A Special Place--Part Forty-five--Mary Kathryn
It was hard watching Michael drive off, leaving me behind. As I watched him leave for his plane, I wondered what it would be like to have him leave my life altogether. We had long since stopped talking about going steady and all that kind of thing. Instead we talked about our future--immediate, next year, next ten years, in the nursing home. There had been no question about our being together until parted by death. That is, there had not been that kind of talk until Michael started talking about maybe becoming a priest. I would never have him know it, at least not for a while, but if he decided to go to hell I'd probably follow. Nonetheless, I can tell you one thing, I would sure dig in my heels and put up a fight! He was mine and neither God nor anyone else was claiming him without a fight!
I thought about our Friday night together. We both had expected to sleep in separate beds--I mean temptation to throw all care to the winds was very much in bed with us--but when it came time for him to go, I asked if he thought we could stay together and still keep our first time for later and special. We talked about that and agreed that we didn't really know. Finally, Michael said, "Mary Kathryn, I am willing to give it an honest try. I'd like to spend this night beside you." I agreed and he walked down the hall and told Matt and Luke. We were in the middle of some really passionate love-making when he said, "Mary Kathryn, I want you--all of you--more than I can say, but..."
I looked at my lover's face above mine and sighed, "So do I, Michael. Please know that, but... well, here's where we cool things down." And we did. Don't get me wrong. I didn't want it that way and yet I did. I was so glad he agreed because I know that, had he not done so, our first time would have been that night. We turned the temperature down, but it never got too cool! There are ways and then there are ways to make love! Afterwards, I looked into his eyes and smiled, then said, "Michael, you have a will of iron".
"Well, you helped me get rid of something else that was iron!" he said as we cuddled together and spent the night locked in each others arms.
After he left for the airport, I sat with the remaining family having a quick lunch before leaving for camp. "Could I let him go if he decided he had to be a priest? Honest?" I wondered to myself. I doubted it, but I wasn't looking forward to having to make that choice. Maybe a month among monks would change his mind. All these thoughts were swimming around in my head as we ate. Then it was time to go.
After we put two weeks' stuff for Bill and three weeks' stuff for me and Linda in his car, it was so loaded half the back seat was taken. Most of the stuff belonged to me and Linda. When Bill said something about it, Linda said, "It just takes more to keep girls looking good than it does men". One thing for sure, men like Bill and Michael look good no matter what! Anyway, we were off to camp.
A Special Place--Part Forty-five--Larry
Sunday afternoon after all the Fellowship had left Concord, Eugene and I were sitting in my room, moping. We listened to all the music we could stand, then sat around moping some more. We weren't even up to making love. Eugene finally said, "You know, we're acting as though we have lost our last friend".
"Kinda feel like we have with the whole Fellowship gone except Jacob. But why don't we spend some time with people we have been kinda neglecting? Why don't we take the women in our life for a spin?"
Eugene thought that was a great idea and he went looking for Millie while I called Mom. Soon the four of us were in Eugene's car, the top down, driving out into the country. It was a beautiful late afternoon and we were having a grand time. We waved to Greywolf and Yong Jin, who were sitting in the porch swing, as we passed.
Several miles out of town there was a winding dirt road running along the river. Eugene turned down it and we stopped at a place where the river was very wide and shallow. We got out and soon all four of us were wading in the river, skipping rocks across it and having a ball. Mom and Millie were like two kids, enjoying themselves thoroughly. Millie had found a rather large rock--flat, round and thin--just made for skipping on the water. She leaned back to give it a good toss when her foot slipped and she fell into the river with a splash.
At first she seemed ok, but when she tried to get up, she slipped again. Eugene rushed to her side, reaching down to help her up. "Don't think you better do that, Son," she said. "I think I did some damage to this old lady."
I joined Eugene, who was terrified but not the only one frightened. We all thought Millie was indestructible, but it was clear something was seriously wrong. Mom joined us as Millie said, "I don't know what I did, but it hurts like hell. Damn fool woman acting like a kid. I should have known better." I saw Eugene's eye filling with tears. "Well, I can't sit here with my ass in the river all day. Let's see if you guys can get me out." Eugene and I slipped our arms under Millie's to lift her out of the river. Mom tried to hold her feet, but she said it felt better just to let them hang. She was clearly in pain, but she was Millie and not complaining.
When we got her out of the river, it was obvious she had done more than bruise her butt. Something was broken, I was sure of it. We got her to lie down on a grassy spot and as comfortable as possible, then Eugene called 911.
Since we were about fifteen or so miles from town, it would take the EMS team a while to reach us. Also, Eugene said he didn't know where we were. Neither Mom nor I knew. We didn't know where to tell them we were. Finally Millie asked for the phone and told the dispatcher we were on the river road on the Rankins' farm. "Hurry if you don't mind. I hurt like hell."
Less than five minutes after the call, a van came down the road very fast. It slid to a halt and David and Margaret jumped out. "Thank God, you're here," Eugene said. "Mom's really hurt. How did you get here so fast?"
"We heard the call on the scanner and took off. We knew we could be here long before the EMS," David answered as Margaret examined Millie.
"What happened, Millie?" she asked.
"Damn fool like, I was playing in the river as if I were Eugene's age and slipped and fell. When I tried to get up, I fell again. Think I may have messed up something."
"If I had x-ray vision like Superman I could be sure but, unless I miss my guess, I'd say you were right," Margaret said as she opened her doctor's bag and took out a syringe. "I'm pretty sure you broke a hip. I'm going to give you a shot of pain killer since I don't have any Jack Daniels with me," Margaret smiled and Millie actually laughed a bit.
The shot began to take effect very quickly and soon Millie was feeling little pain. "You know," she said, "I think this afternoon was worth a broken hip. I mean it. Hell, I haven't enjoyed myself as I did playing in the river like a kid in a long, long time. Son, we've got to do this more often."
"Mom, I'd just as soon not do all of it ever again. I'm sorry."
"You're sorry? You gave me a hell of a good time and you're sorry? For what? For giving me a good time? That's what it was, Eugene. That's what it was." The shot soon hit full force and Millie was just about out of this world.
David came over and told us the x-ray techs and an orthopedic surgeon would be waiting at the hospital when Millie got there. While he was talking, the EMS arrived and in five minutes had Millie ready to roll. As soon as they left, Margaret looked at Eugene, who was still shaken from Millie's fall, and said, "Eugene, I think you'd better let Larry drive." Eugene just nodded. "We'll meet you at the hospital," she added as she got into the van.
I knew the Greywolfs would be wondering what had happened, since they were still outside when we passed and must have seen David and Margaret leave in a hurry and the EMS team pass. "Gene, call the Greywolfs and tell them what happened," I said as I waved to them.
Eugene called the Greywolfs and when he had finished said, "I've got to call Jason and I don't even know his number. I don't even know him. Every time he and Anthony planned on coming, something happened. Silly, I guess, but I'm kinda frightened at the thought of calling him. I mean, I'm a brother he never asked for and has never met and I have to call him and tell him I broke Mom's hip."
"What a bunch of bullshit!" Mom said. I almost lost control of the car because my mom doesn't say things like that. "I have never heard a bigger bunch of pure bullshit in my life!" she went on. "It wasn't pain killer talking when Millie said she enjoyed herself playing in the river more than she had in a long time. You have given her so much for which she is thankful, and today just added to it. She might have fallen anywhere. Millie is no longer a young woman and these things happen. Just be glad it happened while she was enjoying life. And why be frightened of calling Jason? I'm sure that Millie has sung your praises to him a million times since you came into her life and he, if he is as good and loving as I have heard, must be overjoyed at the pleasure you have given his mom. You don't know his number? That's why there's directory assistance."
A Special Place--Part Forty-five--Eugene
I still was nervous when I called for Jason's number. I dialed it, half hoping he wasn't home. No such luck. The phone only rang twice before it was picked up. A male voice answered and I asked, "Mr. Willingham?"
"No, this is Anthony. I'll get Jason." I waited, shaking a bit, until another voice said, "Jason here."
"Mr. Willingham, this is Eugene. Eugene Willingham."
"Oh, the other Mr. Willingham. Ok, Eugene, what's with the Mr. Willingham bit?"
"Well, I mean... Ok, Jason, this is Eugene."
"That's better. What's up?"
"Mom's been hurt. She fell in the river and I think broke her hip. She's on her way to the hospital. I'm sorry." I started crying.
"Hold on, Eugene. Tell me what happened."
I started from the beginning and Jason listened patiently. I thought I heard Jason laughing and when he spoke, I knew he was.
"Sorry for laughing, Eugene, but I can just picture Mom skipping rocks on the river then falling on her butt! What a tale she'll have to tell. And I'll place money on her grousing that there was no Jack Daniels available." By the time he finished, I was laughing too. "Eugene, you and I have quite a mom. I'm sure she'll do fine. Wish we had met before--isn't that life, always wishing you had done something before--but this time it'll happen. Anthony has his pilot's license and has been dying to fly over so we'll be on our way within the hour. There's a small lighted strip in Lexington where we can land at night. Could some of your friends meet us?"
"That's the reason we were in the river. All our friends left today for summer programs. Only Larry and I are here so we decided to go for a drive with our moms and ended up playing in the river."
"Eugene, love you already. Anyone who would think of taking Millie to wade in the river is alright in my book! We'll rent a car. I hope the agencies will be open."
"Jason, Larry can come meet you."
"And leave you at the hospital without your soulmate? Nothing doing. I know I'd want Anthony there with me."
"Hey, the Greywolfs can come. I know they will. I called them just before I called you because I knew they would be all upset not knowing what was going on. I'm sure they'll be at the hospital shortly after we are. Anyway, they or someone will meet you."
"It will take us about an hour and a half to get there since we have to throw some things together, drive to the airport and fly over. See you soon, Little Brother."
"Great, Big Brother." After I got off the phone, I really was looking forward to meeting my big brother for the first time. I told Larry and his mother the plans. Larry's mom said if the Greywolfs couldn't go, she would.
A Special Place--Part Forty-five--Luke
When we checked in, Janet and I learned we had rooms on the same floor and were told to come back to the lobby at 7:00 to be picked up for the opening dinner. "Coat and tie," the guy who checked us in told me. I laughed at Janet's remark as we started up the stairs, "Coat and tie for those pierced and painted dudes we saw? Clown suits would seem to be more appropriate."
I had finished unpacking when I looked at my watch and realized I still had an hour before I had to be downstairs, so I decided to shower before getting dressed. I had just finished and was drying myself when there was a knock on the door. Without thinking, I yelled, "It's open". Janet opened the door and came in. "Oops, sorry. I wasn't thinking. I am so used to having my sister see me in all states of dress--and undress--that I forgot where I was."
Janet laughed, "Never apologize for showing off that bod, Man, you look good enough to eat with a spoon." She really started laughing when I blushed. "I didn't know there was a man on earth who still blushed," she said.
"There are a few," I said. "Actually, it's a MGTD--Matt Greywolf transmitted disease--caught by people who are around him too long. If he were as fair as I am, he'd look like a Christmas tree much of the time he blushes so much. Have a seat. I'll be ready in a minute."
Janet sat on the bed and, as she did, she picked up the photo of the painting of Matt. "Is he really as handsome as this painting or did you kinda make him special."
"He is special but, yes, he's as handsome as that picture. He's beautiful. See." I handed her my wallet with photographs of Matt. One I had forgotten about was a picture of Matt diving from Lookout Rock.
"You're right," she said as she looked at Matt in his natural beauty suspended in the air above the falls' basin. "A beautiful place," she added. "Bet there's stories about it too."
"Tons of stories, but you must be tired of stories by now since I bent your ear for the entire flight."
"Not at all. I want to hear every one of your stories. You are a fascinating guy. Kinda wish... well, you're not, but we can be friends, can't we?"
"Sure. I'd be honored. Well, I'm dressed. Think I'll pass?"
"I'm not sure. We could break out your paints and work on your hair," she laughed. "But I guess you'll do." She stood up, took my arm and we went downstairs.
The dining room was set up with round tables for program participants. Shortly after we arrived, a man at the front table announced that each table was set for five students and an instructor. "Leave a place for the instructor who will be sitting at your table, but sit anywhere you please." Janet and I walked to the nearest table and were soon joined by three others--two women and a guy. All three had numerous things pierced and all had spiked hair dyed green, red and purple.
They introduced themselves as Bill, Bobbie and Bud from Orlando. Janet and I introduced ourselves just as a young, dark-headed man came to the table and introduced himself as Rich Smith. "I'm one of the painting and drawing instructors. When we introduced ourselves he said, "Luke Larsen... your name sounds familiar. Have we met?"
I told him we had not. Janet asked him if he had seen a TV program on an exhibition in Concord. "I know it wasn't broadcast nationally, but I thought you might have seen it somewhere."
"I have. Someone showed a tape to the faculty. It was supposed to convince us that we had some talented people coming," he answered in a voice which clearly indicated he had been convinced of nothing.
"It was Luke's," Janet said.
"Ah, that's why your name sounded familiar. Pretty good show, Luke. Some fairly good stuff." I didn't know what to think. "Fairly good stuff?" That sounded like damning with faint praise, but then he was the artist, the instructor. Guess I needed to have my ego deflated a bit.
After the welcoming address--which fortunately was short--we got to eat. I was starved. The food on the plane was--well it was food on a plane, need I say more? I really felt out of it when the table conversation turned to the latest and hottest music enjoyed by the multi-colored three because I had heard very little of it. From the conversation, I don't think I had missed much.
After dinner Janet suggested we walk back to the dorm and asked Rich for directions. As we walked, I asked her about herself. She told me she and her boyfriend of two years had recently broken up. "No real fight or anything, we both realized about the same time that we were boring each other to tears. I miss having him--or someone--around but I'm not torn up over it. We could have had a longer relationship, but we were never really close--I mean as friends--and if you're not friends, there's not a lot to talk about or do if you know what I mean."
"Not really," I said. "Matt and I have been friends since the day we were born. Now we are friends and lovers--but friends first."
"You're lucky," she said. She told me about her family and the divorce. Seems her parents had used her against each other and she had taken advantage of that. "I was a really rotten, spoiled brat until I got into art. That gave me something that was mine and which neither of my parents understood. It created a whole new world for me." We talked about our art and what it meant to us as we walked.
When we reached the dorm, I walked her to her room and told her goodnight. When I got to my room, I undressed and slipped into a very lonely bed, wondering where my love was tonight. I prayed he was safe. I was still thinking of him when I drifted off to sleep.
A Special Place--Part Forty-five--Jason
Anthony and I got our things ready and drove to the airport. I stowed things in the plane while he filed a flight plan and we were on our way. We had been flying a few minutes when he asked, "Jason, I have never mentioned it except in passing, but why haven't we flown over before? What kept us? I offered several times, but you always had an excuse. You know you hurt Millie when you didn't go over for the concert."
Anthony was right, of course. I hadn't told him why I wouldn't go to Concord because I knew he would think it was petty because it was. "Anthony, I didn't go because I was jealous and hurt when Mom adopted Eugene. I know I had no reason to feel that way, but I did. It ate on me and every time we talked on the phone it made it worse. She told me all the glowing things about Eugene and I kept feeling as though she had allowed him to take my place. In my mind he was just some throwaway kid she had taken in and replaced me. I couldn't go to the concert because I was afraid it would prove just how stupid I was and I knew it."
"When I heard that kid's voice and his obvious concern for Mom, I realized how wrong I had been. But you know what really changed my mind? It was when he told me how Mom had been hurt. Only someone who really loved Mom would have taken her to the river and played in it with her. I have been a real shithead."
