STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!
Copyright 2001 by Nick Archer. Permission is granted to Nifty Archives, ASSGM, and gaywritings, to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another website without written permission from the author.
By Nick Archer
Matt wasnt prepared for it. He had never experienced the physical feeling of a chill running through his body. But he did when Bill uttered the words:
"Jakes dad has petitioned the court for immediate custody of Jake."
Tears stung his eyes and he gripped the phone so tightly, his knuckles were white. He slumped in one of the dining room chairs. It wasnt supposed to happen like this. They were supposed to have time to say goodbye and time to adjust to the idea of being apart. He knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. But like many other things that he didnt want to deal with, he procrastinated.
"How can he do this?" Matt asked, once the initial shock wore off.
"I suspect, Matt, hes doing it precisely because he and his lawyer know you havent had time to prepare."
Matt was about to let loose a string of obscenities, but Tommy wandered up to him looking for attention.
"Im certain we can get a continuance. Ill see if I can get in touch with the lawyer I mentioned, Rhoda Goldberg, and see what she can do. Ill be in touch on Monday."
"I start back to work on Monday."
"Im fairly confident that nothing will happen until then, but it might be a good idea to have Jake ready if it does."
"Would you hang this up for me, hon?"
Tommy did, and returned to Matts lap. "Whats wrong, dad?"
"Jake might be leaving soon. Maybe even this weekend." Matt fought back tears. He had to be strong for the kids. He had to set an example of calm and order.
"Oh, dad," Tommy wrapped his arms around Matt. He released Matt, and looked into his face. His adorable face, with its translucent skin with a smattering of freckles, was so full of concern. It was just inches away from Matts face. "Its gonna be OK, dad. I promise."
Matt dissolved into tears holding his younger son and rocking him gently. Tommy patted his back.
Tim came downstairs, and spotted the scene. "What happened?"
"Jake might be leaving," Tommy told him.
"As soon as Monday," Matt added morosely.
Tim glanced at the clock on the VCR. "Its 10:30, Tommy. Time for you get ready for bed."
"Oh, man! I just want to listen. I wont interrupt!" Tommy loved to listen to adults talk. It didnt matter the topic. To Tommy listening to the conversations of adults gave him an insight into their world.
"Sorry, kiddo." Tim gave his backside an affectionate pat. "Go." He pouted as he left.
Tommy turned and was about to speak when Tim gave him The Meaningful Stare. The boy sighed loudly and turned on his heels.
"Matt, youve got to deal with this. We have to talk about it with the kids."
"What about Jake? Im afraid it will send him into a tailspin. Groves is already telling me hes been acting out in class."
"Its a chance we have to take, Matt. He has a right to know where hes going to live, doesnt he? Maybe if we prepare them emotionally, it wont be so hard on them. And us, too."
"I dont know..."
"Matt," Tim interrupted, "exactly when were you planning on talking about this? When Jake is on his way out the door? Youre the one whos always wanting to talk stuff out." Matt started to cry. His hands curled into fists.
"Matthew, my love," Tim took his left hand. He gently pried it open, brought the palm to his lips and kissed it. "We have to let go sometime. Theyre all going to leave us at one point or another. Its best if were prepared for it."
Tim stood and patted his shoulder. In the kitchen, he ripped off a few sheets of paper towel, and handed them to Matt. He repositioned a chair so that it faced Matt directly. "If you like, Im sure Leah, or even Bill will help break the news."
Matt nodded as he wiped his face. "That might be a good idea."
"Ok, sweetheart, Ill call Leah tomorrow. Come on, youve had a long day. Lets go make some new babies."
"I dont know. Im...."
"We dont have to, if you dont want to. I just want to hold the man that I love."
The next morning, Leah appeared promptly at 10 AM with Mike in tow.
"Im going to write down what we talk about, and my recommendations," she told Matt and Tim. "This way, I can submit it to the court as an official document."
Tim smiled at her. "You are so brilliant."
"So when are you guys getting away?"
"You mean, a family vacation?" Matt asked.
"No, I mean a weekend for just you two."
"Leah, we cant leave now. The boys need us."
"I know you, Matt. You are just going to worry about it, and actually, you cant do a thing to change it."
