The Road Not Taken
All the events and characters in this story are fictional and any
to real people are purely coincidental.
The story is copyright of the author and may not be distributed or
placed on any web sites without written permission from the author.
I would like to thank my editor, Richard Lyon, for his hard work
encouragement and also Richie Ryan for his moral support. Any
errors are purely my own fault.
If you enjoy this story or have any comments about it, please feel
free to send me an email . I will respond to all emails except
Have you ever told yourself 'That could never happen to me', or 'I'd
never do that', or 'I'll never go there', then years later you find
that those things have happened, you did do those things and you are
precisely where you vowed you would never be? Yet the progression
from where you were to where you are seems natural, logical and
inevitable, and so you wonder what chain of events and what decisions
led to this place. Of course each decision you take places
limitations on future decisions, so when you look back you may see that
after you took those first few decisions the path that led to this
place was unavoidable.
For me, 'this place' was our class reunion, sixteen years after I left
school. When I went away to university I had no intention of ever
going back to my old school and the idea of attending a reunion, a
pointless rosy-spectacled trip down memory lane, was totally
ludicrous. Let's face it, only losers and those with nothing
better to do would go to a school reunion, but people like me, a
successful self-made businessman, have much better ways to spend their
time. Yet there I was, sitting at a table in the school's new
assembly room, sipping my beer and observing its inhabitants as if they
were animals in the wild. While I made my observations, I
pondered the unlikely set of coincidences that led to me to that place.
Some weeks earlier I had received the usual annual invitation to the
class reunion, but on this occasion it was accompanied by a hand
written note from Gerard, informing me that this year he was one of the
organisers and adding a personal wish that I would attend.
Despite the note and my fond memories of Gerard, I immediately threw
away the invitation. After all, the last time I saw him was
almost fourteen years earlier when we met up for a drink in one of our
home town's many pubs. Although we'd enjoyed our evening
together, it had been clear to me that our two years spent at different
universities on opposite sides of the country had caused our friendship
to fade. We'd just grown up and grown apart.
Then, on the Monday morning in the week before the reunion I was in my
office dictating a letter when the phone rang. As the way it was
ringing indicated that the call was from outside the company, I
answered with a simple if somewhat brusque 'hello'. This was
because I assumed that anyone who had the number to contact me directly
and bypass both the switchboard and my secretary should already know
who they were speaking to.
"Steve?" said a gruff voice.
Immediately I recognised the voice my whole body tensed and I felt a
wave of irritation wash over me.
"Dad," I said, keeping my voice cool and controlled as I suppressed my
"Your gran's dead," he said bluntly, "you'll need to arrange to come
home for the funeral.."
As usual, his words were issued in the tone of a command, and in other
circumstances I might have told him to sod off, as I'd done so many
times since I left home, but on this occasion I didn't feel like
starting an argument. Gran was Dad's mother and now that she was
dead he was my only living relative. My own mother had died of
lung cancer shortly after I went away to university, and I often
wondered if she'd deliberately smoked herself to death as a way of
escaping my father.
"Oh," I said without emotion, "what happened?"
Such a lack of feeling on my part would be considered strange, possibly
reprehensible to most people from 'normal' families. However, I
knew there was no point in showing emotion to my father, who would only
take it as a sign of weakness that he would exploit if he
"It was very quick," he said, matching my tone, "She was found dead in
her chair by her housekeeper on Friday morning... she had a stroke."
"And you're just telling me now?" I said, barely able to suppress my
"Well there was no point in phoning you until I'd finalised
arrangements for the funeral, was there?' he said a if he were scoring
a point, "After all, you wouldn't want me bothering you with a series
of phone calls, would you?"
Yes, he was definitely scoring points. For the last few years I'd
made it clear that communications from him were unwelcome, and in my
view I was justified in doing so. When I was growing up I had no
choice but to suffer his overbearing attitude and occasional episodes
of aggressive drunkenness. After I graduated from university and
set up my own business I could escape from the drunkenness, but I still
had to tolerate his domineering behaviour because he'd loaned me the
money to start up the company. Although his own wealth was
inherited he also owned a few hardware stores in the region round my
home town and he seemed to think that his dabblings in business had
made him an expert. So he kept phoning me up to give me 'advice'
on how to run my own company, but as soon as the loan was repaid I'd
told him that he should stop interfering in my business.
