and their toe bobbing.

I’m just glad they’re here. There is only so much progress to be made with fifteen-hundred miles between.

“I thought you were grabbing drinks?” Courtney teases as she bends over next to me, puts her arms on the counter, and stares out the patio door. “Kind of weird, right?”

“It’s kind of a lot of things.”

“We should probably head back out, right? I mean, how long does it take to gather drinks and use the restroom?”

I watch the brothers talking animatedly. It’s like they just have to share everything with each other. “I don’t think they’ll care if we’re gone for a few more minutes.”

Courtney isn’t about to argue. She wants this for them as much as I do. Which is why we hit it off from the moment we met.

She mimics me, resting her chin on her palm. After a bit of comfortable silence, she sighs happily. “I haven’t seen him this happy in a long time. I’m not saying he was depressed, but there has always been a deep, lingering sadness. I never fully understood it until I saw him with Loren for the first time. They just click.”

I smile to myself. It’s exactly how I feel about Loren. He’s been different ever since we left Arizona. He wasn’t depressed before, but there is a new joy within him. “Lars brings out a light in Loren.”

She taps my forearm affectionately. “And Loren brings out a light in Lars.”

“Is Lars coping?”

She chuckles, then blows a small bubble with her gum before sucking it back in her mouth. “He’s doing surprisingly well, considering. Therapy helps. Having Loren back in his life has really countered all the terrible things he’s learned. It’s clear what brings him happiness. If he had to pick between Loren and his parents, there’s no competition.”

I straighten up. “Oh shit, they’ve spotted us.”

Lars and Loren are watching us. Without taking their eyes off us, they lean in closer, whisper secrets about us. Call us out for sneaking away. They’re both wearing the same, identical smirk.

“Seriously, so weird,” Courtney says as she straightens up. I grab the tray of drinks and follow her out. They track us with the same smug expression.

Loren scoots forward and arranges the glasses and starts mixing the drinks.

“What is this?” Lars asks with a look of skepticism I’m personally familiar with.

“It’s a dirty Dr. Pepper.”

He cringes. “Is that coconut creamer?”

“Just wait—” Loren pours the soda over ice, adds a healthy splash of the creamer, and then tops it off with a stream of lime juice. He stirs it with a straw and passes it over.

Lars is still eyeing the drink with hesitation by the time Loren finishes with Courtney’s and she’s drinking it. She smacks her lips, evaluating the drink. “That’s surprisingly good.”

Since his wife bit the bullet, Lars takes a drink and immediately regrets it. “Nope.” He gags and sets it down. “Not for me.”

Loren laughs and hands him a can of soda instead. You win some; you lose some. We talk about everyday stuff. A pleasant change from the heavy conversation that has plagued us since April. Lars is a mortgage officer, a fairly busy one. I’m not surprised when Loren gives him marketing tips.

“Social media, I’m telling you man, it’s where it’s at. I could help you make some hilarious mortgage videos and you’ll have a million followers on TikTok in no time.”

Movement in the kitchen catches my eye. I wave my hand, catching Loren’s attention. “Did you tell Lars?”

Loren’s twin looks between us. “Tell me what?”

Loren nods toward the kitchen just as Cole, Corey, and Isaac barrel out from the patio door.

So much time was spent trying to figure out the best way to surprise Lars, deciding if a surprise was even the right way to go. I’m not sure it was. Lars doesn’t move, staring at his childhood friends like they’re tax collectors. Lars is not over the moon like we expected.

He slowly gets to his feet and puts his hands on his head. “Holy shit.”

Then all hell breaks out. Spain when the bulls run loose. l yank Courtney to the side as the guys get pulled together like magnets. So much talking and laughing and happy shouts.

Courtney and I sit off to the side with our dirty Dr. Peppers as they huddle together, wrapping themselves around Lars.

“You can stop smiling,” I tell her.

She brings the drink to her face, covering her smile. “As soon as you do.”

But I can’t stop, and neither can she. We sit and watch for a while longer, happy to be bystanders in this little world of theirs. When they’re done with their huddle, they pull all the chairs into a circle and sit down. The next half hour is a cloud of stunned amazement. Cole, Corey, and Isaac know every detail of what’s gone down, but it in no way prepares them for seeing Lars for the first time.

