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The Potter's Wheel
Chapter Twenty Five
Aftermath: Healing and Reconciliation
He could feel his heart thumping in his chest, he could hear his pulse in his ears. He felt as if it he was floating—leaving his body—but knew he was firmly planted in the chair. He felt anger, he felt rage, he felt responsibility, he felt despair. And then all these were replaced by resolve. He resolved to be strong and make the right decisions when needed, and he resolved not to let his despair overwhelm him. He resolved to carefully remember the sequence of events.
How did it start and what had happened to Junior? Why had we allowed this to happen? Had we pushed him too far? Did we have the right, for wasn't vengeance the Lord's? And what about forgiveness and treating others as you would have them treat you? Would one of his lovers die because of their actions? He thought he might never be able to look his boys in the eyes again.
Matt was pulled from this contemplation by his father shaking his shoulder.
"Matty, are you still with me?" They were sitting in the hallway of the emergency room.
Pulling it together he answered, "Yeah Dad, I was just trying to remember what happened. Did the cops arrest George?"
"No, he broke free from the guys that had tackled him and made it out of the room. He ran down the fire stairs and into the parking lot where he encountered the cops. The stupid ass pointed his gun at them—so they dropped him. He's in the emergency room—shot in the leg, arm, and shoulder; they apparently wanted him alive," Frank said matter of factly. Matt was looking past his father as he relayed the news; he could see Finn further down the hall talking on his phone. Then he saw the door to one of the rooms open; Jim was being pushed out in a wheel chair with his right arm in a sling.
Matt stood. He wanted to run to Jim but he just stood there and watched as Jim drew closer with a small, reassuring smile on his face. "Jimmy," he said as he bent down and gave him a one-armed hug. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine Captain, no major damage, it went in and out—just have to wait for it to heal," he said gazing into his lover's eyes. Without saying a word the two conveyed all that they were feeling toward each other and they each knew that they couldn't possibly live without the other. "Any word on Bazza and Clinton?" he asked, avoiding the subject of his crazy brother and changing the subject before they both lost it.
"Bazza was lucky—the bullet hit him under his arm as he was trying to help you. It hit a rib, ricocheted and then exited through his back. They are sewing him up; it looks like he will be able to leave tonight. Clinton is in surgery; he was shot in the stomach. All we know is that he is in serious condition and they are trying to patch him up," Matt said, and took a moment to compose himself."
"Fuck!" Jim said as he took Matt's hand, "What have we done babe. This is all our fault," he said sadly.
"No son, it's your fucked up brother's fault," said George Flannery as he laid his hand on Jim's shoulder. The guys hadn't even noticed him approach; he had brought Brett with him—the young Aussie who had been so happy last night and now looked as if he could barely stand.
Jim grabbed his father's hand and, for the first time since the shooting began, tears leaked from the big man's eyes, "If we hadn't..."
"Bullshit!" George said firmly, "Junior is unstable—this could have happened whether you were involved or not. Listen boys, I don't want to hear another word of recrimination from either of you; there is no time for this. You will both have a lot to handle for the next few days so just drop the bullshit."
Brett let out a nervous laugh. Matt had put his arm around and drew him close. "Are you alright Ute?"
"Yeah mate, I'll be fine—just a bit of a shocker you know," the boy answered. "I've never seen a gun fired before, let alone three people shot, and I've never heard an adult bloke being called Junior before," he gave a weak smile.
Finn joined the group then, "I've spoken with Declan, he and Tom are handling things at the hotel—he's coordinating to get health care professionals in for counseling and of course handling the police. Grant is at the offices and says he has everything under control--our biggest problem is the press. Apparently someone fucked up and gave them the names of the victims—the Major's trying to stop them before they announce them on the news—he doesn't think he'll succeed. Declan has also contacted Clinton's father in San Francisco and arranged for Dave to fly in with him on the plane," Finn reported. He had no sooner finished than a doctor approached wearing a blood stained gown over his scrubs.
"Is there anyone from Mr. Conway's family here?" he asked the group.
"Not at the moment; his only family is his father who's on his way but won't be here until early in the morning," Finn informed him. "Is he going to be okay?"
"Yes, we have managed to get him patched up temporarily and stopped the major bleeding; he's lost quite a bit of blood—they are still repairing the small bleeders. That bullet did a lot of dancing inside of him. The good news is it didn't puncture any major organs or the bowel so there's no chance of septicemia. We were hoping he had family here since his blood type is extremely rare, so we could get some blood quickly if there was a match," the doctor continued.
