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The week that followed my getting the teaching job was a complete blur. Somehow Marcus and I managed to get tested and found out we were both clean. I wasn't really concerned, except for my time with Jared. He had cheated on me, so there was that stress.
We also managed to find a desk for the office. Unbelievably it was the cause of our first real fight. Funny, how little things can blow up given just a little fuel. I can laugh about the stupidity of it now, but at the time it was the longest couple of hours. The best part was we kept our promise with each other, and talked it out when we calmed down.
At school, I had an office to set up and teachers to meet. The principals at each of the buildings were very gracious about explaining the spaces that would be available to me and the students that would need my help. Dr. Hunter and I crossed paths just once; he set up a meeting with me and a few other staff to work on his project. I still didn't know what he was hoping I would bring to the whole process, especially since I had no idea what the project entailed.
Thursday night Marcus and I were expected at dinner at Dr. Hunter's home. I was incredibly nervous. In the more than three years since I met Marcus, I had grown to accept my sexually. But I don't remember being in a situation where my being gay was part of the initial reaction someone would have of me outside of a gay club. Plus, I would be working with these people.
"Babe, you seem very distracted. That's the fifth time you've messed with your tie. Come here, and let me fix it."
"I'm wicked nervous. You know I'm not great at meeting people."
"I love it when you go all New Hampshire... wicked nervous." He chuckled. "Relax; it should be interesting to say the least. I'm sure everyone there will feel the same way. Are you wishing you were going alone?"
"Oh my God no, Marcus; I'm thrilled you are coming with me. It feels like we are really a couple. It's very cool. Besides, you'll make me look good. It just seems like real life has caught up to me. I'm going to be out in the real world working. I;'s like a page is turning."
"Aw, my little boy is all grown up."
"Again with the little... okay old man."
Marcus burst out laughing. "If I wasn't already dressed, I'd show you what this old man can do. But we need to get going. Don't want to be late it's not a good way to make an impression."
We arrived at the Hunter's home about five minutes before seven. My nerves were right on edge.
"You must be Anthony Wallace, I'm Katherine Hunter. It's very nice to meet you." With short brown hair and green eyes, she was a petit woman, yet she still had a real dynamic presence about her.
"It's very nice to meet you, please call me Tony. And this is my boyfriend, Marcus Taylor."
"Marcus, it's a pleasure. You are the first to arrive, please come in and make yourselves at home. Ian is on the phone and will join us shortly.
"Marcus, I believe you know my nephew, Justin Carmichael. He tells me you are the reason he has custody of that wonderful boy of his. We are all grateful for your efforts."
"Justin has become a good friend of ours and I was thrilled to help. Mrs. Hunter, thank you for inviting us."
"Please, it's Katherine. I understand, Tony, that Ian has big plans for you. I haven't seen my husband this fired up about a project in a long time. You've made a pretty amazing first impression."
"Actually, I have no idea what his project entails or how I fit into the whole thing. Hopefully, I will find out more next week when school begins."
"I understand it's your first teaching position."
"Yes, but during my master's program I worked with Dr. Miller. I spent a lot of time working with students during that time."
"Oh, that's right Jon spoke about you at dinner this weekend. He was very happy to recommend you to Ian. I don't think I've ever heard him speak that highly of anyone before. Gentlemen, may I offer you a glass of wine or something else. I expect Ian to join us very soon."
At just that moment, Dr. Hunter appeared. "Good evening, gentlemen. I apologize for not greeting you as soon as you arrived. But it appears as though our other guests will not be joining us. It will just be the four of us this evening."
Marcus smiled, "How lucky for us, we get to monopolize the conversation without the risk of alienating others. Perfect. I must say Katherine, you have a beautiful home. Dr. Hunter, I'm Marcus Taylor, Tony's boyfriend."
"It's very nice to meet you, and it's Ian please."
The night was perfect. Marcus was incredibly charming; he continuously kept the conversation moving. I was so proud of him. The roast chicken, with rosemary potatoes and asparagus, was delicious. It was a perfect way to start my relationship with Dr. Hunter, or Ian, as he insisted. After dinner, I tried to get a little more information from my new boss.
"Ian, I am curious about the project or projects you are including me in. Is there any research I need to do before the meeting next week?"
