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Authors: Emily McKee

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A Beautiful Struggle

BOOK: A Beautiful Struggle
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A Beautiful Struggle

By: Emily McKee

A Beautiful Struggle

Copyright © 2013 by Emily McKee. All rights reserved.

First Print Edition:
March 2014

Limitless Publishing, LLC

Kailua, HI 96734

www.limitlesspublishing.com

Formatting: Limitless Publishing

ISBN-13:
978-1496112880

ISBN-10:
1496112881

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.

Dedication

For anyone who has ever faced struggles in their life. Know that you are special and important.
Most importantly, loved.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
Beautiful people do not just happen.”

~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Prologue

Patrick
– 12 years old

“Baby, come over here.”

Walking over to
Momma’s hospital bed, I held onto my curly, brown teddy bear with all my might. I decided to name him Waldo, because I hated never being able to find Waldo in the
Where’s Waldo?
books. It always annoyed me, and to be honest I think it was a crock of shit. I got him on Christmas just three months ago. It was the happiest day of my life, but also the saddest because it would be the last Christmas I would spend with Momma.

Papa died in a car accident when I was five
, so it had just been Momma and me for the last seven years. Until now.

Momma hadn’t been feeling good for the past couple of months.
She had to go to doctor’s appointments and she had been sleeping a lot. I knew something was wrong, but I think because I was younger, Momma was too scared to tell me or maybe she was too scared to tell herself.

With shaky legs I walked over to
Momma, who had her hand out, waiting for me to join my hand with hers. I tried not to make faces because there was a needle sticking in her hand. However, I put on a brave face for Momma since she was putting on a brave face for me. After all, I wasn’t the one dying.

Wrapping my little hand around
hers, I attempted to give a small smile. But how do you smile at someone you love so much and they’re dying right before your eyes? If you could answer that I would have really liked to know then.

Blinking a few times to get rid of the salty liquid forming behind my eyelids
, I looked at Momma’s face. The way her once tan skin was now pale. The way her lips used to be a bright apple red. However now they were cracked and dry. The way her eyes were always so bright and cheerful and now the light was slowly fading away.

I tried to look down at the floor because I didn’t want the last memories of my momma to be this.
I wanted to remember her the way she was before all of this happened. The way she laughed and brought light to the darkness. The way she came up with these amazing ideas. The way she made something good out of a terrible mess. How she was always making mistakes but they turned out all right in the end. The way she never complained about having to struggle. Or the way she lived with zero regrets from the choices she made.

That’s what I love about
Momma best. The way she brought beauty to the awful.

The second my eyes touched the ceramic tile below my black
Converse I felt a hand reach under my chin and slowly lift it to meet dull green eyes filled with tears. Momma’s.

I didn’t know what to say.
What to do. How do you make someone comfortable who is going to die? Again blinking away my tears and swallowing, I was just getting ready to open my mouth when Momma said, “Sit next to me, baby.”

Quickly handing her Waldo
, I carefully climbed up onto the hospital bed and snuggled up with Momma. She was so cold, but luckily I had on a sweatshirt, so I gave her some of my warmth. Wrapping an arm around her waist and resting my head on her chest, I felt tears in my hair. I automatically knew Momma was crying.

I also knew if I looked up she would pretend
, so I let it go. I tried to cover up my tears but I knew she could feel the moisture on her hospital gown. We were both pretending. We were both struggling to let go of one another—at least in this life, because I knew she would always be in my heart.

Plus now I knew that Angels really did exist because
Momma would be mine.

Wrapping her hands in my hair to comfort me
, she kissed the top of my head and said, “I love you so much, my baby boy.”

I used to always hate it when she called me her “baby boy,” but now I cherished it.
I held onto it. I cried even harder the second she called me that because at that moment I didn’t know how many more times I would be given the gift of hearing it come from her lips.

Choking back sobs
, she said, “I want you to promise me something, Pat. Can you do that for Momma?”

I nodded
my head into her chest because I knew there was absolutely no way I could actually answer her with words. She said, “I want you to struggle.”

Blinking a few times
, I lifted my head to look into her tear-soaked eyes and asked, “What, Momma?”

Giving me a little smile
, she said, “You heard me, baby. I want you to struggle.” She took in a deep breath. “Because when you struggle, you have something to strive for. I want you to be imperfect because you would never have anything to look forward to or work for. I want you to love whoever you want to love… but I want you to love with all your heart. With all your mind. And with all your soul.”