"What if he leaves this weekend?"
"He wont," she replied with confidence. "I would make sure he packs on the outside chance that a social worker shows up at your doorstep, but I think its very unlikely. Relax, Matt. Some meditation might help, or some prayer. I know you are a spiritual person. This is Jakes home, and I feel confident the judge will see that."
"Thanks, Leah." He hugged her.
"OK," she said, "take a deep breath. Lets do this."
Saturday, May 8, 1994 10 AM
Matthew Rosato, 34
Tim McGraw, 25, his life partner
Brian Rosato, 14 Matts adopted son
Tom Grady, 11, Matts foster son
Jake Wagner, 14, Matts foster son
Mike Rosen, 14, a friend of Brians and Jakes
Precipitating Incident: Jake is leaving to live with his natural father, Al Wagner. His father had petitioned the court for immediate custody. All parties have to work out their feelings toward Jakes departure.
Jake Wagner: Jake has been living with Matt and Tim since December 10, 1993, when his mother physically abused him. Her parental rights have been terminated. Has deep animosity toward his natural father. Al Wagner has made only one attempt to contact his son since that time. Jake has earned a B average in school since December. He has been attending weekly counseling sessions at Aunt Marthas. Although he still conceals his feelings, the counseling plus the encouragement of Matt and Tim have helped Jake to open up and talk about his feelings instead of keeping them "bottled up" until they explode in a violent episode. Jake has been attending religious education classes at St. Irenaeus Church, and he was recently Confirmed. Jake has been involved in two minor disciplinary incidents at school. Jake was injured in a skateboard accident in March. He is strongly bonded to both Matt and Tim and identifies them as his fathers. He is also bonded to Brian and Tommy and considers them his brothers. Jake has been very clear in his desire to remain with Matt and Tim and to be adopted by either Tim or Matt. Matt reports that Jake may be struggling with his sexual identity. I did not have the time to interview his counselor at Aunt Marthas, but I have personally observed some bisexual issues.
Matt Rosato: Matt feels strongly paternal toward Jake, and he does desire to adopt him. Matt describes feeling out of control of the situation, and that concerns him. Matt reports that Jake is quite popular at school and has a different persona when he is around classmates other than Brian and Mike. Matt also suspects that there has been some sexual experimentation between Jake and Brian. Matt enjoys his time alone with Jake.
Tim McGraw: Jake identifies strongly with Tim, since they are both athletes. Tim also reports that he enjoys his time alone with Jake, and that Jake will more readily open up when they are doing some sort of activity together. Two favorite activities are basketball and lifting weights. It is my observation that Tim is providing an excellent role model for him.
Brian Rosato: Brian is deeply emotionally involved with Jake. He sees Jake as his brother, and openly states that he loves Jake. They have an excellent relationship according to Matt and Tim. They have reported no sibling rivalry between the two. On the contrary, the fathers say that they constantly have to be on guard for new plots and adventures that they seem to be creating. Brian declined to comment on any possible sexual relationship between them.
Tommy Grady: Tommy, too, sees Jake as his brother. Matt and Tim inform me that they often cuddle together when watching TV. Jake says that he always wanted a little brother, and Tommy is the closest he will ever come to having one. Tommy said, "I will be very sad if Jake has to go."
Mike Rosen: Mike forms the third part of the triangle between Jake and Brian. They seem to have a friendship triangle that is both inclusive and exclusive. Mike describes some feelings of jealousy toward Jake, since Mike knew and was best friends with Brian while they were at St. Lukes. Jake, however, is affectionate toward Mike, and always includes him in their activities or aforementioned "adventures."
I suggest the following to ease any possible transition:
In my professional opinion, Jake should remain with Matt and Tim. They have a father-son relationship that is close, natural, healthy, and nurturing. Jake has done well since the initial incident that brought him to live in Matts home. His teachers and principal have commented that they expected his behavior to be a lot worse after being abused by his mother. They expected Jake to act out in anger and pain. The fact that he has not is a tribute not only to Jake, but also to Matt and Tim who have shown him love and acceptance, and yet provided him with structure and guidelines that he needs.
