WARNING - this story covers some uncomfortable themes, including bereavement, incest and suicide. Steven is fiction, Nick is not, although the name is an alias. If you feel as down as my created character, Steve, please get help. Hang on in there, Buddy. This first instalment contains no sex - and whether the next instalment does is up to you guys. e-mail me with what you think you want to read.
Telephone calls in the night are rarely harbingers of good news. Nick, my dear Nick was desperately hurt, so, with dread filled heart I set off for the hospital, the last time I was there was when Kathy was released to the hospice. Through those lonely small hours of the night, the dog-watches, I sat and held Nick's hand - but Nick wasn't there. Later the doctors told me, the damage was to great, the machines were keeping his body 'alive' but there really was no-one at home. My Nick, my fair-haired handsome Nick, would never wake to his 18th birthday. At least with the cancer Kathy an I had a chance to say our farewells, and it drew Nick and I, both grieving, closer together, as close as a father and his only child can be. All my hopes and all my dreams were held in Nick's hands, and he seemed to have the world before him. Now it was to be a wooden box, before the raging flames reduced his shell to a pot of grey ash. We waited for his 18th birthday to pass - to be certain and to have him reach majority, however technically. Friends, who were looking forward to the party, instead came to his bedside, to comfort me. Then the neurologist, with kind but certain words, confirmed what the other doctors had heavily hinted at. Nick was dead, he had died immediately, but his strong body had kept going. There was nothing to be gained by postponing the inevitable. It was time to switch him off.
Then another team of doctors came, the transplant team. Nick had wanted to donate his organs, Kathy's long illness made him aware. His strong, healthy, beautiful body could do one last service. I signed the forms, and only set one condition, that I could write a letter to each recipient of Nick's organs, to tell them about him.
Recently a young man died, his name was Nick, and he was my son. Because he was the man he was, he asked that, if he died, his body parts should be used to help others, if at all possible. You are one of those he has helped, and for his sake I feel you should know a little about him, and that bit of him that's now in you. He was many things, but in short; he was kind and loving, he was bright and active, he was brave and thoughtful, polite and modest, he was fun and he was decent, he was honest and handsome, he was loyal and strong, he was the son that every father dreams of, and he never disappointed me. His gift to you is without condition or obligation. If you want to know more about him, get in touch, by 'phone or letter. If not, I understand, and will think no less of you.
Regards - Steven Adamson, Nick's father.'
There were things to be done, the rituals of death, the tears, the kind words, his friends, his treasures, a piece of remembrance for each of them, but then, enough. I was not going to obliterate his life, not yet. Let me feel his fading presence, his things, his clothes. Shades of Miss Haversham, but it was my house, free and clear. I did my job, I existed, the callers stopped, my life over, merely an existence. Those words, 'To sleep, perchance to dream' rang in my ears, to make an end - oh yes. Every evening, after supper, I would go up to Nick's room and talk to him, and tell him that I loved him, and tell him what I could not tell him whilst he lived, that it was not as my son that I loved him, but as the man I dreamt of having sex with. I told him that I would be with him soon. One night I tried on a pair of his jeans, and brought myself off whilst wearing them. Then I tried on more of his clothes, until one Friday evening I was wearing the whole outfit. Nick had been thinner around the waist than me, but I was losing weight (not eating actually), and otherwise he and I were the same height (six feet) but wearing his clothes I found I could be alive for a little while, imagining he was with me. I realised that this was madness, and rationed myself to one evening a week, and for the rest of the time tried to carry on my existence. Sleep was no escape, Nick was in my dreams, sometimes as a boy, my dear son, sometimes as a man, my lover. With those dreams I often had to change the bed linen. I knew that I was losing it, that I should leave Nick's memory, that I should move on, but then that little word 'why?' came in to my mind. What did I have to live for, not my job, not my family. From my acquaintances and work mates I had sympathy, tinged with charity. My one close school friend, Kenny, who was, to tell the truth, a lot closer than a friend, had died years ago of a heroin overdose, it was his death that brought Kathy, his sister, into my life, and hence Nick, who resembled Kenny a lot. Was that why I fantasised about him? Had I always really loved Kenny?
