Journey to Love
Chapter Fourteen: Friends
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Sunday evening, Sergeant Major and Mrs. Willoughby were coming over for supper and to play bridge with Sam and Brad. The doorbell rang and when I opened the door, saw Sergeant Major and Mrs. Willoughby standing there just before Jeremy popped out from behind them, grabbed me and planted a big kiss on my lips. I was stunned and expected Sergeant Major and Mrs. Willoughby to be, but they were just laughing. “What are you doing here?” I stammered.
“I was only in a summer program,” Jeremy laughed. “I have a week before I become a real West Point cadet, so I decided I should come home. I got here Saturday, but Dad told me how busy all of you guys were getting the campers home and all and that I should wait to see you until tonight. By the way, Dad and Mom know there's nothing beyond friendship between us, but I thought you'd enjoy a kiss.” I blushed and all three laughed.
fter supper, the bridge players set up shop and Jeremy and I went upstairs to my room. “So how was the summer at West Point?” I asked.
“Not bad, not bad at all, but it has given me second thoughts about a military career. It's all I have ever thought about, but once I faced the fact that it was real and immediate and not something way out there in the future, I kept asking myself if that was what I wanted to do. More and more, Derek, I think I thought that was what Dad wanted me to do, not what I wanted. That's one reason I asked about spending this week here. I wanted to talk to Dad.”
The Center would be closed for a week to give the staff time to recuperate from the two swim camps and to allow for repairs, replacements and upgrades. Sergeant Major and Brad started inspecting the place as soon as the last campers climbed out of the pool, and went over the ongoing list of needs and arranged any repairs, replacements or upgrades needed, and made sure the books were all up to date. No one would be at the Center except those doing the work on the facility. Jeremy said he and his dad were going fishing Monday. “We always go fishing when we really need to talk.”
After Sam and Brad left Monday, I went to my room and took care of business, long and leisurely unlike the getting off quickly I had done while camp was on. I cleaned up my considerable mess and before I knew it, dozed off. I woke up again about eleven, showered and got dressed. I fixed a couple of sandwiches and polished them off. While I was eating, I decided to give the Churchville boys a call. I called Don's house and his mother said he, Chuck and Afton had gone to Lexington for the day. “It has something to do with Chuck and Afton and college.” Left alone, I changed clothes, hopped on my bike and headed for Waynesville, a little over twenty miles away. Swimming and diving had sure kept my legs in shape, so riding wasn't difficult at all.
It was almost 4:00 when I got back, so I checked to see what Sam was preparing for supper and whether or not there was something I could do to make it easier on him. There was and I started by peeling potatoes. At 5:00, Jeremy called and asked about our spending the day together Tuesday and I was delighted. “I have a lot to talk with you about,” he said. “Dad will drop me off at your place on his way to the Center.”
“I didn’t think anyone would be at the Center this week.”
“You know Dad. There are workmen there and he’s Sergeant Major. There must be inspections,” he laughed.
“Bring your bike,” I said just before we hung up.
Jeremy and Sergeant Major arrived at 8:30 and had a cup of coffee with my dads, then all three went into Stanton, Sam to the hospital and Brad and Sergeant Major to the Center. Jeremy and I cleaned up the kitchen and then hopped on our bikes and headed toward Churchville. I wanted Jeremy to meet the Churchville boys if they were around. It was only ten miles, so it didn't take us long to reach Don's place. His mom said they were working in the hay field. When we found them, they were taking a break. Introductions out of the way, I asked, “How long before you guys are free?”
“An hour here, then a couple or three at my place,” Chuck said.
“Use some help?” Jeremy asked. He had now lived and worked on a farm long enough to know something about farm work. In spite of how I kidded Jeremy when I first met him, I might as well have grown up in the middle of New York City when it came to farm work.
“Sure, and happy to have it.”
The hay had been raked into long narrow piles—Chuck called them windrows, I don't know why. When the break was over, Don climbed on a tractor pulling a machine behind it over the rows. The machine picked up the hay in the front and dumped square bales out the back. “Damn, a machine that eats hay and shits square turds,” I said and laughed.
“Derek, since you lack experience, hop in the truck and drive as slow as you can between two rows of bales,” Afton said, climbing on the truck. Jeremy and Chuck stuck a fork in a bale and swung it to Afton who used his fork to grab it and place it on the truck. The two soon had a pile of hay on the truck too high to swing bales up to Afton, so Chuck told me to stop. Afton climbed down and he and Chuck strapped down the bales and we headed to the hay shed, leaving Don running the baler.
