Coming to Grips Ch. 03
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This chapter picks up immediately after the end of Chapter 2. Unless you have read the previous chapters, it will not make any sense. There is one more chapter to go, and that is being edited so it should a week or maybe a little more. Once again, I have to thank my editors, Terry and Snow. Both of them make this story possible. I owe them so much! I love both of you!
Morning came much faster than Suzanne would have liked. Still, she answered the bell. When her alarm went off, she was out of bed in a minute and in the shower a minute or two later. If she took a little longer in the shower than normal, it wasn’t by much. The rest of getting ready was quicker than usual. She had picked out a relatively conservative suit with a skirt and a high-necked blouse. She spent a little more time than she often did on her makeup. Overall, she was ready and packed in about half an hour. Because of timing, they would just check out now and keep their luggage in the conference room they were using.
Suzanne kept herself so busy getting ready that the thought of what she would say to Colby had not even crossed her mind. Now that she was ready to go downstairs, it hit her with full force. It wasn’t that she was worried about what Colby would think. Suzanne just didn’t know what to say, and any explanation was complicated. It would take time that they didn’t have now. After doing one last check to make sure she had everything, Suzanne grabbed her stuff and left the room.
By the time she checked out and made it to the restaurant, Suzanne had worked out how she hoped they could handle it. Colby had beaten her downstairs and Suzanne could see her already seated and waiting. She grabbed a seat next to her and sat down.
“Good morning,” Colby said. Just like Suzanne, she was a little uncertain about what to say. Almost anything else might come off as critiquing last night.
“Morning,” Suzanne replied. There was an uncomfortable moment of silence before Suzanne spoke again. As she did, she found it hard to look at Colby. “I know I owe you an explanation about last night, and I will, but I would like us to just focus on the meeting. We can talk at the airport or on the plane.” As she finished, Suzanne finally looked up and met Colby’s eyes.
For a few seconds, Colby just looked at her in sympathy. When she spoke, that same emotion came through. “First, you don’t owe me anything. And second, of course. Let’s deal with why we are here,” she said. Reaching over, she patted Suzanne on the hand and then looked back at the menu. “I thought I would get the one egg special. Do you know what you want?” she asked.
Relieved at the change in topic, Suzanne glanced at the menu. She nodded. “That looks good.” Just then, the waitress came by and took their order. The two of them fell into a conversation about the plan for the day and thoughts of anything else quickly vanished.
That stayed true through the rest of the busy day. Neither one of them had time to spare for thinking about other things. From the moment the first customers showed up at the meeting room until they were done packing everything away, both of them were running the entire time. Even lunch was sandwiches eaten on the go. Then when it was all done, they grabbed their things to get a taxi back to the airport so that they could do it all again tomorrow in Atlanta.
On the way to the airport, Suzanne checked her phone for messages. It had been on silent all day so that she could give the customers 100% of her attention. There were two messages from Jim. Even though her boss knew that she wouldn’t be answering her phone, he couldn’t help calling to find out how it was going. She smiled, thinking how predictable he was. Once she cleared his messages, she saw there was still the one from her dad. Even though he left it on Saturday night, she still had not listened to it. Now several days later, her feelings were still raw. Suzanne contemplated just deleting it unheard. She was not sure she could take whatever he would say. “For now, I’ll just leave it alone,” she finally decided. Hearing him talk about what God wants was not going to help her sort out her feelings.
By the time they got through security and to the gate, there were only about 10 minutes before boarding would start. As they sat down, Colby noticed that Suzanne’s excited mood from before had somewhat evaporated, especially once she finished calling Jim.
“Was Jim unhappy with what you told him?” Colby asked her. “I mean it seems like we got what we needed. And the customers liked the new software a lot.” She didn’t ask if Jim had asked about her. She heard Suzanne responding to questions that were clearly about how she did. When Suzanne told Jim that she had done just as well as Wayne would have, it made her glow with pride at Suzanne’s praise.
“No, he was really excited,” Suzanne replied.
“You seem subdued since you talked to him. Are you sure there isn’t a problem?” Colby said in response.
Suzanne fidgeted with her casino oyna hands, her attention on them. At first she didn’t respond, and then finally she replied. “No, it’s nothing to do with work.”
With all her energy poured into the meeting, Colby had mostly forgotten that they put off talking about last night. Now when the memory flooded back, she wasn’t sure if Suzanne even wanted to talk. “Suzanne, you don’t owe me any explanation. I’ll listen if you want, but your life is your own,” she told her friend.