I will state this unequivocally: It is in Jakes best interest to remain with Matt Rosato and Tim McGraw.
To remove him from the place he calls home will damage him emotionally, undo any progress he has made, and make a mockery of the laws which were enacted to protect children like Jake.
Monday morning found Matt back at the store, rested but not refreshed. He was worried about Jake. He had plenty of work to occupy his time, though. There were new merchandising plans to review voicemails to listen and respond to, email to catch up on. The store looked good, and all the tasks were reasonably under control. Of course, Matt had checked on his employees by phone from time to time, but he had not been in the store. He had been a little bored, and was ready to come back to work.
The time sped by and before Matt knew it, it was 2 oclock and he still hadnt gone to lunch. He also still hadnt heard from Bill. Had the lawyer gotten the continuance? Bill had mentioned the lawyers name, and he could have looked her name up in the phone book, but Bill was making the arrangements with her. Bill wasnt sure if she had been retained or not, so he decided he wouldnt call her.
Matt had an overwhelming feeling of deja vu while he waited for the phone to ring. It felt like he was waiting for Gary, the previous district manager, to call and let him know whether or not he got the store. Matt was inspecting a display and matching up the books with the sales planner when the phone rang for him.
He took the call in the back room. He couldnt cry on the floor if it was bad news.
"We got the stay of execution, so to speak. We got a continuance until the end of the school year."
Matt broke down in tears anyway. They were tears of relief and gratitude to whatever forces were out there keeping Jake with them for just a bit longer. Matt composed himself, called Tims cell phone and told him the news. He also called the school and left a message for the boys. He left a message on Leahs machine.
With the phone calls finished, he let out a long sigh of relief.
"Matthew? Its Marty. How are My Three Sons?"
Matt laughed. "Hi, Marty! I can just picture Steve Douglas with a red ribbon on his cardigan."
"I always wondered about Uncle Charlie."
"There should be a TV show like that. Gay parents and real life."
"Well call it Matts Mob. Or maybe The Queers Next Door."
"So whats up?"
"Matt, I am the leftover sock in the laundry pile of life. Ill never find a man to settle down with. So whats new?"
"Tim and I are going to Camp It this weekend. Were leaving on Friday morning?"
"A gay campground near Saugatuck."
Marty laughed. "Oh, my God. Talk about bears in the woods!"
"A friend in Joliet recommended it. He says its really clean and wooded. And theres a lot less attitude than some of the resorts around Saugatuck."
"And there can be a lot a attitude at those resorts! I know, I was invited to one a few years back. I was so intimidated by all the clones and circuit party boys, I spent the entire time in my room reading."
"You? Ive never known you to be intimidated, especially when it comes to trading verbal jabs. If there was a Wimbledon for verbal tennis, you would surely win."
"Ah, but compared to them I am a rank amateur. But that weekend is a story for another time. How are my nephews?"
"Theyre all good. Theyre finished with CCD. Jake is finished with all his sports. Brian took third at the speech contest with his Animated Living Room skit. If you ask me, he should have taken first." Prints started swatting at the phone cord.
"Spoken like a true father. How did your field trip to Springfield go?"
"It wasnt bad. I loved seeing Springfield again. Its like you can feel Lincolns shadow over the town. Jake behaved like a little beast to a charming girl. I could have killed him."
"Leave my poor little Jake alone. Hes just confused. Uncle Marty will take care of him."
"Down, Marty, down! Hes only fourteen!"
He lowered his voice. "I feel for him. I just hope you get custody. When is the court date?"
"June 2nd. School gets out June 7th. So, if he were leaving, it would be soon after that. Did you get the invitation?"
"For his going-away party? When is it? The ninth?"
"Yes," Matt answered.
"Ill be there. Are you ready?"
"For the party?"
Martys voice became uncommonly soft and gentle. "No, cupcake, for his leaving>"
"Were not sure hes leaving. My lawyer is pretty sharp." They were moving into uncomfortable territory.
"But even if you win, you dont seriously think that will be the end of it? Im certain he will be appeal."
Matt sighed. No matter how he wished it would go away, it was The Topic That Wouldnt Die. "As ready as Ill ever be."
"No matter what happens, Matthew, Im behind you."
