by Tim Mead
An Old Friend Comes to Visit
He went to bed, but he didn't drift off to sleep right away. Instead he found himself thinking about "the Brotherhood," which is what he and his three close friends sometimes called themselves, even before Tim had become a part of the group.
The four of them were tight from sophomore year: Trey, Chaz, Mark, and Cedric. They'd arranged to live two and two in the University's jock dorm, Trey and Chaz, Cedric and Mark. Even though they'd been apart after their graduation, they all kept in touch. He loved them still. Friends forever!
Mark had gone east to law school after Kent State. He'd been engaged to a great-looking German girl, but that didn't last. No one knew for sure, but his three buddies thought the girl had dumped him after parental pressure. The `rents apparently didn't want their daughter marrying an American, even one in so respectable a profession as the law. So Mark finished law school and passed his bar exams a half year before Cedric. He'd been hired immediately into a distinguished firm in Cincinnati where he had met, fallen for, and partnered up with Casey Eversole,* who played cello in the Cincinnati Symphony. None of his three "brothers" had ever suspected Mark of having the slightest gay leanings, though he'd always been more than accepting of their being gay. And despite the fact that his father, Stan, was living with his partner, Doug, in Florida. Maybe there was a gene after all.
Following in Tim's footsteps, Trey had gotten a PhD in English, though his was from UVA. And despite the tight job market he'd immediately landed an assistant professorship at the University of Richmond. Chaz, who'd completed an MS in Parks and Recreation, was now deputy director of Recreation, Parks, and Community Facilities in Richmond. Along with Trey's brother Rob and his wife, they lived in the Withers family home, which was big enough that privacy wasn't an issue.
Trey's email had said he'd tried to call but that Cedric's cell phone had been turned off. He said he'd try again. Chaz sent his love.
Haven't talked with Tiger for a while. It's like him to check up on me . . . .
Cedric called Trey after supper the next evening.
"Well, hey, counselor! How are things in Colby?"
"Settling in, thanks. How are you folks?"
"We're all well. Gwen's lamenting the loss of her girlish figure, but she and the baby are healthy."
"When's it due?"
"He's due about Thanksgiving time."
"Oh, it's a boy. Great! So you and Chaz can stop trying to give the family an heir."
Trey chuckled. "Oh, I don't see us slacking off in that department."
"Speaking of the Tall One, is he there?"
"No. He had to work late tonight. But he says to say, and I'm quoting here, `you're an all right kind of guy.'"
It was Cedric's turn to chuckle. "Has he ever actually told you he loves you?"
"Once in a while, depending on the phase of the moon. But he never leaves me in any doubt."
"Lucky man! You're both lucky."
"Are things really going okay for you, Ced? Are you getting out and meeting people? How's the new job? And your new boss?"
"Whoa, Tiger. I'm gradually getting to know folks. Since Colby's a university town, things are a little slow around here at the moment. It reminds me more of Kent than Ann Arbor. But that's okay. Gives me more time to ease into the job. Tyrese, my boss, is so smart he's scary, and I'd hate to come up against him in court. He's been nothing but nice to me, though. Now, my paralegal is another story."
"What's wrong with her? Or is it a guy?"
"It's a she. But forget I said anything. Let's not waste time talking about her."
"Okay. The reason I wanted to talk with you is to see what you're doing over the Labor Day weekend."
"I don't have any plans. You got something in mind?"
"Yeah, I'd like to invite myself to see you."
"Here or in Cleveland? I'd planned to go home, but I can show you around Colby if you'd rather."
"No, I'd love to see Angel and Jake. And I'm spending a night with Tim and Max."
"Oh." Of course he would do that if he were going to be in the area. "When will you arrive? Do you want me to pick you up at Hopkins?"
"I'll fly in on Friday evening, pick up a car at the airport, and come see you. Don't worry about dinner. Then I can spend Saturday with you. I'll drive down to Kent to see Tim and Max on Sunday and fly home on Monday."
"Sounds great. But Chaz won't be with you?"
"No. He'd originally planned to come, but his boss is taking the holiday weekend off, so Chaz has to be around to oversee what's going on in the city parks, which includes a fireworks display Saturday night."
"I suppose now that he's deputy director he has more responsibilities."
