Castle Roland

A Special Place

by Sequoyah


Chapter 18

Posted: N/A

A Special Place--Part Eighteen--Luke

I knew I was sound asleep, but I also knew that Matt was near. It was the same feeling I had when I was unconscious in the hospital. I became frightened, fearing it had all been a dream and I was still unconscious, facing death, in the hospital. But I felt Matt's presence and that was all I needed to drive fear away. I slowly became conscious and opened my eyes. As I did, I looked up into the smiling face of my Sarang Hanun Pomul, my Beloved Treasure. As I returned his smile, I loosened his hair and allowed it to cover my face, enveloping me in the fragrance of my Matt.

"Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, my Soulmate," he said as his black almond eyes smiled into mine.

"Sarang Hanun Pomul, I want to wake up every day for the rest of my life and see your smile greeting me," I said.

"That is my dream, Bright Angel," Matt replied as his lips almost touched mine. As he bent forward, I could see where his utter abandon last night had left dried blood on his swollen lips.

"Matt, you have to promise me you will not kiss me again until your lips are healed. You are constantly opening the cut and that cannot be good."

"I promise, Luke, but last night I had just had more than I could take. I had a horrible nightmare as a result I suspect. I dreamed I had forced myself on you and I awoke crying my eyes out. I was ashamed and frightened. I was afraid you would wake up and I would have to tell you why I was crying. I was so ashamed, so ashamed, Luke."

"Babe, it was only a dream. You may make mad passionate love to me, but Babe, you'll never have to worry about forcing yourself on me!" I smiled.

"Luke, I don't know how I can love you more each day when each day I think I love you more than any human has ever loved another, but I do. I waked up and saw you sleeping beside me and I almost wept for joy. You were so beautiful, so wonderfully beautiful lying there asleep. I wanted just to stay here all day and watch you sleep."

"Don't think that could happen, Matt. In fact, I need out of bed right now!" I laughed. Both of us made the sprint across the hall, then laughed when we had trouble getting any action going because of our morning woodies. When we finally were able to take care of that morning ritual, we brushed our teeth, crawled into our sweats and hit the road. We now tried to run at least five miles each morning when we had a chance to run. Our schedule, which cut back on workouts at school, had made us more concerned with keeping up our running. Now Mary Kathryn joined us for a run, but she usually did not run as far. Michael, I noticed, tended to shorten his run to something just beyond hers, turn back and race her to his place. She usually won.

When Matt and I got back to David's place, Mary Kathryn and Michael were doing cool-down stretches. All of us did stretches and ran in place while we talked. "Michael, Matt and I think it would be a good idea to pool our equipment so we could do workouts at home since getting around to it at school seems pretty difficult these days."

"Sounds super to me," he responded, "that way I can make sure you get your lazy asses sweating on a regular basis. Where do we put the stuff?"

"There's an unused storage building at our place," Matt said. "It's large, clean and airy. There's even water outside if you can take a cold shower."

"Babe, with you around, I'll need a cold shower!" I laughed.

"Well, let's plan to get that done this weekend. Michael, Mary Kathryn, Luke and I have to see Ms. Jones and maybe Ms. Norman today about the college situation so we'll be around until the end of the school day. Would you two like to ride to school with us?"

"IF you will keep your eyes on the road and your mind on driving sure, but if brother mine keeps distracting you and gets us killed, I'll really kill you!"

"Sister mine, you are such a charming, gentle lady," I laughed. Then I turned to Michael and said, "Man, you sure have balls to take on this woman, but you better guard them carefully or she'll have'em."

"Not you should worry, brother mine, they belong to me already!"

"Well, I guess we could stand here all day and avoid the mind dulling drug of school, but probably not. See you later," Michael said, kissed Mary Kathryn, and turned to go inside. The three of us remaining did a fast walk to Matt's place, where I kissed him on the forehead before Mary Kathryn and I raced home for breakfast.

Mary Kathryn sprinted ahead of me and had taken over the bathroom when I got upstairs. I knew that would take awhile, so I selected clothes for school. I had always been careful about dressing since I never wanted to look like I had just grabbed the first things I saw, but lately I was even more conscious of my dress. I wanted to be sure Matt saw me at my best and Matt had always looked sharp, selecting outfits that complemented his darkness and showed off his bubble butt. When the baggy look started (I didn't know it at the time, but it would get worse and worse until keeping pants on would become a major problem for those who had to wear the latest, regardless.) Matt and I never joined that group. As a friend once said, "If you've got it, flaunt it or lose it!

Mary Kathryn had finally finished her "toilet" and I had the bathroom to myself. As I showered, I realized that I had no desire to take care of Little Luke. I had the feeling that he belonged to Matt now. When I had finished in the shower, I dressed and went downstairs. Mom was just ready to sit down to breakfast. Not only was Gabrielle a great cook, but also was a demon about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. She was equally adamant about our school lunch and always packed lunch for all of the Gang of Four to keep us from eating mystery meat and other school delicacies. When I walked into the kitchen--we ate family meals at a great kitchen table--Mom was placing the last dish on the table and Dad was, as always reading the morning paper. I put my arms around Mom as she placed the dish on the table and kissed her on the cheek. She turned and embraced me, something new. But that was not the surprise of the morning. When I said, "Good morning, Dad," Dad folded his paper, put it aside and said, "Don't I get a good morning hug?" I was so shocked I hesitated and then walked over to him and bent over to place a kiss on his cheek. As I did, he reached up and put his arms around me and kissed me first! I knew Jens had been captured by an alien and replaced with a look-alike!

I was even more thunderstruck when he said, "Luke, I have missed so much by being so "manly." I didn't let you and Mary Kathryn know how much I love you. I hope you two will let me try to catch up."

