Last week, as you'll recall, the trip to Galveston began. How will Marshall handle such close confinement with Dustin, whom he doesn't exactly like? Can they resolve their differences? See what's happening in this week's episode of Moving Forward. Then go see what the other Briefers are up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!
Moving Forward #16 (4.2)
He half expected to hear Dustin whine at him to slow down, but the other man caught up with him easily enough and fell into step beside him. Had he really thought he would be discouraged just because Marshall hadn’t waited for him? Didn’t matter. He shrugged the thought off and kept walking.
“Burnham seems like a nice place,” Dustin commented after a few moments of silence between them.
“It is. We like it.” Marshall shoved his hands into his pockets, focusing on the terrain over which they walked rather than his companion.
“I can see why. I bet everyone knows everyone else.”
“Pretty much.” Marshall kept his replies deliberately short, but within the realm of politeness. Lee couldn’t fault him for that, since Lee was rather laconic himself.
“I like Tucker Falls, but it’s not near as cozy. Burnham’s more like the place I come from. We all know what’s going on with everyone else. Is that how it is with you?”
Marshall couldn’t help but remember Christmas Eve, and the letter Rhonda had given to everyone in town, letting them in on the details of his and Lee’s life. Yeah, the people in Burnham knew it all, didn’t they? And they didn’t judge.
Didn’t mean he was about to spill his guts to this outsider. Disliking him wasn’t even part of the reason. Marshall still didn’t think his and Lee’s relationship was anyone else’s business, whether he liked him or not.
“I guess,” he responded at last. He heard a sigh beside him, and darted a surprised glance at Dustin, who was regarding him with something that might have been disappointment. Marshall couldn’t quite place it.
“You don’t like me a whole lot, do you?”
Marshall flushed. Whether or not it was true, he hadn’t intended to be so obvious about how he felt. He thought he had better manners than that. Apparently not.
“I never said that,” he half-heartedly protested.
“You did so. Maybe not in so many words, but you’ve made your feelings pretty obvious,” Dustin replied. “And I can’t figure out for the life of me what I did to deserve that. I mean, I helped you out at the bar, and I stood up for you, didn’t I? I stepped in when you were nothing but a stranger to me, and I didn’t have any idea who you were, just that you were in trouble. But you act like I’m a real pain in your ass, and I think you go out of your way to be rude to me. If Lee had come along with us today, I bet you wouldn’t even bother to exchange two words with me, would you? Unless he made you.”
Marshall turned away, in annoyance and shame both, and found Dustin had moved in front of him, blocking his path. Marshall tried to move around him, but Dustin simply sidestepped his efforts, and refused to budge.
Marshall released a huff of annoyance, and replied without stopping to think. “You’re so damn pushy,” he said.
“Pushy? Me?” It was Dustin’s turn to look surprised. “In what way?”
“Well… the way you seem to think it’s open season on me or something. You’ve been hitting on me ever since we met.”
“Cause I think you’re a good-looking guy, and I want to get to know you,” Dustin replied. “Is that such a crime?”
“It is when a guy’s taken. You know I’m with Lee, and if you have eyes, you can see we’re very together, so why bother?”
Dustin ran his fingers through his hair as he gathered his thoughts. “I don’t see a ring on your finger,” he pointed out. “And he’s a lot older than you. Maybe I figured it wasn’t that serious. I’ve seen you dancing with other guys, so I thought maybe you had an open relationship.”
“Oh hell no,” Marshall blurted out, although he wasn’t about to explain why he and Lee couldn’t get married. Ever. “Just cause I dance with someone else doesn’t mean I sleep with them. Lee and me… we’re committed. Forever. Age has nothin’ to do with anything. And dancing’s just dancing.”
“Have you ever been with anyone else?”
Marshall’s annoyance was growing, his temper rising. “That’s none of your damn business,” he said.
“And it has nothing to do with anything.” He shoved Dustin, not too hard, just enough to get him to move out of his way. Dustin was caught by surprise and started to lose his balance. He grabbed Marshall’s arms to keep himself upright and then immediately pulled away.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to do that,” Dustin apologized. “Look, I just want to be your friend, whether anything else happens between us or not—”
“It won’t!” Marshall said firmly.
“I like you, Marshall. Hell, I like Lee too. I think he’s a really nice guy. Even if he is old enough to be your father.”
Marshall started to sputter, and Dustin help up a conciliatory hand. “Sorry. I know, age is just a number. I get it. Honestly. Can we just start over? I could really use a friend, that’s all.”
Marshall found himself staring into Dustin’s eyes, perplexed. Dustin was a good-looking guy, why wouldn’t he have friends? Dustin flushed under his scrutiny.
“Never mind,” he muttered and pivoted.
“Wait a second.” This time it was Marshall who reached for Dustin’s arm and held it firm. “Give me a chance to say something, willya? Jeez, can’t even get a word in before you start assumin’ things.”
He gave Dustin a small smile, in spite of himself, and received one in return.
“Sorry, I need to learn not to jump off the deep end like that,” he said sheepishly. “What were you going to say?”
“I was just gonna say yeah, we can try being friends.” Dustin’s smile grew even bigger.
“Friends,” Marshall repeated, for emphasis. “With the understanding that I love Lee, and that him and me are going to be together forever.”
to be continued
Now see what the other Briefers are up to!