© The author reserves all rights to this work.
This story is of an adult nature. It is not intended for minors nor for those whose law in their land forbids them to read this material.
This story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.
NB: Words found between asterisks (*) refer to words exchanged in psychic or telepathic communication.
Sven was lying on his bed at half past nine in the morning. He did not sleep well the night before. He was still thinking about the encounter he had with Jorg just before he left for home on Friday. He knew that Jorg was justified in being angry but he did not know how to face Jorg in two days time when they had to be back in RCTS.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Can we come in?” It was his mother’s voice.
“Yes,” he answered as he sat up on the bed.
When the door opened he saw that his mother was not alone. Behind her was his father.
Must be serious, they’re both here, he thought.
“How are you feeling, son?” asked his father. The two elder magi sat down together on one side of their son’s bed. Nick Sklerer sat at the foot of the bed whilst Elise sat closer to Sven.
“I’m okay, a little tired, I guess,” Sven replied.
“Have a little hangover?” asked his father.
“… but we thought that you went out gallavanting last night. You only entered the house at midnight,” said the mother with a slight frown that said that she did not understand.
“We thought you were painting the town red with Jorg. When we woke up this morning, we saw the guest room open and the bed not slept in,” said his father. “At first we thought that the two of you were crashed out in your room but when your mother went downstairs she saw your duffel but not Jorg’s.”
“It was then that I decided to see if there were two people in your room. I discovered you quite awake and alone. I would have knocked at your door then if not for Gertie calling,” continued his mother.
“Auntie Gertie called?” Sven asked, afraid that he was in for a lecture.
“Yes,” his mother said, “she asked how you were. Jorg said that you were tired out after some tough training and so he decided to let you rest for the rest of the week.”
“That’s all she said?” Sven asked.
“Well, there were some other things she said. However, they don’t concern you directly,” said his mother.
“Directly?” Sven’s voice was a little shakey.
“That’s why we thought we should have this little talk. Your mother told me about Jorg being absent and Gertie’s call. So we decided that we should talk to you first.”
“First,” repeated Sven. “Meaning that there’s something coming after, right?”
Nick smiled. “Why are you so defensive, son? We aren’t aware that you’ve done anything wrong.”
Sven shut his mouth. So far, Jorg had not blamed him for anything. Unfortunately he had just incriminated himself.
“Don’t tease him Nick,” chided Elise with a small smile. Sven did not like his mother’s small smile. It meant that there was a catch somewhere. He definitely did not want to be with them at the moment.
“You had quite a tough time during training, according to Jorg. He’s quite thoughtful isn’t he? He decided let you rest even if he only gets to spend time with his best friend only once a month,” said Elise.
“Are you still feeling tired? You got home late last night and you woke up early. Perhaps you need something to keep you rested,” said Nick.
“Actually, Jorg lied,” said Sven.
“Lied?” asked Elise, looking surprised but Sven could see that she was just pretending. “He lied to his family? This is something serious. It’s more serious considering that you came home alone and late. What’s happened to him?”
Tears formed in Sven’s eyes. He knew Jorg was trying to cover up for him. He had been nasty to Jorg and Jorg did not want his family to think less of him.
“It’s all my fault,” he said with a sniff, after a moment of silence.
Nick had taught Sven that real men knew when to control their emotions and when express them. He was not disappointed that Sven was crying. He was more concerned with the reason why.
Sven then told them about his dates with Carrie and what had happened the week before. He told them about how Marlene and he had a difference of opinion regarding Jorg’s feelings for him. When he ended, he was no longer weeping.
“When I went back to training school, I was filled with all sorts of doubts and fear. I had never thought of Jorg as a boyfriend. I know I’m not a gay man. However, what if Jorg treated me as his boyfriend. Would that mean that I am in danger? I was very confused. I knew I had to concentrate on my training and so I decided to avoid him so that I won’t be reminded of my fears. I could sense that he was getting increasingly agitated and distracted. In fact, he had to do extra training because he was distracted. Then on Friday, he called out to me twice. The first time was with his physical voice. The second time was with his special psychic voice. You know that we used to communicate secret messages with our mental voices, right?”
His parents nodded.
