Welcome to chapter two of A New Start. Since you will have no clue what's going on unless you have already read chapter one, and chapter one included all the legalese bullshit, I'm not gonna put it on any further chapters. If you shouldn't be here, leave. If it's ok for you to be here, I hope you enjoy the story.
Comments desired, flames cheerfully forwarded to hell.
As Allen and I sat by the lake, the urn holding Travis' ashes sitting between us, I continued to tell him about my life with Travis.
Life at college fell into its own routine, and Travis and I quickly developed a routine of our own as well. He lived twenty minutes north in Huntersville, so instead of dropping by, he usually called the dorm room every morning and woke up my roommate, Billy, and me.
"Good morning, Jeremy, my love," he would say.
"Good morning, love," I would reply.
We would talk a few minutes about our plans for the day, and our upcoming date. Billy would shower while I continued talking to Travis. Every morning, without fail, Travis always ended the phone call with a prayer, thanking God for the day ahead of us, thanking Him for life, and health. He also gave thanks to God for allowing us to meet, and fall in love.
Those morning prayers continued even after I moved in with him. They were and always will be, my link to Travis.
The days quickly stretched into weeks, and the weeks into months. Suddenly, Fall break was upon us. Travis convinced me that I should go home and spend the time with my folks. I wanted to be with him, but he knew my mom would be upset if I didn't go home on my very first fall break. He also mentioned that since October was still prime landscaping time, he would be busy at work the whole time I was on break. We had talked about his coming to pick me up to bring me back to school, but I was a little hesitant. I was pretty sure that my mom had already figured out that there was something between Travis and me. It was those strange looks she kept giving me in the hospital room after my accident that made me wonder.
Travis and I had talked about that as well. I told him that I thought mom knew, but I wasn't sure. He told me to just play it by ear, but that I should always be honest, and never deny who I am. He said if I wanted to, I could deny that he and I were involved, especially since he was ten years older than I was. Even though I was already 18, he was a little concerned that my folks might think he had "corrupted" me.
We finally decided that it would be better for me to just let my folks take care of getting me home and back to school. Dealing with my folks about my sexuality and Travis was something that I wasn't quite ready to deal with yet, and Travis was very understanding.
Being back at home was a little strange. I looked up a couple of my friends, we hung out some, but I missed Travis badly. He told me to call him, collect, on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
From the moment I had arrived home, I noticed that mom kept looking at me strangely. The looks she kept giving me reminded me of the strange looks on her face when she saw me and Travis in the hospital room. I was beginning to feel the same discomfort now, as I had then. I think I knew what it was about, but I didn't ask. I wanted to avoid that conversation, for now.
One evening after dinner, I was alone with mom helping her with the dishes. Dad had his monthly Ruritan meeting that night, so it had just been the two of us. Mom usually went with dad, since they were both members, but, since I was home, she stayed with me.
"So, honey, do you still hear from your friend Travis?" she asked.
"Well, uh, yeah, I do, as a matter of fact," I said nervously.
"What, is something wrong with him?"
I laughed nervously. "Um, wrong? Uh, no. Travis is fine. He's just…well, it's just…um, I kinda feel sorry for him, that's all."
"Is he sick or something?" she asked.
"Well, you see, Mom, it's like this…" and then I proceeded to tell her everything I knew about Travis, including the fact that he had no family left of his own. I said it was one of the reasons I felt so close to him, not because I had no family, but because I knew how lonely I'd feel without mom and dad.
"I couldn't imagine not having you and dad around," I told her, my eyes brimming with tears.
"I'll always be here for you," Mom said. "You're my baby, and there's nothing in this world that can make me stop loving you."
"But, what if I disappoint you?" I asked.
"We all disappoint the ones we love, honey. That's a part of living. The sad thing is when people let their disappointments cloud their true feelings. Disappointments will happen, but love is what keeps us going."
I hugged her and said, "I love you, mommy," my tears flowing freely.
"Jeremy, would you like to invite Travis to have Thanksgiving with us?"
"REALLY, Mom? Could we? Are you sure it wouldn't be an inconvenience?"
"Jeremy, no friend of yours will ever be an inconvenience."
"Mom, you're the greatest!!"
"Can I ask you a question, Jeremy?"
Oh, no!! This was it! I could feel it in my stomach.
"Uh, sure, Mom."
"Is Travis more than just a friend to you?"
"Travis is my best friend mom," I replied, as evenly as I could.
"I know that dear. I guess there's no easy way to ask this but, is Travis your lover?"
