Skip - Part 34

 

Skip Part 34



Saturday came so fast that I had to think about what Wednesday through Friday had been like.



Betsy called to tell me there was a letter for GE in my mail at home. It looked important enough that she did not want it to sit until I came home again. I told her it was okay to open it and read it to me. She did so. I wrote down all the info I needed. We talked for a while. I told her that hearing from GE was a recurring dream I had been having lately.

"Aaron, it seems to be a very good offer. You should consider moving."

"Not sure if we'd move to Philly or to Connecticut. I'd be splitting my time between both the Philly and regional offices and headquarters in Fairfield. Fairfield County was my old stomping grounds for five years. I was living there when ... you know."

"Bad memories, love?"

"Yeah. I love Connecticut otherwise. I agree that the offer is really nice. My former boss has been following my cancer treatment progress. She knows I'm still on chemo. They made me the offer anyway, as you can see."

"$72,000 in salary is nothing to sneeze at. You know we'd miss you, though."

"I do know. I'd be taking your son away from you, again."

"He'd go willingly. And your paramedic training?"

"Dunno yet. I'd have to find out if I could keep up with it. I really want to."

"You have a lot to think about. Talk it over with the boys. We'll support you, of course."

"Well, here's something that makes it a bit better. I'm on Google Maps right now. Home to Fairfield is a bit over 3 hours. About 5 hours to Philly. Pennsylvania, according to Skip, is also part of my recurring dreams."

"The time and distance isn't bad at all. Don't worry, love, you decide what's best for you and Skip. I will assume Billy will finish school."

"That part I'll insist upon. He's got this semester and then two more to get through. He wants his Masters, too. I hope he stays at school to get it along with the boys."

"I'll send you the letter. Call us over the weekend, okay?"

I promised that I will. Betsy was right. It was a lot to think about. I will call my boss in a while, once Skip was home so he could hear my side of the conversation. Once he got home, after his shower, I filled him in on the letter and the choices I had. He was for anything that I decided. I took the chance of getting my boss in her office. I did reach her. We talked for over an hour.

"So you accepted the offer," Skip said. "I'm glad for you. I couldn't turn down that kind of salary plus benefits. Sounds like we have until May 1?"

"Yeah. I'm kinda psyched about all this."

"We should call Billy."

"A bit too early. He's in his last class for the day. We can talk to him after he eats dinner. Let's work out some details together in the meantime."

I had been given the option of which city to move to. I would be at headquarters more than in Philly, so that was easy. But what was in Pennsylvania? The dream had been so vague that, for now, I assumed it was too far away to think about. I would have to check out real estate, apartments, paramedic training (which my boss was all for), talk to Andrew and Claire, and work out finances. We would not buy a house right away, and Skip had to consider leaving his job with his contracting firm, and Harvard.

"Well, I suspect they'd help me find a job in Connecticut or Philly, so I'm not worried."

"Yeah, I know. The man who finds primo jobs without breaking a sweat."

"On the outside at least. I have anxiety like anyone else."

"You hide it well. What do you think Billy will say?"

"He'll be happy for you, and he'll have no problem being away from us for awhile. We are three any way you cut it."

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that."

"Yeah. School holidays and summer gives him plenty of time to see us. Plus we'd be about 2 hours away. That's bearable for him to drive on a longer weekend. We'd settle in and then he'd join us in June anyway. Fairfield to Stonington is how far?"

I queried Google Maps again.

"Eighty-four miles. An hour and a half if I drive, an hour if you do."

"Wise guy. An hour and one, maybe two and a half. But make a cake anyway and put a file in it."

We called Billy when we knew he would be back in the dorm. He was excited and gave the guys a play by play of our discussion. David and Sam were happy that we would be closer, at least over the summer. They were bummed about us not being in Boston for their last year of school. We will have to find another venue for the summer long weekend picnic in July. Add that to the list of things to think about. It was growing by the minute.

Next, I called Andrew and Claire. They listened on both phones.

"I can make arrangements with Yale University to use their facilities. It's easy to do since we have a research grant with them. Their facilities are outstanding, actually a bit better than MGH. Claire and I could go back to Washington."

"Seriously, finally?"

