Today’s prompt was to focus on drawing out emotions. This is something I’ve been told I’m pretty good at. I do like to dig down into a character’s emotions and twist them as much as I can(yeah, I’m mean like that). And this works perfectly for where I’m at in Break on Me. This comes after To Forget and Every Sunday but before Put the Brakes on.
Gabriel kicked at a clump of snow on the sidewalk to the office. Someone had already taken the time to shovel it off at least. Which meant either Chris or their dad had probably beat him into the office. Possibly even both of them. He sighed and ran a hand over his face. He’d have to let them know how the meeting with Lora had gone the day before. Not that any of it had been bad. They’d gone over the points of the proposal, and Lora agreed they were solid. But, it still depended on what the town wanted. They wouldn’t be able to move forward until the council made a decision.
Just thinking about Lora had everything in him tensing up. It had been good to see her, knowing how she was doing since the funeral. He’d tried calling her a few times, but she never returned them. He’d figured she just didn’t want anything to do with someone who would only remind her of Aaron, so he’d let it go. But, it had definitely been a shock to see her again. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her, even when he’d gone home. He’d been silent through the dinner Erik had made, though he did listen to his roommate talk about his first day of work at the bed and breakfast.
He hadn’t gone to Erik’s room that night, though.
Erik had looked a bit rough this morning, like he hadn’t gotten much sleep, either. Gabriel had asked him if he was all right, and he’d assured him he was. Gabriel wasn’t sure he totally believed it, but he’d let it go. He still thought the other man should get in to talk to someone about his likely PTSD, but he knew pushing the issue wouldn’t do any good. Still, he worried.
Gabriel pushed into the office and saw his dad sitting at his desk. Other than that, the office was empty. “Chris hasn’t made it in yet?” he asked, letting the door close behind him. Their major projects had been set aside until the spring, but they still had some remodeling work on the table. It would be just enough to keep their guys working until it picked back up when the weather cleared.
“Sent him out to the site already. Boy’s been itchy lately.”
Meaning Chris felt cooped up here in the office and was driving their father only slightly crazy. Gabriel moved over to his own desk. There wasn’t really any designs for him to work on. Not until they got back to building in the spring. He could start figuring out the layout of this development, though. Or at least some different ideas for it. He didn’t have to wait for the town to approve it to do that. And it might help if he could take those drawings to the meeting.
But, he also had to make sure they stayed on top of all their bills and the other paperwork even during the slow months. Neither his father or brother were good at keeping up with that. So, it fell to him. He was fine with that. Most of the time. Today he wasn’t sure he could concentrate on it.
“I also wanted to talk to you.”
Gabriel’s head came up at that. He had no idea what it had to do with sending Chris to a job site early. But, he heard the concern in his father’s voice. A tone he hadn’t heard in almost five years. When he was sinking fast in depression, barely managing to cope with the loss of his arm and his future, to his thinking. That was when his father drove him to the VA center, and sat there with him until Gabriel gave in and went inside.
And he saw that concern in his father’s dark brown eyes as well. A lot of the time his father seemed detached from emotions. Which Gabriel figured was his coping method from losing the woman he loved and almost losing his oldest son.
“What is it, Dad? I’m fine, you know. Not every day, but I’m not where I used to be.”
“Good to know, but it’s not that.” His dad moved from his desk to the other side of Gabriel’s. “I’ve heard some talk in town.”
“I didn’t think you listened to gossip.”
His dad snorted. “I try not to. But, sometimes the busybodies shove it right in my face. I knew that stuff about Chris, Sue, and Ken was garbage. Anyone who looked at Susan and Kendall could see they loved each other. Buncha bullshit, you ask me, what the town tried to put those girls through.”
Gabriel agreed, but he still had to rub his sweaty palm along his jeans. He was afraid he knew where this was going. He just really hoped he was wrong. “What did you hear, Dad?”
“I knew that was garbage because anyone with eyes could see. But, you keep things all wrapped up tight.”
“Dad,-” Shit, shit, shit.
“I know you asked that boy to move into the house with you. No matter what his father said about the reason, I know the truth, Gabe. There’s never been love lost between Jakob Morrey and me. I thought his son was like him, but if you consider him a friend, I’m sure there’s more. And I know what you were thinking when you made the offer. Saving him doesn’t bring anyone else back, though.”
“I know,” Gabriel said, but it was hard to get the words out through the tightness in his chest. “Nothing will bring Aaron back. But, I can at least keep from having to bury another friend.” He swallowed hard, hating that his eyes burned from the pressure of tears he tried to fight back. “What did you hear, Dad?”
His dad let out a long sigh. “People are claiming there’s more than friendship between you and the Morrey boy. Something his father started from what I heard. Says the boy likes other men so it’s more than likely you two are…”
Gabriel lifted a trembling hand to rub over his mouth. God. He’d known Jakob had started spreading stuff around about Erik, none of it completely untrue. But, still. “Erik’s not gay, Dad. He’s…” Shit. He didn’t have Erik’s permission to say anything. But, his dad wasn’t one to spread things around. He hoped the other man would forgive him. “He’s bisexual, Dad.” He drew in a deep breath, letting it slowly back out. “So am I.”
His dad stared at him, and Gabriel held his breath while he waited for the judgment to come down. But all his father did was rub two fingers over the bridge of his nose. “So, you like both you mean?”
“That’s the over-simplified version, but yes. I’m attracted to more than one gender, but I do prefer women. It’s not always a 50-50 thing.”
His dad kept running his fingers along his nose. “I’ll admit I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it. I only ever loved your mother.”
Gabriel didn’t say anything and finally his dad dropped his hand and met Gabriel’s eyes. “That doesn’t mean I don’t understand it works differently for other people. So, you and Erik-”
Gabriel shook his head. “Not like that. We’ve kissed and a little more, but it’s not like he’s my secret boyfriend. I really did just want to make sure he had a safe place. But, sometimes we both needed a way to forget everything that haunts us.”
His dad’s eyes darkened a little at that. “I wish you didn’t have anything haunting you still.”
“I know it, Dad,” Gabriel said, “but it’s never going to go completely away. I’m coping with it, though.”
His dad moved closer, gripped Gabriel’s good arm and pulled him closer. “I don’t know why you thought you had to keep anything from me. But, you didn’t. You’re my son, not one thing will ever change that or that I love you.”
It was rare to hear those words from his father. Not that he’d ever doubted the truth of them. But, his dad tended to show his feelings more than talk about them. “I know, Dad, but thanks for the reminder. “Now, I should probably get to work.”
His dad stepped back, a smile playing around his lips. He knew an evasion tactic when he saw one. “All right, son. That would probably be a good thing. “Was that woman in about the veterans’ project in yesterday?”
“Yeah,” Gabriel replied. “Give me a few minutes, and we can go over that.” Then, he pushed away thoughts of Erik, his own feelings, his father’s new knowledge of him, and everything else but what he needed to do for his job.