Read Breakthrough Online

Authors: J.H. Knight

Tags: #Gay Romance

Breakthrough (5 page)

BOOK: Breakthrough
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“I hate you.”

“You love me.” She reached across the table to pat his hand in mock sympathy.

Jack couldn’t really argue with that, and if he tried, he’d probably end up sobbing on her shoulder again. When she smiled guiltily at him, Jack sensed she wasn’t telling him something. “What?”

“Nothing.” She was definitely not telling him something. When he lifted his brows and pinned her with narrow eyes, she finally cracked. “I wasn’t gonna tell you, but maybe springing things on you isn’t a good idea these days.” After a pause for a sip of wine, Mindy said, “I invited Shawn to dinner with us next Sunday.”

There were so many reasons Jack didn’t like the idea. “Are you sure this a good time for me to meet him? I’m a little unpredictable these days….”

Mindy laughed, and he wanted to kick her. “You’ll be fine,” she said firmly. “He and I have been going out over a month and he’s never even seen you. If I don’t introduce you two soon, he’ll start to think you’re my imaginary friend.”

Jack wanted to refuse, but how could he? He knew if he sat there and mentally listed all the ways Mindy had been there for him over the past few years, he would start sniffling again. “My place or yours?”

“Yours,” she said, smiling now. “You get too weepy around my cats. I figure we should eliminate as many triggers as we can.”

 

 

E-MAIL:

Seth@Serenity

Subject: passes tissues

So how did it make you feel when you told your friend how you felt about her maybe moving away? Is the crying easing up now that you’re expressing yourself?

Also, I’m sure you’ve already heard, but Rick has picked his release date for next week. Shelley came for a visit and we talked. She’s a great girl, by the way. He’s found an NA group nearby, and I’ve put him in touch with some possible sponsors. I know this is scary stuff, but he’s doing really well now. It’s not going to be a picnic every day, but I have a lot of hope for him. You should too.

Take care,

Seth

 

 

E-MAIL:

Jackflash@email

Subject: Not funny….

Much as I hate to admit it, I feel better now that I’m letting some of this stuff out. I’m still a leaky faucet, but even that is getting better, so… thank you. You smug little granola-pushing Nazi. I do appreciate all that you’ve done.

I had heard from Rick about his release, but I didn’t know about the safety net you’d helped him set up. Thank you again. And, yeah, it is scary, but we all have a lot of hope for him for the first time in a long time…. Christ. Yes, I’m crying again, and it makes me feel like an idiot. How’s that for my feelings?

And I don’t think I thanked you for the pictures of Rick you sent from our visit. I have one framed on my desk at work, and you’ll be pleased to know that I look at it and weep like a little girl at least once a week. Was that your intention? If so, nice work.

Sniffling,

Jack

Chapter Seven

 

 

“I’M NOT
sure I’m in the right frame of mind to be meeting someone new.” Jack tried to get out of the dinner plans, but he had to admit he was curious. Mindy had talked so much about Shawn over the past several weeks, Jack was itching to get a look at the guy. From what she’d said, he was good enough for her—maybe—but Jack wanted to get a feel for him face-to-face.

Mindy wrapped her arm around Jack’s shoulder and kissed his cheek. “It’s one night,” she said with a small smile. “If you need to burst into tears, you can just excuse yourself and make a run for the bathroom.”

With a withering look, Jack said, “You’re not funny, you know that?”

“I wasn’t trying to be.” The snort of laughter with her words said otherwise.

He gave her a small shove, playful and teasing as always. “Fine. What time is he getting here?”

As Mindy opened her mouth to respond, there was a knock on the door. Jack narrowed his eyes at her as he went to answer.

He didn’t know how he felt about someone else intruding on “their” Sunday night dinner. Jack could feel the nettle of emotions welling up inside him, and he groaned inwardly as he opened the door.

Okay, so the guy was cute. Curly dark hair and an Orlando Bloom–like smile. Not bad, Mindy.

“Uh, hi,” Shawn said hesitantly. “Is Mindy here? I’m not sure if this is the right….” He stepped back, glanced at the number on the door again, and then looked at Jack with a lopsided grin.