"So when is the funeral then?" I asked.
"Next Monday at ten o'clock, but you'll need to be here on Sunday."
"Why?" I asked, irritated at being told what I 'needed' to do.
"That's when I've arranged help to clear out Gran's house," he said
with a hint of emotion, possibly triumph, in his voice, "I know you had
some stuff stored at her place, so if you want to make sure it doesn't
get thrown away then you'd better be there."
When I was at school and university I spent quite a bit of time at
Gran's house, mainly to get away from my father, and there were a few
things of some sentimental value still there. I knew that Dad's
threat to throw my stuff away was just an attempt to exert a little
control over me, but I also knew that it was possible that he might
carry out that threat, so I agreed to be there on the Sunday. As
it would take over three hours to drive to my home town, I arranged to
arrive at Dad's house on the Saturday afternoon. It had been
several years since I thought of, or referred to, Dad's house as
Saturday arrived all too soon and despite the enjoyment of being in my
brand-new BMW, I drove to my home town with all the enthusiasm of a
condemned prisoner walking to the gallows. When I got to Dad's
house he opened the door with a grunt and then proceeded to try and
interrogate me about my business and personal life. After I made
it clear that I had no intention of answering in any more than
barely-polite monosyllables, he lost interest and proceeded to more or
less ignore my existence. I'd just finished unpacking my small
overnight bag and hanging up my Brioni suit when he announced that he
was going out to dinner with friends.
"There's no food in the house," he added with a small smile of
satisfaction, "so I'd advise you to do the same... if you had any
"I've got plenty of friends!" I growled, barely controlling my anger,
"Just because I don't tell you about them doesn't mean they don't
He smiled again, pleased that he'd managed to provoke me, and I cursed
myself for rising to the bait. Obviously during the recent years
of little contact with him, I'd lost some of the skills I'd developed
to deal with his provocations.
After he left me alone in the house it wasn't long before I started to
get bored. I didn't feel in the mood to watch TV and despite the
long drive I wasn't at all tired or sleepy. Beside that, I was
also beginning to feel hungry, so I considered going out to a pub for
some food. At that point I remembered the class reunion, the
prospect of which seemed slightly less unattractive than a night alone
in a strange pub, especially as the invitation had mentioned a
buffet. Knowing that Gerard still lived in the same town, I
looked him up in the directory and dialled his number.
"Hello... Ged?" I said when a male voice answered.
"It's Steve," I said cheerfully, "I just got into town."
"Steve?" he replied uncertainly.
"Yeah, Steve Kearney... remember?" I said, a little surprised and
almost shocked that he didn't remember me immediately, "You, me and
Danny were the Unholy Trinity."
When we were fourteen the three of us had been given that joint
nickname by one of the priests who ran the school. This nickname
rapidly spread through the school, probably because we were often
getting into trouble. Fortunately for us, we often escaped the
heavier punishments because we were otherwise considered assets of the
school. Gerard was a brilliant rugby player and occasionally
played in junior international games, Danny was so good at soccer that
he was made captain of the school team when he was just fifteen, and I
not only got the best academic results the school ever had but I was
also the orchestra's star trumpet player. Besides that, my father
was a major contributor to the school funds. We were winners in
the game of school life and so could get away with almost anything.
"Steve! Great to hear from you! I hadn't heard from you for
so long I thought you'd died or something. When I became a
reunion co-ordinator this year I saw the school had an address for you
so I thought I'd use the invitation to get back in touch."
When he paused I stayed silent for a couple seconds, basking in the
enthusiasm of his greeting.
"Wait a second..." he continued after the pause, "You didn't RSVP did
"Er, no," I said, slightly embarrassed, "I didn't expect to be able to
get here, but there were, erm family problems, and I had to come back
here anyway. So I just wondered if there were any spare places
I didn't want to tell him about my gran's death and funeral in case he
thought me odd for wanting to go out socialising under such
circumstances or, worse still, in case he started offering sympathy and
"Well, we had a couple of last minute cancellations... are you on your
own?" he said, then added in a semi-joking tone, "No girlfriend, wife,
mistress or whatever?"
