Construction Days

© by The Lavender Quill, 2002

Warning: the following story contains graphic descriptions of male/male sex between consenting adults. If that sort of thing bothers you, or you are a minor, or it is illegal for you to read this type of content under the laws of your area, don’t read any further.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is purely coincidental.

I love receiving emails. Accolades, encouragement, suggestions, comments, and corrections are welcome and gladly accepted. <>.

Other work by The Lavender Quill can be found on the web at <>.

Setting: Sacramento, California, 2002.

Chapter 13.

I tried to keep calm, but my anxiety kept building as Sunday evening approached. This was made worse by the fact that Robby wasn’t able to spend any time with me, other than the days at the construction site. We talked a lot during the day, and he held me and hugged me when we could find a few minutes of privacy. I was unwilling to chance another blow job in the panel room, tempting as it was. If we kept doing that, eventually we would get caught.

In the evenings, I sat alone in my apartment worrying. I wished Robby could be with me. I really needed just to hold him, to have him hold me. I would feel safe then. It felt so good to be near him, and, increasingly, so lonely to be without him.

He was unable to say that he loved me in the same way I did him, but really, I think he cared for me more than he was willing to admit. I think he loved me, but was being held back by guilt, over both his parents and his church. When we were together, however, we seemed to meld more and more each day. He seemed to feel as bad as I did that he couldn’t be with me after work.

On Friday, I gave him a spare key to my apartment that I’d had made. He had to spend most of the weekend with his family, but promised he would be waiting for me at my apartment when I returned from dinner with my parents Sunday evening.

By mid day Sunday, I was pretty much a wreck. I had showered. Twice. I had picked over food for breakfast and lunch, but really didn’t feel like eating all that much. I regretted inviting myself over for dinner. It had seemed like kind of a normal thing to do when I called and talked to my mother, but now I couldn’t see how I could manage to eat anything. It wouldn’t help anything if I threw up my dinner.

I thought: maybe I should have just told her over the phone. That way I wouldn’t have spent several days getting all worked up. That would have been pretty impersonal, though. It was probably better to do it in person, I thought. Provided I could manage to speak when I actually got there.

I fidgeted over what to wear. Just what was the proper attire etiquette for coming out to one’s parents? I didn’t even own a tie. I’d borrowed one from my oldest brother for my highschool graduation. Should I get one? No, I would be nervous enough without feeling like I was choking with tie around my neck. Maybe I should just try to be normal? After all, I’d eaten with them almost every day my entire life until a few months ago. If I wore anything out of the ordinary, they would suspect something was up as soon as I walked in the door. Jeans, then. I picked out a newer pair that didn’t have any holes or stains from work. Jeans, but not thrashed jeans. I wanted to look normal, but not too grubby. The shirt was a more difficult choice. I almost always wore tee shirts. But this was kind of a special occasion. I was telling them the most important thing I’d had to say to them in my life so far. A tee shirt, no matter how normal for me, somehow seemed inadequate for the occasion. I finally settled on a casual shirt with a collar that I sometimes wore over a tee shirt—you know, the layered look. It wasn’t too out of place for me, and I was pretty sure I remembered that my parents bought the shirt for me.

The phone rang in the middle of the afternoon, and I just about jumped out of my skin. It was Robby.

“Hey, stud boy,” he said.

“Hey Robby. How was church?”

“Great. The minister said I should marry you.”

“Oh, funny guy. Ha… ha.”

“Wanna know the truth?”

“Sure,” I said, not really caring. I was too preoccupied with my own anxieties.

“I sat there through the whole service remembering how my ass was sore last time from having you inside me.”

“Oh, shit, Robby,” I laughed. “Do I really need to hear this?”

“I had a boner for half the service. I don’t think church is ever going to be the same.”

I laughed more, like that was the most hysterical thing I’d ever heard. It wasn’t, but laughing felt so good just to release the tension.

“My life is ruined,” he said sarcastically, “and you’re laughing.”

“Oh, Robby. You’re too much.” My laughter died down. “Thanks. I needed that. I’m so nervous. I feel like I’m gonna blow chunks. I don’t know why I decided to do dinner. I’m not going to be able to eat anything.”

