This story is fiction. The city of Clifton, and the University of Clifton, exist only in my imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. These stories have as their main character a sexually active gay college student. If this is offensive to you, or if it is illegal in your area, or if you are under age, please leave now.
This story involves a search for personal acceptance, worth, and meaning. There is a religious element in these stories. If you don't like that, maybe now is a good time to leave.
My stories develop slowly. If you're in a hurry, this is probably not for you.
Thanks to Colin for editing.
Constructive comments are welcome on my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bryce, Chapter 41 - Thanksgiving, Part I
Bryce and Damon began their celebration of the Thanksgiving break by spending Wednesday morning making out. They had pretty much decided that it would not be prudent to engage in sex at the Winslow home, so they were determined to get in a good measure of loving before leaving Clifton. On Tuesday evening at the SAT meeting they put in their last time being on call at the fraternity as pledges. Then they spent some time discussing what to take with them, and doing some preliminary packing. They were going to be gone for only four days, but there would be Thanksgiving dinner as well as church on Thursday and Sunday, so more than one outfit, for sure, but not too much to burden them. If at all possible, they wanted to be able to carry on their luggage so as to avoid delays at the airport. Now, on Wednesday morning, they were in a mellow and loving mood, free of immediate worries and obligations. It was one of their best sessions.
Bryce drove to the airport and parked in the long-term lot. They caught a shuttle to the terminal, where they checked in, and then had lunch at one of the many outlets at the terminal. Their flight left on time at 1:25 p.m. and arrived at Lincoln, Nebraska a little over four hours later, necessitated by a layover. There was no direct flight either way. As Bryce and Damon exited the corridor from the gates into the lobby area, they were pleased to see Nan Winslow waiting for them. This familiar and friendly presence was definitely reassuring to Damon. She kissed Bryce, took an evaluating look at Damon, decided he had recovered from the bruises Bryce had told her about, and kissed him as well. On the way to the Winslow home, Nan chatted away about her school, their parents and brother, and the plans for the next few days. It was pretty much non-stop, giving both men a breathing space in which to get adjusted.
The Winslow home was a large house in an exclusive suburb. When Bryce mentioned that it was a restricted area, Damon protested, but Bryce explained that this referred to the size of the lot and the size and value of the house, not to anything racial. At one time, racial and ethnic restrictions were written into deeds, but that was no longer legal. The house was imposing in a kind of mock Tudor style. Bryce told Damon that there were bedrooms for their parents, each of the three children, and two guest rooms, one of which he would occupy for the next four days. Damon looked disappointed at that, but he recognized reality when he encountered it. Nan drove around to the rear, where there was a four car garage tucked under the main structure. There were several comments passed between Nan and Bryce about the competition for parking space inside when all five Winslows were in residence, especially in bad weather, but as Bryce's vehicle was still in Clifton that was not now a problem. Pressing a remote, a door opened, and she drove in.
From the garage, they entered a basement rec room, where Bryce's older brother Chip was found watching a sporting event on television. When Bryce introduced Damon to his brother, there was a distinct lack of warmth in Chip's response. He was not impolite, but definitely cool. Bryce wondered whether Chip somehow had a suspicion about Damon's status as his boyfriend, but did not see how that was possible, given the care with which both his mother and Nan guarded his secret. Chip shook hands, hoped Damon enjoyed his stay, then went back to watching the tube. Bryce looked at Nan, who shrugged her shoulders and turned to the stairs.
They debouched in a hallway, but encountered enticing smells and noises coming from the kitchen. Bryce led Damon there, where they encountered Rosita Carcano, the family cook and housekeeper. She was a large woman of about 50, with black hair showing encroachments of grey, sharp black eyes, and copper colored skin. When she saw Bryce, she exclaimed and threw her arms around him, enveloping him in her ample bosom. Bryce introduced Damon, and he got the same treatment, to his obvious surprise. Now that was the kind of welcome one could appreciate. Nan just looked on with a smile. Rosita told the youngsters that dinner would be served at seven, so they had plenty of time to freshen up beforehand. She anxiously enquired whether they had eaten an adequate lunch, then told them to sit down and have a snack before putting their things away. Cookies and milk appeared, just like when Bryce was much younger and had just come home from school.
While they were enjoying this snack. Martha Winslow made her appearance. "For heaven's sake, Bryce, why didn't you tell me you were home?" she exclaimed. "And this must be Damon. Welcome!"
Damon rose to his feet, and again was enveloped in the arms of greeting. He kind of liked it. After a hug, Martha stood back and looked him over. "You're much better looking in person than in the pictures Bryce sent us. You tell him to get a better camera."
Damon laughed. "I'll do that, ma'am, but there's only so much you can do with what I come with."
"What you come with is just fine. I do hope you're completely over the consequences of that terrible attack. I do not know what this country is coming to, with so much violence everywhere," Martha commented.
"Yes, ma'am, I'm fine now. Bryce did a fine job of looking after me when I was laid up. I'm sure that speeded my recovery," Damon said.
"Well, I should hope so." Spying the large backpacks the men had, Martha exclaimed, "You haven't even unpacked yet. Bryce, you're a terrible host."
"Mom, blame Rosita. We stopped here to greet her, and she wouldn't let us leave until we ate something," Bryce excused himself.
"Well, I suppose you did need refreshment after your trip," Martha conceded, as Rosita sniffed her approval of that sentiment.
"Your father will be home soon. You boys freshen up and relax before dinner," Martha instructed.
"Okay, Mom," Bryce said.
"Yes, ma'am," Damon said at the same time.
Thanking Rosita, the two men exited the kitchen. "I like your mother," Damon said as they made their way to the second floor.
"Yeah, Mom's okay," Bryce conceded. "I don't know what kind of hair Chip has up his butt, though."
"Not the warmest welcome, but I kind of suspect he's not used to having black visitors," Damon speculated.
"Probably that's it," Bryce hoped.
On the upper floor, Bryce pointed out the two guest rooms. Damon asked which was Bryce's room, and he pointed out that as well. Neither of the guest rooms were all that close, as the three rooms assigned the children of the family were at one end of the corridor, while the master bedroom and the guest rooms were at the other end. Damon chose the room closest to the center, and next to the guest bathroom. He quickly unpacked his stuff, hanging up his good trousers and shirt so they would look decent tomorrow. Then he made his way down to Bryce's room. As he did at the dorm, Damon walked in without knocking. Whereas the guest room was pretty neutral, Bryce's room was much more personalized. There were trophies and plaques on a bookcase and the adjoining wall. On another wall by a deserted looking desk there were photographs, which Damon recognized as Bryce at various stages of his life, along with some family members and others unknown. On still another wall were poster sized pictures of soccer and swimming athletes, along with one of Mozart.
From an adjoining door came Bryce's voice. "Who's there?"
"Me," Damon answered unhelpfully. "I'm casing your place."
Bryce walked into the room, wiping his hands on a towel. "Get lonesome already?"
"Couldn't stand to be separated from you," Damon quipped. "You have your own bathroom or something?"
"Or something. It's like ours at the dorm. Me on this side, Chip on the other."
"Oh? Do you sneak in and kiss him like you do me?" Damon teased.
Bryce wrinkled his nose and got a sour look on his face, which made Damon laugh.
"Impressive trophies," Damon commented, indicating the collection on the bookcase. He picked one up. "Mr. Team Spirit, Soccer 2006." He lifted another. "Champions, Swim Team 2008-2009."
"The 2006 one was fall of my sophomore year. Nothing from 2007-08," Bryce noted with a sadness in his voice.
Damon crossed the room and hugged him. "Over and done with."
Bryce heaved a sigh. "Yeah."
"What's there to do around here?" Damon asked, trying to distract Bryce from unpleasant memories. "You got any video games?"
"Sure. A whole collection of them, over on that shelf," Bryce said, pointing. "But we'll have to use the computer in the library downstairs. Mine's at the dorm, remember?" indicating the empty space on his desk.
"You mean you don't have one everyplace you go?" Damon teased.
Bryce took a swing at him, leading to a brief tussle. "We'd better cut this out. You know where it usually leads," Bryce cautioned.
Obediently, Damon walked over to the indicated cache of games, and looked them over. "Hey, I used to play this one at the arcade near the projects. I'll beat your socks off," he announced, picking an older game, Jurassic Park III: Danger Zone!
"Like hell you will," Bryce responded.
The two clattered downstairs and made their way to the library, where they were soon deeply involved in friendly competition, laced with an exchange of insults. Damon especially enjoyed roaring to mimic the various dinosaurs that threatened them at every turn as the game progressed. About 6:30 Bryce noted the time.
"Hey, it's close to dinner time. You've still got to meet my father. Let's go to the parlor."
"If you father is anything like your brother, I think I'd rather stay here," Damon commented.
"Chicken," Bryce taunted him.
The two made their way to a large impressive room overlooking the front lawn. There they encountered both Martha and Sterling Winslow. Sterling was like an older version of Chip, larger built than Bryce and just as tall, with greying hair and distinguished features. He stood looking out the front window, a glass in his hand. When Bryce and Damon entered, he turned toward them.
"Dad, this is my friend, Damon Watson," Bryce announced. "Damon, my father, Sterling Winslow."
"Pleased to meet you Mr. Winslow," Damon said.
"Likewise. Any friend of my son is always welcome here," Sterling said, being much more polite than Chip.
After a couple of more polite exchanges, Bryce asked, "Damon, would you care for a drink before dinner?"
"Only one," Martha warned.
"Sure, Mom," Bryce agreed.
"Yeah, I'd like that," Damon said. As they walked towards a sideboard, he added sotto voce, "It might help relax me."
"Nothing to worry about," Bryce assured him. "Dad's in a good mood."
Damon was confronted with a line of cut glass decanters with little tags around their necks - Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Blended. There was a small cooler with ice, and a variety of mixes. Bryce knew Damon's preferences, and mixed two Bourbons, a taste he had honed and expanded at Clifton. Bryce drew Damon's attention to several portraits on a nearby table.
"Memorize these," he kidded. "My grandparents. You'll be meeting them before we leave." Turning towards his mother, Bryce asked, "This year is Grandpa and Grandma Bryce, right?"
"Yes, Dear," Martha answered. "My parents will be here tomorrow. I'm afraid you'll miss Sunday dinner with your Winslow grandparents, but if I booked you any later leaving, you would get back entirely too late. You must take Damon by and introduce him on Friday or Saturday."
"Okay, Mom," Bryce agreed. To Damon he said, "We alternate grandparents here on Thanksgiving Day, and have the other set the following Sunday. Been doing it that way as long as I remember."
"Since before you were born, Dear," Martha supplied. "Your Winslow grandparents will be with Arthur and Evelyn tomorrow," she added, referring to his uncle and aunt.
"I never knew any grandparents," Damon said quietly.
Sterling moved closer. "I understand you're from Chicago, Damon."
"Yes, sir, that's correct," Damon responded.
"Been there many times. I have quite a few business contacts in Chicago. Your family still there, I assume?"
"Yes. I have a mother, a brother, and three sisters, all in Chicago," Damon replied.
"Oh, is your father deceased?" Sterling asked.
Slowly, Damon responded, "I never knew my father."
"Sorry," Sterling said. He obviously did not know what to say next.
"Damon is a big fan of the Chicago Cubs," Bryce said, trying to find a safe topic of conversation.
That did it. For the remaining time before dinner, Damon and Sterling talked baseball. When Chip joined them, he even took part, although he had nothing good to say about the Cubs. Damon was in his element, however, and vigorously defended his team, citing statistics which made Bryce's head spin. They went in to dinner, where Damon sat between Bryce and Nan, which also gave him a sense of security. About half way through the meal, Sterling, who was on the other side of Nan, happened to mention his love of jazz, which gave Damon another opportunity to exhibit his knowledge. Between baseball and jazz, he not only got through dinner, but clearly made a favorable impression on Bryce's father. Bryce noticed his mother smiling contentedly several times, and grinned at her. So far, so good.
After dinner, Bryce and Damon were allowed to return to their game in the library, but after a while they made their way back upstairs to Bryce's room. They were settled in, just talking, when there came a knock on the door.
"Come in," Bryce invited.
Nan waltzed in. "I'm glad I caught you before you started making out," she teased.
Both men blushed, but Bryce responded, "Nan! Cut it out. We decided we would be better off putting the personal stuff on hold for the weekend anyway."
"Oh, pooh! No chance of me walking in on a steamy session, then," she continued to tease.
"Not you, and not anyone else," Bryce reminded her.
Nan directed her attention to Damon. "How are you, Damon? I didn't get much chance to talk with you, what with you and Dad babbling away about baseball and jazz all during dinner."
Damon looked uneasy. "Sorry. I guess I was not a very good table companion."
"No, that's okay. I could tell you were kind of nervous, and those topics were safe," Nan replied, "but how are you? Have you recovered from that nasty attack and everything?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine," Damon replied. "Bryce took good care of me."
"I'll bet he did," Nan grinned, rolling her eyes.
"You are in a really odd mood, Nan," Bryce said. "What's the matter, are you horny?"
"Well, ever since you walked in, you've been making suggestive comments," Bryce noted. "Are you trying to out us or something? What if Chip walked in while you were yammering away?"
Nan looked repentant. "Okay. You're right. Maybe I did get carried away just a bit," she conceded. "But I really do want to know how Damon is."
"Show her your scar, Damon," Bryce said.
With a grin, Damon rolled up his left sleeve and held up his forearm for Nan's inspection.
"Oh, wow! I'll bet that hurt!" she exclaimed, running her finger over it.
"Not really," Damon said. "Well, maybe, but the rest of me hurt worse, so I didn't notice it especially. But my concussion is entirely healed, and my bruises have faded away. This is all that's left, except for a couple of really minor ones."
"You look every bit as handsome as you did the first time I met you," Nan declared.
"What about you, Nan?" Bryce asked, "anyone special in your life yet?"
"We-ell," she drew it out. "I have met a guy that I'm kind of interested in. I'm not sure where this is going, though."
"Have you bedded him yet?"
"Just paying you back," her brother chuckled.
They talked some more, now that comfort limits had been established. One topic of conversation was Chip, and why he was so distant to Damon. Nan told her brother that Chip was becoming a worse stuffed shirt than their father had ever been. She wasn't sure it was race. More likely it was class. "What's that old saw about the Boston brahmins? The Lowells only talk to the Cabots, and the Cabots only talk to God?" she chuckled.
"Something like that," Bryce agreed. "Well, we'll just have to ignore him while we're here."
Later that evening Bryce walked Damon down to his room. With his back holding the door closed "just in case," he kissed Damon good night, then returned to his own room.
On Thanksgiving morning Bryce went to check on Damon, not sure how he would be to rouse under these circumstances. He found the room empty, then, as he was standing there wondering about that, Damon came back from the guest bathroom, carrying his toilet kit.
"You're up!" Bryce exclaimed, obviously surprised.
"Yep. Figured I'd behave myself for once. Besides, I didn't sleep all that well in a strange bed." Lowering his voice, he added, "It wouldn't have been strange with you in it. Here we are, with beds actually big enough for two people, and we can't make use of them."
Bryce grinned. With his butt guarding the door again, he pulled Damon to him and kissed him good morning, then said, "offer it up."
"Something my mom always said when I was a kid. Offer your sufferings up for the poor souls in purgatory."
"Papist," Damon kidded.
They went down to a nice sunny room off the kitchen, which Bryce called the breakfast room. There, they found some cereal and fruit on a sideboard, as well as milk, juice, and coffee. They had no sooner gathered at the coffee urn than Rosita found them.
"Can I get you boys something hot? Eggs? Bacon? Ham?"
"Eggs, over easy, and bacon with hash browns for me, Rosita," Bryce ordered.
"Sounds good. The same for me," Damon said.
"Does Rosita live here?" Damon asked as she disappeared into the kitchen. "She was here late last night and again early this morning."
"It's not all that early," Bryce said, "but yes, she does. She has a kind of apartment on the other side of the kitchen."
"What's it like?"
"No idea. Back when I was, let's see, five I guess, I tried sneaking in there. She caught me, and tanned my hide properly," Bryce replied with a grin.
"And you're not too big for me to do just that again if I catch you violating my privacy, young Bryce," Rosita proclaimed from the doorway, where she appeared with fresh toast.
Damon laughed. "I'd like to see that."
"I wouldn't," Bryce said, rubbing his behind, as they all laughed.
Nan walked in. "What's so funny?"
Another day had begun.
