FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch
I was standing naked at the bathroom mirror trying to scrape away the last bit of dark brown stubble from my neck when there was a knock on the door. Crap! That would be my breakfast.
I quickly rinsed and put on the plush, white robe hanging from the bathroom door and ran to answer it. I checked through the peephole and was pleasantly surprised to see Miguel, my original bell boy, waiting patiently.
I opened the locks and greeted him with a friendly smile, cinching my bathrobe a little tighter as I held the door back while he wheeled in the cart holding my food. Miguel smiled at me and said, "Good morning, Mr. Schaeffer. I have your breakfast. Where would you like to set it up?"
He looked very dapper in his uniform and his cologne smelled exotically wonderful. I smiled back, gesturing to the low table in front of the couch. He kept looking at me the whole time, his eyes taking in my semi-naked state. I would have had to be blind not to see he was interested in more than his tip. I felt my dick start to harden a little, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it.
He transferred plates of food and glasses of water and juice to the coffee table – there was even a small vase with real flowers in it. His expressions of lust grew more pronounced. He was clearly ripping my robe off with his eyes and planning what he wanted to do when he had me naked.
When all was in place, he handed me the check to sign with a look on his face chilled me to the bone. He licked his lips, now openly leering at me – I suddenly felt like a mouse being stared down by a snake. His mouth morphed into an evil grin.
I suddenly felt naked and vulnerable and not in a good way. Instead of turning me on, he was creeping me out. My skin crawled as I slashed through the tip line and quickly scribbled my signature and room number. I handed him the folio and said, "Thank you, Miguel. That'll be all." I pulled the belt of my robe even tighter.
He frowned at my rebuff, the vaguest appearance of an angry sneer forming on his lips. He didn't say another word, just turned and pushed the cart out into to the hall. I threw the locks, reattached the safety bar, and leaned back against the door, trying to breathe normally again. This was the kind of attention I had always hoped to avoid. Flirting was sexy and fun - being stalked like prey was not.
I mentally tried to shake it off, checked the peephole to make sure he wasn't lingering, then stepped back into the bathroom to finish up.
Grooming completed and work clothes donned, I forgot about Miguel and sat down with my breakfast. I was hungry. I lifted the gray metal plate covers and inhaled the amazing aromas. The omelet was perfection, the fruit fresh and flavorful, and my toast was done just right – not too light, not too dark. I hate burnt toast. I indulged in a generous amount of whipped butter and jelly on a slice as I stared out the window towards the beautiful mountains in the distance. The sun reflecting off of the snow topped peaks had rays of light shooting everywhere. Truly a "mountains majesty" moment for me.
I could appreciate the landscape because I was from Illinois. The best way to describe Illinois is flat. The closest we came to hills was the occasional speed bump in a parking lot. Valleys appeared in the form of potholes spread around like landmines on every road and highway after a typical Chicago winter. So yeah, the mountains looked pretty majestic to me.
I finished my toast, swallowed the last of the juice, then decided I needed to call Sharon to get the day started. I wasn't sure what the next steps were, but I was determined to put Amanda's advice to work. She had given me a tool in the form of a pile of money, and I didn't know the first thing about how to use the tool. I was hoping Clyde or Sharon could help. I didn't know anybody else, really. Except Billy. I smiled, thinking the only tool he probably cared about today was the one between Jerome's legs.
Sharon answered on the first ring, and seemed surprised to hear from me so soon. "Good morning, Jack. Is everything alright?"
"Morning, Sharon. I'm doing great. I was wondering what's on the agenda for today. I don't think we really set a plan yesterday before I kinda fell apart on you all."
"Jack, let it all go. You did nothing wrong." She was back in her mother mode. I loved it. "Let me chat with Clyde a minute, see what he has planned. You wanna hold?"
"Sure, I'll hold." I paced around the living room as I waited, contemplating my precious cell minutes being swallowed up by the second. Then I realized I could probably get a bigger plan now, maybe even a smartphone with some data or something, now that I had a bigger wallet. Well, in theory anyway. The wallet in my back pocket currently had 27 dollars in it. Probably wouldn't have covered cab fare to the airport.