"Nah! You know me, I've always been too busy and I'm not the type
to settle down with just one woman!"
My tone was light and bantering but what I didn't tell him, what I'd
never told anyone, was that I wasn't interested in women that way and I
never had been. I'm gay, and the
'too-busy-working-and-playing-the-field' ploy was one I used on
everyone, even my closest friends. Ever since I was fifteen I
camouflaged myself by occasionally dating females, but as soon as
things looked like they might get physical I found an excuse to dump
them and continue 'playing the field'. I'd found that one useful
thing about attending an all-boys school was that while we were in
school no one expected you to chase after girls because there were none
there to pursue. Of course now that I'm thirty three some people
might have suspicions about my prolonged bachelor status, but if they
did they couldn't prove anything and as far as I knew they never voiced
Over the years I'd had many brief and discreet physical liaisons with
other males, but they were never serious, mainly because I was much
happier without emotional involvement. I enjoyed 'playing the
field' and didn't want to be tied down to just one guy. Because I
could see no point in exposing my sexuality to the world, I was quite
content to stay in the closet, especially as I could find plenty of
sexual partners without 'outing' myself. Besides that, in my
father's eyes the only thing worse than being 'coloured' was being
queer, and when I first realised that I was gay I was determined that
at any cost I had to prevent my father discovering that fact.
Living under his domineering control was bad enough without giving him
even more excuses to denigrate me. Also, while I was still
financially dependant on him, I couldn't risk him throwing me out or
At my Catholic school, the racist attitudes of my father were
corrected, but my anti-gay education continued, although in a more
insidious way. Eventually, I removed from myself the taint of
racism, but by the time I'd learned that there was nothing wrong with
being gay I had grown into my habit of secrecy and that habit had
become a comfortable way of life.
The reunion was being held in the school assembly room, and as soon as
I entered I noticed an odour that evoked many memories. Despite
the overlaid scents of cologne, perfume, food and alcohol, I could also
detect a smell that in my mind was forever associated with
school. It was strange, I thought, that the smell should be the
same even though I'd not been here for sixteen years and despite the
fact that this assembly hall had been built long after I left the
Gerard did his best to make me welcome, introducing me to the people he
knew, most of whom I'd totally forgotten. Obviously those
attending the reunion were not a truly random selection of our class,
but even so I was surprised to learn that such a high proportion of
them still lived in the same boring little town. Even among the
classmates I remembered, I barely recognised most of them. Among
that group was Gerard himself, whose bulky muscles had become flabby
and whose face had acquired a double chin. It was with a pleased
smugness that I realised that I'd kept myself in much better condition
than most of my classmates. When I asked if Danny were coming, he
informed me that the third member of our Unholy Trinity had died after
being stabbed in a pub fight. That news made me genuinely sad,
and after briefly recalling some shared memories of Danny, Gerard went
to greet some late arrivals.
With nothing better to do, I found an empty table where I could sit and
sip my beer as I looked around the room. There were about eighty
people there, some dancing in the centre under the coloured lights,
some sitting at tables around the edge, but most standing around and
moving from one group to another. Most of my ex-classmates
appeared to have brought wives or some other category of female
companion, and it was amusing to see how quickly I could work out which
male was with which female. It was while I was playing that
little game that I saw him.
Because both Gerard and the female 'greeter' were busy chatting to
other people, this new arrival made directly for the bar, and as he
walked across the room I noticed the elegance with which he moved his
tall slender body. My heart leapt when I got a better look at his
handsome face, topped by dark, curly hair, and I was sure that I
recognised him. It was John Locke, the only person I had ever
fallen in love with. Following close behind him was a pleasant
looking man who was casting nervous glances around the room.
