Castle Roland

Feel, Don't Think

by Michael Kyle-Ducharme

In Progress

Chapter 8

Posted: N/A

Marcus, Jen and I arrived in New Hampshire just before five o'clock in the evening. The ride had gone quickly. We laughed and joked almost the whole trip. Jen and I had come a long way since the night she threw me out; the night I met the man of my dreams. I really did cherish our friendship.

"Do you remember the last time you and I drove to New Hampshire, Jen?" I grinned at her.

"You mean the time you punched your ex-best friend in the mouth for calling you a fucking faggot?"

"Whoa, I can't believe you never told me about this." Marcus looked concerned. "I thought you told me everything that happened. What's up with this story? Why haven't I heard about this before?"

"Actually, I was embarrassed to have lost control. Plus, I was seeing Jared at the time. He was less than enthusiastic for me to talk to you sometimes during that disaster of sorts." I sheepishly replied.

"Jared was a tough time for me, I'm sorry. Please tell the story now; you have piqued my curiosity, Babe."

"Are you sure you want to hear this?"

"Please, we should have time."

Jen and I had been invited to TJ's engagement party. It was about a year ago on a Saturday night. We couldn't head out to New Hampshire early so we drove straight to the party. We arrived about an hour after the party had begun; much of the crowd had definitely started early. Jen and I walked in and right up to TJ to say hello.

"Hey Bud, How are you doing? Congratulations on your engagement."

I tried to grab him for a hug and he pushed me away. I stood there stunned. Jen walked up to TJ and asked him what his problem was.

"I don't have a problem. I just don't want that fucking faggot to touch me."

"TJ, what the hell is your problem? Are you drunk? He was your best friend for years, he hasn't changed."

"Actually, he has changed. He has become a faggot. I can't believe you of all people are defending him."

"Jen, let's just walk away. I don't need an asshole like this in my life. If he wants to throw away our friendship, I don't care. I have enough real friends. I don't need the bullshit. I spent too much time trying to be the friend he wanted, and hurt myself and you in the process. I'm over it."

"What the fuck does that mean?" TJ roared in my face.

"I'll tell you what that means. You pulled that bullshit on me right before senior year. I buried the real me for years because I wanted to keep your friendship. Now I just don't care. You threatened and bullied me to keep my mouth shut. Not only did I keep my mouth shut. I did more than that. I lied to myself and this wonderful woman. But not anymore, I'm not ashamed of myself. I also don't care what you think."

"I don't know what you're talking about…"

"TJ, enough. I have no intention of telling that story. I thought our friendship meant something to you. I can see I was wrong. Why did you even invite me if you felt like this?"

"I didn't invite you; my parents did."

"Ok, fair enough. Jen, call me when you're ready to leave. I'm done."

"I don't think I want to be anywhere near this prick. I thought you were low when you made a pass at me, TJ. But now I'm sure you're just an asshole. How can you throw away almost twenty years of friendship like that?"

"He made a pass at you? Jesus, TJ. When did you become a complete asshole?"

"I thought Jen needed a real man." TJ scoffed.

"Ha! Tony is twice the man you are. By the way, your fiancée does look real impressed with you right now." Jen pointed to a young lady with a seriously sour look on her face.

Finally, I really had enough and started to walk away. Just as I was about walk out, TJ grabbed my arm and spun me around.

"TJ, you're drunk. Just let me walk away from this. Trust me I don't need this in my life. I wish you all the best. Your friendship meant the world to me, but I guess that was another lifetime."

"I told you once I could never be friends with a fucking faggot."

He swung at me, stumbled badly, but managed to hit me in the stomach, with a glancing blow. I snapped. I figured I'd taken enough bullshit from TJ. I swung my fist at him and managed to catch him just right on his chin. He went down and I walked away. We haven't had any contact since.

"Wow, Babe. I never knew that happened. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when you came home."'

"Marcus, please don't even think that. You never let me down when I needed you. Never. I was sad to see the friendship with TJ end, but I knew I didn't need that bullshit in my life. As it turns out, I was going to have plenty of bullshit at home not long after that. And you were always there for me. Always. Even when it hurt you."

We all went back to talking about less intense things. The laughter resumed and the mood lightened considerably.

