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Story a Day: Day 10 – To Forget

The first scene of this starts during a scene in Love Who You Love, book 3 of my Kurztown series. I never wrote about what happened after they left the garage, though. Also didn’t realize quite how many sparks there were between Gabriel & Erik. I don’t think they’ll end up together, but my characters have surprised me before. Either way, it will certainly add more conflict & tension to Break on Me than I’d expected.

Gabriel looked over at a man he’d fought with, trained with, nearly died with. A man whose father had kicked him out, now, because of some idiotic bigoted views. “I guess this means you don’t have a place to stay.” He couldn’t help but think of another friend who hadn’t had a place to stay when he came home. He couldn’t help Aaron any more, but he wouldn’t let that situation happen again.

“Just my car when her brother gets it finished,” Erik said, gesturing to the woman standing behind the counter of the garage’s office. Kendall had called her brother in to help with the cars since her boss was out and something had gotten screwed up with the schedule. Gabriel was pretty sure she was helping to break his own brother’s heart right now, no matter how much Chris tried to downplay it. But, that was a worry for another time. Erik kept on talking. “I might be able to find a bed in a shelter somewhere.”

“Absolutely no way, man,” Gabriel said before he’d been able to think it through. Aaron had needed to make use of shelters, but it was only a temporary solution and not the best one. “I won’t let a fellow soldier go through that.” Not again. “I’ve got an extra room at my place. You can crash there as long as you need.”

“You sure about that?” Erik asked. “You won’t be worried I’ll try to come on to you?”

Gabriel laughed. “You forget. I still got both my legs. I can still kick you ass. I don’t need two arms for that. And, it comes down to it, I can always outrun you.” He didn’t know how Erik would take him joking about both of their amputee statuses, but it usually helped him to make light of things. And Erik knew he wouldn’t be completely opposed. No one else did, though.

His brother drew in a sharp breath, probably worried how Erik would take it, Chris was always sensitive about Gabriel’s prosthetic arm. But, Erik just laughed and said, “Leave it to you, Sarrano.”

Still smiling, Gabriel turned to the counter and asked Kendall, the woman who worked there, “Any word on my truck?”

She looked amused as she shook her head. “Doren told you last month that unless you want to put more money into it than that thing’s even worth, there’s nothing he can do.”

“I hoped by some miracle that had changed,” he said then turned to his brother. “Can you fit an extra body in your truck?”

His brother looked a little unsure, but he said, “Yeah, I can.” Then, he shifted his gaze to Erik. “I’ll even help load and unload your shit, Morrey. As long as you swear you’re not still the asshole you used to be. You hurt a lot of people back then.”

Erik gave a little nod at him. “Most of all your best bud’s girl. I know. I’ve made amends with her, and I hope I can with the rest as well.”

“All right,” Chris said, apparently satisfied for now. “Let’s get going.”

***

Gabriel hadn’t thought this through too well. It had been rather impulsive, inviting Erik to live with him. And there were likely to be consequences. But, he didn’t think he’d be able to live with himself if another buddy was buried because he didn’t do enough to help fight the battles they brought home with them.

But, now he stood in front of a pile of boxes and bags and had to figure out how they were going to do this. Erik was still a little unsteady on his new leg. Picking any of the items off could throw him off. Gabriel could pick up the bags easily enough. But without having any real feeling in his right hand, he wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to lift any of the boxes. Yeah, he really should have thought this through a little more. Usually he was good at doing that for just about every situation. He didn’t want to get stuck in one where his artificial limb got him in trouble. And yet Erik had him doing just that.

“So, where do you want to start?” Chris asked, coming around to stand with them.

Right, his brother was here to help. But, he hated having to depend on anyone, especially his little brother.

“Boxes first,” Erik said. “The bags will fit around them.”

Which meant there wasn’t much Gabriel could do for now. And damn, he hated feeling useless. He’d fought back from that feeling. He’d used the money from the Army to go to school so he could design the buildings his father and brother constructed. Since he could no longer swing a hammer or work a saw. It was the only thing that still made him feel useful to the company.

He hated standing there awkwardly while his brother lifted boxes and slid them around in the bed of his truck. “Hope nothing’s too fragile,” he said, trying to joke around. “He’s used to loading lumber and nails, not handle with care items.”

Erik squeezed Gabriel’s shoulder. “It’ll be fine, man. You offered me your house. You don’t have to do everything, you know.”

How did he seem to see everything? Everyone else always appeared to be fooled by his easygoing attitude. But, not Erik. Yeah, this definitely may have been a mistake.

Chris finally had all the boxes situated in the bed of the truck, so Gabriel grabbed the first of the bags and carried it over to him. He could do this. It would keep his brother from having to keep jumping down from the truck. Then, he turned back toward the bags that were left and saw the man standing just a few paces away. Rage boiled under his skin at the way he glared at Erik and the truck parked at the curb.

