Sexy Six Anniversary Short – Happy Anniversary, Baby by T.A. Webb

May 26, 2013

June 2013

“I thought I’d find you here.”

I didn’t need to turn around. I’d felt Antonio come up behind me a few moments before, and was glad he’d stayed back. Fuck it, but he was so much better at reading me than I was with him.

The day was warm, a little overcast but not raining yet. Kind of fit my mood. Gray and shitty, but not totally a loss. And given what today was, I wasn’t surprised.

Eight years. I couldn’t believe it, but it had been eight years since the fucked up day I got the call from Crawford Long that Brian was in the emergency room. Then that long day from hell where I’d had to make the call to shut off the life support on my best friend and partner and let him go. Brian Jacobs was my lover and my husband, and a big piece of my heart went with him that horrible bitch of a day.

There were times I thought maybe I should have gone with him. Just lying down in the grave and having them cover me up with him would have been easier than having to breathe in pain like jagged glass. But somehow, I’d been luckier than a man ought to be. Antonio, my best friend—straight and a divorced father of one—somehow fell in love with me. And goddamn it if I didn’t fall for him too.

It took me a while, and we had our problems over the years like all couples do, and I wanted to kick his ass from here in Atlanta to California and back when he…well, that’s another story and not the one I wanted to think about today. Today was about remembering the anniversary of the day I lost my oldest friend, my lover and a truly good man.

Every year, on this day in June, I came out and spent time talking to him, remembering how much fun we had. Cursing him for cheating on me and then forgiving him again and telling him how very much I loved him and how I missed him every day.

“It’s okay, you know.” Antonio came and sat beside me on the bench. My dad had added a marble bench to sit under the large magnolia that shaded Brian’s gravesite. He’d already been here, the single white rose he left lying next to the other bouquets left by friends and family. It brought another fucking tear to my eye, and I drew in a shaky breath before I could answer him.

“I miss him.”

A big arm came around my shoulder and drew me in close. It was usually me who was giving comfort, being the strong one, and I wasn’t really good at showing that I needed to lean on anyone else. With everything we’d been through, I was getting better at it though. This man had seen me at my worse and was still with me, and had even married my stubborn fucking ass, so maybe, just maybe it would be okay this once.

“He was a good man, Mark. One of the best I’ve ever met. I can’t imagine how you feel, and seeing you hurt like this is fucking killing me. What can I do to make it better?”

I buried my head against his chest and breathed in his smell. He was so different from Brian, and I wondered how in the hell I’d managed to have two of the most amazing men in the world be mine. Antonio was all muscles, bluster and Italian charm. Tattooed and bigger than life, he had a smile and laugh that fucking made me melt.

Brian…he was lean and soft spoken. His strength was subtle, like an iron grip in a velvet glove. He and I were friends, then lovers. When I’d fucked up and started putting my job first, he’d needed more and I missed the clues and hints and he’d found what he needed from someone else. I’d tossed him out on his ass right at the same time my mom was slowly losing her battle with liver disease, and shut my heart down.

I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Thank God—and I did, every fucking day—Brian was patient and loving and kind and waited for me to get my head out of my ass and forgive him and give us a second chance. Best. Decision. Ever.

Which made losing him so very much harder.

And then when I looked up one day, Antonio was there and I got another chance at love. Every day I woke up and wondered, what did I do to deserve the gods’ favor? I was nothing special, but I was blessed with love not once but twice. Two very good men. Two strong, special men. And it hit me then. They both loved with their whole hearts. When they made up their minds, they gave their all and fuck, was that humbling.

Pulling my head away from Antonio’s chest, but not before kissing right over his heart, I reached out a trembling hand and touched Brian’s headstone. The words I’d carved there were just as true eight years later—Son, uncle, husband, beloved friend. You will be missed always. “Think you can help me make a few calls?”

He kissed the back of my neck, the ghost of his lips against my skin so comforting I felt a tear escape before I could stop it. “For you, babe, anything.”

*

Dad’s house was always home. No matter where I lived over the years, I was never more at home than sitting in his and Mom’s family room, or around their dining room table. Tonight, I was amazed to see how many of my family showed up on such short notice.

The two seats at either end of the table were always Dad and Mom’s. He sat there, smiling at me and I swallowed against the lump in the throat to see that someone had wrapped the Christmas lights around Mom’s chair. The second holiday after her death, Brian and I couldn’t stand to see how empty the space was, so we decorated her seat and it became a family tradition. Now, there was a second seat, at the Cool Table, the overflow table where some of us sat instead of the main table, decorated with fairy lights. And at both places, a white rose.

Fuck. I loved these people.

And like I said, the turnout was amazing. Dad, Robbie and Jason, Patty and Ray, Sam—holy fuck!—Linda, Brenda, Robert and Jennifer, even Jeanine, Antonio’s ex-wife was there. The tables were piled with food and there were pictures of Brian around the room.

My family. As much as I butted heads and fought with some of them over religion and politics and gay marriage, they never ceased to amaze me.

Dad tapped a knife against his tea glass, and the conversations around all three tables wound down. “Well, looks like everyone’s here. And I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for coming over on a weeknight without us planning anything.” He looked around the tables, his gaze stopping on first Mom’s, then Brian’s, chair. “Family does that. And today, we’re going to start a new family tradition. Today, eight years ago, we lost one of our own, and it’s time we remembered.”

