CHAPTER SIX- THOUGHT-PROVOKING CONVERSATIONS
"I understand that but..."
When Melanie arrived home there was no question that she was exhausted. The smell from the dinner of the evening assaulted her nose-- garlic chicken usually made on a bed of vegetables and rice-- but she found that she had no appetite. Thankfully the house was dark and she had assumed that Lindsay had been in bed long since. So she let out a little scream when the lights in the living room suddenly flicked on and she was confronted by a controlled but angered Lindsay.
"Where the fuck have you been? Did you forget that we were having guests this evening?" Lindsay demanded but then let out a sarcastic huff and slapped her hands against her thighs. But of course you did. What was I thinking?"
"Look, Lindz, I can explain..."
"Save your fucking explanations Melanie. I've heard every one that I can stomach in the past few weeks. Do you know how embarrassed I was? Can you imagine having to field questions having to do with my partner's whereabouts because she didn't have the fucking decency to call and say she was going to be late? To have to sit there and endure looks of pity because of my partner's thoughtlessness. Just what was so fucking important that you couldn't honor your commitment to me this time?!"
Melanie was taken aback by the venom spewed within Lindsay's tirade but she couldn't say that she was surprised. For the past few weeks, Lindsay had taken every opportunity to make herself into the wronged party instead of Justin. Consequently, Melanie had been working day and night trying to find resolve for a case that was rigged from the word ‘go.' And she wouldn't stop until Justin's justice was finally obtained. It was something Lindsay would just have to live with whether she liked it or not. "Lindz look, I'm sorry about dinner but since the verdict this afternoon, there have been important developments in the case that couldn't wait..."
Lindsay huffed. "Of course they couldn't. I'm so sick and tired of being on the backburner because of Justin's problems. You, Brian, Deb.... fuck! I'm just sick of it. Well the case is OVER now so I expect things to return to normal around here beginning with you remembering that you are a fucking wife and mother."
Melanie couldn't help but bristle at Lindsay's authoritative tone and haughty manner. "Well that's too fucking bad, Lindsay because they won't. Not until everyone pays for that rigged verdict that was handed down this afternoon. That judge was a homophobic asshole and in the pocket of the Hobbs. I wouldn't want to leave this alone if it were you and Gus who suffered so how dare you expect me to leave it alone when Justin is helpless and barely able to fight for himself?"
"Justin...Justin...I'm so SICK of hearing his fucking name! I understand your need to right the world's wrongs but you have a family that needs your attention too. If you don't leave this alone..."
Melanie's eyes grew wide at Lindsay's implication but she had to hear it anyway. "Or what Lindz?"
She watched as Lindsay drew herself up to her full height and cloaked herself in her WASP persona. For a time, Melanie had admired that ability about her partner. Lindsay's ability to bring her emotions under subjection had served them both well throughout the years but right now, it grated on Melanie's nerves.
"All I'm saying is that if you don't start taking Gus and I into consideration, Mel, that things will continue to fall apart between us. We've just begun to get our footing back after the whole Guy situation. You and I have fought long and hard to be together again. Now you wouldn't want all our hard work to go for nothing would you?" Lindsay asked softly, her tone non-threatening in spite of the words.
"Lindsay, the only way that will happen is if you continue to discount the severity of what has happened. I don't want Gus- whose sexuality has yet to be determined- to have to grow in a world where this can happen; where people can harm him and go unpunished because he likes boys instead of girls. As a mother, you should understand why I'm doing this. If you can't then that's your problem and you need to check your attitude. In meantime, I'm exhausted. I'll check on Gus and have a shower before going to bed."
"But aren't you going to eat?" Lindsay asked, still pouting that her tactics of persuasion had not gotten Melanie to see all that she would be losing if she continued neglecting her family in favor of Justin's problems.
"I lost my appetite," Melanie said as she turned and headed up the stairs without looking at the woman she considered the love of her life.
She really couldn't understand Lindsay's problem. The usually caring woman Melanie had known would ordinarily be encouraging her to fight this case. Except that Melanie also knew her wife could sometimes be an attention whore and as egocentric as Brian. Hell as far as she was concerned, Brian was synonymous with the words narcissism, attention whore and a host of other adjectives she was beginning to associate with Lindsay's behavior. And that worried her. But no matter how much Lindsay complained or had verbal tantrums cloaked in emotional breakdowns or tried to manipulate situations to become conducive to her way of thinking, Melanie was more determined than ever to fight this case. Justin deserved to be fought for; they all did.
She reached the nursery, watching Gus sleep. He looked so peaceful with his thumb in his mouth, a little puddle of drool gracing his pillow. Melanie had to admit that Brian and Lindsay had made one beautiful baby. Turning from the room she made her way to the bedroom she shared with Lindsay. As she began to divest herself of her suit, she thought about all the events that Emmett had filled her in on that had been occurring between her wife and her best friend.
Emmett had told her of his confrontation with Lindsay this morning at the diner. He said that Lindsay was making a big stink about Brian spending so much time at the hospital with Justin and not enough with her and Gus. Oh she knew that Lindsay liked to play in her fantasy world of Heteroville every once in awhile. Although Mel was a bonafide lesbian, she couldn't deny that years of conditioning from her parents had worked its way into her brain too on occasion but with Lindsay it was more like an obsession. It was like having Gus had reaffirmed her value as a woman in her parents eyes. But that wasn't true in the least. Lindsay's parents still treated her as an outsider because of her relationship with Melanie. They wouldn't even acknowledge that they had a grandchild. Deep down, Melanie knew what Lindsay's problem was but she wouldn't voice it to Lindsay. It wasn't so much that Justin was in the hospital or that Brian was with him. It was that Brian's actions and his taking responsibility for Justin as a partner would was killing the fantasy that Lindsay would allow herself to have on occasion. Her mind continued to work her theory about Lindsay even as she washed away the sweat and dirt of the day.
Alighting from the shower, Melanie looked over at her briefcase. She hadn't meant to bring it upstairs with her but she couldn't say she was sorry that she had. Lindsay hadn't come up and although Melanie was tired, she was also restless. They had managed to freeze Molly and Justin's trust fund accounts in the nick of time. It was discovered that Craig Taylor had just made a request to have $110,000 drawn out of Justin's and to be transferred to the account of Judge Roy Russo. He had made the request through another of the Country Club set who would be fired upon his arrival by the bank's President in the morning on the grounds of unethical behavior. They had looked into his record and saw that not only had Craig Taylor been able to move vast amounts of money from the trust funds without giving a reasonable explanation, but that the bank officer was also being paid to do so. Upon further research, they now had a figure of restitution that Craig Taylor had to repay to Justin and Molly's accounts. She wished that she could see his face when he received the summons the next afternoon.
Around noon the next day, Michael was getting ready to meet with his therapist, Professor Ben Bruckner. They had made arrangements to meet a the Starry Night Cafe near campus since Ben had a two-hour recess between classes. Michael couldn't help but feel the attraction between the two of them although he was forbidden to act on it. During the drive home, his mother had wheedled him into sharing his thoughts on Professor Bruckner and then lectured him to keep his ass hole to himself until he had made a decision about David.
He couldn't deny that she was right but God he wished that she would learn to mind her own business sometimes. It was bad enough that she knew that he and David were having problems because of his constant trips to Pittsburgh. But she had also picked up that it was more than that. She knew that Michael thought that he had made one of the biggest mistakes of his life in moving to Portland. Originally, Michael had made the decision based on the fact that he was so sure that Brian was going to get the job in New York, effectively leaving the Pitts behind. So when the job fell through, Michael was incredibly disappointed and felt betrayed because the only one who knew that Brian wasn't leaving was Justin. When Michael had found out he was hurt and he'd asked Brian why he didn't tell him. Brian had replied that it shouldn't have made any difference; that Michael had a life to live and he should still make the move with David. Michael had listened and he had regretted ever saying ‘yes.' David was nothing like the man he thought him to be and his controlling and overbearing tactics were even more evident since Michael had no friends or family to escape to.
Putting the finishing touches on his outfit of a Captain Astro t-shirt, black jeans and lightweight jacket, Michael applied a little product to his hair as Emmett had taught him to and was out the door. He entered the rental car, making sure that his Led Zepplin CD was on the right track and then he was off to lunch. On the way there his cellphone rang. Looking at the caller ID he noticed that it was yet another missed call from David. Michael was determined that he wouldn't ruin his mood with another argument so he ignored the call. The next call five minutes later, was from the diner so he knew Deb was calling. Although he didn't want to answer, he went ahead and picked it up anyway.
