Anger and disappointment coursed through me at the three men who were laughing. I was the only person in the group who didn’t find their jokes funny. I wasn’t a sadist and wasn’t about to help them to have fun at my expense, simply because they thought I wasn’t man enough in these woods.
We were grown ass men and not five-year-olds. Their childish jokes and labeling me a sissy wouldn’t have bothered me so much. I’d endured enough of it through my school years. College had been a better reprieve for me and I had grown out the teasing. Even then, it did have its moments to annoy the shit out of me. And today it did.
Still, I was used to being made fun of because I was gay. Being gay was one aspect of them making fun of me, especially because I didn’t hide it. Worse than being gay for them, was me being gay and effeminate. Apparently, it was effeminate to not be so much into drinking beers and participating in the gaudy conversation about smashing women in such crude terms that made my stomach crawl. As much as I wasn’t attracted to women, hearing them being talked about in such terms was distasteful.
I glared at my supposed-to-be boyfriend and my boss, Keith Eardley who should have had my back. When I’d turned down the offer of going backpacking through the woods with his college friends, he’d guilt-tripped me into changing my mind. Usually, there were the four of them, best friends who made this trip a yearly tradition but, one of the group members had fallen ill. I was a hasty addition to the group because Keith had insisted there should be four of us to keep the camaraderie and balance.
I was hopeless with these adventure-type activities. Hiking was not my thing. Neither was playing sports since they didn’t consider tennis to be a sport. They were all into football which I didn’t get— a bunch of men jumping onto each other when sex wasn’t involved. I cringed every time Keith cajoled until I caved in and watched a game with him.
“Come on, Bryan, it was just a joke,” Keith said, still wearing that stupid grin on his face.
I glared at him because he was the one who had insisted I hike with them. For him to treat me this way was unacceptable. A lot of things he had been doing of late was unacceptable. Like when he hired me to be his Personal Assistant at work. I’d thought he had hired me because he saw my potential and drive. He’d promoted me alright, right into his bed.
No one knew he was gay. He had this decent cover-up going on. When he’d started hitting on me, brushing my ass and touching me inappropriately, I had been surprised. And I could usually spot a gay man a mile away. To have him join in the gay jokes with his buddies was just cruel when he was as into men as I was. But because he was bigger, thicker and could hunt, shoot and drink several cans of beer and still walk straight, he was able to get away from being made fun of.
Keith didn’t like to hear the term gay being applied to him. He was in denial because he was never a bottom. He felt that only those who ever received was truly gay. Once his views had started revealing itself into our six-month-old relationship, I’d been having second thoughts about us.
I wasn’t in love with him because he wasn’t an easy man to love. What he was doing now, for instance, was not loveable at all. He just wanted to fuck and the fact that I was always willing in his bed was enough for him. I didn’t care how good the sex was though, this was the final straw. I’d had it with Keith Eardley and I was no longer putting up with his bullshit when I deserved so much more. I hadn’t come out of the closet to let another man try to stifle who I was.
Without a word to him, I stalked off toward my tent, the same tent Keith had slipped into last night. As soon as his friends were sleeping he had headed my way for me to blow him. Erecting the tent had been another source of their laughter, as I’d struggled through reading the instruction manual, while they laughed and had theirs up in a jiffy, without reading the guide.
I didn’t care to pack up the tent as I would have no use for it in the future. I simply retrieved my backpack and crawled out.
“Come on Bree Bree,” Keith’s friend Lance jeered at me. “Can’t you take a joke? We just want to make a proper man out of you.”
“Fuck you,” I told him defiantly. I was pissed that grown men were acting in such a disgusting and childish manner. When kids could be excused for their cruelty out of ignorance, these grown ass men should know better.
He stopped laughing, his eyes narrowing as he stood to approach me. He was a big and burly man with a face full of beard and a beer gut. I was sure he could knock me down the mountain since I was slimly built, but at this point, I didn’t care. I was hurt and felt betrayed by Keith.
“What did you say to me?” he growled, walking closer. I took a step back and Keith finally stopped laughing, seeing how serious the situation was about to get.
“Come on, Lance, he didn’t mean it,” Keith stated, trying to pacify the situation. “He’s just upset. Let him cool off.”
Shaking my head in disbelief, I stalked off blindly in a rage of angry tears. I set off in a hasty retreat, not caring that it was my first time in the woods and I could get lost. All I wanted to be was as far away from these men as possible.
As soon as I was down the mountain and arrived at Keith’s house, I would clear out all my things. I bet his friends didn’t know I’d been living with Keith for two weeks now. He’d persuaded me to move in with him when my lease was up. I had allowed myself to be talked out of renewing my lease, willing to give us a shot.
In part, it was my fault. I should have seen all the warning signs except that I’d been dazzled that I would be on the arms of Keith Eardley. The only time I ever ended up in his arms was when we were alone. I’d thought to give him some time to acknowledge us but now I refused to be his dirty little secret anymore.
He also had the ability to get abusive, although he’d never lashed out at me with anything more than words. But I’d sensed the anger in him before, if he thought another man was flirting with me. I usually laughed it off but this time, he’d gone too far. In my estimate, since he knew what he had and didn’t want to lose me, he should be treating me differently.
I was five feet nine inches with blond hair and blue eyes. I wasn’t one to brag but I’d been flirted with a time or two. I’d been called pretty before, and I didn’t take offense. People could say what they wanted to. I only cared when the people who were supposed to be close to me, joined them.
I’d never felt such mix-up of emotions in my life since I left high school. I never thought that at twenty-two I would be defending myself for being gay. I didn’t see anyone defending themselves for being straight or having to explain it.
“Bryan, wait! Bryan!”
At the sound of Keith’s voice, I trudged on faster, already a little out of breath and wondering if I would even make it off this damn mountain. The people on TV always made hiking seem so easy.
“Jesus Christ Bryan, will you slow down!” Keith demanded and reached for my arm to jerk me to a stop.
I pulled my arm away from him. “Leave me alone.”
“You’re sulking,” he complained. “Why are you leaving mad?”
“Because you brought me here under false pretenses!” I snapped at him and turned around, so we were looking each other straight in the face.
“How’d you figure that?” he returned with as much anger as frustration.
“You never told me you were bringing me on this little hike of yours so you could all make me the butt of your jokes!”
“You are not the butt of all our jokes.”
“Oh yes, that’s right,” I clarified, rolling my eyes. “Only like ninety percent of it. What happened to you telling me, it didn’t matter if I didn’t know the first thing about being in a forest, that you’d be there for me?”
“I am here for you. I came after you, didn’t I?”
He grabbed me by the front of my shirt and pulled me into him, clamping his mouth onto mine. Suckered for a minute, I kissed him back, moaning at the feel of his hands running over the front of my jeans. Before my senses returned and I pulled myself away.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I told him. “I won’t be the person you get to use as you see fit. I’ll be packing up my stuff as soon as I get out of this hellhole and back to your condo.”
“Come on, Bryan, don’t do this.”
“It’s over between us, Keith,” I started off again, with him and this experience behind me.
“Like hell it is,” he spat and grabbed me by the arm again, this time so hard it hurt. “This isn’t over until I say so. Get your ass back up at the camp.”
“Go to hell!” I pushed against him for him to let me go and when he did, I started running.
“You’ll never make it off this mountain without me,” he shouted at me. “I’ll give you until nightfall to find your way back to camp.”