"Plaquemines Parish" Part 11

By: Pee Jay


The next morning I was keeping watch at the kitchen table with the coffee ready, waiting for them to get up. I was reading my book and having trouble concentrating. Mike was the first one down and we exchanged our mourning greetings. As he poured himself a coffee, I asked, "Mike do you have a minute to talk?"

"Sure," he said. "What's on your mind?" Then he sat at the end of the table blowing over his coffee.

"I was wondering what you and Dave talked about yesterday when you guys went outside. You were out there for a while."

"You probably guessed it was about the two of you."

"I figured that much."

"Dave feels bad about what he did. He wants to talk," he said, looking squarely at me.

I started fidgeting with the centerpiece, unsure of my response. Mike was quiet, too. Finally, after some time, I said, "What do you think?"

"It's not so much what I think. It's what you think—what you want. I can't forgive him for you, and I can't tell him to forget it either. I do, however, think you owe him some kind of answer. You haven't returned his calls or called him like you said you would."

Then Mike waited for me to say something. He may as well have shown me a video of the hideous event; it was all coming back like a nightmare. I wished I hadn't asked him. I much preferred ignoring the whole thing.

Steve came into the kitchen and we greeted each other. Sensing something was in the air, he kissed Mike, then rubbed the back of my shoulder. He poured a coffee, then sat quietly across from me and smiled. I reciprocated with a weak smile.

"Val?" Mike said, trying to evoke a response.

"Yeah?" I replied, not wanting to confront the situation.

"You have to make a decision. You were a big enough boy to get into this; now it's time to be big enough to find your way out ... if that's what you want."

"I know you're right, Mike. I don't know what to do."

Steve said, "There's another option, too. You can remain friends. You don't have to completely sever your relationship. Give it some more thought; we can discuss it tomorrow."

"I like the sound of that," I said, "I'm not sure how that would work."

"Think about it," Steve said. "Friendship is what you make it, what you want it to be, and what you each bring to it. Okay?"

"Okay, Steve," I said. "I'm getting a headache thinking about it. I like your suggestion though. It sounds like a happy medium. And he's a good person at heart; he just fucked up is all." As soon as I swore, I covered my mouth with my hand and looked at Mike. He was trying hard to manage a scowl. "Excuse me," I said. "I'm sorry for swearing. It just popped out."

"You can clean the garage for that little indiscretion," Mike said. "Oh, and that just popped out ... see how easy it is?"

Steve giggled, then stood up saying, "I'm going to shower." He left.

Mike filled our coffee cups, and I hugged him as he poured. He gave me a hug back, which felt good, saying, "You still have to clean the garage."

"I know," I said.

After showering and dressing, I waited for Mom and Bill on the front porch. When they pulled up out front, I opened the door and hollered goodbye to Mike and Steve. Steve hollered back, wishing me a good time; then I pulled the door closed.

When I climbed into Bill's new car, I leaned forward and kissed Mom on the cheek, then said, "Hi Mom, Hi Bill."

"Hi honey. Where's Dave? I thought you were bringing him."

I looked at Bill to gauge his reaction. Mom said he was a big support for her after I left home; I figured he knew the story, so I said, "He won't be coming with us." Then I lowered my voice. "There's a problem between us."

"Oh?" she said inquisitively.

I saw Bill raise his head and glance at me in the rearview mirror. The situation was getting uncomfortable, so I said, "Yeah, I'd rather not talk about it if you don't mind."

"No problem," Bill said with a sincere smile.

I was glad for that. He turned the radio on, and we rode the rest of the way to the museum in relative silence. Me with my thoughts and, I'm sure, Mom and Bill wondering what it was all about.

Steve was right. The art museum was interesting, and they had some very expensive and rare Fabergé eggs on loan from a private collector in town. They were magnificent in every detail—the artisanship, the beauty; and to think they were so old, it was really something. Bill gave us the story behind the eggs and the House of Fabergé while Mom and I listened in fascination.