Damon was informed that the entire family would be attending a Thanksgiving service at the local parish church at 11:00. About 10:30 Martha Winslow's parents arrived. Damon was introduced to Philip Ludlow Bryce and Anne Armistead Bryce, both in their seventies. He noted that Bryce's grandfather moved and spoke slowly, and remembered that he had been told that this grandfather had suffered more than one stroke. Both were open and friendly, however, so Damon had nothing to complain about in his reception. They all departed together for the church.
The parish church of St. Therese of Lisieux was a modern structure, easily twice as large as St. Boniface in Clifton. It was constructed of light tan colored brick, steel, and glass. Inside, there was a large vestibule or lobby, then the 'worship space.' The pews were of a light colored wood, arranged in a fan formation, with a broad center aisle and two side aisles. The aisles were carpeted. Behind the altar was a large stained glass window, which did not seem to be depicting anything in particular, but was merely a collage of colors. It seemed that the Winslows had their regular place - the fifth pew back on the left of the main aisle. All eight of them entered and knelt or sat, with Bryce on the aisle. Damon noted that Mr. Bryce, like him, did not kneel. Seeing him looking, Bryce whispered, "Grandpa's knees are bad." The service was unobjectionable, if not nearly as elaborate as that Bryce enjoyed at St. Boniface. The sermon, delivered by the pastor, Father Flannigan, was likewise fairly neutral, simply reminding his hearers to be thankful for their many blessings. He emphasized being thankful for the gift of faith. Looking around, Damon decided that this congregation was pretty well-heeled, so they probably did have a lot to be thankful for. Later he also noted that there were no old pick-ups in the parking lot.
Returning from church, the men of the family settled in for a little social interaction before the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Damon learned that Rosita went to a Spanish language Mass early in the morning, and had been slaving over their meal for several hours. Three generations went to help out with last minute preparations as Anne, Martha, and Nan left the men to their own devices. Once again, the talk was mostly about sports, but the men were seated in a lounge area with a huge plasma television showing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. That went on, with Chip continuing to be distant to Damon, until they were summoned to dinner.
There were nine at table in the impressive dining room. In addition to the family and Damon, Rosita joined them on this occasion. All the traditional fare was spread out on the large, dark wood table - turkey and ham, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans, stewed squash, fresh sliced tomatoes, spiced apples, and cornbread, all in great profusion. They were all served wine, so Damon was grateful for the instructions Bryce had given him. Sip, don't gulp. After the meal itself, pumpkin pie with ice cream was served with coffee. Everyone drifted back into the lounge after all the kids helped Rosita clear the table.
Late in the afternoon, while "Miracle on 34th Street" was on the television, Bryce's grandfather motioned for him to come over to where he was seated in a lounge chair. Bryce took a seat in a chair next to him. The old man spoke slowly, enunciating carefully.
"How you doing in school?"
"Great, Grandpa. I have A's in everything except karate, and I'm working on bringing that up," Bryce reported.
"Does your mother know you're taking karate?"
"I haven't told her."
Mr. Bryce chuckled. "I remember quite a knock-down-drag-out about that when you were thirteen."
Bryce grinned broadly.
"How's your friend doing?"
Bryce looked over at Damon. "Pretty well. He hasn't had my advantages, so it's harder for him, but he's doing pretty well in all his classes. He wants to be a lawyer."
"Like your father and brother?"
"No, not a corporate lawyer, a trial lawyer."
"Nice, polite boy," Grandpa said.
Dropping his voice a level, Mr. Bryce asked, "He your boyfriend?"
Bryce nearly choked. He began coughing, and there was panic in his eyes. His grandfather pounded his back. Several others looked over to see what the commotion was about.
"I think Bryce swallowed wrong," Mr. Bryce said, and everyone turned back to the television except Damon, who came over and took over the pounding until Bryce signaled for a stop.
He looked up at his grandfather, his eyes watering from the coughing. "How ...?"
Phil Bryce was quite pleased with the effect of his bombshell. He chuckled deeply. "Since my last stroke two years ago, I've had very little else to do except observe my fellow creatures," he explained. "My fellow creatures include my family. I was kind of expecting something like this for over a year, now."
Damon looked confused.
Bryce coughed again, then said to Damon, "He knows."
Grandpa put his hand on Damon's arm and squeezed. "Why don't you take Bryce out and get him a drink?"