READ MY MIND: PART 3
A light shake to his shoulder jolted Adam from his dream. Surrendering to reality, he gasped, sitting up with wide eyes. His heated dreams broken, forgotten except for the morning erection between his legs, he blinked a few times. The river was calm, reflecting the first rays of the sun. Birds chirped, sounding way louder in his ears than they actually were. He rubbed his eyes before maneuvering around to see his dad.
“It’s been a long time since you slept outside.” Rory smiled, crouched to the ground in his loose linen pants. “I almost didn’t want to wake you.” He ran a hand through Adam’s hair. “But Ms. Willa insisted you eat breakfast.”
“You know breakfast here isn’t what you’re used to, right? No organic fruit or wheatgrass in her kitchen,” he muttered back. He wiggled his feet in the grass. His face fell, remembering Perry. His eyes darted to the now empty patch of grass at his side. Relieved that they hadn’t been found together, for Perry’s sake, Adam was still strangely disappointed.
“Adam, are you alright?” Rory put a hand on his shoulder.
“Yeah, dad. Not a morning person.”
“Never were.” His dad leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. “And don’t tell your mother, but the biscuits are divine.”
Adam chuckled, accepting a hand to help him to his feet. “How did Willa manage that? You know the ingredients are…”
“I know,” Rory interrupted. “I’ve been trying some things here and there since you moved out. Our little secret.” He winked. “My favorite so far is mac n’ cheese.”
“I’ll be damned.” Adam didn’t shy away when his father looped an arm around his shoulders, walking up the slope of the yard.
“There’s a lot your mother doesn’t know, but out of respect for her, I try my best to make her happy. Besides, her vegan fruit tart is pretty good.”
“Yeah, it is.” Adam smiled at his dad. It had taken him a long time to get used to the graying ponytail, the open shirts held together with leather ties, and the linen pants, but his dad was a good guy.
Rory led them away from the porch, to the side of the house. “But you want to know the best part about biscuits?”
“What’s that?” Adam already knew what came next.
Producing a joint from behind his ear, hidden within his hair, Rory held it up. “This.”
“Dad, we’re gonna get in trouble.” Adam grinned, glancing around to make sure no one was watching. “Leighton is still here.”
“Then they can smell the love. Hopefully calm them down a bit. They’re too high strung.” Rory lit the end, inhaling until the paper began to burn just a little. He tilted his head back with his eyes closed, smiling as smoke slowly escaped his lips.
“Why the hell not?” Adam gripped the joint carefully from his father, and took an experienced drag.
Rory nodded, eyes still closed. “Perfect.”
“Uh huh,” Adam agreed, exhaling.
“Been a while since we did this. Not just the bud, but you and me, you know?”
Adam frowned. “I’m sorry, dad. I get busy and I don’t really get the chance to visit as often.”
“That’s not what I mean. When you came last time, you spent all three days with the painter instead of me and your mom. I know we’re different. I’m sorry if we embarrass you, Adam, but this is who we are. I just hope you know that despite our differences, we love you very much.” Rory opened his eyes, both of them a sparkling blue he had generously passed on to Adam. “You do know that, don’t you?”
“Of course I do.” Adam felt the bud beginning to take effect. His body felt lighter. A smile started to creep over his lips, even though he wasn’t trying to. “I love you guys too.”
Rory grinned. He couldn’t fight the smile either. “I’m so glad to hear you say that. I can’t stop thinking about what we would have done if something had happened to you.”
“I’m okay, dad.” Adam sighed, hugging his dad while being careful not to drop the joint. “You guys wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t crazy.”
“Who you calling crazy?” They choked on their own laughter.
“Rory! Adam?” Willa called from the back porch. “Breakfast is getting cold!”
“Coming!” Adam shouted. He laughed into his hand as his father took another hit then snubbed the end of the joint for later.
“Oh. My. God.” Adam moaned around a mouthful of biscuit. He closed his eyes, nodding to himself. “So good.”
Pop gave him a sidelong glance. “That’s a biscuit, not an edible piece of Jesus, boy.”
Willa slapped Pop’s shoulder. “He was complimenting my cookin.” She wiggled in her seat. “You keep eatin baby, as many as you like.”
