Journey to Love
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
Levi, Jeremy and I had put on a pretty impressive swimming and diving exhibition according to four tough judges and my body felt it. After Levi and I had brought each other off with our mouths and tongues, we drifted off to sleep even though it was early. Well, early for us as our usual bedtime during the past semester was midnight or later depending on how much studying we had to do, but tonight we were asleep before 10:30. Shortly before 11:00, there was a timid knock on my door and when I opened it, DeAngelo was standing outside.
“Littl' bro, could I borrow your car for the night? I don’t want to disturb our dads and while I know they would say take a vehicle, I don’t want to without asking. I called Joe and we talked for over an hour and I’d like to go spend the night with him. He’s getting tested tomorrow and I’m sure he’ll test positive for gonorrhea and chlamydia because as we talked, we pretty much came to the conclusion as to who infected me and we were involved in a three way with her more than once. He’s also frightened he will test positive for HIV. Derek, we were damn fools and there’s no way around that. Now we we’re going to pay, maybe with our lives. Anyway, could I use your car?”
“Big Bro, are you in any condition to drive?”
“I’m ok. I’m sure.”
I gave him my keys, hugged him and said, “DeAngelo, you do know I love you.”
“Love you too. I’ll be back sometime tomorrow. Thanks.”
I was crawling back in bed when my phone chirped letting me know I had a text message. It was from Jeremy. “Come over? Need talk.” I texted him back and told him to come and spend the night.
Levi was really sound asleep as he was not disturbed by neither DeAngelo’s knock nor my phone. I pulled on a pair of lounge pants and long sleeve T and went downstairs to wait for Jeremy. I had texted him saying the door would be open so he’d not ring the bell and wake the household. Thirty minutes after he called, I heard him drive up and met him at the door. He embraced me, but this time omitted the kiss, which pleased me.
“Thanks, Derek. I need to talk to someone other than Dad or Mom. Scratch that; I need to talk to you.”
“Let’s go into the kitchen and I’ll make some hot chocolate and we can talk as long as we need to.”
Jeremy took a seat at the kitchen table while I got out the milk, sugar, coco and vanilla and started the hot chocolate.
“Derek, when I got home, Dad was relaxing in the den, half dozing if the truth be told. I started just to go up and call Deborah without talking to Dad, but knew my decision to drop out of the Academy was at the heart of my situation, not my relationship with Deborah, and that really involved Dad more than Deborah, at least that’s the way I saw it. ‘Dad, enjoying a nap?’ I asked to awaken him.
“Dad responded, ‘Yeah,’ and chuckled, ‘I find I usually need a pre-bed nap these days. The old man’s not as young and spry as he once was.’
“‘Had enough nap for some serious talk?’ I asked.
“‘Doesn’t matter if you need to talk,’ he answered, ‘but I have.’
“I started telling him my thoughts on a military career and then on the Academy. As I told him my situation and how I felt about it, I realized I had never admitted how strongly I really felt about both. After I had talked for awhile, I finally said, ‘To be honest, Dad, when I think about a military career, I get very depressed. It’s like I am choosing to live forever in a black hole. The Academy? I actually hate it.’
“‘Jeremy,’ Dad said, ‘I was afraid you had talked yourself into something you’d regret. By your second or third email, I was pretty sure the way you have just described a military career and the Academy was the way it was, but I knew you would have to come to realize that. Sure, I could have asked questions and even told you what I thought was going on, but I decided I’d wait until you came home for the holidays, hoping you’d have figured things out by then. So what are your plans, or have you not had time to make any?’
“I realized it was not a time to beat about the bush and said, ‘I plan to send my resignation from the corps tomorrow. I’m not sure of all the paperwork that is involved and I am assuming it will not require a trip to the Point. I guess I’ll just drop out of college next semester and find a job, maybe working at the Center, and try for scholarships at other colleges for next year. To do anything else would place a big financial load on you and I won’t do that, especially since it was my decision which landed me in this mess.’
“I didn’t know what to expect and was a bit surprised when he said, ‘Well, look at it this way, you got a semester’s free ride, so one semester without a scholarship isn’t too bad. It needs to be a Virginia public college, but that decision can be made later because I think there’s something else on your mind.’
“Which meant it was time to talk about the other half of my problem, which I was dreading. ‘There is., Deborah. See Dad, she is absolutely committed to a military career. I know you and Mom seemed to have survived very well, but I’m not sure I want that life. To be honest, I don’t think she will be interested in me if I don’t return to the Academy and pursue a military career.’”
“‘Your mom and I survived and had a pretty decent marriage in many ways, and you may not realize it coming along as late as you did, but your older brothers saw very little of me. Early on when I was coming up through the ranks, the Army claimed most of my time. I was posted hither and yon where sometimes the family could join me, but often not. Had your mom not been as dedicated to the Army as I was, the marriage could not have lasted or it would not been what a marriage is to me. So, Jeremy, you can’t judge a possible marriage to a soldier by your mom’s marriage to me. Son, remember Brad saying Derek could never be the basketball player DeAngelo is because he didn’t have the passion? You could never be the soldier’s spouse your mother is because you do not have the passion she has. Nothing good or bad about that, just a fact.’”
“‘So, in spite of how much I love Deborah, I need to say goodbye to her.’”
“‘Not in spite of, Son, because of how much you love her.’”
“I hugged Dad and said, 'Thanks, Dad. I’ll call her tonight.’”
“I went to my room, took a deep breath and dialed Deborah’s number. While it was 1:30 in Virginia, it was only 11:30 in Idaho.
“‘Achenbach Residence,’ Mrs. Achenbach answered the phone.
“‘This is Jeremy Willoughby. May I speak with Deborah please?’
“‘Oh. Jeremy, Deborah’s not in at the moment. May I take a message?’
“‘Do you know when she might be home?’
“‘Well, she went out with a friend from high school and said they might be a bit late getting in.’
“‘Thanks. Just tell her I called and will call her in the morning.’
“‘I will tell her, but I wouldn’t call before noon, Jeremy. As I said, she said she and Jon would be out late.’
“‘Thanks Mrs. Achenbach and Merry Christmas.’
“‘You as well, Jeremy,’ she replied and I hung up.’”
“So who’s Jon?” I asked.
“That’s kinda interesting. Jon was her high school boyfriend, I guess from eighth grade on. Well, her eighth grade and his seventh. He was a year behind her. According to Deborah, they were just good friends who liked to do things together. When she got her appointment, Jon was happy for her. He hoped to get one and if he didn't, planned to try for an Army scholarship somewhere. I suspect he is as gung-ho as she is or maybe he was more interested in Deborah than she thought. Anyway, they are planning on being out late and Mrs. Achenbach seemed unconcerned about it. She wasn’t so unconcerned, by the way, when I was out there. Deborah had a very strict curfew. I guess I am as in the dark about Deborah as she is about me. Well, more of the exciting saga tomorrow.”
We went upstairs, got undressed and slipped into bed, Jeremy between me and Levi. Levi must really have been exhausted because he slept through it all.
“Don’t think you want to do that,” Jeremy said, waking me from a sound sleep.
“What the fuck!” Levi exclaimed and Jeremy started laughing.
“No doubt I’d enjoy it, but I suspect that’s not what you had in mind,” Jeremy said. “Sorry.”
“Where did you come from?” Levi asked.
“What’s going on?” I was finally awake enough to ask.
“Seems I grabbed a hard cock, thinking it was yours and turns out it was Jeremy’s,” Levi said. “When did you join us in bed?”
“I think about 2:00, 2:30,” Jeremy said and told Levi what was going on.
“Sounds as though your dad is right there for you,” Levi said. “I hope you know you’re lucky.”
“I do, although I’m human and forget sometimes, but when push comes to shove, I know I can count on Dad. It’s no wonder his troops thought he hung the moon. I’ve seen him with them and he was the same as with his boys, caring, but firm. So how about showers and then we’ll fix breakfast.”
It was almost nine when we went down and Sam and Brad were sitting at the kitchen table. “Morning, Dads,” I said. “Breakfast ready?”
“It’s ready to get ready,” Sam said. “The bacon’s out and the pancake batter is mixed so go to it.”
The three of us soon had the bacon frying, the pancakes cooking and the table set. DeAngelo and Joe came in just as we were finally ready to sit down to eat. DeAngelo had a report from the UVA doctor which lifted his spirits as the HIV tests were negative, but again he was told no sex until at least one other test--in a month. Joe, as DeAngleo suspected, had contracted the two common, curable diseases DeAngelo had.
When we sat down, Brad said, “Didn’t expect to see you this morning, Jeremy. Sergeant Major didn’t throw you out because you had decided the Army wasn’t for you, did he?”
“Of course not. In fact, he said he was prepared to talk with me about the Academy and the Army when I came home because he had read between the lines of my email. He wouldn’t hear of my plan to drop out of college for a semester. We’ll talk more about that today, but he says it’ll have to be a Virginia state college he suspects since private and out of state tuition is so high.
“How about OCU?” Levi asked. “You are an excellent swimmer. No scholarship money for this year, but you can try for one next year. Derek might even let you sleep on the living room couch. Right, Derek?”
“Sure, or he could share the bed.”
“Bad idea,” Jeremy said.
“Bad idea,” Levi echoed.
“Well, sure, for a semester, if you’re willing to go to all the trouble of making up and tearing down a bed everyday--and if Auntie approves.”
“Hey, a sleeping bag works fine so the bed will be a small hassle, but we three need to talk about this more,” Jeremy said. “Also, I need to talk to Dad as well.”
“Sure, and I’ll talk to Auntie if you’re interested.”
“I’ll let you know later today. Right now, I need to get home. I need to call Deborah, but it will be 2:00 before I can do that. Actually, I need to go to the Center since I suspect that’s where I’ll find Dad. Thanks for being Derek, Derek, and all, thanks for breakfast. I’ll come by or give you a call later.”
After Jeremy left, we sat down with another cup of coffee. As we were getting settled, Brad asked, “Derek, what are you feeling about Jeremy living with you?”
“Did I jump the gun?” Levi asked.
“To be honest, Levi, you did,” Sam said. “I know you live with Derek, but it’s his place and you offered it to Jeremy without consulting Derek or Auntie. Probably no harm done, but there could have been a major problem caused by your action.”
I started to dismiss the whole episode, but then again, Levi had made a very big assumption. I was perfectly willing, even delighted to have Jeremy join us, but the fact remained that Levi had assumed an ownership that was not his. “As I’m sure you all know, I’m fine with Jeremy joining us, but ask next time, Levi. I’ll call Auntie as soon as Jeremy has made a decision. In spite of her constantly saying it's my home, it’s not. It’s her house.”
Levi and I drove into Stanton in early afternoon for a good work out and swim. (Technically we did not go into Stanton since the Center was actually in Alexander County, however, its west boundary was the Stanton city limits. Few missed the irony of that!) Mr. Malik and Ms. Bianchi were there working with the high school team. They were good, but, to be perfectly honest, not as good as last year’s team. Both the coaches said this year’s team lacked the spirit last year’s had. “Maybe that’s because they didn’t have to fight to have a team,” I suggested. Both nodded.
After a work out and swim, we went by to spend time with Mom. She was doing fine. Of course, she missed Granny Lotz, but she had been aware for a couple years that at Granny’s age, she could be gone anytime. Mom had started in Martha Baldwin’s adult degree program and was doing well. She was in no rush, but she was not an old woman and had decided she wanted to work with kids. Her adviser asked her about getting a teaching certificate and teaching where she was now cooking. “You know the situation there, you speak the language and the school often is in desperate need of teachers.” The thought had never occurred to Mom and she’d been delighted at the possibility, but it had taken a lot of encouragement to convince her she could do it. Once she’d started, she’d found she enjoyed the experience.
After spending almost two hours with Mom, we headed home. When we reached the Grace House drive, I saw Jeremy coming from the opposite direction. He pulled right behind me and parked. Jeremy, Levi and I walked into the house before we spoke more than greetings.
Inside, we found Sam and Brad at the kitchen table, having a cup of coffee, I guess, except they were like statues, not moving. They were sitting across from each other, arms on the table, holding hands. As they gazed into each others eyes, they had tiny smiles on their faces. Damn! They never seemed to get enough of each other. My dads often had these moments when they were acting like lovesick kids. When I happened to see one, I was thrilled. They had been together longer than half my life and were still very much in love. I’m not at all sure they were conscious of the fact their love nest had just been invaded by three teenagers.
“There’s a wonderful room upstairs with a fantastic bed,” I said as I walked past the two.
“We just left both,” Sam said without moving, but by the time I had made fresh coffee, the two were back to earth. “So, how stand things today, Jeremy?” Sam asked as I placed the five cups of coffee--Sam and Brad both drank gallons when they were home, but very little when they were at work--on the table and sat down.
“Things are pretty limp,” Jeremy laughed. “I’ve been dumped. I called Deborah at 2:00 and her mom said she was still in bed and said no more. I was just ready to call again at 3:00--I wanted this over with--when the phone rang. It was Deborah. I was surprised when she started talking as though I had not called. She said she would not be coming to Virginia for New Year’s. Jon had invited her out to celebrate his appointment to the Academy which he had just been assured would happen although it was not official. She said they had a nice dinner and then went where they could talk. She had called her mom to tell her she would be late coming home and the two had talked until 2:00 in the morning. ‘I’m sorry, Jeremy, but what I thought was love for you was just my misplaced love for Jon. It’s not official, of course, but Jeremy, Jon and I are engaged. I’m sorry.’ I decided just to tell her I hoped she would be happy and hung up without telling her I’d not be back at the Academy.”
“So you’re pretty down, I guess,” Brad said.
“I have very mixed feelings. Since I was ready to tell her not to come because it had to be over between us, I was relieved that I could let that pass. But I do love the woman, or at least the woman I thought she was. I’m not at all sure about this ‘misplaced love’ idea.”
“I suppose it’s possible,” Sam said, “but does it really matter?”
“I guess not,” Jeremy responded, but didn’t sound very sure of his answer. “Anyway, Dad and I had long talk about my going to OCU.” Jeremy laughed. “You know what? He’s more concerned at Derek’s feelings than whether or not I go to OCU or have a place to stay. Derek, if you want me at your place, you have to talk with Dad.”
I called Auntie and we talked about how things were going with Eloise. “Derek, she’s a strong woman,” Auntie said, “but that Lynchburg bitch would whip anybody’s spirit. Found out she’s a very capable person and is looking for a job. I think she’ll be out on her own shortly. When I asked about that possibility it seems she has never given it any thought because she’s constantly being told she is incapable of doing anything.”
“Sounds like the good guys are winning,” I said.
“Oh, no question about that! So how’re things at home?”
“Things are fine,” I responded. There was no reason to burden Auntie with the possibility DeAngelo was HIV+. “As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I called was to ask about your taking in another mouth to feed.” I then told her about Jeremy’s situation.
“No problem for me,” she said. “He’ll have to pay his share of everything just as Levi does, there is one major concern. I know you were in love with the guy and while you may think you are over it, having him right there may evoke old feelings.”
“Auntie, I think I am as over loving him as you ever get over your first love. To me, falling back in love with Jeremy seems so remote as to be beyond the realm of possibility.”
“He know he’ll have to sleep on the sofa in the living room?”
“He does. Says a sleeping bag will simplify that.”
“Smart man. Sure you can’t turn him gay?”
“I tried,” I laughed.
“Well, as you know, Derek, it’s your house.”
“No, I don’t know that, Auntie. It’s your house.”
“Well, as long as I need it. Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
“Same to you, Auntie. Oh, Levi and I will be spending New Year’s with Philip and Peter in Richmond, so we should be home around noon New Year’s Day.”
“Don’t you dare! You’ll be partying until the wee hours. Don’t you dare leave Richmond before you have at least six hours’ sleep!”
So it looked as though Jeremy would be joining me--and Levi--at Auntie’s house if he could get accepted at OCU. I suspected that would be no problem since he would be a day student. Guess I needed to talk with Sergeant Major as soon as possible to get the ball rolling. Since day after tomorrow was Christmas Eve and Friday during the holiday break at the university, there was nothing to be accomplished until Monday at the earliest, if then.
Jeremy and I needed to talk without anyone else around. I couldn’t think of a diplomatic way to tell Levi that. ‘It will just have to be undiplomatic, I suppose.’ I went downstairs and said “Levi, Jeremy and I need to talk. Think you can keep yourself entertained for awhile?”
“Sure, no problem,” Levi said, but the way he said it, and the look he gave me, I wasn’t sure how honest he was being. Well, that wasn’t my concern right then. “Jeremy,” I said and motioned for him to follow me.
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