Master and the Mate
2006 - 2008 by the Author)
Editor: David L
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.
After drying themselves off, Ryan went downstairs, looking for Alex. He found him in the kitchen doing his reading exercises with Manny; Ryan watched for a while to ensure that Alex was doing them correctly before he interrupted.
"Alex, the furniture we ordered won't be here until tomorrow, so Kyle and I would like to invite you to sleep with us in our room tonight."
"Can I come too?" Manny begged.
"Manny, you have slept with us many times, and Alex not yet once. Do you think he could have just one turn alone with Kyle and I?"
"Its OK, by me if Manny joins us. He's my pana!" Alex said, slapping his palm against Manny's.
"Well, as long as you don't mind, Alex … you can invite your brother, but then poor Mark will be all alone tonight." Ryan suggested as he left the kitchen; he looked in on Edwin who was resting comfortably and then headed on to his own room.
"I'm afraid that Manny may be joining us too." Ryan said to Kyle as he entered. Both Kyle and Ryan got undressed and under the sheets and were sharing their experiences of the day when Manny knocked on the door and led the more bashful Alex into the master's boudoir. Kyle moved aside to let the two boys' climb in between him and Ryan. Manny jumped into the bed next to Ryan and this meant that Alex was next to Kyle.
"I'm sure glad we bought this Emperor-size bed." Kyle said, trying to make light of his disappointment.
* * *
Mark stopped by Edwin's room on his way to bed, to see if he needed anything. He had brought him a jug with some iced water and placed it on the night-table next to Edwin's bed.
"Thanks, Mark, that was very thoughtful of you." Edwin said.
"Its no big deal. So, have you figured out how a good God could permit so much evil in the world? Or do you think that's the proof that he doesn't exist?" Mark asked. "Haven't you ever considered that if God made evil impossible then out would go our freedom and without freedom we could not be made in his image and likeness? That in order to make us like himself, he had to make us free and therefore man has the choice of choosing God and all that is good. If we can't choose evil then we don't choose God, because there is no other choice." Mark suggested. "Without our freedom we would not be human."
"And what about pain and suffering?" Edwin said, humoring Mark.
"I'm not sure; but my religious ed instructor says that some pain and suffering is caused by sin and some is a result of our love. He says that when we choose to love, we open ourselves to suffering which is the price of loving." Mark expounded.
"So you think you're going to talk me into believing in God?" Edwin challenged Mark.
"No, I only hope to get you to think about it. Faith is a gift. It is not the result of rational thinking or a conclusion from evidence. It is a leap we take beyond what we can know by reason." Mark continued. "Why don't you just live one day as if God does exist. If you find that it's a good day then maybe do it another day. If you are worse off, then just don't do it again. But since I have been living as if God does exist, every single day has been better than the day before." Mark declared. "How about it, just live tomorrow as if there is a God that loves you? Do you dare to try?"
"OK, Mark, you have a deal, I will live just tomorrow as if there is a God and we will see if it makes any difference." Edwin said, not having the strength to argue further with Mark.
* * *
The next day, Mark took Edwin his breakfast along with his own; he suggested that they give thanks together before they ate.
"Lord, I thank you that my Uncle Edwin is still with us today. I ask you to give him strength and help him to love all that come to see him, as you yourself love him. Amen."
They then ate their bowls of oatmeal in silence.
"I remember when my grandmother used to make us oatmeal on cold wintry days." Edwin said.
"Where are you from?" Mark asked.
"From a small town in the hills of Puerto Rico called Cayey. Ever heard of it?" Edwin said, expecting a negative reply.
"Can't say that I have. We don't study much about geography in school." Mark responded.
Later in the day, Mark went online and Googled for a forum about Puerto Rico and eventually was able to find a chat room for the mountain towns and asked if anyone had ever heard of Edwin's family. Eventually, he got someone who was from the same barrio and they gave him a street address. He then went into the white pages and searched until he found a family with the same last name as Edwin and the same street address. He called them on the phone, just hoping that if someone answered that they would understand English.
"Hola, Familia Cordero." A voice of an older woman answered eventually.
"Hola, Soy Marcos, un a mi go de Edwin. Esta es su madre?"
The woman on the other end of the line got all excited and spoke so fast that he had no idea of what she said. He didn't know how to reply. Finally he understood something.
"One momento, por favor, One momento."
"Hello, who is speaking?"
"Hello, this is Mark, a friend of Edwin's; is this his family?" Mark replied, somewhat relieved that someone was speaking to him in English.
"Yes, this is his sister. Is he all right?"
"Yes, he is all right; he is with us, his friends in New York."
"Can we speak with him?" His sister asked.
"He can't come to the phone right now. Please listen to me. Edwin is very ill, he does not want you to know, but I thought that you should be told and if you could come here, I think that would be good for him."
