Castle Roland

Shadow of a Soul

by MultiMapper

In Progress

Chapter 3

Posted: 14 May 15

The Shadow of a Soul

By MultiMapper
Copyright © 2002-2012 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

To Live in Dreams

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Enoch said formally.

"Yeah. It's nice to meet you too. And you've got the coolest accent." I said with a smile. I don't even know how to describe it except to say that he sounded 'proper'.

"Thank you. I enjoy the sound of your accent as well." Enoch said and bowed to me in a very gentlemanly manner.

"Wow. You have the greenest eyes I've ever seen, they're like... jade." I said in thought, trying to think of another way to describe the unusual creamy green color of his eyes.

"Some have said that they are a sign of evil. A mark of the devil within me." Enoch said quietly.

"Yeah, people like that usually have more devil in them than anyone they point their fingers at." I said without thinking.

Enoch's eyes went wide at the statement, then he broke into a grin. Oh my God! It was the most perfect smile ever created.

I was so captivated by his chestnut brown hair, green eyes and perfect smile that I was just standing there, staring at him, until he finally spoke.

"I must warn you, what we are doing causes fatigue. We must be brief." Enoch said as he became serious.

I shook myself out of my stupor, then asked, "What are we doing?"

"We are not really here. You are in bed dreaming this right now." Enoch said seriously.

"Where are you?" I asked cautiously.

"In the bed, beside you." He said with a smile.

"Sounds good so far." I said as my smile joined his.

"My creating this dream place for us and you being here will make us both tired. Time does not move the same when we do this so we must be brief." Enoch said firmly.

"Okay. Be quick. Got it." I said seriously.

"This is how I see the bedroom." Enoch said as he gestured to the blackness around him.

"I don't see anything." I said carefully.

"Some things, the beloved things, retain a glow. To see other things I must use my own illumination." Enoch said as he walked across the room and seemed to look for something.

"Here. Look at this." He said and pointed to something before him.

I walked to his side and looked at what he wanted me to see.

"It's one of your soldiers." I said as I looked at it carefully.

"Can you see the others?" He asked as he took a step away.

Without his light to distract me I could see the other soldiers, each with it's own faint light.

"That's really cool. You said that beloved things have their own light, so I'm guessing that you carved these and that's why they glow like this?" I said curiously.

"No. They were a gift that was made just for me. They are perhaps my most cherished possessions." He said softly.

"They're really beautiful. I was extra careful while I was cleaning them." I said as I watched his eyes carefully to see if I'd upset him by touching his things.

He smiled and said, "I was watching you. At first I was afraid that you were going to pack them away and take them from me, but then you put them back... even in the proper order."

"I tried to be careful. They're really beautiful." I said quietly.

"Most people see only toys." He said as he looked at the soldiers again.

I tried to pick up one of the soldiers but my hand just passed through.

"It takes much practice and effort to move a thing in your world. I have mastered the skill to some degree over time but it is still difficult."

Feeling that there needed to be a change in subject, I quietly said, "In that first thing I read in your book you said something about others. Are there other people here?"

"No. They left many years ago... at least I think it has been years. Without day or night, heat or cold, there isn't a way to mark the passage of time in this place." He said distantly.

"So you can't see sunlight?" I asked in wonder.

"No. Only the light of the spirit can be seen in this place... well in the place where I really am. This is just a dream." He corrected quietly.

"What happened to the others? Where did they go?" I asked, feeling that he might be purposely evading the question.

"They faded." He whispered.

"Faded? Like, stopped being?" I asked with concern.

"I assume so. I do not know where you go when you fade or enter the holy light. I only know that I am not welcomed in either place." Enoch said with regret.

"What do you mean?" I asked carefully.

"I have encountered the holy light several times. When it comes to retrieve a departed soul I have tried to enter, but when it left, I was still here." Enoch said in a quivering voice.

"Come here." I said and opened my arms to him.

"We haven't much time." He said in warning.

"We have time for this." I said, then pulled him into a firm hug.

After a long minute of hugging, I hesitantly asked, "Are you going to fade someday?"

"No. The spirits of the dead will either ascend with the light or fade into nothingness. But I am not dead. I traveled to this place incarnate." Enoch said as he pulled back to look in my eyes.

"In what?" I asked slowly.

"In the flesh. That means that my body traveled to this spiritual realm." Enoch said quietly.

"I remember you said that those 'others' were telling you secrets and stuff, trying to talk you into coming here. What was that all about?" I asked cautiously.

