This is Part Six of a story I’m working on for our Fearless Fiction Femmes Fatales group. If you want to catch up, here’s Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five. Just to catch everybody up: Peter and Jen are married with two kids and living in Reno. What Jen doesn’t know is that Peter had a brief love affair with Eric when they were in their 20’s on the fabulous island of Kauai. Peter and Eric were planning on opening up a business, and Peter thought everything was fine and dandy, but it turns out Eric wanted to dump him. Unfortunately, Eric’s a big wuss and couldn’t do it on his own, so he did what any self-respecting coward would do — called Peter’s dad! Twenty years later, Eric is with Jason in Honolulu. And now Eric’s having a moral/midlife crisis over what he did 20 years ago.
“Sir, could you please put your briefcase underneath the seat in front of you — we’ll be taking off in a moment.”
James Wong gave a glimpse of a smile and a polite, “Of course,” to the flight attendant as he looked down at his black leather organizer. He quickly jotted down a note, snapped his case shut, and slid it under the seat. The flight attendant marched up the first class aisle as she scanned the area for last-minute problem children.
“I called Bill Whitman right before we boarded. He said you could stay with them until you find a place to live,” James said, as he adjusted his seatbelt to the proper tension. “You remember them — Bill and Linda — you went to elementary school with their daughters.”
“I think so. Yeah. Um, yeah. Thanks. Thanks for setting that up. I’m sure that’ll be just fine,” said Peter. He stared at the seat in front of him and nodded.
“Fortunately the term hasn’t started. Of course your mother and grandmother are going to make me fly them out to Palo Alto to see you since we’re heading straight there. But there isn’t time to take you all the way back to Washington for a visit. You’ll just have to take them on a tour of the campus. Show them the law school. They’ll love that anyway.”
“Of course. Whatever they want. Is it okay if I go to the bathroom?”
“No, Peter, we’re taxiing. Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m just tired. I think I’ll close my eyes for a minute.”
What have I done?
Eight hours ago I was in another world. With Eric. In paradise. Literally, paradise. Palm trees and beaches and warm air. Our dreams just taking off. And now I’m in a plane. Taking off.
We’re taking off.
“Peter, I’m only going to say this one more time. I know this is difficult. But I’m proud of you. So very proud of you. You’ve made an important decision today, and I know when you look back in twenty years, you won’t regret it.”
“Thanks Father. Thanks for. . . helping me.” James patted Peter’s hand.
How did he find me? No one knew where I was. The loan. It had to be the loan. Somehow the paperwork got back to him and he figured it out. But that doesn’t explain. . . how did he know about Eric? The way he talked today. The arguments he made for me to leave. Damn him and his arguments. It’s like he has some kind of super powers. I guess that’s why he does what he does. Nobody says “No” to James Wong because by the end of your time with him, you’re begging to say “Yes.”
“It’s your life, Peter. It will always be your life. But remember that your actions have consequences, and everything you do affects not only you but the people you love. The people who gave everything to get you where you are. Who made you the man you are today. I know that without my family, I’d be nothing. Without my reputation, I’d be nothing. But that’s me, Peter. You have to decide what’s important to you. You have to decide how much pain you can inflict and still sleep at night.”
I’m sorry Eric. You don’t understand my parents. I’m their only son. I’m like the sign they wear that tells people whether or not they’ve succeeded or failed. Gay. Beach bum. Drop out. And Popo. She wouldn’t understand us. It would kill her to know that I’ve touched another man. That I’ve done the things I’ve done. I would be pure disgrace hanging around her neck like a noose. And I would like to say I don’t care. I would like to say it doesn’t matter and all that matters is you and me and how we feel. But this is my family. I can’t hurt them. I can’t just stomp all over them and act like it doesn’t bother me.
And my father’s job. You think the people he works with would understand this? I’m like chum in a shark tank.
Thank you for understanding. I want so badly to be my own person. To be who I really am. God, I don’t know if I can do this. I love you. You’re my life. How can I leave you? This is who I am. This is who I am…
“Peter, they’ve turned off the fasten seat belt sign.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks.” Peter got up and walked down the aisle. He stepped into the tiny bathroom and jostled the folding door closed. The mirror was slightly warped and made his reflection look just different enough to make him feel unfamiliar to himself.
Eric told him he understood. He told him he should leave. He told him not to hurt his family.
But he never asked him to stay.
The bank. It had to have been the bank that called his father. Right? It was the bank. It was the bank.
The plane hit a bump and Peter grabbed onto the counter. His reflection grew more distorted. He turned and vomited into the toilet.
Read Part Seven: Jen
*Note: I’ve updated this post. The first draft had James Wong texting on his cell phone. It occurred to me a few days after I wrote it that in 1991, we didn’t all carry around cell phones! Oops. That’s what happens when you get used to stuff.
Today’s prompt was actually a photo:
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