“I expected you to have all this shit gone by now.”

Gabriel moved to Erik’s side, but at the way the older man’s eyes narrowed, and he sneered at them, he thought that might have been a mistake. “We’re working on getting that done. Did you come out to lend a hand?”

“No.” Jakob Morrey put all the contempt he probably could fit into the one word. “I came to make sure you get off my property. You better watch it, Sarrano, or my son’s going to turn you, too.”

Gabriel very nearly opened his mouth to tell him it was too late for that and none of it was on Erik’s shoulders. But, before he could, Erik stepped forward. “Thanks, Dad. Love the care you took with all my stuff. So nice to have it thrown out in the yard.”

“Just get your stuff and go,” Erik’s father said then turned back toward the house.

Erik stepped back, brushing his arm against Gabriel’s. “Sorry about my dad. If he hasn’t already started spreading the word about me, about my sickness as he sees it, he’ll be adding your name to it, too. I shouldn’t have brought you into my mess.”

“Just shut up,” Gabriel said softly and stepped away. He had to before he compounded his mistakes today. “Let’s get the rest of your stuff and go home.”

***

Gabriel stared up at his ceiling as he listened to his new roommate moving around in the room across the hall. Two weeks. Erik had been living with him for two weeks. During the day, there weren’t any problems. Of course, Gabriel was usually heading out to the office by the time Erik was getting out of bed. He didn’t know exactly how Erik spent his days aside from physical therapy appointments, and he said he was looking for a job that could be flexible with him. He did know, though, that when he came home the house always seemed clean and Erik was getting dinner on the table.

It was all so damn domestic.

Then, nighttime came. They sat on opposite ends of the couch, attempting to ignore some simmering tension between them. And when they finally went to their own beds, Gabriel laid here awake most of the night. And the whole time he could hear Erik moving around in the other room. Gabriel never did fall asleep until the noises finally ceased.

He should have known inviting Erik to stay here would be a mistake. The town wasn’t that accepting, there were already rumors going around about Kendall and Susan, and they were having to deal with that. He could only imagine what would happen if someone thought something was going on between him and Erik. Especially with the rumors Erik’s dad had already started spreading. He’d kept Gabriel’s name out of it so far at least. He didn’t want to think about having to explain to his father that there was some truth to them. Not that he should be ashamed of the way he felt. He just didn’t know how his father, a traditionalist in most ways, would react to the truth.

And he didn’t want to screw up their living arrangements by succumbing to these rioting feelings. He wouldn’t kick Erik out. Not to go stay in a shelter, or worse, on the streets. Maybe someone else would take him in, but he wasn’t going to take that chance.

Gabriel rolled over and punched his pillow with his good arm, but even that didn’t help. With a groan, he rolled onto his back again. Then, he heard a thud and a groan from across the hall. He threw his blanket off and stood from the bed. he went to reach for the door with his right hand then remembered he wasn’t wearing. He grumbled but used his other hand to open the door. If Erik had done something to hurt himself, he wasn’t going to waste time going back to put his hand on.

Erik’s door stood slightly open, so Gabriel pushed it open a little more as he asked, “You okay in here?”

“Fine,” Erik said. “Just dropped some of my books.”

Gabriel glanced around and saw a pile o books on the floor. “Thought you’d already put these on the shelf,” he said.

“I had. I wasn’t happy with how they were arranged.”

“So you were changing it after midnight? What’s really wrong, Erik?”

“Nothing,” he said but turned away from Gabriel.

Gabriel caught his wince as he moved, though. “You’re overdoing it, aren’t you? Didn’t they warn you about trying to do too much? You’re going to do more damage to your leg.”

“I just couldn’t sleep. Once I get this done, I’ll be able to.”

“You haven’t been able to sleep every night for the last two weeks then.” Aaron had complained of insomnia after he came back, too. Erik had been back for about a year. Though, he’d been medicated a good bit of that time. So, that might have masked any issues he was having. “Erik, if you need to talk…”

“I don’t want to talk,” Erik said. “I just want to forget. And I can’t. Not even long enough to fall asleep. I don’t know what to do with myself.

Gabriel didn’t think too hard about what he was doing. He just moved over to where Erik, sat on the edge of his bed. He sank down onto the mattress beside him. “You’re going to be fine. But, there’s no shame in talking to someone. Hell, talk to me. I’ll understand. Did you know my dad forced me to talk to a counselor after I came back? I was drowning, feeling a lot like you are. It was probably the best thing he’s ever done.”

“I’ve talked to enough shrinks since I got back. Going over everything doesn’t do a damn bit of good. I want to forget,” he said again.

