Halos and Heroes Ch. 32

Ben Esra telefonda seni bosaltmami ister misin?
Telefon Numaram: 00237 8000 92 32


Thank you all who have been reading and following along. I always appreciate getting feedback. It helps with becoming a better writer and it’s always an ego boost, so feel free to reach out. I will always respond!

The usual spiel: This isn’t a stroke story, (more porn with plot.) Be warned, it’s very long. 33 chapters, and many sexless ones before it gets sexy, which is why it was originally published under novels/novellas, but readers asked for it to be put under gay male due to content, so here we go.

This book is dedicated to all of the brave service members and their families who sacrifice so much every day so that the rest of us can enjoy the liberties that they swear to protect and uphold.

Although references in this novel may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are complete works of fiction. They are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental. In an effort to do the United States Army justice, and to show my respect to my country, I have applied all possible efforts to merge fact and fiction to entertain, while portraying the military, and the hardships and achievements of soldiers, with respect, dignity and accuracy to the best of my abilities. It’s my hope that I’ve done you all justice, and that all of the creative licenses taken with this novel are understood to be the efforts of imagination, and not any judgment or disrespect against the U.S. military. Thank you all for your service.


The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.

—Winston Churchill

We hadn’t been real big on family time when I was a kid. Waiting for that inevitable moment when things went from sugar to shit, made letting my guard down a precious commodity I usually couldn’t afford. But one thing I remembered enjoying in those rare quiet moments alone with my mother when she was alive, were puzzles. I loved seeing all the different pieces scattered out on the coffee table, and could spend hours trying to figure out which piece went where. Inevitably, the picture would come together to make sense. When our lives are broken, the journey to put them back together isn’t as simple, because the process goes beyond matching colors and shapes. All the pieces need to be arranged first, and then their connections to one another established. After you map out the frame, you start building up the individual portions you’ve figured out to start filling in some of the blanks.

My renewed relationship with my family had solidified into one clear section. Intensive therapy sessions 4 times a week at the place that Officer Whelan had directed me to were slowly giving me a sense of permanence that formed a second section. The job I’d gotten at a local auto body shop until I could start college in the fall became a third. I was creating a life here. A real one, not the unstable facade I’d been stumbling through since I’d returned to Florida. But stability comes at a cost. As the puzzle grew more defined, it became obvious that pieces were still missing. More specifically, one piece.


I’d tried to forget him, but if it were that easy to walk away from someone, there wouldn’t be a slew of broken hearts lining the sidewalks of the world. My original intention was to focus on getting my shit together, and be the man Ben deserved before I went over to his place to beg for forgiveness. Even if I had to do it through a closed door, I wanted him to understand that I knew how badly I’d screwed up, and that I was willing to do anything to rebuild what we’d had.

Every morning since I’d come back home after that night at the motel, I’d I told myself that this would be the day I manned up. Yet that one day became two, then three, then a week, then several weeks. On paper, my excuses for not finding the time were solid; my new job kept me busy during the day, and therapy took up whatever time I didn’t reserve for Sofia and the girls in the evening. It was all bullshit though, because I had the casino şirketleri nights to myself and on every single one I lay awake for wasted hours with my cell phone in my hand.

It’d became a routine. I’d unlock the screen and the wallpaper would load up—a selfie of Ben and me from the day we’d gone with my family to the beach. I’d cropped it so only Ben’s smiling face filled the screen. Every single time, my thumb would hesitate over the edge of the photo before I pulled up the dial screen. And each time, the screen went dark because I didn’t hit send. Tonight was turning out to be filled with more of the same routine.

I rubbed one hand over my face, and then looked down where Emma had her head on my lap. The even sound of her breathing said she was probably asleep, leaving Addie and me to finish the Disney movie she’d chosen on Netflix while Sofia was at work. Like Ben had forewarned, my account was now all Disney princess with some Doc McStuffins, and Bubble Guppies thrown in. I didn’t mind McStuffins because the vet for stuffed-animals storyline was cute, but the syrupy sweetness and light of Disney… Sports games were starting to sound good. But I couldn’t tell Ben he’d been right, because my damn finger wouldn’t hit send.

“You should call him,” Adelyn said, startling me. I’d forgotten that she was sitting on the couch with Emma and me. She rolled her eyes when I shrugged.

“It’s complicated, Addie.”

She snorted and reached for the bag of chips on the coffee table. “Uncle Sam, you and I are complicated, and we’re figuring it out.”

I didn’t bother hiding my smile. True. “How has he been?”