"Yes. We would fly to New York on the shuttle and then drive one day a week for an overnight, once we get you in better shape. Your annual visit would still be in Bethesda. Or we would use the facilities at the University of Pennsylvania if you were in Philly. It too would be an overnight for us."

"Or, I could come to Bethesda for an overnight every Friday, and then let you take care of me until Sunday at home. We could do any combination of the three locales."

"That would make us both very happy. How does your employer feel about you working four days a week?"

"That's my standard work week, to accommodate treatments. It's not forever, but it helps avoid leave of absences. I also get a telecommute day every two weeks."

"They really are going to take care of you."

"I worked for GE for 15 years, right out of college. I'm a known quantity, so it's all good."

"Well, love, I'm going to call my broker and buy GE stock. You can help make me filthy rich."

I laughed. Andrew is quite practical. I did not know he was greedy. I thought that was my trait exclusively. Live and learn.

Skip and I settled into the oversized chair to watch TV for an hour. He threw another log on the fire, pulled down the bed, and pulled me into his arms. Oh boy. After quite the diversion, I fell asleep, tucked into his neck. The day's activities caused me to dream about a young man named Andrew. He has dark hair. I also saw a boy named Jake, but not Jake at BC, I think. Dreams were strange. Mine were plain weird.

The biggest task was how to combine both our households. We were both giving up townhouses that we loved a lot, and Skip would lose having Billy for a neighbor. We made a list of the things that we would keep, depending on how large an apartment or rental house we could find. We will make a couple of trips to Fairfield. I already knew the area well. Skip visited the Out of Town News shop in Harvard Square on his way home one night to pick up a couple of Connecticut newspapers. We also looked at the real estate sections online. With two salaries, we could get a decent two-bedroom townhouse, like we had in New Hampshire. I bookmarked the web site where we found a real estate page that we both liked.

"Should I pare down my book collection," I asked.

"Nope. If we don't have a finished basement, we'll make one. Or we'll build a library addition to a house."

"You'd do that for me?"

"I would do anything for you, love. Whatever it takes to bring a quality to your life, it will be done. By me, by Billy, or by our boys. Your needs are few, so we will fulfill them."

"Sometimes, but only sometimes ..."

"You still have to wonder how I can love you so much."

I nodded. I know he does, equal to Billy. But sometimes, I don't feel worthy of either."

"Because you are an answer to several long prayers that I had when I thought I would die. I fell in love with you and my prayers were answered when you came to my home the first time. Actually, before that, when you caught yourself staring at me in the van."

"I wanted you so badly, that day especially. I came so close to telling you. And a dozen times more after that, until you invited me over."

"What stopped you?"

"I decided that you as a friend beats anything else."

"Does it?"

"Yes."

He leaned in to kiss me, smiling, pleased that I loved him so much, knowing that his heart is safe with me. It is, and always will be. I trusted him with mine. He would never hurt me, nor break my heart. Nor I his. These were unspoken promises. We both would rather die than to do even the smallest amount of harm to the other. That went for Billy as well, of course, both ways.

"Are you worried about moving?"

"No. Nothing is forever, and you know that staying still is hard for me. I'm excited about going back to GE. Connecticut is a good place to live, and Philly would be fun for work. I'll be away from you for a time, though."

"Not for that long. I might miss you when you're away, but I don't think so. You'll call me. I'll know you're okay. And, of course, there is the making up for lost time once you're home."

"Oh boy. Will you fuck me?"

"Nope. I'll make the sweetest love of your life to you."

With that thought, I went to sleep in his arms. We always saved our best conversations for the evening when it was quiet. He saved his best thoughts for me to hear before I went to sleep.




I was dozing when the station alarm fired off. Auto accident. My throat tightened. In a moment, my training would kick in and I would go. I had to wonder what the paramedics felt the night that they pulled Kate out of our car and then, finally after 45 more minutes, pulled me out as well. We could handle fires and hazmat accidents with little thought. Auto accidents made us all a bit ... challenged.

We arrived to find two cars crunched together, t-boned. All hands grabbed gear, assessed the accident, and went to work. It took several long minutes to get the passenger side door open. Firemen used the jaws to pry and cut. Three of us pulled a young man out from the front passenger seat. I felt for a pulse and my heart skipped a beat. I tried again and then again. Wishing for a pulse did not make the heart beat. However, training and intuition let me to do my job properly. His pulse was weak, but there. My job was now to make sure this young man lives.