Don had finished when we got back. He took Jeremy's place and Jeremy climbed on the truck with Afton. With two stacking hay on the truck, I could speed up and we soon had the second load ready for the shed. We finished the field in forty minutes instead of an hour.
Back at the house, Don's mom had lunch ready and we all ate. She suggested we take a rest, but the boys told her they'd like to finish and go to my place for a swim. We finished the second field in a couple hours and after Chuck stashed our bikes on the truck, we all squeezed into the crew cab and headed for Grace House.
We spent the afternoon in and around the pond, playing a lot of grab ass until Jeremy commented on it. I had forgotten he didn't know the four of us were gay. “Ah, Jeremy, sorry, I forgot to tell you Chuck and Afton are a couple and Don is gay too.”
“Damn, I am a minority,” he laughed. “No problem, but guys, hands off my junk.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Don said. “We didn't know either.” When we were finally tired of the pool and the guys needed to go, we showered, got dressed and headed for the house. It was 4:00. The Churchville boys told Jeremy they were glad they’d met him, we all hugged each other and they headed home.
“Don your boyfriend?” Jeremy asked me, eyebrows raised.
“No, I think both of us wanted that to happen after we met Fourth of July. We jerked off together a few times, even did each other once or twice, but we're just friends. All three are lot of fun.”
“Buffalo Gap. Chuck and Don are cousins one way or another and all are connected with the Churchville Moonshiners. They set up the stage for the Fourth of July picnic. I met them then.” Jeremy nodded.
I got us cokes and we went up to my room. “How'd the fishing go?” I asked, allowing Jeremy as much leeway as possible in deciding how to answer.
“Bad and good,” he replied. “So far as fishing is concerned, neither Dad nor I caught a thing. So far as our talking was concerned, good, very good. Dad made it very clear that if I chose the military, he would be quite happy, but he said, 'Son, you choose any honorable profession, and I will be equally happy. I have had my life to live. I don't need to live yours. I would be disappointed if I thought you chose the military because you thought I wanted you to.' It all boils down to that I had decided, for no real reason, that was what he wanted and I was supposed to do it.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“Dad and I talked at great length. He asked if I was sure I didn't want to make the military my career. I told him I just was having second thoughts. He said he suspected anyone approaching the reality of deciding on a career rather than daydreaming about it would have second thoughts. 'If you are not sure, why not go ahead this year, give it your best shot then decide?' Made sense to me.”
“Me too,” I said. “I have no idea what I want to do. Well, something in biology, but that could be anything from wildlife management to being a doctor.”
“Those two may not be that far apart,” Jeremy laughed. “Anyway, what makes you think you could manage a wild life?” That provoked a wrestling match which resulted with us falling off the bed, Jeremy on top of me. I was already at full mast when we fell and there was no way Jeremy could not know it. He looked in my eyes, rolled off of me and said, “Derek, I really wished I could love you the way you love me.”
“I know,” I replied. We both knew where things stood and there was nothing we could do to change it.
The rest of the week we swam, both in the pond and the pool, worked out, ran, watched movies. We also spent time by ourselves and with just our folks. Wednesday night DeAngelo called and asked us to bike to Harrisonville and take in the final competition for a dance/acrobatics camp. When I groaned, he said, “Hey, Budro, there's plenty of eye candy for you as well.”
We decided to go through Weyer's Cave on the trip up—it was almost thirty miles--and take Route 25 for the sixteen-mile ride back. The competition began at 1:00 and went until 5:00. We figured two hours up, so we planned to leave at 10:00, have lunch with DeAngelo, horse around a bit and get to the competition around 2:00 or so. We'd decide when to leave, but the trip back should take considerably less than two hours, so even if we left at 5:00, we'd get back well before dark. After Sergeant Major picked up Jeremy, I packed a change of clothes, a couple of extra water bottles and was ready to go.
The next morning was beautiful. Jeremy arrived at 8:00 and suggested we start and take our time, which we did. Anytime we saw something interesting, we stopped. After we had been riding about an hour, we approached a long, straight, level spot and decided to pour on the coal. After twenty minutes, we dropped back a bit, but were approaching the campus and it was just a quarter of ten. We went to DeAngelo and Joe's suite—they shared with two other guys—showered and dressed. We just hung out at the suite until 11:00 when we went to lunch. DeAngelo suggested we go downtown rather than suffering through college food, which we did.
