Chris Buckner hasn't seen or heard from Nick Stewart in a decade. When Nick returns to town, Chris isn't sure what to think. He certainly doesn't know if having dinner with his former friend is a good idea, but what does he have to lose?
Nick Stewart has kept a secret for many years, and now he's ready to come clean. But how will the one man who really deserves to hear it react?
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
“I’m sorry,” Nick said.
“For what? Being gay? Dude ...” Chris gestured to himself.
Nick shook his head. “Not that. Well, not entirely.” He sat back when their food arrived and waited until the waitress left before continuing. “If I don’t come out and tell you the rest now, I’m likely to regret it.”
Chris forced himself to eat, though he honestly didn’t taste much. Nick never got this way before, and the fact that he was now made Chris wonder what the hell the man hid behind such a strong lock and key.
“I’m not going to judge you,” Chris said. “You said you’re sorry. I forgive you. Whatever you tell me now, it’s not going to make me hate you. Hell, Nick, I’ve never hated you.”
Those eyes met his, the fear in them surprising Chris. What the fuck?
“Do you remember that time we went camping in DeSoto State Park when we were about seventeen or so?”
“Yeah, I remember. You were acting weird, but I figured it was because your folks were going through that nasty divorce.”
Nick shifted and tugged out his wallet. He pulled out a picture and slid it across the table. Chris stared at himself in the picture, snoozing and halfway cocooned in a sleeping bag.
“It’s the only picture I’ve kept.”
Chris’ gaze shot back up to Nick. “Why?”
Nick stared down at his plate as he cut his steak. “Hard to explain.”
Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on swept through Chris, chasing away his appetite. He’d had no idea about Nick’s sexuality back then, but if he had known, things would have turned out quite different.
“My dad went back to Colorado,” Nick said without looking up. “He wanted me to go with him, but I couldn’t.”
“Why not?” Chris was surprised he got even that much out. His mouth felt like sandpaper.
“Honestly? I needed to see you.”
Chris had no idea what to say.
“I’m just trying to process everything,” Chris admitted. “You knew, even then, I liked guys. Why did you think I’d have a problem with you?”
“Because my dad would have flipped if he found out,” Nick said with a quick glance up before looking back down again. “So would yours.”
That made sense. Neither of their fathers were known for accepting such ... lifestyles. Hell, Chris’ dad had simply vanished as soon as Chris came out.
“Can I ask you something?” At Nick’s nod, Chris took a deep breath. “You said you’re gay. So why the women over the years?”
Nick cleared his throat and pushed his empty plate away. “That’s the rest I need to tell you. What I wanted was not available.”