RAY OF LIGHT
Once In A Blue Moon
story by SOLACE LENITY
©2004-2005 All Rights Reserved
moonlight flooded the room as Coal aroused from his slumber. Malice was
curled up comfortably on his chest, a fact that brought immediate
serenity to his otherwise troubled soul. But there was another source
for the calmness that he was experiencing. As the feeling in his hand
began to return, Coal was reminded of the presence of Nathanael Meyers.
Holding gently to Coal's hand, Nathan snoozed in seeming peace. He was there beside Coal, having the sleeper chair turned so that Coal could look directly into his face. And what a face it was.
The lunar illumination seemed to give Nathan an almost seraphic glow. Coal sighed silently as he gazed intently at his new companion.
'Is that what he is?' Coal wondered. 'A companion?'
The word struck a strong chord in his mind and spirit, setting off a maelstrom of mixed emotions. Coal had never really had a companion other than Malice and Rory. Rory had been there for him during his childhood, up until the night he was forced to leave home. On that same evening, Malice had come miraculously bouncing into his life.
As various memories of the two played through his mind, a slight smile crept its way across his face. A few tears trickled down his cheek, shimmering softly in the moonlight. No, life had not been the best for Coal, a far cry from it in fact. But he realized it could have been much worse. Rory and Malice had at least given him some source of comfort, and for that he was thankful.
He watched the sleeping Nathan, noting every small detail. Nathan's light blond hair was in a wild array as tufts of it stuck out in disorder. His bangs covered his forehead, just touching the tip of his slightly up-turned nose. On the far side, Nathan's hair was swept softly behind his ear. But on the near side, it hugged close to Nathan's face, following the delicate contours of his features.
Coal could just make out Nathan's eyelids, heavily lined with blond lashes that curled upwards. Those enchanting gold-green eyes were hidden from him, but Coal could still envision their sparkling wonder. They were so alluring Coal felt almost like he was sinking in quicksand whenever he gazed into Nathan's eyes. And through these windows, Coal had made contact with one of the most beautiful souls he had ever encountered.
Coal chuckled to himself as he remembered Aaron referring to Nathan as beautiful. Though it had confused him a tad at first as to the nature of their relationship, Coal nevertheless could not argue with Aaron's assessment. Nathan was every bit as beautiful as Coal had found Rory to be. And the more he got to know his new companion, the more he found parallel traits between the two.
Coal noticed the stuffed cat Aaron had given him clutched tightly to Nathan's chest. A strong smile gave way as Coal sighed at the sight. Beautiful hardly seemed fitting, he decided. There was such an innocence that permeated about Nathan while he slept. And try as he might, Coal could not deny the strong connection he felt for the young man who grasped his hand gently. Nathan was a rare find, indeed.
Coal was reminded of a phrase he had heard growing up: once in a blue moon. Throughout his life, Coal had attributed the phrase to more than a few instances. But always, the meaning had been the same. The memories began to flood his mind, taking him on a journey through points of his life.
It was at a church picnic the first time Coal had ever heard those words. It was also the same day that Coal had initially met Rory Hampton. Coal must have been around three and a half maybe four at that time, but he could remember the events as if it were only yesterday. At that time in his life, Coal was such a scrawny kid, far smaller than any of the other children his own age. So, he found it quite hard to find a playmate. Though he grew as time went on, connecting with others always remained an obstacle for Coal.
Church had just finished, and the children all scampered off to play out in the field beside the church. There was an old tire swing attached to a great big elm tree that Coal was dying to get to. He looked excitedly to his moma, who was talking with the other ladies about setting up for the picnic.
Twila was a beautiful woman in her day. Her raven black hair was always neatly put up in either a French twist or a beehive. Though she was not very tall in reality, she always seemed like a giant to Coal. Perhaps that was because her small framed body possessed the spirit and persona of a very powerful, strong willed individual. When she spoke, even the largest of men cowed to her word.
Coal marveled at how the sun would cause her darkly tanned skin to glow an almost golden color. Perhaps she was one of those angels they were learning about in Sunday School, he thought. He knew she did no wrong, not like he usually tended to do. It seemed that no matter what his intentions, no matter how hard he tried, he always managed to do something wrong where Twila was concerned.
It was for that very reason Coal stood frozen in his tracks. Despite the overwhelming desire to get to that tire swing, he knew better than to take off without his moma's approval. He also knew not to interrupt her while she was busy, for that would mean a whipping once they were home. So, patiently he waited, bursting at the seams to get to the coveted swing.
Just when Coal had all but given up hope of gaining Twila's attention, Mary Humphrey took notice of his excited self. To Coal, as with many of the kids, there was no one greater than Mary Humphrey. She was such a kind, gentle person, and she always took time to play with all of the children.
Mary smiled at him, causing her well aged face to light up with the kindness that dwelled within her soul. Her soft tan eyes dazzled behind her square shaped glasses that rested towards the end of her nose. She bent down slightly and tweaked Coal on his nose.
"Well, young man, I suppose you wouldn't be wanting to use that tire swing, now would you?" Her voice was somewhat raspy from age, but to Coal, it was a nice, comforting sound.
Coal blushed slightly but was unable to contain his enthusiasm. His smile broadened all the more when Mary gave him a quick wink. He knew exactly what that would mean.
Turning to Twila, Mary laughed softly. "I hope you don't mind, but I think I am going to steal away your son for a while. We'll be over at the swing if you need us."