Sharon came back on and said Clyde was thrilled I had recovered and was ready to re-engage. He was going to call Larry Weiss and set something up for the afternoon. She would call Billy to come get me right away. I thanked her for the help and hung up.
I figured I had a few minutes to kill, so I checked my teeth, brushed my hair again, and hung up the robe I had dropped on the bathroom floor. I noticed my nasty white shirt from yesterday laying on the floor as well, so I held it under some cold water to rinse out the mess on the sleeve and collar. It was soaking wet, so I hung it on a hanger and used the hairdryer to get it in decent shape again. At least it wouldn't mildew or stink up my duffle bag on the trip home tonight.
I wasn't sure if I should check out of my room or not, before heading over to Clyde's office. I didn't want to bother Sharon again – I'm sure she had other work to do besides attending to me all the time – so I decided to let it go for now. I could always come back later and get my things.
The phone on the desk rang, an orange light blinking. I answered it and Billy let me know he would be downstairs in five minutes or so. Time to get moving.
I saw Miguel standing by the front desk as I exited the elevator downstairs. I may have imagined it, but I swear I could feel his eyes following me, contemplating evil. I quick-stepped across the lobby to the exit. I was never so glad to see Billy pull up just as I got through the revolving door.
He had my door open and was standing there with his signature smile, eyes dancing in the sunlight, long hair blowing in the gentle breeze. His black suit and matching turtleneck shirt fit him perfectly, stretched tightly over the black muscle god underneath it all. I slid in the back, he got behind the wheel, and we were off.
"How was dinner last night, Billy? Was it a happy anniversary?" I asked. I really wanted to know.
"Fantastic, Jack. Jerome outdid himself. In more ways than one." He chuckled and I smiled back in the mirror. I was glad he was being so open with me. It didn't make me feel uncomfortable, which was extremely unusual for me. I guess I was relaxing a bit with the knowledge Billy knew I was gay and didn't care.
I had never actually said I was gay. I never spoke the words. But I knew he knew, and I was okay with it for some reason, even if I didn't know how he knew. Maybe it was because Billy seemed to accept me for who I was. There was nothing to fear from him.
We arrived at the law office building and parked in the garage. I followed Billy as usual, again stealing glances at his ass as he walked. This time I kept imagining Jerome doing sexy things to Billy's ass. I had no idea what Jerome looked like, but I had a pretty good imagination when it came to gay sex. Years of practice.
In the elevator, Billy pressed the button for 17 and grinned at me. "Are you looking at my butt again, Jack? I told you, my ass belongs to Jerome forever." I instantly blushed, feeling the heat on my face and neck. I was mortified I had been caught. My old fears came bounding back.
"It's cool, Jack. No worries. I think it's great a cute guy like you is pervin' on my ass. It's a world class ass, don't ya think?" He was smiling huge now as he patted his butt. I looked at it again, still struggling for a mental foothold.
"Relax, Jack. You got nothin' to be ashamed of. Straight guys lust after women all the time. Makes sense a gay guy would be looking at men's asses and crotches every chance he gets. Besides, like I said, I like that you think I'm sexy. Not so's we can do anything about it. I'm in love with Jerome – have been for 12 years now. He's my rock, my lover, my best friend. And just between you and me, my man can fuck. My God, can that man fuck! Makes sittin' down a challenge this morning though." He was laughing again.
The heat on my face and neck intensified. I was shocked to be having this conversation, but truthfully I didn't want it to end. This was the first time I had ever had a real life, open conversation about two guys having sex together. Ever. And Billy was saying it all as if it was the most normal thing is the world. Oh how I envied his freedom.
We arrived on the 17th floor and stepped alone into the foyer. Billy stopped me with a gentle hand on my shoulder, his look suddenly serious. "I hope I didn't offend you, Jack. I didn't mean to, I promise. Sometimes I get a little too free with my mouth. Jerome gets on my case about it all the time. Says I embarrass him somethin' awful."
I thought about it and realized I was far from offended – I was grateful for it. "No problem, Billy. Really. Actually, I appreciate it. I really do. I...it's just...well, I've never had someone I could talk to about...uh...you know...sex...sex with guys that is. Thank you." I was blushing again, but at least I wasn't averting my eyes in abject mortification.