Enoch held me tighter as he quietly said, "They told me lies. They believed that if I walked through the crack between the worlds, they would be able to overpower me and take my body back through the doorway. They intended to leave my spirit here to fade away."

"So what happened? Why didn't it work?" I asked cautiously.

"They couldn't effect my physical body in this... that spiritual place. They had no substance, therefore they could not compel me to do anything." Enoch said seriously.

"Then why are you stuck?" I asked quietly.

"I cannot be sure. I was able to enter because I was pushing and they were pulling from the other side. When I tried to return, my body could not reenter the passage. Soon after that, the crack between the worlds closed." He said quietly.

"Closed, like forever?" I asked, afraid of the answer.

"No. Not forever. It opens on occasion, but there is no point. I cannot pass through." He said sadly.

"What if you had someone on this side pulling?" I asked quietly.

He stopped, and seemed to be thinking about it.

"You said that it worked that way before. You were pushing and they were pulling. When it opens again, I could pull you through." I said with a smile.

"We could but try. There would be no harm if it did not work." Enoch said distantly.

"How long do you think it will be before it opens?" I asked with concern.

"There is no way to know when it will open, but when it does, it will take time for it to open fully. We will have time to prepare." Enoch said in a considering voice.

"I'm confused about something. In your letter you said that you arrived to find a... um, what did you call it? A shanty in this wasteland? This doesn't look like a shanty to me." I said in confusion.

"Oh. This isn't my father's property. When my father passed away from excessive drink, Marshall James offered to buy my fathers land and took me into his home. He was very kind to me." Enoch said quietly.

"I don't know who Marshall James was but my grandfather's last name is James." I said quickly.

"We must end this dream. Otherwise you will not be rested in the morning." Enoch said with regret.

"Will you answer one more question for me?" I said quickly.

"If I can." Enoch said as he looked deeply into my eyes.

"When I first got here, I couldn't see you at all. I wasn't sure if you were really here. But then I could sort of feel where you were in the room." I said, not really knowing how to ask what I wanted to know.

"I'm not sure if you are learning to listen or if we are becoming accustomed to each other's presence. But I believe that the longer we are together, the better you will be able to sense my presence." He said quietly.

"Have you ever done that with someone else?" I asked curiously.

"Only with those who lured me to this place. We must end this now." He finished seriously.

"Would you mind if I kissed you?" I asked timidly.

He gave me another one of those full smiles, then said, "I can think of nothing that would please me more."

I smiled, then moved in to give him the most mind blowing kiss that I could manage.

I don't have a lot of experience at kissing, but I'm hoping that my enthusiasm made up for the difference.

When I pulled back from the kiss, I looked into his eyes to see a dreamy sense of wonder.

"In this time... what year is it now?" Enoch asked absently.

"2007." I said in a whisper.

His eyes went wide with shock.

"That's right. It's been one hundred and ten years since you arrived in Texas." I said as I pulled him into another hug.

"Now, in 2007, are two men allowed to..." Enoch trailed off, not knowing how to explain what he wanted to know.

"Show their love?" I asked gently.

He nodded hopefully.

"Not as much as I'd like, but I think most people are okay with it." I said quietly.

"If I don't stop this now, I may never want to stop." Enoch said with regret from my arms.

"I know what you mean. My life is sucking pretty bad right now. I love being here with you and I don't want to wake up and find out that this was just a dream." I said as I held him close to me.

"But it is a dream. Our bodies are laying side by side. One in the physical world and the other in the spiritual world." Enoch said distantly.

"If I have to leave this dream, I want to do it while I'm kissing you." I said, then moved in for another kiss.

I opened my eyes slowly and looked over at the window where the morning light was sparkling in.

After a moment of just relaxing and enjoying the morning light, I turned in my bed and smiled as I faced the insubstantial presence beside me.

"Good morning Enoch." I whispered in my raspy morning voice.

I felt a wisp of a tingle cross my cheek as I imagined his hand caressing me in a tender gesture of caring.

"I can almost see you." I said as I noticed that his presence was more definite.

"I have to get up and get dressed. Will you give me a kiss to start the day?" I asked as I brought my hand to the side of his face.

Enoch's insubstantial presence moved and I turned my head slightly to make it easier for him.

I felt the tingle of contact between our lips, then I felt the sensation begin to change.

The kiss became definite and assertive as it became more and more real.

