Let The World Go By
This is a story that involves sex between males. If such a story is offensive, or illegal for you to read where you live, then do not continue, go and surf elsewhere.
This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. If there is any similarity to any real persons or events it is entirely coincidental.
The work is copyrighted by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
I do hope that those of you who have stuck it out with James have enjoyed the story thus far. This is the last chapter of "The Years In Between". As that title implies there are more years to follow; and the gods willing, and if my muse does not fail, you may get to read about them in Part 3 Fire In Winter. Again I want to thank all of you who have written. It really has encouraged me to go on. So with this said, on with "Let The World Go By". . . .
The Years In Between
Two days later James and Joey got together, after Joey called to see if James would like to have diner at his house. James accepted, and arrived promptly at seven.
"My mother's working and the kids are fed and off to a movie," Joey explained, kissing James as he closed the door. "So we have the house to ourselves."
"Hi there handsome," James kissed Joey lightly and handed him the bottle of wine he had bought on the way.
"Oh, you're such a dear," Joey said. "By the way, I want to thank you for talking to Danny. I had no idea of how he felt.
"He called yesterday and we got together. He certainly has changed. Seems much more stable now, not so aggressive as he used to be. He wants us to be friends. Nothing sexual, just friends."
"That's good," James said. "I'm glad you talked with him. He needs someone to talk to, especially now."
"Of course it won't be for long, because I leave in two months for the Air Force."
"That's right!" James exclaimed. "I'll bet you're excited about that?"
"Yeah," Joey said. Dinner was simple, spaghetti and meat sauce and garlic toast with a salad. And, of course, wine. The evening passed quickly for the two old friends. James told Joey about his plans for the remainder of his leave. He was going to the Cites for a week or so to visit friends there, and then back here for a week. Then he was flying to Texas to see Hobbie before going to Great Falls.
After diner they sat in the living room.
"You know," said Joey, "I can hardly believe that we've known each other as long as we have? It seems like just yesterday that I moved here. I can still remember the first time I saw you.
"You were a tall skinny kid with pimples and wearing those funny overalls."
"I guess I was kind of a mess in those days." James reflected.
"And now look at you! A tall skinny kid dressed in a funny uniform, but no pimples!" Joey teased. "Seriously, I'll never forget you, James. You'll always be special to me."
"You too, Joey," James said taking Joey's hand.
"And on that note, I really must be going. Your brothers and sister will be home before we know it. And if I stay much longer, you'll have me in bed, or I'll have you on the floor, or whatever!"
"That wouldn't be so bad," Joey said. They kissed briefly and James got up to leave.
"No," he said. "That wouldn't be bad at all. But not very practical right now. Maybe someday."
"All right, I'll remember that. Someday." They kissed again and James went out the door to the car.
Joey watched as James drove out of sight. That's some guy, he thought, Some really special guy.
The next day James drove to the Cities. He wasn't sure what he had do first. A friend of his was still going to St. James, he remembered, and then there was Elaine, the girl he had told Danny about. They'd met on a blind date when he was in school at St. James. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do about that. Certainly he wasn't in any position to marry her now, and he didn't know if she was interested. He wasn't even sure that he was interested!
He drove to the Information Office at the college and parked. He hadn't the vaguest idea of where Norb was living; he hadn't seen him in almost two years. At the office they told him that Norb had quit school and joined the Air Force six months after he had left.
Well, he thought, That takes care of that. He walked down the steps of the building and out to the car.
He decided that he had check into a room at the YMCA and by the time he had something to eat and rested, he could call Elaine. She should be home from school by then.
The phone rang in his room. The clerk informed him that it was four o'clock. James thanked him and hung up. He took out his small address book and looked up Elaine's number. He hadn't used it in so long, he forgotten it.
"Hi, Elaine," he said, "This is James!"
"Well, for heaven's sake. Where are you?"
James explained and then invited her out for dinner. She was busy tonight, but tomorrow she was free. They agreed and he would pick her up at six.
She sounded glad to hear from him, he thought as he brushed his hair in the mirror. He had lain down again after he called her, and had just re-awakened, it was nearly seven. He put on a long sleeved white shirt, rolled up the sleeves, and tucked the shirt into the beige slacks he had put on, the ones he had bought in Tokyo he remembered. Then he pulled out the wine colored sweater and threw it over his shoulder.
