I Know What I’m Doing Ch. 03

Amateur

~Aiden~

“Bloody hell!”

“Yes, I agree.”

Seven out of nine Montgomerys were in my study. I was seated on my leather chair, my head on my desk. The last time I’d spoken was about ten minutes ago. As far as I could tell without actually lifting my head, the other six were having a hard time sitting still. They moved about as much as they talked.

“What just happened?”

“Aiden’s gay, Gram.”

“That’s what I thought I heard. Gay?”

“It means he likes men. Loves them.”

“I know what it bloody well means, Michaela. What I want to know is when did this happen? He and Chris used to bring girls home all the time.”

“We did. But that was a long time ago. He-“

“‘A long time’? The boy was engaged up until two weeks ago!”

“Shaun, let Chris speak.”

“Sure, dad caught us with girls a couple times-“

A rough snort, “A couple times… I felt like some sort of teen exterminator, chasing those girls out week after week.”

“Sweetheart…”

“Oh, come now, Gwen. You were there, you know it’s true. And those magazines of Aiden’s…”

“Er, those were mine.”

“Yours? You told us they were your brother’s!”

“Because I knew you wouldn’t make a big deal if you thought they were his. I was always the one with his nose in a math book. I didn’t want to ruin the image you had of me.”

“Now there’s the biggest load of hogwash I’ve heard in ages!”

“Hush, Karin.”

“Hush, my bum. What image? Every boy starts taking an interest in boobies and all that at some point. It’s the one who’s stopped that has me shocked.”

“Maybe that’s the problem. The fact that every boy is expected to like… er, boobies and all that.”

“We assumed our boys would love girls. We assumed… We never even made room for any other possibility.”

“The same as countless other parents.”

“I still can’t believe he suddenly stopped liking women — though I do see how that fiancée of his could put any man off-.”

“Karin!”

“What?!”

“It’s not that sudden, if you think about it. He did say he’s had feelings for this guy for five years now.”

“Bloody hell!”

“Yes, I think we covered that part.”

*

What most people didn’t realise was that wall of rock at the upper end of the public beach did not signify the end of the beach itself. Though the craggy barricade with its scattered fynbos rose high enough to look like the foot of the hill, it was all a visual illusion of sorts.

If a person were able to climb those rocks, they’d be surprised to find that the beach continued for another kilometre at the top. It’s at the end of that stretch that the gentle rise of the hill actually began.

I loved the privacy created on the extra stretch by that natural wall; the best part being that it was mine since that was where the property my grandparents had owned began.

I left my backyard via the hidden gate and made the ten-minute walk down to the beach completely lost in thought.

I took off my shoes when I got there and sat down, digging my toes in the sand.

/Have you done the right thing? A few kisses from Ethan have you coming out to your whole family, one man has you declaring your homosexuality?/

Chris knew exactly where to find me; it’s an ability he’s had since we were kids. When I was seven we came to a mutual agreement to quit playing hide-and-seek together since no game lasted more than ten minutes.

“Hey,” He sat down beside me, rolling his pant legs a little higher.

“Hey.”

“You’ve been gone a while. We got worried.”

I nodded, unable to speak. I turned back to watching the gathering clouds, and wondered what my brother thought of me. Chris had never been good with surprises, sudden changes or emergencies. And since my confession felt like a little of all of the above, I wondered if we’d ever be able to reassemble the bond we’d shared before.

“Have you heard anything from Ethan?”

“No. I’ve tried calling, but he won’t answer. He texted me when he realised I didn’t plan on stopping, said he was fine and needed some time.”

“Hm,” Chris’ grunts spoke volumes if you knew how to decode them. This one meant he agreed with Ethan’s request.

“No, damn it. Now is the worst time for him to be running off. There is so much I need to tell him, that we need to sort through. He’s out there believing that Carolynn and I… that we’re back together. We need to talk about-“

“All of that will come. Right now you have a lot to think about, and so does he. There’s Carolynn at the house. And you’ve just come out, Axe — to your whole family. That’s a huge deal and, whether you realise it or not, you have a massive amount of adjusting to do from here on.”

We were going to be ok, he and I, and I knew because he’d just called me Axe. A silly nickname that had gone through numerous changes and had eventually ended up as Axe by the time I was in high school. Nobody used it anymore, except Chris and only during emotional times. It was like hearing him tell me he loved me. I poker oyna still had my brother.