We dropped Jen off at her parent's house and proceeded on to mine. All of a sudden, I had serious butterflies in my stomach. Marcus noticed the change in my mood, again.

"Nervous, Babe?"

"Yes, and I'm not exactly sure why. My parents already love you so this should be a piece of cake. But the butterflies have started big time. Maybe part of it is that TJ story."

He chuckled. "Babe, Trust me I'm nervous too. Except for Jen, I'm the first one you've brought home, right? But everything will be fine." He grabbed my hand as he drove. We both had sweaty palms.

We parked in the driveway and got out of the car. I walked around to the driver's side and gave him a hug and a kiss as he got out of the car. "I love you, Marcus. Thanks for this weekend and setting things up. Thanks for always being there. Let's leave our stuff in the car for now." I held his hand as we walked towards the front door. We just about made it to the porch when the door opened. Dad started towards us and stopped in mid-stride.

"It looks like you have news. Hello Marcus, it's great to see you again. Come in and share the news with both of us." I grabbed Marcus's hand even tighter as we went into the house.

"Betty, Marcus is here too. I think the boys have some news. Hold on to your hat."

Mom was in the kitchen making dinner. She turned, saw us holding hands, and smiled. "So, Tony, you finally figured it out or did Marcus finally tell you how he felt?"


"Baby, it was so obvious the boy was in love with you. So how did this happen? You look so happy, this is wonderful. Marcus come and give me a hug and a kiss. Welcome to the family, finally"

I don't know why, but between the conversation and my nerves, I started to cry. Marcus gave me a hug, "What's wrong, babe."

"Everybody knew, but me. God, I'm such an idiot." I started sobbing on his shoulder.

"Tony, don't be silly, stop crying. I'm a mom, of course I knew. It's my job to know. Besides you weren't ready then, you needed time to get here. C'mon baby, come here both of you and give me a hug."

Marcus lead me over to Mom, "He's still a little upset that it took him a little while to figure it out, but he should be upset at me for keeping my mouth shut for so long. Betty, it's so good to see you again. You look wonderful."

She had one arm around each of us. "I am so happy for you both. This is great news. Tony, you are getting your boyfriend all wet. Give me a real hug this minute. Baby, are you happy?"

I looked into her eyes, "Mom, I keep telling everyone I'm over the moon. It hasn't even been a week, but I can't begin to tell you how happy I am."

"That's what happens when you fall in love with your best friend, right Sam?" My father walked over and wrapped us all in a big hug.

"Congrats boys, I'm happy for you. Marcus, welcome to the family. Now I hope you guys are hungry. Because you know your mother went all out tonight."

Dinner was Mom's homemade spaghetti and meatballs. Her meatballs were always the best I'd ever tasted. She even made homemade pasta and sauce; I almost think she knew we were both coming for the weekend. Marcus asked my mom for her meatball recipe, "If I give you that there won't be any reason for you boys to visit." She laughed and then whispered, "I'll let you have it before you leave, promise."

My parents wanted the story on how I finally figured out Marcus's feelings. I never told them about my attack, so Marcus knew not to bring it up when he told the story. He hedged a little until he told them about the night I barged into his place. He also shared the joke on Jamie and Sarah, both my parents laughed.

At the end of the tale, Mom got up and gave us another big hug. "Boys, that's such a cute story. I'm so happy for you both. I can see the love in your eyes, and I pray that never changes. You have something special here, take care of each other."

"I love you, Mom. But I've already cried once since I got here… you don't need to make me do it again. We do have some more news. I moved into Marcus's condo this week. It's a little sudden, but we've been friends for three years now. And that efficiency was closing in on me. It's been wonderful so far. Oh and Jen made the trip home with us. She and her parents are coming to the gallery Sunday. Speaking of the gallery, do you have copies of the photos you are showing Dad? We would love to see what you chose."

"Sure, let's help your mom clean up the kitchen and we can go through them. Just remember they look a bit different enlarged."

After getting things cleaned up, we gathered around the dining room table to look at the photos. Dad had fifteen different ones he had selected. I had forgotten how amazing his work was. There were shots of the pond area at the end of the street, close ups of flowers from Mom's garden, and parts of local buildings. The detail was astonishing. I might have been biased, but they were incredible shots. There was even one of me at about sixteen years old. The shot was of me, from behind, walking down towards the pond, with a fishing pole slung over my shoulder and a book in my other hand. That was a typical fishing trip for me, always with a book in my hand.