There was a cool picture of one of the French kings on display, so I took my camera out of my pocket. I wanted to use it as wallpaper on my computer. Two old ladies with shiny silver hair noticed me preparing my camera and approached. One of them had her hand in the air and said, "Wait a minute young man."

I lowered the camera to see if it was me she was talking to. As they neared, I said, "Yes, ma'am, what is it?"

"Sonny, you're not allowed to take photographs of paintings. The flash damages the artwork."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know. I wanted to use it as wallpaper on my computer. I thought it was a nice picture."

"It's a very nice painting, old and valuable, too. It's Louis XIV, the sun king."

"Oh, okay," I said. "Sorry about that." Then I began to walk away. Geez, how the heck was I supposed to know? I thought it would make nice wallpaper on the computer; go figure. I caught up to Mom and Bill, I was still smiling at the old ladies.

 "What's so funny?" Mom asked.

"I just got a lesson on artwork and photography."

Bill glanced at me inquisitively, then Mom asked, "What was the lesson?"

"The flash from cameras can damage the artwork."

"Oh, I didn't know that."

We had pretty much seen all there was to see, and it was late afternoon, so Bill asked, "Anyone getting hungry?"

"I am," I said.

"I could eat, too," Mom added.

Bill asked me if I wanted to drive and I jumped at the offer. He had a brand new Mercury Mariner Hybrid that I thought would be cool to drive. And the new leather smell of the interior was awesome, too, so he tossed me the keys. Bill sat in the back seat as I drove him and Mom to the yacht club.

After a very attractive waiter seated us, I asked Bill, "Do you have a long way to go this month to meet the minimum?"

"Yeah; this is the first time I've been here this month. Why do you ask?"

"I was trying to figure out if I should go for the buffet or order from the menu."

"Get whatever you want. I haven't met the minimum in a while."

That sounded good to me. I wanted to be served by the sexy waiter and maybe touch him 'accidentally on purpose' or something like that; it was worth a try.

Bill ordered a bottle of wine and Mom allowed me to have a glass with them. She held it to one glass though I tried to cajole her into letting me have more. I ordered prime rib and everything that went with it. When our waiter served us, my steak was so small I couldn't believe it. It was the size of a large hamburger so I asked him, "Where's the rest of it?" with a smile.

It wasn't so much that he was cute ... that he was, in his own way. He was more on the handsome side and ... I don't know what all, sexy to be sure. I was attracted to him and guessed he was a bit older. It was hard to tell since I was always one of the youngest in my grade. That didn't stop me from checking him out though.

He grinned back with that certain twinkle in his eye. I was pretty sure at that point he was gay. Then he said, "You can always order another one. Or, would you like to speak to the chef?"

"No way!" I said without hesitating.

Everyone laughed at that. All I could think of was Pierre, our chef at work. He's a mean SOB. He yells at the waiters to get their asses in gear before the food gets cold and all kinds of crazy shit. It's a miracle we don't make more mistakes than we do with him getting everybody all nervous by yelling and swearing.

Our waiter had his hand on the backrest of my chair as he faced Mom and Bill, "Will there be anything further, Mr. Cormier?" he asked.

"No, thank you, Mark."

He left, swiping his open palm across the back of my shoulder. I glanced quickly at Mom and Bill. Bill looked down at his plate; it was obvious he'd witnessed the brief contact. My crotch began to notice, too. I was pretty sure he was a little older, which wasn't a big deal; I was definitely attracted to him. I could see myself lying naked with him and doing all sorts of things. I wondered what his naked crotch looked like. Then I tried to think about something else to stifle my erection but it wasn't working, so I said, "I'll be right back. I'm going to the restroom."

Upon entering, there was a separate room for the hand sinks and full-length mirrors. Then, through another door, in the next room, were the urinals and toilets. I stood at a urinal and eventually was able to pee. When I finished, I zipped up and straightened myself.

I heard the outer door open, so I took a deep breath and turned to leave. As I approached the door, our waiter entered, catching me completely off guard. I nodded and said, "Hello."

