Color Me In (Last Chance #2)(4)

By: Riley Hart

Shane caught his eye. “What do you mean by that, Caleb?”

He knew Shane understood what he was saying but that he needed Caleb to say it. “It was hard… I was ripped away from everything I knew. My parents were fighting over what to do with me. My dad was angry and my mom was scared. You know how she was, even with the church out here. I was alone, lost. Part of me wondered if there was something wrong with me. I hated myself for making my parents fight; they never fought until I told them about me. One day…” Fuck, he hated mentioning this part. He wasn’t ashamed of it, not really. But it was hard to look back on how he’d felt then. “One day it was too much, so I swallowed a bottle of pills.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Caleb.” There was a panic to Shane’s voice that he’d expected. Fear, sadness. How could there not be? Yes, there would be for anyone, but especially for Shane.

And that’s not even the whole of where I’ve been. How would you feel if you knew it all?

“I’m okay, obviously. I wasn’t for a while—mentally at least. They got me to the hospital, and I was fine. I did inpatient for a couple of months. My parents…they were devastated, and I was…angry. At them, at myself, at fucking everything.” He’d rebelled, and he couldn’t even say what he’d rebelled at. Life? All he’d known was, things went downhill from there, and it had landed him in prison.

He really didn’t want to tell Shane that part.

“Why didn’t you contact me?”

This was the hard part. How did he explain it to Shane without making him feel guilty? How did he tell Shane he didn’t want Shane to worry about him the way he’d done with his mom? That he didn’t know at first if he would get better, and he’d known Shane. Shane would have blamed himself. If they hadn’t gone into the woods that day… Or if he’d never kissed Caleb for the first time… If there was anything he wanted, it was for Shane to never have regrets about the two of them. Caleb didn’t.

Once he’d gotten locked up, he sure as shit wasn’t going to call Shane. He ignored that truth, telling himself it wasn’t important. He didn’t owe anyone that part of himself.

“I called you once. I was eighteen. I’d only been out of inpatient for a couple of weeks. I called and you answered, but I couldn’t speak. I just listened to your voice until you hung up.” He’d been high at that time. He’d liked drugs after inpatient, and that had led him down the destructive path.

“You didn’t want to burden me,” Shane said softly, realization in his voice.

“I can only claim that excuse for a little while. Eventually, I got through it—the depression. I don’t suffer from it anymore.” He wanted to make that clear. Yes, he’d tried to protect Shane in the beginning, but later? Later it had just been his own weakness—his shame of who he was. “After a while, I told myself it was in the past. Why dredge it up? We were grown. I made excuses: How did I know if you still lived here? Maybe I was a piece of your past you wanted to forget. They were excuses and I’m sorry. You were my best friend and I was wrong.”

They were both quiet for a few moments. Caleb gave Shane the time he needed. And when Shane said, “I missed you, man. I’m glad you’re home,” Caleb exhaled a deep breath, even though Shane’s words were slightly stilted.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Shane replied. “But for what it’s worth, I’m sorry too.”

Neither of them moved, and Caleb somehow knew Shane was waiting for him this time. “Seriously, Shane. Maxwell fucking Sullivan?” he said again. “You gotta let me know how that happened. And God, he’s fucking gorgeous.”

Shane laughed. “No shit. Half the time, I can’t believe he’s mine.”

They sat in the back of the truck for at least an hour and caught up. Shane told him how Van had come back after his father’s death, how they’d made amends and fallen in love. He talked about Van’s artwork, and going to LA, and even his own blown-glass art. He could hear the love in Shane’s voice, and it brought a smile to his face.