“Well his psychic voice scared me. It was full of anger and sadness. He asked me why I was avoiding him. He challenged me to tell him to his face if I didn’t want to be friends with him any more. I just told him I was afraid of him and when he paused to think what I meant, I slipped away.”
“Didn’t he follow you?” asked Elise.
“No. I didn’t sense him. I did hear him call several times but I just continued walking on, ignoring his mental voice,” replied Sven starting to shake again.
“Where did you go then? You came back at midnight. I know because I was still awake when you came in,” asked his father.
“Originally I wanted to go to town and get myself drunk, but I couldn’t because Jorg and I went to every pub in town. I passed by the first one and I began to think of him. In the end, I spent the whole evening at the bus-stop just outside the house with a six-pack I bought from the grocery store. I’d wanted to drink all the cans but I couldn’t. Every sip reminded me of the good times I shared with Jorg. Every sip reminded me of the bitterness in his voice when he confronted me earlier. I sat at the stop, ignoring the stares of passers-by. I was weeping intermittently. No doubt the cans of beer made them think that I was drunk and most of them avoided me. Then I began to feel cold and realized that you’d probably be worried about me. That’s when I came home.”
“How do you feel now, son?” asked his father.
“Still as confused as before. I mean, Jorg’s been a good friend – my very best friend, but I wonder if he’s pursuing me, you know what I mean? I love him as a brother but I don’t think about him like I think about girls. I don’t think I can like him the way I like Carrie. I’m afraid of hurting him and I’m afraid that he’ll hurt me.”
“Has he said that he’s in love with you?” asked Elise.
“No. But I think he does a lot of things that say that he is,” replied Sven.
“Like what?” asked Nick.
“Like what he did for this weekend. He made up an excuse for me, even if I was the one that acted like a jerk. He saved my reputation.”
“Would you do the same for him?” asked his father.
“No,” answered Sven immediately.
“Are you sure?” Elise asked. “Think carefully. If you were in his shoes, would you do the same?”
Sven made a move to answer but Elise said, “Think first.”
After a short pause, Sven said, “I guess I’d save his reputation too but I probably use a different excuse.”
“So,” Nick asked, “does saving your reputation mean that he’s in love with you? Perhaps it’s because you think that he does that you’ve used this reason against him?”
“What about the fact that he suffered so much so that he could learn scuba diving? He could have told me that he couldn’t scuba dive and I’d still be his best friend.”
“Jorg isn’t like you, Sven,” explained his father. “He’s usually reserved and doesn’t make friends easily. You’re the outgoing type. You can make friends very easily. So, trying to win your approval could possibly mean that he’s in love with you, or perhaps, that he was afraid to lose your friendship. You know that you’re quite prone to phases. You were skiing and did nothing else for quite a while, then you dropped it and decided to do mountain-climbing. Then, after some months, you’d found mountain-climbing difficult and tried something else. It was the same with scuba diving. If Jorg said he didn’t like scuba-diving, would you have given it up? If you did, Jorg would’ve been afraid that you’d be blaming him. If you didn’t Jorg would be alone at home for all those months that you satisfied your scuba-diving phase.”
“Jorg always thinks of you first,” continued Nick. “He’d never want you to give up what you love. That’s a sign of love. However, whether it’s a love of a friend or the romantic kind of love, the line isn’t clear. We know Jorg treats you like a brother. He looks up to you because you’re the only close friend that he has. Even if we have very strong evidence that he’s in love with you, would you treat him less than a friend? His love for you may be a different from your love for him, but he’s not out to seduce you.”
Sven began to feel more downcast than before. His parents could see that on his face.
“Sven,” said his mother gently, “we suspect that Jorg’s in love with you but they are only suspicions. We cannot let that influence how we treat him. Even if he makes overt moves to show you he loves you, you’d still have to ask him directly for a confirmation. What may seem overt to you may mean something else to him.”
“Your uncle Lars doesn’t like homosexuals. This I know because I was his partner for so many years. Even if Jorg was in love with you, he’d not do anything to jeopardize his relationship with his father. His family’s very important to him,” said his father.
