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 20 by Freddy MacKay
It wasn’t really so much a lake, but a really big pond. Or a small lake? One or the other, and Cooper wasn’t sure it really made a difference which it was.
The lights gave off a soft orange glow, dissipating into the black night. The air had cooled, but not too much. The only sounds were of toads and frogs peeping, and the wind rustling the foliage. Fireflies danced among them, chasing after the mosquitoes. Their little bums lit up green as they floated, darted, and flew about in nonsensical ways.
All in all, the night couldn’t be better. Well, it could’ve been if Cooper hadn’t had another wave of panic overtake him. That embarrassment would take a while to get over.
What was currently bugging Cooper was Harlan’s lack of response. Most people said something. Asked questions. Tried to help. They interfered.
Which honestly sucked.
Cooper had been glad Harlan stayed back. He’d been thankful Harlan suggested the walk and got them moving away from people. The quiet companionship also helped settled his frayed nerves, which was what it was—their walk.—companionship.
It felt… Nice.
Cooper knew that he didn’t have to talk, didn’t have to explain, and Harlan wouldn’t push him to say anything. Having that knowledge helped Cooper settle his feelings better. There was no pressure to “fix it” or “fix himself” to make Harlan comfortable. In turn, that made Cooper able to keep one foot in front of the other.
The question was why? Why was Harlan so understanding? Why did he know what to do? Cooper obsessed over the question as they rounded the lake, only remembering what Harlan said about an ex-boyfriend when they came up on a large weeping willow.
“What happened to him?” Cooper asked, startling himself.
“What happened to who?”
Well, shit. Cooper hadn’t realized he’d been thinking out loud. But with how Harlan’s entire focus was now on Cooper he didn’t think he could take it back. “To the ex. The one who was raped? I mean, you’re not together… I—” What was he trying to ask? “I dunno.”
“We broke up.”
Harlan slowed down, turning to Cooper. He sighed and pulled on his beard. “Are you asking who he was raped?”
“No!” Cooper stepped back, waving his hands. “No! I mean, you broke up, but you seem like you still care about him.”
“I do, in a way. Do you stop caring about the people you’ve broken up with?”
Harlan nodded, then pointed to the tree. Cooper had a moment of confusion before he saw the bench. The park district who ran this area certainly knew what they’d been doing when they did their landscaping.
They sat, Coopering pulling at a hangnail on his thumb. Halran rested with his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together. One side of his curled up mustache twitched several times.
The frogs and toads peeps and croaking grew loud in the stillness. The breeze tickled Cooper’s arms. The long, wispy branches blew and rustled around them.
When Harlan finally spoke, Cooper nearly fell off the bench but caught himself in time.
“Pete and I broke up not because we didn’t love each other.” Harlan smiled, but he’s brows were twisted in a way Cooper didn’t think the smile was a happy one. “We broke up because despite the counseling, despite my efforts to keep us together, despite him working through that it wasn’t his fault, Pete needed a place to start over. I was not included in that place.”
Harlan blew out a breath. “It hurt. I won’t pretend I’m the better guy here and say I understood. I didn’t. I was angry he left me behind when I wanted to work through it together… It’s taken me time to understand—and try not to judge me here—that it was about what he needed, not what I couldn’t give him. There will be things for Pete that will always be different now, and it’s taken me a while to understand that too. I don’t get what he went through, and ultimately, he had to make the choices that were best for him. Ones that helped him move to a better, functional, positive place.”
“Yeah, it did.” Harlan drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “The rape, it’s aftermath, the fall out of our relationship, I had to deal with it too. It was just different for me. I did end up talking to someone, I had seen how the psychologist had helped Pete, but it’s taken me a while to put most of it back together.”
Cooper nodded. That much he understood. Although the conversation raised more questions for Cooper. Like why Harlan was so insistent when he knew what his boyfriend had been through.
“My therapy sessions did pin-point one of my major problems, though.”
“I like to be the hero. The fixer. It frustrates me when I can’t. I’m still working on that.”
So Harlan did know what his actions had done.
“I just—” Harlan swallowed. “I just didn’t want you thinking everyone was a some kind of stalker. I screwed up, then I kept making it worse rather than better. Sorry about that.”
Talk about hitting him hard in the chest. Harlan’s quiet confession really knocked Cooper’s feet out. Poor guy knew he’d been fucking up, and more than anything, Cooper wished he couldn’t see how much the confession cost Harlan.
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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