“Yeah, come on in.” Jack stepped aside and was about to offer to take his coat and the bottle of wine he brought with him, but Mindy pounced on Shawn before he was able to step over the threshold. The kiss they shared was longer than necessary, but Jack decided he’d probably maul his boyfriend if he looked like Shawn too, and he wouldn’t care who saw. If he had a boyfriend. Which he didn’t. And likely wouldn’t any time soon.

He had to take a deep breath, willing himself not to run for the bathroom.

When Mindy and Shawn broke the kiss, she was breathless, with a dreamy expression on her face. To his credit Shawn looked bashful but happy. “Shawn,” Mindy looked at him and waved her hand toward Jack. “This is my best friend, Jack.”

Shawn shook Jack’s hand and stepped inside as Mindy took the wine from him and disappeared into the kitchen. Before closing the door, Jack wondered whether he could get away with an excuse to leave. Maybe they needed something from the store to go with dinner. Maybe he could fake an emergency at work. Though, really, there weren’t many emergencies in accounting, and Mindy probably knew that. “Make yourself at home,” he told Shawn with a forced smile.

As Shawn took off his jacket and hung it on a hook by the door, he looked at Jack and said seriously, “Hey, just so ya know, I mean, I’m totally cool with the whole… gay thing.” He whispered the word “gay” as if he were trying to keep it a secret. From whom, Jack wasn’t sure. The neighbor’s parakeet, perhaps?

Unsure how to respond, Jack looked at Shawn for a long beat. “Uh, that’s… I’m glad to hear it?” His answer sounded more like a question, but it was too late to take it back.

When Shawn beamed at him and nodded, sighing as if he’d just passed an especially difficult test, Jack had to like him. Maybe Shawn was a little socially awkward, but he was sweet. And hopefully smart enough to let Mindy do most of the talking when they were with other people.

As Jack led him to the living room, Shawn went on to say, “My best friend in high school came out when we were kids, ya know?” Jack didn’t know, but he let Shawn go on. “He had to deal with some real assholes, and ever since then, I just like to let people know up front that they don’t have to worry about it with me.”

His reasoning was sound. His delivery might need some work, but Jack decided that was all right.

Standing at the speaker dock with his phone, Jack scrolled through artists until he came to the one he wanted. He glanced at Shawn before starting the music. “Do you guys still hang out?”

The unmistakable rasp of Billie Holiday drifted from the speakers as Jack took a seat on the couch with Shawn. “Oh yeah, all the time.” Shawn leaned back with another smile on his face. God, he seemed like a happy sort of guy. “He’s out of town right now, but we’re still close. We were even roommates for a while after high school.” After another pause and another broad grin, Shawn admitted, “I can’t wait for him to meet Mindy. They’re really gonna hit it off.”

Jack forced another smile. Seriously? He was getting upset over the idea of Mindy hanging out with another gay man? As if she could only have one in her life. That was her allotment, and Jack already filled the slot for her. So to speak.

He was trying to decide whether he could make it through the conversation without bursting into tears again when Mindy came in with two glasses of wine. She passed one to Shawn, and then when she passed one to Jack, she asked, “Why is it you always play Billie Holiday when I make smothered salmon?”

“I do not.” Did he?

“You do.” She nodded, her tone firm. “Salmon is Billie Holiday, chicken pot pie is Cole Porter, pasta is Vivaldi, and steak is Creedence Clearwater.” After a pause, she added, “I thought you did it on purpose.”

“Huh.” Jack was nonplussed over that one. He hadn’t realized he had a playlist for food. Then he remembered childhood barbeques with his father at the grill on the deck. On those sunny afternoons, with the smell of red meat sizzling over the coals, he always had a CCR record playing in the background, the music blasting through the house so they could hear it in the backyard. Jack loved those days. In all of his memories of his father, those were the only ones where Jack could see him smiling.

“Maybe you should talk to your shrink about it.” Mindy had a teasing glint in her eyes, but Jack narrowed his at her. He really didn’t want to go into any details about Seth in front of Shawn.

“Maybe I should talk to a shrink about you,” he shot back, giving her a warning look with the words.

She took the cue and let the subject drop with a shrug and a knowing smile. “Maybe I should make sure I’m not burning dinner.”

Shawn watched Mindy go back to the kitchen with a dopey grin on his face before he looked at Jack again. “So you’re in therapy?” he asked amiably.