He stopped, blocking the way to the door and smiled, "Hi; I'm Mark," he said, extending his hand.

"Hi, I'm Val. Excuse me if I don't shake; I just went to the bathroom." Then my face started to grow warm.

He wasn't moving out of the way, either, making me nervous as hell. I briefly pictured myself kissing him, then had to look away. I was feeling guilty even though I knew my thoughts were my own. But damn, he was so sexy with that shiny brown hair and those blue eyes. I thought maybe he knew what I was thinking.

"No problem," he said, still grinning. "How do you know Bill Cormier, if you don't mind my asking?"

This didn't seem like the place for a casual conversation, though I was beginning to relax and liked being near him. "He's my mom's boyfriend," I said awkwardly.

"Oh; your mother is very attractive. So how about you? You have a boyfriend?"

I couldn't resist grinning because he figured it out, then looked away.

"Excuse me," I said; "I have to get back in there before Bill comes looking for me."

Then I sidestepped him and pulled the door open. As I finished washing my hands and splashing my face with cold water, Mark came into the washroom and stood at the sink next to me.

He winked at me in the mirror with a big white smile, and all I could do was muster a stupid grin and then look down.

"So, Val..." he paused and turned to look at me.

Before he could continue I said, "So, Mark..."

"So ... ya wanna do something sometime?"

That was a loaded question. 'Yeah' I thought silently. 'I want you to get naked sometime'. I stifled myself, then said, "Okay, do you have something to write on?" It was kinda ballsy for li'l ole me, but I said it and felt good about it.

He produced his order pad and pen, then slapped them on the vanity. I flipped it over, wrote my cell number on the cardboard backing, then handed it to him saying, "Call anytime. I really do have to get back in there. They're gonna think something is up."

As I made my way back to the table, I couldn't help imagining what Mark would look like without clothes. Then I felt guilty as hell for thinking it. On the other hand, maybe it was shame; I wasn't sure. I sat down at the table with a smile, though I wasn't aware of it.

"Did you get his number?" Bill asked.

When I looked at him, he was grinning. He was holding Mom's hand on top of the tablecloth. A quick nervous glance at Mom revealed the same thing. I started to grin and looked down at my plate, reaching for my knife and fork.

"You guys don't know anything," I said as I began eating.

Bill and Mom laughed, making me wish there were a place to hide.

When we finished our meal, Mark cleared the table. He stood next to me as he gathered my dirty dishes. My heart was pounding like mad at the thought of touching him. 'What the hell' I thought silently. The tablecloth made for a good screen so I reached out and felt his thigh. It was solid and he didn't flinch. He was much better at hiding his reaction than I would be. I would have nearly jumped out of my skin, especially if it were he doing the groping.

After he left, the only thing I could think was how I managed to make an fool of myself. Then I wished I hadn't done it. He was probably thinking I was a jerk and scratching out my number. I can't say that I would blame him either; it was a thoughtless thing to do.

"How was your prime rib?" Bill asked.

"It was very good. Thanks for the meal and the great time at the museum. You always have interesting things to do, and I appreciate you guys taking me along."

"Anytime," Bill said, "You're always welcome."

His comment made me feel good. I was beginning to like Bill, not only as a person, but as a companion for Mom. He was considerate, intelligent, and particularly attentive to her. He treated her like a princess or the first lady, and I liked that a lot. After what she'd been through in the last year, she deserved everything good that came her way.

"Do you have any vacation time coming, Mom?"

"It's funny you mention that. When I was hourly, I wasn't eligible for a paid vacation so I never took it. Now that I'm salaried, I have to be in that position for a year before I'm entitled to a two-week paid vacation. Bill and I were talking about going to Las Vegas or California in September, so I'll miss out on two week's pay..."

Before she could continue, I said, "Mom, if you need to make up the lost income I can do it. It's no problem. How much do you need?"

She saw the money I had in my account and I wanted her to know it was all hers if she wanted it.

