The Road Not Taken

By Kit

All the events and characters in this story are fictional and any resemblances to real people are purely coincidental.
The story is copyright of the author and may not be distributed or placed on any web sites without written permission from the author.

I would like to thank my editor, Richard Lyon, for his hard work and encouragement and also Richie Ryan for his moral support.  Any remaining errors are purely my own fault.  

If you enjoy this story or have any comments about it, please feel free to send me an email .   I will respond to all emails except flames.


Have you ever told yourself 'That could never happen to me', or 'I'd never do that', or 'I'll never go there', then years later you find that those things have happened, you did do those things and you are precisely where you vowed you would never be?  Yet the progression from where you were to where you are seems natural, logical and inevitable, and so you wonder what chain of events and what decisions led to this place.  Of course each decision you take places limitations on future decisions, so when you look back you may see that after you took those first few decisions the path that led to this place was unavoidable.

For me, 'this place' was our class reunion, sixteen years after I left school.  When I went away to university I had no intention of ever going back to my old school and the idea of attending a reunion, a pointless rosy-spectacled trip down memory lane, was totally ludicrous.  Let's face it, only losers and those with nothing better to do would go to a school reunion, but people like me, a successful self-made businessman, have much better ways to spend their time.  Yet there I was, sitting at a table in the school's new assembly room, sipping my beer and observing its inhabitants as if they were animals in the wild.  While I made my observations, I pondered the unlikely set of coincidences that led to me to that place.


Some weeks earlier I had received the usual annual invitation to the class reunion, but on this occasion it was accompanied by a hand written note from Gerard, informing me that this year he was one of the organisers and adding a personal wish that I would attend.  Despite the note and my fond memories of Gerard, I immediately threw away the invitation.  After all, the last time I saw him was almost fourteen years earlier when we met up for a drink in one of our home town's many pubs.  Although we'd enjoyed our evening together, it had been clear to me that our two years spent at different universities on opposite sides of the country had caused our friendship to fade.  We'd just grown up and grown apart.

Then, on the Monday morning in the week before the reunion I was in my office dictating a letter when the phone rang.  As the way it was ringing indicated that the call was from outside the company, I answered with a simple if somewhat brusque 'hello'.  This was because I assumed that anyone who had the number to contact me directly and bypass both the switchboard and my secretary should already know who they were speaking to.

"Steve?" said a gruff voice.

Immediately I recognised the voice my whole body tensed and I felt a wave of irritation wash over me.

"Dad," I said, keeping my voice cool and controlled as I suppressed my annoyance.

"Your gran's dead," he said bluntly, "you'll need to arrange to come home for the funeral.."

As usual, his words were issued in the tone of a command, and in other circumstances I might have told him to sod off, as I'd done so many times since I left home, but on this occasion I didn't feel like starting an argument.  Gran was Dad's mother and now that she was dead he was my only living relative.  My own mother had died of lung cancer shortly after I went away to university, and I often wondered if she'd deliberately smoked herself to death as a way of escaping my father. 

"Oh," I said without emotion, "what happened?"

Such a lack of feeling on my part would be considered strange, possibly reprehensible to most people from 'normal' families.  However, I knew there was no point in showing emotion to my father, who would only take it as a sign of weakness that he would exploit if he could.  

"It was very quick," he said, matching my tone, "She was found dead in her chair by her housekeeper on Friday morning... she had a stroke."

"And you're just telling me now?" I said, barely able to suppress my annoyance.

"Well there was no point in phoning you until I'd finalised arrangements for the funeral, was there?' he said a if he were scoring a point, "After all, you wouldn't want me bothering you with a series of phone calls, would you?"

Yes, he was definitely scoring points.  For the last few years I'd made it clear that communications from him were unwelcome, and in my view I was justified in doing so.  When I was growing up I had no choice but to suffer his overbearing attitude and occasional episodes of aggressive drunkenness.  After I graduated from university and set up my own business I could escape from the drunkenness, but I still had to tolerate his domineering behaviour because he'd loaned me the money to start up the company.  Although his own wealth was inherited he also owned a few hardware stores in the region round my home town and he seemed to think that his dabblings in business had made him an expert.  So he kept phoning me up to give me 'advice' on how to run my own company, but as soon as the loan was repaid I'd told him that he should stop interfering in my business.