“How’re Mom and Dad?”

“They’re ok, just a little guilt-ridden.” He looked at me, “Mom thinks the reason you’re only coming out now is because they somehow made you feel like you needed to suppress your feelings while we were younger.”

“That’s not true.”

“You should talk to them.”

“Yeah.”

He shook his shoulders as the breeze cooled dramatically. “It’s going to rain soon.”

I looked up at the sky, hoping these showers would bring Ethan back to me the way they had weeks ago, “Yep.”

“We should get back. The kids want to tell you all about the hyenas from that nature show they were watching; and I think I heard Gram say she wants a blow-by-blow breakdown of when exactly you realised you didn’t like ‘boobies’ anymore.”

“What should I tell Kyle and Melon?”

“Michaela and I will speak to them once all the excitement’s settled. Don’t look so worried; you’re their uncle and they’ll always love you.”

We both stood and shook the sand off ourselves. I turned to find Chris watching me. He put his hands on my shoulders and smiled a little, “One last question, little brother.”

“Yeah?”

“Remember back in high school, when I was dating Kelly Metcalf and her odd cousin took an interest in you?”

“The guy with the strange smell and disturbingly hairy armpits?”

“Yes. Did you ever feel-“

“Nooo. Never.”

He let out a light breath, “Good.”

Then he hugged me as a light drizzle began to fall.

*

“Shit!” I slammed the phone down and rubbed my eyes in frustration.

A knock at the door was followed by my father’s entrance. Gregory Montgomery was a very large man; everything about him was made for intimidation. He stood well over 6 feet tall; his voice was deep and gruff; and his green eyes, searing. People tended to tread lightly when they first met him; and were invariably surprised by the gentle character they encountered as they got to know him.

I was certain my mother had sent him down to my study because he’d always been best at calming and reassuring the rest of us.

“Hey, son,” He entered cautiously and seated himself at the other end of my desk. I waited. For the first time in a very long time I didn’t know what to expect from my father.

It’s been hours since my confession in this same study. I’d told them everything about Ethan. In total it had taken me two hours to tell my family that I didn’t know what had changed for me; nor when exactly; nor why for Ethan in particular.

I had expected something to change once I told them but, looking at my father now sitting across from me, I was amazed that he was the same man with a wealth of love in his eyes.

“You might want to keep the expletives down; Michaela just put the rugrats to bed in the lounge, which is a miracle with all the chocolates your grandfather had managed to sneak to them on the way here.”

“Sorry. I’ve just been… It’s been a rough week – and now this.”

He nodded gravely. “You haven’t found him yet, I take it?”

I leaned back and let out an exhausted sigh, “No. I’m really worried now. It’s so frustrating not knowing what to do. Do I go out and look for him? And where? Or do I stay, in case he turns up?”

“Just remember, son, that boy’s as confused and scared as you are about everything. And I’m certain your ex-fiancée sweeping in out of nowhere didn’t help matters much. You both need some calmness in order to sort things out. Don’t get yourself too worked up; rather spend this time settling yourself so you two can get through this when he gets back.”

“You think he’ll be back?”

His eyes widened as if no other outcome were possible, “Of course, son. I have yet to meet any person able to resist a Montgomery.”

I smiled tiredly, “Prepare for the exception then, Dad. You and Chris had a walk through the park compared to what I’m dealing with.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Gwen refused to go out with me for five weeks when I met her.”

This was news to me, “Really? Mom wasn’t attracted to you?

He chuckled, “Actually, she liked me just fine. She just didn’t believe my feelings were real.”

“No kidding. Mom?”

“She came from a single parent household. Her mother died young, as you know, and her father struggled financially to keep things together for five children. They loved each other, but didn’t have much else. I, on the other hand, came from big money. She thought I was looking for a quick fling with a girl from the other side of the tracks.

“When she was going to her part-time jobs after school, I was sailing and riding horses. She didn’t believe two such worlds could blend. Thank goodness for those jobs of hers, though, because that’s how we met. She was waitressing for a catering company my mother had hired for a luncheon. I pestered her so much that day she threw a drink in my face. I thought she was magnificent.”

I laughed incredulously, “But how did you change a month canlı poker oyna of no’s to a sudden yes?”

“I proposed to her.”

