The last Thursday in July, Evan called me in the evening, his voice strained and tired. "I don't think I can come up tomorrow. I been barfin' all day, and now I've got the shits. I ate with my parents last night, so I don't think it's food poisoning; must be the flu or something."
I hated to let a weekend go by without seeing him. "I can come down there."
"Oh, man, you don't wanna get anywhere near me right now. It's gross. And I don't want you to catch it, in case it's contagious."
I reluctantly agreed, and we said goodnight. He called me Saturday evening, still under the weather, but feeling somewhat better.
"Know what I miss the most?" I did some heavy breathing in his ear. "No, not that," he laughed. "Breakfast. Eating breakfast with you is better than almost anything else. The food's great, and it's the start of another day together, but it's not just that. I can't really explain it. Silly, huh?" he added when I didn't say anything.
"No. I was just thinkin' that most guys would say 'sex.' What do you suppose it means that we love eating breakfast together?"
"That we'll get old and fat together, probably."
We laughed and said goodnight, but I thought about that conversation the rest of the evening. After you get the big stuff sorted out, assuming you do, relationships are built on the small things, the flotsam and jetsam of daily life that sifts down into the cracks and crevices, slowly, slowly creating the solid foundation necessary to get you through a lifetime together.
Sunday I called him after I finished some yard work. I was all sweaty, which made me think of Evan, so I popped the top on a cold Dr. Pepper, and punched his number.
"'Lo?" He sounded much livelier than yesterday.
"Hey, dude. How you feelin'?"
"A lot better, actually. My mom sent over some real food."
I could hear the TV in the background, and suddenly, a hoot of male laughter.
"Got company?" I tried like hell to keep my voice even.
"Yeah, some friends brought the food. We're just watching TV."
I was silent for a moment, trying to put a lid on the jealousy simmering just below the surface. Then Evan yelled into my ear.
"Ahhh, Jesus! Knock it off! Goddamn it, I'm tryin' to talk here." Then to me, "Sorry, sorry. They're, uh, feeling their oats, I guess." More laughter. "Listen, I gotta go. I'll see you Friday about 6. Call me tomorrow, ok?"
After he hung up, I stood there in the quiet kitchen, staring a hole in the floor, thinking about Evan and me. Was this going to develop into something substantial, or were we going to go on for months, seeing each other two days at a time here and there, until it just burned out? Until one missed weekend turned into two, then three?
I knew that I wasn't willing to let that happen, but I didn't really know what else to do. Evan and I both had some issues that nothing but time was going to take care of, so if I wanted this, I was just gonna have to suck it up and tough it out.
Evan called me Monday night after work. He was alone, and I could hear the little something in his voice that told me he knew I was pissed. I mostly wasn't by then, but I figured it couldn't hurt to let him butter me up a little. He was sweet, and did some reminiscing about the first weekend we spent together, trying, I think, to remind me of the things that were so good about us. By the time we'd talked for an hour, I'd have waited for the next ten years for him to make up his mind.
At the end of the conversation, I said goodnight and wished him sweet dreams. He did the same, but didn't hang up, and it took me a second to understand what he was waiting for. The realization spread a warm flush through my chest and I smiled into the phone as I said it.
"I love you, Evan."
He was silent for a moment, then said, "'Night."
The phone clicked as he quietly broke the connection. I did the same, still smiling to myself.
The following Friday evening, I was out front chatting with Callie after we'd run into each other at the mailboxes when Evan whipped into the driveway. He climbed out of the car and stood gazing at me across the hood; his face was expressionless, but his eyes burned holes in me. I licked my lips, muttered some sort of goodbye to Callie, and headed for Evan like I was on a tractor beam. Our eyes stayed locked as I walked around the rear of the car and right up to where he stood in the open door.
He drew back slightly as I stuck my face up close to his. I'm not sure what he was expecting, but when I gave his package a firm squeeze through his jeans, he grunted softly and narrowed his eyes at me. I stepped back, gave Callie a last wave, and sauntered into the house, sorting my mail as Evan got his bag and followed me. I was just setting the mail on the hall table when he grabbed me from behind, banding his arms around me and lifting me off the ground a little. I could feel his hard cock against my butt as he leaned back to counter my weight. When he put me down, he leaned over me, his face next to mine.