"So when is the funeral then?" I asked. 

"Next Monday at ten o'clock, but you'll need to be here on Sunday."

"Why?" I asked, irritated at being told what I 'needed' to do.

"That's when I've arranged help to clear out Gran's house," he said with a hint of emotion, possibly triumph, in his voice, "I know you had some stuff stored at her place, so if you want to make sure it doesn't get thrown away then you'd better be there."

When I was at school and university I spent quite a bit of time at Gran's house, mainly to get away from my father, and there were a few things of some sentimental value still there.  I knew that Dad's threat to throw my stuff away was just an attempt to exert a little control over me, but I also knew that it was possible that he might carry out that threat, so I agreed to be there on the Sunday.  As it would take over three hours to drive to my home town, I arranged to arrive at Dad's house on the Saturday afternoon.  It had been several years since I thought of, or referred to, Dad's house as 'home'.


Saturday arrived all too soon and despite the enjoyment of being in my brand-new BMW, I drove to my home town with all the enthusiasm of a condemned prisoner walking to the gallows.  When I got to Dad's house he opened the door with a grunt and then proceeded to try and interrogate me about my business and personal life.  After I made it clear that I had no intention of answering in any more than barely-polite monosyllables, he lost interest and proceeded to more or less ignore my existence.  I'd just finished unpacking my small overnight bag and hanging up my Brioni suit when he announced that he was going out to dinner with friends.

"There's no food in the house," he added with a small smile of satisfaction, "so I'd advise you to do the same... if you had any friends."

"I've got plenty of friends!" I growled, barely controlling my anger, "Just because I don't tell you about them doesn't mean they don't exist."

He smiled again, pleased that he'd managed to provoke me, and I cursed myself for rising to the bait.  Obviously during the recent years of little contact with him, I'd lost some of the skills I'd developed to deal with his provocations.  

After he left me alone in the house it wasn't long before I started to get bored.  I didn't feel in the mood to watch TV and despite the long drive I wasn't at all tired or sleepy.  Beside that, I was also beginning to feel hungry, so I considered going out to a pub for some food.  At that point I remembered the class reunion, the prospect of which seemed slightly less unattractive than a night alone in a strange pub, especially as the invitation had mentioned a buffet.  Knowing that Gerard still lived in the same town, I looked him up in the directory and dialled his number.

"Hello... Ged?" I said when a male voice answered.


"It's Steve," I said cheerfully, "I just got into town."

"Steve?" he replied uncertainly.

"Yeah, Steve Kearney... remember?" I said, a little surprised and almost shocked that he didn't remember me immediately, "You, me and Danny were the Unholy Trinity."

When we were fourteen the three of us had been given that joint nickname by one of the priests who ran the school.  This nickname rapidly spread through the school, probably  because we were often getting into trouble.  Fortunately for us, we often escaped the heavier punishments because we were otherwise considered assets of the school.  Gerard was a brilliant rugby player and occasionally played in junior international games, Danny was so good at soccer that he was made captain of the school team when he was just fifteen, and I not only got the best academic results the school ever had but I was also the orchestra's star trumpet player.  Besides that, my father was a major contributor to the school funds.  We were winners in the game of school life and so could get away with almost anything.

"Steve!  Great to hear from you!  I hadn't heard from you for so long I thought you'd died or something.  When I became a reunion co-ordinator this year I saw the school had an address for you so I thought I'd use the invitation to get back in touch."

When he paused I stayed silent for a couple seconds, basking in the enthusiasm of his greeting. 

"Wait a second..." he continued after the pause, "You didn't RSVP did you?"

"Er, no," I said, slightly embarrassed, "I didn't expect to be able to get here, but there were, erm family problems, and I had to come back here anyway.  So I just wondered if there were any spare places tonight."