Looking for answers I attended the church - where Kathy and I were married and Nick baptised and confirmed. The memories of the two funerals kept standing in the way. I had to leave after half an hour or so, to grief stricken to remain. The priest did her best, she'd seen me come, and leave, and knew the reasons. She offered comfortable words and common sense. She pushed me to take a holiday as soon as I could, and I fell in with the scheme, in a couple of months, as soon as the office could spare me, and those with children had their school holiday time. I was back to Nick's room - well, I would take the holiday, to see as much as I could and then have something to tell Nick when we met on the other side. I promised myself that, I would be wearing only Nick's clothes whilst away. If so, I had to fit them, so I started going to the local fitness centre, getting myself into Nick's shape to fit his clothes properly. The exercise helped - I actually felt better after it, good enough to go to our local pub and have a (non-alcoholic) drink or two and socialise. I had learnt, the hard way, that alcohol was not a solution to my grief, it just made me maudlin.
I had three responses to the notes that went with Nick's organ donations, two of gratitude, the third, a request for more, for pictures and for facts. Two days later an envelope, with pictures, a DVD of movie clips, and a lot of text was winging its way to one Alexander Richardson in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, with the following note
Thank you for asking about Nick. I've enclosed quite a lot of detail about him, and I hope it satisfies your questions about him. From what you told me you got his left kidney. Has it helped your life much? Whatever, feel free to get in touch.
A couple of evenings later, the telephone rang. I answered.
"Hello Steve, this is Alex, Alex Richardson. I 'm ringing to tell you how much Nick's gift has changed my life, for the better, but also to tell you what a fantastic looking guy he was. My congratulations."
The voice took my breath away, it was Nick with a Hampshire accent. The recipient must be young I thought. Alex told me that the kidney had taken successfully, as it was a good match, particularly as he was only a week younger than Nick would have been. His kidneys had been knocked out by salmonella in a school meal, and as home dialysis could not be provided on the island, he had been shipped out to Portsmouth and his chances of university had gone to pot. I asked him whether or not he'd made a claim against the school or its caterers, and he told me that it was still going through the courts. Now he was 18 he was moving it forward faster, since his parents had full time jobs. He was still signed off sick, but was alive for the first time in years. We ended the call with mutual promises to keep in touch, and a couple of days later the postman put an envelope containing half a dozen photos on my doormat. The covering note was short, but to the point.
Here are a few pictures of me taken in better times. I am getting better, and if ever you are in this area I would like to meet you. Life is pretty lonely here, but Nick has given me my life back. I will not squander it. By the way, Nick seems to have had a very happy life, with a father who cares so much.
The pictures were of a beautiful young man, on a beach, in shorts and flip-flops, of him sailing a dinghy, drinking a beer, and they broke my heart. I took the pictures up to Nick's room, on his desk. The pain of remembrance was too great. I could not go on. I had written my note to the Coroner, all it needed was dating, which I did and put it on Nick's desk. I went to the bathroom to fetch the pills, and my bedroom for the vodka. As I came back in to the room, the draught of the door opening picked up my note and flipped it down the back of the desk. To retrieve it, I had to pull the desk forward. I fished out the note, but in doing so, spotted an envelope, with it, which I also pulled out. It was dusty, but Nick's writing (he wrote with an attractive calligrapher's italic) showed clear on the outside.
'To Dad, if anything bad happens to me.'
The envelope was sealed but I did not want to tear it open. I treasure every piece of his writing, every essay, every note. Truly and deeply sad, I know. Suicide postponed by curiosity, I went downstairs, and over the spout of the boiling electric kettle, softened the glue, and lifted the flap. I took the enclosed letter back up to Nick's room to read.
If you are reading this letter and I'm still living, please stop, now. Okay.
Right, I'm dead. It's not a total surprise, but this is not, I repeat, not, a suicide note. I just have had a feeling recently that I'm not going to be here for the long haul. So, I feel there are a few things you ought to know.
1) I love you, Dad, through thick and thin. I know that whatever I do or say, you love me, now and for always, and the same goes for me too.
2) I am gay. Yes, I fancy boys, not girls. I don't think that it will come as a total surprise to you, but, as you didn't need to know until now, why risk hurting you.
