Monday evening Charley and Jake were on their way back home. Jake was happy, he'd done what he'd hoped to accomplish. He really felt that, now, Robert was on his way to a healthy happy life. And Gloria? "Eh," he thought. There wasn't much trust to be placed in her. Chess? Well, there was no one like him in the world. A rare precious gem of a man. He'd come to love the man more than he ever thought of loving his own father. When he thought about his own father he felt an emptiness that would never be filled. The man had cared for Jake. Took pride in the fact he was his son. But Jake felt that the man was incapable of really loving another person.
Jake turned his mind to his lover who was driving. Here was another rare gem, another one of a kind man, and he was his. Jake's heart filled to near bursting with love for his man.
Charley glanced over at his lover occasionally as he drove through the dark night. Jake appeared to be sleeping, but after the last glance he had the distinct feeling that Jake was watching him. He looked at him again in the dim light from the dash and saw a little smile on his face. Charley looked back at the road and then back a Jake. Jake's eyes were open and his smile was bigger. He had the seat tilted back so he was half laying in it facing Charley with one leg up on the seat. Charley smiled back at him."I love you, Babe," he said, grasping Jake's bent knee laying next to his thigh.
Jake's hand covered his. He didn't say anything. Charley didn't need to hear it, he could feel it in the way Jake caressed his hand.
"You want me to drive the rest of the way? You've got to be tired."
"Nah, I'm okay. We'll be home in half an hour."
"I must have dozed for a while. I didn't realize we were that close."
Quiet reined for a few minutes. Both men were comfortable with it. Eventually, Charley spoke. "I am still agog at the change in Robert. That Les is an amazing man. My brother is so lucky."
"You and I are the lucky ones. Neither of us had to go through a crisis to find ourselves like Robert did."
"You never told me about your visit with Elaine."
"I didn't, did I?"
Charley waited. When Jake didn't say anything he asked, "So are you going to?"
"I was just thinking about how she's reacting."
Charley glanced at him and them back at the road. "Is she taking it hard?"
"No, actually I think she's okay with it. I thought she'd be bitter. It's gotta be hard finding out your husband and the father of your children is queer."
"She had no clue?"
"Yes, she suspected it. She loves Robert. She wants to see him find happiness. At first she was angry and was blaming Gloria for Robert's predicament, but then after thinking about it she realized that for years Robert had been a bomb just waiting to explode, and that, unwittingly, I had been the detonator."
"You can detonate me anytime, Babe. Just light my fuse," Charley said grinning at him.
"It's such a short fuse. You might explode in my face," Jake replied looking very serious.
"I like doing that." Charley looked just as serious.
Jake grinned and then chuckled. "I love you, you sex pig. And your fuse isn't short by any standard." Charley made a face at him. "Anyway, back to Elaine. She was being worried about letting the boys see their dad. I explained to her that t here is a big difference between being gay and being a pedophile. Of course, some fags are pedophiles, but I told her she needn't worry about Robert."
"Did you tell her about Les?"
"It wasn't my place to do that. Actually, I didn't even tell her that he is gay. She just assumed that. Robert's going to have to tell her himself."
Charley nodded. "I really thought Robert would move right in with Les. I know Les asked him to."
"Yeah, Robert told me he wanted to get his life straightened out first. He doesn't feel comfortable dumping all his problem's on Les."
"It sounds like Robert has started maturing."
"He's certainly not the same person that sent me those hateful notes a couple of months ago."
"You know? I love Robert as my brother," Charley sighed . "I may yet learn to like him."
Gio dragged his tired body into the bedroom and dropped onto the bed. The long hours were taking their toll. But they were ready for Johnny and Tim's commitment ceremony the upcoming week end. He lifted his left foot onto his right knee to unlace his boot. Teddy walked in an knelt in front of him. "Here, let me do that for you, Mi Amore."
Gio reached out with both hands and drew Teddy's head to his lips, and kissed him on the forehead. "You worked harder than I did today. Let's each undress ourselves and meet in the shower."
Teddy grinned at him. "Sounds like a good deal to me."
Seeing Teddy's eager grin, suddenly Gio wasn't feeling so exhausted. The thought of washing his lover's beautiful body was sending surges of energy through him.
Teddy looked up as he shucked his boxers and caught Gio's lascivious grin and grinned back at him. "I know what your imaging, you dirty ol' man."
"Yes, and I know you are as eager as I am. Last one in the shower has to wash the other one," Gio answered,, pulling jockeys off. He threw them at Teddy and headed for the bathroom.
