Today I am so pleased to welcome Leta Blake to Joyfully Jay. Leta has come to talk to us about her release, You Are Not Me. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
“Talk to us, son,” Dad said.
“Why? I’ve been doing this whole ‘being gay’ thing on my own for a long time now. I’m fine.” What a joke. I was a mess. A total and complete mess.
Dad nodded. “You’re angry with us. That’s not surprising.”
“Oh, well, thanks for the permission.”
That seemed to briefly rile him up again, but Mom put her hand over his this time. “My therapist says we need to acknowledge your anger and not try to tell you how to deal with it.”
Really? Because I could have used some guidance, actually, but I was not asking. No way in hell. “Great,” I said, scrubbing my hands through my hair. “Thanks to your therapist, I guess.”
Dad took a deep breath. “We didn’t handle your situation the way we should have. We’re ashamed of that.”
“We’re sorry, Peter,” Mom said earnestly. “I’m sorry.”
“I know. We talked about it already.” I rubbed the heels of my hands over my stinging eyes, my contacts gritty and annoying. I needed to get them out.
“Tell us what you’re angry about,” Dad said. “We want to hear how you’re feeling.”
I snorted. I felt like a baby, raw and alone despite their reassurances. But I wasn’t about to tell them that. “I’m angry. I’m really fucking angry. About a lot of things.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Just pick a place, son.”
“Fine.” Tears filled my eyes again, and I tried to stop them by pounding the table with my fist. “I’m pissed at Adam for dating Leslie. I’m pissed at myself for lying to my friends and hiding from you. I’m pissed at you for never seeing me and for denying to yourselves that I’m gay. And I’m mad as hell that all of a sudden you do see this one part of me, and now you feel like I owe you, when you never even cared before. It feels like a punishment. Because I’m gay. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing this because you love me.”
“Peter, we do love you.” Dad reached for my hands. I pulled them back and tucked them under the table. He exchanged a glance with Mom. “We have always loved you.”
“Honey, we failed you so terribly these last few years.” Mom leaned forward, her eyes teary. “But we’re trying. We really are. Help us do better.”
I put my head on the table and took deep breaths. Being under a microscope had never been what I wanted from them. I’d just wanted them to want to know me. I wanted them to care about who I really was and not just who I was to them.
The fight went out of me, exhaustion winning.
My dad rubbed my back as I breathed in and out. I let him. The tension in my throat ached and my eyes filled with tears again. Eventually, I pulled it together and sat up. I didn’t feel calm, but I wasn’t about to explode anymore either.
“Okay,” I said softly. “You wanted to know about Robert. He’s my boss, and that’s all there is to it. We’re just friends. Let’s get that straight right from the start.”
Mom nodded her encouragement. Dad took hold of my hand and this time I let him, returning his reassuring squeeze.
I plunged ahead. “Adam and I met Robert last year. Everything I’ve told you about him is true, but I left out that he’s also a drag queen.” I glanced at Dad. “Well, she’s a drag queen. Robert runs his own production business, just like I’ve said. But Renée does drag shows at Tilt-a-Whirl. I help with both things. I make Renée’s dresses, take photos for her flyers, and keep up with her calendar. For Robert, I do filing, and help him with the editing of his documentaries, public TV episodes, and that kind of thing. That’s it.”
“So last night?” Dad prompted.
“Last night I went to see Renée’s drag show at Tilt-a-Whirl.”
“The gay club,” Dad said to Mom, whose eyes widened, then narrowed dangerously.
“I thought that was a twenty-one-plus bar?” she asked.
“They lowered the entry age to eighteen.” I showed my hand stamp that was supposed to keep me from getting drinks at the bar. Of course, Jeremy had short-circuited that for me.
“Anyway, there was this hot guy there, a college guy, you know? And he bought me some drinks.”
Dad made a tsking noise, but Mom silenced him. “Hear him out, Abe. I remember stories about blueberry wine from your teen years.”
“You can guess what happened. I had a few too many. And I got sick.” There was no way I was telling them about the GHB or whatever Jeremy had put into my drink. And there was no way in hell I was telling them about what I’d done in the alcove. “So, Robert and Barry—”
Dad lifted his hand. “Barry?”
“Robert’s boyfriend. They didn’t want me driving, so they took me home with them.”
“You could have called us. We would have come to get you.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’ll call you next time.”
Mom lifted her brow.
“Or not. Because there isn’t going to be a next time,” I said. “I won’t be drinking at the club anymore. It’s against the law.”
“Good answer, Petey-boy,” Dad said. “Still, you weren’t honest with us about how you met Robert and what working for him entailed, and that’s disappointing.”
