Copyright © 2016
by David Lee
by David Lee
Michael's first order of business upon arriving home was to stop at Maria's. She had insisted that she needed to see him in person as soon as she could, so she'd know for sure he was okay.
When he came into her house, several of the toddlers saw him as a new playmate. One little girl had a book in her hand, and she wouldn't be satisfied until he had sat down on the floor, with her on his lap, and read it. After he was done, some of the boys wanted to rough-house with him, but Maria gently told the children that he had been hurt and needed to go home to rest.
Before he left, Maria invited him to come back for supper. She was planning on it.
Instead of going directly, Michael went to school for a brief time. Since Mr. Prentice was free at the moment, Michael asked to see him privately.
"You look a bit worse for wear," Ralph said, sizing him up. "When will you be up to coming back?"
"I'm in less pain than I was yesterday," Michael smiled. "I'll be in tomorrow, though I may close the weight room a little early."
"Don't sweat it. I'll have someone cover the whole time for you. I'm sure Coach Brems will volunteer, or, if he can't, I'll do it myself."
"Um, the other reason I wanted to see you…" Michael started.
"Was probably to tell me you've found another job for next year." Ralph finished his sentence.
"Who told you?"
"No one. I could see the writing on the wall. You have undoubtedly figured out what the state board is going to do to us. We'll be absorbed by the Springfield district after the next school year for sure. It isn't out officially yet, so I'd appreciate it if you would keep it a secret for a couple of weeks. Some of our staff will have jobs in the new consolidated system, but others won't. Since you're near the bottom of the totem pole for seniority, you might very well have been cut, though with your coaching success, they might have found a place for you."
"Wow! I am lucky to be getting out."
"I'd say it was more a matter of smarts than luck."
"May I asked about the administrative jobs?"
"If you're politely asking if I'll be cut, I'll admit I might very well be. I'd have the opportunity to go back into the classroom if there wasn't any administrative position, but I'm not going to do that. I'll have enough years in to start drawing my pension, and that's what I plan to do. If I get too bored, I can always sub."
"I suspect that Mrs. Prentice will have a few honey-do projects to keep you off the street."
"Yes, Louise will keep me busy, but since she hates cold weather, we'll be spending time in the South no doubt. If so, it will be in a condo where I don't have any maintenance to do!"
Michael gave him his letter of resignation, and left soon after. He wanted to get out of the place before any of his students spotted him. Though he was curious about how his classes were going, he didn't want to peek in and distract them from their lesson.
Now that all of the formalities were taken care of, Michael felt like a new man. He had about three months left in this little hamlet before he could go back to civilization and move his boyfriend in with him. He was excited!
Michael's phone alerted him to a text message, which he quickly opened. Joe was responding to the earlier message that he'd arrived home safely. Michael responded immediately to catch him up on how his meeting with the principal had gone.
Joe suggested that they might Skype after Michael got back from Grandma's, unless he was too tired, of course.
Michael said he'd be up for it. Joe made a wisecrack about how "up" he was likely to be.
Maria fed Michael well. She was grateful for everything he'd done for Joe recently. She hadn't been privy to all of the details of what had transpired with Maddie, but she did know that the girl had tried to coerce Joe into some kind of relationship by threatening his reputation. That was enough. She was aware of the scandals involving young college men being accused of rape, only to have been exonerated after the fact. The damage done to their reputations in the meantime had been devastating. Joe had let her know that Michael had nipped a scheme like that in the bud, clearing not only him, but another guy who'd been on the track team. Michael was her hero.
"You look so much better than I had feared you would," Maria smiled as she set his favorite dessert in front of him.
"Thanks," he replied. "I'll be about 20 pounds heavier if I keep eating like this and don't get enough exercise. I think I'll try to run outside if the weather is decent tomorrow."
"Maybe you should stick to the gym so you don't catch your death of cold!" Maria advised.
Michael just smiled at how she was mothering him.
"Have you heard from your insurance company," she asked, changing the subject.
