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Fake Out: Chapter 3

MADDOX

My boyfriend hates me. Can’t say I blame him.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met Damon. Other than a Facebook profile picture, I didn’t have much to go on. I don’t even know what color hair he has. In his photo and right now, he’s wearing a Columbia ballcap. I could see him as a ball player; he has wide shoulders and biceps I’m jealous of.

When we pull up to my parents’ two-story clapboard house and I turn the ignition off, Damon stops me from getting out of the car.

“There’s one more important question we should know,” he says.

“If it’s which one of us bottoms, I’m gonna have to go with you.”

Damon laughs so hard he has to hold onto his stomach. At least that’s better than the scowl he’s been giving me the whole way here. “If someone in your family asks that, I may have to ask them which sexual position they prefer.”

“I dare you to,” I say.

“My question is more important than that. Who’s your team?”

“Uh, as in baseball?”

“Duh.”

“Ummm …”

“You do like baseball, right?” Damon looks at me as if I’m about to slaughter a unicorn.

“I’m more of a football kind of guy.”

He checks his watch. “Three hours and this fake relationship is already over.”

It’s my turn to laugh. “How about I go for whichever team you go for. Let me guess, the Yankees.”

“Hell no. I’m a Mets guy through and through.”

“Good to know. Ready to do this?” I ask.

Damon’s eyes travel to the house, and if I’m not mistaken, his skin pales. “I’ve never met a guy’s parents before.”

“No need to be nervous. My folks are great and totally fine with the gay thing.”

Damon huffs. “Only, you’re not gay.”

“That doesn’t matter. We’ll ‘break up’ in a few months anyway.”

He glares at me. “Or you could tell the truth.”

I frown. “That’s freaky.”

“What is?”

“You look exactly like Stacy when you’re being judge-y. I would know. She judges me a lot.”

He cracks a smile.

“Look, we can sit here and go over the reasons why I should tell my parents the truth, but this weekend isn’t the time to do it. We’ll have dinner with my folks, attend Chastity’s wedding tomorrow, get drunk on free alcohol, crash out, and then head back to the city Sunday morning bright and early.”

Damon gives a single nod. “I can handle that.”

“Come on, boyfriend,” I singsong.

“Are you sure you’re not like a little gay?” he asks in a playful tone. “You’re way too natural at this.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Although, I’m surprised by how easy the word boyfriend slips out.

His face falls. “Shit, I didn’t mean I’m hitting on you. I—”

“Whoa. It’s cool. I knew you were joking.” I want to make it as comfortable as possible between us. I’ve dragged him into my mess, and now he’s worried I’m gonna flip out at the fact he’s gay or think he’s hitting on me when he’s not. His downcast expression makes me think he doesn’t believe me. I risk reaching for his arm. “Seriously. It’s cool.”

He stares at my hand with a furrowed brow until I pull it away. Okay, got it. No touching the fake boyfriend. Damon glances out the windshield at the house again. “Uh, I think we’ve been spotted.”

I follow his gaze. “That’s my mom. We’ve been parked out here for too long. She probably thinks you’re chickening out.”

“That’s an option?” Damon asks.

“Too late. Here she comes.”

My mother started going grey in her thirties, and instead of dying her long hair, she always said she wants to age gracefully. She’s wearing overalls and rain boots and is the perfect picture of a country bumpkin. All that’s missing is a piece of straw hanging out her mouth.

“Hi, Mom,” I say as we get out of the car.

She approaches and gives me a big bear hug. “My baby.”

“I’m twenty-three. I don’t think you can call me that anymore.”

“You’ll always be my baby.”

“Cute,” Damon quips as he rounds the car. Fuck, he’s good-looking when he smiles. So much so, I’m wondering if my family will call bullshit on our little act. Clearly, if I was with Damon for real, I’d be punching above my weight. “Hi, Mrs. O’Shay. It’s nice to meet you.” He holds out his hand.

“She’s a hugger,” I warn.

As expected, Mom wraps her arms around him. “And call me Alana.”

“Where’s Dad?” I ask.

“Inside, carving up the turkey.”

I look at Damon. “Did it take us eight months to drive here? I didn’t realize it was Thanksgiving already.”

“Funny boy,” Mom says sarcastically. “You bringing a boyfriend home is a special occasion, so I cooked a turkey. Got a problem with that?”

I throw my hands up in mock defeat. “No problem at all.” Only, it turns my stomach sour. This whole fake being gay thing had never been a problem until now, and I never realized how misled my family’s been.

We’re what I’d call a happy family, but it’s not like we’re close. I barely see my sister, and I’ve met my nephew and niece only a handful of times. I see Mom and Dad on holidays and call maybe once every other month and on birthdays.

Mom often asks if I’m seeing anyone, but I always change the subject. I’d do that if she knew I was straight though too. I haven’t had a real girlfriend since Chastity.

“Coming, Irish?” Damon asks when he gets halfway up the path and realizes I’m not following.

Mom’s already back inside the house.

“Starting with the cutesy nicknames? Dik?”

A grin lights up his face. “Well played.” He takes off his cap and bows.

Ah, so he’s got dark hair. Dark hair and green eyes—probably something I should know about my boyfriend. It’s the complete opposite to his sister’s blonde locks.