"Thanks, Marty, I appreciate that."
"I have to confess that the impulse is not entirely altruistic. I just want yet another method to fuck Al over."
Patrick and Tony
"Where are you going, Tony?"
"Im going out, Ma."
"You have a date? Who is it? Angie?"
"No, Ma. Its someone you dont know." Tony knew this was coming. He knew she would ask a million questions. Thats why he hesitated when Patrick had suggested they go out on a Saturday night. It was their first date at a time other than Friday night. All their previous encounters had taken place after Tony dropped Ryan off at his house.
"It must be your first date," Mary commented.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because if it werent youd bring her to meet me."
"Oh, Ma." He groaned. If only she knew the truth. If only she knew that he intended to spend the night at Patricks home. There certainly would be a lot of questions the next day. But nothing else in Tonys thirty-one years represented such an opportunity. It was both a threat and a promise. It was both dangerous and a marvelous gift. He knew it. Yet, he couldnt stop himself so strong was the pull to Patrick. Because deep down, in the deepest caverns of his heart, he knew this was it. Patrick embodied everything he was looking for in a man. Tony knew he could be risking his relationship to his family, to his neighborhood, his career and his very heritage. Still, he didnt care. Tony was falling in love.
At precisely 7 PM, he knocked on the door to Patricks condominium.
"Hi, there! Come on in." Once Tony shut the door behind him, Patrick embraced him with such energy; he backed Tony against the door. They kissed passionately, drinking in each other. Tony allowed little moans of pleasure escape, and the noises spurred Patrick on. Tony never knew this was possible; that he could care so much for another human being. When thoughts of Patrick entered his mind unbidden during the day, he felt as if his insides had turned to liquid, warm and flowing.
"Look at you," Patrick said smilingly to him. He placed the palm of his hand on the right side of Tonys head. His fingertips gently rested on the other mans ear, and his thumb was placed on the tender skin just below his eye. Patrick moved this thumb laterally so that the fleshy underside of this thumb rubbed his upper cheek.
"I love the way your eyes sparkle. Its like youve got stars in your eyes." He laughed an explosive laugh. "Listen to me! If the guys at work heard me, theyd never let me hear the end of it."
"Me neither. But I dont care. I love coming here. I feel safe here. Like I can be myself. And I love..." Tony stopped himself. It was just too early for declarations like that. And Tony wasnt at all sure Patrick felt the same.
Patrick kissed him again. "I know," he murmured. "I know." He let his hands drop to his side. "Wed better get going. The show starts at 7:40. Itll take us almost that long to get there."
As Patrick drove south on Harlem Avenue, Tony asked what movie they were going to see.
"A Room With a View."
"Never heard of it. Where did you find out about it?"
"My son-in-law," Patrick replied as they passed the World Music Center.
"Matt. My son Tims.." Patrick searched for a term. Other Half was too straight sounding. Significant Other was too Politically Correct. Boyfriend sounded too trivial. Finally, he settled on, "...husband."
Tony sniffed in disdain. "Theyre not married."
"Well, for all intents and purposes, they are. They even have three sons. Well, two boys at least. The third is a foster son."
"Was Matt married before? To a woman?" Although he hated the word husband his curiosity was piqued.
"No, Matt adopted them. Listen, dont get the wrong idea. Theyre just regular guys. In fact, Matt is just about your age."
"What about the kids?"
Patrick chuckled. "Theyre all FITs."
"Faggots In Training."
Tony pressed his lips together. He despised that word. Faggot. He became irrational at the sound of that word. Wisely, he held his tongue and kept his opinions to himself.
They pulled into the central business district of Park Forest. The Classic Cinema chain had purchased one of the few remaining businesses, the old theater. The former Holiday Theater had been divided into four auditoriums, and an adjoining storefront had been converted into a fifth theater. The Classic Cinema formula was brilliantly simple: purchase older theaters, subdivide them into smaller auditoriums, and show second-run and art films. The proprietors knew that they had no chance against the big chains, so they cleverly cornered the second-run as well as the art and indy cinema markets. Sometimes, however, they couldnt find a suitable independent film to show on the art screen, so they resurrected an older favorite or a classic. Thats why A Room With A View, which was already almost eight years old, was showing in Park Forest.