"Let anyone try to stop you and they'll have a fight on their hands!" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.

"And, Dad, if you don't know it, when you have a fight with Mary Kathryn on your hands, it makes Gabrielle look like a pussy cat!" I said as all of us had a good morning's laugh. "Damn, this is great! I guess all the shi... beg pardon, Mom... all we've gone through was a small price to pay."

"I'm glad you feel that way, Luke. I worried...."

"Don't, Dad.

We had just finished breakfast when Matt and Michael came in. Without thinking, I grabbed Matt and kissed him on the forehead. "Ready for school, Yonghon Tongmu?" he smiled as he barely brushed my lips with his. Mary Kathryn didn't have to be careful and gave Michael a good morning kiss he would, no doubt, smile about all day!

I suddenly realized what we had done and took a quick glance at Jens. He had just grabbed his paper and was pretending to be absorbed in it. I laughed and Matt; Michael and Mary Kathryn all joined in. "Sorry, Jens," Matt said. "I guess Luke and Mary Kathryn got carried away. I think its in the genes"

Jens looked up and said, "What? What did you say?"

"I was apologizing for Luke and me."

"For what? What are you talking about?"

In answer Matt said, "Jens, you have the paper bottom-side up!" I didn't know what to expect.

Jens looked up and laughed. "I guess Mary Kathryn is trying provide a role model."

"Later, Mom, Dad," I said and kissed both on the cheek. Mary Kathryn did the same and we left for school.

At lunch, the Select Few were essentially just chattering about nothing when Paula said, "Wonder where Linda is? She's usually one of the first here." She hardly had the words out of her mouth when Linda sailed in for a landing.

"'s up, Linda?" Michael asked.

"Wellllll, (We're in for it," I thought.) I had a note to call my mom. She was reminding me that I needed to help out my cousins from Lexington."

"Help'm do what?" Larry asked.

"Well, you know their prom was last weekend. They go all out--no decorated gym for them. They rent the downtown ballroom, have dinner at the best restaurants, have a limo to drive them to the prom, pay a fortune for their dresses--you know, the whole nine yards. Well, after they paid a fortune for their dresses, they realized they had spent all that money for a one night stand, so to speak. When they asked about coming to our prom so they would at least get to wear them once again, I told them they couldn't unless they had dates with an Independence student, thinking that would close the case. But nooo! Their mom called my mom--and you know how my mom gets into the social whirl thing!--so Mom started bugging me about finding dates for them. I mean, they're good looking--in fact they are real lookers--and really fun, but I'm not running a dating service!"

I looked at Matt, who was looking at Michael. I could just see the wheels turning in Michael's head. His plotting brain cells were in overdrive. As he started smiling, I looked back at Matt who said a silent "YES!" "Linda, I know you have a real problem there and I am sure we'd like to help you out. You're sure these two cousins are not real dogs?" Michael asked.

"No. I mean it. They are great looking and are really, really fun. It's just that I am sick and tired of Mom pushing and pushing and pushing. That's it, otherwise I would have tried to get dates for Lois and Louise...."

"Lois and Louise?" Michael asked.

"Yea. They're twins."

"Do you think your mom would spring for a limo? I mean if she really wants this to happen, wouldn't she do that?"

"I'm sure she and their mom would do just about anything to get them to our prom."

"Well, Select Few, it seems we have an extra pair of unattached males in our midst. Larry, Eugene, you don't have prom dates do you?"

"Well, no. I don't," Larry said as he looked at Eugene.

"Neither do I," Eugene said and a smile crossed his face. He had finally figured out where Michael was headed.

"Linda, what's your curfew?" Michael asked. I wondered what he was up to. Clearly this guy was going to be a lawyer, or a career criminal--or was there a difference?"

"Well, since the incident with Orie Greenly, it's back to no dates on school nights and a 10:30 curfew. I still could kill that jock! Anyway, they have given me a 1:00 curfew for prom night."

"I think we can handle that. Larry, Eugene, how would you like dates with two real lookers for the prom?" Michael asked and winked at Larry and Eugene.

"Sounds like a winner to me," Larry said and winked at Eugene. Poor Linda was so involved in seeing her problem solved that she didn't see the side play.

"Let me sum up," Michael said. (I expected to see him stand up, tuck his thumbs under his armpit and begin, "Your honor....") You will tell your mom that you have friends who, unfortunately, find they did not have dates for the prom and you convinced them, in spite of their disappointment over their original plans, to date Lois and Louise. Since you planned to go with the six of us--Matt and you, Luke and Paula, Mary Kathryn and I, you think the least she and the twin's parents can do is supply a limo so we can still all go together... and pick up the tab for a nice dinner for all of us at Concord's finest. Of course, since the family is providing a party for us after the prom...."

"They're what?" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.

"I'm not sure they know about that yet, I guess I forgot to tell them, but sure they are, after the prom, we'll go there for awhile and have you three girls safely at home by 1:00. You see, Linda, you need some pay back for your mom arranging your life for you."

Linda jumped up, gave Michael a high five, shouted the big "YES", then planted a major kiss on Michael. The rest of us just shook our heads as Linda went dashing out of the cafeteria calling over her shoulder, "I'll call Mom right now!"

"Hope you guys don't mind being railroaded into prom dates," Michael said. "I promise it will be an evening you'll long remember."

"It is already worth the effort just to see how you managed to get the star attraction for the prom--I, at least, have never seen a limo at an Independence prom--and a great dinner with good friends. And I am sure that we will have two real beauties on our arms if Linda admits they are lookers," Eugene said.

"I want you to be there when I tell Mom," Larry said to Eugene. "I want you to see the look on her face!" They were both laughing like crazy.