"They're going to replace my vehicle with a comparable one. I hope it'll be in as good a shape as mine was. I don't want to end up with something that has too many more miles or a lot of wear."
"Don't settle for less than you're satisfied with!" she encouraged. "Have you heard from Subaru about the seat belt failure?"
"Not yet. I suspect there hasn't been time for them to process my claim. I did say that I might consult with an attorney, but I tried not to sound too threatening. My insurance agent said they have a lawyer who would help me with the case. Subaru shouldn't have to pay for the SUV, since that was 'an act of God,' but they'd probably cover the medical expenses that the insurance company had to shell out because of the seat belt failure. Had everything worked properly, I should have been able to walk away from that kind of accident without a scratch."
"Well, in the meantime, I see you have a respectable vehicle to drive."
Once again, Joe was happy that the university hadn't given him a replacement roommate. Skyping with Michael was totally private, and quite erotic. They were each able make requests of the other, much like the live services provided by some guys online. The difference was that it wasn't anonymous sex, and it didn't cost them any money to participate!
Michael went back to school on Wednesday. He arrived early in order to see how his room had been left. Surprisingly, everything was in its place, and there were notes from the sub about what had been covered and what might need more study. The sub also complimented the kid's excellent behavior. He was impressed!
On the file cabinet behind his desk, was a stack of homemade get-well cards from his students. A few of them contained misspelled words, but he wouldn't worry about that. They were brimming with heart-felt messages. They filled him with warmth, and caused him to feel a bit guilty about leaving this school at the end of the term.
When the first class arrived, they all wanted to know about his injuries. He still had some purplish bruises on one side of his face. He had thought about getting a makeup base in his skin tone to cover them, but they were fading on their own, and they might attest to the extent of his injuries. At least no one could accuse him of faking them to get out of school.
All of his students were extra good that day. God, it was going to be hard to leave them!
Maria called him right after the last period to see if he had dinner plans. He told her that he did; he was driving her to Springfield for Chinese, and he wasn't taking no for an answer.
Her day with the children had been a bit rough, and it wouldn't end until 5:00, so she didn't put up a fight. Besides, she loved Chinese.
"I don't know what I'll do without Joe or you to brighten up my life next year," Maria sighed, as they were finishing their egg-drop soup while awaiting their entrees.
"We'll have to get together more than just on holidays," Michael responded.
"But, you're both so busy with track in fall and spring. Joe is hardly here as it is."
"That may change when we get our car situation settled. I'm hoping to buy the Camry from my folks. That will give him his own vehicle to drive. It should give us more options."
"Is there any further word on yours?"
"The insurance company sent me an email this afternoon telling me they totaled it out, and I'm supposed to go to Ames this weekend to look over three similar used ones to take my pick. I've checked them out online and they look pretty comparable. One has slightly higher mileage on it, but it's a year newer.
I'll probably head out after school on Friday, so I can have more time with Joe before I check them out. If I'm on the road right after the last bell, I can take him out to dinner!"
"You feed the Gutierrez family too often," Maria smiled.
"Ah, but you've fed me more homemade meals, and included me at holidays like family. That's worth more than whatever I've spent. Maybe next year, you can be our guest in our new home and bring Rosa too, if she's not with her children."
On Friday night, after a steak dinner, Michael and Joe made the rounds of the dealers who were holding the Subaru Outback models for Michael to inspect. The one with the most mileage looked excellent. It was spotless, and had a few amenities that his old one hadn't, such as a sunroof and a backup camera. It also came with a detailed servicing record, which impressed him. Another plus was that the seatbelt design wasn't the same as in the model he'd had. That was the final selling point.
After checking the other two, Michael was sure that the first one had been the best of the lot. One of the others had minor body damage, possibly from hail, and the third was an ugly color.
Michael called the insurance adjustor to leave a message about the one he had chosen. He also called the dealers to let them know his decision. He didn't want to hold up a sale for anyone, and he wanted to make sure his choice would be ready to drive away the next day.
Then, the two guys went to Joe's dorm room to cuddle.
