One Small Step
By Stevie Woods
Stephen has known since he was a teenager that he was gay, but Gary has only recently accepted that he loves Stephen as more than just a friend. Accepting his feelings is one thing, acting on them is another and Gary pulls back at the intimate moment.
Stephen is not about to give up on a relationship with the man he loves and decides to woo Gary, to help ease him into that one small step that will lead to the sexual relationship they both want. Gary agrees to go on a date with him, but Stephen plays a more subtle game that Gary realizes.
However, Stephen's plan is interrupted when he becomes ill following a business dinner. Will it be enough to derail the dinner date Stephen has planned with Gary for the coming Friday night?
At last! After waiting for so long, dreaming but never believing it could be real, Gary was finally in his arms, and Gary was kissing and touching him. Stephen’s fantasy really had come true.
Suddenly, wrenchingly, Gary broke the kiss and backed away. Stephen opened his eyes to find his would-be lover staring at him with huge eyes. For a split-second, Stephen began to smile and lifted a hand to reach for Gary, then he registered that the eyes staring at him were not wide with passion and longing. They stared out at him from a pale face beaded with perspiration and they were filled with shock and... and revulsion?
Stephen felt his world come crashing down and his dreams turn to ashes. “Gary?” he said helplessly.
“I... I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I thought I could, I thought I loved you enough to try, but... but... I’m sorry.” Gary sounded desperately unhappy.
Stephen stared, hurt and lost and for once not a single word came to mind. He’d known, of course, that Gary had never had feelings for a man before; he had been completely honest about that. Gary had also been completely sure he was okay with it, with his newfound relationship with Stephen, with his yearnings to touch him. Stephen would never have let his walls down otherwise; never have released his long held control over his buried passion for Gary if he hadn’t trusted Gary just as much as Gary showed trust in him.
Finally the words came. He met Gary’s troubled gaze and, his voice hoarse with suppressed emotion, he said, “I’m sorry too. More than you’ll ever know.” He sighed. “Goodbye, Gary.”
* * * *
Watching as Stephen grabbed his jacket and keys and walked out of his door, Gary felt like the worst kind of heel. He’d seen the despair in Stephen’s eyes but didn’t know how to ease it. He’d been so sure, so damned sure he could overcome his doubts over the realities of an intimate relationship with another man – no, damn it, not just another man, it was Stephen. Stephen: his very dear friend, the person he felt closest to in the whole world and whom he trusted completely. That was why he felt he could do it. Perhaps that was the whole problem, the whole cause. He hadn’t seen a man, he'd seen a person, the person he loved heart and soul, and gender hadn’t been an issue. That was how it should be, of course, but when it came down to actually, physically touching Stephen, suddenly Gary saw the man.
And God, Gary had hurt him so much. Gary had seen the pain, the rejection reflected in his eyes. No wonder he’d left. No wonder he’d said goodbye.
Wait! Goodbye? Stephen never said goodbye. He said, see you, see you later, see you tomorrow, Monday, after the weekend. But he never said...
No, no, God! He was a stupid, repressed fool but one thing he knew deep in his soul was that he loved Stephen, and he couldn’t do without him in his life. It was that need, that love that led to his declaration. He had known for a while how Stephen felt about him, so when he finally acknowledged his feelings, telling Stephen hadn’t been too difficult.
He couldn’t lose him over this... this fiasco! What did he mean: goodbye? Could he be leaving? Permanently?
Leaping to his feet, Gary grabbed his keys and raced outside prepared to chase Stephen, coming to a sudden halt when he saw Stephen’s car still parked at the end of his driveway. He felt like he’d been punched in the gut when he saw Stephen slumped over his steering column, his head down on his folded arms. He was the picture of dejection.
But, at least he was still there.
Gary walked quickly around to the passenger side of the car and opened the door, slipping into the seat.
Wearily, Stephen lifted his head. “What are you doing here, Gary?”
“You said goodbye; you never say goodbye. I... I was afraid... I can’t lose you, Stephen. Please... I...”
“What were you thinking?” Stephen frowned; giving a sad smile as he finally faced him. “That I was leaving?”
Gary shrugged. “Yeah, I was afraid you might be.” There was an uncomfortable moment until Gary continued, “I know I don’t deserve any consideration but I do love you and the thought that you might... well...”
There was silence in the car for a few moments as both men considered the situation.