Thursday, 27 November 2003

I realize that there are many of you out there reading this who might not observe the holiday, but I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving nonetheless - A time to reflect and be thankful for the good fortune, in whatever form, big or small, that's come our way this year.  It's also a time to reflect on, and yes, perhaps even be thankful for, those things that we consider to be misfortunes, because they, too, serve a purpose as the grit that polishes the diamond of the soul.  'nough said.

Be well and have a safe holiday.

Michael Garrison

And now..........

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This story also deals with love and consensual sexual activities between men. If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing such material is illegal, or are offended by such themes, do not read further and leave this site now.

The author retains all rights to this story. Reproductions or links to other sites are not allowed without the permission of the author.

Two Lives – Two Loves

Chapter 18

I grabbed us a few sodas out of the fridge and we sat down at the table to talk. Jon didn’t say much; he just listened as I recapped what had been going on since we’d arrived. More specifically, what had been going on mostly with me since we’d arrived. Ron had heard most of it last night but listened intently, interrupting only now and then with a ‘wow!’, or a gasp when something struck him that hadn’t before. Then I came to the part about our little home movie. Without going into specifics at all, I gave Ron the basics of what we’d seen on the DVD. Jon just nodded and picked at the label on his soda bottle as I recounted the manic effect it’d had on him. Ron’s eyes were wide as I wound the story down, bringing us back to the moment.

“…..and that’s where we stand,” I said. “We kinda need your help.”

Ron’s eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement, “I don’t know what I could possibly do.”

“We just hoped that you might be able to see if your friend could come out, maybe today, to see if there’s anything that she can do,” I said.

“Or any advice she can offer,” Jon added. “…..other than to run like hell.” He smiled quirkily at his little bit of gallows humor.

“Only thing I can do is try.”

“That’s all we’re askin’,” I said.

We pointed Ron in the direction of the phone, then Jon and I went out to get the dive gear ready. I was looking forward to a little diving; maybe that would lighten us both up a little, especially Jon. He was just way too tense since seeing the movie. Even while we were making love, I could sense his tension…and it wasn’t the good kind, either. We were finishing hooking up the regulators when Ron emerged from the house. We both looked up expectantly.

“I finally got hold of Alicia,” he began. “She’s out on the road but said she could swing by after her shift, say around six-thirty?”

“Good timing,” Jon said. “She can join us for dinner.”

“Yeah,” I started. “Despite last night’s little performance, the Naked Chef here is actually pretty handy in the kitchen.” Ron laughed. Jon just rolled his eyes at my meager attempt at humor.

“Leave the jokes to me, would you please?” he asked.

Ron ducked into the carriage house to change into his cutoffs, which were still damp from being balled up in his gym bag from the afternoon before. Seeing him shiver as he emerged, Jon offered him his spare pair of Speedos, guessing he and Ron were about the same size. Ron thought about it for a second before gratefully declining. It was a nice, sunny day; he’d warm up soon enough.

We helped each other get our gear set. One by one, we hit the water. It was still on the cool side, but much more tolerable than it’d been yesterday. Thank God for pool heaters. Ron looked like he was starting to really get the hang of it, although he still seemed a little klutzy. He wasn’t used to the water distortion or the size of his equipment and was constantly bumping into one or the other of us. He was a newbie, so we didn’t mind. He was appreciative that I’d gotten the spare rig for him. The more contact I had with him, the stronger I sensed that his situation was such that hardly anyone ever went out of their way for him at all. When they did, he was usually surprised but grateful. I wanted to help him but had no idea how I could. I figured time would take care of that. For the time being, I was just happy to have my mind distracted by the sight of Jon moving sinuously through the water. Ron looked really hot, too, but Jon looked like he was born for this environment, a natural.

After we’d showered, we congregated back in the kitchen and started cracking open the beers.

“Yo, babe,” I said as Jon touched the bottle to his mouth. “You gotta promise me you’re not gonna repeat last night.” He just stared at me for a pregnant second, not quite knowing what to say. I know he wanted to tell me to fuck off but he was trying to take the higher road. “I think Ron’s still tryin’ to get the taste of you outta his mouth,” I chuckled. Ron just looked down at the cool, dark granite countertop, a hint of a smile flashing across his lips. I really think he enjoyed being included in our little gay club.

Jon lowered his beer, “I promise,” he said, crossing his fingers over his heart and giving the three-fingered Boy Scout salute. “…that I will not make an absolute jackass out of myself…especially since we’ve got company coming.”

“Thanks, babe.”

“And Ron, I really want to apologize to you again,” he said. “I just never….”