She shrugged. “I haven’t gone to the youth group meetings for a while. Kinda prefer hanging out here lately.” She didn’t look at me until I gently tugged her ponytail.

“What?” I just grinned knowingly, and her lips twitched as she rolled her eyes again.

“ANYWAY… You should go see him. The center is hosting this dance in two weeks and he’s probably going to be a chaperone. Tara is.” She hesitated for a few seconds before she looked up at me almost timidly as her slim fingers crunched and un-crunched the chip bag in an obvious fidget.

I quirked a brow and tugged her ponytail again. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?”

She worried her lower lip between her teeth. “The dance, is a father-daughter thing. I mean, not everyone has a dad, so there will be grandfathers, brothers…uncles..”

I was still getting used to my new more relaxed, and affectionate relationship with Adelyn. Going from days of derision to a dance date was a big jump, but… it was a father-daughter dance…

“I’m all in, Addie.”

Her eyes narrowed, but her body language instantly relaxed. “I didn’t ask you yet.”

I grinned. “So you want a do-over?”

She ignored me. “Everyone is dressing up. Suits and stuff, but I thought maybe…” She tucked her hair behind ears and her lips quirked into a small smile. “Maybe you can wear your uniform? The nice one.”

“My dress blues?”


I hadn’t worn my uniform since Connor’s funeral, but Adelyn looked both self-conscious and hopeful, so I nodded without hesitation. Her smile was worth any possible anxiety. Blues were for ceremony not comfort anyway, because they were hot and itchy as hell. I was just going to consider this a practice run, since I had every intention of wearing them if in the future she asked me to walk her down the aisle when she got married.

All in.

“Thanks, Uncle Sam. Now go find Father Ben, ok? Because it will be sooo awkward at the dance if you guys just stand there staring at each other.”

“Ok…Bossy, just like your mama.”

She grinned when I tugged her ponytail a little harder this time, and then dropped a kiss to the top of her head. I moved Emma carefully, managing not to wake her, and then left Addie alone to survive the dancing Disney characters on her own. I’d been getting in my own way with daily mantras telling myself that Ben was better off without me in his life, with casino firmaları someone else, etc. All the crap excuses we make for ourselves when we’re too afraid of the potential rejection we deserve after making a stupid choice. I knew what I deserved, and it sure as fuck wasn’t Ben. But I’d never left a puzzle unfinished before, and this couldn’t possibly be harder to survive then a Disney marathon.

* * *

I’d intended to go to Ben’s house, but halfway there, I’d realized that it was Thursday night, and that he’d be at the community center for the support group meeting, so I turned around. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I was a mass of nerves and reminded about how many bad decisions sixteen year old made in regards to love. But I’d told Addie I’d come, and not breaking promises to my family was always going to be my new MO. Whatever happened tonight between Ben and me, I had something to say, and I was going to get it out. I could handle the hurt if he shot me down, but I couldn’t handle him not knowing how I felt about him.

When I walked into the room, the meeting seemed like it was just getting started. People were still milling around the room, pulling over chairs to gather in the circle around the center chair that Ben had sat in the last time I’d been here. I made a beeline for it, getting halfway there before the dishwater blonde blocking my way moved, giving me a direct line of sight to the chair, and Tara sitting in it. She had her head turned away from me, speaking to another woman about our age. That megawatt smile dimmed when she turned in my direction, not out of anger, but in surprise that mirrored mine.

I’d spoken to her on the phone a few times recently, and we’d had breakfast together once last week, but we never talked about Ben. She’d wanted to, but after I’d shut her down as gently but firmly as I could, she’d dropped it. It still didn’t make this any easier though, and we stared at one another in silence for a moment before she set down the small notebook she was holding, and gestured me over with a wave of her hand. I settled beside her when she patted the chair, trying to ignore the curious faces turning my way. It seemed I’d made as much of an impression on the group as it had on me the last time I’d been here.

“Sam, what are you doing here?”

Her voice was gentle. So was the touch of her hand on my arm. Both should’ve lessened the tension riding me, but the longer we sat there with no sign of Ben, the more anxiety built at the back of my throat. Part of it was my fear of confronting him here in front of so many people. I wanted to talk to him in private, but I wasn’t sure he’d go for that at this point.

I forced a slow exhale, but I knew Tara could feel the subtle vibration in my arm when she ran her hand soothingly down my shoulder.

“I came to see Ben,” I said. “I know he probably doesn’t want to talk to me, but I need to speak to him, Tara.”

Tara’s expression softened with sympathy. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry, but he’s not here.”

“I thought he ran groups two days a week. Tuesday and Thursdays right? Today is Thursday.”