"Tony, don't worry about the project just yet. You need to get your feet underneath you first. I may delay the first meeting for a week to let everyone settle into the new school year. How did you find the spaces in the other buildings?"
"I expect I will float around a bit more than Shelley did. I look forward to meeting some of the students that could be helped with Jon's techniques. Right now that is my biggest challenge. Do you expect I will get much resistance from the other teachers when I start to try and mainstream some of those kids?"
"Honestly, Tony, I wish I could say no, but I expect some of the more "established" teachers will resist any change. I do think your personality and professionalism will win them over in a short time. Just be patient. But enough shop talk, I believe my wonderful wife made a peach cobbler."
Marcus chimed in, "Already I hope to get the recipe for the potatoes, sounds like I'll need the cobbler recipe too."
"Marcus, you are sweet," Katherine beamed. "They are both very simple recipes. Ian, you can invite these two anytime. It has been a wonderful evening. Marcus, why don't you help me in the kitchen? I can show you the recipes. These two can finish up chatting."
Finally, Marcus and I bid the Hunters good night.
"Babe, you did very well tonight. You and Ian seemed to be very much in sync with each other. How do you feel the evening went?"
"Marcus Taylor... just when I think I can't be more impressed with you... you make me so proud to be your boyfriend. You are so charming; you made me look good all night. Katherine and Ian loved you. Thank you so much. "
"Actually, you were the star tonight. I was the one impressed. You completely held your own with your new boss. I'm the lucky one. It felt like we were totally a team."
I pulled Marcus in for a kiss. "You're right and it feels incredible. Thanks, Hon."
"Well, it's time to call it a night. Tomorrow will be a full day for me. I was hoping the custody hearing would be quick. But, it appears both parties are digging their heels in. Fortunately, the court appointed lawyer for the children is top notch and will explain to the mother's lawyer what she feels is best for the kids. I hope these two see their way clear to do what's right for their children. Otherwise, it could be a very long afternoon."
"That has to be so hard. Doing what your client wants, even if sometimes it's not the best for the kids. I have a few errands to run tomorrow, including a quick meeting with Jon. I need to make sure he understands how much I appreciate his talking to Ian, and pick his brain a little. What time do you want to leave Saturday morning? I need to call my parents to firm up plans."
"Let's leave first thing in the morning, we should try to get there early afternoon. That will give your Dad time to show me some of his work and still give us the chance to just hang out with your parents. You have big news to share."
"I know, but I'm glad I waited. I feel much more confident I can answer all of my father's questions now. I think he'll be tougher than the interview was. "
Friday's errands included a trip to my doctor's office. I didn't tell Marcus, but our conversation last weekend had made me do a lot of thinking. Marcus had planted the seed; I wanted to talk to the doctor about trying anal sex. It just felt like something I really wanted to share with Marcus. Admittedly, I'd topped Brian during our short time together. But, Jared was unwillingly to even entertain the idea of bottoming; he certainly never understood my point of view. Other encounters had never gotten far enough for me to even consider it. Somehow with Marcus, I thought we could more completely enjoy our love making. It just felt like something I needed to be sure about. I really wanted to share this with him.
After my examination, the doctor made it clear I would need to take a few extra precautions, but there was no physical reason why I couldn't participate. He even suggested different lubricants he thought would be the best for me to try. His only real advice was that I needed to be sure to do a thorough cleaning before and after. Now, I just needed to clear the mental hurdle.
Saturday morning we headed to my parents very early. The ride was quiet; Marcus and I were a little tired from our crazy week. When we pulled into my parents' driveway, I grabbed Marcus's hand.
"Hon, thanks for making the trip to see my parents. I know it's been a wild week. Hopefully we can relax a little while we are here. Just so long as we are on the same page, the plan is to leave early Monday morning, correct?"
"I think it's the best idea. That gives us some time to relax before the show. You only got a little taste of your new job this week. I want to get a chance to spend some alone time before things get intense for you next week."
"Okay, I think that's a great plan. I also want to wait until we sit down to dinner to talk about the job. Dad will have a million questions and over dinner I might get away without hours of the third degree. I love him to death but when it comes down to it, he's definitely set in his ways. Oh my, speak of the devil; the posse is coming out to see what's taking us so long to get inside."