“What am I going to do? I must’ve hurt him really bad. I don’t think I can just say I thought you were in love with me. If he’s really in love with me, I don’t think I’m ready to face that knowledge yet. If he isn’t, that statement would sound like I doubted all the efforts he took to be a good friend. It will be very hard to hide the truth from him. He would eventually find out that I lied.”
His parents looked at each other with a small smile.
“Sven, remember you said that there was something else because we said first?” asked his father.
“Yes,” replied Sven dreading what was to come next. His mind came out several possibilities in increasing order of severity: Jorg wanting to sever the friendship, Jorg dropping out of rescuer training, Jorg killing himself …
“Gertie called and spoke to me Jorg’s unusual behaviour and lie. He was never a good liar with his mother but he lied anyway. Gertie also knew that he would never lie unless there was a very good reason. So she asked me how you were. I told her honestly that I didn’t see anything amiss and that you didn’t say anything yet. Then she said we needed to do something about the two of you. I agreed. So, I told her to get her whole family down for dinner tonight. Jorg’s going to be here for dinner, Sven. Settle it with him when he arrives.”
“But that’s two days earlier!” groaned Sven.
“Yes,” replied his father. “I’d rather the two of you get over with it and have a good weekend rather than prolonging it. I’ve watched the both of you grow up. There’s a great probability that you won’t even be able to settle it with Jorg at training school. There are simply too much distraction and things to do. It’ll be easy to avoid each other for a real talk. Furthermore, knowing Jorg, he’d mope around totally depressed, thinking that he has lost his best friend and future rescue partner forever!”
Before Sven could even react to his father, his mother asked him a very difficult question, “Sven, if Jorg were really in love with you, would you break off the friendship? I mean, if he’s in love with you but never made any moves on you, would you still consider him your friend?”
After a short moment of silence, his father said, “You don’t have to answer now but that will help you find a way to talk to him when he arrives. I have another question for your reflection. If Jorg’s gay, would you reject him? Let’s say he isn’t in love with you but he’s still gay. Would you still be friends with him? Think very carefully over these questions. Think also of the years of friendship you had.”
With that, his parents nodded to each other and stood up.
“We’ll leave you to think,” said his mother.
“But I do think that you should get out of bed and get a good breakfast. Moping in bed isn’t the same as thinking,” said his father.
For the first time that morning, Sven gave a little smile. He knew his parents loved him and that he was acting immaturely. He was thirty-eight and he should not act like a teenager with teenage angst. Although in reality, because of his close friendship with Jorg and his family, he never really had any angst as a teenager.
♣ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ♣
The Kruegers and Vengroms reached the Sklerers’ at five o’clock. Their train had taken about eighty-five minutes to reach the city and then it was another twenty minutes by bus.
“Welcome!” greeted Elise. She was out of the front door the moment she saw Gertrude walking up to their gate.
“It’s so good to see you,” Gertrude returned the greeting. “Where’s Nick?”
“He’s down in the cellar, getting out the good wine. He has this special corner where he puts the few bottles of wine he considers good,” Elise replied. Spotting Lars, she said, “And you, Mr. Vengrom, you’re looking very fine indeed. Nick would be a little jealous that you’ve managed to keep all your hair.”
Lars just laughed. “It’s good to see you too, Elise.”
The younger Vengrom children came up next and all greeted Elise. Marie was accompanying Mrs. Krueger.
“Welcome, Mrs. Krueger. Hello, Marie. Come!”
Mrs. Kreuger and Marie returned the greeting politely.
Just at the time Nick Sklerer came out of the house with his daughter. They welcomed their guests.
“Where’s Jorg and Mr. Kreuger?” asked Elise.
“My father wanted to see what the old house looks like now. Jorg’s accompanying him,” replied Gertrude. “The new owners have really done up the garden, haven’t they?”
“Yes. They must’ve spent a fortune digging up that new pond … and the maintenance of keeping their pond?! They must be loaded!” replied Elise
“Why don’t we all get in first,” said Nick, after he had greeted everyone.
“You go on ahead. I see Jorg and Mr. Krueger now. I’ll come in with them,” said Elise.
Nick nodded and showed the Vengroms and Mrs. Krueger into the house.
“Welcome!” greeted Elise.
