Thursday morning I was doing some research on line. I was concentrating fairly intensely when the doorbell rang. I couldn't imagine who it could be. There was a delivery for Marcus. I signed for the large package and set it in the hallway. It was very thin, but at least three feet long and just as wide. I sent Marcus a text.
"Odd shaped package delivered for you!? Left in hallway."
"Thanks Babe, no peaking."
"Then just tell me what it is, lol, when r u home?"
"No chance… home bout six, salad with chicken for supper?"
"Sounds yum, but what's in the package?"
"LOL, nice try."
I smiled and got back to work. After a quick lunch break, I checked emails. In the midst of the spam, there was an email from Shelley Bond. She and I had been in a couple master's classes together three years ago. We had continued to keep in touch. She had begun to work in a local school district after we received our degrees. Last summer, she had gotten married, and had a daughter just a month ago.
"Tony, How are you? Things are amazing here. My husband completed his residency and we are moving to California. The reason for the note is to let you know my position will be posted next week. The school district is great to work for and I hate to leave the kids. I thought of you when asked if I knew anyone looking for a SLP position. It's a smaller district, so basically you work with students K-12. If you are interested, here is the contact information… Be sure to drop my name. Love Shelley"
I couldn't believe it. I had been thinking lately about how I missed working with kids. I printed out the contact info. Damn, I really needed to think about this. Marcus and I were going to have a serious discussion tonight. I really couldn't believe the timing.
I stopped working on my dissertation and decided to punch up my resume. After about two hours I thought it looked pretty good. Next I composed a cover letter. I printed both and set them aside. I really wasn't sure where this was going, but I was beginning to get a little excited.
I sent Marcus a text asking him when he would be home. He let me know he was stopping at the store for salad fixings and would be home about five thirty. I was extra anxious to see him, the job posting front and center on my mind. My lack of patience was clear too; and I was starting to stew. I wish I didn't do this to myself. It really served no purpose but to cause me stress. I just didn't know how to stop.
Marcus got home, I helped put away the groceries, and we prepared dinner.
It was all I could do to wait for dinner to be over. "Hon, can we talk about an email I got after we get things cleaned up? It's something I've been thinking about all afternoon."
"I figured out there was something, when you didn't pester me about the package. It must be serious for Mr. Patience to be so quiet. What's up?"
"Holy shit, now that you mention it… What is in the package?"
"Babe, you are too cute. Promise you won't laugh at me when I tell you what I did… I just couldn't let anyone else have it."
"Now I'm really confused. Open it up and show me."
"Okay. Let's get things cleared up first so we can relax."
After everything was cleaned up, Marcus grabbed the package and met me on the couch. I couldn't believe I had gotten so wrapped up in the email and the thoughts of teaching that I had forgotten completely about the delivery.
"Babe, promise you won't laugh at me or get upset when you see this."
"Marcus, just open it." I was grinning at him.
He carefully opened it, leaving it facing away from me. Finally he got a strange smile on his face and turned it around. It was my father's photo of me at sixteen. My mouth dropped open.
"Babe, I just couldn't let anyone else have this. No way was someone else going to have this picture of you hanging in their house. I know it's crazy, but I would have been insanely jealous to think someone else could look at you all the time…"
"That's either the sweetest thing or the nuttiest. I can't believe you did this. You know it's completely crazy, but so cute. What the hell are we going to do with it?"
"I don't know, maybe hang it in the office. I really didn't think it through… I just couldn't part with it. You are so cute in this picture. You heard Richard, he wanted it. That just didn't work for me, him or anyone else. Thank God I bought it before the show opened."
"But Hon, that's a picture of me from nine years ago. What are you going to do if Dad chooses more pictures of me to use? Buy them all?"
"If I have too… maybe I'll just be sure he doesn't pick any more of you."
"Marcus, you are the sweetest, craziest, and most amazing boyfriend ever. This is too cute. I guess we need to plan a trip to New Hampshire to clear out all the pictures of me from the photo albums.
