Jerry’s Heart Pt. 05
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Jerry was quiet and distant at dinner the next day but Marshall let him be, carrying on conversations with the children instead as they told them about their first day of school. Memphis and Oliver starting seventh grade at different schools and comparing teachers and Freya and Randall were in the same elementary school now. As they were finishing up dinner Jerry excused himself and went to stand on Marshall’s enclosed back porch his mind heavy on his past and his future.
He looked over at the long red bench against the wall. Marshall and Brenden’s bench. He sighed, staring at it. Marshall came outside looking for him. “Hey you.”
“Hey you,” Jerry said back absentmindedly. Marshall was about to say something else but Jerry cut him off. “Why’d you keep it?”
Jerry pointed. “Why’d you keep the bench where you and your husband spent nights on? Drinking wine and making love?”
Marshall raised his eyebrow. “Are you jealous?” he asked amusingly.
Jerry was not amused. “I gotta go,” he murmured and tried to walk away but Marshall held his arm.
“Hey. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. But you knew I brought the bench to the house when we packed up the old house. You helped me carry it in the truck.”
“Yeah but that was before we-” Jerry stopped himself.
Marshall raised an eyebrow again. “Was it? Really?” Jerry sighed and tried to walk away again but Marshall held his arm tighter. “Hey. Talk to me. I know it’s a hard day for you so whatever you need today, I’ll be here. But in the long run if you want me to get rid of the bench I will.”
“You would do that, wouldn’t you? For me?” Jerry said with a tremendous amount of love and admiration for him.
Marshall nodded. “Yes. Because one day…” He decided not to say what he wanted to say to him. Today was not the day to speak of a future between them, not on Randy’s death day. “Because I want you to be comfortable here.”
Jerry stared at Marshall, wanting him to speak of a future between them but also not wanting to. He sighed through his nose and said again, “I gotta go.” He leaned over and gave Marshall a kiss and wiggled his arm from his grasp.
Marshall watched him walk back into the house. He looked at the long bench for a while, then went back inside to find out that Jerry and his children left without saying goodbye.
* * * * *~
Marshall: Hey you. Thinking about you and your strong arms wrapped around me, sniffing my hair and pretending like that’s not what you’re doing. Have a great day.
Jerry came out of the shower and looked at the text. He sighed, put his phone down and got dressed for the day.
* * * * *
Marshall: I didn’t hear from you all day yesterday. In fact I haven’t heard from you since you left my house on Monday. A full 34 hours have passed since I’ve seen or heard from you. Are you the ghost or am I?
[Jerry looked at his phone and sighed.] Jerry: You were right. I need more time. I’ll see you tonight.
Marshall stared at the phone for a long time until a car honked behind him, letting him know the light had changed to green. He slowly pulled off heading to the office, trying to figure out if he should hold on or let Jerry go.
* * * * *
“May we have the grace to live in the questions, knowing we don’t have all the answers. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light,” everyone chorused together.
As the meeting broke apart Marshall went right up to Jerry. “Hey you. We need to talk.”
“Can it wait until tomorrow? I-“
“No,” Marshall said sternly. “It can’t wait.”
They stared at each other as Cody came over and said, “So TJ’s grill tonight? Or that Chinese restaurant-“
Marshall cut him off. “Hey Cody, Jerry and I need some alone time so let’s take a reign check on that Chinese food spot, okay?”
“Yeah, sure, man-” Cody started.
Jerry cut him off and said sternly to Marshall, “Don’t speak for me. I’m fine with Cody being there.”
Marshall glared at him, then turned back to Cody. “Jerry and I need some alone time tonight.” Then he glared at Jerry again, daring him to reinvite their friend a second time after he disinvited him.
Cody’s eyes went wide and he slithered away saying, “Yeeeeaaaah, I’m going home to Tia. Have fun, guys.” He waved his arm behind him.
“What are you doing?” Jerry asked.
“I’m going to have a conversation with my boyfriend at TJ’s.” He raised a finger and waved it. “No, I’m going to have a conversation with my friend at TJ’s. And if my boyfriend happens to show up…well, that will just be an added bonus.” Marshall turned around and walked out the meeting room doors.
“Fuck,” Jerry murmured under his breath. He waited until the group filtered out and locked up with Cody, thankful that his friend had the good sense not to ask questions about what just happened.
