A Special Place--Part Twenty-one--Eugene
I was sleeping in the guest room at David Andrews' when I was suddenly awakened by Dad. He had his belt in his hand and started beating me again. I had thought I was safe. David had promised me Dad couldn't beat me any more and now he was. My back was killing me. I could hardly keep from fainting from the pain. I started screaming and when I did, Dad beat me harder. I screamed louder and louder. Why didn't someone come to help? Where was David? Where was Michael? Why had they let Dad get to me? I screamed and screamed and screamed. Suddenly I wasn't in the dark any longer. When the lights came on, I realized I had been dreaming, but my back did hurt. I was in terrible pain. I should have taken a pain pill before I went to bed. But I had. I really was confused when Michael sat on the edge of the bed and pulled my head to his shoulder. I was crying like a baby.
"It's ok, Eugene. It's ok," Michael said as he stroked my hair and held me close without touching my back. "You must have been having a nightmare."
"I was. I was dreaming Dad had come here and was beating me again. But my back really does hurt. It hurts worse now than it did this afternoon."
"It's ok. Dad will be here in a minute, I'm sure. Just relax all you can." Michael was still stroking my hair and holding me when David came in the room. "Dad, Eugene was having a nightmare and his back hurts terribly."
"Margaret left a shot of pain killer just in case although she didn't think Eugene would need it. I'll get it."
When David came back with the shot he told me it was more than I had in the afternoon and I would definitely be feeling no pain shortly and would sleep. He gave me the shot and then checked my back. "I don't think I need do anything more, but it's a lot worse than Margaret and I thought."
"Eugene, would you like for me to sleep with you?" Michael asked.
"You would do that even though I am...."
"What's that got to do with anything?" Michael asked. "If you want me to sleep here, of course I will."
"Well, if you don't mind."
"Do you want me to put on boxers or something?" He asked. For the first time I noticed the Andrews men were as naked as the day they were born. "Only if it would make you more comfortable."
"Definitely not," Michael said as his voice got further and further away. Michael lay beside me and I spooned into his back, feeling warm and safe and wonderful as I started floating. I was floating, floating, floating above a beautiful river. I was floating above the falls then I just drifted...."
When I woke up, I was completely disoriented. I was groggy and didn't know where I was. For some reason, my back ached. When I got my eyes opened, I realized there was a strange man sleeping with me. Suddenly, I remembered where I was and why my back hurt. I tried not to awaken Michael, but as soon as I moved, he was wide awake.
"I hope you slept well after that nightmare," he said.
"I did. Now if I don't get to the bathroom, I'm going to...."
"I'm right behind you!
When we had finished our business, Michael said, "I'm going for my morning run. The Gang of Four runs every morning. I'll tell Dad you're awake since he'll want to check your back. I guess you'll just have to take a spit bath--you know, water in the basin and a wash cloth-- since I'm sure he won't want you getting your back wet. See you at breakfast."
A few minutes after Michael had left the room, David came in. "How are you feeling this morning?" he asked.
"I have felt better. My back's still painful, but not like it was last night."
"Let me take a look at it." David had his bag with him and gently removed the bandages from my back. "I'd hoped I could leave the bandages off so your wounds could get some air. That's best, but I'm afraid some of the places are still oozing and your shirt might stick to them. Also, it would probably rub the places which are raw and that would be very uncomfortable. When you get back from whatever Millie has up her sleeve, you can take your shirt off and I'll check the bandages this evening. You'll have to take a tub bath I'm afraid and be very careful not to get your back wet. When you finish, I'll redress your wounds. Just give me a yell when you're ready."
I was really glad I could get a real bath even though it was in a tub. When I finished, I found my razor, shaved, brushed my teeth and put on a pair of boxers, then called David. He came up and redressed my back and I finished dressing and went downstairs. Michael came in the front door soon after I got down. "Michael, I want you to know that I really appreciate what you did last night. I'm sure it was not easy for you...."
"Why do you say that? You were a friend in trouble. I didn't do much, but I did want to do what I could. That's what friends are for. Look, I know you're gay and that makes no never mind. And even if I were gay, you certainly wouldn't hit on me. You have a boyfriend. If you were straight, I would expect Mary Kathryn to keep her hands off you if you were in bed with her. Same thing, right?"
"I still want you to know that I appreciate what you did very much. Thanks."
"Anything for a friend."
David came down and we had breakfast. "I'm afraid Michael and I aren't the best cooks in the world. In fact, if it hadn't been for milk, cold cereal and fruit, we wouldn't have had breakfast for the past two or so years."
"Better than I'm used to," I said.
After breakfast, David left for the hospital and Michael was off to school with Matt and Luke after they came in to see how I was doing. I waited around, doing nothing, trying not to think until Millie came.
She had said she would pick me up around 8:30 and she arrived promptly at 8:30. "Have you had breakfast?" she asked as soon as she was inside. I told her I had eaten with David and Michael. "Well, we need to talk and decide what we're going to do. Last night you said your father took back his name. What did you mean?"
I told her the whole story again as I had heard it from David and the others who had gone to my house. "How do you feel about that? I mean really deep down inside."
"I guess I may need to think some more about it--no, I don't--if he thinks I am a disgrace to the Joyce name I must be so far as he is concerned. I know that, to my mind, he is a disgrace to the human race. I have put up with his abuse as long as I can remember. I tried to do what he wanted me to do until one day I realized I could never be what he wanted. He once said I was a mistake and never should have happened. I guess yesterday he just made clear by his actions what he always thought and said; I was an unwanted mistake and kept being a mistake. He was ashamed of me, so why should I be proud to bear his name? He doesn't want that and I know, deep down inside, I agree with him--not that I am a mistake, but that I don't want to bear the same name he does."