Out on the street, he looked both ways before deciding which direction he needed to go to get downtown. It was only then that he recalled the trip with Danny and the bar where they'd seen Mister Jensen going into those two nights. He remembered that he had always wanted to go back there sometime. Now, since he was alone, he had his chance. He walked the ten blocks down to Third Street, and then crossed over to the other side and on down two more blocks.
The bar was only moderately busy when he went inside The Hour, being the dinner hour.
"A beer," he said to the bartender.
"Yes, Dear, and what kind would that be?" he smiled at James.
"I'm sorry, Miller's."
The bartender reached into the cooler and pulled out a bottle, and with one motion flipped off the cap and set it down in front of James.
"Would you like a glass, Sweetie?"
"No thank you."
The bartender went off to wait on another customer further down the bar. James looked around. The jukebox was blaring out something that James hadn't heard before, so he got up and went over to see what was playing.
It was then that he noticed that The Hour and The Gay Nineties were actually one place, joined as they were at the rear of The Hour at the men's rest room that they shared in common. The Nineties was serving dinner now, and since it was a Friday night, they were doing a good business.
James went back to the bar and sat down again. The bartender, now just wiping the bar to keep busy, stopped in front of him and polished the surface.
"I haven't seen you in here before. Are you from the Cities?"
"No, I'm just visiting," James replied.
"Where are you from, if you don't mind my asking?"
"I'm not really from anywhere right now," he explained, "I'm in the Air Force and in between stations."
"Oh, so you're a fly-boy!" The bartender laughed with a high shrill laugh. "Seen any good flies lately?" Again the laugh.
I'm not sure I really like this, he thought, but did not comment. "How's the food next door?" James asked.
"Not nearly as good as the food in back!" That laugh again.
Once more, and I'll turn straight!
"No, seriously," the bartender sensed that he was about to loose a customer and he dropped his false voice and mannerisms. "It's pretty good. And the show's not bad, if you like that sort of thing." This time he didn't laugh, but winked knowingly at James.
"Thank you," James answered, remembering the sign outside.
"Do I need reservations to get a table?" James said after considering the possibilities.
"Not usually, but being Friday, it might not be a bad idea. What's your name, I'll have them reserve a table for you." When James didn't respond right away, he added, "Just make up a name, any ol' name will do, just don't forget it." He threw his head back and laughed again.
"James," James said, I guess he's not so bad after all.
"All right, James. I'll get you a table, for what an hour from now? That'll give you a chance to cruise the back for awhile."
"That's fine." James got up and walked slowly down to the other end of the bar. His presence in the bar had not gone unnoticed. Anytime a new face appeared, the regulars were quick to notice. James was definitely a new face, and with a body to match.
Such was the thought of the man who just then accidentally bumped into James spilling his drink on James' arm. He had been very careful not to spill any of it on James' clothing.
"I'm terribly sorry. I didn't see the corner," the man apologized.
"That's okay," James said.
"Did I spill any on you?"
"Just on my arm. That's no problem."
The men went to the bar and got some napkins and began dabbing James' arm. "Please forgive me, I'm not usually so clumsy. May I buy you a drink?"
"I'm fine right now, thank you."
"My name's Brian. What's yours?"
"It's nice to meet you, Brian. My name is James."
"It's good to meet you, James," Brian had his foot in the door, and it appeared to him that he was first. It also appeared that James wasn't going to step on it either, so he began the ritual of first meeting.
As they chatted, Brian invited James to join him for dinner, James accepted, saying that the bartender had reserved a table for him.
"Oh, Gloria!" Brian called, "Cancel the table for James, would you Dear?"
Another fly into Brian's web, Gloria thought, as he dialed the hostess desk to cancel the table. This time it's a fly-boy. Usually it's just a boy-fly! And he laughed aloud at his own joke.