Colby’s words seemed to get through to Suzanne. Looking up from her hands, she shook her head. “No, it’s okay,” she said softly. Suzanne turned to look into Colby’s face. Her eyes had a fire in them that Colby hadn’t noticed before. “I’m not ashamed, Colby. That isn’t what it is, in case that’s what you’re thinking,” she said more forcefully, as if to match the look in her eyes.
“I wasn’t thinking anything, honestly,” Colby said in a soothing tone. “I’m here to listen, if you want that.”
Suzanne sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ve never talked to anyone about this. It’s just that I imagined you think I am ashamed of who I am and that’s why I’ve hid it.”
“I wouldn’t think that, Suzanne. I’m in no position to judge anyone,” Colby said as she reached out and squeezed Suzanne’s forearm. “I hope you know I’m a friend.”
They both stopped talking as they heard the boarding announcement. For a second, neither one of them moved. Suzanne put her hand over Colby’s. “I do; you gave me the courage last night. I would never have talked to Sandy if I hadn’t met you.” She got up and walked towards the gate with her bag. Colby followed a pace behind. As they stood there and waited for the line to move, Suzanne looked back over her shoulder. “I want to tell you, Colby. We have three hours sitting next to one another. I think I need to tell someone, and I’m glad it’s you.”
Once the line started moving, they were both quiet as they focused on finding their seats and getting their bags stored away. Even after that, the activity in the cabin discouraged either one of them from trying to talk. Colby thought about how lucky it was that they were on the left side of the plane with only their two seats. “If there was someone seated right next to her, Suzanne would never be able to talk.” Even still, it wasn’t as if they had any real privacy. She wondered how open Suzanne would be.
After they took off, Suzanne didn’t talk right away. She was lost in her own thoughts and Colby did not want to push. Once they had their drinks and pretzels though, Suzanne gave a big sigh and looked over at Colby. Her face was full of conflicting emotions; doubt, relief, but more than any other was sadness. Colby felt her heart almost break for her friend. She took Suzanne’s hand in hers and held it tightly.
“I feel like I’ve been a bad friend to you, Suzanne. I had no idea that you were this unhappy,” Colby said in a quiet voice that did not carry far. She felt Suzanne squeeze her hand as she gave a little smile.
“Don’t. We haven’t known each other long, and I … I’m good at suppressing it. I’m very good at it. I never let anyone see this part of me,” Suzanne told her. She also kept her voice low and seemingly in control, although there was a tremor that betrayed her. “You’ve been a good friend, that I’m talking about this shows that.”
Suzanne paused. Now that the moment was here, she wasn’t sure how to start. As much as she wanted to, the habit of hiding was so ingrained. “Trust her,” she told herself. “You have to trust someone.” It was time to stop lying, especially to herself.
“I’m a lesbian. I’ve known almost forever. At least as long as I ever felt attracted to anyone. And only four people know, besides you,” Suzanne said. “I’ve only loved one person,” she started to say before a wave of guilt came over her. Colby saw her eyes well up with tears that weren’t yet shed, but soon would be. “And I hurt and betrayed her. I turned my back on her.” Even more than the guilt, the feeling of self-loathing almost overwhelmed her. It had a familiar taste and was part of why thinking about this was always hard.
“Suzanne,” Colby said in a tone that made her empathy clear, “I know you well enough to be sure that isn’t the whole truth. Something happened.”
“My parents caught us. I don’t talk much about them. Growing up, family was so important to me. I always felt different and with my family, I had a safe place,” Suzanne told Colby, but as she did, the emotions on her face shifted again. Colby could see anger. “As long as I conformed,” Suzanne added. “They are religious bigots, Colby. And the worst of the worst are gays.”
“Once I knew who I was, growing up was a constant fear that they would find out and reject me. And David dying made it worse. I love them. I really do, and they love me, but they cannot accept me if I choose to be myself,” she said as a few tears started to run down her face.
“Oh Suzanne. That makes things so hard. I’ve had a few friends who faced slot oyna a similar choice, and it’s messed up,” Colby said as she pressed her fingers around Suzanne’s hand.
“I know others face this. It doesn’t stop me from feeling alone, and honestly like it’s different for me,” Suzanne told her. “David dying practically killed them. God kept them alive. God was all they had to cling to. And they were all I had. I couldn’t lose them. I couldn’t do that to them, or me.”