Mom and Bill both snickered—which pissed me off, because I was sure they were laughing at me, and I wasn't trying to be funny. I was dead serious. I wanted Mom to have a vacation ... whatever the cost. I didn't care. I wanted her to be able to go and feel good about it, look forward to it, and enjoy herself without worrying.

She smiled that motherly smile of hers, then said, "It's okay, honey. I can swing it, but thanks for the offer."

The exchange made me feel rather silly but I wanted her to know she could have any amount of money I had, anytime she wanted it.

Bill broke the awkward silence saying, "Dessert anyone?"

Both Mom and I declined, so we all rose to leave. Mark, our waiter, hadn't brought our check, so Bill motioned toward the door. As we approached the receptionist, he came around the corner and actually bumped into Mom lightly before he stopped himself.

"Excuse me, ma'am," he said with a slight Louisiana drawl. He took a step backward and asked her, "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine; no harm done."

She grinned at him then looked to me. I wondered what that was supposed to mean but I couldn't help grinning either. He was so darn cute when he looked embarrassed. Bill asked for the check and proceeded to sign off on it. I put my arm around Mom and looked directly into Mark's blue eyes. I couldn't help feasting my eyes on his face again, he was so doggone handsome. It was a brief exchange but meaningful nonetheless; my pulse was strong and quick as a result. I smiled at him, then nudged Mom to start walking.

I escorted her toward the front door and noticed that I was taller than she, and wasn't sure when that happened. I liked it, though. The feeling of being taller than Mom made me feel older and a little more grown up.

"He's very attractive," Mom said, "but not as good looking as my boy." Then she patted my cheek.

"Mooom," I protested, but it only made her laugh. It was that irritating parental laugh, too, which made it worse.

They dropped me off at Mike and Steve's place. I gave Mom a kiss goodbye and thanked Bill again for everything. I wanted to thank him for the opportunity to meet Mark, but thought better of it. I watched them drive away and waved before they turned the corner.

Mike and Steve were at a party and, according to the note in the kitchen, wouldn't be home until around eight, so I had the house to myself. I went to my room and fired up my computer, then to the bathroom to take a shower and settle in for the evening. My thoughts came around to Mark again as I lathered myself. I boned up in no time and started to stroke myself. The sensation was great. I arched my back to make my erection look bigger, which made it that much harder. I took a soapy finger and worked it slowly into my ass as I imagined Mark naked in the shower, maybe fucking me. As I fingered myself, I wondered what his boner would feel like inside me. Then out of nowhere, I visualized Dave's naked crotch. It was enough that I squirted my juice on the shower wall while bracing myself for support.

I dried off and put on a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt. I lay on my bed to rest and think, pulling both pillows close for comfort. I thought about what Mike and Steve said earlier today about Dave wondering if we could be friends. It sounded like a good idea, the question I had was, 'Would it work?' The strange thing was, that I didn't feel quite so hurt or like crying when I thought about him; it was a welcomed relief.

I decided to play "World of Warcraft", so I made myself comfortable at the desk.

When Mike and Steve came home, they stuck their heads in my room to say goodnight, then went straight to their room. I wondered what was up with that, since it was early. After a few hours, I grew tired and shut the computer down. I was starting to go loco from the addictive nature of the game.

The next morning I awoke feeling good. I got the coffee going, then showered and shaved. There was some more fuzz on my face, which was getting darker, so I made a mental note to pay closer attention. I stripped my bed and gathered my dirty clothes in a pile in the hallway.

Studly and Cutie's door was still closed ... that would be Mike and Steve ... so I knocked, hopefully, to get them up and gather their laundry to get started. I could hear some movement and a low, barely audible, moan. That was about all that was happening, so I knocked again, this time with a bit more force.

"WHAT?" Mike hollered, then moaned again.

I had to laugh. It's true, he isn't a morning person, but I never knew him to protest like that.

"Get up," I said loudly; "I need your laundry."