"Hey Mom, what's up?" he answered the phone cheerily although he felt anything but.
"Michael, I happen to have a tall dark stranger asking for you. Where are you?"
Michael laughed. "Tell Brian I'll be around to see him later."
"Not that one asshole. David is here asking where you are."
Michael almost ran into the car in front of him having to apply the brakes quickly when the light changed abruptly. He could smell the burning rubber and see the resulting smoke from the action but that wasn't the cause of his shock. "What...what did you just say?"
"I said that your husband is here asking where YOU are. He said that he's been trying to get ahold of you all morning. He said that he's come to take you home since you can't seem to find your way there on your own. Why haven't you answered your phone or the door at the house?"
Michael swallowed hard before answering. "I stayed at Em's last night, remember? And the reason I haven't been answering my phone is because I didn't want to argue. I have no intention of going back with him....uh, not until I'm ready to leave anyway. I'll call him after my meeting." Michael resisted the urge to pout and fold his arms to make his point. He was driving after all.
"Oh that's right. You're having another therapy session with Professor Bruckner." Deb knew that something was off so she decided that the more official she made it sound to David, the more that Michael would be reminded of his husband and to keep things professional between himself and the hunky professor. She had told Michael that in so many words yesterday but she wasn't sure if they sunk in. Michael lived in a perpetual state of ID; always wanting what he shouldn't or couldn't have and then reaching out to take it without thought of the consequences. She was afraid that Michael wouldn't be able to handle the fallout if he did the same thing this time.
"Yeah Ma, I have another session with Ben. Can you tell David that I will call him after I'm done?"
"Why don't you tell him yourself, Baby?" Deb tried her best to wheedle Michael into speaking with his husband instead of having to act as the go-between.
"I can't. I just got here, Ma. I'll talk to you later." Michael hung up the phone before she could make another suggestion to him about speaking with David.
Michael was greeted as soon as he walked in the door by the hostess minding the front desk. He couldn't help being impressed with the service understanding that although it was a popular cafe for the students of Carnegie Mellon University, it was pretty upscale in the way they divided the guests frequenting the establishment. On one side, he could see students milling about, gathering food and laughing loudly with their friends. It sort of reminded him of the atmosphere at the Liberty Diner. They made their way through the throng of the vast student body to the other side of the cafe. The area was separated by a brick wall and a wooden door. Entering the space, Michael was instantly assailed by a scent reminiscent of Brian's apartment. The Italian roast of the coffee made his mouth water as the hostess showed him the table where Ben was sitting.
"Michael, I'm glad you could make it," Ben said nodding to the hostess his thanks for bringing his guest to him.
"Yeah, thanks for inviting me. I never knew this place was back here."
Ben smiled. "It's a part of the cafe reserved for business meetings and faculty. Being around the students can get a bit unruly. Many of us prefer it to staying on campus."
It was then that Michael noticed that nearly every table was filled with men and women. Some were just enjoying the peace of the moment while others were engaged in quiet conversation. "It's definitely different than what I'm used to when mentioning a cafe."
They settled into a conversation about various interests while awaiting their orders to arrive. Michael had ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and a Pepsi to begin while Ben had ordered a salad and lemon water. It felt a little like a date to Michael and he couldn't have been more pleased about that. Well until Ben had started in on the questions that Michael was trying to avoid thinking about.
"Why did you move to Portland?" Ben asked, remembering Michael's reaction when the subject of Oregon was touched on briefly.
Michael sighed. "In the beginning, I thought that it was the right thing to do. You have to understand, I thought my best friend, Brian, was moving on with his life and here I had this amazing opportunity to move on with mine. When David had asked me, at first I had said that I would think about it. But then we were all sitting around at dinner and David had gotten a call from his ex-wife saying that his son had run away again. David had made the spur of the moment decision to move there without even discussing it with me or giving it a thought. I could understand that, I mean his son was having some trouble. His mom was divorcing her second husband which had made it two dads that Hank had lost."
"That's all well and good, Michael. But I asked why you moved. It sounds like you were basing your decisions on other people and not on what you wanted."
