Thinking about the time he spent with Jay and Tommy, Aaron realized that there was a strong, undeniable attraction to Jay. The time he spent playing darts, one of his favorite sports, next to surfing, with them was one of the best evenings he'd spent since Iukekini died. Opening the door to his small apartment over a seedy strip club, he reluctantly entered, wishing he lived anywhere but here. If Jay were to ever see this place, he'd know what a total loser I am and that would most likely be the end of our friendship. His heart was trying to tell him there was more to it than friendship, but he wasn't in a place to listen. He searched around and found the business card that Tony had given him, calling the number on it.
"Kyle Matthews-Williams Foundation, Kailani speaking. How can I help you?"
"Hi, this is Aaron Suarez. I was wondering if I could make an appointment to speak with Tommy Adams. He was the grief counselor who helped me when my boyfriend was killed by a bunch of drunken boaters a year ago."
"One moment please." Music filtered into the phone as he was placed on hold. A minute later, the receptionist came back on the line. "Tommy has openings tomorrow morning, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. When would be a good time for you, or do you need to speak with one of our grief counselors sooner than tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow morning would be fine."
"How about ten o'clock?"
"That would be perfect."
"Okay you're all set for ten tomorrow morning with Tommy. Is there anything else I can help you with?'
"Nope I'm good. Thank you and have a great rest of your day."
"Thank you, Mister Suarez. You have a great one too. Bye bye." The receptionist hung up.
Great. Maybe he can help me figure out what's happening to me. He headed out to go grocery shopping and returned an hour later loaded with groceries. Okay, they invited me to spend the afternoon with them. I'd like to do something for them to thank them, but what? I know as soon as they find out how poor I am, that will be the end of our friendship. This sucks, not having any real friends to hang out with. Iukekini's death affected him so deeply that his job performance suffered. His station chief ordered him to take some time off and get counseling. It was at Kyle's post-funeral party at Nighttown Waikiki that he learned about the Kyle Matthews-Williams Foundation so he decided to go and see if he could talk with a grief counselor. He was given an appointment for that afternoon with Tommy, which was lucky because they were very busy.
Eventually, with the help of Tommy, his job performance was back to normal. His life ended up consisting of work and home, only going out when he couldn't stand sitting alone at home. He'd sit alone, not talking with anyone and refusing any advances; getting quietly drunk then pouring him into a cab. His friends and co-workers tried everything they could think of to help him, but eventually gave up trying.
He finally reached the point where he didn't want to be alone anymore. He really needed a friend, and finally found one. Jay. The possibility that Jay could be more than just a friend never entered his mind. He returned to Jay's several hours later, announced himself over the intercom and drove up to the house after the gate opened, where he was met by Jay.
"I'm glad you came back. What's all this?" he asked, indicating the various bags he was carrying.
"I stopped by the store and bought some supplies to replenish what I used for breakfast and also thought that I could make dinner for you guys. I really love to cook, but it's hard to cook for just one. I hope you don't mind."
"You really didn't have to do all this. Dinner does sound nice, though. What else ya got?" indicating the square black bag slung over one shoulder and the small gym bag slung over the other.
"You told me to bring my swim trunks and a change of clothing." He indicated the gym bag. "Last night in the living room I noticed that you had a lot of games, so I kinda figured you guys like to play board and card games. I brought a really cool one over that I saw you didn't have called Chaos Isle."
"Awesome. Let me help you put the stuff away and we can play. Or do you need more than two people?"
"Chaos Isle can be played with anywhere from one to six people."
"Really? You can play it by yourself?"
"Yeah, that's just one of the ways."
"I take it that that's what's in the black bag?"
"Damn. The game must be huge if it fills up a bag that size."
"No, actually it's quite small. I just have multiple copies of it."
"Really? Why's that?"
"I'm what you call a Chaos Isle Survivor. I go to different game stores and put on demos of the game and host tournaments as part of their organized play program. I have four complete sets for tournaments, and one starter set for teaching and demoing the game."
"So it's like Magic: the Gathering then?"
"Yes and no. It's expandable, but not collectible. Unlike Magic where you have to buy a lot of starters and boosters in hopes of getting all of the cards, when you buy Chaos Isle, you get every card."
"So it's more like Killer Bunnies?"
"You guys play Bunnies?"
"We used to. We haven't played since Kyle died. It was his all-time favorite game."
"Which one, Quest for the Magic Carrot, Journey to Jupiter or Ultimate Odyssey?"
"Quest for the Magic Carrot. I've never heard of the other two."