I didn't want to tell him about my gran's death and funeral in case he thought me odd for wanting to go out socialising under such circumstances or, worse still, in case he started offering sympathy and condolences.

"Well, we had a couple of last minute cancellations... are you on your own?" he said, then added in a semi-joking tone, "No girlfriend, wife, mistress or whatever?"

"Nah!  You know me, I've always been too busy and I'm not the type to settle down with just one woman!" 

My tone was light and bantering but what I didn't tell him, what I'd never told anyone, was that I wasn't interested in women that way and I never had been.  I'm gay, and the 'too-busy-working-and-playing-the-field' ploy was one I used on everyone, even my closest friends.  Ever since I was fifteen I camouflaged myself by occasionally dating females, but as soon as things looked like they might get physical I found an excuse to dump them and continue 'playing the field'.  I'd found that one useful thing about attending an all-boys school was that while we were in school no one expected you to chase after girls because there were none there to pursue.  Of course now that I'm thirty three some people might have suspicions about my prolonged bachelor status, but if they did they couldn't prove anything and as far as I knew they never voiced their suspicions.

Over the years I'd had many brief and discreet physical liaisons with other males, but they were never serious, mainly because I was much happier without emotional involvement.  I enjoyed 'playing the field' and didn't want to be tied down to just one guy.  Because I could see no point in exposing my sexuality to the world, I was quite content to stay in the closet, especially as I could find plenty of sexual partners without 'outing' myself.  Besides that, in my father's eyes the only thing worse than being 'coloured' was being queer, and when I first realised that I was gay I was determined that at any cost I had to prevent my father discovering that fact.  Living under his domineering control was bad enough without giving him even more excuses to denigrate me.  Also, while I was still financially dependant on him, I couldn't risk him throwing me out or disowning me.

At my Catholic school, the racist attitudes of my father were corrected, but my anti-gay education continued, although in a more insidious way.  Eventually, I removed from myself the taint of racism, but by the time I'd learned that there was nothing wrong with being gay I had grown into my habit of secrecy and that habit had become a comfortable way of life. 


The reunion was being held in the school assembly room, and as soon as I entered I noticed an odour that evoked many memories.  Despite the overlaid scents of cologne, perfume, food and alcohol, I could also detect a smell that in my mind was forever associated with school.  It was strange, I thought, that the smell should be the same even though I'd not been here for sixteen years and despite the fact that this assembly hall had been built long after I left the place.

Gerard did his best to make me welcome, introducing me to the people he knew, most of whom I'd totally forgotten.  Obviously those attending the reunion were not a truly random selection of our class, but even so I was surprised to learn that such a high proportion of them still lived in the same boring little town.  Even among the classmates I remembered, I barely recognised most of them.  Among that group was Gerard himself, whose bulky muscles had become flabby and whose face had acquired a double chin.  It was with a pleased smugness that I realised that I'd kept myself in much better condition than most of my classmates.  When I asked if Danny were coming, he informed me that the third member of our Unholy Trinity had died after being stabbed in a pub fight.  That news made me genuinely sad, and after briefly recalling some shared memories of Danny, Gerard went to greet some late arrivals. 

With nothing better to do, I found an empty table where I could sit and sip my beer as I looked around the room.  There were about eighty people there, some dancing in the centre under the coloured lights, some sitting at tables around the edge, but most standing around and moving from one group to another.  Most of my ex-classmates appeared to have brought wives or some other category of female companion, and it was amusing to see how quickly I could work out which male was with which female.  It was while I was playing that little game that I saw him. 

Because both Gerard and the female 'greeter' were busy chatting to other people, this new arrival made directly for the bar, and as he walked across the room I noticed the elegance with which he moved his tall slender body.  My heart leapt when I got a better look at his handsome face, topped by dark, curly hair, and I was sure that I recognised him.  It was John Locke, the only person I had ever fallen in love with.  Following close behind him was a pleasant looking man who was casting nervous glances around the room. 