"Matt, Michael, do you realize that we have been so tied up we haven't rented tux for this glorious event?" I asked. "We better take care of that this afternoon. Would you two like to go with the three of us?" I asked Eugene and Larry.

"Sure, but Matt'll have a Jeep load without us, won't he?" Larry asked.

"I'm sure sweet, loving, helpless little Mary Kat..."

"You better watch it, O Wounded Face, or you'll be sporting a fresh black eye for the prom!"

"Mary Kathryn would be more than delighted to place her smooth, round butt in Michael's lap, I'm sure," Matt said. "There's room."

"And you'd better not be punching my innocent little sister with anything, Michael." Sometimes you can get Michael. He blushed and Mary Kathryn swatted me one, but had a devilish grin on her face.

"Sounds good," Larry said.

"Actually, I think I was supposed to go home with Hard-as Nails Greywolf today to investigate what she has cooked up for me to wear," Paula said.

"Great! Luke and I have to talk with Ms. Jones and/or Ms. Norman today last period about a change in college plans. We'll meet you three guys at the Jeep after school," Matt said. "Speaking of getting together, I need to get together with you, Eugene and Paula, as soon as possible. What do you have planned for tomorrow morning?"

"I'm free," Paula said. I usually have to work Saturdays. but I'm off tomorrow and next Saturday."

"I'm free. When and where do we meet?"

"I'll pick you up 8:30, 9:00, name it."

"Let's make it 9:00. I don't get to sleep in except Saturday and Sunday and I love it," Eugene said.

"Nine's fine with me," Paula said.

"Plan to have lunch at my place at least and we can see where we need to go from there. Eugene, I need to know how to find your place." He quickly drew a map and gave it to Matt. "Luke, if you are not too deep into something, drop by for lunch."

The bell rang and, as we got up to leave, Linda appeared in the cafeteria door and gave us the ok sign. Man, prom never looked better. As we walked out, Michael was listening intently to something Paula was whispering to him. What was being plotted now?

School was really winding down for seniors and it showed. Both teachers and students, for the most part, had dismissed the rest of the year except the AP classes which were really bearing down as the exams approached. When the bell rang ending next to last period, Matt and I headed to Ms. Jones' office. I realized when we reached her door, we had been holding hands, but since we had stayed behind to tell Greywolf we were going into town to rent tux, the halls were empty. At least I thought they were and when I dropped Matt's hand and we both looked around, there was no one in sight. "Guess we lucked out that time, Yonghon Tongmu," Matt said.

Ms. Jones' door was open and when I knocked, she looked up from her desk, smiled, and motioned us in. "Matt, you sure look a lot better than the last time you were in here. Think you might even be presentable for the prom. You are coming to the prom, aren't you?"

"Wouldn't miss it. Got a great date and renting tux today."

When Matt said he had a great date, Ms. Jones looked at me with a somewhat worried look. "Not to worry, Ms. Jones, Paula Wright is my date. Matt's dating Linda Randolph. In fact, we just got dates for two other fellows at lunch. Eugene Joyce and Larry Watley are dating two of Linda's cousins from Lexington." Ms. Jones looked at me kinda funny I thought, but didn't think any more about it. "May we close the door, Ms. Jones, I asked.


"Since you know about us...."

"I must admit I have been remiss in not checking on how things are going for you. I have thought about it, but never when I could see you. To tell the truth, every night I have thought about you two when, I guess you'd call it saying my prayers, I think back over the day and give thanks for all the good that I have seen and ask forgiveness for any hurt I may have caused by acting and not acting--started that after the service at St. Mary's. Hadn't done anything like that in years, but I'll admit it helps--and you two have always been in my "didn't do column" and in my prayers for those I know are hurting."

"Ms. Jones, you wouldn't believe what has happened since last Wednesday," I said. Then Matt and I gave an account of all that had taken place.

"Thank goodness," she said. "And you can be sure what has happened to the family will be on the thanksgiving list tonight. But that's not why you are here, I suspect."

"Well, it should have been on our "to do list" but, I'll admit, we have had our hands full this week and it's not over yet," Matt said. "Ms. Jones, Luke and I are scheduled to go to college in New York and Florida. That is not going to happen."

"We are going to be separated this summer. Matt's going to a music conference at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and I'm going to an art program at Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, but we are not going to be separated next year. We have both said we would postpone college a year if we can't be together."

"Postponing college a year would not be wise, Luke, Matt. You will, if you do well on the AP exams, be almost sophomores next fall and a year away from school is just not wise."

"That's what the family feels as well. David said we could go to the community college in Lexington, but Margaret--Dr. Bailey--said the same thing you said. If we get all our AP credit, there just wouldn't be that much it had to offer."

"Luke, she's right. Community college is great for those who are not academically ready for the real hard, disciplined work four years at a senior college or university demands, but you two are well-prepared."

"David has also suggested we look into a joint enrollment program. Both Luke and I are good in science and math--he's better in math than I, but Mr. Mitchell thinks I can easily get a 4 on the AP and maybe a 5. David thinks we should consider combining our arts and engineering," Matt commented.

"Artist-engineers, that should make anyone sit up and take notice."

"The problem is, we were all accepted before--well, before I took a very dumb way to let Matt know I was in love with him, so here we are near the end of school and looking. We weren't sure about Ms. Norman, so we came to you."

"Would you trust me if I told you you can trust Ms. Norman?"

I didn't even look at Matt and don't think he looked at me. I could feel his presence again! He didn't have to say anything, I knew his answer without his saying a word. "Yes, Ms. Jones, we trust you and if you say we can trust Ms. Norman, we do."

"I'm curious. How do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that you checked with Matt and he said ok, but I saw nothing, absolutely nothing to indicate you got an answer from him."