The inwardly directed anger flared up again. Suzanne closed her eyes to try to clear it, but instead Chloe’s face was there in her mind’s eye. As usual, it was not the face from their happy times. It was the tear streaked face as Chloe pleaded with her not to walk away. Suzanne almost couldn’t remember how she looked at other times. It was the look of betrayal that endured.
Suzanne tried to continue but the tears flowing down her face made it hard. As one of the flight attendants passed by, she noticed Suzanne. “Is everything alright?” she asked.
Colby answered. She knew that Suzanne couldn’t face anyone else. “It’s okay, but do you think you could bring us some tissues, or at least a few napkins.”
Sensing there was nothing more she could do, the flight attendant nodded and was back in a flash with a box of tissues. “Just let me know if you need anything else,” she said.
The short respite helped Suzanne pull herself together a bit. She dabbed at her eyes. Finally, she felt ready to continue. “So I hid. I pretended to be like everyone else. I was the daughter they wanted. And I survived.”
“That’s it? You survived?” Colby couldn’t help saying. She bit off saying that survival wasn’t enough. Suzanne already knew that.
“I did until Chloe. Everything changed when I met her. We were friends almost from the moment we met. And I fell for her not long after that, but I didn’t know what to do. I was too afraid to show my feelings,” Suzanne said, and then she smiled for the first time since she started talking. It was a genuine but still forlorn smile as she thought back. “She told me her feelings first. God, even then I could barely tell her.”
For the first time since they started talking, Colby saw Suzanne almost seem happy. Thinking about the beginnings of her first love fleetingly made her forget about anything else. Colby remembered her own fumbling initial steps with her first girlfriend and had to smile herself.
When Suzanne started to talk again, her voice was soft and wistful. “Those were the best months of my life. Her mom knew and supported us. I could be open when we were there. I was myself. And I loved her so much.” Slowly the happy glow faded. “And she loved me back.” When she said that, Suzanne’s voice was so soft that Colby could barely hear her. Then she was silent again.
“What happened, Suzanne?” Colby asked when the silence stretched out.
“I screwed up. I destroyed it,” came the reply in that same whisper.
Colby tried to put the pieces together. Suzanne spoke earlier of betrayal and now this. While it sounded like Suzanne cheated on Chloe, it didn’t make sense. “If anything, she is the type to be too loyal,” she thought. Still, she couldn’t think of what else it could be. Finally, she just asked. “How did you? Was there someone else?”
“No. There has never been anyone else but Chloe,” Suzanne answered. She spoke a little louder now. “We had to keep everything secret from my parents. They wouldn’t … they can’t accept me being lesbian. It’s an abomination. I’m an abomination. So we were careful … until I wasn’t.
“They were out with Chloe’s mom and we were at my house. Chloe’s mom warned her not to do anything there. Chloe didn’t want to either, but I convinced her. She kept saying we shouldn’t but I wanted to and didn’t listen,” Suzanne said as the tears started again. “I should have listened. I ruined it. My parents came home and caught us.”
“Oh Suzanne, what a way for them to find out!” Colby said as she squeezed Suzanne’s hand. When Suzanne didn’t respond, Colby sensed there was more. “It wasn’t just that?”
Pulling her hand away, Suzanne dropped her head and covered her face with both hands. “My mom saw us and had a heart attack. She almost died,” she sobbed.
“Oh my God,” Colby said in a shocked voice.
“I almost lost her, after losing David. And I would have lost Daddy too. My entire family would be gone, because he couldn’t accept me. He would have cast me out. Chloe, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t lose everyone,” Suzanne said through her tears. She wasn’t even aware that she said the wrong name. “Even beyond turning his back on me, I think Daddy would have died if he lost Mom.”
She looked at Colby and seemed to see her again. “It didn’t seem like I had a choice. Daddy made me promise not to see Chloe again, and to be straight. He made me do it while Mom was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I did it. To save them, I promised. I threw away Chloe and her love. I kept my promise and betrayed canlı casino siteleri her.”
“What a bastard,” Colby said without thinking. She couldn’t help it. That someone could do that to his own daughter was beyond her comprehension.