“Kevin, try to relax. You said you thought it would be fine. Your uncle said it would be okay. Try not to worry so much.”

“Shit, Robby. How can I not worry?” I blew out a breath in exasperation.

Neither of us said anything for a minute.

“Kevin. I think you’re very brave. I know it can’t be easy, even if you think your parents are cool.”

“I don’t feel very brave,” I said. “And your goddamned right it won’t be easy.”

“Its just nerves that has you tied up.”

“Yeah, I know.” I paced around my kitchen. “I can’t even sit down.”

“Do you jog? Or ever done track?”

“Nah. I stay in decent shape just from work. Why?”

“Well, maybe you should go for a run. You’ve got all that adrenalin running through your system, and it’s eating you up. If you go for a good hard run, it’ll burn some of it off. Maybe you won’t be so stressed.”

“I suppose that would be better than pacing a trench in the kitchen floor for the rest of the afternoon.”

I could hear a voice in the background over the phone.

“I gotta go, Kevin,” said Robby. “I hope everything goes okay. I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah. See ya.”

After he hung up, I took his advice and went running. I ran till I could hardly breath. It did seem to help. At least a little. Then I showered for the third time.

* * * * *

“Hey, Dad,” I said when I walked into the family room.

I had just walked in without knocking. Even though, technically, I didn’t live there any more, it still felt more like home than my apartment. Unlike some other kids I’d met in school over the years, I had grown up my entire life in that one house. It was a perfectly ordinary suburban home built in the 1970s. My father was watching a baseball game on the television. I flopped down in my favorite chair, just as I had hundreds of times before. The familiarity helped settle my nerves a little.

“Don’s not hear yet. Your mother’s in the kitchen.”

That’s dad, the conversationalist. He isn’t unkind; he is just a man of few words. Together we watched the game until Uncle Don arrived a short time later. Watching baseball together is bonding, as far as my dad is concerned.

When my uncle sat down to watch the game with us, I started to get more nervous. Now all the players were there. It made my moment, my immanent announcement, nearer at hand. My mother poked her head out of the kitchen.

“Why don’t you make yourself useful, sweetie,” she said, “and set the table.”

I hopped up. “Uh, sure mom.” Trying to act casual, I wandered into the kitchen. “What did ya make for dinner?” I didn’t really care, but I always asked, and I was trying not to act too strange. She told me, and I promptly forgot. I mindlessly grabbed a handful of knives and forks, and set the table. At least it kept my hands busy for a few minutes.

Time seemed to drag. My mom puttered around the kitchen. My dad was glued to the game. My uncle glanced at me occasionally, but said nothing. I had to resist the urge to drag them all to the table and get on with it. It was a particularly irrational urge, given that I still hadn’t figured out what, exactly, I was going to say.

I ran scenarios through my mind. ‘Mom, Dad, I’m gay’ was the first obvious consideration. Simple. Direct. So few words, such huge import. If they weren’t paying attention, they could miss it completely. Assuming they didn’t miss it, they would be shocked to the core. Unless they had already guessed, that is. I didn’t really want to shock them. I tried to think of a way to ease in to it, to make the announcement in a more subtle way.

“Kevin,” said my mother, “why don’t you carry these plates in to the table.” I hadn’t been paying any attention, and just then noticed that she had been dishing up food. She called out to the other room, “Guys! Dinner’s on if you can pull yourselves away from the game.”

I carried food laden plates in and set them on the table. I grabbed a soda out of the refrigerator for myself.

“Do you want some wine, sweetie?” asked my mother.

I thought about it briefly. It might help me relax a little. On the other hand, if I got a little drunk, I might say something really stupid. I felt like I needed to keep my wits about me so I wouldn’t screw up.

“Nah,” I said. “I think I’ll pass.”

That wouldn’t cause any suspicion. They had let me drink wine before, but I had never really developed a taste for it. Uncle Don got a beer, of course. My parents had wine.

