"Plaquemines Parish" Part 20

By: Pee Jay


Commencement came and went without a lot of fanfare. I had only spent my senior year at Ben Franklin High so I didn't feel like I was leaving a lot of friends or memories behind. The high point was CK's valedictorian speech. No one was surprised that he was selected for the honor except him. He was so nervous before the event he couldn't stop shaking. Patrice, Lorna, and I did our best to keep him occupied but every so often, he would get that far away look then start trembling again. We were proud of him and proud to be his friends but nothing we did seemed to ease his anxiety.

Lorna said, "You look so handsome in your cap and gown," then kissed him on the cheek.

He started blushing big time, which made him look that much cuter. Patrice added to his discomfort by giving him a hug, though her intentions were nothing short of sincere. She stood a little taller than he, which made me notice that he wasn't so short anymore. In fact, it looked like he might turn out to be on the tall side after all. Time would tell on that account.

When Mom asked, I said I didn't want a graduation party but she insisted. She said I would only graduate high school once and she wasn't going to let it pass without observing the occasion. It was important to her so I reluctantly agreed as long as it was held to family and a few close friends, nothing major. I didn't think I did anything special that millions of other seniors didn't do and felt undeserving of the recognition.

When Theo got word of it, he called Bill and Mom offering to host the occasion at his and Mattie's house. Mom and Bill liked the idea because their backyard, with the pool and outdoor kitchen, made for the perfect venue. It turned out to be a fun affair, too. The attendees made for a good size crowd, which surprised the hell out of me. When I stopped to think about it, Mom and I had more friends and acquaintances in Louisiana than we did back home; well, in Wisconsin anyway. It's true that it wasn't an easy transition but Louisiana was home and we were both pleased with the way things worked out.

We sent Charlie, my old boss, and his partner an invitation back in Plaquemines but they declined saying they both had to work. They sent a check with the RSVP card. I was grateful and told them so when I wrote them a thank you note saying it wasn't necessary yet very much appreciated. I said I would try to drop in on them sometime soon before school started in the fall.

Mark came with his mother and stepfather, Frank. Aside from the obvious guest list, I invited Rob, my friend from work, and his boyfriend Colin, the "Awesome Aussie" as Rob referred to him. Rob came alone because Colin had to work so we still didn't get to meet him.

They had moved in together over the summer and, according to Rob, were enjoying every minute of it. There was CK, Lorna, Patrice, and Dave. Dave didn't bring Greg and I, for one, was relieved. Patrice had her eye on Dave from the onset. She wouldn't leave him alone either, which was amusing to watch. Patrice was on the hunt while Dave played it cool. The harder she tried, the more indifferent Dave appeared and that frustrated her.

I wasn't sure what Dave had in mind so I waited for the right opportunity to ask him. The last thing I wanted to see was Patrice getting hurt. We had grown to be good friends, our little group, and I felt obliged to look out for her knowing Dave's track record in romance. When Dave made his way to the bathroom, I followed him.

"Nice party," he said as we entered the cabana.

"Thanks. Ah Dave, what are you going to do about Patrice?"

"Nothing, why?"

We were standing side by side at the urinals when he leaned over and checked me out while I was peeing. "Do you mind?" I asked him.

"No," he said then started giggling. "If things don't work out with Mark, you can always call me you know."

"Yeah, right," I said. "So how are you going to handle Patrice?"

"I'm not going to do anything. This is only the second time I've seen her. If she wants to flirt then let her flirt. I kind of like it. If she were you, it would be a different story," he said then leaned over and kissed me.

I put myself back together, flushed the urinal then walked over to the vanity. "What about Greg? Don't you feel anything for him?"

"Greg says he's bi. He has a girlfriend and I'm sure he's having sex with her. He doesn't want to be seen with me around school either. He says everyone will think he's gay. It's ridiculous because no one knows about me. Besides, the whole thing makes me feel like his dirty little whore. I'm over it and him. Val, I made a big mistake and want another chance with you. Do you think we could try again?"

"That's not likely to happen," I said. "I'm with Mark now and I love him. I wouldn't do anything to ruin that. We're going to be living together in the guesthouse when school starts."

"He's a lucky guy," he said then stepped behind me placing his arms around my waist. "I still care for you," he said then he kissed my neck.

"Please don't do that," I said wriggling free. "You know I'm with Mark and, as far as I'm concerned, that's the way it'll always be. What you did with Greg really hurt. I don't think I'll ever forget that, at least not in this life."

We talked for a few more minutes then I suggested we join the party. I was sure our absence hadn't gone unnoticed by Mark. I was uncomfortable after Dave's advances and didn't want to give Mark any reason to doubt me. After all, he was aware of our history. I had everything I could hope for and then some. My sole intention was to be with Mark. The more I thought about it, the stronger my conviction became. Our relationship was the best thing that ever happened to me and I wasn't about to place that in jeopardy.

When we returned to the party, Mattie had designated a table for presents, which made me uncomfortable because the gifts formed an impressive cache. When the time came, I opened them one by one. I decided to do the cards first in case there was money inside. When I opened Mike and Steve's card there was a check for a few thousand dollars. Steve said that was the room and board money I had paid to date. He said they put it in a separate account and planned to give it back eventually and graduation seemed like the perfect occasion. Mike made it clear that we had to pay rent on the guesthouse and suggested I bank the funds because that money would not be returned. That was no big surprise coming from Mr. In-Charge.

"Thanks you guys. You're probably going to get it all back anyway," I said.

"We withheld the first month's rent," Mike said, "One thousand dollars."

"What?" I said looking at him in disbelief. "You can't be serious, Mike. That's a small fortune! There's no way that place is worth a grand a month, five hundred tops. I want my money back. You're hallucinating!"

Steve started giggling so I said, "What's so funny, Steve? That big lug nut next to you is losing it. He's crazy if he thinks we're paying that much. Hell, we can probably buy a house for that."

