Far From Home

Authors Note: Standard disclaimers apply here... If it illegal for you to read about homosexuals and any expression thereof, then go away. This is my first time writing fiction, and I appreciate feedback.

I have managed to put together a website for the story. Check it out at http://www.crosswinds.net/~charlatan. I hope you like it. Let me know what you think... I enjoy getting email.


from last time...

"Take all the time you need," she said, closing the French doors behind her. I laid down on the floor in the middle of the room and closed my eyes. The house smelled new... the scent of hardwood and fresh paint lingered throughout.

I imagined waking up on a Sunday morning and seeing Ryan standing at the windows. Light poured through them and illuminated the entire room. There was snow on the ground, and Ryan had a blanket wrapped around him. I walked up to him and rested my chin on his shoulder.

"Watcha doin’?" I asked.

"Watching the sunrise," he explained. I took the blanket from him and wrapped it around both of us as we stood there, watching a new day begin.

The image faded from view. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. After dialing a number I heard a familiar voice pick up on the other end.

"Ryan, I think I’ve found our house."

Chapter 13

"When is her plane getting in again?" Ryan asked, getting a little agitated. He'd been nervous all week.

"Calm down, we've got time," I said, staring at the flight arrival boards. It was seven days until the wedding and my mom was flying down early. "See, her plane arrives in five minutes. We've got time."

"But it's all the way in concourse D!"

I turned around and grabbed his shoulders. "Ryan, one word: decaf. Take a Quaalude. So what if we miss her at the gate? It's not like she has another ride." It was odd to see him so worked up. I figured that if anyone would be spazzing out right now it would be me. He looked like he'd jump out of his skin if you spooked him.

"Honey? Just relax." I gave him a hug and felt some of the tension leave his body. "Come on now, let's hop the train to her gate."

Mom's plane hadn't even pulled up to the gate when we got there, proving Ryan's stress was unfounded. I'd been so busy at work that he'd taken on the lion's share of planning our wedding. I felt a bit guilty about it, but he insisted that I focus on work. Mom was going to fix all that though. She agreed to take over all the planning as soon as she got here. I was sure that Ryan would be more than happy to hand over all of that responsibility.

Her plane finally taxied up to the concourse, and a few minutes later a stream of passengers started flowing through the jetway. Everyone had a sour look on their faces, and when mom finally appeared, she looked… green.

"Mom, are you okay?"

"I'm not sure if I just flew on an airplane or a cocktail shaker," she said. "The plane bounced up and down for most of the trip."

We walked very slowly back to the train that took us to the terminal. Mom looked absolutely awful and she said she felt worse. After picking up her bags I asked Ryan to go get the car.

"Mom, I am so glad you're here," I said as soon as Ryan was out of sight. "He's going nuts. He's worked himself into a frenzy over all this."

"It's not a problem. I just hope I can recover from that flight so I help out."

We waited on the sidewalk until Ryan pulled up in his car. I popped the trunk and put mom's bags in the trunk. She went to bed as soon as we got back to my house. She and Ryan spent most of Sunday so he could bring her up to speed on all the wedding plans. Ryan had kept very detailed notes, and she caught on pretty fast. So I was a little surprised when she called me at work Monday morning.

"Charlie, you know I love my future son-in-law, but if you don't do something about him, I'm gonna kill him."

"Oh God. What's wrong?"

"He won't get out from underfoot. I'm trying to make phone calls to the caterer and the bakery and he keeps interrupting me, making sure I get everything right. Charlie, it's only ten o'clock and he's already had a full pot of coffee. I finally convinced him to go get me some breakfast so I could have a few minutes of peace and quiet."

"Oh dear. I'll be there as soon as I can. If I have to, I'll bring him back to work and chain him to my desk."

"I'd be eternally grateful," she said.

"See you in a while."