I ate like an automaton, lost in my own thoughts. ‘You know that T.V. show Will & Grace? That’s me.’ I could say. No, that was no good. Yes, the show was about gay people, and it was really funny, I thought. But other than being gay, I was no more like the characters Will or Jack than I was like the Pope. Will was older and a big city lawyer, and seemed like he never had a boyfriend most of the time. Jack was so ridiculously campy it was almost embarrassing to watch. Funny, but not me at all!

Being nervous didn’t keep me from eating like I thought it would. I contemplated other possible scenarios, but was no closer to a decision by the time I had finished dinner. We drifted in to the family room. My parents sat on the couch, and my uncle and I sat in chairs. My dad started to reach for the television remote control, but my mother stopped him. To stall any longer would just make things more awkward.

I sighed. This was it.

“Remember that time a couple of years ago,” I said, “when I was a junior in high school, when you had to come get me when those guys almost beat the crap out of me?”

I had not actually been hurt. More scared than any thing else. Five guys had started calling me names, mostly faggot. When they worked themselves into a lather, they started shoving me. I was a little taller than average, but not all that big, and I’d never been much of a fighter. I stood little chance of fending them all off when they started to throw punches. I managed to harmlessly deflect a couple of blows, but then took a punch to the stomach. That knocked the wind out of me. I was gasping for breath when one of the others cracked me on the back of the head with a heavy textbook. I fell to my knees, momentarily dizzy. Fortunately, some of the other students had run for help, and a couple of teachers arrived then to break up the fight. If they hadn’t intervened, I think it probably would have gotten pretty ugly.

“Yes,” said my mother. “They said we could have pressed charges against the boys for assault—at least the one that hit you with the book. But you didn’t want to involve the police.”

By the time school administrators had called my mother I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. My head was a little sore, but I really felt fine by then. The teachers who had broken up the fight hadn’t heard the name calling that preceded the fight, and I just wanted them all to leave me alone. Some of the other students who had watched the whole thing, however, had told them about the taunts.

“Well, they all got suspended for a week,” I said, “and the kid that hit me with the book got expelled and had to go to a different school for the rest of the year. I didn’t want to make too big a deal out of it.”

In fact, I had been embarrassed beyond words. I wanted more than anything for the whole incident to be forgotten as quickly as possible. If the police had been called in and hauled the boys away in handcuffs, I knew it would have been the talk of the school for weeks, or even months.

“They called you some horrible things,” said my mother.

I feared that the name calling would get worse and continue till I graduated. Fortunately, my fears were mostly unjustified. Only a couple of other kids really knew the truth. I occasionally got called a faggot, but not nearly as often as I expected. I never got in any more fights. For the most part, the incident had been forgotten, as I had hoped. I looked at my mother and held her gaze.

“Mom,” I said. “What they said about me was true.”

“But honey, the principal said they were calling you a faggot, and homo, and things like that.”

“Well,” I said, “they were being pretty mean about it, but they weren’t making it up. I’m gay. I didn’t want to catch shit for it for the rest of that year and all the next. That’s why I didn’t want to make a big issue out of it. I didn’t want to get beat up again, and I wasn’t willing to be the poster boy for gay rights in high school.”

My parents both stared at me, mouths agape. I looked from one to the other, waiting for some kind of reaction. My uncle was leaning forward in his chair, watching all of us.

“But…” stammered my mother. “How can you be gay?”

“I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “I just am.

“But…” she tried again. “You’re a construction worker.”

“Not all gay guys are hairdressers, you know? I’m gay. That doesn’t make me incapable of holding a hammer.” Now that I’d gotten it out, it was getting easier to say.

“Stop saying that.”

“If I stop saying it, it won’t change how I am.”

She opened her mouth to say something, then stopped and sat back. I looked at my father and raised an eyebrow. He looked at me thoughtfully.

“You know, if one of my sons was going to be gay, I always guessed it would have been John.” John was my middle brother.

“Bradley!” My mother usually called my dad Brad. She only called him Bradley when she was really mad, kind of like when she invoked my middle name when she’s mad.

“What?” he said to her. “John always seemed like the more sensitive of the them. I would have never guessed Kevin.”

“Why guess any of them?” she wailed at him.