“He’s acting a fool, Willa,” Pop muttered under his breath.
Dove put another piece of melon on her plate, glancing between her husband and her son. “I’m sure all processed food tastes good when you’re stoned, but the effect on your body afterwards can be deadly.”
Noah and Jamie’s mouths dropped open. Sam sniggered behind his hand, mouth too full to laugh out loud. Pop’s face turned a deep shade of red and Willa bit her lip.
“What?” Dove looked around.
Adam kept eating, oblivious to anything but the treasures on his plate. He smiled again, shoving another biscuit into his mouth. “Good,” he mumbled.
“That boy is higher than a kite!” Pop stood. “Christ almighty! In my house?”
Willa grabbed his hand. “Pop, sit back down and finish your breakfast. He ain’t harming no-one.”
“First one of my own children almost dies. Then Adam gets hit by Sam. Then a bunch of no good religious bigots take up residence on my lawn. And now I got to deal with his high ass too?” Pop shook his head, pulling his hand away. “Huh uh, ain’t no way, Willa.” He left the room, taking his plate with him. The television blared to life and all eyes fell on Adam and Rory.
Adam, finally understanding what was happening, frowned at his plate. He pushed it away and stood, no matter how upset he was at leaving that food on his plate. He wobbled a bit before he managed to take a step, then another, and another.
“I’m sorry, sug. He didn’t mean anything by it. Just doesn’t like it is all,” Willa called after him.
“It’s okay. I have work to do.” He waved a hand. Again, he’d been pushed away. Sure, this time was his fault, but it felt the same. Maybe it was the weed, but he was starting to feel depressed, really, really depressed.
Entering the room he temporarily shared with Perry, he stopped. Perry was barely covered up in a quilt, sleeping the day away. His arms and legs stretched out, completely comfortable. Adam shut the door quietly. Still high as could be, his bed seemed so lonely, and he couldn’t possibly work right now if he tried. The more he stared at Perry, the more tempting he looked. An open space under his arm called to Adam. Not in his right mind, still tired, and growing more and more vulnerable by the minute, Adam sat on the edge of the bed. He slid his feet under the covers, slowly lying on his side, silently wincing from his bruises, until his head rested on Perry’s chest. Within minutes, he was fast asleep with his hand across Perry’s shoulder.
Perry woke up first. On his back with his arm cramping up, he immediately noticed the weight curled around his side. Hair tickled his chin. Feet stretched against his legs. There was another man in his bed. As comfortable as he was, arm cramp and everything, he stiffened. Adam nuzzled his face into his neck, and Perry almost jumped. A whisper of a moan sounded near his ear and he fought the need to run.
When he’d came to outside, in the wee hours of the morning, he’d had the same feeling. Comfortable yet terrified. He was okay with another man touching him, but this tested his waters. Thinking back to the summer nights he’d slept outside with Noah and the boys, his mind told him this was no different. Just friends having a good time, enjoying each other’s company, bonding. But this thing with Adam was slowly creeping into a territory that he wasn’t sure he could deal with. All of his life he’d been the lone ranger, the gruff country boy with no boundaries, but good southern manners. He’d been raised to accept, to respect, and to help.
Was that what this was? Did he have some need to protect Adam when he was down? Was this more of a friendship than whatever else his mind was conjuring? Why was he even thinking about this so hard? The answer was, that deep down he knew Adam wasn’t trying to be friends. That’s why he was having a small identity crisis. He liked Adam, but he wasn’t sure if it was okay to like, like Adam. That would change everything he knew to be true about his life. Or would it?
He relaxed back into the pillow, eyes drifting down the man’s body. This was not a woman, he concluded. Duh! Adam had more weight to him, muscles and harder edges that fit around him arm. To prove the point to himself, he flexed his fingers and soothed them over Adam’s back. The man stretched like a cat, nuzzling deeper into his neck, scratching him a bit with day old stubble. Perry found he liked the flex of Adam’s back, even over his shirt. He liked the feeling of a man’s feet rubbing between his ankles. He even liked that Adam’s hair was shorter, coarser as he moved his hand up the man’s neck.