"But there is still that email I want to talk about tonight."
"Babe, I'm sorry. Tell me about it. "
"I got an email today from a woman that was in my master's classes. We have kept in touch sporadically. Well, she's moving with her husband to California, and giving up her teaching position here. I printed out the contact info and a copy of my resume that I punched up today. I also wrote out a cover letter. I think I want to try for the position. I've been thinking lately that I really miss working with kids. When I was involved in Jon's project, I got to work with kids all the time. Now that I'm working on my doctorate, I don't get to do that anymore. I want to get back to the kids. It's why I started my master's degree in the first place. I'm not going to give up on the doctorate, but I really miss helping kids."
"If that's what you want, go for it. I think it's a great idea. Have you talked to Jon about it yet? He might have some input or contacts that could help. I think he's the perfect source to get some of your questions answered."
"I wanted to talk to you first. Talking to Jon is on my to-do list. But, I really wanted to hear your thoughts. Hon, in the three years since we met, you have always steered me right. So, please tell me what you think."
"Buttercup, I remember how alive you seemed when you talked with me about Jon and his project. Truth be told, there was a time when I thought more was going on in that relationship. Once I met Jon, I knew he was too professional to ever carry on with a student. You seemed so energized when you had a break through with one of the kids. I know you miss working with them. I think you should go for the job. But I also think you should talk it over with Jon first. He's going to have contacts. He's also going to help you talk through any doubts or questions you have. He might even suggest you wait until after your doctorate is finished."
"Hon, I don't think I want to wait. This feels right to me."
"If that's the case, make an appointment to see Jon tomorrow. Or better yet invite him for dinner, that way we can both be in on the discussion."
"Brilliant, that's a perfect idea. I do want you to know that I'm leaning toward trying for the position. It just feels like something I need to do right now."
"Babe, whatever you think is going to make you happy, I'm on board. I just want you to be sure you have all your questions answered before you make the decision.
"But now, how about you come into the office with me so I can figure out where to hang the picture I got of the cutest boy I have ever seen." His eyes were full of that gorgeous twinkle.
The next morning, I gave Jon a call. He wasn't in his office so I left him a voice mail asking him to give me a call as soon as he could. I spent the rest of the morning doing laundry and cleaning around the condo. Finally, Jon returned my call.
"Jon, how was the trip to Atlanta?"
"It was very productive. I think I have booked three school districts to learn my techniques. My new master's student is almost as good as you were. Tell me, what's the reason for the call?
"Well, do you remember Shelley Long? She is moving to California with her family. She sent me an email telling me her teaching position will be opening. I'd really like to meet with you to discuss my applying for the job. Marcus and I would love for you to come to dinner tonight so we can pick your brain. I have some questions and thoughts to throw past you. Are you free this evening?"
"Sure, I remember Shelley. I can clear up my schedule for tonight easily. What time do you want me to be there? It will be nice to see Marcus again too. Remind me what school district and I will see who I know. Does this mean you are thinking of abandoning your doctoral program?"
"No, I still want to pursue the degree, but Jon I really miss the kids. I really just want to help kids again. This just seems like the right opportunity for me and the timing is perfect. Why don't you come to the condo about seven? We can have a nice dinner and then I can pound you with questions."
"Sounds perfect, I will see you later tonight."
"Awesome, thank you; this means a lot to me. Plus it will be good to spend time with you."
After I got off the phone with Jon, I sent Marcus a text, to let him know the plans. He called back right away.
"Babe, what do you want for dinner? I can stop on the way home and pick up supplies. What were you thinking?"
"How about chicken taco wraps? We still have some of that watermelon salsa left; it should be pretty amazing now after seasoning through."
"That's a great idea. I'll stop on the way home and get what we need. Plus it’s a quick prep, so we will have time to chat before dinner."
"Awesome, love you, See you soon."
"Love you too, Babe."
Marcus and I quickly had dinner ready to go. I started pacing almost immediately after. It was only six; Jon wasn't due for another hour.
"Babe, you are going to wear a hole in the carpet if you keep up that pacing. I know you're on edge a little. Just come here and sit with me."
"My brain is going ten thousand miles an hour. You know how impatient I can be. I can't get this whole teaching thing out of my mind."
"I know and usually this part of you is really cute, but tonight you seem more tense than usual. What's up?"
"I really want this bad. I am just afraid that between you and Jon, the two of you will try to talk me out of the idea. The more I think about it the more I really want to do this. The thing is, even if I apply for the job, I might not get it. I'm trying not to set myself up for disappointment. I just wish I could shut off my brain sometimes."
Marcus walked over to me, grabbed my hand, and started to kiss me. The kiss was filled with passion and desire. He backed me up against the hallway wall and continued lavishing kisses on me. I lost all track of time. I got completely lost in Marcus's kisses. Suddenly, the door bell rang.
"Babe, did that help a little to get your mind off things?"
I grinned. "We will continue this part of the discussion later… Right now, you should answer the door. I need to throw some cold water on my face and get the blood flowing throughout the rest of my body again."
He gave me a killer smile and walked to the door.
"Jon, it's so good to see you again. Please come in. Tony will be out in a minute. How was the trip to Atlanta? We missed you last week."
"Marcus, it's good to see you too. And I just want you to know, I meant what I said when we called it quits. You are a wonderful man. I'm so glad things worked out for you and Tony. You guys are both amazing. I'm a little jealous, truth be told, I mean that in the best way."
I walked out of the bathroom at that moment. They were hugging. "Jon, I hope you're hungry. Marcus made watermelon salsa for the party last week and it should be amazing with the taco wraps tonight. It's so nice of you to join us." I gave him a hug,too. "So, what's this nonsense you said this morning about your new student being almost as good as me?"
He laughed, "Well for starters, he's not having any issues with his sexuality. He's as straight as they come."
"I suppose I deserved that. But, seriously, I hope he's helping with your data and the new students. How is he at conferences?"
"Tony, he's definitely not you… Marcus, believe me when I tell you, this young man was a star at the conferences we did together. The only time I remember him not being spot on was the second day at our first DC trip. I never did figure out what happened that day."
Marcus burst out laughing.
"Well believe it or not it was guilt from a one night stand. Tony hooked up that Saturday night and discovered he wasn't cut out for casual sex."
"Marcus Taylor, what the hell? Embarrass me much..."
"Babe, don't be embarrassed. It's a very endearing thing to me. I loved watching you grow and learn about yourself. It takes a very self aware person to figure out they don't enjoy sex as much without emotional involvement. Jon, the problem was the "trick" sat near the front during the morning session on Sunday. Tony was a little distracted."
"Damn, it was the hot vice principal from Virginia Beach wasn't it? No wonder he stared a hole through you that day. He was cute in a vice principal sort of way. Did you have to do the awkward dance after the morning session? Is that why you missed lunch?"
"Okay, this is not gang up on Tony time. You two can stop right now. And yes I had to tell him it was just a one night thing. I actually think he was relieved. I believe he was a major closet case."
They both burst out laughing. I'm pretty sure I turned twenty shades of red. It was time to steer the conversation anywhere else.
"Gentlemen, as I recall this evening is about my future and not my past. I'm glad I can amuse both of you, but let's eat so I can get some answers."
"Babe, I'm sorry. Set the table, I'll finish up the chicken."
Marcus and Jon chatted away during dinner. I was very relieved there was no awkwardness between them. They were like old friends, comfortable and relaxed.
"Jon, would you like coffee after dinner or something stronger? I'm having coffee, should I make a whole pot? What about you, Hon? Can I get you something?" I was trying to sound relaxed.
"Babe, you are so transparent!" Marcus laughed. "Jon, I think we have just about worked Mr. Patience's last nerve. I think if we don't focus on Tony's questions about the teaching job, he might just explode."