Jerry drove to TJ Rockwell’s American Grill and Tavern and found Marshall at a two seater table on the crowded night. He had already ordered Gorgonzola fries almanbahis for them, a Heineken for himself and Miller Lite for him. Jerry wordlessly sat down and took a sip, then picked up his fork and started eating.
“You’re pulling away from me, Jer.” Marshall said.
Jerry slowed down the eating, took another sip of beer and said, “I’m not pulling away.”
Marshall nodded, then said, “I was in love with someone who mastered the art of going cold. We would be in the same room and I would be alone. He would speak to me only when he absolutely needed to, other times it would be radio silence. I know what it feels like when someone is pulling away from me. I just never thought I’d have to feel this way ever again.”
“I’m not him,” Jerry gritted through his teeth.
“That you are not. Something we both agree on.”
“You told me that I need time and you need to protect your heart,” Jerry reminded him. “From me. What was I supposed to do with that?”
“Maybe reassure me that you didn’t need time and I didn’t need to protect my heart from you?” Marshall shrugged. “Just a suggestion.”
“Well I thought about what you said. Last week was…tougher than what I thought it would be. So I just needed to….Feel what I needed to feel without being distracted from it.”
“So I’m a distraction now?” Marshall raised his eyebrow.
“What the fuck do you want from me?” Jerry said angrily. “You pulled away for 24 hours and I gave you the space you needed.”
“Actually I pulled away for less than a day,” Marshall replied calmly. “And I came right back to you. It was you who I needed to help ground me when dealing with the pain of Brenden’s death day.”
“And believe it or not, you are grounding me. Your presence in my life grounds me. I just needed a day or two.”
“You’ve been pulling away for eight days,” Marshall said. “Today is day eight. And with every day that passes you’re just getting further and further away.”
“How? How am I pulling away? We made love for the first time during those eight days, remember?” Jerry reminded him.
“Oh, I’ll never forget it,” Marshall said softly. “You gave me a gift. It’s not the way I would have wanted it. I would have wanted us to get a hotel somewhere for a weekend and spend all day and night showing each other how much we love each other. I have no regrets because you gave me a gift, but one. Only that you took away that gift just as quickly. It’s my fault. I told you that I love you around the same time your husband died. I confused your heart. For that I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologizing,” Jerry said dismissively. He was annoyed that Marshall could read him so well. “You didn’t confuse my heart. I just… I don’t… I can’t…”
“You’re right,” Marshall started, done with this conversation. “You’re not him. The good thing about Brenden is that he always said exactly what was on his mind, even if it hurt me. I’d always know when he thought I was being an asshole, or a dumb fuck.”
Jerry sighed. “You’re not an asshole. Or a dumb fuck.”
“He’d say, ‘Christ, Marcy, sometimes I don’t even know why the fuck we’re still together.'”
“I’m not questioning if we should be together, Marshall,” Jerry said incredulously.
“Aren’t you, though? I told you I love you and you freaked out.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m questioning-“
“You freaked out because you love me too. Because you’re in love with me.” Marshall said it as a statement. There was a long silence between them.
Jerry said slowly, “I can’t… do this…”
Marshall stood up. “Neither can I.” He started walking away, but Jerry grabbed his arm.
“You don’t understand. I-“
Marshall cut him off. “Made promises to Randy that you’d never love anyone ever again? That Randy will be your one and only love, now and forever? Yeah, I made those same promises.” He shrugged. “I broke them. And you helped me realize that it was okay to break them, especially if I was happy. You, my grief counselor, who hasn’t moved past his own grief enough to take his own advice.”
Jerry was speechless. He slowly let go of Marshall’s arm.
Marshall leaned over, ran his fingers through Jerry’s hair and kissed his lips softly. “When you’re ready, Jerod. I’ve never put pressure on you before and I’m not going to start now. So when you’re ready to admit that you broke that promise a long time ago, I’ll be here. Just know that until then, I have to protect my heart too.”
For the second time that night, Jerry watched Marshall walk away from him and hated it.
* * * * *
Jerry’s sleep was restless all night. He woke up moody, took a shower and woke his children up for school, trying not to think about the way Marshall walked out on him last night. He made them breakfast, packed their lunch and dropped them off on the way to the hospital, all with a gnawing pit in his stomach.