"You're real sure of that?"
"Yea, I'm real sure."
"Fortunately you're eighteen and don't have to have your parents' permission for anything unless you're living with them in which case I'd expect you to... I was going to say 'do as they said,' but there are limits and your mom and dad both went way past them. And, in any case, it doesn't matter now. They tossed you out so you're a free man. I want to say some things and then we'll talk.
"Last night I started thinking about grandkids again. I swear, I never thought that would bother me, and I'd die before I let Jason know it, but I really miss having grandkids. I want you to know something about this Willingham family and especially about Jason.
"You know, of course, I have money. I have piles of money, more than Frank left me and he left me a bundle. Hell, I've got money I have forgotten about. Frank and I both earned our money by hard work. He came from an old Concord family everyone thought was wealthy, but they weren't. They owned a lot of land, but when it came to money, they couldn't buy a pot to pee in. My family had nothing. Mom and Dad were hard workers and were determined their kids would have a better life than they. Both families scraped and skimped to find money to see that we got a good education, but that was it. After that we were on our own. We really worked hard. Frank found ways to make the Willingham's land pay off. Our accounting firm was making good money so we were, over the years, made wealthy. Our one sorrow was that we couldn't seem to have children."
"When we discovered I was pregnant, we had just about given up hope of ever having a child. When Jason was born everyone kept telling us he would be spoiled rotten--an only son born late in life to a couple who had just about given up hope. What could you expect? Frank and I sat down the day Jason was baptized and talked a long time about his future. We were determined he would not end up like the spoiled, wealthy kids we had known at Oberlin. We entered into a pact with each other saying we would never allow Jason to become a rotten, wealthy snob if we could help it." Millie laughed, "I told Frank, 'He might be a rotten kid, but unless he gets money somewhere else, he'll never be a wealthy rotten kid!' And we agreed on that. You don't want to hear all this, do you?"
"Sure I do. I'm certain it has a point or you wouldn't be telling me."
"You don't think it's just a senile old lady rattling on?"
"Not yet anyway."
Millie laughed her full belly laugh and said, "Eugene, I can see we're going to get along fine. Well, anyway, Jason was and is a good kid. He's honest, cares about people, is very loving and just a great human being. And I'm not saying that because he's mine. During high school, he got into a few minor scrapes usually, I am proud to say, because he ended up fighting to protect someone. He did well in school and when it came time for him to go away to college, we told him we would provide for his education at any place he wanted to go. We would pay all his expenses within reason, but we were not paying him to party. He did well in college his first year and asked to move off campus. He didn't like the noise and horseplay in the dorm. Seemed reasonable and he got an apartment.... There is a point to all this, Eugene, trust me."
"I will, for a while longer."
"Why I ought to slap your face for talking to an old lady that way," Millie said and drew back her hand. I covered my face with my hands and started bawling like a baby. "Damn, how could I be such a fool," Millie said as she jumped out of her chair, ran to me and put her arms around me, avoiding my back. "Eugene, please forgive me. I have never struck a child in my life and never would. I intended to joke with you as I often did with Jason, but it was a damn poor joke. Can you forgive me?" she asked as she pulled me into her ample bosom and rocked me, stroking my hair. When I looked up, Millie had tears in her eyes.
"I'm sorry. I should have known you wouldn't hurt me, but I have been hit so many times, I just react."
"Eugene, if I can make it possible, you'll never be hit again. I am so very, very sorry."
"It's ok now. Finish your story."
"Are you sure you're ok?"
"Well, Jason had dated some in high school, but never anything as serious as even having a steady girlfriend. I guess we should have known something was different about him, but we never thought anything about it. Anyway, the year after his father died, he came home Christmas and brought one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen with him. When they walked in, Jason said, 'Mom, I'd like you to meet Anthony, the light of my life and my soulmate.' I suppose I was expected to be shocked or something, but I wasn't and before the holidays were over not only was I convinced Jason was a lucky devil, but also that Anthony was as good as they come. It seems that Jason, even in high school, knew he was different and by the end of his first year in college he admitted to himself he was gay, but told no one. One night at Canterbury--that's a college group for Episcopal students--Anthony showed up and and Jason fell head over heels for him--love at first sight Jason called it. I called it lust at first sight. Jason laughed when I said that and said I was probably right, but only at first sight. 'Mom, I fell for Anthony like a ton of bricks the first time I laid eyes on him and it kept getting worse--better--whatever.' But, according to Jason, Anthony was so obviously straight that he never dared say anything to him, but managed to be around him a lot."
"Anyway, one night there was a discussion group about sexuality at Canterbury and someone said something about gays bed hopping and that set Anthony off big time. He told the group they were a bunch of hypocrites because they accused gays of doing what most of them were doing. 'I'm gay and I haven't had sex with anyone since high school and I suspect few of you can say that. I don't have sex to get my nuts off'--I suspect the Episcopal chaplain wished he hadn't allowed that can of worms to be opened--'And I won't have sex again until I love someone and he loves me.' I guess after that bomb shell landed the meeting broke up quickly. Jason asked Anthony if he'd like to grab a beer. They sat in a pub until it closed, then Jason invited Anthony to his apartment and they talked until daylight. They started doing a lot of things together and were having great fun, but Jason was still reluctant to say anything for fear of driving Anthony away. He has my blood in him and he doesn't take rejection very well."