"I am hornier than fuck," he growled in my ear. "Two weeks is too fuckin' long."
Fifteen minutes later I rolled off him, flopping onto my back from where I'd been kneeled over his face, sucking him off while he returned the favor. He scooted around until he was lying alongside me, taking my hand in his as we gazed up at the ceiling.
"Hungry?" I had stuff to make burgers on the grill.
We made dinner slowly, stretching out the evening with dinner on the deck, a walk around the neighborhood, and another round of sex, on the couch this time. After we'd sat up and caught our breath, Evan brought it up.
"Those guys last weekend are just a couple buddies. Nothing more. I was sick, remember?"
"Yeah." He obviously wanted more than that from me because the silence strung out between us. I sighed theatrically, and finally I added, "It's just... I wanted to be there."
"I know," he said, as he put an arm across my shoulders. "But you got nothin' to worry about here. I'm not goin' anywhere, ok?" He gave my shoulders a little shake, and I nodded.
"Ok." Fuck, I hated needing reassurance from him like that, but it did make me feel better. I swung my head to look at him. "Thinkin' about you with someone else makes me nuts."
"Well, don't torment yourself cause it ain't gonna happen. Come on." He stood and pulled me up, leading me by the hand toward the bedroom.
We spent Saturday evening at the garage detailing our bikes. Evan was sitting on the floor doing his rear wheel when one of the guys stuck his head around the corner of my tool box. "Hey. Mike's car is here."
Evan raised his eyebrows at me. "Mike's the guy who owns the garage, right? The muscle car guy?"
"Yeah. His latest baby must be back from the painter's."
The garage is a big L, with the main entrance on one street, and big bay doors on the adjacent side street. The main room is sectioned into 8 bays of various sizes, separated by 8' block walls, with the fronts open to the wide center aisle. Mike rented the bays out to help support his car habit.
Evan and I walked down the aisle, made the turn into the back half of the L, and joined the small crowd watching a car transporter angle into the drive. Mike walked up the ramp, and in a few seconds we heard a throaty rumble as he fired up the 440 engine. Headlights began to emerge from the dark interior of the transporter, and then the front end of a Dodge Charger rolled slowly into view. It was midnight black, and at first, I could only see the distinctive divided grille. I turned to smile at Evan, but he was walking quickly back to the 8-bay main room, and as I watched, he turned the corner and disappeared.
I glanced back at the Charger. Mike was pulling it into the garage and the other guys were crowding around. They wouldn't miss me for a few minutes, so I headed back to my bay. At first I didn't see him, and almost went to look in the bathroom, but then I heard his breathing, harsh and fast.
I walked a little closer; he was sitting wedged between my tool box and the 55 gallon drum I used as a trash can. His back was pressed to the wall with his feet drawn up close to his butt, and he had his arms wrapped tightly around his legs. Eyes closed, mouth open, he sat with his head tipped back against the wall. His chest heaved as he fought to get enough air.
I knelt down in front of him, my knees spread wide around his feet.
"Evan?" He jerked at the sound of my voice and his eyes opened, wide and unfocused for a second. "What's wrong?"
No reply, but his eyes met mine. I rested my hands lightly on top of his knees, then ran them up the tense muscles of his upper arms. My chest leaned against his knees as I massaged his tight shoulders. Bit by bit, his respiration began to slow, and some of the tension went out of him. After several minutes, he let loose of his knees, and spread them so that he could put his arms around me. It was an awkward position, but I held it until he shifted to stand up. After I pulled him to his feet, he stepped away from me to lean his butt against the bench.
He scrubbed his face with both hands. "Fuck, I haven't had one of those in almost ten years."
"One of what?" I was still clueless.
He put his hands down to his chest, but didn't look at me. "Panic attack."
I'd heard of them, but never seen one in action. "From what?"
"That car. That's... that's what hit us that night. What are the fuckin' odds, huh? I've gone ten years without seein' one of those." He lowered his hands further, gripping his thighs as he looked up at me. "You must think I'm fuckin' crazy, gettin' so worked up over a car." He barked out a hard laugh. "Used to be, I couldn't ride behind the driver, cause that's where I was sitting when we got hit. It's just the last few years that I don't really think about where I sit anymore."
He stared at me, defiance and fear mixed in his face. I shook my head and moved slowly toward him.