Jerry opened up his office door and looked around. It felt suffocating. He opened up a window and let the September breeze come in. It was still almanbahis giriş warm this time of year. He stood there and breathed in and out a few times, then sat at his desk and opened his computer.
He couldn’t pin point it at first, why his stomach was in knots and his chest was tight. He knew it had to do with the argument he had with Marshall the night before but it felt like something was wrong, missing. And then it dawned on him like cold water thrown on his face as he began to read his emails. He slowly pulled out his phone and the screen was blank. No messages.
Marshall, who had texted him almost every single morning for the past ten months, did not not text him that morning.
* * * * *
Friday morning, no text from Marshall again. Jerry debated texting him, but then he remembered his words: “I have to protect my heart too.” It hurt him tremendously to know that Marshall felt like he needed any kind of protection from him and to keep his distance, but he didn’t know how to make it right, short of confessing all of his feelings and opening up a floodgate of conflicting emotions.
Not believing that Marshall would show up at his house for dinner, his only hope was that his boyfriend would come to group on Wednesday next week. Hoping that Marshall did still consider him a boyfriend. But Marshall surprised him, as the doorbell rang at the usual time of 5 o’clock and he came in with Breezy and Boogie.
Jerry was rolling ground beef into meatballs for the spaghetti and froze in the moment. “Hey Marshall,” he heard Oliver say. “Can you look over my math homework for me?”
“Yeah, sure, Oliver, give me a minute and I’ll come right over.” Jerry’s heart was skipping beats as he listened to Marshall’s footsteps coming toward the kitchen. He stopped on the other side of the island. “Hey you,” he said softly.
Jerry just noticed how sweet a greeting it was that Marshall gives him. Those two simple words could make his heart melt or his dick hard, sometimes at the same time. He turned around and gave him a small smile. “Hey you,” he said back softly.
They stared at each other as the seconds ticked away, a longing in both of their green eyes. Marshall found his voice first. “I’m gonna check Oliver’s homework, then I’ll come back to help.”
Jerry nodded slowly, still unable to talk. He missed him. Not just the last two days absent of his loving morning texts, but the last two weeks. Marshall was right, he had been pulling away because he was afraid of his feelings. And now all he wanted to do was draw closer to him. But before he could respond, Marshall had left the kitchen and went to find his son. Jerry took a couple of breaths to slow down his heartbeat and waited for Marshall to return.
But Marshall never did. He reviewed Oliver’s homework with him, then played with the girls and the dollhouse, leaving Jerry to finish making the spaghetti, salad and garlic bread all on his own. It frustrated him that now it was Marshall pulling away.
Marshall came back over by the time Jerry was setting up the table. “Sorry, the princesses wanted me to play prince.”
“Uh-hmm,” Jerry mumbled as he put the trays of food on the center of the table. Marshall grabbed plates and forks, adding them to the table as well. They completed the task in silence and Jerry called the kids, “Dinner!”
The children came into the kitchen sink and washed their hands one by one, then sat at the table, leaving two seats right next to each other for their parents. Marshall felt Jerry’s cold shoulder as they sat next to each other and tried not to let it bother him. He knew that his honest conversation with Jerry on Wednesday evening was going to get a negative reaction out of him and he just needed to be patient.
Once again the two men ate in silence and allowed the children to carry the conversation. Randall brought up weekend plans. “We’re going to go see Uncle Micah’s new cafe on Sunday and get free food.”
“We’re actually leaving tomorrow and spending the night,” Oliver said. “You should come with us.”
That would be so fun!” Memphis said happily. “I like Uncle Micah. Dad, why aren’t we going with them?”
“Because I have things to do on Saturday,” Marshall said casually.
“No you don’t,” Boogie said with a scoff. “Can we go?”
“No,” Marshall spoke curtly.
“Because I said so.”
“But why are you saying so?”
Marshall put his fork down and said his name warningly, “Memphis, let this go.”
“No!” his son snapped. “We do everything together. So why aren’t we doing this together?”
Jerry and Marshall both looked at him and couldn’t answer him. Oliver caught their mood and asked, “What’s going on between you two? Are you guys still fighting? Since the fight you had last Friday?”
“Are you guys breaking up!?” Boogie practically yelled. Neither Jerry nor Marshall responded, still avoiding each other’s eyes. “Dad!?” he said looking between the two of them.
“Dad!?” Oliver asked the same question, almanbahis yeni giriş also wanting either of them to answer.