As angry as she was at him, Suzanne couldn’t help rising to her father’s defense. “No, he really thought he was doing the right thing. God wasn’t some abstract thing at home. Church and God were central. He truly believes that he is protecting me from being damned. He isn’t a bastard, Colby. He loves me. It’s hard to see that, I know, but this is how he sees the world,” she said.
“Okay,” Colby answered back. “I think I see.”
“You don’t know what it was like, Colby. Losing David; seeing my Mom fall to the ground as she had a heart attack from seeing me and Chloe; and then the thought of losing all of them,” Suzanne whispered low enough to make Colby have to lean her head over to hear. She sounded so lost that Colby moved her hand so that she could link her fingers with Suzanne’s. She just wanted to let Suzanne feel her support.
“I was horrible to Chloe. I promised not to see or talk to her, and I kept it. She tried to talk to me and I wouldn’t. I turned her away crying. I didn’t know that I could be that cruel,” she said. She looked up at Colby’s face, so close to hers. Suzanne’s eyes were red from the tears with her mascara and makeup smeared. “I can’t forgive myself for what I did to the only person I have ever loved. There isn’t any way to justify it. Even if I had to end it, I didn’t have to be like that.”
Squeezing her hand, Colby brushed away some of the hair that had fallen into Suzanne’s face. For a moment, Suzanne was reminded of Sandy doing that the night before, and like then she was also reminded of Chloe. It wasn’t the comforting gesture that Colby might have thought.
“Suzanne, you were only 18 and in your first relationship. The pressure you faced, the fear … I don’t think you can hold this against yourself forever,” Colby told her.
The look that Suzanne gave Colby was almost frightening. Her eyes flared but all other expression disappeared from her face. “I can. I will,” she said. “I hurt her in the worst way possible. Those are just excuses to make me feel better, but I can’t do that. Don’t you see?”
The sympathy that Colby felt was easy to perceive. It hurt Suzanne to see it. “I don’t deserve it. Can’t she understand? Chloe is the one wronged,” she thought. She had to look away from those eyes that were telling her to forgive herself. “I wish I was dead,” she told herself. “It would hurt less.”
“Suzanne, what would hurt less?” Colby asked. She hadn’t caught all of what Suzanne had quietly mumbled as she turned away, only the last bit. There was a despondency in the way she said it that worried her.
Unaware that she had spoken at all, Suzanne scrambled for an answer. Without looking at Colby, she spoke. “If I could forgive myself, it would hurt less; that’s what I said.”
It didn’t sound right to Colby but she sensed if she pressed any more, Suzanne might push her away. “Oh, okay,” she said. She leaned back against her seat. Suzanne wasn’t the only one crying, although Colby’s were just big slow tears that escaped rather than Suzanne’s hard though quiet sobs. She mourned for what her friend had gone through, and still was. “Have you ever spoken to a counselor? Not just about this, but David and seeing your mother like that.”
“No. You’re the first person I’ve ever talked to,” Suzanne said. She sounded exhausted to Colby. “I kept my promise, not just about Chloe, but everything. After Chloe, I haven’t been with or dated any women. It’s been guys only. I tried. They wanted me to be straight, so I tried. It just never worked, but I kept trying for them.” Suzanne grew quiet again, lost in dark thoughts.
“Until last night,” Colby finally said to try to bring her back. “What changed?”
Suzanne gave a bitter chuckle. “What changed? Colby, it was you. For the first time, I had an example of what life could be like. What a parent who accepted me would be like. I’ve avoided making close friends with lesbians so that it would be easier to hide who I am. I just couldn’t hide from you. And it pissed me off,” she said. Realizing how that might sound, she hurriedly went on. “Not at you. I was pissed off at him. When I went for dinner on Saturday, it bubbled over. When we were alone, he said he hoped I was happy. I snapped at him that I wasn’t and that I promised him I wouldn’t ever be happy. Then I just left. I haven’t talked to him since. He left me a voice message but I haven’t wanted to listen to it yet.
Closing her eyes, Suzanne pressed her head back against the headrest. She still had that exhausted tone to her voice. “For all these years, I’ve been good. I kept my promise. I tried to be someone I’m not. The few times I was tempted, I told myself I made a promise to him,” she sighed. Before speaking again, she looked over at Colby. “It’s all been a lie. It isn’t the promise; it’s knowing I would lose my family. I was scared of that; scared to face that and scared even to consider about how they could even do that to me. Colby, they would abandon me, rather than let me be happy.”
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