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Note: Thanks to Tim and Rock for feedback on the draft chapters. I owe a special thanks to Robb for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.
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by Jeff Allen
Pat and his mother were arguing when I got to the door.
"I don't want to ever see you again. Do you understand me?"
"I'm your mother. You can't keep me away."
"I can make it so that you don't want to have anything to do with me. You're so bigoted against blacks and gays. Well, that's too bad because those are some of the finest people I've ever met. I'm leaving, Mother. I want this to be the last thing you remember about me."
Then he kissed me!
It wasn't just a brotherly kiss on the cheek; it was a full-blown on-the-mouth-insert-tongue type kiss. He'd put his hand on the back of my neck and pulled me into the kiss. I was shocked. I was even more shocked when we broke the kiss and I realized that I'd brought my own hand up to the back of his head and pressed my body up against his.
His mother flew into a rage and screamed obscenities at us as he led me by the hand back to my car.
I climbed into the driver's seat and just sort of sat there trying to process what had just happened.
Pat broke the silence, "Uh, I think we'd better get moving. I've seen plenty of her tantrums. She's likely to come out of the house and start throwing things at your car."
Numbly, I pulled the BMW out of the driveway and headed down the street.
Neither one of us said anything until I was close to the Interstate.
"There's a Bojangles up ahead. I didn't eat any dinner. Do you want to stop?"
We each got a chicken biscuit and a coke. We were halfway through our sandwiches when we both spoke at the same time.
"Trey, I need to..."
"Pat, tell me what..."
Pat started, "I didn't plan that. Mother made me so mad. I just needed to do something to shut her up. Maybe I made her mad enough at me that she won't call or come visit for a while. I'm sorry if the kiss caught you off guard. I hope you're not offended."
"Pat, I'm gay. I respond when an attractive man pulls me into a kiss. I hope my response didn't offend you."
"No, it's okay. I mean...I mean it was more than okay. I...ah...enjoyed it."
"What do you mean?"
"That I've been wondering what it would be like to kiss a guy. I've never done it before. At least, not a kiss like that."
"Pat, you need to think about this. I like you a lot. I think you and I have become very good friends. I don't want to do anything that will screw up our friendship."
"I...I never thought much about guys before...at least romantically. I had a friend in college who was gay. We mostly just got together to play racquetball. We talked about the whole gay thing a couple of times, but I wasn't attracted to him. Marty's gay. That's why my ex-wife kicked him out and sent him to live with me. In the last couple of months I've gotten to know you, Donnie, and TJ pretty well. You're just about the most `normal' guys I've ever known...yet you're gay."
I let that last line in his string of random thoughts slide by, although it kind of ticked me off. "You said that you weren't attracted to your friend back in college. Does that mean you're attracted to guys now?"
"I am to one guy...you."
I sat back in my chair. "Pat, we need to think about this and take it very slowly so that neither one of us gets hurt. I'm not sure I've fully dealt with Brian's death, so I don't know if I'm ready for another relationship...and if we started a relationship, I don't think I could take a break up down the road."
"I understand. I wish I could express myself better, but I want you to know that when we kissed back at my mother's house, it felt very right. I appreciate everything you've said. I guess the first step is to sort through my own thoughts."
"Yes, we've got to talk about this some more, but right now we're still three and a half hours from home and it's ten o'clock. We need to get back on the road."
Pat offered to drive at least part of the way back to Carterville. He said he was still charged up from being cooped up in the car with his mother on the way down. I climbed into the passenger's seat and was asleep shortly after we got back on the Interstate.
I woke up several times on the trip and asked Pat if he wanted me to drive. He told me he was enjoying driving my BMW and to go back to sleep.
It was almost two in the morning when Pat pulled the SUV into his driveway and shut off the engine.
"Will you be okay to get back to your house?"
"Yeah, thanks for driving."
"Thank you for following me down to Raleigh. You slept most of the way; still you'll probably be pretty tired tomorrow morning. I'm glad that I don't have to be up early in the morning like you do for the training run."
