Being the kind of kid born and raised in a church (quite literally, he popped out mid-sermon Christmas Eve, to Jesus jokes galore), the last thing he can admit to his parents is that he is gay. He's seen what happens, exiled off to conversion camp, to bleed the gay out them.
He's not the real Jesus. He's not bleeding nothing for nobody.
His parents have tried setting him up with the girls at church. They corner him at the dinner table during their Sunday lunches when he comes over post church.
"Robin, don't you think Marybeth looked pretty today in her pink dress?"
"Robin, did you hear that Elizabeth broke up with her boyfriend? Better make your move before someone else does."
That's usually the point he shovels the peas in his mouth. It's rude to talk through a mouth full of peas. (To make matters worse, he rather hates peas, so this is saying something here.)
There comes a point, mid-July, when he cuts them off and says he has a girlfriend. They gasp in shock and start asking a million questions at once. He shovels in more peas.
"Guys, calm down. As much as I'd like to answer all your questions, I don't have time today. I have a date after this." It's a date with Netflix, and some real, non-mushy food, no offense Mom. They don't need to know the details. Omission is not a lie.
That girlfriend one, that's a harder lie to lie about.
"That's alright. Bring her with you next week."
They're not going to take no for an answer. He'll wait until next Sunday to say she came down with a cold, or that they broke up, or something, but for now he says yes. He chugs the rest of his water and excuses himself from the table to go home to get ready. They're too excited to care.
Their son finally has a girlfriend.
A completely imaginary, female, girlfriend. One word.
He posts an ad on Craigslist, begging for help. If anybody will come eat lunch with his parents, they'll get a free meal out of the deal. They're even offering to make roasted lamb. He hasn't had lamb in years, and he's already salivating as he types, hoping that this will work.
Riley responds to his posting. She says that she is in a theatre troupe and is up for the challenge. They spend the afternoon briefing each other through text about all their important details.
There may have been one insignificant detail that Riley neglected to mention.
"You're a man?"
"Last I checked." Riley looked down to the obvious bulge in his pants. "Yup, still a dangler."
Robin bangs his head against the doorway of his apartment. "I put an ad out for a female date."
Taking his phone out, he pulls up a screenshot.
"w4m. Need fake dinner date to show off to parents. Free lamb. It says it right there."
"Drat, I switched the letters. It was supposed to say m4w."
"I realize that now." He tucks his phone away. He could cut loose now, not have to pretend that he's into this kid. Still, free lamb is hard to pass up, especially considering he's eaten nothing all morning in anticipation.
They're going to be late for church. Robin half considers dolling him up in makeup and bringing him anyway. But like he said, it dangles, quite obviously, and short of a very intense prayer, nobody is going to buy it. Not even if he shaves his gorgeously long beard and glues it to his head.
His church doesn't approve of cross dressing anyhow. Rigid old bats.
"Okay, how about this. I say that my girlfriend got sick, but her brother, that's you, is here to answer any and all questions about her?"
"Do I still get lamb?"
"Then let's roll."
They speed to church, and slip into the back pew. His mother's eyes widen. She nudges her husband, and he too turns to stare, causing half the congregation to swivel around.
He keeps enough room for the God between them. As much as he is digging Riley's lumberjack vibe, complete with a flannel that he can picture himself swimming in after some no so church friendly activities, he needs to pretend that they are just friends. Friends that met on Craigslist under the guise that he is his girlfriend, so all the girls, who are currently sneaking peeks at Riley, can stop being offered up as sacrifices.
Duty calls, and Riley sneaks past Robin, butt gliding too close to his face for comfort. Now he's trying to hide his arousal in a back church pew. It only takes a minute to pee, and he's back, sneaking past Riley, who has the Bible sitting on his lap.
"Dude, no offense, but your minister is really boring." His date has also picked up a Bible and is holding his phone inside.
"Then why come?"
"Parents." The parents that are four rows ahead of him, with two seats reserved, one for him and his imaginary lady friend. They're super into the sermon, as is everyone else. It's not like they'd notice if they slipped out for a few minutes.
On the tips of his toes, Robin slips through the door to the outside. The sun is bright, and he takes a minute to soak it in. Riley follows outside and spits out a slew of curse words.
"You okay, man?"
"I couldn't say any of that stuff in a church. It was building up in there."
"You do realize you're still on God's property, right?" They're literally two feet from the door. Two feet from a door that he doesn't want to re-enter. Possibly ever. He moves further away.
Riley nudges him in the chest. "Go on, try it. It feels good."
He nudges him again. Nudges him and steps closer, and he can feel his breath on his neck, taunting him.
The word slips out. It's a gut reaction, because he is so aroused, and that Bible was left abandoned in the back pew, and there is nothing to hide it now.
Riley glances down in shock. He grabs his wrist, and then his keys, getting into the back of the mini van.
At first Robin thinks that they're going to do that four letter word, the one that slipped. Instead Riley kneels to the floor, hand resting gently on him.
Dear God, he's going to need new pants by lunchtime.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm just surprised."
"At?" He glances down to where his hand is still resting. "Oh, right, I'm gay. Hence the whole needing a date, so that my parents don't figure out why I keep rejecting all the girls they try to get me with. Probably should have been more specific in my ad, huh?"
Riley doesn't respond right away. He strokes his hand up and down his thigh, slowly, making Robin shake. The sun is bright, and any passerby can see in his windows. Church will be done in half an hour and-
Oh, this is nice.
His pants are stolen from him, and he knows this is the last thing he should be doing in a church parking lot. Then again, he already broke at least three other holy rules (texting in the Bible, ditching church, and cursing, now multiple times) so what's a fourth?
He collapses onto the floor, on top of Riley, who is searching for a napkin to wipe his mouth clean.
"To answer your question, it wasn't you being gay that surprised me. It was the fact that apparently I'm not as straight as I thought I was." He finds a napkin and mops his beard up.
"Is that a good surprise or a bad surprise?"
Riley kisses him.
He's going to take that as his answer.
"Do you have any idea how hard it's going to be to get through lunch this afternoon pretending I'm your girlfriend's brother?" He kisses him again, paying no regard to the time. Church will be done in ten minutes, and they still need to get back inside.
"What if you don't?"
"Then I don't get free lamb."
"You also avoid mushy peas though. And I'll buy you McDonalds."
He strokes his beard. "That was not what was offered in the ad. I claim false advertisement, sir."
"I'll put up a new ad."
"Or you could just let me ask you on a second date. We can meet the parents a different day. Tell them I came down with the same thing as my sister. You are dumping my imaginary sister for me, right?"
Robin jumps into the driver's seat.
"Chicken nuggets or a cheeseburger, oh sick one?"
Riley moves up into the passengers seat. "Are you on the menu?"
Never did he think a typo in a Craigslist ad would get him where he is right now. Or where he is going to be in twenty minutes, with his mother going straight to voicemail, wondering if she should save him any peas. She knows how he loves his peas.
Just like how she knows how he loves his girls.
If only she knew.