And Lars, well, he doesn’t stop beaming all night. Neither does Loren. I don’t know how they eat with such big smiles. After dinner, we settle around the firepit. The excitement from early has mellowed to a calm contentedness.

Corey nods toward me and Courtney, who have tried to keep out of the way as much as possible. Not a big inconvenience since she’s awesome, kind hearted, and hilarious. “It’s clear you guys have a type.”

Loren looks at Courtney and me, then starts laughing. “Blonde bombshells?”

“Pretty much,” Corey says, laughing. “I mean, if Jay had a twin sister…”

“I don’t see it.” I look between the two of us. “Sure, she’s blonde, blue eyes, tall, athletic build, killer personality—”

Courtney bursts out laughing and whacks me with her hand. There are far worse thing to be compared to.

As the daylight disappears, so does the laughter. The joy of reconnection fades into a curtain of questions.

Isaac downs the last of his beer and then sets it on the ground next to his chair. “Like, what the actual fuck?” It needs no translation. It’s a general statement encompassing the entirety of their parents' abuse and manipulation.

Lars throws his hands in the air. “I have no clue.”

“You’ve talked to them? Right? Asked them what the fuck?”

“I didn’t say it just like that, but yeah, after wading through all the bullshit, I finally told them to just tell me the fucking truth.”

Loren leans forward. This is the first he’s hearing of this. Last he knew, his parents were still dead set on making Lars believe Loren left them. No matter what Lars said, they wouldn’t change their story.

“I told them I saw all the court records, and it’s obvious they left Loren behind. I wanted to know why. Why would they do something like that? I told them they tell me the truth right now, or they’ll never see me again.”

Even the crickets wait with bated breath to hear the outcome of the story. Twenty-three years and there is one question everyone is dying to know the answer for.

Why?

Courtney gets up from her spot beside me and sits in Lars’ lap. He wraps his arms around her waist while she wraps her arm around his shoulder and kisses the side of his head. With his cornerstone in place, Lars looks at Loren with immense pain. “They said nothing, and I don’t mean they made excuses. They flat out refused to speak. I said, ‘is this really how you want to end things? You’d rather never see me again than tell me why you’d leave one child behind and feed the other a lifetime of lies?’ After what felt like an eternity of silence, Dad said, ‘until you have kids, you can’t understand’.

While I dream of strangling their ‘parents’ with my bare hands; Cole, Corey, and Isaac get up and surround their friends with love.

Lars and Loren have talked daily since leaving Arizona. Some calls ended with clarity while others ended in hurt and confusion. Loren has been and is handling the entire thing like a calm breeze, while Lars is one scalpel cut away from an emotionally induced lobotomy. Though he seems to be okay-ish now.

But it’s not just Lars and Loren. It’s five kids, all affected by a single event. Now that they’re together, conversation is flowing. There is so much disbelief surrounding the situation. How could they have left? That's the biggest question, and the only one that may go unanswered, but how did Lars not figure it out?

“I had no reason to believe anything different from what they told me. I knew Loren was treated differently. It’s something I always hated, so of course he would want to run away.”

“But when they were gone for two years? That didn’t strike a gong in your head?” Cole asks.

“Did I wonder what was taking so long? Only a hundred times over, but again, I had no reason to believe they weren’t looking for Loren. None. And when they came back, the door closed. They told me so much. They’d done what they could do. Loren had made his choice. Knowing what I know now, I would have questioned the shit out of it, but I wasn’t working with facts back then. Their lies served their purpose. In college, when I saw all of you all online, I was too jealous that Loren went back for you guys to think about anything else. Not only that, I was hurt. It was painful seeing my brother and my friends, the only friends I ever had, living a life without me.”

They’re still clustered together from earlier, so it doesn’t take much for them to throw their arms around him. When the bugs become too much, they move to the living room. When Courtney and I tap out at one-am, they’re still going strong. They’re all tired, but a tornado couldn’t pull them apart.

I don’t know what time they fall asleep, but they’re spread all over the living room like a fourth-grade sleepover when I get up. I peruse through the pantry, looking for something to whip up for breakfast, when Courtney tiptoes in. Her face is clean and her thick blonde hair is thrown up in a messy bun that I’m positive she slept in.

She gestures to the living room. “How great is that?”

It’s pretty great. I was worried when Loren wasn’t in bed, but then I saw them all together, sleeping. Loren and Lars were sleeping on the sectional with their heads together. One of the best things I could wake up to.

