Color Me In (Last Chance #2)(103)By: Riley Hart
He could see the shock in his dad’s wrinkled face. His eyes widened, and Ryan saw his heart rate increase on the machines behind him.
Still, he’d immediately expected his father to lash out, but he hadn’t. He’d expected to feel as if he let his father down, and he hadn’t felt that either. He was being true to himself and the man he loved, and Ryan took pride in that.
“You’re gay?” he asked. “What about Danielle?”
“I loved her. I was attracted to her. You can call me gay or bisexual if you need to label it that way to understand it. But now I love Caleb, and I’m attracted to him. That’s all that matters to me.” To some, he would be gay, to others, bisexual. Ryan wasn’t ashamed of those things. People could call him gay or bi, and he would wear those labels proudly if others needed them.
But he was demisexual. He knew that, but for him, none of it mattered. What mattered was that he’d loved Danielle before…and now he loved Caleb. Nothing else was important. Everyone had the right to identify how they wanted or choose whether or not they wanted to label themselves. To each their own. That was the way the world was supposed to work, right? Ryan just knew he loved Caleb, he was in a relationship with him, and he planned to stay in one.
“You’re happy? This…man makes you happy?” he asked.
“Yes. It’s like…like I spent most of my life seeing in black and white. Hell, maybe all of it, and now, with him, there’s color. He colored me in.” And he knew he did the same for Caleb. Maybe others wouldn’t understand. Maybe they wouldn’t accept it, and hell, maybe he was sappy as hell now. Whatever it was, this was how he felt, and he wouldn’t hold it back.
“Good…that’s good. It’ll take some getting used to, but I meant what I said. I don’t want to be a disappointment to you or your mom anymore.”
With that, Ryan could breathe. He wasn’t foolish. He knew there would be an adjustment. Things wouldn’t always be easy. His father would mess up. Ryan would mess up, but he’d also push forward. As long as he had Caleb, he’d be okay. “Thank you.” He leaned forward and gave his father a hug. He couldn’t remember the last time they’d hugged. Had they even when they lost Josie? He didn’t know.
When they pulled away, there was a soft knock on the door. He waited for his father to wipe his face, and Ryan did the same. When they were finished, he called out, “Come in,” then stood up.
Danielle stuck her head inside the door. “Do you guys have room for two more?” And just the way she said that, Ryan could tell that she knew about him and Caleb.
“We do,” he replied as he walked over. He reached for Caleb’s hand, saw his head cock in return, but Caleb didn’t pull away. He let Ryan lead him to the bed. “Caleb’s not my boyfriend. Marty is my dad. Danielle’s my ex-wife.”
Ryan could sense the confusion from Danielle and his dad, but right then, he didn’t care. He knew Caleb would get it and knew it would make him happy.
“Two Truths and a Lie…” Caleb whispered.
“Yeah.” Ryan looked at his father, ready to say what everyone in this room knew, but needing to claim it out loud. “Dad, this is my boyfriend, Caleb. Caleb, this is my father, Marty.”
Ryan felt Caleb’s hand tremble in his.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Caleb said, his voice an octave higher, likely in surprise.
His dad cleared his throat, paused, and for a moment, Ryan held his breath. When his dad replied, “It’s a pleasure to meet you too,” he knew everything would be okay. Not perfect, not one hundred percent fixed with this one moment, but they were on the right track. He and his father had a lot to work through. He had a lot to put to rest with Danielle too…and he wanted to take Caleb to see Josie, but somehow, he knew they were right where they were supposed to be. Somehow, he knew they would all be okay.
Caleb stood behind the bar at Round Table, which was now Second Chance, toward the end of their grand reopening. The bar had been packed all night, so full that they’d reached capacity. It was likely because they’d opened with half-priced drinks, but Caleb was telling himself it was a sign of what was to come.
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