Dedicated, as always, to R, T & M.
And to JM. He knows why.
TI: Movin' On.
By Dash & AJ
Jordan dropped the last carton into the back of his truck, then straightened. He stretched casually, using the motion to hide his quick glance up and down the street. Nothing. Or more accurately, no one. The only person in sight was old Mrs. Beam, watering her petunias before she hurried in to watch her soaps.
He sighed and tried to ignore the knot of disappointment that had settled in his stomach. Logically, he'd known they wouldn't come to say good-bye, that they wouldn't be able to forgive him so easily; but logic didn't erase the hurt. Squaring his shoulders, he strode back up the walk one last time, pretending not to care that there was no one to help him pack or to say good bye.
He had left the door open and, as he approached it, the dim, empty apartment seemed a fitting symbol of his life so far. It had seemed like such a major triumph in the beginning. Moving out of his parents' home was supposed to be a gesture of independence, the first step to a life of his own.
Some independence, he thought bitterly as he did a quick walkthrough, making sure he hadn't missed anything. He had his own place and the illusion of freedom, but nothing had really changed. He'd still been chained by the dual bonds of love and responsibility, still spent all his time trying to live up to the expectations everyone had for him. The worst of it was that they hadn't even known what they were doing to him.
He'd tried so damned hard to do what was right, even when it felt so wrong. He'd been the dutiful, responsible eldest son, following in his daddy's footsteps the way his father had followed in his father's. The way everyone in town expected him to. And everyone had taken it for granted.
Back in the living room, he picked up a small duffle bag and swung it over his shoulder, then extended the handle on his new suitcase. These two bags were the only ones going to The Island with him. His computer and the other boxes in the truck would be stored until he got back and decided where he'd be going next.
He rolled the suitcase out to the truck and placed it in the bed next to the boxes and then put the duffle on the floor of the cab. Palming his apartment key, he made his way to the apartment's office near the back of the complex. Mr. Abbot wasn't around - probably having his morning coffee break at the diner downtown - so he sealed the keys in an envelope and pushed it though the slot next to the door. The metallic clink as they hit the metal dropbox reminded him of the sound a padlock made when you snapped it closed. Somehow, that seemed fitting - the locking away of his old life. Would he ever find the key to open it again? Would he ever want to?
It wasn't too late. He could still back out, go to his family, tell them he'd made a mistake, that they were right and go back to the life they wanted for him. Go back to living a lie, trying to hide the parts of his life that weren't acceptable. Back to burying his wants and needs and desires. Back to brief, secretive affairs or one night stands in the city. Back to Willis. He considered it longingly for a moment, then shook his head firmly. No.
The relationship with Willis was like the apartment; he'd dreamed that he was escaping, only to wake up and find that nothing had changed. The easy and casual acceptance that the other man had for leading a double life left him feeling more alone then ever. The rules of their relationship and the feeling of shame that filled him each time they'd been together had convinced him that he couldn't live the rest of his life that way.
He started out to the parking lot, still lost in his thoughts. He'd almost given in, then. He'd even gone as far as buying the ring, rationalizing that any love was better than none, that a home and wife and family would fill the aching need inside him.
It seemed like the fates had waited until he was at his lowest, ready to propose and commit himself to a marriage and life that was wrong before they stepped in. He'd been online, as he was almost every night, browsing the gay and bdsm sites, searching vainly for answers about why he was the way he was, why he couldn't be normal. Then he'd come across an article, short and almost overlooked, but it had changed his life. The man being interviewed talked about a place where being gay was mandatory, where wanting discipline was considered normal. A place where he wouldn't be considered immoral or a freak. The ring went back into the drawer as a door opened for him. Not very far, but enough to show him that he wasn't the only one.
He was jolted out of his thoughts as he stepped into the parking lot and saw Cindy standing by his truck.
"I'm glad I caught you," she said as he walked up.
"I was just leaving. Cindy," he took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I never meant--"
"To hurt me," she finished the sentence. "I know that, but I still-- I feel like I've failed, you know? If I'd been different, if I'd been more--" She shrugged helplessly.
"No, Cindy. Don't say that." He grasped her shoulders and shook her gently. "You're a great person. You deserve better than what I could give you, and I know you'll find someone who will love you and appreciate you the way I can't."
"Eventually," she said softly, standing on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. "Good luck. I hope you find whatever it is that you're looking for."
He stood by the truck, watching her walk away, torn between guilt and relief. Why couldn't he hate them, he wondered. It would be so much easier if he could walk away in anger, with no regrets. But he couldn't. He remembered too many good times, too many joys, too much love. They'd only wanted what was best for him.
He glanced at his watch - time to go. Roberts would be waiting for him in Dallas. He checked to make sure he still had the address and directions they'd emailed to him, then slid into the driver's seat. As he started the truck, he automatically put a cassette into the player and waited for the song that had almost become his mantra over the past few weeks.
I've dealt with my ghosts and I've faced all my demons;
finally content with a past I regret.
I've found you find strength in your moments of weakness -
For once I'm at peace with myself.
I've been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long.
I'm moving on.
Too many years and too many lies, he thought, remembering all the times he'd given in, given up, tried to be something he wasn't.
He slowed as he reached Main Street, his eyes sweeping the store fronts and sidewalks almost hungrily, memorizing every detail; seeing everything that he'd taken for granted all his life in a new light, knowing that he would probably never see it again.
I've lived in this place and I know all the faces;
Each one is different, but they're always the same.
They mean me no harm but it's time that I face it:
They'll never allow me to change.
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don't belong--
His throat tightened convulsively at the last line and he dashed angrily at his eyes as the song continued.
I'm moving on, at last I can see
That life has been patiently waiting for me.
And I know there's no guarantees
But I'm not alone.
There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by,
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone.
And he had made up his mind. He'd wasted too many years trying to pretend he was someone he wasn't; too many years living for other people and not for himself. But that was over now. Thanks to one small article, he'd found hope, and a future that he hadn't known existed before.
He slowed almost to a stop as he reached the sign marking the edge of town. "Now leaving friendly Hancock, Texas. Y'all come back and see us again real soon."
He stared at it for a long moment, then hit the gas, the road blurring through his tears.
I sold what I could, and packed what I couldn't,
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town.
I've loved like I should, but lived like I shouldn't.
I had to lose everything to find out.
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road.
I'm moving on...
I'm moving on...
I'm moving on.
Lyrics from "I'm Moving On" by Rascal Flatts.