"What type is he?" Declan asked.
"An extremely rare one I'm afraid; AB negative, and we have used up all that we had plus most of the RH—that is kept as back up," the doctor said.
"That's my blood type," Matt said. Everyone turned and looked at him surprised. Even the doctor looked startled.
"Well, this is indeed both fortuitous and amazing; I never dreamed we would find a donor in the waiting room who's not a relative of the patient. I hope you will be willing to help."
"Of course, just tell me where to go," Matt said earnestly following the doctor down the hall.
Another physician arrived just then to report that Barry was being moved into recovery, "He was a very lucky young man—although the bullet missed anything major; it did manage to crack a rib though. He should be fully recovered in about two weeks, but he will be released in a few hours after the anesthesia wears off."
They were relieved to hear that bit of news, "Well I'm going to go find us some coffee and call Al and fill him in," George said. "Come on Brett, you can help me carry everything back," he said, draping an arm over the young man's shoulders and moving him along. He really didn't need help; he just thought it would be better to give the stunned Aussie something to do.
"I need to make a few calls," Finn said, and moved down the hall to a quiet area. Jim looked at Frank, the man that meant so much to him. He was caring and compassionate and always truthful with Jim, much like his own dad, but they had a very special bond. He knew what his father had said was true, but he still couldn't help thinking that they could have handled it another way. His actions, along with those of his two lovers, had almost cost them their lives and that of a stranger. As much as he wanted to rip his brother's head off and shit down his neck, he knew that would make him no better than Junior. Sitting beside Frank in silence and trying to decide how to broach the subject, he noticed how noisy hospitals were—the sounds of people, machines, doors opening and closing; it was a wonder anyone ever slept in such a place and wondered why he had never noticed it before.
Finally, after almost ten minutes, Frank said, "Jimmy," and then said it again to get his attention. "What's on your mind son, you seem a million miles away."
"I'm just thinking about all that has happened Dad and I can't help but think it's our fault. One thing you have always taught Matty and me was the Golden Rule; and I'm thinking that maybe we didn't treat my brother the way we would have wanted to be treated," Jim said looking down at his hand, not able to look Frank in the eye.
"Bullshit!" He heard in a raised voice. It was his father with Brett returning with coffee. "What did I tell you earlier?" Your brother is responsible for his own actions," George said forcefully as he placed a cup in Jim's good hand. They had moved into a small family waiting room at the end of the hall. It had no doors so they could see all the activity and also Matt returning from giving blood. He was walking with Finn who had been on the phone. George waited for the other two men to join the group before continuing.
"Matt, your partner here is intent on taking the blame for what happened on his own shoulders and I'm trying to convince him that you guys buying the business had nothing to do with it." George was speaking not just to Matt, but the assembled group. "I will play the devil's advocate. Tell me, why did you buy the company? Were you motivated only by revenge, did you only mean to hurt George?"
Matt didn't respond immediately, he looked at Jim and saw the sadness in his eyes; he understood how his husband felt, in fact he felt a bit of guilt himself—but he needed to answer the question honestly.
"No, it wasn't like that Dad. When we discovered what he had done to Shane, our first reaction was to go to the police, but it was you who didn't want to put Shane through all the pain that it would cause," Matt said, remembering the shock and disgust that he felt learning about what Jim's brother had done.
"That is true; I was worried that George would hire an attorney that would turn Shane from victim to instigator. Worse yet, we would be airing everything in public," the elder Flannery said. "I didn't want the boy to have all of his family and friends knowing his shame."
"George is correct," added Finn. "This man was not an innocent victim. He was a sexual predator, a hypocrite and a thief. Who's to say that he wouldn't have had the same reaction had you gone to the police?"
Everyone remained silent, all lost in their own thoughts for a few moments, reflecting on what Finn had said. They had all been so caught up in conversation that they hadn't noticed Declan's arrival until he suddenly spoke.
"I think Finn is correct," he said startling the group. He gave an apologetic smile and continued. "I'm not a psychologist, but I have been working with the man for a few months and I can tell you he is not stable. He was paranoid for one thing and had been jumpy from the day we took over." Declan had not been told about Shane although he did know about the embezzlement.