“Hello Elise! My compliments to you. Your garden looks a lot better than the old house,” said Old Mr. Krueger.
“Hello Auntie Gertie,” greeted Jorg politely. He was a little glad that Sven wasn’t around. He was not prepared to meet him yet. Unknown to him, Mr. Krueger wanted to give him a little more time to prepare himself and so had asked to stop to look at the old house.
“Sven’s waiting for you, Jorg. He told me to tell you that he’s at the fort. I’m sure you know where that is, because I don’t and he wouldn’t tell me.”
Jorg’s eyes grew wide. The fort was their secret place they had before they reached their teens. “I know where it is,” he replied and was getting a little excited.
Both Elise and his grandfather regarded his excitement with hope.
“Go ahead Jorg,” said his grandfather. “I’m sure everyone will understand that I preferred to enter with a beautiful lady in my arm.”
Elise blushed a little as Old Mr. Krueger laughed. Jorg just grinned and when Elise nodded her head, he rushed out of the gate.
*It’s hard to fathom that he’s almost thirty nine,* commented Mr. Krueger as they watched Jorg walking briskly away.
*I know,* replied Elise. *I was thinking the same thing when Sven told me the message. A thirty-eight year-old man doesn’t talk about secret places, does he?*
*Well I don’t know. I had to keep my Rescuer Base a secret when I was one hundred and thirty,* replied Old Mr. Krueger
♣ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ♣
Jorg walked briskly for about fifty metres when his hopeful demeanour faded. The fort was the place where Sven and he had taken the promise to be friends forever. Nick had told Sven that Rescuers take an oath of allegiance when they reached the end of their training. Sven told Jorg about it and came up with the promise of eternal friendship. Not really knowing what an oath of allegiance should contain, the two made up a fantastic formula with dragons and monsters. It was the imaginative product of two boys. Jorg still remembered part of the promise. He had kept it in his personal scrapbook for posterity. His personal scrapbook did not contain many things. Besides the promise, there was the picture of his graduation from the human university and the last milk tooth that was extracted from him. He had looked into the scrapbook the night before as he was thinking about the friendship he had with Sven.
The promise had their handprints using mud found just outside the fort. Their fort was actually a large old tree growing by the side of a stream that ran by the side of the small residential area. It had two large low hanging branches. One of these branches was low enough for seven-year-old boys to climb onto and sit. At that age, the two boys often used the branch as a pretend lookout point for their imaginary rescuer missions. As they grew older, the branch became one of the few secret spots where they would sit and talk about things. Gradually, the tree was forgotten. The nearby cafe was a more comfortable spot to meet.
Jorg could hardly recognize the entrance of the pathway that led to the tree. It had been, after all, about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years since he had come to the fort. The boys had wanted to explore the other parts of their residential estate on their bicycles when they were seven. They had only explored about one kilometre from their homes when they spotted a small track between two houses. They had moved into the track and found a fairly large area where the residents were using as a dumping ground. There were old wooden cupboards, tables, chairs, bags of clothing lying at the place. The boys were very surprised. Their parents had never told them where the old furniture went when something new was bought. Thinking that they might find something familiar in the area, they ventured in for a look. After about half an hour, they found nothing familiar. Later, they would find out that their parents had merely sent the old furniture to be recycled. When Jorg said that he heard water running, the boys went further to investigate and found the tree beside the stream. The dumping ground became their playground on weekends. The furniture in their various positions and disrepair became mountains, burning buildings in their imaginary adventures. Their base was their fort.
Jorg walked up the track, which was now paved. As he reached the end, he found it fenced up. Someone had turned the dumping ground into a salvage yard! Fortunately, there was still a path round the yard. Jorg decided to turn to the left and walk clockwise round the yard. As he reached the corner, he could see Sven seated on the branch of their fort from behind the branches and leaves. He walked slowly, wondering how to start speaking. He remembered the total confidence he had whenever he came to the fort to meet up with Sven. He was always sure that Sven would be waiting there, ready to share a new Rescuer adventure. Now, he had no idea what Sven was thinking. A fearful thought entered his mind, What if Sven is waiting there to beat me up! Jorg shook that thought away because he knew almost immediately that it was irrational. However, his heart was still beating quickly as he neared the fort.
