I watched a smile break over Will’s face and we kissed and rubbed our scruff against one another’s cheeks, laughing. It was damn nice, so of course it couldn’t last.
“Crap. Is it really almost noon?” I asked, glancing at my watch. The watch given to me by my Dad on my last birthday. Fuck, I really didn’t want to think about him right now. I also had to get my boxers off before they permanently stuck to me.
“I’ll drive you to Lance’s to get your car,” Will said, not missing a beat.
Lance’s own car wasn’t outside his place when Will dropped me off. Not exactly a surprise. “I’ll text you later,” I told Will, dropping my head through his open window for a quick kiss before I crossed the street to my own car.
“Hey!” he shouted through his window as I put my key in the lock. “Why don’t we come to the city next weekend? Together. We can do whatever.”
I stepped up to the open window again and grinned at him. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Please don’t call me old-fashioned,” he groaned, “but yes.”
“Text me when and where daddy-o,” I teased.
“Oh god, don’t call me daddy! And the 50’s was, surprisingly, before my time!”
We chuckled together, I gave him another kiss, and we parted. I grinned like an idiot the whole way home. Fuck, I think I may have even whistled when I walked through the front door—which was a habit from my Dad. One I swore to myself I’d never pick up. But at the moment? Didn’t care so much.
“Hey, Cass!” my Dad called from the kitchen. “Just in time for lunch. Don’t know how you always do that!”
I laughed and helped him make up a couple BLTs. I didn’t usually allow myself chips, but I snagged the bag before sitting down to join him at the table.
After a few minutes, I noticed he was watching me. “What?”
He gave a knowing grin and asked, “What did she look like?”
“Oh…” Shit. I really didn’t want to fabricate a whole story, but what could I say? He wasn’t wrong that I’d hooked up with someone, but it sure as hell hadn’t been a chick. “I didn’t really… Things didn’t go the way I planned so just crashed at a friend’s place.”
He didn’t miss a beat. “This the same girl you were fussing over before?”
“Last time we went our for pizza, when you claimed you weren’t checking your cell a hundred times a minute.”
God, this was bad. I hated that even the most subtle lies were growing by the minute. This wasn’t fair to either of us. Or Will, for that matter.
I couldn’t say it now, though. So I laughed and shook my head.
Dad patted my shoulder. “You’ll get her next time,” he said, picking up his empty plate and rising from the table.
How much longer could I do this?
Thankfully the week went on without issue. We were busy working overtime so Dad and I didn’t do much talking. I went out to Shaun’s on Thursday night, and it felt good to just veg out and have some beers. Though I had to admit, it felt like something was missing. Shaun was totally open-minded and comfortable with the fact I was gay, but that didn’t mean we could bond over me crushing on a guy or my issues about coming out. I tried calling Lance, but he pretty much responded to everything with, “Did you fuck yet?” Plus, they both were tired of me hemming and hawing over being in the closet.
Finally, after the slow crawl of the week, Saturday arrived. I headed over to Will’s later in the day, after being a dumbass and “primping” myself with a shower and shave and, lord help me, cologne.
“Hot date?” Dad asked as I was walking out the door.
“Huh?” I must’ve looked like a deer in headlights. He chuckled from his place on the couch.
“You look good. Go get her, son!”
With a laugh, I left, now feeling like utter shit. I didn’t know when I would tell him the truth, but it was going to be soon, ‘cause the lies were just going to start piling up. That, of course, would make it all worse, in the end.
I was damn relieved to finally reach Will’s door. Tonight I could just enjoy being out with him, enjoy being us.
“Ready or not, here I come!” I called as I turned my lock in the key and opened the door.
Only it wasn’t Will’s face that greeted me. It was Uncle TJ.
“Oh, hey Uncle TJ. I was just… I mean—”
Will stepped out of his room then and I had to stop myself from openly ogling him. How could a guy make something like everyday jeans look so damn sexy? “Hey, Cass!” he said with a smile. He didn’t look troubled, so that was a good sign, but I wasn’t sure where things stood with us and Uncle TJ. It was one thing to know you’re nephew was gay and other to know he was dating your close friend.
“So, uh, what are you guys up to?” I asked them. Yeah, it was awkward.
“It’s ok, I told him we, umm, hang out,” Will said, moving beside me.
“That we’re friends, you mean?”
TJ snorted. “Neither of you can lie for shit. I’ve got eyes, I know you’re more than ‘friends’.”
I opened my mouth but I didn’t know what to say.
“And I know you have a date, so I’ll make myself scarce.” TJ stood and I just knew he was going to deliver me some kind of advice or warning, from that look. Instead, he patted my shoulder and said, “If Will steps out of line, ever, tell me.” He was looking at Will. “I’ll deal with him.”
That made me laugh so hard it almost hurt—half of it was probably from relief. “I don’t think you need to protect my virtue, Uncle TJ.”
He shrugged and Will shook his head at him. “I’m watchin’ you,” TJ said pointing to his eyes then Will’s, before he left.
“Don’t I get a kiss first?” I teased, lifting up on my toes.
I got a peck on the cheek and he held the door for me. “This way, Princess.”
Not funny. “Seriously? Gonna gender-shame me? And that’s it?”
“I’ve got plans for us, come on.” Then he turned with a grin and walked out. I guess I had to follow him, the ass. Though, as I walked behind him, I had to admit it was a pretty nice ass.
“What are you chuckling about back there?”
“Just keep walking, daddy-o.”
Will lead us to his car, but I shook my head. “We’re taking mine.”
“What? There’s nothing wrong with ol’ Betsy here!”
I scoffed. “She’s got to be, what? Ten, fifteen years old? And her paint’s peeling.”
Shaking his head, Will patted Betsy’s hood. “He doesn’t mean to be rude, girl.” I laughed. I guess he had a right to be possessive of his car. She’d been bouncing between Kate and him for heaven only knew how long.
“Hey, I’m not bad-mouthing her, much. I’d prefer to take my Honda, though.”
“That means you’d have to drive, but I’m the one that knows where we’re going.”
Folding my arms, I raised an eyebrow. “Does that mean you can’t let someone else take the lead? No good as a navigator?”
He kept a straight face, but I knew he’d only just barely kept from rolling his eyes. “By all means, lead the way!”
I nodded and we stepped over to my car, where I held open the door for him.
“Such a gentleman,” he chuckled. Once I got into the car, he gave me a stern look. “Don’t think that being sweet is gonna make me put out, though.”
“No, I’m confident you’re horny enough that you’ll put out either way.”
He burst out laughing and we were on our way.
“Dinner and a movie? Really?” I asked when he told me his plans for us. “We going to the soda fountain too, daddy-o?”
He smirked. “You’ll see.”
Like most places around Chicago, it took about an hour to get there, especially as it was on the northside. Will said when he’d lived out West people had complained about twenty minute drives to get places.
“Yep. An hour is unheard of. Though, unlike here, if you go an hour inland from the water, the climate is totally different. Places change faster.”
I shrugged. “Don’t make excuses, they’re soft!”
He shook his head with a laugh. Whatever it might be like in other places, I didn’t mind the so-called long drives around Chicago. For one, it gave us time to chat in the car. If there’d been traffic, that would’ve been different, but it was an off time of day (the late-night crowd hadn’t rolled in yet), so I was able to drive on autopilot. Which meant I could ask the one question burning my brain.
“So, how much does Uncle TJ know about us? He didn’t look surprised that I just let myself into your place with my own key—and he knew we were going out for our date night.”
Will sighed. Was I not going to like this? “He was giving me warnings from the get-go, but we were only friends then. I don’t think he believed me when I told him it would stay that way.”
“Well, it didn’t.”
“No, it didn’t. So when he came by today and asked me what I was up to tonight, I told him.”
I knew that wasn’t unreasonable. Uncle TJ knowing about us wasn’t really a problem either, but… “I wish we’d discussed who we were going to tell, before that.”
Will nodded. “I know. I’m sorry.”
I let that sit in the air for while, then asked, “He was ok with it, though?”
“Yeah. I think he’s worried about our age difference, but he’s ok.”
“He’s got to watch out for his darling nephew,” Will said with a cheeky grin.
“You’re damn lucky I’m driving, or I’d deal with that smirk of yours.”
“Later,” he said with promise. “It’s good you have him to look out for you, though.”
“I know. He’s… well, he’s the one who had the real “talk” with me, when I was growing up.”
“What do you mean?”
With a shrug, I told him, “Dad gave me all the typical talks about sex and women and commitment and marriage. Uncle TJ just tossed me a package of condoms and told me to be damn sure to use them, no matter what sex my partner was. That was before I came out. After, he talked to me more about practical issues, like STDs and discrimination and all that. The useful stuff.”
“I’m glad you had him,” Will said, hand on my knee.
Not long after our heart-to-heart, Will directed me to the highway exit and I realized we were headed to the Vic Theater. “Are we going to a concert?”
He shook his head. “Nope, better. Tonight it’s the Brew ‘n View. The first Indiana Jones is playing.”
“Cool, I’ve never been there before.”
“Really? The best of a bar and movie theater rolled into one? You’ve been missing out.” After we managed to find a parking space, we walked together to the Vic, and I found myself wondering if it would be ok to hold his hand. Not that Will would mind, but we weren’t in Boys Town now. God, it sucked that something so small could actually be unsafe.