"You know, Jack, you have to give yourself time. Don't push yourself so hard. You need to be comfortable with who you are, and it can be hard when you're gay. I know. I've been there. Takes a while to figure stuff out. But you listen to me, Jack. Don't go chasin' after the first dick that gets waved in your face. And don't you ever let a guy treat you with disrespect. I mean it, you need to find a man who will love you for the total you, not just your fun bits. Until then, you just wait it out. You feel me?" He wasn't smiling now – he was all serious business.
"I hear you, Billy. I just keep wondering, when is that going to happen? You are the only gay guy I've ever actually talked to, ya know? I've never actually said I was...gay...before. I just tried to ignore it, but I don't think it's working anymore." I hoped I didn't sound pitiful. I couldn't believe I had just said I was gay out loud.
"I did the same thing, Jack. The same damn thing. And I had myself so twisted in knots I thought I'd die before I had my first kiss. But I don't know, one day I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror, and said, Billy Adams, you are gay. You've always been gay. You're always gonna be gay. Might as well go ahead and be gay. I told mama and daddy the same night. I finally started being the real me. I was 17 and still scared to death, but at least I could be honest with myself."
I looked at him with increased respect. I was in awe of this man – the stature of his body and the stature of his heart. This was a big, big man – inside and out. And I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be free to be me, just like Amanda said I should be.
I suddenly had a horrifying thought. "Oh God, Billy. Does your mother know about me?"
He laughed big and loud. "Jack, it's okay. I don't know if she knows or not. She might suspect. That woman has ways of knowin' a person that are spooky sometimes. But even if she does know, you got nothin' to be afraid of. I don't know how you did it, but you wormed your way into her heart faster than anybody I've ever seen. She called me last night and went on for 20 minutes worryin' about if you were gonna be okay. Jerome had to get on the extension and tell her good night so our food didn't get cold. No way she'd not be okay with whatever you are."
"Are you sure, Billy? I would hate to have her not like me. I think she's a very special lady. I'd have been lost out here without her. And you."
"I'm sure, Jack. I'm sure. Come on, they're gonna start wonderin' what's keepin' us."
I was grinning to myself as we entered the office and made our way around the maze of cubicles and desks. I sensed I had just made a small but significant step towards being the true me. It was as if I had lived my whole life behind a curtain of pretense, denying even to myself the truth of my sexuality. I may not be dancing out in front of the curtain just yet, but I was starting to peek out a little from behind it. It didn't look so scary out there anymore.
Sharon was at her desk, and she hopped up to give Billy and me both a big hug. She got her kiss on the cheek from Billy and I thought about doing the same, but then let it go. I didn't want to freak her out or anything. She was wearing a navy blue pantsuit today, with shiny gold buttons down the front. It looked kind of like a sailor's uniform to me, but she looked good in it. She had gold hooped earrings and a bunch of gold bracelets of different kinds on both her wrists. She jangled when she moved her arms around.
"Jack, it's good to see you today. Looks like you bounced back alright. How was your evening last night?" She wasn't just making small talk – she really wanted to know. So I told her, leaving out the bit about flirting with Trevor the waiter, and ended with my reading Amanda's letter.
She was full of questions about the letter, and I thought about it for a few seconds, and then asked, "Would you like to read it yourself? In a way she wrote it because of you."
"Oh, Jack. I wouldn't want to intrude on something so personal."
"It's okay. Really. I don't mind. Actually, I was hoping to talk with you a little about some of the things she said, so you'd be helping me out if you did read it."
My reasoning convinced her and I handed her the letter. She carried it very carefully to her desk, sat down, and put on her half-rimmed reading glasses. I sat in a chair in front of her desk and watched her as she read the last words of a woman who had called her a friend. At one point, she reached for a tissue and dabbed at her eyes.
When she was finally finished, she needed a few more tissues and a few deep breaths to refocus. She looked up at me sitting across from her and said, "Remarkable woman. So much pain, so much trouble. I had no idea. No idea." She sat there shaking her head, and I know she was silently wishing she could have done something more for her, found some way to ease Amanda's burden. I knew those feelings myself.