I got up from my desk and headed to Dennis' office. Since I'd accepted the promotion, I'd begun reporting directly to him. Julie waved me into his office, and when I walked in he was on the phone. "What do you mean? Jesus Christ! We'll talk about this later!" he said, slamming the phone back into its cradle. He looked up at me and smiled. "Charlie, what can I do for you?"

"Um… did I come at a bad time? I can always come back—"

"No, not at all. I've always got time for you. What do you need?"

"Well… I've got a wedding-related emergency. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind if I took some time off today?"

"What's going on?" he asked.

"My mom flew down her Saturday to take over the planning for the wedding, and Ryan's having a problem letting go. I fear that I may not have a fiancée if I don't get him out of the house."

Dennis chuckled. "I understand. How are things going with the Chicago project?"

"Everything's good on my end," I said. "I'm waiting on a call back from a few vendors."

"Well, you just got yourself a two month extension. That was the contractor on the phone—they've delayed our move in until August."

"Oh shit. You've got to be joking me!"

"Nope. When you get back tomorrow I need you to call them up and get all the details—and I want concessions. You need to make them understand how much this delay is going to cost us, and you need to make them understand that they're going to be paying most of that bill."

"Consider it done," I said.

"Good, no go rescue your fiancée before your mom kills him."

When I got home, I found Mom sitting in the office looking extremely frustrated. Ryan seemed surprised to see me.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I'm saving you from certain death. Now go upstairs and get a shower because I'm getting you out of here." He started to protest, but I cut him off. "Ryan, go."

Looking absolutely defeated, he trudged out of the room. I turned back to Mom, "How're you doing?"

"Well, I only managed to get in touch with the caterer. They said they need to substitute the steamed asparagus with something else. Apparently there's a run on good asparagus this year—something about a flood somewhere or other. I'm still waiting for the bakery to return my call."

"That's fine. I don't like asparagus anyway."

"Charlie, you need to find out what's bugging him. I think it's more than just stress from dealing with the wedding plans."

I thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, you're right. I think I'm gonna take him to the park and see if I can get it out of him. Can you call the sushi place and put in a take out order for me?"

"Sure, what's the number?"

"It's on the fridge. Ask for Kim, give her my name, and tell her I want the usual. She'll know what to do. I'm gonna go upstairs to check on Ryan."

Fifteen minutes later I was dragging him out to my car. "Where are we going," he asked.

"I'm stopping by the sushi place to get some takeout and then we're going to have lunch in Piedmont Park," I said. Ryan was fidgeting as he sat in the passenger seat. "Honey, like I said, you really need to switch to decaf."

We hunted for a space to sit in the park. It was always fairly crowded at lunchtime, and if you weren't careful you'd get mowed down by a speeding roller blader. It was an absolutely beautiful day though. March is one of the best months to be living in Atlanta. It was sunny and cool with a strong breeze, and the perfect temperature for jeans and a sweater.

I spread our blanket out in under an old tree. "Here you go. Asparagus and cucumber roll for you, and California roll for me." Ryan looked like his mind was elsewhere, but I decided not to bring it up until we were done eating.

"Ryan, what's bothering you?" I asked gently.

He let out a sigh. "It's nothing… it's stupid."

"Ryan, nothing you have to say is stupid."

"It's… well…" his voice trailed off. "It's a lot of things. There's just a whole lot going on right now and I’m having trouble taking it all in.

"I mean… It's almost like I'm still in college. I live in the same place, with the same roommate, with the same relationship, and working just a few miles from my old school. And now I'm getting married, moving to a city I've only visited twice, buying a house, having to find a new job… I'm not sorry that any of these things are happening, but I just wish they weren't all happening at the same time."

I scooted over so I could sit behind him and laid him down with his head in my lap. "I'm just so stressed out… so tired."

"Ryan, I'm sorry I haven't been around a lot lately," I said, running my fingers through his hair. "I shouldn't have let you handle the wedding plans all by yourself. I should have seen this coming."

He looked up at me and smiled. "Charlie, don't 'should' all over yourself."

"No, I mean it. I feel bad about—"

"Charlie, we've talked about this. You've been too busy at work to worry about the wedding," he said.

"But still…"

"I know," he said just before yawning.

"It looks like you're crashing from your caffeine high. Why don't you try to get some rest?"

Ryan closed his eyes and was asleep in minutes. I looked up and saw a group of people enter the park not too far from us. They were all carrying sketchpads and started to spread themselves around the park. A few minutes later I saw a young girl approaching us.

"Excuse me," she said.

I put my finger to my lips, signaling her to be quiet. "He's sleeping," I whispered.

"Are you two going to be here for a little while?" she asked.

"He just went to sleep, so we should be."

"My art teacher sent us out here to draw. Would you mind being my subjects?"

"Only if you let me see it when you're done," I said.

She nodded and took a seat about ten feet away from us. The young woman sat in her spot and drew for almost forty-five minutes, stopping occasionally to erase her mistakes. I spent most of the time watching Ryan sleep. It was something that I really enjoyed, and something that I hadn't done in a while. When she was finished, she got up and walked back over to us.

"Let's see it," I whispered.

"It's not that good."

"Don't sell yourself short," I said. She shrugged her shoulders and put her sketchbook on the ground for my inspection. I'm not sure what she was worried about, because her work was amazing. It was done in pencil, and the detail was absolutely stunning. She'd captured a moment where I was staring out at the park and running my fingers through Ryan's hair as he slept.

"You never told me your name."


"Samantha? That's a good name," I said. "Samantha, this is absolutely beautiful. You're very talented. Might you consider selling this to me?"

Her eyes nearly popped out of her head. "Really? You like it that much?"

"I do." I managed to get my wallet out of my back pocket, doing my best not to wake Ryan. "Here's my card. Give me a call tomorrow at work and we'll talk about it, okay? I really need to get it soon."

"You're serious?" she asked, taking my card. I nodded. "Oh wow! I'll get my art teacher to grade it today!"

"Talk to you tomorrow Samantha."

She smiled and ran off to join her classmates who were gathering at the park entrance. Ryan woke up about half an hour later. "Hey sweetie, you feeling better?"

"Yeah. Anything happen while I was out?"

"Nope. Things were pretty quiet."

Samantha called me at work the next afternoon. I took down her address and made sure her parents would be there when I stopped by on my way to meet Sam for dinner. It was almost seven o'clock by the time I pulled up to her house.

"Is Samantha in?" I asked of the man who answered the door.

"You must be Mr. Ashby. I'm Rich Davis, Samantha's father. Come on in!"

"Nice to meet you," I said.

He led me into the kitchen where Samantha was chopping vegetables. "Hey Mr. Ashby," she said. "Let me run upstairs and get the picture." She took off her apron and dashed out of the room.

"You have a very talented daughter Mr. Davis."

"I couldn't believe it when she told me you wanted to buy her drawing. Samantha has always enjoyed art, but she doesn't think she's any good at it."

"Well, if what I saw today was representative of her work, she should definitely pursue it as a career."

"Here it is," said Samantha, running back into the kitchen. "My teacher gave me a picture tube to put it in so it wouldn’t get messed up."

I pulled out the drawing and looked at it again, still amazed by how she had captured such a special moment. "How much do you want for it?" I asked.

"Um… I don't know. I've never sold anything before."

"How does five hundred dollars sound?"

Samantha's eyes once again nearly popped out of her head. "Five… Five hun…?"

"Mr. Ashby, I can't let you pay—" started Samantha's father.

"Nonsense. She's created something very beautiful… majestic even. I don't have a problem paying for that."

Samantha was still shocked beyond belief. "Five hundred…."

"Are you sure?" asked her father.

I pulled out my chequebook and started writing. "Absolutely."

"Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!" she exclaimed when I handed her the cheque.

"Well, if you're sure," he said. "Would you like to join us for dinner? It's the least we can do."