Marcus looked intently at each picture. "Sam, these are beautiful shots. The lines you created with this building and the juxtaposition of the circular wheels is astounding. This really is top notch work. I remember the pictures hanging in the hallway, but these are truly amazing. And I'm not just saying that because I'm in love with your son either. I'm quite sure your show will be a huge success. You'd better be ready when the gallery owner comes begging for more."

"You really think so Marcus?" Dad looked surprised at the thought. "I had a difficult time coming up with these. I'm not sure there are more they would want."

"Seriously Sam, I would definitely take another look at your other shots. They are going to be clamoring for more when this show opens."

"Marcus, would you help me look at some of the other stuff. Another set of eyes might help, I would appreciate it."

"Absolutely, just bring out some of the shots that didn't make the last couple of cuts and we can talk about why you didn't choose them. I'd love to see more of your work."

For the next couple of hours, Dad and Marcus poured over photos. Mom and I sat at the breakfast bar and chatted.

"Baby, you really seem so happy right now. He's a wonderful man. I couldn't be more thrilled for you. Look at him with your Dad. I knew when you guys were here after my heart attack that he was special. I'm just so glad you guys found your feelings for each other."

"Mom, I have never felt like this before. I was happy when I was with Jen, and even happy when I was with Jared, at first. But this is so much more; I can't believe how deep these feeling are for Marcus. He is incredible. I can't believe I almost didn't figure it out. I hope I can make it up to him."

"Anthony Michael Wallace, you listen to me! You have nothing to make up to anyone. Just be happy. One look in his eyes tells me everything. He loves you and that's all that matters." He looked up and smiled at that moment, and then went back to talking with Dad.

"Thanks, Mom. You and Dad have the kind of relationship I hope Marcus and I can have. I'm so lucky to have you as an example. I love watching him with Dad. Let's go see how they are doing."

Dad and Marcus managed to find another dozen shots, plus another eight more they weren't sure about. "Are you two just about done here? It's going to be a long day tomorrow, what with driving down to Hampton Beach and coming back after the show. I think it's time to call it a night." Mom scolded us all.

"Actually, we have a surprise for you both." Marcus started, "We rented a room for you at a cute B&B for tomorrow night. Tony and I are staying at the Marriott on the beach. So, we can meet for brunch before the show on Sunday. Then after the show bring you back here before we head out on Sunday night. We are going to make a whole weekend out of it, if you would join us."

Mom wasn't quite on board. "Oh that's too much; we don't want you spending your money like that. Just having you here makes this weekend special. This is so unnecessary."

Marcus grinned, "Well maybe unnecessary, but sounds like fun doesn't it. Please let us do this for you. It would mean so much to both of us."

"Betty, I think the boys have already decided for us. It will be fun. Just remember, brunch will be our treat, no arguments. Still it's going to be a long day let's call it a night, Marcus thank you so much for helping me with the photos. Good night, boys."

"Dad, we are going to use the room Marcus used the last time. My bed is a little small for both of us…" I held my breath for his reaction.

Mom jumped in, "That's a good idea; those sheets are clean. See you in the morning. C'mon, Sam, time for bed."

Marcus and I went out to the car for our stuff. On the way back into the house, Marcus grabbed my hand and pulled me in for a kiss. "Babe, this was a really nice night. Your parents are great. I'm glad they are letting us treat them to an overnight. Tomorrow will be a busy day; I hope your Dad enjoys all the attention about to come his way. I really believe his work is going to be incredibly well received."

"Really, hon? You think his photos are going to be a hit? That would be so cool for him."

"I think the gallery is going to be packed, and his stuff is going to go for top dollar. I will talk to the gallery owner before the show, to let him know we have more photos if he needs to enlarge and matte them Saturday night."

"I hope you're right. Watching you with my Dad was so amazing. Do you know how much I love you? Let's go to bed, I want to show you how much I appreciate what you've done for my parents this weekend."

We all were up and ready to go early the next morning. Dad was a nervous wreck and barely ate any breakfast. He insisted on spending some time in the gallery before the doors opened. He and Marcus loaded the new photos into a small portfolio, and with help from the scanner I got him for Christmas, on a flash drive. Mom packed an overnight bag for her and Dad.

Finally, we all loaded up into Marcus's Lexus and headed out. The trip down to Hampton Beach was a short one. Hampton Beach was a sleepy town for nine months of the year, but during the summer the little burg exploded with vacationers and day-trippers. It was just off the main highway north from Boston and northeast from the rest of the state of Massachusetts, and about halfway to the Maine border. When I was a kid, we went to the beach a few times every summer. Later when I was in high school, my parents decided it was too commercial and too crowded; so we stopped coming down completely.

I couldn't believe how much it had changed. So much new construction had sprung up in the last ten years; I really didn't recognize the place. The gallery was just a block from the ocean on Rte. 9, the coastal thoroughfare.

We entered the gallery two hours before the start of the show. Dad introduced the owner, Crystal Edwards, to Marcus and me. While Dad and Marcus were talking to Crystal, I decided to take a look around with Mom. I was stunned. The photos were amazing when looking at them at the house, but on the walls they were breathtaking. The gallery had turned some of the pictures into pieces that had to be at least two feet by three feet. Others were enlarged to eight by ten and others just a bit bigger. I walked around in a daze. I examined the one of me up close and got a look at the price tag. I couldn't believe it. The tag said nine hundred dollars. Granted it was one of the largest pieces, but I was floored. Did Marcus really think Dad's work would sell that fast at these prices?

Marcus and I checked into the hotel, the four of us changed into our "gallery clothes" as Mom called them. Her new dress was a beautiful black knee-length linen number, with a large white collar that crossed at the chest. She looked stunning.

We arrived back at the gallery about fifteen minutes before the doors were to open. Dad was more nervous than I ever remember seeing him, and Mom wasn't much better. They were so cute. Crystal came out of her office with glasses and a bottle of champagne on a tray. My parents tried to beg off the champagne, but Crystal insisted. "It's for luck, here's to a complete sellout!"

Right before the doors opened, Marcus disappeared for a moment. He kissed me on the neck and reached his arms around me to let me know he was back. "Is everything okay, hon?"

"Never better, I called my Boston friends they will be here in about an hour. They want us to go out tonight, are you game?"

"Only if you promise to dance with me."

"Oh, I think I can manage that, very happily.

"Crystal says as each piece is sold she plans to pull off the price tag. It's very subtle but we should be able to notice it. Just pay attention as you walk around. I'm not sure your Dad will notice while he talks to the patrons. Your Mom looks great doesn't she?"

"I know I'm a little overwhelmed by the whole thing, I can't imagine how nervous they both must be. And yes, that dress is perfect for her."

The doors opened and people started trickling in. Marcus helped Dad get into the flow of talking about his work. After about an hour, the place was packed. I never did get to meet Marcus's friends from Boston. Every now and then, I watched Crystal or another staff member pull down a price tag. I was amazed. Two hours later, there were ten out of fifteen pieces sold. Marcus and Crystal had their heads together in the office.

When Marcus walked up to me, he had the biggest grin ever. "Babe, it's even better than I thought. Crystal has called in two staff to work up all the photos your Dad and I picked out. She's is talking about commissioning two more shows for next year, and one of the gallery owners from Boston wants to talk to your father about a show in the city!"

"Holy Shit! Marcus, that's just unbelievable. I counted ten sold already. How's Dad taking the news? He's not stressing I hope, tell me he's enjoying it."

"I think he's a little overwhelmed, but enjoying himself. He has no idea how many have sold. And at last count it's twelve out of fifteen."

"Fuck, that's crazy awesome! You were right. Thank God you and Dad picked out more photos. Oh Marcus, this is so flipping cool for him."

"Babe, we need to make sure they let us take them out to celebrate tonight. Crystal said Sunday is usually the busier day on a summer weekend. Just think… even if the final total is only twenty… at about five to seven hundred each that means your father's looking at a ten thousand dollar payday after commissions, and that's low estimate. That's pretty much a third of a year's salary for them isn't it?"

"Are you serious? I honestly don't think he has any clue about the money part. For him it's never been about the money. But, this is so cool for them."

The gallery finally closed their doors about six that evening. My parents had no clue that all but one of the pieces had sold. As the gallery worker stared to pull down pieces, Dad was stunned.

"Why are you taking all those down? I thought the show was for two days?"

