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The knock on the door wasn’t unexpected. Beth had texted me to tell me she needed to talk, and that she was bringing Lisa with her. I had a feeling about what they were going to say, and for a few moments hope filled me. If Beth and Lisa refused to back down with the shit they were facing, then maybe I would be free. The deal was, I married Beth, her dad financed my dad, my dad didn’t press charges and get Taz traded away from a role he loved. The end. So if there were no marriage, then that would be the end of it.
That hope stayed with me for long enough to pick up my phone to call Elo, but then memories slammed into me, and the phone dropped to the sofa.
The time I collected model trains, tiny little things that ran on a complicated track setup in my room. I was only eleven, but I’d painstakingly painted little trees, and created a small village at one, a miniature New York at the other. He wanted my room, and hell, I don’t even remember what for, but I was moving, and he promised me, if I didn’t make a fuss, he’d have the whole layout moved.
When I woke up in my new room, there were no trains, just an empty floor, and when I asked him…
He said I was too old for toys, had taken the opportunity to help me grow up. I cried for days; I remember that. He had rigid ideas of what his boy should be doing, playing with toy trains wasn’t one of those things. He’d never been the kind of dad I saw other kids had. I mean, I’ve watched other dad’s, patient and loving, on television. I wanted so badly to be with a dad like that, and a mom that cared enough to see her little boy was hurting.
There was no love between dad and me, nothing. I was just a bargaining tool now, and the despair that I was fucking with my own happiness was killing me slowly.
I opened the door to let Beth and Lisa in, and I knew from their expressions I was right.
“I can’t let her do it. I stood up at work and told them I was a lesbian, and that I was still the best manager they had, and if they dared to let me go it would be their loss, and I would rain hell on them,” Lisa said immediately as if she couldn’t wait to get the words out. Before she could say any more, I hugged her hard and then pulled Beth in for a hug as well.
“That’s wonderful,” I said, and I meant it. For Beth and Lisa, it was wonderful, but I couldn’t help the pain that knotted in my chest. When they left, after I’d reassured them to the point I even believed everything might be okay, the apartment was quiet and lonely.
Dad’s track record when his plans were messed up was to fight dirty. He would want to salvage the deal, wouldn’t let Beth’s father withdraw funding, and Taz and his partner would be the first casualties.
There was nothing good left in my dad, and I slumped to the sofa, defeat in every line of me. My cell clattered to the floor, and instinctively I picked it up, checking it was okay, and in a daze, I saw a text from Elo on the screen. He’d taken to texting me once a day, a simple message about the weather, or a game, or a funny story about Taz, and he always ended them with a simple, “love you.”
Before I’d even consciously thought about it, I thumbed the text open, and then hit reply. The screen waited for me to write something clever, or to tell him about Beth and Lisa, but I had nothing. The small icon of a phone was there, all I needed to do was press it, and I could talk to him for real.
What would I say?
I didn’t know, but when I heard him shouting into the phone, I realized I must have hit the connect button.
“Sam! Sam! Are you okay?”
I put the phone to my ear. “Elo,” I murmured. “I’m sorry, I think it’s all fucked up.”
“Sam? What? I’m coming over.”
“No, don’t I’m okay… I just need…”
“Elo, I don’t get what I did that makes Dad hate me so much?” I closed my eyes.
“Sam,” Elo’s voice softened. “Sometimes a man has a black heart for no reason. I’m in the car, I’ll be there soon.”
“No, please.” That was the last thing I needed right now. “I’m okay, just needed to call you and hear your voice. I love you, Elo.”
“I love you, Sam. You’re scaring me. Are you okay?”
I forced a smile so he could hear it in my voice. “Of course I am, I just need a beer, and I’ll be fine. Bye.”
Then I ended the call before he could answer, because I didn’t have anything else to say, and I couldn’t let the mess in my head infect what I had with Elo.
Somehow I would make this all right, but for now, I just needed to sit and breath in some quiet. I silenced the ringing cell and hid it under a pillow. Then I closed my eyes and tipped my head back.
I needed to think this through, plan, do something.
If only my head didn’t hurt so bad, and my heart wasn’t so sore.
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