I catch up to him and throw my arm around his shoulder. Damon stiffens for a fraction of a second before relaxing into it. Leaning in, I say, “I’m sorry for this. Again.”

“It’s all good.” His voice is gruff.

When we enter the house, Mom calls out, “You can put your things in Jacie’s room.”

“Jacie’s room?” I ask. “I figured Damon could take my room and I’ll take her room. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, Mom, but we won’t fit on a single bed.”

Mom appears around the corner from the kitchen. “Didn’t we tell you? Last time Jacie visited, we bought a queen for her room and moved the twin beds into your room for the kids. I’m not delusional, Maddy. I know you and your boyfriend sleep together. Take Jacie’s room.”

Well, fuck.

“And then wash up and come down for dinner.”

We march up the stairs, with Damon in front of me, and he pauses at the top. “Which way?”

“Left,” I mumble and avoid eye contact. As soon as we’re in my sister’s room which has been redone into a guest room, I close the door behind us. “I’m so sorry about this. Last time I was home was a while ago.”

“It’s not a big deal to me, but I understand if it’s a problem for you. I don’t know if you realize this, but I’ve shared a bed with a guy a time or two.”

“I’m cool with sharing a bed, but I didn’t mean to put this on you.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure I stay on my side.”

I cock my head. “That’s not why I’m worried.”

“It’s just, I don’t know a lot of straight guys who’d be okay with this. If you’ve got issues, I’ll take the floor. I get it.”

“If I have issues, then I should be the one to take the floor. But I don’t, so I won’t.”

Damon looks away.

“We should head down to dinner before Mom—”

“Boys!”

“—does that.”

“Okay.”

The dining room is lit by candlelight, and the feast Mom has cooked makes guilt creep down my neck. Maybe I should make the effort to come home more.

“Da, this is Damon,” I say.

Damon towers over Dad who’s only five-ten. I have no idea where I get my height or blond hair from. I look nothing like any of my family who are all dark-haired and short.

“Nice to meet you, son,” Dad says in his Irish brogue and shakes Damon’s hand.

The term of endearment toward Damon eases my mind a bit. I don’t want anything to make Damon’s weekend any harder than it needs to be, and I know we’ll get some type of bigoted comments at this wedding tomorrow.

It’s funny, the day I told Chastity I was gay was the same day my parents “found out.” Chastity wasted no time playing the martyr and victim over being used as a beard for three years. My parents knew it had ended an hour after it happened. That’s Clover Vale connectivity for you. Screw social media; it’s got nothing on small towns.

By the time I’d gone home, Mom and Dad were in the living room waiting for me.

“Is there something you need to tell us?” Mom asked quietly. Her tone held sympathy, and I figured she knew Chastity and I broke up.

“Nah. Nothing to talk about,” I said. “We’re going in different directions.”

Dad snorted in amusement. “Or the same direction, really. You know, toward guys.”

“Wait, what?”

Mom’s eyes watered as she stood and approached me. “You were brave today, honey. I wish you had come to us first, but we want you to know we love you just the way you are.”

“What?” I was confused, because I didn’t think Chastity would’ve outed me to the whole town. I would’ve been pissed had I not been lying about being gay. I guess it was karma’s way of getting me back.

Then Dad told me he was proud of me. He hadn’t said that when I got into college.

I wanted to tell my parents the truth—that all the other ways I tried breaking up with Chastity didn’t work—but I never did. Obviously. Otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here with a fake boyfriend.

Damon elbows me, and I snap out of my trance. “What? Sorry, I spaced.”

“How did you meet Damon?” Mom asks.

“I’ve probably mentioned Stacy before. He’s her brother.”

“We first met at their graduation ceremony last year but recently ran into each other again,” Damon says.

Ooh, that’s a good cover.

“And when did you come out?” Mom asks.

“Mom!” I wasn’t expecting her to ask that. I get this is all new to her—meeting a “boyfriend” and whatnot—but … really?

“Sorry, is that inappropriate?”

“It’s okay,” Damon says. “My story is boring. It was freshman year of college, and I called my parents and told them I was seeing someone. The plan was to take him home and introduce him—come out that way—but Mom said ‘Make sure you bring him to dinner next time you’re home.’ I hadn’t said it was a guy yet. I didn’t have to—they’d figured it out. They didn’t treat it like it was a big deal, because they believe coming out shouldn’t be a big deal. Straight people don’t have to do it, so neither should any orientation.”

“That’s a nice story,” Mom says. “Better than a jilted ex-girlfriend outing Maddy to the entire town.”

I tense. “We don’t need to talk about her.”

“Okay, okay.” Mom throws up her hands. “You boys got any other plans while you’re here?”

“Nah, just the wedding.”

My phone vibrates in my pocket.

 

Will:

Rumor mill has you back in town. You, me, Jared, Rusty’s? One hour?

 

“Unless you want to go for a drink with a couple of guys I went to high school with?”

Damon’s smile becomes tight. “Whatever you want.”

 

Me:

We’re in.

 

Will:

We?

 

Me:

I’m bringing my boyfriend.

 

The guys will get a kick out of this.

 

Will:

HAHAHAHAHA


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