The following is fiction. Although some of the events depicted are based on actual happenings they are only incidental to the story and do not constitute a basis in reality.One Night In December
The story is copyright, the reader may download a copy for his/her own use, but republishing or archiving on other websites or newsgroups without the author's permission is strictly prohibited. All rights are reserved.
The following story contains references to men having strong emotional and physical feelings for members of their own sex. You shouldn't read it if you're below the age of consent in your community or if said community doesn't allow you to access such material.
The author would like to thank Drew Hunt for his inspiration in the writing of this story. Without his love, friendship and editorial help the author would never have had the courage to even try to write a story such as this. Thanks go to Tim Mead as well. His editorial help and encouragement have been invaluable. T. O'Reilly 7/4/06.
Email me at email@example.com
I lay next to Andy. After our success the night he and Brad had put up the tree I was like a tiger deprived of meat. I wanted to make love all the time just like an eighteen year old. I was so relieved I could function once more. We weren't batting 1,000 yet but we were getting there. At times the old fears still reared their heads but with Andy's support I never knuckled under and we scored more times than we struck out. And even when I did strike out Andy masterfully made up for it by making me feel like the sexiest thing he'd ever fucked.
Tonight was one of our home runs. I'd been hard before we went upstairs and I skewered poor Andy so fast he must have felt like a shish-ka-bob. Nevertheless it was wonderful. I brought him to his climax and lazily worked on my own without rushing, savoring the sensations of arousal to the max.
With the return of my sexual potential I could once again think about the possibility of going to Boston to be married. I had shoved that off the radar when my problem with impotence had erected itself. Oops, bad choice of words. "Surfaced" would suit this situation better.
I'd written to Mike about the idea of Andy and me getting married. Just yesterday I'd gotten his reply.
Hi Dad -
Actually, I got your message about 4 times. I think something is up with yahoo or maybe you were just anxious for a reply. LOL. I didn't get the message below about coming home for lasagna, but did get your message about gay marriage. I wish we could be home too for lasagna! We made some a few weeks ago. John really likes Andy's recipe.
Gay marriages follow the same process as the hetero marriages. You would apply for a license; get any tests done that are required, and have the person performing the ceremony sign the license. You would sign as well. Every town and city has an office you could use to apply. I guess all marriage licenses are supposed to be "approved" by the governor, but since it's legal here for you to marry, he can't deny the marriage just because you're gay.
Most ceremonies and receptions that we have attended are fairly low key: small gatherings of friends and family on beaches or in a gay/gay friendly church. I know one couple that went all out like Meg and Sean did, but that seems the exception rather than the rule.
We're all set for the big snowstorm!
Mike continued with other news about John and himself. He then signed off with:
Other than that, things are about the same. I'll keep you posted.
Have a good dinner and I'll talk to you soon. Say hi and I love you to Andy and Brad.
I rolled over and kissed Andy on the nose.
"Wake up sleepy head. It isn't the week end yet."
He opened his beautiful steel blue eyes and smiled at me.
"Can I read Mike's email again?"
"You silly ass," I replied.
"I just can't believe that we are going to be able to be married for real."
I held him close. It wouldn't mean shit here in Michigan but the symbolism of it was so important to both of us that it was worth the time, energy and money it was going to take to make it happen.
"Yep we are going to be married for real, I reassured him. We need to decide on a date and get the ball rolling there."
We weren't going to decide that right that minute so we got up, took our showers and went down to get the day started.
Brad was harder to get revved up. After the third call up the stairs Andy took matters into his own hands. He went up to Brad's room and pulled the covers off of him with the help of Jake who decided that this was a great way to start the day. Annie chose to remain lying where she was in the kitchen. She was making that choice more and more often lately. It concerned me.
I heard the shower start as Andy came back down stairs.
"Our little boy is really all grown up."
"Whada you mean?" I asked raising an eyebrow.
Andy chuckled. "He had morning wood. Like I said he is all grown up." He winked at me.
I smiled. It wasn't hard to imagine that Brad was well endowed. Many's the time I had watched him work out, had seen him in his swimwear and had imagined that he was more than ample.
"He has another recruitment visit this month doesn't he?"
A few colleges here in the Midwest had contacted Brad inviting him to visit them regarding a football scholarship for the fall. The University of Michigan had approached him but he didn't think he wanted to play there. He wanted to play on Saturday and he was relatively certain that he wouldn't do that at the U of M. There were so many good players that he was sure he'd be relegated to the scout team. He felt that he would get more playing time if he were a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Besides, Ted still figured into the picture somewhere. Brad was thinking that distance from where ever Ted wound up going to school would be a factor in his decision.
"Yeah, he's going to both The University of Toledo and Bowling Green," I answered.
At that point Brad came into the kitchen looking chagrined at his being exposed.
"Mornin'," he mumbled as he took the o. j. out of the fridge.
The rest of the morning was routine: A typical beginning to the day in the Barnes-Bennett household. I relished every minute.
"I really appreciate you guys driving me down here." Brad was on his way to his second recruitment visit, this time at Bowling Green University. He'd already been to The University of Toledo. He'd not been completely impressed and was looking forward to this visit. Bowling Green had asked that he not bring his own transportation for some reason. We were glad to go with him. In fact, as his surrogate parents, we probably would have gone anyway. We had gone with him to Toledo.
"What position are they looking at for you?"
As we drove down 23 toward Ohio, the southeastern Michigan winter landscape sliding by, we discussed the various scenarios available to Brad. He had played both tight end and line backer in high school. He had the size and the speed for those positions. If left to his choice he would play on both sides of the ball and every play. He loved his sport.
The discussion turned to Ted and his options for school. "Do you think Ted would be happy with Bowling Green," asked Andy. "I know he is interested in vet school and animal husbandry and I don't think that he will be able to do that there."
We were both a little surprised when Brad said. "I don't want him to go there or where ever it is that I wind up."
Our expressions must have been enough to prompt Brad to explain further. We could tell that he was uncomfortable with what he was telling us.
"Ted and I are fine, don't get me wrong. But. . . . it works for me cuz we aren't at the same school."
He looked out the window at the snow-covered fields.
I cottoned on but I could see that Andy didn't.
"But, wouldn't it be nice to be together more?" Andy asked with a quizzical expression on his face. "I mean I sure wouldn't want to be separated from David."
Brad didn't look at either of us. I knew he was struggling to tell us his reasons without hurting our feelings. I felt sorry for him.
"I'm a jock." `Here it comes,' I thought. "And I'm gay. Don't get me wrong I am okay with that. . . "
`Was he?' My thought continued.
"But being a jock and being gay don't sit well with coaches and players. There's a lot of anti gay stuff thrown around in the locker room."
Since Andy hadn't experienced this aspect of gay society he was getting a lesson in homophobic reality. I had been there, done that all through high school, college and my married life: living in two different worlds, trying to hide one from the other. Andy had discovered his attraction to men after he was married and soon after that discovery, divorced. He had never had the experience of cognitive dissonance: appearing to be one thing on the outside while the real you was being pushed down inside. Obviously Brad was now experiencing this.