"Listen guys," he continued looking directly at Matt and Jim, "from what I heard when I arrived, you two are feeling as if you were responsible for George's actions today. I don't believe that to be so. Think about it—you effectively covered up two very big crimes that he committed, both of which would have involved jail time. If he had been smart and just walked away with his generous severance pay and excellent reference he could have started a new life, without consequences. The business was for sale for over a year—he had to know that he would probably not be retained. New owners want their own people in place." Declan paused to allow that to sink in, then to the others said, "These guys gave him a full year's salary as severance—that is way more than anyone else would have given him. Not to mention you paid more than the company was worth to Mr. Stratton to cover what George embezzled.
But that's not what George did—you should have seen him this morning—he was filled with anger and hate, he even called Clinton a "... slanty eyed little half-breed" and he had been treating him that way since the day we took over. He was clearly not in his right mind—and that was proven when he showed up with a gun and by what he said. I know he will cry that he is the victim and try to convince others he was wronged; but I can safely bet everything I own that he would never admit to the crimes that he committed and that started this all in motion," Declan concluded.
It was 1800 and Jim had just been officially discharged but had to stay in the wheelchair until he left the building—hospital policy— and it was taking every ounce of his control to stay in that chair. The emergency room of the hospital was new and quite nice, with a row of small rooms that were used for short-term recovery. That's where the guys were gathered in Barry's room—he was awake and feeling much better and the doctors said he could be released in another couple of hours. Like Jim, he would be going home with a sling and stiches.
Declan and Tom had left to go visit with Clinton and also to try to catch a doctor to get an update on his condition. They were lucky to find the surgeon and discovered that he was now listed in stable condition; they were able to get all the bleeding under control—now it was a waiting game. He had suffered quite a bit of trauma and they had him loaded with pain medication. Needless to say, there would be no speaking to him; he was in dreamland.
"Are you out of your fucking minds?" Barry asked Matt and Jim. The guys were still beating themselves up and apologizing to him for what Junior had done, Jim with his left hand holding Barry's right and with Matt seated at his right and Brett on a chair in the corner.
Matt and Jim had been telling him how they thought they went too far and possibly caused him to lose it. "How can you possibly be responsible for what he did? Whatever made him go bat shit crazy happened long before we got involved—I would say right about the time he started stealing, or maybe fucking with his nephew," Barry said forcefully, then stopped when he saw the look on Ute's face realizing he had just slipped and let out a family secret. He looked at Matt who just smiled letting him know it was okay.
"I mean, really guys, you have nothing to apologize for; all these mea culpas make me wonder if you two aren't going soft," he said with a grin, "but think of this: what if you had gone to the police, especially about the abuse thing?"
He looked at Ute and said, "We'll explain that in a bit—but anyway, you know he would have gone to jail for that and you know that pedophiles don't fare well in prison."
"Well I think I should at least go and talk to him and explain why we did it. It could be he was so upset that he didn't realize that we actually had saved his ass," Jim said. Then looking down at his hands, "I know we started out wanting to punish him, and I know I'm rationalizing but we really ended up keeping him out of jail."
"That's exactly what I was trying to tell you dog face," Barry said, causing Matt to laugh out loud. "If you two must be sorry about something, it should be because I'm fucked with my right arm in a sling—how am I supposed to wank?" The guys laughed.
"Don't worry baby, Daddy will take care of you," Jim said as he stood and gave Barry a kiss on the lips just as Brett jumped from his seat.
"Auntie Lynette!" he said loudly. Everyone looked to the door to see Barry's parents standing there looking quite shocked. Jim just smiled and sat back down in his chair. The temperature seemed to drop as the couple entered the room.
"Mum, Dad, what are doing here?" Barry asked.
"We heard that you were shot," his father, Perry, answered, looking at Barry and Matt holding hands.
"How?" Jim asked.
"On the local news; if it's all the same to you," Barry's mother sniped.
"Well it is, for one, you can plainly see that I was also shot," Jim shot back, "and, two, it happened at our company—that is Matt's, Barry's, and mine. I, well we, are concerned how the news got out."
"It was a breaking story on the all-news radio and I heard my son's name. I called the station and all they knew was that the wounded were brought here," Perry Parsons said primly in his typically haute diplomatic voice.
"Well thank you for your concern, but we are fine," Barry said in an even tone.
"Brett, what are you doing here?" Lynette asked her nephew as if seeing him for the first time.