"You could come join us."
"Thanks, but no thanks. I think I'll even take part of a vacation day tomorrow." He leaned closer to me. "Thanks again, Trey. I'll talk to you soon." He leaned even closer, gave me a soft kiss on the cheek and then got out of the car.
As soon as he opened the door to his cabin, Marlene bounded out to greet him. He knelt down to scratch her belly as I drove away. My dick was hard as a rock as I drove away. It needed some relief. I also needed some sleep.
And, I needed to sort through my feelings about Pat O'Connor.
The next day, the morning training run, teaching, and soccer practice were a little rough on less than four hours of sleep. When I got home that evening, I put together a salad for dinner and started correcting some student papers. I found myself zoning out while trying to grade the papers, so I just gave up and went to bed.
I dreamed that Brian and I were sitting on a beach. Brian loved the seashore. He and I were talking about our life together. My mind flashed on different scenes during our relationship, and I was incredibly happy and at peace with the world. Suddenly, it wasn't Brian that was sitting next to me; it was Pat. Brian was standing off to the side looking at us with a sad smile on his face. I reached out to him, but he shook his head and moved farther away from me. I turned toward Pat. He took my hand and we leaned closer as if we were moving toward a kiss, but he pulled away at the last minute. He moved closer again, but that time I was the one who turned away before our lips met. I looked back at Brian. He smiled, blew me a kiss, turned, and walked down the beach until he disappeared in the distance.
The dream bothered me for the next few days. What was my mind trying to say? What did the dream mean? By the start of the next week, I'd convinced myself that the dream hadn't really meant anything and that Pat's kiss was just the way he'd found to make his mother so angry that she wouldn't bother him for a while.
I decided I'd talk it over with Pat the next time he called.
Only thing was...he didn't call.
I didn't understand why I'd kissed Trey.
Was I attracted to him? I really liked him as a friend. It was wonderful to have someone that I felt I could really talk with. In the short time we'd known one another, I'd opened up to him in a way that I hadn't done with another person in a long, long time. Before he left, I could open up to my brother Michael. After he left, I think I just closed up. I was friendly with a lot of kids in high school and with my mates in the Marines, but I was careful never to be too friendly. I'd never thought of Trey in a sexual way before, but there was no doubt that I had enjoyed the kiss.
Why did I kiss him? Was it just to piss off Mother? If it was, it sure worked. It was only a couple of days afterwards that I got a call from my sister Margaret.
"So, tell me what you did that got under Mother's skin. She claims that she never wants to see you again."
I explained about Mother's visit, about her slapping Marty and my reaction...and about kissing Trey.
My sister laughed so hard that I thought she was going to drop the phone. "Pat, if I'd realized that Mother would go so berserk over one same sex kiss, I would have paid one of my friends to give me a smack on the lips years ago. That was a stroke of genius."
Later I thought about it some more. Was that all it was? Just a way to piss off Mother and get her out of my hair? If that was the case, why did I keep having a dream where he and I were kissing while Brian, Trey's dead partner, watched us from the other corner of the room?
If it was only a way to piss off Mother, then why did I see Trey's face when I jerked off in the shower? Was I gay? Bisexual? Straight, but curious? Just what the hell was going on inside my head?
I really needed to talk with Trey, but I kept putting off the call `cause I just didn't know what to say...or ask. And, maybe I was just a little afraid of the answers.
I tried a couple of times to find out from Dad about what had happened with my grandmother. Dad didn't want to talk about it. He just kept saying that he didn't think she'd bother us anymore.
I heard from Grant and Micah that Coach Trey had driven down to Raleigh and brought my dad back after he'd driven my hateful grandmother back to her house. How did Grant and Micah know all this? Trey had talked with TJ and Donnie. Grant and Micah overheard part of the conversation.
I asked my dad about it. He confirmed that Coach Trey had driven him back from Raleigh, but that was as far as he went. End of story. Clammed up tight. Something was going on that Dad clearly did not want to talk about.
October turned into November. The regular soccer season ended. We won the conference tournament, but got knocked out of the playoffs in the first regional match. I thought everything would end with the last soccer match, but the team kept up the morning conditioning runs and most of the team...along with some of the football guys...got together in the afternoons in the old gym where Coach Arnold and Coach Trey held sway over the "study hall." We worked out with weights, worked on our homework, or helped other guys who were having trouble with their homework.
I got to know a lot of the guys from the other sports teams who came to the study hall. I also got to know Big Bruce better. He wasn't much of a conversationalist, but when he did say something, it was often very funny. He worked hard on his homework. He got a lot of help from the other guys, and his once miserable grades had been steadily improving since he'd moved in with Coach and Karl. I discovered that he was actually a very gentle and kindhearted person...except when he was on the football field.
Dad was really busy with his job. It was hunting season, so he was out of the house early to check on the hunters. He had a number of calls about injured deer. Sometimes he didn't get back to the house until eight or nine o'clock.
Most afternoons Coach Trey dropped B.B. and me off at the Michaeux's. Micah and Grant figured out that Dad had to be gone a lot, so they made sure I knew I had a standing invitation for dinner at their house. I really appreciated that and took advantage of it. Donnie and TJ were both good cooks. So were Grant and Micah. They had certain days when they were responsible for the dinners. I helped when I could, and I started becoming more confident about my kitchen abilities, which before had been limited to heating up cans of soup or popping some bread in the toaster.
Don't get me wrong. Dad wasn't neglecting me. It was just a really busy time of the year for him.
The weather started getting a lot colder in mid-November. We had heavy frost most mornings. Some days the frost lasted until nearly noon. Everyone wore a full set of sweats for the morning conditioning runs.
It was the Friday morning before Thanksgiving when it happened.
I was ready for Dad to take me to school for the morning run. He'd just finished a shower in the bathroom and had called out to tell me that he was going to shave before taking me to town. Normally, Dad took his shower and shaved at night. He said it didn't make sense for him to shower in the morning and then spend the rest of the day tramping around in the woods getting dirty. That day he had to be at the courthouse in the morning to testify. He'd written a ticket to a guy for fishing out of season, and the guy was fighting the ticket in court. Stupid move. The dumb guy was guilty. Dad had caught him in the river with a fish hanging off his pole. I don't know why the man was fighting the ticket. Anyway, it meant that Dad had to be cleaned up with a fresh uniform.
I was finishing an energy shake. Marlene was lying on the floor at my feet. Suddenly, she got up and started barking at the refrigerator. I looked over and the refrigerator appeared to be listing to the right. As I watched and Marlene continued to bark, the fridge tipped even farther to the right. The floor under the thing seemed to be buckling.
Dad came out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist and the left side of his face still covered in shaving cream.
"What's Marlene so upset about?"
"Dad, look at the refrigerator!"
I had just started to move toward the listing appliance when I heard a giant cracking sound.
Dad grabbed me and Marlene at the same time and pulled us away from the hole that was opening in the kitchen floor.
It was like watching a movie in slow motion. The floor gave way. The refrigerator sank down and tilted about thirty degrees to one side. The well-worn linoleum flooring sagged under the refrigerator and then tore. The fridge dropped down through the floor raising a cloud of dirt and dust from the crawl space under the house. The power cord to the refrigerator was stretched to its max. When the plug came out of the wall, the fridge settled noisily on its front side with the cooling coils exposed on the back. As it settled, the fridge must have broken one of the water pipes because a spray of water erupted out of the hole in the kitchen floor.
(To be continued)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the characters who play parts in this story were previously introduced in "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001), "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003), "Finding Family" (last posted in the College section on June 5, 2008), "Construction Job" (last posted in the College section on July 24, 2008), or "Swamp Rat" (last posted March 15, 2010 in the High School section). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the earlier stories posted on this site. All of the Adams State/Carterville stories listed above as well as my other stories are also posted at www.crvboy.com.
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