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.
Once again I want to thank all of you who have sent me comments about the story. I know that I have not answered all of the e-mails -- please forgive me.
Fire In Winter
The two men saw each other often in the weeks that followed. And while it was apparent to their friends, each would have denied that they were having an affair. They were fond of each other; there was no way around that, but to be in love with the other, it couldn't be.
Jim was reluctant to admit the possibility. The hurt that he had suffered when Charles got married had made him determined not to let it happen again. And James felt that the age difference was too great. He had no problem with the friendship part, but for him the sexual aspects seemed too threatening. He had enjoyed sex with Jim the few times that it had occurred, but to be restricted to just one person, he wasn't certain that Jim could be that one person.
It was the middle of June before Jim had accepted that he was unalterably in love with James, and would do anything to have him for his own. James had reached that same conclusion earlier, but hesitated because he wasn't certain that Jim felt the same way.
James had come to the conclusion that at the age of forty, nearing forty-one, he had to compromise if he was ever going to have a lasting relationship. No one person was perfect in every way; no one person could fill every need. Jim satisfied most of his needs, most of the time, and that would have to be enough. He'd just have to work around the other parts.
They had finished dinner at the New China Inn, and were discussing plans for the Fourth of July holiday, the following week. Since the Fourth was on Thursday, they had decided to take a vacation day on the Friday afterward, and make it a long five weekend.
"James," Jim said looking serious, "There is something that I want you to think about." Jim paused for a moment and then continued, "I want you to move in and live with me. I know we haven't known each other all that long, but we're spending so much time together, it seems silly to keep separate places." Jim stopped.
James' eyes misted, he'd been waiting for two weeks for this. He didn't feel it was his position to suggest it, since he didn't have anything to offer in return.
"I would like that very much," James said.
Jim breathed a sigh of relief; he hadn't known what he was going to say if James had said no.
"I'm so pleased," Jim said. "I love you very much, James."
He hesitated, and reached into his jacket pocket taking out a small box. "To show just how much that I do care for you, I want you to have this." Jim opened the box and took out a ring.
"Are you sure?" James asked looking at the ring.
"Yes," Jim said. He reached out and took James' hand in his and placed the ring on the little finger. James looked at it. It was a man's ring. The gold ring was set with three stones, two blue sapphires with a yellow diamond between then.
"Then, I will treasure it always."
"Let's get out of here before I do something we'll both be sorry for," Jim was happy and excited. He wanted to laugh and cry, shout and jump up and down. He motioned for the check, and paid it. They drove the short distance to the bar. When they were safely inside, they kissed.
"Jimmy!" Jim called to the bartender, "A bottle of champagne!"
"Okay, Jim," the bartender smiled. "It'll take a few minutes, will you be at a booth?"
Jim looked around to see if one were free, there were none.
"No, we'll have it right here," he said, "And bring three glasses."
They climbed up on the empty stools at the bar. James was feeling a bit peculiar about the situation. On one hand, he was delighted with the outcome, but on the other he wasn't sure that he wanted the whole world to know about it. But if Jim wanted to celebrate, then he would go along with it gladly.
"What are you celebrating, Jim?" Jimmy asked as he set the ice bucket and bottle on the bar.
"Well," Jim said leaning over to whisper to Jimmy. "James and I are going to be lovers." There, he'd said it out loud. He couldn't believe it was true, but he'd said it so it must be so!
"Congratulations, Jim," Jimmy said shaking hands with Jim.
He looked at James, and smiled. He didn't know James, except that he was quiet, handsome, and from what he'd heard from some reliable sources, well endowed. "Congratulations, James. He's a fine man, take good care of him."
They shook hands. James felt good; he hadn't realized how he would feel until now, or how serious other people would see this. He didn't know Jimmy well, nor had he ever talked to him outside of the bar. But Jimmy was a serious person, that he knew from the way he conducted his business.
"Thank you, Jimmy, thank you very much." James said. Jimmy poured the three glasses. Jim handed one to James, one to Jimmy, and took his own.