He liked the soft groan, a deeper sound than any woman’s, against his skin. He loved the smell. Perry smiled, taking in a hint of herb, mixed with the scent of the outdoors. This was okay, he finally realized. He was kind of happy with himself for chasing the fear away. The only other thing he had yet to explore was the hardness pressed against his thigh. Undeniable, even under jeans, the stiff rod Adam had no control over, rocked into his side. Was he okay with that? Was it okay that his own dick responded so casually, like nothing was doing? Like this wasn’t a man arousing him?
Closing his eyes, he quietly exhaled, and let Adam rub against him in his sleep. Ah fuck, Perry bit his lip, he liked it. He really, really liked it. Though, he knew Adam was stoned. He could smell it, feel it with every lazy grip to his shoulder. Any right-minded person would have woken up by now. As much as he wanted to reciprocate, it wasn’t right. Adam had to be conscious to make any decisions for himself. But would he get another chance, be bold enough to seize the moment, when Adam was fully awake?
As Adam quieted down, Perry pulled the quilt over them both. Deciding he would wait it out and see what Adam had to say when he woke up, Perry stared at the ceiling. His eyes snapped to the door as it opened slowly. The creak of wood was like a horror movie sound effect as his heart raced. Willa stood there. She didn’t say a word, but put her hand to her mouth. Their eyes locked. His watered and hers were confused. Pop called her name from down the hall and she glanced over her shoulder.
“Mama,” Perry whispered. But she only waved a hand, gave him one last look, and shut the door.
He wasn’t sure what his mother felt. Had he broken her heart? Was this not okay? Was this just loneliness, and Adam had just come along to fill that void temporarily? No. He knew Adam hadn’t done anything wrong. But he had. This wasn’t him. Even though he wanted it, this was not Perry Olivette. This was not who he was supposed to be. Then why did he want Adam so badly? What had changed in his life? What was he supposed to do! Scared of the fallout, scared of what his mother would say, but with nothing else to cling to, he wrapped Adam in his arms, and tried not to cry.
When Adam woke up, again, he found himself in Perry’s arms, in his bed all snuggled up. Horrified, he slipped from under the man’s embrace, careful not to wake him. Once his feet were planted on the floor, Adam backed away and grabbed his bag. What had he done? Oh God, he was such a moron! Fearful that Perry would wake up, Adam quietly went into the bathroom, showered, shaved, and dressed. He grabbed his laptop and his camera from his bed and left the room as fast as he could.
Perry kept his eyes shut, but he’d been awake for a while. He rolled over, once the door clicked shut, feeling like he never wanted to leave his bed again. Adam didn’t want him. Who would? After all, he was just some stupid country boy.
Trying his best to keep a neutral face, Adam squatted on the front porch steps and steadied his camera. After a bit of focusing, he started to snap picture after picture. Capturing their open mouths while they raged their hate to whoever would listen, Adam took evidence of the protest. He zoomed in on the signs containing hand painted hellfire and the rainbows crossed out with angry black lines. The next county over had cops blocking off the road now. Shermin being on the small side, Beauchamp had to have some help. He took pictures of the officers with their batons out, keeping back the growing crowd, and their stoic bodies creating a wall of protection. Adam fought not to scowl as he kept on clicking, photo after photo.
Noah and Jamie stood silently behind him. Matt and Mason leaned over the banister, holding hands in an attempt to support each other as a local news van pulled up. The family had agreed to have media coverage on their property. But none of them were sure about putting their faces on the news. They just wanted the entire state of Kentucky to see Leighton at their finest hour. They wanted the good southern people out there to see the hate firsthand. Adam didn’t move as the crew began to set up on the lawn. He kept taking pictures, focusing on two small children that weren’t old enough to have an opinion. They waved signs alongside their parents, not even of an age to read, but they loved their family and didn’t know any different.