“Never mind, Jon,” Ron interrupted. “You apologized once. Quit beating yourself up and drink your beer before it gets warm.”

“Good idea.”

It was nearing six o’clock and we chatted it up while Jon stared into the refrigerator and the freezer, trying to figure out what to do about dinner. He turned back to Ron.

“Is your friend a vegetarian or anything like that?”

“Oh, no,” he said. “Alicia’s definitely not a quiche-eater.”

“Good. I’m in the mood to try something a little different than my usual,” he said, pulling a package of chicken from the freezer and setting it up to thaw in the microwave.

“Stand back,” I said, slapping my arm across Ron’s chest and backing away from the island. “There’s no tellin’ what’ll happen now.” Ron laughed, waiting for Jon’s retort. He was not to be disappointed.

Jon laid a hand on his hip and firmly leaned into the other hand, slowly drumming his fingers on the counter. “Did I not specifically request that we leave the humor to me?” he said with that over-the-glasses sort of look. The stray thought occurred to me that….

“I’ll bet you’d look really hot givin’ me that look with glasses,” I said with a smiling lilt of my eyebrows. He didn’t know what to say.

“What?” he said. He wagged his finger at the barstools in front of him, obviously a hair put out at having been taken off guard and bested. “You two just sit down and drink your drinks, ‘kay?”

“Yes, sir,” Ron conceded, unable to hide his amusement.

“Please don’t beat us, sir!” I mockingly pleaded with hands clenched beseechingly.

Jon was also having a hard time hiding the swell of amusement rising in him, joining along in my mockery. “Don’t worry, boy; I won’t beat you up too bad,” he said affecting a deep, bass voice. “Hell, you’d probably like it, anyway!” We laughed and apologized for interrupting his creativity.

We kept on chatting while Jon retrieved the chicken and started getting it ready. Ron shivered and drew up a little as he watched Jon press each breast down onto the carving board, holding it flat with his palm, while carving it in half, knife parallel to the floor. Even though he worked in a restaurant, this sight didn’t sit well with him.

“Jesus, that hurts me just watching it!”

“What?” Jon asked, looking up.

“You….getting ready to slice your palm open,” he said.

“Pfffffft,” Jon sputtered. “Piece o’cake.”

Ron still didn’t stop cringing as Jon kept carving.

“Do you want me to hold you, baby?” I half-whispered, leaning towards him as I mimicked a grandmotherly voice. Ron smiled slightly and cut his eyes down to the counter, looking away. Jon burst out laughing and dropped the knife on the floor, nearly impaling his foot with the 10 inches of sharp, Solingen steel. It was one of those snorting kind of laughs that is just uncontrollably contagious. I didn’t think it was THAT funny but we got caught up in his jocular conniption, too. It was a few moments before we calmed down and caught our breaths.

“Look,” Jon said, washing the blade and wiping it dry. “You guys better cut this shit out or we’re never gonna eat and you remember what happened last night with me drinking on an empty stomach?”

“Yeah, I have some vague recollection,” Ron said with a raised eyebrow and a squirrelly tilt to his slight smile.

“Keep cookin’, mon chef,” I commanded.

We continued drinking our beer and watched with fascination as my beefy little chef continued working. He carefully sliced the rest of the chicken, drowned them in egg batter, dredged them in flour and set them gently to sauté on the range, dripping a little wine in for good measure before closing it up with the lid. The fragrance of the wine drifting from the pan and the sight of him standing there doing his chef thing was oddly arousing to me. If Ron wasn’t sitting next to me I’d have been tempted to take him right there. But then, I glanced over and noticed that Ron was totally focused on Jon, too. His eyes seemed glued to Jon’s strong, smooth legs. There was no leer, no smile, no nothing, just a blank expression as if he were hypnotized. It really felt to me like there was more here than met the eye but I didn’t think it was a good time to pursue it. I really wasn’t sure how to pursue it just yet.

Jon had to have felt ours eyes gliding appreciatively over his backside. “It’s too quiet in here,” he said, hoping to prompt conversation, his back to us as he continued working away. After getting some rice ready to go into the microwave, Jon turned around, noticing our expressions. He stopped wiping his hands and stared at us quizzically. We must’ve looked like a couple of mannequins. “What?” he asked. “Hello!?” he said again, rapping his knuckles on the counter.

That snapped us out of it. The spell was broken. I occasionally had the tendency to just space out for a few moments. It was like my brain would go into neutral long enough to clear out some cobwebs and then suddenly jolt back into operation again. Maybe Ron was the same way, but I still suspected otherwise.

“Sorry, man, I just zoned out for a sec,” I said, taking a deep breath and stretching.