When the two of them reached the bar, John gave his companion a
reassuring smile and gently touched him on the shoulder before turning
to the barman and ordering their drinks. Even at that distance I
could tell that there was an emotional bond between them and that they
were more than just friends. Then I wondered if that was just my
gaydar operating or if others in the room might have noticed it as
well. However, a quick look around told me that if anyone else
had noticed the affection between the two men, then they were ignoring
it. After getting their drinks they went to sit at an empty table
just a few yards from me.
John gave no indication that he'd seen me and again my heart beat
harder and faster as I tried to decide if I should go and speak to him
or wait for him to notice me and maybe speak to me. I thought it
might be nice to see how he was doing and maybe to let him know
what a success I made of my life. However, bearing in mind what
happened the last time we spoke to one another, I decided to wait.
One reason I decided not to go and speak to him was a hangover from our
schooldays. I'd been in the popular crowd of 'winners' and
although he hadn't really been a 'loser' he wasn't popular and had just
blended in with the majority of 'ordinary' students. Another
reason I didn't go and speak to him was that, mainly due to me, most of
my classmates believed he was gay. Of course I felt a little
guilty that I was responsible for his reputation but I was also
concerned that there was a risk that if I took the initiative and went
to talk to him then people might suspect that, by association, I too
was gay. So, as I waited to see if he would notice me and
recognise me, I recalled our past.
Unlike Gerard, Danny and myself, John had no special abilities and came
from a poorer part of town, so for the first couple of years at the
school he fell below my metaphorical radar. I must have seen him
around but I didn't notice him among the rest of the crowd of
'losers'. Then, when I was fourteen, I found out that he had an
unusual kindness and gentleness, combined with an amazing sensitivity
to the feelings of others. These qualities, together with his
discretion and lack of friends made him an ideal wank-buddy. Yes,
that's right, while having to share a changing cubicle on a school trip
to the local swimming pool, we discovered the joys of mutual
That was another instance of how fate conspires to send us down a path
we might not otherwise have chosen. If we hadn't been forced by
circumstances to share that changing cubicle, we might never even have
spoken to one another, much less become physically intimate.
Perhaps it was the novelty of seeing one another naked, or our mutual
horniness, or his exceptional boldness, or maybe it was a combination
of all of those. Whatever the reason, for the next three years we
were secret wank-buddies.
Of course I never admitted to him that I was gay and I never asked him
if he was. Indeed, for the first year of this clandestine
'relationship' most of our verbal interactions involved me swearing him
to absolute secrecy and threatening him with dire consequences if
he ever let anyone know about us. For the most part it was I who
decided when and where it was safe to meet and I was always in charge,
which was only right bearing in mind that I was a member of the famous
Unholy Trinity and he was just a nobody. However, at least in my
eyes, he was a very attractive nobody
After about a year of this purely physical interaction, we began to
have conversations and I learned that he was amusing and clever, as
well as being a wonderful wanker. However, all those
conversations were in private, and in public we exchanged only brief
greetings on those rare occasions I acknowledged his existence at
all. Then one day he suggested we try oral sex, and although I
let him suck me off a few times, at first I refused to reciprocate
because that might imply that I was gay. However, I did
eventually start to suck him off as well, provided that he first agreed
with me that it wasn't queer as long as we were just guys helping one
another out. Another few months went by with frequent hand-jobs
and occasional blow jobs until one day, just after I sucked him off, he
kissed me on the lips.
"What the fuck!" I shouted in anger and panic, pushing him away, "What
the hell do you think you're doing?!"
"It was just a kiss!" he said defiantly, although he was cowering back.
"Boys kissing boys is queer," I growled at him, "Do you think I'm
"I'm not a boy," he said, maintaining his defiant tone and ignoring my
question, "I'm sixteen now."
"That just makes it worse!" I hissed, pulling up my trousers.
He didn't respond and instead, looking like a whipped puppy, he pulled
up his own trousers and began fastening his belt. Seeing his
expression, I felt sorry for him and regretted the violence of my
reaction, though I felt that I needed to make him see sense.