Part of Saturday morning was dedicated to working out the details for Michael's replacement vehicle. He was happy to have it over before lunch so it wouldn't hold up his mother's plans. As he drove it to his folks' place, Joe followed in the Camry. Kristen and Phil came out to admire the Subaru, and Noah wanted to stand on the front seat and put his head through the sunroof. Fortunately, the weather was unusually warm, so Noah could have his picture taken looking out of the top.
Over lunch, Michael's folks said they'd like the guys to keep the Camry.
"I'll be happy to buy it from you," Michael said.
"We want you to have it, no charge," Phil insisted.
"I just don't feel right about not paying my own way."
"Okay, how about we give it to Joe? I'm sure he can use it for school next year, and maybe his job this summer when you guys move into your own home." Phil said.
"Yes," Kristen agreed. "You can't turn it down if we're not giving it to you!"
"But you've already offered us the house with no down payment," Michael remarked. "It's really too much."
"No, it isn't," Kristen maintained. "You grew up without very much in the way of material things, and I know that Joe has struggled too. It's our way of trying to make up for what you've had to go through."
"But, I always had love! You were always there for me. And so were you, Phil, after you came into our lives. Joe had his mother, and now Maria, who loves him unconditionally."
"And I have you," Joe grinned. "I'm not sure you really know how important that is."
"Oh, I do, because it works both ways," Michael hugged him.
"Jeez, do you think we should go on the Dr. Phil show?" Joe giggled. "It's getting pretty deep in here!"
Everyone laughed, realizing that they had gotten rather emotional. Phil said he could act as "Dr. Phil" and give them all advice and a group hug.
After lunch, the guys stayed to play with Noah for a while. Although they were eager to be alone together, they felt he needed their attention. They loved being alone and cuddling in bed, but they were at a point in their relationship that being in the same place together was comfortable, and natural, filling their emotional needs.
Eventually, they left for Joe's dorm room to take care of some school work. It seemed to Joe that he was never free from studies for very long,
Michael had things to do too. He had received a suggestion from his thesis committee that he might include material from an important study on teens in high school that had just been released. He needed to read it thoroughly to see how the findings might have an impact on his paper. If nothing else, citing it would make his thesis look cutting-edge. That would be especially important if he were to pursue his doctorate.
After a couple of hours of intense study, they stopped to cuddle.
"Today, it felt like being married," Joe remarked. "I enjoyed all we did as a couple, and we didn't even expend any sperm in the process."
"Ah, but the day isn't over yet," Michael teased. "Who's to say we won't have wild sex before midnight?"
"No one, I guess. But my point is that I'll be content either way. I don't want you to think I don't appreciate your manly attributes, but I feel like our hearts are intertwined whether or not we make love. Does that make any sense, or am I being silly?"
"If that's being silly, I'm a complete fool," Michael grinned. "I think that's being mature and romantic. We're on the same wavelength."
"Does that mean you'll marry me before I turn 21?"
"Sure. You became an adult more than a year ago."
"But I made at least one very bad decision during that time…. It was immature of me to, um, be with that girl, knowing I loved you."
"Who's to judge maturity by that situation? We've already discussed all of that. It was something that you needed to experience to know for sure. I'd have forgiven you long since if…."
"What? You haven't forgiven me!" Joe broke in.
"Please let me rephrase my sentence. If there were anything to forgive, I'd have forgiven you long ago. Since I didn't feel wronged, I don't feel the need."
"I still feel guilty," Joe cried, softly with tears in his eyes.
"Okay, I forgive you, if that's what you want! From this point on, you are granted absolution," Michael exclaimed, making the sign of the cross on Joe's forehead. Now, will you consider becoming my husband before school begins in the fall?"
"Really. I wouldn't ask if I didn't mean it."
"But I'm a liability before I graduate."
"What are you liable to do, get pregnant?"
"I might when we consummate our union. I'd have your baby if I could."
"The feeling is mutual," Michael kissed him.
Things heated up after that.
Waking up, an hour later, after their post-orgasmic bliss, the guys kissed gently. Then they ventured down the hall to take a shower before going out to dinner.
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