"To us," he said looking at James. He touched his glass to James'.
"To us," James repeated.
"Long life, and much happiness to you both," Jimmy said and touched his glass to theirs.
James gave notice at the hotel the next day; he would move the end of July. He called Mike in Cleveland and told him. Mike wished him well, and told him that he wouldn't be coming back any time soon.
Not everyone received the news with the same excitement and good wishes. On Mount View there were suspicious minds. But only one person did what the others would like to have done.
"Jim," Lyle said, "I think that you're being terribly foolish. What do you know about him? He's just someone from the bar! I just think he's after your money!"
Jim was ready for him, knowing how Lyle thought, he had known what to expect.
"Lyle, you're the one who doesn't know him," Jim said calmly. "As far as my money is concerned, it is my money, and if he's after it, he can have it."
"Well," said Lyle hotly, "If he's going to live here, than I can't!"
"Well, Lyle, if that's how you feel, I'll expect you to out by the first of August." Jim announced with a sigh of relief. The conversation was ended, and Lyle stomped up to his room and slammed the door. "It's just as well," Jim thought, "He'd just be in the way anyway."
James and Jim drove to Duluth for the long weekend of the Fourth. A honeymoon, Jim called it. They were gone from Thursday until Sunday. They returned feeling relaxed and happy, anxious to get on with their lives, and their new life together.
James gradually moved many of his things to Jim's house. At first it was things that he didn't need, and he stored them in the basement. But as the first of the month approached, everything was moved, and James began staying at Jim's, going back to the apartment only to clean and get his mail.
Lyle on the other hand, being the bitch the he was, spent all day the 31st moving. He told Jim that if he wanted the room cleaned, he'd have to have someone else do it, because he wasn't. Jim just shrugged, and James who was in the kitchen when the exchange took place smiled.
When Jim came back into the kitchen, James said, "Don't worry about it, Jim. I'll clean it. After all, it's going to be my room anyway."
"I just hate the he's such a bitch about it!"
"Don't worry, he'll get over it," James said.
"But you know how people talk," Jim was concerned.
"Which people?" James asked.
"The people at church," Jim said.
"Oh, I'd forgotten about that," James said thoughtfully. "I think that we can fix that."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, suppose I start going to church now. Your friends can get to know me, and judge for themselves."
"You'd do that?"
"Why not, I used to go to church all the time when I was married. Your church is not so very different from that one."
"That'll do it!" Jim was elated. He'd show Lyle that two could play that game!
And so, on Sunday, James dressed in his finest suit, white shirt, polished shoes, the works, entered the church as few minutes before services began. He walked slowly down the center aisle to the pew that Jim had suggested that he take. He genuflected as was his custom and entered it.
The old organ began to struggle to keep up with Lyle as he played the processional. Everyone rose to greet the choir and celebrant as they came from the sacristy, down the side aisle and then up the center. James turned with the rest of the congregation toward the center as they passed. As Jim passed singing in his best tenor voice, he winked at James smiling broadly.
After the service, James waited until most had left the church before walking back to leave. Just as he reached the end of the aisle Jim, who had come from the choir room via the side aisle, joined him.
"Father Eliasons," Jim said, "I'd like you to meet James Arneson, a very good friend of mine." The tall slightly balding minister smiled and shook hands with James.
"I'm pleased to meet you James," he said, "Jim has told me a good deal about you. I hope that you'll happy with our parish."
"Thank you, Father," James answered, "I'm glad to meet you. Jim has told me how fine a job you're doing here. I'm sure I'll be quite happy here."
"Jim," Father Eliasons said, "I'm sorry to hear that Lyle has moved. It'll be quit inconvenient for him, not being able to practice as he used to."
"Well, you know, Father," Jim smiled, "How some people are, when they don't get their own way." Jim was throwing much oil on the fire, and someone else was getting burned!