"Finally, Jason decided he could be cautious the rest of his life and lose Anthony or he could risk everything and maybe win Anthony. Jason planned a trip over Thanksgiving break and asked Anthony to go with him. The next thing I know, he shows up Christmas and announces they are lovers. The first time I saw Anthony he was as neat as a pin, but everything he had on was obviously well worn. Anthony's family had nothing but a determination their kids would have a better life than they. They helped all they could, but Anthony worked like a dog in high school to earn money for college and to earn scholarships. He had it hard, but he appreciated every bit of help he got. Now why did I tell you all that? To tell the truth, I'm not really sure except to say that Jason is a wonderful son who has a partner whom I love as much as Jason. In one sense, Jason lived an easy life compared to Anthony, yet both worked hard to make something of themselves. Both had the best their parents could give which for both was an excellent education."
"When they graduated, I gave them money to put their education to use. Both are well off now so I feel free to spend money as I damn well please. The point of all this? I'd like to know if you are sure you are willing to give up being a Joyce?"
Matt had commented about Millie's tendency to change horses in midstream and I was unprepared for her question. I couldn't see where she was headed. "I guess if the Joyces don't want me, I'm man enough to give them what they want. No, I would just as soon never be called a Joyce again."
"Do you think you could handle being a Willingham, knowing what would be expected of you as well as what you can expect?"
I know my mouth fell open and I couldn't say anything for a while.
"Well, is that open mouth a yes or a no."
"I don't know. What do you mean?"
"I told you I really got into that grandmother thing yesterday and I liked it. Would you be willing for me to adopt you? Technically you'd be a son, but to me you'd be a grandson."
"I'd be honored, Millie, to be your grandson."
"Now I hope you don't think that means you'll have money to throw around. Jason worked hard for his education and I'll expect you to do the same, but I also expect you to have the time to put into getting a good education, having some fun and working on your music."
"Millie, I didn't expect anything from my parents and that's about what I got. All I'll expect from you is to be treated like a grandson, if that's what you want and I sure know better than to expect to be treated as a spoiled grandson."
"Couldn't have said it better myself. Well, let's get going. We've got a lot of paperwork to get done. How are you feeling, by the way?"
"I feel fine... actually that's a lie. I hurt like hell, but I didn't want to take a pain pill unless I absolutely had to."
"Hold off if you can otherwise someone might say you were on drugs when you signed the hundred pages with your John Hancock. Well, let's hit the road."
When we reached her lawyer's office it was obvious Millie had some lawyers earning their money since yesterday. There were stacks and stacks of paper.
"Mr. Joyce," a young lawyer--who obviously knew Millie because his well-tailored three-piece suit displayed his bubble butt to perfection--said, as he handed me a document, "here is a copy of the restraining order against your father. Frankly, it will not keep him away from you if he wants to harass you. However, should he do so, he'll spend time as a guest of the county."
"Mrs. Willingham, here are the documents necessary to adopt Mr. Joyce. They, of course, provide for a name change from Joyce to Willingham. Are you sure you want to do this?
"Mr. Fox, have I ever asked you to do something and then proved to be undecided?"
"Well, no, but this is a pretty important step."
"Don't think I have ever been more sure of anything since I said, 'I will,' on my wedding day."
"Mr. Joyce, since you are eighteen, this is an adult decision you are making. The state doesn't require your parent's permission, but I want you to be very sure you know what you are doing. You are saying 'No' to your birth family--so far as the state is involved, they will no longer be your parents. Legally, you will be as much a son of Mrs. Willingham as her son Jason. I want you to be very sure that is what you want."
"Mr. Fox, there is only one thing in this world I'm more sure of." Millie looked at me and smiled.
"Well, I'll get witnesses in here so you and Mrs. Willingham can sign all these papers. As soon as that is done, we have an appointment with a judge to make everything final unless either of you want to write in a waiting period during which you can change your mind."
"I think we know what we're doing," I said, and smiled at Millie.
When we had finished signing everything, Mr. Fox asked that I wait in another room. "Mrs. Willingham is making some changes in her will," he explained.
I had no idea that the justice system moved with a speed that would make a glacier look like a speed demon. It was after noon before Millie and I got to lunch and I was starved. In the excitement of the morning, I had forgotten about my back, but as soon as I sat down, it made its presence known. "From the look on your face you're having second thoughts or are hurting like hell," Millie said.
"If I had any second thoughts, which I do not, my back right now would vote me down!"
"Go ahead and take a pain pill now. The only thing we have left to do is go to school and get records changed, Mr. Eugene Willingham."
"Yes ma'am, Ma."
"Ok, there are limits Mr. Willingham," Millie said and laughed one of her great laughs.
I hurt like hell, but I don't know when I had been happier--except when Larry told me he loved me. I smiled and said, "Millie, no one has ever made me as happy as you have...." Millie raised an eyebrow. "I mean except Larry."
"If you hadn't said that I think I'd give you back to the Joyces. Well, take your pill. Our food's here." After we had almost finished eating, Millie looked at me with a very serious look on her face. "I've got one more question, Eugene. What about your sister?"
"Millie, we have never been close. About the only thing we ever did together was try to protect each other from Mom and Dad--I mean...."
"I know what you mean. Don't worry about it."
"Anyway, we chose different ways of escaping. I buried myself in my music then after I got to know Larry, I spent as much time as possible with him. Really, I hardly know Janice. I do know she hates school and has skipped so much she's in real trouble there. She hangs out with a really rough crowd at school and, when she slips out at night, I suspect she and Wallace hang out with some rough kids. About the only time I have ever heard her say she was happy was when she spent summers with Dad's sister in Arizona. I guess that being far away was a part of it. Plus, there are three cousins--all girls--one older, one younger and one about Janice's age. When she was there was the only time she got to do real girl things--lipstick, colored her hair, you know, girl things. I suspect if she had a choice she would go there to live."
