This is the story about two people whose lives are thrust together in the uncommon of circumstances and by the unlikeliest of persons. This person caused these people untold pain and heartache yet brought them something they thought they could never feel again.

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The Awakening

Buzzzzz, smack. I eliminate the noise from the alarm 5:00 AM. "Damn, it's early!" I said as I rolled over. I got up, headed towards the bathroom and turned on the shower, lifted the toilet seat and took a leak before stepping in the shower. Quickly got washed and then dried, shaved, dressed and into the kitchen for coffee in 15 minutes. Downed my first cup in five minutes and made my second cup to go out the door and into my new SUV and off to work. I'm an EMS (Emergency Medical Service's) supervisor. When the ambulance crews and Zone cars get backed up, they need my help. Most ambulance crews are staffed with EMT's (Emergency Medical Technician) and a few have shock-trauma technicians. For more serious calls, however, they need paramedics. Those are for our zone cars or my job. The drive takes me fifteen minutes to arrive at the station and get my truck checked out. Check the oil, fluids, tires, and fill it up with fuel and sit down until 6:00 AM. I finish my second cup of coffee and fix my third go down the drive and into the darkness of the city. I'm hoping it will be a busy day so I can't dwell on just how miserable my life really is.

Six months ago, my life was fantastic. I had everything I could possibly want. I was promoted to supervisor. Got a position with the city that paid me $40,000 dollars a year. Regular hours, one weekend on a month, what more could I want? My wife was able to cut back her hours so she could spend more time with our kids. Denise aged 12, spitting image of her mother. Sean aged 11, our foster child. He thought of us as his parents. He had been with us for seven years. Someone messed up, but we weren't saying anything. Sean and Denise were both excellent students. Michele was heading home with the kids so we could start a four-day weekend. Friday till Monday. No work, no worries just fun in the sun with the family.

"Rescue 5, Ladder 5, Zone 5, Rescue 16, Zone 16, Truck 16, EMS 3, accident with injuries, confirmed entrapment. Priority one. EMS 5 you are needed at the hospital."

At the hospital, I thought. I picked the mike and said, "EMS 5, confirm heading to hospital?"

The dispatcher replied "10-4, EMS 5, head to the hospital, supervise patient transport."

Only 2 miles away from the scene and I get to supervise a patient transfer. I look at my watch and see it reads 4:00pm. Well, OK one hour to go until my weekend. Can't complain, if I work that wreck, I'll be out until who knows when. We have hotel and dinner reservations for 8 tonight. I'll let Dave handle that call. At 4:15, I arrived at the hospital and the ambulance crew already had the patient ready for transport. I checked their paperwork and they headed to the local nursing home. I went upstairs to see a friend of my wife's. They had worked together for as long as I could remember.

I looked at my watch, 4:45pm. "Hey, hey Cindy." I said, "Gotta go, 4 day weekend don't ya know."

She giggled at my humor and said "See ya later Mark, Tell 'Chele I said Hi and have fun this weekend. You know who to call if you need a sitter."

I waved and said, "OK" as I got into the elevator. It seemed to take forever to go down the three floors necessary to get back to the emergency department. My red Blazer was parked in the ambulance area and when the doors to the elevator opened, it looked like all hell had broken loose. I saw Dave standing there, he was sweaty and exhausted. Just as I was about to shout to him, he went inside the treatment room. Since it was close to quitting time, I headed to my vehicle so I could return to the station. I parked the truck in its usual spot and went inside to sign out for my long weekend. I was just about to head outside when the captain called me.

"Make it quick, Cap." I said "I have a hot date with a beautiful woman and two wonderful kids."

"In here Mark," Captain Greer said. Captain Greer was the captain of the fire station. They had plenty of room behind their building so all the EMS supervisors parked their vehicles there. He closed the door behind me and his face was like stone. "Mark, sit down. This is going to be hard."

"Hey, man." I said, "What's going on. Who was in that 10-50 PI (code for accident with injuries)? My kid, kids wife. WHO, DAMN IT!"

"Lets go." he said

"Go where?" I shouted, "GO WHERE?"

"To the hospital." he told me. "They are waiting for us?"

"Who? No, Cap!" I was losing it "No! Oh, God. Please, anything but that!" Dave put his arm around me. "Who, Dave?"