He’d never seen Erik look so vulnerable. And it had those feelings pushing up at him again. It didn’t seem to matter how much he tried to shove them down. So, he shifted to face Erik a little more and reached out to clasp Erik’s shoulder. “Then, let’s forget,” he murmured. “At least for tonight.”

As he pressed his mouth to Erik’s, he thought again that this had all just been one big mistake. But, all he could do now was deal with it.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday – This and That

This is pretty good for me, making it back for so many posts in a row. I hit almost all of February’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompts. And I’m having a good time with it, so I’ll probably continue on. Today’s prompt is “this and that” so let’s get on with that.

This is some backstory(or maybe the beginning of) the next book in my Kurztown series. If you’ve read any of my Wednesday snippets from Love Who You Love, you might recognize this character.

“This is quite a surprise.”

Gabriel lifted his head from the plans rolled out on his desk. He had to blink a few times before he registered what, no who, he was looking at. “Lora?” No, it couldn’t be. The last time he’d seen her…He shook off that thought. Didn’t even want to think about it.

“Your dad said you were in here.” She seemed a little hesitant. “But, it was your brother’s name I was given.”

At the word brother, it felt like he’d been hit right in the stomach. Her brother…No, that’s not what they were talking about. “Chris?” What did his brother have to do with any of this? With her?

She smiled at him. “From what Aaron always told me, he’s your only brother. Unless there’s another you never talked about.”

There was that punch in the gut again. Aaron. He hadn’t uttered that name in nearly two years. One year, nine months, and eighteen days ago. Not since he’d turned and walked away from the cemetery. “No,” he said, his voice catching as he pushed the one word out. “It’s just Chris. And Lyndsey, but she’s not my brother. Obviously.”

Lora’s eyes twinkled as she just smiled at him. “You never babbled like this when I saw you on my Skype calls to Aaron.”

Another memory he didn’t want to have brought up. He rubbed at a spot just under his elbow. He’d been looking forward to getting home soon and five his arm a break. But, he still didn’t even know what Lora wanted. “Why are you here, Lora? I tried calling you for weeks. I told you you’d always have my shoulder if you needed it. You made it clear you didn’t.”

The sparkle in her eyes went out at that, and he could have kicked himself. “That’s not why, Gabe. I’m here about your brother’s project.”

His mind went blank for another moment. Then, it fell into place. “It’s the company’s project. Chris had the initial idea for it, but we’re all invested in it.” He let himself really look at her now. The last time he’d seen her, she’d been swathed in grief, everything about her dulled. That wasn’t the case now. Her auburn hair was cut shorter than he’d ever seen it in those video calls, but her face was bright, though that light still hadn’t come back into her eyes.

“What do you have to do with that?”

“You plan to build homes for veterans. Everyone knows that’s a particular pet project of mine. And they know why.”

There it was again, though she didn’t come right out and say his name this time. If Aaron had been able to have a place to stay, maybe he would not have been so lost. Maybe they wouldn’t have lost him. “Lora,” he said, choking on her name. His fingers rubbed at the spot where limb met stump, and Lora’s gaze followed the movement.

His father and brother didn’t even like to acknowledge his lost limb, but Lora looked straight at the artificial arm. Like it didn’t even bother her. “When I heard Saranno Construction was doing this, I assumed you’d be out working on the site. You’re the one drawing up the plans, though?”

He nodded. “It’s what I went to school for once I got out of the Army. Couldn’t swing a hammer anymore, but I learned to use my other hand to hold a pencil. And most every is computer-generated these days anyway. I can work a mouse just fine.”

Finally, that light was coming back into her eyes. Thank God. He’d say anything if it helped with that. Even when he’d crashed those video chats, he’d always tried to do that. To erase the worry he could see. It felt like something positive he could do, even when he couldn’t seem to do it with his own family, when hell raged around them.

“So, I guess it’s you I should be talking to then.” Her smile seemed forced now. “Maybe we can talk about what your plans are over some food. Aaron said he’d been here with you once, and the diner has some pretty good food.”

“It does,” he agreed. He thought for a moment then nodded. “I could go along with that.”

The last thing he’d heard from Aaron, he’d asked Gabriel to always make sure his sister was okay. He wished he’d realized that was the last phone call he’d ever get from his friend. There’d been a letter, too, but that hadn’t come until after, and he couldn’t bring himself to open it. His throat thickened at that thought and the numbers flashed through his head again. One year, nine month, eighteen days.

As they walked out the door, he told himself not to think about his friend. Or these crazy feelings he had when he looked at Lora. Yeah, he definitely didn’t think his friend had meant that by making sure she was okay.

So, he wouldn’t think on it or act on it. And that was that.

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