My father made his way down to the car, "Boys, your mother has lunch ready. Are you going to sit out here all afternoon?"
"We're coming Dad. I figured I wouldn't get the chance to see my boyfriend much this weekend, what with all those photo albums to look over. I needed to get a little extra time in right now."
"Well, tomorrow is supposed to be another warm day. I thought we could drive to Maine, do a whale watch trip, and eat a lobster dinner. You guys are staying just until Monday morning, right? That means just a couple of hours after lunch to look at photographs, if that's not too much to ask?"
"Sam, don't let your son give you a hard time. I'm looking forward to going through those old albums. I expect I'll find some seriously embarrassing pictures of my boyfriend...Babe, I can see you roll those eyes...
"Maine sounds like a great time. I haven't done a whale watch trip in years. I love being on the ocean."
"Alright boys, it's lunch time."
After lunch, Dad and Marcus settled in at the dining room table to look at photos. I had something to talk to Mom about, so I suggested a walk down to the pond.
"What's wrong, baby?"
"Nothing is wrong. I just wanted to spend some time with you alone."
"Don't lie to me. I can always tell when you lie."
"Mom, I just want to ask a huge favor of you. Things between Marcus and me are so amazing. I couldn't be happier. Funny enough we had our first fight this week. It was over the stupidest thing. But, in the end we talked it out before going to sleep. But, back to the favor..."
"Tony, you know the answer will be yes. So ask already."
"Well, after Jen and I broke up. She gave me back Grandma's engagement ring. I was thinking I'd really love to take the diamond from that ring and put it on her wedding band. I could use the combined ring to propose to Marcus. I know we have only been a couple for a very short time, but Mom, this one is forever.
"Grandma's wedding band is wide enough to look masculine. I'd need to have the ring resized, and I think the diamond would have to be cut into smaller pieces. That's why I'm not sure you'll be ok with it. What do you think?"
"Your grandmother gave you those rings before she passed. You can do anything you want with them. I think it's a lovely idea that you still want to use them. Are you sure you don't just want to get a new one altogether?"
"Mom, it would mean the world to me to use Grandma's rings to propose to Marcus. You know she and I were always close."
"Well, you were her first grandchild. I had so much trouble getting pregnant and being pregnant, we never thought it would happen. When you arrived, we were all so happy. Your grandmother doted on you and was always so proud of you. I think she would be pleased to know you still want to use her rings to show your love. I believe she would have completely approved of the idea."
I grabbed Mom and pulled her into a hug. "Mom, you are the best."
"Baby, I know you. When you love, you do it from your whole heart. I'm just so happy he loves you as much as you love him. Now what do you say we go see how our men are doing?"
We took our time getting back. For the first weekend of September, it was surprisingly warm. Mom and I chatted about nothing in particular. It was just nice being with her.
Finally, we got back to the house. Dad and Marcus looked as though they hadn't budged from the table. The only sign they were actually working was a stack of pictures in one corner. When we walked in the door, both their heads popped up. They smiled and went back to talking.
"Mom, what can I help you with to get supper going?"
"Just you never mind, I already have the vegetables and chicken cut up and ready to go. I just need to cook the pasta up. I know you love my chicken and pasta primavera. I will have you fire up the grill in a while. Relax. Did Dad tell you about his plans for tomorrow?"
"Yeah, Marcus says it's been years since he went on a whale watch. I'm looking forward to the lobster, myself."
"You'd be happy if every meal was lobster, or pasta. You've loved pasta since you got your first taste of spaghetti. I think it was your first solid food. Do you drive that man of yours crazy with the pasta all the time?"
"I'm not that bad. You know, now that I think about it, the first meal Marcus ever made for me, outside of breakfast, was chicken and broccoli with garlic on angel hair pasta. I guess I should have known then he was the perfect man for me..."
She burst out laughing. My mother had the most contagious laugh; soon both of us had tears coming out of our eyes from laughing so hard. Marcus looked over at the two of us and just smiled.
"What trouble are you two getting into over there?"
"Yeah, that laughing is so loud we can't concentrate over here," Dad grinned.
"Well dear, your son was just telling me he should have known Marcus was" the one" when the first meal he cooked for him had pasta with it."