I hadn't seen Billy disappear. Where he went to I had no idea, but I knew he would reappear when needed. Kind of like a superhero of sorts. My superhero. I pictured him wearing one of those tight, red and blue spandex superhero suits. I bet his ass would be a whole new kind of magnificent in such a getup. He would be mortified if he knew I was imagining such things. No matter, they could never find one in his size. His heart was too big.
Our silent reverie was broken by the arrival of Clyde stepping out of his office. "Oh good. You're here, Jack. Welcome back, my boy." He came around Sharon's desk and shook my hand. He seemed to have recovered himself overnight and his mood was much more relaxed today. His dark charcoal suit looked freshly pressed and he had on a fantastic gray and white striped tie, making his gray-blue eyes pop. He looked good.
"Good morning, Clyde. I didn't get a chance yesterday, but I want to apologize for falling apart like I did. Not my best day."
"Nonsense, Jack. Perfectly understandable. We threw much too much at you at one time. Woulda happened to anyone. But I'm glad you're here today. I thought we could sit down, see what questions you have, and then figure out where to go from there."
He made perfect sense to me. "I think I can do that, Clyde. But can I ask a favor?"
"Could Sharon join us? I want her to know what's going on and maybe help me get my head around all of this."
"Sounds perfectly fine, Jack. A splendid idea. Sharon, is it alright with you?" asked Clyde.
"I'd be honored." As she got up and we all made our way into the conference room, I watched her closely. She really was honored by my including her, I think. I was starting to care for this woman a great deal.
We got ourselves situated at the table – I chose a different seat at one end, hoping I could forget the disaster of yesterday. Clyde got some coffee for Sharon and himself, a bottle of water for me. I thought about what I wanted to ask first.
"Well, before I ask any questions, I would like to tell you both I appreciate all you have done for me so far. I told Billy this morning I would have been lost without your help. You have been so generous with me, and despite my losing it yesterday, I really just want to say thank you." They both nodded, accepting my thanks humbly.
"Finding out about Amanda was a shock, to say the least, but I'm grateful a significant part of my life has been explained and I now know where I came from. Clyde, in her letter Amanda told me about my birth father – unfortunately he passed away before I was born, which was partly why she gave me up for adoption in the first place. She also told me why she gave me all the money, which was really the most confusing part to me. Who gives a total stranger everything they own? It made no sense to me."
"But she told me it was to be used as a tool to make life better for whoever I could. I know I can never be a medical researcher or do the same kinds of things she and Phillip and Patrick did. But I believe I can do something with my life. I want to try anyway. But the truth is, as great as that sounds, I really have absolutely no idea how to handle so much money or how to turn it into a tool like she suggested."
"So I guess my first question is pretty simple. Now that I am the owner or heir or whatever of the Franklin Trust, what do I have to do right away? How am I supposed to manage the money? And how do I learn how to handle all this?"
I know I was throwing more than one question out there, but it all came out in a rush. But Clyde was ready for them.
"Well, Jack, I think the first thing to understand is there really is nothing you need to do right away. Part of the paperwork we prepared yesterday, and I had you sign, basically did everything necessary for now. Would you like for me to explain what we did?"
"Yes, please do."
"Okay. Well, the main thing was we needed to establish you as the controlling entity for the trust. It means you have all the authority and final say in how things are handled. It doesn't mean you can't have help – it just means as the owner and manager of it all, you get the final word. Good so far?"
Clyde was being very patient with me today. I think he had been advised by someone to take things a little slower for a novice like me. I looked at Sharon and she smiled.
"I'm good. But why did the name change? The paper Larry showed me said it was called the Jack Schaeffer Living Trust now. Why?"
"Well, Jack, I thought since you are not legally a member of the Franklin Family, seeing as you were adopted, and there are no other surviving Franklins to speak of, it made sense to change the name of the trust to your name going forward."
"Okay, I get that. But who all knows now this has happened? That I inherited all this money? Besides you guys and Larry and the judge, I mean."
"Only a few people on Larry's team at the bank who handle all the investments and accounts for the trust. They have to know because of the name changes on everything. But to them it's just a name. They don't have any idea who you are. And I guess we could include the clerks at the courthouse – I mean they saw the court order naming you the sole beneficiary of the estate, but honestly, they see a ton of this kind of thing. I can't imagine they paid very close attention at all."