Once they were seated in the auditorium, they were the only patrons except for a lone woman who sat several rows ahead of them.
Soon, they were lost in the lush Merchant-Ivory production of E. M. Foresters tale of unrequited love in turn-of-the-century England. The exquisite attention to detail in everything from costumes to locations, music and dialogue made the tale come to life. Helena Bonham Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis captured the essence of proper Victorian behavior.
Shortly before Lucy finally proclaims her true love, Patrick slipped his hand into Tonys. He glanced at Tonys face and saw his eyes glistening with tears.
"I loved it, and its not the kind of movie I usually like," Tony admitted as they drove back to Patricks.
"Me neither. You just have to be open to different things, I guess. You can teach an old dog new tricks."
"How um how did you find out you were gay? I mean," Tony added quickly, "you were married for over twenty years."
"I guess when Tim finally told me he was gay. I started to think about it. I remembered all the sexual um encounters I had when I was younger. Even when I was married, I still had sex with guys on the side."
"What about your wife? Didnt she know?"
"No, she was in her own little world. And we had separate bedrooms."
Tony laughed. "Youre not saying you brought other guys in the house?"
Patrick smiled. "It happened once or twice."
They both chuckled at his accomplishment and at the concept of putting one over on Patricks ex-wife.
"Matt helped me, too. So did Tim. Were good friends. And I dated Matts friend Marty for a while. Talk about a flaming faggot...."
"I hate that word," Tony interrupted.
"Yes, THAT word."
"Marty said to me something like; That which you claim, cannot hurt you."
"I dont care, I still hate it!"
"Hey, hey, calm down. Its just a word, Tony. Youre overreacting."
Tony quieted down. He was afraid he had already said too much.
They drove in silence for a long spell. Past Lincoln Mall, and all the closed stores, past the subdivisions, to the Will County border where the man-made environment smoothed out into farmland again.
"When are you going to claim the word for yourself, Tony?" Patrick asked quietly.
"You know what word. Because its what you are. When are you going to admit to yourself that youre gay? When are you going to start coming out?" Patrick paused, hoping Tony would respond, but he did not. "Coming out is a process, not an event. It takes time. If not now, when, Tony? Youre thirty-two."
By this time, Tony had started to cry silently. His tears fell into dark spots on his gray polo shirt.
"When are you going to start liking yourself, Tony?" Patrick asked quietly. "When are you going to let yourself be happy? Because its clear youre not happy now." Patrick reached across the seat and took Tonys hand. "I denied it for a long time. I couldnt tell anyone. But you dont have to go that route."
Tony stared wordlessly out the window for the rest of the trip. Patrick thought to himself I really fucked up. I said way too much and now hes angry with me.
Tony wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
Back at the condominium, Tony sat on the couch, staring at the blank TV screen. His mind was a jumble of thoughts and images from the movie and from the conversation fresh in his mind. Lucy Honeychurch said, "Of course I love him. What did you all think?" Patrick said, "When are you going to claim the word for yourself, Tony?" There were bloody postcards floating on the surface of the water. She saw a plate with a question mark made of vegetables. Patrick said, "When are you going to let yourself be happy?"
Suddenly, Tony had a revelation. Like a bolt of lightning, he understood one of the themes of the movie. It was about admitting to yourself what you really wanted in life and having the bravery and courage to tell your family and friends. It was about going against the grain, whether in Victorian England or contemporary America, to claim for you what you loved.
Patrick sat beside him and put his arm around his shoulders.
Their eyes met. Tonys began to fill with tears again.
"Oh, dad," he sobbed. "Im so scared." He hadnt meant to call Patrick dad. It had just slipped. But somehow it seemed to fit. Somehow, it seemed right.
"I know. Shhhh! Its going to be OK, son." Patrick pulled the younger man closer, almost pulling his solid, muscular body into his lap. He stroked his hair and murmured to Tony, as a father would do to a young son who had skinned his knee.
When Tony had cried out his anguish, loneliness, fear and frustration, Patrick led him to the bedroom, where they stripped to their underwear, and held each other all night long.
It was the first night Tony spent with a man.
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