When the two of them reached the bar, John gave his companion a reassuring smile and gently touched him on the shoulder before turning to the barman and ordering their drinks.  Even at that distance I could tell that there was an emotional bond between them and that they were more than just friends.  Then I wondered if that was just my gaydar operating or if others in the room might have noticed it as well.  However, a quick look around told me that if anyone else had noticed the affection between the two men, then they were ignoring it.  After getting their drinks they went to sit at an empty table just a few yards from me.

John gave no indication that he'd seen me and again my heart beat harder and faster as I tried to decide if I should go and speak to him or wait for him to notice me and maybe speak to me.  I thought it might be nice to see how he was doing and maybe to  let him know what a success I made of my life.  However, bearing in mind what happened the last time we spoke to one another, I decided to wait.

One reason I decided not to go and speak to him was a hangover from our schooldays.  I'd been in the popular crowd of 'winners' and although he hadn't really been a 'loser' he wasn't popular and had just blended in with the majority of 'ordinary' students.  Another reason I didn't go and speak to him was that, mainly due to me, most of my classmates believed he was gay.  Of course I felt a little guilty that I was responsible for his reputation but I was also concerned that there was a risk that if I took the initiative and went to talk to him then people might suspect that, by association, I too was gay.  So, as I waited to see if he would notice me and recognise me, I recalled our past.

Unlike Gerard, Danny and myself, John had no special abilities and came from a poorer part of town, so for the first couple of years at the school he fell below my metaphorical radar.  I must have seen him around but I didn't notice him among the rest of the crowd of 'losers'.  Then, when I was fourteen, I found out that he had an unusual kindness and gentleness, combined with an amazing sensitivity to the feelings of others.  These qualities, together with his discretion and lack of friends made him an ideal wank-buddy.  Yes, that's right, while having to share a changing cubicle on a school trip to the local swimming pool, we discovered the joys of mutual masturbation. 

That was another instance of how fate conspires to send us down a path we might not otherwise have chosen.  If we hadn't been forced by circumstances to share that changing cubicle, we might never even have spoken to one another, much less become physically intimate.  Perhaps it was the novelty of seeing one another naked, or our mutual horniness, or his exceptional boldness, or maybe it was a combination of all of those.  Whatever the reason, for the next three years we were secret wank-buddies.

Of course I never admitted to him that I was gay and I never asked him if he was.  Indeed, for the first year of this clandestine 'relationship' most of our verbal interactions involved me swearing him to absolute secrecy and threatening him with  dire consequences if he ever let anyone know about us.  For the most part it was I who decided when and where it was safe to meet and I was always in charge, which was only right bearing in mind that I was a member of the famous Unholy Trinity and he was just a nobody.  However, at least in my eyes, he was a very attractive nobody 

After about a year of this purely physical interaction, we began to have conversations and I learned that he was amusing and clever, as well as being a wonderful wanker.  However, all those conversations were in private, and in public we exchanged only brief greetings on those rare occasions I acknowledged his existence at all.  Then one day he suggested we try oral sex, and although I let him suck me off a few times, at first I refused to reciprocate because that might imply that I was gay.  However, I did eventually start to suck him off as well, provided that he first agreed with me that it wasn't queer as long as we were just guys helping one another out.  Another few months went by with frequent hand-jobs and occasional blow jobs until one day, just after I sucked him off, he kissed me on the lips.

"What the fuck!" I shouted in anger and panic, pushing him away, "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

"It was just a kiss!" he said defiantly, although he was cowering back.

"Boys kissing boys is queer," I growled at him, "Do you think I'm queer?"

"I'm not a boy," he said, maintaining his defiant tone and ignoring my question, "I'm sixteen now."

"That just makes it worse!" I hissed, pulling up my trousers.

He didn't respond and instead, looking like a whipped puppy, he pulled up his own trousers and began fastening his belt.  Seeing his expression, I felt sorry for him and regretted the violence of my reaction, though I felt that I needed to make him see sense.

"Look," I said gently and reasonably, "we're not queer, we're just helping each other out, having fun until we can get the real thing.  If you mess things up with queer stuff like kissing... well then I can't do this with you anymore.  You understand that, don't you?"

>From his expression and especially the look in his eyes I had the feeling that he didn't understand, but he did nod his head in agreement.