"So...if I wanted to keep all of this a secret so no one knew my identity, for now, is that possible?"
"Sure. I think it's entirely possible. In fact, I would think it's highly advisable. The fewer people who know, the less chance you get bombarded with requests for donations to one thing or another. Always a curse for wealthy people." I tensed at the idea I was now a wealthy person. I didn't feel any differently than I did yesterday, financially speaking. And I certainly wasn't wealthy when I arrived in Denver.
"What about using my name as the name of the trust. Doesn't it kinda make it obvious whose it is?"
"Well, keep in mind Jack the trust is a private trust, so there is no public record of the trust itself. The IRS assigns an identifying number to the trust for tax purposes, but the number doesn't identify any person or trustee directly. We filed a name change only yesterday, so as far as they are concerned, the trust is still the same numbered entity. Nothing hits your personal taxes unless you choose to do so, maybe for some tax benefit. You'd have to ask Larry more about the tax implications. If you are still concerned about it, we can always change the name again, to something less personal. Whadda ya think? You wanna make a change?"
"Yeah, maybe. I'm just concerned. I have...relatives...if they ever found out...oh, man...I would be a sitting duck for every hair brained notion you can imagine. The guilt would be flowing hot and heavy, everyone expecting me to fix all their problems. I'm not saying I won't someday help some of them – but right now I want to avoid the whole thing. To tell you the truth I don't think I will tell anyone about the money. At least not how much. So yeah, I really don't want my name on it – just in case by chance someone who knows me finds out. It would ruin everything. I'm pretty sure that is not what Amanda intended."
"We can make the change, Jack, no problem. Do you have a name in mind?" Clyde had his pen out ready to write the name down. I realized I didn't know what to call it.
"I'm not sure. Sharon, what do you think?"
"Well, Jack. I understand why you don't want to use your full name. I agree it could cause some unfortunate problems for sure. What about this – use just your last name. It's a fairly common name so it wouldn't raise any flags or draw attention to you personally. I even found a lot of "Jack Schaeffers" out there when I was searching for you, so I think you would be fairly anonymous with just the last name."
It all sounded good to me, and I was much more comfortable with making the name change. I didn't say it to them, but part of why I freaked out yesterday was my name on Larry's piece of paper. It was like I was suddenly permanently attached to something I wasn't sure I wanted anything to do with. If the name was not so personal, maybe I could think of it as less about me, and more about the money as a tool. I'm not the hammer, I'm just the guy who uses the hammer.
I had a sudden brainstorm. Why not make it look more business-like? Like a company which does things to help people. It was my working plan anyway, such as it was. Clyde thought it could work well, so we settled on renaming the trust as the Schaeffer & Associates Executive Trust. I liked it. I didn't know who the associates would be, but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be doing this alone. I would still be the sole trustee, but I would have the authority to assign other people to manage different parts of it. I wasn't sure yet what it all meant. Baby steps.
"So, Clyde, how does a trust work? I mean, I only ever had a checking account, and maybe a savings account when I was a kid. I mostly just have bills now."
Clyde and Sharon both laughed. "It's a little different, Jack. The trust is really a collection of a number of things. There are stocks, bonds, mutual funds, some real estate, and a few other assets. I'm sure there is also a way to access funds like you normally would with a checking account. We'll have to ask Larry about the details of how it all works. He set up everything for Phillip and Amanda, and I'm sure he can get you setup as well. In fact, I spoke with him earlier this morning. He wanted to know if you were coming over to the bank this afternoon. I think he wanted a chance to go over some of this kind of thing with you, if you're up to it. I suppose you don't have to do it today if not."
"This is really happening, isn't it?" I sighed.
Sharon replied, "Yes, baby, it is. But you can handle it. Take it slow and you'll find your way in no time. You don't have to understand it all in one day." I wish I had her confidence.
I thought about Amanda's words again. Do it afraid. The truth was, I really was afraid. Not of the money itself, but of making a huge mistake with it. I didn't know the first thing about investments or real estate or any of those things Clyde said. I didn't want to screw it all up and ruin any chance of using it for something good.