"Um, not exactly mom."
She audibly sighed.
"He is my boyfriend, though."
Almost imperceptibly, she bristled, but, just as quickly, let it go.
"I thought so."
"Should I pack my things and leave?" I asked as tears formed in my eyes again.
"Why in the world would you do that? Are you moving in with him or something?"
"No. I just…I thought…Well, since I just confirmed that I'm gay, I thought that maybe you would want me to leave."
"Haven't you heard anything I said to you? You are my son. I may not like the fact that you're gay, but I will learn to accept it. And, I will learn to accept Travis as the person that you love. It's no big secret you know. I knew it the minute he walked in the door of your hospital room back at the beginning of the semester. In fact, when I went walking with your dad, I did it to warn him. I wasn't sure how he'd react. But, just like me, your father loves you. He is concerned for your safety, your health, and what a difficult life you will have by choosing to follow this path. But he and I both love you. I've been trying to get the courage to ask you about this since I met him. Thank you for being honest about him."
"Mom, I never lie, you know that. Thank you for accepting me."
"Accepting you? You crazy boy!! I love you. Of course I accept you. Your dad and I just need a little time. We need time to get used to the idea of you and Travis, as a couple. Do you think he might like to spend Saturday night with us, before taking you back to school?"
"WOW, Mom!! Are you sure?"
"Your dad and I talked about it. We think it would be a good idea if we get to know the man our son loves. We're not going to accost him or anything. We just want the chance to get to know him a little better."
"Well, I'm supposed to call him tonight, I'll ask him. He has been worried about how you might react. I'm certain that he wasn't expecting an invitation to spend the weekend."
"There is one stipulation, Jeremy."
"Your father and I do not want the two of you having sex, here, in the house."
I laughed. "Mom, I'm still a virgin. Travis wants us to date, and get to know each other before we 'get to know' each other."
Mom sighed again. "I knew there was a reason I liked him when I first met him."
"I know I sure did!"
"How will you know whether or not you will take your relationship to that level?" she asked.
I blushed. "So far we haven't, but, I don't know. We never really talked about that. Right now, we're just happy being together."
"Just give yourself plenty of time, dear. You've got your whole life, and it's better to wait until you find the right g...., uh, person. I've got to watch that, I see!" She chuckled.
"That's ok, mom. Sometimes it feels weird for me to say 'boyfriend' too."
I called Travis that night. He was ecstatic that my coming out had gone so well, and he was also glad to accept the invitation. He said to expect him around 9 o'clock, Saturday morning.
"You mean I can't sleep in?" I asked.
"No way! I've missed you far too much already. I don't want to waste any more time than is absolutely necessary." he replied.
"I love you, Travis,"
"I love you too, Jeremy, more than I can say."
"I'll be looking for you Saturday," I said.
I hardly got any sleep Friday night, waiting for Saturday morning. I don't believe I slept more than thirty minutes straight at any one time. Finally, it was 6 AM, I got up, showered, put on jeans and a shirt, then headed for the kitchen. My folks were still in bed, so I went outside for the paper. I was shocked when I went outside because there, in the driveway, was Travis. I ran over to his truck, but he was asleep. I tapped on the window until he awakened.
"Hey, baby," he said as he opened the door.
I gave him a big hug, kissing him with an open mouth. We played tonsil hockey for a minute, then, realizing where we were, he stiffened up.
"Uh, Jer, shouldn't we..."
"I don't care who sees," I said. "The man I love is here, and that's all I care about!"
I kissed him again.
"When did you get here, Trav?"
"About three thirty this morning."
"I couldn't wait, baby. I needed to be near you. I thought that you'd be up early, and I wanted to be here, waiting for you."
"Well, you could have called to let me know you were on the way."
"Jeremy, babe, I had already gone to bed, and all I could do was toss and turn. Since you're only two hours away, I figured that the sooner I got here the better. Besides, would you have wanted me calling here after midnight, waking your mom and dad up?"
"No, I guess not."
"And I bet if I HAD called, you would have done nothing but worry the whole time I was traveling."
"You're probably right on that point," I conceded.
"So, I was just trying to be considerate of you and your folks. I was too wired up at the thought of getting to see you, and I was a lot apprehensive about finally getting to meet your folks. I just couldn't sleep, so, the best thing was for me to come on down, and be here when you got up."
"I love you, Travis."
"I love you, too, Jeremy. More than anything or anyone in the world."
He got his stuff out of the truck, while I got the newspaper and we went inside.