"It's kinda strange. It started when I was in the hospital, in a coma. I knew when Matt was coming before he reached the room. I could feel his presence as he walked down the hall. Lately I hadn't noticed it until this morning. I was still asleep when I felt his presence. I don't mean his touching me, but his presence. When I opened my eyes, I was looking into those beautiful black almond eyes of his." Matt blushed.

"I started having the same experience while Luke was in the hospital. I could feel his presence as I drew near his room, but this morning was the first time I had noticed it for awhile. I just felt his presence and it woke me up.

"Amazing. Well, let me get Ms. Norman in here." Ms. Jones buzzed Ms. Norman's office and asked if she could come in. She was at the door a few minutes later. After she explained some of the situation, Ms. Jones asked, "Is there anything we can do at this late date for these two guys?"

"May I ask why it is so important that you drop your acceptance to two of the finest programs in the country? You were both, I know, very excited when you were accepted."

"Ms. Norman, neither of the programs which accepted them offers the possibility of a dual degree in art and engineering," Ms. Jones said, buying time, I was sure.

Again, I felt Matt's question, "Ok?" and even though I wasn't looking at him. I also knew he had felt mine. "Ms. Norman," Matt said, "Luke and I plan to spend the rest of our lives together. I don't know how long that may be, but I know I don't want to miss a minute of being with my soul companion unless I have to. Neither of us are willing to spend next year separated by the east coast. I know you are smart enough to know what I am saying, but in case you missed it, Luke and I are in love. He almost killed himself over his love for me. I almost lost the man I have loved as long as I can remember. To be frank, I want to fall asleep in Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen's arms and wake up with him beside me until the day I die. AND we want to pursue our arts and give serious thought to combining our arts with engineering."

"Luke, I didn't know you had--what?--a Korean name."

"I do now. Matt gave it to me."

"I'm not sure it's good Korean, but when I asked Mom if it was correct, she asked what I thought it meant and I said 'Soul Companion' and she said if that's what I wanted it to mean, that's what it meant."

"Fellows, I have a confession to make. You know I signed you up for your art and music AP exams before you asked. Well, one day in the teacher's lounge, a group of teachers were talking about some of our really good students. Someone, I don't remember who now, talked about you two being renaissance men--good in the arts and sciences. Another teacher said something about schools being so specialized that there was no way for someone to do science and art so I started checking. There aren't many, but I think I found one good situation. So many things started happening to seniors, I forgot about it. And of course, I had no idea you two would fall in love...."

"Didn't happen, Ms. Norman. The only thing that has changed is that old Luke here took a dive off the falls and wrote me a love letter saying goodbye." Matt was handling this in a joking manner, but as soon as the word "goodbye" came out of his mouth, he crashed big time. His body shook with sobs. Both women looked shocked, but I knew what to do. I took him in my arms, held him tight and started singing that Korean lullaby softly. Both women sat back in their chairs, relaxed and watched. Matt tears stopped and his body relaxed. "What the hell," I thought. I lifted his chin and kissed him on the forehead. He angel kissed my lips and I went back to my chair.

"Does this happen often?" Ms. Norman asked, on full counselor alert.

"Not as often with Matt as with me, but we seem to be able to take care of it. We check on each other's--I guess you'd say mental health--and have promised that we'd get help if we needed it. It just has been a week from hell and now that things are ok, I guess we have time to relax and have a good cry."

"Sometimes it happens that way, but don't go on suffering if you need help."

"We won't." Matt was ok. I felt it. "So where's this magical place and how do we get there? Follow the yellow brick road?"

"Well, this is more than a little complicated and difficult to explain--especially since part of it is just plain weird. But to start at a beginning, I am talking about Oberlin College in Ohio. Matt, Oberlin is probably a better program for an organist than Julliard. It has a degree in organ and the music program has a heavy concentraion in church music if you want to go that route. Luke, it is probably not as good for you as Ringling. Oberlin makes it clear that its fine arts program is basically academic--art history, art education, not studio art. Your interst is in studio art, isn't it?" Luke nodded, agreeing that it was. "Well, since you are interested in studio art, you will need to transfer to the Cleveland Art Institute after a year or two at Oberlin.

"If you two are interested in joint enrollment in engineering, Case Western Reserve in Cleveland has a joint enrollment/dual degree program with Oberlin so that will be no trouble. Also, Luke, the Institute is located on the same campus as Case Western Reserve. Once you get a year at Oberlin and at Case Western Reserve, the Art Institute will have to look very seriously at you as a student and help you continue your engineering as well as art."

"Now here's what's weird: I had never consciously thought about the two of you being more than just close friends, but I did have a feeling you would want to be together--woman's intuition I guess. I hadn't really thought about you two living together, but I must have given it some unconscious thought since when I noticed the Cleveland Art Institute required freshmen to live on campus, I said to myself, 'That will never do,' and looked into art program at Oberlin. Oberlin will be happy to have you live off campus and there are several small towns and villages between Oberlin and Cleveland where you can find a place to live."

"Sarang Hanun Pomul, it sounds as if Ms. Norman has found the pot of gold, but where's the rainbow to get us there?"

"Who gave you your Korean name, Matt?--I assume it's Korean--Luke?"

"Well, mine is part of my baptismal name. Greywolf gave it to me. He says it's probably bastard Korean, but Mom won't say," Matt said.

"What does it mean?"

"Beloved Treasure, and he is," I answered before Matt could.

"Ms. Norman," Ms. Jones said, "we may just have a yellow brick road. Unless I am much mistaken, Millie Willingham met her husband while they were students at Oberlin. I'll check into that right away and you see what you can do."