I remembered she had said she left all the money decisions to the bankers and lawyers. She didn't even know how much there was. Apparently she trusted Larry and Clyde to take care of it for her. Could I do the same? Would they want to? I wasn't a friend like Phillip and Amanda. I knew they probably got paid some kind of fee for their work. But could I trust them like the Franklin's had? I hoped so, but I also knew I needed to start learning how to use the tool if it was ever going to be useful in my hands.
I somewhat reluctantly said, "Well, I have to start learning sometime, so I guess I better go see Larry. Hope he's a patient teacher."
I think Clyde could sense my hesitation. "I think, Jack, you'll find Larry a real ally, and someone you can trust. He can be a little abrupt, but he knows his stuff. That man can turn two cents into a thousand dollars in a week." Sharon was nodding her head in agreement.
"Thing is, you'd never know it by the way he lives. Drives a 10 year old car, lives in an old musty apartment building when he could choose any penthouse in the city, and eats frozen dinners most nights. Man is worth millions and lives like a pauper. I asked him why he drove a beat up car one time, and you know what he said? It's the making of the money that excited him, not the spending of it. Wish he could convince my wife of that. The shopping malls around here would go broke."
Sharon and I broke out laughing at Clyde's backhanded endorsement of Larry. He seemed like a financial genius – hopefully he could put up with a total beginner for a while.
Clyde suggested we firm up an appointment with Larry for the afternoon, and then he wanted to take me to lunch, since he didn't get to yesterday. Sounded good to me. He excused himself to make the call to Larry and start the name change paperwork.
After he stepped out of the conference room, I looked at Sharon. "Could I ask you some questions – privately?"
"Of course, baby. Anything."
"What did you really think of Amanda's letter? Am I doing the right thing focusing on the money as a tool for good? Is that what you saw as her intention?"
"Jack, are you asking because you think you will somehow fail Amanda in some way if you don't figure out what she wants you to do with the money?"
"Well...yeah...I guess so. I mean, she gave it to me for some reason, right?"
"Yes, and I think you are correct she thought it could be used as a tool for good, for helping people. But Jack, I also think she really wanted it to be a blessing for you, too. A mother, even a birth mother who never gets to raise her baby, always wants the best for her child. I haven't always been able to give Billy everything he wanted. But I always tried to. Still do, and he's a grown man now. There's nothin' I got, I wouldn't give to him. Nothin'. I'm sure in her own way, there at the end, Amanda wanted to give you what she had, so you could have everything you needed. And along the way, yes, I think she would be proud if you were to find a way to help people with it. Somethin' tells me, Jack, it won't be a problem for you."
"I really want to, Sharon. Ever since I read her letter, I feel this...I don't know what to call it...an energy...to do some big thing – something to change a whole lotta lives for the better. Everybody in my family kind of just lives for themselves, ya know. And I guess I'm kinda the same way. And I don't like it. I want to be like Patrick and Phillip and Amanda – I want to help." I was close to crying, so strong were the feelings and the determination rising up in me.
Sharon was smiling a big Adams smile at me. "You know what, Jack. I think you've found a connection to two people, Patrick and Amanda, you never knew existed, and you're starting to see you are much more than just the product of your upbringing. The truth is, Jack, you've always been someone who wanted to help people. I can just see it in you. You have this great big heart of compassion and concern but you've never had the example of how to live it out. Patrick and Amanda are one example for you now. But there are many others. Think about the people who have helped you – I'm sure there had to be some – those are more examples for you to follow. And now you have the resources, which is all the money really is, a tool like Amanda called it, to put your compassion and care into action. You're gonna do big things, Jack Schaeffer, I just know it." She was beaming with pride at me.
I wanted to believe her so badly - to think I really was the kind of person she said I was. But I had never seen myself in that way. I knew I wasn't a bad person - I knew what they looked like. My family was full of them. But I never thought of myself as particularly good either. Not like Patrick and Amanda. Or Sharon or Billy. Or even Clyde. But I wanted to be.
Of course, there was a big problem standing in my way – I was gay. I wondered if Sharon would still think I was so full of promise if she knew my secret. Billy had said even if she did know it wouldn't change her opinion of me. But was he right? How could anyone think I was a good person or capable of doing good things, if I was gay?
As I sat there, this question began rolling over and over in my head. Did being gay mean I was not capable of good? Did it mean I could never be a good person? That couldn't be right, and yet I realized I had believed it all my life – about myself. I had never tried to do anything with my life because I had mentally disqualified myself for being gay. Nobody else told me I was no good - I told myself I was no good, silently, every day.
I held back from friendships and relationships lest someone find out I was gay and was therefore unworthy and they would leave me. I didn't pursue job interviews or professional opportunities for fear of being discovered as gay and fired, or worse. So I didn't try. I had never really tried to be me.
I was afraid of me.
I was suddenly on the verge of tears again, and I saw Sharon tense up as she read my face. I was scared, my knees shaking under the table, my palms sweating, but I needed to ask her. I need to know. It was time to do it afraid.
"Sharon, I need to ask you something else. Would you think all those nice things about me if...you knew...um, that I was...gay?" I felt a single tear fall as I held my breath, waiting.
"Jack...baby...my sweet, sweet baby. Of course I would. It doesn't matter whether you're gay or straight or whatever. It's what's in your heart that counts. That's where the good comes from. And Jack, there ain't nothin' but good in you. Nothin' but good." She was crying herself now, her tears matching my own. She got up and came around to me. I stood up and fell into her open arms and just sobbed.
I was a mess. She was a mess. But finally we were all cried out, and it was time to pick up the pieces. We went out to her desk and blew our noses, then she excused herself to go to the ladies room, and I went to the men's.
I splashed some cold water on my face – this was becoming a habit here – and looked at the damage. Other than the red eyes and red nose, I wasn't in bad shape. And I was smiling. How the hell was I smiling?
I had just told someone, someone I cared about very much, that I was gay. And the world had not ended. Violence did not break out. And she still liked me. At least I was pretty sure she did. She didn't attack me at any rate. All my worst fears had not materialized. I was still in one piece – and smiling. I couldn't stop smiling. Then I started laughing – giggles at first and then belly laughing. If someone had walked in at that moment they would have called for a straitjacket. The catharsis continued for nearly a full minute, and when it finally subsided I was exhausted. And happy. Maybe for the first time, I felt free.
I headed back to Sharon's desk and she was watching me as I approached. "Jack, sit down here with me a minute." I did as she asked and parked myself in front of her desk.
"I want to say how honored I am you had the courage to tell me about yourself. It took guts. I'm one of the first, aren't I?" she asked.
"The very first. Well, I mean I sort of told Billy this morning – but he actually already knew, so I guess you could say he told me."
"Let me guess – he came right out with it, plain as day, didn't he?" She had her lips set in a mother's frown.
I laughed. "Yeah, he did. But it was okay. To tell you the truth, it was kinda great. At first I was shocked because I didn't know how he knew. But he was so cool about it. Last night he told be a little about he and Jerome, and then some more this morning. Just guy talk. But it was the first time I ever talked to another gay guy about...well...gay stuff."
"Hmpf. That boy always had too much mouth on him. Never knows when to leave a thing be." She was sounding all aggravated-mother-like, but she was smiling again.
"He told me Jerome gets on his case about it all the time, too."
"I'll just bet he does."
"I asked him if you knew about me, and he said he wasn't sure. I was so afraid you wouldn't like me if you knew. I guess I've always been afraid of that, my whole life."
"Jack, I think by now you know I more than like you. You've become very special to me. I just want to cover you up and protect you somehow. And I could never not like you over something like you being gay. The only thing that would get me upset is if you don't live up to being the real you. You better become everything you're supposed to be, gay or not, and do it the best you possibly can, or you'll be answering to me, mister." She was holding up her fists and giggling. She was a riot. I was feeling better than I ever remembered.
