|Far From Home|
Standard disclaimers apply here... If it illegal to read about homosexuals and any physical expression thereof, then go away (though there isn't any sex yet... so if that is what you are looking for, then it might be best to move on). This is my first time writing fiction, and I appreciate feedback.
from last time...
I left the kitchen and headed back upstairs to wake up Sam. On the way I ran into Seth.
His response was not to say hi, but to pull me into a bear hug. "Hey kiddo. I'm so sorry about what happened. Sam woke me up last night and told me all about it. Are you gonna be okay?"
He hadn't let go of me just yet. "Seth, I haven't really thought about it. I don't know."
"Well, if you need someone to talk to, let me know." He released me from the bear hug and patted me on the head. "I didn't have to go through the same thing when I told mom and dad, but I can be a sympathetic ear."
"You? You mean? You're...?"
"Oh come on now Charlie... you mean Sam never told you?"
I was absolutely dumbfounded. I couldn't speak. Seth?
At that moment, Sam appeared behind us. "Seth, you know it isn't my place to disclose such things... and from the looks of it, Charlie never quite put two and two together. Whooo! is that bacon I hear frying? Sure smells good! I'll see y'all at breakfast."
I still had the same look on my face. Absolute and utter amazement. Seth? Gay? How could he be... I mean... Seth?
"Come on... we had better follow Sam to the breakfast table or they will wonder where we are," said Seth.
Breakfast went by before I knew it. I don't think I actually said anything, and Sam's grandparents were giving me strange looks. I think they wanted to ask me how I was doing, but didn't want to bother me in case I was still to fragile.
I don't blame them really. I still didn't really want to talk about it.
"I thought it was supposed to snow like three feet or something. And you want to go out in this?"
"Well goofball, if you would actually leave this room, or perhaps open the blinds, you would actually see that there is only a dusting on the grass. The roads are still dry."
"Sam, I don't feel like--"
"Charlie, you know I love you, and don't take this the wrong way, but please shut the hell up. You've been sitting in this room since breakfast doing what? Moping around feeling sorry for yourself. I don't know how you stand it! I mean, the green walls would scare me out of this room in a heartbeat!"
"Sam, I know what you are trying to do--"
"Good, then you know that I'm going to win too." Damnit. She was right. Some people envy the relationship that Sam and I have. Sometimes it is a monumental pain in the ass.
"Now come on. Get in the shower, get your clothes on, and get your ass in gear. The weather man said that the snow is really supposed to fall after midnight, but I don't want to chance that he's wrong again!"
"Remind me again why we are going to Nashville..." I whined.
"Easy. It is December 22nd. Christmas is in three days. I think you need a nice afternoon of shopping to cheer you up. And if I can get you out of the house today, then I should be able to get you out of your room tomorrow. Baby steps and all..."
"Charlie I'm not taking 'NO' for an answer. You're--"
This time it was my turn to interrupt. "Going to Nashville--Yes I know. Now I would like to take my PJs off so I can jump in the shower. I think you've already seen me naked once in the last 24 hours, and I'd care to not repeat the experience."
"Fine! Okay! all right!" She turned and started walking towards the door. HA! I had gotten the last word in! I'd have to write this one down.
But no. She turned around and squinted at me... "But Charlie baby," she said seductively, "you would look soooo gooood without those pajamas..."
I grabbed the closest thing I could--my pillow and hurled it towards her but she'd already gotten out the door. I could hear her cackling in the hall.
Damnit, how does she do that?!?
We were in the car an hour later, after hearing a strong lecture from Sam's grandparents about driving safely in "THE big city." Sam had to remind them that she lived in Atlanta, and more importantly, drove in Atlanta.
Jones Valley is about an hour and a half away from the mall we were going to in Nashville. I let Sam do the driving since she seemed to be more comfortable with the Nashville area... plus, the thought of driving a Suburban kind of scared me. Those things are damn big.
We arrived at "The Mall at Green Hills" just a touch behind schedule, but we still had several good shopping hours left.
Sam was right, of course... Getting me out of the house to do something was a good idea. I bought a few things for myself and some stuff for Sam's parents. Sam's grandparents would get two new Boyds Bears to add to their teddy bear collection that was proudly displayed in the den.
After a brief stop at the gift-wrapping counter, we took a break at the Chick-Fil-A for a late lunch.
"Charlie, tell me how you are doing."
I could tell from her tone that she wanted an answer more substantial than "OK." My mood immediately dropped. "Um... fine I guess, given the circumstances."
"That's not what I mean. Charlie, you've been away at school for a year and a half. I was at my internship in Atlanta the summer after our freshman year. I've seen you here and there, but we haven't sat down and talked in a long time."
"I'm not sure what you mean." I mumbled. I think I knew what was coming.
"Charlie, do you remember that night on the roof of the hotel?" As if I could forget that! "Well, what have you done since then? I mean really done. What do you do?"