"Easy, Sport," Mike said. "Don't get all wound up. We'll discuss it later."

"Fine," I said. "I hope Steve talks some sense into you before we do."

I looked at Theo who was standing next to Mike. He was grinning so I had to smile back. I raised my eyebrows looking up and shook my head then went about opening gifts. Man, something in the Harris gene pool was definitely deficient.

Mom and Bill gave me an IPod and a promise. Their card said they would pay all expenses at Tulane until I graduated. Bill said I still had to pay my own room and board as well as earn my spending money, which drew a scowl from Mom. I had to laugh at that, though I didn't see it as a problem. Theo and Mattie gave me a gift certificate for the student bookstore on campus. I thought it was nice and practical and told them so when I thanked them.

After I finished opening gifts and thanking everyone, the group broke up and went about eating and socializing with one another. I was talking with Mark when Patrice approached us.

"Hey, guys," she said. "Come over here for a minute, away from the crowd."

We followed her toward CK and Lorna. When we reached them, CK held a gift up then said, "This is for both of you from the three of us." Then he extended his hand with the gift.

I nodded at it saying to Mark, "You open it."

He accepted the package then began tearing the wrapping paper off and handing it to me. When he finished, he gazed at it for a moment then smiled and held it up for me to see. It was a picture of the two of us on the deck at the yacht club when Patrice surprised us with her camera. It came out well. We were holding each other and looking directly at the camera. The frame they chose was perfect, it couldn't have been more fitting. I thought it would look good in the guesthouse on the dresser or maybe in the den on the bookshelves. The most important thing was that it be in plain sight for all to see!

I turned my attention away from the picture to thank them. The three of them were smiling with their approval. "Thanks, you guys," I said. "I really like it."

"Me too," Mark said. "I like it a lot. It's the first gift we've been given."

"You're welcome," Patrice said. "We hoped you would like it."

"What is it?" Dave asked approaching with Rob.

Mark held it up for him to see. Dave took it from Mark then studied it for a moment saying, "Very nice. You make an attractive couple," he said thoughtfully.

"So you don't have a problem with it?" Patrice asked.

"Of course not, I'm happy for them and maybe a little jealous." Then he smiled at Patrice who had a bewildered look on her face.

Mark was staring at Dave contemplating what he said. Everyone was standing around unsure of what to say so I spoke up, "Anyone care to go swimming?"

They all responded positively so we went to our cars to retrieve our bathing suits. Patrice and Lorna were the only girls so they went to the women's side of the cabana while the rest of us piled into the men's side.

"Val and I can change in this stall," Mark said. "You three can use the other one."

"No way," CK said. "I'm not going in there with those two."

"Oh yeah you are," Rob said. "C'mon Dave, help me get him in there."

Rob grasped CK by the shoulders from behind then began steering him toward the stall. CK rolled off to the side and said, "Oh, no you don't. I'll wait for you guys to finish."

Dave and Rob started laughing then Rob pushed Dave in the stall and closed the door. They started making grunts and groans saying short phrases like, "Oh yeah, right there," and "Harder," then they started laughing.

I stood on the bench to peek over the partition. CK was tapping the back of his head lightly against the wall and said, "Man, I need some new friends."

"Ouch," I said loudly then turned around to look at Mark. He bit me on the ass and was beaming a big ole `Mark-smile' with the corners of his mouth curling up. I stepped off the bench and stroked his crotch a couple times then kissed him. It felt really good. We leered into each other's eyes for a moment. Then we both started getting hard so we quickly pulled our swimsuits on and hung our clothes up.

At the pool, I asked Mark to do a jackknife for the group, which he executed with precision. Then Patrice persuaded him to do a few more dives including a couple with flips and twists before entering the water. They weren't perfect but pretty darn good for someone out of practice with no formal training. I was proud of him.

After that, we erected a net stretching it across the pool, chose teams then played volleyball in the water. It was a blast and a half. There was a lot of dunking and laughing going on, too. At one point, Patrice jumped on Dave's back wrapping her arms around him taking him under. They didn't come up right away and it was hard to tell what happened before they did. I wondered how long Dave would tolerate her coming on to him before he told her he was gay.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening went that way. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, adults and parents included. After some time, the sun grew long in the sky and the temperature cooled off when Mark's mother and Mattie began to clear and clean the kitchen on the deck. Everyone took that as a sign to wrap things up. Spending the afternoon in the sun and water was tiring as well. Eventually, everyone pitched in to some extent and the deck was neat and clean in no time.

When it seemed right, I approached Mattie while she was bent over wiping a table and said, "Thanks so much for everything." Then I gave her a pat on the back, "I feel guilty about all these people invading your house. I'm sure you put a lot of time and effort into this, the expense and aggravation aside, thank you very much."

"Nonsense," she said. "It was nothing. Mike tells us you're the son he and Steve never had." Then she straightened up. She was a tall woman and always well dressed. She carried herself rather stately and staid, too. She looked at me and smiled, "Mike says you're giving him gray hair," then she chuckled.

"Yeah well, if that's true then he's gonna have a coronary when we discuss rent on the guesthouse." We both had to grin at that. It may have been a humorous moment but I was steeling myself for the showdown that was sure to come.

Mom walked up and put her arm around me. "Thank you for everything, Mattie. We appreciate it don't we, Honey?" then she kissed the side of my head.

"Yes we do. Like I said, very much."

"It's nothing, Dear," she said to Mom. "We're glad it worked out. We think highly of your son."

Steve and Mike walked up. Mike bent over and kissed his mother then said, "Bye Mom, we're leaving now."

Steve leaned over and kissed Mattie on the cheek. "Thanks for everything," he said.

"Don't forget the care package I made for you."

"Got it," Mike said raising it for her to see. Then they headed toward the gate.

Mark was standing by the gate, saying goodbye to Theo with the others so I pulled Mom by the arm saying, "Let's go thank Theo. He's over there talking to Mark and the rest of the gang. Thanks again, Mattie."