When he’d finally had enough behind the lens, he stood, immediately pulling out the memory card of his camera for his computer. As the reporter smoothed her hair back, taking her place in front of the camera, it was very clear to everyone on the porch how big this was about to become. Their lives exposed outside of the realm of their sweet little town, made clear for all to see. But Adam had been through it all before, not to this degree, but enough to know what was happening. He knew to keep a cool head and not give in to the protestors. Instead, he was about to do something that would take it a step above. He was going to get in front of that camera to give Leighton one hell of a slap in the face.
The pictures sending to Kurt at the office, Adam stood from his computer and walked back to where the group gathered. “I know you’re all scared, and that’s understandable. Your home, your town, and the little details about your lives are about to be public. But what you really need to do is to show these people that you aren’t afraid to stand up for each other. You have family that’s involved now. Your sons, friends, and so on, they’re all being judged for who they love and being told that God doesn’t love them back. Does it matter that everyone knows they’re gay?” He paused. “It shouldn’t. You should take pride in your loved ones and support them, however you can. Yes, this is huge, but don’t you want to set an example for those out there that go through this alone? To show the world that there are people out there who care about them? That’s the real question. Can you do that for them?”
Adam looked to pop. “I apologize for earlier. I didn’t mean to disrespect you after all you’ve done for me. I hope you can look past that and stand beside me, and your family, while I go in front of that camera and give Leighton what for.”
Pop stood, putting an arm around Willa. He looked to his wife then back at Adam. “Just because you indulge in some smoke don’t make you a bad person, Adam. We took care of you because it was the right thing to do, and we ain’t about to hide behind our door when someone comes around trying to hurt our family. Whatever you need, boy, it’s yours.”
“You’re going to go out there?” Todd’s eyes went wide. “Adam, don’t do it.”
“And that’s the difference between me and you, Todd. I know what I care about, and I hold it dear. I know where I come from and how I was raised. Unlike you, I’m not a coward.” Adam nodded to the people on the porch before taking the steps down to the grass. He walked up to the reporter, not even looking at the screaming protestors lining the street. “Hi. I’m Adam Jackson, blogger for The Out, a gay men’s online magazine based out of Frankfort.”
The reporter grinned. She nodded, nudging her head at the camera. “Mr. Jackson, could you spare a moment to talk with us? We’d appreciate an interview.”
“Kayla Montgomery, News Channel 5.” She shook his hand, turning back to the camera. “Protestors from the Leighton Assembly have gathered on the lawn of a private Shermin Heights residence for the past twenty four hours. A religious group against homosexuality, they’ve targeted the small town of Shermin, this home in particular, claiming the family is running a gay shelter in a strictly Christian community. Reportedly conservative in their beliefs, it seems Shermin is more open minded than their surrounding counties. I have Mr. Adam Jackson, a blogger for The Out online magazine with me. Thanks for taking time to speak with us, Mr. Jackson.”
“Thank you for having me, Ms. Montgomery.”
“How do you feel about the protests going on here in Shermin?”
“I think everyone is entitled to their opinion and their beliefs, but to slander a family so viciously because they’re good people is unbelievable. From my short stay in Shermin, I’ve seen the community come together for their own, take in strangers out of the goodness of their heart, and stand strong against the group out here. I don’t think a little protest will shake them. I think it only makes them stronger.”
“It seems that way.” Kayla smiled. “Can you tell us if the family plans to press charges against the Leighton Assembly?”
“The family has no plans at this time to press charges. In lieu of giving in to what the Leighton Assembly wants, their greedy reputation well known, they plan to hold charity festival next Saturday here in Shermin. All the proceeds will be donated to a GLBT organization of their choice.”
“Wow.” Kayla’s perfectly manicured brows rose. “Can you give us details?”
“We’re looking for all interested vendors, artists, and businesses to contact The Out for further details. Everyone is welcome to attend next Saturday. All the information will be posted on the website after tonight.”
“And I hope we can get an exclusive interview after the event is set up?” She asked hopefully.
He nodded, finally looking out over the crowd without a care. “We’ll be in touch.”
“There you have it, folks. Shermin Heights will be throwing a charity festival for the GLBT community next Saturday. For more details, visit…”
“TheOut.com later tonight,” Adam finished.
“I’m Kayla Montgomery for Channel 5 News, here in Shermin Heights, Kentucky. We’ll keep you posted with hourly updates. Back to you, Andrew.”