Once Courtney is settled in and sipping on a fresh cup of coffee, I lean over the counter and fiddle with my phone. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Why did Lars take your name?”

“I don’t know for sure. Why?”

“I know it’s more common these days, but it’s still an anomaly. I can’t help but think he might’ve known more than he realized. It seems like getting rid of his given name was a way to distance himself from his family.”

“Lars when we met, is nothing like the Lars you’ve seen here, or even the Lars you met in Arizona. He was a closed off, cocky asshole. The first time we met, it was at this big college party our junior year. There was an instant attraction between us. I felt it the second I saw him, but he was a wild damn horse. He left the party with a different girl. I watched him sleep his way through half the college before I was able to rope him in.” Her forehead furrows in an agonized frown. “It sucked, but I just knew. You know?”

I cover my face and laugh. “Oh, I know.”

“It didn’t get easier when we started dating. He had one foot out the door for years. I only say this because it took forever for him to agree to meet my parents. The drive home after was dead quiet. That’s when he told me about Loren. For a long time, I thought the distance between him and his parents was because he blamed his parents for not trying harder to find his brother. But maybe you’re right, maybe he knew something off. Unfortunately, until you figure out why you’re feeling a certain way, there’s not much you can do with the feeling. So maybe he was distancing himself.”

“Have you guys talked about a family?”

“Oh yeah. Lots. It was a non-negotiable for me. I laid that out early. He’s struggled with it for obvious reasons. Actually, he’s recently had a change of heart. I think I should thank Loren for that. We’re going to start trying.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep. I was worried he’d change his mind after the last call with his parents. When his dad told he wouldn’t understand until he has kids, I thought it might scare him off. It’s a triggering statement, but it only seemed to make him more determined. If you know what I mean.” She waggles her brows.

I chuckle and toss a muffin at her face. Then I fill up a glass of tap water and slide it towards her.

She tilts her head in confusion.

“Drink it. Everyone around these parts is getting pregnant. It seems to be in the water.”

She chugs the glass and then asks for another. After that, we make a mess of the kitchen. As we plate the food, the guys lumber into the kitchen, taking purchase around the table. Loren comes to me, leans against me like a drunk cat. He doesn’t say anything, just rubs his shoulder against me before stealing a piece of bacon and heading back to the table with nothing more than a little smirk.

They talk about their upcoming schedule. Loren and the guys tell Lars about this big road trip they’re taking to Canada, which leads to our upcoming visit to Waukesha for my parents' anniversary, because he’s flying in from Canada and meeting me there, which leads to the story of why he can’t look them in the eyes.

“Isaac, aren’t you and your very pregnant fiancé eloping after we get back?” I would say anything to distract them from discussing the most unfortunate blowjob I’ve ever given. Alas, it’s no use. They are on a roll. I didn’t know them when they were seven, but I imagine not much has changed.

Or maybe they’re just good at picking up where they left off.

****

Loren steps off the private plane. He looks good dressed in dark wash jeans and a light jacket zipped all the way up. He descends the stairs like he’s got nowhere to be, like I’m not here waiting for him after a long absence. I sympathize with how athletes' spouses feel. It sucks when your loved one is on the road all the time. I hate it.

When he hits the tarmac, he tosses his bag over his shoulder. He blocks the sun with his hand and grins. “Hey stranger.”

I take his bag off his person and toss it aside. “Hey stranger,” I mock with a light sneer. How dare he be so blasé.

He laughs and lets me squeeze him to bits. Loren looks at me with those smokey brown eyes and something settles inside my chest. I press my lips to his. With his arm around my neck, he takes the kiss to a depth I could only dream of. He may have descended the stairs like he didn’t have a care in the world, but he doesn’t kiss like it.

I press my nose to the side of his head and inhale. God. He smells so good. I press my hips forward. “Let’s get back to the cabin.”

“You should know my diet has been terrible and I’m kind of constipated from travel and elevation changes.”

“Oh baby, you’re really turning me on.” I grab his bag off the ground and head to the car. “Good thing I spent the last hour—” I glance at him and raise my brow.

He looks at me like well, hello there. “And you still made it to the airport? You weren’t doubled over the toilet?”

I huff. “That was one time. I don’t know what happened, okay? I haven’t had any issues since.”

“Just promise you won’t fart on me. It’s not sexy at all.”