"Uh huh. But he doesn't mind the extra work. What bothers him is that when he decided to get into this field, he hoped he'd be working directly with kids. And he misses that."
"So now he's just basically an administrator."
"We've all traveled different roads since college, haven't we?"
"True, Ced, true."
But I'm the one who's alone, Cedric thought.
They chatted a while longer. Then Cedric heard Trey talking to someone.
"Rob just got home. He says to say hello."
"Hello, Rob." He heard Trey relay the message. "Let me know when your plane's due to arrive. And I'll start thinking about things we can do on Saturday."
"Don't make elaborate plans. I just want to see you and your folks while I'm in the area. But I'll let you know when my flight's supposed to get there and I'll call you from the airport, okay?"
"Great. Now, there's something I want you to do for me."
"Anything, bro." Ced smiled at the thought of his professor friend calling him `bro,' a term they'd all used for one another in college. "When Chaz gets home, grab him, stand on your tippy toes, and give him a really sexy kiss. Stick your tongue down his throat. And tell him it's from me."
Trey laughed. "Oh, I love that. It's a task I'll happily carry out."
"You'll have to let me know how he reacts."
They said their goodbyes and hung up.
Cedric called his mother to tell her of Trey's impending visit. She asked a few questions about how things were with Trey, Chaz, Rob, and Gwen.
And then she asked, "Trey said he wouldn't be here for supper Friday evening?"
"I hope you boys will have supper with your father and me on Saturday. Remember the Air Show is Labor Day weekend, and the restaurants are going to be crowded."
"Oh, yeah. Okay. He and I can fix our own breakfast. Maybe we can run in the morning. We'll be on our own for lunch. I may take him down to the Flats and we can watch the planes from there for a while. And we'll be at home for supper. But don't fuss. He wouldn't want you to do that."
"I'll get some steaks and you and your father can do them on the terrace."
Cedric rolled his eyes. "Which means Dad'll do them. You know he won't let anybody but him mess with the meat when he's grilling."
"And Chaz can't come?"
"No, ma'am. He's working."
"It's a wonder how the boy turned out. It seems he's really good for Trey. And that's fine, because Trey's the best one of the bunch of you!"
"Well, he is. But when I first met Chaz, he was nothing but a smart ass."
"Mother! You don't talk like that!"
She chuckled. "Shows how much you know. You say Trey's going to see Tim and Max on this trip?"
"Cedric, have you ever told anybody but me that you got your memory back about the year you were with Tim?"
"Mmm. That's what I thought. Maybe it's about time you told someone. And Trey would be the right person to start with. You know you can trust him."
"With my life."
"And he might give you good advice."
"About anything. Whatever Trey has to say to you, you'd be wise to listen."
"As usual, you're probably right, Mama."
"You are right, Mama."
"Best you remember that, boy."
"You're goin' all Aunt Jemima on me again, Angel."
"Whatever it takes to get the point across, baby."
The rest of August passed quickly.
At work Ced was moderately busy. The Boscos continued to wrangle over the division of their property, the last issue being their fifty-gallon aquarium of tropical fish. Ced had suggested they split the cost of another aquarium and divide the fish evenly, but both were unwilling to do that. So things were, momentarily at least, at an impasse.
Ms. Bott continued to be her brusque but efficient self. Cedric despaired of ever seeing a thaw in her icy demeanor.
He spent many of his evenings and Saturdays furniture shopping, going not only to Toledo but to Detroit to find just the right things for the new apartment. Except for bookshelves. He planned to ask his neighbors across the hall where they had gotten theirs but so far hadn't found the occasion.
One Thursday afternoon Tyrese called him at the office just before 5:00.
"Cedric, do you have plans for Saturday?"
"You up for more baseball?"
"Have you ever heard of the Mud Hens?"
"Sure. Who could forget a name like that?" The Mud Hens were Toledo's minor league baseball team, a farm team of the nearby Detroit Tigers.
"Digby and I are going. You're welcome to come along if you'd like. And you can bring a date if you want."
"Boss, if there's another single gay man my age in Colby, I haven't found him. But if it's just me, won't I be in the way?"
"Not at all. Digs and I want to introduce you to the pleasures of living in this area, such as they are. We like watching baseball in smaller, more intimate parks. And the quality of play will be at least marginally better than at the game we took you to in Colby a while back"
Cedric could relate to that sentiment.