Crystal came up to him with another bottle of champagne. "Sam, they are taking down the pieces that sold. Out of the fifteen we started with, fourteen have sold. My staff is already working on the new photos to create another twenty pieces for tomorrow. I have never had a show as successful as this in my life. This calls for a celebration."

Soon champagne flutes were passed out, and Crystal poured out full glasses to each of us. She raised her glass to my Dad, "Congratulations on the most successful show in gallery history. Sam, thank goodness you brought me new images to use tomorrow, or we would have bare walls to greet people. In my wildest dreams I never expected this response. Obviously, I knew your talent would sell a few pieces but I may have underestimated the response. Marcus and I looked through the new stuff and I think tomorrow will be more successful than today. Congratulations!!"

My father stood there stunned. Finally, he walked over to Marcus and gave him a bear hug. "You were right. Thank you for convincing me to select more photos. This is unbelievable, but I'm not sure I understand. Are you telling me fourteen people bought my pieces? And you want more?" He looked a bit confused.

"Sam, that is an understatement. I want at least two shows for next year and I think I may make a space for a permanent display of at least three or four of your pieces continuously. And frankly if today is any indication, I may need two or three new pieces weekly all summer long."

"Dad, I'm so proud of you. This is incredible."

He hesitated, "I don't know. I take pictures because I see things that are unique or unusual. I can't force it. What if I don't take enough shots, what if I don't see things I want to photograph? What if I can't keep up with what you want? I don't want to force it. This is what I do to relax. This is just a stress relief; I don't want it to cause me stress."

Marcus walked back over to my Dad, "Sam, I understand that this is overwhelming. What you need to do is stop thinking 'I need to have thirty amazing shots to make people happy.' Instead think of it like this: 'I'll keep taking shots I want to take. If some of them are used by the gallery, cool, if not they still mean something to me.' Don't worry if Crystal doesn't get thirty pictures, it's not about that. It's about you keeping the love for what you want to photograph."

"I couldn't put it better myself." Crystal added. "You have a true gift, I'm just happy to help you share it. I'm also sure that over the years you've taken more amazing pictures than you think. It's time to break out the old negatives, and give them a new look see."

You could see the tension leaving my father's body. Suddenly, he got the biggest grin on his face. "Well Tony, looks like you'll need to keep your boyfriend around for a while. I need his eye to help me go through all those old albums. So, I guess we will need you boys to visit at least once a month, don't you agree Betty?"

"That sounds exactly right. Maybe twice a month, there are hundreds of albums after all." Mom had a smile from ear to ear.

Marcus burst out laughing, "I've created a monster. Apparently, Babe the road to New Hampshire will be a well-traveled one."

I grabbed his hand, pulled him into me, and kissed him. "Hon, you created two monsters." We all laughed. I was struck by how Marcus had turned my father's stress around. I had been on the other end of that handiwork more times than I could count. God, I loved that man.

After a celebration dinner, Marcus and I dropped my parents at the B&B. Plans were made to pick them up at ten for brunch and then another day at the gallery. We went back to the hotel to get ready for a night of dancing.

Finally about ten, we were ready to hit the club. We decided before going out that it would be just for a couple of hours, The next day was definitely going to be a long one, Loads of travel time, brunch with my parents, better than six hours in the gallery, and a final tally with Crystal. I could tell Marcus was going to hit lawyer mode for that part. It was still a warm night so we dressed in t-shirts and shorts. I was really looking forward to dancing with Marcus for the first time as a couple.

The club looked like a large log cabin from the outside, great for the area but so not typical "gay" décor. The inside was more of the same, lots of wood. The walls had a few posters, mostly gay icons from the past. Rock Hudson, Judy Garland, and James Dean all looked down at the dance floor. The bar was more unfinished wood, I felt like it was a bit of an overdose on the rustic look.

Marcus and I looked around for his friends. Finally, we found Richard. Richard and Marcus greeted each other with hugs. Richard gave me a hug too and congratulated me on snagging the most eligible fag around. I busted out laughing, as Marcus hit me upside the head. Richard introduced us to more of the Boston crowd.

"Marcus and Tony, this is Daniel, Johnny, Henry, and Jake. Tony, before I forget to tell you, your Dad's work blew me away. He is very talented. I'm guessing the one shot of a young man going fishing was you. It was a great shot, but I missed out on buying it. Apparently, it was one of the first to sell."