"Well, why don't we check that out as an option. You're sure she won't mind being separated from you?"
"Quite sure. She just wants out of the hell hole we've lived in and, as I said, we were never close."
"I think we need to drop by protective services on our way to school. Want dessert?
"Millie, I don't think I could be force fed another thing!"
"Then let's roll."
When we got to protective services, the social worker who came out to the house yesterday was busy so Millie told the receptionist we would wait. We only had to wait for about ten minutes. When we got into the office, Millie told her why we came by. "Eugene has been taken care of. I adopted him because I knew him and the good stuff he has inside. He tells me he and his sister were never close and he thought she would like to live with an aunt in Arizona if that were possible. Where does she stand now?"
"She stayed with Dr. Bailey last night and I have been working on placement when I had time today. We have to have her placed within five days after the court hearing and that was this morning. Neither of her parents showed up and that constitutes abandonment. But she can't stay with Dr. Bailey beyond the five days without Dr. Bailey being certified a foster parent. That probably could be done, but it takes time and I understand Dr. Bailey is going to be kinda busy for awhile."
"That's right. She's being married Sunday. I had forgotten that. Would it be as complicated to get her to her aunt's?"
"Not at all, since she's a relative. Janice is sixteen so some of the rules are more relaxed for kids her age."
"I don't know my aunt's phone number or address, but she works for Office Depot in Phoenix."
"That should be enough. If you have time, I'll call her right now."
"It's almost 2:00 and we need to get to the school before it's out, but we have time. Let me call Ms. Jones and make sure she will be there when we get to school." The social worker--her desk plate said she was Ms. Anderson--pushed the phone across her desk. Millie dialed without having to look up the number. I suspected she kept a pretty close tab on school these days. "Ms. Jones, please," she said into the phone. In a minute she continued, "Constance, Millie. I'll be at school as soon as I can get some things cleared up here in town. Could you make sure Ms. Norman is also there? We have some important business to attend to.... No, I don't think it's more trouble," Millie smiled as she looked at me. I smiled back, probably kinda goofy because I was feeling no pain--literally and figuratively!
When Millie finished, she pushed the phone back across the desk and Ms. Anderson dialed for directory assistance, wrote down a number and said, "Thank you." She then dialed another number. She looked up as she said, "We're at the 'if you wish, press' stage. Eugene, I forgot to ask, what is your aunt's name?"
"'Yes, could I speak to Ms. Sandra Martinez, please. Well, yes, if Ms. Martinez is the manager.' They are paging her. 'Yes, Mrs. Martinez. This is Carletta Anderson. I am a social worker with protective services in Concor.... No, Ms. Martinez, no one has been seriously hurt--well, that's not quite true.... Yes, you're right. No, Eugene was severely beaten, but he is eighteen and I couldn't get involved in .... No, no. I'll let him tell you about his situation. He is here in the office with me right now. I'm calling about Janice.... No, she has not been physically hurt, at least not this time'." The call went on for awhile as Ms. Anderson explained the situation Janice was in. When she asked Aunt Sandra if she was willing to take Janice, it was obvious from her face the answer was "Yes." She then explained since Janice would be moving out of state, the state would be unable to pay her for foster care. "We will try to get child support money from Mr. Joyce, but I wouldn't plan on it. Can you handle the financial burden of an extra child?... You have just been made manager? Congratulations. I'm sure the extra money could be used otherwise, but I am thankful that you accepted without hesitation. Janice needs a lot of loving and care and Eugene suggested the only place she was ever happy was with you.... She is staying with a woman doctor here now, but I think we can get the paper work done and have her on her way today, maybe tomorrow at the latest.... Yes, please do give me your home number as well and I will call you as soon as things are in order.... Of course we will allow Janice to decide whether or not she wants to come, but she will have to realize that the alternative is an unknown foster home.... I'm sure she will appreciate your eagerness to have her as soon as possible and I'll call you when I know something definite. Here's Eugene."
I explained to Aunt Sandra what had happened and why Janice was taken out of the house. She was delighted that I had been taken under Millie's wing. When she asked if that was going to put a real burden on an elderly lady, I responded, "Aunt Sandra, I think she would have your head for calling her an elderly lady. She calls herself an old woman at times, but I don't think she'd cotton to having the title used by someone else." I laughed and winked at Millie. She got a good laugh out of that. "No, I think she can manage to find the money for my needs so I appreciate your offer to help out and I know she does, but it is not at all necessary.... Well, I'm feeling no pain right now. I took a pain pill a short time ago and I'm kinda floating, but I understand he did a crackerjack job on my back. Dr. Bailey, with whom Janice is staying, and David Andrews are taking care of it. He is an EMS nurse and I spentthe night at his place.... I know and I appreciate your concern, but I'm more than ok now that I am out of that hell hole of your brother and sister-in-law, and knowing that Janice will be loved and cared for completes things for me. Sure, I'll keep in touch. Bye."
"It sounds as though Janice will be in a good home so you don't have to worry about her," Ms. Anderson said.
"She will be and I won't."
We got to school near the beginning of the last period when I would have been introducing the ensemble to the music we had worked on Saturday. When we reached the office, Millie briefed Ms. Jones on what had happened. "Now we need to get some records changed. As of today, this is Eugene Willingham standing before you," she said, placing her hand on my shoulder. "Welcome to Independence High School, Mr. Willingham. I'm sure you'll fit right in," Ms. Jones laughed. "Let's go to Ms. Norman's office and get the paperwork done.
After the paperwork was finished, Ms. Norman stuck out her hand and said, "Welcome to Independence High School, Mr. Willingham. I'm sure you'll feel right at home here," and gave me a big smile.
When we got back to Ms. Jones office, she had her secretary call Larry, Mary Kathryn ad Michael down. Luke and Matt had already left to keep their appointment with Dr. Bailey. When the kids came in, Larry ran straight to me, put his arms around my neck, avoiding my back, and gave me a passionate kiss which I was happy to return. The others just said, "Hi, Millie," and looked puzzled.
"Gentlemen, and you are gentlemen are you not, I believe there are rules about that kind of behavior in school. I'll overlook it this time, but next time I'll have to report it to your parents," Ms. Jones laughed. "I called you down because I believe you were involved in the episode at the Joyce house yesterday and I wanted you to know the results of your care and concern. Eugene, perhaps you would like to let your friends know what is to happen with Janice."
I told them what had happened and assured them that I doubted we would miss each other. "Since all of you are so close, I suspect the closest thing I can think of which might be like one of you moving half way across the country would be if it were Larry. But Janice and I hardly know each other. We were too busy avoiding beatings and harangues. I'm glad she will have a good home and I know she loves Aunt Sandra and her family and they love her. That's all that is important. It's not like I am even losing a good friend."
"Mrs. Willingham, would you like to finish the story?"
"It's very simple, all of you I claim as grandchildren. Eugene is special. It pays to have high paid lawyers who know the right people. Never let anyone tell you justice is blind. She can see power and money. So, as of today this young man is Eugene Willingham. I've adopted him. There is a restraining order against his father so that takes care of that. Guys, do you think you can do another move today? If you can't, Eugene can stay at David's until you can."
I blushed because I was frightened and had something I needed to say, but felt embarrassed to say it. But as she said, Millie never missed a trick. "Ok, Son, what's the problem?"
"Millie, last night I had a nightmare and when Michael finally got me awake, I was in such pain, David had to give me another shot. I think the pain pills will be all I need since I have been doing ok most of the day, but if it's all right with you, I'd like to spend one more night at David's to be sure I don't need him."
"Of course it's all right! I wouldn't think of insisting you move until you are sure you can make it through the night without David's help. Well, Ms. Jones, I guess I'm ready to go. If it's ok with you, I'll just take this bunch of grandkids off your hands."
"I certainly hate to see them go, but I suspect I will see them all tomorrow."
We all piled in Millie's car and drove to David's. Larry came with me and then went back into town with Millie. When they had left, Michael and I talked for awhile. I thanked him again for holding me last night and we talked about friendship and caring for other people, about why he and his dad had stayed at the Temple of Praise--neither really knew why they had stayed. David and his family had started going when David got out of service because some of David's family had been members there before it became so radical. When Elizabeth was so sick, David just didn't have the energy to change until the constant harangue against gays finally got to him. Then we talked about all that happened today. I still couldn't believe someone had cared enough to actually make me her son. By the time we had talked for a long time, my back was making its presence felt so I took a pain pill. Michael said he was going to set up a gym, I thought, as I fell asleep. Michael must have picked me up and taken me to bed because when I waked up I was in the guest room bed.
A Special Place--Part Twenty-one--Matt
(Author's Note: A Special Place is set--at least to this point--in 1995. For young couples or singles who have questions about sex, gay or otherwise, internet resources have multiplied like bunny rabbits since 1995. Anyone with access to Nifty has access to tons of information. Unfortunately, some of it is wrong or misguided. Still, it is the best resource available. Use it and your common sense. By all means find a doctor you trust and who is concerned about you and ask questions! The following is pretty much a "symbolic" doctor's visit. You need to make one on your own. Your life may well depend on it!)
Luke and I left school and went straight to our appointment with Dr. Bailey. We were both kinda nervous, but didn't admit it to each other. We didn't have to. Not only was our personal mental communication system in excellent order, but we knew each other well enough to read our body language. When we reached her office, we had to wait a bit before she could see us.
"Guys, some of our time together may be a bit embarrassing for you and some may, frankly, seem a bit gross, but there are some things I want you to know because they are very important and you are very important to me. I'd say the same thing if I were talking to Mary Kathryn and Michael. Of course, what I'd have to say to them would be different in some specifics, but not overall. And regardless of what else you may hear, remember or forget, do not forget this: in sex, as everything else, you are partners. You are lovers and if you remember that and all that loving each other means, you'll be ok. You'll be more than ok. It's kinda like lover is always really plural. If you always remember your beloved, sex, as every aspect of your life, will be enriched. Think of your partner, not just yourself. That's the reason sex without love never works in the long run. God, I hope I don't sound too preachy, but I know you two love each other and sex will be a glorious experience if it is always an expression of love for the other. But you do have to take care concerning certain things... some of which MAY not be of concern to a heterosexual couple.
We talked for an hour and promised we'd read a book she gave us and write down any questions which arose. We had no more we could think of then. "One final thing. Since you are virgins, you don't have to worry about STDs now or ever unless one of you decides to play around. Should one of you play around, when you go back to your partner, it will be the same as his having sex with every person that guy--or girl--has had sex with. I hope that will never be a problem for you and, if it is, I suspect worrying about STDs will be the lesser of the two very serious problems you have to deal with. Most STDs can be treated, some cured; I'm not as sure about smashed trust, betrayal and broken promises.
"I don't even want to think that will ever be a problem," Luke said.
"Neither do I. Nonetheless, should it be, your relationship will be put to the most severe test it could possibly face. Much will be demanded of both of you to handle the destroyed trust and broken promises. I sincerely hope you never face that but, should it happen, I hope and pray your love can handle it." Her last words to us were, "Matt, Luke, sex is a beautiful, wonderful and powerful part of being human. It can be nothing more than a way to get your rocks off--I guess that expression is still used--in which your partner is nothing more than a convenient warm, moist hole. Or it can be the deepest and most powerful way you have of expressing your love. So long as you are thinking of the other, you'll do ok. Men have found that to be true since time began. Be tender, be easy, be loving, be caring and you will discover a whole new world. It won't be love, you have that already, but it will be a way of expressing your love which will spin the very stars."
