Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2016 by Parker Sheaffer
With the parents and both Catherine and Martha pushing him with increased pressure toward it, Clive finally succumbed and proposed marriage to Martha.
Lucas was overcome with sorrow, yet he knew that it was bound to happen sooner or later. That level of society was not unfamiliar with the love of the ancient Greeks, but men were expected to put these childish things behind them (an ironic phrase, as Clive once jested) and carry on the family name and honor.
Clive was just as distraught as Lucas and vowed that they would find a way to stay together, but Lucas pointed out that, while Martha might agree to let Clive's wards live in her house (which was unlikely), she would soon begin to question his unchanging appearance and the questions would start again.
Clive sat and put his arm around his lover. "What if we tell her the truth?" he offered. "What's the worst that could happen?"
Lucas shook his head and said, "I suppose that she could have me locked away in a mad house for making such a claim. You surely see that she isn't fond of Andy or me. I think she would do whatever it takes to keep you to herself. Besides, if that claim was to be made public it would be a serious embarrassment for your family and your business. I couldn't let that happen."
As the inevitable wedding drew near it was during one of their last precious evenings together that Lucas caught Clive staring at a mirror with a strange, stricken look.
"What's the matter, darling?" Lucas asked.
Clive glanced at him with an odd expression, part guilt, and part sadness.
"Nothing really, it's just that… well, look at me. My hair is turning gray and every day I seem to have a new wrinkle. Oh, Lucas. I'm growing old."
"And I'm not. That's what's really bothering you, isn't it?"
"I don't know. I just don't know. It's all so strange, Lucas."
"I'm going to turn into an old man and you'll still be a…"
"A boy. Do you think I don't think about it all the time? I'm scared, Clive. How long will this last? Will I have to watch the people I love fade away before my eyes, again and again? I'm afraid of always being alone, never being able to be really close to anyone."
"At least you will be alive."
"I know, but at what a price?"
Knowing that their time together was drawing to a close, neither could bear to see the other in pain.
They were not ready for their relationship to end so Clive offered a compromise solution. Lucas and Andy would move to Portland, Oregon, and maintain a house there. Clive would visit frequently to attend to the Welser's timber business, which was rapidly expanding, and this would give them a reasonable excuse to be together.
Martha, as predicted, was not unhappy to see the two young men go. She had felt the strength of Clive's love for Lucas and was jealous of it. She frequently tried to pry into Lucas' and Andy's past, as if trying to determine whether their family was the right sort of people and hinting that they might not be. Both Lucas and Andy were aware of her quiet animosity and that made their parting easier.
Finding a home in Portland was more difficult than they had anticipated, because there were many things to consider. Lucas did not want to be too public with their residency so a house apart from the main part of the city was preferable, yet it had to be a nice house, in keeping with Clive's status. They needed a maid and a cook, but those should be daily women who could be replaced every few years. Lucas had become accustomed to a bit of the posh life and wanted to maintain certain standards of luxury so the house should be generous with its rooms, and he wanted a safe neighborhood.
Finally settling on a nice Victorian on the edge of an upper class neighborhood, Andy and Lucas settled in to stay for a while. After a couple of months they both became bored with keeping to themselves and decided to explore the city. When Clive had brought them to Portland, the three took many tours while house searching. Now Lucas had decided to buy a horse and a very nice carriage so that they could travel without needing to wait for a commercial hackney. He hired the cook's son, a clever boy of sixteen, to act as a groom and tend to the animal. Since they had this new expense, Lucas thought that they should make regular use of it.
Portland was much different than San Francisco in several ways. Instead of an ocean there was, on one side of them, the Columbia River, flowing right through town, and there was also the smaller Willamette River on the other side. The city was mainly flat, which Lucas preferred to the steep hills of San Francisco. Portland's streets and avenues were perfectly straight and laid out in a grid, which made it much easier to find their way around.
One of the things that Lucas came to love was the roses that seemed to grow everywhere. Portland had a clay soil and a mild climate that made roses grow tall and strong, with large, fragrant blooms. They had become quite popular in certain parts of the city.
Andy was growing and Lucas brought in a private tutor for him. No one would have recognized the sturdy, handsome lad he was becoming as having been the ragged little urchin they had rescued a few short years earlier. Lucas was pleased to see that good food, clean accommodations and a loving parent could make such a difference. Lucas missed Clive terribly, but he and Andy thrived in each other's company. They spent many evenings in the library where Andy enjoyed adventure stories and Lucas immersed himself in the classics.
Finally, Andy complained a bit about not having any friends his own age to play with and he asked if he could attend school, like other boys. Lucas considered his request and decided it would be the best thing for him. There was a public school a few blocks away and on nice days Andy could walk to his classes. They could have decided on a boarding school, but neither wanted to live apart. On days when the weather was inclement, Lucas drove him to school. Andy often begged to take the reins, but Lucas was fearful of the horse getting out of control.
Andy made new friends and sometimes they would come to their home to visit. Lucas smiled at the sound of young voices ringing through his house. Most of the boys treated Lucas as another young boy, a bit older than them, but still a boy.
