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All best, Jon
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Jon and Matt
He threw a robe on over his briefs and t-shirt and headed for the kitchen. He went outside and got the paper. He glanced at the headlines, and read the comics and the advice columns. With all of the emotional ups and downs he’d been through in the last week, it felt good to do something normal.
When he’d finished with the paper, it was almost 8:30. He figured he’d start some breakfast. His mom always loved it when he cooked, and he wanted to show off his culinary skills to Jon. After studying the contents of the ‘fridge, he decided on huevos rancheros, one of his breakfast specialties, but first, he started frying up a skillet full of bacon. He’d long ago come to the realization that this was the easiest way to get people down to the kitchen in the morning. As the bacon sizzled in the pan, he began cracking eggs into a large mixing bowl when he felt two arms encircle his waist. He wasn’t sure at first if it was Jon or his mom, so he decided to play it cool.
“’Morning sleepy head.” He said cheerfully.
He was aware of something hard prodding him in the butt, and decided it definitely wasn’t his mom. He turned around and kissed Jon on the lips.
“I’m so sorry about last night. I really tried to stay awake.”
“Oh, that’s okay, baby” Jon said with a slightly gravely morning voice. “Just sleeping next to you was great. We’ll get to it, and maybe you’re right, we don’t have to be in a rush. I want it to be special.”
“Me to.” Matt agreed.
They thought they heard footsteps on the stairs and gave each other a quick peck on the lips before separating. Bill Barker came in to the kitchen in his robe, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“No fair cooking bacon, you knew that would get me up.” he yawned.
“I just wanted to do something nice for my family and guest!” Matt protested, “Is that a crime?”
“I’m not sure when you became such a morning person, but I’m not complaining.” Bill said, and ruffled Matt’s hair.
Jon asked if there was anything he could do, and Matt put him to work chopping scallions. Bill had just finished setting up the coffee pot when his wife joined them.
“Jon, you’ll have to sleep over more often. I could get used to this.” She said, as she slid into a chair at the kitchen table.
It made Jon feel really special to know that Matt’s efforts were due to his presence. “Any time you’ll have me!” He thankfully replied.
By the time Matt had the eggs going, Bill had poured cups of coffee for
Ann and him, and O.J. for the boys. Everyone was taken with the masterpiece
that Matt set before them. Ann commented, “It’s almost too
beautiful to eat.”
“Yes.” Ann sighed. “I could definitely get used to this.”
As Bill cleared the table, he asked, “So what are you guys up to today?”
Jon told him that he had to get home soon because his parents had invited some neighbors for a barbeque, and it was his job to clean up the patio and set up the grill for the season.
“I could help you.” Matt offered
“That’d be great, and you could stay for the barbeque.” Jon said, beaming at him.
“Don’t you think you’d better ask your parents before you invite Matt?” Ann put in.
“Nah, if he helps with the cleaning, there’s no way they wouldn’t expect him to stay. Besides, mom said Matt’s welcome at our house any time.” Jon answered.
Ann smiled. It pleased her that her son was a good little family ambassador. By 11 O’Clock, the boys had showered, dressed and were out the door towards Jon’s house. When they arrived, they went straight to work on the patio, and in no time they were hosing down the flag stones and uncovering the furniture, pausing now and then to squirt each other with the hose, and to just horse around in general.
Shelley Kent observed them through the kitchen window. She felt as though a huge burden was lifted from her shoulders as she watched her youngest son enjoying the simple pleasure of friendship that had been denied to him for most of his young life.
Sam came in to the kitchen, and his mother called him to the window to watch the boys at work and play. “It’s great to see Jonny having such a good time isn’t it?” She remarked.
“Yeah,” Sam answered. “I think I might have to eat some crow.” He chuckled lightly.
Shelley gave him a perplexed smile and asked, “What are you talking about?”
Sam explained his earlier misgivings and his confrontation with Matt in the boy’s room. “I just couldn’t stand to see him get hurt anymore. I’m so glad I was wrong about Matt.”
They stood by the window and watched the boys for awhile. Sam turned to his mom with a wicked grin, and told her to keep watching. He quietly opened the kitchen door and crept out on the patio. He picked up the hose and turned it full force at the two unsuspecting boys.