Andy looked as if he were considering this new perspective on being gay.
Brad continued. "I really like Ted a lot. But, if he and I were on the same campus. . . Well, I just think it would . . . could. . . might lead to problems for both of us." He ended by looking back out the window.
I reached back and grabbed his knee. He looked up. "I know where you are with this. I understand."
"Then you're not sore that I feel this way? I was afraid that you'd be hurt. You guys are so comfortable with who you are. I am, too, most of the time but, when I'm at school or with the team. . . " He didn't seem to know how to finish that sentence. "Ted is real comfortable with it. He says we should be proud of who we are and not let anyone or anything push us into a closet. That kinda scares me. Sometimes I'm embarrassed when he's so up front about it when we're out together."
Andy was listening intently, waiting to see how poppa Dave would handle this.
"First, we're not sore that you feel this way." I checked with Andy for confirmation: he nodded and looked at Brad in the rear view mirror.
"There's a difference, a fine line between feeling good about who you are and knowing when it's prudent to not make an announcement. Ted may be fighting his own feelings about being gay by overreacting, getting an `in your face' attitude. That usually doesn't make any friends around our straight brothers. It can even land you in a lot of trouble."
"I feel a lot better about this. I was feeling kinda guilty for not being open about being gay. I was thinkin' I was lettin' you guys down by feelin' this way."
Both Andy and I expressed our feelings of love and support for Brad.
"Now, how do I tell Ted?"
"Do you have to?" Andy asked. "Has he indicated that he wants to go to school where you go?"
"Well, not exactly. Just sort of said stuff like `It would be nice' but never, `Why don't we?'"
"Then don't make it an issue unless it becomes one. Wait and see what develops."
I agreed with Andy.
The rest of the short ride from Ann Arbor to Bowling Green passed more pleasantly. I thought we were out of the woods on this one.
We checked into the motel on the outskirts of the city. The desk clerk was an older man who looked like he had been there when the place was built and since he would not move they gave him a job. He still wore his Bush/Cheney button left over from the last election. That should have been our cue.
"The three of you in one room?" He asked, narrowing his eyes and looking us over.
"Yes, is there a problem? ah. . . ." I looked closer at his nametag, " Stan."
Stan came back with, "Just seems a mite strange two grown men and a kid."
"My dads and I are here to visit the college," Brad spoke up. "If you don't think we'll fit in here I'll just call the head football coach, who invited us, and let him know that the motel he recommended isn't to our liking and go elsewhere. I understand that he usually recommends this place to all the recruits as well as the visiting teams?"
Brad gave us a `there I did it!' look. I was so proud that despite his fears of exposure he was willing to put the old bigot in his place.
Stan didn't exactly change demeanor completely, but at least he stopped pushing his private agenda.
As we made our way to the room I put my arm around Brad. "Ever think of going into politics?"
The next morning we drove over to the football complex. It was a nice facility. Nothing to compare with the house that Schembechler built in Ann Arbor but a first class set up nonetheless.
Brad got out of the car. "Aren't you coming?"
Andy looked at me. "Well," he said, " after our conversation on the way down I thought maybe it would be better if. . . "
Brad interrupted him. "Don't be a dink!" He laughed. " I don't think that your being with me is going to be the start of any big rumors."
I had to be somewhat amused that Andy was feeling some level of hesitation in this situation. He never had seemed to before. Well, there was that time at the horse show when I'd kissed him in front of God and everyone. I laughed at the memory.
We entered the building where a staffer greeted us. He introduced himself as one of the graduate assistants. He led us to the lounge area where we would await the arrival of the other young men who were invited to tour the facility. As he walked ahead, the three of us made eye contact and silently agreed that this young man offered a very nice view from the rear.
Once in the lounge we were given name tags, and as the others arrived, were introduced. There was coffee and other refreshments. We spent a very pleasant half hour waiting for the troops to be assembled. There were five boys and their parents on this visit. Three were from Ohio, one from Indiana and Brad.
The head coach entered the room. Coach Randall introduced several assistant coaches, five football players who would act as hosts for the new guys and a Mr. Atwater, a rather attractive man in his forties, I surmised. After the coach had made some introductory remarks Mr. Atwater stood and addressed us.
My name is Vernon Atwater. I am an alum of this university and am proud to say played football here. I know that some of you may be thinking that playing for Bowling Green is not as prestigious as playing for. . . "
He continued on and on about how fortunate these young men were to be selected to have the opportunity to play for 'this fine institution.' As he talked he seemed to check each boy out very carefully. His eyes lingered on Brad longer than any of the others. Something made me uncomfortable, but I shrugged it off.
There was a general time of chitchat during which Mr. Atwater made the rounds and introduced himself to the families. He walked over to us.
"And you are?"
"And we are Andy Barnes and Dave Bennett, Brad Sturgis' guardians."
"Oh I see, interesting."
Now I was sure something made me uncomfortable.
"How so Mr. Atwater?" I asked, a touch of a challenge in my voice.
"Please call me Vern. Interesting in that you had big enough hearts to take Brad in when he needed it. I read his application and it contained some of his story."
I wasn't completely appeased. However, I softened and we had a pleasant enough conversation. It seems that Mr. Vernon Atwater was a major alumni contributor to the football program here. Being from Ann Arbor I was well aware of the implications of that position. The scandal involving the U of M basketball team was still a topic of conversation back home.
We then toured the facility. The weight-training center was of particular interest to me as I was still the strength and conditioning coach at home. Of course the addition of several very buff young gladiators in the middle of their workouts made things even more appealing. Andy agreed.
That night Andy and I were alone at the motel. Brad and the new recruits were being treated to a party and a sleep over in the athlete's dormitory. Being in a motel, I felt like I was back in the days of afternoon trysts with the `men's club'. I have to admit it was a bit of a rush. Andy walked in the door with a bucket of ice.
"About time you got here. We only have about an hour. Get your clothes off."
Andy's mouth dropped open in astonishment. "What?" He set the ice down.
"By the way you owe me 32.50 for your half of the room. You stiffed me last time so don't think your gonna get away with it again."
"Have you lost your mind? What the hell are you talking about?"
I couldn't keep it up. I just laughed and pulled him down on the bed on top of me. "Just remembering old times and old motel rooms."
"Missing that are you?"
"No sir, but I gotta admit that being in one with you is a bit of a turn on."
"Well, let's not waste this moment." His lips met mine. He rolled off of me. Arms, legs, mouths and tongues began their dance. Andy rolled me over onto my back once more. He stood over me at the side of the bed and slowly took off his clothes. His tee shirt pulled slowly over his head, revealing his beautifully shaped torso with its compliment of red hair patterned in just the right way. His khakis were unbuckled and slowly lowered to reveal his white briefs bulging with anticipation. For a second I mentally checked to see if I were responding, chastised myself and concentrated once more on my own personal Adonis. Those briefs were then agonizingly removed. First the thick red pubic hair came into view. This was followed by the base of his penis that was bent to the point of pain at being restricted. Still he continued his steady graduated tease. As the thick shaft slowly
emerged I could see every vein in sharp relief. I let out a gasp of desire. Finally his penis leapt free and slapped against his hard, flat abdomen, the foreskin fully retracted and head glistening with pre cum.
