Join Prism Book Alliance® as Freddy MacKay goes Outside the Margins today.
Welcome to the Prism Book Alliance Blog today! Freddy MacKay here, one of the contributors to Outside the Margins. For my part, I am writing 500 – 1000 word flash fiction pieces for a story called On the Divide. These are not professionally edited but I do try to catch my mistakes. I hope you enjoy.
On the Divide – Part 19 by Freddy MacKay
“When you said Italian—” Cooper looked around. “This was not what I was expecting.”
Harlan offered a small smile. He shrugged, appearing almost bashful, the gesture not quite fitting of his normal confidence. “I like it.”
“I’m not complaining,” Cooper added quickly. The conditioned response nearly ruined the mood for him but Cooper pushed past it.
“I didn’t think you were.”
It was nice. Very… Hipster. Cooper shouldn’t have been surprised. Not really. A food truck ran right up Harlan’s alley. The picnic tables. The strung lights. The table clothes. Those were unexpected.
“Aren’t food trucks supposed to be… I dunno, mobile?” Cooper asked.
“Heh. Well, Anthony’s is. Mostly. They have another truck that helps out with moving the seating and stuff, but they stay in certain areas. Anthony changes the schedule, and his menu, every once in a while to shake things up.”
Harlan nodded, then sat back. He patted his belly and groaned. Cooper understood. They’d pigged out on a vegetable lasagna that had Cooper wanting the recipe. Most of them sucked, but between the cheese, the perfectly cut portions of squash and other veggies, and the Alfredo, Cooper would definitely offer up his first born to have it every day. Okay, well, a little extreme, but Cooper rarely got to eat food this good at such a low price.
Or enjoy the night sky like this.
To be able to sit in the open air, even with the chilled night air, and enjoy a simple dinner and company—it was something Cooper had forgotten how to do. To just be. He’d been spending so much time worrying about how to make ends meet and finish school he hadn’t realized he’d been drowning. But this moment, one where he could close his eyes and let himself go to the night sounds and gentle notes of music in the background, he’d forgotten he needed moments like this one.
The confused expression from Harlan wasn’t unexpected. The words and tone of his voice didn’t match. Not with how the words wavered, or the catch of his breath after them. Tonight meant so much more than Harlan would probably understand, but Cooper needed to let him know.
“I mean it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Coop.”
After the kerfuffle with Evelyn at Band Rescue he had needed this more than he’d realized. To be able to stop and breathe. To not have a conversation. To just eat. All his frazzled nerves slowly unraveled over the meal and stopped telling him to hightail it home.
Somehow, in his gut, Cooper knew Harlan gave him the silence on purpose. That the unusual bartender understood Cooper’s subconscious desire to unwind.
Cooper cocked his head just enough so he could see Harlan out of the corner of his eye. He wore his usual button down with suspenders, turned up pants, and steel-toed boots. He’d turned the tips of his mustache up tonight.
The guy really was weird. Kind. But definitely weird. Handsome, a little scruffy for Cooper’s taste, but he knew a good-looking guy when he saw one.
As if he knew Cooper was watching him, Harlan turned and smiled. A small one that could barely be seen because of his beard and mustache. Was this what Cooper had been missing the whole time? The kindness Harlan exuded? The calm? Had he really been so wrapped up in his fucked head he couldn’t even tell good from bad anymore?
A wave of guilt hit Cooper hard. Slamming against his chest, crushing it, and Cooper struggled to keep it together. His eyes lost focus, and Cooper desperately started naming the streets around his apartment. When that didn’t help he thought he was screwed. Cooper pushed up, dizzy and disoriented for a moment.
The concern in Harlan’s voice hurt.
“Are you all right?”
God, he was such a freak. Couldn’t even make it through one dinner without his head interfering. Someone normal would’ve been able to sit here and not fuck up sitting.
But no, Cooper’s jittery ass had to shit all over a decent evening.
Something touched his arm, and Cooper jerked it back before realizing Harlan was standing next to him. Those dark blue eyes had focused so intently on him.
“It’s me,” Cooper said. “It’s… I don’t know how to do this.”
“Okay.” Harlan nodded. “How about a walk? There’s a nice path around the lake.”
Movement sounded good, so Cooper took off, following the strong off lights to a dirt walkway. The rough slid of the bottom of his shoes on the path grounded Cooper—in more ways than one. The lightness in his head made it feel as though he was about to float off. Ridiculous. Utter and complete bullshit, Cooper knew better. Didn’t stop the feeling, though.
When the steady thump of footsteps next to him finally filtered in Cooper realized Harlan hadn’t left. Idiot probably should’ve. Cooper wouldn’t blame him. But no, Harlan was there, walking next to Cooper like the world wasn’t ending.
And it wasn’t, just felt like it, though. Cooper wished more than anything the feeling would stop, go away, to let him live in peace. A part of him understood the feelings were a result of yet another panic attack, but it was a much smaller part than the rest of him which insisted his shitty attitude was the problem.
Tabitha’s word still rang loud for him. Too loud.
Cooper wondered if there would ever be a time when they didn’t. He wanted to think so, but he dared not to hope.
Hope brought him here, after all. Cooper stopped, looking around. The warm glow of orange lights reflected of the black surface of the lake. Stars shone bright overhead. A cool wind made him shiver—but it was the good kind.
Okay, maybe here wasn’t so bad. Cooper breathed in, relishing how the air filled his lungs. Here definitely wasn’t bad at all.
If only he didn’t have to explain why he freaked out in the first place. Cooper could feel Harlan hovering close by. He deserved an explanation. Again. But Cooper really didn’t want to. He wanted the nice to stay.
A throat cleared behind Cooper and Harlan spoke. “Want to finish walking around the lake?”
Small graces. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
About Freddy MacKayI grew up and went to college in the Midwest where I currently reside with my family. I spend most of my time playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since I was little, except who is included my activities. I also have a healthy geocaching addiction. It’s so much fun! I enjoy spending my time traveling when I can, and I hold the view that a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.
My contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Internment, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Feel Me (The Marduck Expanse) was a Gay SF Finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards.
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
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