"Marcus, if you haven't figured it out by now, my son loves his pasta." Dad explained. "He gets it from his Mom's side of the family. His grandmother was from the old country. She didn't think it was a meal without a side of pasta."
"Oh I know that... fortunately, I love it almost as much as he does. I wish I had the time to make homemade. The last time we were here, the pasta and the meatballs were incredible. I haven't tried your recipe yet Betty. I will need to try it when we get back home. I take it pasta is in the plans for dinner..."
"Absolutely, Mom's chicken and pasta primavera is one of my favorites. When she uses grilled chicken and vegetables, it is to die for. Actually it's amazing anyway she makes it."
"Well, you should come here and see the pictures your dad and I have picked out."
"Yeah, Marcus and I have found quite a few shots today. It's been a good afternoon."
Mom and I looked at the photos they had chosen. Again, I was amazed at my father's talent. This time the shots mostly focused on buildings, some construction, and incredible landscapes. I noticed there were no pictures of me this time and grinned at my boyfriend. Marcus knew exactly what I was thinking and gave me a sly smile.
"Dad, these are all beautiful shots. You are so talented. These really are stunning."
"Babe, these are only the shots from maybe three albums. I can't imagine the treasures we might still uncover. By the way, Sam, have you taken any recent stuff? I know it's only been a couple of weeks, but have you managed to shoot anything new?"
"Actually, I have been busy getting ready for school. I do expect to take the camera with us tomorrow. Who knows what I might see then. But I supposed I've taken up enough of your time with these old albums. What do you say to a couple of beers and a relaxing few minutes on the back deck; at least until the mosquitoes drive us crazy? By then, it should be grill time anyway."
"Dad, it sounds like a plan. Marcus and I will get the beers. We will meet you out on the deck."
As soon as Mom and Dad closed the door, I gave Marcus a hug and kiss.
"So, I see you managed to avoid any more shots of me."
"I knew that's why you had a grin on your face. You are so transparent."
"Yeah, well don't think I don't know what you are up to, Mr. Sneaky."
"Well frankly, I might run out of room on the office walls if I don't nip things in the bud... Babe, I know you wanted to wait, but now might be a good time to let your parents know about the job."
"Yeah, you're probably right. Promise you'll help me from getting frustrated with my father."
"Babe, just relax. If you can face five administrators to try and get a job, you sure can let your parents know about the job itself."
"Just wait; you'll see what I mean soon enough."
We brought beers out to the deck and settled into the Adirondack chairs. The chairs were a gift from a neighbor. That was a great part of growing up here. The neighborhood all looked out for each other. I bet I had twenty unknown eyes watching me every time we played as kids. When Mom had her heart attack, everybody brought at least one dish to help out.
After drinking half my beer, I started, "Well I guess it's time to share some news. Mom and Dad, more than a week ago I received an email from a woman I was in my master's classes. Long story short... she and her family moved to California and I managed to get her teaching job. I start next week." I held my breath waiting for what was sure to be intense questioning.
"Congratulations, son.," Dad stated calmly. "What does this mean for your doctorate?"
"Now, Sam, don't start with tons of questions. Let Tony tell you about the job before you get your usual crazy on him."
"Okay, Tony, tell me about the new job."
I didn't know what to make of this. I had never experienced my father just sitting there waiting for an answer. There he sat, staring at me. It was completely unnerving. I gave Marcus a pleading look; he smiled and nodded his head. I suppose it was an attempt at encouragement.
"Well Dad, The job is in a small district..."
I proceeded to tell him about the district, the new boss, the unknown projects, and the kids I hoped to mainstream. I explained how I involved my master's advisor, Jon, in helping me decide if I should pursue the job and used him as a contact. I also told him about the interview with Dr. Hunter and four building principals. Finally, I explained how Marcus and I had spent Thursday evening at the Hunter home.
"So, did I miss anything Hon?"
"Well, just that you plan on continuing to work on the doctorate, one class each term, and summers researching and writing. Honestly, Sam, Tony really went into this with his eyes wide open; and he did a great job getting everything lined up."
"Okay Dad, you being all quiet is completely freaking me out... You must have something to say?"
