Titus sat quietly across the small table from Jamie in his downtown apartment.
“Titus?” Jamie gently prodded. “What’s wrong?”
Titus clasped his hands together on the table top. “I’m just waiting.”
“You called me at work and asked me to come over to talk.” Titus looked sadly at his boyfriend of eight years. “That can’t be good.”
Jamie sighed and pushed his black-framed glasses up the bridge of his nose. Wearing just his dress pants and white undershirt, he still looked like the corporate lawyer he was. Even in his obviously nervous state, he sat up straight with his shoulders squared.
“Are you breaking up with me?” Titus hated how pathetic he sounded.
“You know I love you, Ty.” Jamie got up and walked around to Titus, kneeling down beside of him. He reached for Titus’ hand, but Titus kept them clasped on the table. He gently laid his hand on his leg instead. He implored him, “You know I love you.”
“But I’m tired of waiting.” Jamie fought to keep the frustration from his voice. “I want a family, Titus. You say you do, too, but it’s been eight years. When is that going to happen?”
Titus dropped his head to the table, and let the tears fall, silently forming two tiny pools. He had been dreading this moment for months. He had felt it coming.
“Come sit with me.” Jamie’s voice was soft. He led Titus to the couch, and sat beside him, holding his hand.
“I can’t believe this is happening.” Titus looked as stunned as he felt.
“I’m sorry.” Jamie rubbed his thumb over the back of Titus’ knuckles. “I really am, Ty. I love you, and I’m sorry. I’ve been waiting for years, though, and, with the boys moving in with you, I know you’re not moving in with me anytime soon.”
“They need me,” Titus said.
“I know that.” Jamie nodded. “I understand what you’re doing, Titus. I do. I just can’t wait any longer. I’ve tried to be understanding. I know your family is important to you. I just want things, too. I’m tired of being alone all the time. A person shouldn’t be this lonely in a relationship. I want to have kids, and I don’t want to wait until you’re finished raising your nephews.”
“They’re just staying with me until Annie gets better,” Titus protested.
“Titus.” Jamie shook his head ever so slightly. “Annie is not going to get better. You know that.”
“I want to be with you.” Titus was desperate. “Please don’t end it. I can talk to my brother and sister—get them to help me with the boys. I’ll go ahead and move up here. Just give me long enough to work it out.”
Jamie squeezed his hand. “It’s been years, Ty. Years. If you were going to shift some of the burden to Jonathan and Bekah, you would have done that by now. I’m not mad at you for stepping up and taking care of your nephews, Ty. But I have to take care of myself.” He paused, and then added, “I wish you would take care of yourself, too.”
Titus parked his car in his driveway. He turned off the ignition, and sat for a moment in the quiet. The stillness of the car felt insulating. He could see the flickering light of the TV through his living room window, and knew the boys were home. He hadn’t told them he would be late. He didn’t have a way to contact them. They didn’t have cell phones, and he didn’t have a landline.
He opened the car door, and walked slowly to the front door of his house. He attempted to arrange his face in a cheerful expression, but tears were stinging the back of his eyes.
As he entered the house, he called out, “Caleb? Travis? I’m sorry I’m late.” He walked the few short steps to the living room, and found both boys slumped on the sofa, watching a baseball game. “You guys okay?”
“Yeah.” Caleb nodded. “We made ourselves sandwiches. I hope that’s alright. We were hungry.”
“Of course it is.” Titus sat on the edge of the chair nearest them. “Help yourselves to whatever you want whenever you want.”
“Even the booze?” Travis smirked.
“Don’t be a smart-ass.” Titus tossed a throw pillow at the boy. “Leave the alcohol alone, but you can have whatever else you want.”
“Have you ate?” Caleb asked. “Want me to make you a sandwich?”
Titus smiled at the offer. “No, thanks. I’m not hungry.”
“Why are you late?” Travis asked, with characteristic bluntness.
“I had to go talk to Jamie.”
“About what?” Travis inquired.
“Maybe that’s none of your business.” Caleb frowned at his brother.
“Maybe you should shut up!” Travis threw a half-hearted punch at Caleb’s shoulder.
“Stop it.” Titus said wearily. He sighed. “I might as well tell you—Jamie and I broke up.”
“What?” Caleb was surprised. “Why? You guys have been together forever.”
Travis stared hard at the baseball game. His uncle’s relationship made him uncomfortable.
“Our lives were just going in different directions.” Titus’ voice trembled, betraying the emotions he was trying to hide.
“I’m sorry,” Caleb said softly.
“Thanks, Caleb.” Titus stood, and ruffled Caleb’s hair the way he did when he was little. “I think I’m going to go on to bed. I’m pretty tired.”
“Okay.” Caleb studied his uncle’s face, concerned.
“Goodnight.” Caleb replied.
“Night,” Travis muttered without looking away from the TV.
Titus went to his bedroom, shut the door, and stood still for a moment, his eyes filling with tears. He yanked his shirt from his waistband, and loosened his tie. In the adjoining bathroom, he turned on the shower, and stepped into it without removing his clothes. He let the steaming water course over his face as he let himself cry . . . really cry . . . for the first time since leaving Jamie’s apartment.
He stood under the water until it turned cold and he began shivering. He turned the water off, and stepped onto the rug. He unbuttoned his wet shirt, and peeled it off. One by one, he removed his sodden clothes, and dropped them into the bathtub. He dried himself off, and retrieved his robe from the hook on the back of the door. He was freezing. Glaring at himself in the mirror, he thought, Titus, you dumb fuck. Pull yourself together. You’re acting like a damn fool.
©2015 Rachel Holbrook
Rachel Holbrook writes from her home in Knoxville, TN. She is the author of the syndicated serial, Little River, Volumes 1 & 2. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, *82 Review, Ink in Thirds, Akitsu Quarterly, The Avalon Literary Review, and various other literary journals. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going on literal and literary adventures with her husband and six children.