I focused all my thought and will into the kiss, somehow willing my own strength and concentration into Enoch so he could make the kiss as real as possible.

The silence of the big old house, the bright sunlight flooding the room and the sensations of Enoch's kissing were the most perfect sensations that I could imagine.

When the kiss had finally finished, I whispered, "When the crack between the worlds opens again, we're going to be together. I promise."

I felt the tingle of contact spread all down my side as Enoch settled in to rest his head on my shoulder and lay beside me.

"I lov..." I began to say, but then pulled it back.

Too soon. It's too soon for those words.

I brought up my arm and held it so I was holding Enoch in my best imitation of a loose hug.

"I wish I could stay here with you all day, but I have stuff that I have to do." I said with regret.

Enoch's presence moved, then I felt the gentle tingle of a kiss before he withdrew from beside me.

I reluctantly got up off the bed so I could dress and prepare for my day.

I walked into the kitchen and smiled at the scent of freshly cooked bacon in the air.

"Good morning sleepy head. Did you have a good sleep?" Mom asked as she poured a glass of orange juice.

"Yeah. I slept great." I said with a dreamy smile.

"So Mark, did you find a room that you like?" Grandpa asked, then took a sip from a cup of coffee.

"Yeah." I said, not wanting to get into detail just yet.

"Thanks for bringing the stuff in from the car. I woke up early so it's all put away." Mom said cheerfully, then sat a plate of eggs, bacon and toast in front of me.

"Sure, thanks. This looks good." I said with a smile.

I couldn't remember the last time she'd made me breakfast and it really did look good.

"I need to go shopping this morning, do you want to come with me?" Mom asked casually as she put a glass of orange juice by my plate.

"Yeah..." I said, then thought of something.

"Is there a dry cleaners anywhere near the store?" I asked before taking a large bite of eggs.

"If y'all are going to Wal*Mart there's a cleaners right across the street." Grandpa said in thought.

"What do you have that needs dry cleaning?" Mom asked as she took a seat at the table.

"I found some old clothes that are my size and thought I'd get them cleaned so I could wear them. That's okay isn't it?" I asked and turned my attention from my plate to mom to await her answer.

"All the rooms have been cleaned out for years. Did you go into the attic?" Grandpa asked curiously.

"No." I said shyly, then reluctantly continued, "I went into the locked room."

"That room's haunted. You can't stay in there." Grandpa said in a flustered voice.

"I really like the room and nothing bad's happened." I said imploringly.

"Mark, you've got to listen to me about this. No one can stay in there. Something evil haunts that room. Your grandmother went in there to try and clear the room out and something attacked her. I saw the bruises. You're in danger if you stay in there!" Grandpa said in an increasing voice.

"I slept in there last night and I didn't have any problem at all. Maybe whatever attacked grandma is gone." I said in an urging voice, hoping I could get grandpa to go along with me.

After a shake of his head, grandpa finally said, "If you see anything strange at all... Anything, I want you to call me and we'll move you to another part of the house." Grandpa said firmly.

"I got it grandpa. I'll let you know if there's any problem." I said with a small smile.

"So why do you want to dry clean the clothes?" Mom asked curiously.

"Because they're awesome. As soon as they're clean I want to start wearing them." I said with a smile at her.

"Why?" Mom asked hesitantly.

"Just wait till you see them. I think you'll like them too." I said, then turned my attention back to what was left of my food, trying to ignore mom's curious glare at me.

"So, are you two set up for the day?" Grandpa asked, breaking the intense mood.

Mom snapped out of it, then turned her attention to grandpa and said, "Yeah. Thanks for bringing the food this morning. It was nice to have a real breakfast."

"Yeah, thanks grandpa. Breakfast was great." I added. I really appreciated the wonderful meal.

"That's fine. Just make sure to save your appetite for lunch. Your grandma is going to want to make a big meal to welcome y'all home." Grandpa said with a smile at me.

"Okay. I'll remember." I said, then used my last little piece of toast to wipe up the egg yolk from my plate.

"We'll be there Dad. I've just got to go shopping and then I've got a few calls to make. We should have plenty of time." Mom said as she stood and took my empty plate away.

"Do you need to stop by our place and use the phone before you head into town?" Grandpa asked as he watched mom at the sink.

"No. I checked my cell phone this morning and I'm getting a decent signal. I can use it to get the phone turned on and the electric put in my name." Mom said as she quickly washed my plate, then rinsed it under the tap.

