A Case of You:Suncoast Society(12)

By: Tymber Dalton

“Do you have a minute to talk?”

Well, hopefully it wasn’t something bad, like one of their parents dying. “I’m driving to work, so I guess. What’s going on?”

It wasn’t like her to call him out of the blue. He’d stayed friends with her on Facebook because she’d liked the pictures he posted of him and his family—Brandon, Jeff, Emma, Grace, and Tracey—and never made rude comments.

Unlike their oldest brother, Jake, who Stuart had blocked on there for leaving nasty comments.

A couple of times a week, Eileen would send him short notes via Messenger through the site, enough to keep in touch but not exactly buddy-buddy.

Then again, of his three siblings, he really hadn’t been truly close to any of them while growing up.

Not when he’d had his secret to keep hidden.

“My boyfriend proposed to me over the weekend.”

“Oh.” Relief filled him. Nothing bad. “Congratulations.”

“I’d like you to be there for the wedding, if you can make it.”

He wasn’t sure how to respond. “I’m not sure Mom and Dad will want me there,” seemed the safest reply.

“I already talked to them and told them I wanted you there. They said they’re fine with it.”

“Really? Because last time I talked to Mom, she told me she loved me, but that I was going to burn in hell. And I’m not Jake’s favorite person, either. I don’t know if you saw the shit he posted on my pics before I blocked his ass. He was being a jerk.”

“I…” She sighed. “I know. I’m sorry you couldn’t come out to me. You know I’m not like that.”

True. But while his sister had never “talked the talk” of a homophobe, she sure hadn’t shut down that kind of talk amongst their family when it happened.

Then again, she hadn’t known she had a gay little brother, either.

“Then Jake called me after I told Mom on the phone about me, Brandon, and Jeff,” Stuart told her. “We…had words. And they weren’t pleasant words, either. The bottom line is, I’m happy, I’m living how I want to live, and Brandon and Jeff love me for who I am. Jake can go screw himself.”

Another sigh from her. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m going to be telling him I’m inviting you, and that he can suck it up and behave himself, or he can stay the hell home. I’m tired of being bullied by him. I’m nearly thirty years old, for chrissake. I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t have to tolerate it or him and his shitty kids.”

This was news. “He bullied you?”

“All the time growing up. You don’t remember that?”

“No.” Jake bullied him and their brother, Robert, but he honestly didn’t remember Jake bullying Eileen.

“Yeah, he used to do things to me all the time. He’d dump my toys in the toilet, or rip pages out of my books, all sorts of stuff. If I told Mom and Dad about it, he’d deny it was him and try to say I did it to get him in trouble. Then he’d do worse stuff to me.”

“Where the heck was I when that was happening?”

“It stopped when he left home. Maybe you were just too young to realize it.”

Then again, he’d spent his childhood terrorized by the guy, and Jake was eight years older than him. Jake had moved out after he’d graduated from high school, when Stuart was only ten. That, and maybe Stuart had been too deep in his own survival mode to pay attention to any abuse she suffered at his hands.

“I’m sorry.”

“Nothing you could have done about it. Robert’s fine with you coming, too. If Jake wants to be Jake, he can stay home. I’d really like you there. And I’d like to meet your guys.”

“That doesn’t change what Mom said to me on the phone.”

“Yeah, well, they’re old and set in their ways. They do love you. She promised she would behave herself. Her and Dad both. I’m not excusing them, but they are our parents.”

He thought about it. It wasn’t just their reaction to him coming out that bothered him.

It was knowing he’d overheard his parents plenty of times talking about how they thought Stuart would never be able to support himself or make it on his own.