An excerpt from short story by Josh Lanyon
I was holding a bag of frozen peas against my eye when Graham walked into the kitchen.
“No use,” he said. “Mind control won’t work on pea brains.”
“You’re telling me.” I lowered the bag of frozen veggies.
“Whoa. What happened to you?”
“Tenth grade biology.”
He dropped his leather utility tote on the table, and moved to where I sat. His work-roughened hands were gentle as he tipped my head back to study the puffy bruise on my cheekbone. “Ouch. How the hell”
“I walked into it.”
“You walked into a punch?” His touch was still gentle, but his gray eyes were searching.
“Yeah. I did.” I replaced the cold bag against my hot face. “So stupid I can’t believe it.”
“Mitch Frankel tackled Richie Nunn.”
“What, your two football stars? I thought they were best friends.”
“They are. Were. Since they were kids. Little kids, I mean.”
I moved my head in negation. “Who knows. Hormones probably.”
“Is it mating season?”
“It’s always mating season when you’re sixteen.”
“True.” Graham’s smile grew thoughtful. “Five days before the wedding.”
I said shortly, “I know. It’ll ruin the photos. Maybe we should postpone.”
I was kidding, of course. Until I said it, I thought I was kidding. Graham thought I was kidding. Or at least he laughed. But then his smile faded. His dark brows drew together. He stared at me for a moment.
“You okay, Wyatt?” he asked finally.
“No,” Graham said slowly. He drew out the chair next to the table and sat down, facing me. “No, you’re not.”
Not much for talking, Graham, so this was a major effort on his part.
“I’m just stressed.”
I huffed out an exasperated breath as he trailed off.
“What’s going on?” His gaze met mine, serious and steady.
I shook my head. I didn’t begin to know how to explain this to Graham, when I was still trying to explain it to myself.
“Cold feet?” He sounded curious more than anything. The geologist observing shearing forces, noting pressure and temperature.
“Do you think maybe we’re…rushing into this?” I watched his face, but Graham didn’t give anything away unless he chose to. Even after more than a year together, I couldn’t always read him.
He said finally, evenly, “You do.”
“Maybe.” I took a deep breath. “Yes.”
“You don’t think maybe you should have brought this up earlier?”
“Yes, I should have brought it up earlier.”
“Why didn’t you?”
I said with a hostility that caught even me off guard, “It was hard to get a word in edgewise between the discussions of cake flavors and wedding favors.”
His eyes narrowed. “I see.”
I don’t think he did though.
Because I didn’t. A few months before I wouldn’t have been able to think of anything that made me happier than the idea of being married to Graham. I’d been overjoyed when he’d brought the subject up. Proposed. That was the official term for it. But that was before I figured out that we were getting married for the wrong reasons. Marriage as relationship therapy.
Probably not a good idea.
Certainly there were cheaper methodsgiven that a relatively small wedding cake started at around a grand. Thank God it was June, because out-of-season flowers? We could probably landscape the front yard for what we’d spend. Not that we would ever landscape the front yard. Not that we’d ever change so much as a shrubbery or a lighting fixture at the house on Startouch Drive. The house Graham had shared with Jase.
“Do you want to call it off?” That was practical and straightforward Graham cutting right to the heart of the matter. And cutting my heart out at the same time.
My swallow was audible. No. I didn’t want to call it off. But I didn’t want us to be married for the wrong reasons either. Marriage was challenging enough without entering into it because we were afraid we wouldn’t make it if we weren’t legally bound and gagged.
I mean, a few years ago I hadn’t even thought marriage was a possibility. Let alone imagined what was turning out to be my big fat gay wedding.
“I…don’t know,” I admitted.
The planes of Graham’s face grew harder, the lines more pronounced. But his voice was level as he said, “That sounds like a yes to me.”
“I love you.”
“But you don’t want to get married.”
I said again, “I don’t know.”
“I do.” The chair scraped noisily as Graham rose. His back was to me as he went to the sink and stared out at the redwood deck and the green clouds of tree tops.
I rose too. “I do want to get married,” I said. It was hard to get the words out past the increasing tightness in my throat. “But I want it to be at the right time for the right reasons.”
He said without turning around, “And love isn’t the right reason?”
“It’s not the only reason to get married.”
He finally turned. “Then what do you want?”
“I…” I didn’t understand the question.
That must have been obvious because he said with that same unfamiliar hardness, “Are you moving out?”
It felt like the gleaming floorboards cracked beneath my feet. I unobtrusively placed my hand on the table to steady myself. “Is that what youthat’s not what I want. That’s not what I’m saying.”
“What are you saying, Wyatt? If you don’t want to get married, what do you want? What are we doing? Because to choose not to make a commitment at this juncture feels serious to me.”
At this juncture? He was angry and getting angrier by the second, which I hadn’t expected. Probably because Graham had never been genuinely angry with me before. That I was aware of anyway.
“I don’t want to end anything.”
“But you don’t want to move forward.”
How was it possible that we were having this conversation? That I was somehow in the position of being the one who didn’t want to move forward? By rights that should have been Graham’s line. Graham was the one who had initially had doubts, concerns, hesitations. I fell in love with Graham before Graham fell in love with me. Not that I was keeping score. But it’s not like I didn’t remember.
“I am committed to us. To this relationship. I don’t want anything to change.”
He just stared.
“I mean that.”
He laughed. Or at least he made a humorless sound that was probably supposed to be a laugh. “Okay. You tell me what you think happens now.”
All the work he’d put into this. All the planning and preparation. The expense. We would never get our deposits back. It was way too late. It wasn’t about the money, but even so, that disregard for his time and effort, that would be part of why he was so furious, and I didn’t blame him. Why the hell hadn’t I spoken up?
“I’ll…take care of everything,” I said. “I can call and let everyone know we’re postponing.”
“That would be helpful.” Anyone else and I’d have known they were being sarcastic.
I said tentatively, hopefully, “At least there’s no deposit on a reception hall.”
“Yeah, what a relief,” Graham said coldly, and walked out of the kitchen.
Copyright 2000-17, Josh Lanyon.
All rights reserved.