This June, in honor of Gay Pride month, the Briefers decided to take part in the Beth Wylde special events taking place all month long. We came up with a special themed storyline, centered around a gay cruise, with a host of secondary characters we can all use to interact with our original stories and main characters. This is totally separate from our regular weekly flashes, and we have some fun stuff also going on at Beth Wylde today. You can learn more about the Briefers, chat with us, offer up some ideas and comments, AND win some prizes, including 3 $25 gift cards provided by our members.
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Rough Seas for Marshall
by Rob Colton
“You didn’t have to do that.”
Marshall Sprague was equally grateful, yet equally annoyed. It had been, what, fifteen years, since he’d seen Ronnie Spangler? And then he comes swooping in like a goddamned white knight to save him from that perverted weirdo Speedo-wearing stalker.
Marshall never should’ve agreed to do that auction anyway.
That damn Charlotte.
His best friend—make that former best friend—knew how vulnerable he was when she asked him to come on this cruise, where she worked on the events planning team. Then she used the excuse of needing additional volunteers for the bachelor auction. He’d been on the boat a hot minute when she practically shoved him into the middle of the ballroom floor to be auctioned off like some desperate piece of meat.
If he’d known it was all a setup to pair him off with her cousin, then he never would’ve set foot on this boat. Not after what Ronnie did.
“Sure I did, Marsh.” Ronnie shrugged.
Marshall looked at Ronnie. Really looked at him. He was different. Physically, the difference was night and day. He hadn’t recognized the man at first; it wasn’t until Charlotte spoke his name that he realized it was Ronnie Spangler.
Back in high school, Ronnie was a jock. He’d always been big and muscular. Now he’d hit his thirties, though, and time had caught up with him. His full head of brown hair was thinning on top, nearly gone at the crown. Ronnie was… fluffier around the middle, to put it nicely. His redneck lumberjack look seemed so out of place on a cruise ship, Marshall wondered if it was a costume for another of Charlotte’s stupid events.
The scraggly beard he always sported in high school had filled in at least, giving him a decidedly manly look. There. He’d found something nice to say.
Not that Marshall was all that to look at, though. After his mom died, he’d been stuck in that hell-hole small town. His boyfriend had long since bailed, leaving him with nothing but debt and anger. He then spent too much time drinking, and not enough time eating. He reached up to scratch his goatee, before he remembered shaving it off for his mom’s memorial.
But what really stuck out was the way Ronnie wouldn’t meet Marshall’s eyes.
He probably feels guilty for what he did.
God, Marshall needed a drink.
“You know, if you’re trying to make up for what you did back then, this” —Marshall waved his hand toward the auction floor— “this doesn’t cut it.”
“Cut me some slack, Marsh. I was eighteen, and scared. All I can say is I probably would’ve done things differently, knowing what I know now.”
“So was I!” Marshall had raised his voice. He immediately pulled back. “Whatever.”
If Marshall could’ve done things differently back then, he would have told his younger, dorky self the fastest way to chase off a man is to act needy and pathetic. Secondly, he would have told his younger self Ronnie Spangler was a motherfucking asshole.
“Whatever you think I did, I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry? You told all your buddies you fucked the town fag, and you’re sorry!”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I never told anyone.”
“You’re a damn liar.”
“Christ, when did you get so fucking bitter?”
“When did you get so fucking fat?”
* * * *
Ronnie got up from the table and left the room. He needed some air.
First some fresh air. Then, to kill his cousin.
Gripping the railing, he clenched his jaw, holding in the scream building up. The gentle rocking of the ship should have calmed him, but it didn’t.
Contrary to what Marsh thought, he never told anyone about what happened. Why the hell would he?
It wasn’t like Ronnie had forced himself on Marshall. The boy wanted it. He begged for it. But goddamn, that was good. Most people talk about their first time being a disaster. His first time with Marsh had been amazing. He still thought about it to this day.
It was at one of his football buddies’ graduation parties. Marshall had come with Charlotte. He looked so damn nerdy, so damn cute. Marsh didn’t know how sexy he was, but Ronnie did. Ronnie always noticed, just like he noticed the way Marsh used to stare at him when he thought no one was looking.
When their eyes met that hot summer night, years of pent-up sexual tension exploded between them.
And now, not only was he still pissed, but he had a hard-on to go with it.
Just fucking great.
* * * *
“You are dead ass wrong.”
Charlotte stood with her hands on her hips, glaring at Marshall.
Marshall balked. “I’m dead ass wrong? What about you? You manipulated me. You manipulated Ronnie. Did you think I was just going to swoon, say ‘My Hero!’ then jump into his arms and his bed?”
Marshall rolled his eyes. “You’re so gross.”
Charlotte sat down at the table. She leaned in and let out a soft sigh. “Look, I know how you guys felt about each other. Something happened between you two at that party. You had this look in your eyes. Not to mention you were definitely walking funny.”
“When he left, I saw how hurt you were.”
“How? You were gone, too. You left me behind.” A lump caught in Marshall’s throat. “Those guys… You don’t know what it was like, trapped there with them…” His voice trailed off. If he continued on, he’d break down, and he’d already shed more than enough tears.
“But you’re not there. You’re—”
“You’re right.” Marshall looked around, taking in all of the men around him. Men like him. Right now, he was away from that miserable hell of a town. Even for a few days, he had the chance to be himself. To change his life.
He wasn’t about to waste the opportunity.
* * * *
Want to read more? The flash will be expanded into a short story with the rest of today’s flashes, and available as an Anthology ebook.