"I don't think you're crazy, Evan. I think you're a little fucked up from something awful that happened to you a long time ago."
I reached for him, but he straightened up away from me and held my eyes. "You're not gettin' tired of all this? Seems like every weekend I show up with some new thing we gotta deal with."
I looked at him, thinking about our relationship up to now, then answered him honestly. "No, I'm not gettin' tired of it... I guess maybe I'm surprised that you still have so much left over shit, but, fuck, I got nothin' to compare to that, so I can't judge you. Besides, after that first night when you cried over Luke, I knew you had some stuff goin' on." I rested my wrists on his shoulders with my hands around the back of his neck. "We'll work through it, ok? You and me. Ok?"
He gave me a small smile. "I need to go look at the car again. Will you come with me?"
We walked down to the end of the main room, pausing just before turning the corner into Mike's part of the building. I walked a few steps past him so I could see the car. Evan took a deep breath and stepped past the wall. I watched his face as he looked the length of the building to where the Charger was sitting, lights off, engine quiet. He blinked at it a couple times, and then walked slowly toward it. Mike and another guy were still admiring it, saying `hey' as we got close.
Evan walked completely around the car, leaned in the window, and then came back to stand next to me. "Nice car," he said to Mike.
"Thanks, man, took me forever to find this one."
We hung around with Mike a little longer, shooting the breeze about the car, tidied up our stuff in my bay, and then walked back to my place.
"Well?" I asked, as we got ready for bed. "Was it weird the second time?"
He shook his head and blew out a breath. "No. I think it was mainly the lights and the grill, cause that's all I really remember from that night. Just sittin' there, it was fine. Just another car."
"Cool," I said, then pushed Evan onto his back and crawled up him.
Evan's occasional drama aside, this had been a wonderful summer, except for the fact that he seemed determined to compartmentalize our relationship from the rest of his life. By the middle of August, we'd been seeing each other for three and a half months, and I knew no more about his life in Patterson now, than I had after the second weekend we spent there. It was beginning to really bother me, and Evan inadvertently brought it to a head one Sunday morning as we were cleaning up breakfast.
"So... how about I ride the bike up next weekend? We can head into the mountains."
"No," I replied. I hadn't meant to start this conversation that way, but it just popped out.
His voice was a little uncertain as he said, "Ok, then. I'll just–"
"No." I stopped wiping the stove top and turned to find him staring at me. "No more weekends hiding out here."
His face shut down, and he tossed the dish towel onto the counter as he walked to the back door, hands shoved deep in his front pockets like he always did when he was uncomfortable about something. His voice was quiet, but not angry as I'd expected. "We're not hiding out here."
"What is it, then? Why haven't I met your folks? Your friends? You and I are great together, but we can't spend eternity in this house, Evan. If we can't make it in your world..."
He stood there for a long moment, long enough for me to wish I'd kept my mouth shut. Then he turned to me, his face serious, his voice strong and certain. "You're right. It's time." He squared his shoulders a little as he spoke. "Come down Friday. We'll have dinner with my folks, and I... uh.... I want you to meet Kenny and Rafael. They were with Luke and me in the accident."
I just nodded, suddenly overcome with the thought of meeting everyone, despite the fact that I'd pushed for it. Old Chinese proverb - be careful what you wish for.
In bed that night, just as we were dozing off, I whispered into Evan's ear from behind. "I love you, Evan."
He pulled my arms tighter and whispered back, "I know you do. That's good." I could hear sleepy satisfaction in his voice. I smiled as I got comfortable.
If he was acknowledging it, I figured saying it couldn't be far behind.
"What are you so wound up about?" Evan asked me. "Jesus, don't be such a girl."
"Fuck you!" I said as I flicked my towel at his bare ass. We'd just gotten out of the shower and I was rooted to the floor in front of my bag, unable to decide between something as simple as boxers or briefs. He jumped out of the way, then came back to yank a pair of boxers out of the bag and lob them at me.
"Put those on, pick a pair of slacks and a shirt, and get dressed, for Christ sake. We don't have all day." He kept an eye on me as I put on pants, went through three shirts until I was satisfied with the look, and was sitting on the bed putting on my shoes.
"I haven't had to meet someone's parents in... fuck, ever, I guess. Jesus. I feel like a Goddamn teenager." I glared at him as I shoved my shirt into my pants. "I wouldn't do this for anyone but you."