"Oh, Dios Mio. Mamá, Edwin está bien enfermo y quieren que nos vayamos a verlo."
Mark could barely make out what she was saying, but figured the daughter was telling her mother the situation. He gave them Ryan's phone number and told them to call when they had their plans all made. They said they would try to come up as soon as they could book a flight.
* * *
That afternoon the phone was ringing when Mark got back home from school. It was Edwin's sister calling to tell him that they would arrive at LaGuardia Airport that very night at 8 p.m.; they had been calling all day and were now at the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mark's heart began to race as he thought about all he would have to do to get ready to receive them. Mark asked how he would recognize them and he was told that they would be carrying a shopping bag with the name, Esquina Famosa written on it. Mark hung up and called Bill and Tony to see if they could drive him to the airport. Since they hadn't even known about Edwin coming to stay at Ryan and Kyle's, Mark had a lot of explaining to do.
"So where are these people going to stay?" Bill asked, trying to help Mark get organized.
"Oh my God, I didn't even think of that!" Mark exclaimed, panic-struck. "Well maybe you and Manny could sleep here on the Mon Cheri with us and they could sleep in your room." Bill suggested. "That's a great idea, but what about Alex?" Mark replied.
"Who is Alex?" Bill asked, perplexed by the introduction of the newest addition to the Loud–Darling family.
"Oh, he's our newest brother." Mark calmly retorted.
"Another kid! Ryan and Kyle took in another one already? Well bring him along, there's plenty of room, we can have a party and sit up all night talking…" Bill laughed. "OK, we'll pick you up at 7 p.m. sharp. Bring your cellphone in case we get separated at the airport." Bill advised.
"OK, see you at 7." Mark said, confirming what Bill had suggested.
When Kyle arrived home, Mark followed him into the kitchen: "Dad, can I talk to you?" he asked as Kyle started preparing the evening meal.
"Not right now, Mark, I have to get dinner prepared." Kyle said, feeling pressured.
"Well, I thought I should mention that I've invited a couple of guests." Mark said.
"Oh, in that case, I'm glad you told me now. Who did you invite, Joe and Pete?" Kyle asked, not suspecting anything.
"No, but I could if you want me to. I invited Edwin's mother and sister." Mark said nervously.
"OK, that's good." Kyle said absentmindedly as he mentally wondered what to do for dinner. Then the words Mark had uttered finally penetrated his consciousness: "You what? You did what?" Kyle said, raising his voice.
"I just thought that they would need to see Edwin before he dies, just think how bad it would be for them if they don't get to say goodbye." Mark said trying to explain his actions.
"Mark, you went against Edwin's wishes. Now what are we going to do?" Kyle worriedly replied.
"No one told me that Edwin didn't want to see them and they do want to see him." Mark insisted.
"Mark, listen to me. What did you tell them? They don't know that Edwin is gay nor that he has AIDS. Shit, now what can we do?" Kyle said, getting even more worried.
"I don't know what you were thinking about Mark. How could you do this without consulting us?" Kyle finally said, voicing his disappointment with Mark.
"I lost my parents without any chance to say goodbye ... I just know I did the right thing. They should not have to deal with his death without having had a chance to say goodbye." Mark said categorically.
"Maybe you're right, but it wasn't your decision to make." Kyle insisted.
"I didn't make it; they decided to come. All I did was tell them that Edwin is very sick." Mark pressed his point.
"Well don't tell Edwin until Ryan gets home, I don't want to risk upsetting him until we've discussed this with Ryan." Kyle said, ending the discussion, and Mark realising he was serious, decided to retreat to his room.
* * *
Following Mark's revelations of what he'd done, Kyle could barely concentrate on preparing dinner. He decided to prepare Chicken with rice and beans because he had heard somewhere that it was the staple food in Puerto Rico. Luckily he had a couple of chickens in the freezer and plenty of Uncle Ben's Instant Rice on hand.
Kyle had propped the kitchen door open so he could watch out for Ryan as he worked, and when Ryan finally arrived home, Kyle pounced on him at the door.
"You'll never guess what St Mark has got up to today?" Kyle teased.
"He's been elevated to sainthood already? What did he do to earn beatification even before dying?" Ryan asked light-heartedly.
"He invited Edwin's mother and sister here and they are on their way as we speak!" Kyle said bluntly.
"Oh my God! Whatever possessed him to do that?" Ryan exclaimed.
"It's no good talking to him. He's convinced that he's done the right thing." Kyle warned. "So what do we do now?"
"Well we have to tell Edwin." Ryan said, as he turned to leave the kitchen and then went upstairs and knocked on Mark's door. Mark who had been anticipating Ryan's arrival, opened the door and Ryan indicated to him that they should go over to Edwin's room.