3) Now for the bummer, I am in love, and I'm in love with you, yes, you Dad. Every time I hug you, every time you shout up "I'm home Nick" my heart (and other bits) lift. I know all about you and my uncle Kenny because when I did that project on personal health, I asked to see my medical records, and in my file was a report from your file, about the issues you had when Kenny died. Lucky Kenny, even to have you for such a short time. Dad, you are a very hot, handsome guy, go out and find someone like Kenny, for my sake - please.
4) When Mum died I thought about offing myself. When I realised that I was gay the same idea came to mind, particularly when I fell in love with the one guy who was out of bounds. But you need me. I have a feeling that, if my premonition is accurate, you are going to fall apart afterwards.
5) If you find some of your clothing in my room, well, I really enjoy wearing something that you've worn, I know it's pervy, but it's the nearest I'm going to get to you.
6) You've given me a great life so far. Losing Mum was a blow, but you are a super dad, the best a guy could have. I know you think I should go away to university, but I really do not want to leave you.
7) There are a lot of encrypted files on my PC and the stack of CDs in my desk. The passwords are on a piece of card taped to the underside of my top desk drawer. I have three online friends who need to be told about my death. Because a lot of the stuff I've been telling them, particularly carrot87, I've kept my real ID from them, and I'm known as 501lover87, so they won't pick up that I've died. By the way, carrot is one of the reasons why I'm keen on organ donation - he's on dialysis and that really sucks. He's also gay and in a pretty miserable situation, not out to parents and lonely. Before his kidneys packed up he did a lot of dinghy sailing and the like, and he lives somewhere on the south coast. Be gentle with him when you tell him.
Well Dad, there's not much more to say that you don't know already. If there is anything after death I'll be waiting for you, but don't hurry. Do find someone else - you deserve a life, you're a good man.
All my love
I switched on Nick's computer and whilst it was logging on, emptied the top drawer of his desk and turned it over. There were all his passwords. Well, job numero uno was to tell his online friends. I logged into his Yahoo mailbox. It hadn't been turned off yet because it wasn't quite full. I scanned back through the messages until I spotted a message from carrot87
'Are you OK = please message me - sorry I haven't been in touch, I've been in hospital for the best possible reason - I"VE GOT A KIDNEY - a genuine, nearly new kidney. It seems some poor kid copped it and was in a coma, brain dead, which means I've got a really good kidney. He was a good tissue match, so I should be allowed out and about quite soon. Hope things are going OK with your older friend - shame you can't tell him how you feel or come out to your parents. I wish I could tell mine, but I know they would freak out. The things my father says about "homos" and "queers" - and mum, well she thinks sex dirty, and gay sex, well just don't go there, but you know all that already.
PS the transplant team have passed me a letter, from the dead guy's father, offering more info - might be nice to know what sort of a life his kidney led before being in me. - C'
I then realised that Nick had put all his earlier messages to and from Alex aka Carrot in a separate folder on yahoo. The more I read, the more it fitted with what Nick had told me about what he felt. I picked up the 'phone and rang the number on Alex's letter.
"Hello, Yarmouth 716512 here."
"Hello, is that Mrs.Richardson - may I speak to Alex please? Tell him it's Steve Adamson here."
"Before I do Mr.Adamson, what is your business with my son?"
"He sent me a very kind letter, and I want to thank him for it."
"What sort of letter?"
"Alex has my son's kidney."
"Oh - Oh, I see - I'll get him straight away."
A few moments later Alex was on the line.
"Hello Steve, you got the pictures then?"
"Yes thanks, they're great, but, are you alone, can we talk?"
"For a moment or two, but ring me back on my mobile 07762 987862"
"07762 987862 - will do - ring in about five minutes. Bye"
Five minutes later
"Hi Alex, are you alone now?"
"Yepp, door is shut - what's so heavy that the 'rents can't know."
"Does 501lover87 mean anything to you on Yahoo"
"How do you know 501lover87 Steve?"
"Alex, there's no easy way to say this, Nick was 501lover87."
Sobbing "Oh God, I've got his kidney - that last message, you've read it?"