"Thanks a million, Ms. Norman," Matt said.

"Glad I could help. Call on me if you need me. And while I don't think I've ever said this to two men, you two are a great looking couple, even if I don't understand all I know about being gay. Darkness and light."

Matt and I both gave Ms. Norman a hug--man we are really into this hugging thing and I haven't noticed anyone who didn't like it, even old Hard-nose.

"Fellows, I'll talk with Millie and see if she has any pull. You run and get those tux. I suspect Independence is in for a surprise with the Select Few running loose."

"The Select Few?" I asked, innocently.

"Cut the innocent act, Larsen. Little goes on around here I don't know about!" Ms Jones laughed. As we stood to leave the final bell rang. Matt and I gave Ms. Jones a hug and went to the Jeep.

When we reached the Jeep, Michael, Larry and Eugene were there. "Where's your red hot mama, Michael?" I asked.

"She's coming with Paula and Yong Jin since there are five of us and we're going to be in town for awhile. Besides, I think she and Yong Jin are plotting something with Paula."

"Then it's outta here," Matt said as we all piled in the Jeep and left school. I noticed Michael was unusually quiet and seemed deep in thought, but he said nothing and neither did I.

The place where we went to rent tux was one side of a dry cleaning establishment. Concord had lacked even that a few years ago and people had to drive to Lexington and then back to pick up and return tux. The owner showed us a few outfits--I think all he had to show, maybe four or five--all in Easter egg colors. "I don't know about you guys, but I think I would feel like an idiot in one of these," Matt said.

"As dark as you are, you'd look really sharp in this," the owner said as he held up a lime green tux.

All of us started laughing and Matt said, "I'd look like a lime popsicle with a butterscotch drop on top!" We were laughing so hard we started getting tears in our eyes. "Want something a little more conservative," he added. "Do you have a real, classic tux?"

"Sure. High school kids just don't want those dull things any more."

"Well, I do!" Matt said and was echoed four times by "I do too!"

The owner took out a book and we all five picked classical--and I thought really classy--tux. After he had taken our measurements, he filled out the forms and asked for our deposits. I hadn't thought about money and I knew that Larry and Eugene hadn't since they didn't know they had dates until lunch. "Got a problem here," Matt said. "I don't have that much with me." Four other voices said, "I don't either."

"Hey, I can run over to the office and get the money from Mom," I said. Matt tossed me his keys--Yong Jin had been faithful to her word and I was covered when I drove Matt's Jeep. Since Concord is pretty small, I was back in less than fifteen minutes. "Mom gave me her credit card and said put all five deposits on it."

The tux business taken care of, Eugene said, "Matt, since you're going to have to take me and Larry home, you'll know where we live when you come to pick me up tomorrow."

I was a bit concerned about Michael because he was really deep in thought again, even to the point where he was biting his lower lip. I had known this kid since the day he was born and knew that when he started biting his lip something really serious was going on. He just wasn't with us. Matt was concerned too, I felt it. I wondered why we were, again, able to communicate without saying anything. Suddenly, as though I had a TV in my head, I saw the falls. When I looked at Matt, he nodded. "Michael, the guys haven't seen the falls. You two free?"

"Sure. I mean I guess I could do something if I were home, but there's nothing pressing," Eugene said.

"Same here," Larry agreed.

"Then you're in for a real surprise!" Matt exclaimed as he swung the Jeep into a U-turn and headed for the country.

When we reached the river bridge, Matt parked the Jeep and he and Michael grabbed two blankets out of the back and we headed to the falls. I knew something more than show and tell was up when Michael crossed the canes as we started down the path. As soon as Larry and Eugene could see the falls they stopped, their mouths hanging open. "God, this is beautiful!" Larry said as he reached out and took Eugene's hand. I took Matt's--why not?--and we all five walked to the shade of the old oak.

Matt and Michael spread the blankets and we five sat down, saying nothing, just enjoying the peace and beauty of this special place. Even the sound of the water pouring over the lip of the falls was peaceful. I noticed Michael was chewing his lower lip again. "Ok, Michael, out with it," I said. A pained look crossed his face, he looked down at the ground as four pairs of eyes focused on him.

"Fellows, I really don't know where to begin. This is really kinda personal and very sensitive. I mean I don't want to hurt you guys and, Larry and Eugene, I am just beginning to really appreciate you two as friends and I don't know whether you trust me or not and...."

"Try us," Eugene said.

"Spit it out, Michael. You wanted to come here and it's something serious and important. Matt and I know that."

"How? How do you know what's on my mind? Have you become mind readers?"

"I guess you might call it that. Plus the fact that anytime you have something serious going on in your head, your lower lip takes a beating. Mary Kathryn is not going to appreciate that unless you get it out before you end up like Matt--unkissable." I noticed that Larry and Eugene raised their eyebrows and exchanged a glance.

"Ok, here's the scoop. Larry, Eugene, Paula spoke to me today at lunch because she said she knew she could trust me and that I would do what was right. I hope I am. Larry, you walked Eugene to the music room yesterday and when you two got there, you looked around and then kissed Eugene." Both of the guys blushed, then got a stricken look on their faces; then started staring at the ground. "Right?" Both nodded yes. "Well, I guess you thought no one would see you and, so far as Paula knows, she was the only one. She asked me to speak to you because she knew I would defend your right to love each other, but she was afraid someone who would do you harm might see you next time."

"There may be a new atmosphere at school--there is--but there's still plenty who would make life miserable for you if you were seen," Matt said.

"After all, those idiots who beat Gregory are still around," I added.

"Ok, I said this was sensitive and personal, guys. Today before last period I had to get permission to go to my locker after the tardy bell rang because I had picked up the wrong notebook. Matt, Luke, you didn't see me, I guess, as you walked down the hall to Ms. Jones' office, but I saw you walking down the hall holding hands."

"You mean?" Eugene asked.

"YES!" both Matt and I said emphatically.

"I guess, Larry, Eugene, you may as well know... I am the only straight one here!" Michael laughed, obviously relieved. "I have told Matt and Luke, my brothers, that I wish they could be as open with their love--as damn what they have gone through for their love--as I can with mine for Mary Kathryn, and I'm hell-bent and determined to see that they--and you--have as much freedom as possible, but I also know if either of you had grabbed the other and kissed him as Mary Kathryn did me in the auditorium, hell would be to pay. I hate that that's the way it is, but it is."

"Yea. That's the way it is and I guess Eugene and I have gotten careless, but sometimes...."

"I know," I said. "Matt and I have been so free at home and here that we just naturally hold hands a great deal of the time without thinking. I sure hope no one saw us who would made a problem. I think we have had about all we can handle right now."

"Man, if someone saw and the word got back to my parents," Eugene said, looking helpless and frightened.

Larry took him in his arms and kissed the top of his head gently. As he continued to hold him, he looked up and asked, "Do your parents know?"

Matt nodded and between the three of us, we told Eugene and Larry the whole story. Shortly after we started, Eugene sat up, turned and leaned against Larry whose arms encircled him.

"You two aren't having sex?" Larry asked, incredulously. "You really aren't ?"

"No, we're not," Matt said. "It's been hard," he said perfectly serious. He looked confused for a split second when the four of us cracked up and then started laughing wildly himself. "Well, it has," he said, "both of them actually!"

"I know that's true," Eugene said, "but I wish we had waited until we were in love. We got that backwards and have suffered because of it."

Larry said, "After Eugene had defended me from the attack at school, we started hanging out together as much as we could, but since I lived in the country and Eugene in town, we didn't get to spend as much time together as we wanted. One afternoon we were in the barn loft just playing around in the hay and I guess, as guys will, started playing, 'I'll show you mine if you will show me yours'. When Eugene took his out, I did mine. We started stroking our cocks and when they were hard, we compared them." Larry laughed, "Eugene may have stopped growing other places, but not everywhere! Anyway, first thing you know, we were jacking each other. And, I suspect you can imagine what happened when we got together from then on.

Eugene took up the story of their relationship. "I realized one day as I was on my way to Larry's that I was looking forward to, not the sex, but being with Larry. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know why I hadn't realized it before, but I suddenly realized I was in love. I was in love with Larry. I could hardly wait to tell him. When we got to the loft, I reached out and put my arms around Larry and kissed him. He jerked away and said, in a very angry voice, 'What the fuck are you doing? You queer or something?' He might as well have slugged me in the face. I started crying and said, 'I guess I must be because I'm in love with you, Larry.' Larry looked disgusted and said, 'Shit, Man, I don't want to have anything to do with a queer. I just like a blowjob when I can get one. Right now I'm going to fuck you in the ass and see how you like that. Queers like being assfucked.' Well, I should have left, but I was in love with Larry and would do anything to have him love me back or anything he wanted, period. If he wanted to fuck my ass, then he could fuck my ass." Eugene looked at us and stopped talking. I guess he saw the look on our faces. I am sure my expression was the same as that on Michael's and Matt's. Both looked as if they had been hit in the face with a handful of dog shit and I was sure I did. "What's the problem?" Eugene asked.

"Well, we have a thing about fucking," Michael said. "We don't intend to fuck, ever. Greywolf says people make love, dogs fuck."

"Ok, that's what I meant, Larry made it very clear there was no love involved. If there was any love involved, he wasn't about to admit it. If you were in love with another guy, you were gay. He wasn't gay. In fact, from the very beginning we kept assuring each other of that; we just liked beating each other off and giving each other blowjobs. But I was in love now and my love wanted to fuck my ass. He wasn't about to make love to me, he was going to fuck me.

Larry hung his head, looked at the ground and tears started flowing down his face. Soon he was sobbing out of control. Eugene pulled Larry's head to his shoulder as he stroked his hair. "Larry, it's ok, Babe. It's ok. It was almost a year ago when that happened. We had not been together alone for a three weeks--maybe more--and I had just admitted to myself that I was in love with a man and would have done anything he asked. And, of course, I was as horny as he was. Anyway, we played around for a short time--really a very short time--and Larry was so hot that he just shoved me down, spit at my asshole and rammed his cock into me; it hurt like hell. It hurt so bad I screamed. He stopped for a moment and then shoved his cock in to the hilt. I screamed again as he started to pound away. When I screamed the second time, he pulled out of me. I was bleeding like mad. We were both scared to death. When I kept crying and crying, Larry finally went to his mom and told her I was bleeding from my ass. She, of course, had a good idea what had happened and made Larry go get me. When she saw the results of what had happened, she was furious. She told Larry to get the hell out of the house and stay in the barn. She called a nurse friend who told her what to do and said she should report the sexual assault on her son. Larry's mom didn't tell her it wasn't Larry who was bleeding. The nurse friend was a P. A. and told Mrs. Watley she would leave prescriptions at the drugstore. Mrs. Watley went and got the medicine and came back and treated my ass. The nurse had sent painkillers which soon made me groggy, but had not stopped the pain completely. In spite of that I was amazingly clear about one thing; I didn't want anything to happen to Larry. 'Mrs. Watley,' I said, 'please don't do anything to Larry. I love Larry; I love him. He didn't mean to hurt me. Mrs. Watley, I love him more than anything. Please'."