Ryan knocked gently on the door, but there was no response. He knocked again, harder, and still there was no response; so he opened the door. Edwin was unconscious and did not respond to Ryan's shaking him.
"Mark, call 911!" Ryan yelled.
* * *
Mark waited with Tony inside the airport watching for Edwin's folks while Bill stayed outside in the car, circling the passenger pickup area. After about fifteen minutes, an older woman accompanied by a younger one came through the Arrivals door holding a yellow shopping bag out in front of them and Mark went right up to them and greeted them. Minutes later they were on their way to the hospital.
Fortunately the journey didn't take long as the visitors were anxious after not being able to get anything from Mark – who had obeyed Ryan's instructions to say nothing! After Bill and Tony dropped them off at the main entrance, Mark ushered them through the hospital and up to Edwin's ward where Ryan and Kyle sat pensively in the waiting area.
"¿Cómo está mi hijo?" Said Edwin's mother.
¨How is my brother, Edwin?" Repeated her daughter.
"He's stable, but not conscious." Ryan answered.
"El está vivo, pero no está conciente," the daughter translated for her mother.
"Dónde está, donde está mi hijo, querio verlo." said the mother.
"She wants to see him, please take us to him. I am his sister Rosa."
Kyle spoke to the nurse and explained that the immediate family had arrived and they were asked to sign some papers and then taken into his room. His mother ran to the side of his bed and began kissing his face and hands. Rosa stood on the other side of the bed and held his other hand.
"Edwin, es mi tu mama. Mi hijo, no me vayas." Edwin's mother said, crying.
Edwin opened his eyes to see his mother and sister's tearful faces.
"Negrita, estás aquí! Mami, te amo." Edwin said very weakly.
"Te amo también mi hijo. Tu hermanita, Rosa, está aquí tambien."
"Hola Rosita, te amo con todo mi corazón." Edwin expressed his love for his baby sister.
* * *
Mark had found the chaplain's office, but not the chaplain; he wasn't to be found; so Mark went to the information desk and asked if they could give him the chaplain's phone number. They explained that they couldn't do that, but that they could beep him if it was an emergency. Mark told the attendant that his uncle was dying and wanted to speak to a priest and without another word she sent the signal. Twenty minutes later the chaplain came rushing into the foyer of the hospital and stopped by the information desk to find out who was in need of his services. Mark introduced himself and explained what he knew about Edwin and the priest agreed to speak with him. Mark took him to Edwin's room and when his mother and sister saw his roman collar, they were greatly relieved and waited outside the door.
"Edwin, I am Father Greg. The Lord is merciful and celebrates when a sinner asks for forgiveness. Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ?"
Edwin nodded that he did.
"Are you sorry for all your offenses and sins?"
Again Edwin nodded affirmatively.
"Then I, in the name of all the members of the Church, and in my own name and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, absolve you of all your sins." The priest then invited everyone into the room and read a scripture passage about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. He emphasized the words where Jesus asked Martha if she believed in the resurrection and she said she did believe at the end that the dead would rise again, but Jesus corrected her and said, 'I am the resurrection and the Life, he who believes in me will never die!' That is from the 11th Chapter of the Gospel according to John," Fr. Greg said, "this chapter is at the center of the Gospel and Jesus' words are at the center of this chapter as Jesus is the center of our life." He then anointed Edwin who died peacefully with his head held by his adoring and weeping mother.
Before they left the room, she kissed Mark's hands and said, "Eres un angel, salvaste mi hijo, gracias, gracias."
Ryan was crying and Kyle was consoling him. Mark's face was aglow. He knew now that Edwin had his answers and Ryan would have so much more peace knowing that Edwin had died reconciled with himself, his mother and sister and his God.
On the drive home, Ryan hugged Mark and thanked him for not giving in to Edwin's fears and stubbornness. When they got home and told Manny he too cried but Alex was able to comfort him.
Alex had put clean sheets on the beds for Edwin's mother and sister and then the boys all left with Bill and Tony. There was no party that night on the Mon Cheri, but it was a chance for Alex to get to know another part of the family. Once he realized that Bill and Tony were also gay, he began to be very glad to be part of the Ryan–Kyle crowd.
That night no tom-toms were heard beating in Ryan and Kyle's bedroom.
"I can't believe he's dead," Kyle said.
"It all seems like a dream." Ryan concurred. "You know, if Mark had asked me permission to call Edwin's family, I would have forbade him and it would have probably been one of the greatest mistakes of my life."
"I guess that it just proves, that there is a God who is active among us and seeking to keep us as his own." Kyle said and received a nice kiss on the lips from Ryan.
"So Mark was elevated again today; from being a mere saint to the ranks of the angels." Ryan commented. "I told Edwin, not to resist him, that he would always get what he was after."
To be continued.
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