"Sweetheart, they're gonna love you. Just relax."
"Sweetheart?" I stared up at him. "You just called me 'sweetheart.'"
He flushed a little and looked away. "Yeah, so? That's how I think of you. I just don't usually say it out loud."
"God, I loved it. Say it again."
He blushed for real this time, color staining his cheeks and neck. "I can't just blurt it out. It has to... be in context." He turned to leave the room, but I grabbed him by both arms, ducking down to look up into his face.
"Say it," I demanded, as he squirmed in my grip. "Say it!"
"O-K! Jesus!" He pulled away from me, composed himself, and raised his eyes to mine. "Sweetheart," he said solemnly. "My folks are going to love you."
How about you, Evan, I thought, as we looked at each other. Will you ever love me? But I kept my mouth shut.
During the 15 minutes it took us to drive to Evan's folks' house, I rehearsed my lines. I wanted to come off as intelligent, sincere, responsible, kind, honest, and trustworthy - your basic Eagle Scout - all those qualities parents would naturally want in the partner of their only child. I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants for fifth time and wondered why the hell I was so nervous about this. Evan was 27 years old, long past needing his parents' consent for anything, but I wanted them to like me, and more importantly, to approve of me as their son's choice.
Then there were the inevitable comparisons to Luke.
Was I as decent a human being? I hoped so.
As personable? Probably not.
As handsome? Definitely not.
But I had one thing going for me that Luke didn't. I was alive - right here, right now - and deeply in love with Evan.
Their home was a charming Cape Cod surrounded by an acre of rustic countryside on the outskirts of town. The front walk was bordered with a riot of flowers, and his dad was just coiling up a hose as we pulled in the drive. He straightened and smiled at us as we climbed out of the car, coming around to pull Evan close in a one-armed hug, patting him on the belly with the other hand. He was as tall as Evan with brown hair just beginning to go gray at the temples, and serious brown eyes that looked me over carefully as Evan introduced us.
"Dad, this is Jeff. Jeff, my father, Don."
We shook hands and he smiled at me for a moment before turning to the woman stepping out of the house. Evan's mom wrapped him up in a long, silent hug, rubbing her hands up and down his back. Her head barely came to his shoulder. When she pulled away, she took his face in both hands and smiled up at him. "Hi, honey. You look good. Jeff must agree with you."
She turned to me, and I found myself looking at a female version of Evan twenty years from now; the same squarish jaw, those somber gray eyes, wavy salt and pepper hair. We studied each other for a long moment, which was broken by Evan introducing us. Maggie shook my hand slowly as she looked at me. "I'm so glad you could join us."
I smiled, slightly uncomfortable under her close scrutiny, but the moment passed when we went inside and Evan took me on a tour of the house. They had moved here when he was three, so he'd spent the majority of his life in this warm, inviting home, and I understood a little more about how he'd become the person he was today. The backyard was enclosed by a white picket fence with a lap pool stretching away down one side.
"My folks put that in when I started getting good. I still swim almost every day after work."
His room at the end of the upstairs hall was as he'd left it the day he'd moved out – blue walls, two single beds covered in colorful quilts, school mementos everywhere. There were swimming trophies, scholastic awards, and framed photos on the walls and dresser. I walked a slow circle around the room, absorbing his teenaged presence, reconciling it with the man I knew.
To the right of the door was a long frame with four photos. I recognized Evan and Luke; the other two – one dark, one fair – I didn't. Evan was grinning at the camera, and I stared at his image for a moment. He smiled a lot more now than he had when we'd first met, but I'd never seen this big, uninhibited grin on his face. He was standing silently beside me, meeting my gaze when I glanced at him, but offering no explanation. I went back to the frame.
Luke was good looking, too, but with the wholesomeness that comes from good genes, healthy food, and lots of exercise. His blond crew cut was shorter than in the pictures on Evan's dresser, as if he'd just had it cut for graduation. The camera had caught him with a small smile just curling one side of his mouth, pulling a dimple into that cheek, and I could see what had attracted Evan. Luke was cute, but he was also very appealing in a way that had nothing to do with his looks.
"That's Rafael." Evan pointed at a Hispanic-looking guy. "He's the one who was burned. Wait'll you see his face."