Dinner was passable, the service was good. The conversation was routine. James, although a novice at the game, managed to keep Brian from undressing him completely, verbally. When they had returned to the bar once again, and ordered after dinner drinks, which James had agreed to pay for since Brian bought the dinner, they sat at the bar nearly in the same spot that James had had before. After the drinks had arrived, and James had paid for them, he excused himself.
"Certainly," Brian said softly. "Don't be too long! On the other hand do be long!"
James chuckled as he walked to the rest room. The trip, although necessary, also provided him a chance to evaluate his feelings about the situation in which he now found himself. He had allowed Brian to buy him dinner. He assumed that the Brian felt that he was obligated to him for more the after dinner drinks. And James didn't like feeling obligated to anyone, much less a stranger. Maybe he was being too suspicious. After all Brian seemed like a very nice person, attractive in a certain way, educated, employed, if one could believe him. Oh for heaven's sake! He scolded himself; You're not going to marry him anyway!
He determined to forget about it. He didn't really know if anything else was being planned anyway! So why worry? Cross that bridge when you get to it! He told himself.
James tried not to look at the man next to him at the urinal, but as usual he was not successful. The man next to him was dressed in a dark business suit, and James remembered him from the dining room, having dinner with a very attractive woman. He was nice looking, James thought, Very nice. And his equipment was nice too. She's a very lucky woman. Very!
James went back to the bar and found Brian chatting with two men. James paused on seeing them, and wondered if he should wait until they left. He decided not to wait.
Brian made the introductions. Daryl and Howard were lovers, and lived just outside Minneapolis. They did the same kind of work, landscaping, but for competing companies.
Shortly after James returned they excused themselves, saying that they had tickets for a play, and were already late.
It was Brian's turn to use the restroom.
"I think you dropped this earlier," a voice from behind him interrupted his thoughts. James turned around to see the man in the dark suit.
"Thank you," James said taking the matchbook that the man handed to him. Without further comment, the man left. James opened the matchbook cover and read, Call me at 9:30 AM Sat. Frank. 678-3232.
He put it into his pocket after lighting a cigarette from a match that he quickly pulled from it when he saw Brian returning. The note on the inside was definitely from the man in the dark suit, asking him to call the next day. Brian ordered another round of drinks, and they sat talking comfortably.
"You've got a phone call, Brian," the bartender said leaning over the bar. Brian went to the phone at the other end of the bar.
When he returned, he said, "Would you believe it? I've got a previous engagement that I'd totally forgotten about. I really must go."
"No problem, Brian."
"I'm awfully sorry, James. I really am."
"Don't worry about it, I'll be in town for a while, maybe we'll run into each other again?"
"I certainly hope so. Here's my card. Give me a call and we'll arrange something." They shook hands and Brian left hurriedly.
James watched as Brian rushed out, and then turned to order another drink.
"This one's from the gentleman in the red flannel shirt. His name is Paul," the bartender said when he returned with James' drink.
James looked across the bar and spotted Paul. The red shirt would have been out of place on anyone else, but it suited him well. He was the outdoor type, rugged looking, tousled straw-colored hair, and wide strong shoulders. James raised his glass to him and smiled. He took a sip and put the glass down. Since he was now alone, an invitation to join him had been issued.
"Hello, James," Paul said as he moved in beside him.
"Hello, Paul," James responded, "The bartender does his work well." He just couldn't bring himself to call him Gloria.
"Oh, she does remember names." Paul laughed. It was then that James noticed his eyes; they were almost violet, not blue, as they had seemed from across the room.
"You have the most beautiful eyes," James said, then added, "I suppose everyone tells you that."
"Well," he laughed a little, "I wish that I could say that I had something to do with it, but that's the way they came to me. That funny color."
"May I buy you a drink?" James asked.
"I'm fine for now, thanks."
"I want to go home with you," James said.
When Paul looked at him quizzically, James thought to himself, what did she put in my drink? I never say things like that!
Paul laughed, and put his arm around James' shoulder. "I like you, James. You're cute you know that?"
"Thank you," James said. "I like you too."
Paul and James finished their drinks and left the bar; they walked out into the warm night air. The bright flashing and gaudy neons marked the street of dreams and fantasy.
It was almost nine-thirty the next morning when James got back to the YMCA. He hurried up to his room and pulled out the matchbook with the telephone number on it. He waited as the phone rang. It was ringing the sixth time when a voice finally answered.