"Get yourself decent," I said just as loud. "I'm coming in at the count of three. One ... two ... three." Then I opened the door and went in. It could have been the middle of the night; the room was that dark. They had the shade down and the curtains drawn. Someone had draped a blanket over the curtain rod, too.

"What's going on here?" I said, as if I were the housemother or something.

Mike pulled the covers over his head then uttered a muffled, "Beat it," before he pulled a pillow over his head, which made me smile and want to be more of a pain.

Steve got out of bed making his way to the bathroom. "Morn'in Sport," he said with a froggy voice.

"Morn'in Steve."

I admit to checking out his morning woodie; it was luscious. The thought made me grin. I went to the window and pulled the blanket off, then opened the curtains and shade. Mike raised the pillow to have a peek at what I was doing, then lowered it again asking, "What's your problem?"

I walked around to his side of the bed and said, "Maybe I should ask you that." Then I slapped him on the butt and said, "Get up, Mike. It's a new day."

"Is the coffee ready?" came from under the pillow.

"Yeah, now get your as... I mean butt ... out of bed." Whew! I almost got caught swearing again. I was ready to tell him it was only a three-letter word if he said anything. Then Mike let a long drawn-out fart go.

"Eew," I said, fanning the air in front of my face. "I'm outta here."

Mike was laughing under the pillow as I turned to go. I took my pile of laundry downstairs and threw it on the laundry room floor. I poured a coffee, then settled in at the kitchen table to read my book until they came down.

It wasn't long when Steve rounded the corner scratching his head and rubbing his tummy hairs as he entered the kitchen saying, "There he is ... in the same old spot."

"Everyone has to be somewhere," I said'Geez, he oughta know that,' I thought as I shook my head.

Steve shook his head, mimicking me. He was smiling too.

I always thought he looked especially sexy in the morning, what with his hair a little on the messy side, and the shadow of his beard visible. The fact that he was shirtless and wearing nothing more than open-fly boxers didn't hurt either. I knew I would never be the big strong type like Mike. I could only hope and pray that someday I would be in Steve's league.

Steve was pouring two coffees at the counter and yawning when I asked, "Is HSH Harris up yet?"

"Yeah; what's HSH?"

"His Serene Highness," I said all proud of myself for thinking of it.

Steve giggled, then took the two coffees upstairs.

Both of them were acting a little lethargic; I couldn't figure out why since they went to bed so early the night before. I discharged the notion as Monday morning blues.

They came down together and Mike kissed Steve goodbye and wished him a good day; so did I. Then he left for the office. Mike was still in his skivvies, so I asked him, "Are you going in late today?"

"Naw, I'm staying home to keep an eye on you."

"I don't need supervision."

"Oh, yeah, you do, and maybe a little discipline, too."

Then an odor bad enough to make your eyes water permeated the air. "Eew, was that you again?" I asked, then rose to move. I stood in the doorway watching Mike refill his coffee. I'd never heard him pass gas once, and this morning he was full of it!

"Too bad you can't bottle that stuff and sell it," I said. "You need to carry a candle around to burn that shit off; it's volatile." Then I had a thought; "Those are beer farts, aren't they? And that's the reason you're not going to work today; right?"

I was certain of my assessment. Dad used to play cards and drink beer sometimes on Saturday night and that's how he was the morning after—awful to be around.

"Val ... language."

"Sorry, Mike, I forgot. How many did you have last night? That's not a very good example for me to follow," I said, grinning.

He bore down hard on me with his eyes then lunged at me. I started laughing and took off for the stairs.

"Come here you little shit."

I took the stairs two at a time, laughing, and hollered back, "Clean that mouth up, mister."

He abandoned the chase at the bottom of the stairs, thank God. I went about collecting their laundry and stripping their bed. When I passed through the kitchen on my way to the laundry room, Mike was sitting at the kitchen table staring at it. I reveled inwardly at the site. He was nursing a hangover. Mr. Perfect was a bad boy yesterday!