"Just along for the ride," was all he said.
Then, looking at Baz, she asked: "And Barry, why have you shaved your head?"
Barry looked at Matt, communicating with their eyes; silently was asking for advice—his lover just smiled and nodded.
"I had a bit of run in with cancer," Barry said without emotion.
"Cancer!" his mother cried in alarm. "Why didn't you call? What about Ryan?" she asked.
"I don't know Mum, why haven't you called me?" Barry shot back; he was getting angry—his `loving parents', only showed up when it suited them to pretend to be loving parents but it only ending up in them being controlling.
"Well... it's just, well..." his mother stammered, "it's just that I'm concerned about Ryan. What would have become of him if something really bad had happened and we hadn't known?"
"What your mother is trying to say is that we would want to bring him up if something, God forbid, was to happen to you. We are, after all, his grandparents, and he belongs with his family," his father declared.
"Well, he would have been taken care of." Barry said defiantly.
"Enough Barry! I have had just about enough of this. I think you and Ryan should come and stay with your mother and me until you recover, we are your family," his father stated.
"First of all, there really isn't much recovery involved; I'll be leaving in a couple of hours; second, I don't think Jim would want his son or his partner living somewhere else. And even if the cancer returns and the worst happens, he will still be with Jim and Matt," Barry answered not backing down.
"I would never allow that to happen," Perry answered.
"It really isn't as if you have much of a choice sir," Jim said and received an angry look from Barry's father.
"Of course I have a choice, we are his next of kin—I've already looked into this after the last visit. My lawyer informed me that even if Barry was foolish enough to name you two guardians we could sue for custody and most likely prevail considering we are his natural grandparents," he said triumphantly.
Barry just burst out laughing while Matt and Jim grinned; meanwhile Ute was trying to disappear into the wall and Baz's parents looked simply confused.
"Barry, honestly I don't what has happened to you," his mother whined.
"Well Mum, I've been to hell and back and bear the scars; I was forced to become my own man, and I have. I have survived for more than six years without your help—in fact I reckon I haven't seen you more than eight times in all those years. And you think that you are going to come here and tell me what is best for me and our son?" Barry said as he reached out and took Jim's hand again. He watched the look of confusion on his parents face and waited.
"Our son? What are you saying, boy?" his father fumed.
"I'm not a boy; I'm a twenty-six year old man, a wounded veteran, a survivor, and a pretty damn smart person; I've survived a roadside bomb and pancreatic cancer without your help," he said sitting up and leaning forward. "What makes you think I need your help now? This is the second time you have shown up to "offer" your help. I haven't heard from you since you came last September and tried and talk me into leaving; why then, why now Dad?" Barry challenged his father who said nothing.
"I called at Christmas and you refused to let us visit," his mother sniffed.
"Yes, you called at the very last minute after not having called in three months—that's one of the reasons I said no. The other was I was in the middle of chemo and didn't need this kind of drama in my life. So Dad, don't you think I would have bothered to seek legal advice?" Barry asked, looking his father straight in the eye and never blinking. "Well I did, and he told me the same thing yours did; that's why Jim and I are registered as domestic partners and as of January, Ryan is his legally adopted son," he revealed and then fell back against the mattress.
His mother gasped and looked like she was about to faint, his father stared opened mouthed. "He's what?" Perry almost shouted, "How can that be true, we were never notified that our grandson was being adopted and taken away from us?"
"Why would you be contacted, you have no legal standing. I am his father, it was only my wishes that the court was interested in," Barry answered.
While Brett was watching this minor drama play out before his eyes, his admiration for his cousin only grew. He hoped that when and if he ever had to deal with his parents like this he would have Bazza's courage. His auntie was now sobbing in her handkerchief, and his uncle looked like he was ready to kill someone. The tension in the room was thick—it clung to their bodies like humidity in the summer. He glanced at Matt who said nothing but gave him a small reassuring smile.
"Dad," Barry said in a calm voice, trying to lower the heat of the argument—he was tired of fighting— "he hasn't been taken away from you—he is still Ryan Parsons and still your grandson. The only reason I did this was to ensure my choice of who would raise him would be honored."
"I can't believe you wouldn't even consult us before doing something like this," she cried. "We're your parents," she sniffled, "and you," she said pointing at Brett, "you knew about this and didn't tell me—I'm your Godmother," she said while pointing an accusing finger at him.