“Hey!” Jon shouted and ran headlong for Sam, who dropped the hose and plucked him effortlessly out of mid air and spun him around. Both boys ended up wrestling and rolling around in the grass laughing hysterically. Matt, still unsure of his status with Sam, stayed out of the way. Sam let Jon pin him, and as they lay there catching their breath, Jon arched his eyebrows toward Matt and whispered,
“Let’s get him!”
The brothers bounded to their feet, Sam grabbing the hose and Jon lunging for a stunned Matt. During the struggle, Matt managed to turn the hose back on the other two. When they were all thoroughly soaked and out of breath from laughing so hard, they collapsed in the lawn chairs and calmed down.
When they had regained their composure, Sam looked across the table at Matt and said, “I’m sorry Matt…and thanks.”
Jon looked quizzically at his brother and asked him “What’s going on?”
It was Matt who explained. “Remember when we met outside the library the other day after lunch and you asked me if something was wrong?”
“Yeah, you said you couldn’t tell me…” It pleased Sam that Matt had kept his word.
“Well,” Matt continued, “I was in the boy’s room alone, and this big hulking senior comes in and tells me that if I hurt his little brother, he’s going to beat the crap out of me!”
“Sam, you didn’t!” Jon cried.
“Yeah, I guess I sorta did.” Sam admitted sheepishly. “I couldn’t figure out why all of the sudden you guys were best friends. I thought Matt was up to something, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch you get hurt again. Besides, I kept my promise; I didn’t lay a hand on him!”
Matt chuckled, “It’s a good thing that I’d just finished peeing, or we would have had a mess on our hands.”
“Sorry ‘bout that,” Sam offered good naturedly, and turning back to Jon, he continued,
“Jonny, I’m sorry I interfered, but you have to understand how hard it was to see you miserable and not being able to help.” Sam cleared his throat and went on, “When mom and dad brought you home from the hospital, I was only three, and I guess I was jealous of all the attention they were giving you. Grandma came and stayed with me, and all she could talk about was the new baby. I was feeling sorry for myself, and mom noticed. She took me on her lap and put you in my arms. You were so tiny and helpless. Then dad told me that it was my job to look out for my little brother. I was so proud. Ever since then I guess I’ve felt protective of you, so I guess you’ll just have to cut me some slack on this one.”
While Jon and his brother gave each other one of the patented family hugs, Matt was thinking how he had misjudged Sam. He was just a big teddy bear underneath his tough exterior.
Sam stuck out his hand to Matt, “No hard feelings?”
Matt slapped Sam’s hand, “Nope, never had any to begin with. I told you then that I didn’t blame you for not trusting me, and I meant it.”
With the three of them working, the patio was a showplace in no time. They even dug some little white Christmas lights out of the basement and put them around in the bushes. Dan Kent commented that it looked just like Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Earlier, Shelley had called Ann Barker to thank her for the loan of her son, and ended up inviting them for the barbeque. Matt was surprised to see his parents show up with the other guests and he took great pleasure in showing off the job they had done on the patio.
Among the guests were Glen Marks, the choir director from the church and his partner Roy. Ann was glad to see that Jon’s family was open minded. It was a relaxing evening and they all had a good time getting to know each other. Dan cooked while the boys helped serve. Sam was the official bartender, and made sure he kept everyone’s glasses filled.
As Matt came to the table with a platter of burgers, Glen patted him on the back, “Hey, Matt man! It’s good to see you. You’ve been pretty scarce around church since confirmation.”
“Yeah, well I guess I’ve sort of been taking a break.” Matt answered a little ashamedly.
“Hey, I’m not criticizing,” Glen hastened to say, “But it would be great to have you back, especially if you join choir next fall!”
“You never give up, do you!” Matt rejoined.
“Never!” Glen stated emphatically. “That’s my job!”
Matt told him he’d think about it, even though he was a little dubious about his musical abilities.
As the party was winding down, Ann offered to help with the dishes. When she was alone with Shelley in the kitchen, she thanked her for her invitation and told her how nice the evening was.