Jim took James and they went up to the meeting hall next door where every Sunday, coffee and refreshments were served. He took James around to everyone he knew who was there. To some he merely said that James was a friend, others he told that James was staying with him, now that Lyle had moved out, and others that he was a very close friend. To each he conveyed the exact meaning that he desired.
The last person to whom he introduced James was the rector's wife, "Judith Eliasons," he said, "She's in the choir too."
"It's so nice to meet you, Mrs. Eliasons," James said, "The choir is very good, and Lyle plays masterfully."
"It's nice to meet you too, James," she answered, "Yes, we're very proud of our choir. And because of Jim, we're soon to have a new organ."
"Yes," James said, "He's told me, it must be very exciting for you." The three of them chatted and sipped coffee while she waited for her husband to join her. Jim and James excused themselves and walked away to speak to some other people briefly. After an appropriate amount of time, they left the hall and went back to the house.
Jim was still giggling as they went up the steps. He'd have no more trouble from Lyle on that account!
The twenty-third was Jim's birthday, and James bought Jim a lightweight summer sweater and a rose bush for his collection. James had contacted Steve and had him plant it the day of his birthday while they were at work. That evening, James had insisted that they go home before going to dinner, saying that he wanted to change clothes first.
James suggested that Jim water the roses, as they looked quite dry. He waited inside and did change clothes while Jim walked over to check the roses. James heard him laughing as he came down the stairs.
"Thank you, James," he said, "It's beautiful!"
"You're welcome, Jim," James said and added, "Have many, many Happy Birthdays!"
He kissed him tenderly.
The weeks that followed brought them closer together.
Everything they did, they did together. And as summer turned slowly to fall, it was apparent, even to the causal observer that they were quite happy together.
Marcy, whom James saw only occasionally now, came to call one Saturday afternoon. She was thrilled at last to see the man who'd won James' heart. Even though, she and James had become close friends, she knew that she couldn't keep him for herself. He'd been a great help in getting her life straightened out earlier that year, even though it meant that he had to spend most of his spare time helping her, he never seemed to mind. Now she was going to loose some of that to this man. She admitted to herself that she was jealous, but realized that James was still a good friend and would be there if she really needed someone.
Fall turned to winter with a vengeance. By Thanksgiving the ground was covered with snow. Turkey was carved with style at the Bacon residence, with friends gathered around the table. Most of these friends were now familiar with James, and most approved of Jim's choice. How could anyone not be happy for him.
James' celebrated his forty-first birthday by buying a new car. He and Jim picked it out together the week before, and James managed to get the loan approved and the pick up was timed for that day. Jim was a little down because he couldn't afford to buy it for him. But James assured him, that he didn't mind in the least. Truly, James didn't mind, he was happy that things were going as well for them as it was. They went out to dinner, and then to the bar. Both got a little high on the wine, but they both had a good time.
The next Sunday, the eighth of December, James was in the bathroom shaving, as he got ready for Church. Jim had gone earlier with his ride, as usual. James was plenty of time, since that morning he'd gotten up as soon as Jim left. He was dressed and just needed to put on his shirt and tie.
The phone rang, and he hurried to pick it up.
"James?" the voice at the other end asked.
"This is Marjorie Langdon. Can you come to the church right away? Jim's fainted."
James' heart raced. "Of course, I'll be right over. Is he all right?"
"He's seems to be okay now, but he's rather week. Mrs. Eliasons thinks he should go home."
"It'll take me just a minute, I'll be right there." James hung up the phone. He debated on whether or not to call the doctor right away, or to wait until he saw Jim first. He dialed the number and got the answering service. He told them the situation, and asked them to have the doctor call back, but to wait for a half an hour so that he'd have time to get Jim home first. Then he pulled on his coat and ran to the car.
Thankfully, it wasn't as cold as it had been. Soon he was at the church. He double parked outside the side entrance, and rushed inside.
"I'm all right, I tell you!" Jim was saying as James went into the choir room.
"James, tell these people to stop fussing! They're getting on my nerves!" Marjorie had been right, he was pale.