"This is James calling is Frank in?" James asked.
"Speaking." The voice was mellow and calm.
"You asked me to call this morning," James was nervous. He hoped that he had reached the right person.
"So, it's James." Frank said recalling the handsome figure he had seen the night before.
"Are you free for lunch?" Frank asked.
"Can you meet me at Murray's, say around twelve-thirty?" he asked. "My treat," he added in case there was any problem about money.
"Sounds fine. Twelve-thirty at Murray's, that's on Fourth Street, right?" James repeated.
"That's right. If I'm a little late, just ask for my table, the last name's Young," and the added, "Oh yes, it's a business lunch, so it's coat and tie, if you have them."
"Okay, I'll see you then, Frank." James answered.
"Very good, James," Frank hung up.
James was glad that he had packed a couple of dress shirts. Two in one day! He would have to buy more if things kept going the way they were.
Promptly at twelve-thirty James walked into Murray's. A lovely woman greeted him in her late fifties, dressed in a striking blue satin evening dress.
"Has Mr. Young arrived yet?" James asked.
"No. Are you James?" she asked.
"He called a few minutes ago, and said that he had be a little late. Your table is ready, if you care to wait there." She smiled, a knowing motherly smile.
"Sure, that'll be fine." James was a little nervous. He followed her into the dining room and back to a table in the corner set for two.
When James had seated himself, she asked, "May I get you something from the bar?"
"Vodka and tonic, please." James smiled trying to relax.
"Yes Sir." She turned and went back to the bar. A waiter brought his drink. They wore uniforms, dark blue trousers, with short gold jackets. He was certain that he had seen the waiter, the night before. But then, he had seen so many people. If it were him and he had seen James, he did not convey that recognition.
James sipped slowly on his drink, lighting a cigarette, looking casually about the dining room. Almost all the men were dressed in suits, he was certainly glad that Frank had warned him, or he would have looked out of place indeed.
"I'm glad you could make it, James," Frank said as he walked over to the table. James stood up and they shook hands.
"Thank you for inviting me," James smiled as they sat down.
"I'm sorry I'm so late," he apologized. "Did you get my message?"
"Yes, Sir. You must have called just before I arrived."
"Good. Mrs. Murray's usually good with messages." Frank said. He placed his order for a drink with the waiter who returned to the table almost as quickly as Frank sat down.
"Well then, James, what brings you to Minneapolis?" Frank asked.
"I'm just visiting, Sir. I'm in the Air Force, and in between stations." James answered.
"What's this Sir business, please call me Frank." Frank smiled.
"All right, Frank then," James smiled again. "Anyway, I'm going to be stationed at the Great Falls Air Force Base, in Montana. I assume it's near Great Falls, I don't know I've never been there."
"Great Falls is a nice place, especially if you like being out of doors, fishing, hunting, camping, that sort of thing. I go there about twice a year on business."
"And what business is that?" James was not usually so forward, but since Frank had asked him about his, he felt he could do the same.
"Finance. My wife's family owns a chain of banks, which is why I travel some."
"I see," James said, then asked, "She was with you last night then?"
"Yes, you saw us in the dining room?"
"I wasn't sure you had noticed us."
"Yes, she's very lovely," James smiled.
"Thank you. And very rich."
"How lucky for both of you," James said still smiling and wondering about the remark. It was a strange this to say, especially to a stranger.
"Yes, it does make it convenient."
"She doesn't know, I mean about your diversions?" James asked.
"Oh, yes. But then, you see, she has her own diversions, as you called it."
"Well, I guess that is different then." James sipped his drink.
"You see," Frank explained, "We met at a gay bar in St. Louis about five years ago right after I graduated from college. I needed a job, and she needed a husband.
"Now we live here, have a nice home on the lake, and even have a cute little girl, two years old."
"How did that happened?" James was amused.
"The usual way. One does what one must do," Frank smiled back.
"Are you ready to order, Mr. Young?" the waiter interrupted.
"Yes, and bring us another round. Have you seen the menu, James?"
"Yes. What do you suggest?"