The competition was fun and there was eye candy for gays and straights, but after a couple hours we decided we has seen enough and headed back to Grace House. We arrived half an hour before Sam. While he showered and changed, I started supper prep. Sam was still upstairs when Brad and Sergeant Major arrived. Jeremy had been complaining about flying out of Weyer's Cave—approaching torture—and Charlottesville was little better. Since I would be going through Richmond, I asked if he'd like to ride to the airport there where he'd definitely have better connections. He thought that was a good idea and asked his dad when he came in to get Jeremy. His dad agreed and said they'd make arrangements and let me know times and all.
I was planning on spending Friday packing, storing things and getting my room ready to leave, so Jeremy and I would not be getting together. When we sat down to supper, Sam told me not to plan anything for Saturday evening as he was having a small going away dinner party. Earlier Jeremy and I had planned to get together with the Churchville boys, but when I called, I was told they already had plans.
Brad said he and Sam were taking off Friday afternoon to spend time with me if that was OK. I assured him it was not only OK, but wonderful. I got packed, gave my room a good cleaning and stored things I was not taking so the room would be free. I knew in one sense it would always be my room and in another, after Sunday, it would not be my room.
Brad and Sam got home just after noon. After changing, Sam asked me to get a cooler from the garage and put the bag of ice he brought in it and bring it to the kitchen. When I did, he said I should grab some towels, swim trunks and blankets and put them in the Jeep. When I finished, I took the cooler to the Jeep and he followed me with a picnic basket.
Brad came downstairs as we came back into the house and Sam said, “We're ready.” Brad got in the back seat after telling me I was riding shotgun. We headed toward Buffalo Gap. “We're going to a place I found on Lake Moomaw,” Sam told me. It took some rough driving and hiking, but we ended up in a beautiful spot on the lake where we were not likely to see another human being.
We spent the afternoon swimming in the cold lake, sunning ourselves, drinking wine. My two dads never drank more than enough to get a good buzz on and while I am sure they were watching me closely, neither said anything about how much I drank, which was a great deal less than they did. I drank what I wanted, knowing they were telling me they trusted me and knew I was responsible by allowing me to drink. It gave me a good feeling. As the sun started going down, Sam opened the picnic basket and spread a delicious picnic supper. When we finished eating, we lay back, relaxing. “Dads,” I said, “you'll never know how much you mean to me and how much I love you. I promise, I'll make you proud of me.”
“Derek,” Sam said, “you don't have to worry about making us proud of you. You have already and we know we'll always be proud of you.”
“And, Derek,” Brad said, “you'll never know how much you mean to us and how much we love you. You and DeAngelo, but especially you, have given us a gift we never dreamed we'd have: sons.” We then had a hug fest, all with tears in our eyes.
We lay back on a blanket, me between the two who were lying on their sides, an arm across me, holding hands. “I hope, one day, I will find someone who will love me and I will love the way you two love each other.”
“You will,” Sam said.
“You certainly will and it will make us happy too,” Brad added.
We lay there talking or in silence until the stars came out. Then, we hiked back to the Jeep and headed home.
Jeremy called early Saturday morning to tell me the only flight he could get out of Richmond was at 12:15, earlier than he had hoped. “I'll need to be there by 11:00 Dad says.”
“We can leave at 7:30 and have lunch before I drop you off. No problem.”
“OK,” he agreed.
After breakfast, I drove into Stanton to spend the day with Granny Lotz and Mom. Granny still was not doing well and when I said I was sure she would soon be better, she laughed. “Derek, I was in my fifties when your mom was born. She has a twenty-year-old son. Add it up. I'm shoving ninety hard. Once you pass seventy-five, you never reach where you were before you got sick. No, I don't expect to get much better, but I'm not complaining.”
We had a good time together. Mom prepared a light lunch, which was all she and Granny Lotz wanted. “You're having dinner tonight, so you don't need much either,” but Mom whispered to me, “But you can grab a snack when you get home. ” Mom would be coming out later, but said I should get to Grace House and help Sam if he needed me.
Sam had told me he and Brad were having a going-away dinner party for me and I had assumed it would be the three of us, Mom and maybe DeAngelo so I couldn't see why he needed help. I had finished packing, but Brad and Sam kept asking if I was sure I had one thing or another. They were driving me batty.