"I would love to," I said, "but I'm actually meeting my roommate for dinner in Buckhead. I need to get going."

"Let us show you out."

Samantha followed her father and I to the door, holding onto her cheque all the way.

"Thank you again," I told her.

"I had good subjects to work with," she said.

Traffic to Buckhead was tortuously slow. I looked at my watch as I pulled into the parking lot and noticed I was about fifteen minutes late. Sam was already seated when I found her.

"About time you got here!" she said.

"Sorry, I had to go pick up Ryan's wedding present before I came."

"Really? What did you get him?"

I handed her the picture tube. "Go ahead, take it out." Sam opened the tube and carefully unrolled the drawing. "We were at the park yesterday and an art student drew it while he was asleep on my lap. She nearly had a coronary when I told her I'd give her five hundred bucks for it."

"It's worth that and more," she commented as she carefully replaced the drawing in is protective housing. "So when do you close on the house?"

"Three weeks from Saturday. I'm moving up there as soon as we get back from our honeymoon and staying in a hotel. Ryan's coming up the day before we close, and the movers arrive the following week."

"Hey, have you told him where y'all are going for your honeymoon yet?"

"Nope. He's dying to know, but I think I’ve kept it a secret. I think it's very cool that you're parents are sending us to Barbados. We're actually doing really well in terms of wedding presents. Mom is picking up the tab for the wedding and his parents are helping us with the down payment on the house."

"Kick ass!" she exclaimed. "But, you still don't know what he's getting you. You're so going to love it!"

"He told you? Come on… what is it?" I begged.

"Nope, you're gonna have to wait."

Sam and I were in the den watching TV when Ryan and Mom got home. As soon as he came in I could tell that something was different about him. He seemed much more at ease than I’d seen him in recent weeks.

"We were wondering where you two had gone. The house was empty when we got home from dinner." I said.

"Well, I took my future son-in-law out to dinner to celebrate the good news!"

"Oh? What's the occasion?" I asked.

"Well," he said, plopping down on the couch next to me, "not only am I about to marry the sweetest guy on the planet, but I might have a job in Chicago! Since your mom all but forbade me to stay here today, I went into work today to take care of a few things, and Mr. Baker called me into his office. He told me that he spoke to a colleague that owns a firm in Chicago, and they have a position open that's right up my alley! So Mr. Baker said he had someone in mind and told him all about me."

"Congratulations!" said both Sam and I.

"I'm going up there after our honeymoon for an interview, but from what my boss says, it's just a formality."

I leaned in close to Ryan and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "See, I told you not to worry about it," I whispered. "It's all gonna work out fine."

"Charles and Ryan have written their own vows, and they will share you with them now," said the Minister. "Charles?"

I turned and looked Ryan in the eyes. Since he'd gotten the good news about his job, his worries had all but evaporated. This was the Ryan I knew, and the Ryan I fell in love with. That smile was back—the one that outshone the sun.

While I was digging through the pockets of my tuxedo I took a second to look at the assembled crowd. There weren't a lot of people, only about fifty, but we easily filled up the back yard of our house. The reception was being held in Mrs. Gurtig's back yard just next door. I pulled out my notes and started to address the crowd.

"You know how you can pass a stranger on the street and something about them intrigues you? It could be the spring in their step, their confident demeanor, or even the clothes they are wearing. But whatever it is, you find yourself thinking about them for the rest of the day…

"I was first introduced to Ryan at a party that my roommates threw for me when I first moved to Atlanta. As soon as I met him I knew he was special. But it wasn't the spring in his step or the clothes he was wearing that caught me. It was his bashful but disarming smile and the sparkle in his eyes. I knew right then that he was one of a kind.

"The next day I tracked him down to the coffeehouse a few blocks over in the hope of faking a chance encounter. I was about to cross the street when I noticed him sitting in the window. I froze. There he was in a big chair with his feet propped up. He was reading a book and sipping on a cappuccino.