"It wasn't my business to tell, Auntie Lynne," he said quietly.
"Leave him out of this Mum. The adoption process was well underway when he arrived. Look, I'm tired—I'm still recovering from my radiation treatments and now this. Let's cut to the chase: you both are only interested in being my parents and Ryan grandparents when you want to project to your world that you have a big, happy, loving family. Well that family doesn't exist—like I said, I haven't heard from you in months and in more than a year from my brothers. I live here with my family now; you let me know long ago how important I was to you—and that was long before you knew I was gay," Barry said, finally saying how he felt out loud for the first time.
"Do you know how it felt to lay in that hospital bed day after day without a visit from my loving family?" he asked and was surprised by the blank look on his parents' faces. "Well I'll tell you, it bloody sucked! And after, when I was doing two jobs to support myself and my son, where were any of you? Where was your concern about Ryan then? You certainly weren't showing up to help me get him out of the shit situation that he was living in. I felt as if I was an embarrassment to you, the scarred gimp that didn't fit into your social circle—the one son that didn't have a degree. He was just a waiter and was separated from his trashy, bogan wife," he continued—it was all coming out now, the years of hurt and feeling of abandonment. He stopped long enough to compose himself; he refused to allow his father to see him cry.
"I have been responsible for myself since I was eighteen years old. I have not asked for, nor received a penny from you since I joined the Army; not even when I was eating food off the plates from the tables I cleared in the restaurant because I was too broke to buy food. And now you have the unmitigated gall to come in here and tell me how to live my life, that's fuckin' rich!" His father started to speak but Barry didn't give him the chance.
"It comes down to this; if you can't accept me, and the family that Jim, Matt, and I have created," he said holding up Jim's hand, "and be happy for the life that I have made, and that my son is happy, healthy and no longer in the danger his mother had placed him in, then there really isn't much point is you coming round."
Just as the last words left his mouth, and the guys thought it couldn't get any worse, a crazed and hysterical Bonnie appeared in the doorway. She spotted Jim sitting beside the bed and quickly crossed the room and slapped him resoundingly across the face. She was standing in front of him shaking, "You killed your own brother, just like Cain!" she screeched. Matt jumped to his feet ready to move around the bed to grab her just when George came running into the room. He grabbed his frantic ex-wife and pulled her back, while the Parsons looked on in shock.
"What are you talking about? He was just hit a few times and only needed to be patched up," Jim said and then looked at his father who was shaking his head indicating that wasn't true.
"No Jimmy, the bullet in his leg was lodged in his femur, while they were operating he had a stroke and they weren't able to save him," George said.
"It's your fault. My son is dead because of the sins of a sodomite," Bonnie screamed until George put his hand over her mouth.
Brett was watching the scene unfold; he decided it would probably be best if he got his uncle and aunt out of the room. He quickly got up and grabbed his aunt's hand, "Come on Auntie Lynne, let me take you and Uncle Perry for a cuppa," he said, dragging her to the door with his uncle following. He was both shocked, and thankful that they followed without complaint. As they made their way into the hall they could still hear Bonnie screaming at Jim.
"You killed your brother; you made him lose his job and his mind. What did he ever do to you that was so horrible?" She spat.
"There's a better question to be asked Mother," it was Brandon's voice; he was standing in the door with his sons Seamus and Shane, "ask what George did..."
"No Brandon, that's enough," his father said stopping him in mid-sentence, "not with the boy here."
"It's alright Grandpop, its fine with me," Shane said, "I don't want Uncle Jim blamed for something he didn't do." Now Bonnie stared at her son and grandsons. She had stopped screaming but didn't seem to grasp what was going on.
"George was just being paid back for sexually molesting Shane for two years—he's lucky all he lost was his job, it was a hell of a lot better than going to jail," Brandon continued.
"That's a lie," Bonnie declared. "You and Jim were always jealous of George."
Matt felt as if he had been dropped in the middle of a bad Broadway play. Twenty minutes ago he was enjoying quiet time with his men and then all hell had broken loose. And to add to the chaos, just as Brandon revealed his brother's sin, Matt looked past him to see George's widow Sherrie, standing just outside the door with her hand over her mouth.
"It's true Bonnie, he confessed to me," George said quietly trying to calm her.