“What’s going to happen with me and Oliver if you break up?” Memphis asked. “We won’t see each other anymore!?”
It was Randall’s turn to be alarmed. “Daddy?”
Jerry said quietly, “Can everyone calm down, please?”
Freya asked Marshall, “Daddy, does that mean me and Randall won’t be pretend sisters anymore?”
The children started talking at once, asking legitimate questions about the state of their relationship. Marshall yelled, “Hey, hey!” He put two fingers in his mouth to whistle, quieting them down.
He took a deep breath and said, “Jerry and I are best friends. No matter what happens between us, the four of you will remain close. We’ll make sure of that.” He looked at Jerry as he said it, who was also listening, then back at the children making sure he made eye contact with each of them. “So stop worrying. We’ll all be fine. Now finish eating so we can start game night.”
“Dad?” Oliver asked Jerry directly.
“You heard what Marshall said,” Jerry answered. “Stop worrying. We’ll be fine.”
“Are you trying out for soccer this year, Oliver? Memphis is at his school,” Marshall said, changing the subject.
“We don’t have soccer,” Oliver replied. “But we do have field hockey. I’ve been thinking about it.” They started talking about middle school sports.
Jerry concentrated on finishing his food but the fear that the children displayed of them not being together anymore shook him to his core. They had all become so close. Family. But he also saw another thing about Marshall that he loved. Marshall’s ability to fall back and easily allow Jerry to lead was what he needed in a partner. But also his ability to take the lead in their family, to make decisions and be consistent in those moments when Jerry couldn’t was impressive. Together, they make a great team.
It made his heart explode in love for him again. As his emotions overwhelmed him, he silently got up from the table and stepped out into the backyard. He walked a couple of feet into the darkness of the field, put his hands in his pockets, and stood there staring at the sky. He heard the screen door open and close behind him, then he felt Marshall stand next to him and cross his arms. They stood together in silence for a few minutes. Even though their relationship status was up in the air, they still felt an ease around each other.
“Thanks for handling that in there. Expertly,” said Jerry.
“I meant every word,” Marshall said.
“I know you did,” he replied. Marshall sighed and started walking away but Jerry called him, “Marsh.” He turned around. “Why did you come tonight?”
“Because like I told you, Jer. I need you too. I’ll always be here, because I need you in my life. Even if it’s just… this.”
Jerry approached him in the dark yard, standing as close to him as he could and he gently placed his chin on Marshall’s shoulder. Marshall lifted up his arms and held him, rubbing him from the nape of his neck down to his tailbone and all around, then he squeezed him, closing his eyes. Jerry took his hands out his pockets and wrapped them around his lover’s neck.
Marshall couldn’t help it. All the talk about protecting his heart goes out of the window any time he was around Jerod. He was grateful for the Bees expecting them to have dinner with Jerry’s family as always, and he happily took them over there, just for a chance to be close to him like this.
They held each other for a while then Jerry said, “Would it be incredibly selfish of me to ask you to spend the night?”
“Yes,” Marshall said in his ear. “But you already know that.” He pulled back from the hug and said, “Come on. The boys choose game night and it’s Blackjack. With pennies.”
“Ugh,” Jerry groaned. Marshall chuckled and led the way back inside.
* * * * *
Jerry woke up early that Sunday morning and went downstairs to Jo’s gym room in his house to run on the treadmill and clear his head. His bombarding dreams and memories of Randy had subsided and it was helpful to be able to assess his relationship without thoughts of his dead husband clouding it.
Jerry knew what everyone knew. What his parents and Cassie knew. What Jo and Micah knew. What Cody and Jacob knew. What his son and daughter know. What Marshall knows. Jerry had been in love with Marshall for a while.
Whether he said the words out loud did not change the fact. It was only making it harder for him and Marshall to stay connected. He needed him in his life. He needed Marshall as a friend, lover, partner, father to his children, co-provider for their family. Jerry needed to find a way to bring them back together. But in order to do that, he needed to get past his guilt about being with someone that wasn’t Randy.
After five miles on the treadmill, Jerry came upstairs to find everyone was awake, Jo chasing Joi down the hall trying to put her in the bath while the twins were roughhousing in their underwear. Randall was standing in the doorway of the bedroom she occupied shaking her head.
“It’s about time, Daddy,” she said, disappointed at the display before her.
Jerry laughed. “Where’s Micah?”
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