"Thank you, Richard; I'm very proud of Dad. Now I don't mean to be rude, but please excuse us. I hope you don't mind, but I've been looking forward to dancing with my boyfriend all day. C'mon Hon."

I was in heaven. We danced for a while. Finally, a slow song played and I couldn't believe how wonderful it felt to move together with Marcus. After about an hour of dancing, I needed a soda. Marcus went to get drinks and I went to find the bathroom.

The bathroom was small with just a urinal, a stall and a sink. I used the stall; someone was already using the urinal. After finishing up, I moved over to wash my hands. The next thing I knew someone was feeling up my ass. I spun around to see it was Richard's friend Daniel.

"Hey Hot Stuff, You looked great out there dancing. How about you and I get to know each other a little better before we go back out?" He grabbed my crotch and leaned in for a kiss.

"No thanks, I've got an amazing boyfriend. I don't need to get to know anyone else." I pushed away his hand

"It really wasn't a question, I'm sure Marcus won't mind sharing his toy."

He started groping me and he grabbed my arm to pull me towards him.

"I said no thanks. Please let go."

"Relax, I can make you forget what's his name." Daniel grabbed both my arms and started to move them behind my back. Suddenly, his face changed into the one from my nightmares. All I could see was that jagged scar. And then the panic briefly passed.

"Let me go. Please…" I froze.

"Quit being a tease and have a good time with me. C'mon no one will know." He spun me around so that my back was against the wall. He had both wrists in his hands and leaned towards me. He tried to force my mouth open with his tongue.

I snapped. I felt corned. He had my arms pinned to my sides and that scar swam in front of my eyes again. The room started to spin. I couldn't breathe. I had to get away. He wasn't going to hurt me again. I reacted without thinking and drove my knee into his crotch. He let go of my arms as he fell to the floor, writhing in pain. I bolted out of the bathroom, slamming the door against the wall. All I could think of was getting as far away as I could. I ran…

I ran out of the bar and toward the water. I could see the thin sliver of moonlight reflected on the water in the distance. In the semi-darkness, I had no idea what direction I was running. I just needed to get as far away as possible. As I hit the sand, my feet lost all traction and I tripped. I fell face first into the sand and curled up into a ball. If I could make myself smaller he wouldn't find me. I don't know how long I stayed curled up.

"Tony, what's going on? Jesus, are you okay? What the hell happened? Babe, talk to me."

Marcus put his hand on my back and started rubbing. Slowly, I uncurled and started to babble. "Marcus, Oh God. I'm so sorry; please don't be mad at me. I couldn't help it. He wouldn't stop. I saw his face. He had me trapped, I had to run. I'm sorry I think I hurt your friend. All I could see was Derek's face. I had to get away. Marcus, I'm so sorry. Please don't be mad."

He wrapped me in his arms. "Tony, calm down. It's alright. I'm here, you're going to be ok. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened. You slammed the bathroom door and ran out of the club like someone was after you. I've been trying to catch you for almost a half a mile. Slowly, tell me what happened in there."

"I went to use the bathroom. When I tried to wash my hands, someone grabbed my ass. It was your friend Daniel. He kept coming on to me, telling me you would be happy to share with him. He grabbed my arms and suddenly I saw Derek's face. Then Daniel was there, but he had me trapped. I saw Derek again and I had to get away. I drove my knee into his crotch and ran. I just needed to get as far away as possible. Please don't be mad. I'm sorry."

He held me tighter while I tried to calm down. I was beginning to breathe normally when he lifted my chin up to look into my eyes.

"Tony, I have never been more proud of you. You stood up for yourself; you didn't fold and let someone hurt you again. Babe that is the bravest thing I have ever heard. Don't you remember what you told me, the therapist said when something like this happened you needed to protect yourself. She told you many people just fold when they feel threatened, but you didn't. You are so amazing.

"Daniel never was a friend of mine, and I will kick his fucking ass back to Boston when I see him. I'm going to guess he won't soon forget messing with you. We need to walk back to the car, time to call it a night. Babe, I loved dancing with you tonight."

I was a mess, sand everywhere. I was embarrassed to be seen. We finally got back to the club. Richard was alone standing by Marcus's car. He walked up to me and stuck out his hand.