"It took me fifteen minutes to get up the nerve to actually cross that street and go inside, and to this day I can't tell you what we talked about. I was too nervous and scared to pay attention—that and I was lost in his eyes.

"A few days after our first date I found myself out on the porch of my office building talking to my friend Sue—there she is, in the fourth row wearing the yellow dress. She was pumping me for information about my first date and I remember telling her that Ryan was 'the most genuine, kind, and beautiful creature I'd ever laid my eyes on.' True to form Sue responded by saying, 'Charlie, you're talking about a guy, not a manatee!'"

I paused for a moment while the crowd laughed at Sue's joke. I looked over at her and her husband and gave her a wink. "But she did give me some good advice that day. She told me that if you're with the right person, you'll know. Plain and simple. You'll know."

I turned back to Ryan. "You've always been there for me when I've needed you, and I hope I've done the same for you. I love you with all of my heart—I'm not even sure you know what a profound effect you have on me. I can be having a bad day at work, and five minutes on the phone with you makes the whole day better. Ryan, I love you, and I promise to love and cherish you until our final days. I don't know what else I can possibly say…"

I looked out in the crowd and noticed that my eyes weren't the only ones watering. Both my mom and Ryan's mom were dabbing their eyes with a tissue.

"Ryan?" prompted the minister.

"Wow," he said. "What can I say to follow that?" There was a slight chuckle from the crowd.

"My reaction to meeting Charlie was almost the same as his was to meeting me. I remember the entire thing in slow motion, and I was so nervous, that the only thing I could say was 'Hey.'

"Charlie teases me sometimes about being sappy, but I know that he knows he's just as big a sap as I am. So, in the interests of maintaining my 'sappiness' I went in search of a definition for true love. I consulted dictionaries, encyclopedias, works of literature… heck, I even watched The Princess Bride four or five times. But nothing I found accurately described the feeling that I have for this man.

"Then I realized that something: real love can't be measured. Love is at its best when you can't even find the words to describe it." He turned to me, and his grip on my hands tightened. "So Charlie, as sappy or cliché as it sounds, I love you more than words can say. And I always will."

Our mothers weren't even trying to hide the fact that they were crying now. It wasn't a scene like you'd see in a movie though—they weren't wailing hysterically. They were both smiling as they returned my gaze.

"I've been meeting with Ryan and Charles for a while now, and even though this state doesn't recognize this marriage, they both insisted on a traditional ceremony.

"In my thirty years as a Unitarian minister, I've performed my fair share of weddings. Some of them haven't lasted, but most of them have. The ones that have stood the test of time were based on true love. As Ryan said, true love can't be measured, and as Charlie said, when you've got it, you know. From my experience with both of these gentlemen, I can see that they’ve got it.

"Do you, Ryan Hartford Kirkpatrick, take Charles Ezra Ashby to be your husband?"

"I do," he said.

"And do you, Charles Ezra Ashby, take Ryan Hartford Kirkpatrick to be your husband?"

"I do."

"May I have the rings please?" Our ring bearer, Ryan's eight-year-old cousin, stepped forward and presented the rings to the minister. "The ring has long been a symbol of marriage because, much like true love, it has no beginning or end.

"Charles, take this ring and place it on Ryan's finger. Now repeat after me: With this ring, I thee wed."

"With this ring, I thee wed."

"Ryan, take this ring and place it on Charles' finger. Now repeat after me: With this ring, I thee wed."

"With this ring, I thee wed."

"May you always cherish the love you feel for one another. I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss."

And we did.

"Ladies and gentleman, I present our newest couple, Ryan Kirkpatrick and Charles Ashby."

Again no cliffhanger this time! Are ya happy??

Okay, for everyone who sent me an email about the last chapter, I AGAIN apologize for taking so long to get back to you! Thanks again for everyone's kind emails. I'm glad that you are enjoying the story. Keep it coming though, I love getting encouraging email.