|Far From Home|
Authors Note: 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.
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...
"I'll get it. It's probably just Mrs. Gurtig from next door checking to see if we're all right. Don't worry, I wont' let her in if she has her hedge trimmers with her." I untangled myself from Ryan, picked up a candle and walked around the corner to the front door.
I opened the door not to find a mad man with pruning shears, but a woman. Her raincoat had been soaked through and the curls of her wet hair hung limply about her face. I stood there regarding this ghostly figure while the candle flickered. I couldn't speak.
"Charlie?" I heard Ryan call from the den. He trotted up behind me, wrapping his hands around my waist and resting his head on my shoulder. I stiffened at his embrace.
"Charlie, what's wrong? Who is this?"
"Ryan," I said gravely. "This is Laura, my mother."
"Charlie?" I heard Sam call from the living room. I stared at the woman on the porch, my eyes boring into hers. She glanced over at Ryan who still had his arms wrapped around me before averting her eyes to the ground.
"Charlie?" I heard Sam call, her voice growing nearer. "Who's at the.... oh shit." I continued staring at the woman on the porch. No one said anything. I turned around and started walking up the stairs, Ryan following close behind.
"I'd really rather be alone right now," I said, perhaps a bit too harshly. Ryan put his hand on my shoulder and then turned back. I walked up to my room and curled up on my bed, clutching my pillow for dear life. The power had come back on at some point, as my clock blinked "12:00."
There was a knock at the door a short while later. Ryan peeked his head in. "Charlie? You okay? You've been up here for about an hour." When I didn't respond he crawled into bed next to meholding on to me to let me know he was there. "Charlie, you there?"
"Yeah," I whispered. We didn't speak for another fifteen minutes.
"Do you want to go downstairs?"
"No, I want her to leave. I want her gone."
"Charlie, you might want to listen to what she has to say."
"WHAT?" I yelled. I leapt off the bed and backed myself against the wall. "What is this? Are you on her side now?"
"Charlie, she's downstairs. You can't stay up here forever. You need to face this."
"Jesus Christ! Were you even listening when I told you what she did to me?" I was still yelling.
"Your dad is the one who kicked you out."
"While she sat there and did nothing! That makes her just as guiltyworse in a way! And here you are, defending her!"
"God damnit Charlie! Don't do this to me!" It was his turn to yell now, and I was a little shocked because it was the first time I'd ever heard him raise his voice. He walked over to me and grabbed my shoulders. "Don't do this to me. Don't shut me out! I love you too much for that!"
"Dumbfounded" was perhaps the best word to describe me at that moment. It was the first time either of us had used the "L" word. His eyes started to tear up as he wrapped his arms around me in a strong hug.
And somehow, that made it all better. I started to cry as well, returning his embrace. "I love you too," I whispered. He backed up, a panicked look crossed his face.
"Oh, Charlie, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to" I cut him off by pulling him back into our hug.
"Sshhhh.... It's okay. No apology necessary. I knew what you were trying to do." He started to chuckle slightlylaughter through tears.
"I thought I was supposed to be the one comforting you, not the other way around." I kissed him and was rewarded with a smile. "So what do you want to do? Do you want me to tell her to leave?"
"No, I'll go down therejust not yet. I need a little time to build up to it." I walked over to the mirror at my dresser. I was a bit disturbed at what I saw. My eyes were a bit sunken in, and you can tell that I had been crying. My hair looked more than a bit disheveled. "God, I look like shit."
Ryan came up behind me, kissing me on the neck. "Charlie, you'll always be beautiful to me."
"What did I ever do to deserve you?" I asked.
"You were you."
"I love you," I whispered.
"I love you too."
I felt myself getting a little emotional again, but I managed to hold it back. "Go on downstairs and tell them I'll be down in a little while. I'm going to take a shower firstI need to wake up a bit."
"I'll be waiting for you when you get out."
I grabbed a pair of boxers and a shirt and headed to the bathroom. After a cool shower, I almost felt human again. As promised, Ryan was waiting for me in my room when I returned. "Feeling better?"
"A bit," I said as I pulled on a pair of shorts. "Ryan, why is she herenow?"
"Charlie, I don't know why she is here, but I do know a little bit of what she needs to say."
"Nope. She needs to tell you. It won't mean anything coming from me." I considered his logic for a moment.
"Fair enough. I guess there's no time like the present?" When we got downstairs I saw Mom sitting in the recliner in the Den. Sam, Stacey, and Darren came over to hug me.