I did my chores outside, then went in to make a snack before finishing inside. After eating, I went upstairs to make the beds. Mike was lying on their stripped bed, motionless. I had an idea. I went to the hall closet to retrieve the vacuum cleaner. I started it up in my room. After a quick grin, I wiped if off my face for the encounter with Mike that was sure to happen.

I finished vacuuming my room and turned it off, then flipped my mattress and pad. I turned to get some clean sheets out of the hall closet, and Mike was standing in the doorway. His unexpected presence made me jump back. "Geez, you scared me half to death."

He smirked, then said, "You're enjoying this aren't you?"

"What are you talking about?" I knew precisely what he meant but decided to play dumb.

Mike went downstairs to lie on the sofa in the library, pulling the pocket doors closed. By lunchtime, I had all my chores done for the week, save the occasional touch-up. I made lunch for the two of us and watched the news with Mike while we ate. He was stretched out on the sofa with a blanket, so I sat in the chair opposite him.

The phone rang while I gathered our mess, then left for the kitchen. When I came back, Mike said, "That was my mother. She invited the three of us to a barbecue the weekend after next. She's looking forward to meeting you."

"What if Mom decides to come to town?"

"We can invite her and Bill or you can go with them if they have something planned. It's up to you."

"Sounds good," I said, sitting down. "Mike, I was thinking about Steve's suggestion. You know, about staying friends with Dave. I like the idea but I'm not sure how it would work. What do you think?"

"I think it's a good idea, one worth pursuing. He's not a bad person. He made a mistake and he's paying the price. You should call him and talk it out to a conclusion instead of stringing him along. You owe him that much."

I acknowledged Mike's comment and told him I was going to call Dave and ask him over for lunch. I asked Mike if he would come home for lunch and referee. Mike agreed, saying that he would be there for moral support and he didn't intend to interfere. I liked that and thanked him, then I went upstairs to get ready for work. I stripped to my underwear and draped my clothes over the desk chair. I picked up my cell phone to see I had a message. Caller ID indicated it was Dave. I thought it was as good a time as any to get on with things so I highlighted his number. Before I hit send, I reclined on the bed looking at the ceiling.

Dave's mother answered, so I identified myself and asked to speak to him. She was cordial when she greeted me, and asked me to hang on for a minute.

It wasn't long until Dave said, "Val?"

"Hi," I said as my chest tightened. "How are you?"

"Okay, how are you?"

I wanted to say okay but hearing his voice brought back all the feelings I had for and against him. I guess the 'for' feelings overcame me, so I said, "No complaints."

He was quiet on the other end, so I cleared my throat and said, "I'd like to talk. Can you come over for lunch this week?"

He exhaled deeply into the phone and said, "Of course, Val, I'll be there. When do you want me to come over? I miss you an awful lot."

"Tomorrow, okay?"

"That's cool. What time?"

I wasn't sure what time Mike went to lunch. I knew most lunch hours start at twelve, so I said, "How about twelve-thirty tomorrow?" I felt that was safe in case Mike had a busy morning.

"Sounds good," Dave said. "I'm looking forward to it."

We both said goodbye and hung up. I went downstairs to break the news to Mike and make sure he could be there. That was very important since I had no idea how to handle it or how things would go. He said the timing was okay with him, so I thanked him.

I noticed he was watching an old re-run of "Thelma and Louise" on the tube. It was the part where Brad Pitt was nearly naked so I stood there watching for a couple minutes. I started to firm up at the sight of his body and my underwear puffed out a little bit. I decided to leave before I embarrassed myself. I looked at Mike as I turned to go. He was staring at my crotch, making me self-conscious.

"You're definitely gay," Mike said, chuckling. "Since when can you afford to wear designer underwear?"

I started walking away because my boner was growing. Over my shoulder I said, "I can't afford not to. Besides, my men appreciate it."

Mike was laughing as I took the stairs two at a time.

That evening, work went well and was uneventful. I joked around with Rob and told him about having Dave over for lunch and the reason for it. He thought I was crazy to do it in the first place. He said I should forget him and move on. That's what I really wanted to do, but Mike had me convinced I owed him an explanation. I guess the idea of remaining friends had some appeal, too.

The next morning I lay in bed reading for a while before I got up. I was having trouble concentrating, so I decided to take a leak and start the coffee. In the kitchen, I sat at the table reading one of Steve's architectural periodicals, mostly looking at the glossy pictures. I was amazed at some of the buildings; they were from all over the world and very grand. Some of the bolder designs were in China and Europe, especially Shanghai. I couldn't help thinking how much some of those buildings cost.

Steve was first down for coffee. We said our 'mornin's' to each other, then I asked him, "Steve, has your firm ever done anything like these pictures?"

He glanced at the magazine and said, "No, we're not big enough. With those kinds of projects, you have to submit a design for the owner's review. It's an out of pocket exercise. If you're not selected, then the money you spent is down the drain. We can't afford to pay someone to fly around the country, much less the world, schmoozing. Our people have to produce so we can bill the client. We specialize in public works projects. There's some design license; not enough to make a statement though."

"Oh," I said. "Your last name is on the firm. Do you own it?"

"I'm a founding partner along with two other guys. Why do you ask?"

"I was curious. How did you get interested in architecture?"

"It was quite by accident. I didn't know what to major in when I went to college. My roommate, whom I had a crush on, was an architecture major. I had drafting in high school and liked it, so I let him talk me into signing up for a class. The rest is history."

"Does anyone know you're gay at work? I mean, that has to be a stumbling block; no?"

"They all know and it isn't a problem; my name's on the building." Then he chuckled. "My father is a contractor and steered a lot of business our way when we started. My roommate from college—the one I told you about—is an employee, too."

"Did you ever have sex with him? I mean you were attracted to him, so did anything ever happen?"

"No; I told him about myself, but we never did anything. He has a cool head and an easygoing manner. He said he was flattered, and that was the end of it. If we had done anything, he wouldn't be working for me now. It would be too awkward. I had an experience with one guy before I met Mike. After that, it was Mike and I ... period."

"I thought Dave was the one for me until he did things with Greg."

"You're on the young side to settle down. You have a lot of living to do before that happens. You came out recently, and you haven't spread your wings yet. Give it some time, Val. Don't try to rush it; it'll happen soon enough."

Steve sat next to me and put his arm around me. I loved the feeling and leaned against him. He was pleasingly soft and warm to cuddle up to, so I put my arm around his middle. Mike walked into the kitchen and stopped in the doorway.

"What's going on here? A love-in?"

"Yeah," I said. "Get on the other side of me so I can be in the middle."

He grinned on his way to get a coffee. Then Steve rose to go upstairs and shower.



"You're still planning to come home at twelve-thirty; right?"

"I am. Is Dave still coming over?"

"Yeah. He'll be here between twelve and twelve-thirty. Are you going to eat here?"

"Depends. What are you fixing?"

"How does burgers, chips, and coleslaw sound?"

He said, "Sign me up," then went upstairs.

I took some hamburger patties and buns out of the freezer, then headed for the garage to clean it. I took their keys off the key holder next to the back door, so I could back their cars out to get started. They both tooted their horns and waved goodbye when they left.

A couple hours later and I was done. I finished by hosing the floor down, then went upstairs to clean myself up and make the beds. I surfed the net for an hour, then went downstairs to get ready for lunch.

About noon, the doorbell rang, so I went to let Dave in. When I pulled the door open he was standing there with a 'big ole Dave' grin on his face. Needless to say, I couldn't resist returning his smile.

"Come in," I said, pushing the screen door open.

"Hi, pretty boy," he said, then kissed my mouth. "How've you been?" he asked, pulling back.

"Good, and you?"

"Okay, I guess."

I didn't like the sound of that. Along with his greeting, I had the distinct feeling he thought this was going to be a reconciliation. I hoped Mike would come home early. I motioned toward the back of the house. "Let's go to the kitchen; lunch is almost ready."