"Actually, Tony, could you get me another beer? Marcus, would you mind firing up the grill?"
It took me a minute to process what my father said... I walked back into the kitchen and grabbed three more beers. Halfway out to the deck, I turned around, still confused. I pulled out the tray of vegetables and one of chicken from the refrigerator, and carried everything back out to the deck.
Marcus had the grill going and was finishing up his first beer. Dad and Mom were still sitting in their chairs when I returned to the deck.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, "Who are you and what have you done to my father?"
Dad burst out laughing. "Tony, you did a great job telling me about the job. I think the whole thing sounds perfect for you. I'm sure after you get settled in; you'll have a better idea of what the position entails. Frankly, I'm very proud of you. It sounds like you did everything exactly right and impressed your new boss right from the start. I'm very happy for you, son."
I just slumped down into the chair. "Marcus, remember what I said to you the other day when Scott gave me a hug? Well it's happened... Hell has officially and completely frozen over."
"Sorry, Dad, but never before do I remember you not pelting me with questions." I chuckled. "There can be only one explanation..."
We all started laughing.
Dinner was delicious. Dad finally got a few questions out about my new job. He was almost back to the man I grew up with. Finally, the day caught up with Marcus and I and we headed for bed. I'm not sure my head was on his chest for more than a moment before we were both asleep.
Sunday was an unreal day. We managed to catch an early boat for the whale watch. Normally, this late in the summer, the whales have already migrated south. This year it was so warm that the crew located a pod of six before they had left the area. It was unbelievable to watch the incredible mammals jump and splash in the water.
My father was snapping away with his camera. Marcus and I were just watching the whales. It was great just hanging out with my parents.
"Babe, this is so awesome. The last time I went on a whale watch we didn't see anything. This is so cool." He was beaming.
"Oh my God, you are just like a little kid. I love this. Hon, you are so cute."
"Are you kidding? This is so amazing. I can't believe how beautiful they are... Have you seen this before?"
"Of course, but it never gets old."
I wrapped him in my arms and kissed him. Just then out of nowhere, one of the pod jumped out of the water and landed near the boat. Somehow, the boat had gotten closer than usual to the whales. The resulting splash completely washed over our side. We got drenched. Marcus and I stood there stunned. Finally, we both burst out laughing.
Marcus hugged me, whispering in my ear. "This is the best fucking moment ever! I will never forget this as long as I live. God, I love you."
Marcus and I made it home about one in the afternoon on Labor Day. We had a few hours to ourselves before the fundraiser. We took a shower together and settled on the bed in our robes. I had every intention of enjoying our time alone, but when I woke up it was five and we needed to get ready for the drag show.
"Holy shit, we both fell asleep. We barely have an hour to get to the club," I burst out.
"Babe, relax. I bought a table so it's not as though we have to fight for seats."
"I know, but I promised Danni to help her get into her costume for the first number she's doing tonight. She is doing three different songs and the first outfit is a killer to get in and out of. Plus, she barely has any time to redo her makeup. She's going to be a wreck if I don't get there early."
"Okay, we already showered. If you don't take your usual hour picking out what to wear, we will be there in plenty of time," Marcus grinned.
"What do you mean an hour to pick out my clothes? I'm not that bad."
"Relax, I'm just busting on you. Don't bite my head off... You are seriously on edge right now. What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry. I'm tired and completely stressed about starting the new school year. I'm sure once I get to it, things will be fine. Can we make it an early night? I don't have a specific time to be in tomorrow, but I'd like to start the day early."
"Sure, Babe. The show only lasts a couple of hours. Let's leave after the last number. I have this amazing boyfriend I would like to ravage later..."
"Sounds wonderful... I just need to make sure Danni's all set."
"It's really great how you and Danni have become such good friends."
"Well you know we've been there for each other since my attack. She's really been a godsend. Sometimes it just helps talking to someone who knows... I remember the first time I met her at the picnic, I was overwhelmed and she scared the hell out of me. Just goes to show you about a book and its cover."
"Well, let's get going if it's that important to you."
We arrived at the club just before six. I kissed Marcus and dashed back stage to check on Danni. We still had ten minutes before the show. Danni was laughing with a young man.
"Tony, this is Keith. Keith is going to be dancing in my first number with me. Keith, this is the guy I was telling you about, Tony."