Oh God. Jack decided to let the question go without comment. “Need any help in there?” he called out to Mindy, ready to sprint from the couch so he could throttle her as soon as dinner was ready. No need to kill her before it was served. That would be a waste.

“I’m all good,” she said. From her tone of voice, Jack knew she was smiling.

He looked at Shawn, dreading whatever might come out of his mouth next. “I better go lend a hand just in case.” Jack smiled as he stood, hoping Shawn wouldn’t feel too abandoned.

 

 

DINNER WENT
much smoother after the little meet and greet. Shawn was a nice guy, surprisingly easier to talk to when Mindy was around, and he appeared to be as infatuated with her as she was with him. Maybe even more.

After the two had left for the night, Jack sat at his computer. He’d seen an e-mail notice from Seth on his phone earlier. The last hour of the evening, he’d been practically bouncing in his seat, wanting to rush Mindy and Shawn out the door so he could read what Seth had to say.

He read the e-mail twice, laughing in a few places, ready to cry in others. Just as he was about to respond, his instant messenger box flashed at him in the corner of his screen.

It was Seth.

They had never talked on the phone or tried Skype or even IM. So many times Jack had wished they could do those things, have some kind of real-time communication, but now that he was faced with the prospect of it, he wasn’t so sure. He’d grown to like the safety of getting to say what he was feeling, read it over a few times, and then decide whether he wanted to send it after all. He usually did send it, but he liked having the choice.

The message box chimed at him again, and he clicked on it.

Seth’s icon—a Celtic tree of life—appeared in the window. Hey, Jack! I just saw we were online at the same time for once and thought I’d say hi.

Jack smiled to himself and typed out a quick reply. I’m glad you did. I was just sitting down to my e-mail.

The response from Seth was almost instant. Did you get a chance to read mine yet? It’s the only one that matters. :P

Lol. I was just about to e-mail you back, as it happens.

He could hear Seth’s voice in his head as he read the next comment. Excellent. Now you can save the… Internet postage? Hm. That wasn’t as clever as I thought it would be.

Jack let out a loud laugh. How could he be so charmed over IM? Lmao, are you drunk?

I work at a rehab facility, Jack. >_>

Jack’s smile had turned into a broad grin. Fair point. How are things going?

Settling back in his chair, Jack stretched his legs out under the table. He found it surprising how much he enjoyed this. He knew it was different from a real-life interaction, but it was still pleasant.

Seth’s next comment took longer to type out. Things are good. I’m nearly done with my internship, so that’s awesome. I’ve been keeping in touch with Rick, and it sounds like he’s doing well.

Jack nodded as he responded. He really is. I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me. He called the other day just to chat. It was wonderful.

He never knew how to explain to someone—someone unfamiliar with addiction and the toll it could take on a family—what it felt like to make even a small connection, to have a simple phone conversation with the son he thought he’d lost. Given Seth’s history with his brother, Jack knew he would understand.

That’s great, Jack. I can tell you how happy it makes me. I’m over the moon for you guys!

Jack laughed to himself. He was pretty over the moon too, but he loved how easy it was for Seth to share his feelings. As he started to type a response, Seth messaged him again.

Did you think about my offer to hook you up with a counselor in your area?

In truth he had thought about it. For about fifteen seconds. I appreciate the thought, but I’m not sure I could do that to myself on a weekly basis.

Ha! You could. You’d be amazed. But whatever you decide to do, I hope you keep the flow going.

Jack snorted a laugh and rolled his eyes before responding. LOL. That’s not a problem, I assure you. I did manage to make it through an entire meal without weeping. That has to be a good sign, right? I was starting to wonder if I needed medication….

They’d covered some of this in earlier e-mails, but apparently Seth felt the need to remind Jack of a few things. You don’t need medication. You just need to get out all those negative emotions. You’ve carried them around for too many years. There’s nothing wrong with shedding a few tears. It’s healthy, in fact.

Still, though, Jack felt the need to explain. I’m not sure you understand the kind of crying I’m talking about. This isn’t “shedding a few tears.” This is “I can’t even watch commercials without sobbing into a couch cushion.” I had to stop listening to the radio when I drive. I was afraid I’d run off the road. This can’t be healthy.

BOOK: Breakthrough
4.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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