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"A wedding reception turns into a day of revelations"

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I came out of my bedroom to find my housemate Charlotte gazing at herself in a full-length mirror. She looked quite pretty dressed up in a long blue dress for her sister Sara’s wedding. Her brown hair was trimmed and styled better than I had ever seen it before. A little silver pendant holding a ruby hung from a chain around her neck. Charlotte had even put on makeup beyond just lipstick, a rarity for her.

“What do you think?” she asked, noticing me.

“Looking pretty, Charlotte,” I replied, “even I can appreciate a girl all dolled up like that.”

My friend chuckled and looked me over.

“You’re not bad yourself, Nathan. You clean up well, as they say,” Charlotte told me.

“Thanks. I don’t wear suits often, but I like to look my best when I do. So, are you ready for this?”

“I guess. I am getting a bit weary of putting on this couple act for the family.”

“Indeed. A lot seem to buy the idea of you and me as a couple, though. We just need to show up together, it seems, and they are happy. The cover act helps me at times, too.”

“It gets tiring, though. I wish I could just come out and let them deal with who I really am. Dad makes it difficult.”

“Tell me about it. I had to bite my tongue when he went on that homophobic rant at your grandfather’s birthday.”

Charlotte shook her head and sighed.

“I guess I have to come out eventually, Dad notwithstanding. But today is not the day. Today needs to be about Sara and Brad, not me.”

“Agreed. I haven’t been to a wedding in quite a while so I am happy to play along. This should be fun, I think. I really enjoy doing things like this with you. As a friend.”

Charlotte smiled, even blushed a little.

“Thank you. I enjoy your company, too. I just kind of dread what people might say when they see me bringing you as my plus one again. They get ideas.”

I sniffed and said in my snootiest tone, “Big sis is hitched now so when are little sis and her guy going to make it official?”

“Yeah, that sort of thing,” Charlotte responded through an attack of giggles.

“We’ve managed to deflect inquiries like that a couple times now. I’m sure we can handle it once more.”

“I hope so. Fair warning, a couple of my exes will be there. One is married and one is still single and might be out. Not expecting trouble but you never know.”

“Sounds like one of them could be playing the same game as us if she’s married,” I pointed out.

“She’s bisexual, I think,” Charlotte responded, “Our time together felt more like her experimenting than anything.”

I shrugged.

“Fair enough. At least I shouldn’t have to worry about any exes showing up. I haven’t moved in your family’s social circles much.”

“Let’s put all this aside and try to have fun at the wedding,” Charlotte said after a long sigh, “I’m not in the wedding party so I can kind of keep to one side except for things like family pictures. So glad Sara went with her friend Mindy as the bridesmaid.”

“And I’m just a ‘plus one’ so keeping to the side will be expected,” I responded with a grin, “Let’s rock. It’s a forty-five-minute drive.”

We arrived at the resort on Lake Huron where the wedding was being held and were duly escorted to chairs at the front of the hall reserved for family. Both the ceremony and reception were in the main ballroom of the resort’s conference centre. There were about ten rows of chairs laid out, with an aisle up the middle. A lectern and electronic keyboard sat at the front. Annette, Charlotte’s mother, was already seated along with an aunt and uncle. Lorne, her father, was no doubt in another room preparing to walk Sara up the aisle.

Another group was taking seats across the aisle as we arrived. Charlotte’s mother got up and beckoned to us.

“That’s Brad’s clan. Let me introduce you, Nathan,” she said with a smile.

We were chatting with the groom’s family when Blake Pearson walked in. I groaned inwardly at the sight. My old friend with benefits was the last person I expected, or wanted, to see there.

As was his style, or lack thereof, Blake was the worst-dressed person in the room. He wore tan khakis, a partly unbuttoned off-white sports shirt with no tie, and a rather ugly checked sports jacket. It was hardly wedding attire and was a little different from what he wore day-to-day when I knew him in university a decade earlier.

Charlotte noticed the look on my face. Her gaze followed mine and she chuckled a little. She must have thought my reaction was just to his unkempt appearance.

“That’s Brad’s older half-brother, Blake,” she explained in a quiet voice, “His Dad’s kid from a previous relationship. Really smart guy but kind of a family black sheep. Gay as all hell, too.”

“I know,” I whispered back, leaning close so only she could hear, “I screwed him in college.”

“Oh crap,” Charlotte hissed, eyes meeting mine and opening wide.

Blake smiled and headed my way. I smiled back but also braced myself for impact. There was no telling how this might go.

“Nathan, man. So cool to see you again,” Blake sang out, “Never in a million years thought I would meet you here.”

We shook hands and I responded, “You weren’t someone I was expecting either. Nice to see you. How’s it going?”

“Good. I’m on tenure track at Western now.”

