|Bridging Obsessions by P.L. Ripley|
Clyde is living a life that is not his own in rural Maine: he is controlled by fear and his older brother’s violent rage. He passes time by smoking pot and having anonymous sex with men at rest areas. Then he meets Evan. Clyde must find the strength in himself to stand on his own feet and become a man worthy of Evan’s affections. (M/M)
“Jesus Christ, look at that asshole,” Clyde heard. He turned to the voice. It was Darlene. She pulled a chair from the table, sat and watched John with the blond woman. “I swear, he fucks anything that moves. He’d stick it in a pile of rocks if he thought there was a snake hidden in them.”
Clyde laughed with surprise. Darlene had recently had a hair perm and her head was covered in tight, dark curls. She still smelled of ammonia. “So, how are you doing, cutey?” she asked.
“Good. I’m doing fine,” Clyde replied. He had always liked Darlene, but kind of felt sorry for her. She was spending her youth pining for a man who wouldn’t give her something she wanted: commitment. But then, Clyde was pining for the same man. He wanted something different from him—or at least he thought he did—but he was no more likely to receive what he wanted than Darlene was.
“You seeing anyone?” she asked.
“No. I’m busy working all the time and…”
“That motherfucker!” Darlene interrupted. John was whispering something in the blond’s ear and she tipped her head back and laughed out loud at whatever he was saying. Clyde could hear her laugh, high pitched with a squeak curling off at the end, cut through the music and chatter of the place. It was an annoying laugh, he thought. It seemed fake, like she was forcing a semblance of humor to impress John. John’s hand was busy under the blond’s skirt. He was working at something in the front. This was what had set Darlene off. From where they were sitting it looked like John had his fingers inside the woman. He probably did.
“Hey,” Darlene said to Clyde, “want to make him jealous? We can go out to my Monte. The back seat is kinda small, but we could have some fun in the front.”
An immediate rush of heat rose up Clyde’s neck and he felt it sear into his face. “I don’t think… I mean, I… I can’t,” he stammered.
“Not your type, huh. Well, that’s all right. How about her?” Darlene indicated a red-headed woman in shorts and a tube top that strained to hold itself together under the force of her large breasts. A thick spattering of rust-colored freckles covered her chest and arms. Clyde’s eyes passed the redhead to a man leaning over the pool table about to take a shot with the cue. He wore a sleeveless shirt that showed off the tattoos running down his lean, muscled arms. An unlit cigarette hung from his bottom lip. The law prohibiting smoking in public places was one of the few rules Sparky actually enforced. He was rough-looking, tough and angry. He reminded Clyde of John.
Fucking hot, he thought.
Clyde looked back at Darlene. There was a thin sliver of a smile on her lips. She had seen where his eyes had taken him. “Do you like that one?” she asked.
Clyde swallowed, hard, and looked down at the table, not daring to meet her eyes. Afraid that if he did she would know the truth about him. “Hey, honey,” she said softly, perhaps noticing how uncomfortable Clyde had become. “Whatever you’re into, it’s okay. As long as it’s between two consenting adults, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Got me?” Darlene set her hand on his arm, the long press-on nails, painted a deep purple, shimmered against his well tanned skin. He pulled his arm away, sliding it out from under her hand and hugged it to his chest. Darlene gave him a curious look.
“Sorry,” he said. “Personal space.”
“It’s okay, cutey. We all have to build our own bridges. You’re just putting yours together a little slower than most.”
Clyde nodded his head, not daring to speak. Afraid if he did, he would either admit to her that he was gay or start crying. And he would not cry. He would not show weakness, no matter how much he felt it inside. It’s a difficult thing to realize something about yourself that others might find repulsive. Especially when that other person is your brother, the one you love most in the world. Even though Darlene could not be sure Clyde was attracted to other men, she had told him that he was not a bad person for doing so.