"I don't want to stop doing this," he said, sounding defeated, "If I promise not to try any kissing stuff, we can keep on, can't we?"

"Yeah, of course we can," I agreed happily, relieved that the crisis was over.


All went smoothly for a few more months, and although we never went beyond oral sex, we did occasionally manage to spend an hour or two completely naked in bed together.  On the last of those occasions, one afternoon when we were in his bed, he dropped a bombshell on me. 

"I love you," he whispered as he snuggled up to me after he'd sucked me off.

He nuzzled my chest and in my post-orgasmic glow I very nearly admitted that I felt the same about him, but then I came to my senses and just froze.  After a moment of frantic thought I decided that the best course of action was to pretend that I hadn't heard him.  After all, it was probably just the after-effects of his own orgasm and he probably didn't really mean it.  Then he ruined everything.

"Did ya hear me?" he said, looking up into my eyes with a hint of defiance, "I love you."

"But that's queer!" I moaned as my contentment dissolved.

"And I'm gay," he said, emphasising the word that he'd substituted for 'queer', then he continued, "and what we've been doing is gay..."

"No it isn't!" I protested, rolling away from him, "And even if it is, then it doesn't mean that I am!"

Of course there was no logic in my assertions, but I wasn't thinking logically and among my many churning emotions, the uppermost was fear.  Deep down I already knew that I was gay, but the prospect of losing my status at school and maybe even being kicked out of my home by my father was too terrifying to contemplate.  Getting off the bed, I dressed while he just lay there looking at me, his face expressing several emotions, sometimes sequentially and sometimes together.  The main emotion I read in him was sadness but I think that an underlying emotion was pity.

"That's it, then," I said, overcome with a sense of loss, "we can never do this again.  It's over."

"Why?" he said, tears forming in his eyes, "We can still keep it secret."

"No we can't," I said, deliberately hardening my heart against my own feelings of love and loss, then illogically I added, "We're too old for this now."

"But I know you feel the same about me," he said, the tears now flowing down his cheeks, "I know it... I can feel it."

I wanted to deny it, scream at him that he was wrong, but I couldn't, so I just finished getting dressed and left without another word.  After that we never had any further contact outside school, and in school I ignored him completely, though my heart almost broke when he gave me one of his sad, shy smiles.

My last real interaction with John was the saddest of all and happened just a couple of months before we left school.  One afternoon after classes I'd been in the music room practicing for the end of year concert, and when I'd had enough I made my way out of the building along a deserted corridor.  Just as I was passing the narrower corridor that led to a storeroom, a quiet voice surprised me, making me jump.

"Hi," John said.

"Hi," I replied, stopping and looking around to make sure no one was in sight.

"Ya know we're going to be leaving school soon," he said, so quietly that  it was barely audible, "then we may never see one another again."

"Yeah.  So?" I replied, pretending indifference and suppressing the sadness evoked by his words.

"So I've got one favour to ask, just one favour for all the good times we had together.  Do you think you'd do just one little thing for me?"

I was totally confused, unsure what to do, and still feeling bad about the time that he said he loved me.  My emotions were all mixed up and I wasn't really thinking clearly. 

"I s'pose," I said cautiously, "Maybe... what is it?"

"I want you to let me kiss you properly before we say good-bye for the last time."

"But why?" I asked, unsettled by his request.

"That way I'll know," he said, "I'll know what it's like to kiss you and I'll know how you really feel about me."

"But not here," I said, realising that I was implying agreement.

"Yes," he replied, "here and now, cos it's probably the only chance I'll get."

To this day I don't know why I agreed, why I took such a risk after being so careful for so many years.  Maybe guilt played a part or maybe it was temporary insanity.  Didn't someone once say that being in love is a form of temporary insanity?  Whatever the reason, I moved to join him in the small side corridor, where I stood, waiting for him to kiss me.  Leaning forward, he placed his lips on mine and I felt his tongue tentatively brush my lips then push between them into my mouth.  There I was, almost eighteen years old, having my first real tongue-in-mouth kiss, and it took my breath away.  Eventually I could breath again and involuntarily I responded, copying the actions of his mouth and tongue. 