We were ready to go when I remembered Eugene and Larry. "Margaret, we told Eugene and Larry we were coming to talk with you and asked if they wanted to. They said they would. They have some problems which I'll let them talk over with you, but could they see you?"
"I'll keep time after school tomorrow for them." Margaret then got up and, I guess, ceased being Dr. Bailey since she embraced each of us and said, "I hope and pray you two have a long, joyful and loving life together." Then she said, "Oh, I almost forgot. The social worker from protective services just called. Janice is going to live with her aunt in Arizona. She used to go there in the summers and loved it. She's leaving tonight from Jackson. Ms. Anderson from protective services is taking her to the plane. Eugene also has some news, but I'll let him tell you about that. See you after work."
It was still an hour and a half before Gabrielle would be off work so I called her and asked her to pick me up at St. Mary's so Luke could go on to work in his studio. When we reached St. Mary's, Luke came in with me and greeted Gertie. Fr. Tom was out making parish calls. Luke walked into the church with me, took me into his wonderful, powerful arms, pulled me to himself and placed his lips to mine. My lips had healed enough for him to give me a real kiss if he kept it gentle. Which he did, his tongue invading my mouth, carrying the taste of Luke to me. When he broke the kiss, I placed my head in the curve of his neck and whispered, "Luke Yonghon Tongmu Hans Larsen, I love you more than I can ever tell you."
"And, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, I can't begin to tell you how much I love you, but I want to spend my life trying." Luke kissed me again and this time sucked my tongue into his mouth. "Babe, we are doing what we want to do, not what we need to do. I'll see you tonight unless one or the other of us gets too involved in our work." He gave me a final quick kiss and rushed out.
I had copies of all the music I planned to play for my recital and the concert, and decided I would just start with the first and play through to see where I really needed to work. I had been at it for two hours without a break when I realized that nature was calling. When I finished, I gathered up my stuff and went to the office to wait for Gabrielle. Gertie looked up as I walked in and said, "I'd have thought Millie was long past having a child, but I understand she has a new son." Her laugh rivaled Millie's. "You do know she has adopted Eugene, don't you."
"No, I didn't. Margaret told me and Luke that Eugene had some news for us, but didn't tell us what."
"Sorry if I ruined his surprise. I thought you knew."
"That's ok. I'll tell you one thing, Millie just got herself a great son. Eugene is a really grand person who certainly deserves some good time after what he has endured. I guess you know...."
"That he's gay? Sure I do."
"Well, that too, but what I was going to say was that he directed the ensemble here the other night and will be directing it again."
"Matt, I don't know why you didn't give me a good ass kicking for that remark. There was no cause for me to think that was the most important part of who he was. I owe you and him an apology."
"Accepted. Have you talked to Chelsea and Gladys recently?"
"As a matter of fact I have. They have found a location for their hospice--it's a grand old house which will have to have a lot of work done to transform it, but it sits near the river and has great lawns and has had splendid gardens which can be resurrected. It will be a beautiful, calm place. Come to find out it belonged to Millie and she sold it to Gladys for a dollar so the money Gladys might have spent for property will go on the renovations. Dr. Walker has gotten interested and is working on getting equipment donated. Things are moving. You'll see them Sunday at the wedding. I think half the county is showing up. Once the word got out, people who have known David and Margaret just kinda invited themselves. Should be a real event.... Hi, Gabrielle. Come to take this wild Indian off my hands?"
"I guess I need to. Seems some folks out in the country are kinda attached to him."
"Matt, see you next time," Gertie said as the phone rang.
As we left, I made a mental note to tell Luke what Gladys and Chelsea were up to and was lost in my thoughts about how Luke and I were finally brought together and the loving people who surrounded us. That reminded me of the very different situation Eugene had been in and his family didn't even know it all. I was startled when Gabrielle said, "Where are your thoughts, Matt? You seem to be lost in your own world."
"I really was. I was thinking about Chelsea and Gladys and what they are doing to provide a loving place for people who are dying and how they loved and cared for me and Luke, about the suffering Eugene has been through and how lucky Luke and I are to be surrounded by so many loving people. How do you ever repay that kind of love?"
"I guess in one way you don't because it is both priceless and given without thought of cost. But in another you can and that's the way Gladys and Chelsea are doing it. You repay love by being loving and giving love to others. Too bad many people, perhaps most, never learn that giving is what life's about, not receiving."
"Makes me kinda wonder about Eugene. I can understand why the Gang of Four can love because we have all been loved all our lives, but Eugene hasn't."
"If you can figure that one out, and why kids from really good, loving homes can turn out rotten sometimes, I guess you'd make Bill Gates look like a pauper," Gabrielle observed.
"Yea." was all I could say, but what more needed to be said? "Margaret told me Janice was going to live with an aunt in Arizona and that Eugene had some great news for us. I wonder what that might be?" I wasn't about to admit that Gertie had spilled the beans.
"Well, you'll soon know. We're at David's." I had been so lost in thought that we had gotten home before I realized it. "Do you want to stop here or go on home?"
"I'll stop here and see how Eugene's doing. See you later."
When I got inside, I yelled, "Anyone home?" and bounded upstairs. I saw Eugene was asleep in the guest room. I turned to go since I didn't want to wake him but, just as I started out the door, he said, "Matt, glad you're here. I have some real news for you and Luke, but I didn't want to bother him if he's really involved in his work."
"I'll check. He's been at work for two hours and needs a break anyway. How's the back?
"It's a real bitch, I'll have to admit. I took a pain pill when I got home and fell asleep, but it's better."
"He said something about getting the gym ready. Said you all were going to do it Saturday, but... and that's when I drifted off. I don't know what he was talking about." I explained that all three of us had worked out at school, but were having a time problem so we decided to combine our stuff and set up our own workout room in a shed at my place. "I need to get in on that as soon as this back gets better. Think Larry would like to as well."
"Sounds like a winner to me. I'll see what Luke's up to."
When I reached the studio, I knocked on the door and Luke came out, carefully closing the door behind him. "Can you take a break? Eugene has some news for us."
"I'll be in in five minutes. I need to take care of a few things before I can leave for any time at all," he said as he leaned forward and kissed me.
When Luke came in, Eugene told us all about the events of the day. "Hot damn," Luke exclaimed, "the son of a rich mama!"
"Well, she made it pretty clear that she wasn't about to have a spoiled brat on her hands, but she did say that she'd do the same for me as she did for Jason: see that I had an excellent education. That is sure more than I could have expected otherwise."
"Well, I suspect that if you weren't who and what you are, you could end up a spoiled brat anyway. No problem with your dad?"
"Haven't heard a word and would like for it to stay that way."
"Matt, I think this turn of events calls for a celebration. How 'bout I call Gabrielle and see what she can whip up?"
"You think I'd ever turn down a Gabrielle meal?" Just as Luke reached for the phone, it rang.
"Hello.... Hi, Mom, just getting ready to call you.... 7:30? Sounds great.... Oh, I was just going to suggest the same thing. Yea, I'll make sure I am at a stopping place in time. Bye."
"Mom was calling to say we were having a celebration at our place at 7:30. Seems like we are either celebrating or in some hell hole these days. When will everything just be even?"
"I suspect when we are feeding the worms six feet under," Eugene laughed. "This way we know we are alive and there are things to celebrate. Afraid my life was on a pretty even basis and I sure didn't like where the base was."
"Eugene, slip off to slumber land again. I've got to get back to the studio if I want to be at a stopping place in time to celebrate your adoption. What are you up to, Matt?"
"I'm about played out and I don't think I need to worry about working on the score until we can see how it works in practice so I think I'll go and see what Michael's up to."
"Later," Luke said and kissed me, almost full force, but holding back a little. "Later Eugene."
"Matt, I think I'd probably feel better with a little exercise. Mind if I tag along?"
"Not at all. Do you want to walk or take the Jeep?"
"Let's leave the Jeep for Luke and walk. I really love being out here and the day is sooo nice."
"Eugene, it's completely overcast and looks as if it might pour any minute! This is a nice day?"
"You better believe it! I can remember only one nicer."
"But you're bound to be in pain even with the pill."
"I was then too, if you remember," he smiled and for the first time I realized what a beautiful smile Eugene had and I knew its glow came from deep within. "I wish Larry were joining us tonight. It would make my celebration complete."
"I won't be surprised if he isn't, among others."
When we reached the shed, Michael had the place all swept out and was beginning to set up equipment. "How's it going, Michael?"
"Great, now that you are here with your lazy butt. Eugene, feel better after the pill?"
"Yea, I slept until Matt arrived. Thanks for taking me upstairs." Michael dismissed that with a wave of his hand. "I feel pretty good. Want to make it without a shot tonight and see if I can stop the pills tomorrow. I don't like the way they make me feel: all groggy and crazy."
Eugene helped get things put together after Michael warned him not to overdo it. "You start sweating and you are going to regret getting carried away." We worked for maybe an hour and had everything set up. "Man, I think getting all this stuff together was a pretty good workout, but I guess we need to try it out."
"I can spot one of you," Eugene offered.
"Sounds good. Spot Michael and then you can spot me." We did a short--maybe thirty minute workout and then took a shower. The cold water probably wasn't the wisest thing we ever did, but it sure felt good.
"Man, I sure miss having a shower. It's kinda hard to give yourself a bath," Eugene said.
"Let's go home and I'll help you," Michael offered. "Won't be like a shower, but it'll be better than trying to do it yourself. Won't be as good as if Larry were doing it, but if you don't mind a poor substitute," Michael laughed.
"See you two later," I said as Michael and Eugene headed toward David's and I headed to the house. Mom and Dad were home and Dad asked, "What's this about a celebration at Gabrielle's tonight? Saw Millie at school today and know she left with the crew before school was out. Do you know what's up?"
"Sure do and I guess it's no secret." I told Mom and Dad all about Janice going to Arizona and Millie adopting Eugene."
"I guess Eugene feels like he went from hell to heaven without passing 'Go' and collecting $200," Dad laughed.
"I'm not sure what he feels. Of course, I think he has been kept a bit calm by the pain pills and I guess it really hasn't sunk in yet, but he's surely a much happier camper today than yesterday."
A Special Place--Part Twenty-one--Michael
After Eugene and I left Matt, we took a leisurely walk home. I was afraid he would work up a sweat because the day was quite warm and I knew if he did, his back would sting like mad. When we got back to the house, I said, "How about that bath?"
"You sure you want to do that?"
"Eugene, I may do a lot of things, but saying something I don't mean is not one of them. I know how I would feel if I didn't have a decent bath and it makes sense to me that I help you get one--at least the best one you can. To tell you the truth, I don't quite understand my feeling toward you. I don't mean the kind of feeling Larry has for you or Luke has for Matt, but I feel a kind of closeness, like you're a brother I never had maybe. It's even different from the way I feel toward Luke and Matt who are as much brothers as they could be. I really have been thinking about this since last night. There's a kind of protectiveness about it and a kind of bond that, I'll admit, I don't understand."
"That's strange because I can't understand it either, but I think I know exactly what you mean. It's a feeling that I have as well. And, frankly, I'm surprised by it in myself and maybe more surprised to see it in you. It doesn't seem to fit who I thought you were. I'm not sure who I thought you were, but I guess I thought you had all the friends you needed and, hell, I don't know what I'm trying to say, except you're a great friend and on pretty short notice."
"Well, I guess we don't have to understand it or work it out. Let's get you in the tub--ugh."
Eugene got undressed while I ran water for his bath and when he was ready, I stripped to my briefs and helped him get a bath. I could wash his back where it was not bandaged and only once or twice did he flinch when I hit a tender spot. I almost got sick at my stomach as I looked at the welts and I couldn't see the worst, which was covered by the bandages.
As I was washing his shoulders, he turned and looked at me and said, "Michael, I think I may know why we feel a kinship. We have both lost parents. You lost a mother who, I am positive, loved you very much and I lost both parents who hated me--maybe hate is too strong--no, it's not--and if they didn't, they would if they knew the whole truth. But we have both suffered in ways that the others in the Select Few haven't. Don't recommend suffering for anyone, but I think we both have gained something from it."
"You know, I think you may be right--and you now have a loving parent--and believe me I've been around Millie enough to know that she's a loving old gal beneath that crusty outside--and I'm getting another one Sunday. Does that make us newborns? Maybe that could count as being born again!"
I think some of the pent-up emotions Eugene had burst loose, because he started laughing and couldn't stop. He had tears running down his face he was laughing so hard. Every time he began to get control, I would start to help him out of the tub, and he'd start laughing again and slip back in. "Hey, you're not being much help, Bro." That sent Eugene off again. I heard Dad come in downstairs and yelled down, "Dad, I need some help up here." I finally climbed in the tub behind Eugene, put my arms under his and started to lift him. I had almost got his ass off the bottom of the tub when he started laughing again. This time it set me off and I slipped, falling in the tub behind him. When Dad came bounding up the stairs we were both laughing our fool heads off.
"What in the world is going on here," Dad said as he rushed into the bathroom. Neither Eugene nor I could stop laughing long enough to say anything. "Michael, if you can get your butt out of the tub, I'll see what I can do with Eugene." I finally managed to get out and Dad lifted Eugene out easily. Dad's strong as an ox and knows how to handle people. "Now, could I please find out what this is all about?"
Eugene and I had finally gotten control of ourselves and Eugene told Dad what had happened. "I'm sorry, Mr. Andrews...."
"I'm sorry, David. Michael was helping me get a bath and I got a bad case of the giggles and it just got worse and worse until Michael caught the disease and we were both helpless in the tub. I'm sorry."
"For what? For having a good laugh? That's never reason for an apology unless it's at someone else's expense. I think you deserve a good laugh! Michael, if you'll bring my bag, I'll take a look at Eugene's back. It needs dressing anyway, since SOMEONE managed to get it wet. Tell Margaret to come up too. I want her to take a look."
I went downstairs and got the bag and asked Margaret to come up. Both she and Dad said Michael's back was much worse than they had thought when they first saw it, but decided to leave the bandages off. "If it starts oozing again or if your shirt irritates it, we can put them back on," Margaret said. "Why don't you put on a plain white T-shirt that's not too loose so it won't flop around and rub your back."
"I don't want to go to the Larsens' looking like I don't know how to dress for a party," Eugene said.
"Well, I seriously doubt that would be a problem, but if you'll put on a T-shirt under what you want outside, that should be ok. I just don't want something to rub your wounds--and they are wounds--or to stick to them. I'll keep check on that tonight," Dad said.
"Before I forget it," Margaret said, "I made an appointment for you and Larry to come in to see me after school tomorrow. We'll have to figure a way for you to get there since Matt and Luke leave school before last period and Matt said he thought you would need to be there to get started with the ensemble."
"He's right. We'll just have to come up with something."
"Bro, bet yo' mama would get you and bring you to town."
"His mother! Have you lost it Mikey?" Dad exclaimed.
"Now, Dad, you know I hate being called Mikey or Mike. Why are you torturing me?"
"Well, you seemed to have lost your senses suggesting his mom could bring him to Margaret's. I wasn't sure you were Michael," Dad responded.
"Oh, I guess you haven't met Mr. Eugene Willingham. Mr. Willingham, Mr. David Andrews."
"What's going on here?" Dad asked.
Eugene had started laughing again, but was able to get control of himself. "David, as of today, I am officially Eugene Willingham. Millie has adopted me," Eugene said, and a huge smile spread across his face.
"You deserve having a decent parent. I know Millie may be tough at times, but she has a real heart of gold. So that's why we're going to Jens' and Gabrielle's," Dad said. "I asked Margaret and she pretended she didn't know."
"I thought Eugene should have the pleasure," Margaret said and gave Dad a kiss.
"Man, we are on a fast count down to the end of slow and easy, I can see. The very idea kissing in front of us innocent children."
Dad laughed and said, "Best I recall a certain young Michael Andrews came home not long ago groaning, muttering something about stone...."
"Doesn't sound like there's a lot of innocent children around," Margaret said. And that sent me and Eugene off again and soon Dad was laughing as well.
"If you three BOYS can get control of yourselves and get dressed, we'll be leaving for the Larsens' shortly," Margaret said in what sounded like a mama voice.
As Eugene and I were getting dressed, I heard the Jeep pull out of the driveway and knew Luke was headed home to get cleaned up and dressed. Or more likely he was headed to Matt's.