Adam turned around as the camera panned over the line of protestors. He found the Olivette family plus the others standing a few feet away from him in the yard. Pop’s face was beet red, his anger barely contained.
“Come on, Willa. We’ll leave Adam to plan this shindig he forgot to tell us about.”
“Mr. Olivette, I—”
“Don’t you think you’ve said enough, boy? It was one thing to offer my support. It’s another to force a gosh darn revolution down my throat. How dare you?” Pop guided his wife back up the steps. He pushed past his sons, Perry now watching from the porch. The door slammed behind him, leaving Adam to stare after pop with the others.
Adam carried his laptop and camera out to his parent’s vehicle. They brought the heavier things, insisting he wasn’t in any shape to do the rest. He ignored another call from Kurt, his phone still buzzing away in his sweatshirt, and closed the door.
“Is that all, honey?” Dove put a hand to his shoulder.
“I think so. We should get going if we want our rooms to still be available. Noah said people have been coming into town all afternoon.”
Dove offered him a small smile. “Don’t look so sad, honey. You’re doing the right thing, and that doesn’t always sit well with others. You’re father and I, were quite the activists when we were your age.” She ran a hand over his cheek. “Fighting for a cause is in your blood.”
“That may be, mom, but I don’t like hurting people in the process. The Olivettes have done a lot for me. I don’t like leaving them this way.”
“You’re not leaving them or hurting them, Adam. You’re opening their eyes to the other side of the world. Living in such a small town like this, they aren’t used to the attention. They’re scared right now, but once they realize what a difference this festival will make and the impact it’s having on the community, they’ll come around.”
Willa joined them at the car, Rory right behind her with the last bag. “You don’t have to leave, Adam. Pop is just set in his ways. He loves Noah and Jamie, Mason and Matt, but he doesn’t see the need to change anything. Change scares him, baby. I think we all are a little afraid of what’s going to happen. But deep down, I think this town will come through for you. In fact, I know it.” She pulled him to her for a hug. “I already called the mayor,” she whispered in his ear. “He’s expecting you at Ms. Merna’s place. The boys will be over shortly to help.”
His heart swelled in his chest. It seemed all wasn’t lost as far as his new friends were concerned. “Thanks, Willa.”
She patted his back. “You get on over there, and I’ll make sure the boys aren’t far behind. Ya’ll are welcome to stay anytime,” Willa directed to Rory and Dove. “Don’t let pop ruffle your feathers.”
“Feathers still intact over here.” Rory smiled. “I’m sure your husband will come around. He just needs some time.”
“No offense, but men can be so stubborn.” Willa blew a hair out of her eyes. “Well, maybe not you. You seem kind of calm… all the time. What is your secret?” She leaned in.
Dove chuckled. “Meditation and great sex.”
Willa blushed and Adam groaned. “Mom! Seriously?”
“What? Aren’t you happy your parents are still physically attracted to each other? We may be a bit older, but we enjoy each other’s bodies.”
“Oh God.” Adam opened the back seat door. “Thanks, Willa. We’ll be out of your hair.”
She stepped away, giggling behind her hand. “Ya’ll drive safe. Supposed to be a storm coming in.”
“It’s only five minutes away,” Dove commented.
“And in two, you’re likely to be soaked if you’re still standing there.” Willa waved a hand. “Bye now.”
Adam held a hand up to her, about to close the door when he saw Perry leaning against the front porch railing, watching him. They stared at each other for a minute until Willa cleared her throat and hurried towards her son. Perry wrapped an arm around his mother when she reached the porch. He gave Adam one last look. It was official, the youngest Olivette thought to himself. Adam wasn’t leaving because of pop. It was because of him. Perry frowned. Wasn’t he worthy of a goodbye at least?
“You okay, baby?” Willa stopped him at the door.
“Just fine, mama.”
“Don’t lie to me, boy. I know when one of own my children is upset. Now, you gonna talk to me about Adam, or do I have to pry it out of you myself?”
“I don’t have anything to say on the matter.”