“Well, come on. You had to know that it could happen. That it was a possibility. There are gay people everywhere. There’s a lesbian and a couple of gay guys in my office.”

This was a revelation to me. My father is an accountant, and works for the state government. He didn’t talk about work very much, and I couldn’t imagine anything more boring than being a government accountant. I just never gave any thought to the people he worked with.

“But we raised them right. Not too lenient, not too strict.” She sounded desperate. She turned to me. “How can you know you’re gay?”

“Um… ’Cause I’m attracted to boys,” I said. I thought about how that sounded. “Well, not little boys. Guys my age. Men.”

“Better than girls?”

“I’ve never been with a girl.”

“Well, how do you know you’re not straight, then?” she asked.

“Have you ever been with a girl?” I asked her.

“Of course not!”

“Well, how do you know you’re not a lesbian, then?”

My mother leapt to her feet and shook her finger at me. “Don’t you get smart with me, young man!”

“I’m sorry, mom. I’m not trying to mouth off. I’m just trying to make you understand.”

This was not going well. My father seemed okay, but mom was not coping. This surprised me a little. I had been more worried about how my father would take it. Mom glared at me for a minute, then brought her hands to her head and vigorously rubbed her temples.

“Shit!” she said. She took a couple of deep breaths, then looked at my father. “I need a drink. Do you want anything?”

“Not right now,” said dad.

My mother stalked off to the kitchen. The rest of us stared after her. My mother almost never swore. I took that as a bad sign. I was wondering if I should go after her, and by their looks, I think my father and uncle were wondering the same thing. It seemed like she was pretty shocked. Obviously she had never guessed. I looked at my dad, who had apparently given it some thought, at least in a vague way.


“Well, Kevin,” he said, “you really know how to surprise a person.”

I didn’t know how to respond. “Sorry,” I said, feebly.

“Don’t be sorry, Kevin. You can’t change who you are, I suppose.”

“No I can’t,” I said emphatically, thinking of all that Robby had gone through trying to change. I wished he were with me. I had a powerful need just to hold his hand.

“Well, we’ll just have to learn to deal with it then. You’re still my son.”

We stared at each other silently. I could see the reluctant acceptance in his eyes. I wanted to hug him, but we were not huggers, my father and I. Not since I was a small child.

Mom walked back into the room. She stood just inside the entryway, looking around, but not really settling her eyes on any of us, especially not me. I wasn’t sure what she was drinking, but it looked bourbony. She sipped it once, then drained the rest of it in a couple of long gulps. She turned on her heal and walked back to the kitchen. I stood up.

“No,” said dad. “Don’t follow her. She’ll be okay. She’s just shocked.”

“How do you know she’ll be okay?” I said.

“I’ve been married to her for almost thirty years, you know,” he said dryly. “I’ve gotten to know her pretty well. She’s never spoken ill of gays. Not really. She’s not, what you call it? Homophobic. Not some kind of religious nut.”

Uncle Don finally spoke. “She’s my sister, Kevin. I’ve known her all my life. She just doesn’t deal well with surprises sometimes.”

Mom walked back in the room again. This time she sat back down on the couch with my dad. She sipped at her refilled drink, and set it down. She took my father’s hand. She looked like she was grinding her teeth, trying to regain control over her composure.

“I take it this isn’t just some passing phase?” she said. “Something you’ll outgrow?”

“No, mom. I’m nineteen, remember? I’m pretty much past phases. I’ve known it since I was maybe thirteen.”

“I see,” she said, though I wasn’t sure she did. It was just something to say. She turned to my uncle. “Why are you here, Don? Did something happen at a construction site? Is this like when the school principal called? Is he in trouble? Is he going to have to find someplace else to work?”

“No, Sherrie,” said my uncle. “Every thing is fine. Kevin told me about it a few months ago, and a couple of other people know. It isn’t causing any problems at all. I wouldn’t allow it.”

She turned to me. “You told Don months ago? Before you told us?”

Damn. Now she was feeling slighted because I told my uncle first.

“Well, I kind of felt like I had to if I was gonna work for his company full time.” I said. “Look how you’re reacting? I was too scared to tell you till now.”