“Yeah, me too,” Ron agreed. “…happens now and then.”

“Nice to have you guys back on Earth,” Jon said. “What time is it?”

“’bout six-fifteen,” I said, glancing at my watch.

“Good, this just might work out,” he said, going back over to turn the chicken and get the oven ready. After a few more minutes, he dumped in a little more wine, added some mushrooms and set the covered mixture in the oven to bake. He glanced at the clock on the microwave; I glanced at my watch…continuously.

I think we were both getting a little antsy, wondering what to expect when Ron’s friend got here. Ron sensed our apprehension.

“You guys’re acting like you’re waiting for your executions or something,” he said. “Alicia’s good; quit worrying.” Jon and I nodded.

“I hope so,” Jon said. “You know, all the times I’ve been out here visiting my uncle or helping out or whatever, I’ve never been afraid of this place, even after he told me he thought it’ haunted. Now I am and I don’t like it,” said Serious-Jon.

“I gotta agree with J…..,” I started, but was interrupted by the chiming of the doorbell. I glanced again at my watch out of habit. Six-thirty-three. Fairly prompt; I liked her already.

Jon and I let Ron take the lead to the front door since he knew our visitor. He swung open the door and we saw a nice looking young woman, dressed casually in denim and khaki, who was a bit on the burly side. Her face brightened when she saw Ron.

“Hey, Alicia!” he chirped, swinging the door open wider so she could pass.

“Hey, Chipmunk, how’s things?” she asked as she stepped in, then looked a bit embarrassed when she saw Jon and I standing there, as if she’d betrayed a trust.

“Chipmunk?” Jon smiled, fixing his gaze on Ron.

“Yeah…,” Ron said bashfully, looking away.

“It’s my pet name for him,” she explained. “I love to watch him blush when I call him that. I apologize, I’m Alicia Cunningham,” she said, extending her hand.

“I’m Jon Shepard,” Jon said, stepping forward to accept her greeting. “….this is my friend, Brad Williams,” he continued.

We all shook hands, “I know,” she said. “We met before but you might not remember.”

Jon looked puzzled. “I do know you from somewhere,” I said. “…but I can’t place it.”

“I was dressed a little differently at the time,” she explained. “My hair was pulled back and I was wearing a pistol,” she said, grinning as she watched the light of recognition dawn on us.

“Oh, sure!” Jon said first. “You were out here the other day with the other Deputy when the alarm thing happened, right?”

“THANK you!” I said, smacking my forehead with my palm. “I couldn’t think of it to save my life!”

Alicia grinned and nodded. “That’s it.”

“So you’re already familiar with the house, then?” Ron asked.

“Only from the standpoint of a Deputy Sheriff checking a possible break-in. I wasn’t here as a psychic. It didn’t occur to me to look at that aspect of it at the time.”

“Alicia,” I began. “We really want to thank you for coming on such short notice. It’s just that things are getting very weird around here and it’s starting to drive Jon and me crazy.”

“You’re entirely welcome,” she replied. “I had to rearrange a couple of things, but this felt important from the way Ron was talking.”

“Oh, it is,” Jon said. “I, personally, have never experienced anything like this in my life and I want…,” he stammered a bit, “…I just want it fixed.”

“I know, hon; I’ll see what I can do. I don’t know if it’s the kind of thing that can be fixed, though, but we’ll see.”

“That’s all we’re askin’,” I said. I could almost feel a wave of relief pouring over me, Jon, too. It was as though the cavalry had arrived and everything was going to be fine. A happy ending with Jon and me riding happily off into the sunset; or even better, me riding Jon in the sunset. At least my sense of immodesty was returning.

“Well, let’s not just stand here in the hall,” Jon said. “You want something to drink? We’re pretty well stocked. Beer, wine…”

“Ice water’ll be fine,” she said. “I’ll take you up on the drink after we’re done. Not before, though; it jams my frequencies, so to speak.”

We all meandered back into the kitchen. Jon gave Alicia a tall glass of ice water and we sat at the table to get a little better acquainted.

“Something smells really good,” she said, sniffing at the air.

“Jon’s making some kind of a chicken thing,” Ron offered.

“Dinner,” Jon said. “You’re staying, aren’t you? There’s more than enough.”

“Sure, if it’s no trouble,” she said.

“We were expecting you to join us,” I said.

“Then, I accept,” she said. “I can’t cook worth a darn, myself, so this’ll be a treat. If it tastes as good as it smells, you might make someone a great wife someday, hon,” she smiled, winking at Jon who blushed just a smidgeon and turned his face away. She knew. I could almost read her thoughts. She seemed cool about it, though.