In the kitchen, Dave saw five patties in the frying pan and said, "Geez, are you hungry or something? Who's gonna eat all that?"

"Mike is supposed to come home for lunch. I thought somebody would like another one. They're kind of small."

I turned the burner on, then took the coleslaw out of the fridge. As I waited for the meat to start simmering Dave asked, "Val, can we talk?"

"Yeah; I was hoping we could."

He got real serious then cleared his throat a couple times. It was evident he was nervous. I saw him glance at me then down a couple times from my peripheral vision. It was somewhat comforting, knowing I wasn't the only one on edge. I tensed up, wondering what he was going to say.

"Val, I've been thinking ..." then he went quiet trying to find the nerve to get started.

I thought I would help him along, so I said, "It's okay, Dave; just say it."

"Well," he said then he cleared his throat again. "I was thinking that maybe we should ... you know ... it might be better if we were just, um, friends or whatever." Then he started rattling off a string of explanations. "Don't get me wrong; I still like you a lot. I want to be around you, too. I mean we could be really good friends if you want. We could do things together like go to each other's house and stuff. You know, hang out and have fun. Stuff like that."

I walked over and put my hand over his mouth, then hugged him. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. He put his arms around me and we stayed that way for a few moments. I drew my head back and kissed his cheek. "I'd like that," I said. "You got a deal." Then I kissed him on the mouth. It was half-romantic and half friendly and I was sure, much better than shaking hands.

We parted, then Dave said, "I feel so much better. This thing has been making me miserable. I'm glad we're not mad at each other. Greg said..." then he stopped himself.

I looked at him as his face began to glow, saying, "Go ahead, I'm listening."

This was getting better. I could imagine the kind of derogatory statement Greg would make. I didn't think anything that idiot said would bother me.

"Oh, it's nothing," Dave said. "It doesn't matter what he says."

"You got that right. So are you two together, now?" I asked looking him directly in the eyes.

He looked away at the floor, unable to answer.

"That's what I thought," I said, and I wasn't surprised. The funny thing was ... it didn't bother me. I think I half expected it. I wanted to let him know it was nothing to feel bad about, so I said, "It's fine by me, Dave. You don't have to hide it."

He approached me at the cook top placing his arm around my neck, then kissed my cheek. "Thanks, you're the best."

He was grinning and, as usual, I couldn't resist the urge to join in.

"Yeah, right," I said sarcastically, but I couldn't wipe that stupid grin off my face. Some things never change!

We heard Mike pull up in the driveway. I flipped the burgers and asked Dave to pour the ice tea. I decided to change the subject, so I said, "You wanna select a CD?"

"Okay, anything in particular?"

"Something easy; Mike's here."

So he did and came back to the kitchen as Mike was coming through the backdoor. "Hi, guys," Mike said as he kicked his shoes off. "Smells good in here."

"Hi, Mike!" Dave said enthusiastically. 'How's it going?"


Mike looked confused because Dave was effervescing and I was grinning, too. I think he expected gloom and doom at best, and to be honest, so did I.

As soon as Mike sat down, Dave, being the gregarious person that he is, was first to tell him how we had everything worked out. He was all smiles and grins—borderline bubbly, I'd say. He glanced at me every so often making sure I agreed with his version, and I gave my assent by smiling. I couldn't help myself anyway, even if I wanted to. His enthusiasm was infectious.

Mike said, "I thought you guys would be at each other's throat."

"Naw," Dave said glancing at me. "We like each other too much for that."

Mike let out a laugh, then looked at me, raising his eyebrows in typical Mike fashion.

"Yeah, Mike," I said. "We're cool."

After some joking and teasing, Mike said he had to go back to work. We both stood up with him and he pulled us into a three-way hug. Dave and I squeezed him hard, me not wanting to let him go. I was so proud to have him as a father. Yeah, I said father there because that's what he was; well ... one of  'em anyway. Who else in this world could boast about two great dads?

To Be Continued ...

Thanks again to Chris for his awesome editing skills and Wayne for his advice and patience.