"Oh it's true alright, I have the whole confession on DVD—I'll be happy to let you have a copy so that you may finally learn the truth about your favorite child," Brandon said with bitterness dripping from his voice. All of Bonnie's carrying on attracted the attention of the nursing staff. Matt could see one of the nurses talking with Junior's widow, and then they entered together and quietly took her from the room, leaving George and the guys alone. Seamus and Shane ran to give their Uncle and Barry a careful hug before moving on to greet Matt.
"Listen guys, before you even say a word, I have already talked to the doctor. He said that considering your brother's weight and the fact that he smoked so much, he would have probably have had a stroke sooner than later," George said.
"Man, this has turned into a real cluster-fuck," Jim muttered to no one in particular just as Sherrie walked back in the room, "Sherrie, I'm sorry about this; we really never meant to hurt him," Jim said as soon as he saw her.
"I know that Jim, I came in to apologize to all of you; especially Brandon and Shane," she said taking a deep breath to steel her courage and, addressing Shane and Brandon, said, "I had my suspicions about him—I even confronted him once and he told me I was imagining things. Then, well I...let's just say I should have done something. I know it's not much at this point, but it's the best I can do," she finished before breaking down again. "I tried to get him to lighten up on you Jimmy, but you know how he was," she said as Brandon wrapped his arms around her and comforted her. George took her from the room to find Bonnie. Brandon and the boys stayed for another ten minutes until the doctor entered the room to examine Barry and discharge him. He left saying two orderlies would come to push them down to the lobby. The doctor had no sooner departed than Barry's parents walked back into the room with Brett and followed by Frank.
"What fresh hell is this?" Barry asked. His father just raised his hand.
"No Barry, we're not here to fight; in fact we're here to apologize. Your mother and I have had nice talk with Frank—and we met George in the hall. By the way Jim, we are sorry about your brother," Perry said.
"Thank you Mr. Parsons," Jim said, then, glancing sideways at his men, he was completely befuddled.
"Just call me Perry," he said to Jim. "Anyway Barry, while we are still as you young people would say, `a bit freaked out' about your life-style we realize how wrong we have been, even before we knew you were gay. All we're asking is if you would give a chance to make up for the way we've behaved and start again fresh," he said his voice thick with emotion. Jim just grabbed his hand and shook his head.
"Go ahead buddy, we need at least one happy ending today," Jim said as he watched the tears flow from his handsome lover's face.
"Sure Dad, that would be lovely," was all Barry could manage.
"Perhaps you would like to come to the farm for Easter?" Matt asked, jumping in to save Baz from having to say anything else, "you may even like our church—it is what Americans call "High Episcopalian" but Barry says it's very similar to the High Anglican church you attend." Matt laughed at the look on the Parsons' faces—he wasn't sure if it was a reaction to the invite or the revelation that the guys went to church.
"Yes, I think that would be very nice Matthew, thank you, although we now attend the Free Will Baptist Church, but we can make an exception for one Sunday," Perry said.
Frank wondered how anyone could make this daily commute without becoming a victim of road rage as they traveled east on 264 to the hospital. He was driving with Finn riding shotgun and Declan and in the back was Dr. Reginald Conway—Reggie to them all—who was Clinton's father. They were taking him to see his son whom they had been told, had been moved out of ICU and into a regular room. The sound of a ringing phone caught his attention, and then he heard Reggie speak to say that it was him.
Frank was not really paying attention to what he was saying; that was until he heard the name Jewell. Then his `Trooper' skills kicked in and he started to think. Andrew's parents are Jewell and Fred Conway, Clinton's father is Reginald Conway—this was some coincidence. His thinking was interrupted by Reggie saying, "Come again? Why yes, he's driving the car right now. I'll call you as soon as we get to the hospital and I have a chance to speak to his doctor." Then he said goodbye and ended the call.
"Sorry gentlemen, that was..." Reggie started.
"Your psychic sister-in-law?" Frank asked.
Reggie laughed, "Yes, and this is one of her best yet. She said that yesterday afternoon she kept seeing Clinton and her friend Matt Leo, and that Clinton seemed in pain but calm because Matt was with him. She tried to reach my son and couldn't, so she decided to wait until today and became worried when she failed again so she called me," Reggie said. "Turns out that we aren't strangers after all—Fred is my brother."
Frank laughed, "Yeah, I already figured that out; I wasn't listening but I did catch the name Jewell and then it clicked."