"Yes Alex, I've read it, and it's a great comfort, to think that Nick's last gift could do so much."
"That means you know Nick was gay, and so am I?"
"Yes Alex, I know. Nick left me a letter."
"What, he topped himself?"
"No Alex, he just had a premonition, and had a letter ready."
"That's weird - you mean he knew he was going to die?"
"Not quite, but he had a feeling he wasn't going to be around much longer. The letter got misplaced and I only found it this evening. He asked me to tell you Carrot, that he'd died. I'm so sorry you've lost a friend."
"You've read more than that message, haven't you?"
"Yes Alex, and there's nothing that I've read that you should be ashamed of. Your parents' attitude is another matter, but let's not go there. Do you want me as a friend?"
"Well, as you know the story, it would be good to have someone to chat to. Are you on Yahoo Messenger? Nick was."
"Well, I'll see if 501lover67 is available."
"Steve, what gives here? You're married, you're hetero, you were Nick's father."
"Alex, Nick's mother died a couple of years ago, and well, I was in love with her brother until he died. My wife knew all about it - it was how we met."
"That's cool. Did Nick know?"
"About me and his uncle - no, because it affected other people, and it would have worried him about his mum. But he knew what our attitude to sexuality was - that it's not a choice issue, it's the way you are born. Trying to change it is just asking for bitter unhappiness. In some ways I'm sorry that Nick never told me, but in other ways I understand and sympathise entirely with his responsible point of view."
"By the way, don't expect me to be on line for a few days, my computer's motherboard packed up last week, and I'm waiting for it to come back."
We chattered on for a little while longer and then ended the call with further promises to keep in touch. I tore up the letter to the Coroner and put the pills away again. I had a whole new side of Nick to investigate, and some of what he'd typed and what he'd read and seen blew my mind away.
I was just sorting out a meal for one on the following Wednesday evening when the 'phone went.
"Alex, how are you?"
"Steve, I need a big favour, will you pick me up from Birmingham Coach Station and may I stay the night with you?"
"Sure, when is this going to be?"
"In about 45 minutes - I've really fucked things up."
"Leave it now Alex, I'll hear all about it on the way back hear. I'll be there within the hour, traffic willing. See you then, Hugs."
My trip to Birmingham was dominated by three 'Whys': Why was Alex coming to see me with no warning? Why was I feeling so happy about it? I was really looking forward to picking Alex up. Why was I no longer grieving for Nick?
The answer to the last Why came first. Nick's voice in my mind
"You no longer grieve because you know I love you, we have no unfinished business, but I will be with you always, her in your mind and by your side." It must have been a fluke of the car's air con, but I could smell Nick - that mix of deodorant, after-shave and fresh sweat that followed Nick around after any sort of physical activity. Kenny had smelt like that as well before his little habit became a big habit. "Are you happy Nick?" "I am now Dad - Carrot is sorted - you'll like him a lot. If I hadn't been in love with you, Carrot would have been an item. Happy Hunting! Bye for now." Spaghetti junction and the thrills of the Aston Expressway loomed ahead. Instead of dread, I felt elation - how neatly could I thread the traffic, how near the speed limit could I go.
I pulled up at the pick up point just as the coach from Southampton via Newbury was pulling in. I texted Alex's mobile to say I'd arrived. A couple of minutes later a young man carrying only a small kit-bag, came rushing out of the concourse to the pick up bay. He turned towards me. It was Alex. Somehow I was out of the car, standing with my arms open waiting to hug him. Thump, Umph - Alex collides with me and a lot of squeezing takes place. We just hugged for a couple of minutes, whilst tears flowed. Alex smelt of Nick - that same smell of healthy young man, deodorant, after-shave and now not-so-fresh sweat, mixed with shampooed hair and the sea.
"Oh Steve, Steve, thank you so much for coming. Not a clue what I would have done if you hadn't come for me - I've got £2.06 to my name and the ATMs will swallow my card if I use them.
"Alex, if you'd told me, I'd have picked you up from the ferry."
"What, drive 140 effing miles just to pick up a stupid queer."
"No Alex, to drive as long as it takes to help someone who's a really nice guy in trouble, and I don't think you're the cause of the trouble, are you?"