“So, you did finish your grad studies, eh? I gave up and got a job in industry. Quality assurance and data analysis stuff.”

“What brings you to my brother’s wedding, anyhow?” Blake asked.

“He’s with me,” said Charlotte, smiling cheerily at Blake, “We have been living together for a couple years.”

“Oh cool, so you’re Sara’s brother-in-law?”

I kept my groan internal and resisted rolling my eyes.

“We aren’t married,” I corrected.

“Ah, just shacking up, eh,” Blake responded with a grin and wink, “Sometimes that's the best way in this day and age, I think,”.

At least he was behaving himself and not alluding to our past in front of others.

A teen girl, probably one of Sara’s piano students, took a seat at the keyboard and began playing a popular love song. We all took the hint and returned to our chairs. I was relieved at the break from dealing with Blake but still felt uncomfortable about his presence. He was not the most discreet of human beings.

Charlotte must have noticed my unease. She smiled and gave my hand a squeeze.

“It will be fine,” she whispered in my ear.

The buzz of conversation died down as the musician changed to a classical piece. Brad and his best man walked up the aisle and took their places. We glanced around to see Sara’s friend Mindy, the bridesmaid, enter the aisle followed by the bride and her father.

The ceremony was mercifully short, after which we all retreated to another room for drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Many guests headed off to check in to their rooms and freshen up before the reception. Charlotte had to stick around for some family photos, so I dealt with checking in and moving our bags into the room.

On the way back, I stopped at the men’s room in the lobby for a quick leak. I was not happy to see Blake there, too, adjusting his hair. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught him sneaking a peek at me.

“Creepy little voyeur,” I thought, quickly finishing and zipping up.

“Man, I never thought I would see you with a woman,” he said with a chuckle when I walked over to the sinks.

“It’s not like you’ve seen me since graduation. A lot has happened,” I responded, keeping my voice neutral.

“Still get some cock on the side, I’ll bet.”

I cast him a dark look.

“Look, Blake, my relationship with Charlotte and my current sexual interests are hardly your business. You and I have a past, but let’s just leave it in the past. Okay?”

“Sure, whatever. Just know that I’m here alone and have a nice big bed in my room if you’re looking to … relive old times,” Blake responded with a wink.

I said nothing more, quickly and quietly leaving the bathroom. I regularly had sex with a circle of close gay friends but that was not something I would tell Blake. Besides, I had no interest in rekindling things with him at all, let alone there and then. Blowing the cover Charlotte and I were trying to maintain with her family was the last thing I wanted.

“You look a bit on edge,” Charlotte commented when I rejoined her family.

After checking to make sure no one was in earshot, I leaned in and whispered, “Blake hit on me in the bathroom.”

“Fuck,” my friend cursed, “I detest the guy, but it never occurred to me that his presence would be a problem. I know Brad isn’t fond of him, either. If things go badly with him, at least the happy couple will probably side with us.”

The resort’s event manager called us back upstairs for the buffet dinner at that point. Since we were family, Charlotte and I got to be at the head of the line just behind the wedding party. I knew Blake was somewhere just behind, but I tried not to think about it.

During dinner, there were the usual speeches, clinking of glasses to demand kisses, and other little wedding meal rituals. Charlotte spoke briefly but otherwise, we got to just enjoy our meal. Drinking and dancing would follow, which would liven things up. Somehow, I was glad I would never have to be a groom. Gay marriage was still a few years off in those days.

Once dinner and the celebrations were over, the dancing began. I danced with Charlotte, of course, and not for the first time. We both enjoyed dancing so sometimes slipped out to a club or party together when neither had a partner to go with. I also danced with the bride and bridesmaid, which I guess was a perk of being perceived as “family” or close to it.

After dancing for a while, I headed for the dessert table with plans to also hit the bar. Barely off the dance floor, someone grabbed my arm. I whirled to find Blake grinning an idiot grin my way. He looked unsteady on his feet and was pretty clearly drunk. Blake had never been very good at holding his liquor.

“Dance with me,” he sang in a mock voice.

“No, Blake. Not tonight,” I responded in a stern voice, “Let go of me now.”

“Oh, come on, man. Let’s have fun like we used to,” he gushed, the smell of alcohol permeating the air around him.

“Remember Peter Todd?” I asked pointedly.

Peter Todd had been a troublemaker who lived in the same building as Blake when we were hooking up in college. The twit had come after us once in a drunken rage, screaming about how he was going to “get the gays.” My taekwondo training trumped his hateful rage. Peter ended up on the ground moaning in pain. Blake had been a bit in awe of me, but also a bit scared, ever since.

Blake released my arm and moved back, fear mixing with the lust in his eyes. I continued on my way, eyes scanning the room for Charlotte. She was over by the dessert table chatting with Sara and a couple other women. Charlotte glanced my way and smiled at me. That made me feel better and I smiled back, then went on to the bar and ordered a red wine. I was just going over to join Charlotte and Sara when Blake’s voice came over the DJ’s PA system.

“Hey everybody,” he announced, wobbling as he clutched the mike, “Are we having fun yet?”

I turned with a sigh, wondering what drunken antics I was about to witness. Brad was already on the move, heading towards his brother with a foul look on his face.

“I am having so much fun, but it would be so much better if my old friend Nathan would dance with me.”

My heart sank. I put my wine down on a table and tried to hold back the rage I felt.

He went on, “You probably don’t know this, but he is such a hot guy. Charlotte is a lucky lady. That’s assuming he even sleeps with her. He is gay, you know.”

Brad reached him at that point and grabbed the mike away. The two started arguing.

I quietly walked away, face burning as I headed for the exit. Murmurs filled the room behind me. This was not how the evening was supposed to end and I could not handle the reaction that I suspected was coming from some quarters. Being outed at the wedding reception was getting into worst nightmare territory for both me and Charlotte.

That thought brought me up short. My friend probably needed me there. I spun around and headed back, looking for her. Brad and a couple resort employees were escorting Blake out of the room, still yelling and arguing. Him leaving was a relief for me.

“Nathan!” yelped Charlotte, who appeared to my right and raced over, “Are you okay? You looked awful when you started walking out.”

“I just felt I couldn’t handle this now. Then I realized I should be with you. I’m sorry.”

“I’m fine but I am glad you are here. Sara is with my parents. Dad is in a bad mood.”

“I am not surprised. Where are they? I think we need to come clean, don’t we?”

“We do. I think I am ready.”

“And Blake kind of took care of it for me,” I said with a sigh.

Charlotte took my hand and gave it a squeeze, then led me to a side room where the family was gathered.

When we entered, her father stormed over screaming, “You dirty little gay liar. How the hell did you land in my daughter’s bed? What lies have you been telling her?”

I did not have to answer. Charlotte went nuclear before I could open my mouth.

“Do not insult my best friend like that, Daddy,” she roared, her voice the loudest I had ever heard it, “No lies were involved. I have known all along that Nathan is gay. Do you think I’m naive or something?”

Her father looked both cowed and confused.

“So ... so why are you with him? If he’s gay, surely you can’t be sleeping with him,” he asked.

Charlotte smiled and appeared to calm down. She explained in a firm but gentle voice, “I live with Nathan because he is my best friend, Daddy. We moved in together for economic reasons, but we also care a lot about each other. Which has been very important to me. Living with a man has helped me hide something that I should never have hidden.”

My friend took a deep breath, looked her father in the eyes, and went on, “Daddy, it is not just Nathan who is gay. I am a lesbian. I have never been involved with a man, only women. It’s a truth about myself I realized in high school. You and your hateful bluster made me afraid to let anyone else know beyond my partners and the odd close friend. Like Nathan.”

Her father’s face fell. Instead of blowing up again, he looked deflated. Slowly, he sank into a chair. Sara walked over and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Dad, I actually found out a while ago but kept it secret,” Charlotte’s sister told their father, “It was obvious Charlotte had to come out in her own good time. I guess I should have told her that I knew, but I was afraid of violating the confidence of the friend who let it slip.”

“Becky, right?” asked Charlotte, naming one of the former partners who was at the wedding.

Sara nodded.

“Yes, Becky. Charlotte, I am here for you. I suspect it has been pretty rough for you over the years and I wish I had known earlier so I could support you better.”

“I hate gays,” Lorne muttered, almost as if he didn’t notice his daughters’ conversation, “I fucking hate them. But how can I hate my little Charlotte?”

Charlotte told him, her voice a mix of soft and stern, “I know this is hard on you, Daddy, but it is who I am. I can’t and won’t hide it anymore.”

“Go away,” her father snapped, a bit of his old anger creeping back into his voice, “Go away, please.”

Charlotte looked at Sara and she nodded. We quietly went away. Annette followed us. In the hall outside, she stopped us.

“I am so sorry about this,” Charlotte’s mother said, “His venom for people like you is something I have never understood. I never realized it would hurt us like this, though, so I never fought him over it. Nathan, I can tell you are very important to my daughter even if you’re not her partner. You deserve our love and respect, not this. And Charlotte, I don’t care who you are sleeping with. You’re my daughter and I love you. Sara and I will work on your father, but you might have to stay away from him for a bit.”

“I hear you, Mom. Let us know.”

“I will. I really am so sorry for all of this,” Annette said again.

We went to our room after that. Charlotte went into the washroom to change after getting me to unzip her dress. She returned in pyjamas. I was in my usual sleep attire as well. We crawled into bed together. After the light was out, my friend snuggled close to me in silence. Then Charlotte started crying. To my surprise, I joined in. It was well past midnight before we both settled enough to fall asleep.