“I…” she said, then stopped. She stared at me. “Oh, Kevin. I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to react to news like this, but you shouldn’t feel scared of your own parents. I’m not thrilled, but you’re still my son. I’m sorry if I overreacted.”

“You said ‘till now’, Kevin,” said my father. “If you aren’t in trouble at Don’s company, why did you decide to tell us now?”

Dad doesn’t talk all that much, but he’s pretty observant sometimes.

“I, um, I met a guy,” I said. “He’s really special and I love him. We’re going to move in together in a few months.”

“What?” said my mother. “You met some guy and now you’re gay? Did he make you gay?”

I almost laughed. I remembered when Robby and I were joking about me blaming him for turning me gay. Now suddenly I felt defensive of Robby.

“No mom. He’s not the first guy I’ve, um… been with. I’ve known for a long time, remember? But he is the first guy that I really cared about. I’m so happy when I’m around him. I want to be with him forever.”

“Oh God,” she said.

She was clearly uncomfortable hearing that. She drank off half her drink. Dad looked a little squeamish too. I decided not to press further. I wanted so badly for them to be happy for Robby and me, but maybe that was too much for them to deal with all at once. We sat silently for several minutes. I could tell they were thinking hard.

“Who else have you told?” asked my father. “Have you talked to your brothers?”

“Nobody else in the family except Uncle Don, and now you guys. A few people in school knew, but I haven’t really stayed in touch with them much since I graduated.”

They seemed to relax a little. Safe question. Safe answer. My father looked like he wanted to ask something, but was afraid to or didn’t know how to ask.

“Kevin…” he said delicately. “Are you… sick?”

Ah, that. “You mean AIDS?” I asked. Sacramento is only an hour and a half drive from San Francisco, a city ravaged by AIDS when I was a kid. It seemed somewhat under control now, but you can’t live that close and not think about it. He nodded. “No. I’ve always been very careful. I’ve also been tested for HIV a couple times a year since I was sixteen. I just got tested a week ago, and I’m still negative.”

“How could you see the doctor without us ever knowing?” said dad. “We never got any bills for any tests like that.” Leave it to the accountant to notice something like that.

“I didn’t go to our family doctor,” I said. “I went to a clinic downtown where you can get tested anonymously for free. I lied about my age until I turned eighteen.”

They were clearly uncomfortable with that answer too, but probably relieved I was HIV negative. After another uncomfortable silence, my mother finished her drink and stood for another refill.

“Sherrie, hon,” said my father, “maybe you aught to go easy on that.”

She glared at him, a ‘don’t tell me what to do’ glare, then walked off to the kitchen. I was a little concerned. I’d never seen her drink like that before. She’s had a couple glasses of wine with dinner before she started in on the bourbon, or whatever. I wasn’t sure what reaction I had expected from my parents, but watching my mother get shit-faced drunk wasn’t it. Suddenly I became angry. I stood and stormed into the kitchen after her.

I found her standing next to the sink, glass in one hand, bottle in the other. Before she realized what I was up to, I snatched the bottle from her hand. I tried to grab the glass, but she refused to let go as easily as she had the bottle. We struggled, and ended up spilling most of it on the counter.

“Mom, this isn’t going to solve anything!”

“Kevin, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m over twenty-one. I’m not driving anywhere tonight. I can drink if I want to.” She wasn’t plastered, but she had drunk enough that she was surly.

“I’m still gonna be gay in the morning,” I said, “and if you wake up with a hangover, that won’t make it any easier to deal with.”

“I’m sure you would like me to just accept this without batting an eye. But I can’t make that leap so easily. I raised you since you came out of my womb. You were always so normal. I thought you were going to come over here to tell us you were going to get engaged.” I looked at her. “To a woman, not a boy! This isn’t what I expected, not what I thought your life was like.” She sniffed. “How could I have been so clueless?”