She p
ut up a finger. “The second you stop struggling is the second you have given up, because you have nothing to reach for. You’ve reached the top and we all know where we go when we’ve reached the top, Pat.”

She looked into my eyes.
“Where do we go, baby boy?”

Gulping down my emotion
, I said, “To the bottom.”

Smiling and nodding her head at me
, she said, “That’s right, baby. The bottom, and my baby boy deserves to work his way to the top.” Wrapping both her arms around me, she kissed me on the cheek. “I will always be there with you. Do you hear me?”

I couldn’t hold back now.
I lost it. I felt the tears cascading down my face before I could even recognize Momma’s hand wiping away the liquid. I sucked in my bottom lip and felt it quiver because I was too selfish to let her go.

Trying to wipe my face
, I said, “I hear you, Momma.”

Attempting to give me a smile
, she looked over in the direction of Grandma and Grandpa. Looking back at me with unshed tears in her eyes, she said, “Now I want you to behave yourself for Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma talks to God and Angels every day.” She closed her eyes. I saw tears roll down her face. I lifted my hand and slowly wiped them away. She opened her eyes and said, “And soon I’m going to be one of those Angels, so I’ll know if you’re misbehaving, baby boy.”

I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

Full on sobbing with the chin quivering, the nose dripping, the eyelids fluttering, I wrapped my arms around Momma and squeezed. I didn’t want to let her go. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready. I don’t think you’re ever really ready to say goodbye to someone you love. But in the end we don’t have control over that.

The only things we have absolute certain control over are how many times we say, “I love you.”

How many times we do our best.

How many times we help out others.

Most importantly, how many times we struggle
… and get back up on our feet.

Chapter 1

Derrick - 10 years later

Sucking in a breath, I whispered, “I’m gay.”

I had never said those two words out loud before.
Of course I had thought them, but thinking and saying are two very separate things. I felt free once they left my mouth. I felt like I was finally being honest and open with myself.

The second they left my mouth I thought back to when I was in high school.
When girls at the lunch table were talking about how gorgeous Channing Tatum was or how they wanted to lick Ryan Gosling’s delicious abs, I wanted to jump right in and say, “I totally agree. They’re both fucking gorgeous.”

Instead I followed the lead of the other guys.
I waved my hands and said, “They ain’t got nothing on me, honey,” and gave the girls my best panty-soaking, panty-dropping, begging for me to be on top of them, smile. Sure there were a few girls in high school, but it just never really clicked.

Hearing the sounds of students walking the halls
, I opened my eyes. I looked back down at the cute girl standing in front of me with her caramel colored eyes.

My heart beat was frantic.
I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and I needed an oxygen mask. Most importantly, I just wanted to hear what Ash was going to say. But she didn’t say anything. Instead, she wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek. Hesitating at first, I then sucked in a breath and realization hit me.

Ashlynn was accepting me for who I was.
I was a gay man and I was proud of it. I wasn’t ashamed. How can you be ashamed of who you choose to love? How can anyone be ashamed of who you choose to love? We are at a place in time where the word discrimination is still used. It’s disgusting to see that people are still hateful to you because of your age, gender, ethnicity, and personal choices. I don’t understand why people choose to hate others. You don’t choose who you love; it just happens and you can’t choose how someone else reacts to it. It’s their choice.

I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Ashlynn was the first person I had revealed my true self to and she had accepted me with open arms and kisses. I knew not everyone would be like that, but a guy can hope, right?

That’s all
anyone has. Hope. We hope for the good to happen instead of the bad, but sometimes the bad does, in fact, happen and we have to struggle through it. It’s the struggle to get you to open your eyes and learn from it. That’s what’s so beautiful about the struggle. You hopefully become a stronger person on the other end. It’s about the journey and learning something and incorporating it into your own life. You have to believe.

Belief.
When we’re little we believe in the tooth fairy and elves. We believe in the magic. When we grow into adults, we learn that all of those things were make believe. Someone thought of them.

But what if it wasn’t made up?
What if those things existed in our time and someone just added in the mythical creatures and the magical lamps? Because in our time those unicorns could be horses. Those magic carpets could be segways. Those magic lamps could be our prayers.

And sometimes our prayers aren’t answered and we have to find it for ourselves.
Because just like in those fairytales where the prince would rescue the damsel in distress from the dragon, maybe that’s me fighting discrimination and the hatred of others for my love. Who I choose. Who I want. I can only hope that the people who love me accept me for me. I have to believe that that’s the case.

In the end, those are the only things we do have.
Hope, dreams and belief.

With her arms wrapped around me
, Ash kissed my cheek and whispered, “I’m here for you Derrick.”

Nodding my head
, I said, “I know, Ash. I really appreciate it.”

Ash asked, “Who else have you told?”
She unwrapped her arms from around my neck.

Shaking my head back and forth
, I closed my eyes and said, “Nobody.” Opening them and looking straight into Ash’s, I whispered, “You’re the first.”

I watched as a smile appeared on her lips and a twinkle and unshed tears formed in her eyes.
I noticed her lower lip started to twitch, so I took her hands in mine and held onto them for dear life. I wrapped my thumbs in her tiny little hands and she looked down at them. The next thing I knew I felt moisture falling onto my hands.

I let her cry.
I didn’t know why she was, but I let her. A few minutes went by in silence except for the sniffle of her nose.

Slowly unwrapping her hands from mine, my eyes flickered up to meet Ash’s.
She was watching me carefully and with much content in her eyes.

I didn’t understand where this was coming from so I whispered, “What?”

Wiping a few tears away, Ashlynn said, “I’m very touched that I’m the first person you told, Derrick.” Shaking her head, Ash closed her eyes and took a second to put her emotions together. “I can’t imagine just how hard that must have been for you to tell me.” She sucked in a breath. “Thank you.” Ash took my hands in hers. “I’m so proud of you, Derrick Miles.”

Nodding my head
, I couldn’t believe how emotional I was getting. I felt like I could finally breathe. I was being suffocated for so long and I could finally be set free with who I was. Who I was proud to be. Granted, I had only told one person, but I felt relieved that Ash had still accepted me. She loved me for me. For who I was. I was so thankful and grateful to have a best friend like her.

Patting Ashlynn on the back
, I said, “Let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving.” As soon as those words left my mouth my stomach grumbled loudly. Looking down, I brought my hand up to my stomach and started to laugh. “Wow, that’s embarrassing.”

I could hear Ash laughing
, so I looked over at her; her blonde hair waving every which way from her head falling backwards, her mouth opened wide and a beautiful laugh escaping. Her chest bouncing up and down from laughing so hard.

I took in her appearance.
She really was a beautiful girl and I wanted so badly for her to find happiness—I just didn’t know who with. Once Ash opened her eyes, I saw tears roll down her face with bits of black mascara along with it. This time I knew they were happy tears.

Wrapping her arm around my waist
, Ash laughed out, “All right, let’s go, fatty!”

Ash then wrapped her arms tightly around my waist and laughed into my chest.

Placing my hands on Ash’s shoulders
, I nudged her away and looked down at her. Tilting my head to the side, I placed my hand on her forehead and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah
, why?”

Chuckling
, I said, “Well, by us going to lunch, we would be skipping chem lab. You realize that, right?”

Jokingly
, Ash pushed me away. “Ha-ha, very funny!” Shaking her head, she muttered, “Smartass,” under her breath and started to walk in the direction of the exit.

Watching Ash shake her ass as she marched away
, I started to giggle. I wondered when Ash would find a guy, because damn, that girl needed to get laid. I knew she was a virgin. She didn’t have to tell me. But I knew when she did have sex it would be with one guy. She was just that type of girl. The one guy forever type. Not the kind who would spread her legs for just about anything that moved. And I was damn proud of Ash for being that type of girl. I had seen too many girls throughout high school and even now doing the latter and then getting their hearts broken.

Letting out a huff
, I started to jog to catch up to my sexy librarian best friend. Just as I caught up to her, I squeezed her ass and heard her yelp.

Turning around
, Ash smacked me in the chest and laughed. “You jerk!”

I s
hrugged my shoulders. “I couldn’t help it. You have a nice ass.”

Rolling her eyes
, she started to turn around, and being the ass I was, I pulled my hand back and everyone heard a loud
smack!
when I hit my hand against her nice little plump ass.

Spinning around
, Ash took fistfuls of my shirt, and with her other hand, she smacked my ass repeatedly. I just laughed because we were having a good time.

Waving my hands in the air
, I said, “All right, enough, Ash.” She slowed down to walk beside me when I lowered myself and said, “Hop on.”

Placing her hands on my shoulders
, Ash jumped up and wrapped her legs around my waist. Putting my hands underneath her thighs, I held on tight and stood up. Hearing Ash giggle, I started to run towards my car.

I couldn’t help but laugh because Ash started screaming.
“Oh my god, Derrick, slow down! You’re going to get us killed!”

Ash was freaking out
, so I started to slow down, laughing the whole time. Coming to walk, I bent down and let go of Ash’s thighs.

Releasing her hands from around my neck
, Ash hopped off my back. Slapping me on the ass, she said, “Thanks, that was fun.”

Giggling
, I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and we continued our walk to my car. I could see my car in view when I felt Ash stiffen next to me. “What’s the matter?” I asked. She didn’t answer me, just kept her eyes forward. Turning my head in the direction Ash was staring, I saw this pretty hot guy with short, dirty-blond hair and some scruff on his face flirting with this girl. She wasn’t pretty. I guess you could call her a slut. Her top was way too low and her skirt was way too high.

I was just about to ask Ash who he was when he must have sensed we were staring at him because his eyes flickered up and met Ash’s.
Quickly looking away, I looked at Ash and saw she had this huge blush on her face. Looking back over at surfer boy, I saw he was glaring at me. He was staring at my arm wrapped around Ash.

Slut girl was put on the back burner
as I watched him stride over to Ash and I. His eyes would flicker between glaring at me and smiling sincerely at Ash.

Unwrapping
my arm from around Ash, I watched as she perked up. She stood up straight and I saw this beautiful smile appear on her face. Looking back over at Mr. Handsome, I saw his pearly whites appear and these adorable dimples.
God, even I’m starting to get just a tad hard from how gorgeous he looks.

H
ot guy picked Ash up by the waist and spun her around, yelling, “Ashlynn!”

Hearing her shriek and scream and giggle
, I just stared at the two of them. I couldn’t believe how different Ash was around him and I knew without a doubt in my body she had a super huge enormous crush on this hot guy.

Ash looked up into his eyes
after he set her down. Smiling, she said, “What’s up, Jason?”

Ah, so hot guy has a name.

They just stared at each other for a few seconds and I could’ve sworn they were literally eye-fucking one another. I started to get uncomfortable, so I cleared my throat.

Shaking her head
, Ash looked over at me and then back at Jason. “Oh, I’m sorry. This is Derrick. Derrick, this is Jason. His twin sister Jade and I were roommates our freshman year.”

Extending my hand
, I said, “Nice to meet you, Jason.”

Grabbing my hand
, Jason squeezed just a little too hard. I knew he was trying to let me know that he was marking his territory. His jaw set and it’s almost as if it killed him to say, “Hey, Derrick.”

Scrunching my eyes together because he was seriously squeezing the shit out of my hand
, I broke free of his death grip. Looking over at Ash, I nudged her side and asked, “You still want to get that bite to eat?”

Switching to stare at Jason
, I smirked. I could’ve sworn he growled, but it was put on the backburner because Ash said, “Yeah, I’m starving.”

Looking over at Ash, Jason wrapped his arms around her waist
. “Well, I guess I’ll talk to you later then.”

Wrapping her arms around his shoulders
, she said, “Yeah, I’ll see you later, Jason.”

It seemed Jason held on for just a little too long but I don’t think Ash seemed to mind in the slightest.
I was definitely going to have to ask her about this at lunch, or dinner if they didn’t stop staring at each other like next year’s Versace.

I mean
, a guy has to eat when a guy has to eat!

Letting go of one another
, it seemed they both did it reluctantly. With my stomach growling, I wrapped an arm around Ash’s shoulder and started to walk towards my car. I wanted to put my theory to the test and all be damned, it was proven correctly!
Jason has a huge crush on my girl, Ash!

Looking over my shoulder
, I noticed that Jason hadn’t moved from where he was standing and he was giving me a huge death glare. He must have thought that Ash and I were a thing or something.
Humph, this could work out to my advantage.

***

BOOK: A Beautiful Struggle
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