"If it weren't for the challenged, you'd be bored," echoed through my head.

Yes, but who wanted to face this challenge? The pressure was so intense. This is a life and one does not take it lightly. One misstep and the heartbeat ceases. It made it all the harder that I knew this young man, intimately. His name is Vincent, one of my boys.

He opened his eyes briefly. I whispered in his ear.

"I will do my best, love, to help you. Be strong, okay love?"

He nodded slowly. He tried to smile. He was obviously in a lot of pain. The blood from the wound in his chest was profound. I applied pressure while he was ventilated by my partner.

"You know him?" Dillon asked.

"Yes. He'll be okay. How's the driver?"

"Okay, but scared. He said it happened in a blink. Speed doesn't seem to be the reason."

I looked around to see if I could see the driver. Oh man.

We worked for a long while. I don't know what amount of time passed. I would know later. It was unfathomable. The effort was impressive, and I relaxed a bit. I tended to the wound. It was deep and wide. I did not doubt that he would heal and be well. I worked full out to make that happen, to have his life carry on, to feel love and to give it all back a hundred-fold. Light defeats the dark. I would hold on to him at school and love him just right.

I held his hand. And I told him I loved him forever. I lay quietly beside him, and I held him.

He died a few moments before I lie down with him. A part of me, not a small part either, went with him. I held him a while longer. My partner understood. He left us alone to help with the others. I left Vincent for a short bit, to get a stretcher. I laid Vincent upon it, folded his arms onto his chest, and kissed him goodbye. I covered him, but not fully, because I could not pronounce him dead. It would be done at the hospital by a medical doctor. My part was to see him easily and gently into death, once I knew that my skills were insufficient to save him. It was not a matter of training. It was something far beyond me, something that I would later accept, but not right now.

My partner came back. The survivors were loaded into the ambulances and my mates waited for me. My partner had told them. Vincent was the only fatality that night. The accident was not the fault of either driver, but of black ice.

Later, at the station, I called Billy. The boys had all felt that something was different that evening. They did not know what.

"Vincent has died, Billy. In a car crash. He didn't suffer very much. Paul is okay, but shaken. He knows."

Billy was silent for a minute. I knew he was saying a prayer.

"I know he didn't love, because you were there. Thank you. I will tell our brothers. Get some sleep, love. You've earned it too."

"Okay."

Then I hung up. Dillon, my partner, sat with me for the rest of our shift. He held me tightly against him. I did not cry. I had made, and kept, a promise to Vincent. He did not die afraid, or in much pain. He will be missed for a while, and then we will all walk in the world for him. I asked Kate to take care of Vincent until we arrived one day. Dillon and I slept. At the end of the shift, my mates took me out to breakfast.

Vincent was my first loss as a paramedic. He would not be my last. I could get counseling if I asked. I did not need it.

I went out to BC for the rest of the day, until my shift began again that evening. Jessie was okay, thanks to the brothers. He will sleep in another room for the next few nights.

Vincent's family would come in a few days to get his clothing. The boys would ask if they could have his shirts and jeans. The clothing would fit a few of the boys. What better way for him to live on among them. Vincent's mom agreed.

We planned a memorial service for Vincent's college friends and classmates. He was well liked, which surprised no one. Paul can come back to campus in a couple days.

We moved on from our loss. The boys always lived as if they would not all be together 24 hours from now. We sat together in Vincent and Jessie's room, all of us. It was close quarters, but that was the idea. We could all hold each other. Paul sat behind me, arms wrapped around my stomach, head on my shoulder.

"Is anyone upset that I ..."

"Stop right there, love," said Kenny. "No, so don't even think about that. Anyone of us would be as blessed to have you to care for us. It's a given that you and your team did everything that you could. We're sad, for now, but we all know V did not suffer. He knew you were with him. I want you with me when I die. When you go to work tonight, do what you always do."

Tomorrow they would pack Vincent's pictures and books. All the boys, thanks to Vincent's mom, would share his polo shirts and dress shirts. A small handful of the boys would fit into Vincent's jeans, and they would share them amongst each other. Vincent will live in this dorm for a long while. No one, unless the college is short of space, will take Vincent's side of the room for their senior year. Jessie already asked that of the Housing Office. He knew it was conditional, but had been granted his request.