"Hear her out," whispered Sam. "We'll be upstairs." I looked at Ryan, silently asking him to come with me. He nodded, took my hand, and led us to the couch across from my mother. She was staring at her feet.
"Well, you came all this way...."
"Charlie," she began. "You have every reason in the world to hate me."
"Yes. I do."
"I don't really know where to start..."
"I think the night I was kicked out of my own house might be as good a place as any." I was being very short with her. I had every right to be.
"Well, that night I stayed up because I was very worried about you. I wasn't looking to get into an argument... And when you came home, I overreacted... and then we started screaming at each other.... and then...."
"I told you I was gay."
"Yes." I could tell she was very nervous. She kept fidgeting with the buttons of her raincoat. "Well, when you told me, I was so shocked that I couldn't really say anything... I was speechless... there were so many thoughts running around in my head...." She began to tremble slightly.
"I stood there frozen.... and then your father came downstairs.... The look on his face terrified me. I don't really remember what happened after that. I didn't eat or sleep for days... and then it hit me. You were gone. Your dad had kicked you out and I didn't do anything to stop him. I didn't even realize it was happening."
She was full on crying at this point. Ryan squeezed my hand to let me know he was still there. I sat there, stone faced as my mother continued. "When I put the pieces together I couldn't believe it had happened. And the shame I felt.... I so wanted to find you but I didn't know what to do. Every time I mentioned your name, your father would leave the room... or start yelling... and I just sat there and let it happen. I was such a coward.
"After that my fear of confronting you began to overweigh... everything. I felt so utterly ashamed... Charlie I'm so sorry...." She finally broke down, her body wracked with powerful sobs. I sat there on the couch trying to be as stoic as possible, but I was beginning to feel... something... watching her in this state. After several minutes she began to calm down.
"Ryan, would you mind leaving us alone for a bit?" He gave me a very concerned and uncertain look. I squeezed his hand, "I'll be okay, I promise." He gave me a kiss on the forehead before heading upstairs.
"He loves you, ya know," said my mom, a faint smile on her face.
"How would you know?" I shot back at her.
"I'm not blind Charlie. I can see it in his eyes." She paused and then looked up at me. "Do you love him?"
"Yes." I took a moment to revel in good thoughts of Ryan before the reality of the situation came back to me.
"Mom, why are you here?" She got a puzzled look on her face. "Why here, why now?"
She looked at me for a second before she began crying again. "Charlie, your dad is in the hospital. He's dying."
I opened the door to Sam's room to find everyone sitting on the floor, except for Ryan who was pacing back and forth. As soon as he saw me, he rushed over, almost tackling me. "Are you okay?"
"I guess... considering the circumstances."
"What happened? What did she say?" asked Sam.
"Well, how much did she tell you?" I asked as I sat down on the bed with Ryan.
"She just told us that she wanted to say she was sorry. That's all we could get out of her."
"She told me that she was shocked by the news and that I was gone before she realized what had happened. Then she said that she was too ashamed of her cowardice to do anything about it."
"So why is she here?" asked Stacey.
"Dad's in the hospital. He collapsed during one of his classes from a heart attacka pretty big one. Apparently machines are what's keeping him alive right now, but they aren't sure for how long."
"Oh Charlie," Sam said as she joined me on the bed.
"Mom was working at the hospital when they brought him in. She freaked out when they told her, and the only thing she could think of was finding me. She had overheard Sam's dad at the hospital saying something about how I had moved to Atlanta, so she went home and started digging through my room.
"She found Sam's address on an old birthday card and she got in her car and started driving. The rest you know." We sat in silence for a few minutes, Sam on my left, Ryan on my right, Stacey and Darren on the floor. Sam finally broke the silence.
"So what are you gonna do?"
"What else can I do? I'm going to Virginia tomorrow. I mean, he's an ass, he's a horrible person, but... he's still my dad."
"No Sam, I have to."
"Then I'm going with you," said Ryan.
"Me too," added Sam.
"No, you two are staying here."
"Charlie, you don't have a choice in the matter," said Ryan. "I don't care if I have to let the air out of your tires and swallow your car keys. You are not going home without me."
"Us," Sam corrected. It was a hopeless battle and I knew it. So I went ahead and gave in. "Where is she now?" asked Sam.
"I told her to catch a shower downstairs to warm up."
Ryan pulled me off the bed. "Why don't you go check on her?"
"Do you want me to come with you?" he asked.
"Would you stay with me tonight?"
"You couldn't stop me," he said. "Now go on."
Mom was out of the shower and in a bathrobe when I went down to see her. She was towel drying her hair. "I put your things in the guest bedroom. It's the one upstairs next to the bathroom."
"Thank you Charlie."
"I... um... I don't know how to say this delicately, so I'm just going to say it. What we had is gone. You killed it over Christmas. But you have another chance, and it's you who's going to have to do all the work. It's your bridge to build."
"That's more than I deserve." She paused, looking at the floor and then back up at me. "Thank you."
"Get some rest. We have to get up early tomorrow morning."
Sleeping in Ryan's arms was, to say the least, absolutely amazing. That safe, secure feeling... all warmwell noactually hot. This boy was a furnace. I had to turn the ceiling fan on high because of the heat he radiated.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I woke up and he wasn't there. In his place was a note. It politely explained that he had run home to pack his suitcase and run some quick errands. It also said that he had taken my car keys with him, "Just in case you get any funny ideas."
I walked over to my desk and opened up the cigar box that was sitting on the corner. There was another note there. "I took your spare keys too." Damn him! I love that boy so much!
I got up and walked into the hallway. Sam's bedroom door was open so I walked in. She was on the phone. ".... okay then. I'll see you tonight. Have a safe flight. I love you too. Bye." Sam hung up the phone before she noticed me. "That was my dad. He arranged a flight back to Virginia today, so I have to pick them up at the airport this evening."
"Sam! You didn't have to call them! They just got to Barbados two days ago."
"Oh? Would you rather interrupt their vacation or deal with my mom's wrath when she found out that you didn't call her?"
I thought about it for a second. "Point taken."
"Get out of here and take a shower. I have to pack."
"Listen Sam, I was thinking... would you mind driving my mom's car to Virginia? I don't think she's in any condition to drive, especially with her trip down here yesterday. Ryan and I will take my car."
"No problem. Now get!" After my shower I found mom in the kitchen making breakfast. I filled her in on the details and went back upstairs to pack. As I was going through my closet looking for my suit, a pair of arms wrapped around me.
"Can I have my keys back now?" I asked.
Ryan laughed a bit. "You'll get 'em when we leave."
I turned around and brought my hands up to his face, tracing the lines of his jawbone. "You don't have to do this," I whispered, "but I'm glad you are. Thank you."
"You'd do the same for me were our situations reversed."
I pulled out a suit and put it in my garment bag. "Come on, mom's making breakfast." He grabbed my bags and told me he'd put them in the car. We ate in silence. When the dishes were done I went up to my room to grab some CDs for the trip. I tried to pick out some upbeat selections, but I couldn't help bringing my Radiohead and Beth Orton CDs.
Sam and mom left an hour before us. They were driving to Richmond first to pick up her mom and dad before meeting us at home. Ryan and finally ended up leaving around 10:30.
We didn't say much during the trip. Ryan sat in the passenger seat and held my hand the entire triponly letting go to change the music. We got home at six o'clock, which was an hour ahead of schedule. The trip normally takes eight and a half hours, but I drove a bit over the speed limit. Ryan even had to tell me to slow down when he saw I was going about thirty over.
I decided to go to Sam's house. It was more of a home than my own was, even if my mom and I had begun to patch things up. "Why don't you go upstairs and freshen up," Ryan suggested. "You look a bit tired."
I must have been quite tired, because as soon as I got upstairs I laid down and fell asleep. I awoke to someone whispering my name. From the light pouring into my room from the hall, I saw that it was Sam's mom. She put a finger to her lips, telling me to be quiet and then pointing to the other side of the bed. I turned over and saw Ryan curled up next me, and dead to the world.
I got out of bed, trying to be as quiet as possible, and followed her to the balcony off her bedroom. She motioned for me to sit.
"So why is it that the first time I hear of your boyfriend is on a car trip back from the airport?"
"Oh, um... I just figured Sam had told you."
"She said the same. So tell me about him, I want to know if this kid is worthy of my son."
"Nice try," I said. "You know that no matter what I tell you, you're gonna give him the third degree. Why don't I let him tell you himself?"
"Fair enough," she said. "Go bring your young suitor to me. I'll go get refreshments."
I crept into my room and walked round the bed. I kissed his forehead. He woke up and brought my lips down to meet his own. We kissed passionately for a few minutes before I pulled back.
"Any more of that and I'm going to have to lock the door."
"Lock it then," he whispered, getting a devilish grin on his face.
"Nope, you've been summoned. It's time to meet Momma." He got a confused look on his face, and I knew what question he was about to ask. "No, this is Sam's mom. Be afraid. Be very afraid."
I dragged him out of bed and let him to the porch. Sam's mom was already seated and had a tray of drinks with her. I took a sipLong Island Iced Tea.