"Look," I said gently and reasonably, "we're not queer, we're just
helping each other out, having fun until we can get the real
thing. If you mess things up with queer stuff like kissing...
well then I can't do this with you anymore. You understand that,
>From his expression and especially the look in his eyes I had the
feeling that he didn't understand, but he did nod his head in
"I don't want to stop doing this," he said, sounding defeated, "If I
promise not to try any kissing stuff, we can keep on, can't we?"
"Yeah, of course we can," I agreed happily, relieved that the crisis
All went smoothly for a few more months, and although we never went
beyond oral sex, we did occasionally manage to spend an hour or two
completely naked in bed together. On the last of those occasions,
one afternoon when we were in his bed, he dropped a bombshell on
"I love you," he whispered as he snuggled up to me after he'd sucked me
He nuzzled my chest and in my post-orgasmic glow I very nearly admitted
that I felt the same about him, but then I came to my senses and just
froze. After a moment of frantic thought I decided that the best
course of action was to pretend that I hadn't heard him. After
all, it was probably just the after-effects of his own orgasm and he
probably didn't really mean it. Then he ruined everything.
"Did ya hear me?" he said, looking up into my eyes with a hint of
defiance, "I love you."
"But that's queer!" I moaned as my contentment dissolved.
"And I'm gay," he said, emphasising the word that he'd substituted for
'queer', then he continued, "and what we've been doing is gay..."
"No it isn't!" I protested, rolling away from him, "And even if it is,
then it doesn't mean that I am!"
Of course there was no logic in my assertions, but I wasn't thinking
logically and among my many churning emotions, the uppermost was
fear. Deep down I already knew that I was gay, but the prospect
of losing my status at school and maybe even being kicked out of my
home by my father was too terrifying to contemplate. Getting off
the bed, I dressed while he just lay there looking at me, his face
expressing several emotions, sometimes sequentially and sometimes
together. The main emotion I read in him was sadness but I think
that an underlying emotion was pity.
"That's it, then," I said, overcome with a sense of loss, "we can never
do this again. It's over."
"Why?" he said, tears forming in his eyes, "We can still keep it
"No we can't," I said, deliberately hardening my heart against my own
feelings of love and loss, then illogically I added, "We're too old for
"But I know you feel the same about me," he said, the tears now flowing
down his cheeks, "I know it... I can feel it."
I wanted to deny it, scream at him that he was wrong, but I couldn't,
so I just finished getting dressed and left without another word.
After that we never had any further contact outside school, and in
school I ignored him completely, though my heart almost broke when he
gave me one of his sad, shy smiles.
My last real interaction with John was the saddest of all and happened
just a couple of months before we left school. One afternoon
after classes I'd been in the music room practicing for the end of year
concert, and when I'd had enough I made my way out of the building
along a deserted corridor. Just as I was passing the narrower
corridor that led to a storeroom, a quiet voice surprised me, making me
"Hi," John said.
"Hi," I replied, stopping and looking around to make sure no one was in
"Ya know we're going to be leaving school soon," he said, so quietly
that it was barely audible, "then we may never see one another
"Yeah. So?" I replied, pretending indifference and suppressing
the sadness evoked by his words.
"So I've got one favour to ask, just one favour for all the good times
we had together. Do you think you'd do just one little thing for
I was totally confused, unsure what to do, and still feeling bad about
the time that he said he loved me. My emotions were all mixed up
and I wasn't really thinking clearly.
"I s'pose," I said cautiously, "Maybe... what is it?"
"I want you to let me kiss you properly before we say good-bye for the
"But why?" I asked, unsettled by his request.
"That way I'll know," he said, "I'll know what it's like to kiss you
and I'll know how you really feel about me."
"But not here," I said, realising that I was implying agreement.
"Yes," he replied, "here and now, cos it's probably the only chance
To this day I don't know why I agreed, why I took such a risk after
being so careful for so many years. Maybe guilt played a part or
maybe it was temporary insanity. Didn't someone once say that
being in love is a form of temporary insanity? Whatever the
reason, I moved to join him in the small side corridor, where I stood,
waiting for him to kiss me. Leaning forward, he placed his lips
on mine and I felt his tongue tentatively brush my lips then push
between them into my mouth. There I was, almost eighteen years
old, having my first real tongue-in-mouth kiss, and it took my breath
away. Eventually I could breath again and involuntarily I
responded, copying the actions of his mouth and tongue.
Then I heard footsteps behind me in the main corridor and I panicked,
pushing John away from me as I spun around to see two of the boys from
the music room.
"What's going on, Steve?" the taller one who was my age said.
My panic grew until I could hardly breath and I asked myself if they'd
reached the junction of the corridors before or after I'd pushed John
away. Had they seen the kiss? As I couldn't be sure, I had
to assume the worst, and I had to do something, anything to protect
"There's just this queer boy skulking down here," I said, pretending
disgust, "Trying to get normal guys to kiss him."
To emphasise my point I turned back to John, who just stood there
looking stunned, and I pushed him so hard that he fell to the ground.
"Bloody poof!" the smaller boy behind me said, "Shall we give him a
Inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief because those words indicated that
he believed my almost incredible assertion.
"Nah," I said, looking down at John, hoping he could read the regret in
my eyes, "He's not worth it. No point in us risking getting into
trouble. He's leaving the school soon anyway."
As I turned my back on John and began to shepherd the other boys away
from him, I heard him speak very quietly from the floor.
"I was right," he said with a strange mixture of sadness and triumph."
After that incident John and I never spoke to one another again, and
never even exchanged glances. When school finished he disappeared
from my life, but despite my efforts he didn't disappear from my
memories, those special memories I kept locked away in the secret
places of my heart.
Now there he was at the reunion, grown a little bigger and even more
attractive, sitting just a few yards from me. Then, to my
amazement, Gerard went over to John and started chatting to him and his
companion as if they were his friends, and to add to my discomfort
Gerard nodded his head in my direction before going back to his
wife. Although I was trying to pretend that I wasn't looking at
them, I saw that John and the man next to him seemed to be engaged in a
heated conversation. Then they both stood up and walked over to
my table, and as they approached I began to feel more than a little
"Hi Steve," John said when he reached my table, "it's good to see you
at one of these things. I've often wondered how you were doing."
Bearing in mind the last time we'd met, I was a little surprised that
he seemed so genuinely happy to see me and that he didn't appear to
harbour any resentment or ill-will toward me.
"Hi, John," I replied cheerfully, hoping that he didn't detect my
"I'm glad to see you recognise me after all these years," he said,
giving me a big grin, "This is my partner, Adam... mind if we join you
for a bit?"
Without waiting for my reply, they both sat down at the table.
Adam was a slim man with light brown hair, and he appeared to be a
couple of years younger than John. I presumed he was attending as
John's spouse/companion/partner as it had been written on the
invitations. From the hard looks he was giving me, it seemed that
Adam wasn't particularly happy to see me and I wondered if John had
told him anything about our history.
John and I had quite a long conversation while Adam sat on the
sidelines looking somewhat sulky. At first the conversation was
slightly stilted but John seemed determined to put me at ease and we
were soon chatting comfortably and catching up on our lives since we
left school. However, we never once mentioning our time at
school, and although he made no secret of his sexuality and the fact
that he and Adam had been 'together' for almost four years, I was
relieved that he made no reference to my sexuality and that he never
asked me about my relationships.
Quite early on in our conversation he'd mentioned that he'd recently
been promoted from being the manager of a retail store to become deputy
manager for the whole regional group. When he told me that, I
noticed a sparkle in his eyes and a slight smile on his lips, and I'd
assumed these were signs of his pride in his accomplishments. Of
course my own success and wealth were much greater than his but,
unusually for me, I refrained from pointing this out because it
suddenly became very important that I avoid hurting his feelings.
Anyway, when he next spoke, I guessed the real reason for the sparkle
and the smile.
"Last month," he said, "the company chairman hosted a lunch for senior
managers and afterwards we had a long chat. He told me he's so
impressed with my work that I can expect more promotion soon and asked
if I'd like to be interested in joining the board of directors."
"Wow!" I said, surprising myself by being genuinely impressed, "Your
boss must like you a lot!"
"Yes," he replied with a huge grin, "Mr Kearney's been really nice to
When he'd said that he paused to study my face, clearly expecting some
reaction from me. He wasn't disappointed because I let out an
audible gasp and the look on my face made even the previously dour Adam
"Not, not as in Kearney's Hardware?" I stuttered.
"Yes," he said, pretending innocence, "didn't I mention that?"
"So you work for my dad?" I said, stating the obvious but just wanting
to make absolutely sure.
"That's right," he replied, obviously enjoying himself.
At this point I noticed the look of surprise on Adam's face, so it
became clear that until then he hadn't known that I was the son of his
boyfriend's boss. Adam recovered from the surprise before I did
and his expression resolved into one of slightly concerned
amusement. Meanwhile I was still trying to work out the
implications of this revelation.
"I guess he doesn't know, then... that you're gay?" I said eventually,
adding that last part in an almost-whisper.
"Of course he does!" John laughed, "Adam comes along to most of the
work social events and last Christmas, just before my recent promotion,
he had quite a pleasant chat with your dad... didn't you, Adam?"
Adam nodded his head in agreement.
"But... but my dad hates gays!" I stuttered.
"No he doesn't, "John said with conviction, "at least not now, and I
doubt he ever really did."
"But all the horrible things he used to say..."
"Once you get to know him," John said with a little smile, "you find
that his bark is much worse than his bite... and now even the bark is
Then I wondered if John was lying about working for my dad, just
winding me up as a way of getting some sort of revenge. On the
other hand, it had been obvious from Adam's reactions that he hadn't
been aware of any plot against me and he'd quickly agreed that he'd had
a pleasant chat with my dad. So on balance I felt that John must
be telling me the truth.
"Okay..." I said. my mind racing, "but I still don't understand how he
didn't fire you when he first found out about you."
"Well, I s'pose the first couple of years I was so low down in the
company that he didn't even notice me. Then by the time that he
did he couldn't just fire me for no reason and he knew he couldn't get
away with firing me for just for being gay... and anyway, by then he
knew how good I was at my job."
He paused, and I shook my head as I tried to assimilate this
information, then he continued.
"I will admit that when he first found out he made some snide comments,
tried to overload me with work and that sort of thing. I knew one
of us would have to give in and it wasn't going to be me. And,
like I said, his bark is much worse than his bite. Actually, I
think he respects people who stand up to him."
While I was still trying to get my head around all this, Adam pointed
out to John that it was getting late and that they'd arranged to meet
some friends in town. Then as they stood up to leave I found
myself, without any forethought, handing John one of my business cards
and asking him to keep in touch. I surprised myself with that
little gesture, which seemed to annoy Adam though it seemed to please
John, who smiled and took the card.
Although I was glad to see that John was happy and that he was doing
well, I had an uncomfortable nagging feeling at the back of my
mind. It was only after they left the room that I was able to
identify the little nagging feeling as envy, an emotion I rarely
experienced. The poor, scruffy John from school had grown into a
happy, handsome, confident man. Although he certainly wasn't as
wealthy as I was, he certainly wasn't poor and he'd carved himself a
comfortable niche in life and found someone to return his love. I
had to admit that he'd definitely become a winner because he'd even won
over my dad.
After that, I didn't feel like hanging around any longer so I phoned
for a taxi, and while I waited for it, I thought about the unlikely
combination of events that had brought me to this reunion and my
meeting with John. Almost reluctantly I wondered how changed my
life would now be if some of my early decisions had been
different. I asked myself if Dad might have accepted my sexuality
if I'd had the courage to let him know and to stand up for
myself. After all, he'd accepted John, who wasn't even his
son. I wondered what might have happened if I hadn't rejected
John's love and if I'd allowed myself to express my love for him.
Would I now be a winner or a loser? Of course I would never know
the answers to any of those questions.
Later, during the taxi journey back to Dad's house, a line from a poem
I'd learned at school rose into my mind.
roads diverged in a yellow wood...
If you enjoyed this story you might like to take a look at another one
of my short stories, "Just Visiting"
Alternatively, if you prefer longer stories you might enjoy "Tapping",
of my longer stories on the Nifty Archive. You can find it at: