Castle Roland

A Special Place

by Sequoyah


Chapter 23

Posted: N/A

A Special Place--Part Twenty-three--Luke

Tuesday night after the celebration, I had worked very hard and late. It was 12:15 by the time I had everything I needed to take to Lexington packed in crates and ready to go. I had mentioned earlier that the packages were going to be pretty heavy, but more than that, awkward to handle. David and Michael told me to call them when I was ready to load the Jeep, but I hesitated to do so since it was so late. Yet when I tried to get one of the crates in the Jeep and realized I was running a real risk of damaging the contents, I went inside.

When I reached the den it was obvious that Michael and David were deeply involved in conversation and I turned to leave, not wanting to interrupt them. David saw me and called out, "Luke, come on in. While we were waiting, Michael and I got involved pretty deeply in a conversation, something we haven't done in awhile."

"Well, I sure hate to disturb you."

"It's ok. Maybe after we get the Jeep loaded, you'd like to join us for some milk and cookies before going to bed."

We quickly loaded the three crates I had packed, and secured them in the Jeep. "It's not supposed to rain tonight, but don't you think you might better put the Jeep in the garage just in case? I know it has the sides and all, but rain may get to the crates if the wind gets up."

"I don't think rain could damage the contents but you're right, better safe than sorry," I responded.

"I'll move my van."

When David pulled the van out, I moved the Jeep into the garage and, when everything was secure, went into the house with David and Michael. Michael and I seated ourselves around the dining room table and David brought a plate of cookies Margaret had made earlier, and glasses of cold milk for all three of us. "Michael and I have been talking about a potential problem he faces; at least he assures me it is potential and not actual at this time."

"Luke, if you so much as breathe a word of this to Mary Kathryn I'll be forced to kill you! Dad and I have been talking about Mary Kathryn and me becoming sexually active--Man, that sounds so clinical! You know, making love all the way. Anyway, what do you think?"

"Michael, first of all, you're talking about having sex with my baby sister so I don't think I'm the most objective guy in the world on that score. Do you really expect me to be unbiased?"

"Hell yes I do! I expect you to be as objective as if we were talking about Linda Randolph. If you can't be, I don't see how you can be of help to me and, therefore, Mary Kathryn."

"You might expect that and it might be a good idea, but I'm not sure I can measure up to your expectations. What do you think about the situation?"

"Well, I don't know. No, that's not true. I think two different things which don't seem to go together. That's why I asked Dad in the first place. On the one hand, I can't even imagine ever loving anyone other than Mary Kathryn. She's my very life right now and I don't believe I could live without her and her love. On the other hand, I'm realistic enough to know that I'm not even sixteen yet. I have two more years in high school and at least four years of college before I could expect to settle down. In that length of time I could fall in and out of love a dozen times, I guess. So one part of me says I am in love with the only woman I will ever love and therefore we should express our love for each other in every possible way. Now don't get me wrong, you and Matt have made it very clear to me that having sex is only one way of making love, but I certainly think it is an important one and think you and Matt would agree. Anyway, from that perspective, why not have sex?"

"Yet what I feel for Mary Kathryn now goes way beyond lust and sex. She's my very best friend in the whole world. I think if I had to choose between having her for a friend forever and having her as a lover... well, I guess it sounds strange, but I think I'd be forced to choose having her as a friend. But if we start having sex and our relationship as lovers turns sour, that friendship will also be destroyed."

"But even if we don't have sex and our relationship as lovers turns sour, could our friendship survive? I kinda doubt it."

"I think, maybe, you can appreciate now why I jumped off the falls. It wasn't just that I was in love with Matt, but also because I feared that if I told him our friendship would be destroyed. Also, in our case--my case--I feared that even if I didn't tell him, someone would find out and take it out on Matt. But most of all I felt I knew we would never be lovers--a problem you and Wild Woman do not have--and our friendship would be destroyed. With you and Mary Kathryn it's different. Maybe your love for each other won't last; to tell the truth, the odds are against it. But, come to think of it, the odds are very much--more than with you and Mary Kathryn in fact--against Matt and I being together until death do us part, but I can't imagine our ever being separated because we no longer loved each other."

"My feelings exactly. On the one hand there's the impossibility of Mary Kathryn and me not being in love and on the other the statistics. So what do we do?"

"Luke, I have already told Michael that he and Mary Kathryn must talk to each other about their feelings, their fears, their hopes and dreams. That just has to be or they may as well chuck the whole thing now."

"Another thing you must do is to continue to play together, to do friendship things. Matt and I are so busy right now that we get very little time to be friends and the time we have, we spend as lovers--I don't mean having sex, we're still keeping that promise we made to ourselves--but we have done very few friend things. I fear what will happen if we don't make time to do friend things. Beyond that, all I can say is that you can never go back to where you were before you confessed your love for each other. There is no road back and that is doubly true once you start having sex; not that I have any experience there, but I suspect your dad would agree with me."

"You are so very right. Once you start having sex, there is no real stopping."

"But you and Margaret did--at least she said you were," cut-to-the-chase Michael said.

David blushed big time. Here was his son engaged in father-son talk about sex, and son was putting father on the hot spot. "Yea, David, as I recall the day Margaret announced she had proposed to you there was ample evidence that more than hand holding had taken place."

"Ok, Guys, if you tell Margaret any of this part of the conversation, and I am able when she finishes with me, I'll break your necks. Yes, Margaret and I did make love--we had wonderful sex--that day at the falls. And to be honest, since we were getting married very soon, I didn't see any reason we shouldn't keep on but, for some reason, Margaret put me back on the slow and easy path. Well, I think I know why. I think she wants her wedding night to be a kind of first time for us, but of course it will not be. In that sense, there is no way back. Further, if we had to wait several years before we were married and had made love as we did that day, there's no way I could handle that. So that's something you have to think about. What if, for some reason, the Larsens have to move away or even if we have to move away? What about college? Do you know you will be going to the same one? What if Mary Kathryn becomes pregnant? There are lot of questions you and Mary Kathryn need to think about and talk about."

"Michael, when Matt told his dad about Eugene and Larry, Greywolf told him he was very honored that we had decided to wait until we are eighteen, but he also said we should never become so lust-filled that we hurt one another. I guess that is another thing you need to consider. I don't think there are simple answers. All I would ask as the brother of your heart's desire is that you and she discuss your thoughts and feelings, respect each other and make a mature, responsible and mutual decision and accept the risks and consequences of your decision."

"Well said, Luke," David said when I had finished.

"Why did I know neither you nor Dad would have an answer for me?"

"Because you're Michael and we're not and you know that. Because you may not be sixteen yet, but you're an adult and are ready to make adult decisions and are unwilling for someone else to make them for you--except maybe Mary Kathryn when she's in full battle mode!" I laughed.

"Son, I am always here to listen, offer you guidance, but I'm afraid you have to make your own decisions because you would anyway," David said as he got up and walked over to Michael and gave him a hug. "Now I think we better get to bed."

"Yea. Six o'clock will be here before I'm ready. It's been a hard day getting ready to get to Lexington, but everything is ready thanks to you two and I want to be out of here by 6:30."

"Sorry I kept both of you up so late," Michael said.

"Don't be, Son. I am very pleased and honored you felt you could talk with me."

"Same here, Brother mine. I thought about going home, but I think I'll crash upstairs if it's all right."

"Anytime," David said.

When the alarm went off, I wanted to throw the clock across the room and silence the sound I hated most any morning, but managed to drag myself out of bed and staggered into the bathroom where I showered and shaved. As soon as I was dressed, I went downstairs, grabbed an apple for breakfast and walked outside. When I reached the garage, Matt was waiting for me. "What are you doing here Sarang Hanun Pomul?" I asked.

"There was no way I was letting you go off on a quest, Sir Knight, without greeting the love of your life." Matt smiled as I wrapped him in my arms, his hair, loose, surrounding me with the scent of the man I loved more than life itself. Our kiss was deep, passionate, filled with love. Our tongues engaged in the duel that we both knew so well, filling our mouths with the taste of the other. Soon our very breathing became one. As our kiss went on, I opened my eyes and found myself looking into the black almond eyes which held the very secret of my life and happiness. I wanted to stay here with Matt in my arms forever.

But Matt had other ideas, and as he broke our kiss he said, "Luke, do you realize how important today is? You are going to find out whether or not the project you dream of can be done and the chorus and ensemble will begin to show me how good or bad my compositions are. But Lexington calls. Luke, why don't I skip school and come with you?"

"Because you have to be here to work with Paula and Eugene and the ensemble and chorus before I would be back. Plus, yo' mama would have yo' hide."

"You're right, but wouldn't it be fun--just once--to skip school? I never have."

"Neither have I," Mary Kathryn said as she and Michael walked up behind us, dressed for the morning run.

"I haven't either," Luke said. Michael was silent because, when he was on his "bad boy" kick, he had cut several times.

But he finally spoke, "Well, you guys know I cut lots for a while and, to tell the truth, it wasn't fun. It was hell because I was trying so hard to be a bad ass and hated myself for doing it. But now, with Mary Kathryn, I think it might just be great fun. Think we might need to try it before school's out. Well, let's run--down the road or to Lexington." And the three of them were off.

"And I lectured Michael about making time to be friends," I thought as I watched Matt running away from me.

The trip to Lexington was uneventful until I got to the outskirts. Lexington was a fairly small city, but it could muster up a pretty good traffic jam for rush hour. I was not used to that and found myself getting very tense as I tried to move through traffic. My destination, Lexington Foundry, was on the other side of the city from Concord, but I could take the bypass which would keep me from having to drive right through the middle of town. When I arrived, Mr. Washington, the owner of the company, was busy and his secretary said I could wait in the outer office if I wished or I could go to a glass-enclosed room above the floor and watch what was going on. I chose to do the latter since all of this was totally new to me. I was absolutely fascinated with all the activity below me. I was so absorbed in the work I was watching that I was startled when Mr. Washington walked up behind me without my hearing him and said, "Fascinating, isn't it?" When I jumped he said, "Sorry I startled you, Mr. Larsen."

I turned, stuck out my hand and said, "Luke, please, Mr. Washington".

"Then I'm Tom. I am really pleased to meet you. Lexington Foundry hasn't taken on a project like yours in years and, in fact, I was afraid we would have to turn you down and send you on to Jackson; but the day Mr. Stephenson called to ask about our doing your casting work, a beloved employee who retired ten years ago just happened to be in the office visiting. After Mr. Stephenson described what you had in mind, I told him I didn't think we could handle it, but I would call him back. When I hung up the phone, Herr Dietrich asked what it was we couldn't do and when I told him he said, 'Well, I could do that if I weren't retired'. I asked him why didn't he take on your work as a retirement project and he said, 'I will if it's worth it'. I have known Herr Dietrich since I was a kid and know he meant exactly what he said. So I guess we had better see if it's worth it. Do you have your sculptures ready?"

"They're in the Jeep, but I will need some help getting them inside. They are pretty heavy and very awkward to handle."

"I'll get some men to bring one of them into the office. We will only need one for Herr Dietrich to decide whether he will come out of retirement to do your project or not. We need to get it ready for his inspection before he arrives which will be in sixteen minutes. When Herr Dietrich says he will be somewhere at a certain time, you can set the sun by his arrival."

I admit I was reluctant to let workmen carry the crate with one of the sculptures in it without my having my hands on it, but they were as careful as they would have been with a baby. Of course they were carrying one of my babies! When the crate was safely on a sturdy table in Mr. Washington's office, I carefully unpacked it. When Mr. Washington saw the whole piece ready for the final preparation and casting, he said, "I'm sure once he sees his, Herr Dietrich couldn't be beaten away from the casting. But put the cloth back over it so you can have an unveiling for him."

When Herr Dietrich arrived, I was introduced to him, of course. He was short, stocky with a little round tummy and a shock of white hair and a great white beard. He wore glasses perched on the end of his nose and, as soon as I saw him, I thought about St. Nick in "The Night Before Christmas". As soon as we had been introduced, he asked to see the sculpture and I unveiled it. I was more than a little anxious and tried to figure out what he was thinking, but neither his body language nor expression gave a clue. He was doing a very minute inspection of the clay sculpture when he saw my name inscribed in the base of the piece. "Luke Hans Larsen," he read.

"Yes, Sir." I said.

"Dutch, Danish, Norwegian?" he looked up and asked.

"My father is a third or fourth generation Dane. My mother is German. My mom and dad met while he was stationed in Germany."

"I left Germany when Hitler took over. Lucky to get away. Did my apprenticeship in Freiburg which ended up in East Germany until the Wall came down. Great metal town. Once had silver mines." All the time he was talking, Herr Dietrich was going over the sculpture inch by inch. He finally stood up, looked at me and asked, "Mr. Larsen...."

"Please, Sir, call me Luke."

"I'm a bit reluctant to do that, but I will. Luke, this is all your work and idea?"

"Yes, Sir, it is."

"And there are two other pieces?"

"Yes, Sir."

Herr Dietrich turned to Mr. Washington and said, "Thomas, have the other two pieces brought up". As Mr. Washington went to tell workers to bring the other two up, Herr Dietrich continued to examine the piece before him. Not once did I see any indication that he liked or disliked the sculpture.

When the other two sculptures were placed on the table, the workers started to unpack them. "Thank you very much, guys (the four who had carried the sculptures were not much older than I), but I'll take care of the unpacking." I guess there was no real danger of damaging the pieces accidentally at this point, but I was taking no chances.

When the two sculptures completing the set were unpacked, Herr Dietrich said, "Thomas, get me my glass". He had been retired for years and yet he still had some of his things at the foundry? Mr. Washington took a large magnifying glass from his own desk and handed it to Herr Dietrich who took as much time going over each of the two sculptures as he had going over the first. "Are these to be displayed individually or as a group?" he asked.

"They are to be part of a bigger piece," I replied.

"I don't suppose you have anything that would give me an idea of what the final presentation would be like, do you?" the old craftsman asked.

"In fact I do, Sir. I have a whole group of sketches showing how the project evolved in my mind. I have several sketches of the views of the piece as I conceive it to be in its final form. I didn't bring them up because I wasn't sure anyone would be interested."

"I need to see them," Herr Dietrich said. No wasted words from this man.

I went down to the Jeep and brought the sketchbook up. Of course there were other sketches on everything from those in the bound sketch pad to several on napkins at the fast food place where the Gang of Four occasionally ate when Gabrielle wouldn't know about it. I even had one I had done on toilet tissue with a felt tip pen when I got inspired while sitting on the throne! But the sketchbook had a pretty full history of the evolution of the project.

"I don't suppose you're interested in the earlier sketches, just my idea for the finished project," I said as I placed the sketchbook on the table where Herr Dietrich was still examining the sculptures.

"Thomas, coffee for me and a coke--or do you want something else?--for Luke in the conference room, please."

Mr. Washington sprang to the job at once. It was obvious he respected Herr Dietrich greatly and, in some way, looked upon him as a father. Herr Dietrich indicated the direction of the conference room and, when we arrived, sat at the head of the table and began looking at the sketches at the front of the book--the very beginning. When Mr. Washington came in with two coffees and a coke, he sat down on the other side of Herr Dietrich and said, "Luke, this man is the only reason Lexington Foundry is still here. I was in my last year of college when my father died very suddenly. I was ready to drop out to try to keep the foundry open, but I really didn't know a great deal about the business. Herr Dietrich said he would keep it going and Alexis, his wife, would handle the business end of it as she had done for my father. I finished college and came here as low man and learned the business from the ground up. It's doing well, but it's almost all commercial work now--memorial plaques, building plates, that sort of thing. We make money and keep our workers well paid, but we have had so few good projects that, when Herr Dietrich retired, I realized we could no longer do what you asked us to do."

