Read Different Sin Online

Authors: Rochelle Hollander Schwab

Different Sin (34 page)

The trip back home occupied seeming endless hours, waiting for the Washington-bound train, searching frantically for a cab to cross the city, the checkpoints at the Long Bridge. His watch showed nearly midnight as he stumbled through the cobblestone streets of his hometown.

The house was dark. David pushed the door open, stood a moment in the front hall. By the light of the streetlamp outside the parlor window he saw his father’s figure, upright and still in the wing chair. “Dad?” Silence answered him. David held his breath till he made out the rise and fall of his father’s chest, his sudden startled exhalation.

He ran across the room, knelt down by his chair. “Dad? Oh God, Dad, I’m sorry.”

Dr. Carter turned slowly. “I prayed you’d return. I thank God you’ve come to your senses,” he said heavily.

“I’m sorry. I had no right to judge you. I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but—”

“Stop playing the fool, David. Get off your knees to me. It’s God’s forgiveness you need to ask.” David fumbled behind him, sat down on the edge of the ottoman. “I will. I mean, I do. I didn’t mean what I said about Mike. I don’t know why—”

“It’s a bit late for you to reproach me for my sins, David. I’ve paid for my weakness with Hetty.”

“I know. I know you have, Dad.” David twined his fingers together, stared down at them. “You and Hetty. I don’t even think anymore— If you sinned, it was a different sin,” he said, speaking almost to himself. “Denying Mike, selling him—”

“David!” Dr. Carter’s fingers dug into his shoulder. “My behavior is not at issue here! I’m talking about that—
that abomination
you confessed to me this evening! Or— No! I can’t believe— It isn’t true! Some kind of sick fancy—You’ve a head injury, you’re not yourself.” He gripped David tighter, his face wild with hope.

“Christ, why would I say—”
For God’s sake, tell him what he wants to hear!
He couldn’t. Nor could he understand why he was unable to grasp the retreat his father offered. “It’s the truth, Dad. I’m sorry. I wish I could tell you otherwise. I—I’ve never been able to love a woman. I’ve been attracted to men—to Zach—for years, but I was never able to come to terms with it till now.” He reached out suddenly, laid a hand tentatively over his father’s.

Dr. Carter took his hand from David’s shoulder, gently covered their clasped hands. “Thank God you’ve come to your senses before it’s too late! When you ran out of here I was so frightened for you. And all I could do was pray. I knew it was the weight of your guilt made you lash out at me like that. But you’ll be able to rid yourself of that burden now. God forgives the repentant sinner.”

“Oh God. I— Dad, I came back to ask your forgiveness for the way I spoke to you. Not to— I still care for Zach, very much so. I mean to spend the rest of my life with him if he’s still—”

“No! My God, no!” The old man’s face crumpled in pain again. He lowered his head into his hands, shaking with sobs.

“Dad. Dad, please.” David watched helplessly as his father wept, finally put an arm hesitantly around his shoulders.

Dr. Carter sat upright, threw off David’s hand. “You’re committing a mortal sin, don’t you understand that?”

David looked at his father, started to reach out a hand to him again, drew it back. “If I am, then I’ll have to answer for it when my time comes.”

“Son, I forbid you to return to this man! Do you hear me?”

“Christ, Dad. If you knew how I’ve wrestled— If I have to answer for it, then I will. But not to you. I’ve got to live according to my own lights now. I’m a grown man.” For a moment, absurdly, it seemed the first time he’d realized it.

Dr. Carter drew in his breath in a broken sob, a sound heavy with defeat, then gazed at David in a silence marred only by the separate rhythms of their breathing, the ticking of the mantel clock. A slow stream of tears trickled unchecked down the wrinkled hollows of his cheeks. David rose, gently brushed the wetness from his father’s face with his fingers, touched his arm. “Dad, it’s late. Let me help you up to bed. We can talk in the morning.”

“Take your hands off me, David.” The old doctor grasped the chair arms, pushed himself stiffly to his feet, eyes still blurry with tears. “If you leave here to persist in that abomination, then don’t come back to this house again.”

“Dad! Wait, please! You don’t—” His father turned, placed a hand on the bannister, began to haul himself slowly up the stairs. “I don’t know where I’ll be living,” David said to his back. “If you change— If you want to contact me for anything, I guess you can write in care of
Leslie’s.”
He waited through another long moment of silence, then opened the door and walked out of his father’s house.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now that he’d finally come to the end of the day-long ride in the packed train, the ferry across the Hudson, the frantic rush through the crowded New York streets, his fears of the evening before returned with paralyzing abruptness. He’d cut himself off from his father’s love. If Zach turned him away— David stood rooted to the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Chapman’s, oblivious to the clatter of carriage wheels on the cobblestones, the throng of Saturday night revelers hurrying toward restaurants and theaters.

Hell, he’d spent the whole endless trip thinking and rethinking his words to Zach. He couldn’t turn back now. He yanked the doorknob from the hand of an exiting boarder, burst inside. Two elderly men were making their way from the dining room. They gave David a look of surprise, nodded uncertainly. He brushed past them, ran upstairs, turned down the hall toward Zach’s room. The door opposite Zach’s opened. Elliot stepped out, giving a final pat to his cravat, smoothing his mustache. He gave David a puzzled glance. “Can I help you?”

David winced, recalling Elliot’s incredulous stare that night he’d found them out, felt himself flush. “Is Zach here, Elliot?”

“David? Jeez, I didn’t recognize you with that beard. Chrissake, you look like something the cat dragged in. Where the hell you been? Leslie’s been on pins and needles waiting to hear from you. Did you bring your sketches of the mine crater? Ed sent word that—”

“Never mind that now. I’m looking for Zach. Is he here?”

“Jesus.” A smirk spread across Elliot’s face. “So you really are nothing but a nance. You’ve come running back to him, is that it?”

Hell, how could he face him? How could he even face him? David took a deep breath, forced himself to look Elliot square in the eyes. “Yes, that’s right. If he’ll still have me, that is.”

“Well, Holy Mother of God!” Elliot’s smirk wavered, was chased across his face by shock, bewilderment, a reluctant flicker of respect, then newly expectant scorn as he glanced from David to a point just behind him. “For chrissake! I might’ve looked for that from Zach there, but—”

David spun around. Zach stood in his open doorway, his face working. David took a step toward him, Elliot dismissed from his mind. He swallowed, his mouth going dry, unable to give voice to any of the loving phrases, the apologies he’d rehearsed over and over. He took another step toward Zach, his hands held out in wordless appeal.

For a seeming eternity of heartbeats David waited, Zach’s face hidden from him now by a curtain of stinging tears. Then Zach’s hands closed warmly over his, pressed with loving fierceness as he drew him into his room.

Author Biography

Rochelle Schwab is the mother of two grown daughters and a proud grandmother. She lives with her husband in the Washington, DC area where she is active in the Metropolitan Washington chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

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