“I know this probably isn’t so easy to deal with, mom. If you need time to think about it, take what time you need. If you need to talk to dad, or Uncle Don, or some of your friends, or a therapist or whatever, talk to whoever you need to.” I was getting louder with each point I made. “If you need to read some books or whatever, then read whatever you need. If you wanna talk to me, lets talk.” I held the bottle up in front of her. “Just stop drinking. You aren’t going to find whatever answers you are looking for in this bottle!”

“Kevin!” my father said sternly from behind me. I spun and saw that both he and my uncle were standing in the doorway. “Don’t yell at your mother like that. We’re all getting pretty emotional here. Shouting isn’t going to help any more than drinking.” He held out his hand. “I’ll take that.”

I handed him the bottle. “Sorry, dad.”

“Kevin,” said Uncle Don, “why don’t we go in the family room and leave your folks to talk for a few minutes?”

I let my uncle drag me in to the family room, leaving my parents in the kitchen. I flopped back in to my chair and dropped my head in to my hands.

“Fuck,” I said. “This is turning into a disaster.”

“No it isn’t,” said Uncle Don.

I looked at him skeptically. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ll grant you it isn’t going like you hoped, but it could be a lot worse.” I looked at him like he was nuts. “She’s just in shock a little bit. But, she hasn’t said she hated you. She hasn’t said you are evil, or that she wants to disown you. She hasn’t said she wishes you were dead, or wishes you hadn’t been born. She hasn’t hit you or thrown things at you. She hasn’t tried to send you to a shrink, or a priest.”

“Okay, okay, I get the idea.” I blew out a breath. “You’re right. It could be a lot worse.”

“You just gave her a hell of a surprise. It’s like owning a cat for ten years and suddenly finding out one day it isn’t a cat, it was a dog the whole time. You can’t just forget that you thought it was a cat for ten years.”

I stared at him. “That is a strange way of putting it, but I guess that makes sense.”

“You surprised me too, remember?”

“Yeah, but you didn’t react like mom, though.”

“No, but you aren’t my kid. I haven’t spent the last nineteen years raising you with certain expectations. I’m not invested in your life like your parents are.”

“Dad doesn’t seem freaked out about at all,” I pointed out.

“Well, it sounds like he’s given it some thought before. At least in the abstract sense; not you specifically. He’d already adjusted to the concept in his mind before you told him. It’s obvious that the idea never even occurred to Sherrie before.”

I pondered that for a few minutes. He was right. It would have been great to receive immediate and unwavering support and acceptance, but how realistic was that? It had taken me years to accept that I was gay. Why should I expect them to accept it the moment I told them? Mom was freaked a bit, but she hadn’t said anything that was irreparable. Yet. I had gone off a bit in the kitchen, but I hadn’t said anything damaging either. I decided that this could all blow over and be fine. At least I hoped so. Jeeze, I thought, I hope it doesn’t take years for mom to accept it. I wasn’t sure I could handle that.

“I can’t think of anything else to say to them,” I said. “Any thing else to do.”

“Well, you’ve kind of said all you need to, Kevin. It might be better just to give them a little space. Give them some time to think about it, to adjust.”

I looked at him.

“I know it’s not easy to wait when you’re nineteen,” he grinned at me.

I scowled at him. He was right again. I didn’t want to wait. I was waiting for Robby to commit. Now I was waiting for my parents to recover from my announcement. I suddenly felt like my life was on hold, waiting for everyone else.

“D’you think maybe I should just go?” I asked.

“No, don’t just leave without saying goodbye. But, yeah, now might be a good time to make a tactful exit. Why don’t you wait here, and I’ll check on them, okay?”

“Okay. I’m sure glad you came with me, Uncle Don.”

“No problem, Kevin. I’ll be right back.”

I sat alone, worrying for several minutes. Finally, all three of them came in to the family room. I stood up.

“Kevin,” said Uncle Don, “Why don’t you and I call it a night? We have an early start tomorrow.”

“Uh, sure,” I said. I looked at my parents. “Are you guys gonna be okay?”

“I’m sure we will,” said my father. “I know this must have been difficult for you to do, and I’m very proud of you.” He said this sincerely, not merely a platitude. From him, it was a real compliment.

“I’m sorry, Kevin,” said my mother. “I… I just don’t know what to say. You surprised the hell out of me. Maybe we should have dinner later in the week once the shock has worn off, hm?”

“Sure, mom.” She gave me a brief hug. It was the tensest hug I’d ever received from her, but at least she tried. I was pretty tense too, I have to admit.

Uncle Don put his arm around my shoulder and we headed to the front door. He isn’t normally that demonstrative, and I wondered if he did it to show my parents he still cared for me. Whatever the reason, I was glad of the support. We walked out to our trucks, both parked in the driveway.

“Are you going to be okay?” asked my uncle. “You can come and stay with Jody and me if you don’t want to stay by yourself tonight.”

“No thanks. Um, Robby’s going to meet me at my apartment. He should waiting for me when I get there.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He squeezed my shoulder and released me. “Try not to worry too much, Kevin. It will work out alright.”

“We’ll see, I guess,” I said, not completely convinced.

I got in my truck and drove off.

* * * * *

When I opened the door to my apartment, I could hear Robby talking to someone on the phone. I was so relieved that he was there. When he heard the door, he poked his head around the corner and smiled and waved at me.

“Kevin’s back,” said Robby into the phone. “I gotta run. Thanks Nirasha. I’ll talk at ya later.” He clicked the phone off.

I walked in to the living room and Robby followed me. He looked at me expectantly, his eyes so bright it made me want to cry. He must have seen the dejected look on my face. He suddenly became serious. He put his arms around me and held me softly.

“Jeeze, Kevin, you’re tight as a drum.”

He began to sway gently. I began to tremble. Oh, God, I thought, I’m gonna lose it. It felt so good to hold him, to rest my head on his shoulder. I sniffed and tears began to leak past my tightly closed eyes. I hadn’t realized how much effort I had been putting in to holding myself together over the last few hours.

“It’s okay, Kevin. Let it go or you’re gonna snap.”

I was rapidly losing my grip. Well, losing was perhaps wishful thinking. Lost would be more accurate. I went from sniffling to weeping to crying my heart out in about a half a second. Crying so hard I couldn’t stand without Robby helping to hold me upright. Crying so hard I could hardly gasp in enough air. Shaking so hard that I banged my chin on Robby’s shoulder and bit my tongue. It must have been deafening to poor Robby with me wailing right next to his ear. I hadn’t cried like that in years, so many years I don’t even remember.

At first I was so far gone in my own release that I was barely aware of Robby. As I began to regain my senses, I noticed that Robby was holding me up—not an easy task for him, given that I was the bigger of the two of us. I stood a little more steadily, taking my weight off him, but I didn’t let go. My tears stopped almost as suddenly as they had begun. I noticed then that Robby was still swaying, and he was humming softly in my ear. I didn’t recognize what he was humming, but it was soothing. He was so sweet.

Finally, I regained as much of my composure as I was going to any time soon, and I stepped back. I felt a little embarrassed over my minor breakdown.

“Um, sorry about that,” I said.

“Why? You don’t have anything to be sorry for,” said Robby. He took my hand and lead me to the couch, and we sat. “I take it things didn’t go as well as you thought?”

“Well, no. Dad seems okay. Mom seemed pretty shocked.” I told him as much as I could remember of the ordeal.

“Really,” I said. “I guess it wasn’t so bad. Uncle Don seems to think it will all work out. My mom didn’t say anything really awful.”

“Why all the tears, then?”

“I don’t know. I was so stressed out. I felt like I was going to burst all the way back to the apartment. I was so glad you were here. I… I wasn’t sure if you would.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” asked Robby. He looked perplexed.

“I think I was just feeling insecure. I feel like we haven’t been able to spend much time together the last few days. And you always seem a little unsure about things. I… I worry that maybe you’ll never love me the way I love you... that you won’t let yourself. On the drive back, I thought: what if you changed your mind and decided not to meet me? I thought I would lose it if I got here and found you gone. Then I was so relieved you were here. I guess I lost it anyway.”

“Oh, Kevin. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to add to your troubles.” He took both my hands in his, and turned me toward him. He looked me in the eyes. “I do love you, you know?” he said.

“Do you really mean it?”

(To be continued.)