"Sam, I don't think I follow where you're going." I could actually finish a sentence--she wasn't interrupting me. This was serious.
"Charlie, you really haven't moved beyond that night at the hotel. You tell me that you are lonely at school because you don't know anyone. But at the same time I know what you're doing... I know that you are scared to go out and meet people. I know you sit in your room and stir in your own juices."
"Sam I just don't fit in there." I started to get teary-eyed. "Sometimes..." I faded off.
"Sometimes What?" she inquired.
"It is just easier to... I mean..." God... why was she doing this? "It's too hard." This couldn't go on much longer... I was really beginning to get emotional, and we were in a food court, in a shopping mall, three days before Christmas.
"It's easier to sit around and do nothing." There she goes again, hitting the nail on the head.
"Charlie, we've been through this. You sit around your room stewing because you don't think you have anything to offer people. You don't think you're attractive enough, or funny enough, or smart enough. So, in your mind, why should anyone be around you? You're not worth it!"
It is at this point that we move from 'hitting the nail on the head' to 'beating the nail to death with a sledgehammer.' The on-going tale of Me and my self-esteem, or lack thereof.
I just sat there. My waffle fries were getting cold. I had lost my appetite. Neither one of us said anything for a while.
"Charlie, you konw that's just not true. I don't know how many times I've told you this, but you are a beautiful person. You are one of the most special people I know, and anyone who can't see that can go to hell, including your parents."
Right at that moment, Sam's cell phone rang. Saved by the bell.
"Hello?" she answered. "No, were done shopping.... Yeah.... Oh really? OK.... all right.... Memphis? OK.... We'll hop by the gas station and get on the road then.... OK mom, I love you too... Bye."
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Well, they've changed the forecast again. It looks like we're going to get ice before the snow. It just started sleeting in Memphis according to the Weather Channel. We've got 2 hours tops to get home" she said.
Sam got up from her chair and walked behind me. She gave me a hug and tousled my hair, "I love ya Chuckie. Let's get out of here kid."
We were heading up the driveway to the house when the first pellets of sleet started bouncing off the windshield. We were greeted by Sam's mom and grandma who helped us carry in our presents.
Dinner came and went, and the sleet changed to freezing rain shortly after. I went to bed hearing the patter of raindrops on the rooftop.
I woke up the next morning at 10:30. Apparently someone had forgotten to wake up up. I left my room and headed downstairs. Sam's grandma was cleaning up in the kitchen.
"Oh, there you are Charlie. Sam told us to let you sleep in. Apparently you had a tiring day of shopping yesterday. There are some biscuits and ham keeping warm in the stove if you want."
"Thank you ma'am. Where is everyone?
"Well John and Stella are in the living room putting the finishing touches on the tree," It was weird to hear someone refer to Sam's parents by their first names. It was always "Mr. and Momma Tillman" to me. "Seth is up in his room doing some work on his laptop, and Sam is out tending to the horses in the stable."
I grabbed a few biscuits and went back upstairs to get ready. Seth's door was ajar, so I stuck my head in. He was sitting on his bed hard at work on his laptop.
"Hey Seth," I said sheepishly.
"Charlie my man, it is nice that you have finally gotten out of bed!"
It was then that I noticed his room. The orange room.
"Ugh! I thought I had it bad sleeping in the green room. This is absolutely, positively the most hideous thing I have ever seen."
"Yeah, you've got it easy in the green room. If you want to see something truly sick, stop by early in the morning. At about eight o'clock the sun shines directly in those two windows. It is truly frightening."
"Um... I don't want to sound rude, but do your grandparents know--"
"Know how revolting these rooms are?" Apparently Sam isn't the only one to cut you off mid-sentence... it ran in the family. He pondered for a minute. "Yeah, I am pretty sure they know. Sam and I have the theory that they did it on purpose."
"Why would anyone want to inflict this upon anyone?"
"Here is what we think... If they make the rooms hideous enough, then you'll be less likely to want to spend time in them. If you don't spend time in your bedroom you'll probably be in the family room with the family... which is where you are supposed to be. You see... it is a diabolical plan to get you to bond with your family."
"Oh... I guess that kind of makes sense in a twisted sort of way." I paused... trying to process it all. "So if it is so hideous, why are you here and not down in the family room?"
"Mom and Dad were watching TV this morning so the family room was out, and I couldn't work in the kitchen because Grandma was being too chatty. I would have taken residence on the covered back porch, but I would have stared at the snow all day. I love the snow--we don't see much of it in Southern California.
"So I decided to brave the aesthetic nightmare of the orange room in the name of getting work done. I've got to get this proposal emailed off by this afternoon," he said.
"Then sir, I shall leave you to get your work done. I have catch a shower anyway"
"Very well then... I think Sam and I are going to go out and explore some old horse trails later. Would you like to come along?"
"Yeah, I guess so," I said noncommittally.
"Well, if so, then meet us at the stables at 2:00."
I headed off to the bathroom and prepared for my shower. I looked at myself in the mirror. "Dear God," I muttered. These last few days had apparently taken their toll. I can safely say that I looked like death warmed over.
I spent a long time in the shower, and was only motivated to get out when the water started running luke warm. I shaved and fixed my hair and took another look in the mirror. "Better, but not great," I thought to myself.
I headed back downstairs after getting dressed. It was at this point that I finally looked outside. Anything that could stand still was covered in ice and the ground had about 2 inches of snow on it.
"It's really quite nice, isn't it?" I turned behind to see Sam's dad. I was kind of unsure what to do. Sam's dad had always been nice to me, but never overly talkative. He was the most laid back person I know, and he never initiated a conversation.
"Yeah, the winter is my favorite season."
"Sam is out in the stable if you want to go see her. She is tending to the horses. Could you run out there and let her know that we'll be sitting down for dinner in bit?"
I had to get used to certain things in this house. Where I'm from, the meal you ate near noon was "lunch" and the meal that you ate in the evening was "dinner." Here though, "dinner" took place at noon and "supper" was in the evening.
I don't know why I think about things like that... kind of like how people at my school from Ohio called every soft drink a "pop." Irritated the hell out of me.
"Thanks Mr. T, I'll run out and tell her." I said.
I got on my down parka and walked out the front door. It was pretty cold, but not much compared to a winter in Pennsylvania. The stables were about a five minute walk from the house, though it took a bit longer because of the snow-covered ground.
I made it to the stables, slipping and falling on my butt only once. I could hear--and smell--the horses inside. I popped my head in the door. "Sam?" I called out.
"Yeah Charlie, come on in! The stables are heated so it's a lot warmer inside."
I walked in and saw Sam tending to one of the three horses in the stables--a beautiful black animal. "Charlie, meet Sasha. She's an Arabian, and quite fiesty."
"And who would our other friends be?" I asked.
"Well, next to Sasha is Ferdinand. He's a Spanish Barb, and the one at the end of the row is Bob. He's a Hanoverian."
"Bob?" I laughed. "They get snazzy names like Sasha and Ferdinand and he gets Bob? Plain old Bob?"
Sam chuckled along with me. "Bob is one of the gentle horses that grandpa has ever owned. Once you get to know him, you'll see that the name 'Bob' fits him better than any other."
"Your dad wanted me to fetch you for lunch, or dinner, or whatever they call it down here. We had better get going."
"Yeah, we had better not keep them waiting, or we'll have to find lunch ourselves."
We headed back to the house sat down for lunch. I really loved getting home cooked meals. UPENN campus food had nothing on Sam's Grandma. That's not saying much though... Give me a packet of Pastaroni, some water, and a microwave and UPENN campus food wouldn't have much on me either.
The snow was still falling after lunch and it looked like it had no signs of letting up. I grabbed a book and headed out to the enclosed back porch. I must have gotten engrossed in what I was reading, because the chirp of my watch told me it was two o'clock. "I'm supposed to meet Sam and Seth at the stables," I said to myself.
Yes... I talk to myself. All the time.
I leapt out of the chair I was sitting on and almost mowed Grandma Tillman down as I ran through the kitchen. "Sorry ma'am. Have you seen Seth and Sam?" I asked.
"Seth left a few minutes ago, but I haven't seen Sam since lunch."
I grabbed my coat, hat, and mittens and headed out the door. A few minutes later I arrived at the stables. I again peeked my head through the door. I didn't see anyone. I walked inside--still no one. "Hello?" I called out.
Just then, Seth's head popped out of Bob's stable. "Come on down here Charlie. I'm just saying hi to Bob."
I walked to the end of the row of stables. This place was absolutely huge. From what Sam told me, there were two identical buildings elsewhere on the property.
"Are you ready to?" Seth asked. "There are a lot of cool places to see on Grandpa's land."
"Isn't Sam coming along?" I inquired, not looking too sure of myself. I don't know why, but I've always been kind of nervous whenever I've been around Seth. He's never been anything but nice to me, and he was a great guy, but still...
"Oh, she was going to, but she took a nap after lunch. I woke her up and she said she was too tired to go. She was out here for three hours this morning feeding and grooming the horses."
"Oh..." I said.
"Come on, let's go!" Seth said, perhaps a bit too excitedly.
"Um... uh... yeah. Let's go."
A cliffhanger? Not quite. Though many have asked what will become of Seth and Charlie... Some of you know... some of you don't. You'll just have to wait until the next chapter comes out!
Sorry it took so long to get this one out, but things have been absolutely freakin' crazy at work. Things have calmed down for now, so I was finally able to crank this one out.
I really appreciate the kind email that everyone has sent me. I'm glad that folks are enjoying the story...