Shelley absently took the platter that Ann had rinsed and put it in the dishwasher, “Oh, it was my pleasure. I’m just sorry I didn’t think of it before. What with the way the boys hit it off, we’re practically family.”
“I know what you mean. It’s like having another son, sometimes.” Ann said sincerely.
Shelley paused, plate in hand, “I’m so glad you feel that way. We think the world of Matt, to. Jon hasn’t had an easy time making friends, and it broke my heart when he’d get teased about his weight. Matt changed all that, and I’m so grateful.”
Ann looked at Shelley and saw the warmth in her smile. “Matt’s always been one of the crowd, but Jon and he are more like allies. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he got Matt to take his school work more seriously. I think they’re really good for each other.”
Neither woman actually brought up their intuitive speculations, but their unspoken communication was clear to both of them, and they were both relieved by the love and acceptance that they saw in each other.
“Bill and I are having a little get together at our place next week. We invited some friends from our high school days. If you don’t think you’d be bored by our old stories, we’d love to have you and Dan if you’re free.”
“Thanks Ann, we’ll look forward to it.”
“Bring the boys.” Ann added.
When the dishwasher was loaded and running, they said their goodbyes, and the Barkers walked home in the warm Summer night.
“They’re such nice people,” Ann remarked, “We’ve run into them over the years at church and community events, but it’s nice to really get to know them.”
“Yeah,” Matt concurred. “and Jon and Sam are so close; it kind of makes me wish I had a brother.”
Bill put his arm around his wife as they walked, “Be careful what you wish for, son.”
Ann laughed, “Oh no you don’t! Besides, with Jon and Sam I think Matt’s got all the brothers he needs, and no one has to change their diapers!”
“Do you really think of them that way, you know, like family?”
“I really do. Shelley told me how grateful they are to you for all you’ve done for Jon.”
Matt was silent for a block or so, and then finally said, “You know, mom, I wish they wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. Jon and I are so past that, and he’s helping me to.”
Bill gave a laugh. “One thing I hope you learn some day about being a parent is that when someone else cares about your child, you tend to be very thankful.”
“Your father’s right. When I see you studying with Jon, I just want to give him a big hug. We were seriously considering sending you to military school if you didn’t shape up.”
“Actually, she is. But we were really starting to worry!” Bill said as they approached the kitchen door.
Matt slept like a baby that night. Before he drifted off to sleep, he thought about how lucky he was to have a great mom and dad, a boyfriend with a heart as big as all outdoors, and another whole family of people who loved him. “Thank you God.” He prayed silently in the dark just before he was overtaken by sleep.
The next morning, Ann was somewhat shocked to find Matt up early and dressed neatly in a button down shirt and pleated pants. He was even wearing his good shoes.
“Matt, are you actually planning on coming to church with us?” She asked.
“Yeah, it’s been awhile. I kind of miss it.” Matt said casually.
“Well, since you haven’t been since your confirmation, I’m guessing it’s because a certain pair of blond brothers are doing a duet for the offertory.”
Matt answered his mother in mock horror, “Mother! Are you saying that you doubt my piety?”
“Absolutely!” Ann replied. “But maybe some good will rub off on you anyway.” She messed up his neatly combed hair, sending him back to the bathroom to make it “perfect” again.
They arrived at church just as Glen was starting the prelude. As Glen’s shoulders hunched over the organ console in a stirring rendition of “Toccata and Fugue in G Major,” Jon appeared in his choir robe, lining up for the processional. Matt took his seat with his folks, but managed to sit on the aisle so he could catch Jon’s attention as he processed.
After the call to worship, they stood for the hymn. It was #451, Be Thou My Vision. Matt was glad that it was one that he was familiar with. He had a pretty good ear and memory, but written music was something that eluded him.
As Jon processed up the aisle, Matt was thrilled that he came abreast of him just as they were singing the line: “Thou, and Thou only first in my heart…”
Jon was so pleased to see Matt in church. He knew he’d come for him. He made a conscious decision that no matter what ever happened in the rest of his life, that he’d never forget that moment.
