Teaser Thursday- Stepping Stone Not Doormat

This is an unedited snippet of a male/male contemporary romance that’s currently under consideration. Note that Solara is a drag queen who uses her stage name and female pronouns in daily life, but is male.

“Did I say something wrong?” Navon rested his hand on her leg.

The heat was too much. Solara opened her eyes and tried to glare at him, but knew she wasn’t even close to successful. “You didn’t say anything wrong, but hell. How the fuck long has it been, and you just walk in here like we were together yesterday? You came to drop off something of mine that Mason kept so he could remember beating the shit out of me. At least that’s what you said.”

“I wanted to give you what Mason had, but also, I wanted to see you.” Navon took his hand away. “You disappeared. No word. No trace. Last I knew, you were in the hospital. Stable condition, they said, but none of us could get any real information. And then when we tried again for an update, we were told you’d been released. We didn’t know where you’d gone.”

“Who’s ‘we’?” Solara’s mind reeled. No one had made any effort to see her in the hospital as far as she knew, just like no one had bothered visiting or even contacting her six years earlier during her jail and rehab stints. Even after she’d left rehab clean and sober, the people she’d once been close to had kept their distance. From her perspective, her so-called friends had completely abandoned her.

Now Navon, whose support she might have accepted if he’d bothered to offer it, was telling her he and others had tried. It made no sense. Until the day she’d left Los Angeles, she hadn’t been hard to find. Performing in clubs, even doing TV appearances, she’d had a schedule so tight she’d kept people informed of where she was every second of every day.

Of course, Mason had followed her to most of her jobs and appearances. He hadn’t wanted to take a chance on any other man looking at her.

“Most of our crowd,” Navon said. “Me especially. I tried to go to a couple of your club performances, and Mason told me not to show my face so I wouldn’t distract you. I have to be honest. It creeped me out. But he made it sound like he was only thinking of your career, so I listened. I wish to God I hadn’t.”

“It is what it is.” Solara had repeated that mantra to herself so many times over the years that it barely had any meaning anymore.

“It was bullshit, and you know it.” Navon moved his hand closer to her leg again, but this time didn’t touch her. “Why didn’t you tell anyone what was happening? I would have helped. You didn’t deserve what he did to you.”

Solara clenched her teeth. So many people had asked her the same question. The answer should have been obvious. A gay man being beaten up by another gay man barely registered on anyone’s radar as a problem. Some even said it was deserved for the sole reason of being gay.

Even those who accepted that domestic violence happened in gay couples probably wouldn’t have believed Solara if she’d asked for help. Even at her lowest weight, she’d been considerably heavier and a good five inches taller than Mason. Anyone looking at her would have at the very least wondered why she let Mason pound on her. Most wouldn’t have even believed Mason would be strong enough to inflict damage.

She’d said that to the cops who’d walked into her hotel room the night of the final beating. To the doctors and nurses who had scolded her for letting the abuse go on so long. To her mother, who had flat out agreed with the people who didn’t consider beatings between gay men to be actual abuse.

“The people who should have helped me either called me a liar or asked me why I didn’t just turn around and smash the shit out of Mason.” She spoke slowly, considering each word and her tone. Having the question thrown in her face yet again brought back all the anger and frustration of not being able to give an adequate explanation. “Why would I have gone to you, of all people? I thought you’d given up on me when I was arrested, remember?”

“You got involved with Mason, and at first, you seemed happy.” Navon sighed. “When I realized you weren’t, it was too late for me to step in. Mason wouldn’t let anyone near you. Why didn’t you leave, Charlie? Why didn’t you stop him?”

“Fuck you.” Solara lunged off the couch and strode to her bedroom door without looking back. Navon’s questions made her want to put her fist through the fucking wall, and she had to get away from him before she lashed out so badly she wouldn’t be able to repair it. “Leave. Just fucking drop whatever you have in the damn bag and get out of my apartment.”

Before Navon could answer, Solara slammed the bedroom door behind her and fell forward onto the bed. Whatever else happened that day, she was damned if she would let him see her cry.

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