"The Fillet is very good, as long as you don't order it too well done."
"Two Fillet, rare, with the usual, Jason."
"Very good, Sir," Jason wrote the order and went to the bar for the drinks, dropping off the order at the kitchen first.
The steaks were delicious, just as Frank had said.
Everything was good.
"Do you always eat like this at lunch?" James asked as they were sipping coffee.
"Yes," Frank explained, "This is my only real meal, unless of course, we're dining out in the evening, then it's just a salad, and definitely no drinks."
"I see," James said.
"Yes," Frank continued, "If I didn't watch what I eat, I'd look like the gentleman over there," He nodded toward the man who was struggling to fit behind his table. James looked and smiled.
When the Jason brought the check, James began to reach for his wallet.
"Now, James," Frank said. "I said that this was my treat."
"Thank you, this was very nice."
"You're quite welcome. I've enjoyed meeting you and having a chance to get to know you," he explained, "There are so very few men that I care to associate with, especially from the bar scene, that when I see someone who interests me, I leave nothing to chance.
"I can afford to be generous, and I am. I just can't afford to be careless. Most everyone knows who I am, so I must be very discrete."
"I see," James said, then asked, "How about after you get to meet them, and decide you'd like more than conversation?"
"It's very simple. I invite them to the house at the lake, if my wife is away, or to my apartment down town, if she's at home."
"Are you free this evening, James?" Frank asked.
"No, I'm afraid I have a dinner engagement. I am sorry."
"No matter. I must leave early in the morning for Duluth anyway. I just had to meet you. I love your smile. You should always smile, it lights up your whole face."
"Thank you. You are very nice too. I do hope that we'll meet again."
"We shall. Write to me when you're settle in Great Falls. When I come there, I'll look you up. Please do, I'm serious."
"I will," James said.
"Here's my card. Don't loose it, please, I do want to hear from you."
"I'll be sure to write." James put the card in his wallet, as they got up to leave. They shook hands when they reached the door, and parted. Frank got into his car, which was waiting for him by the door, and James walked down the street toward the YMCA.
James drove to Elaine's home and parked in front. He was nervous about seeing her again. It had been a long time, and he wondered how she felt about him. She was pleasant and fun to be with. She wasn't nearly as attractive as Frank's wife, but then that was different.
He was rang the bell and waited.
"Hello, James. Come on in," It was her mother. "Elaine will be down in a minute."
"Good evening, Mrs. Daugherty. It's good to see you again."
"Thank you. Please sit down." Mrs. Daugherty was like her daughter in appearance, except older, perhaps late forties, it was hard to tell. Phil Daugherty was ten or so years older and had strikingly white hair.
They made small talk about the weather, his trip, and the changes in the city.
James stood up as he saw Elaine come down the stairs.
"Hello!" she called running across the room toward him. She put her arms around him and kissed him. He returned her kiss, just warmly enough. So much for that question, he said to himself.
"You're looking great," he said.
"Thank you, so do you!" She was very excited. "I guess I'm ready." She picked up her sweater that had been on the sofa arm next to the door.
"Good night, Mother," she said.
"Good night. You have a nice time," Mrs. Daugherty kissed her daughter, and extending her hand to James, said, "Good night, James."
"Good night, Mrs. Daugherty."
James closed the door behind them as they walked down the steps to the car.
"I've missed you, James," she said when James slid into the seat beside her. James smiled at her and winked. She took that as a positive sign and hugged his right arm as he started the car and drove off.
Conversation at dinner went easily, he had enough things to talk about, some slightly altered for her benefit, and to protect himself. But he found himself enjoying her company more than he expected that he would. After dinner they went to a club where they could dance. He enjoyed that too. She danced well. She talked about school, and her problems with the various classes she was taking. James gathered from what she told him, that she actually had no problem with grades, it was a matter of pride that they had to be good.
All in all, he thought, the evening had gone well. They'd kissed good night at the door when he dropped her off at her home a little after two in the morning. She had seemed to enjoy herself, and he had enjoyed being with her. Perhaps, he thought, it wouldn't be so bad.
It was nearly noon when he awakened, and the sun was streaming into his window. He had accepted a dinner invitation to Elaine's for dinner at five for that evening.