“It is, but Ben’s in Cuba visiting his sister.”

“The sister that had the baby? Catherine right?”

She nodded. “Yeah. Ben sent me a photo of the baby via text. He’s precious.”

“That’s good. I know he wanted to see them. When is he coming home?”

Tara sighed, reaching over to rest a hand on my knee. “Sam… I don’t know when he’s coming back. He left three days after he found out you were okay and with Max.”

Panic licked down my spine, but no matter how long I looked into Tara’s eyes, her expression didn’t change. She never yelled “gotcha!” or anything even remotely close to let me know this was a joke. I had no right to be angry, but I could hear the heat in my tone when my voice got loud enough to direct questioning looks our way.

“You didn’t think that was something I should know?”

“Ben asked me not to say anything, and as much as I love you, he’s my friend too. You quit on güvenilir casino him, Sam. Fear makes us do stupid shit so I get why, but I still had to pick up the pieces when you left him for Max.”

“I didn’t sleep with Max.”

She shrugged. “I believe you, but I’m not the one who needs to be convinced. Sometimes perception matters more than reality. You broke Ben’s heart when you left him alone in the hospital. That was a bitch-slap worthy of one of those Victorian romance novel chicks.”

“It wasn’t like that…” But it was. I’d fucked up, and no amount of protesting was going to change that.

I pinched the bridge of my nose hard as a sudden thought occurred to me. “Did Sofia know he was leaving?”

“Yes,” she admitted. “We both knew. Ben told us the same day.” She sighed when I rubbed my face hard over my hands, and whapped me gently on the shoulder with her little notebook to get my attention. “Look, maybe we should’ve said something, but you’ve never even asked me how Ben was doing.”

“It doesn’t mean he hasn’t been on my mind every damn day!”

Tara slid to her feet, tugging me with her over to a quieter corner where we could talk without being overheard. “What happened that day is between you and him. I’m just trying to support my two besties as well as I can.” She raised her hands helplessly. “It kills me to see you guys like this, but I have to respect the choice he made.”

I sighed. I hated that answer, but it was fair. “Can you at least tell him that I was looking for him?”

“I could,” she nodded. “But I’m not going to.”

“What the hell, Tara?”

She ignored my anger, going into full-on shrink mode. When she crossed her arms across her chest, I felt about four-inches tall despite the fact she was looking up at me. “Why did you come here today Sam?”

“I told you. I wanted to talk to Ben.”


“To fucking apologize.”

She nodded but didn’t back off from the heat in my tone. “Why else?”

“What does it matter now? He’s gone, and you’re not planning to tell him I was here anyway.”

“It matters. This is his turf, Sam, but you still came here to work out whatever went down between you two. That takes balls, my friend. Huge balls, the size of which I haven’t seen on you in a while, so I want to know what’s changed. And don’t even think about it,” she warned when I looked over her head at the door. “You came here for a reason. Tell me why.”

My entire body ached with defensive tension. My throat felt rough when I cleared it, trying to work through the panic the way my therapist was teaching me. “I needed to see him.” My voice was less confident than I would’ve liked, but my emotions were in charge right now. “To tell him I know that I fucked up, and that he was right when he told me I should’ve fought harder. There are other things he needs to know, but I want to say them directly to him…”

I knew the moment Tara got it, because her expression softened. She popped me gently in the arm with the little notebook again. “Okay,” she agreed. “That’s his, but you came here on a group night and we’re all here. If you want to show Ben that you’re serious about dealing with your shit and moving forward, stay.”

I swallowed hard as I looked around the room, finding a few faces I remembered from the last time I’d been here. I was surprised to see Cayden. Our eyes met as he pushed a chair in my direction with one foot. Tara patted me on the back before she took her own seat. No one said anything as I considered my options. I knew I’d be allowed to walk out of here without opening up if that was what I chose. None of these people considered themselves judge or jury.

The chair creaked beneath my weight when I settled in beside Cayden. The gentle sound of his dog tags rattling on their chain when he played with them reminded me of who had mine, and I forced myself to take a breath. I’d come here for Ben. No one else had to hear my story. But that didn’t mean I didn’t need to tell it, or that my ass shouldn’t stay right where it was. So when it came my turn to share, I started talking. I kept talking until my throat was sore, and every single one of my ghosts stood in that room with me. They lingered, defiant, until I exhaled and with my final words, forced them to step off.

Ben Esra telefonda seni bosaltmami ister misin?
Telefon Numaram: 00237 8000 92 32

Bir yanıt yazın

E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir