The Key Anthology:
Frankie and Aaron
Frankie Jr. heard Aaron groan as if trying to speak and knew instinctively that Aaron was attempting to ask him about their future.
“If you’re asking me about our plans, Aaron, here goes. I used the money Daddy left me to buy an old sandwich shop in a small town by the name of Tannemy. It’s a successful shop. My mom knows the owners… or rather she knows the owner’s wife. The husband passed away about a year ago. None of the children want to keep the business going and the wife has gone through a couple of cooks. She was ready to sell and my mom arranged for me and the owner’s wife to meet. I was able to buy both the building and the business.”
Aaron put both thumbs up in the air as a sign he approved.
“That’s not all. There’s a two bedroom apartment right above the restaurant. It’s move-in ready too. It’s kind of a quiet town and the restaurant is on the old Main Street. One day it’d be nice to get a house but we can’t afford that right now. I need the money that’s left over to get the business going.”
It wasn’t long before Aaron had fallen asleep again. He’d slept right through lunch and Frankie Jr. didn’t think it would help to wake him. At one point he stopped and got lunch for himself and a snack for Aaron to eat when he woke up. At nightfall, Frankie Jr. pulled into a chain motel and got them a room for the night with two beds. Before finding a parking space, Frankie Jr. drove next door to Lee’s Chicken and got some food.
When they returned to the hotel, Frankie Jr. helped Aaron to a chair at the table which was by the front door. Feeling something in his shirt pocket he pulled out an envelope. It was the one that had been left for Aaron. Frankie Jr. had forgotten about it. He threw it on the table in front of Aaron, then went back to unload their bags.
When he’d finished, Frankie Jr. looked at Aaron who was quietly eating his chicken. He thought he could detect a hint of sadness behind his eyes, but thought Aaron might just be tired.
“Hey, Aaron, you better rest while you can. I’m gonna need your help at the sandwich shop.”
There was no reply, so Frankie Jr. tried to lighten the mood.
“Somehow, I don’t think there’s much demand for your old profession in Tannemy.” He heard Aaron giggle at that comment.
They both finished eating and watched TV before calling it an early evening.
* * * *
The ride the next day was uneventful and Aaron slept on and off. When they got to the outer limits of Tannemy, Frankie Jr. started getting excited. He put his hand on Aaron’s knee.
“It’s the start of our new life together. I didn’t tell you that I want to try and add some new dishes to the old sandwich shop menu. Slowly at first, then maybe turn it into more of a café at night. Oh wow! Check out that house on the left with the big porch!”
Aaron looked, then reached for Frankie Jr.’s hand and held it.
“You still remember, huh,” Frankie Jr. said. We used to talk about having a house like this one day—with a big porch in the country. That was back in the day before you decided you’d rather see the world, Aaron. I hope you won’t be too bored here with just me.
Frankie Jr. got a good answer when Aaron gripped his hand tighter and lay his head on his shoulder. Aaron was half asleep when Frankie Jr. shook him awake so he could see historic downtown Tannemy.
The downtown was several streets long and featured various shops and eateries. Frankie Jr. pointed out the sandwich shop which already had a large “Frankie’s” sign up front.
“Sorry, ‘Frankie and Aaron’s’ just didn’t have a good ring to it,” Frankie Jr. said. He drove around to the rear of the building where there was parking. “You probably need to rest a while, Aaron. I’ll help you upstairs, then come back for our stuff. Later on, I’ll show you around the shop.
After walking up the steep stairs, they entered the apartment. Aaron’s large eyes and surprised look didn’t go unnoticed by Frankie Jr..
“Nice to see you approve. I came up here when I could and did some updating. It’s not a huge space so I took down a couple of walls and turned it into an open loft. I’m not sure if you’ll approve, but I kept the exposed brick.”
Aaron gave Frankie Jr. two thumbs up as he walked into the open kitchen and sat down on one of the stools in front of the black granite island.
“Are you okay here,” Frankie Jr. said, then put his hand on Aaron’s shoulder. Behind the brick wall to the right is the bathroom, if you need it.” He went back downstairs after Aaron nodded his head that it was okay.
By the time Frankie Jr. had brought everything into the apartment, Aaron was fast asleep in bed. The envelope from earlier was on the nightstand. When Frankie Jr. woke in the morning, he tiptoed around quietly, then went downstairs to check out the shop. A few hours later he went to check on Aaron and found him sitting on the living room sofa, twisting his body so he could look out the large front windows. Sitting close behind him, Frankie Jr. kissed the back of Aaron’s neck and wrapped his arms around him.
“How ya feeling?”
“Be—tter,” Aaron said, turned to face Frankie Jr. then buried his head in Frankie Jr.’s chest.
Frankie Jr. could hear Aaron crying and carded his hands through Aaron’s blond hair while he spoke.
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
Aaron lifted his head and looked at Frankie Jr. with tears running down his eyes. He pointed his finger to Frankie Jr.’s chest then his own and asked a simple question. “Why?”
Before answering him, Frankie Jr. laughed. “Why? That’s the million dollar question. Do you mean why would a gorgeous hunk ever be with a dog like me? Or why a good Catholic boy would wanna hook up with a bad boy like you. I say why ask why? We love each other and we’re gonna be together forever. That’s all that matters.” He kissed Aaron on the lips softly.
Aaron got up from the sofa and handed Frankie Jr. the mystery envelope that had been left for him days ago and walked off. Something in that envelope had upset Aaron and he wanted Frankie Jr. to read it.
Putting his nerves in check, Frankie Jr. opened the envelope and read the letter inside.
Hello, Aaron. Sorry about the whole beating thing. Believe it or not, I was doing you a favor in the only way I knew how at the time. You were a true friend when I needed one, despite everything. I couldn’t let you ruin your life so I did what I could to make sure you’d never turn back to your whoring ways.”
P.S. What I’ve included isn’t for services rendered. It’s what my father gave me when I started out. It’s good and clean. Use it for something truly meaningful.
Aaron was standing in front of the window looking out over Main Street. He turned to face Frankie Jr..
“Just can’t get away from it all I guess. You know—the note,” Aaron said.
“I see you got your voice back.”
“Yeah, yesterday. I was just feeling a little too embarrassed about things and enjoying hiding behind silence.”
“No need for you to feel embarrassed. I know all about you and you’re still here. The note had it right in regard to you leaving the past behind.”
“Can you really forget all that I’ve done? I mean really, Frankie.”
“I don’t know, Aaron. But it’s never affected the way I think about you. Do you think you can live a quiet life in the country with me?”
“I’ve had enough of the big bad world. I’m ready to create a nice quiet home with you now, Frankie.”
“Perfect response,” Frankie Jr. said, then stood and gave Aaron a hug and kiss.
“But, Frankie. Overlooking Main Street isn’t my idea of a nice quiet home. I’ve thought about this long and hard. You bought us a business. Let me buy us that quiet house with a porch we dreamed about. This came with the note.” He took a check out of his pocket and showed it to Frankie Jr..
It was Frankie Jr.’s turn to open his eyes wide.
“That will certainly by a house and then some,” Frankie Jr. said.
* * * *
The next few days Frankie Jr. worked on getting the sandwich shop ready to open while Aaron ran around looking at houses with a local Realtor. One day after having looked at houses, Aaron ran into the sandwich shop and hugged Frankie Jr., who was cleaning the front counter.
“I’ve found it! Stop what you’re doing and let’s drive so you can see it!”
Frankie Jr. dropped what he was doing, locked up the shop, and walked with Aaron to the truck. As they drove Frankie Jr. couldn’t help but peek at Aaron.
“This house must be something else, Aaron. You look different than I’ve ever seen you. You’re so genuinely happy. Heck, you’re even glowing!”
“Okay, don’t be mad at me, Frankie.”
“What’ve you done?”
“I bought a house, lock, stock and barrel—turn here. The house is so perfect I didn’t want us to lose it. I had an inspection and everything. I know you’ll really love it.”
“You’ve been busy the last few days… and I’m not mad. If you say I’ll love the house, then I know I will.”
* * * *
Frankie Jr. turned into the long drive and fell in love with the house the minute he saw it. It was a one story, raised ranch style house with a covered wraparound porch. The landscaping was beautiful with colorful beds of flowers, low bushes, and scattered mature trees.
Once Frankie Jr. parked, they jumped out of the truck and ran hand in hand onto the porch.
“Oh, Aaron! This is perfect. It’s our dream come true.”
“Well, there’s no pool like we dreamed of having, but we are on fifteen private acres and wait until you see inside. It’s move in ready so it won’t interfere with opening the sandwich shop next week. And it’s in both our names. You just need to sign some paperwork if you approve.”
“I approve! It’s real… our life together can finally begin.”
Aaron waved a house key toward Jr.. He was surprised when instead of grabbing the key, Frankie Jr. grabbed him and slung him over his shoulder.
“One of us has to be carried over the threshold and you’re in no shape to carry me, so here goes,” Frankie Jr. said.
Frankie Jr. turned so Aaron could open the door, then they walked inside to their new happy life.
* * * *
Back in their limo, two brothers toasted each other with champagne.
“To living happily ever after,” Angelo said.
“Indeed,” Jamie said. “Best of luck to them both, though I don’t think they’ll need it.”
The end of Frankie and Aaron’s story.
Coming in January- The Key: Matt and Kurt
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