Will didn’t seem to be overthinking anything though. He held the door out for me again, and I punched him in the chest as he laughed.
It was a good night, though. Not sure how it could’ve been bad, considering I had good company, cheap beer, and a classic movie. When we left, I had a nice buzz going, and we headed to Nisei Lounge, on my recommendation.
“How did you know I love dive bars?” Will asked with a wink. We found seats and clicked glasses, then chatted about how the week had been. All the while, though, I was thinking about what it must be like for Will—someone who’d been out for so long—to be on a date with someone who’d never stepped out of the closet.
“What is it?” he asked after a while.
“You seem kind of distracted.”
“I’m sorry. Just thinking…”
“About?” He prompted as he sipped his lager; I sipped my water as he grinned. My hesitancy amused him, apparently.
“I don’t know. Does it…bother you that I’m not out? Since it means we can’t really be “out” together, you know?”
His eyebrows rose. “You certainly seemed “out” at the club last weekend.”
“That’s Boys Town, it’s different.”
Will shrugged. “I’ll be the first to say that everyone should be themselves and embrace who they really are, but a nice, clean line between being “in” or “out”,” he waved a hand, “it’s not always that simple.”
“So, I don’t have to come out to my Dad?” I tried.
He chortled. “I didn’t say that. All I’m saying is, it’s not an ideal world, you have to pick your battles. Though some battles, well, they choose you.”
Spreading his hands, Will replied, “Some situations are tolerable, others…they eat at your soul. At that point, it becomes less about choosing to fight, and more about choosing to, well, live I guess.” He cringed. “That wasn’t supposed to sound so cheesy.”
I shook my head. “No, I understand. That point might be sooner rather than later for me, actually.”
“I hate lying to my Dad.”
“I’m sorry you’ve had to. He’s pretty bad, huh? Too bad he isn’t more like TJ.”
“He used to be, but he’s gotten more and more conservative since my Mom left.”
Will laid his hand over mine. I changed the subject.
But when I pulled up to Will’s apartment complex later, the topic was still stuck in my head—much as I tried to ignore it.
“Shall I walk you to your door?” I teased.
“Behind me again, so you can check out my ass?”
I gasped dramatically, pressing a hand to my chest. “I’m shocked! As if I would do such a thing!” But I couldn’t keep a straight face.
Will took my chin in hand and gave me a slow kiss. “I think I can forgive you, if you kiss it better next time.”
“Next time? No time like the present!”
“You’re not expected back?”
A heavy, deep sigh left me. “Probably.” I could always lie to my Dad. Again. A strong hand brushed my jaw.
“Talk to me, Cass.”
I couldn’t right away, though. It took me a little while before I was able to ask, “You know where Dad took me to for my twenty-first birthday?”
“A strip club.” I blew out another breath. “I was going come out to him before that, because even if I wasn’t gay, I don’t think that would be my scene.” I chewed my lip, then stopped myself.
“What do you think? I chickened out and just went with some of his buddies to the strip club.”
“His friends, not yours? Was TJ there?”
“Yeah, his friends—celebrating my becoming a man or something. TJ had some excuse.” Somehow I forced myself to keep going. “It was the most uncomfortable night of my life. God, it was awful!” My head fell into my hands; I could barely stand thinking about it. “Dad knew some of the strippers there—or I guess, they knew him—because he goes so damn often. And then I realized I knew one of the strippers.”
When I met Will’s eyes, I could see questions there, but he didn’t interrupt.
“She went to my college. She’d been in some of my classes. Christ.” I shut my eyes against the memory. “She knew I was gay, for god’s sake! When she saw me, we both kind of stared, but we kept up the charade.” I felt my throat tighten as Will gazed at me. “I was so ashamed. My Dad kept egging me on to shove money down her G-string and try to smack her ass.”
I didn’t think talking about this would be so hard. It felt like I was breaking apart, but Will took me in his arms and held me together while my tears came down.
“This is ridiculous!” I said, sniffling between words. “You can talk about almost killing yourself without losing it and here I am crying like a girl over going to a stupid strip club!”
“Hey,” he said. Moving back to put a hand to my face, he lifted my chin so I had to meet his eyes. “First off, it’s not ridiculous. I went through a depression partly because I was trying to hide who I was. It was the same for you. Having to ignore or bury who we really are, it’s damaging. No matter how or where.”
I nodded and he wiped my cheeks. “And second,” Will went on, “I don’t think girls cry over going to strip clubs.”
“Huh?” Then it clicked and I burst out laughing, tears still in my eyes. “Your weird,” I told him, but pushed myself deeper into his arms.