"I guess that's true, Ben. As I look back on it, I think I was. I didn't want to disappoint or lose David. He's a good man and my mom kept saying that "A doctor doesn't come around everyday." I kind of felt pressured into making the right decision for him and her. But I really didn't want to go."
"Is that because your best friend has remained in Pittsburgh?"
"Michael's forehead frowned as he gave the question some thought. "Partially. You have to understand. Brian and I have been best friends since we were fourteen. Even when he went to college we were never really separated before. He would always make time for me or to handle my problems. In Portland, that would have fell to David. But then this thing with Justin happened and..."
"And now you're regretting your decision to move in with David so far away," Ben finished for him, nodding his head at the picture Michael was giving."How old are you?"
"Michael snickered. "What?"
"How old are you, Michael?"
"Because the way it sounds is that you're still seeking out either approval of your decisions or rather that you want them to be made for you so that when life doesn't go as you plan, you have someone other than yourself to look to for guidance."
"That's not true," Michael said defensively.
"It sounds like it," Ben countered. "How come you didn't speak up or said that you needed to give a big change in your life more thought instead of jumping on the ‘Move to Oregon' trail? If it wasn't what you wanted, why do it?"
"I don't know," Michael sighed. "Maybe because it was expected of me?"
"Are you asking me or telling me that?" Ben asked, taking another bite of his salad and cocking his head to the side.
Michael was silent as he stared off into space replaying the events that led to his decision to move to Portland in the first place. Ben let the silence continue as he surreptitiously watched Michael Novotny process the questions he'd asked. He had to admit that he was wondering what conclusions Michael was drawing but he would let the man think about it all for now. When lunch was over, Michael was still thinking even as the two men said goodbye and went their separate ways.
Lindsey goes to see Justin... but it doesn't go as planned
Lindsay awoke to a house devoid of her partner and a crying baby. She couldn't believe the things that Melanie had said to her last night. Admittedly Melanie had brought up a good point about not wanting a world where Gus' sexuality would allow him to be abused the way Justin had. But Justin had brought these issues on himself. No one told him to come on to a fellow student who was straight. Okay, so Hobbs didn't stop him but what the fuck was wrong with Justin's gaydar? Hanging out with Brian must have rubbed off on him. Sure, Brian could've gotten away with jerking off a high school jock. Brian was beautiful and everyone wanted him be it male, female, gay, straight or undecided. But Justin Taylor was no Brian Kinney. No he wasn't ugly- not by any means- but he didn't exude sex either.
She showered, dressed and fed Gus as she continued to think about the conversation between her and Mel. She still couldn't believe that Melanie had decided that with or without her support she was going to fight this case on Justin's behalf. The more Lindsay thought about it, the more angrier she became. It seemed that everyone was neglecting their responsibilities to her baby in favor of a kid that had just shown up on a street corner one night; someone they all barely even knew. It was time for them to honor their words and promises to always take care of her and Gus and she knew how to make them do it.
She arranged for Dusty to keep Gus while she ran errands so that she wouldn't have to drag her baby from pillar-to-post trying to keep their household running smoothly. One of those stops was to Allegheny General Hospital. Lindsay arrived at the outside of Justin's room, peeking in to see if Justin was in there. She noticed him sitting up in bed staring out of the window. His hair had grown so much that he reminded her of a shaggy dog but it was still complimentary to him. She pushed into the room and made a beeline for his bed.
"Justin. It's so good to see you looking so well." She hadn't noticed anyone else in the room until she heard a throat clearing from the other side. "Oh Daphne, it's good to see you too. And Deb what are you doing here?"
Debbie answered, raising an eyebrow at the woman who had not been to see Justin in a number of weeks. "I could ask the same thing of you Lindsay. What are YOU doing here?"
Lindsay chuckled. "Oh I was just in the neighborhood and thought that I would stop by and have a conversation with him. Mel told me what happened at the trial."
"Yes. And I'm glad they decided to take it further than that homophobic asshole's ruling. I mean the nerve of them trying to blame Justin for being hit in the head with a baseball bat. That fucker only got a slap on the fucking wrist for nearly trying to kill someone."
"Debbie please..." Lindsay and Daphne said at the same time but for different reasons.
"Debbie, Justin..." Daphne couldn't help the tears that were forming before she turned to Lindsay. "Debbie's right. What exactly are you doing here Lindsay?"