Paul arrived on campus with his dad a week after the accident. He considered not going back to school at all. The guys knew he killed Vincent, he said. His folks talked to him, gently and patiently. All reports were that he was quite badly bruised. He also had more than a handful of guilt. The boys squashed that. He did nothing wrong. Vincent did not suffer. Skip went out to campus in the afternoon, taking a half day off. Jeremy had called him that morning to tell him that Paul was returning later in the day. I had chemo and could not go. Jake came to be with me. We left for school as soon as I was done.

Skip was holding Paul on the sofa in the common area. Paul slept, holding tightly onto Skip. I would not know until much later why Skip was the ideal person to hold Paul. Skip, too, had been in an accident, many years before we met. He was a passenger. The driver, a high school buddy, died, as did the driver of the other truck. He never told me because discussion of any car accident was not right.

I walked over and lightly kissed him on his cheek. Skip and I kissed. I went to Billy's room. Billy and Jake held me. I still had nausea in the extreme. The anti-emetic formula was not right. Andrew's crew worked long hours to get it right. I made a mad dash for the bathroom. This time, the only time so far, I did not make it. I puked and choked, lying on the floor. Billy picked me up and took me the few more feet to the bathroom. I puked twice more. He knew what to do, having held my head through every chemo session for the past two months. When I was done, Billy carried me back to his room. There was a knock on the door jam, a couple of whispers, and then Billy lay down behind me and held me tightly, kissing my neck. I turned to return the kiss. Paul kissed me warmly. He and I were alone. Billy was not there.

"Thank you, Aaron, for everything you did. I know you worked very hard to save Vincent. It was so quick ..."

I turned to face him. He kissed me again.

"Sshhhh, love, you know that you did nothing wrong. Time will help you feel better. I know that to be true."

"I know, Aaron. You suffered worse than I will, but still, I'll miss V for a very long time."

"Me too, love. It's okay to miss him."

"You and he made love." It was not a question.

"Yeah. More than once. He wanted to find someone like me to spend his life with. I only wish ..."

"Don't," he said, putting his fingers on my lips. "Why wish for something you cannot have?"

"Skip says that too. It's not right that he is gone."

"Gone in body only, love. Put him here," he said, hand on my heart.

"I did."

"Then believe that he is there. I know you. I bet you asked your Kate to take care of Vincent."

I nodded. He kissed me again and then put my head in his neck.

"Sleep, love. You need your strength. I need to care for you."

I understood that need. A need like that makes one a better person. He too dozed off.

It was sunset when I woke up. Paul looked into my eyes.

"Come, Aaron. Time for dinner."

"I don't ..."

"Soup, or broth, whatever."

I did not want anything because I would puke again.

"Come on. Put your boots on. None of us are going to let you go without eating. We care about you."




February turned to March. My 40th birthday was in nine days, and Skip's 31st was in ten days. The boys chipped in and did the multiple venue birthday celebration for both Skip and me. I took Friday night off from my squad. It was Skip's birthday day. Our pre-marked envelopes arrived at my apartment on the previous Tuesday. Friday evening dinner was in a seafood restaurant at the waterfront. Skip opened the envelope once we were seated to see the amount of the gift certificate.

"Holy, bro, they gave us $100!"

"Wow. I have to wonder if any parents were part of that."

"I don't think so. All 18 of the guy's signatures are on the card, including Vincent's, in his handwriting. They've been planning this for a while."

"Sweet. It feels nice that 18 is still our number, or 20 really," I said.

"Yeah. I tucked him away, right here," Skip said, putting his hand on his heart.

We chose a white wine to have with dinner. Our server uncorked it and poured a sample for Skip to try. Then we toasted our boys. We both ordered stuffed lobsters. The highlight of dinner was strawberry rhubarb pie, the whole pie.

We laughed. "Yup, they've been planning," I said, smiling.

We signed the gift certificate and left the whole thing. Our server was going to be quite happy with a 30% tip. We did not want a credit for the unused amount. As in past years, the gift certificate was to be spent.