"Mom said that it was OK for you to stay, but that they don't want us having sex," I told Travis. "I told her not to worry, because we had already made the decision to wait. I could see she felt relieved to hear that. I'm certain that her opinion of you has risen considerably."
"I'm guessing that since you just came out to them Thursday, you haven't had the chance to tell them my story?"
"Not completely. Mom asked about you, the other night after dinner. Dad wasn't home, but I'm pretty sure mom filled him in. I told mom about your one, long-term relationship with your college roommate and that he left before you graduated. I also mentioned that there was only one other person you had been intimate with, but that ended almost two years ago. I told her that if she had other questions, I was sure you would be more than happy to answer them."
"Of course I will. I have nothing to hide from your parents."
"I'm glad to hear that, Travis," my mom said as she walked into the kitchen, scaring the shit out of the two of us.
"Geez, mom! Why not give a guy a heart attack, what don't ya?"
"Sorry, boys. I didn't mean to scare you, or to eavesdrop. I was getting up anyway, and heard you talking. I guess I should have just come on in, but I really didn't want to intrude."
"It's ok, mom," I said.
"Travis, I heard Jeremy tell you about our conversation the other evening. You seem to be a nice young man, and while it will take some getting used to knowing that my son is in love with another man, I will be just as protective of my son with you, as I would if you were a girl."
"I would expect you to be so, Mrs... uh, Linda"
Mom reached over, and tussled his hair. "That's better, Travis. What time did you get here?"
"About 3:30 this morning."
"Why didn't you ring the bell? We would have let you in."
"Well, I said I would be here this morning, but I couldn't sleep last night, so I went ahead and drove in. Since you weren't expecting me that early, I decided to sleep outside, in my truck. It's just not in me to wake people up unexpectedly, in the middle of the night."
"Don't you ever do that again! There's no telling what could have happened to you out there. Don't you know that there are crazy people even in small towns! Don't you dare let anything happen to you. I ought to skin you alive!"
"MOM!" I said.
"You hush, Jeremy. If Travis is going to be a member of this family, he's going to have to be responsible to us! On top of that, it's just not safe for him to sleep in the truck. I don't mean to fuss, but I'm serious, Travis. If you ever arrive again, in the middle of the night, ring the bell. I promise, I won't mind getting up to let you in, if Jeremy doesn't beat me to it. What's that look on your face, Travis?"
"Well, two things, no, three."
"Yes?" Mom asked.
"One, I've missed a mom watching out for me like you're doing. I don't mind that you're fussing at me. It makes me feel wanted."
"Well, of COURSE you're wanted, Travis," Mom began.
"Wait, let me finish," Travis said. "Second, I'm reeling from your comment about me being part of your family. Wait," he said as he lifted his hand to stop Mom from saying anything. "I'll let you have your say in a second. And, finally, if I'm going to be a part of this family, and you're going to treat me like your son, can I call you and Ed, mom and dad?"
Even I was surprised by his question. And, my mom was almost speechless.
"Travis," she said as she walked over and hugged him, "I would love for you to call me mom," she said with a tear in her eye. "I know how much Jeremy loves you, and Ed and I are going to love you just as much. You make my son happy. I can see it in his eyes. Maybe you are not what I would have chosen, but, you are what God has brought into our lives. Yes, baby, you are wanted, and you are a part of our family."
All three of us were crying as my dad walked in.
"Oh, my God! Did somebody die?" he asked, suddenly getting upset.
"No, Ed," mom said. "We were just settling the fact that Travis is now part of this family. He wants to call us mom and dad."
"Travis, my boy, of course you're a part of our family," dad said. "We would lose our son if we decided otherwise, and I'd much rather gain a son than lose one."
Travis stood up, and hugged my dad.
"Thank you, dad," he said, tears streaming. "You'll never know what this means to me."
"Actually, Travis, I think I do know. My parents died when I was still a young man. Linda's family kind of adopted me, just as we are now doing with you. I'm happy to have you become part of this family."
Mom pulled a Kleenex out of her robe, blew her nose and said, "OK. Travis, it's official, you're part of the family. Now, what would my men like for breakfast?"
Travis spent much of the morning, sitting at the table, talking to my mom and dad about his life. He told them all about his parents and his baby brother who died at the age of six. He talked about his mom's death, and then how his dad died later on. He told them about Thomas, and Roger, and how they had been the only two people he had been intimate with. He said that he regretted having been intimate with Roger, since it didn't last very long.