Brad left for Harrisonville and was barely out of the driveway when Sam had me seated at the table reminding me of his 'slut period.' He finally said, “Derek, I hope we have helped you see you are a remarkable young man. We don’t want you to fall into destructive behavior. We are always here. We are your dads and we love you, son. Call us before you get in too deep if you see yourself headed in that direction.” When Brad got back he had DeAngelo and Joe with him. As they came into the house, Brad yelled, “Pond time!”
I guess we really were water babies since after being in the water much of the summer, we were in and out of the pond for an hour before we reluctantly showered and headed for the house.
DeAngelo and Joe went into town and picked up Mom and she and Sam fussed around in the kitchen for awhile before deciding they had nothing more to do. The doorbell rang and as I went to open it, I noticed the dining table was set, but paid no attention. When I opened the door, Don, Chuck and Afton were standing there, dressed up in rugby shirts and chinos. We exchanged hugs and I headed them toward our living room (the formal living room we called the parlor). The doorbell rang again, just as I started back with them; Sergeant Major, Mrs. Willoughby and Jeremy were at the door.
When we got back to the living room, Sam was serving punch and after introductions, we all had a great time together. Finally, Sam told us dinner was being served. The table was beautiful. As soon as we walked in, I noticed there were place cards. My place was at the head of the table and Mom at the other end. Brad was on my right and Sam on my left. DeAngelo was on one side of Mom and Sergeant Major on the other. While we were still standing, Sam said grace and two guys came into the dining room with bottles of champagne. “Guys, I have checked with your parents and while I know it's not legal, I believe young people should be allowed to celebrate at home—Derek, at home, soon-to-be college man.” When all our flutes had been filled, Brad proposed a beautiful toast to family and friendship. Sam followed with a toast to me with best wishes as I started a new phase in my life. There were other toasts and then dinner was served.
After dinner, we had another glass of champagne and strawberries. The older folks then went into the parlor and left the living room to us. “Damn,” DeAngelo said, “where’re the women?”
“Who needs women?” Chuck asked and Afton blushed.
“Yeah, who needs women?” Don responded.
“Shit!” DeAngelo said. “Am I outnumbered here?”
“No, looks like four on our team and three on theirs,” Joe laughed. Jeremy grinned at me and DeAngelo glanced at me, then quickly looked away.
“Sorry, Joe, afraid it's four on mine and three on yours,” I said, laughing.
“Shit, the room is full of studs and over half are gay? What happened to the lisp and limp wrists?” he laughed.
“I don't know,” Chuck laughed. “Maybe they went the way of the straight Neanderthal jock.”
It was amazing how that bit of horseplay relaxed the crowd and we were soon into guy talk about the summer, even to talk about hot dates and all.
Everyone left at ten except Mom, DeAngelo and Joe. I expected Mom to spend the night, but Granny Lotz was not doing well and Mom needed to get back. Since I would be leaving so early, Mom and I said our goodbyes and I headed up to bed while DeAngelo and Joe drove her home in my car.
I was up, dressed and having breakfast with my dads at 6:00 and picked up Jeremy at 7:30. We reached I-295, the quickest route to the airport, but wanted to have lunch together. His dad had recommended a restaurant downtown and gave Jeremy money to see that we had a special lunch. Since we had reservations, we were promptly seated and were soon enjoying an exceptional meal. We would have liked to linger longer, but he had to get to the airport, get checked in and through security for his 12:15 flight. He checked in and we were saying goodbye when he suddenly grabbed me, gave me a very passionate kiss on the lips, turned and ran for the security gate. I stood in the middle of the Richmond International Airport thunderstruck and said slowly, “What the fuck? Shit!” I drove to Norfolk in a daze, I guess driving carefully because I arrived in one piece, but overcome by the emotions I was feeling, I remembered nothing of the trip.
I arrived at Auntie’s just after 2:00. She waved from the kitchen window as I drove to the garage. I grabbed a couple of suitcases and headed for the back door. Inside, I put the suitcases down and gave Auntie a hug. “Welcome back, Derek. My, you do look good. Well, sit down, sit down. I just made lemonade.” We had a glass and shared a plate of cookies while I told her about my summer. When we finished our lemonade and cookies, she said, “Take your things to the guest room. I'll wait for you out back.”
I hauled my things to the guest room, wondering why Auntie put me there instead of upstairs, but I was sure she had her reasons. As I set down the last box, I thought, 'I am no longer a high school student and for a day or so, not yet a college student. I am between and it feels like it,' turned and walked out back.
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