He pulled on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes, grabbed a towel, and hurried down to the pool for a swim. He checked in, and got undressed. It was guests' only swimming until three o'clock, and since the YMCA was men only, no swimsuits were required.
He dove into the pool and swam the length and back again. He repeated three times before he paused to look around. His survey revealed that there were six others in the pool area beside him. Two of them were quite old, three others middle aged, and the remaining person was younger than he was.
With the water splashing, and the echoing of the noise, he just continued swimming without thinking about anything in particular. When he finally climbed out it was two o'clock. He grabbed his towel and headed for the steam room. He spread his towel on the slotted wooden bench and lay face down, his chin on his hands, and closed his eyes.
Someone came in and threw a container-full of water on the heater; send a great cloud of steam into every corner of the small room. James lay there until he could barely breath, then he got up and went out to the shower. After a few moments under the coolish water, he returned to the steam room. This time he just sat on the bench his towel draped about his neck. He was alone in the steam room, and he repeated his trek to the shower and back two more times before returning to his room to dress for dinner.
Mrs. Daugherty's dinner was extensive, as they always were, according to Elaine. The pie and coffee that ended the meal were especially tasty. The pie was topped with a special ice cream which was only available from one store, and that was in the city. She had sent her son-in-law to get it just before dinner. The other daughter, Lois, was married and was older by four years than her sister. Lois' husband was a few years older than she was, placing him about twenty-six, James guessed.
After dinner everyone sat in the living room complaining about how much they'd eaten. It seemed like the only thing one could do after eating such a meal. One could tell that she was pleased with herself; she always tried to outdo anyone else when it came to cooking. It was her stock and trade, Elaine had said. She was a housewife, and she took pride in doing her job well. The house was spotless, not so much because she had just cleaned it, as it was because she never allowed it to become untidy.
No one else in the family smoked, and in the times that he had visited, he never had either, so he didn't on this occasion either.
When the conversation began to drag, and the hour of darkness approached, James suggested that he had to get back to the city, as he had to be up early in the morning to visit an aunt and uncle who lived nearby. Again Elaine kissed him when he left.
James wondered at the abundance of experiences that he gained that week, as the plane on which he flew made its way southward to San Antonio, Texas. He had written to Hobbie saying that he was going to be on leave, and would like to see him. Hobbie had issued an invitation for him to visit if he had the time.
As James walked from the plane to the terminal, he recalled the last time he had been there. It seemed like a long time ago. Many things had changed in the two years since he had flown from San Antonio to St. Louis to begin his training after basic training.
Inside the terminal he went to pick up his bag, and to look for Hobbie. It was hot in San Antonio, and perspiration soaked his shirt as he stood in the shade near the doorway of the terminal.
A horn sounded as the once shinny black sports car pulled to the curb nearby. He picked up his bags and hurried to get in.
Hobbie was still dressed in uniform, having come directly from the base to the airport. An extra stripe was on his sleeve, and a couple of extra pound had accumulated on his waist, but it was still Hobbie. They laughed and joked as Hobbie maneuvered the car through the rush of early evening traffic.
"You're going to like Melissa," Hobbie said as they neared the small yellow house on Daniel Street.
"I'm sure I will," James replied. James wondered, But how is she going to react to me?
Hobbie was right, James did like her. She was a tall, normally slim figured woman, now six months pregnant, with very light coffee colored skin, beautiful by any standard. She kissed Hobbie when he climbed the steps to greet her. Hobbie introduced them and they went inside.
"I'm pleased to meet you Melissa," James smiled, "Hobbie's told me so much about you."
"Likewise, James," she beamed, "For the past two days since he got your phone call, he talked of no one else."
"I'm sorry," James frowned, "But he's always had a tendency to go on and on about things!" They all laughed.
"I'm sorry that it's so hot in here," Hobbie said, "But the air-conditioner broke down over the weekend, and with this weather, they're hard to come by." Truth was, they're very expensive, and money was not going as far as it used to, and with the baby coming.
