I love feeling the mud under those new boots as I set off across Jack’s beautiful farmland with a load of planks on my shoulder and a hammer stuffed down my waistband. They feel just perfect on my feet, as though they were made for me. Just like Jack and Mike are.
I’m nearly done with the fencing, but that’s okay now, because I’ve a chicken coop to make and a sheep pen to make after that, even if Jack hasn’t quite said yes yet.
I know he will.
I take a breath as I check out the clouds. They’re the fluffy white kind that turn into pictures the more you stare at them.
I see a rabbit, and a dragon. And a cock.
I laugh as I see a big white cock in the sky.
I laugh as I realise I’ve got everything I ever wanted, all right here. I laugh at how bizarre that feels, to have so much after having so little.
I laugh until happy tears stream down my face, and it’s a release. A beautiful release.
I’ve never cried happy tears before. Plenty of sad ones, but none like these.
We could be together forever – Jack, Michael, and me. Last night chased all those final fears away – the ones that cling on tight and won’t let go – because I know now that they really do love each other, and it’s more than friends, even if it’s not like that. Now I know this can work, properly work, because there’s nothing left to freak them out and send them running. There’s nothing more I’ll ask them to do, not unless they want it for themselves, because they’ve touched dicks and tongues and came all the same, and what else could possibly happen by accident? Nothing.
Anything else that happens will be because they want it, but it won’t be me pushing. It’ll be all them.
I can breathe this morning because I feel safe. Safe knowing Michael and Jack can handle this. All of this, and all of me. Even if I can be a brat sometimes, although I don’t have even half of the smart mouth I used to have.
They’d put me over their knees if I did, and that would be no bad thing either.
I drop my planks at the right spot and get to work on fixing up one of the worst panels, glad that this is one of my last ones and not the very first ones I started, because I’m so much better now than I was then.
In every way, not just with fences.
Maybe all things happen at the right time. Maybe this was the last fence I came across, because I needed to learn about the other fences first. Maybe life has a plan like that.
Maybe I had to know what it was like to have no love at all, just so I can really appreciate having so much of it.
I’ve got so much of it I could burst.
More than enough for Jack and Mike and some chickens and sheep, and maybe some ponies and dogs too. I grin at the thought.
This is really it. They’ve seen the worst of me and now they’re seeing the best of me. I’ll put myself on the line for them just as they put themselves on the line for me.
I breathe a sigh of relief that the nerves have finally left my belly after all this time, smiling as I feel my phone buzz in my pocket.
I wonder which one of them it is.
Maybe Jack with a stupid joke, or Mike checking how I’m doing with the fence.
But it’s neither.
And the nerves are back in one terrible heartbeat.
He wants his money and his text makes it perfectly clear.
His words make me shiver.
You owe me.
The attached photo makes my heart race. A picture of the centre of Lydney.
Oh my God, he’s really here.
But he doesn’t know Jack. He doesn’t know where I live now.
I try to force the nerves away but they won’t budge an inch.
All the filthy things I did for him come back to pool in my belly. They make me feel sick. I used to think it was okay before I knew what real love felt like, but now I know it isn’t. It never was.
What he did to me was cruel and disgusting. The way he made me use my body for him was a world away from how Jack and Mike make me feel.
I don’t care that he’s my brother anymore, or that he’s holding family news over my head. I don’t care that I may never get to see them again if I don’t do what he wants. If they wanted me, they’d have found me long ago. If they still believe his lies after all these years then I’m better off without them.
All the years of making excuses for him in the name of love seem so stupid now. All the lies I told to protect him. All the lies I told myself because I wanted to believe he loved me.