Dave held me as he said "Michele, Denise and Sean. They died instantly. They felt no pain."

"What about the other driver of the other car?" I asked, concerned for that person.

"DUI." Dave answered.

I totally lost it I was crying on Dave's shoulder. "You mean some drunken son of a bitch just wiped out my entire family? He probably only has minor injuries, doesn't he?"

"Come on, Mark." Dave said. Let's take you to the hospital. "You are not driving, so don't even ask." He took the keys to my new Dodge Ram Charger and gave the keys to another firefighter and told him to take the vehicle to my house and put the keys in the mailbox.

I sat beside Dave and Capt. Greer was in the back seat of Dave's vehicle as we headed to the hospital. When we arrived, the chaplain met us. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me how sorry he was and that they were in a better place now. I never heard what he said. My mind was a million miles away and I only wanted to see my wife and children.

The chief of emergency medicine led me into a room where I saw three stretchers with body's covered with white sheets. I walked over to the largest one and lifted the sheet. It was my wife. Her eyes were closed and she had no apparent injuries. Tears were falling from my eyes as I laid my head on her chest. I cried and cried. She was my life, my strength, and my reason for going on with life. To me the sun rose and set around her. No matter how hard life was treating us, as soon as she walked into the room, all was right with the world. I kissed her and whispered "I love you, sweetheart. I always will." I replaced the sheet over her head and went to the next gurney.

I lifted the next sheet and saw Denise. My beautiful angel and the light of my life. She was so much like her mother, her eyes, hair and most important, her smile. She could light up a room with that smile of hers. If I was feeling down from a bad day at work, all she had to do was smile at me and my spirits were lifted. She had a peaceful look on her face. As with her mother, there were no outward injuries. My little angel was indeed now with the angels. I kissed her and said "Daddy loves his little girl." I covered her face and moved to the last gurney. I knew this was Sean.

I lifted the sheet and there was this little boy who should be out playing. His face seemed to have a devilish grin on his face. He always had that look about him. I could never tell what was really on his mind but deep down inside, he was a sweet loving child. Don't say that to his face or he will do something just to prove you wrong. He could be raising holy hell in one minute and crawl up on your lap for a hug and cuddle the next. No matter how angry I was at him, all he had to do was give me a hug, kiss and say "I love you, Daddy" and all was forgiven. I leaned down and kissed him and said, "I love you, Tiger." That was my pet name for him and he liked that.

I asked about the driver and the doctor said, "She was being taken care of and the police had her under arrest. She has been charged with DUI, driving on a suspended license and three counts of vehicular manslaughter." I saw the police officer and asked him if this was her first time getting a DUI ticket. He shook his head. He raised two fingers meaning she had two previous DUI convictions. This being her third offense, she would be deemed a habitual offender and lose her license for good. Question was, could she stay out from behind the wheel of a car? He asked me if I wanted to see her, but I was too angry. I wasn't sure about what I would say or do if I saw her. I shook my head and walked away.

The chaplain met me and said they would be taken to the same funeral home the city uses when police officers or firefighters die in the line of duty. I just nodded my head in agreement to numb to speak.

Dave put his hand on my shoulder and said "Come on, Mark. It's getting late. I'm taking you home with me. I don't want you being alone at a time like this. Marie can fix us something to eat and you can rest."

Dave was a great friend. We had gone through our training together, became paramedic's at the same time and were even offered these jobs at the same time. Hell, we had even grown up together. We met when we were teenagers. We even married our high school sweethearts. We even had two kids each, except one of mine was a foster child. Our kids were great together. Sean was never treated like a foster child. He was a member of my family. His girl and mine, his boy and mine seemed joined at the hip anytime both families were together. I thought about it for a few minutes then shook my head but thanked him all the same. I couldn't face his kids. I knew how close they all were to each other and they were going to be upset when they learned what happened so, I decided to just go home.