"Well, I'd best be going to tend to the animals so I'll be able to spend some time with y'all later." Grandpa said as he slowly stood.

"If you need any help taking care of the animals, I'm sure Mark wouldn't mind helping you." Mom said quickly.

{Thanks Mom.} I thought sarcastically, then turned to grandpa and said, "Yeah, but you'll have to show me what to do."

"We'll just have to see if anything's left to do by the time y'all get to the house." Grandpa said as he held the back of the chair that he had been sitting in.

"We should be there by noon." Mom said as she dried her hands on the dish towel.

"I'd better get started if I'm ever going to get finished. Oh, remember to close up the house tight when you leave. From the looks of it, we're likely to have a dust storm this afternoon." Grandpa said as he started to walk for the kitchen door.

I glanced at mom, then turned to grandpa and hesitantly asked, "Dust storm?"

"You'll just have to wait and see it for yourself. There's really no way to describe it." Mom said as she walked to my side.

"Mark. You're getting to see a different side of nature. Try to see the beauty, even though it's not what you're used to." Grandpa said seriously.

"I'll try grandpa." I said quietly.

"Are you ready to go?" Mom asked as she wiped down the kitchen table.

"I just need to get my dry cleaning." I said and hurried out of the room.

I went to the room beside mine and picked out about six or seven things that I wanted to get done first. I could do more the next time we went into town.

After folding everything neatly and making a nice little stack of it, I hurried into my room and looked around for Enoch.

I found his invisible presence still laying on the bed.

I sat the bundle of clothes on the desk, then smiled as I said, "It must be nice to be able to lay in bed all morning. In fact, I think I'd like to do that with you one of these days."

A feeling of delight came from the bed and I could tell that he liked the idea as much as I did.

"I just wanted to tell you that we're going into town to get some groceries and stuff. I'm taking some of your clothes to get them cleaned." I said quickly.

I felt curiosity coming from him and wasn't sure what he wanted to know.

Finally I responded, "We're going to come back here to put away the groceries and I'll see you for a little bit then, but we'll be going to lunch at grandpa's house after that so I'll be leaving again."

I felt a slight wave of sadness and longing coming from him when I said that.

"I know. I want to be here with you too. But I have to go meet my grandma. I promise that I'll be back as soon as I can." I said with regret at having to leave him at all.

Enoch stood before me and I could feel his presence more strongly than ever before. I could almost see him.

"MARK! Let's go!" Mom called from the foot of the stairs.

"One quick kiss, then I've got to go." I whispered, then moved in to give Enoch the best kiss that I could.

It was quick, but nice. I know he must have to concentrate a lot to make the kisses feel as 'real' as they do, but it's absolutely worth it.

"I'll be back soon." I said as soon as the kiss broke.

"MARK!" Mom screeched.

"Maybe I could stay here and you could go with her." I said reluctantly.

I could feel Enoch's humor as he walked beside me to the bedroom door.

"I'll hurry back." I said with regret at leaving him, then picked up the bundle of clothes from the desk and hurried out the door.

"So you opened the locked room?" Mom said in a low voice as she drove us away from the house.

"Yeah." I said, knowing I was about to get a 'Mom lecture'.

"You must have realized that it was locked for a reason. Why did you open it?" Mom asked in a leading tone. I could feel it, she was revving up, getting ready to let loose on me.

"I don't know. I guess I just wanted to see what was in there." I said quietly.

"I know with all the chaos of the past few months that you might feel sort of, adrift. I suppose it's natural to act out..." Mom started to say.

"But I'm not..." I interrupted.

"Shhh. Let me finish. Like I was saying, it's natural for you to want attention. But I'm trying to start a new life here and I really need your help. This isn't going to work if I have to worry about you getting into trouble every time I turn my back for a minute. I'm going to have to try to get a job and get us on our feet." Mom said in an imploring tone.

"I didn't do anything wrong. If I'd opened that door and found out that it was someone's bedroom I would have locked it back up and left it alone. But it was an old room that no one has been in for years. I didn't pick that room to get your attention. I didn't think you'd care one way or the other. You keep saying that you want me to be happy here. Well, I like my room. It makes me happy." I said, trying to keep the anger out of my voice.

"Fair enough. But for future reference, ask before you open anymore locked doors." Mom said seriously.

"So this isn't our home?" I asked in a challenging voice.

"How do you mean?" Mom asked curiously.

