Kevin McCallum walked out of a verbally abusive relationship of over twenty-four years, leaving his house and ending up in an apartment in his home town. His older brother, Jason, sends him a private message on messenger telling him that an old boyfriend of his, Matthew Logan, says hi.
It troubles Kevin. When he was dating Matthew, he broke off the relationship before it had gone two months. He’d realized then that he didn’t care for him in that way. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but it hadn’t felt right when Matthew had held him in his arms.
Kevin decides what the heck. He can talk to Matthew, no biggie. It doesn’t take long. Kevin finds Matthew’s profile page and requests a friendship. An hour later, the chat box pops up and Kevin and Matthew start chatting. They chat until dawn. The next day, they chat again right after work. Before Kevin realizes it, he’s telling Matthew everything and discovers he and Matthew have a lot more in common than he realized. Matthew’s going through a bad divorce himself, and with two kids, too. That’s not the end of the common things and life events they shared.
When Matthew suggests they meet up, should Kevin agree? Can it ever work the second time around?
Kevin carefully pulled on the paintbrush, making sure he didn’t go beyond the taped area of the baseboard. He liked clean lines and didn’t want different colored paint messing up the wall. As he was dipping the tip of the brush into the tray of paint, the distinctive sound of the messenger app pinged softly from the laptop behind him. He turned and peered up into the screen where a private message box had popped open. Looking down at his watch, he was surprised to read that it was already past midnight. Thinking he could use a bit of rest—he’d been painting since six—Kevin placed the brush inside a resealable bag. Carefully, he poured the remainder of the paint into the can before closing it for the night. His lower back made a soft popping sound as he straightened and he felt the twinge of pain he associated with sitting on the floor for too long. Grimacing at the unwanted sign of old age, he rubbed it and leaned down to read the message.
Hey bro you online?
Kevin stared at the chatbox. He didn’t need to hover the cursor over the sender’s avatar to see who was on the other side. He’d recognize his older brother, Jason’s, avatar anywhere. He should. He’d designed it himself. Knowing there was no chance of ignoring Jason without risking him coming over and probably eating all the food in his fridge, he sighed—he was in for a long online chat. He sat on the chair in front of the dining table. Although he really didn’t want to respond, he dutifully typed in a reply.
Yeah, I’m here.
Only three seconds passed before Jason replied.
Settled in all right?
This time, Jason didn’t respond immediately. Probably he took Kevin’s short replies as a clue that he wasn’t in the mood to talk. Jason would be correct in that assumption. He knew Kevin well enough that he wouldn’t run off or disappear.
Kevin watched the cursor blink on the reply box and waited. He’d give Jason ten more seconds. Right on cue, the dots at the bottom of his reply bubble appeared and began to move, indicating someone was typing up a storm.
Don’t want to talk yeah?
Of course, Kevin wanted to talk. He was bursting to talk. Insert sarcasm. Kevin closed his eyes and took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. The action cleared his mind of the sudden rage that gripped him like a vice—almost painful in its phantom hold, but easily shed off. That last part was thanks to the endless talks he’d had with his psychiatrist. Letting go of his anger had been the hardest and the most difficult to deal with after he’d left Michael.
A smile curled over his lips. The thought of his ex-husband didn’t bring on the debilitating anxiety like it usually did. Not today. Who would have thought? Only one year before, he’d have been rendered immobile by the simple thought of Michael and his profound disappointment in everything Kevin did or didn’t do.
Kevin opened his eyes and leaned first to the left and then to the right until he felt his spine crack. He stared at Jason’s words, and for a brief moment, he was tempted to throw all of his anger and fear at his older brother. But the thought of Jason knowing what Kevin had kept secret for most of his adult life left a bitter taste in his mouth. No. Jason was not the right man—the right someone—to confess all. He placed his hands on the keyboard and typed in a word.
Okay, I can deal with that. There was a pause before the next words popped up. I told mom, about you know, what happened.
Well, fuck him sideways. Kevin twisted his mouth and rolled his eyes. Of course, his mother had to get involved.
What she say?
The usual. That she saw it coming Yadda yadda yadda.
Kevin rolled his eyes again. I bet she did
Hey, no one looking at you two ever thought there would be a problem. I certainly didn’t see anything wrong going on.
Kevin gritted his teeth. Yeah. He and Michael had been the perfect couple. Picture perfect to everyone looking in from the outside, totally missing the hidden tensions.
I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you told me a few years back, Jason continued.
Kevin didn’t want to say that Jason’s lack of sympathy had, in fact, been a huge deal.
No, really, little brother. I’m sorry. I didn’t believe you when you tried to tell me. I thought you were being a diva again.
Kevin didn’t bother to respond. His shoulders sagged and he closed his eyes against the oncoming tears. He’d never been a diva, quite the opposite in fact. Just because he was gay didn’t mean he acted the bitch. That didn’t just come from Jason, either. All of his friends had dismissed him when he’d finally found the courage to tell them what was going on. Some had laughed at him, even made claims that all he wanted was attention. Of course those people had mostly been Michael’s friends, not his. After the tenth attempt at telling someone, he’d finally given up and taken matters into his own hands. He might have allowed Michael to abuse him verbally for over two decades, but damn if he was stupid. In fact, he had a high IQ. Thanks to an unlikely Samaritan, he sought help from an anonymous support person online. The anonymity helped him find the guts to make some changes in his life. The ping of another message pulled him back to the present.
Look, I’m sorry. I should have been there to support you
Kevin pulled a face. Jason wasn’t the type who said sorry twice in under a minute. He must really be feeling guiltier than Kevin had initially thought.