"That's why I told Jeremy we would wait. I want both of us to be sure before we take that step."
"Have you been tested for AIDS?" Mom asked.
"MOM!" I said.
"Yes, Mom, I have." said Travis. "Three times since Roger, in fact, the most recent of which was two weeks ago. Everything has come back negative. We did, at least, practice safe sex."
"That's a relief," Mom said. "And not for why you might think. Yes, I'm relieved that the person my son is going to be intimate with is not infected with that terrible disease. But more importantly, I'm much more relieved to know that my new son is not infected. I couldn't bear the thought that we might lose either of you," she said as she wiped a tear from her eye. "You've had a tougher life than most, Travis. I very much hope that from this point on, your life will only get better."
"With you guys in my life, I'm sure it will be," he said.
The rest of the day we spent goofing off. Travis and I went to the mall to look around. We discussed when we would come home for Thanksgiving. I can't tell you how it made me feel to be planning my life, planning events, planning to come home with Travis, my man. I felt so whole and complete.
Dad grilled steaks for dinner that night. He asked Travis to help him, and told me to go back inside. I was curious what my dad wanted to talk to Travis about, but I knew he would not say anything until I went inside. So, I helped mom get things ready in the kitchen, while our men cooked the steak. It was a neat feeling.
Dinner was great. The steaks were cooked to perfection, the potatoes were wonderful, maybe it was just the fact that Travis was sitting beside me, I don't know. It was one of the best meals I had ever had. Travis and I volunteered to clean the kitchen, and we wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Mom and dad retired to the living room. While we were cleaning, I asked Travis what dad had wanted to talk to him about.
"You," he replied.
"What about me?" I asked.
"Your dad was just looking out for you, baby. He didn't say anything out of line, he just wanted to make sure that you weren't going to quit school, or that once you finished school, I wouldn't leave you or anything."
Travis noticed that I was getting a little hot under the collar.
"Jeremy, look here," he said, turning my face to look directly at him. "I was glad your dad talked to me about this stuff. It showed me how much he cares about you. When we had finished our talk, he said 'Welcome to the family again, Travis' and then he hugged me."
"My dad hugged you?" I said, my eyes getting big. My dad occasionally hugged me, but not very often. For him to hug another guy, WOW this was big time.
"Yeah, he hugged me. And, I've got something I need to ask him, but it will wait until we're done in here."
We hurried, finished the kitchen work, and headed to the living room.
"That was quick," Mom said.
"Well, mom," Travis said, "two can get it done a lot faster than one!"
Mom just chuckled. "I was afraid the two of you might have needed some 'alone time' at our expense."
"Maybe later," I said.
"Uh, dad," Travis said, "I need to ask you something."
"Sure, Travis. What is it?"
"You, mom and I have talked a lot today. Obviously, Jeremy and I have been talking a good deal these past couple of months. I think you now understand how much your son means to me, how much, and how dearly I love him. I'm sure you also realize how much he loves me as well."
"Yes, Travis. We know all that," dad said.
"Well, sir, I know that what I'm getting ready to say will sound a little strange, and unfortunately, what I'm proposing is not even a legal possibility, at least not yet. But, I mean this with every fiber of my being. I love Jeremy and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Dad, I'd like your permission to marry Jeremy. I'm asking you to give his hand to me, in marriage!"
Mom and dad looked shocked, and my jaw was on the floor.
"I know that usually, the guy asks the father for his daughters hand in marriage, but, in this case, even though you know how much Jer and I love each other, I really want, and need your approval and blessing."
Dad didn't say anything for a full minute. The three of us were looking at him, and I know that I was holding my breath. I knew that mom and dad liked Travis, because they had decided to "adopt" him. But, formal permission? I didn't know what my dad would do.
"Travis, what exactly do you mean by marry Jeremy?"
"Well, sir, I'd really like to have a ceremony of some kind. If there are people you would want there, that would be fine with me. I just want to publicly, in front of God and whoever is listening, pledge my life, my heart, and myself to Jeremy, and allow him the opportunity to do the same. I know that it's not legal or binding, or anything, but it would be, in my heart."
Dad just sat another minute.
"Travis, Jeremy, you know that I was raised to believe that your lifestyle is a sin; that what Travis is proposing is inherently wrong. But, as I sit here thinking about it, what you want to do is no different that when your mom and I got married. We professed our love to and for each other, and promised to be faithful to one another. I have no problem with that, in fact, I'm very pleased that this is how you feel. The only thing I see that could possibly be a problem is, have you asked Jeremy about this?"