Twila turned and gave Coal a sharp, stern look. "Coal, honestly! Must you always pester poor Mary!" She scolded.
Coal felt his heart sink and his hind end tingle, knowing he would get another visit from the strap once they returned home.
"Oh, Twila! Really..." Mary laughed. "Coal never even asked me. I was the one who asked him." She rested her hands upon Coal's shoulders protectively as she pulled him to stand in front of her facing his moma. "He's a wonderful child, Twila, and I enjoy being with the children. You know, a woman my age does not have all that many good years left, and I want to enjoy every moment that I can."
Twila gazed at Coal, her sharp stone look softening slightly. "Very well then, but don't make a nuisance of yourself, you hear. And mind Mary."
Coal shook his head in agreement. Then, Mary took his hand and led him off towards the tire swing. They had made it maybe ten feet before Twila shouted out again.
"And don't do anything stupid to hurt your fool self again. You hear me." She called out.
Coal stopped and turned around. In a soft, barely audible voice he replied. "Yes ma'am. I won't." Seeing Twila nod her head, Coal turned back around and continued with Mary to that magnificent elm.
Mary hoisted Coal up into the center of the swing. His tiny arms could barely grasp fully around the tire to hold himself in place. The thrill of the movement grabbed at his stomach, causing him to gasp in delight. Mary chuckled lightly as she continued pushing Coal in the swing.
It was during this back and forth motion that Coal first saw him. He had been playing ball with a few other kids over in the field. Coal had no idea what it was about the boy, only that he could not help but stare. Then it happened. The boy looked up and took notice of Coal. A smile immediately crossed his face as he waved to Coal in a friendly fashion. Coal felt his stomach immediately tie itself into knots.
"Wow." Coal quietly said.
Mary giggled in seeming delight. "You like swinging, do you?" she stated more than asked. It was enough to shake Coal from his thoughts and staring at the young boy.
Coal's smile gleamed as he shook his head vigorously to Mary. He noticed that mischievous smirk that often crossed her face, and Coal raced with anticipation. He grabbed hold of the tire swing as firmly as he could as Mary pushed him higher. A strong laugh of joy erupted from Coal, bringing with it another hearty chuckle from Mary.
A somewhat timid voice then spoke, and Coal felt himself tingling with excitement.
"Can I swing, too?" It said.
Coal turned to look, nearly falling out of the swing in the process. Thankfully, Mary was there to catch him just in time. She steadied Coal in the tire, bringing the swing to an abrupt halt. It was then that Coal got a better glimpse at who had spoken. A sudden rush of energy and nervousness raced through Coal.
'It's that boy!' he thought to himself.
Mary smiled down at the newcomer, then at Coal. "Do you mind sharing the swing Coal?" She asked gently. "You boys can take turns I suppose."
Coal quickly shook his head in agreement, causing the young boy to burst out in delight. Mary picked Coal up and sat him to his feet on the ground. There, he was standing face to face with the one person who would captivate his mind for the rest of his life.
Coal was speechless, having no idea what to say. The boy had white hair, but not like the white hair he had seen on the older folk in the community. He was also much taller than Coal, but so was most every other kid he knew. His eyes seemed to sparkle like marbles. And when he smiled at Coal, Coal found himself feeling dizzy.
"I'm Rory." The boy smiled.
Coal simply stood there, not knowing what to say or do. He tried a few times to say Hi or I'm Coal, but it was as if his body refused to move. The familiar feel of Mary's hand grasped his shoulder softly.
"Well, Rory, this shy youngen is Coal. I guess the cat must have his tongue or something." She giggled. She then reached out and ruffled up Rory's hair. "So, you ready to give this swing a turn?"
Rory's face lit up with excitement, and Coal swallowed hard. There was something about that boy that would not leave him be. Coal felt himself go rigid, however, when Rory took a firm grasp upon his forearm.
"Come on. We can both fit." He smiled to Coal.
Mary helped Rory up into the swing. Then, she placed Coal on the other side, sitting him on Rory's lap so the two were facing each other. As Coal reached his arms above him to grab onto the swing, Rory's hand brushed against his own. In an instant, Coal went limp, falling backwards from the swing. Again, Mary was there to catch him.
She petted Coal's head, checking to make sure he was alright. Then, she smiled at him gently. "Maybe you best just hold onto Rory instead of the tire, dear."
Coal shook his head, then wrapped his arms firmly around Rory's neck. He was overwhelmed immediately, but clung to Rory with all his might. As the swing began to move, Rory burst out with laughter.
"Higher!" He exclaimed. Coal, on the other hand, was speechless.
As the swing continued to climb higher and higher, Coal became frightened. It was moving far higher than it had ever been with him in it before. He took one look at the distant ground and buried his head into Rory's shoulder.
The memory of that moment was forever burned into Coal's mind. As if sensing his uneasiness, Rory wrapped one of his arms firmly around Coal, further pulling him into his body. Coal gasped at the contact, taking in the very scent of Rory. It was as intoxicating at that moment as it had been every time Rory drew near.
But, the memory held so much more than that. In that instant, Coal felt something he had never felt before. It was something that he could not explain, not for years to come. It was the first time Coal ever felt safe, and he had only experienced this phenomenal sensation whenever he was in the presence of Rory. That is, until the day he looked into the eyes of Nathanael Meyers.
The two continued swinging until it was time to eat. Coal had carried his plate off to be alone out under one of the pine trees. Just as he was biting into his chicken, he felt a hand rest upon his shoulder. Immediately, he began to tingle all over.
"That sure was fun swingin', huh?" Rory enthused.
Coal just blushed, casting Rory a slight glance and smile.
"Thought you liked it." Rory beamed. He then sat down next to Coal, biting into his chicken. "Mmm. This is real good." He stated.
Coal wanted so much to respond, but he simply couldn't. No matter how hard he tried, the words would never come out. Finally, he just gave up.
As Rory continued eating his food, a burp escaped. He blushed slightly and laughed. Coal managed a small giggle.
"Sorry." Rory smiled. They continued eating for a while. Then Rory again broke the silence. "I don't guess you say much do ya?"
Coal again tried to think of something to say, anything. However, all he managed was, "I ah... um..."
Rory laughed lightly, draping his arm across Coal's shoulder. "Moma says I talk way too much."
Again silence fell as Rory finished his cool-aid and Coal picked at his food. "Well, I gotta go pee. Then me and you will swing some more, K?" Rory announced.
Coal looked at him slightly, and then flushed with embarrassment. He did manage to nod his head at least.
"K. Be back." Rory stated.
Coal watched him disappear into the distance. Then, he heard Mary as she beckoned him to come and sit with her. Coal carried his plate and cool-aid over and sat down beside Mary on her blanket. His attention then turned to see if he could spy Rory.
Mary's arm slid around him, pulling Coal into a sideways hug. "You like that kid?" She asked him.
"Yes ma'am." Coal replied shyly.
"Once in a blue moon, you find someone special like that, Coal." She said, her face exuding fond feelings. "Take it from this old girl. Hang on to him with all your might, son. People like that are rare indeed."
At the time, Coal had no idea what Mary meant by what she had said. Still, those words stayed with him in the back of his mind. And, in time, he grew to fully understand their meaning.
Shortly later, Rory had returned. Then, Mary took both of them to the swing, where they remained until time to go home. Rory gave Coal a hug goodbye, saying he would see him later. Coal just blushed and grinned widely. As Twila called out to Coal, he raced back to give Mary one last hug before he left.
A few stray tears trickled down Coal's cheeks as he remembered the event, for it was indeed the last hug he would ever be able to give Mary. On that following Tuesday, Mary passed away. And with her passing, Coal lost the only adult figure in his life that he could turn to in times of need.
Later that evening, Twila was busy in the front parlor with her yarn work. Coal looked up from his coloring book curiously. He weighed out disturbing her for a few moments, but curiosity won out over common sense.
"Moma, what's a blue moon?"
"What is with all these questions? Can't you see I am busy? Now look, you made me loose count!" Twila bellowed. "Just go on up to your room if you can't be still!"
Quietly, Coal gathered up his crayons and coloring books. Softly, he walked to the stairs. As he reached the third step, Twila called out to him.
"It means something rare, something that does not happen very often. Like you behaving yourself for once."
Coal contemplated that, though Mary's words still made little sense to him at the time. "Thanks ma'am." Coal said quietly, remembering his manners. Then, he trudged off to his room to sit alone once again.
Coal glanced back over at Nathan, who still slept on peacefully. Every so often, Nathan would mumble something softly. Coal could never make out what he was saying, but he still found it adorable. He glanced at the small scar under Nathan's chin, and it brought back the memory of how Rory had gained the same scar. A tinge of guilt also surfaced.
They were in the fifth grade, sitting in science class. Mrs. Drennon was going on another seemingly endless lecture that bored Coal to death. He never found science to be all that interesting. But, during the course of the lecture, she said something that perked Coal up enough to take notice.
She began explaining the lunar cycle, from one full moon to the next. That in itself was not all that exciting, though Coal could still remember that the process took 29 and a half days to complete. It was when Mrs. Drennon mentioned the possibility of two full moons happening within the same month that got Coal's attention. She referred to this second full moon as a blue moon, and Coal was immediately reminded of Mary's words.
Then, Mrs. Drennon began explaining that the calendar and many holidays were originally calculated by the phases of the moon. There were even names given for each of the twelve full moons that occurred in a year. Each season would have three full moons. However, she continued the lesson by stating that a year would occasionally contain thirteen full moons, with one of the season having four instead of the usual three. The third full moon of that season was called the blue moon.
Coal was far from a scientist, but even he began to realize just how rare and infrequent either of these occurrences would be. As he looked to the desk beside him, he smiled shyly. That much he understood. Rory was truly a once in a lifetime friend. After all, how many kids would practically fight for the seat next to another one who could barely even make an audible sound, much less hold a conversation?
Yet, Rory was always at Coal's side whenever the two of them had a class, lunch, or recess together. Always, Rory insistently referred to Coal as his friend, though Coal could not imagine why; it wasn't that Coal did not want to be Rory's friend, but rather he did not think himself as much of a friend for Rory to have. Regardless, the resolve of that friendship would soon be put to the test.
Normally, Coal and Rory did not have gym or music class together during that very year. In a way, Coal was relieved, for it was difficult to play any kind of sport when you could hardly move, paralyzed by the crush you held on someone else. But, on this particular day, the music teacher was out, so both classes were combined for gym.
Coal sighed softly to himself. 'Of all days to play dodge ball.'
If it weren't bad enough that Rory was there to impede his movement, the combined classes also meant that Eric Sneed was also present. They were lined up one class against the other. However, due to one class being slightly larger, three members were put on the other's team. That placed Rory on Coal's side.
Coal could remember praying that someone would hit him with the ball and put him out of the game while Rory excitedly commented over every play to him. It wasn't that Coal minded Rory or his constant chatter; in fact, he had grown to deeply love the one-sided interaction. It was because Coal could not really participate in the game with Rory near him.
Eric Sneed took full advantage of the situation. He moved as close to the throwing line as possible, then sent the ball sailing with all his might. The ball slapped Coal firmly in the face, busting his nose and lower lip. Eric sneered in triumph at Coal for a moment, and then feigned concern when the teacher blew the whistle to halt the game.
Rory, however, did not hesitate to jump to Coal's defense.
"You did that on purpose!" He shouted at Eric.
"Did not!" Eric replied, staring at Rory defiantly. "Even if I did, what are you gonna do about it?"
Within a second, Rory had grabbed Eric by the shirt. However, the teacher had once again blown the whistle, halting the fight before it really began. He sent the three of them to the bleachers, getting a towel for Coal to hold on his nose and lip.
Coal felt an arm snake itself around his shoulder. Within a moment, his head was pulled to rest upon Rory's shoulder. Rory grasped the towel, applying a light pressure as he stared at Coal. Coal quickly blushed and looked downwards.
"Sorry you got hurt, buddy." Rory said softly.
"What are you doin', lovin' on your girlfriend?" Eric started.
"Shut it, Eric!" Rory warned. He then returned his attention to Coal. "I really am sorry he hurt you."
Coal tried so hard to tell Rory it was not his fault, to tell him he was ok. Yet, he remained as wordless as he always was whenever Rory was around. Instead, he closed his eyes and sank further into Rory's shoulder.
"Big bunch of sissies!" Eric taunted.
Rory gently grasped Coal's face, causing him to open his eyes. Coal's stomach churned in flip-flops as he gazed briefly into Rory's eyes.
"I'll be right back, OK?" He smiled. Then, he stood up and darted towards Eric. "I told you to SHUT IT!"
The fight was so quick; Coal was not sure exactly what happened. Within a few moments, both Eric and Rory came tumbling down the bleachers. Other than a few bruises, Eric was fine. Rory, however had cut the bottom of his chin and was bleeding quite a bit.
It took four stitches to close the wound, and Rory was forever scarred. 'All to defend my honor.' Coal surmised. A slight smile crossed his face. 'Yeah, you really were a once in a blue moon friend, Rory.' he said to himself. 'Wherever you are, thank you, buddy. Thank you for being my friend.'
The winds of thought whirled around Coal's mind at that moment. 'Where are you, buddy? Are you safe? Are you happy?" he wondered. So many different scenarios ran through Coal's head. He imagined Rory snuggled up to a lover, an idea that made him feel somewhat heartbroken. Then, he envisioned Rory sad and alone, drowning his sorrows in one of the seedy bars that lined the highway near his home town. That image made Coal feel even more depressed.
Another vision traipsed its way through Coal's mind, but it left Coal both perplexed and feeling let down. This image was of Rory coming home from work, as a blond haired boy who looked just like his father came rushing to hug his daddy. Behind him stood the lovely wife, equally as anxious to greet her husband.
'Is Rory even gay?' Coal wondered. That question seemed to plague his mind for quite some time. It wasn't like Coal was ever able to ask Rory anything, much less how he had felt about Coal.
'I know you were my friend.' Coal finally assessed. 'But, I wonder if you had those feelings for me, like the ones I had for you.' A burning question then set Coal's mind on fire. 'Was that love or infatuation? Was I really in love with you, Rory? I was so young back then. Did I even know what love was? Did I really love you?'
Coal sifted back through his life. No, there were not many instances where he was ever shown love before. In fact, there were but four times Coal could attribute to feeling loved. Whenever Malice would nuzzle up to him, Coal knew he was loved. Whenever George or Marge Turner would pat his shoulder comfortingly, he was loved. Each time Kal would smile at him, Coal felt loved. And, at anytime Rory Hampton was ever even remotely within Coal's proximity, he remembered feeling loved. Yet, Coal wondered if it were the kind of love for which he was longing.
As Malice lay curled up on Coal's chest, he struggled to stroke her with his thumb. There was no doubt whatsoever in Coal's mind that Malice loved him with everything within her. He was not about to deny that he loved her every bit as much. She was his baby girl after all. A smirk spread across his face. True, most people found his love for his beloved feline to be strange, but they could not possibly understand how much that cat meant to him.
For over fifteen years, Malice had been his constant companion, his boundless source of solace and comfort. Always, Malice looked to Coal with love. His smirk broadened into a contented smile. Everyday when he would return from work or even just from getting the mail, Malice was there to greet him. It never failed, the love she would eagerly lavish upon her daddy. There had been so many rough patches in Coal's life, and Malice had been there through it all. She was the constant in his ever changing world. How could he not love her as he did?
'Maybe they all think I am a crazy old coot, but I love you more than anything, baby girl.' Coal declared. 'Anyone who doesn't like it can just kiss my hairy ass.'
Still, his mind continued to randomly sift through his past. Coal remembered the smiling face of George Turner, and remorseful tears filled his eyes. George had been so good to Coal, yet Coal was unable to express his gratitude to George. Likewise, he was unable to return the love the man had showered upon Coal, at least not the way he felt he should have.
Coal wondered why that was so. He had no trouble expressing his love for Malice, yet when it came to people, he just could not connect with them in that way. As Coal searched himself honestly, he knew he had loved George. Why was it he could not let that love be known? Why was it that those words would not come out of his mouth?
For that, Coal had no answer. Yet, he regretted deeply that he had never told George those three little words, the ones he knew he should have said. Saying "I love you" to another human being may seem easy, but for Coal, it was nearly impossible.
His mind then traveled to Marge Turner. Coal had promised George he would look after her. And in many ways, Coal had lived up to that promise. But, he felt he had let George down in the same token. He loved that woman; he knew he did. She told him she loved him all the time, but Coal realized he never once said it back. There was never any pretense, no strings for Marge Turner's love. It was simply there, freely given to Coal. Why could he never give it back?
If that were not enough to depress him, a sudden realization sank his spirits even further. Coal had promised he would call Marge as soon as he arrived home safely. Yes, technically he hadn't broken that promise. But, Coal knew for certain that Marge would be frantic by now with worry. He had to call her somehow. There just had to be a way for him to let her know he was alright.
'Maybe Kal will call her.' Coal thought. Kal seemed to know him so well, and it seemed he understood what was there in Coal's mind. He glanced at Nathan, who also seemed to know Coal's very thoughts. Maybe Nathan would understand enough to get Kal to call.
'Maybe Kal already called.' Coal hoped. 'I just don't want her to worry. Not over someone like me anyway.' he added in thought.
As his mind returned to Kal, Coal could not help but smile. Yes, Kal meant a great deal to Coal, much more than he would ever let Kal know. A strong blush spread through his face. Coal could never tell Kal of the occasional fantasies that used to play out privately during the nights.
'Who am I kidding?' Coal snickered. 'I beat off constantly to the thoughts of him for the longest time.' he laughed. His smile grew broadly as he remembered the very day Killian Anderson Lord graced Coal's life by his presence.
It was late September, and it was unusually warm. Coal was bunkered down in his rattle-trap of a car, a Chevette that had long ago seen its better days. After ten years of living in a horrible mistake, Coal had made a break for it. Leaving Center City, he and Malice packed what little belongings they had into the rust bucket they would soon call home.
He had no idea where he would go as he started the car. "You have any suggestions, baby girl?" Coal asked, reaching over to stroke Malice between the ears. She looked at him intently, and then settled down for a nap. "Well, then no complaining once we get there. Wherever there may be. Just remember, you had your chance." He smiled, stroking her back affectionately.
For over three weeks they had roamed the roads from town to town, city to city. Yet nothing struck Coal as the place at where he should make a fresh start out of life. They had pulled into a small park of sorts that evening, calling it a night soon after Coal had put the car in park.
It was near noon when Coal roused from his sleep. As he stretched, the familiar sounds of his stomach growling were heard. He checked on Malice, only to find her still sleeping, enjoying the warmth of the car far more than Coal. He smiled, then fished out his wallet.
Upon counting, Coal found he had but $17.00 left. He had another sixty stashed in the glove box, and maybe around 80¢ in change rattling about in his pocket. He sighed heavily. That meant really skimping on meals if it were going to last them. Coal had been eating but once a day as it were, and he was near starving at the moment. He wondered what he was going to do. He noticed the business card Eddie Calvert had given him just before he left town.
"If you run into trouble, just call me, kid." The older man had said.
But Coal knew all too well what that help would require, and he could not go back to that life. The very thoughts of it sickened his stomach. Yet at the same time, Coal realized he could not let Malice starve either. A heavy burden rested upon his shoulders.
"Maybe I will call him, but not until I absolutely have to." Coal said with determination. He put his wallet back into his pocket.
The pains of his bladder then began to kick into high gear. As he opened the car door, Malice announced her being awake. Coal smiled as he watched her stretch herself out, looking at him expectantly.
"Well, come on then." Coal softly cooed, patting his shoulder. Malice wasted little time ascending to her perch.
Coal shut the car door behind him, being sure that he had his keys before he locked the door. Yeah, they didn't have much, but what little they had, Coal needed. Then, he found his way to the rest room, walking along one of the paths. After relieving himself, Coal sat Malice on the counter, then washed his face and hands. He cupped some water in his hand, offering Malice a drink. Once she had her fill, he sat her back on his shoulder and wondered around the park.
It was lovely with all the vibrant colors starting to show their presence. A few squirrels scuttled up the trees, while Malice watched them intently. Coal thought about letting her hunt, but then decided they would surely find something to eat. The thoughts of his baby girl being reduced to hunting for a meal saddened Coal even more.
"I won't let it come to that, Malice." Coal vowed. "I'm sorry I'm such a rotten daddy." He sighed, stroking his feline companion gently. "You deserve better than this, baby girl."
As Coal sulked, he aimlessly roamed about the park. Soon, he came upon a young man sitting under a tree reading while eating a sandwich. Coal ducked behind a tree, quietly sitting Malice to the ground.
"Go on baby girl." He instructed her in a whisper. "Go get you something to eat."
Malice regarded him for the longest time, while Coal tried to smile as reassuringly as he could. Then, Malice crept along the grass like a lioness on the prowl. Coal wondered if she were going to pounce on the guy, when she suddenly rolled over. Coal chuckled to himself as Malice put on the charm. The young man was quickly offering her some of his sandwich.
"That's it baby girl. Win him over and get you something to eat." He praised quietly. Then his thoughts went dark.
Maybe she would be better off with the young man than she was with Coal. He contemplated that, seeing the young man affectionately petting Malice. It hurt Coal deeply, but he realized that he wasn't fit in that moment of his life to care for Malice. And as hard a decision as it was, he was ready to walk away from the one thing he loved more than anything, his only source of comfort. If that meant that she had a better shot at the life she deserved, then Coal would regrettably back out.
As he turned to leave, a voice caused him to stop dead in his tracks. "I have like five more sandwiches here if you are interested."
Coal turned to see the young man smiling at him while Malice rested upon his lap. A thousand thoughts that had been swarming through Coal's mind at that moment suddenly fell silent. He had no explanation for it, but somehow that smile put Coal at ease. Coal smiled back, wondering what to do.
"My friends seem to have stood me up. We were going to have a picnic for lunch, but none of them seems to have made it." The young man laughed. "So, if you would care for a sandwich, I have more than enough."
"Thanks, but I couldn't..." Coal started.
"They're not poisoned." The young man smiled. "Besides, I could really use the company if you don't mind."
"I'm not much of a talker." Coal said, blushing somewhat.
"Well, sometimes quiet can be comforting too." He laughed.
Coal wasn't sure, but it seemed to him like the young man was flirting. "Well, I suppose I could cop a squat for a few minutes." He replied, finding his way towards Malice and the stranger.
He laughed, and Coal was entranced. "You could what?"
"Cop a squat." Coal smiled taking a seat next to the young man. "That's hillbilly for sit down."
He snickered, and Coal found himself again blushing. "Well, thanks for the translation." The young man reached into a knapsack then produced three sandwiches. He handed Coal one, then tore the other into pieces for Malice to eat. Then, he unwrapped one for himself. "I hate eating alone." He smiled.
Coal watched as Malice ravaged through the sandwich for the meat. Trying not to seem starved, he nibbled around on his own. The taste, however, had him moaning in delight.
"You like it?" The man asked. "It's my Nana's recipe. But her chicken salad is the best. At least I think so." The young man bit into his sandwich, then began to giggle. "You know, it seems like every time I make chicken salad, none of them show up. I wonder if they are trying to tell me something."
"Mmm. Well, you won't hear any complaints from me. This is very good." Coal enthused, a little more than he wanted to do.
The young man smiled, then reached out his hand. "I'm Killian, by the way. But my friends all call me Kal."
Coal wiped his hand on his jeans, and then shook Kal's hand firmly. "I'm Coal, as in lump of coal." He laughed. "My Moma was not too creative with names I guess."
"It's unusual, but there is nothing wrong with that." Kal smiled. Again, Coal felt enchanted by the smile, as if everything was going to be alright.
Kal reached into the knapsack and produced a couple bottles of juice. He offered one to Coal, then opened the other for himself. After a hearty sip, he smiled at Coal. "The day just keeps getting better."
"You think?" Coal grinned.
"Well, I get stood up by my friends, but have a nice day here at the park. Then, out of the blue, a cat shows up followed by you." He reached over and patted Coal's shoulder. "She's lovely, by the way. What's her name?"
Coal felt himself blush strongly. Obviously, Kal had known the ploy. "Malice." Coal said shyly.
"For such a sweet cat?" He laughed.
Coal chuckled, reaching over to pet Malice. "Well, that is only because she likes you. She's not all that sweet when she doesn't."
"I see." Kal laughed. "Well, I consider myself lucky, then."
A silence fell, as both Kal and Coal passed one another glances and smiles. Then, Kal broke the quiet by talking about his friends, school, and his life in general. Coal found himself talking before he even realized what was happening. It wasn't a lot, but it was far more than he usually said. With Malice perched upon his shoulder, Coal walked around the park with Kal, sharing in further conversation. They found their way to a large rock and sat upon it.
As the conversation fell into another comfortable silence, Kal seemed to study Coal for a moment as Coal held Malice in his arms. "You know, for a man who seems to love her as much as you do, it must be something terrible for you to even think about leaving her behind."
Coal did not know what to think. Shocked was an understatement for what he was feeling. Kal rubbed his shoulder gently.
"I kinda know things about people, Coal." Kal started. Then, he explained to Coal a gift he possessed. Coal found it somewhat peculiar, but it made him realize just how special a find Kal had been.
"So, you know then." Coal finally asked.
"Only some of it." Kal replied. "But, I am here if you want to talk about it."
Coal mulled this over for a while. He hated to bother Kal with his problems, but every time he looked at Kal, he felt himself wanting to open up. Finally, Coal explained the entire ordeal.
"So, now I have no idea what to do, Kal. I can't just keep moving on, and I have little left to live on. I just don't know what to do." Coal said, sinking his face between his hands as he sat on the rock.
Coal's tense shoulders began to relax as Kal rubbed them with his hands. He then reached over and grasped Coal's chin, raising and turning his head to look at him.
"Maybe, you can trust in me." Kal smiled. "I actually have an idea, but you'll need to drive us. I just walked here from the house." Kal explained.
Coal half-smiled at Kal, patting him on the shoulder. "Why would you want to help me?"
"Because I believe in second chances, and I believe in you." Kal grinned. "Now, come on. We need to get going."
Kal reached his hand out and pulled Coal from the rock upon which he sat. Once to his feet, he peered deeply into Kal's eyes. He was just getting ready to say something when Malice pounced upon his shoulder.
Kal reached up and stroked her face. Then, his hand petted Coal's reassuringly. "It's going to be alright, buddy. I promise you that."
Coal simply smiled. They walked along the pathway until they reached the parking lot. Spying the old Chevette, Coal became embarrassed and stopped. He grabbed Kal by the shoulder, gaining his attention.
"It isn't much, Kal." Coal explained.
Kal smiled and again pet Coal's face. "Does it get you around?" He asked
"Yeah. It does that." Coal said somberly.
"Well, that's all that matters." Kal replied. "You know, cars don't impress me. People do."
Coal blushed strongly, but he could not help but smile. "Hmm. So, I impress you?" He asked coyly.
Kal chuckled and blushed himself. "Well, would you be interested if you did?"
Coal felt sure he would have a stroke, and Kal laughed pointedly. "Well, that was easy." He giggled.
"Just come on." Coal chuckled, leading the way to the Chevette.
Kal gave directions as they drove across Raven Cliff. Soon they pulled up into a parking lot. As Coal was getting ready to shut his door, Kal pointed to Malice.
"She can come with us." He smiled.
Coal then picked her up, closed the door, and followed Kal. They entered into a long hallway. Kal led them down a maze of corridors and halls until they reached the place Kal said was his work site. He showed Coal around and explained what it was he did. Coal was very impressed with the many jobs for which Kal trained people. He then showed Coal to the break room, instructing him to have a seat and that Malice was free to roam about. Within a few minutes, Kal returned with a small stack of papers. He handed Coal two applications to fill out.
Coal was having trouble figuring out what to put on them, so Kal gave suggestions. He also told Coal to use his own address for the applications. Once finished, Kal picked up one of the applications. He walked Coal to a door and opened it.
Pointing to the car, Kal smiled. "Why don't you run out there and grab your clothes. We can wash them here, and you can even get a hot shower. Malice will be fine in the break room. And while you get your laundry together, I am going to run this over to Terry."
Coal went out and sorted through his laundry. He only had one clean pair of pants and two clean shirts left, so it was a blessing for Kal to offer him a chance to wash his clothes. He put the dirty clothes into a trash bag, then grabbed his clean jeans and a t-shirt to change into after he showered. Going commando was not the greatest, but it would do until his underwear was laundered.
Coal looked around the shop until he found the laundry room. Kal had shown it to him before, but it was easy to get turned around in the shop. He loaded the washers with his clothes and put in the detergent. Then, he set and started the machines. Seeing that no one was around, he stripped out of his clothes and added them into the machines. He picked up his clean jeans and put his change and wallet in them. Coal turned to head to the showers just in time to flash Kal.
Coal quickly placed his clean clothes in front of his penis. "Oh, damn. Sorry about that." Coal blushed.
Kal giggled and shook his head. "It's OK. I just wasn't expecting to find you, well, nude."
"Well, I thought I might wash what I was wearing while I was at it." Coal explained, still blushing from embarrassment.
Again, Kal giggled. "Buddy, I swear, it's fine. You just surprised me is all. There are fresh towels in the bins outside the showers." Kal offered, changing the subject. "And everything stays disinfected, so you don't have to worry about athlete's foot."
"Thanks." Coal replied, slipping into his shoes as best he could without using his hands. They were preoccupied with covering himself at that time.
Coal then went to the shower room and found what he needed. The shower felt heavenly, as Coal had been just washing off in the rest rooms as he stopped to get gasoline. Once he was cleaned, Coal dressed and returned to the break area.
"In about twenty minutes, Terry wants you in his office." Kal stated with a smile. "He's going to talk to you about a custodial position here. It's nothing glamorous, but it pays decent and the hours will allow you to train for a better job here with me."
Coal was very surprised to say the least. "I just don't know what to say." He finally managed.
Kal laughed heartily. "Just tell Terry you will take the job." Kal then stood up and motioned for Coal to follow him. He led him to a small room with two twin beds. "Until we find you an apartment, you can stay here." Then, Kal looked up and blushed at Coal. "Unless you would rather stay with me and my roommates. We have plenty of room. See, we live in an old hotel."
Coal smiled at the offer. He was very tempted, but he did not want to impose on Kal any further than he had already. What little pride he had would not let him. "Thanks, but this room will do just fine. I wouldn't want to put you out anymore than I already have."
Kal seemed to study him for a moment, and then grinned. "I wouldn't have offered if it were an inconvenience, but suit yourself. The offer is open anytime you need it."
Coal looked around the room for a moment, then returned with Kal to the break area. They chatted for a bit until time for Coal to meet with Terry. Though Coal was extremely nervous, he did well in answering Terry's questions. He found his way back down to the work force preparation center with a huge grin upon his face. Kal was elated in hearing Coal say he had the job.
After a quick trip to the store, Coal had the room set up with the essentials. A litter box for Malice, a blanket, sheets, and pillows for the bed, and toiletries he would need. That, however, left him with little else. At least Malice had enough dry food to last her a while, Coal thought.
During the days, Coal trained at the center with Kal, learning how to operate wood and metal working machinery. In the afternoons, he cleaned the main parts of the Mission. Each day, Kal would bring breakfast and lunch. And before the evening was over, he would return with dinner for Coal. He had offered many times for Coal to join them, but Coal felt as if he were imposing. Besides, the idea of being around other people made him feel nervous.
After a month, Coal had saved enough of his paychecks to get a cheap apartment. And Kal had found one that was well within his budget. Coal smiled to himself as he remembered the first time he met the Turner's. Immediately, they treated Coal as if he were their family. And both George and Marge quickly made up with Malice, saying she was the most beautiful cat they had ever seen. They were Godsends, Coal felt, just like Kal had been.
On the first night at their new apartment, Coal excitedly prepared dinner for Malice, Kal, and himself. When he had invited Kal, he did not want to seem pushy or make Kal feel uncomfortable. So, he told Kal that he could bring his girlfriend if he liked. Coal had seen him from time to time hugging a shorter blond haired girl he called Mic. Though somewhat disappointed that Kal was taken, Coal still wanted to show his gratitude.
When Kal showed up alone, Coal was somewhat surprised. "So, Mic didn't want to come?" He asked, hoping that he had not offended her or anything.
Kal smiled and then started laughing. "I didn't invite her."
Coal was puzzled. "Well, I meant it when I said you could bring your girlfriend along."
"Mic is my friend, and she is a girl, but she isn't my girlfriend, Coal." Kal chuckled. "And, no, I don't have one."
Coal smiled, relieved that he had not offended anyone. "No girlfriend, huh?" He said, as he closed the door behind Kal.
Kal grinned at him. "No girlfriend, Coal. Hmm. Are you offering?"
Blushing, Coal chuckled. "Would you be interested if I were?"
Kal flushed strongly. "I would so be lying if I said I wasn't. And, yes Coal, that is with knowing what I know about you." Kal reached up and stroked Coal's face, brushing his hair back as his hand traveled along his scalp. "You are a very handsome, bright, and caring guy. And I could deal with the past, Coal. Really, I could. But, we are not intended for one another. I'll know him when I see him. And until then, I guess I will just wait." Kal caressed Coal's face, seeming to sense his somewhat disappointment. "But, that does not mean we cannot be friends, Coal. I've grown very fond of you, just in case you haven't noticed." Kal smiled. "Someday, you are going to make someone very lucky. Just wait for him Coal."
As they sat down to dinner, Kal said the blessing. He thanked God for bringing Coal into his life, calling him a wonderful and dear friend. Coal was deeply moved by this, and he found Kal to be all the more special. He too thanked God that evening, for his apartment, his job, and for his second chance at life. But, above all else that evening, Coal was thankful for Kal.
Coal grinned at the memory. No, he and Kal never became anything more than friends. He smiled as he heard himself admit that Kal was indeed his friend. And Coal knew all too well just how unique and rare a friend Kal had been to him.
'Another once in a blue moon friend.' Coal assessed. 'And you are one of the rarest of them all Kal. God bless you for being there for me.'
Yes, Coal admitted, he loved Kal, too. And he loved Kal on several different levels, as Kal was so many different things to Coal. But, still it was not that love he yearned for every day.
Once again, he thought of Rory Hampton. 'I know I really did love you, Rory. You were a fantastic friend. But, I also believe I was in love with you too.' Coal smiled at this revelation. 'Hell, I lit up like a Christmas tree every time you walked by. How could I not have been in love with you? Things are so obvious, Rory, but I am not always quick to catch on. I just hope you are happy in your life and that someone special is there at your side. God knows you deserve it. You brought me many years of comfort, and for that I still love you. I guess I always will.' Coal sighed.
His thoughts rambled about for a while. Absent-mindedly, his thumb increased its stroking of Nathan's hand. Then in a clouded fog, morning broke. Before Coal realized it, the night had passed and Nathan was stirring to life.
He watched intently as his head moved slowly from side to side. His eyebrows rose slightly, though his eyes remained shut. Soon, his smile opened into a soft gasp, then a yawn.
"M-morning." Nathan said as his eyes began to focus. A broad smile quickly found its way across his angelic face. "I hope y-you, um, s-slept good."
Coal smiled, thinking how special his new companion was. Nathan grasped a bit tighter on Coal's hand, his own thumb stroking Coal's hand in return. Nathan stretched slightly, releasing the stuffed cat he had been clutching while he slept. As Nathan realized this, he blushed.
"Hmm, I guess I, um, k-kinda do that. S-s-see, I, um, well, I k-kinda s-s-sleep with a, um, t-teddy bear a-at home." He bashfully admitted.
Coal grinned at him. Surely, if ever anyone was a once in a blue moon find, Nathan Meyers fitted that billing. But, as he studied Nathan, he could not help but think of Rory.
'Will I ever see you again, Rory?' Coal wondered.
"Moma and Papa should b-b-be here s-soon." Nathan said softly. "I-I'll wait unt-til they get here to get r-ready. I'll j-just keep you c-company 'til then."
Nathan stood and stretched. Then he leaned down and kissed Coal on the forehead. "W-want some ice? I bet y-your throat is all, well, dry." He asked.
Somehow, Coal thought for sure that Nathan just answered his question for him. In a strange way, Coal felt as if he had found Rory, right there in the young man who stood before him.
'Once in a blue moon is rare,' Coal thought, 'but twice in a blue moon... How special is that?'
That thought stayed with Coal as he listened to Nathan excitedly ramble on.
Well, that finishes chapter six. The next installment should be out shortly. Again, if you have any comments, suggestions, etc., I would love to hear them. Please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org