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Mason's heart squeezed in anguish as he gazed across the backyard of his parents' house and watched the man of his dreams lean down to kiss the cute little blond woman in his arms. The object of Mason's desire was Jack.
It wasn't a famous name, or an adventurous name, or even a poetic name. But to Mason Philips, it was the most beautiful name in the world, because it belonged to Jack Spencer, the man Mason had been dreaming about for the last ten years. And for Mason, it had been ten years of secret yearnings, stolen glances, and forbidden fantasies.
His problem was that Jack had been such a part of his life for the last ten years that he wasn't sure what to do without the man. Mason had been just sixteen years old attending his brother, Randy's engagement party when he had met Jack. It had been love at first sight. Mason's feelings hadn't changed in all that time, even after he had learned that Jack was straight.
Before Jack, Mason had never believed in the love at first sight hype. Now he wondered what he would do without Jack in his life. How would he survive without Jack's dimpled smile, his easy laughter, and his warm presence?
Mason had spent the last ten years hiding his feelings from Jack and everyone else. He had gotten so good at it that it surprised him each and every time he saw Jack and his feeling resurfaced.
Mason 's spirits sank even deeper as he watched Jack flirt with Angela. It was time to give up his fantasies and bury his feelings for Jack, to move on with his life, before he had even less of a life than he had now.
With a heavy heart, Mason walked across the yard and sat down at the picnic table with his parents. He looked at themboth for several moments as he tried to gather his courage together. He needed to tell them he was leaving. It wasn't going to be easy. He was the baby of the family.
"Hey, Mom, Dad, can I talk to you for a few minutes?" Mason gave them a small, tentative smile.
"Sure, Mason, what's up?" his mother, Janet, asked as she turned to look at him.
"Well, you know that I have just a year left before I get my Ph.D. in Psychology, right?"
"Yes, of course," Janet replied. "What's this all about, Mason?"
Mason's hands twisted together. He really did not look forward to this part. "I'm transferring to another university. Georgetown University in Washington D.C. has a great program that I can attend while finishing my degree classes. I can get a minor in Applied Cultural & Community Socialization at the same time."
"D.C.? Washington D.C.?" Janet croaked out as she reached an unsteady hand out for her husband's.
"It's a great program, Mom. I'll still be getting my Ph.D. in Psychology, but with this minor, I'll be specializing. It will go a long way toward getting my foot in the door with what I really want to do," Mason rationalized.
"Oh, Mason, Washington D.C.? That's so far away, honey. We'd never get to see you."
"Sure you would. I'll be home for holidays and stuff. Besides, I won't be gone that long. I only have a year left." Mason said, his voice thick and unsteady. He took a deep breath then raised his eyes back up to meet his Mom's. His eyes clung to hers, analyzing her reaction. "This is something I need to do, Mom."
He watched his mother gaze at him for several moments. He could see the tears in her eyes as she finally nodded her head. "Okay, Mason. If this is what you need to do, I understand. Just remember that we're always here if you need us or want to come home."
Mason smiled and reached over for his mother's hand. He gave her hand a small squeeze. He knew his mother would understand, even if no one else did. She had always understood him. "Thanks, Mom. I promise I'll come home as often as I can."
As he looked past his mother to where Jack was standing with Angela, he didn't know how often that would be. It broke his heart every time he came to a family function and had to watch Jack with someone else.
In the past, Jack had often brought girls to the family gatherings, but it had been a different girl each time. Mason could pretend that Jack wasn't settling down because he was still looking for that perfect love. That maybe he still had a chance.
But for the last year, Jack had brought the same girl to every gathering. The rumor circulating through the family grapevine was that Jack was going to announce their engagement any day now.
Mason didn't think he could survive watching Jack marry someone else. Sure, he wanted Jack to be happy, which is why he did his absolute best to be civil to Angela, Jack's girlfriend. But it tore his heart apart each time he saw them together.
Knowing that Angela, as nice as she was, would be sleeping in Jack's bed every night, getting all Jack's love and affection, Mason didn't think he could continue to smile and be civilized. So, Mason had made the decision to move away.
"Are you sure about this, Mason?" Bob asked.
Mason sent his Dad a little smile. "As sure as I can be, Dad. I'm not terribly happy about leaving you all, but this is something I need to do. It's kind of hard being the baby of the family. I need to get out on my own a little.
"When do you leave?" Janet asked.
Mason colored fiercely as he answered. "Next week. I thought I'd drive there and have a little vacation time along the way. I already have an apartment waiting for me and everything. Classes start in two weeks, but I wanted to get there a little early and check the area out, get all moved in."
"So soon?" Janet asked. "Why didn't you tell us earlier? We could have thrown you a going away party or helped you move."
"I didn't tell you earlier just because of that. This is something I need to do, Mom. Besides, you know what Randy would say if he knew. He still doesn't understand me being in school all of this time. He still thinks he knows what's best for me."
Janet and Bob both chuckled. "Okay, Mason," Janet said, "If this is what you need to do, we'll support you in it. We just want you to be happy."
Mason didn't know if he was happy about it or not. He felt numb after finally making the decision to move, almost as if his head was a little clouded. He knew it would come, the pain and anguish from leaving Jack. He was hoping to put it off as long as possible. At least until he was by himself and could lick his wounds in private.