"Actually I should have figured it out already, Fred had told me what your boys did for them when they came to Jacksonville; that was something very special. But I really haven't been paying much attention to anything since yesterday," Reggie said wistfully.
"Well we all understand that," Frank offered, "wait `till I tell the boys, they will get a kick out of this.
Jim and Barry were experiencing more pain than they had expected. Dave, who had arrived the night before, was visiting with them this morning; he thought they might want to talk about yesterday's events. Being ex-Navy himself and knowing these guys, he should have figured they would not, but he offered anyway. He did tell them that they were feeling more pain today because the adrenaline had ceased pumping.
There were many plans and decisions to be made—Tom was at the office holding down the fort. George was with Sherrie making funeral plans—he was also going to visit with Junior's daughters after lunch. Bonnie was still in the hospital—she had suffered a complete breakdown upon hearing of Shane's abuse. The combination of her son's death and the revelation of what he had done was too much for her. She never left the hospital after they removed her from Barry's room and remained a patient in the psych ward.
They had called home in the morning before the boys left for school. Al had told them that they had been in an accident and although alright, they needed to spend the night in the hospital—not quite the truth, but they had agreed it was better than upsetting the boys. They were quite relieved to speak to their three Dads—Jim could hear it in their voices. It also made him feel better knowing they wouldn't spend the day worrying.
"We'll be home in two days guys, so be good for Uncle Buck," Jim told MJ who barely got to answer when Sparky was pulling the phone from his hand. Of course he had to talk to his Daddy first and then Matt and Jim. That chore finished it was time to rest while Matt and Dave went to the hospital to visit Clinton.
Matt kissed his guys good-bye and admonished, "And no fucking around, you'll pull out your stiches."
"Then you'll have to blow us when you get back," Jim said wiggling his eyebrows.
"Nice talk in front of company dog face," Matt said and grinned.
"Oh, so I'm company now?" Dave chimed in. "I agree with him, so if you won't I will," he said cracking the friends up.
On the way to the hospital Matt said, "Dave, you know even after everything that has been said, I still feel like we did something wrong—what do you think?"
"Matt, it's a tough call. I'll bet it was like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other one saying "do it" while the first one countered with "don't do it" and you're left to decide; just like Junior was left to decide that he had dodged a bullet and should have moved on. But he listened to the devil on his shoulder and came after you guys with a gun. There is only one person responsible for his death and that is him. He had three chances: he could have walked away with a year's salary Scott free, he could have not fought the men that tried to subdue him, and finally, he didn't need to raise the gun to the police. Actually he had five chances; he could have not stolen the money or abused Shane."
"Jim wanted to go and explain why we did what we did, before..." Matt said quietly, not finishing his thought.
"Well it seems God took control," Dave answered.
"Well I hope God will have mercy on his soul," Matt said sincerely.
While Dave and Matt were visiting with Clinton, Declan, Reggie, and Frank went for coffee leaving Finn (as usual) on his phone in the lounge scribbling on a legal pad.
Reggie was happy with his son's progress as well as with what he read on the chart. As a father, reading his son's chart was something he had never wanted to do. While he claimed he was in little pain, Reggie knew that he was not telling the truth; abdominal wounds and surgery were very painful.
"I was quite surprised to see that Matthew and Clinton shared the same blood type, it is quite rare," Reggie commented.
"His doctor was surprised as well," Frank said, "Do either you or your wife have the same type?"
"I'm not married," Reggie said, "but that's a whole 'nother story," he said and smiled. "Clinton was the product of a one night stand—back when I was in the Navy stationed in Hawaii, we had a new nurse who was a few years older than me and we struck up a friendship. She was the first person I told that I thought I might be gay. It was one night after our shift and we had gone out for coffee. She asked why I thought that; I told her that I thought maybe that was the way God had made me and that he didn't intend for me to have children."
"Well apparently he changed his mind," Frank said.
"No, he had help," Reggie said with a grin, "a couple of nights later she invited herself home with me and to tell you the truth she rocked my world. Afterwards I was really confused; she was so religious. So the next time we had coffee I asked her why she would do such a thing. She told me that she `journals with God' and explained she writes in a note-book what God tells her to write." When he heard this last part the hairs on the back of Frank's neck stood up; his wife used to do the same thing.