Rafael was gorgeous; there was no other word for the perfection of his sharp features, the light brown complexion setting off his black hair and big dark eyes. The photographer had known just what to do with him, having him turn his shoulder to the camera, his head dropped forward slightly and turned to look sideways at the lens. He wasn't smiling and he looked like he could be a tough guy, but I've always like Latin men with attitude, and my nuts tightened a little as I looked into those black eyes.
Evan's finger moved to the next photo. "And Kenny, the wheelchair bandit."
Kenny's grin was infectious, and I felt a smile start as I looked at him. His curly brown hair framed his strong face, and his green eyes sparkled at the camera. Definitely someone I'd look twice at in a bar, even if he was sittin' in a wheelchair.
Evan was looking at Luke's photo, but turned to me after a moment. "You'll meet them this weekend."
I looked at him with a bit of an apprehensive smile - at least that's the way I felt. "Yeah, I guess I should."
We looked at each other for a second, and then I moved on around the room. A photo on his dresser caught my attention next. In this one, Luke rested his butt against the front fender of an old blue pickup truck that matched his eyes, smiling into the lens. He wore cutoff jeans and a Patterson H.S. athletic tank, and I could see his body for the first time. His shoulders were broad, his waist and hips narrow, the classic V shape of a male athlete. His blond hair was a little longer, and the strong sunlight made it glisten on his legs and forearms, highlighting the sleek muscles.
Evan stood between Luke's spread feet, his butt nestled into Luke's crotch, encircled in his arms with his hands hooked up over Luke's forearms. Evan's head was dropped back, resting on Luke's shoulder, eyes closed, and there was a faint smile on his face. He was dressed like Luke, and even then, ten years ago, I could see the basics of the body I now knew so well.
It was an intimate portrait of two people in love, and I'd never seen anything more beautiful. Evan stepped up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. "That was about a month before graduation. Luke's sister took it."
We gazed at the picture silently. My throat was tight with emotion - aching regret for Evan's loss, sad resignation at Luke's death. And I was envious of this pictorial evidence of their relationship - there wasn't a single picture of Evan and me together. If we both died tomorrow, there would be no record of us, no photographs for someone to sift through years from now and realize with a smile, 'these two people loved each other.'
I finally pulled myself away from the picture and moved to the desk where several small frames hung. One last frame stopped me cold, and I felt a chill slither up my spine. It was a single sheet of plain white paper covered with small pencil sketches of Evan. He was much younger here, but the similarity between these drawings and the ones I'd done for the Pan that Evan had taken that first weekend were impossible to miss. Down in one corner was the artist's name. Luke. When I turned to look at Evan, he was watching me with that odd smile I'd almost asked him about when I'd given him the drawing.
"See now why I asked for the one you drew?"
I nodded, turning back to look at it again. Just then Maggie called us to dinner, so we turned off the light and went downstairs.
It was just the four of us in the casual dining room, but I was comfortable enough to hold my own in the conversation. They asked me about my work, expressing interest that I had more than a nodding acquaintance with the strings of gibberish that computer programs were made of. Maggie warned that she'd be calling whenever she got stuck, since Don and Evan knew just enough to get her into trouble, but not out of it. I laughed and gave her my cell number, assuring her I'd be happy to help.
Don took Evan off to look at a bookcase he was building in the garage while I helped Maggie clear the table, lugging more dishes than I'd ever owned back into the kitchen, where she set me to work putting everything into plastic storage containers. As I was scraping the mashed potato bowl clean, Maggie spoke from the sink where she was rinsing dishes and putting them in the dishwasher.
"You're nothing like him. I thought you might be, but you're not."
I glanced at her, but she was gazing out the window into the back yard with a thoughtful expression on her face, her hands motionless in the sink.
"Evan told me that, too, when we first met."
She smiled a little at that. "I loved that boy. He was like my own son." Her hands gripped the edge of the sink now. "Telling Evan that Luke was dead was the hardest thing I've ever done."
Jesus, he hadn't told me that. I guess I'd assumed a doctor had told him, but now that I thought about it, of course his mother had been the only person from whom such horrific news could come and not shatter him completely. I watched her quietly, watched the play of emotions across her face. Finally, she sighed and began rinsing dishes again.
When she shut the water off, I spoke into the silence of the kitchen. "I'm in love with him."