Saturday breakfast was at Jillian's place, with 17 fine young men, at 7:30 a.m. In the kitchen was Jillian and husband Jimmy, plus Claire and Andrew, plus Betsy and JD. We invited them to eat with us, of course. They said they would eat later. This was our morning. Jillian would not take payment for breakfast, so the boys had again chipped in and gave Jills an envelope of cash for the woman's shelter. She teared up for a moment. We 19 were informed at we are to be at Betsy and JD's place tomorrow (Sunday) for a mid-afternoon dinner. We all got hugs and sent on our way.

Skip pulled an envelope from his inside jacket pocket. The outside contained only today's date and said `Afternoon'. He also had one marked `Evening' for later. We did not know that the evening activity was, except that we needed to dress up a bit. The `Afternoon' was for the IMAX theater at the Museum of Science. A new show started today.

`Evening' turned out to be a night at the Improv in Cambridge, including dinner. When we got back to the dorm at 1:30 a.m., the boys got sleeping bags, laid them out on the floor in the common room, and pulled Skip and me, and each other, into easy sleep. Jeremy lie in front of me and kissed me goodnight just before tucking into my neck. Jessie tucked into Billy's arms, while Paul cuddled close with Skip. Paul knew why Skip gravitated to him at every chance. He welcomed the love. Skip doesn't know how not to love deeply. The boys had his heart and they knew it.

We slept in until 10:00, very late for Skip and me. But it felt nice. When everyone was awake, we paired up and jacked each other off. Kirk was my `JO' partner. It has been a while since he and I were a pair. He took care of me as he would take care of his own needs. We kissed sweetly as he brought my load up to full boil, leaning in quickly to take my cock and load into his mouth.

He shared my cum with me. I wasted no time in changing places with him. He was very hard, and it would not take a lot to get him off. I lay between his legs. I, with no shame, sucked him instead of jacking him off. In a few minutes, he moaned.

"Coming, bro!"

He filled my mouth. I swallowed most of it. What I did keep, I gave to him in a kiss.

"Mmmm, I guess I taste good, huh?"

"You do. Actually, you taste great, both your cock and your cum."

We changed and went to play basketball. My first shot was a 3-pointer because I was in the mood to show off. I ran a lot. My legs would get stiff sometimes, or crap up, which was usual for MD. Skip still made it part of our pre-bedtime routine to work my legs for twenty minutes.

I looked around to find him bent down, holding on to his thighs. David stood beside him, hand on his back. Skip nodded. David helped him sit on the bleachers.

I walked over to him and sat down. He was wheezing.

"Ran out of air, did ya love?"

He nodded. He had played very hard, as did all the boys. He often forget that he had half a lung on one side.

"Come on, I'll walk you home. You guys keep going if you want. Blue is behind white by seven points, so finish off. We'll meet you in the dining hall when you're ready."

The guys went back to it. We walked to the showers and cleaned up. Then, Skip and I took our time walking across campus. There was still a bite in the air. Skip breathed into his hand so the air was warm. Otherwise, the cold air would make him cough. He got a table and I brought us hot cocoa.

"Better?"

"Yeah. I am. Gotta remember I'm not a kid."

"You still are, but a kid with part of a lung. I know it's hard. We played over two hours, so you got nothing to be ashamed of."

"I didn't realize we played that long. Not too shabby, huh?"

"Not shabby at all. It's almost the last thing you are."

"What is the last thing that I am?"

"The list is long. I like the things that you are instead."

"I love you, and that you didn't yell at me for pushing."

"I don't yell, and I like that you push. I do, too. You won't know what you can't do until you know all that you can."

"Wise. Very very wise. And best of all, you are Billy's and mine. Is that ... ?"

"Oh yeah. And then some."

The other boys arrived, all having showered too. We joined them at the grille and salad bar. I had tomato basil and a side salad.

"Your stomach? Still?" asked Billy.

"Yeah. Even this isn't going to stay down."

"I would hate eating, knowing that I was only going to puke it up in a while."

"I do, but I always hope that it stays in my system long enough to do some good."

After we ate, Paul brought a cup of soft serve ice cream and two spoons.

"Here love, this might coat your stomach and stave off the nausea."