Willa pursed her lips, putting a hand to her hip. She watched the Jackson’s car pull down the drive, escorted by an officer past the Leighton vehicles before she set her sights on Perry. Like she was a fortune teller, rain started to pour from the skies, causing the protestors to temporarily flee to their cars. “I know I’m your mama, and you don’t talk to me about these things, but baby, you got to talk to someone. What I saw earlier … that, well that’s not what I expected. But if you think for one second I’m gonna up and push you out of my house because of him, you’re wrong.”
“Look, I don’t know what you think you saw, mama, but he and I aren’t … like that. He was messed up or something, nothing more.” Perry shrugged off her hand.
“Is that so?” She snorted. “Then why did you spend the last fifteen minutes in there yelling at your daddy on his behalf? Ain’t ever stood up for no stranger like that before. Admit it, Perry, that boy has something on you. Messed up or not, you’re both just alike, and maybe, just maybe he’s good for you. Friends or more than that, I don’t care. Just don’t be no fool like Mason and drag it out. If you’re gay, you’re gay. Get the hell over it.”
“Mama!” Perry looked around. “Keep it down.”
“You’ll fight for his cause, but you’re scared to be a part of it?” Willa narrowed her eyes. “I didn’t raise no liar, Perry. No man, friends or not, holds another man in his bed unless something’s doing. Now, are you into him or what?”
“Stop,” Perry whispered. “I don’t even know him.”
“As far as I’m concerned, ya’ll could be twins. He just uses his mouth to get him in trouble, not his fist.” She turned her back on the street, shielding her son’s face as his eyes started to water. “Stop trying to hide from me. Tell me, baby,” she murmured. “Are you going to fight with him or for him?”
“Please don’t tell nobody, mama.” Perry wiped his eyes. “You just can’t say nothing to nobody. Not to pop, not to anyone.”
She shook her head. “You’re gonna break that boy’s heart, and mine. Scared that your daddy won’t think you’re man enough anymore, so you give up what you want. That’s pathetic.”
“Mama.” He reached for her.
“No, son.” She pushed him away gently. “I love you more than you’ll ever know, but right now, I’m upset that you can’t talk to me or admit to yourself that you’re no less of a man because of who you might like. And truthfully, your daddy could give two shits who it is, as long as it gets you somewhere. Grow up, baby. It might make you happy.” She walked inside, leaving him there on the porch.
He turned to the crowd, taking in the signs, even from way back up on the porch. Hate, pure hate, for people that were just like him. Only, those men and women were stronger than he could ever be. They were willing to stand up for themselves, no shame attached. Whatever Adam Jackson had sparked inside of him, Perry was scared of the fire starting to burn in his chest. He was just plain terrified.
At the table in Mrs. Merna’s kitchen, a small crowd had formed. In the middle of a mess of plates, laptops, and cups of coffee, sat Adam’s phone on speaker.
“Adam, you need to post something tonight. I’ve got calls coming in from every which way. Charities, non-profits, churches, businesses, and you need to give them something. Did you get the mayor on board?”
“He’s right here.” Adam spun the Lazy Susan around for Henrie, Shermin’s mayor.
“How do you do, boy?” Henrie leaned down to the phone, looking around at the others.
“I’m just fine, Mr. Mayor. I take it we have your full permission to continue with this event?” Kurt asked hopefully.
“Right you do. We’re more than happy to facilitate this festival, so long as the proceeds are going where ya say they are.”
Henrie nodded, smiling across the way at Dee Pierson. Noah’s mother blushed, looking away. The two of them had some obvious infatuation with each other. Not that it mattered to Adam, he just wanted to get this meeting over with and go to bed, especially when there were so many happy couples around him. It made his stomach churn. He found the longer he stayed here, the more he just wanted to sleep. Maybe he really was depressed, like Kurt had predicted, with the whole breakup and lingering thoughts of Perry. Who hadn’t shown up for this gathering, he mused. Maybe he just needed to have a good cry, all by himself, and cleanse his mind of men altogether.
“Adam? Did you hear me, son?” Henrie put a hand on his arm.
A dozen faces looking at him, he lifted his head. “I’m sorry, what?”
Noah lifted a brow. “Henrie just said they would block off Main Street and the local dock for the event. You feeling okay? You don’t look so good.”