I awoke in the morning to find Charlotte dressed and about to leave the room. Sitting up, I flipped the light on.

“Good morning. How are you?” I asked.

“Better, I think. It’s actually kind of nice to be out. Takes a load off. Just wish it had happened at a better time. A good cry and some sleep helped, too. And a good friend to hold me.”

“Any time. Where are you off to?”

“Spa day. You remembered that, right?”

“So, it’s still on?”

“It’s Dad I have a problem with. Mom and Sis are itching for some family girl time. Especially after last night. And there will be lots of questions to answer.”

“Like, ‘Who are you really sleeping with?’ Good luck and try to have some fun. I’ll check us out at 11 and load the car, then we can leave whenever you’re ready.”

“Perfect. Have fun yourself!”

“As long as I can avoid Blake and your dad, I’ll be good.”

Charlotte laughed and headed out the door.

I hit the gym, then went to the main dining room for the breakfast buffet included with the room. As I was downing some pancakes and bacon, I spotted Lorne coming my way. Charlotte’s father looked distinctly downcast, even sad, compared to his anger of the previous day. Still, I was nervous as he approached my table.

“Good morning. Looks like a good breakfast,” Lorne commented.

“This place’s breakfasts are famous for a reason,” I responded, smiling.

“Mind if I sit down?”

“Not at all. Guess you’re on your own this morning, too.”

Lorne sighed.

“I’ve kind of felt like I was on my own all night. Annette is really mad at me. She’s afraid of losing Charlotte over my outburst.”

“I would hate to lose her, too, Lorne. You’ve raised a wonderful daughter. To be honest, if Charlotte and I were straight, maybe marriage would be a possibility. As it is, we are quite close and I am happy having her as my best friend.”

He seemed to perk up at that.

“So, she’s not kidding about how close you two are?”

“We are probably as close as two people can be who are not interested in each other romantically or sexually.”

Lorne nodded, a smile coming to his face.

“I am glad to hear that. Married or not, Charlotte seems to have someone who cares in her life, at least.”

He looked nervous now. I wondered what was coming next.

“Nathan, I have a confession to make. I’m … I am probably a bit gay myself. Bisexual, I guess folks would call it.”

The expression on my face must have signalled my astonishment at this revelation. Lorne smiled.

“I know, sounds unlikely, eh,” he continued, “I fooled around with a couple male friends back in my youth. We got caught. And I was very soundly, firmly punished for my sinful behaviour. I think that’s what drove this hatred into me. I am so sorry now. You did not deserve my wrath. And it might cost me my daughter.”

He was starting to tear up. I smiled and told him, “I’ve heard stories like yours before, Lorne. It’s terrible how people treat us sometimes. You know it does not excuse your behaviour, though.”

“No, it doesn’t. That’s just me being an asshole. But I wanted you to know where I am coming from. I will get some help and I will try to treat you better than last night. Maybe you can even help me find someone. I just need to understand myself and this anger I feel. And how to overcome it.”

“I know a few people who can help, actually. And I don’t mind talking to you myself as long as I know you’ll listen and learn.”

Lorne smiled.

“I will. I promise.”

He got up to go.

“Hey, Lorne, do you have plans while the girls are having their spa day?” I asked him.

I was a bit tentative, not sure I really wanted to spend more time with him. Still, I figured that getting to know him better and enjoying some bonding time with him couldn’t hurt.

“Not really. Do you have something in mind?” he responded.

“Charlotte once mentioned you play tennis. So do I. And I happen to have a couple racquets and some balls in the car. This place has courts if I remember correctly.”

Lorne raised his eyebrows and grinned.

“It does, in fact. And I also happen to have my racquet in the car.”

“Give me an hour to finish breakfast and settle my stomach?”

“You’re on, Nathan. Maybe we should have money riding on this match, too.”

I broke out laughing.

“You’re on, man.”

“How was your day?” Charlotte asked when she joined me in the lobby lounge that afternoon.

“Terrific. Found a new tennis partner. And lost a hundred bucks to him. Did not realize how good he is.”

I suddenly wondered how she was going to take my news.

“Really? Who?”

I smiled broadly, even as I tensed up inside.

“Your dad.”

My friend’s eyes went wide, then she broke out laughing. After a minute, Charlotte reined herself in and looked at me, tears in her eyes.

“Oh my god, that’s wild. You’re serious? You, a gay man, played tennis with my father?”

“Very. He’s … not quite what I expected, Charlotte,” I told her, “We have some common ground to talk about now. Besides you, that is. I might even like the guy. As a friend, of course.”

I winked at Charlotte, setting off another round of laughter.

Written by Mendalla
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