I held back my scoff. He couldn’t be serious. “I didn’t tell you about Robert being a drag queen because I was afraid you wouldn’t let me work for him. I figured you’d think it was weird. And Mom didn’t even know about me yet. So I kept it to myself.”
“Isn’t it weird?” Dad asked.
He said, “It’s not weird that a grown man wants to include a child in a sexually deviant—”
“Excuse me?” I puffed up, anger returning fast and furious. “He is not a sexual deviant, and I am not a child.”
Dad and Mom talked with their eyes again, and he backed off. “I’m not saying that he’s a pedophile—”
“Oh, how generous. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
“He’s your friend.” Dad seemed to be pondering it.
“Yes and he’s my boss and he’s great.”
Mom said, “We believe you, Peter. But we don’t know this man.”
“And whose fault is that?” I snapped.
Dad and Mom exchanged another glance, and whatever Mom’s eyes said must have reassured Dad, because he deflated, relaxing into calmness again.
“Your mom and I should have asked more questions than we did when you took that job,” he said. “I admit, it seemed like a stroke of luck for you, and I was busy at the university. I figured your mother had it covered in terms of making sure everything was legitimate, and she probably thought I’d checked into it. We fell down on the job there, Petey.”
“It is a legitimate job, and I’m going to keep working for him.” There was no way I was going to quit because they thought Robert was a pervert for being a drag queen.
My parents were silent for several long seconds. Finally Dad said, “All right. In that case, we’d like to meet Robert and Barry. I think that would be appropriate, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. You just said they were deviants, so maybe I don’t think you need to meet them.”
“I’m sorry for that. I shouldn’t judge people I’ve never met. I’ve been up half the night afraid for my son. I’m feeling overprotective,” Dad said with an edge.
I swallowed hard, the nasty taste in my mouth lingering from the night before. “Fine, you’re right. Meeting them isn’t a problem. They’d probably like that.”
“Good,” Dad said, nodding.
“As for drinking irresponsibly, you should have called us, but at least you didn’t drive,” Mom said, her voice tremulous.
I nodded, exhausted.
“Promise you’ll call us next time,” she added.
I promised, and they gave each other more looks back and forth. Dad nodded, and I knew the interrogation was over for now.
Mom shuffled over to the refrigerator and pulled out some string cheese. “I have a deadline, so I need to go write. But things are going to be different around here.” She shook the cheese at me. “Be prepared to witness my deep interest in your life.”
I tried to laugh, but it came out as a tired exhale.
After she left the room, Dad patted my hand. “I love you, Petey. I’m glad you’re okay. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea for you to hang out at a place like Tilt-a-Whirl. I understand I made a mistake in unfairly labeling your friends, and that was wrong of me. But I hear from students there’s a lot of loose sexual behavior happening there.”
I stared at him. I couldn’t deny it. Hell, I’d participated in it. Could he see that on my face?
“HIV and AIDS is a real and serious threat. You can’t be too careful. The disease can incubate for years. There’s no way to tell just by looking if someone is infected.”
“I know that.”
“I should have talked about all of this with you before now. I’ve really let you down.”
“No, you haven’t.”
“Tilt-a-Whirl and the men there aren’t safe.” Dad furrowed his brow. “I don’t want you getting caught up in bad choices that could destroy your life. I know you don’t believe it right now, but you mean the world to your mother and me. No one should see their child die. We never want to see you suffer. Remember, always, that it’s not just you at risk, but everyone who loves you, now and into the future.”
I couldn’t deal with any more. My throat was tight and my chest hurt. I was on the verge of a full-on breakdown. “I love you, too, Dad. I really do.”
“I know you do, and I know we’ve disappointed you as parents, but the idea of a life without you in it—” he broke off as his eyes welled with tears. “We love you so much.”
My throat closed up, my eyes burned. “I know. I’m sorry I scared you and Mom.”
He stood and dragged me into a hug. I clung to him, breathing in his scent, masculine and comforting.
Dad broke away and cleared his throat. “I’m going to go see if Jessica wants me to buy anything at the store.”
“What about you?” he asked.
“Gonna go take out my contacts.”
He nodded, patted my arm awkwardly, and said, “You’re a good kid, Petey. Don’t forget that.”
Was I good? I hoped so.
But deep down I knew the jury was still out.
’90s Coming of Age, Book 2
Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.
After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It’s the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.
Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.
But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel’s role in his life – a brief temptation, or something more?
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.
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Bonus material for the Heat of Love series, Will & Patrick Wake Up Married series, Training Season series, Smoky Mountain Dreams, Mr. Frosty Pants, The River Leith, and more is available on Leta Blake’s Patreon account. Sign up here: https://www.patreon.com/letablake
Or you can find out more about her by following her online:
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I’m just waiting patiently for that third book it’s a fantastic series
Me too! I’m so excited to see how it all comes together