We chitchatted a little longer but I wasn’t as interested in it as Ron and Jon. I preferred, given my stress level on the matter, to come straight to the point. “So where do you want to begin, Alicia,” I said. “Should I tell you what’s been going on or how do you wanna do this.”

“Well, Chipm…..,” she started, then catching herself. Jon smiled. Ron winced. “….Ron’s tried telling me a little of what he knows but I told him I didn’t want to know yet….clouds the analysis. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather just walk around the house for a while and soak it in….see what comes through. Then we’ll sit down and talk. Is that all right?”

“Fine by me,” Jon said.

“Good,” she said. “I prefer to do this alone, so if you have no objections, would you mind just sitting tight ‘til I’m through?”

“No problem,” I said. “We’ll just sit here and keep Chip company!” I said, grinning as Jon started to laugh. Ron’s face flushed. Alicia couldn’t hold back her own grin.

“Thanks, Alicia,” Ron said. “You’ve really opened up a can o’ worms for these two clowns,” he said, his sarcasm lighthearted.

“Yeah, well; you boys have fun….I’m gonna just walk around for a while,” she said, obviously pleased to see us all getting along so well as she turned to head for the entry.

“What?!” I exclaimed, responding to the minor disapproving look Ron was giving me.

“Yeah, Chip’s a cool name for you,” Jon said. “It works!”

“Oh, shove it,” Ron said. I could almost feel his facial muscles aching. He wanted to frown and be mad at us but he just couldn’t. Deep inside him was a smile that was putting up a hell of a fight to get to the surface. Eventually he gave up and let it out of solitary confinement as Jon tickled at his ribs, taunting him.

“Henceforth shalt thou be known….” I said with Shakespearean flair. “….as Chip,” I finished crisply.

“Oh, God!” he said, rolling his eyes as he rose from the table. “I definitely need another beer. Who else?”

The quiet of the house was mollified only by the slight hum of the air conditioning and the occasional squeak of the hardwood floors overhead as Alicia walked around, slowly. For a while, we just sat quietly in the kitchen, not knowing quite what to do except drink our beers and wait. Jon couldn’t take sitting around anymore and went into Host-mode, getting things ready in the Dining Room, setting the table for four, even breaking out his uncle’s good china and silver. He was obviously very grateful to have Alicia there and wanted to show his appreciation. Ron and I started to help out and got things in order because we couldn’t stand sitting around any longer, either. We were startled when the silence was suddenly shattered by….

“The GOOD china?!” Alicia said. Her voice echoed from the bottom of the main stairs, which were not visible from the Dining Room. She appeared in the double doorway a moment later. “I’m impressed! You should’ve told me this was going to be a fancy affair, Chipmunk….I’d’ve dressed a little better.”

Jon was incredulous. “How did you….”

“Hon….,” she interrupted. “Think for just a moment about what you’re getting ready to ask.”

Jon paused. You could almost hear the gears grinding as he processed the information. “Oh…yeah,” he said meekly, setting the last of the utensils carefully in place.

“Oh, you’re good,” I drawled, smiling, wagging a finger in her direction. “I like her,” I said to Ron.

“Told you,” Ron agreed, poking me with his elbow and turning his attention back to Alicia. “So what’d you think?”

“Well, there’s a lot more going on here than what I’d originally suspected,” she began. “Jon, can I get some more ice water, then let’s all sit down and talk….Turn your chicken off, too, hon; it’s starting to burn.”

Jon looked back over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow as we followed him back into the kitchen. Grateful for her help though he was, Jon was puzzled by her and didn’t quite know how to react to things she said. He checked the oven. Sure enough, things were getting a little too toasty and he turned it off. He looked back over at Alicia, who was staring back with the kind of expression that asked, ‘Well?’.

“You’re right,” Jon said with a note of respect mixed with just a dash of fear. I could see the question on his face about what else this woman must know. Alicia was obviously confident about her abilities but just wanted to establish her credentials, I guess.

“C’mon, let’s get comfy so we can talk,” she said. Jon handed her a fresh glass of ice water and we all took seats in the entertainment area….for my money, still the coziest place in the house, except for the bedroom, of course.

“Okay,” Ron said. “What’d you think?” Alicia took a deep breath.

“Well, there’s a heck of a lot to tell you. There’s also a heck of a lot I can’t tell you,” she said.

“Can’t?” I asked.

“I’m prohibited,” she nodded. “We’ll get to that,” she added, seeing the extremely puzzled look on my face.

She took a long sip of her water. “First and foremost, and this goes double for you, hon…,” she said, looking at Jon, knowing his growing fear of the house. “….I’m sensing that you are in no danger from this house or anything in it, so calm down, okay?”