"Do you want me to meet you at the park?"
"No need. Just come to Digby's about 6:00. We'll plan to eat when we get there. You don't have any problem with ballpark hot dogs, do you?"
Cedric grinned. "Nossir!"
"Good. See you Saturday at 6:00."
Cedric had been an Indians fan all his life, through good times and bad (mostly bad). He couldn't bring himself to root for the Tigers, but he supposed he could for the Mud Hens. And it turned out to be a pleasant evening at the ball park. Tyrese and Digby, who seemed to know all about the players, provided a running commentary about their present and past performances as the game went along.
The game went into extra innings. The Charlotte Knights had a two-run lead going into the top of the 11th, and the home team was unable to score, so it ended 8-6 Charlotte.
Afterwards Tyrese and Digby took Cedric to a gay bar on North Erie Street where they were greeted with smiles and shouts from the regulars.
Ced realized this stop must be a busman's holiday for Digby when the musicians who were about to start a set called out.
"Hey, bro. You gonna join us? You gotta join us!"
"Not tonight, dawg. I'm just here to have a drink and hang with my friends."
"Yeah, he's mine tonight," Tyrese said, grinning at the musicians.
The crowd was clamoring for them to start, so they took to the stage, but not before one of them warned, "This ain't over, Gautier!"
And later they did produce a sax and persuade him to play one piece, "Ornithology," which he said was an homage to Charlie Parker.
Cedric didn't claim to be an expert, but he was pretty sure Digby was the real thing. And his performance was rewarded with enthusiastic applause, along with hoots and some foot-stomping.
When Digby came back to their table, Cedric said, "Man, professor, you're somethin' else!"
"That's my man," Tyrese exclaimed, grabbing Digby's knee after he had sat down.
Digby smiled and shook his head. "No rest for the weary."
"Bullshit, bro. You know you love it."
Digby took a sip of beer. Cedric noted he didn't deny what Tyrese had said.
The signal event at work the following week was the agreement of the Boscos on the division of their property. Mrs. B. agreed not to insist on half of the extensive set of Craftsman tools Mr. B. had in their garage; he, in turn, relinquished his claim to the aquarium and all the fish.
Thus the paperwork could go forward. And Cedric breathed a relieved sigh. Let's hope there won't be another divorce for a while . . . even if they do make for a lot of billable hours.
As it turned out, Trey had to take a later plane than he'd expected. It was nearly 10:00 when he pulled up to Cedric's garage apartment in a Mustang convertible with the top down.
Trey was already out of the car by the time Cedric got down to greet him. He gave Cedric a gentle kiss on the lips. Then he pulled back and smiled.
"Chaz says to thank you for the hot kiss, but he absolutely forbade me to give you one back."
"Do you see Chaz anywhere?"
Trey grinned. "No."
Cedric grabbed him and they had a considerably warmer kiss than their first one.
When they let go, Trey pulled back and smiled. "When did you grow the `stache?"
"Started it just after Christmas."
"It's sort of like Clark Gable."
"Couldn't you think of someone of my own race who's got a thin mustache?"
"You might have said Chris Rock or someone else who's still alive."
Looking again at the convertible, Cedric said, "Man, I hate to think of you driving on Carnegie at this hour with the top down."
"There didn't seem to be many folk out and about."
"A block or so either side and there would have been. It's just a good thing you didn't have car trouble."
"A bunch of brothers standing on a street corner did yell something at me."
"Sorry about that. But you're here. And safe. You hungry?"
"No, I've eaten. But it's a warm night and I could use a drink." Trey popped the trunk lid of the Mustang.
"What would you like? If I don't have the fixin's I'm sure the folks will."
"How about a gin and tonic?"
"I can do that. Let me help with your stuff." He lifted a garment bag from the trunk. "You planning to get dressed up?"
"I didn't know what might come up with you and your folks. And I'm going to church with Tim on Sunday. I think Max is celebrating the Eucharist. The rector is away."
Cedric said, "Max and Chaz are in the same boat, huh?"
"Yeah, their bosses are taking the holiday and they have to stay behind and tend the shop. So to speak."
After they put Trey's things in the guest room, Cedric fixed their drinks, and they sat in the living room facing each other.
Trey looked good. Tired, maybe, but good. About 5'10," he'd stayed in shape. Cedric had always been fascinated by Trey's sometimes-green, sometimes-brown eyes, which seemed to see into people. He'd changed his hair. In college he had worn it in a jock's buzz cut. When he came back to school each fall after a summer of tennis and other outdoor activities, it was definitely blond. By spring it was darker, between blond and light brown. But now it was longer, wavy, with blond highlights in the honey. It looked windblown, no doubt from driving the convertible with the top down.
His face had changed a bit, had taken on a hint of maturity appropriate to the PhD professor.
He's still hot. And Chaz is a lucky guy. Not only because Trey looks so good, but also because he's such a remarkable man.
Trey caught Cedric up on Chaz, Rob, Gwen and their baby. He said he and Chaz had originally planned to spend Thanksgiving in Cincinnati with Chaz's family and they'd have seen Mark and Casey on that trip. Since the baby was due about then, however, they'd decided to stay in Richmond. But they were hoping to come to Ohio at Christmas time instead.
Trey wanted to know all about Tyrese, the new job, Colby, and Cedric's life in general, so Cedric filled him in.
Trey stifled a yawn, and a glance at his watch showed Cedric it was almost midnight. "What say we hit the sack, Tiger?"
"Sounds like a plan. I'm really wiped."
"Chaz give you a workout before you left?"
Trey blushed. "That's why I had to take a later plane." Then he burst out laughing. "C'mon. Tomorrow will be here before we know it."
"Yeah." Cedric smiled, hoping Trey wouldn't realize how much he missed having a lover to laugh with, play with, share his life with. He thought again of Tim and sighed. "Why don't you use the bathroom first?"
Although Cedric's apartment had two bedrooms, it had only the one bath.
He walked into his bedroom and stripped off his clothes. When Trey came out of the bathroom, Cedric was waiting in his white briefs.
Trey smiled. "I remember Tim saying how much he liked the look of you in tighty-whities."
"Yeah." Cedric didn't smile. "I wonder if he still wears green silk boxers."
"He probably wears whatever Max wants him to."
Cedric used his forefinger and thumb to smooth his mustache. "Yeah, I suppose he would."
Trey looked sad. "I'm sorry, Ced. That was a tactless remark."
"No problem, Tiger. Give me a kiss, and I'll see you in the morning."
On Saturday after breakfast they went for a run along a multi-purpose trail in the Metropark. Afterward they came back to Cedric's place and cleaned up.
About 10:30 they took the Mustang to the west bank of Cleveland's "Flats." There they could watch the pleasure boats going up and down the Cuyahoga and the railroad lift bridge that operated whenever a freighter or a tall-masted sailboat needed to pass underneath. Lots of other people were there, so they people-watched. A bonus was that they could see most of the planes involved in the air show at Burke Lakefront airport just east of the Browns' stadium, the Science Museum, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Only activities very close to the ground were hidden by the downtown buildings on the bluff above the river.
When his stomach growled, Cedric realized it had been a long time since breakfast. "You hungry yet, bro?"
"I could do with a hot dog and a brew."
"There's a vendor over there who doesn't seem too mobbed." Cedric led the way to the stand. "Four dogs loaded, and two of your coldest beers."
After paying, they walked around, juggling their food and drinks until someone vacated a bench and they grabbed it, content to eat, watch, and talk.
"Do you see Mark often?" Trey asked.
Cedric shook his head. "Not as often as I'd like. Lawyers don't get much time off, and Casey's schedule with the Symphony is crazy. But they were up here early in the summer. They did what you're doing . . . spent an afternoon with me before going to Kent to see Tim."
"Had you met Casey before?"
"Yeah, I went down last summer for a weekend. Mark and I heard the Pops play on the Saturday night."
"They seem happy?"
"Yeah, they do. Casey's sweet."
"Come on, Ced. You're holding back."
"Nothing against Casey. It's just that he's, well, he's not a flamer exactly, but he's so obviously out there."
"And that's a problem?"
"No, not a problem. But I still have trouble thinking of old Marky as being gay. He's never acted like he was. And he still doesn't. I can tell he really loves Casey, but sometimes Casey's behavior embarrasses Mark. Have you noticed?"
"Yeah. But if it really bothered Mark, he wouldn't be with Casey, would he?"
Cedric grinned. "You would know something about that, wouldn't you?"
Trey swallowed a mouthful of hot dog and then nodded. "It's been years since Chaz did anything to embarrass me."
"I was remembering the incident in the restaurant where he made you cum in your pants."
"Oh, I was furious with him then! But he's not like that any more."
"You haven't gelded him, have you?"
It was Trey's turn to grin. "No, he's still the Chaz we all love. Just a little more mature and responsible, as befits his new job."
"Not the guy who persuaded you and Mark to do what you all did to Tim when I was away?"
"I'll always be ashamed of my rôle there. But even that, as nasty as it was, had a good side. Tim became one of us as a result."
Cedric sighed. "He sure became a part of me."
"We need to talk about that."
"Not now, Tiger, not here."
Hearing music coming from upriver, they tossed their garbage in a nearby can and walked a hundred yards or so to the bandstand where a blues group was performing. They found seats in the bleachers and listened. After the blues group, a heavy metal band followed. The music was loud enough to suppress any conversation.
By 4:30 they'd had enough of the crowd, the noise, and the sun, so they found the Mustang, left the top up, and drove back to Shaker Heights. Sweaty from their afternoon in the sun, they showered and changed clothes again. Then they walked across the courtyard to the Jones's house.
Dinner was a pleasant affair. Jake grilled steaks. There was a big bowl of salad. Angel had made potato salad which was always so good it put Cedric off buying Kroger's. For dessert there was warm peach cobbler with ice cream.
"Something wrong, Trey?" Angel asked.
"No, ma'am, everything's . . . . Well, I . . . . Would you mind if I poured milk on my cobbler?"
"Where's the milk, woman?" Jake demanded a fake serious look on his face. "You know I like my cobbler that way, too."
Angel shook her head, chuckling all the way to the fridge and back. "Here you go, boys."
Feeling a deep contentment, Cedric gazed around at his family, for Trey was a much a part of it as Keesha, and he smiled. They were all happy, and so was he.
Angel and Jake had known Trey since he and Cedric were freshmen, so the conversation was comfortable. Of course they wanted to know about his teaching, about the forthcoming Withers scion, about Chaz and Rob and their work.
As if by tacit agreement, nothing was spoken about Trey and Cedric's undergraduate days.
When the mosquitoes began to be a problem, they carried everything into the kitchen. The younger men scraped the plates and put them in the dishwasher while Angel put on a pot of coffee.
After the coffee was consumed, Cedric said something about going up to his apartment.
Jake shook hands with Trey.
Angel gave both boys hugs. "It's always good to have you here, Trey. You're one of the family, you know. Give our love to Chaz when you get back to Richmond."
"Will do, Maggie. Thanks so much for the wonderful meal." He put his hand on his stomach. "I feel as if Ced and I should go running again."
Angel smiled at the compliment. She touched her hand to his cheek. "It's good to see you eating, Trey. You look like you've been working too hard."
They said their goodnights.
When they were back in Cedric's apartment, both kicked off their sandals.
"Do you want anything?"
"Lord, no! Let's just talk."
"Fine by me."
They sat opposite each other once more in the living room.
"You've remembered your time with Tim, haven't you?"
"Uh huh. How did you know?"
"You mentioned his green silk drawers."
"Oh, so I did."
"You never told me you'd recovered those memories."
"I haven't told anyone except Angel. I suppose she told Dad and Keesha, but they've never said anything."
"When did this happen?"
"A week or so after Tim and Max got together."
Trey looked poleaxed. "All this time and you've kept it to yourself?"
"Yes. Why, are you hurt because I didn't tell you?"
"Not for myself, no. Will you tell me about it?"
Cedric clasped his hands behind his head and looked at the ceiling, gathering his thoughts.
"Do you remember the aftershave Tim wore when you and I were in his class?"
"Right. One day I opened the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and noticed the bottle sitting there. I took it and opened it. I hadn't used any of it since the accident. Hadn't seen any need to. I mean, after all, there's fragrance in the soap, the shampoo, and the deodorant we use. Who needs to put on more scent?"
"Point taken. So you opened the bottle?"