"Jack, I do want to say something else to you. Billy was younger than you when he told his daddy and me he was gay. Big William, that was his daddy, God rest his soul, sat on his chair for about five minutes after Billy got through talkin', just sittin' there thinkin'. And then he made up his mind, just like that. He looked at Billy who was sittin' there on the couch, just shakin' like a leaf, and said, 'Young man, you're my son, and I'm your daddy, and that's the way it's always gonna be. I love you now, I always have, and I always will. Nothin's changed. But I don't wanna hear about you runnin' around with this one and that one and carryin' on and makin' a perfect fool of yourself, you hear me. Sex is not a game, it's a serious business. You best be real sure how you feel about a man before you head down that road. Billy just started bawlin' and hugged his daddy for a long, long time. Big William just let him do it, too. I was never prouder than I was that night of my two men." I could see the love in her eyes as she remembered the scene.
"Billy kinda said the same thing to me this morning. He was pretty serious about it. I didn't know his father had told him the same thing. He really loved Billy, didn't he?"
"Yes, sir, he did. He wasn't one of these no-good, selfish, self-centered fools runnin' around, playin' at bein' a man. He took his responsibilities seriously. He loved Billy and me the way we needed to be loved. And we loved him back, right up until the day he passed. He was a good man, a good man. Jack, I know what I'm talkin' about - you are a good man, too. You remind me of Big William, and you've got a heart as big as Billy's. Just don't take after his big mouth, you hear me?" She was smiling again.
"Can I ask you something? How did you feel when Billy told you?" She hadn't said, and I was wondering if her reaction was different than with me.
"Well...I wish I could tell you that it didn't faze me, and I instantly accepted it like it was no big deal. But that's not how it was for me. I had to work through it a bit. I loved Billy – that was never the issue. He was my baby, nothin' was gonna get between us. But I had my heart set on grandbabies, you see. And with Billy bein' my one and only child, he was my only hope. So the truth is, Jack, I was selfish. I got angry because I wasn't gonna get what I wanted, as if there were any guarantee of that happenin' anyway. But I loved Billy, and I could see my coldness was hurtin' him, so after about a week I took him for a walk and told him I was proud of him, and even if he never gave me a grandchild, I would love him and believe in him until my last breath. We cried over it for a bit, and that was that. We got on with our lives. Billy met Jerome a few years later – never thought I'd meet a man who loved cars more than Billy – and when Billy brought him over for Sunday dinner, I knew then and there they were in love. Billy calls him his forever love, and you know what, I believe it will be forever for them."
"I hope I can find that kind of love someday."
"You will, Jack. Give it time. You're just now getting comfortable with who you are. You've got a lot of changes coming your way in the weeks and months ahead. I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to find a man until you get your feet firmly grounded underneath you. He'll show up at just the right moment. My guess is you won't have to find him – he's gonna find you."
Clyde came out of his office with a stack of papers in his hand and dumped them in Sharon's inbox. "That's the lot of it. Everything to get the name changed on the trust. Jack, I've got a copy here you can give to Larry this afternoon so he can get started on his end. He's expecting you around 2 o'clock. Whadda ya say we get some lunch? Sharon, care to join us?"
I was hoping she would say yes. I enjoyed her company immensely. But she politely declined, saying she wanted to finish the paperwork for the trust and clear up some of her backlog. She called Billy, and just like a superhero summoned to the call of duty, he appeared 10 minutes later smiling ear to ear.
Clyde's cell phone rang just as Billy was giving his mother a kiss on her cheek. She looked at him, her eyes beaming with love. God I loved that woman. Clyde apologized, said he had to take the call – couldn't be helped. He suggested Billy and I get the car and he would meet us in the circle at the front entrance to the building.
I followed Billy to the elevators, once again looking at his magnificent ass and fantasizing a bit. He had said I could look. We were alone on the elevator, and I could see his smiling face in our reflection in the elevator doors as we descended.
"You were looking at my butt, again, weren't you, Jack."
"But...I thought...you said it was okay?" I stammered.
He laughed. "Relax, Jack. Just messin' with you. It's cool."
I took a chance and looked down at his butt again, then back up to his face. "Actually, I was checking it out for signs of wear and tear. I think maybe Jerome needs to perform some maintenance back there."
"Did you just make a car joke, Jack?" We were both grinning ear to ear.
He took a step backward, and I could see him look down at my ass in the reflection in front of us. I turned to see his sexy smirk.
"You've got a pretty nice ass there yourself, Cute Stuff."
I blushed down to my toes.
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