“Tell me about your father.” Justin asked, sitting down on the floor behind Brian and pulling his lover’s head into his lap to play with his hair.
“Please? You never talk about him.”
“He was a bastard. That’s all you need to know.”
“Brian.” Justin’s voice was soft and soothing. He petted the side of Brian’s face, kissed his hair. “I’m not a psychologist, but I know that talking to someone might help. Please?”
“Fuck you.” Brian moved to sit up, raising up on one elbow. He paused, Justin’s hands stilled in his hair. “Fine.” He settled back down. Justin leaned over him and gave him a soft upside-down kiss. Brian sighed and closed his eyes, concentrating on the feel of Justin’s fingers carding through his hair.
“Jack was a bastard. I honestly don’t fucking know what Joan saw in him. But for some reason, they got married. I think maybe it was because Joanie was pregnant with Claire. You know, no illegitimacy allowed in a Christian home and all that bullshit. Which is why she had me instead of getting an abortion. Jack told her to get an abortion when he found out she was pregnant with me. But a good Christian woman doesn’t do that.” He scoffed.
“He was a drunken fuck. He worked at the mill. There was no fucking money in the house, ever. He spent it on gambling and booze. Mostly booze. At first I think he only drank in bars, but Joan got more obnoxious and he took his work home with him. It got worse as I got older. He smacked Joan around a lot. All of us. Of course, he was perfectly sweet with Claire. She was his little girl. But later, when he came home, he- Fuck.”
Brian threw an arm over his face, refusing to allow Justin to see the emotions playing in his eyes, even if he could hear it in his voice. He felt Justin shift a little, turn his head away respectively.
“Everything was my fault. My fucking fault. Not Joan’s, not Claire’s, not his. Mine. So I took the blame for half the shit that didn’t get done. The unmowed lawn, the dirty dishes in the goddamned sink, my unmade bed, Claire’s unmade bed. And he come in yelling about some shit and swinging at me. When he was done yelling at me with his fists, I go to Mikey’s. I don’t think I ever heard him say something nice to me, ever. And Joan didn’t do shit, just stood there while I…” He blew out a heavy breath, blinked back tears beneath his arm. “I took the blows for her and she didn’t say a thing, either. Fuck.”
He stood abruptly and walked to the window, staring out at nothing. Justin stayed on the floor and stared at his lover silently. Brian shoved a hand through his hair.
“He didn’t give a shit about me. So I spent most of my time at Michael’s. He and Debbie never once asked what happened. I spent so much time at his house, it was like they raised me. They never asked anything if he busted my lip or my eye or whatever. Or if I came there with a sprained wrist or bleeding fingers or whatever the fuck. He broke my ribs once. Debbie was the one who took me to the hospital. He just yelled at me some more for get hurt bad enough to cost money, then he hit me again. He didn’t care about me. Neither of them did. I wasn’t supposed to be born, why should they?
His shoulders shook silently. Justin had no idea how he kept his voice so calm and even. He got up and touch Brian’s back gently. Brian tensed for a moment, but turned. Justin was surprised by the red eyes, the face swollen a bit but not streaked with tears. He ran a gentle hand across Brian’s cheek.
“Maybe he was never your father. Maybe they were.”
“Tell me about my father.” Michael asked Debbie one day as she hummed and cooked in her kitchen. He sat down at her table. It had been years since he’d found out who his real father was, and he wanted to know more.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Debbie was stubborn.
“Ma, I know who he is. I don’t care if my father is a hero, or a drag queen, or some Jamaican guy you met on a cruise! I don’t care. I just want to know.”
When Debbie turned around, her face was resigned, and a little sad. She sighed and pulled out a chair. “Alright.”
“Thanks, Ma.” He touched her hand, and she allowed him to take it.
“Your dad and I met in high school. Really, we just started off as friends. I don’t think we ever officially dated. You know, became an item. But we were always together. He was nice and he didn’t make fun of my loud mouth or the fact that my brother was gay. ‘Course at the time, I didn’t know why he didn’t make fun of me for my brother.” She chuckled dryly. “We were only friends until we got out of high school, Michael. After that, he disappeared and I had you and had to stay here.”
“I know all that, Ma. But what was he like? I met him twice, and we only talk for a minute each time. What was he actually like?”
“Michael, it was a long time ago. I don’t remember.”
“Of course you do, Ma. Please?” She looked at him and sighed. He had the right to know about his father.
“He was nice. He was very enthusiastic about anything and everything you could possibly think of. He had the same sarcasm and wit that your uncle had, the same ideas and loudness that I had, and I think that’s why we got along so well. You know those quiet kids in the back of the class who are really loud when you get to know them, and sometimes they surprise the people that don’t by doing something crazy? He was one of those. I’m kind of surprise I didn’t suspect he was gay. He hated exercise and he loved music and singing.” She waved a hand in the air dismissively. “But I liked him. He was sweet and kind and always nice to anyone, unless they were unkind to someone he liked. He’s a good person. I just didn’t want you to be ashamed that you father was some drag queen.”
Michael got up and went around the table to hug her. “Thanks, Ma.” He pulled back from her embrace, a small, joking small playing at his lips. “I always knew you were a fag hag, anyway.”
She chuckled and smacked him gently on the cheek before kissing away the sting.
“Tell me about my Daddy!” Gus was bouncing on the couch next to Lindsay.
“I told you about him last week.”
“I wanna hear it again! I wanna hear more!”
“Okay, hon. Sit down.” Gus settled into the side of his mother’s hip and she stared down at him with a smile on her face. God, he looked exactly like a miniature version of Brian. He nudged her thigh gently with his foot, impatient. She gave a small laugh.
“Your Daddy loves you very much.”
“So does Justin!”
“Yes, and so does Justin. Your Daddy is the boss of a big advertising company. He makes a lot of money.”
“Mommy!” Gus whined. “Started from the beginning!”
“Oh, all right.” She sighed. The whole story was an extremely condensed and shortened version of her life after Brian. It changed, and usually got shorter each time. “I met Daddy in high school. He saved me from being bullied by a bunch of annoying guys. He was really nice to me. We became really good friends. I hung out with him and your Uncle Mikey a lot. Then I went to college and he went to college. But we were still friends. I met Melanie. He didn’t like her very much. But they get along now. He got a job at an ad agency, and I became an art teacher’s assistant. Then one day we decided to have you. So Brian gave me some of his sperm- you know what that is right?”
“The stuff that makes babies. Yuck!”
“Mmhmm. So I got pregnant with you. The night you were born, Brian met Justin.”
“And they fell in love!”
“Sort of. Gus, your father was kind of a bully to Justin after they met, but it got better. Brian saved his life. But they still had problems. Brian finally made up with Justin after someone destroyed a club he owned, and Justin almost got hurt again. They almost got married. Brian is sweet now. He loves Justin. And he loves you.”
“Is he going to come see me again?” It had been a year since Brian had last come to Canada. It was hard for him to get away from the business.
“I think so, Honey.”
“When?” Lindsay thought of the way Brian’s voice brightened over the phone whenever she told him how Gus was doing.