Then I heard footsteps behind me in the main corridor and I panicked, pushing John away from me as I spun around to see two of the boys from the music room. 

"What's going on, Steve?" the taller one who was my age said.

My panic grew until I could hardly breath and I asked myself if they'd reached the junction of the corridors before or after I'd pushed John away.  Had they seen the kiss?  As I couldn't be sure, I had to assume the worst, and I had to do something, anything to protect myself.

"There's just this queer boy skulking down here," I said, pretending disgust, "Trying to get normal guys to kiss him."

To emphasise my point I turned back to John, who just stood there looking stunned, and I pushed him so hard that he fell to the ground.

"Bloody poof!" the smaller boy behind me said, "Shall we give him a good kicking?"

Inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief because those words indicated that he believed my almost incredible assertion.

"Nah," I said, looking down at John, hoping he could read the regret in my eyes, "He's not worth it.  No point in us risking getting into trouble.  He's leaving the school soon anyway."

As I turned my back on John and began to shepherd the other boys away from him, I heard him speak very quietly from the floor. 

"I was right," he said with a strange mixture of sadness and triumph."

After that incident John and I never spoke to one another again, and never even exchanged glances.  When school finished he disappeared from my life, but despite my efforts he didn't disappear from my memories, those special memories I kept locked away in the secret places of my heart. 


Now there he was at the reunion, grown a little bigger and even more attractive, sitting just a few yards from me.  Then, to my amazement, Gerard went over to John and started chatting to him and his companion as if they were his friends, and to add to my discomfort Gerard nodded his head in my direction before going back to his wife.  Although I was trying to pretend that I wasn't looking at them, I saw that John and the man next to him seemed to be engaged in a heated conversation.  Then they both stood up and walked over to my table, and as they approached I began to feel more than a little nervous.

"Hi Steve," John said when he reached my table, "it's good to see you at one of these things.  I've often wondered how you were doing."

Bearing in mind the last time we'd met, I was a little surprised that he seemed so genuinely happy to see me and that he didn't appear to harbour any resentment or ill-will toward me. 

"Hi, John," I replied cheerfully, hoping that he didn't detect my nervousness.

"I'm glad to see you recognise me after all these years," he said, giving me a big grin, "This is my partner, Adam... mind if we join you for a bit?"

Without waiting for my reply, they both sat down at the table.  Adam was a slim man with light brown hair, and he appeared to be a couple of years younger than John.  I presumed he was attending as John's spouse/companion/partner as it had been written on the invitations.  From the hard looks he was giving me, it seemed that Adam wasn't particularly happy to see me and I wondered if John had told him anything about our history. 

John and I had quite a long conversation while Adam sat on the sidelines looking somewhat sulky.  At first the conversation was slightly stilted but John seemed determined to put me at ease and we were soon chatting comfortably and catching up on our lives since we left school.  However, we never once mentioning our time at school, and although he made no secret of his sexuality and the fact that he and Adam had been 'together' for almost four years, I was relieved that he made no reference to my sexuality and that he never asked me about my relationships. 

Quite early on in our conversation he'd mentioned that he'd recently been promoted from being the manager of a retail store to become deputy manager for the whole regional group.  When he told me that, I noticed a sparkle in his eyes and a slight smile on his lips, and I'd assumed these were signs of his pride in his accomplishments.  Of course my own success and wealth were much greater than his but, unusually for me, I refrained from pointing this out because it suddenly became very important that I avoid hurting his feelings.  Anyway, when he next spoke, I guessed the real reason for the sparkle and the smile.

"Last month," he said, "the company chairman hosted a lunch for senior managers and afterwards we had a long chat.  He told me he's so impressed with my work that I can expect more promotion soon and asked if I'd like to be interested in joining the board of directors."

"Wow!" I said, surprising myself by being genuinely impressed, "Your boss must like you a lot!"

"Yes," he replied with a huge grin, "Mr Kearney's been really nice to me."