"Come here," she said, straightening up and extending her arms, "Say goodbye properly. Give me a hug."

I put my arms around her saying, "Thanks, Mattie. Mom and I owe you big time." Then I kissed her cheek.

"We were more than happy to host your graduation. We're proud of you," she said holding me close. "You owe us nothing. You're a fine young man and Mike and Steve think highly of you as do we. Steve thinks you have a natural aptitude for architecture. I hope he's right."

Then we parted, me contemplating Mattie's comment while Mattie and Mom embraced. It was easy to see where the foundation of Mike's family lay. Mattie wasn't colorful in the sense that Theo was, not at all. She was quiet and reserved for the most part, content to let Theo occupy center stage. And Theo never strayed far from her, always taking a seat next to her or embracing her when they were close. Theo may have been a managing partner at Mike's law firm but it was evident who ran the show at home.

"Thanks again, Mattie," Mom said.

"You're most welcome, Dear." Then she smiled at Mom and patted her shoulder. "We're keeping an eye on your son, our adopted grandson."

Theo was chatting with our friends as Mom and I approached. He had one arm around Lorna and the other around Patrice while CK stood looking on with Dave, Rob and Mark.

"Hey, Theo," I said as we neared, "How do you always manage to get the best looking babes?"

He smiled, gave them both a squeeze then said, "I don't know, Son. It's been that way all my life and I'm not complaining."

"Yeah, right," I said as I raised my eyebrows and looked skyward.

We all thanked Theo, said goodbye to each other, then went to our cars. Half way down the driveway, Mom pulled me to a stop. Bill was on the other side of her with his arm around her, looking intently at Mom.

"Honey," she said. "I'm so proud of you, I can't tell you how much." I was looking her in the eye as she took both my hands in hers. "Come here," she said then wrapped her arms around my neck. She kissed my forehead then held her cheek next to mine. I put my arms around her waist wanting nothing more than to assure my mother.

"You're so grown up and independent," she said. "You're able to look after and support yourself. When did I lose my little boy? I love you so," she whispered then tightened her grasp.

"I love you too, Mom." I squeezed her firmly with my eyes closed. We held each other for a few moments then she eased her hold so I did, too.

I drew back to see tears in her eyes. "What's wrong, Mom?" I asked.

I knew what it was though. Mom was having a parental moment. It was the kind when a mother realizes that her kid isn't a kid anymore. That her kid has grown into a young adult and no longer dependent to the extent that maybe the parent would like. It's that place in time when a mother understands that she has to let her kid go ... let her young fledgling leave the nest, hoping she'd equipped that child with the necessary tools to cope, to succeed. It was that kind of moment.

I sensed it, too. I kissed her one more time then said, "C'mon, let's get out of here before I start crying, too."

Bill handed her a handkerchief then she wiped the tears from her eyes and blew her nose. He put his arm around Mom then escorted her to his car. I watched them as I veered toward Mike's car. Mom had her arm around Bill's waist with her head resting on his shoulder. She appeared resigned and a little sad from where I stood. Before I got in, I looked at Bill's SUV. Mom waved through the windshield so I waved back then got in the car.

"Everything copacetic?" Mike asked firing up the engine.

"Yeah," I said. "Mom had a motherly moment overcome her. She pulled through like a champ."

"And you?"

"Are you calling me a mother, Mike?"

Steve chuckled and so did Mike. With that, I successfully evaded further questioning. On the way home, I was sitting in the backseat behind Steve looking out the window and thinking about the day. I was so glad Mom insisted we have the party. I didn't think I was worthy at first but it turned out to be a good time and I wasn't embarrassed once. Then I thought about the gifts. There was an impressive stash there, too, not to mention the money. I wasn't sure if everything would fit in my car when I went back to claim my booty.

At home in the kitchen, Steve and I sat at the table while Mike put a few things in the fridge that his mother sent home with us. I thanked them again for their generosity then I asked, "Can I at least pay the utility bills since I've been here?"

"No way," Steve said. "We always knew we would return the money and graduation seemed like the perfect occasion. You've more than paid your way by keeping up with your household duties."

"That's right," Mike affirmed. "You're going to need those funds come September." Then he said, "Hey, Sport," as he approached the table. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked me to stand so I did. He embraced me in his strong arms. "I haven't had a chance to congratulate you," he said massaging my back and clutching my head to his chest. "You've done well. We're real proud of you, Val. I don't know many kids your age that could weather what you have then accomplish what you did. You're a pretty special young man."

I put my arms around him and said, "Thanks, Mike. I really do appreciate you guys and everything you've done for me." My eyes were getting watery after hearing Mike say they were proud of me. I was so darn proud of them, loved them too, though I couldn't bring myself to say it for fear of losing it.

"Appreciate?" Mike asked as he relaxed his hold. He drew his head back to look at me saying, "That's it? You appreciate us? After all we've been through? I thought you would feel something more. I know Steve and I do."

"Of course I do, Mike," I said pressing my cheek to his chest and tightening my hold on him. I was completely aware of what he was asking and way too close to bawling to say anything further.

"That's better," he said. "Where's the present we have for him?" Mike asked Steve.

"In the library," Steve said then left the room.

He returned with a gift in his hand. "Here," he said. "It's from Mike and me. We hope you like it."

I let Mike go, accepted their gift, and then began pulling the wrapping paper off deliberately placing it on the countertop. It was a framed picture of Mike, Steve and me on their boat. It was a picture Mark took on our trip back to Plaquemines when Mark and I stayed with Mom. It was retouched or redone digitally to look perfect. We were all three shirtless with our arms around each other smiling. Mike had his captain's hat on while Steve's hair and mine blew in the wind. In the bottom right hand corner it was signed, "We love you, Mike and Steve."

Mike said, "Remember Val, regardless of where your career and life takes you, you'll always have a place to call home and a special place in our hearts. We love you."

"That's right," Steve said. "You'll always be welcome here. Don't ever forget that."

That did it. I couldn't contain myself any longer and the waterworks began. I was leaking tears all over the place and embarrassed to the max. I set the picture on the counter and wiped my eyes with the back of my wrist. My nose was stuffy and I couldn't see or breathe because I was congested so I went to the sink to get a paper towel. I blew my nose and dried my eyes standing with my back to them. Steve came from behind and gave me a quick hug. "Are you okay?" he asked.

All I could do was nod my head slowly. A million dollars wouldn't have affected me more than that picture. And to hear how they felt, well, it was definitely too much. I was so overcome with emotion and embarrassed, too. There I was crying like a little kid and going to University in a few weeks. I felt so stupid and completely powerless to do anything about it.

"Come here," Steve said. He put one arm around my shoulders then the other around my waist. I rested my head against his when a couple of low sobs escaped me. "It's okay," he said. "Let it go. Take all the time you need." I trembled slightly as I struggled to control myself. I shook some more then sniffed nuzzling my head in the crook of his neck.

After more shaking and comforting, I raised the paper towel to my nose and blew again then I dried my blurry eyes. I had to stand quietly for a few moments while I calmed down. The impact of Mike's disclosure was moving to say the least. It overwhelmed me like nothing he had ever said. And coming from Mike, well, it was more than I could manage and maintain my composure. All I could do was stand in Steve's arms and wait it out.

"You okay?" Steve asked after a while.

I nodded, cleared my throat then managed a froggy, "Yeah, I'm fine." Then I laughed a nervous laugh trying to convince myself.

I finally felt as though I could look them in the eye so I withdrew from Steve's embrace and got another paper towel. The one I had was saturated. I blew my nose then cleared my throat. "I have something I want to say," then I paused. "I want to tell you both something."

"Go ahead, Val," Mike said. He stepped sideways then placed his arm around me.

I cleared my throat again then said, "You guys mean a lot to me. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't stayed here with you. Someday I'm going to make it up to you."

Steve said, "If you make the Dean's list, that'll be enough for us. We want the best for you but you still have to do it yourself. We're here to help if you need it, okay?"

"Yeah, thanks, Steve."

"Hey, Sport," Mike said. "We have one last thing for you."

I cleared my throat once more and dried my eyes then said, "Mike, it better be funny because I don't feel like crying anymore."

"You're going to like it," Steve said. "I promise." Then he pulled a card from his back pocket and handed it to me.

"You guys have already done enough. I feel funny taking this."

"Open it," Mike said.

I opened the envelope to find a card inside. When I removed it from the envelope and flipped it open, a piece of paper fell to the floor. I picked it up and read it. It was a one-year membership to a gym and a few hours with a personal trainer. I looked at them and said, "Thanks a lot. Do you think I need this?"

Mike squeezed my bicep and said, "It won't hurt you, that's for sure. You're at the perfect age to start working out and you need aerobic exercise as well to stay fit. If you get into a regimen now and stay with it, you'll have a much healthier and happier life. I renewed my membership at the same gym. I need it, too. I'm starting to get soft."

"I was going to say something," I said.

He made a start at me as if he were coming after me, which made me leap back. Then he stopped in place after his initial lurch. It was evident he was kidding around so we all started laughing.

Mike and Steve decided to watch television before going to bed. I chose to go to my room and call Mark, like I said I would, before retiring. Mark wanted to know if I would find out when we could start moving into the guesthouse. I said we should approach them about rent first so we knew what to expect. We both agreed it was a good idea so we decided to corner Mike and Steve the first chance we had. He said he was coming over in the morning to help me bring my stuff home from Mattie and Theo's then we said good night and hung up.

The next morning I was up earlier than usual. I had gone to bed around nine the night before so I was wide-awake by five in the morning. It was so early the sun hadn't begun to rise.

I took my book downstairs to the kitchen to start the coffee and read for a while. It was strange making my way to the kitchen that morning with barely enough light to see. It was like going to bed late except I was getting up, it seemed like the middle of the night. I turned the lamp in the kitchen on. The lamp was much softer than the recessed fixtures overhead. I laid the book I was reading on the table. It was the second installment of the "Jason Bourne" series by Ludlum. I was determined to finish the series before school started.

It seemed like no time at all when I heard the toilet flush upstairs. I looked at the clock on the built-in oven. It was seven. I took two cups from the cabinet and placed them on the counter, one with milk in it for Steve then I sat down to wait. It was Sunday so I was the only one that had to work that day.

"Morning, Sport," Steve said entering the kitchen.

"Morning, Steve.

He filled their cups with coffee then began to make his way toward the stairs.



"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"What's up, Sport?" he said setting the coffees on the table before he sat down.

"Well, it's like this. Mark and I want to discuss rent before we start moving into the guesthouse. Do you think we could sit down and talk about it?"

"Sure. Why do you ask? There's no problem with us. We already agreed to it."

"There's the issue of rent, Steve. Mike says you guys want a thousand per month."

Steve laughed then rose, "We'll talk," he said. Then he took the coffees and headed for the stairs.

`Well shit,' I thought to myself, `That didn't clear anything up.' Sometimes you have to wonder about adults, the way they purposely evade issues as if they weren't important. Then they try to make it seem like it's an okay thing to do and you're not supposed to question it. How fair is that? God help me if I ever tried it!

I went upstairs to start my morning routine. When I finished in the bathroom and straightened my room, I called Mark. He didn't answer so I left him a message asking when he was coming over. I said I would pick him up if he wanted since his house was on the way to Mattie and Theo's. I stuffed my phone in my pocket then threw my dirty laundry on the floor in the hallway.

I was going to knock on Mike and Steve's door to get their laundry. I paused outside when I heard sounds coming from their room. I stood motionless by the door listening. There were grunts and groans inside, the kind two guys make when they're having sex. One of them was grunting in perfect syncopation to the slapping sound of two bodies meeting with moderate force. The guttural sounds were Steve's, I could tell by the voice inflection.

I started stroking myself imagining how they looked having sex. I started to get hard so I went to the bathroom and locked the door. I pulled my shorts and underwear down then reclined on the floor. I started stroking myself imaging the two of them screwing. Then I pictured Mark on top of me pounding away and grew rock hard. I opened the vanity drawer and withdrew a bottle of lotion. I lubed my finger then started rubbing it against my hole and stroking myself with the other hand. It wasn't nearly as good as the real thing.

I pulled the shower curtain out of the way, spread my legs then began fingering myself as I stroked my hard dick. It felt great so I spread my legs wider for better penetration. I was close to cumming as I worked my finger and my erection vigorously, all the while, wishing it were Mark.

Out of nowhere, there was a loud pounding on the door startling the daylights out of me. I flinched banging my knee and elbow on the vanity door. I didn't have to think twice about stopping, it was a cognitive response. I lay motionless on the floor listening.

"Sport, you in there?" It was Mike.

"No! Go away."

"What's going on in there?"

"I'm on a bombing mission. What do you think?"

He started laughing, which was a good thing. It bought me some time. All of a sudden, my finger was beginning to feel like a telephone pole so I eased it out and sat up then crawled over to the toilet and sat on it.

It was quiet on the other side of the door when Mike said, "It didn't sound like that. It sounded more like hand to hand combat."

Man, the move to the guesthouse couldn't come soon enough. Things were getting a little out of hand lately. I was losing my edge ... and my wits.

"Beat it, Mike."

He chuckled again then said, "At least you practice what you preach."

I could hear him laughing as he descended the stairs. It wasn't good. The transition to the guesthouse was definitely moving to the front burner, for Christ sake. Besides, I wouldn't have to fanaticize anymore; I would have exactly what I needed, what I wanted, and all that mattered. Mark and I would be living together! I resolved to do anything I could to hasten the process.

I gathered their laundry and mine then went downstairs. As I passed through the kitchen, Mike gave me a look that said he knew. I pursed my mouth then looked straight ahead on my way to the laundry room. I wasn't going to acknowledge I knew, that he knew, something was afoot in the bathroom. We were out of laundry detergent so I left the dirty clothes on the floor.

I had to pass through the kitchen again on my way upstairs. Mike and Steve were sitting at the table talking and drinking coffee. "We're out of laundry soap," I said in passing.

"It wouldn't kill you to buy some once in a while," Mike said.

"Nor you," I replied. Then I kept going.

I felt particularly good about my response since Mr. Know-It-All had no idea what a grocery store looked like on the inside. Well, that was an exaggeration but the point was well taken. Anything he could get someone else to do was a feather in his cap as far as he was concerned.

No wonder he needed to renew his gym membership. Maybe he should try cutting the grass, edging the walks, and a few other things around the house and yard. A little physical exercise goes a long way in burning calories and maintaining fitness. There was a sense of pride to be had as well, but he wouldn't have a clue about that.

I picked Mark up on the way to Theo and Mattie's house. I waited until noon to leave so they would be sure to be home from church. We climbed the stairs to their front porch then rang the bell. Mattie answered the door. She opened it then invited us inside.

"It's nice to see you boys again so soon," she said.

"And you, too," Mark replied as she held the door for us.

"How are you, Mattie?" I asked.

"I'll be much better after I get a hug."

"Oh, okay," I said so I gave her a squeeze then patted her back during the process.

She held her arms open to Mark so he hugged her then she led us to the kitchen. When we entered, Theo was sitting at the table drinking coffee and reading the paper.

"Hey, Theo," Mark said. "What do you know?"

He lowered the paper then smiled saying, "I know trouble when I see it. What are you two up to?"

"No good," I said. "Why? Who wants to know?"

He chuckled then said, "Mattie and I were going to have lunch. Are you guys hungry?"

"Oh yeah," Mark replied. Then he took a seat opposite Theo so I sat down next to my dude.

"What's for lunch?" he asked.

"We're having huevos rancheros," Mattie said. "We have homemade tamales, too. Esperanza, our cleaning lady, made them."

After hearing that, I couldn't help thinking about Mom and the work she did back in Wisconsin. Her employers used to call her the cleaning lady, too. It sounded so demeaning to hear that term and think of Mom that way, yet I couldn't dismiss the reality of the way things were. I never thought of our plight as desperate but after hearing and digesting Mattie's words, well it made me think about and appreciate the way things turned out. The thought of Mom doing housework, so we could make ends meet, was a sobering reminder of the way things were.

After lunch, we thanked them, collected the gifts from the party then headed for home. When we got there, we piled them in the corner of my bedroom. Mike and Steve were in the spa so we decided to join them. I lent Mark one of Steve's bathing suits since they were almost the same size. We wanted to discuss rent for the guesthouse. With any luck, we were hoping to resolve the issue and put it to bed.

As we approached them, Mark said, "Howdy dudes."

"Howdy yourselves," Mike said. "Sport, how's about getting us some ice tea?"

I exhaled trying to act put out then turned to go back to the house. In a low voice so he could hear, I said, "I usually get paid to wait on people." I could hear Mike chuckle as I made my way to the house.

I came back with Master Mike's order and set it down between him and Steve. "Thanks," he said.

"You're welcome," I said trying hard to be sincere. Then I took a seat in the spa next to Mark.

We were sitting opposite them when Steve said, "Okay, what's up guys?"

I looked at Mark before saying anything then looked away. Before I could speak, Mark said, "We'd like to discuss rent on the guesthouse. If we can't arrive at a consensus, then we'll go to plan B and look elsewhere."

He sounded so self-assured it was a little out of character for him. He never came across like that. I couldn't help thinking how much he sounded like Mike. It was strange, yet I couldn't have phrased it better had I given it forethought.

