Last week in Don't Look Back, as you'll recall, Christmas Eve started promisingly but something has happened which could affect Marshall and Lee's future! Find out what's going on in this week's chapter. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to! Their links follow my tale. Enjoy!
Don't Look Back #57 (11.2)
Marshall stood in stunned silence as Lee took the paper from Roy’s hand and read it through.
“Fucking bitch,” Lee swore softly, his mouth setting into a grim line. “What the hell was she even thinking?”
“I’m guessing she decided if she couldn’t get you to pay her for her silence, she might as well try to ruin your life. I think she gave a copy of this to everyone in town. Except us, of course. ” Roy glanced up at Marshall, sympathy in his eyes, as well as frustration that he hadn’t been able to prevent what had happened. Whatever that might be.
“What is that?” Marshall asked, reaching for the sheet. He locked eyes with Lee, who seemed to debate something with himself. He reluctantly released the paper into Marshall’s possession without comment.
Marshall read through the damning words, even as he felt his life begin to crash around him. Rhonda had written an open letter to the people of Burnham telling them everything. Well, everything about Marshall and Lee, and their relationship to one another, in the worst possible terms. She managed to withhold any information relating to herself, other than she was Marshall’s mother and Lee’s ex-wife.
The scathing letter was filled with the words unnatural, abnormal, and incest. The only good thing about the damn thing was her parting line. She said she wasn’t coming back to Burnham again; she was done with both of them. At least they wouldn’t be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives.
Of course, what did that matter, since they were obviously unwelcome in Burnham anymore? What was to say she might not follow them to the next town? Pull the same stunt?
Marshall’s hand trembled, his eyes filling with tears. He didn’t understand her, not at all. What kind of a mother acted like this? What was wrong with him that his own mother didn’t love him? His head spun, and he wanted a drink so bad he could taste it. He’d never felt the need to lose himself in booze before, but right now it seemed like a great idea.
Before he could voice his need, Lee had gathered him close to him and held him close. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” he murmured soothingly, though Marshall didn’t see how it could be.
“What are we going to do?” Marshall gazed helplessly into Lee’s eyes, even as his own warm tears streaked down his cheeks. He hated feeling like this, hated knowing he was empowering her by allowing her to get to him this way. His only consolation was she would never know.
“We’ll figure something out, don’t worry,” Lee assured him. But Marshall thought his voice held a note of uncertainty he’d never heard before. He kissed Marshall gently. “We can always head down to Mexico. Not like the business isn’t portable. We can live well down there, you’ll see.”
“Good thing I speak Spanish,” Roy spoke up, and they both looked at him, surprised.
“Roy, I’d never ask you to give up your life here just to traipse after us—”
“You’re not asking, it’s my choice.”
Lee was momentarily speechless. Finally, he nodded. “I appreciate that, Roy, more than I can ever say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. You and Marshall mean the world to me. Where you’re not welcome, I’m not either. It’s that simple.” He patted Lee’s shoulder, then turned to Marshall and softly stroked his cheek. “I know it feels like the end of the world, kiddo, but you have to understand that woman has issues, and it’s nothing to do with you. She’s the one who’s wrong here, not you, so don’t you ever think that way, okay?”
Marshall nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He wanted to believe Roy, he really did. It just hurt an awful lot. He’d thought she didn’t have the ability to hurt him anymore, but he was wrong.
Roy turned back to Lee. “So, what do you want to do? I mean, about tonight?”
“Tonight? Oh shit, I forgot. Milly’s. Everyone’s expecting us to show up. Damn.”
“That’s out of the question, isn’t it?” Marshall turned troubled eyes to Lee. “How can we? They won’t want us there. They won’t want anything to do with us now.” Marshall could see the pain reflected in Lee’s eyes at his words. Maybe a touch of guilt? He hastened to assure him, “It’s okay. I don’t need them, just you. Only you.”
“Um, not to put too fine a point on it,” Roy began slowly and stopped.
“Go on,” Lee encouraged him. “What’s on your mind?”
“Well, we know what Rhonda did, sure, but we don’t know anything else. I mean, we have no idea how anyone’s reacted, what they’re thinking, if anything.”
“Roy, I’m not naïve, I can tell you exactly what they’ll be thinking. And it’s not something I think we need to hear, and I’d rather not put Marshall through it.”
“But you don’t really know,” Roy pointed out, “is all I’m saying. Nobody’s busting down the door, and they’re sure not burning up the telephone lines either, are they?”
“What does that prove? It’s Christmas Eve, maybe everyone’s busy.”
“True,” Roy conceded, falling silent.
Lee tilted Marshall’s face toward him, their eyes locking. He took a deep breath. “Roy’s right. We don’t really know what anyone’s thinking. Maybe it’s best to have it all out in the open, and maybe this is good timing. They’ll all be at Milly’s tonight. Most of them, anyway. We can go on up and face them, say our good-byes, rather than just slinking out of town. Then we can figure out where we want to go and make some plans. I won’t make you go. If you want to stay here, I’ll just run up there myself and get it done—”
“No!” Marshall said fiercely. “You’ve always said we’re in this together, now and for always. We’ll do this together too.”
to be continued
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