"I do believe you're right. Tony, I'll have some coffee, please. That would be wonderful."
"I'm all for the bonding going on between you two, but must you continue to gang up on me. I'm sorry, but you both know how I get. I thought I was doing pretty well tonight. For the record, I waited until dinner was finished and I had the kitchen cleaned up."
"Babe, you are so cute. Bring the coffee into the living room; I would love some ice water if you don't mind. I promise we will be mostly serious now, mostly…" He smiled that killer smile at me.
"Jon, make yourself comfortable, this could take a while." Marcus added.
We all settled in the living room area. I snuggled up against Marcus. Just as I was about to start, Jon began talking.
"So, this is what I know so far. The school district is on the western edge of the city. It's a small district, but relatively well-off. There are two elementary schools, one middle school, and a high school. The position involves rotating days in all the schools. I know the superintendant very well and will put a good word in for you; if that's what you decide. I'm sure if you want the job, it will be yours for the taking.
"The district is very forward thinking. There is a LBGT/ally group in the high school and a peer education group that focuses on HIV and AIDS. Honestly, I couldn't pick a better place in the area to raise kids. I think Shelley dealt mostly with speech issues and shied away from special needs kids. You know stuttering, lisps, and that sort of thing. If you decide to teach there, you would also have the opportunity to work with some of the same kinds of kids my project is supposed to help mainstream. Tony, I honestly think this position is exactly what you are looking for… And that you would be perfect.
"My only concern is your degree. If you start teaching, you will be hard pressed to find time to complete your course work and even less time to do the research and writing required. Anyway that's my opening thoughts, what are your questions?"
Marcus chimed in first. "Jon, I guess my first question is this: if Tony wants to do this as his career, what does the doctorate do to help him?"
"Honestly, it doesn't help unless he wants to get into administration. Teaching in the school district, the master's degree is all you need. So, if you don't plan on teaching college level courses or going into administration, the doctorate adds nothing major to your earning power."
"Babe, you are very quiet. What's going through your mind?"
"Actually, Jon answered so many of my questions before I could ask them. I'm trying to figure out what the down side is to this whole thing. I want to finish my degree, but right now I want to teach even more. I can't imagine wanting to go into administration, and I don't think I want to teach college age kids. I know things could change, but if that happens I can finish my degree at that point. If I take one class each semester, I won't feel as overwhelmed. The summers can be for writing and research, it's not as though you can take the whole summer off, Hon."
"Well that was way easier than I expected. I think you have already made up your mind. Tony, show Jon your resume and cover letter. Maybe he has suggestions there, but I think they look great already."
Jon made a couple of minor suggestions to the resume and thought the addition of a couple of key words to the cover letter would help. Frankly, I was in shock that this went so well. I had honestly expected to get an argument from both of them. My excitement was obvious to Marcus.
"Babe, could you turn down the wattage on that smile. You are going to blind us both." Marcus turned to Jon, "I think he's just a touch excited about this teaching position. What do you think?"
Jon smiled. "I think he expected more of a battle from us. Tony, if you are serious, I will call Dr. Hunter on Monday. I imagine you can apply on-line. Honestly, I couldn't be happier to recommend you for this job. It really is right up your alley. I'll make that call and I would guess the job is yours for the taking."
We spent the rest of the night catching up. Jon regaled Marcus with a couple more stories from our conferences. Fortunately, the embarrassment was kept to a minimum for me.
After saying goodbye to Jon, Marcus and I settled into bed. I was still smiling.
"Hon, I think there is some unfinished business you need to attend to... As I recall, you were working on this…" I started kissing him, reminding him of our earlier encounter in the hallway. The passion that filled our night was breathtaking. Just when I think I can't possibly be any more in love with Marcus, he proves me wrong.
The next morning, a little doubt crept into my brain. I had never had anal sex. It was something I was uncomfortable with. I had a very minor case of Crohn's disease. I always had an issue with hemorrhoids, also. It was a medical condition that I could mostly control with diet. But it also became a mental obstacle for me. Marcus knew how I felt, but we had never talked about it in relation to each other. Last night was so wonderful, but I needed to be sure he didn't feel like something was missing.