As I was heading home, it dawned on me that there would be one more person I had to face. Jimmy Lassiter. Sean's official best friend. They had been classmates since Sean started school. Talk about Siamese twins, these two were worse. They wore matching outfits, well almost. Whatever color shirt Sean wore, Jimmy wore the same color pants. Same for the rest of the outfits. They even had the same brand and color shoes. Oh, by the way, each wore solid white socks. Freaky yeah...well, just a little. The way these two dressed, you would think they were girls. Let me tell you now, these two were all boys. Wherever there was mischief to be found, Sean and Jimmy were there. Front row center, taking notes for future reference. I was just hoping Jimmy was inside eating. He always met me at the driveway every day when I got home always asking me how my day went. There were just two answers, either busy or quiet. Jimmy would smile at me say he would see Sean later and head home. True to his word, he would. They were either at our house at the weekend or at his.

Marge Lassiter was a good woman. Strong willed, with Jimmy around she had to be, independent yet very down to earth. She got divorced just before we moved into our house and Sean came into our lives the very next week. The two boys started hitting it off so fast it was good for Jimmy. He never dwelled about his father being gone and for a four year old, that wasn't easy. Seven years later she was still single, was raising a son that had his own problem and was a very successful bank executive.

What was Jimmy's problem, he was gay. He told Sean that he was gay and he had a crush on him and would go to hell and back just to be with him. Jimmy told Sean that he loved him like a brother and he would never let anybody hurt him. He never tried to anything sexual with Sean, but Sean didn't know how to take what Jimmy had said.

One evening, Sean came into the living room and asked if he could talk to me, just the two of us. I put the paper down and went into the computer room and closed the door and asked Sean what was on his mind. He told me everything Jimmy had said but he was confused on what he wanted. I told Sean that Jimmy really liked him and since they were always together, they were like brothers. Sean asked me what Jimmy meant when he said he was gay? I told him what it was and what it meant. I also told him that Jimmy was no different from any of his other friends and he wasn't to make fun of him or even to tell the other kids about him being gay. He looked at me and promised me he would never say or do anything to hurt Jimmy and in his own way, he loved Jimmy also. He then told me Jimmy kissed him on the cheek, and he kissed him back. He asked me if I was mad and I told him no, I could never be mad at him.

Denise picked up about Jimmy and Sean. When she told me, she said she thought they were good for each other. She also told me that the boys would never know she knew about them unless they asked her together. She loved Sean, and would do anything to protect him. Don't make older sister mad, deep inside, she was a tom boy. A football playing, baseball loving tomboy who could punch harder than most the boys she knew.

Jimmy was strong and athletic and Sean was quiet and smart. Don't get me wrong, Jimmy was smart but Sean was the honor student. Both boys had looks. Sean had brown hair and blue eyes with a stocky build. He wasn't fat, just stocky like a lineman on a football team. Jimmy had blonde hair and blue eyes tall, athletic handsome. If Sean had blonde hair, they would easily pass for brothers. I knew this would be hard on Jimmy, harder than his parents getting divorced. I just hoped I could keep it together when I told him. There was no sense in lying to him, his mother read the paper and it would be there and she would say something to Jimmy about the accident.

As we turned the corner onto my street, I saw Jimmy standing by the truck wondering why it was home and I wasn't. Suddenly, my thoughts came back to reality. What was I going to say to him. How could I keep my composure, what would that house be like without the life my family had brought to it and how was I going to survive without them? My mind was a wash in a sea of thoughts to which I had no answer. I was about to find out. Dave pulled into the driveway and I got out. I told them I would see them on Tuesday. Neither Dave nor the Captain said anything because they knew it wasn't the time or place.

I headed for the front door and just like every other day, Jimmy was there. Asking me the same question he'd asked every day for the last six months since I'd been a supervisor.

"Hi, Mr. Thomas." Jimmy smiled as he looked up at me. "How was your day today?

I looked down at him and tried to speak, but nothing came out.

He could tell something was wrong. He saw my Ram in the driveway but not the minivan. He saw me get out of another car. That's different. "What's wrong, Mr. Thomas? Where's everybody. You guys were supposed to go off this weekend." Jimmy asked and his face changed expression.

I started losing it. Tears started falling down my face like I was a baby again. I tried to speak but no matter how hard I tried, nothing would come out.

Jimmy pulled me by the hand, and in my current condition I couldn't fight him. I fell to my knees, tears streaming down my face. He took me by my shoulders, shook me and said "Mr. Thomas, what's wrong? Where is everybody? Please, answer me."

I wiped my face and nose and softly said "Jimmy, they're dead son. Aunt 'Chelle, DD and Sean. They were coming home and a drunk driver hit them. They're in heaven with Jesus and God."

As I was telling him this, tears started pouring down his face. Through his sobs he said "I'm sorry, Mr. Thomas. I'm really sorry. I know how much they mean to you." He put his little arms around my neck and cried on my shoulder with me. "You know, I loved Sean to, don't you?"

I looked at him and said "Yes, son. I do. Sean told me. You don't need to be afraid, I'm not mad. He told me how much you cared for him but I don't think you know this. He loved you, too." Jimmy's face brightened when I said that. "That right, son. Sean loved you probably as much as you loved him. It's OK. You two have been together for seven years and have been like shadows. No wonder you became so close. Even DD knew. She would never say anything to you boys that she knew, but she did. In fact, she was happy for you two. She told me if anybody ever said anything about you two, she would beat them up."

Jimmy just cried on my shoulder and I on his. Sometime during our conversation, I had unlocked the door and went inside because when I looked up at Jimmy, we were in the living room. After we finally regained our composure, Jimmy went home but not before telling me one more time how sorry he was and if I needed anything all I had to do was just come over.

The next thing I knew, it was night. I reached and turned on a lamp and looked at my watch it read 8.00pm. Rubbing my head Damn it thought. I'd slept for 90 minutes and didn't even remember doing so. I heard the doorbell. I wasn't in the mood for company and ignored it. Again it rang. I hoped if I didn't answer it, they'll go away. They didn't.

I heard the key in the lock and knew who it was. Marge Lassiter. She had a key for emergencies. I had one to her house, this way no one could ever get locked out. I looked up and saw her carrying a plate of something and put it on the kitchen table. She came over and kissed me on the cheek. She said, "Jimmy told me what happened. I brought you a little something to eat. "Mark, I never told you what you and Sean did for Jimmy after his father and I got divorced. Sean picked his spirits up and it made thing easier without his father around. If you need anything, and I mean anything at all, you just come over.

I swallowed hard and asked her "How's Jimmy? He really took this hard, how is he?

"I put him to bed after he came home crying and told me what had happened. He was crying so hard, he collapsed in my arms after he said Sean had died. When I put him to bed, he looked at me and said he had just lost the love of his life. Do you have any idea what he is talking about?"

I got up and headed for my bar to fix myself a drink. If I was going to pull this off, I was going to need this. I fixed myself a drink and looked at Marge and said "Well you know those two were close. Look at how they dressed every Friday. They were like bookends. When they were over here, if one stopped short, the other bumped into him. Since they were days apart in age, they seemed more like twins than friends. Except for the different hair color, they were twins. Sean even asked me once if he could become a blonde like Jimmy? Michele almost said yes. Thinking back, it would have been nice if Sean was a blonde. He would have looked like Michele and Denise." I started tearing up at those words.

"Yes, indeed." Marge said. "They were like brothers. But you should have seen how lost Jimmy was without Sean. It was like when I first met Jimmy's dad."

Oh, shit I thought, she has figured it out. "Yeah, I know what you mean Marge."

Just then the front door opened up and Jimmy was standing there white as a ghost.

"What's wrong, pal" I said to him.

"I woke up and the house was empty." Jimmy cried "I didn't know where you were Mom. I thought I was all alone and..."

"Hey, hey, hey pal." I said picking him up. "It's OK. Your Mom just brought me some dinner and we started talking. That's all. Everything's alright now." I said putting him beside me on the couch.

"I was just telling Mr. Thomas what you said about you losing the love of your life." Marge started speaking again.

Jimmy turned pale. He asked "Whhhaat did you tell him, mom?"

"Just what you said. That you lost the love of your life, son."

"Jimmy," I said, "I know you and Sean were close very close in fact. It's nothing to be ashamed of, son. I know you two had something very special between you and even Aunt 'Chele and DD knew it. If you think we we're mad or upset with you, you're wrong. We were very happy. Sean spoke to me about his feelings for you. He feared we would be mad and would not let the two of you see each other. I asked him if he was happy. He said he was, in fact he said he was very happy. I told him if he was happy and he was sure about what he was doing, then we would support him all the way. Let me ask you just one question. Are you gay?"

Jimmy was worried. "Well, ah, ah, yes sir. I am. I've known this for almost a year now. I can't help what I am and I'm not going to..."

"Jimmy," I interrupted "I don't expect you to change who or what you are. You can't, just like you can't change the color of your eyes. This will be with you for the rest of your life. It makes you who your are. I don't think I would want to know a different you. Can you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"

Sure, you're happy with me being me." Jimmy said smiling.

I answered back "You got it in one pal."

"Son," Marge started talking. "I've realized you were gay for quite some time. Don't look so surprised. Remember me, your mother? I'm the one who carried you inside me for nine months. I changed your diapers, gave you baths, fed you and took care of you when you were sick. There isn't anything I don't know about you. We are the first to sense things like this. Do I hate you, am I mad? Heavens no, son. You are the same child I gave birth to and raised for the last eleven years. Sure, I'm disappointed that I won't have any grandchildren. But as long as you are happy, that's all that matters to me. Understand?

"Man," Jimmy sighed. "I thought you guys were going to hate me. Mr. Thomas, I thought you never wanted to see me again."

"What?" I said, "Not see the kid who became like my second son? Are you crazy?

Marge added, "How could I hate the child I gave birth to?"

I reached over and hugged Jimmy and kissed him on his forehead. Marge took him and hugged him and gave him a dozen kisses.

"Mom!" Jimmy said "Not in front of company."

She laughed and said "Mr. Thomas in not company, he said you are like his second son. That makes you family not company."

I looked at Jimmy and said "Look Jimmy, I know you and Sean never did anything sexual. Sean told me the time we talked about you and him. If you meet someone and you two think your ready for that, come talk to me. I think you will feel easier talking to a man rather than a woman. Is that Okay with you? I think your mom trusts me in that area."

As Marge was nodding her head, Jimmy spoke "Sure, Mr. Thomas. I'll talk to you. Will you answer any question I have?"

"When have I ever refused to answer any question you have asked me?" I fired back.

"Never." Was all Jimmy could say.

Marge looked at her watch and she said "My gosh, it's almost 10:00 PM. Mark, you ought to be exhausted and Jimmy, it's past your bed time."

"Ah, mom." Jimmy wined. "Can't I stay and talk to Mr. Thomas some more? If I get tired, I could crash here."

"You're not imposing on Mr. Thomas." Marge stepped in.

"If I may," I said. "Jimmy's not imposing. Believe it or not, it could do me good for him to be here. I know what you're thinking Marge, I am not having Jimmy replace Sean. You know that could never happen. I we hadn't been going away, this would be his weekend to stay here anyway."

"Well," Marge relented. "Just don't let him get away with anything."

"When have I ever?" I replied. "The two of them have had equal numbers of butt warmings. Haven't you young man?"

"Yes, sir." Was all Jimmy could say blushing.

As we all headed for the door, I said "Thanks, Marge. I have grown fond of this little squirt. He is welcome to come over anytime, and I mean anytime. Just as long as his homework and chores are done first."

Jimmy had a sour face and Marge was laughing at that one. I locked the door after she went home. Jimmy was sitting on the couch and looked like a puppy that couldn't find his playmate. I put the food Marge brought me into the microwave and reheated it and sat beside Jimmy. I put my arm around his shoulder and asked him "Ya miss them, don't ya?"

He nodded his head and then buried it in my chest.

"So do I pal," I said. 'So do I."

Jimmy got cleaned up while I was eating. Thank God he had some nightclothes here. I took a shower after I got done eating and said it was bedtime.

Jimmy went into Sean's room and I went into mine. We both tossed and turned and tried to sleep but that seemed impossible. Jimmy walked into the room and said "Mark, I can't sleep."

Not being a time for formality, I said "Neither can I, son. Want to lie here with me for a while?"

" OK," Jimmy said coming over to the bed, "Just for a while."

"Sure," I said pulling back the covers. "Just for a while."

He crawled in and snuggled against my chest with his backside. I thought to myself, this reminds me of the times Sean would cuddle with me when he got really sick. I laid my arm over his chest and I felt his hand take hold of mine. Closing my eyes I thought, some things never change.