"If I'm not allowed to walk around the place and check it out then it's like I'm a guest in someone else's house. I guess I'm not allowed to put nail holes in the walls or paint either." I said seriously.

There was a moment of silence that concerned me.

"I don't know yet Mark." Mom said quietly.

My concern grew at her response.

"The future is too uncertain right now for me to be able to promise that we'll be staying here." Mom said in a reflective tone.

I felt a cold, numb shock wash over me, then hesitantly asked, "Where else would we go?"

"I really don't know yet. I've contacted quite a few people to let them know that I'm looking for a job. We might have to move to Dallas or Austin if I end up getting a job in one of those places." Mom said reluctantly.

"Why didn't you tell me that before?" I asked as my mind raced.

"Because I'm doing my best to face each new thing as I come to it." Mom said quietly.

"Are we ever going to have a home again?" I asked in a lost tone.

"I just don't know. It may take a few years of apartment living before we can afford a place, and even then... some of these jobs may require me to move around a lot." Mom said as she gazed at the open road before her.

{By the time she gets us settled, I'll be old enough to go out on my own and make my own life.} I thought as I stared at the horizon.

The sound of mom's cell phone ringing broke the introspective silence that had fallen between us.

"Would you get that?" Mom asked in a distracted voice.

I reached into mom's purse and began to dig through the collection of crap that she carries everywhere with her to try to find her cell phone.

After a few seconds, I finally found it and quickly accepted the call then said, "Hello?"

"Hi Mark. Did you two get there alright?" I heard my Dad ask in a gentle voice.

"Yeah Dad. We got here around noon yesterday." I said with a smile.

"Good. How are you doing?" Dad asked and sounded genuinely concerned.

"I'm good. I'm still getting used to this place. It's kind of like being on another planet." I said honestly.

Dad chuckled, then said, "That's the way I felt the first time I visited. But once you get used to it you'll figure out that it's not really that different."

"We'll see. There's supposed to be something called a 'dust storm' today." I said frankly.

"Just stay inside and remember to carry a handkerchief with you." Dad said, and I could hear a fond smile in his voice.

"Okay. I'll do that." I said gently.

"Is your mom where I can talk to her?" Dad asked hesitantly.

"She's driving right now. You know how mom is about driving and talking on the cell phone." I said seriously.

"Yes, and that's very smart of her. Would you just tell her that everything is set up to transfer the money as soon as she has the accounts set up?" Dad asked in a professional voice.

"Sure, hang on." I said, then turned to mom and said, "Dad says that the money is ready to transfer as soon as the accounts are set up."

"Will you tell him that I'll be ready in about an hour? Oh, and ask him where I should call him back." Mom said in concentration.

I nodded and started to say, "Mom said..."

"I heard. Tell her to call my cell. I'm on call, so I may not be at the house when she's ready." Dad said seriously.

"He said that he's on call so call him on the cell." I said as I looked at mom.

"Okay. The bank I want is a block or two from the store so I'll drop you off and get right to it." Mom said in thought.

"Did you get that?" I asked into the phone.

"Got it. I'm going to let you go now. I have a few things to take care of before I move into my apartment." Dad said in a thoughtful tone.

"I'm glad I got to talk to you. It's really good to hear your voice." I said with a smile. I never really talked to Dad too much while we were all living in the same house, but for some reason it made me feel better to talk to him now.

"I'm glad too Mark. Remember that I'm just a phone call away if you ever need me for anything." Dad said, and it sounded like he was getting a little choked up.

"Okay. I'll remember." I said quietly, not quite sure how to deal with this emotional side of my father's personality.

"Who knows? Maybe you'll find yourself a nice cowboy down there and settle down." Dad said in a teasing voice.

"Wha... What?" I asked in a squeak.

In the year since I'd come out to my father during his 'The Birds and the Bees' talk with me, he'd never once brought up the subject of me being gay.

"You just have to promise me that if you find someone and it looks like it's getting serious that I get to meet him. Call me and I'll get plane tickets for both of you. Got it?" Dad asked, sounding choked up again.

"I... Um... Yeah, got it." I said in a voice of complete shock.

"I love you Mark. Don't ever forget that." Dad said quietly.

"I love you too Dad." I said in wonder at the surreal scene that I seemed to be playing out.

"Take good care of your mom. She's not as strong as she likes to act." Dad said in a concerned voice.

"I will. I promise." I said, still in a stupor.

"I love you. Goodbye." Dad said reluctantly.

"I love you too. Bye." I said absently, then hung up the phone.

"Are you alright?" Mom asked with concern from beside me.

"Yeah. Why?" I asked as I finally began to come out of my shock.

"You're crying." She said as she glanced at me.

"Oh, I, um... Yeah, I'm fine. Are we almost there?" I asked in a flustered voice.

"We're just a couple minutes away. I'll drop you off at the cleaners and you can walk across the street to the store if that's alright. I really need to get this stuff at the bank taken care of." Mom said in a voice of concentration.

"Yeah. That's fine." I said with distraction.

She pulled the car into the parking lot of a strip mall and stopped right in front of a dry cleaners.

"While you're in the store, look around for anything you might need for your room and you might want to pick up some light weight clothes and maybe some extra gym shorts for around the house." Mom said as she turned her full attention to me.

"Got it." I said as I put my hand on the door handle.

"Do you have some money with you in case you need a drink or something? I can't be sure how long this will take." Mom said as she looked at me with concern.

"Yeah. I'll be fine. Just let me get my dry cleaning out of the back seat so you can get started." I said and opened my car door.

I quickly pulled the bundle of clothes out of the back seat, then shut the car door with my knee.

I stepped back and watched as she drove away.

After a moment to get my emotions back under control, I turned to carry my bundle into the dry cleaners.

After my stop at the dry cleaners, I crossed the street and went to the Wal*Mart Supercenter.

You know how they say that everything is bigger in Texas. It's true.

The street that I crossed was like a highway. The parking lot was like it was for a mall and the store was nothing less than huge.

I went in and walked around the clothing department, picking out the things that I needed.

Once I had the things mom had mentioned, I grabbed a pack of red bandana handkerchiefs and started looking at some nice clothes to go with what I had at the dry cleaner's.

"Mark Taylor, please meet your party at register one. Mark Taylor, please meet your party at register one." Sounded over the store's intercom.

I carried my armload of clothes toward the front of the store as I wondered why she didn't just come and get me.

By the time I got to the front of the store, I understood.

This place was so huge that she'd probably have to look for half an hour to find me.

"I'm here Mom." I said as I carried my stack of clothes to join her by the register.

Mom took the clothes from me then started to look at each thing with an appraising eye.

When she got to a button up white shirt, she stopped and looked at me curiously.

"What?" I asked defensively.

"Getting you into a button up shirt was like trying to bathe a cat. Now you're picking them out for yourself?" Mom said curiously.

"Maybe I'm growing up?" I said hesitantly.

"Well, at least you picked out some cool clothes too. I need to do the shopping, so if you want to look at movies or games while I'm getting our food, just be where I can find you." Mom said seriously as she put my stack of clothes in the child carrier part of the shopping basket.

"That's okay. Besides, you'll probably need two carts since we don't have much of anything in the house to start with." I said honestly.

Mom looked at me with surprise, then said, "You're not acting like yourself. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Growing up. Really. Just go with it." I said as I looked her in the eyes.

"I'm not going to complain if it means you're going to help me shop. Go on and grab another cart." She finished with a smile.

"I need to stop by the cleaner's again." I said as Mom started to drive us out of the parking lot.

"What for?" Mom asked curiously as she changed direction so we could go to the cleaner's.

"I just had them do a one hour job on one of the things so I could have it for today." I said reluctantly.

Mom seemed to be considering my answer as she pulled us into the strip mall parking lot.

After we'd been on the road for a few minutes, Mom hesitantly asked, "Mark, did your father say something to upset you?"

I snapped out of my thoughts of Enoch and quietly said, "Not really. He just said that if I meet a nice cowboy and it looks like it's getting serious that he wants to meet him."

"I'm sure he wasn't making fun of you. I know your father isn't the most expressive man around, but he tries really hard to be understanding." Mom said gently.

"No. I know he was serious. I guess it's just weird because... I guess I kind of felt like me being gay was part of what made you guys get divorced." I finished in nearly a mumble.

"Not even close." Mom said firmly.

I looked at Mom with question.

"We got divorced because we're two very different people who are growing in opposite directions. I still care about your father very much but I couldn't continue fighting to keep a marriage going all by myself." Mom said introspectively.

"I don't understand." I said hesitantly.

"It's been heading this way for a few years now. Your dad has been devoting more and more of his time to his job and I've been trying to keep the marriage going all by myself. One day I woke up and realized that there wasn't anything left to keep going." She said distantly.