"So then, a few weeks later she shows up to tell me she's pregnant. She said she was a devout Catholic and didn't believe in abortion so if I didn't want the baby she was giving it up for adoption," he continued, "I was really confused, she was such a fanatical believer. So I asked why she would have done something like this and she told me that God directed her to do it—so that I could experience a woman and turn away from sin to have a child," Reggie said, almost as if he didn't believe his own story.
"Anyway, I told her I wanted the baby and we made arrangements for me to be on the birth certificate. The odd thing was she never held her baby—I went to the maternity ward and fed him, and I took him home. The only time I saw her was the few times a week when she brought me milk that she had expressed—she insisted that he have mother's milk.
"Then I took my little boy home— there were many stay at home moms on base who were available for babysitting to earn extra cash which made things easy. Time passed, between work and my son I never had time to date seriously; he was my whole life. And now here we are," he said.
"Does Clinton know you're gay?" Frank asked.
"Yes; I told him when he was in high school. Of course being raised outside of San Francisco it was a non-issue," Reggie answered.
"Well that explains him not having a problem with our little family," Frank added.
"Is there someone special in your life?" Finn asked.
"Sadly no, I work too many hours to have a decent relationship, I date now and then if you get my drift," he said with a wink.
"If you don't mind me asking, have you ever told Clinton about his mother?" Frank asked quite forwardly.
"Sure, about the same time I told him I was gay; again he was totally nonplussed; his answer was that he had the greatest father in the world and didn't need a mother."
"And you never heard from her again?" Finn asked.
"No, the last time she dropped off milk was the last time I saw Lucy Choi," Reggie concluded.
Frank put his cup down, his heart was in throat, "Did you just say Lucy Choi?" He asked Reggie.
"Yeah, that is Clinton's mother's name. Do you know her?"
"Yes, she was my ex-wife," Frank said. Finn and Reggie just stared open- mouthed.
"That means..." Reggie said.
"Yes, Clinton and Matt are half-brothers," Frank said. The three men sat without speaking for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts. Finn looked at his lover; he had never seen him so befuddled.
"Frank, are you alright?" Finn asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine—it's just so fucking unbelievable," Frank said, still looking a bit shell-shocked.
"Frank, I'm sorry about this. I had no idea that she was your wife," Reggie said sincerely.
"Come on man, you had no idea who she was and we were already divorced," Frank said. "I'm sorry to tell you though that she is no longer with us."
"I'm sorry to hear that; she did give me the greatest gift I have ever received. For that I will always be grateful," Reggie said seriously.
"Well this kind of sorta makes us in-laws," Frank said with a smile.
"Yes, it seems that way; shall we go tell our boys? Reggie said standing and smiling back.
"Yeah, this should be fun. At least it will take their minds off of what happened yesterday," Frank suggested.
"You ready to get out of here little brother," Matt said as he entered Clinton's room.
"I was ready three days ago man," Clinton replied.
"Jim's bringing the car around, we'll be back at the farm in about four hours—so make sure you take a pain pill," Matt said helping Clinton up from the bed.
The last week had been quite eventful. The revelation that Matt and Clinton were brothers caused quite a sensation and spawned many hours of private talks between the newly discovered brothers. Matt also brought Tom into the conversation. He figured it would be good for the three half-brothers to bond and form yet another unconventional family.
"Matt, are you sure you want me at your place, it's going to take at least a month of recovery," Clinton said.
"Are you kidding, I can't wait to have a little brother to torture," Matt said and then laughed, "but seriously, I wouldn't have it any other way—you can work at home via computer and the boys can't wait to meet their new uncle."
"Then let's go bro, I can't wait to see the changes you have made at Deer Crossing Farm," Clinton said turning on a dazzling smile.
As you know today, May 7th, is the two year anniversary of A Single Soul and I think it is fitting that Book Two ends on this day. I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for reading and for all the lovely emails that you have sent. I would also like to thank Henry and Chaz for their editing skills; and extra thanks to Chaz for his hard work on the Facebook page and the Blog. I hope you all enjoy the new book Deer Crossing Farm which will debut next week.
You may now view our photo albums on Facebook by going to https://www.facebook.com/pete.bruno.12. Send me a friend request and enjoy the content. Feel free to leave comments, complaints (not too many of those please!) and suggestions. If you do not have a Facebook account you may also find the same pics on our new (albeit under construction) blog at: http://petebrunosinglesoul.blogspot.com/
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