"I don't have Odyssey yet. It's brand new and is sold out as soon as the store gets a shipment in. They've promised to hold a set for me. As for Jupiter, perhaps some time I can bring it over and show you guys how to play. I actually like it better than Quest."
"Like what better than Quest, Aaron?" Tommy asked, coming in after finishing up cleaning the pool.
"Apparently there are two other Killer Bunnies games out there, Killer Bunnies and the Journey to Jupiter and Killer Bunnies and the Ultimate Odyssey."
"Awesome. I'd love to check them out. Bunnies rocks!"
"I was just telling Jay that I don't have Odyssey yet, but I could maybe sometime bring Jupiter over to show you guys, if you want."
"We definitely want." Tommy replied, enthusiastically. "We haven't played Bunnies in so long..." He cleared his throat and turned away.
"Anyway, Aaron brought over a new game to show us. Chaos Isle. Care to join us?"
"Sure. Let's get some lunch then we can play while we wait for it to digest before we hit the beach."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Oh shit! I forgot something in the car. I'll be right back." Aaron ran out then rang the doorbell a few seconds later.
"I wonder who that could be." Jay opened the door. "Aaron, you could have just come back in. You didn't need to ring the doorbell."
"It's not my home. Otherwise, I would have."
My home. Jay mentally repeated. I like the sound of that. "So what did you forget?"
"This." He replied, pulling a deli tray of assorted cheese bits, sliced pepperoni, sliced salami and crackers from its bag. "I thought we could munch on this while we played Chaos Isle. I like to munch when I game. Usually it's a veggie platter, but the deli didn't have any made up, so I had to settle for this."
"Aaron" Jay began carefully, "you don't have to give us a bunch of stuff, or cook for us."
"I'm not giving this to you. I'm sharing it with you. Like I said, I like to munch when I game. As far as the cooking goes, I love to cook and entertain. I used to do it a lot before Iukekini died. Now, I just can't."
"After he died, I couldn't afford to keep the apartment, so I had to move into a one-room shithole apartment above a strip joint." Wary of their reactions, he continued. "You could fit my entire apartment in the room I slept in last night and still have plenty of room to spare."
"Aaron, I'm sorry. I didn't know. You can come and cook for us anytime you want, but just don't feel that you have to."
"It's a deal. Now, what do you say we go kill some Zombies."
"Kill some Zombies? I thought we were going to learn how to play Chaos Isle?"
"We are. That's what Chaos Isle is all about."
"Okay, let's play."
After explaining how to play the game then they played for several hours without even realizing it. "I'm sorry guys. I hadn't intended for us to play so long. I knew you wanted to hang out at the beach."
"Don't be. We can hang out at the beach anytime. I had a lot of fun. I want to get the game as soon as I can. It's awesome." Jay glanced at his watch. "Shit! It's five-thirty. We need to start thinking about dinner."
"That's my department. If you will permit me..."
"You know where the kitchen is. Do you need any help?"
Aaron gave Jay a shy, sweet smile. "No, but you could keep me company, if you'd like."
The conversation between Aaron and Jay was easy and light. They spent the rest of the evening playing Chaos Isle, finally deciding to call it a night around eleven. The next day Aaron once again found himself sitting in Tommy's office. "It's been a long time since you've been here to see me, Aaron. How are you doing?"
"I'm confused, Tommy. Something's happening to me that I don't understand."
"And what is that?"
"I think I'm starting to develop feelings for someone."
"You think you are, or you are?" Tommy queried.
Aaron blushed. "I am, but isn't it too soon? Iukekini died a little over a year ago. Wouldn't getting involved with another guy be an insult to him and his memory?"
No, it wouldn't, Aalona. Iukekini's voice slipped quietly into his mind, addressing him by the Hawaiian equivalent of his name. I want you to be happy, baby. You've been sad for so long. Aaron stiffened in his chair.
Seeing Aaron's eyes glaze over, Tommy tapped him on the arm. "Aaron, are you okay?"
"No. I think I'm losing my mind."
"I think I just heard Iukekini's voice in my head telling me that he wants me to be happy and that it was okay to be with someone new."
"I don't think you are losing your mind. What you just experienced is not unheard of, and no, you would not be dishonoring him. You've grieved for Iukekini as you should have, but now it's time to move on with your life. It's been what, a year you said?"
"We usually recommend waiting about a year after the death of a spouse before dating again, just to make sure that you are ready to begin dating again."
"So how do I know if I'm ready?"
"I'm afraid there's no mathematical formula to determine that or a cut-and-dry answer. Everyone is different. Tell me this. How do you feel when you're around Jay?
"How did you know it was Jay?" Aaron asked, caught completely off-guard.
"It wasn't hard to figure out. All someone has to do is see the way the two of you look at each other. Jay looks at you the same way he used to look at Kyle, and you look at him the same way."
"But he hasn't said anything."
"I'd be willing to bet that he's questioning himself the same way you are. Did you know that he and Kyle were together for twenty-five years?"
"No, I didn't know. Wow, what a selfish asshole I am."
"Why do you say that, Aaron?"
"Here I am feeling guilty about betraying Iukekini, who I was with for only three years. I never even thought to consider what Jay might be going through."
"You couldn't have known, and you're not being an asshole. Let me tell you a little something. Two years ago, when Kyle died, Jay absolutely refused to sleep in the room he shared with Kyle. He slept every night since then in one of the guest rooms."
"Yeah, I overheard you tell him that there would be more room if he slept in his own room, which didn't make sense to me at the time. Now it does."
"Right. Well, the night you stayed over when he went to bed, he went to bed in his own room. Not only that, but the next morning when you left after breakfast he went to clean up the kitchen. He was whistling as he unloaded the dishwasher, and I heard him singing in the shower, neither of which he's done since Kyle died."
"Why is that, I wonder?" Aaron asked.
"I can tell you why. You came into his life. He's finally opened his heart and let someone in and about time too. You need to do the same. Open up to him. Let him in. I can tell he's head-over-heels in love with you, and I think you are in love with him as well."
I agree, Aalona. It's time you let me go. Be with Jayson. The two of you will be very happy together. You have so much love to give. He needs that love. Do this for me, please. Share your love with him. Nothing would make me happier than to see you happy again. Iukekini's words floated gently into Aaron's mind. He started crying. This time, Tommy didn't hesitate to pull him into his arms and let him cry.
"It's okay, Aaron. Everything will be okay." Tommy whispered.
Aaron pulled himself together and pulled away from Tommy. "I know it will. I heard Iukekini's voice in my mind telling me to let go and be with Jay. I don't know if he wants me or not, but I'm willing to give it a shot."
"Believe me, he does. You'll just have to take it slow and easy, one day at a time. Let me warn you, though, if you hurt him, you'll have me, Andy, Tony and Billy to deal with, not to mention his kids."
"Don't worry. I have no intention of hurting him. Wait a minute, he has kids?"
"You didn't know? He and Kyle adopted a boy and a girl. Adam is thirty, happily married with a son, and Janita is twenty-seven and has a wife."
"Wow. That really changes things big time."
"In what way?"
"What if we get together and his kids don't like me? It may come down to Jay having to choose between his family and me, and if that happens, it will be over for us. He'd have to choose his family over me. It would be wrong to choose me over his family, plus the fact that I'm only fifteen years older than Adam."
"Trust me, that won't happen. As long as you make Jay happy and treat him right, they will love you. The age difference won't matter either. The only thing that matters in that family is how everyone loves and treats one another"
"I hope so, but first I have to win Jay over, then his kids."
"Both of which will be a lot easier than you think. Like I said earlier, he's crazy about you. It will just take time for him to come out and say it. Be patient with him."
"Anything worth having is worth waiting for, right?"
"You got it, and I don't think you'll have to wait long."
Aaron stood and shook hands with Tommy. "Thanks so much, Tommy. I appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to talk with me."
"Any time Aaron, but don't bother to make an appointment next time. Just give me a call or stop by the house. That's what friends are for."
A couple of tears escaped Aaron's eyes. "You don't know how much that means to be to be called your friend. I lost all of my friends when Iukekini died. I didn't realize until last night when I got home how much I missed having friends to cook for, play games with and just hang out with."
"You're welcome to come over anytime you want. Just be sure to call first and make sure someone is home. I would hate to have you drive all the way out to the house and have nobody there."
"I will. Thanks so much, Tommy." He pulled Tommy into a hug of gratitude, then left.
 Chaos Isle is copyright © and trademarked ™ by ReamsMasters Game Forge, 2008, all rights reserved.
 Magic: the Gathering is trademarked™ and copyright © Wizards of the Coast, all rights reserved.
 Killer Bunnies, Quest for the Magic Carrot, Journey to Jupiter and Ultimate Odyssey are copyright © 2002-2010 by Jeffrey Neil Bellinger and Playroom Entertainment, all rights reserved.