We were still in bed, when I started.
"Marcus, can we talk for a minute."
"Always, Babe, Always, you know that."
"You know I love you more than anything. I wonder if you think something is missing in our love making. Last night was incredible. I just don't want you to feel like I can't give you everything you desire. You know my medical condition, but you also know that the subject of anal sex has become mostly mental for me. There is still a part of me that wonders if I had been willing, would Jared have cheated?"
"DAMN IT! Don't you ever think that… Jared was a cheating pig. He didn't deserve you and proved it more than once. Maybe now is the time to finally bury our Jared problem once and for all.
"First, I love you and you satisfy me completely. We never have to have that kind of sex and I will remain satisfied and deliriously happy. If at some point you want to explore that part of gay sex, I would be a willing partner. But never for a minute, think you need to hurt yourself to make me happy. You have completed me in ways I never thought possible. Anthony Michael Wallace, I love you with every fiber of my being."
"I love you so much, Marcus. I just wonder why my relationship with Jared went south. Why did he cheat on me like that? What did I do to cause him to hurt me so much? I don't want to repeat any mistakes I made, with you."
Marcus had fire in his eyes like I had never seen. I was a little frightened that I pushed too far.
"Tony, apparently I should have had this talk with you before this. It's time you saw Jared for the foul creature he really was to you. I just thank god he didn't completely destroy your self image. You need to hear this; I can only tell you this story from my perspective. There are some blanks you can fill in for yourself. I'm sure there are things you never told me. But understand, you did nothing to deserve what happened in that relationship. Nothing."
So Marcus started to tell me his side of the story from the beginning:
You met Jared that first weekend. He was this casual figure from the pride picnic. Then the night you and Brian broke up, you saw him again in the library. You called me later that night, pretty pleased with yourself because this hot stud had remembered you. At the time, I thought it was cute.
Then the nightmare that was Derek occurred. You pretty much kept a low profile for almost six months. I truly wish I had let you know my feelings then, but I didn't think you were ready yet for a serious relationship. You casually dated a couple of guys. It was all very low key and superficial. I figured you were still learning about yourself and what it meant to be gay.
Our friendship blossomed during that time. I was thrilled we were growing to be such great friends. I came so close numerous times to telling you how I truly felt about you. The timing just never seemed right. I was so afraid you would react badly to my feelings. I was so afraid to lose you.
You started the last semester in your master's program. For some reason, you visited the bookstore where Jared worked for his sister. He remembered you, and even asked you out for coffee. You came home that night and called me. You couldn't stop telling me how excited you were. I kept telling you to slow down. He was just another guy and not to get so excited.
You guys saw each other for a little over a month. After every date, I got more and more depressed. I was so worried I had waited too long to tell you how I felt. You were falling head over heels for this incredibly gorgeous man. I told myself to be happy for you, to try and share your excitement, but it hurt me every time you called.
At that point, I asked everyone I knew to find out more about this guy that was stealing you from me. The things I found out worried me deeply. Jared was a player according to everyone who knew him. At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking he found out how incredible you were and he was ready to settle down.
Finally, he asked you to move in with him. I convinced you to keep your own place. I was afraid Jared's reputation as a player was well earned. You could spend all the time you wanted at his place, but you needed some place to call your own. I'm pretty sure that was the moment he started trying to get me out of your life. Slowly, I heard less and less from you. The calls became less frequent. Things we used to share all the time, you didn't tell me about them anymore. I was beginning to get distraught.
The semester ended and you received your degree. I was so proud of you. I called Jared to help make plans for a celebration. He told me he would be the one to throw a party for you and that I should just butt out of your life. I was there to see you receive your degree, but wasn't invited to the celebration. I almost crashed the party, but if you were happy how could I do that to you. I hated for you to think I wasn't incredibly proud of you.
I was out with Scott at Noah's one night that summer. There was Jared grinding all over some twink I'd never seen before. I confronted him. If Scott hadn't come between us, I do believe we would have come to blows. Now I was lost. If I told you what was going on, would you believe me? Had Jared poisoned you when it came to me?
I didn't know what to do. You still called me every once in a while. I was left wanting so much more. I tried calling you, but if Jared was around you cut me off.
Believe it or not Scott was a rock for me during that time. He tried to get me to see other people. He dragged me out every chance he could get. I was the ultimate third wheel. Justin was getting antsy about how hard Scott was working to keep me occupied. Months went by; you were drifting further away from me. Still I knew I loved you with all my heart.
Jared threw a party, you invited me without asking. You also invited Jon. It was supposed to be a set-up for the two of us. The only reason Jared didn't freak out all over you, was that you kept insisting you wanted to set Jon and me up. Jon and I talked that night and agreed to have drinks. It appeased Jared for a while.
But I watched the two of you that night. He wasn't overtly abusive, but he was dismissive and overbearing. My heart was breaking. I couldn't figure out how to convince you the relationship was bad news. We rarely spoke, but when we did you seemed so down. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost.
Another night at Noah's, this time I was with Jon. Jon was so busy with school we didn't see each other very often. We witnessed Jared and another random stranger. I know he told you about it. You called and wanted to meet me.
Finally, we got the chance to spend some time together. You needed a shoulder and I was more than willing to listen. The wheels were starting to fall off the relationship. I listened for hours. I couldn't tell you everything I knew. I could only be there. I could only be the friend you needed, not the one I wanted to be.
Not long after that, you went home early and found him… He was fucking someone you didn't know. You showed up at my door as distraught as I had ever seen you. Again all I could be was your friend. I wished with all my heart I could have spared you that pain. I never wanted you to feel that hurt. I tried to comfort you without letting you know my feelings. You didn't need that extra burden.
At that point, Jon and I were casually dating, but my relationship with Jon was doomed the minute you found Jared in the act.
I went with you to get your stuff from Jared's place. If he had tried to stop you from leaving I would have exploded. As it was, he ignored both of us. His parting shot to me under his breath… "He will never be yours."
Marcus was on the verge of tears. He took a deep breath. "Jared is an asshole, a player, and never really loves anyone but himself. There is nothing you did or could have done to change what happened. I just thank god you weren't hurt more. You are so incredible that he kept his dick in his pants longer than he ever had before.
"Tony, I love you. I can't say it clearer, you are my whole world. You have made me happier than I ever thought possible, than I ever dreamed I could be. I need you to make me a promise right now.
"Promise me you will never waste another moment thinking you did anything wrong in that relationship. You are the most incredible man and Jared is the biggest idiot to have thrown that away. Please, Babe, promise me you understand."
I had tears streaming down my face. "I don't deserve you. Please forgive me. I have caused you so much pain. I had no idea how much. I really don't deserve you. I just hope you will love me long enough for me to try to make it up to you."
"Tony, I have said it before; there is nothing for you to make up to me. You're love is the greatest gift I have ever received. Please, can we just put Jared behind us where he belongs? Let's just move forward."
"I'm sorry. I promise to put Jared where he belongs… with the rest of the trash. I'm sorry."
"To get back to the beginning of this conversation, I would never ask you to hurt yourself to try to make me happy. If you decide you want to try anal sex, two things need to happen. You and I should be tested, and you need to clear it with your doctor.
"Actually, you and I should be tested any way. It allows us to be sure about making decisions in our play together. It's the smart thing to do."
"Can we get tested Monday?"
"Of course, we can set it up that morning. Now I need you to give me a kiss." He gave me a small smile. I kissed him and wrapped my arms around him; hoping he would understand that I knew what it took for him to tell that story. "I love you, Marcus. You are my world. Thank you for making me the happiest man alive."
"Babe, how about some breakfast, and then we need to figure out what kind of trouble we can get into today."