"Take it easy, Jim," James said. "The car's right outside. Shall I get someone to help you?"
"Of course, not, I can walk, it's not that far!"
"Okay, where's your coat?" A woman brought his coat, and James helped him put it on.
The walked slowly to the car, and Jim climbed in. James drove quickly home. On the way, Jim explained what he happened, that he remembered. James didn't tell him that he'd called the doctor, but he was glad that he had.
James parked in front of the house, and helped Jim inside. Upstairs, he tried to get him to go to bed, but Jim flatly refused. He'd lie down, but that was all.
James went back outside, and moved the car to the garage and hurried back in.
When he got back upstairs he found that Jim was on the phone.
"Okay, Doctor, I'll see you tomorrow." Jim hung up the phone.
"What did he say?" James asked.
"He said that it's most likely the flu, but that I should go in tomorrow and check me over."
"That's good," James said relieved. "Would you like something hot to drink?"
"No, thanks, I'm fine." Jim lay down on the bed. James took the Afghan from the chest and covered him with it. Jim slept.
All day James kept checking to see how Jim felt. Each time he inquired, "I'm fine," was the reply. At evening, James fixed a light meal of soup and crackers for Jim. He ate a little, and slept again.
In the morning, Jim still looked pale, but his temperature was almost normal. James insisted that he stay home from work, calling and telling them that Jim would not be in. He told Jim that he'd be home at three to take him to the doctor. Jim grumbled, but agreed to stay in bed, at least most of the time.
The doctor found nothing wrong, but suggested that Jim stay home from work for two more days and rest.
With Christmas fast approaching, Jim improved enough so that he was able to practice with the choir so that he could sing for Christmas services. James took care of the preparations for the Christmas dinner. There would be only four for dinner, Jim, James and the girls. Steve picked out the tree and set it up in the living room in its usual spot in front of the window by the piano. The piano was moved four feet further into the living room to make room. The spot was chosen because of the window facing the street. Jim supervised the decorating of the tree, and the placement of the other decorations for the house.
His spirits picked up now, and he was in a holiday mood.
The week before Christmas, Jim told James that he'd invited a friend for a drink on Monday evening.
James cleaned up the kitchen while Jim fussed with the snacks and wine he'd selected for their visitor. At nine o'clock the doorbell chimed and Jim let him in.
James went to the door with Jim.
"Ben," Jim said, "I'd like you to meet James. James, this is Ben Barry, a very good friend of mine." James and Ben shook hands.
Ben was slightly shorter than James, with dark blonde hair that was combed slightly down over his forehead. He wore a dark blue blazer and trousers. His pale blue eyes peered out of deep-set sockets. He was nice looking, and friendly.
They sat in the living room in front of the fire. Ben explained that he'd been out of town visiting his family on Thanksgiving, and was unable to attend the dinner Jim had invited him to. Ben worked for the airline in management, and worked a rotating shift. He apologized for coming in his work clothes, but he just got off work.
He lived in St. Paul, alone, he explained, since his friend had moved out earlier that year. They hadn't really been lovers anyway, and Ben couldn't put up with his moods.
They talked for nearly three hours before Ben decided that it was time for him to leave. After he'd gone Jim asked James what he thought of him.
"He seems very nice," James said.
"I'm glad you like him," Jim said, "Ben and I have been close for a long time. Several years ago, I asked him to live with me, but he declined."
"I'm not," Jim said. "He's very age conscious, and he's not all that dependable, I've heard. But we've stayed good friends, and I guess that it's worked out for the best."
"That's good," James smiled. "It's worked out for me."
Jim put his arm around James' waist and hugged him, "And for me too."
Christmas service began at eleven in the evening Christmas Eve. The church was fully decorated now, and looked festive with the lights and tinsel on the trees that had previously been bare. The creche was in place and lighted. The organist and choir were in great form. Everything was perfect. When they arrived home, Jim and James sat for a moment by the fireplace.
"I told Lyle that I wouldn't come in in morning, I'm feeling a little tired." Jim said.