“I hate you.” I shove him towards the car, then throw his bag at him. He catches it easy enough and with a big smile. He can be such a child sometimes.

“Just for that, I’m going to make you beg for my dick.”

****

Loren growls as he grabs my hip and tries to turn me back over. We’ve been at the cusp of penetration for a while, but every time he tries to mount up, I move.

I laugh to myself. He’s so frustrated from chasing my ass for thirty minutes. To prove my point, I roll on my stomach. He’s quick to get on his knees behind me, to grab himself and lean forward until he’s pressing against me. I move out from under him, grab his face, and pull him into a deep kiss. Loren moves between my legs and presses my knees to my chest, all without breaking the kiss. When he goes to breach me, I roll us to our side and kiss up his neck to his ear.

Finally, after an eternity of this roadrunner, beep beep, bullshit, he pushes away from me. “My dick is literally going to fall off. If you don’t want me to fuck your ass then I won’t, but please suck my dick or something. I’m dying here.”

I drape my arm over my face and try not to laugh, but I’m vibrating so hard the bed shakes. Loren shoves me. Then shoves me again when I laugh harder. “I’m sorry,” I say between fits of laughter. “I can’t help it. You were like Gollum trying to find the ring.”

Get in a relationship, they said. Best sex ever, they said.” Loren flops on his back next to me. He looks down. “I have no erection anymore. Thanks for that.”

He definitely has an erection. It’s flagged a little, but it’s hardly flaccid. I smile at his petulant attitude. I take mercy on him and his big, pouty lip. I roll over and straddle him. He won’t look at me, tilting his head away instead. I grab his chin and force him to face me. His eyes remain averted.

With his definitely-not-limp dick wedged in my ass, I stroke myself. “I guess I’ll just take care of this myself.”

Loren lays there, fists at his side as he ignores me. Like he’s not into what's happening. Fine. If he wants to play hard to get.

I start rocking, grinding against him. “Oh fuck, that feels good,” I moan.

“Fine.” He bends his legs, forcing me up, and repositions himself against my back door. “If you’re going to be insistent, then go ahead. But hurry up, you wasted so much time playing games that we have to be quick. Your brothers will be here soon.”

Loren grabs my hips and pulls me down. I close my eyes and feel him in me. The jokes are gone. No more sass from him. No more stalling from me. I move slowly at first, but it’s not long before I’m riding hard. Loren was gone for two weeks. The pent-up tension is a two-way street.

“Finish me from behind,” I pant.

Loren flips me over like the river card in the last round of the World Poker Tournament after going all in. He grabs my hips and slowly re-enters me, then resumes fucking me with a steady rhythm.

Sorry we’re late but Derek changed his pants—oh my god!”

“Shit!” Loren grabs the comforter and quickly pulls it over us. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he growls as he buries his head into my shoulder blades.

What the fuck!” Taylor continues, his voice getting quieter as he runs further away. “My eyes. MY EYES!”

From under the blanket of shame, Loren sighs. “Your family needs to learn some damn boundaries.”

“On the plus side,” I tell him, chuckling. “They probably won’t be walking in without permission anymore.”

****

“You’re both professional athletes. Why the fuck don’t you have your own house?” Loren asks as he strolls across the living room with his jacket draped over his arm.

Taylor smirks as he watches our walk of shame, which we did with our heads held high. “Why would we waste money when we can stay here for free?”

“Sure, why get your own place when you can have dinner and show at your brother’s?” Loren quips back. “I can see the appeal.”

Taylor laughs. “Trust me, the show was not that good. One star: would not watch again.”

****

“I’m guessing we’re going to Carrabba’s?” I ask as we load up into the new SUV I was forced to get because my truck was ‘too small’ according to, well, everyone. With Derek, Danielle, Taylor, Niki, Loren, and myself, I conceded to their point.

Derek shakes his head in the rearview mirror. “Nope. Union.”

“I love that place. Their blackened salmon is the best I’ve had.” The second I say it, I realize what it means. We’re eating at Union because it’s my favorite, despite it being my parents’ anniversary.

The drive is awkward. Danielle and Niki are obviously uncomfortable while my brothers pretend nothing is amiss. I suppose, to them it’s not. Which makes me angry. I don’t even know what to say.

I can’t even look at Loren. He must think I’m a monster, having gone my whole life clueless, letting my brothers live under my bridge. I can’t judge Lars for not realizing the truth of his parents while I accepted my own falsehoods because they suited me.

By the time I pull along the curb in front of Union, I’m quite pissed. “I’ll be right back.” I unlock only my door and leave the car running.

“I think valet prefers we’re out of the car before they park it. In fact, I’m absolutely positive about it,” Taylor argues.

I close the door on my mouthy brother and hurry into the restaurant. My parents are already seated at the pre-reserved table for eight. They look up and smile. Mom claps silently, a bit giddy while Dad stands out of respect. I think he expects me to round the table for our normal greeting.

“Why aren’t we at Carrabba’s?”

“We haven’t seen you in forever and we know you love Union,” Mom answers.

“But it’s your anniversary.”

She shrugs. “It’s not a big deal, Jay. We enjoy Union, they have great food.”

“Why don’t we go to Nagoya? That’s Derek’s favorite.”

Unamused, Mom tilts her head and looks at me patiently. “Jay, what is this about?’

I look between my parents. “Why do you guys treat me differently?”

Mom rolls her eyes. “I don’t know what you're talking about.”

I look at Dad. His eyes are downcast. “Dad?”

He shakes his head, which irritates Mom so she whacks him with the back of her hand. “Do you have something to say?”

Dad tightens his lips in defiance, like Aidan when he holds on to the door frame so you can’t make him go. Dad is not going to say anything if he can get away with it.

“Richard?”

The seconds tick by. I’ll give it to the man, he holds out. In the end, he’s no match for Donna Petermeyer. Her direct stare wears him down until his shoulder sag. “What do you want me to say?”

Mom leans back and looks between us in confusion. “If someone is accusing me of playing favorites…” When the silence stretches, she sighs. “You were our first born after two miscarriages and you always excelled in everything you did. I’m a proud mother.”

“You can be proud of me in a way that doesn’t leave Taylor and Derek out.”

“They’re not left out!”

“Dear…” Dads says in the let-not-fool-anyone tone.

Before he can say whatever is on the tip of his tongue, Taylor comes marching through the restaurant, everyone flanked behind him. He’s grinning, a tell that he’s about to say something he thinks is funny. “Valet tried dropping us off at daycare.”

I put my hand up, stopping their advance. “We’re not eating here.”

Mom and Dad object to the change of venue while Derek and Taylor throw their hands up, confused why they just waited in the car for ten minutes only to come in and find out we’re leaving.

“We can eat at Carrabba’s or Nagoya.”

“I vote Nagoya,” Derek says.

“Nagoya sounds great,” I say, before anyone can interrupt. I see the irony but I don’t care. The dynamics won’t change overnight, so I might as well use my power for good.

I lean in close to Loren. “How much cash do you have?” He quickly pulls out his wallet. It’s lined with crisp hundos. “Leave a grand, okay?”

Not wanting to argue during such a tense stand-off, Loren thumbs through the bills and tosses them on the table. There’s definitely more than a thousand but I don’t think he cares and neither do I.

“Alright,” I say, motioning for everyone to start moving their hind sides. “To Nagoya we go.”

My brothers lead everyone from the restaurant. Judging by the glare they nail me with, they’ve caught on and are not happy with the confrontation.

Loren brushes against me as we leave. “How awkward is tonight going to be?”

“It will be terrible, but changing toxic behavior is never easy and will probably make everyone uncomfortable for a while. Between you and me? I don’t fucking care. My brothers deserve better.”

And it is. The whole weekend is awkward. But we have to start somewhere.

****

“You got the wine?” I ask.

Loren holds up the expensive bottle. One of many he’s been gifted over the years.

I deadpan. “I don’t think a seven-month pregnant woman wants wine.”

“No one says they have to drink it now. She won’t be pregnant forever.”

We’ve only been back from Wisconsin for less than sixty-hours. The party is going strong. We hug the soon-to-be bride and groom, then make our rounds.

Half way through, Loren finds me. He’s had a few drinks. His cloudy eyes are showing every one of them. It’s rare he’s like this. It makes me smile. “‘Dem two gotta get married before the baby pops. You know? I don’t know what’s in the water around here, but I think everyone is pregnant or getting married.” He looks at Corey and his very pregnant wife, then at Isaac and his very pregnant girlfriend, then back at me with a lazy smirk. “Or both.”

“It has been a crazy year, that’s for sure.”

He points his finger at me and glares. “Don’t get any ideas.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

He eyes me for a minute, then nods. “Just making sure.”

Then we’re jetting off to a small, private ceremony. Lily is what people might say ‘pregnant as fuck’ and as beautiful as ever in her white form fitting dress. “It’s stretchy!” she says, pulling at the fabric as if we don’t believe her.

Isaac's girlfriend stayed behind. A little further along and not as comfortable with traveling.

The resort is beautiful. Over-the-water-bungalows on a private beach. I asked how they obtained it on such short notice and they just shrugged. “It’s the off season,” Cole said, but I didn’t believe him. I bet it cost a fortune.

The wedding is a quiet affair on the beach, surrounded by thirty of Corey and Lily’s closest friends and family, including the last minute addition of Lars and Courtney, though they had to fly back early because of work.

We’re chatting with Cole and Isaac when Loren looks up. His face lights up and he takes off across the beach.

Isaac looks up but rolls his eyes when he realizes nothing interesting is happening. “It’s just Corey’s parents.”

I do a double take then quickly follow him, slow jogging across the soft sand. Loren sees me and waves for me to hurry. When I get to them, they’re laughing.

Julia’s eyes well with emotion, the look of absolute happiness. She points at me and her lip quivers. “You—” She wipes the tears from her cheek. “Thank you.”

“Oh,” I say, taken aback. “I don’t know what I’ve done.”

She hugs me. “You’ve loved on my Loren, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”

“It’s been easy.”

Mike smiles and puts his arm around Loren. “Oh, we know. Easiest thing you’ve done.”

Julia takes my arm and leads us to the gazebo with snacks and beverages while Mike and Loren follow behind. We end up sitting and talking for hours. It’s easy to see why Loren was upset with me. How could you possibly feel ‌unloved when you have these two wonderful humans in your life?

I watch Loren as he chats away. He’s so damn happy. I’m so damn happy with him. I want to spend the rest of my life with that man.

I can’t help but hope that things are changing. I’m not talking about kids, though it’s not lost on me that Courtney’s not drinking. I know Loren is adamant about that, the not having kids, but he’s open to marriage.

I have to take his lead on it, but it’s coming. Mark my words. It’s coming.

****

The bright orange sky fades to navy blue as the sun sinks lower. It’s just the bride and groom’s friends left. Loren pulls me to the middle of the tiki circle and starts dancing. Well, it’s not really dancing as much as it’s a public form of foreplay.

Lily and Corey dance their way over. She points to us and narrows her eyes. “You guys are next.” It takes us a second, so she gestures at the event. Wedding.

“Not on your life,” Loren says without breaking from his moves.

Lily rolls her eyes and looks at me. “You should really break him of that. It’s a terrible habit.”

“No, no, no.” Loren waves a drunk finger at her. “He knows the score.”

They both wave his drunk ass off and then dance their way to the next couple. I bite his ear. “You know, I’m fine not getting married, but you could stop being so dramatic when someone brings it up.”

“Just don’t want anyone to get ideas.”

“Trust me, there are no ideas being had.”

“Good.”

This year has really driven home all the things I don’t get to have. I want to be married and have kids, but I want Loren more. A lot more. And that’s okay, more than okay. There are so many other things we get to do.

I bite his ear again. “Let’s make living together official.”

He stills for a moment as he takes in my words. “I like what we have going.”

“I like it, too. But I’d like something more than staying at each other’s houses. I’m retired. We’re not juggling schedules like we used to. It doesn’t matter where I’m at. It’s the perfect time to make something more permanent.”

The coast breeze picks up. He turns around, his hair fluttering, his eyes wide like a deer. “Jay…”

“What?”

“I like what we have going,” he repeats as if he’s reprimanding a child for not listening to the first time.

I can’t fully tell if he’s serious or just being an overly dramatic Loren. I smile anyway. “And I want something more permanent.”

“You said you weren’t going to pressure me. I’m feeling very pressured right now. This is coming out of left field.”

I wait for him to crack a smile because there’s no way he’s serious right now.

And I wait.

“I’m not blindsiding you. We’ve been dating for over four years, practically living with each other for three. You’ve already put your foot down about marriage and kids. If we can’t live together, then what the hell are we even doing?”

He runs his fingers through his hair. “I’m not ready to live with you full time. I need my own space.”

I take a few steps back. “You’re fucking serious right now?”

He looks around, then steps closer and tries to hush me. “This isn’t the best time.”

“Why? Because it’s inconvenient for you?”

He points to his friends, some of which are watching us, some of which are pretending not to. “Yeah, kind of.”

I shake my head. I can’t believe it. “It’s one thing to give up things you want because committed relationships are about compromise. It’s a kick in the balls to realize it was never about compromising in the first place. It’s about one person getting everything they want and the other person getting scraps and telling themselves it’s a feast.”

“Jay—”

“Name one thing you’ve compromised on?”

“The fact we’re in a relationship to begin with.”

Isaac rushes over and covers Loren’s mouth with his hand. He looks panicked. “He’s drunk. You’ve seen him drinking tonight and you know says stupid fucking shit when he drinks.”

He’s not that drunk and he doesn’t say stupid shit when he drinks. But it’s too late. Words said can’t be unheard and all that.

Loren is stone faced. I can’t read him at all. If I had to guess, he knows he screwed up, but he’s too proud to admit it in front of his friends. I’m not sure it matters at this point. If he can’t compromise or drop his pride, then it only proves everything I’m finally realizing.

I take a few more steps away. Nothing like a slight change in perspective to show you what a naïve imbecile you’ve been. A hopeless romantic from the beginning. Willing to give it all up for a chance at happiness.

But whose happiness?

He says I know the score. Well, I don’t. I’ve been in the wrong field, playing the wrong game, reading the wrong playbook.

I look at Loren. “Now I know the score.”

****

I lean back against the sofa and watch the door. I half expected Loren to follow me back to the room, but I think his friends waylaid him. Hopefully, they talked some sense into him.

The deck creaks as they come back from the beach. Hushed voices say their goodnights and doors close one by one. Our door opens slowly, stopping when it hits my duffle bag. Loren looks down and pushes the bag out of the way with his foot. He looks at me in confusion. “You’re leaving?”

“I am.”

He rolls his eyes disbelievingly. Of course he doesn’t believe me. Why would he? The last four years have been about him. I’ve been Jay; the giver. I’ve yielded to his every want and need. I haven’t put my foot down about much of anything, afraid that he’d get scared and run off. I didn’t even hold Carson for weeks!

“You knew from the beginning that I didn’t do relationships. Now you’re acting like this is brand new information.”

“That line became a copout a long time ago, Loren. You’re not with someone for this long if you don’t ‘do relationships’. And let's remember that I walked away from you in the beginning. I let you go because you said it would never work. It was you who came back to me. Even then, I said no. Remember? I didn’t want it to be ‘everything else’ and then me all the way at the bottom. But you picked me. And you did that knowing my score. So how is it that we’re four years later, and I’m back at the bottom of your list-of-importance’s?”

His jaw ticks. “Don’t be like that. You’re not at the bottom and you know it. You know that’s not true.”

“Then where do I need to be to have my wants taken into consideration? Where do I need to be for you to stop telling me to ‘not to get any ideas’ every five seconds and actually consider that I was giving up a huge part of my life’s dream for you? You can’t even fathom living together! News flash, we’re not in high school anymore. We’re adults. Adults live together. You’re willing to start a business with me, but you’re not willing to share a fucking mortgage?”

Loren throws his hands in the air. “Fine, if it’s that big of a deal, let's move in together! Sell your house and move into mine. I don’t care! If I would’ve known it was this big of a deal, I would’ve said yes. Fuck!”

I walk to the door and collect my bag. “You’re a fucking child. And I think you were right; you do need space. A lot more space than I can give you.” I close the door behind me and walk to land.

The old wooden boards bend and creak as he picks up speed behind me. “Jay, wait up.”

I keep walking.

“God dammit, Jay!

The Uber is waiting, blinding me with his damn headlights. I walk around, toss my bag in the back seat, and slide in. Loren grabs the door before I can close it. For the first time all night, he's wearing real emotion. Panic. “Where are you going?”

“Home. My home.”

“Don’t leave,” he pleads. “Don’t leave like this.”

“There’s nothing to stay for.”

“Me. Stay for me.”

I laugh. “It’s always been about you, Loren. That’s the problem.”

“Fuck you. I care about you more than I care about anyone else!”

“By your own accounts, that’s not much.”

 And more so, it’s not enough.

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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