I hadn't intended to say any such thing, but her calm acceptance of me made it important that she understand how much Evan meant to me, that this was not a casual fling on my part.
She turned to look at me, studying my face carefully before nodding. "I know you are. And he loves you."
"Do you think so? He hasn't... said it yet."
She came over to the island where I was standing with the empty mashed potato bowl still in my hands. She took it from me, waved me into one of the tall stools and sat next to me, laying her hand over mine on the counter. She smiled at me.
"He told me, and he'll tell you, too, if you can be patient with him."
Jesus, Evan had told his mother he loved me before he told me? I wasn't sure what to think about that. I simply couldn't imagine having the sort of relationship with my mother where that would even have been a possibility. Maggie continued.
"When Evan told me he was gay, it wasn't as much of a surprise as he thought it would be. I knew that he had no interest in girls, but it was a hard thing to accept that I'd never have grandchildren, never have little Evans running around to spoil." She paused, and then smiled slightly. "But Luke was a wonderful boy, and he loved Evan. I was glad they'd found each other." She paused again, looking off across the room. "Watching Luke and Evan together changed my understanding of what love could be. Of course, I'd always thought in terms of a man and a woman, but even though they were teenaged boys, rough and awkward sometimes, they were so good with each other, so sweet and loving."
She looked down at our hands, ran her fingers lightly over mine, and then gripped them firmly as she spoke. "My wish for Evan is that he lives a rich, fulfilling life with someone who loves and respects him. Someone he can love and respect in return. From what Evan's told me, and from what I can see for myself, I have no doubt you're that someone. It took ten years, but you finally found each other."
She was quiet again for a minute, and I couldn't speak at all. Then she turned to face me, looking intently into my eyes. "Take care of it. Cherish what you have between you." I nodded mutely, mesmerized by the forcefulness of her words and the look in her eyes. We stared at each other for a moment, and then she patted my hand once, stood up and walked briskly to the other side of the kitchen to pick up the pies cooling there. "Bring the coffee, will you?"
We had pie and coffee, chatting easily, and I realized that my nervousness was long gone. Evan's dad was friendly, asking my advice about upgrading the computers at the law firm, and we agreed I'd come in and have a look at them as soon as we could arrange it.
They walked us to the car where they hugged Evan; I got another handshake from Don, but Maggie hugged me close for a second, her cheek pressed to mine, then stepped back and put her arm around her husband's waist as we got into the car and backed down the drive.
I was silent on the ride home, staring out the window as I mulled over what Maggie had said to me. Evan put a hand on my leg, but otherwise left me alone with my thoughts. We changed clothes and headed out for our evening walk. It had become such a ritual that we didn't even discuss it any more.
Tonight we'd gone a couple blocks before either of us spoke. "That went okay, huh?" he asked me.
I squeezed his hand. "Yeah, they're great. You're lucky to have them."
"I know. We've always had a good relationship. I never hated my parents like a lot of kids I knew."
"Your mom told me..." I paused, feeling my way, "that she was the one who told you Luke was dead."
He nodded, and it was a half a block before he spoke. "I can't even imagine how hard that was for her. It's probably the most loving thing she's ever done for me. She never left my room that first week. Every time I woke up screaming, she was there. She was the first person I saw in the morning, and the last one I saw as I fell asleep. She saved me," he added simply.
I couldn't imagine having a parent who cared that much. My relationship with my own mother had been one of basic needs - she fed and clothed me - but no emotional support or interaction. She never told me that she loved me. I'd wondered over the years if that had any bearing on my apparent inability to maintain a long term relationship, and it scared me a little when I thought about Evan and me.
He lifted my hand to his mouth, kissing each knuckle. "She likes you. I knew she would."
"Yeah, she does," I agreed, sighing happily. "I like her, too."
We went home and made love; slow, sweet sex that felt almost dreamlike. It took me a long time to climax. I don't know if I was distracted or tired or what, but Evan was patient, and I finally rewarded his efforts with an orgasm that almost brought me to tears. I choked and snuffled all through it, on my back with my cock down Evan's throat.
When I was finished, he moved up beside me and pulled me into his arms.
"I need to tell you more about Rafael, Kenny and me."
Thanks to David of Hope for sorting out this one.
Like it? Love it? Want some more of it? Qwb224@gmail.com