Cedric nodded. "And the fragrance did something. My shrink told me odors are one of the strongest triggers of memory. It certainly was for me. Things began to come back. I remembered being so attracted to Tim that I began using Eternity. Over the course of the afternoon, more and more memories came back. Soon I remembered the whole wonderful relationship."
"And how did you feel?"
"Speaking of shrinks," Cedric said, grinning. "You're sounding like one, Dr. Withers."
"Sorry. But I'm really curious. I've never known anyone with that kind of memory loss, and it's fascinating. Besides as close as we've always been, this is a part of your life I don't know anything about."
"I was tremendously excited. I went across to the house bubbling over to tell Angel. When I said I needed to find Tim and tell him, she said I mustn't. I was stunned. I remembered now how wonderful it had been between us and I wanted to let him know we could pick up where we left off. Why couldn't I tell him?"
Trey nodded. "Because she told you Tim was with Max now."
Cedric exhaled audibly. "Yeah. She explained that Tim had been at the hospital night and day after I got hit, that he was distraught. And that when I came to, he was excited and happy at first but was crushed when I didn't remember him except as a favorite prof. As my physical condition improved, she said she could tell it was hell on Tim to be at social events where I was when he had to act as if we were acquaintances rather than lovers."
"Yes, it's all true. Tim was miserable."
"If he was so miserable, why didn't he wait?"
It was Trey's turn to sigh. "That fall the doctors weren't particularly optimistic, Ced. They were saying your memory might return any time, but the longer it took, the less likely it was to happen. So when Tim and Max finally admitted the feelings they'd always had for each other, for all Tim knew, you might never get that part of your life back."
"I guess I can understand. And I suppose Max was always there, hanging around, giving Tim a shoulder to cry on."
"You make that sound like a bad thing." He paused and then continued. "Ced, I don't think you can fault Max. He was restraint personified."
"Oh, yeah. St. Max!"
"That isn't fair."
"Nothing about this is fair, Trey. I loved Tim! I thought he loved me too. But he only waited five fucking months."
"He did! But, Ced, you need to keep in mind that those two guys loved each other at Kenyon. Each thought the other was straight, and neither one said anything because he didn't want to jeopardize the friendship."
"Well, big fucking whoop." The back of his throat ached with suppressed tears.
"This isn't like you, Ced."
"No, it isn't. I'm the good son, the good friend." Cedric couldn't believe what was coming out of his mouth. He'd been sure all this had been resolved in the psychologist's office. He couldn't seem to stop himself, however. "I thought I was the good partner."
He turned away, unwilling to let Trey see the tears that had escaped. "What was I to Tim? An itch he wanted to scratch because he couldn't have the one he loved?"
"Of course not! Chaz and I could see it. Tim ached for you and for what the two of you had had together. But he did turn to Max. And Max loved – loves – Tim too much to deny him whatever he needs."
"And there you have it, St. Max again. You know what hurts as much as losing Tim? Losing you guys."
"What? You didn't lose us."
"Didn't I? You stick up for Tim's new relationship with Max, you go to see them . . . ."
"Well, yes, but—"
"Jesus, Trey, you were my friends first!" He swiped at the tears defiantly.
Strong arms enveloped him, holding him close, and Ced relished the warmth of the first human contact he'd had in . . . well, it had been much too long.
"I'm so sorry, Ced! We never meant you to think we'd chosen Tim over you. You're too important to us. But Tim—"
"I know." His shoulders slumped. "He was your friend, too. He still is. I'm sorry. I never meant to burden you with this crap."
Trey shook him. "Maybe it's about time you did. You let us all believe you didn't remember your time as Tim's lover. You didn't turn to us. That's not what friends do, babe."
"I am sorry, Trey."
"How do you feel?"
Cedric took a minute to think. "Surprisingly better."
"Then you probably needed to let all this out."
Cedric thought the conversation was over, but Trey continued, "You know I've always had some sort of almost scary connection with what's going on in Tim's mind and heart."
"Well, I might be partly responsible for Tim and Max getting together when they did. I told Chaz what I thought about them. Once I'd suggested the idea, Chaz could see it. In fact, I think the Tall One planted the idea in Tim's head that he should wake up and grab Max before he gave up in frustration. After all, as I said, those two have a right to be happy, and none of us knew when or whether you'd get your memory back."