When he'd said that he paused to study my face, clearly expecting some reaction from me.  He wasn't disappointed because I let out an audible gasp and the look on my face made even the previously dour Adam smile.

"Not, not as in Kearney's Hardware?" I stuttered.

"Yes," he said, pretending innocence, "didn't I mention that?"

"So you work for my dad?" I said, stating the obvious but just wanting to make absolutely sure.

"That's right," he replied, obviously enjoying himself.

At this point I noticed the look of surprise on Adam's face, so it became clear that until then he hadn't known that I was the son of his boyfriend's boss.  Adam recovered from the surprise before I did and his expression resolved into one of slightly concerned amusement.  Meanwhile I was still trying to work out the implications of this revelation.

"I guess he doesn't know, then... that you're gay?" I said eventually, adding that last part in an almost-whisper.

"Of course he does!" John laughed, "Adam comes along to most of the work social events and last Christmas, just before my recent promotion, he had quite a pleasant chat with your dad... didn't you, Adam?"

Adam nodded his head in agreement.

"But... but my dad hates gays!" I stuttered.

"No he doesn't, "John said with conviction, "at least not now, and I doubt he ever really did."

"But all the horrible things he used to say..."

"Once you get to know him," John said with a little smile, "you find that his bark is much worse than his bite... and now even the bark is going."

Then I wondered if John was lying about working for my dad, just winding me up as a way of getting some sort of revenge.  On the other hand, it had been obvious from Adam's reactions that he hadn't been aware of any plot against me and he'd quickly agreed that he'd had a pleasant chat with my dad.  So on balance I felt that John must be telling me the truth.

"Okay..." I said. my mind racing, "but I still don't understand how he didn't fire you when he first found out about you."

"Well, I s'pose the first couple of years I was so low down in the company that he didn't even notice me.  Then by the time that he did he couldn't just fire me for no reason and he knew he couldn't get away with firing me for just for being gay... and anyway, by then he knew how good I was at my job."

He paused, and I shook my head as I tried to assimilate this information, then he continued.

"I will admit that when he first found out he made some snide comments, tried to overload me with work and that sort of thing.  I knew one of us would have to give in and it wasn't going to be me.  And, like I said, his bark is much worse than his bite.  Actually, I think he respects people who stand up to him."

While I was still trying to get my head around all this, Adam pointed out to John that it was getting late and that they'd arranged to meet some friends in town.  Then as they stood up to leave I found myself, without any forethought, handing John one of my business cards and asking him to keep in touch.  I surprised myself with that little gesture, which seemed to annoy Adam though it seemed to please John, who smiled and took the card. 

Although I was glad to see that John was happy and that he was doing well, I had an uncomfortable nagging feeling at the back of my mind.  It was only after they left the room that I was able to identify the little nagging feeling as envy, an emotion I rarely experienced.  The poor, scruffy John from school had grown into a happy, handsome, confident man.  Although he certainly wasn't as wealthy as I was, he certainly wasn't poor and he'd carved himself a comfortable niche in life and found someone to return his love.  I had to admit that he'd definitely become a winner because he'd even won over my dad.

After that, I didn't feel like hanging around any longer so I phoned for a taxi, and while I waited for it, I thought about the unlikely combination of events that had brought me to this reunion and my meeting with John.  Almost reluctantly I wondered how changed my life would now be if some of my early decisions had been different.  I asked myself if Dad might have accepted my sexuality if I'd had the courage to let him know and to stand up for myself.  After all, he'd accepted John, who wasn't even his son.  I wondered what might have happened if I hadn't rejected John's love and if I'd allowed myself to express my love for him.  Would I now be a winner or a loser?  Of course I would never know the answers to any of those questions. 

Later, during the taxi journey back to Dad's house, a line from a poem I'd learned at school rose into my mind.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

The End

If you enjoyed this story you might like to take a look at another one of my short stories, "Just Visiting"  (/nifty/gay/college/just-visiting.html). 
Alternatively, if you prefer longer stories you might enjoy "Tapping", one of my longer stories on the Nifty Archive.  You can find it at: