Ryker & Gavin is the most recent stand-alone title in the Something About Him male/male romance series. This book is available on ALL platforms (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, ARe, Nook– or will be soon!) Find it at Amazon getbook.at/RykerGavinAmzn
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“Mom, I’m not going to change. And you can’t fix me, I’m not broken. I’m gay. End of story. It took me sixteen years to finally admit it to myself, and another two years to tell you about it. I’m done hiding, I’m done pretending to be something I’m not. I have never felt real, but now, for the first time, I am ready to be true to myself and be me, the real me. Not the me everyone thinks they know. Not the me everyone thinks I should be. Me. Just me. And that me is gay. I like boys.”
My passionate speech started to wane and I lost a bit of my long practiced bravado. Watching my mom stare at me with tears running down her face as she shook her head like I’d just announced I was a serial killer, I began to doubt every plan and reason I’d had for coming out to her.
Had I really thought she’d support me?
Did I think we’d hug and she’d take me out for a celebratory dinner and “Congrats! You’re Gay!” milkshake? She’d swing by the party store and buy a build-your-own banner to hang in the front yard, “My son is gay!” Or she’d order one of those bumper stickers about proud parents, only hers would say, “Proud Parent of a Gay Son!”
I should have known she wouldn’t handle the announcement well.
Not that she’d stop loving me. I knew my mom would always love me, no question. But, I knew she wasn’t the type to want any negative attention on herself or her family. She had a plan and a vision for the way things should be. My dad getting in trouble and going to prison for fraudulent money handling hadn’t fit into her perfect little plan. Dad’s sudden death a few years into his sentence had almost derailed her completely.
She’d taken her only child, packed up all that we had, and moved across the country from California to a small town in Illinois. Mom had felt that Torey Hope, Illinois would be a nice place to start over, put down roots, and make a life for ourselves. At only eight, I had no say in any of it.
Illinois turned out to be a nice place to live. I found I enjoyed the different seasons, something I hadn’t gotten to experience in California. I settled into my new school quite easily.
Through all of it, I had never been able to shake the feeling that I was different from other kids. At eight, it wasn’t something I could name. I had friends, I played some sports here and there and enjoyed games with kids my own age. I just had an ever-present knowledge that I was different in some way.
“But, you’ve dated girls,” Mom argued as she sat on the couch in our living room.
“I dated girls because that’s what was expected of me. Believe me, if dating a girl could have made me feel normal, I would have stuck to it. But, it just made me feel worse and convinced me that I don’t like girls the way I like boys.” I knew it was a shock to her, I tried to be patient, I really did.
“But, you comment about pretty girls all the time,” she seemed to be wracking her brain to provide a solid argument that would disprove my claim of being gay.
“Mom, do you want to sleep with every man you find attractive?” When she wrinkled her nose, I continued, “You always say that one actress is pretty, do you want to have sex with her?”
“Of course not, Ryker, that’s absurd,” Mom protested.
“Same here. I think many women are pretty, doesn’t mean I’m sexually attracted to them.”
“But every guy you find attractive you want to sleep with him?” Mom’s incredulous face almost made me laugh.
“No, Mom, I don’t want to sleep with every guy I see or find attractive. But, after eighteen years, I’m one hundred percent certain that I don’t want to sleep with girls. I don’t want to date a girl. I don’t want to marry a girl.”
Mom just stared at me as if waiting for the punchline of a joke she didn’t get.
“And I was really hoping you’d be on my side. Support me.” I tried to keep my voice strong, but it wavered into a gruff whisper.
“Ryker…,” Mom wrung her hands, “I want to have grandbabies someday.”
“Mom, I’m eighteen. Way too young to be thinking about children. But, gay couples adopt children all the time. I can still give you grandchildren.”
“It won’t be the same,” she shook her head dismally. “And, what would I tell the people at work? What if they see you out on dates? Ryker, it just seems so wrong and unnatural.” She reached for my hand, “Baby boy, I’ve prayed for you and your future wife every day since the day you were born. She’s out there for you, I know she is. You’re young, you have time to find her. You’re probably just feeling your oats or something like that. I’m so sorry you’ve not had a father figure in the picture to teach you about being a man.”
I stopped her before she could go any further.
“Mom, I am a man. And I’m pretty sure I’m a damn good one. I just happen to be a gay man. Can you just be happy for me? Because today, telling you this, has been both terrifying and a complete relief.”
“Ryker, I just don’t know that I can be happy about something that will bring shame and hurt to you.” She paused for a moment as if gathering her thoughts, “Have you been intimate with a man?”
“Yeah, Mom, I have.”