As the sun became lower in the sky, a slight breeze moved air through the open windows, cooling the house somewhat. Hobbie had changed clothes, putting on jeans and a cotton sport shirt. It was evident that he was enjoying his new role as husband and father-to-be. He sat talking easily with James, asking questions about his experiences in Korea. Hobbie hadn't been overseas, and was anxious to hear all about it. While Melissa poured more iced-tea in the kitchen, James told him about the Ichibon in Tokyo.
"Isn't it about time to go to dinner?" she asked a few minutes later.
"I guess you're right Melissa," Hobbie said. "As a special treat, we're going to that place you and I went for ribs, remember that?"
"You know, Hobbie," James smiled, "I've never had ribs like that since then." They made their way easily through the traffic to the small restaurant across town.
Nothing seemed to have changed. Lilly had a few more gray hairs, but the food was still great, and she fussed over them as if they were royalty.
When the meal was over they drove back to their home. It was Melissa who suggested that Hobbie and James get out of the house, and let her get some rest. She was tired after all that food, and with them there, she couldn't go to bed.
So the two men left her standing on the steps smiling. She could tell that they were more than friends; she had known Hobbie a long time. She knew that Hobbie hadn't wanted to get married, but she also knew that once he did, he put everything he had into it. So what if he had other interests, he loved her now, and that's all that mattered to her.
"So," James said. "How are you doing?"
"Me?" Hobbie asked, "I'm doing just fine."
"I mean being married, and all?"
"You saw," Hobbie evaded, "Melissa's pregnant!"
"I know," James said, "But are you happy?"
"You know James," he sighed. "Until I heard that you were coming here, I would have said, definitely yes. But seeing you again has brought a great many memories back.
"Not all of them happy, but most, good ones. When one settles down with someone, like I have with Melissa, you tend to push them back far out of reach. And until something or someone appears, they stay there.
"I can deal with that," Hobbie said looking at James at last, "But you know, I still love you. I always will."
There was silence, as they drove through the street.
Finally it was James who broke it.
"I love you too, Hobbie. God knows, I've tried to keep it back in my memory too. But seeing you like this," he continued, "has brought it all back to me. I wish that there had been some way that we could have stayed together, some way to change the way the world is, so that it would have been possible.
"I know that it can't be done. I know that there will always be those who say it isn't right. I know that, but I hate it for being that way!"
"Don't James," Hobbie said, putting his hand on James' as he drove. "Don't be bitter about it. Be thankful, we had great times together. And we still have the certain special feeling for each other; they can't take that away from us. Never." James turned and looked at him. He put his other hand on top of Hobbie's and squeezed it.
"You're right Hobbie," he said. "We'll always have that."
James stayed the two days in San Antonio as he had planned, and then flew back to Minneapolis, and then drove back to his home, rather his beginnings. It was a bad time for him, he felt alone, and yet he was not alone. Something inside him told him that. But he was powerless to let it come out. He didn't want to see anyone, or go anywhere. He just sat around the house, idly reading old magazines. His mother noticed the change, but she kept silent, not wishing to disturb him. She knew she couldn't help him, but at least she didn't have to bother him.
Finally the day came when he had to leave for his new assignment. She hoped that he would be able to find whatever he was looking for in his work. He did perk up as he boarded the train for Great Falls. He had said his good byes to his friends the day before. It was almost as if he were going away and never coming back. That was the feeling he had. But when he stepped onto the train and waved good-bye to his parents and family, he suddenly realized that it was just a new beginning, and that thought lifted his spirits. He stood watching a moment, and then took his seat in the coach. He waved again through the window, as the train began to move slowly into the sunset.
All through the night he sat at the window, as the countryside flowed by. Each small town seemed like the last, each one further and further apart as the train rushed westward across the plains, up through the Cascades, and finally down into the valley of the great Missouri River, and slowly into the city of Great Falls late the next day.
It was cool as he stepped off from the train. And although he had no idea of where he was, or where he was going, he had the feeling that he could get there. There were procedures to be followed, he could do it.
A bus, he found would take him to the base that was located some five miles out of town. And although it was late, it was not too late to get a place to sleep at the base. One could always count on that. So he boarded the bus after getting change at the newsstand inside the train station and rode the bus out to begin his new life.
The End Part 2
To be continued
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