"Back `er down," Mike said. "Sport there, isn't going anywhere without permission." Mike emphasized `without' to make his point. "Just so you know, Steve and I are still responsible for him and his actions whether he remains in his room or moves into the guesthouse. He's staying here one way or the other. This is his home and he's not leaving yet. If you'd like to stay in the guesthouse with him, then we can discuss it."

I looked at Mark with a smile on my face. That was the first time he ever encountered Mike's iron will. There was no way anyone was going to tell Mike how things were going to be unless their names were Steve or Theo. For my own purposes, I always took the pleading approach, which seemed to yield a more favorable outcome.

"Mike," I said. "I guess the biggest question we have is the rent. Neither one of us makes a lot of money and we're going to have other expenses, too."

"Like what other expenses?" Steve asked.

"Well, there's electric, food, clothing, gas and insurance for our cars, gas for cooking and heating the guesthouse and there's more."

"Your mother pays all your car expenses except gas," Mike said. "Let's get to the point. What do you guys think is reasonable?"

Mark said, "We think five hundred per month and we pay the utilities is fair."

Mike looked at Steve for his reaction. Steve looked away and said, "We think six hundred a month and you guys pay the utilities is more than fair. You can't rent a two-bedroom apartment for that and the guesthouse is much nicer than an apartment and it's furnished. There's nothing to buy."

I was tempted to ask about covered parking for my little car but didn't think Mike was in the mood to hear it. So I looked at Mark and shrugged my shoulders as if to say it was okay with me. He turned his attention to Steve and said, "I guess that's okay with us. When can we start moving in?"

"The sooner you move in, the sooner you begin paying rent," Mike said. "What about your mother? Is she okay with all this?"

"Yeah. She said as long as I was staying in the guesthouse, she would go along with it. She won't allow me to live on my own. She likes the fact that you guys will be close."

Steve chuckled then said, "Mike, I don't know if we're losing a son or gaining one. Either way, it sounds like we have a deal."

"We do," Mark said then extended his hand to Steve. We all shook hands with one another to affirm our consent.

With that out of the way, I said, "Mike, you know you're gonna have to knock when you want to come in."

"Fine," he said. "That goes both ways then. When you take the key to the guesthouse, you turn in the key to our house and knock."

"Mike, that's not fair. It's like you're kicking me out or something."

Sheesh, I should've known better than to mess with Big Mike and the last thing I wanted to do was place an obstacle between us. But Christ, I could see him letting himself in when we were in a compromising situation. That was the last thing I was looking forward to, the very thing I was trying to escape.

"Hey, those are your rules, not mine. Think you can live with them?"

"Okay, you win," I said. "Erase that and forget I ever said it." Good Lord, I didn't think he would ever get over haranguing me. He seemed to take pleasure in it as evidenced by the smug look on his face. When I looked at Steve, he was grinning from ear to ear.

We decided to wait until August to move into the guesthouse, formally. I said formally because we began moving things in shortly after our `meeting of the minds' and they didn't object as long as we didn't sleep there. We chose to re-arrange some of the furniture in a less than traditional fashion. We preferred a more open floor plan than the conventional arrangement Mike and Steve had in place. We moved two chairs from the den into the living room placing them either side of the old coal burning fireplace. It seemed more romantic and we planned to build fires there when the cold weather set in.

One Saturday, Mark's mother and stepfather came with him when he brought some things over. His mother wanted to see firsthand where her son was going to live. I was there and watched her walk around inspecting the place. She was concerned and wanted to make sure he was going to be comfortable. In my opinion, I thought she wanted to verify Mike and Steve's presence because she asked a lot of questions in that regard. I wouldn't say she was worried but she definitely wanted to witness for herself Mark's living arrangements. Mark was embarrassed but I thought it was nice that she was concerned enough to check it out for herself. That's exactly what Mom would have done.

That day, Mike was at his parent's house discussing some business with Theo while Steve stayed home. He came out to see what was going on since there was an unfamiliar car in the driveway. When he walked into the guesthouse he said, "Hey Sport, who's here?"

I was downstairs and Mark was upstairs with his parents. "Mark's mother and stepfather are here. They're upstairs," I said. "Steve, I'm worried she might be having second thoughts. I want to be with him and it seems like that's about to change. They've been up there for a while. Can you do something?"

"Relax, Val. Everything will be fine. Stay here, I'll go upstairs and find out what's going on."

He sent me to the kitchen then went upstairs. I started wiping the countertops, which were already clean. That was the only thing I could think to do without getting the vacuum out and making a lot of noise.

A few minutes later, Steve came downstairs. "They're discussing Mark's expenses and how to pay for them. Mark isn't sure what the scholarship from Bill's company includes. Mark's biological father is the one asking the questions. Mary doesn't have a problem with Mark living here; she wants to make sure all the bases are covered."

"What about Frank? What did he say?"

"He complimented me on how nice the guesthouse was. That's all he said."

"Oh, okay," I said. "That doesn't sound so bad."

Steve nodded then said, "We're having an early dinner in a half hour when Mike gets home. Is Mark staying?"

"I'll ask if it's okay."

"Let me know as soon as you can," Steve said then left pulling the door closed behind him.

When they came downstairs, I asked and Mark's mother said it would be okay for him to stay for dinner. Before she left, she hugged her son and ran her fingers through his hair while holding his head to her bosom. When she finished, she cupped his face and stared at him for a moment then kissed and hugged him one more time. She leaned back, patted his shoulder then took Frank's arm and they left. It was a silent exchange that spoke volumes. There was no question Mary Doucette loved her son, that was evident. I could only speculate about what she was thinking. It was funny to see a big strong guy like Mark humbled by his mother.

When they closed the door, Mark turned to me and said, "I hate when she gets all drippy."

"I think it's nice. Come here you," I said as I approached him.

We spent the next couple weeks moving most of our things into the guesthouse. Steve gave us some kitchen appliances that he wanted to replace. He gave us the coffee maker, the coffee grinder, the toaster, a waffle iron, and a food processor that was still in the box. We accepted them enthusiastically and thanked him. He gave us the bedding that I used in my room because they were queen-size the same as the master bedroom in the guesthouse. We were happy to have them. I asked Steve if he was going to replace the home theater system in the library and he said maybe. Mark wiggled his eyebrows at me and we both smiled.

Though we didn't sleep in the guesthouse, the sheets needed washing after Mark and I had an afternoon soiree. It was the first time in our new place so it held a special significance for us. It was special because it was like christening our new home. Mark said we were breaking in our new pad, which was true enough but I definitely preferred my version.

The end of August was near and neither of us had much left to move, mostly clothing. It was more or less an overnight bag for me and the transition was complete. For Mark, it took two carloads of clothes, which I helped with and he was done.

We had to wait for cable and Internet service so we were bored the first few nights. We went to the main house to watch television with Mike and Steve and pass the time. Watching television with them and snuggling with Mark was the most natural thing in the world. The funny part was it didn't feel weird at all. I liked it a lot. At that point I knew I was home. They always told me and led me to believe that and I did but somehow it never sank in until that evening.

I was glad I relented on the knocking rule because I wanted to keep a key in case I needed something. Actually, I knew I could have anything I wanted within reason, what I didn't want was to be too distant from them and having a key gave me that sense of nearness that I found so reassuring.

It was the last Saturday in August before classes began. We had been through registration and had our schedules confirmed. Registration coupled with the move and work, seemed like an ordeal but our dream had finally taken shape, everything was in place. We were living together and poised to enter Tulane in a few days. We both took the last day in August off telling our bosses that we had to move. It was a white lie but it worked and we enjoyed a day of leisure and each other's company. We did a lot of kidding around and I couldn't help thinking how sexy he was every time I looked at him. He busted me staring at him a couple times and smiled. All I wanted was to be with him and I was. I couldn't think of anything that would have made me happier.

That evening, we lay on the sofa in the den of the guesthouse watching TV. Mark was on his side with his back against the sofa, his head resting on a pillow. I reclined on my side in front of him as we watched the tube, resting my head on his bicep and holding his hand, our fingers intertwined. There wasn't another place in the world I'd rather have been. He started slowly pressing his crotch into my backside. I picked up on his cue and began pushing into him. We did that for some time when Mark started rubbing my stomach and chest while kissing my neck.

"I want you to make love to me," he said draping his leg over my thighs. He buried his head in the small of my neck and said, "Mmmm, I've never felt this way before. I don't ever want us to be apart," he said then he kissed my neck again and squeezed.

I rolled over to face him. I kissed his sweet lips then said, "I love everything about you, Mark Doucette."

"I love you, too. Let's go upstairs."

We headed for the stairs as we groped and kissed one another. I felt his crotch as we made our way up. He was hard and bulging, which made me that much harder wanting nothing more than to experience all of him. He was so manly. How did it come down to this? How could I have been so lucky? It didn't matter. I was with Mark and was going to have him again. I savored everything about him and wanted to do whatever it took to make him happy.

We started taking our clothes off in the bedroom. I watched him pull his shirt over his head. Man, he was glorious. I saw his armpit hair and the fine hair below his naval as he cast his shirt aside. God, he was magnificent. His chest, arms, waist and legs were everything I remembered. When he dropped his pants, it was too much. I wanted to see his crotch so bad. He was the embodiment of masculinity. His hair had grown out to where his bangs covered most of his forehead. I couldn't help myself. That itch was begging to be scratched.

"Val," he said. "I want you to make love to me." Then he crossed the room and we embraced each other.

I put my arms around him and said, "You don't have to ask twice."

We held on for a few moments, our breathing audible. I was in a place I never wanted to leave. He was everything I ever dreamed of and hoped for. It didn't matter how it happened, what mattered was keeping it alive and I was dead set on that. I loved him and being with him was nearly an obsession.

"Come here," he said. Then he pulled me on top of him as he reclined on the bed. We were both naked. "I want you to make love to me."

I kissed him pressing my tongue inside his mouth. He started kissing me aggressively almost attacking my mouth. I started to smile at his passion as I returned his affection with equal fervor. God, he was the best.

"Val, I want you to screw me," he said. "I want to be one with you. I want to know what it's like to have you inside me."

Man that really caught me off guard. He wanted me to screw him! I had never done that. The idea was more than intriguing and a little intimidating, too. What if I botched it up along the way? The more I considered it, the more I liked the idea. But still, I couldn't help feeling somewhat disconcerted.

I was on all fours over him and rubbed my hard-on against his, kissed him, and then asked him to roll over on his stomach. I could do what he asked looking him in the face but I wanted something different. Yeah, he was strong and masculine and I loved everything about his body but I wanted to play with his ass, to see his round full cheeks and lick them until he was frenzied like he'd done to me. My preference was for him to have his way with me but I got into the idea of screwing this masculine hunk of a guy. I wanted to know what it was like. It didn't seem so far-fetched. All I had to do was the same thing he did to me and everything should work out.

I rolled him over then pulled his waist to me until he was on his knees with his chest resting on the bed. I spread his legs and began to massage his cheeks with my hands and lick his hole with my tongue. He had a ring of soft fine hair around his hole and I saturated it with saliva teasing him with my tongue. His was the most beautiful ass I'd ever seen and there I was making love to it!

I stopped occasionally to pull his hard dick down and lowered my head to take him in my mouth. It was a challenge because it was so stiff but when I did, I rubbed his hole with my finger making him moan with pleasure as I pulled his foreskin down and worked his big knob with my tongue.

"Oh God Val, that feels so good," he said then pushed his butt onto my finger causing it to slip inside him. "Oh my God," he said then started twitching his butt. "Put it in. I want to feel you inside me." Then he turned his head around and looked at me. "Now," he pleaded softly.