"So dad wasn't staying away from the house so he wouldn't have to be around me?" I asked cautiously.

"No honey. He was staying out working. He isn't a bad man, but he isn't the loving, carefree man that I married either. He's very good at his job and helps a lot of people. I'm very proud of him for that." Mom said in thought.

"But why can't he just forget about all that stuff when he's off work and have a life?" I asked curiously.

"He did that until he was promoted to detective. Then the job became too big for him to leave at work. He's just not able to turn off what he's thinking and feeling when he goes home at the end of the day. He's not wired that way." Mom said with regret sounding in her voice.

"So his work is more important to him than we are?" I asked speculatively.

"No honey. His job is very important to him but there's more to it than that. I've been watching as your father has become more and more distant. You're growing up and you don't need me to be around as much as you used to. I have a college degree that I've never used and I think it's time that I started to make my own way in the world. I need to have something that's my own to care about and make a contribution." Mom said as her voice became more passionate.

{So she wants to get a job that she can get lost in, just like Dad.} I thought to myself as I looked off into the distance.

"I know it seems unfair to push all this on you, but it won't be very long before you're going to be off on your own with your own life." Mom said as she tried to justify her decision either to me or to herself.

Silence fell between us as I continued to think about what all this might mean for me and Enoch.

"Here it is." Mom said as she turned onto the dirt road.

Relief flooded over me at the sight of the road that led to Enoch and my home.

"Mark, things will settle down eventually and you'll be able to have a normal life again. I promise." Mom said seriously.

Normal? I wonder what that's going to be like. Is normal going to be me sitting around wondering if she's going to dump me like she did Dad when I get in the way of her 'new life'? Is normal going to be watching her make Dad's mistakes and become so lost in her work that she doesn't remember that I'm around? Maybe normal is me becoming as screwed up as them and becoming a workaholic zombie? Fuck normal! I NEED ENOCH!

"If you'll stack the things in the kitchen, I'll put them away." Mom said as she brought the car to a stop.

I nodded absently as I got out of the car, then pulled a load of Wal*Mart bags out of the back seat.

"Enoch. Oh God. I've missed you." I said as I hurried into the room.

I felt his concern ignite like a flare and realized that I should have tried to be a little more controlled.

I dropped my bags of clothes on the desk and carefully draped the dry cleaned waistcoat over the back of the desk chair. Then I walked to the side of the bed where I could sense that Enoch was standing.

"I need a hug right now. Worse than I've ever needed one in my life." I said as I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

I felt his hand tingling on my arm, but didn't know what he wanted me to do.

After a moment, he moved away from me and laid down on the bed.

Finally I understood and laid down beside him.

I felt the tingling sensation of his touch on my eyelids.

I smiled as I finally realized what he wanted me to do.

I closed my eyes and tried to relax into a dream state.

A moment later I found myself standing in the same darkness as the night before.

"What is wrong?" Enoch asked with concern as he approached.

"I... My mom. She's talking about moving us away from here." I said as I hugged him desperately.

There was a long moment of silence, then Enoch quietly asked, "Has she said when?"

"No. She doesn't know. But when she gets a job, she's going to move us so we can be close to her work... I'll have to leave." I said as I felt tears starting to fall down my cheeks.

"I... I don't want you to leave." Enoch said in a whisper.

I pulled back to look in his eyes and saw that he was also crying.

"I can't let it happen. I can't." I said, then pulled him back into the hug.

"Some things are outside our control." Enoch said with resignation as he held me tightly.

"And some things aren't. I've got to make sure that I can stay here with you. I've got to." I said, then pulled him into a deep firm kiss born more of desperation than passion.

After a long moment of kissing, I reluctantly pulled away to look him in the eyes.

"Remember that the passage of time is different here." Enoch said with regret.

"I know. I have to go to grandpa's house for lunch. But I'll be back just as soon as I can. I promise." I said as I looked him in the eyes.

"I will be waiting." Enoch said in a loving whisper.

I smiled, then moved in to give him another kiss.

I felt the dream sensation leave me and suddenly I was in my bed with Enoch's presence beside me.

"Are you about ready to go Mark? Your grandparents are expecting us." Mom called from the bottom of the stairs.

I stood, then noticed the waistcoat draped over the chair.

"I'll be down in just a minute. I'm changing." I called out, then pulled my T-shirt off over my head.

To Be Continued...

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