We exchanged handshakes. "Danni says you might be a good resource for me. I just started my masters in SLP with an education concentration. My current advisor is leaving school and I need to find a new one. Dr. Jonathyn Miller's name came up. I would love to buy you coffee sometime and get some information."
Danni burst out laughing, "He's a little enthusiastic, but Tony, he could use some guidance. If you don't mind, I would appreciate it."
"Of course, let me check with my boyfriend and I'm sure I can find time for coffee. Join us at our table after your number with Danni. But you guys better get ready, it's almost show time."
Danni's first number was Katy Perry's "Roar", and she was going all out with the costume. I wasn't sure what Keith was going to bring to the number, but I had no doubt Danni was over the top. The costume started incredibly elaborate. Complete with a headdress and huge collar, her plan was to take pieces of the costume off during each chorus. When the song came to the finally chorus, she would be in a skin tight lioness outfit. I was really looking forward to the reaction from the crowd, especially, when she removed parts of the mask to reveal the makeup.
Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long. Danni started the show with a bang. As she started the song, Keith entered the stage wearing just a loin cloth. I heard a gasp to my right. Scott and Justin were staring at Keith.
"Who the hell is that guy? Jesus will you look at him..." Scott shook his head.
"That's Keith," I simply replied. "He's a friend of Danni's I just met in her dressing room."
Marcus just looked at me with his mouth open.
"Actually Hon, he's coming over to the table after the number. He wants my advice. He's starting his master's degree and wanted me to answer some questions. You all can meet him then. But, you have to watch Danni's number..." I whispered.
The crowd applauded Danni as each chorus brought her closer to the final outfit. I was pleasantly surprised at Keith's dancing ability. He helped Danni remove parts of the costume, but his movements made the whole thing seem seamless. They had obviously spent time rehearsing.
When the number ended, Danni received a standing ovation. I was so proud of her. I made a quick dash backstage to help her get ready for the next number. Keith followed me back out to the table, after putting his sweats back on. I quickly introduced him to everyone.
"Marcus, this is Keith. Keith this is my boyfriend Marcus Taylor."
"It's nice to meet you Marcus."
"You too, Keith"
"Hon, Keith is just starting his master's program. He is pretty much taking the same path I took. Would you mind if we met later this week to talk. I think I might be able to help him."
"Sure, I can't see any reason why not..." Marcus seemed to hesitate.
"Thanks, Hon. Keith, give me your number, and as soon as I get a free night you can pick my brain. My first piece of advice, if he'll agree to be your advisor, Dr. Miller is the best. He's become a great friend."
"Cool, I'll try to set up an appointment with him. Thanks, Tony. Here's my number. It was nice meeting you all. Now that Danni's done with me I'll be heading back to my place. I have some serious studying to do. Good night, everyone."
As soon as he was out of earshot, "Holy Fuck, that boy is gorgeous." Scott exclaimed.
Justin agreed, "Damn, He is unbelievably cut. And that face..."
I shrugged my shoulders, "Whatever, he seems like a really nice kid. I hope Jon will take him on. He sounded a little frustrated in Danni's dressing room. I hope I can help him. I'm going back to check on Danni. Hon, could you get me a soda, please."
Danni's last number was "Defying Gravity" from the musical "Wicked." This was the one number I was really looking forward to seeing. After the first couple of numbers, she had decided to make this one less of a production and more of dramatic piece. Wearing a green gown instead of face paint, Danni was going to perform the piece simply. I had to agree it would be far more dramatic that way.
Danni gave an incredible performance. It was a complete tour de force. The entire audience was on their feet before she finished the song.
After the applause died down, I gave Marcus a big hug. "Hon, let's go say congrats and good night to Danni, and then I want to head home." I lowered my voice and continued, "I think you mentioned some ravishing..."
"Abso-fucking-lutely! We may have time for a double..."
And sure enough we did, I had no idea what had gotten into him that night. Mind you, I'm not complaining in the least, it was unbelievable. But, it almost felt like he had something to prove.
Thanks go out to my usual suspects:
To my hubby, Ray, for his love and support
To my editor, David, for making me look smart
To my friend and mentor, Fitz, for helping to make this dream a reality