Teddy caught them in one hand, brought them to his nose and inhaled with his eyes closed. He dropped the Jockeys, and trotted up behind Gio just as he started though the bathroom door. He wrapped his arms around Gio's chest, lifted him off the floor, turned around and set him back on his feet, and then stepped into the bathroom, laughing.
"That's cheating, you big oaf."
Teddy stuck his head around the door, grinning. "So who loses here?"
Gio grinned back. "Not me," he said grabbing Teddy around the waist. "I love washing your beautiful body."
Teddy wrapped him in a bear hug and sought his lips. "I love you, Gio," he whispered.
"The feeling is mutual my love," Gio whispered back. "I've wanted you in my arms all day. Thank God that my pants are baggy otherwise everyone at work would have seen what I was feeling."
"Come on, I want to bathe you," Teddy urged.
Tuesday morning Gloria had been released from the hospital. Chess took her home and made sure she would be okay alone. He'd headed back to the office. She sat at the desk where she'd passed out three days earlier. She stared out the window not realizing it had been broken and replaced.
She still hadn't found a way to talk to Chess. She had been given an anti-depressant. It was working, but she didn't feel connected to her old world any more. She vowed to herself that she was not going to lock herself away in her rooms again. She put away the bottle of vodka and swore it would be a long time before she took another drink.
After calling a couple of long time girlfriends she dressed and met them for lunch. She sat and listened to the two women talking, gossiping, dissing and felt disconnected from the life she'd led all these years, after the table was cleared and coffee was served, she suddenly knew what she had to do. She asked her friends pardon without giving a reason for suddenly leaving. She paid the check for the three of them and left them to wonder what was going on with her. She'd been the one to invite them to lunch. They were still unaware that Gloria had been in the hospital.
Once home she went into her bedroom, made several calls and started separating her clothes into those she'd keep and the ones she'd give away. When she finished with her clothes, she started on all the personal items in both her bedroom and her study. She stuck notes on the items she wanted to give to each of her sons.
When Chess came home from the office she had her bags packed and in the trunk of her car. She was sitting calmly at the kitchen table as he entered the back door. He asked her how she was doing.
"I'm fine, Chess, sit down a minute. I need to talk to you."
Without a word Chess set his briefcase on the table and laid his suit jacket over it. He sat down and looked at her.
She took his hand and patted it. "Chess, I know you love me and I love you, but it's simply not enough to hold us together as a couple. There's not much left of our relationship. We're just living in the same house. Our sons are all pretty much settled into their own lives. I think the time has come. I'm leaving." She paused.
Chess studied the table top a moment while his mind processed what she was saying. He'd subconsciously half expected this for a while. He thought about how it was going to affect his life. He couldn't see that much would change accept the house would feel empty without her in it. He nodded and looked up at her. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"California. To Amanda's."
He nodded again. "It's funny how your oldest sister and you, the youngest in your family, have always been so close."
Gloria shrugged. "She filled the role of mother after my mother died when I was little."
"Do you want a divorce?"
"Would you protest if I asked for one?"
"You haven't acted surprised."
Chess sighed. "No, I kind of expected it would come to this."
"You are a good man, Chess. What are you going to do?"
"He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I'll sell the house and travel."
"Have you thought of giving the house to Tom?"
"Yes, I've thought of it. This house holds many happy memories for this family. It would be nice to keep it in the family."
Nothing was said about splitting the wealth. Gloria had come from a well-to -do family. She'd helped support Chess through law school. But after he had started practicing law he took over the support of his family that by then consisted of one son and his wife. Gloria had invested her inheritance intelligently and over the years had accrued a lot of wealth on her own. Chess in turn had done the same with his income. They had each placed equal amounts in saving accounts for each of their sons' educations. There was no reason to ask for a divorce.
After a little more discussion Gloria stood. "I guess there is no reason I shouldn't be on the road." She gathered her purse
and a sweater. Chess stood up and watched her with his hands stuffed in his pockets. She kissed him lightly on the lips and
said she'd call him to let him know she'd arrived safely. He walked her out to her car and told her not to pick up any
hitchhikers. She grimaced at him, started the car and backed out of the driveway. They waved and she disappeared the
down the street. Chess sighed, went into the house and called each of his sons to inform them of their mother's decision.
Tom said he kind of expected something like that from her. He wasn't surprised that she'd left with out saying goodbye.
Charley's response was, "Come live with us, Dad. A change of scenery might be good for you."
Chess offered the house to Tom, his oldest son. Tom's response was, "I'll buy it from you, Dad, but I won't accept it gratis. That wouldn't be fair to Rob or Charley."
"That's admirable of you, Son. What price should I put on it?"
"Fair market value, Dad. Get it appraised.'
"I love you, Son."
"I love you, too. What are your plans?"
"Oh, I don't know. A small condo maybe."
"There's speculation around the office that you are thinking of retiring."
"Oh there is, is there. Someone trying to put the old horse out to pasture?"
"There not any truth in it, is there?"
"You know Son, I think I'll take a vacation. Drive down to the Keys and visit your Uncle Bob. I haven't seen him for a while. I'll let you know the answer when I get back."
"You going to be okay without mom?"
"Tom, you know your mother has always been her own person. Of course, I'll be okay."
"Well, if you need company don't hesitate to come over. Our door is open anytime."
Robert had moved into a small efficiency apartment after he'd been released from jail. Elaine had offered to let him have the guest room, but Robert felt he needed to make a clean break. She told him about Jake's visit. Robert ended up crying again and apologizing for being such an ass.
"Robby." Elaine was the only one who he'd ever allowed to call him that after he turned twelve. "I have no regrets. We have two beautiful sons. And we had a pretty good time together. We'll continue to be friends."
"You are my best friend, Elaine. You've stood by me through all the mess I've been going through. I do love you, you know.
It was while he was talking to Elaine that his cell phone rang. Elaine watched him as he answered it.
"Oh hi, Dad. Thanks for every thing you did for me."
She watched his face crinkle in emotional pain as Chess told him about his mother leaving.
"What? You're kidding me. She didn't even say anything to me. No goodbye, nothing." Robert said into the phone and then turned to her. "Dad says Mom just left. She's headed for California." Elaine raised her eyebrows in surprise, but didn't say anything. "So how are you taking it Dad?" she heard him ask. And then he said, "You want me to come stay with you?" And then, "I'm here for you, Dad. Anything I can do for you just call me. I love you. Bye."
He turned to his wife. " Do you believe that? Mom just packed up and is driving out to California. She's planning on living with Aunt Mandy. No good-byes. Nothing. She just up and left."
Gloria held her tongue. She'd never gotten along with her mother-in-law, and had nothing good to say about her. She let him stew at the news for a bit and then reminded him that they still had things to talk about. "Robert, I haven't told you this yet, but I have filed for a divorce."
Robert nodded, leaned back and stared at the ceiling. "I failed you, Elaine. I failed you and our boys."
"Stop it Robert. You haven't failed us. The only one you failed was yourself. And you're rectifying that."
He sat up and looked at her. He didn't say anything as she watched a series of emotions flicker across his face. At first his expression frightened her, and then he started to tear up
"What is it, Robert?"
He studied the floor and then looked up at her. "What reason did you give for requesting the divorce?"
She shrugged. "Incompatibility."
"So you know."
Robert jumped up and strode across the room and whirled and stared at her. "You know I'm queer."
Elaine knew what he was saying but she could help but get in a little dig. "Well, your actions recently and been a bit strange. Maybe even peculiar. But I wouldn't call you queer."
A look of frustration swept his face. he walked back across the room and sat back down. " I'm gay, Elaine. And I'm not saying I'm happy, I'm a homosexual."
"Oh, well, yes. I had figured that out. And after talking to Jake I fully accept it and it's okay."
"You talked to Jake about me being a fag?"
"Robert if you ever use that word again I'll..... I'll slap your face off your head. Yes, Jake came by to see me after he got you out of jail. He explained a lot of things to me that I didn't understand. I asked him if you were gay and he told me you would have to answer that question yourself." She thought for a minute and added, "Which you just did."
Robert took a moment to digest the fact that Jake had helped him again.and then changed the course of the conversation. "You know, I never acted on my urges in all the years we've been married.. Well, until I went to jail."
"You weren't raped, were you?"
"No. It was nothing like that. Why don't we get a cup of coffee and I'll tell you the whole story."
They sat across the kitchen table from each other. Robert stirred his coffee as he thought about where to begin. Elaine held her mug with both hands, her elbows on the table as she studied her husband. It had been a long time since she'd felt that she'd been in love with him. Now as she studied him she felt a deep abiding love; she realized he was her best friend. It had been in a knee-jerk angry reaction that she'd called a lawyer and started the divorce process. She felt bad about lashing out at Gloria. She'd never liked her mother-in-law, but it had been wrong to blame her for Robert's actions.
Robert had deserved to go to jail. She still had a difficult time believing that he'd physically attacked Jake. Jake who had brought nothing but good into their lives. She felt he'd gotten off a little too easy, thanks to Jake and Chess, but she also felt that he'd learned his lesson. 'Now,' she thought, 'let's see what he says.'
Robert finally looked up at her and met her gaze. She thought about how long it had been since he'd done that. He cleared his throat. "It feels so good not to be filled with anger. I've been so full of anger that I don't know how anyone could stand to be around me."
He picked up his mug and sipped the coffee. "There is so much I need to apologize for, especially to you."
"Yes, yes there is. But now that you know that, I think the rest should be easy."
"Easy? Are you kidding? I am so ashamed. " He set his mug down, picked up the teaspoon and started stirring again.
"You were going to tell me what happened in jail."
"Oh, yes. Well...."
Robert proceeded to tell her how he lashed out in hate and anger at everyone, about how he stewed for days in a cell by himself and then the advent of having Les put into the cell with him. Gloria could see at the mention of Les's name that Robert revered the man. And as he described the following time of having to be near him all the time and the calming effect that Les had on him, she knew that he had fallen in love with him. She wondered how she felt about that, and then decided that she was happy for Robert. She knew that their time as woman and husband had ended whether Robert loved Les or not.
And then Robert held her gaze as he told her that he had fallen in love with Les. She smiled at him to let him know she was okay with it. And then he continued with telling about Jake's visit and the court appearance the next day.
"So what happens now? Are you two going to live together?"
Robert blushed. "We haven't gotten that far yet."
Elaine reached across the table and covered his hand with hers. "Robert, I want you to know I really am happy for you. I'm glad that you've finally stopped denying who you are. God! I can't believe I'm going to say this." She took a deep breath and let it out. "Robert, I glad you've found a good man that loves you."
Robert bushed."Thank you, Elaine. You really are my dearest friend." He covered her hand that still lay on his.
"We need to discuss how this is going to affect the boys. They are old enough to soon start realizing what is happening. I've been honest with them about you being in jail and why. I think they are both angry with you at the moment."
"Where are they?"
"They're with Mom and Dad."
"How are they taking the news that your husband is a jailbird.?"
"They are upset. I've discussed it with Mom, but Dad just left the room when I tried with him."
"I guess it's only going to get worse when they find out I'm a fag."
"Robert stop it. Don't start getting down on yourself. You may be gay, but you are not a fag." She'd forgotten about her earlier threat.
Robert stared at the tabletop. "I just seem to cause problems wherever I go."
"There's no problem we can't deal with."
"I don't understand why you are being so easy with all this."
"It's simple. You are my friend."
Robert looked up at her. She smiled at him. He managed to smile back. Elaine looked at her watch. "It's time for Mom to show up with the boys."
"Maybe I should go."
"Do you want to see the boys?"
Tears filled Robert's eyes. "May I?"
"For God's sake. They are your sons. Of course you can."
"I was so sure you wouldn't want me around them."
"Are you a pedophile?" She mentally thanked Jake for setting her right on that misconception.
"Then why wouldn't I want you to be with you sons?"
"I love you, Elaine. God, how I wish I could be straight." He buried his head in his arms on the table and sobbed..
Elaine moved around to hug his shoulders. "But you're not, Robert. We'll just have to learn to live with it. I think everything will eventually turn out okay. Now go in the bathroom and wash your face and get your act together."
Robert stood up and sheepishly grinned at her. "Yes, Mommy." he said as he headed past her toward the bathroom. She slapped him on the shoulder as he past.
He was still in the bathroom when he heard his young sons' voices. He dried his face and stared at himself in the mirror. "Keep your act together," he said to himself. "Make Les and Jake proud of you." He squared his shoulders, cleared his throat and headed for the living room to see his two little sons.
Dave had spent his day, Thursday, making sure that every thing was in order for the move on Saturday. He'd hired an interior designer to oversee the transition and to make sure that every thing was in place just as it had been previously discussed.
Joyce, the designer, was a jewel with flaming red hair that she insisted was her natural color but had to have come from a bottle to get that particular shade. She stood five foot seven in three inch heels, and had an hour glass figure. When Dave first met her he had a vision of her hanging onto the bedpost while her handmaid, with a foot on her butt, pulled the drawstrings on a corset that Scarlett O'Hara would have lusted after. He chuckled to himself as he observed her ample bosom, and recalled the joke about Dolly Parton. Why was her waist so small? Nothing grows well in the shade. But she came with the highest recommendations.
She had to reassure him over and over that she'd take care of everything, from placing the furniture to making sure that the clothes were hung properly in the closets and the socks were placed in the drawers.
"And don't forget the bathroom. make sure it looks like they had just stepped out of it. Even down to the razor laying on the edge of the sink."
"Please don't worry, Dave. I've got my Polaroid. I will take pictures of everything and place everything just as it was."
"You're a godsend, Joyce. Remember you have to be out of here by eight. I'm not sure just how long those two can hold off getting their hands on each other."
"Well, having seen them both, how could I blame them. I'd damned sure have difficulties keeping my hands to myself if either of them was mine."
"Now Mr. Gates, I want you to get out of here and let me start working my magic. And I won't forget the magnum of Champagne and the note. Stop worrying, you've got Joyce to take care of everything."
Dave smiled and agreed as he backed out of the door
Jason was bouncing with excitement. He and Pete had picked up their new suits that they were going to wear Saturday. Jason hadn't ever had clothes like these. Sure he'd had a suit right of the rack at the local Sears when he graduated from high school. His mother had hemmed the pants for him. But to go into an exclusive men's store and pick out the material, be measured and have the suit made from scratch was so cool. And to be invited to a bachelor party for Johnny was beyond Jason's imagination. It was like being accepted into the adult world of men. Jason was thrilled, to included as one of Johnny's close friends.
As he and Pete left the store Jason had a sudden thought. Pete, don't you think that it's rather strange that Tim didn't invite us to his party? I mean we're closer to his age."
Pete gave Jason a dubious look.. "I don't know. Maybe he's not having one. I haven't heard any talk about one anyway. I would think Dave would know about it if he was having one, and he hasn't said anything about it."
"That makes me feel bad. Let's go home and invite him over. We could give an impromptu party."
Pete grinned at his little mate. "That's one of the things I love about you Jason. You always car for the other person."
When Jason got Tim on the phone, Tim at first tried to put him off, but finally gave in and conspiratorially told him that he
was crashing Johnny's party. Jason was delighted and promised they would keep the secret.
Friday dawned bright and clear. No one had dreamed of Indian Summer this late in the season. The air was warm and was expected to be that way for the next few days. When Dave and Joe got up for their morning run they left their sweats with the guard behind the front desk. Johnny and Charley were both waiting for them.
The three friend razzed Johnny about only having 24 hours to back out of getting hitched. Johnny took it in good nature, giving as much as he got. When they arrived back at the Tower and were cooling down and doing stretches, Johnny said, "I want you guys to know, despite all the joking, I am the happiest man on earth, and one of the luckiest. A year ago I would never have dreamed that it would be a man that I would choose to marry, especially not such a masculine young man like Tim."
"So what is Tim doing this evening while you're at your bachelor party?" Charley asked.
Johnny shrugged. "I don't know he's been rather vague about it. I think some of his school buddies are giving him one, too."
Dave had to turn his back to hide his smile. He placed his hand on a pillar and stretched his hamstrings before he turned back around.
Tim sat in his history class Friday morning.. He was doing his best to concentrate on the lecture, but failing as his mind kept going back to the upcoming ceremony. Angie his mother-in-law to be, as he thought of her, had insisted on "a walk through" last night. Other that the bower which had been erected back in April the back yard was still in its normal state. Even though he wouldn't see it again until Saturday morning, he was imagining the transformation that Angie and her two daughters were planning. The silly women had insisted that he and Johnny have separate fittings for their tuxedos. Tim dreamed about what Johnny would look like dressed in the cream colored tux just like the one he'd been fitted for. The image aroused him and he squirmed in his seat wishing he could get home and back into Johnny's arms. He knew Johnny wouldn't be home until around six or later. Joe was putting in extra hours making certain that every aspect of the two restaurants on top of his new office tower would be completed by the opening date. Johnny insisted on staying with him until he was safely ensconced in the Eyrie. The opening date was on Dave's birthday and he and Johnny still hadn't come up with a birthday present. Time enough for that after the commitment ceremony.
He wondered if he could succeed in pulling of his plans for tomorrow night. Johnny was in for a big surprise. Tim wondered how Johnny would take it in front of all his police buddies. He just hoped Johnny wouldn't be angry.
He got a giddy feeling every time he thought about the coming Saturday. In two days he was going to stand before all their friends, Johnny's family and his own mother and father to declare his undying love for Johnny.
The TA caught his attention and raised an eyebrow as if to say, "What's with you? You are one of my best students and your daydreaming." Tim sat up straight and tried to pay attention and make notes that were pertinent to the subject, instead of hearts and Johnny's name. 'How girly is that?!' he thought when he realized what he'd been doing.