“I’m fine,” Adam snapped, feeling like he was under interrogation. The pressure was getting to him. “Kurt, email me the vendors interested and we’ll work with Henrie to place them for the day. I’m thinking tents or portable stalls as it’s a festival. Make sure they know that all the profits from their service will go to a charity too. I don’t want any problems.” Adam looked at his laptop, watching message after message blink in his open browser. “We need some events too. See if you can’t get that couple who runs the line dancing place in Frankfort to come out here. I think they would be awesome. Maybe have a dance at the end of the night or something.”
“See, now you’re talking.” Kurt sounded satisfied. “I’ve also got the people who run the water inflatables and jet skis sending me information. Oh, and I went ahead and called Charleston. He and his group are game for an art showing, low key stuff he said. Only jewelry, small pieces, crafts, and clothing, that sort of thing. He was interested in meeting up with Noah and Matt too. So I think they should head up that department if that’s cool with them.”
Matt nodded. “I’ve heard of Charleston before. The body paint guy, right?”
“One in the same,” Kurt replied.
“I’m in. You?” Matt looked at Noah.
“Sure thing. We got plenty of small stuff to unload in the barn and it’ll give you a chance to show off them new light fixtures you were working on last week.” Noah winked. “Send us the information to this email.” He pulled a card out of his shirt pocket, sliding it to Adam. “We gotta take off. I need to be up early for a piece installation an hour from here.”
“Uh huh, I’ll just bet that’s what you’re going home for.” Mason punched his brother in the arm, waggling his brows.
Jamie laughed. “Jealous?”
Mason shut up quick. He turned around. His cheeks red and eyes wide until Matt put a hand in his back jeans pocket, telling him quietly to relax as Noah and Jamie laughed. One couple was all out and the other was pretty conservative. Adam frowned. He didn’t care which kind of couple he was in. He just wanted that, someone to depend on, to get him through shit like this. Even Todd had stopped nagging him, leaving town after the news crew had shown up because he didn’t want his face in the press. He’d run back to Frankfort, probably to clean out his stuff from the apartment, and move in with some other guy. Adam didn’t even have it in him to be angry anymore. If anything, he was ready to shut down.
A warm, tiny hand startled him. A wrinkled palm touched his forehead and he turned, facing Ms. Ella Mae. “Nah, he don’t have a fever.”
“Granny, don’t be touching people like that. I’m sorry, Adam. She’s…” Mason got a small slap to the arm.
“You was about to say crazy, weren’t ya? I ain’t old and I ain’t crazy. He looks like he done been run over and I thought he might a had a fever.” She shook her fist at her youngest grandson. “Callin me crazy. Boy, without me, there would be no you. Hope your granddaddy didn’t hear what you was thinking and come rollin out of his grave.”
Adam stared at the little old woman. She put her fist down and took her tea cup with a shaking hand. “Now. As the head of the quilting circle, where can we put our table? I suggest the porch of Henrie’s place. Keep us old ladies out of the sun.”
“We can do that, Ms. Ella Mae. And don’t you listen to anyone who calls you old. You don’t look a day over 40.” Henrie tipped his hat, making Ella Mae giggle.
“Alright, so we’ve got everything settled for the most part. I’ve sent you the list of vendors and organizations. You place them and make sure to post to the site. I’ve given you direct access to post to the homepage in the link when it’s done. Thank you so much, Mayor Henrie, and thanks to all of you helping out. Your time means everything to us,” Kurt said from the speaker.
“Ain’t a bother, son. We’ll chat soon.”
“I’ll text you later, Kurt.” Adam rubbed his eyes, going for another drink of coffee.
“Later.” The phone blinked and everyone sighed.
Henrie moved some things out of the way, reaching under the table for a rolled up map of Main Street. He spread it out to give them a good look at all the community buildings and businesses Shermin had to offer. “Let’s take a look at that list, Adam, and we’ll all work together to start placing them.”
