My heart hurt. Hurt for the child I would never have. Watching my new family and friends as parents was touching, but it also brought to the forefront of my mind that I would never have that. My heart also hurt for the man I considered my best friend. I knew he was struggling and I didn’t know how to help him; I didn’t even know if he wanted help. My heart hurt when I watched the love between the couples who were in our home that night. I had a terrible relationship with my parents and a completely fucked up marriage in my past; I didn’t have faith in love and marriage. But, watching those couples, a little spark of faith lit inside of me and gave me hope. That’s when the hurt came in. I didn’t have anyone to share that love with; the one man who I could possibly consider loving was my best friend, but he had shut himself down to love. So, for various reasons, my heart just hurt that night.
As I climbed the stairs to clean up my studio, I heard music coming from Kyle’s studio office. I sat down outside of his door and leaned against the wall. Five songs played while I listened and I learned that Kyle’s taste in music was as eclectic as he was. An old Firehouse song, something from the Eagles, a great one from Steve Earle, Something to Believe In by Poison, and Personal Jesus by Johnny Cash all played while I sat immobile in the hallway and thought about the man inside that studio. He was my friend. He couldn’t be more. He didn’t want to be more. As another song came on, Hurt by Johnny Cash, I realized two things. Kyle was a Cash fan, and he was hurting even more than I had originally thought. The haunting lyrics and music floated on the air as tears ran down my cheeks. I would push aside any personal feelings for this man and simply be his friend; the break in his voice as he sang along with this song broke my heart and sealed my decision. He needed me, and I would be there for him.
I stood from my seated position and rapped on his door. “Come in, Jose.” His voice was raw and tight. I hesitated. Maybe he didn’t want me around.
Poking my head into the room I smiled at him. I took in his mussed hair and the sadness in his eyes. “Want to come downstairs and talk?” I knew that I would have to be the first to share if I expected him to ever open up. I would sacrifice and tell this humiliating story if it meant giving him the opening to tell his own story. I watched as he started to deny my request, but then he took a deep breath and nodded. “I’ll be down in a bit.”
In the kitchen I prepared the margarita mix that Audrey had brought over as a house warming gift along with a tiny bottle of tequila. It was just a two serving packet and the bottle had just enough for the two servings which was good because I had never consumed alcohol before, and I didn’t need to get shit-faced before Kyle and I got to talk.
As I heard him coming down the stairs I headed into the living room. “Margarita?” I showed him the two glasses I held, and he smiled ruefully.
“Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll probably need one to get through this.” He took a drink from the glass I handed him and breathed deeply after a swallow. “That’s good. I don’t drink much, but you made that perfectly, Jo.”
“Well, I’ll say thanks even though all I did was follow the directions.” I took a drink as well. Kyle laughed at my curled up nose.
“Not a fan of tequila, huh? Take a few more sips if you want to get used to it. If not, don’t force it. You’re not a drinker are you?” He cocked his head to the side and studied me as I took a couple more sips. I don’t think I’d ever call a margarita my drink of choice, but after about four sips it wasn’t as terrible as the first taste.
“No, this is the first alcohol I’ve ever had.” I shook my head almost unbelievably at the statement I just made. “It’s not that I never wanted to try it, it was just frowned upon, and I never wanted to push the edge of the proverbial envelope, so I just never tried it.” He waited patiently as if he knew I planned on telling him more.
I took a deep breath. “This is going to be hard. I don’t want to tell you about my past and then have you think poorly of me for not being strong enough to break free earlier.” I watched as he settled onto the chaise lounge part of our new sofa and patted the spot next to him. I sat with my back leaning into his chest and shoulder, my feet stretched out onto the sofa part while he stretched his out onto the chaise section.
“Jo, you don’t have to tell me anything, but I’m here to listen if you want to talk.” He leaned in and kissed my head. I took strength from that gesture as I also tried to ignore it and the pang of longing it sent through my gut.
“No, I’m ready. The longer I keep it inside, the harder it gets to tell. I should have just told people when I first arrived, but I was embarrassed. After I tell you, I’ll share with the rest of the family slowly. Maybe I’ll tell the girls and they can pass the information along, so I don’t have to retell it over and over. But, I’m tired of hiding behind it.” I paused as I gathered my thoughts. I knew in my heart that I would have a sit-down with Uncle Robert and share my story with him before I told anyone else; he had taken me in as if I was his own child and I owed it to him to let him know what had brought me to Torey Hope.
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