He was right. I had a headache and nausea on a slow simmer, but nothing became of it. At bedtime, Paul asked if I would sleep with him. We were the two who were connected to Vincent, so we spent a lot of time together. Jeremy came to bed with us. I lay beside Paul, on my side while he lay on his back. I put my hand over his heart.

"You're hard," he said.

"Are you psychic, or am I not realizing that I'm closer to you than I think."

"Yes to both."

"I hate being hard alone. What do you say, Jeremy? Wanna get our buddy hard?"

"Yeah, might as well make it three," he said, pulling his briefs down a bit and pointing his hardness toward us.

Jeremy knelt beside Paul and immediately took his cock into his mouth. Paul moaned while he kissed me. I rubbed his very flat belly and then wrapped my hand around his balls. I put my hand behind his head and made sure he was feeling love, not just a pretty awesome blowjob. Jeremy felt the same way. He wrapped his fist around Paul's cock and then kissed him deeply.

"This," he said, indicating Paul's cock, "is nice. But these," he said, kissing Paul, "are better. I'm glad you let me have both though."

"I like both. Aaron taught us that both is okay. Can I taste yours for a bit?"

Jeremy nodded and then stood up, giving Paul his cock. Paul sucked for a couple of minutes and then pulled Jeremy closer, so I could have some too. I sucked him, very much enjoying the taste and texture. I gave Jeremy's cock back to Paul and then went down on his. I watched him suck Jeremy, so I sucked him exactly the same way. He knew how Jeremy felt, through me. After a while, Jeremy was getting too close.

"I don't want to come yet guys."

He knelt down again and took my cock into his mouth while I continued to suck Paul's cock. Jeremy also did to me what I did to Paul, so I could feel what he felt. I liked that a lot. The guys did not know greed. I was glad that I did not `infect' them.

"Uh oh, bro, I'm past the ... unhhhhhh," I said as I filled Jeremy's mouth with cum.

"Me too," said Paul, filling my mouth with his sweet load. I swallowed, saving some for him. I kissed him, pushed his cum onto his tongue, and then looked at him.

"Mmmm, good stuff."

"Yeah, so now you two can have mine," Jeremy said, stroking his cock, ready to shoot.

Paul and I put out mouths on either side of Jeremy's cock as he shot. We shared somewhat equal loads of juice, with Paul getting a bit more than me. I did cleanup duty, leaving his cock shiny.

"Now I can sleep guys," he said, kissing us both.

He climbed into his bed. Paul and I held each other and were asleep soon after. He stirred a couple of times during the night, but I held him close and told him that I loved him. He settled down and slept until 8:30. When he awoke, I was looking into his eyes. He smiled at me.

"Nice to wake up to you beside me, love," he said. He kissed me.

"I can say the same. You were a bit restless ..."

"But I heard you tell me you love me, so I knew I was okay."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. You and our brothers see to that."

"I will always care about you and Jeremy, and the rest of the brothers. We belong to each other."

Jeremy woke when Paul did. He joined us on Paul's bed. We kissed each other for a while and then hit the showers. We all met up and went to breakfast. Later in the day, Skip and I said our goodbyes and went back to our apartment.




We checked the weather in Connecticut. Fairfield area was about 10 degrees warmer than Boston. We called a real estate company and set up appointments to see a townhouse and two houses for the next weekend.

Spring was in the air when we arrived. We saw our first robins of the year. At my childhood home in New Hampshire, robins were not seen until at least late April. We met up with Alicia, whom we had talked to often enough for her to know us and our wishes for a home.

The first house we saw was about 1500 square feet. The front and back yards were quite nicely kept. Daffodils and tulips grew at the front and corners of the house. Inside, the kitchen was updated and was beside a perfect size dining room. The living room took up half of the front of the house. A small third bedroom would make a great den. The second bedroom had potential for a library in addition to the den. The master bedroom was large, with an en suite. Both bathrooms and a half bath were also updated. The rental price was $2,000. The sale price was $189,900. We had $50,000 between us for any down payment. The mortgage would be around $1,400, with taxes. We asked Alicia to keep it on our shortlist.

The second house we saw was 2000 square feet, a bit more modern, with a bit less landscaping. The room layout was different, but the room sizes were close to the first, plus it had a garage. Rental price was $2,250. Sale price was $210,000. Mortgage and taxes came to about $1,700. It too went on the shortlist.