"I owe you an apology. If I would have known Daniel was going to be an asshole, I would have left him home. Right now he's in the back seat of the car with an ice pack between his legs. You are going to be legendary in Boston. He finally got what was coming to him. Again, I'm really sorry."

"Thank you, it wasn't your fault. I hope I didn't hurt him too badly."

"Tony, there is a line of people in Boston who are going to think you didn't hurt him enough. I had no idea; but apparently he's pulled this bullshit before. I just found all this out from Jake. Daniel is going to rue the day he messed with one of my friends.

"Please don't think badly of all of us. And remember to tell your father how impressive his work is. We are driving back to Boston tonight. Marcus, I'm sorry. I hope to see you guys again soon. Good night."

He pulled each of us in for a hug. He whispered something in Marcus's ear and turned and walked to his car. I could see Daniel in the backseat. I turned away and put him out of my mind.

"Marcus, I'm tired, let's go back to hotel. I need you to hold me for a while. Please?"

"Of course, Babe. Let's get out of here."

I spent the night wrapped in his arms. Just once did the face with the jagged scar disturb my sleep, and Marcus was there to soothe me. I woke the next morning a little down, but I wasn't going to ruin my father's day. Marcus and I showered together. He washed my hair and whispered in my ear. "Babe, I love you so much. You amaze me. I'm the luckiest man alive."

He kissed me and rinsed off my hair. We got dried off, dressed, and drove to pick up my parents for brunch.

We got to the gallery about thirty minutes before opening. Dad was anxious to see the new pieces before the doors opened. Crystal had all twenty of the new photos enlarged and matted; her staff must have worked the entire night. The walls were covered; she couldn't have squeezed another piece in. Dad quickly walked around, he even had the staff change the position of a couple of the photos. His confidence was at a much higher level than just yesterday.

Finally, the good luck champagne, and the doors were opened. The gallery stayed packed all day long. Jen and her parents showed up about an hour before close. It was a little awkward to see her parents, but they were very cordial if a bit distant. It was the best I could hope for. Jen said good bye to her parents just before the show closed. Marcus and my father were in the office with Crystal going over final tallies. Mom and Jen were catching up, while I walked around checking on price tags. This time it looked to me like fifteen out of twenty had sold. That would put the grand total at twenty-nine. I was stunned. I couldn't wait to hear the reaction from Marcus and Dad.

Finally, they walked towards the three of us. Marcus was grinning, but Dad just looked lost and confused.

"I can't believe it. Betty, you aren't going to believe it either. Look at this." He handed her a piece of paper.

"Sam, there must be some mistake. This can't be right. What does this mean?"

Marcus wrapped them both in a hug. "What it means Betty and Sam, is twenty-nine out of thirty-five pieces sold in two days. The owner of the gallery usually takes a fifteen percent cut of any sales. After I convinced her to withhold taxes, just to save you stress down the road. You have a check in your hand for twelve thousand dollars. I think successful would be an understatement for this show. Babe, it looks like we may have to come back at least twice a month to go through those old albums."

Mom burst into tears on Marcus's shoulder and my father just shook his head.

"Mom, quit crying all over Marcus; that's my job. I'm so thrilled for you guys. This is the most amazing thing and you deserve every minute of it. I'm so proud of you."

"I'm so happy for both of you." Jen tried to pry Mom off Marcus to give her a hug. "I hate to break up this party, but Marcus and Tony; we need to hit the road soon. I have an early morning tomorrow. By the time we get back it will be past midnight."

We all loaded up into Marcus's car and took my parents home. After we got there, Dad grabbed Marcus, "Marcus, I don't have the words to thank you. I just want you to know that I will never forget your help this weekend. You… Thank you."

Marcus smiled and patted Dad on the back. "We will give you a call when we get home. And I'll make sure that son of yours figures out when we are coming back to see you. I think I have a lot of photos to look through." His eyes twinkled. "But seriously, I'm so happy for you both. All I did was recognize the potential, the rest was all you. We really do need to get on the road though. It was amazing to see you both again. I love your son with all my heart, thanks for welcoming me to your family. It means the world to me."

"Mom and Dad, I promise to give you a call later in the week. Thanks for everything." I gave them both a hug and kiss.

We hit the road for the long drive back home.

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