"You asked why I hadn't told anyone. At first it was, as Angel said, I didn't want to spoil Tim and Max's happiness. As time passed, that still seemed like a good reason for not saying anything. Like I said, though, I've hurt a lot over why Tim didn't wait a while longer. You've helped me understand about that."
"And you didn't tell Chaz or Mark or me because . . . ."
"The more time passed, the more awkward it would have been. Was I supposed to send out announcements?"
"I can understand that. But there are just the three of us."
"If I had told anyone, Tiger, it would have been you. I think you know that. As close as Mark and I were, roommates and all, I feel closer to you. Besides, I think you know me better than anybody except maybe Angel. But you and Chaz are a couple. Which means, I hope, you two don't keep secrets from each other. Still, he's not always the most discreet guy in the world . . . ."
"It hurts a little that you didn't trust us. Chaz has put aside that superficial joker persona he used to wear. He can still be a lot of fun, but he's a responsible, mature man now."
"I'd love to see him. It's been too long."
"Perhaps we can all get together during the Christmas holidays. But getting back to Tim . . . ."
"Mmm?" Cedric was thinking about how great it would be to see Trey, Chaz, Mark, and Mark's partner.
"I think Tim has a right to know. He and Max have felt guilty about you from the beginning. I can understand why you'd want to keep your distance from them, but you haven't really had anything to do with them since that fall, have you?"
"We've exchanged Christmas cards. But I went to Ann Arbor that January, and you know what grad school is like."
"But you've been out of law school for a couple of years, living here. Tim and Max are less than an hour away. You've never thought of going to see them or asking them here?"
"I've thought often about how much it would hurt to see them together, Trey."
"That's understandable. Still, they have a right to know. Think of it this way. By not saying anything when you recovered your memory, you gave them a wonderful gift. They need to know so they can be grateful."
"I don't want their gratitude."
Trey looked sad. "What do you want from them, brother?"
Bang! Right between the eyes.
"Um, I dunno, now that you ask."
"You wish Tim had waited longer, but do you want to say that to him?"
"No, that would only hurt him. And Max."
"Does that mean you want them to be happy?"
"Yeah. If I told them when I remembered, wouldn't that bring back whatever guilt they felt?"
"Maybe. But if you gave them your blessings, then maybe you could all move on."
Cedric thought about that for a while. He nodded. "As usual, you're right. I do want them to be happy. It's time for me to get over sulking about it." He paused. "But I can't tell them. I can't think of any way to do it that wouldn't seem like I was laying guilt on them."
"Are you sure?"
"I just can't, brother."
"What would you think about my telling them?"
"That might work."
"Well, sleep on it and we'll talk some more at breakfast. If you ask me, I'll keep quiet about it, even to Chaz."
"No need for that. You're right, as usual. I trust you to tell Chaz and the guys in Kent."
"What about Mark?"
"I don't want a big deal made about when I got my memory back. But if it comes up, go ahead and tell him. Or I will, if the occasion arises."
"Ced, it's been a wonderful day, but you've worn me out. And I have to be in Kent in time for church tomorrow."
"Pancakes and sausages at 7:00?"
Trey hugged Cedric and kissed him gently.
"You're spoiling me. But make it 8:00. Tim and I are going to the 11:00 service."
Cedric had trouble falling asleep that night. His mind kept going back over the evening's conversation with Trey.
Tim was Max's now. What could he do but wish them the best?
Trey and Chaz were happily together as were, so far as he could tell, Mark and his cellist. Which left Cedric the only one of the Brotherhood who was entering his late twenties alone.
After he'd helped Trey put his things in the Mustang the next morning, Cedric hugged his friend.
"I'll look forward to the holidays. Send me an email to let me know you got home safely. Give my love to Chaz. Oh, and to Tim and Max as well."
Trey smiled. "I'll do that. Chaz knows you love him. But it'll mean a lot to Tim and Max."
He gave Cedric a quick kiss.
Cedric watched the Mustang go down the driveway. The brake lights flashed briefly. The car turned left and was soon out of sight.
A wave of sadness swept over Cedric.
*Mark Mason and his partner, Casey Eversole (not to be confused with Colby's Casey Shaw), appear briefly in South Beach in Key Lime Pie and Custard.
If you want to email me about this chapter, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org . Be sure to put the name of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim