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 write 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 27 by Freddy MacKay
They sat in silence for quite a while. Long enough for Harlan to give up on the evening, put the futon back up, and to get dressed. He had offered Cooper his shirt back but dropped it between them after a few minutes of no response.
It wasn’t that Cooper didn’t want to respond. Not at all. He, in fact, wanted badly to talk to Harlan. To explain. To make him understand.
But his words wouldn’t come. None of them. Cooper was in full blown anxiety attack mode and all he could do was sit there and hold himself. Because if he didn’t, he’d fall apart.
Harlan had questioned him before, asking if he’d been raped. It was how all the stuff with Tabitha and Cooper being bisexual came out. The fact he still questioned whether or not Cooper had been raped bothered him. More than he liked.
Admitting to Tabitha’s abuse was hard enough. To think it could’ve been more than just emotional and physical did weird shit to him. Made his whole body tingle, like a nerve constantly firing without any stopgap. Cooper could really use a stopgap. He didn’t want to feel so much. All the feeling buzzed in his head and made it hard for anything else to get past it.
A sigh escaped Cooper. If he wasn’t so broken. If he hadn’t been so needy for someone to love him as he was… If he wasn’t such a loser. Cooper’s heart ached. Because how would any one want him this broken—Harlan’s savior complex notwithstanding.
It was the two of them combined that could lead them down a dark path of codependency. That thought scared Cooper more than he wanted to admit to either. Codependency. Shitballs. Cooper was already thinking about that fucked up shit.
Cooper tensed. His entire body spasmed just thinking about all the problems arising from their… Their what? They were just not-dating.
A hand. Not his hand. Warm and firm. Cooper glanced down at his side.
Shitballs. The touch was positive. It was probably supposed to be reassuring as well as testing to see if Cooper was receptive to the touch. Talk about making a guy feel worthless. Harlan had already gone down this road once before and had his balls handed to him.
Did it seem fair to make Harlan go through another rodeo like Cooper?
“Did I… Did I hurt you?” Harlan said quietly, though with how quiet the room was it sounded loud. And the nature of the question was so heavy.
Cooper swallowed. Then swallowed again. He took a quick breath in but once again it all came out in a puff of air—no words.
All he could do was shake his head “no.”
“Do you want me to leave?”
The question was almost funny. Almost. But not really. There had been a time Cooper wanted nothing more than for Harlan to walk away from him. Now—fucking now—he wasn’t so sure.
All these jumbled emotions, feelings he had buried deep beneath the surface, bubbled up and threatened to boil over like an unwatched pot.
Except Harlan was watching Cooper—in all his freakish glory.
“I—and I’m sorry for this—but I don’t know what I’m doing here, and with you ignoring—”
Fuck no. Cooper shook his head. Faster and faster. He wanted to explain. To open his mouth and behave like a normal person. His trembling went from a fine, barely visible shake to a whole body tremor.
“Shit!” Harlan jumped up and away before pulling up in front of Cooper. He reached out then stopped, looking extremely conflicted about what he should do.
If Cooper could actually find the words he’d tell Harlan to run out the door and never look back.
But he didn’t.
No. Cooper was just a fool having an anxiety attack, but at least it was recognizable to Harlan now. Most people recognized the rapid breathing and trembling—not the muteness.
Harlan kneeled on the couch next to Cooper. “Anxiety attack?”
Cooper nodded best he could.
“Sorry. I—” Harlan paused. “I triggered this, didn’t I?”
“I keep dredging up a lot of bad memories for you, don’t I?”
Cooper knew this. This was a break-up speech if he ever heard one. Shitballs. They hadn’t even made it to the dating part.
Shit. It hurt more than Cooper thought it would’ve.
“What can I do for you?” Harlan seemed genuine about his offer. He also wasn’t walking out the door. A sane man—any normal person really—would’ve left.
Why do I get all the weird ones?
Something seemed to have dawned on Harlan because he said, “Can you, I mean, I don’t, but can you talk right now?”
Cooper shook his head.
“Is this part of your anxiety attacks?”
That got a nod.
It did explain a lot. Cooper wished he had warned Harlan but it had seemed like self-sabotage, giving that information away. Then again, it wasn’t like he wasn’t a walking disaster already.
“Okay. Okay.” Harlan settled next to Cooper, one of his hands slowly stroking up and down Cooper’s forearm. “We can do this. We can take our time and relax. No pressure. No hurry. Don’t even worry about me. I’m good. You’re good. We just went too far, too fast.”
“Maybe we should discuss some boundaries? What makes you feel safe?” Harlan offered up a brilliant smile that couldn’t completely wipe away the weariness in his eyes. “And we can come back and reassess every so often. How does that sound?”
Like Harlan was a saint. And that’d he’d had to do this before. Which made Cooper think of Harlan’s ex, and how it still didn’t work out. No wonder he looked so cautious.
Great, Coop. Already fucking it up and barely got your foot in the door.
“Whatever you’re thinking about me, I just want you to know I’m not worried about me.” Harlan moved the hand up to Cooper’s shoulder. “I can take care of me just fine. It’s you I’m worried about. What this is doing to you. If you’re pushing yourself too hard then maybe… Maybe I’m not the one… ”
Harlan’s voice trailed off with the unfinished thought. It was a breakup speech. Cooper grimaced.
“Okay, bad phrasing.” Harlan offered a tired smile. “I was trying to say maybe I shouldn’t be making the shots. Maybe you should.”
Cooper sat there, stunned.
“I’m saying you take charge. Maybe a little control is what you need.”
The idea appealed to Cooper. It did. It also made him sick to his stomach. Too many bad memories there too. Looking at the hope flaring to life in Harlan’s eyes turned Cooper inside out.
What he wanted was to be equals. But how did he become an equal when he wasn’t even a complete person anymore?
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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