I looked around the room, seeing heads nodding through blurry eyes. I’d been carrying this in my heart and on my shoulders, by myself, all this time, and I was beginning to see that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t only me that missed and wanted to remember Brian.

“Brian was my son, just as much as anyone in this room is my child. And yes, that includes you, Robbie,” Dad said, looking to my newest brother. Robbie looked up from where he’d been staring at a spot on the table, his eyes shiny. Of all the people in the room, Robbie felt Brian’s loss almost as keenly as I did. He blamed himself still, no matter how many times I told him that Brian was dying anyway, because he’d been out looking for Robbie when he crashed the car that horrible fuck of a day. Jason pulled him in close, kissing the side of his head, and Patty reached over and grabbed his hand.

“When Brian died, I lost a son. Mark lost his husband. The kids lost an uncle. We all lost a good man, and it’s time we talked about it and let Mark know we remember. It doesn’t take anything away from his love with Antonio,” and we all laughed a little at the fuck no Antonio yelled, “and goddammit I miss him.”

Dad nodded and looked to his left and patted Sam’s hand. To my surprise, Sam started talking. “I have to admit, I wasn’t nice to Brian. I said mean things to him, and I’ll have to live with that the rest of my life. But Mark, he was a good man. Even I could see how happy he made you, and it was wrong of me to make you two feel that the love you had was somehow less than what me and Jean have. I’m sorry, little brother. He was a good man.”

I lost track of everything that was said after that. Everyone in the room took the time to remember something about Brian, and it felt like a gift. Like a weight I didn’t know I was carrying was lifted from my shoulders, and hands were holding me up.

It was finally my turn. Looking around, I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out at first. I closed my eyes, let my memories of Brian fill me and the words came.

“Everybody thinks eight years is such a long time. And that somehow when you lose a part of yourself, you heal or forget or move on. The truth is, it’s like a part of you stays right there in that moment of loss.” My eyes were still closed, but I felt Antonio’s hand close on mine, and Robbie and Patty and Dad right there with me. “Every day since I lost Brian it’s like a part of me was left behind and I’m happy, so very happy, but there’s this little bit of me that feels guilty since he’s not here to enjoy it or be with me. I wake up some mornings and the first thing I do is turn to say something to him and then I remember.”

He was there. In the room with us. Him and Mom, both. I knew it.

“The truth is, every day I lose him again. And every day I gain him back. That’s what love is. Putting your heart out there and hoping that someone catches it. I’m a lucky bastard,” and I heard a couple of chuckles and one or two intakes of breath, “because I have so many people, here and not here, who catch it every fucking day. Happy anniversary, love. I will never forget you. You are family and you are loved.”

“Amen.” When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by all my brothers and sisters, and looking past them, I caught sight of a flicker, a twist of Brian-shaped light smiling at me. I knew he was okay, and that was enough. I had been loved, and I was loved. Softly, from somewhere in the pile of Jennings, came a sweet voice. “At last, my love has come along, my lonely days are over, and life is like a song…”

The End

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Read more about Mark and Brian and Mark’s friendship with Antonio in Second Chances.

14 Responses to “Sexy Six Anniversary Short – Happy Anniversary, Baby by T.A. Webb”

  1. Andrea M says:

    I loved Second Chances and this is a wonderful bonus. Thank you.

  2. Debra E says:

    Thanks for making me cry over Brian all over again, Tom. Beautiful!

  3. CarrieAnn says:

    Jesus Tom! You have tears running down my face. I feel so lucky that you choose to share your gift of words with us my friend!

  4. Elaine Lee says:

    I loved SECOND CHANCES, and THANK YOU for this bonus. I cried reading about Brian again. THANKS

  5. c. zampa says:

    So good to see the boys again, McTom.
    Thank you for sharing them with us once more, a look at them down the road. Hugs…

  6. Tina says:

    Wow. You are the best. Tank you!

  7. Marsha says:

    I’m with CarrieAnn; tears in my eyes! Time for a Second Chances reread. Thank you!

  8. Sandy says:

    This was such a very special treat. Thank you so much!

  9. Mary says:

    I did the ugly cry thank you very much. That was beautiful. Every time I read one of your stories you drag me back to remembering something that has happened in my life. Not exactly the same as the characters but its like I see your name and my tear ducts go on autopilot. It’s gonna get to the stage where I can’t even see your name on facebook without a goddamn tissue.. Thank you.

  10. Bev Sutherland says:

    Tom, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again my friend…you’re a wonderful writer. Many thanks for this little slice of literary heaven, oh and more tears. x

  11. Tom Webb says:

    Thank you all so much! It was a great treat to be able to re-visit these guys for you. Thank you.

    Tom

  12. Rochelle says:

    So I just finished second chances and then read this, I’m a mess! I went to sleep still snuffling like a baby but I loved this book so much. Thank you Tom for delivering such a beautiful story of love and hope these characters willl stay with me for a long, long time.

  13. Nalan says:

    i read the first book yesterday and since then i am a mess. now i found this short story (and i am at work by the way) and started crying all over again. i loved Brian the most bacause i have lost my love, my other half eight years ago (what a damn coincidence) so this book somehow meant so much to me. thks Tom, for the chance to meet these beautiful people, hope everyone finds their second chances becuase i am living to have that miracle..

  14. Karlijn says:

    O man, every few months I read Second Chances again and visit your site after for reading this. And every time I cry so hard. I cry so hard for the loss of beautiful Brian, I cry for new love and I cry for how beautifully you’ve wrote about this. Thank you! <3

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