"'Does he love you? I don't think so. If he loved you, how he could have hurt you so? You may love him, but it seems to me my son just wanted to fuck an ass!' she said. 'Eugene, even if you agreed to having your butt fucked, so far as I am concerned, Larry raped you. Can't you understand that?' Mrs. Watley was crying; I was crying. It was a mess. I asked her just to let me talk to Larry. At first she said I should never see him again and that she was giving serious thought to what the nurse had said. 'He's my son and I love him, but I get sick in my gut when I think about what he has done to you.' But after I begged and begged, she finally said, 'Ok. He's in the barn, but I want you to know that I am very, very angry with him. Frankly, I feel like just kicking him out and being rid of him at this point. I am holding open the option to report him. He was raised better than this. But I'll call him'."

Larry was again shaking with sobs. Eugene stopped talking and just held him tightly, stroking his hair and kissing the top of his head. "It's ok, Babe, it's ok. Anyway, when Larry came in he burst into tears and just cried and cried all the time saying 'Eugene, I love you, I love you, I do love you. I've tried not to love you. I didn't want to be gay. But I love you and now you must hate me for what I did. I hate me. I hate me! I hate me!' He fell on the floor. I started to go to him and was suddenly in such pain I almost passed out. I guess I should have hated him, but I didn't. I loved him. His mom finally finally grabbed Larry by the hair and pulled him to his feet. 'Larry, get on your feet and face what you have done like a man--if you are one!' Well, I won't go on. Larry and I told his mom the whole story and how we had started giving each other blowjobs while assuring each other that we were not gay and just liked sex anyway we could get it."

Larry looked up and said, "When Eugene screamed the second time I felt as though a knife had been shoved through me. It was not from having tried to fuck Eugene without proper lube although, I tell you, I sure as hell hurt from that too, but not like my babe. I felt that way because I realized I had hurt the man I loved more than anything in the world. If that made me gay, I was 100% pure gay because I really loved the guy. I told my mom that I had realized earlier that I was falling in love with Eugene, but hated the idea of being gay so much and needed to find someone to blame for it so I started blaming Eugene. I thought if I just fucked Eugene's brains out, he'd tell me to go to hell and I could be normal. After I told my mom that, I collapsed to the floor again, clutching my head and crying as I had never cried before. Well, the three of us talked about Eugene and my relationship for a couple hours, I guess. I finally took Eugene in my arms and he kissed me as gently as he would have kissed a new-born baby. I told him I loved him more than anything in the world and I could understand why he must hate me."

"Larry didn't get very far with that. I was hurting--physically--but I was happy to hear those words,'Eugene, I love you'."

"Well, Mrs. Watley said she would not report Larry under certain conditions. 'You would actually report your son?' I asked."

"Yes, I would if I thought for a moment that he would hurt you or anyone else again. There is never, never, ever any excuse for what he did to you. But if you think the two of you can handle this and find healing--and I don't mean just your ass, Eugene, then I'll let you handle it. Provided--and I mean every single word of what I am going to say--provided you agree to stop having sex--at least any form of intercourse--until you know it is love not lust. And both of you must promise that if, emotionally or physically, there are any--and I mean ANY--problems later you will get help. And, Eugene, you must tell your parents about Larry and Larry, you have to talk with your dad."

"Until Mrs. Watley said that we were both nodding in agreement, but then we both started talking at once. Larry looked at me, his eyes telling me to go ahead."

"Mrs. Watley, I can tell you straight out that I cannot tell my parents. If I did, I don't know how far they will go, especially my dad, no, either on eof them, but I know for sure I would be disowned and put out of the house after Dad beat hell out of me--if he didn't kill me. A few weeks ago he saw my sister kissing her boyfriend goodnight after a date. Dad had approved of Wallace or my sister would never have been allowed to date him. His family went to our church--that was a requirement--and he had been dating my sister for some time. When Dad saw Janice kissing him, he knocked Wallace off the porch with his fists and kicked my sister in the behind leaving a foot-sized bruise which lasted for ages. For days afterward she was locked in her room at night. Now she stays home so far as Dad knows, but slips out and meets Wallace. If she gets caught doing that, she knows she will have to leave. See my mom and dad are both religious fanatics and bigots. They go to the Temple of Praise where every Sunday there is some damnation of loose sexual morals such as hugging and kissing--even dancing--which are supposed to get men and women all aroused...."

"It does," Matt, Michael and I said at the same time and gave each other a high five.

"Anyway, such loose sex leads to unwed mothers and all sorts of diseases. And homosexuals--well, they come in for special attention and damnation. They are all perverts who are just waiting to seduce young, innocent boys and make then queers. Did you know that?"

"That's why you looked familiar," Michael said. Eugene looked at him and got a sudden look of recognition on his face.

"Yea. You used to go there. It was your dad who almost busted the preacher! I remember seeing you together. Man, you should have heard the Sunday dinner conversation that Sunday. 'I bet that girly faced son of his is as queer as a three dollar bill,' Dad kept saying."

"Girly faced? Girly faced? I'm girly faced? Maybe, but he's sure wrong on the other count!" Michael stated emphatically. "Not that there's anything right or wrong one way or the other, it's just that I was put together differently from you four guys--different, not right or wrong."

Eugene was smiling and Larry even had a faint smile on his face. I suddenly realized that telling their story as they held each other was a healing experience which both had needed for a long time.

"Larry's mom said, 'Well, then you cannot tell, but that means doing nothing in your house that might give your secret away until you are ready to leave. I won't force you into doing something you are sure will get you hurt again,' she glared at Larry. 'Not even a hug. Larry, when you sleep over, you are to keep your ass in a sleeping bag on the floor. Agreed?'"

"'Agreed,' Larry and I said. Then Larry had to argue his case."