"That's good, you can sleep late." They went to bed, Jim to his, and James to his. Although they now shared the same room, there were still single beds in the room. They had talked about getting a large king-sized bed someday, but not right now.
In the morning, James started the preparations for Christmas dinner. Jim slept until nine. When he came down, he was in a jovial mood. He was delighted with James' gift, the phone machine, and said that he wasn't going to answer the phone anymore until he knew who was calling. But of course, he was joking.
Dinner was perfect, and the girls enjoyed the gifts that Jim and James gave them. They too had brought gifts, deciding to get some things that they knew that Jim would enjoy for the house. They addressed the cards to both, but the gifts were for Jim.
The days after the holiday were filled with putting away the Christmas things. Jim was eager to be done with them, but James wanted the tree left up until after Epiphany. Jim reluctantly agreed.
They celebrated New Year's Eve at home quietly. They'd stopped at the bar and had one drink before going home that night, but since it was the middle of the week, they decided not to have a party this year.
Winter was playing havoc with everything. It was cold and they'd already had thirty inches of snow, far above the average for the season. It snowed lightly that first weekend of the new year, and more was promised for later in the week.
Tuesday afternoon Jim called James at work and asked if it was all right to invite Ben for dinner that night.
"We're having leftovers," James said, "Unless you'd like something else."
"No that's fine. I ran into Ben at lunch and he's free tonight."
"Sounds fine to me," James said.
"He's coming at five or so."
"Great, it'll be good to see him again."
James picked Jim up as usual at the courthouse building and drove home. Jim was in a good mood, and was joking about how he thought Ben was trying to pick up the bartender at lunch. He explained that Ben had the day off as part of his rotating shift business, so it wasn't so unusual to see him down town. James smiled as he listened to the story. Ben sounds like quite a character, he thought.
They both worked in the kitchen, Jim doing the hors d'houvers, and James with the leftovers. Everything was set and they were standing around talking when the doorbell sounded.
James looked at his watch, it was five-thirty, but it didn't matter, since everything could wait a while anyway.
It was Ben, and he was exuberant. Jim winked at James was he ushered Ben into the living room. Jim fixed their drinks and carried the large glass shaker in and set it on the coffee table. In the other hand he held the two frosted glass that he'd taken from the freezer.
Manhattans, that was the drink that both he and Ben enjoyed before dinner. James had a glass of wine. James waited a half hour before suggesting that they adjourn to the kitchen for dinner.
They all sat at the small wooden table in the kitchen.
James brought out the food and set it on the table. Everyone helped themselves. They were talking and laughing as they began their meal with a toast to the New Year, which Ben suggested.
Jim got up from the table to pour more wine after the toast. Then he excused himself and went upstairs saying he was going to the bathroom. James and Ben continued and started eating their food, chatting about how cold the weather was and wondering if they'd get much more snow this week.
It was ten minutes later, and Jim had not returned. James got up from the table and hurried up the stairs.
"Ben!" he called as he went into the bedroom. Jim was lying on the bed white as a sheet. Ben came bounding up the stairs to where James was standing.
"Ben, you stay with him, do whatever he says, if he wakes.
His nitros are there on the night table, he's already taken one, I think. I'm going to get to call the doctor." James rushed down the stairs and went to the kitchen phone. He quickly dialed the number at the top of the list near the phone. He explained the situation, and the woman told him that he should call the fire-rescue department and she'd have the doctor call back as soon as he could be reached.
James hung up and dialed the operator. She connected him with the fire department. James gave the address and the situation and hung up. Before James reached the top of the stairs he heard the sirens.
"How's he doing?" James asked.
"He's better I think. He mumbled something a bit ago," Ben said.
"You let them in, they're here now," James said. He remembered that the fire station was a mere two blocks away, and heard the sirens shut off as they pulled up in front of the house.
Ben hurried down the stairs to open the door. The doorbell chimed and they were already pounding on the door by the time he reached the bottom of the stairs. Two men dressed in full gear, and carrying their bags of equipment, hurried up the stairs. A third man stood on the sidewalk next to the truck. Ben left the door slightly ajar and hurried back up the stairs.
The phone rang and James picked it up. It was the doctor. James told him what happened, and that the medics were here. The doctor asked to speak to whomever was in charge. James handed the phone to the man sitting on the bed and who was already putting probes on Jim.
"I'm all right," Jim protested. The man listened as the doctor explained what he wanted done. The man handed the phone back to James.
"I've ordered an ambulance, and called the hospital," the doctor told James. "I'll talk to you there after I've seen him."
James thanked the doctor and hung up the phone. He hurried down the stairs to make certain that the door was open. Already he could hear the siren headed toward them. It was faint at first, but as a minute passed he knew that it was coming there.
People were gathering on the sidewalk outside. The two women from down the block who were known as the girls came rushing up the walk.
"How is Jim!" they shouted.
"He's okay, but he's going to the hospital," James said, a little annoyed by their tone. "I'll call you as soon as I talk to the doctor." His voice was calm, but his tone was clear, they were not to go in.
James spoke to the fireman near the truck, "Don't let them in." he said firmly.
"No, sir, don't worry, no one could go in anyway," the man smiled slightly.
James hurried back inside. "Ben," he said when he reached the bedroom. "Is your car out in back?"
"Yeah," Ben answered softly.
"Get it ready, we'll follow the ambulance," James said.
"I'll check the house now, make sure everything's okay. I'll lock up as soon as they leave, and we can go."
"Okay," Ben said. Ben looked as pale as Jim and started for the door.
"You okay?" James asked.
"Yeah, I'll be okay." And he went down the stairs. He grabbed his coat and let himself out the back way.
The ambulance people were carrying up the stretcher and more equipment. They connected an intravenous bottle to Jim's arm which already had a needle installed waiting for it. Then they began the process of wrapping him up for the transfer.
A minute later they were juggling him down the stairway to the door. James had hurried down ahead of them and was waiting as they brought him down.
"Don't use the sirens if you don't have to," James said. "They frighten him." The man nodded.
"See you later, Jim," James said as they carried him passed. Jim tried to smile. When the last man was out the door, James bolted it and hurried out to the kitchen. He looked at the table. He picked up his glass that was still full of wine. With on gulp he downed it, and turned off the lights.
Locking the door, he hurried down the walk to the car that was sitting in the drive, lights on and engine running. He jumped in a Ben back out into the alley and hurried to the end of the alley. Looking to the left as he approached the end, he pulled out without stopping and pushed the accelerator to the floor. The car swerved slightly on the icy street as it tried to gain speed. He removed his foot from the pedal and it straightened out.
"It's okay, Ben," James said. "Take it easy." Five minutes later they pulled up the street to the hospital. Ben found a space and parked the car. They rushed into the front entrance and down the hall to emergency admitting. James asked at the desk concerning Jim. They told him that he was still in examining, and that he could wait in the waiting room. Ben and James went to the waiting area. Ben still was in shock and looked very pale.
"Ben, could you do me a favor?" James asked. Maybe if he had something to do, he get over it.
"Call Father Eliasons," James said. "Tell him we're at the hospital."
Ben hurried off to make the phone call. James waited and watched the corridor. It was just a few minutes before the gurney went by with Jim on it. They went up the hall and into one of the room.
James looked at the nurse behind the counter. She smiled and said, "I'll check on him in just a minute, and let you know."
"Thank you," James said. He went into the small waiting room just across from the nursing station. He sat down. He took several deep breaths, trying to relax. What was next, he wondered.
Ben returned and came in.
"I talked to Mrs. Eliasons. She said that she'd get in touch with him right away, and he'd come over."
"Thanks, Ben." James said. Ben was looking better now, and he came over and sat next to him.
Ben said nothing, but took James' hand. "He'll make it, James, he'll make it. He's got to." Ben began to sob. James put his arm around him.
"I never told him I loved him," Ben sobbed.
To be continued
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