She put a hand to her mouth and shook her head, “No, I don’t want to know any more. This isn’t something I can support, Ryker.”
A sense of dread coiled tightly in my belly, “What are you saying, Mom?”
“I’m saying you can take it back, say it was all a big joke or misunderstanding, and we can continue on with our lives as if nothing has changed.”
“Or,” her breath shuddered as she spoke, “you can stick to your claim and leave this house, leave your home, leave me.”
“You’d kick me out?”
“I’m not kicking you out. If you leave, it will be your choice to go. I’ve given you options.”
“Mom! These are no options. How can you ask me to continue denying who I am, live a miserable life, to save your face with friends and neighbors?”
“You’ve lived with this secret for eighteen years and it hasn’t killed you,” she spoke bluntly.
“So you’d rather I stay here, living a lie, hating myself and hurting?”
“That’s the only way I can see it working. I can’t be okay with my son living under my roof while living in a way we all know is wrong.” Her lips pursed and her brows drew together.
“How is it wrong for me to love and be loved?”
“Oh, so you are in love?” Mom shot back.
“No, I’m not in love, but I know in my heart that I can’t love a woman in the way she would deserve to be loved. I’d never be one hundred percent connected and in love with her because I’d always be longing for something else, someone else.”
“Not every marriage is perfect, Ryker.”
“Mom! I’m not even talking about marriage right now. That wife you’ve prayed for every day since I was born? Do you want her saddled with a marriage only to find out her husband dreams of a man’s touch, imagines a man in his arms, desires nothing more than a man to love him?” I was shouting by that point, but my patience had run out and I was hurt. And angry.
“I’m just saying, if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.”
“I can’t just make myself not be gay, no more than I could make someone be gay if they weren’t already.”
“Then I guess you’ve made your decision. You were going to move out sooner or later now that you’re eighteen anyway.” Mom stood and effectively dismissed the conversation.
In a haze of hurt, anger, and confusion, I walked to my room and packed a single suitcase with every piece of clothing I had. My duffle bag held the toiletries from my bathroom along with some chargers and electronic devices. I grabbed my stash of emergency cash and tucked it securely into my bag. Checking that I had my wallet with identification and credit cards and bank cards, I took a quick look around at the room that had been mine for ten years.
Heading down the stairs, I paused to watch my mom. She seemed hardened somehow. As if the last several minutes had built a wall around her and she was determined not to let it be knocked down.
She glanced at me.
“I’m sorry if I’ve messed everything up. I do love you, you know?”
“Ryker, baby boy, I love you too. And I don’t want you to leave.”
“Then let me stay!”
“The life you say you want, the future you want to build, it’s not one that I understand…,” she began.
“Then let me teach you, let me show you that this doesn’t change who I am,” I pleaded.
“I can’t, Ryker. You’ve always been unique and strong-willed. I won’t try to change you if this is truly what you want. But, I can’t stand by and act as if it’s all okay.”
“Facing a judgmental and hateful world without my mother by my side is not what I want, Mom. Leaving the home I’ve called my own for ten years is not what I want. Being on my own is terrifying and not what I want.” I placed my bags down and walked toward her, “But, you’re right, I can’t be changed. I won’t be changed. This is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. I wanted so badly to be enough for you, for this to turn into one of those sappy clichéd movie scenes where the mom and son join arms and eat pie at a diner after marching in a Pride parade, but I can see that my dreams and yours have been on a deadly collision course for years. Today those dreams finally collided, and there’s no way they can grow or become reality with the other one around.”
I pulled my mother close, hugging her tightly, breathing in the comforting scent of her as she wrapped her arms around me and sobbed.
“If I leave now, Mom, it’s likely I’ll never come back,” I whispered gruffly to the top of her head as I held her.
“I know. And it breaks my heart. I’m sorry I can’t be the mother you were hoping for. I love you and wish you all of the happiness and success this world has to offer you,” her eyes glistened as she spoke.
“Not true happiness, though, right? Just the fake, superficial type of happiness that would slowly kill my heart?” I laughed humorlessly.
“Figure out who you are. Find your happiness. If it turns out you were wrong, come back to me. If you want to stand by being gay, that’s fine. I don’t want there to be hatred between us, Ryker, I just can’t support you being with other men that way.”
With those words, my mom let me go and watched silently as I picked up my bags and walked out of the door for the last time.
I often wondered in the years to come if she ever regretted her actions and words that day. Did she ever wish she’d called my name and begged me to come back to my home? Was she haunted by the fact that she sent a young, confused, hurting son into a hating world rather than holding him close and supporting him and guiding him through the pain and emotions facing him?
I learned quickly not to wonder about things I couldn’t change.