Jon nodded uneasily, still fearful of that other shoe that might drop any second. Personally, I sensed a really big ‘but’ coming to that one.

“Second; how much do you guys know about spirituality?”

“You mean like that new age stuff?” Jon asked. Alicia smirked slightly at hearing ‘new age’. She assumed a more tutorly demeanor.

“No, hon,” she began. “New Age is a media label for something they just found out about but don’t understand…I really don’t care for it, myself….makes it sound like some kind of new fad or something and it isn’t. It’s like an understanding of the way the universe works on a spiritual level,” she said, pausing. “I could spend a month trying to tell you everything I know, but we don’t have the time now, so I’m just going to dive in and you listen for now, okay? You’ll probably pick up on more than you think. We’ll come back to questions, later….over dinner,” she smiled.

“We’re listening,” I said.

“Two important points….This is not the reality,” she said, spreading her hands out across the room in a generalist way, “….and there is no death.”

I thought Jon looked puzzled before but now he looked totally bewildered. For some reason, though, what Alicia was saying resonated with me. It made sense on a deeper level.

“This is only A reality, not THE reality, and death is just a transition….it’s a doorway to the other reality, or realities.” You could’ve heard a pin drop as she continued. “Like the character in that Star Wars movie said, ‘Luminous beings are we’, you know?”

Well, no; I didn’t really know and she paused, looking to see if we were just totally lost. We might have looked a little confused, but not totally lost, so she continued.

“We are all spiritual beings having an earthly experience. Some people say that this workaday world we live in is the dream and the reality is somewhere else and vice-versa. Neither of them’re too far wrong, because it’s all the reality.”

“Now, I don’t know what your particular religious beliefs are but I can assure you that there is indeed life after what we call death…when the physical body dies. When we get back to what I call ‘Home’, some of us choose to stay, others of us choose to come back, depending on what lessons we want or need to learn. Some of us come back just because we like the energy of being in-body. You, for instance, Brad….,”

“Me?” I started a bit as she pointed at me.

“Yep. You have been back so many times that I can’t count’em all. You’re a very experienced soul and I half feel like I should be bowing in your presence, but let’s not get hung up on that point for now.”

My mouth stood agape, I didn’t know what to say. Jon filled that void. “You mean he’s an old soul?”

“Well, I suspect that all souls are roughly the same age, I don’t know for sure, mind you, but Brad’s a lot more experienced at being in-body than anyone I’ve ever met, but let’s not fixate on that…just keep it in the back of your minds for now.”

“When you say ‘in-body’,” Ron asked, “…you mean, like, past lives? Things like that?”

“Yes,” she said. “Exactly like that. We don’t remember past lives ‘cuz we’re not supposed to when we come back, but we always carry them all with us. You just need to know where to look in the library,” she said, smiling a wry smile, waiting to see if any of it would sink in.

“Library?” I asked.

“We’ll get to that, too,” she said.

“Seems like there’s an awful lot to get to,” I said, maybe a little too snidely. Alicia ignored my tone and just went on. She’d obviously been through this sort of exercise before.

Also,” she continued, “I believe that there are no, or at least very few genuine coincidences in life. It’s not by chance that you three found each other.”

“What?” I asked, completely unsure of what I was hearing.

“Past lives,” Alicia said, settling back into her chair. “I’ll go into it more over dinner. It’s all sort of related to what’s going on but let’s stick to why I’m here to begin with and that’s your resident spirit.”

“You mean the ghost?” Jon asked.

“No, hon….resident spirit. I’ve got so much to teach you,” she corrected. “’Ghost’ is kind of an insult. It implies it’s something dead and it’s…he’s not. The body he was ‘wearing’ in that life is gone, but his spirit….the thing that made him ‘him’, never dies. Like I said; there is no death.”

“So you did get a sense of whatever it is?” Ron asked.

“I got better than a sense of it, Chipmunk,” she said. “I pretty much got the whole lowdown.”

“So you saw the gho…the resident spirit?” Jon asked, quickly correcting himself.

“Yep,” Alicia said. “In fact, I’m looking at him right now.”

All of our expressions went from ones of acute interest to a strange mix of puzzled fear. It was then I noticed that her eyes darted to a point about two feet above my head. I felt a slight chill, like an icy hand, run up my spine and I jumped from the sofa to turn and face whatever she was looking at.

To Be Continued

Thanks to all of you again for taking the time to read Two Lives and for your kind words to all of you who've written.  As always, if you have any comments or just want to say 'hey', feel free to write me at the address at the top of the story.  I generally respond to all emails as time permits.