"Agreed, and not the first time, Jase. Not the first time. Do you think Eugene knows how you feel?"
"Felt. I hope not, but I intend to tell him. He has a right to know his big brother can be a number one asshole."
"Maybe I need to talk to him as well. Maybe I need to tell him his big brother is also one great guy."
Anthony looked at me and smiled. It's been how many--a lot--of years since I saw that smile for the first time and I still get goose bumps when I see it. I leaned over and kissed him and said, "You know you still kill me with that smile". Which, of course, got another one for me.
The Greywolfs were waiting for us and we were soon on our way to Concord. Almost as soon as we were in the car, Anthony asked, "Well, what do you two think of Jason's new brother? You do know him don't you?"
"The only way Millie might have picked a better one would have been if she had picked one of ours." I had to explain to Anthony about the three families. "And how are all the family?" I asked. As we drove, I got caught up on what had been going on that Mom had neglected to tell me about. She had simply told me Eugene had been beaten and thrown out by his family, but I didn't know the details. "And he has been in court and has to go next week? What's that all about?" I asked after I had learned what kind of kid Mom had adopted and why--and she had adopted him before she knew about the abuse by the preacher.
Before Greywolf finished, I was feeling sick. He actually had to stop the car and let me throw up. When I got back in, Young Jin asked, "Rough plane trip?"
"No, he's sick because he has been an asshole," Anthony said. "Sorry about the language, but he has."
I didn't want Anthony to tell them what a jerk I had been, so I told them.
"Don't worry about how Eugene will take it. He had a real struggle with it himself, afraid you'd think he had horned in on your place. He'll understand," Yong Jin said.
When we reached the hospital, Anthony and I went immediately to Mom's room. As I walked in the door, a young man practically threw himself at me and embraced me in a bear hug. "I'm so glad you're here Jason. Mom hasn't waked up yet, but I know when she does, she'll get better the minute she sees you."
"Who says I'm not awake," Millie said. "Sons, hug your crippled mama. You too, son-in-law.
We talked with Mom for a short time, then the nurse came to give her a shot. "You'll be asleep shortly, Mrs. Willingham. Guys, Mrs. Willingham had a hip replacment you know. She'll be up tomorrow. That's the way it's done with replacements these days. But tonight she sleeps."
When we got downstairs, Eugene introduced us to Larry, "my soulmate, my love, my life." Anthony said, "Ain't young love grand!"
"Almost as grand as old love," I laughed as I hugged Larry.
When we got home, Eugene asked, "Like a nightcap? I know I can find some JD and stump." I nodded, and Eugene disappeared and returned shortly with two drinks and two sodas.
The four of us sat and talked about many things. Larry showed us part of the concert tape--what a fool I had been to have missed that--and, after we had talked some more, Anthony said, "I think it's long past bedtime".
"You go ahead, I want to talk with Eugene awhile--alone."
I had forgotten Larry for the moment until Eugene said, "Lar, go on to bed. I'll come later". Larry walked over to Eugene, bent over and kissed him passionately as though there were no-one else present. I guess Anthony decided that was the ok sign and kissed me as well.
After our lovers had left, I said, "Eugene, tonight as we were flying over I told Anthony I had been an asshole and he agreed with me". I then spilled all the stuff I had been feeling for too long. Eugene listened, paying attention to every word I said. When I had finished, I said, "Brother, I am very sorry. I caused you pain and I know I hurt Mom, something I thought I would never do. Please forgive me." I hadn't realized it, but I had started crying as I talked because I realized just how much I had hurt Mom and Eugene. Eugene didn't say a word. He just got up, walked over to me and hugged me tightly. Then he said, "You don't know how much it means to have a big brother. I understand how you must have felt, but I never wanted to replace you even if I could. Forgive you? Sure I do."
Eugene and I didn't stop talking until the pre-dawn hours, then both went to our lovers' beds.