I laughed again. He didn’t.

I blinked in astonishment, “What? Without ever having gone on a date?”

He smiled confidently, “I just knew that we’d make each other happy. And I panicked when I couldn’t get her to spend time with me. I was worried that someone else might come along and snatch her from right before me. So I proposed.”

“You knew that you loved her that much already?”

“I knew that I could not picture a life without her.”

“What did Granddad and Gram make of that?’

“My mother was the one who suggested the solution.”

I leaned back thoughtfully, “That’s a great story. How come you never shared it with us when we were younger?”

His eyes went playfully stern, “Are you kidding? You were enough of a handful without us giving you any wild ideas.”

/So… the crazier things feel, the greater the chance that you’re perfectly normal. The greater the chance that it’s lo-/

“Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“How come you and mom weren’t surprised when I told you about… me and Ethan?”

He chuckled, “Oh, best you believe we were surprised, son. Surprised doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

“But you all took it so well, a lot better than even I’d expected.”

He looked at me for a long time before saying, “Remember when you were six and your mother and I took you and Chris to the animal shelter to adopt two pets?”

“Yeah.”

“Chris picked a parakeet. You asked them if they had any giraffes.”

I laughed at the memory. “I did settle for a chameleon in the end.”

“Then when you were twelve you somehow roped me into convincing your mother to let you go hiking on Devil’s Peak. I mean, the mountain’s called Devil’s Peak, for pete’s sake! And let’s not forget your infatuation with Khanyi from Simonstown when you were fifteen.”

“She was stunning.”

“She was working for a rival company – and ten years older than you.”

“So?”

“And she was Xhosa, of which you don’t speak a single word.”

“Ah. Yes, I remember now.”

“I think your seventeenth year was the most… exhilarating, though. That was the year of the motorbike; the fencing; the shark cage diving; and the announcement that you wanted to spend a year living and working in Dubai once you were done with high school.”

“I don’t see where this is headed, Dad. How did anything of those things tell you I’d end up into men?”

He laughed outright, “They didn’t. But we did learn that you are as open-minded and generous with your spirit as anyone could ever be. You’ve always lived beyond the boundaries of convention, son. Your mother and brother and I have just adjusted over the years — that’s why the gap between initial shock and subsequent acceptance seems so small.

“And Michaela… Michaela is such a free spirit herself, I don’t think anything could blindside her. Your grandparents too. This is how we all know you, it’s how we love you.”

I stood and went to him. Our hug was rough and honest. My father and I had always been close, but this was the first time in a long time that I felt like a kid with his hero again, “Thanks, Dad. I love you too. And tell mom-“

He kissed my forehead. “She knows, son. But I’m sure she wouldn’t mind hearing it from you in the morning.”

“Sure.”

“In the meantime, you should really get your mind off things. Why don’t you go for a walk?”

I shook my head. “Nah, can’t. I want to be here when he gets back. Or calls. I just wish he’d turn his damn phone on.”

“He’ll be back, son. Just give him time to clear his head.”

“I will. You go on up.”

I marvelled at how the room seemed to expand to its normal size again when he left. My father was larger than life on so many levels; he filled rooms and hearts; and I loved him.

I tried Ethan’s number again and hung up dejectedly when I got his voicemail. It was late and getting chilly.

I went upstairs and walked in to find Carolynn on my bed in a blue teddy. I stopped by the door.

“What are you doing here?”

She smiled and slipped one of the straps off her shoulder, “Waiting for you of course, darling.”

“No. Why are you in my house? You spread your legs in the city, remember?”

She rose up on her knees. “Don’t remind me of the biggest mistake I ever made. I don’t know what I was thinking, darling. But you know I simply can’t go on without you. Please, come to bed, let me love you – then we’ll talk. We have so much to talk about.”

I couldn’t believe I had ever thought this woman beautiful, everything about her was so polished and fake.

“I think you’d better leave.”

Her lips parted in surprise, but she recovered well. “Aiden, I’ve been waiting all afternoon for you to come spend time with me. You can’t expect me to believe that you want me to leave. We belong together, darling. Remember how splendid we were together? Everyone at our engagement party said internet casino so.”

“They were wrong, Carolynn, and so was I. In fact, you were the only person who got it right when you walked out the door. I need you to do that again, right now. I told you earlier that all your things are in the small guestroom. And don’t unpack your bag. I’ve already left a message at the front desk for Dan to arrange you transport anywhere you want to go when he gets in tomorrow.”

“Aiden, come on, you weren’t serious about putting me in another room. And sending me away?” She laughed a little nervously.

I opened the door, “I was.”

After she left, I grabbed a sweater and went back downstairs to sit beside the phone.

*

~Ethan~

The trick to getting where you’re going is to always put one foot in front of the other, even if it’s raining. That is how I made it from Dan’s car to the front door.

Dan had found me earlier, wandering blindly down the driveway. He’d pursed his lips before silently letting me into his car and taking me home. There I got to meet Peter, his partner, who had made lasagne for supper. Peter was a fantastic cook. Dan wasn’t – but he was great at opening wine bottles. And I’m fantastic at drinking wine – and that is what I did, desperately trying to numb out thoughts of Aiden’s reunion with his buxom brunette.

Peter and Dan shared a sunny apartment that had homey furnishings and a kitchen riddled with Peter’s cookbooks. They didn’t ask any direct questions – though I was fairly certain Dan could guess who was behind my distress.

I’d watched them together, setting the table, touching each other familiarly and talking about their day – and my earlier longing for a committed love had twisted my gut again.

But not anymore. Nooo sir!

Right now I’m blissfully anaesthetised, concerned only with not setting my head on a collision course with the wet brick paving in front of Aiden’s house. At one point, I almost failed, but luckily a trimmed bush cushioned my graceless tumble. Not a thorny bush, thank the heavens.

Bet Miss Carolynn has a thorny bush. A horny worn-y thorny bush. I snickered up at the stars as I reclined in the prickly branches.

/Ladies and gentlemen, Ethan Gray is on a witty roll tonight!/

Once the world stop tilting precariously, I pulled my butt out of the giant shrub and resumed my quest, wet but determined. It was with a look of triumphant accomplishment that I finally turned and waved goodbye to Dan from the front door. He looked like he was trying to figure out the best way to save me from myself. After a hesitant wave back he headed on his way.

Unlocking the door turned out to be quite simple. It was punching in the security code on the dancing keypad once I was inside that was the challenge. Success was marked by the musical beeping as the word SECURE flashed on the small screen.

/Yeah, baby!/

My grin was washed away by the sight of Carolynn when I turned from the door. She was wearing a silk robe and it had fallen open to reveal an obscenely revealing teddy beneath it. My throat locked as my first image was of Aiden touching her.

“Well, well,” she purred. “Look what the cat dragged in. You must have made yourself awfully comfortable in my fiancé’s home if you already have the keys and codes.”

I held my tongue as she slowly approached, taking in my tousled hair and dishevelled clothes, noting my obvious misery.

“What’s the matter, dear? You don’t look so well. Are you feeling sick? A little lovesick, perhaps?”

My heart thumped; and I knew she’d spotted my reaction which was as good as an admission.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

She laughed. Of all reactions I’d expected, this one was most cutting.

“Why, Ethan, you poor thing. Did you really think you stood a chance with someone like my Aiden? The man is straight, for goodness sake! You know, if it weren’t so pathetic, it would almost be admirable: someone like you setting his sights so high.”

Her eyes narrowed nastily. “Face it, princess, even if Aiden were like you, you’d have absolutely nothing to offer him. He is a strong, successful and virile man. Did you really think you stood a chance of keeping someone like him satisfied? Honestly, you should be grateful that I returned to reclaim my rightful place in his home and his heart. At least this way, you’re saved getting your heart broken down the line. Now I suggest you do yourself a favour, dear: make sure your bags are packed tonight. Make whatever arrangements and get the hell out. I don’t want to lay eyes on you come morning.”

She turned dismissively and headed for the stairs. She paused before going up, “And stay away from Aiden. I have plans of my own for him tonight.” The robe slipped from one shoulder as she headed up. Thoughts of her plans for the night almost made me bring up the lasagne I’d eaten.

I slumped against the door and fighting back tears. So that was it then, my worst fears confirmed.

/What did you expect, you masochist? If it hadn’t been Carolynn it would’ve been something – or someone – else. The story that begins with “Once upon a time a gay guy fell for a straight guy” never ends with “and they lived happily ever after”. Now get out before Aiden finds you here./

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