"We can do it," Herr Dietrich said, looking up from the final sketch in the book. "It will probably be my swan song, and a great one it will be. Mr. Larsen--and in my book, you're Mr. Larsen--I would be deeply honored if you would allow me to supervise the casting of these three pieces and their finishing."

"Sir, you would honor me."

"Thomas, do we have enough bronze--good bronze--to do these."

"The good bronze you left when you retired is in storeroom. I saw no reason to use it for the kind of work we're doing now."

"Very good. I'll work for free. The bronze was written off years ago. I guess the only cost to this fine young artist will be the cost of the helpers I need and the melting of the bronze," Herr Dietrich said, and for the first time, I saw some indication of how he felt about casting the bronzes. He had a definite twinkle in his eyes.

"Herr Dietrich, if the casting of these three pieces gives you pleasure, it will be a small pay back for all the wisdom and pleasure you have given me over the years. Lexington Foundry will be happy to provide whatever you need gratis."

I must have been sitting with my mouth open because Mr. Washington said, "You can pick your chin up off the floor, Luke. We both are honored that you entrust the casting of the bronzes to us."

Herr Dietrich asked me some questions about the three bronzes, but mostly about the rest of the piece. I told him that a patron was helping me and since the casting was costing me nothing, I could carry out my dream concept if I could locate the tools and materials for the other major part of the piece. I needed a sheet of plate glass three by five feet by, I hoped, two inches thick. Herr Dietrich asked more questions about the final piece as did Mr. Washington. It was finally lunch time and Mr. Washington wanted to treat us to lunch and Herr Dietrich, Mr. Washington and I continued our conversation over lunch. I had a delightful time.

After lunch, I had an appointment with a glass company where I learned they did not have the glass available and didn't seem very interested in helping me find what I needed. Mr. Washington had called a friend at another glass company before I left his place and, even though it was across town in another direction, I drove through Lexington and finally found it. While they did not have what I needed, the manager, Mr. Drake, made several calls until he located it, and got the price which he showed me while still on the phone. "Can you handle that price if the glass is delivered to your studio?" I nodded indicating I could, so he placed the order for it--it cost much more than I had expected, but then the castings cost nothing except my gratitude; I could afford the glass since Millie had given me a thousand dollars to spend.

After I had thanked Mr. Drake, I made my last stop in Lexington at an art supply center. Again, what I wanted was not available, but I was promised it could be shipped and in my hands by the time the glass arrived. I had done better than I had expected, but I would never have been able to do the project without Millie's help, even if I had been able to locate used glass-working equipment, which I had not. With deposits for the glass and tools, and what I would owe when they arrived, the thousand she gave me was almost gone and I might have to spend a couple hundred of my own money--which was all I would have had otherwise. So I was a very happy artist as I got into the Jeep in time to join the afternoon rush hour.

After I left Lexington behind, it was smooth sailing back to Concord. When I arrived, I went straight to the studio and made a list of other things I would need to put the sculpture together. Some scrap steel and gears I could get from a junk yard for their cost as junk metal. I also needed an electric motor or maybe two, but those would set me back less than an additional hundred. As I finished, there was a knock on the door. The only other part of my work which was a secret was covered, so I just yelled, "Come on in". Matt burst in, as excited as a little kid.

"Yonghon Tongmu, you are the most wonderful person in the whole world," Matt said as he grabbed me and pulled me from my chair, covering my mouth with his for a kiss--the likes of which I had not had for a long time. In fact, it was the best ever. "Yonghon Tongmu, I love you; I love you; I love you."

"Matt, I know I am very desirable, irresistible even, but this seems to be more than your usual attraction to poor little me," I laughed, pulling his mouth to mine as my fingers went to work on his hair. As soon as it was free, I picked him up and took him to the sofa where I had slept several nights ago, laid him down and immediately went to work on his beautiful mouth. He was so excited I couldn't hold him down and soon he lay atop my body, kissing me in the wonderful space created by his cascading hair. He was all over me. Even when he had wanted, desperately, for us to go all the way, he was not as excited as he was today. He was really a wild man, kissing every bit of exposed skin he could find on my body. By the time he had completed that, he had my shirt unbuttoned and pulled it off of me, throwing it on the floor as he started working on my chest with his tongue, stopping from time to time to kiss a nip, to grab his teeth across one, or to suck first one and then the other.

Ordinarily I think I would have been so aroused that I would be shooting off by now, but Matt was so excited that I got tickled and kept laughing rather than getting aroused. Lifting his head from my chest, I pressed my lips to his in a long, slow, passionate but gentle kiss. "Ok, Matthew, what provoked all this loving--not that I object."

Matt sat up, turned and faced me and said, "Luke, we had practice at St. Mary's with all the ensemble, chorus and organ parts together for the first time. We did several pieces where about all that was needed was to make sure we were together since, for the most part, we all knew the music. Then we started on a part of one of my original compositions. I had played it alone and I could hear it in my head, but Luke it was magnificent. When we started I was thinking of you and I just got so carried away I could hardly stand it, but I had to hold it all in until I got here. When I saw you our whole life together since that day I found you floating in the river came flooding back and I realized I loved you more than I had ever thought possible," Matt said, as he once again covered my mouth with his, his tongue carrying the taste of Matt into my mouth from where it spread love and joy throughout my being. "But I am being selfish, Luke. Tell me about your day."