Adam gave Henrie his fakest smile, thinking about how much this festival would affect Shermin Heights. He felt like a monster, pushing his life and that of so many others on them, but was he really? Wasn’t he just standing up for himself and showing these people what it meant to trust and be tolerant of others? That’s what he clung to as he nodded and opened the list Kurt sent to his inbox.
It was almost ten at night when Adam found some alone time out on the porch. He pushed the swing with his toes, cradling his computer in his lap. He watched the view numbers for The Out double, then triple, going over their normal daily view total by almost 200,000. He knew they were looking for answers to what Leighton had done. They were looking for him to say something, to reach out to them personally, but he felt so disconnected from his readers right now. He didn’t want to lie to them, tell them he was this leader of a small revolution when he felt so out of control and not himself. He didn’t want to tell them that he was heartbroken yet falling for another man like some rebound fantasy.
He didn’t want to tell them that this festival wouldn’t change the world, but would affect people’s lives now and forever, however small the amount. But he had to. For him or for them, it didn’t matter. He just needed to speak the truth because that’s what he always did. What did it really mean to feel rejected when you were just as human as anyone else? What did it mean to have it all then lose everything? What did it mean to love?
Being the writer he was, he let his emotions become words…
Sometimes in life, we lose ourselves to the rough patches in life. We question everything we thought we knew and look for answers in the darkest places. Right now, my heart hurts so much that there are no words to explain this feeling. I want to scream at these people. I want to resort to violence to get my message across. I want to rip my own heart out and show them that it looks the same as theirs. But on top of all the pain Leighton has caused me, and this community, someone beat them to the punch, and ripped my heart away from me.
Right now, I’m devastated because a boy doesn’t love me like I thought he did. It’s just now hit me. What did I do to make him stray? What led me here to this place, to Shermin? Why are they so nice to me, when I’ve only burdened them with my problems? Why do I make bad decisions and let my heart get the best of me? Why do I look at this new man and worry that it’s happening all over again, so soon and when I’m still hurting? Can I trust him? Does he even want me? Why am I doing this to myself?
That’s what it sounds like in my head. That’s the downfall of being human… the freedom to decide for yourself, to walk your own path without a guide. It sounds so wonderful most of the time, but it’s times like these that I wish I had it all mapped out for me. What to expect when you’re expecting. *laughs* Isn’t that how we all feel during a breakup, though? We expect it only gets worse from here, and then we keep expecting the worse, when we would only have to lift our head out of the water to see it’s not so bad above. Although, that’s how it seems, like I’ll never rise above this, and I can’t stop thinking about it, there are worse things in life than a break-up.
There are people out there that aren’t accepted at all, who are scared to even be with someone else for the first time because of prejudice. By their so-called friends, their families, their church, their communities. They feel how I do now, but it’s not just a phase for them, a grieving period, it’s their life. And people like Leighton Assembly stifle their futures, their dreams, and their hearts. Some are afraid to come out to the world. Some are out, but outcast just for loving someone of the same sex. Well, world, I’m here to tell you that I’ll fight for them. I’ll fight for all the other people who eat, breathe, and sleep the same as the rest of you. I’ll fight for those that go through break-ups and mourn the loss of their hearts. I’ll fight to make them feel equal, to be equal, and to live equally.
Will you stand with me, all of you that are out there alone, and the ones that are together? Will you hold my hand as I stand up for myself, and for you?
Love you all,
Tears rolled down his face, a mess of emotions that didn’t even make sense in words. Within minutes, comments poured into his inbox, and he had to put the computer down. Words of strength, of love, and respect meant for him. They were coming to Shermin. They would stand beside him when he did the bravest thing of his life and became a leader. But his heart still hurt. He still felt so empty. His tears wouldn’t stop. He was finally dealing with everything that happened to him this week, Todd, the accident, and those bastards from Leighton. And then there was Perry. Why him? Why now? What the hell did he want from Perry?
His face in his hands, he wept. Fingers began to pry them away. His eyes revealed again, he looked straight at Perry, kneeled before him like he’d been conjured out thin air.
“Adam,” he whispered. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything,” Adam whispered back, linking his arms around Perry’s neck, falling to his knees.
Perry took a deep breath and hugged him back, hanging on while Adam sobbed.
TO BE CONTINUED…