"So Ryan, tell me a little about yourself."
Ryan looked like he'd been caught skipping school. He nervously tapped the side of his glass as he began pouring out the details of his life. He had talked nonstop for about ten minutes before he got to the part about trying to kill himself in high school.
As he told Sam's mom about swallowing a bottle of pain killers, I started to cry. My mind instantly dreamed up a thousand "what if?" scenarios. What if his mom hadn't found him? What if he had locked the bathroom door that day? What if his parents were like my dad?
"Enough of this sad stuff," she said, as she handed me another drink. I started laughing.
"Are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me? That's his department!" Sam's mom and I started howling at my joke, and after Ryan lost his shocked expression, he joined us.
"So tell me how you two met," she said.
This only produced more laughter. I told her about the party, Darren's special brownies, and our giggling fit on the back porch of Sam's house. I then recounted our "chance" meeting at the coffee house.
"Wait a minute," Ryan interrupted. "You knew I would be there?"
"Guilty as charged," I said.
"You little devil!" He picked up the story at that point and told her about our first date, and how both of us wanted it to be a date but weren't sure. We told Sam's mom everything else about the last few months.
After our laughter subsided Sam's mom spoke up. "I like you Ryan Kirkpatrick. But tell me one thing. Do you love him?"
He looked at her for a few seconds before turning to me. "With all my heart."
"Then you've got my blessing!" She stood up and gave Ryan a hug. "Welcome to the family."
Sam came home shortly after that. She had dropped her mom off at the house before taking her dad and my mom to the hospital. She stayed there long enough to get the official prognosis.
"It doesn't look good Charlie. If... if you ever wanted to work things out with your dad, well... you don't have much time."
The conversation with Sam's mom on the porch provided a nice way to forget why I was really here, but this brought it all back. My alcohol-induced giddiness left and was replaced by... nothing. Just emptiness. I turned around and stared out the window.
"Sam, I can't," I started, tears forming in my eyes. "I can't go there tonight."
She came up behind me, gave me a hug, and led me to my bed. I curled up in the fetal position and started crying. Sam laid down beside me gently stroking my hair.
My mind decided that this was an opportune time to replay the events of Christmas. This didn't help matters much. At some point Ryan came in and joined us on the bed. I don't know how long we were there, but at one point I looked at my watch. It was 2:00 a.m.
And then the sun was shining. I was in bed between Sam and Ryan, the two people I cared about most. I carefully extricated myself from their embrace, trying not to wake them. After shedding yesterdays clothes and getting a new outfit, I went to the shower.
It was only after I got back that I noticed that it wasn't even eight o'clock yet. Mark this down in the record booksCharlie got up and ready to go at 7:45 without the assistance of his three alarm clocks.
Sam's mom was in the kitchen when I went downstairs. She offered me a cup of coffee which I gladly accepted. "Never thought I'd see you up this early."
"I gathered that. I stopped by your room this morning and saw the three of you. You doin' okay?"
"As best as can be expected. I guess I should go to the hospital this morning."
"Are you sure?" she asked with concern.
"I don't see how I have much of a choice." I traced the rim of my coffee cup, trying to keep my mind occupied. "In fact, I think I'm going to head on over there."
"Let me go wake Ryan and"
"No, I said, interrupting her. "This is something I need to do by myself."
"I'll let them know when they wake up."
I walked into the front door of the hospital and looked around. I had never been here before. I mean, my mom worked here and all, but I had never visited her at work The thought of hanging around the Neonatal ICU was one that never appealed to me.
I went to the front desk and asked for directions. My dad was in a private room on the fourth floor. After wandering around for a while I found an elevator. I stopped in the lobby on the fourth floor and sat down. What was I doing here? What purpose did it serve?
I sat there lost in thought for a few minutes before someone tapped me on my shoulder. "Charlie?"
"Hey Mr. T., or I guess since we're here, Dr. T."
"Have you been in to see him yet?"
"No, I just got here. Where's mom?"
"Your mother is sleeping with Prince Valium right now. I got her a private room at the end of the hallway so she could get some rest. She stayed up with your father all night, so I ordered her to bed a few hours ago."
"How is he?"
"Well, it doesn't look good. There was severe damage to his heart when he collapsed at the Law School. His heart stopped yesterday but they managed to revive him. He's unconscious, and for now he's stable. I don't think he'll last much longer though. Do you want to see him?"
"Um... I guess. I'm here, aren't I?" I said. He led me to my dad's room but stopped me before we entered.
"Charlie, did you and your mom... talk?" I nodded. "She sat here all night holding his hand and telling him about you. I listened in for a little while. She seems truly sorry for what happened."
"Yeah, I know." He turned the handle and guided me into the hospital room. It was absolutely silent except for the beeping of the heart monitor and the whirring of various machines. "We had him on a ventilator until this morning. He's breathing on his own right now."
"Dr. T.? Can I be alone with him?"
"Are you sure Charlie?" asked Sam's dad, his voice displaying genuine concern.
"Yeah, I'll be okay." He gave me a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder and told me to page one of the nurses if I needed anything. I took a seat in the chair that was in the corner of the room. The heart monitor continued its slow but steady beat. I tried to focus on the rhythmic noise and clear my mind.
That is, of course, easier said than done. The problem with clearing your mind is that it makes space for other thoughts to creep in. Why was I here? Why did I have to go through this? Why does the man laying on the bed opposite me hate me? I didn't ask for this! Why did I have to be this way? Why did I have to be gay?
I guess that someone else out there was listening to my thoughts, because at that exact moment my question was answered in the form of Ryan, kneeling before me.
"Hey you," he said as he traced the contours of my jaw with his index finger. "You okay?"
"I am now." I pulled him up and gave him a well deserved hug. I hung onto him for a few minutes before he pulled back.
"Why don't you go check on your mom? She's in room 4011."
"Where's Sam?" I asked.
"We stopped by her dad's office before I came down here. She's still up there. Now go... go see your mom."
I walked down to my mom's room and opened the door. She was still sleeping so I took a seat next to the bed and picked up her hand. She stirred a bit and opened her eyes. When she saw me she smiled.
"How're ya holdin' up?" I asked.
"I'm hanging in there. I feel better now that I've gotten some rest."
"Sam's dad told me that you were up all night. He also said that you were talking to dad about me."
"Charlie, I sat in that room for hours, and when the beeping of that heart monitor became too much for me to stand, I just started talking."
"What did you say?" I asked.
"Well, I told him about our son. I told him about a boy who had become a man without us even realizing it. I told him how, even with all this going on, that you're the happiest I've seen you in ages. I've seen the way your eyes light up whenever Ryan enters the room, and I've seen the same in him. And although I don't understand it, I'm happy that you've found someone who cares about you as much as you care about them. And I told him that."
"Thank you mom," I said.
"I'm going to run down to the cafeteria and get something to eat."
"Okay, I need to make a few phone calls and I might join you after." She got up from the bed and slipped her shoes on. After giving me a kiss on the forehead, she left for the cafeteria. I called Anita and Hess to let them know the situation.
When I walked back towards my room I saw a nurse wheeling some equipment out of my dad's room. I started to panic a little bit. "He's okay, isn't he?"
"Oh, yes sir. I was just putting some flowers in his room and taking this to storage." The nurse left the door propped open. When I got there I saw Ryan sitting next to the bed with his back to the door. He started talking, and I stood listening in.
"Mr. Ashby," he began. "You don't know me, but my name is Ryan Kirkpatrick, and I'm the man who's lucky enough to be in love with your son. Charlie is one of the most special people in my life, and it's sad that he doesn't hold a similar place in yours.
"You really don't know what you're missing... so let me tell you. Charlie is... kind, loving, caring, genuine... I've never met anyone else like him. But instead of realizing that, you deliberately hurt him. And that's something that I won't let you do again."
Ryan was crying at this point. He picked up a tissue and blew his nose before continuing. "I only hope... I only hope that... in the time you have left that you realize what an amazing person he is. I know what it's like to lose someone you care for without getting a chance to tell them that you love them. It isn't a fate I'd wish on anyone. And I'm sure it isn't something you want to carry on to wherever your journey leads you.
"I wish I could say that I hate you. But I can't. I don't think Charlie does either, or he wouldn't be here. But I do know one thing. I love him, and if you weren't such an ass, you'd see that you love him."
I walked up behind Ryan. "I love him too, dad."
Wow! I was quite taken aback by the response from the last chapter.... I figured I'd give y'all a break and not have a big cliffhanger this time.
Thanks to everyone who's written me, and remember, if you want to know about updates to the story, send me an email and I'll put you on my mailing list. Chapter 10 will take a little longer to get out because it's longer than this one... so stay tuned.
As for the "teensy problem" that I was having last time, it is pretty much resolved. Basically I thought I'd written myself into a corner and couldn't find a direction for the story. Well, while coming home from work one night I was struck by some insipration, so I now know where the story is going and how it will end. Relax... it won't end for a little while--I'll give you fair warning. ;-)