The townhouse was, at first sight, exactly perfect. It was four levels. The landscaping was classically beautiful. The basement was a walkout and fully finished. My library here even had room to grow. The back yard was huge. On the main level, we walked into a beautiful up-to-date modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances and soapstone counters, which I liked better than granite. The dining area beside it was an extension of the kitchen vs. a formal dining room, again to my liking, and Skip's as well. The master bedroom was on the first floor.

"With your CMT, it will be something to think about," said Alicia. "My mom has MS, so I know what's in your future. First floor masters are becoming very popular, and not with just older buyers."

"It does make a lot of sense, I said.

Both the houses had bedrooms on the second floor, a more traditional layout. So far, the townhouse was winning out. It would be perfect if it were an end unit. Alicia said she had another but slightly larger townhouse down the road that we could also look at. It would not be available until June though. That will not be a big deal since GE will provide us with temporary housing if necessary. We finished the tour of the condo. There were three fireplaces, basement, master bedroom, and upstairs den. Two and a half baths, same size spare two bedrooms plus the den, and priced at $199,900. We placed this one at the top of our list, pending a walk-through of the second condo.

We planned a second visit in three weeks. Alicia treated us to lunch. We liked her and she was fond of us. "I, uh, am moved to say that you two are, sorry to embarrass you, beautiful."

"Yeah, we get that a lot," I said, smiling. We explained a bit about our history.

"You're going to be okay, you know," she said to me.

"I do know. I'm glad to have you helping us find a home. You were three for three today."

"I'm pleased."

We got hugs outside and then she drove off. We checked into our hotel for the night.

"The second townhouse," I told Skip, looking at Google Maps, "is the closest one to GE. The first townhouse is only a mile and a half further away. The two houses are within three miles. Tough decision, huh?"

"Not yet, until we see the second townhouse. I like them all though, so it's a matter of eeny meeny miney and maybe mo."

I laughed aloud. "Alicia really came through for us."

"Yes, and she doesn't seem to mind that we are a couple."

"We should send her some flowers. How about a tulip bouquet?"

"Yeah. Nice idea."

I made a note to order flowers once we got home. Skip and I settled down to watch TV for a while. We had a light dinner at Applebee's and then settled for cuddling and more TV. We did not need `life in the fast lane' when we could cuddle and take it nice and slow. There was no boredom.

Three weeks later, we were back. The end-unit townhouse was the home of our choice. At $205,900, the price was right. We did not look at it as an investment and a future resale. It was home, just right in size and close to work for me, close to downtown, shopping, and enough off the beaten path to be quiet after a day at work. Alicia told us she really liked the tulip bouquet. This time around, we brought her two dozen bulbs so she could plant them at home and remember us.

"You both are so nice. Let me know when you are moved in. I have something that I do for all my buyers."

The following weekend, we started the packing process in our townhouses in New Hampshire. Neither of us are `stuff collectors'. It took one full day each to get things packed and moved into storage. Our move-in date was for May 5th, a Friday. JD would have no problems renting our townhouses, working from a waiting list that he had. Skip and I stayed with them and then we painted both places for the next few days. JD steam cleaned the carpets and had the fireplaces cleaned by professionals.

We returned to Boston until we were ready to move. The boys got our attention each weekend. We talked it out with the boys regarding the summer weekend at the lake. Everybody thought that keeping the picnic at Lake Winnisquam was the right thing to do. Skip and I would be driving about the same amount of time the twins would be from upstate New York, about four hours or so. We planned on driving as far as Skip's folks place. But planning was not taken further than that, since it was four months away.

Time moved on. March became April and April became the first week of May. It was time to move on. Little would change, except distance. Distance, we will discover in short order, definitely made our hearts grow fonder. There was so much to do between settling into our home and working. Skip found a contracting company, with the aid of his company in Cambridge, and would start work at the same time I did. His first contract, long-term if he wished it to be, was at Yale University in New Haven, about 40 minutes away. Yup, another prime job, with perfect timing. I also scoped out expanding my paramedic training and practice.

Our first major event was to introduce Skip to my former and now current boss. I was totally nervous about doing that. One, however, must go boldly.


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