I sat up and devoured him in one gulp. I couldn't get him far enough inside my mouth. I wanted not only his cock but his balls, his very being to be one with me. I worked his dick with passion and love. I worshipped it and him.
"David, no, wait."
But I would have none of it. I wanted this man: every cell of him. If it couldn't be him then it had to be his seed. He protested once more and then surrendered, washing the inside of my mouth and throat with the essence of Andrew Barnes. I wasn't satisfied. I lay back quickly pulling off the lounging pajama bottoms I was wearing. Using the last of his cum as lubricant I readied myself. Andy was leaning over me panting but still hard. I raised my legs to his shoulders and he entered me. His passion was now equal to mine. He pounded himself into me as far as he could go and I sensed that now he too wanted more. For fifteen minutes the rhythm kept up. Finally he growled deep in his throat and once more his fluid entered me to try to find the flood that was making its way down from above.
Andy collapsed on me. I lay there only a minute when I rolled him over and, using a combination of sweat and cum, I made his body mine. His eyes were closed. He mouthed my name. In three minutes it was over. I lay myself on him. The warm glow of mating filled each of us and we slept.
Morning found us somehow in bed under the covers and spooned against each other as usual. I lay there for a while letting the memories of the previous evening float through my mind while contemplating at the same time how we managed to get to where we were now. My musing was interrupted by my need to piss. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. Coming back into the room I saw that Andy had turned over, accidentally pulling the covers off exposing his erection to my view and enjoyment. His foreskin was not fully retracted and I was anticipating finishing the job myself when the phone rang.
Andy jumped out of bed with that look of `Where the hell am I,' on his face, his beautiful penis swaying with the motion.
It was Brad.
"Hey how was the party?" I asked pointing to the bed inviting Andy to lie down again. When he did I reclined against his stomach and began a slow massage of the part of him that was one of my favorites.
As Andy lay back and allowed the stimulation to penetrate his mind and body, I listened to Brad's brief response with a bit of confusion.
Brad, usually enthusiastic and ready to share details, gave the all too familiar teen-age response to questions from parents. "It was good."
I was about to ask for more when he said. "Mr. B, could you and Andy come to the sport's complex this morning and kinda be there.?"
"Sure Brad. Is something wrong?" I stopped my seduction of my lover and Andy opened his eyes.
"No. I just would sorta like you guys to see what they have to offer to help me make a good decision."
"If that is what you want, sure we will. What time?" This wasn't in character for our boy. I knew something was bothering him.
"We eat at nine and start the program at ten."
I hung up the phone after assuring Brad twice that we would be there.
"I don't know." I said, "But we can't do anything about it now so. . . let's continue where we left off." Now that both hands were free I began to stroke myself in tandem with my stroking of him.
"Ubetchim Red Ryder!" Andy closed his eyes again and I continued my ministrations.
With all the various ways we'd devised of making love, jacking him off was still one of the most arousing for me. Watching his excitement grow, feeling his tension begging for release. Then the final surge that allowed him to escape the exquisite pain accompanied by his vocalization, which always pushed me to the edge of my own orgasm.
As we showered together, dressed and went down for breakfast, I repeated the conversation I'd had with Brad along with my vague concerns.
Neither of us could come up with a theory as to what might be on the table. I had the feeling, though, that Brad might not be ready to share just what it was.
Brad met us on the steps of the sports complex. He was more like his usual self. He thanked us for coming. We made our way into the building. So began the day of Brad's being wooed as a candidate for the football team. From time to time during the day Vernon Atwater drifted in and out of the proceedings. He talked to all the recruits and all but ignored Brad except for an occasional glance over his shoulder.
After the final dinner for the guys and their families we took our leave. Brad would have a few weeks to decide if Bowling Green was to be his home for the next four years. Mr. Atwater almost pointedly avoided Brad, Andy and me.
I figured that Mr. Atwater had played a part in whatever Brad was concerned about, but I made myself a promise not to invade his privacy and to wait until he came to us with the story. Only a few minutes outside of Bowling Green heading north Brad announced, "I'm going to U of Toledo."
Andy and I looked at each other. U of T was a good school, but after touring both with Brad, comparing the strength of their football programs, we were sure that Bowling Green would have the edge.
Both Andy and I began extolling the virtues of Bowling Green over Toledo. "What advantage did Toledo have, Brad?"
"It's what it doesn't have. It doesn't have Mr. Atwater."
The story then unfolded. Mr. Atwater had been at the recruit's party. At about eleven o'clock he asked Brad to accompany him to his room to have a chance to talk privately about his career at the university. Naively, Brad assented.
Once in the room "Vern" got right to the point. He had figured out that Andy and I were partners. Clever verbal maneuvering had gotten Brad to admit that he too was gay. Then he pulled out the big gun, figuratively and literally. He offered to make sure that not only would Brad get a full ride at Bowling Green but he could insure Brad a place on the first string starting next fall. All Brad had to do in exchange was do him a few favors.
"That bastard!" Andy was ready to turn the car around and take care of our Mr. Atwater.
Brad continued. He said that when he had politely refused, Mr. Atwater calmly tucked himself back in his trousers and informed Brad that his future at the university was now looking bleak.
"He can't get away with that," Andy was enraged.
Brad said, "I think he can. He told me that if I didn't go along with him that was fine, but if I tried to tell anyone, he would make sure that it came out that I was gay and that I had been the one to suggest to him that if he did me some favors, I would do him some. He said that he was such a big shit on campus, they wouldn't hesitate to believe him."
"I still don't think we should let him get away with this." I had been quiet during the time Brad had revealed what had gone down.
"Guys, look," Brad began, "this guy is a scumbag. But, he's a powerful one. The coaches and other alums all think he walks on water. You saw them bowing and scraping to him. Yeah, we could report this, but first it would probably out me, or at least draw that kind of attention to me that wouldn't be good no matter where I went to school. Second, it would cause all sorts of trouble for Coach Randall. I don't want to be the one who brought down the program at Bowling Green."
"But, Brad," Andy rejoined, " this is just wrong. We can't let him get away with this."
Brad looked at us with tears in his eyes. "Please, I just wanna play football. This could take that chance away. I know it isn't right. I hate it. But. . . . please just let it go. I can do well at Toledo."
Andy and I looked at each other. He pulled over to the side of the highway. I got out and got into the back seat with our `son.' Put my arms around him, kissed his curly hair and said, "We'll do it your way."
We drove off: Andy with white knuckles on the wheel, me with the realization that despite the difference between now and when I was a young gay man, homophobia was still alive and well and could still dictate our decisions.
Spring came. Brad made his commitment to The University of Toledo. Both Andy and I had tried several times to talk Brad into exposing Mr. Atwater for the shit he was but we had to admit that Brad had a point about his future. I hated feeling like I had the ammunition to bring a criminal to justice but I also knew the price Brad might have to pay and couldn't bring myself to do it.
Spring also brought with it the season of getting ready for horse shows. I hadn't ridden since the accident the previous fall. At least I was back in one of my saddles, Andy. But, I hadn't ridden the Snazz monster since the day when the vultures soared the skies over Hawthorn Ridge Farm.
"You're gonna be fine," Brad assured me. He'd come out to the barn to saddle Snazzy for me, as I was not sure I could swing the fifty-pound western saddle up without some repercussions to my neck injury. I marveled at and admired the muscular ease with which he managed to lift the heavy saddle into place. Snazzy had been ridden regularly over the past six months. I wasn't worried that he would be rank and give me a rough ride. I was more worried that when I got on him and started to ride I would realize that it hurt too much. I wasn't ready to give up my life as a cowboy.
"Okay, just walk for awhile and see if you feel okay."
I took a deep breath and swung my leg over Snazzy's back and settled into the saddle. Brad smiled.
I cued the walk and Snazz dropped his head and ambled off like a good western pleasure pony. It felt so fuckin' good to be on his back once more. I almost cried. Two times around the arena and I took a deep breath. "Well, here goes," I said to him.
I made a clicking sound and squeezed him with both legs, the cue to jog. As if it were the day after the accident, he took the cue and jogged, slow and steady. There was pressure on my cervical vertebrae. Not pain, not discomfort, just pressure. I was aware I had a neck.
Four times we went around the arena at the jog. I gave the cue for the lope, a kissing sound while pressing my right leg against his side. Smooth transition. He was loping, I was crying, Brad was cheering. I was riding again.
That night in bed with Andy for the fortieth time I described the feeling of riding again. For the fortieth time Andy patiently listened to the story. Then for the umteenth time we made love.
Spring also brought renewed plans for the wedding. Mike and John were the vanguard of the planning committee. We had worked out the date. We had to take into account Andy's peak schedule when horses were getting ready to show, Brad's graduation, and reporting to the University of Toledo for football practice, the various vacation needs of the kids. I was the only one who seemed to have no restrictions on the date of the ceremony. Well, I take that back. Horse shows were a factor here, too. The logistics of working it out for the family was almost more than my computer could take.
We had decided on a simple beach ceremony on the cape where we had been once before. This would happen on July 15th, my mother's birthday. Why we chose this day I can't say. It was just the day that fit into everyone's schedules. I had a momentary hesitancy. What would she think of all this?
Mike and John had found a Justice of the Peace in Province Town to do the officiating. The reception would be at the condo association's clubhouse. The guests included the kids, Ted and Brad, of course, who served as witness along with Mike and Pete, Nelson Barnes, Andy's dad and his partner, Norman Perkins, and several friends of Mike and John whom we didn't know but were assured that they would make the event much more of a celebration.
When July finally arrived we were miraculously ready.
The day wasn't perfect. There was a high wind. The waves on the beach were huge. The sky was overcast. I didn't care. I was marrying, officially, at least in one state, the man I loved.
Against the drone of the wind, the Justice of the Peace said, "You may exchange your vows."
I looked around. Here we were in tuxedoes, standing before the assembled witnesses, in the wind and the roar of the waves, professing our love for one another and our desire to live the rest of our lives in union. How could the rest of the world see this as a threat to them? To me it seemed so simple. I loved this man. He loved me. What else needed to be said: oh yeah, economics, politics, religion. Fuck them. I only wanted to live the rest of my life as partner, spouse of this man.
"I, Andrew take thee David to be my wedded husband." Andy went first. "To honor, love and cherish, for richer for poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, (he had already proven that.) forsaking all others, till death do us part.
"I David take you Andrew." I couldn't repeat the vows I'd made to Patti. "To love for the rest of my life. I will rejoice with you in good times. I will suffer with you in bad. I will take care of you if you are sick as you have done for me. I will stay with you no matter what happens in our lives. You brought me back to life when I thought I was already dead. I promise now to live my life in support of yours. And, until death takes either one of us, I will be steadfast in my love and faithfulness to you."
The justice of the peace asked us to exchange rings. I'd bought a golden ring for Andy. It was simple and plain. But, Andy had other ideas. Brad, as Andy's best man stepped forward., and pulled a ring out of his vest pocket. It was a gold horseshoe nail in a ring shape. He placed it on my finger.
"David, as I place this ring on your finger," he said, "I pledge to you that you are my husband for the rest of my life."
Then Mike stepped forward and pulled from his pocket a matching horseshoe ring instead of the one I had purchased. He handed it to me. I took it and smiled. `Andy, you are so wonderful.'
"Andy, as I place this ring on your finger," I said, "I pledge to you that you are my husband for the rest of my life."
The officiating authority spoke. "By the power invested in me by the state of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you . . . uh. . . um. . . man and husband, I guess." Everyone laughed.
Then we kissed, the wind roared and the surf pounded: the assembled crowd cheered.
The reception was fun. The friends that Mike and John had invited were indeed a rowdy, energetic crowd. After the dinner of New England lobster, Midwest filet mignon, they encouraged all the guests to dance, to drink and to celebrate the love Andy and I felt for one another.
Andy and I were dancing when Brad came up to us with an unexpected wedding present. He handed me his cell phone. "Hi, Mr. Bennett? . . . This is Carl. I'm one of Brad's friends."
"Hi Carl what can I do for you?" Carl was on the football team with Brad. Brad had shared with him his experience with Mr. Atwater in Ohio.
"I just wanted you to know that Atwater, that fucker. . . er sorry, sir, that skuzball down in Ohio, was attacked by the father of one of the guys being recruited by Bowling Green."
"Yeah, he was putting the make on the kid and the father went ballistic. They're gonna investigate him and his thing with the football program. He is in the hospital. He's gonna be okay, at least physically. But, he may be spending a bit of time in the state facility at Lima."
"That's wonderful," I said smiling up at Andy.
"Yeah that's great. I just wanted you to know. I hope I didn't call at a bad time?"
"No, Carl, it was the perfect time."
I relayed the information to Andy, who took it as a cue to pick me up and twirl me around the dance floor in his arms.
The wind had calmed. The waves still pounded on the shore. The almost full moon over our shoulders made the bay glow silver. It was surrealistic.
"Hello Mr. Barnes-Bennett." Andy said.
"Hello Mr. Barnes-Bennett." The name on our mailbox back home was now official, at least in Massachusetts.
I had offered Andy the opportunity to make our name Bennett-Barnes but he had chosen to reverse the order, `Beauty before the beast ' he had said. He would pay for that one.
We had slipped away from the party. The night was warm, the atmosphere magical.
Mikey and John had arranged for the chairs from the ceremony to be replaced with a tent. But, the night was so warm that we pulled the air mattress out on the sand. We stood in the moonlight in our tuxes facing one another hands joined.
"I can't believe this has happened," Andy said, pulling me into an embrace.
For my part, this was beyond imagination. I was standing on a beach on Cape Cod with a man, who, just five years ago, was an alcoholic bum living under a bridge in Ann Arbor, Michigan who, by some quirk of fate had become my husband, spouse, or what ever you called a same sex partner.
I knew we were going to have sex. That's what you did on your wedding night. But, that wasn't what was important. What was important was that we, Andy and I, were married, we were one. I thought back to last year, after the accident, when I couldn't perform sexually. It hadn't changed one thing. Not one single thing. He had loved me and I had loved him. The love was there without the sex. I knew that as the years went by sex would become less prominent in our lives. Yet, I had no fear of what was to come. I knew that he loved me: that he would never leave me, that, as age took its toll, he would be there. I cried.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm just happy."
He was fifteen years my junior. Yet, I trusted that when the time came for him to understand, he would. God, You did this for me. Moonlight. The ocean. Tuxedoes. Wedding rings. Jerry Falwell, eat your heart out.
We backed away from each other. Our eye contact never wavered. Slowly we took off one piece of clothing at a time. We finally stood naked in the moonlight. How long we stood eyes locked I can't begin to tell. All I know for certain is that the love I felt that night was infinite and eternal. Was it the same as I had felt for Patti? That was an unfair question. It was like comparing apples and oranges. I had loved her with all of my heart. I would have never have been here, on this night, on this beach, with this man, if she had lived. Yes, I'd had sex partners when she was alive. But, they hadn't been a replacement for her. They were there only to satisfy the need I had inside. No, I would never have made a commitment to someone else if she had lived.
But, she was gone. Now, by some quirk of fate, or some divine hand of providence, Andy had come into my life. I was free to embrace him. Society and religion be damned. I was now married to this man, Andrew Jeffery Barnes, for the remainder of my life.
We stood in the moonlight, the waves pounding in rhythm with our hearts. As we stepped forward our physical response to each other manifested itself: our erected manhood made contact before our bodies. We hesitated. The certification of our gender embraced. We both looked down. Our penises were testifying to our union. Andy looked up into my eyes. We enfolded each other. We were one.
In the morning, the cool wind blowing off the water sent us scurrying into the tent. Teeth chattering and covered with goose bumps, we snuggled under the covers and tried to generate heat enough to warm us. Needless to say, it worked. In only a few minutes the warmth of arousal chased away the chill, and we took up where we left off the night before.
"Can it get any better than this?" I asked him after our union was completed.
"I can't see how," he responded. "Except I could use a good breakfast."
"Hey, didn't I just feed you some pretty high quality protein?"
He responded by pulling me close into full body contact. "No argument here. But."
"I know, you and your stomach."
We dressed and reluctantly left the beach for the condo. Before leaving we stood on the dune and looked back. `Yes,' I thought, `definitely a trip back here once a year at this time would be the ideal way to celebrate.'
I was lying on the beach under a big umbrella. Andy and I had taken Mike up on his offer that we use the condo for our . . . honeymoon. I wasn't sure that's what I would call this time together. First we had been together for almost five years. Second, and probably a holdover from the early training in my life regarding gay relationships, it just didn't feel right calling it a "honeymoon". Nevertheless, honeymoon or time together to celebrate our legalized union, it was good to have this opportunity away from the regular routine.
Andy was in the surf, cavorting with the locals. He specifically was with Derrick, one of the anonymous invitees to the wedding to encourage the guests to have a good time. Derrick was teaching Andy to wind surf.
Andy had been with me on the beach under the umbrella when Derrick joined us.
"Hi," he'd said, " Your wedding was awesome. Wish I could find someone to settle down with."
After that he talked about his life here in P-Town and back in Boston. He was an extremely charismatic and attractive young man, younger than both Andy and I. Andy expressed an interest in wind surfing and Derrick was eager to teach him: almost too eager. To be fair he had also invited me to join them. But, due to my neck injury I declined. Andy did too. But, again to be fair, I was the one who encouraged him to go out there and have a good time. As soon as Andy and Derrick hit the waves they attracted a crowd of younger guys all of whom were Adonis incarnate.
As they frolicked in the waves I watched with a sense of feeling old and out of touch. Sitting there, feeling like Methuselah, another man joined me under my umbrella.
"Hi, mind if I sit here with you and enjoy the view." He indicated the bevy of beautiful young bodies that filled our field of vision from periphery to periphery. His name was Jay, older with, by far, the most wonderful set of pecs I had seen in a long time. They were full and round and covered with thick gray hair. The nipples were prominent and begged to be fondled at least, preferably sucked. He wore a ring in the left one. He was pleasant looking and sported a neatly trimmed salt and pepper goatee. I chastised myself for the blatant lusting.
"No, have a seat," I stammered, immediately checking out his ample package, not so subtly concealed under a red, white and blue Speedo. He smiled. He knew I had checked him out.
"Wonderful view isn't it?"
"Uh, yeah." I wasn't sure which view he was referring to.
"Any of them belong to you?"
"Ah, yeah," I mumbled, totally caught off guard. I described and indicated Andy.
"Mine's the guy with the almost thong, and the tattoos." He was pointing to Derrick.
`Funny,' I thought, `Hadn't Derrick just indicated that he wanted to find someone to settle down with?'
"Hmm," I acknowledged Jay's point.
"You know you have to let these young bucks do their thing. They love us and all but really, they need to have someone their own age once in awhile to keep um happy." He laughed, a deep, rich resonant laugh that seemed to caress my cock.
`What? No, wait, what was I getting into here.' I forcefully brought myself back to reality.
"Ah, Andy and I just got married."
"Oh yeah, that's right, Derrick was at your wedding, wasn't he? Your son Mike invited him and some of his friends. Congratulations."
"Thanks," I wasn't sure where to go with this.
"Well, then you probably aren't ready to expand your horizons just yet."
He didn't wait for a response, as if assuming that at some point we would be ready to `expand our horizons.' He continued to prattle on about P-Town, the virtues of living in Massachusetts and how young men needed more than we `old' guys could give `em.
By the time Andy and Derrick ran back up on the beach and to the umbrella, laughing and slapping backs, I was feeling like the "honeymoon" might already be over.
Derrick and Jay invited Andy and I out to dinner. Andy accepted for us before I could come up with an excuse not to.
I stared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Behind me Andy, barely visible through the condensation on the sliding shower door, was singing, off key as usual, as he soaped his body and washed his hair.
I focused back on my face in the mirror. Yeah, there were a few wrinkles. Not that many. And my eyes were still clear and bright. But, as I looked closer, they seemed to be a bit sunken into their sockets. Then there was the beginning of a turkey wattle on my neck. Well, if I kept it stretched up. . .
I continued my self-inspection with a slightly sinking heart. I still had a good set of muscles on my upper body and my legs had always been my strong point. Of course the months of forced inactivity had done some damage. Then there was that noticeable donut growing around my naval. A set of love handles, small but undeniable, had sprouted where I had always vowed they would not.
As I stared at myself, Andy's pre shower conversation came into my mind.
"Well, then Todd did such and such. Derrick, he's so funny, came back with. . . He sure has a great bod, don't you think? And did you see Bob? He could be a movie star."
I shook my head to turn off the flow.
`This is silly,' I decided. `We just got married. Everything's just fine. It's just those stupid thoughts Jay planted with his `us old guys and them young bucks' shit.'
With that I sucked in my gut, pulled my shoulders back, puffed out my chest and prepared to get in the shower with my man and show him he wasn't missing anything being here with me.
I turned around and literally ran into Andy coming out of the shower. He grabbed a towel.
"Uh, you done already?"
"Yeppers, you better get a move on, Grampa, or we're gonna be late." He kissed me on the top of my head and strolled out of the room swinging his ass provocatively.
My shoulders drooped, my chest fell and my stomach popped out.
We met Jay and Derrick at an upscale restaurant on the beach. One look around and I knew that I was in an establishment that was a Mecca for men of our persuasion. As a handsome waiter led us to our table, which looked out over the water, Patti Page popped into my head. If I would've been in a better mood I would've burst out with a rendition of `Old Cape Cod'. Heck, they didn't call me Show Tune Larry for nothing. But, due to the deep depression that was settling on me, I repressed the urge.
All around us were men of every description. Normally, being in a gay establishment where you could relax, be yourself and not feel guarded exhilarated me. Not tonight. Tonight I felt old and outdated. I looked around. At several tables there were May-December couples, `sugar daddies and their sons?' Was that what we looked like? I rubbed my gold horseshoe nail ring furtively.
"What?" I snapped.
Andy looked surprised. "The waiter, your drink order?"
"Oh, sorry, I was just . . . . Oh, well, I'll have. . . " I wished I knew what the others had ordered. I hadn't been paying attention.
"He'll have a rum and caffeine free diet," Andy ordered for me patting my hand.
"I can order for myself," I almost growled. "I'll have a rum and caffeine free diet."
The waiter intoned, "Very good sir," raising one eyebrow. The others at the table laughed.
Andy said, "Are you okay?"
`No I'm not okay!' In my head the thoughts came thick and furious. `Forty-eight hours ago I was good enough for you to marry, and now I'm a doddering old man that has to be taken care of.'
I smiled, "Yeah, I'm fine. The sun. Gives me a headache after being out all day like that."
"I understand that," Jay chuckled, "probably the start of cataracts, happens to guys about our age."
`How could I have ever considered this oaf attractive? He was nothing but a. . . . but a. . . holy shit , now I had word finding difficulties.'
Dinner dragged on. I don't even remember what I had to eat. I do remember having three rum and diets, two more than my limit. Andy had asked me to dance. I declined. Jay had danced with Derrick and when they returned to the table after a fast number had started he suggested that the youngsters take this one while we old farts sat it out.
`One, two, three, four , five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten', I counted, trying to get a hold on my urge to throttle the guy.
Jay and I sat at the table. He seemed completely oblivious to my mood or how his words had affected me. He made small talk and jokes for about two minutes then reached over and took my hand.
"I saw the way you looked at me today on the beach," he winked. "I have to tell you the feeling is mutual. I know you and that hot stud of yours just tied the knot but . . . Wanna let them have some fun tonight while we have a little of our own?" He gave my hand a squeeze. That was it. I'd had it!
"I'm going to bed! Alone! Please tell Andy that I'll see him. . . whenever!"
The last I saw of Jay he was sitting there with his mouth open and looking completely perplexed.
I left the restaurant, got a cab and went back to the condo. I got in bed.
I lay there and tried not to think. I heard the door. If I had been thinking more clearly I would have realized that Andy must have left, too, as soon as he found out I had gone. But the combination of the rum, mental fatigue and Jay had me confused. In my mind I thought it had been hours.
I felt Andy sit down on the bed.
"David?" He gently touched my shoulder. I pretended to sleep.
He got up. I heard him in the bathroom. Then felt him crawl in bed with me. He spooned against me. Reaching across my chest he squeezed my bicep. He kissed me on the back of my neck. "Good night," he whispered.
Stubborn man that I am, I still feigned sleep. But, I felt a solitary tear run down my cheek.
There must have been six, eight, maybe ten guys in the room, all naked. Jay was standing in front of us. His gigantic erection sticking straight out in front of him, his beautiful nipples poking out of his massive hairy chest. All the men were paired up. Todd and Bob, Norman and Nelson, Brad and Ted, Derrick and Andy. I was the only one alone.
"This is follow the leader, Davey boy and I are the leaders."
I realized he meant me.
"If we kiss you kiss. If we suck, you suck, if we fuck you do the same. Got it?"
Everyone nodded and seemed restless to get started. I looked at Andy. He was holding Derrick tightly around the waist looking over his shoulder at Jay. I tried to get his attention.
"Then when Davey blows the whistle," I looked at Jay who now had a whistle hanging from his left nipple, " we switch partners. Only you have to be with an old geezer if you're a young stud. Since we only have a couple oldies but goodies, we may wind up in a couple of threesomes." He laughed a lurid laugh.
He pulled me next to him. "Okay. Go!" He grabbed me, kissed me and fondled my balls. Despite my wanting to be with Andy I felt myself responding to Jay's kiss and touch. I tried to maneuver myself to see what Andy was doing, when I felt Jay drop to his knees and engulf my cock with his mouth. This gave me the freedom I needed to see what was going on with the others. In each pair one man was on his knees sucking like mad.
I had to stop this. I reached down and grabbed Jay's whistle. I blew it hard and long. Everyone stopped sucking and the room became chaotic as everyone tried to find new partners. I pushed by Todd and Ted who were trying to get to me and strained to get to Andy who was fighting off Jay to get to me. We came together amid the confusion of the partner switch.
"Andy, Andy," I cried as I kissed him. He kissed me back passionately over and over. . .
I opened my eyes to see Andy smiling back at me.
"Nice way to start the day," he quipped. "Now, would you mind telling me what was going on yesterday?"
"Mid-life crisis," I said as I pulled him back into my arms.
Over our after breakfast coffee we talked about the demons that had possessed me the day before.
"I have no idea what came over me," I was saying. Andy was holding both my hands in his across the table. He was looking at me in such a way that I felt his love penetrating all the way down to my soul. "I just kept thinking I was aging by the minute and I couldn't do anything to stop it."
"You know getting over a major accident such as yours isn't all just body healing." Andy said softly. "Your system suffered a significant assault. Then the sexual thing, the excitement of the wedding, the sun, the alcohol. All those things are factors here."
"I guess, but right now I feel really stupid about the way I behaved. I should call Jay and apologize."
"I don't know if I'd go that far. He was pretty much of a jerk himself. When Derrick and I came back to the table and I asked where you were he just said that you had a headache and left. He said that was fine with him cuz now he had two boy toys to play with."
"That's sort of what I told him." Andy laughed. "I left and tried to catch up with you. Derrick followed me out. He was embarrassed and wanted me to know that he felt Jay's behavior was uncalled for. I thanked him and hailed a cab."
Just then the phone rang.
"Hello, David? This is Derrick."
"Yes," I said as if speaking to a telemarketer.
"I just wanted you to know that I'm really sorry for what Jay did last night. He's just been acting funny like that lately. I don't know why."
I warmed my voice a bit and accepted Derrick's attempt to make things right. Hell, for all I knew Jay was going through his own mid-life crisis. I made a vague acceptance of his invitation to try it again sometime, without committing to it, said good-bye and hung up. Andy's expression asked the question and just as I was explaining the gist of the brief conversation the phone rang again. It was Brad this time.
"Hey Brad, how ya doin'?"
Brad spoke quickly. I couldn't understand what he was saying.
Brad repeated his message. This time the words began to sink in. I couldn't handle what I was hearing. Andy was the vet. He would know what Brad was talking about.
"Andy, talk to Brad!"
Andy took the phone. His expression turned serious. "Call Doctor Pedersen right away, tell him I told you to call. Tell him she's my dog. Call me right back."
Andy hung up and turned to me.
I walked into his open arms.
As the plane banked to the right I could see the shoreline of what I assumed was Lake Erie. I checked my watch: 3:15. Dr. Pedersen, if he was on time, would have started the surgery on Annie. I looked at my husband's face. How I wished Andy were performing the operation. Andy had assured me that Dr. Eric Pedersen, Rick, was a fine veterinarian. I still would have preferred Andy be there.
Andy looked over at me. He reached out and took my hand. "It'll be okay." I took a deep breath and let his words of reassurance do their job.
Andy had explained what was happening. Annie had an intestinal torsion. In simple terms she had a twisted gut. Not uncommon in large dogs. For a younger animal the survival rate was quite high. But, Annie was older and definitely had shown signs of slowing down. I would be glad to get on the ground and be able to turn on my cell phone to call Brad.
The captain came on and gave the usual spiel about fastening seat belts and putting trays in the full up right position, giving the weather report at our destination and thanking us for flying Northwest.
As soon as the plane came to a stop, my cell was turned on and Brad's speed dial number was punched. He answered on the third ring.
"Yeah, Mr. B. How are you doing?"
"How is she?"
"They're still working on her. I'm sorry I don't know anything more."
After a few more comments and greetings, we said good-bye and headed for the baggage claim and shuttle to the Green Lot.
The drive to Ann Arbor from Metro seemed to take forever. Andy insisted on driving. I knew why. He was sure in my anxiety I would have us in a ditch. He was probably right.
I was out of the car before it came to a full stop in the clinic's parking lot. Andy followed me into the building. There was Dr. Pedersen, still in scrubs, talking to Brad. Despite my anxiety I still was able to appreciate that Rick Pedersen was a fine specimen of manhood.
"How is she?"
"David," Dr. Pedersen shook my hand and put his other on my shoulder.
"She made it through the procedure. She's weak, but I think she'll be all right."
I fought back the tears of relief.
Andy joined the group. He and Dr. Pedersen greeted one another and began discussing Annie in professional terms most of which went directly over my head. Brad came over to me and put his arm around my waist.
As I listened and watched Andy's facial expressions, my initial relief began to erode and was replaced with apprehension. Finally Andy turned to me.
"She's not out of the woods yet. She was in a weakened condition to begin with due to her age. However, with a little bit of luck she'll be okay."
"I told Andy that if you give her a couple more hours here, you could take her home tonight seeing as how she'll have a resident vet at her beck and call," Dr. Pedersen added with a smile. "I think being in familiar surroundings will be good for her."
I accepted the words of encouragement, but something wouldn't let them completely take root.
Andy took us home. Brad followed in his truck. We spent the time unpacking and getting things ready for Annie. Jake followed us around sensing something was not quite right with his humans.
About eight o'clock we went back to the clinic. We had stopped on the way for dinner. I didn't eat much. I was too worried about my little girl.
Rick Pedersen met us at the door. The clinic had closed for the day but he stayed on to help us with the transfer of his patient.
While Andy and Rick talked, Brad and I walked back to see Annie. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow but regular. I looked at her and my eyes filled with tears. Brad sensed my need and put his arms around me.
`It isn't fair,' I thought. `Dogs, well cats, too, animals, are so much a part of your life, almost like kids. And yet their life span is so much shorter. Then you are left with all the hurt and emptiness.'
I reached out and touched Annie. She didn't open her eyes but when I spoke her name she wagged her tail. I knelt down and took her head into my hands.
"Hi, sweet lady. I'm here. Daddy's here. I love you sweet girl."
She opened her eyes, lifted her head, and licked my hand. I took her in my arms and suppressed a sob.
Rick and Andy came into the room.
"Are we ready?"
"Yes. Rick has filled me in on what we need to do," Andy reported. " I'll bring the car around and we can load her in."
And so it was that Annie came home. We carefully walked her into the house and to the bed we had prepared in the front room. Jake was beside himself with joy when he saw her. We were able to subdue his enthusiasm so that Annie was not in danger.
The evening was spent making sure Annie was comfortable and getting the meds and attention she needed.
When bedtime came, Andy walked into the living room to find me laying down next to Annie on the cushions from the couch.
"Are you sleeping here?"
"Yes," I replied with some surprise that Andy would question my decision to sleep next to Annie on the living room floor. After all I slept next to my frickin' Christmas tree.
"Is there something wrong with that?"
"No, I just thought. . . . well we've only been married for three days." He smiled that beautiful smile and I knew what he had in mind.
"Andy," I began, "Patti gave Annie to me for my birthday. She's a link to her and . . . " I trailed off.
Andy smiled. He walked out of the room. A few minutes later he came back with more cushions, pillows and blankets. We slept together next to my little girl for the next week. Andy was one in a million.
Fall came. Brad went off to Toledo and his new life as a college football hero. He was playing first string as a freshman. Annie had healed and was now back on the trundle next to our bed. She needed help getting up the stairs and out to the yard but she was doing all right.
Every weekend when the Rockets were playing somewhere drivable, Andy, Ted and I were off to watch our guy play. Ted was going to school at State. On the way to the games he and Andy were in deep veterinarian type discussions. I smiled.
We drove to Kalamazoo one morning in October. Toledo was playing the Western Michigan Broncos. We were going out to dinner after the game.
The Broncos won and when Brad joined us he was not in the best of moods. As a line backer he somehow took the entire loss on his shoulders. He had just not been as aggressive as he should be. He'd missed his assignments. We tried our best to help him realize he was not the sole reason that the Rockets lost. Ted put his arm around Brad and lightly kissed him on the cheek. Brad visibly stiffened.
As we sat in the booth at the restaurant trying to cheer him up, a group of students from the school came up to us. They seemed to have been drinking and were in the mood for starting something with the vanquished gladiator.
"Hey, Rocket Man!" They taunted. "Guess you don't know how to tame a Bronc."
"But, I bet he knows how to ride," said another one of the young men in the group.
"What's that supposed to mean," Brad shot back.
"Who is this little cutie? He your pony. Like the way he hugs and kisses you."
Andy tensed beside me. I stood up and said, "I think that you guys need to get your mouths and your asses out of here."
"Is that because you find our asses more than you can take and are ready to jump us, old man?"
The next few minutes are a blur in my mind. I know that Andy and Brad were up in a flash. I heard fists against jaws and smelled blood. The next thing I knew the police were there and we were being escorted to the `house' as they called it.
Brad's coach was called as well as some officials from Western. We sat in the booking area. At least we weren't in a cell.
When things were finally sorted out we were released without being charged with anything. I was ready to let it go but Brad wasn't. All the way home he brooded in the back seat. When Ted tried to say or do something to make him feel better he shrugged him off.
After we got home Brad went directly to his room. Ted slept in the basement. Brad had to be back on campus in Toledo in time for Bumps and Bruises Sunday morning but had been given permission to be at home with us just this once.
I knocked on his door.
I sat on his bed. Brad was sitting up in bed, naked to the waist. What a beautiful young man this was.
"Talk to me," I said.
"I love you, Mr. B.," he replied.
"I love you, too, son"
"I'm going to end it with Ted."
"Because of what happened tonight?"
"Yes, I just can't take a chance on being outed. I care about him but I can't have it come out that I'm gay."
I closed my eyes and bowed my head. It was still there: the fear, the need to hide, the need to pretend. I looked up at Brad
"Brad, I don't. . . "
He held up his hand. "I'm not ashamed of you and Doc B. I'm not ashamed of myself. But I can't take a chance on being outed. I hate it but this is what I have to do. I have to be a macho, hetero jock. I'm sorry but I have to if I want to play football."
"Would you prefer that Andy and I didn't come to your games?"
"No, I want you there. But, when Ted is there looking so gay and hugging me. . . "
I didn't like it but I understood.
I went to bed with a heavy heart.
The next morning Brad and Ted went for a long walk. When they came back both their eyes were red. Ted went to his room and came back upstairs with his bag. Andy and Ted jumped in the truck and headed for Lansing. Brad and I headed south for Toledo.
That night Andy and I compared notes. Both were sad stories. Ted was devastated. Brad was resolute. He had strong feelings for Ted but he couldn't go on under the threat of exposure. Both Andy and I were . . . sad. Yes, sad. Sometimes I just couldn't comprehend the cruelty of our society.
Thanksgiving was one of my favorite times of the year. It was a family holiday like Christmas but unlike Christmas it was more relaxed. There wasn't the pressure of gifts and decorations and all the trappings that were so important yet so stress inducing.
Everyone came home this year for Thanksgiving. Brad's season had ended without a bowl bid and so he was there. Angie had had her baby and Andrew David Bennett was the hit of the show. Andy was so moved and proud that he could barely stand it. He carried the boy around until Angie had to pull him away and make sure he was fed, changed and napped. Meg and Sean made the announcement that they were now pregnant. Kathy made the announcement that she was not. So, everyone was satisfied and happy. Mike and John talked endlessly about their sale of the condo and the purchase of the cottage on Cape Cod. Brad was the object of adoration from all the grandsons. So, all was well with the Barnes-Bennett clan. Almost.
After everyone had left for their various over night accommodations, Andy called me. "David, come into the living room."
He was kneeling beside Annie.
"What?!" I cried in alarm.
"David." Andy put his arms around me. "She's going into congestive heart failure."
"What? Can't you do something? Andy, you're a vet. Andy!"
"David." His voice was steady, full of love, "she's in pain. She needs you to love her enough to let her go."
I fell to my knees and gathered her into my arms. Andy left the room. As I waited for him to come back, I told my little girl that she was beautiful, that I loved her, and that Patti was waiting for her. Jake came up and lay down next to her. Her breathing was labored, but her tail wagged in greeting.
Andy returned, in his hand was the syringe. We looked at each other with tears in our eyes. I laid Annie down on the floor and lay in front of her. I looked directly into her eyes. I wanted her to see me. . . see my love for her as she went to the next level of her life.
Putting both hands on her head, I said, "I love you, dear one, I love you."
Andy knelt beside her, applied the tourniquet, and pushed the plunger.
Annie's eyes were on me. They were bright, then slowly they lost focus, they became dull, Jake whined, Andy and I buried our faces in her fur.
We sat on the couch, Andy and I, staring at the place where Claudia, our Christmas tree had stood only a few hours earlier, as if this would make her reappear. We also were aware of the silence in the house. Brad had returned to school for the second half of his freshman year in college. Another empty space was next to Jake, the big, loveable, yellow lab. Annie was gone. That left an empty space in our hearts as well.
"Whatcha thinkin' about?" Andy asked as he gently rubbed the ring on the third finger of my right hand. He'd placed the ring there last summer when we were officially married in Boston. The ring matched the one he wore on the third finger of his left hand.
I wore the ring on my right hand as I still wore the ring Patti had placed on the left hand that day so long ago when we had become man and wife.
"About how things have changed in the past year," I replied.
"This hasn't." Andy took me into his arms and kissed me.
As I allowed myself to be carried away by the effects of the kiss, I rejoiced once more in the life I was now privileged to be living. Andy's kiss lingered on my lips. The anthropologists say that the human male is programmed to be promiscuous. I am neither smart enough nor insightful enough to know whether they are correct or not. I only know that when you find the one, whether male or female, the desire for promiscuity fades in the reality of love. Now, I cannot deny that many men catch my attention, turn me on, and make me fantasize. But, if the opportunity came my way I'm reasonably sure that I wouldn't give in to the temptation. Not when I had this man in my life.
Andy said, "I think Mr. Barnes-Bennett we are alone."
"It do appear that way, yes siree."
"It's been awhile since we gave each other rug burns."
"But that's usually when Claudia's here," I said, referring to our Christmas Tree.
"Well, she was here just a while ago."
"Yes, this is true. . . ."
"So, maybe some of her magic is still in the room."
I sighed and sank into his arms. " You're all the magic I need."
We slid off the couch onto the floor. Jake made room for us. Once again we entered that realm of semi-reality that sexual arousal can bring. The place where the only awareness is the feeling generated by the one you are with, intensified when that one is the one you love. Feelings, sensations, emotions, all blend together as the physical strokes the emotional and brings one to the pinnacle of the best of both worlds.
I sometimes look back on the man-to-man sex I had with the men's club. It was great. It fulfilled a need. But, if I had known then that this altered universe existed, would I have striven to find it? Would it have eclipsed what Patti and I shared? I guess I really don't want to know the answer to that. It's not important. That was then. This is now.
I let go of those thoughts and allowed myself to slip into the world of Andy and David: That world where the physical is exponentially enhanced by the emotional: that world where the climax comes crashing in like a volcano erupting, or a flash of exquisite lightning. That lightning was striking now. I gave in to it.
The End of Year Five