I lay back on the sofa, pulled Matt on top of my body and his head against my chest. I told him all that had happened and how, with Millie's help and the gratis work and materials from Lexington Foundry and Herr Dietrich, I was going to be able to do all I dreamed of doing. "Matt, we are so lucky--no--we are so blessed by the people who surround us. You do know that, don't you?"

"Yea. Sometimes I worry about it. It all just seems too good to be true. Oh, and Millie has a surprise for you, if you're willing." Matt then told me what Millie had proposed. We continued talking about our work and the people who loved and supported us for some time, stopping for a kiss from time to time until I realized it was getting late and I needed to get home to have dinner with my family. "Matt, I need to dash inside and tell Michael and David about the day and then go home for dinner. I need to spend time at home tonight."

"So long as you know that's not where I want you to be."

"Tomorrow's Thursday and we are obliged to spend an hour enjoying being alive. Right?"

"Right. Although I do need to spend some time practicing for Sunday. It's Easter you know and that means all kinds of special music."

"Don't you have choir practice tomorrow night? What time?"

"7:00 until 8:00, why?"

"Why don't we have a date tomorrow night? We've never had one, you know. We'll go to the falls for our Mr. Mitchell time and then get anything we need to get done, done--like I need to paint some--and after practice we'll have dinner and do something datey."

"Datey? Datey?"

"Yea, you know, something people do on dates."

"Don't get me wrong, Lover, but I don't think I--we--have time for that this week. I have choir practice tomorrow night--and it may well go over since we'll be finishing up for Easter. We have a wedding rehearsal Saturday afternoon and you're going to Lexington again Saturday morning, right?" I nodded. "Sunday I have Easter, followed by the wedding. I think we have our hands full this week."

"Sounds to me like we have our hands empty," I said, and gave Matt an impish smile.

"Luke, you're dimpling me," he protested.

"'You're dimpling me?' Just what does that mean?"

"You're giving me that smile which you know shows off your dimple and I just about lose it! You know that!" Matt was still on top of me and attacked my mouth again with passionate kisses. This time I was aroused and so was he. "Babe, I want you so baaaad!" he exclaimed as he continued to smother my mouth and body with kisses.

"And I want you as well, Sarang Hanun Pomul," I responded. We kept up our kissing, our tongues bringing pleasure to the other. By this time, I had taken off his shirt. Our bare chests were together and his hair covered both our faces as we became more and more passionate. Our hips were pressed into each other, our hardness meeting. We continued rubbing against each other, obviously both getting hotter all the time. Finally I knew where this was going to end and I was ready. As Matt snaked his tongue into my mouth, he pressed his hips against mine as I raised to meet them. We both exploded at the same time and I could feel my hot man's seed filling my boxers. As I came, Matt sucked my tongue into his mouth and practically shouted, "Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen, I love you," and bit my tongue not too gently, then collapsed on my body. I held him tight and stroked his hair as he lay his head on my chest.

"No more than I love you, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf!" We lay together, secure in the afterglow of our love making until I knew I had to get home. "Matt, Babe, you know I hate to break this up, but I've got to get home."

Matt stood up and removed his pants and briefs as I did the same. We cleaned each other up, and redressed, leaving off our briefs and boxers. I pulled Matt to myself and once again kissed his wonderful mouth, this time gently. "I need to speak to David and Michael before I go. Come with me?"

In answer, Matt took my hand and we walked, hand in hand, to the house. I told David and Michael about my trip and then Matt and I drove to his place. When we arrived he asked, "Will I see you later tonight?"

"Maybe after dinner and I have had time to talk to the folks. Ok?"


"Bye, Babe," I said as I gave Matt a kiss.

When I got home, dinner was almost ready. I ran upstairs and changed into more comfortable clothes since I had dressed in better than school clothes for the trip to Lexington--and I did need abit more cleaning up than I had done at the studio. When I got back downstairs, Mom had just put the last dish on the table and called Dad and Mary Kathryn to dinner.

"How was the trip, Luke?" Dad asked.

"Wonderful. Couldn't have gone better." I told the family all about what had happened and all of them were pleased for me.

"And just what is it you are doing anyway?" Dad asked.

"It's a surprise. Only Millie will see any of it before it is unveiled at the exhibition and she will only see a photograph for the catalog. Matt is trying to keep his two original compositions secret until the concert and I am keeping two works secret until the exhibition. Anything happen at school today, Mary Kathryn?"

"I think the start of something happened today. Michael checked on his running for president of the student body and there is no reason he can't. He and Larry were getting the announcement ready for tomorrow. You promised a campaign poster for him so I guess you'll need to set aside some time for that. A couple jocks heard he was running and told him he couldn't because he'd just be a junior next year and besides he wasn't a part of the 'real' Independence High School. You know how that went over."

"I did a campaign poster the other day, but forgot about it in the excitement. All it needs is a picture of Michael--I think in his track uniform, jumping hurdles or something very active as a kind of answer to the jocks. If I had the picture, we could get it ready tonight and run into town and get copies printed."

"I just happen to have a few pictures of this Michael track star jock you're talking about. I'll get them and you can pick the best one." Mary Kathryn said. "I'll do it right after dinner."

The family continued to talk about what was going on at school, my work and what Mary Kathryn was up to. When dinner was finished, Mom and Dad went to the den to watch TV. Mary Kathryn and I looked through the pictures she had of Michael. There were some great ones and I chose one of him clearing the hurdles which I was able to use to make a great sketch for the poster. It also fit a slogan I wanted to use: "No hurdle too high for Independence with Michael running!" Dad said Mary Kathryn and I could use his car so we picked up Michael, drove into town to a quick print place and got fifty large posters and a hundred small ones printed. We also had a thousand business card-sized ones printed with the alma mater on the back.

By the time we had gotten that taken care of and Michael back home, it was time for bed. It had been a great day and I was tired and I knew Matt was, but we just hadn't had enough time together, so as Mom and Dad got up to go to bed I said, "Mom, Dad, if you don't mind I think I will spend the night with Matt."

"I'm sure we don't mind," Dad said, "but why doesn't Matt spend the night with you any more?"

"Actually, Dad, we have talked about that. While we are not having sex--at least not what we would call real sex--we both know how uncomfortable you are with our relationship. Out of respect for you and your willingness to accept us even if you can't accept our love for each other, we decided we wouldn't sleep together in our house. One day--or night--that might change, but right now I don't think you would be very comfortable with it and neither would we."

"I hate to say it Luke, I really do, but I think you are right and I really appreciate the fact that you and Matt thought about that. I'm working on it, but at this point, you are right. See you in the morning for breakfast?"

"Sure thing, Dad. And I'll ask Matt to come with me."

"Please do," Mom said.

The moon was rapidly approaching full and there were just a few fluffy clouds here and there in the sky. It was truly a beautiful night as I walked to the Greywolfs'. As I approached the house, I noticed all the lights were off. Rather than disturb anyone, I climbed the trellis and suddenly started smiling to myself remembering Romeo and Juliet. When I reached Matt's window, it was wide open and I saw Matt, lying on his back, spread-eagle on the bed. The sheet just covered his hips, leaving the rest of his dark, strong, hard, wonderful body almost glowing in the pale moonlight.

I climbed through the window and stood beside his bed, drinking in the beauty of the man I loved so very, very much. I slowly and silently undressed and walked to the bed. As I approached--as silent as the night--I could see his dark lashes resting on his cheeks. A cloud had briefly cast a shadow on Matt's face as it crossed the moon's face. As it moved away from the moon, the scar on Matt's cheek from the barbed wire was illuminated. I felt a catch in my throat as all he had been through for me raced through my mind. Realizing how he had suffered for me, I couldn't hold back the silent tears which escaped my eyes and slowly flowed down my cheeks. I stood over him weeping, both because of the pain I had caused this wonderful man and for the joy his love gave me.

A Special Place--Part Twenty-three--Matt

It had been a long, hard day. School, for the most part, had been pretty dull, but I stayed the whole day since Luke had the Jeep. The last period I had gone to the band room where Eugene and the ensemble were practicing. It was really going well. When Eugene found I was going to be with him, he had gotten the school's keyboard to use and, while it certainly was not St. Mary's organ, it did help to give the ensemble some idea of what working with the organ was like.

As soon as the final bell rang, Paula came out and checked on members of the chorus getting on the buses and Eugene checked the ensemble. I rode the bus Dad was driving and was as excited as the kids on the bus who had started singing and playing their instruments as we crossed town from school to St. Mary's.

I thought it would be a good idea to let the students who had never been to St. Mary's get a feel of the organ and played a couple short Bach pieces and really tore into Clarke's "Trumpet Tune", with full blasts of Millie's state trumpets. When I got through, I spoke to the whole group and told them it was very important to me and I would really appreciate it if they would keep my two compositions a secret. "I really want them to be completely unknown until we play them for an audience." There seemed to be general agreement that was a delightful idea and I was pleased.

When we were all just about completely exhausted, Millie came by. "Kids, I've been thinking...."

"Man, we are in trouble now," I laughed.

"Yea, we are in deep doo doo," Eugene laughed as he gave Millie a hug.

"If you two don't behave yourselves, you are exactly right," she said, and treated the assembled chorus and ensemble to a Millie belly laugh. "Look, I am really getting geared up to promote this concert and exhibition. Now it really doesn't matter how many show up for the exhibition, we can keep it open all night if it's necessary, but the concert is different. St. Mary's is not the largest place in town, so I am going to require people to get tickets so we can seat everyone. But just the parents of the chorus and ensemble could be close to a hundred people and then there are grand parents and favorite aunts and uncles, teachers. I am really anxious to have the townspeople who do not have children in school here so they can appreciate our school and her students. Sooo, what I would like for you to think about is having two concerts. On Saturday evening, have one for close family and friends. Afterwards, if Luke is willing, his exhibition can also be opened and I would have a reception for all you artists and your family and friends. I thought it would be nice to have a dinner, but with the art exhibition, we are pretty much out of space, but I had planned a reception for Sunday afternoon and I see no reason there couldn't be one Saturday night. Give it some thought."

"I don't see what there is to think about, Mrs. Willingham," Jackson Simpson said. "You have just offered us an honor and an opportunity to show our parents and friends how special they are to us AND we'll get to perform again. Sounds like a no brainer to me." He was quickly seconded by everyone present.

"Since the next day is Sunday, would 7:00 be too late? How long is the performance going to be?"

"I think a good two hours with an intermission," Matt said. Paula and Eugene nodded in agreement. "But 7:00 is about as early as people could get here and it wouldn't be too late when the concert and reception were over. Sounds good to me." Heads nodded in agreement.

"Fine, but let's keep it under our hats for the time being. I need to check with Luke about opening his exhibition that night. Fr. Tom has already given his ok. What I'd like from each of you is a list of names and addresses of those you would like invited so I can send invitations to them. And you might divide the list into those you just have to have come and those you would like to come if room is available. Well, I'm off." And Millie was gone.

We had worked very hard--the kids were disciplined artists and that impressed me. There were some rough spots that needed work by Paula, Eugene and me, but we really made progress. I was very pleased, but very tired.

Nonetheless, when I got home--I rode the bus back to school and came home with Dad who was very interested in how the practice had gone--I went out to the shed where we had our exercise equipment. Michael was there and had worked up a real sweat already. I spotted for him while he lifted weights and he did the same for me. I was tired when I got home, but the workout made me tired in a very different way from school and practice. I took a quick shower and, as I walked toward the house, noticed the Jeep was at Michael's so I started walking toward the studio. As I walked I became more and more excited about what had happened with the practice, Millie's offer and my composition "Yonghon Tongmu". By the time I reached the studio, I was as excited as a kid at Christmas and practically attacked Luke. We spent some time together--including some really hot time--and then went to our homes. I hoped I would see Luke later, but it was not definite.

After dinner, Mom and Dad had papers to grade and I took the notes I had made at today's practice and worked on the revisions for an hour. I had a bit of homework to do and when I completed that, I decided Luke wasn't coming, so I showered and went to bed.

As I lay in bed, I thought back over the day and how very much I had to be thankful for--my music, Paula, Eugene, the chorus and ensemble, the family, Millie. The list was long, but ended with my soulmate Luke. I drifted off to sleep thinking about how my life had changed since Luke and I admitted we were in love with each other. In my dreamless sleep, I suddenly knew Luke was approaching and finally that he was beside me. When I opened my eyes, Luke, his nude body illuminated by the bright moonlight pouring through the open window, stood over me. As I reached up to wrap my arms around him, the moonlight caught the tears running down his face. "Luke, you're crying," I said as my heart skipped a beat. What could be wrong? "What's wrong, Yonghon Tongmu?"

As I sat up in bed, Luke leaned over me and kissed me hard and rough, then sat beside me. "Nothing is wrong, Sarang Hanun Pomul, nothing. It's just that when I came in the window, the moonlight made my dark beauty's body glow. I was so full of joy because you loved me that I was practically in tears. Then a cloud covered the moon briefly and when it moved on, the moonlight illuminated the scar on your cheek and I realized how much you had suffered because of me and the tears just started--tears of pain and tears of joy."

"Luke, you give me so much joy that the pain seems unimportant. And I am so glad you came back." I lay back on the bed and Luke lay beside me. Our legs and arms were wrapped around each other. We lay, as we did frequently when we were in bed together, speaking to each other with our eyes. Finally, after a few tender and gentle kisses, we drifted off to sleep, our bodies intertwined.

Luke and I got up, dressed in our sweats and went for our morning run. When we got back to my place, Luke gave me a goodbye kiss and ran on home while I showered and dressed. He had asked me to come to breakfast with the Larsens and I had told Mom I was going when we came in from the run.

When I got to Luke's, breakfast was ready and we all sat down. "Luke tells me your music is going well," Jens said. "I'm very pleased since the concert should show more what Independence is about than the emphasis on football and basketball, although I guess that's where the emphasis is in most schools these days."

"I'm afraid you're right and it may cause a bit of a problem since we have convinced Michael to run for student body president. That's always been a contest among the senior football and basketball players and, while Michael is an excellent athlete, he's not a football or basketball jock."

"Well, they will just have to deal with it!" Mary Kathryn said emphatically. "They think they are what the whole school is about and the students pretty much let them get by with it. Even if I weren't in love with that hunk, I'd still be in favor of his being student body president. He stands for something, something good, while those super jocks are only concerned about themselves and their conquests."

"Well, I guess we know where you stand, sister mine," Luke laughed. "But I agree with you 100 percent. Matt, don't you think we need to get to school a bit early so we can get posters up? We got them printed last night. Michael knows we have everything ready and I told him we would pick him up as soon as we could. Larry has his first spot ready for homeroom. He got a tape of the TV broadcast of the service for Gregory and was going to use part of it."

"Do you think that is wise, Luke? There are bound to be students who resented it and who may not agree with what the boys did to Gregory, but who are homophobic."

"Dad, I know that is true. There may be students who simply believe as you do or did, that being gay is something someone chooses and is evil, wicked and sinful, but that's not who Michael is and if that causes him to be defeated, students at Independence aren't as basically good as I think they are."

"Luke, that hurts, but not because you are wrong. It just reminds me of how far I still have to go."

"Dad, I had no intention of hurting you, but that is just the way it is and, believe me, I appreciate your struggle and how far you have come." Luke got up, walked behind his dad and put his arms around him. "You don't really know just how much I appreciate you and how you are accepting something which I know is very painful for you."

"That goes for me as well, Jens," I said.

As soon as we had finished breakfast and cleared the table, Luke, Mary Kathryn and I put the posters in the Jeep and picked up Michael. When we got to school, other students were putting up posters, none of which had the professional look of Michael's although most had spent big money getting color copies of photos to paste on theirs. Several of the jock types made some pretty dirty remarks about "snot-nosed sophomores" who were "too big for their britches." Michael simply ignored them.

The video announcements by the candidates were pretty typical--"Hi, I'm John Doe. I play (fill in position) on the (football or basket ball team). I am running for student body president because I think I can do the job." Michael's was last and, man, it was polished. Larry had used clips from the service for Gregory including the opening when Michael's face was superimposed over the Declaration of Independence and then over Independence High School. The voice-over was done by Larry who said, "Isn't it time Independence had a student body president worthy of the student body? Michael Andrews has proven he is equal to the task." The closing shot was Michael's campaign poster. Luke leaned over to me and whispered, "Damn, with an artist like me and a audio video guy like Larry, why isn't he running for governor or president?" and laughed. I had to admit I had never seen anything at Independence which came close, and this was only the beginning.

After Luke and I finished our last period at school, we left and went straight to the falls. The weather was downright hot and I expected a spring thunderstorm as a result, but we had our hour which we actually spent being kids again. We crossed the canes and before we reached the river were both naked. We raced to the top of the falls, laughing our heads off. When we got to the top, we joined hands and dived into the water together. The day was hot, but the water was not. I think if I had tried to get in a bit at a time, I would never have made it, but suddenly I plunged beneath the crystal-clear cold water. Before I broke the surface, I turned and saw Luke's body in the dappled light. He looked like a golden god of the river. When we broke the surface, we were facing each other, laughing. I think Mr. Mitchell would have given us an "A" for enjoying being alive. We played in the water, frequently getting out to race to the top of the falls and dive in. Finally we were pretty well played out and swam to the middle of the basin, embraced, and exchanged a warm, loving kiss.

We swam to the shore and lay on the blanket we had brought from the Jeep--Luke lying on his back, I on my stomach, and we talked, really talked, about our future. We had completed the applications for Oberlin as had Paula, Eugene and Larry, but we didn't know what would come of that since we knew the deadline for applications was long past. "I know Millie packs a lot of weight around here," Luke said, "but I'm not sure how much influence she has at a college. And if Oberlin doesn't pan out what are we going to do, Sarang Hanun Pomul?"

"I really don't know, Yonghon Tongmu. All I know is that I'm not planning to be separated from you for a whole school year. I'm not planning on being separated from you a minute more than I have to until the day I die!"

"Same here, Matt. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what develops. I think if worse comes to worse, we can go to State in Jackson as special students. That way we can take courses we want or need and not have to get involved with all the Mickey Mouse of being regular students." With those words our discussion came to a close and we enjoyed the feel of each other's body and some soft, gentle, loving kisses. Lust was turned pretty low and we were just two mellow lovers enjoying life. After we got dressed--unlike most classes, the Mr. Mitchell enjoy-being-alive class was extended half an hour without protest from the students--Luke went to his studio and I went to St. Mary's to work on music for Sunday and to try out the changes made from yesterday's practice. When I finished, I drove by the hospital to see if Gladys or Chelsea was on duty. Gladys was, and I spent some time talking with her. She was very interested in what was happening to me and Luke and I wanted to know how the hospice was coming. Before I left, I told her I heard she and Chelsea would be at the wedding Sunday. Wouldn't miss it, Matt. Think you and Luke deserve a lot of credit for making that happen."

"Michael took the bull by the horns as well. I guess the whole Gang of Four was pretty determined that was going to happen. See you Sunday," I said as I gave Gladys a hug and then left.

I got back home just in time for supper. Dad told me there had been some grumbling about Michael's running for student body president. "I guess he has some of the others who are running worried. I can see why after this morning's video and the campaign posters. Several seniors--cheerleaders and ball players--apparently went to Ms. Jones and complained about a sophomore running. I heard by the grapevine one of them said, 'He's just a sophomore. Sophomores can't run because the president has to be a senior.' Ms. Jones said and, again, I am reporting second hand. 'Why not? The only rules I have found are the student must have been a student at Independence for a semester, have an academic average of 3.0 and a conduct grade of A. He certainly meets those requirements as, I'm sure you are aware, some who planned to run did not.' Another student said, 'Well, he's just a sophomore and will just be a junior next year. He's not old enough for the job. How could he be student body president?' To which Ms. Jones, I am told, responded, 'I guess if he's too young and immature, you don't have to worry since he will, obviously, be easy to defeat, then, won't he?' And according to 'a high ranking administration figure', that ended the conversation. But, Matt, I'm afraid it's not the end of the matter. I have overheard enough to believe it can get nasty."

"I hope not. It would sure be a black mark on Independence if it did, but Michael can handle it, especially with the backing he has. He's got some really great people pulling for him. Hate to eat and run, but choir practice could get long tonight. See you later."

Choir practice did run long. One of the problems with being a teenaged organist is getting people old enough to be your grandparents to listen to you. I learned long ago that I had to depend on the choir director--who was old enough to be my grandfather--to deal with the difficult members of the choir who believed they were good enough for Washington Cathedral. The music was finally in good shape--at least as good as it was going to be--and I got home about 9:00, an hour later than usual. When I pulled in the drive, I noticed the lights were still on in the studio and knew Luke was working late. I didn't expect him to come crawling into bed with me and he didn't.

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