"Yea, well, I said, 'Mom, you know what Dad would do if I told him. You know how he hates gays. And it would all be your fault. Everything I do that he doesn't like is your fault.' Mom and Dad had been having problems for some time and everything that went wrong or Dad didn't like was Mom's fault. Dad had beaten her up a couple times and the last time I took a chair to his head and told him if he ever hit Mom again, I'd beat the shit out of him. He left and didn't come back for a couple days, but that happened all the time. Mom realized I was right and said that I didn't have to talk to Dad. But Eugene and I were to be very careful what we did in front of Dad and no sex until she was convinced we weren't fucking."

All three of us looked at Larry and Eugene and gave them the big "ok".

Larry and Eugene smiled and Eugene said, "So we really do know about waiting. Believe me, it's easier to wait before you start than after."

"And making love is a hell of a lot better than fucking!" Larry said. "Making love is wonderful--regardless of how you go about it. There must be a million ways to make love and only a couple ways to fuck. But even after we were very, very clear that fucking was out and love making was in, our problems were not over. We were both afraid of hurting the other. For months, after we had talked with Mom and she agreed that we were really in love, we would be making love and were ready to go all the way and then.... Well, you can guess what didn't happen!"

Larry's head was hanging down and he had been staring at the ground for a long time. Without looking up he said, "You guys may think I am as rotten as the jerks who raped Gregory. Don't think I haven't compared myself to them over and over. I thought I had gotten over having taken Eugene and we were both looking forward to the time when we could go all the way again--it has been almost a year--but when Gregory was raped, it all come back, even worse than before. Sex, for me, was out of the question. I just couldn't touch Eugene in that way without getting sick--I mean really sick. I dreamed of making love to him and when the time came, I couldn't and more than once I would just throw up. It's really been hard getting to the place where we can make love--I started to say again, but it was not again. We were starting where we should have started in the first place. Even now we... we--I can't touch Eugene's butt with my cock. Never, ever, regret waiting. I wish we had and Eugene would never have been hurt the way he was. I certainly do not deserve someone loving me the way Eugene does. But he does love me and God, I love him so much I'd go the rest of my life loving him without sex if that was what he wanted."

"No worry about that, Babe.

"Larry, Eugene, I'd like to make a suggestion. Luke and I have accepted an invitation from Dr. Margaret Bailey to talk with her about gay sex before we engage in intercourse. She would, I know, be happy to talk with you. Since you are having problems, I'm sure she would be helpful.

"Thanks. I think we need to do that. Especially since it is affecting us and because we promised Larry's mom we would seek help if there were problems; while we have pretended there are not, there are."

"If you like, I'll speak to her Sunday. She's part of the family now and will be having Sunday dinner with the family."

"The family?"

"Yea. There are actually three families--ours, Matt's and Michael's, but we call ourselves the family and we really are one family."

"Thanks. I--we--really appreciate that," Larry said.

All five us became silent and just sat, letting the peace of this special place pour over us. Eugene broke the silence. "This has to be one of the most special places in the whole world. Gee, think of all the pain that has been washed away here and all the love that has soaked the very ground beneath us."

"Well, one of these days you'll have to hear some more stories. Dad was proposed to here this week and will be married here Easter Day," Michael said.

"Your Mom?" Larry asked.

"She died of cancer several years ago now. Took Dad a while, with a lot of pushing, to get hooked up with a great lady, Dr. Margaret Bailey."

"Larry, the day you and Eugene helped me in the physics lab, you said your dad had split. You started to say it was because of you, but then said it was another woman."

"Yea, well... Eugene and I were very careful--most of the time--but like my kissing him yesterday at school, one morning Eugene was sleeping over and when I waked up, I was just watching him sleep. When I couldn't stand it any longer, I bent over and kissed him just as Dad passed the door on his way to the bathroom. There was a major scene in which he accused Mom and Eugene of making me queer and said he wouldn't live in the house with a queer son and a bitch who made him queer. He hit me a couple times before Eugene pinned him and shoved him out of my room. He stormed out of the house and moved in with a girlfriend he had had for a couple years. He thought Mom and I didn't know, but we did. I couldn't understand why Mom hadn't put his ass out before. And I guess he thought since Mom hadn't done anything before, she wouldn't do anything about it this time. He was wrong; she filed for divorce that day, charging adultery, and got everything he had. His girlfriend was no longer interested since he was broke and he left town. We haven't heard from him since."

We were all silent again, each with his own thoughts, except--from time to time--I felt Matt's love flowing over me.

This time Larry broke the silence. "Michael, thanks for being a friend and thanks for bringing us to this place. I feel like that river has washed a lot of shit out of my and Eugene's life today."

"Yea. Thanks to all you guys. And the four gay blades have dates for the prom. Wow, life does get interesting," Eugene said as he stood up and pulled Larry to himself for a long, tender kiss.

Matt's lip was better, but still not ready for more than an angel kiss, which I gave him, then kissed the top of his head and inhaled the fragrance of my beloved Matt which always sent me spinning.

Eugene and Larry both gave me and Matt a hug and turned to leave when Michael said, "Hey, you jerks, why don't I get a hug?" Both guys gave Michael a real bear hug and Larry said, "Sorry, I just wasn't sure."

"Man, I like to be hugged as well as anybody and we are friends, right?"

"Right," Eugene and Larry said and hugged Michael again.

After we took Eugene and Larry home, we came back and went our own ways. Matt and I planned to spend Saturday working--he was going to pick up Eugene and Paula and put the finishing touches on something they were working on together. I went to the studio and when I finally found a stopping place, was surprised that it was 4:00 in the morning. I just collapsed on a small sofa in the studio and hadn't really finished my daily thanksgiving when I was in dreamland.

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