"Oh yes I am, I was outed to my parents yesterday and the shit really hit the fan. They chucked me out, and its' only coz of a friend Larry, who's a sailmaker with some storage to my stiff in that it's not all at the council tip. Larry and his brother Bryan helped me shift the lot, while Mum screamed and wept. Dad just told me to piss of out of it and never to come back. He said I'd turn out like Uncle Ken, a queer and a druggy, who died before I was born."
"On the 4th October 1985 to be precise Alex, of a heroine overdose."
We pulled apart and looked at each other through a stunned silence for a minute or so, whilst I wondered who had said that - and then realised t'was I. Well, it figured, timing right, tissue matching ~ good chance with first cousins ~ the voice, the smell. Yepp, Alex must be Kathy's nephew. Kathy had been estranged from her family since she was a kid. I hadn't even got an address to tell them of her death, and she never talked about her childhood. There was a strong resemblance between Alex, Kenny and Nick. Alex had a chance to register what I had said about his uncle,
"Steve, how the fuck did you know that? You been looking us up?"
"No Alex, Uncle Ken was Kenny, my lover, and my late wife Kathy was your aunt. That's why Nick's kidney took so well. You were first cousins. Welcome back to the family, of one."
We kissed, and suddenly I realised that I was kissing one hot sexy young man. I was brought down to earth by a friendly shout from one of the taxi drivers "I think you two need to get a room. Kissing like that gets us all hot and bothered." We uncoupled, and got into the car with smiles and a wave for our audience.
Driving home was challenging because I had a raging erection that wouldn't go away no matter what I thought about, not helped by Nick's tight (on me) 501s, or Alex's hand resting on my left thigh.
"Those clothes were Nick's weren't they Steve?"
"Yes - how did you know?"
"He told me about getting the shirt. Do they turn you on? Do you imagine yourself as Nick? If so Steve, you're playing with fire here."
"They do turn me on, but I don't play at being Nick. I just think of the beautiful young man who lived .... in ....... these ........" I broke down just then, unable to continue. I really had to pull myself together to drive in safety. Alex was silent for the rest of the trip, and when we pulled in the driveway sat in the car with me for a few moments.
"Steve, did you love Ken?"
"Absolutely. When he died it was only your aunt, his sister that saved me from suicide."
"How did you cope marrying Kathy when you knew you were gay?"
"Love conquers all things Alex. I loved Kathy in a more than sexual way. We had sex of course, Nick's existence was predicated by that, but sex was certainly not the reason for our marriage. We had some good years, and, although Kathy's end was grim, it was not lonely, and we had no unfinished business. Death, like love, forgives all."
"What are your feelings for me?"
"If I say 'complicated' can we leave it there for the moment?"
"A neat evasion, but I really need to know now - am I a substitute Nick, a substitute Kenny, or am I Alex in my own right?"
"Fair enough. Well here goes: You are a very attractive young man who's just been put in a bad situation not of your making. You were a good friend of my son, and for his sake as well as for common charity I am helping you. This is reinforced coincidentally that you are my late lover's and my late wife's nephew, so there is a family obligation. Either of them would have taken you in under similar circumstances. I am not looking for a substitute Nick - he was born, lived a great life and died. It cannot be denied that your stay with me would restore my sense of purpose, give me a reason for living. As far as any sexual relationship is concerned, yes I find you very attractive, but I am going to do my best not to let anything serious happen. If I succumb to temptation I hope it will be for fun, not something serious, because I want something else for us, the chance for you to grow as an individual, not an old queen's toy boy. Okay?"
"No, it's not okay because you're just looking at it from your point of view and you don't know all the facts."
"That's why I didn't want to be specific, lack of facts. What's your problem with my proposals?"
"Steve, I want, no I must, have passionate sex with you tonight. I've been waiting almost a year now, and I'm desperate."
"I've been in love with 501lover's dad ever since he told me about this cool clever handsome dude who was his father and who he had a real crush on."
OK guys - which way this story goes is up to you lot. I have alternative chapter 2s mapped out depending on who contacts me and what their views are. Should Steve succumb to Alex's passion or should he hold out?