Matt glanced at the bulletin, and was pleased to see that the Assistant Pastor was giving the sermon. She was a young pastor who had taught Matt and Jon’s confirmation class. She related well to the younger members of her flock and Matt had really liked her.
The sermon was about treating all humankind with respect and dignity, which kept Matt on the edge of his pew. It was as though she was speaking directly to him. It was all tied together with a hymn from the new hymn book that Matt didn’t recognize. He managed to stumble through it, and made a mental note to get Jon to teach it to him. He loved the words, though:
We are called to act with justice,
Finally it was time for the offertory. As the ushers circulated throughout the congregation with the offering plates, Matt’s heart swelled with pride as Jon and Sam stood and waited while Glen played the intro. Jon’s clear pure tenor voice sang the melody, while Sam’s rich baritone harmonized below. It was a beautiful duet arrangement of “Morning has Broken.” Matt had heard the song before, and he couldn’t help thinking how much better the Kent brothers sounded to him than the breathy voice of Cat Stevens as they sung Eleanore Farjeon’s beautiful song.
When Sam and Jon had finished, there was a brief silence in the sanctuary before the entire congregation erupted in spontaneous applause. Jon and Sam were beaming out over the room, both blushing furiously.
The recessional hymn was #480, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go. Once again, Matt sought Jon’s gaze as he passed by him. Their eyes met as they sang to each other, and it was if everyone else in the congregation disappeared. Ann nudged Bill, and they both regarded the two boys through emotional eyes.
At the coffee hour, Matt found Jon coming out of the robe room and told him how great he thought the duet had been.
“You and Sam sound great together, it was so amazing.”
Jon smiled appreciatively at him. “Yeah, I love singing with Sam…almost as much as I love making music with you.”
Just then they were interrupted by Glen, as he and Roy made their way across the room, coffee cups in hand.
“Hey Matt, so what do you think of my star tenor?”
Matt tore his gaze away from Jon. “It was beautiful, Sam was great to.”
“Kind of makes you want to join choir, doesn’t it?” The director teased Matt.
“Don’t worry,” Matt said with a laugh. “Jon’s working on me to. I’m sure you’ll have me in a robe before too long.”
Roy gave Matt an affectionate pat on the back. “Great! Glen made me join, so you can come and croak along in the back row with me. Seriously, though, it’s great to be a part of something better than I could ever manage to be on my own…” Roy paused tentatively, as though trying to make up his mind about something, “…and besides, it’ll be great to have another couple on our team around!”
Both boys’ jaws practically hit the floor at the same instant, as they stared dumbly at the older couple.
Glen smiled affectionately at them. “We weren’t born YESTerday, ya know!” He camped at them.
Matt and Jon stammered alternately, “But…?” “How…?
“We figured it out at the barbeque the other night.” Roy stated matter-of-factly. “You develop a sense about these things.”
“Yeah,” Glen added, “and don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. I hope you two will be as happy as we are.”
Matt and Jon had no time to react as Margaret Billings, the associate pastor joined their little group. “Jon, you and Sam were breathtaking this morning. Glen, you should be very proud!” She gushed, as she gathered Jon up in her ample bosom.
Poor Jon was blushing again, and gasping for breath as she hugged the stuffing out of him. It was all Matt could do to stifle a giggle, while Glen and Roy were having similar problems. Jon got his revenge when Pastor Margaret turned her attention toward Matt.
“And it’s so good to see you Matt. I’ve really missed you!” she said with feeling as she smothered him similarly. Since Matt was smaller than Jon, he all but disappeared in the folds of her white robe. Jon turned away and pretended he had to cough. Glen and Roy laughed out loud and pulled Matt back by the collar.
“Margaret!” Glen chortled. “Let the poor boy breathe! We need him for choir!”
Pastor Margaret held Matt at arms length. “Is that true Matt?”
“Yes Ma’am. I guess so. I can’t fight all three of them.” He answered, gesturing around at the others.
“Well I’m glad you decided to come back to church. You were one of my favorite confirmation students, you know. You were never afraid to question.”
Matt, changing the subject, put in, “I really enjoyed your sermon today.”