*I was afraid you won’t come,* Sven’s mental voice entered Jorg’s mind. Jorg noticed that Sven’s voice was very sombre. There was no hint of fear or anger in it.
*Why did you think that?* asked Jorg. He did not know how to respond to Sven and so formulated a question instead.
*Because I was a jerk. I treated you badly. You are my best friend, Jorg, and I almost pushed you away.*
Jorg could hear a tinge of sadness in Sven’s voice.
*I’m glad that I haven’t lost your friendship,* replied Jorg. *Since last night, I’ve been thinking about what happened. What had I done to cause this?*
Jorg was now face to face with Sven. Jorg was shocked to see Sven’s tear stained face.
*You’ve done nothing, Jorg. I was the one who was wrong. I treated you badly and you’re wondering what you’d done? Why do you have to be so nice to me?*
Jorg resisted the temptation to run forward and hug his friend. He could feel tears forming in his own eyes. “How else should I treat a best friend, the only very best friend in the world? Please don’t cry. I’ll start bawling myself and the owners of the salvage yard here would wonder why two grown men are crying here.”
Sven forced a smile. “You always had a way with handling the tension in the air.”
“I’m glad you used the present tense just now. It means that we’re still best friends,” said Jorg.
“Can I get a hug? I could use one now. I think you could too,” said Sven.
Jorg moved cautiously towards Sven with his arms half open.
Sven did not wait, he moved towards Jorg and hugged him tight. As he did so, he started weeping silently.
“Thank you, Jorg. You are always here for me. I was the one that doubted your friendship.”
Jorg released his friend. Sven could see a frown on his face. Jorg did not understand what his friend had said. “Doubted my friendship? What did I do, Sven? Whatever I did, I didn’t mean to throw doubt on our friendship.”
“Calm down, Jorg,” said Sven as he himself was calming down. “I told you just now that you didn’t do anything wrong. Someone made a remark that made me think about our friendship. I began to get suspicious of the reason you’re always so good to me. I began to think of different ulterior motives and soon I began to believe that they were true.”
“Is that why were you avoiding me?”
“Yes. I somehow believed that you were nice to me for different reasons. I began to believe that you were deceiving me. After all I make most of the decisions and I can only remember a handful of times when you were insistent. Even then, I knew that if I had been stubborn, you’d given in to me. In fact, I can’t remember a time when you were actually angry with me!”
“Well, there were times when I was upset with what you. However, I remembered that my mother once told me that I had to think before reacting. I had to understand why you said what you said and did what you did. Only when I understood why, could I begin to respond. That was what I usually did. Most of the time, after doing a little thinking, I realized that there should’ve been nothing to be upset with and so I never brought up anything with you.”
“I do know that when you spoke to me yesterday, I was reminded of how angry you were many years ago when you came across some guys bullying another lone guy. That was the first impression I got and so I said I was afraid of you,” said Sven.
Jorg looked a little surprised. He did not realize that he had given that impression. Jorg had gone to the aid of the bullied teenager because the reason for the bullying was that the young man was gay. That reason made him very angry. He even found out that one of the bullies was the younger brother of the victim.
“You look surprised,” said Sven. “I guess you had every reason to. I was avoiding you. You had no idea what was happening and the frustration of not knowing must have made you so fearsome.”
“There! You’ve just done what I usually do. I look at things from a different point of view and realize that I shouldn’t really get upset.”
“Does that mean that I’m forgiven?” asked Sven.
Jorg was about to say that there was nothing to forgive but caught himself. His friend was asking for acknowledgement and acceptance. Sven had felt bad for being such a jerk. It would have been insensitive to insist that there was nothing to forgive.
“Yes, my friend. There are no more ill feelings. I’m glad we never stopped being friends,” said Jorg in reply.
After that, the two men hugged again. “Why don’t we sit here for a bit and remember our fort. The branch can still hold our weight, I’m sure,” suggested Sven when they released each other.
The two men climbed up the branch and sat there, talking about old times until it was time to go back for dinner. Each of them knew that their friendship had just changed in some way and only time would tell if it had gone better or just slided backwards.
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