Travis smiled, turned and looked at me and got down on one knee. "Jeremy, we have spent a good deal of time getting to know one another. I told you the day I met you, that I knew there was something about you, something that touched me, deeply. Getting to know you has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Falling in love with you has been the easiest, and most fulfilling thing that has ever happened to me. I love you, Jeremy. I would be honored if you would consent to marry me, and spend the rest of our lives together. Will you marry me?" As he asked that question, he took a little box out of his pocket. He opened it, and inside there was a man's solitaire diamond ring, just the right size for my pinky.
I didn't even hesitate. As soon as the question was out of his mouth, I put my arms around his neck and kissed him for all I was worth. I didn't care that mom and dad were there. I had just been proposed to by the most wonderful man in the world!
"Oh, yes, Travis! I will marry you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you!"
I kissed him again, really getting into it, until dad cleared his throat.
Travis pulled the ring out of the box, and put it on my left pinky finger. It was a perfect fit, and, it was a huge ring. It's the one on my right hand, now, together with the wedding band he gave me the day we married. (Note to the audience: Southern tradition holds that if a man becomes a widower and then remarries, he moves his first wedding ring to the right hand.)
Mom was crying, and dad was beaming.
"This calls for a celebration," Dad said.
He went into the kitchen, and came back with a bottle of champagne and four glasses. I was only 19 at the time, two years shy of the drinking age, but I got a glass too.
Dad popped the cork, and filled our glasses.
"A toast, to my sons," dad said. "May you have many years of love and happiness."
We drank a sip.
Mom lifted her glass. "To my son, and my son," she said as she nodded at each of us, "May your days and nights be filled with excitement, passion and romance."
I spoke up. "Mom, dad, I can't tell you what it means for you to accept me for who and what I am. And it goes without saying that I am so glad that you have adopted Travis. Here's to you. I love you both, more than I can express."
"Me too," Travis interjected. "To Mom and Dad!"
"Well boys, we have a wedding to plan," Mom said, with a gleam in her eye.
"Uh, Mom, let's not go overboard, ok?" I said.
"Me? Go overboard? Hmmph!" she said.
"Well, you've got to consider that this is not your ordinary wedding. There's no bride, and, I don't know how many of our friends will be ready for that," I said.
"Details, honey, details. We'll get through all that, even if it's just you two, your dad and me. I want your wedding to be special, and memorable."
"Thanks, mom," I said. "I'm sure it will be."
"Travis, have you given any thought to when you'd like to make this happen?" Dad asked.
"Yeah, dad, I have, but since Jeremy just found out tonight that he was engaged, it might be better if he and I talk about it some, first."
"How about tomorrow?" I asked, as I kissed Travis on the cheek.
"Too soon, baby. I have nothing to wear," Mom said.
We all laughed at that. We spent the next couple of hours talking about what kind of service we wanted, how would we break the news to friends and family, not that we had much family left. Mom and dad each had brothers and sisters, but my grandparents were already dead at this point. I also knew that once my dad's brother, uncle Ralph, found out, he would never speak to any of us again. He's one of those hellfire and brimstone, backwoods preachers, always talking about how everything that's fun will send you to hell. I knew he'd pop a cork when dad told him I was marrying a guy.
***************************** Back to the present...
Allen had been watching me intently while I related these events to him. We were still sitting in the same spots, at Travis' favorite spot at the lake, where the flowers were so beautiful, and you couldn't see any of the encroaching development yet.
"I guess that's why you knew how to arrange everything for our Holy Union," Allen said.
"Yeah. I'd done it that one time, with help from mom, dad and Travis. I wish mom and dad could have met you. They would have liked you as much as they did Travis."
"I know, baby. I wish I could have met them too, just like I wish I had been able to meet Travis. But, hey! Just like your folks did for Travis, mom and dad have done with you."
"And they will never, ever, know how deeply I appreciate it, Allen," I said as a tear trickled down my cheek. "Dad and Travis would have understood, though."
Allen leaned down, brushed the tear from my eyes and said, "So, tell me about your wedding to Travis."
Well, folks, that's it for now. I hope you all have a great holiday (for those celebrating Thanksgiving). Chapter 3 is all but completed. I hope to have it posted the first week of December. Then you're gonna have to wait a bit as final exams are the following two weeks.
You know, feedback really does help. I know where this story is going, and I have a good idea about some of the events that the guys will face, but, your input could possibly make a difference. Give me feedback, PLEASE!!!