“Thank you Matt, I’m never sure if I’m getting through to people.” She got a kind of wistful look in her eyes, “Sometimes it makes me sad that I have to preach about something that should be so obvious, though.”
Just then, they were joined by the Barkers and the Kents, including Sam. Jon and Sam were once again complimented by everyone on their singing, and Ann and Bill were pleasantly surprised about Matt’s decision to join choir.
After chatting for awhile, Glen, Roy and the Pastor drifted on to other conversations. Dan had an idea, “Hey, I feel like celebrating. Why don’t we go over to the Hyatt for the brunch buffet?”
Everyone agreed that it was a great idea, except Jon, who shuffled uneasily, “You all go ahead, I should probably go home and finish up my English paper.”
Everyone looked at him guiltily as they imagined the chaffing dishes of bacon, sausage and eggs. The carving station, the omelet bar, the enormous copper bowls of fresh whipped cream and strawberry preserves for the freshly made waffles. The entire groaning table of three tiered platters laden with pastries of every description.
“I know!” Matt piped up. “Let’s go to Chumley’s.” Everyone chorused their approval.
Chumley’s was a nice family restaurant where everyone could order what they wanted from the menu. The food was good and the portions were generous, but not nearly as extravagant as the Hyatt buffet.
Jon didn’t like the idea of putting a damper on the occasion. “If you really have your hearts set on the buffet, I really don’t mind. I really DO have homework.”
“Nonsense!” Dan practically hollered. “You’re one of the guests of honor. You’ve got plenty of time for that paper.”
Twelve hands grabbed onto various parts of Jon’s clothing and anatomy and forcibly propelled him to the parking lot, poking and tickling him as they went.
Brunch was a light hearted affair. The table was lively with banter. Matt sat at the end of the table with Jon on his right and Sam on his left. They chatted about school. Sam shared his excitement about the upcoming graduation festivities.
“I’m so psyched. The prom is going to be great! I asked Sarah Donnelly, and she said yes.”
Jon played with his food, pushing it around the plate with his fork. Sam stole a French fry off of Jon’s plate and said, “Try to keep your enthusiasm to a minimum, will ya.”
Jon looked across the table at him, “I’m happy for you, really, it’s just that I’m going to miss you when you go to college.”
“Jonny, I’m only going to Stonybrook, it’s just an hour and a half away. I’ll be home some weekends, and besides, I’m leaving you in capable hands.” Sam said as he put a hand on Matt’s shoulder.
Jon smiled across the table at his big brother. “It’s not that,” he said in a low voice, “I’ll miss YOU. Having you always there….”
Sam smiled at his little brother. “Jonny, I’ll miss you to. I guess we’ll both have to adjust.”
Jon forced a smile, “I’m just being selfish, I guess. You’re going to have a great time.”
When the check came, both fathers insisted on paying. Finally they agreed to split it, even though Dan insisted that they had another person in their party. Shelley and Ann glanced at each other, rolling their eyes and laughing out loud. The whole table regarded them with puzzled looks.
“Tell them Shelley.” Ann said, patting the other woman’s arm.
“Well, we pretty much agreed yesterday that both of us together have three sons, so split the check and get over it, Dan.”
Dan couldn’t argue with that logic, and gave in cheerfully. The looks on the boys faces was priceless.
Jon went home with the Barkers, insisting that Matt and he go over the material for the quiz one last time before tomorrow. Matt was feeling pretty confident by the end of their session, and Jon admitted that he was way more prepared than usual because of helping Matt.
Matt walked Jon part of the way home, stopping in a wooded area, they exchanged a slow and loving kiss. When they separated, Jon looked at Matt lovingly,
“So, Glen and Roy really freaked me out at first.” Jon said, with an impish grin.
“Yeah, me to.” Matt agreed, and added, “But I’m glad they know. If you can’t be accepted at church, then where else?”
On that note, they reluctantly parted company and each headed home for a much needed Sunday afternoon nap.
All comments are appreciated, and all flames are cheerfully ignored.
Thanks to Dennis, Steve, JJ, and Bobby who wrote with ideas and encouragement. Hey Neil! You can do it!
All best, Jonathan