Lindsay cleared her throat. "I was hoping to have a private conversation with Justin."
Daphne rolled her eyes. Drawing herself up and turning on her most haughtiest tone Daphne said, "I could just about imagine what you would want to say. But as you can see, this isn't a good time."
The frown formed between Lindsay's eyes before she had a chance to smooth her features. She was not used to being told what to do by anyone but her parents and that hadn't been for a long time. Besides she would be damned if she would let some slip of a girl tell her that she was not welcomed. "What are you going to do Daphne? Have me thrown out? I'm just as much of Justin's friend as you are."
"I seriously doubt that since I've been hearing of your rantings and ravings. But that's beside the point. Justin is having a hard day so if you've come to stress him out further, think again."
Trying for patience, Lindsay said, "I just want to spend some time with him. To talk with him and try to get him to understand that now that the trial is over, he needs to move forward with his life."
"Be that as it may, Lindsay, we're not leaving him alone. If you have a problem with that you can talk to Brian about it. Although I don't think you're going to make of a difference with him."
"Where is Brian anyway? I expected him to be here playing guard dog as he has been for weeks."
"Listen Lindsay," Deb said having heard enough. "Where Brian is doesn't matter. All that does is that we are NOT leaving Justin alone. Now if you want to pull up a chair and keep us company while we care for Sunshine, you are more than welcome. But if it's as Daphne said and that you are here to bring more stress, then you need to leave. Now."
Lindsay looked between the woman and the girl. Why couldn't they understand that she just wanted everything back to normal now that the case was over? What was so wrong with that? Justin needed to move on with his life; Brian needed to move on as well. No good would come from dwelling in the past and fighting the things that one cannot change. Technically, Chris Hobbs had been sentenced and since it was a punishment- no matter how minimal it was- there wouldn't be an appeal going forward. She wanted Brian back where he belonged and that was by her side being a Dad to Gus.
Debbie watched the emotions play over Lindsay's face and knew that she and Daphne were doing the right thing. She had known Lindsay a long time and knew within her heart that this visit wasn't about Justin in the least. This was about Justin's hold over Brian and the fact that Lindsay was no longer in the number one spot as the most important blond. Michael was having the same difficulty for an altogether different reason. Michael couldn't see that this situation only brought Brian's true feelings to the surface. If Michael had his way, Justin would have disappeared that first night after Brian had fucked him. But to know that Lindsay was having the same reaction to a different degree was just too fucking much.
Her eyes shifted over to Sunshine laying on the bed, tears flowing from his eyes. The young man didn't even have the strength to wipe them because of the news he'd just received. They were all hoping that Justin would go on from this to lead a full life as an artist. But he had overheard the occupational therapist say that the chances of that were minimal at best. Art wasn't something that Justin did, like Lindsay; it was who he was. The fact that Justin had been working so hard on regaining his hand's mobility was a given but then to be told that all of his hard work may be for naught...well that was something that would break even the hardest of hearts.
"Lindsay, I think it's time for you to leave," Daphne said quietly as she massaged Justin's right hand. Since overhearing Miguel, Justin's hand had refused to stretch leaving the young man with cramped fingers. She could feel the pain throbbing through the joints even though Justin hadn't said a word. He'd just sat there and took all the pain as if it were his due without complaint. She couldn't imagine what her best friend was going through physically but if she could lessen his pain emotionally she would do that. "And please, don't return until you have had a change of attitude. No one needs to endure your bullshit."
"Well I never..." Lindsay sputtered.
"And you NEVER will," Daphne said, the venom dripping from her voice.
"Go Lindsay," Deb said. "If there are any changes, I'm sure Mel will update you. If Justin decides that he wants to see you, I'm sure he'll let Brian know."
Lindsay soon found herself pushed unceremoniously out of Justin's room, not sure what the hell had happened. They wouldn't even let her speak to him alone. She couldn't understand why they were protecting him. He no longer needed it. But Brian had some explaining to do. She wanted her life returned to normal. And she wanted all of this nonsense about filing lawsuits to be quashed immediately. None of it made any sense to her and no one was telling her anything of import that would. The verdict was given; it was time to move on. And she would make sure that everyone knew that.
Pulling out her cellphone she called the one person she was sure that could get her what she wanted. "Hi Daddy..."