One day, Andy came home with a torn knee on his trousers and dirt on his face. Lucas was concerned and asked him about it. Andy laughed and said, "Robert Snodgrass, one of the older boys at school, decided to pick on me today. He has been trying to annoy me for a few weeks and he chose today to challenge me to fight after school."
"And what happened?" Lucas asked.
"It was a short fight. I left him sitting in the dirt, crying. He won't bother me anymore," Andy said with confidence.
They both shared a laugh.
Life was rather uneventful for them during their stay in Portland. They always looked forward to Clive's quarterly visits, while they lasted. One problem that they encountered when Clive was not there was the looks they received when they went out to a restaurant or to the theatre. Without an adult attending them, more than once they were refused seating at a restaurant and were told that they did not serve children. Lucas was forced to show them a wallet stuffed with currency, which usually garnered them a table and a bemused look from the Maître D'. Whispers from the other diners always accompanied them to their table causing the boys to feel uncomfortable, so increasingly they dined at home.
That region of the west was mountainous and despite the lumber industry, still very heavily forested. It reminded Lucas of his early home, back east. He and Andy explored those forests with some of the men from Clive's lumber yard. These men were experienced at roughing it in the wild and could easily protect the boys from any danger. Andy found that he loved to camp in a canvas tent, sleeping on a cot, and waking up to a breakfast of fried ham and eggs and biscuits. Those aromas in the cold morning mist always got him out of his tent. At night, they sat around a fire and listened to the men tell stories about their adventures with giant trees, ferocious bears and mountain lions, and hostile Indians.
Andy wished that he could see a bear, and he got that wish one afternoon when he and Lucas were heading back to camp after a short hike. They turned a bend in the trail and came right up against a monster, an enormous Grizzly bear. It reared up on its hind legs and roared at them in a most menacing way. For a moment, Lucas froze as he remembered another bear, so many years ago, that had frightened him badly. This creature was more than twice as large as that black bear had been and was twice as ferocious. He quickly recovered from his shock and grabbed Andy, pulling him back and shielding him.
Fortunately for them, two of the men were close behind them. They always went armed into the forest and so were able to fire off a few shots to frighten the beast away before it could harm anyone. It took Andy a few minutes to stop shaking with fright. He stood and stared at the spot where the bear had dashed off the trail.
"Be careful what you wish for," advised Lucas.
Afterwards Andy asked why they had not killed the bear. The man said, "There was no need. He was just surprised by you and reacted as a bear would. I don't kill unless I have to."
With Lucas and Andy gone, Clive married Martha Pritchard and there was a big party. Clive's family came back for the celebration but Lucas and Andy remained in Oregon. They had received no invitation, and indeed would not have attended if asked, but they read of the event in the newspapers and were happy for Clive. They knew that he needed to live his life and that he still loved them.
During all of this time, Andy had never said anything to Lucas about looking so unchanged, even after several years had passed. Lucas thought that perhaps he simply had not noticed, but Andy was an intelligent and observant boy, and he knew that some things just did not matter. As far as he was concerned, it was perfectly natural for his young father to look like a boy. Lucas was content to wait for Andy to ask about it before initiating a conversation.
Less than two years later, Clive sent a telegram to announce that he had become a father. Lucas felt a pang of jealousy and annoyance at first, but when Clive next arrived Lucas was so happy to see him that those feeling were forgotten.
As they sat down to dinner that evening, Clive said, "I don't mind telling you, Lucas, that I was terrified of having marital relations with Martha. I was horribly upset because I didn't want to do that with a woman and I especially didn't want to do it with anyone other than you. Will you believe me that I have never been with anyone else, man or woman, since I met you? Taking a wife was, as you remember, unavoidable, and equally unavoidable was the act of consummation. Fortunately, Martha was completely inexperienced so she couldn't know if I was performing poorly or not. I closed my eyes and prayed and tried to think of you as I … well, managed to get through the first time. I won't say it became any easier and I will never say that I enjoy it, but oh my Lord, Lucas, I'm a father now. That takes my breath away. Claire is a beautiful little girl. She looks just like me. It's a special feeling, being a father. I had no idea how wonderful it can make one feel."
"Clive, I am so happy for you. I've never wanted anything for you except happiness. You'll be a wonderful father to little Claire. She's very lucky," Lucas said graciously.
"This doesn't mean that I don't love you, Lucas. We will still have our time together."
Lucas shook his head and said, "Oh, Clive. I'm not so sure that's a good idea. You forget that I'm older than you, a lot older, and I've seen enough of the world to know that you can't remain split between two loves and still be happy. Soon your unhappiness would spread to your family, and I would never want that. No, I love you, dear one, but it's time to part. Other people need you now."
Clive was distraught at being torn between his two loves. Lucas knew that he would recover from his grief and be a better father by not having to share his heart, so Lucas began to plan for his departure from Clive. He, at least, did not have to worry about money because Clive had invested him wisely in many profitable businesses and would continue to oversee those investments for him.
That was the last visit Clive made to Portland, but he continued to write.
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