He handed me the lube and I coated my hard dick then his hole. I eased a finger then eventually two inside him and he gasped with pleasure. He was ready and I couldn't hold back any longer if I had to. I rose on my knees and placed the head of my dick at his hole then eased it in. I went slowly at first giving him ample time to adjust. I buried myself inside him and held it there for a few moments. It was so stimulating I think my shaft was harder and longer than it had ever been. At least it felt like that.

I began to cycle in and out and he started rolling his head in pleasure. After a few strokes, he widened his stance and arched his back, "Give it to me," he said in a low voice, "hard!"

That was all I needed to start pounding into him. God, it felt like nothing I had ever experienced. I drove into him harder and faster.He drew a deep breath and convulsed every time I bottomed out as he rolled his head.

After a couple minutes, I said, "I'm gonna cum."

"Don't cum yet, slow down. I want this to last."

I lowered myself on his back then he eased himself down on the bed drawing his thighs up as far as he could. "Just lie like this for a minute," he said. "Keep it in all the way. I love the way you feel inside me, Val. Push it in as far as you can."

That made my dick so hard I thought it might erupt then and there. That's how good it felt. I held my shaft as rigid and deep inside him as I could and loved every moment of it. He did too. After a minute passed, he said, "Screw me on my back. I want to see your face while you're inside me."

I withdrew then he rolled over on his back. I leaned in to kiss him and buried my tongue in his mouth as I ran my hands over his body. His chest, arms and legs were so muscular it made me want him all the more. He wrapped his legs around my waist and we made out while we ground our crotches into one another. It was as close as two people could be without occupying the same space. I felt as one with him more than ever. It was something new, a dimension discovered.

"I'm ready to go again," he whispered. "Give it to me, babe. I want all of you." He drew his legs up as far as he could.

"Okay," I said then kissed his mouth. I worked my way down to his nipples and began sucking and nibbling them alternately as I stroked his shaft. He was so beautiful to me. I wanted it to be the best. My hard-on was rubbing up and down his crack while his butt twitched with anticipation.

I wanted to take him in my mouth and taste him but he wanted something else. This was for Mark and I wanted it to be the best it could be. I was determined to take him to Shangri-La if that were possible.

I took each of his calves in my hands and positioned myself at his threshold. I eased inside of him as we looked deep into each other's eyes. He put his hands behind his head and spread his legs as far as he could. That was my cue to start thrusting and thrust I did. I lit into him with everything I had and he looked like the hottest guy on earth as he rolled his head and eyes in ecstasy. His armpits and crotch formed a triangle of stimuli that drove me insane. I was making love to the hottest guy I had ever known and loving every bit of it.

Eventually, he wrapped his legs around me effectively stifling my movement. I looked at him for a clue.

"Val," he said. "Sit on it," nodding at his shaft. "I want to cum inside you."

I had to smile at the way he said it. He was so fervent it sounded more like a prayer than a suggestion. Either way, I didn't care. I loved it when he took the upper hand, when he screwed me. I wanted that big shaft of his to spout off inside me. The thought of it was out of this world.

I withdrew from him and let him close his legs. I reached for the lube on the nightstand then prepared myself and him. I bent over to kiss him then said, "I love you, Mark Doucette," looking into those blue eyes that told me everything I needed to know.

"Come here," he said pulling me down to his chest. "I love you so much, more than you could ever know."

I kissed him again savoring the sound of his words and the guy I was holding. There wasn't another place on earth that I'd rather have been.

He scooted himself up resting his hard-on against my butt. I rose and leaned forward placing my hands either side of his head then began rubbing my crack up and down against his rigid pole. It felt good and strong like him, `Manly,' I thought. I shivered with anticipation at having him inside me.

I reached behind me and guided him toward my hole. When it was in position, I pushed my butt into him and let him slide in. I winced then hung my head at the size if it and the lack of preparation. As badly as I wanted him, I went about it a little too hastily. I sat motionless for a few moments trying to adjust.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, give me a minute. It's so big." I raised my head looking into his deep blue eyes then began to impale myself on his big stiff dick. When it was all the way in, I bent over and kissed him again. "I want you to screw me like you never have before."

He sat up and held me as he eased me onto my back, still buried deep inside me. I was like a ragdoll in his arms loving the feel of his presence inside me. I drew my legs up as far as I could then he bent over and started kissing me as he began cycling in and out.

The sensation was fantastic as I spread my legs perpendicular to my body. I wanted to get screwed by my handsome hunk so badly, I offered myself to him wanting all of him. He put his hands on my chest then started driving into me with a force that drove me wild. The harder he pounded the more I loved it. I couldn't get enough.

Eventually he picked up the pace as he was about to cum so I grabbed myself and started jerking off. A few moments later and he erupted inside me and that was all I needed to jettison my load all over my stomach. We both shook with a force we had never known. That's how powerful it was.

When Mark finished spewing his load, he collapsed on top of me. We were both panting and gasping for air trying to catch our breath. I placed a limp arm over his back as we lay there recovering from the best sex we ever had.

A short time later, Mark rolled off to the side, rested his head on the pillow and said, "God, that was awesome," then we kissed and he ran his hand up and down my stomach and chest spreading my cum over me.

I turned my head sideways to look at him. We both started laughing then moved closer and held one another. "It doesn't get any better than that," I said.

He drew his head back, looked me in the eye then said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet. I'm gonna do things to you, you never dreamed of."

I eased my head onto the pillow looking up. His comment worried me. What could he possibly have in mind that would outdo that? Man, I didn't think a better place existed yet he had something else in mind. That was definitely a cause for concern.


"Yeah?" I said turning to look at him.

"I'm just kidding. Stop taking everything so seriously."

Then he started giggling and scooted closer. He draped his arm and leg over me so I wriggled my arm under his neck resting my hand on his back. He was so handsome and good looking I couldn't resist kissing him. I drew back then took my other arm and wrapped it around him. "I love you," I said then kissed him.

"I love you, too," he said softly then closed his eyes.