A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Michael
When we got back from the Black Hills we were all exhausted and, as soon as we were home, fell into bed. I finally woke up about eleven and called Bill. He told me the whole Fellowship was back in town. "I didn't expect them until today," I said.
Bill said all had gotten back sometime Friday. "Jacob is with me, and Paula and Larry got back a day early as well."
"How about getting together this afternoon? Maybe even spend the night. I'll get everyone here rounded up and we'll meet about 1:30 or 2:00. Unless I hear otherwise, I'll assume you managed to get the others," I said.
"Great idea! We'll get food for tonight and see about staying all night at the falls. I'll call you back in half an hour."
When I called Mary Kathryn, she said, "Good, I wondered when we could get together to talk about the summer--you know, the old first essay 'What I Did on My Summer Vacation', except what we really did, not some teacher junk. Meet you at the falls in half an hour, Sweetheart."
"Sweetheart? Is that the best you can do for the light of your life, the meaning of your universe, the father of your unborn children?"
"Michael Golden Eagle Andrews, I would think that having Daughter of the Dawn call you sweetheart would be enough to keep you going for days!"
"Yea, but I've got a whole lifetime ahead of me!"
"Well, Golden Eagle, fearless Lakota warrior and medicine man, Daughter of the Dawn will await your coming at the sacred falls, in humility."
"That's more like it," I laughed.
"And if your golden eagle butt is not there in thirty minutes, Daughter of the Dawn will have a handful of golden eagle feathers to give out to the men who come courting her!" Mary Kathryn laughed. Then, on a serious note, she said, "It's hard to believe the summer is almost over, and even harder to believe all that's happened. I'll take care of Luke, you call Matt."
"You mean they're not together?"
"No, they stayed here last night. Don't think they would have known where they were if they slept like I did," she laughed. "They had breakfast with Mom and Dad, then went to Matt's place. They woke me up talking to Mom and Dad, then I heard them leave saying they were going to Matt's. When I got up, Luke was flaked out on his bed, alone, asleep. Not sure what's going on."
As soon as Bill called and said the rest were on their way, I started walking to the falls. I saw Matt outside his house and yelled for him to wait up. He had not unpacked the four-wheel-drive, so we grabbed blankets out of it and put them in the Jeep and drove to the falls. Luke and Mary Kathryn were already there. I thought Mary Kathryn and I were experts at the kissing business, but Matt and Luke put us to shame as soon as Matt arrived.
"What was going on this morning?" Mary Kathryn asked. "You two kept waking me up with your coming and going."
"We talked to our parents about our ceremony," Matt said.
"Yea, and both sets thought it was a great idea," Luke added.
"So why were you in bed by yourself, Brother of Mine?"
"I needed sleep," Luke laughed.
The four of us got the blankets out of the Jeep, took them to the falls and spread them on the beach. Just as we finished, Larry and Eugene showed up. There were a lot of hugs all around. It was good to see them again. Both looked great!
Bill and Linda, Jacob and Paula came together. When they arrived, the first thing I noticed was that Jacob had a black eye and cut lip. Before anyone else could say anything, Mary Kathryn ran to him and asked, "What happened?"
A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Jacob's Story
"It's kinda a long story." Everyone sat down and Paula pulled me to herself. I sat leaning against her legs--beautiful legs--and she put her arms around me. I thought I could get through the ordeal of telling my story without crying but, as soon as I looked around and saw the concern on the faces of the people I knew and loved, the tears gushed. Paula hugged me tightly, rocked me in her arms and kissed the top of my head. Gradually I gained control and started the story of my summer.
"Well, it started soon after I got to Lexington. I had always known Dad and Mom, both, were real redneck bigots, but I had thought my aunt was different. She had always seemed like a caring person. Man, was I ever wrong! She started when she learned Eugene was a friend. At first she claimed to have sympathy for him, but soon she started referring to him as 'that fag friend of yours'. Each time she did, I raised an objection until I realized I was wasting my breath. And it was not just gays--you name any group and she had a put-down name for them."
"You all know that I had started seeing the rabbi. I was really enjoying our conversations, especially since it gave me insight into my woman." I turned and looked at my dark beauty and she kissed me ever so gently. "God, I love you, Paula," I whispered, then looked at the Fellowship. There were eight smiling faces looking back. "Anyway, I was careful to hide my trips to the temple because I knew I'd catch hell if my aunt found out. Even at that, the house was so filled with hate--my aunt and her husband even hated each other, at least they were constantly shouting insults at each other--that I looked forward to getting to work. Weekends, I pretended I was going out with the guys so I could go to the temple. Then, to get away from it all, I mostly hid in the mall Saturday and Sunday."
"In addition to wanting to get to work to get away, I was learning to love it. I worked a lot of overtime, which not only added to the paycheck but kept me away from that hate-filled house. The construction boss kinda took me under his wing and had me doing more and more involved jobs. He thought I was a quick learner and I guess I was, because I was doing just about any job he had. Halfway through the summer, I was even pretty good at reading blueprints, often picking up mistakes the workers were making. The boss started asking me to eat lunch with him and, as we ate, posed problems for me to solve. I loved it. One day he said, 'Jacob, you definitely have a knack for this business. Get yourself an education and you definitely have a job with this company if you want it. I was excited. When I told my aunt and uncle, their reaction was not what I expected. My uncle said, 'Yea, fill your head with crap and tell you how good you are so he can get more work for less pay. My drinking buddy Charlie works there and knows all the tricks.' Well, he was wrong and I knew it because, even though I was temporary summer help, the more I took on, the more I earned--I was given two raises, unheard -of for summer help. I definitely decided I was going into some part of the construction business--engineering or maybe just learning the trade and eventually getting a company of my own."
"Anyway, last week was really terrible. Seems a Mexican was made my uncle's boss and, even though he was at least twice as qualified as my uncle, the shit really hit the fan big time. Then, to make matters worse, Charlie, my uncle's drinking buddy, was fired. He was caught stealing from the job. He saw me come out of the temple Friday night and told my uncle I was associating with 'them Christ-killing Jew owners of the construction company'."
"I had gone to the ice cream parlor with a friend I met at the temple and when I got back, both my aunt and her husband lit into me about associating with money-grabbing, Christ-killing Jews. 'Charlie saw you so you can't deny it. He says you're becoming a sneaking, money-mad Jew,' he shouted at me. He and my aunt were both screaming at the top of their lungs. They were shouting at me and, before I realized it, I blew up--my red hair had had it--and told them I was going to the temple because I was in love with a Jewish girl that I hoped would one day be my wife."
"'You're changing into a Jew?' my aunt screamed."
"'Not sure,' I told her the truth, 'but I am going to temple and practising Judaism--at least to some extent.' Well, when I said that, it was clear that things were about to get violent as my uncle jumped out of his chair and headed toward me and my aunt threw the book she was reading at me--I think it might have been her Bible--how's that for irony? Anyway, I left the room and since I had already packed to leave Saturday morning--this morning--I just got my things and started out the door. My uncle tried to stop me, shouting about my having been sucked in by a 'hot little Jew pussy'. You would have been proud of me. I held my temper long enough to say, 'No, I think I've been sucked in by God,' and left."
"I had no place to go and no way home, but I did have money--the boss had given me a cash bonus when I left work--so I thought I'd just catch a bus, but learned I'd have to wait several hours for one. I thought about a taxi but, on the off-chance Larry was still around, I called the Greentrees'. Mr. Greentree said that Eugene had come over for dinner and the two had left for Concord about half an hour before. 'Anything I can do?' he asked. I started to say no, but my anger and hurt got the better of me and I started crying like a baby. See what you guys have done to me?" I half laughed, but it was true. I had learned from this bunch that tears are ok. "I told him what had happened and he asked where I was, and was there in fifteen minutes."
"He said, 'Jacob, you can spend the night at our place, or I'll take you home'."
"'It's late...' I started, but he stopped me."
"'Nonsense!' he said. 'I think probably the only place for you tonight is home.' Little did he know--little did I know."
"On the drive home, I talked about why I had been going to temple and what I had found there--something I had never had before, faith, I guess, spirituality--you guys know what I mean." When I looked up, there were eight people nodding. "I then told him what living in my aunt's house had been like and could see he was getting upset, so I changed the subject and talked about work. I could be enthusiastic about that!"
"When we got to my place, he came inside with me and, as soon as we were inside, I knew something was up. I introduced him and Dad said, 'I guess you're one of those damn Jews who has been screwing with my son's head'."
"I told Dad he had just offered to bring me home. 'That's all.' Then I told Mr. Greentree I thought he better go. He asked if I was sure, and I just nodded."
"'Call me if you need me,' he said, hugged me and left."
"He was barely out the door before Dad started. My aunt had called him about my going to the temple. 'And just what's that all about?' he demanded. I told him I was in love with a Jewish woman and had wanted to learn about her religion since it was important to her. 'Is that all? I mean are you just doing this so you can get some pussy, some Jewish pussy?'"
"I was livid! 'Hell no, that's not what I'm about! I love the woman. There has never been any religion in this house unless you count bigotry and prejudice, and I have seen what their religion means to my friends and to the woman I love. I want some of what they have. Since I expect to marry her one day, if she will have me, I may or may not convert to Judaism formally, but I sure as hell intend to attend temple!' I could see Dad was really getting wound up."
"He cussed and swore, screamed and yelled about my letting a little piece of hot Jewish pussy screw up my brains. Finally I had all I could and would take. 'Don't you dare say another word against Paula,' I screamed. 'We have not had sex and she's a hell of a lot more to me than some hot pussy as you put it. Can't you get that through you thick skull? I love the woman and intend to spend every minute I can letting her know it and hoping she loves me!' Dad really got livid then and he and Mom were both shouting and cursing and I could see this was going nowhere. They were saying all sorts of things about Paula and how she'd used her body to 'fuck my mind' to make a Jew out of me. 'A hot kosher pussy is turning you into a damn money-grabbing, Christ-killing Jew,' Dad shouted. That did it. I kept control enough to say, quietly, 'If you've finished, I'm going to bed,' and turned to walk away."
"'Hell no, not here you're not, unless you promise me here and now you'll forget this Jewish pussy that's got control of you!' That did it!"
"'I'll see you burn in hell first,' I exploded. When I said that, Dad hit me, twice, in the face."
"'Get your Jew-pussy-loving ass out of this house and don't expect to darken my door again until you have your head on straight.' He had knocked me to the floor, so I crawled away from him, grabbed my bag and ran."
"See, guys," I managed a weak smile, "being gay is not the only thing that can make your ever-loving parents turn on you. Dad and I have had fights before--but he hasn't hit me since I told him I'd kill him if he ever beat me again, after he beat me with the buckle end of his belt the day after I turned sixteen--but nothing like this. I knew he meant what he said. I think I might have been able to defend myself had he tried to beat me, but what was the point? If I won I was out and if I lost, I was beaten and still out. For the second time in one day, I was on the street with no place to go. I didn't think Paula was home yet, so I called Bill and he came and got me."
"I told him what had happened on the way to his place and, when we got there, he told his parents I would be staying as long as I needed, but didn't say why. I was surprised when both said, 'Sure' without asking why. They said it because they trust and respect Bill--Linda, you got yourself a good man--and because they are caring people. But I didn't want them to wonder why I was on the street, so I told them and we sat and talked well after midnight. When I finished, Bill's dad said, 'Jacob, you are a friend of Bill's, that's all we needed to know. What you need to know is you have a home here as long as you want or need it.' He then hugged me the way I had always wished my dad had, but never did. And that's what happened on my summer vacation."
When I had finished, I felt a huge load fall off of me. Paula held me close and I turned and kissed her. "Jacob's got a home as long as he wants it," Bill said. "I talked to my dad while Mom took care of Jacob's eye and he was horrified that anyone would abandon a son--and I learned he cared a lot more for me than I had ever thought. I was kinda ashamed of not seeing it before, and said that."
Bill added, "He said, 'Bill, I guess I should have told you more often.' I guess I'll have to rethink his being a hypocrite--even if he does see church as a way to getting business. And I welcome having a brother!" Of course, the end of my story was greeted with hugs from the Fellowship and I knew, suddenly, they were all my family--and what a family they were!
A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Paula's Story
I realized everyone was looking at me after Jacob had finished, so I guess they were waiting for my reaction and/or the story of my summer. "I was really sorry that Jacob didn't call me last night. I wasn't supposed to get home until today, but I came home early. I guess I got home about the same time Jacob was going to Bill's, but I thought he would be in Lexington and went to bed without calling. I came home a day early because I was finished with my work and was fed up with fighting off a guy."
"I loved working with the kids and music therapy. I definitely want to go into that kind of work. All in all, it was a good summer. I wasn't too busy so there was time for swimming, thinking and writing. In fact, there was too much free time because, when I was not busy, all I thought about was the redhead I had fallen in love with and missed like crazy. I called as often as I could and, when I did, we talked for hours it seemed, but it was not like having him near me. You know the lines:
'More than you'll ever know My arms long to hold you so My life will be in your keeping Walking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.'
"Anyway, except for missing Jacob--and all of you, of course--it was a good summer with only one fly in the ointment. A fly named Nathan Shapiro from Brooklyn. Nathan was a counselor and a nice enough fellow--good looking, damn good looking, rich as all get out--what I had always heard people call 'a Jewish mother's dream for a son-in-law'. He was going into pre-med next year at Harvard. I mean, he was the very stereotype of what Jewish mothers are supposed to want for their daughters. To be honest, he was an absolute dream of a guy, except he wasn't Jacob. He came on to me big time the first night at the opening dance. I let him know right away that I was taken, but he just wouldn't stop. In fact, he got worse."
"One night, as I was walking back from a staff meeting with him, he started really getting obnoxious, trying to kiss me. He backed off when I slapped him a good one and asked him what part of no he didn't understand. For the next couple weeks, he was extremely nice and I found I was enjoying being with him. When I told him I enjoyed being friends, he smiled and said, 'If that's all you're offering, I guess I'll have to make do with it'. I told him I thought friendship was a very precious thing and he said he guessed it was if that's all you could get."
"I thought that had settled things, but the night before the closing of camp, there was a variety show. Nathan and I had coached two groups of kids--mine in music, his in gymnastics--who were in it. Before the show he asked, 'A kiss for good luck?' and I had kissed him on the cheek. He laughed and said luck required a real kiss and grabbed me and kissed me hard on the mouth. I guess, since he had been so nice recently, I thought he was just playing. The show went very well and our two groups were especially good. Afterwards, Nathan said he had managed to get the night off and thought we should celebrate. 'How about we go to the lake and watch the moonlight?' I should have known better, but he had done a good job and my kids had done a good job, so I thought, 'Why not?'."
"When we got to the lake, he opened a bottle of wine he had brought and, after we had a glass, he started telling me how much he loved me as he poured himself a second. 'I fell in love with you the minute I saw you,' he said."
"'I'm sorry,' I replied. 'You are a dream guy--good looking and everything any girl might want in a man,' I said, honestly."
"He poured me a second glass and a third or fourth one for himself and said, 'If I'm everything any girl might want in a man, why are you holding me off?'."
"'Because I am not any girl, I'm Paula Wright and I have the love of my life already. You have everything I want in a man except for one very important thing. You're not Jacob.' Suddenly he became very angry and started getting rough with me. He held my arms to the ground, crawled on top of me and started kissing me hard as he said, 'I am going to prove I am more of a man than this Jacob fellow'. I was frightened because he seemed determined to, well, have sex with me. I kneed him in the balls and he rolled off me, clutching his crotch. I got up and ran."
"I wasn't sure what I should do. I didn't want anything terrible to happen to him--I mean I had gone to the lake with him and he had given enough indications of what he was after--but I wanted him to know that no meant no. Finally I went to the head counselor and told her what had happened. She said I wasn't the first and that she knew that Nathan's family had enough influence to cover up anything he did--and would. 'I'll report this to the camp director tomorrow, but I don't think anything will be done.'"
"'Well, I don't like the idea of being around, even if he seems to behave himself,' I said."
"The head counselor said, 'I don't blame you. Why don't you leave tomorrow? You've finished your work, so be ready to leave right after breakfast. I'll see the director tonight and get you a plane home as soon as possible tomorrow.' So, all in all, it was an uneventful summer except for Nathan. When I was ready to get on the plane, the director gave me a note of apology from Nathan. Doubt that he learned his lesson, since his parents always bail him out, but maybe he did." Jacob held me close and kissed me gently, and I felt loved and protected, certainly by my red-headed man but also by those surrounding me in this special place.
A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Larry's Story
Everyone was silent for a while after Paula finished, kinda honoring her and her story, I guess. When I looked up, Gene was smiling at me and I thought, "You're right, time for an upbeat story".
"Well, I got home a day early--not because I had any trouble, actually it was the opposite. Shortly after the McBride mess was over, I urged Eugene to go to band camp to get away, and our therapist thought it was a good idea. Besides, I had a lot of work to do and would see little of Gene. Jonathan--Mr. Greentree--decided I should learn as much as possible, so he laid out several projects, one being a pictorial on Concord and the surrounding countryside. I spent days videoing all over the town and county. When we got it edited, it was very good, even if I do say so myself...."
"It's damn good," Eugene interjected.
"And you, of course, are entirely objective," Mary Kathryn laughed.
"When it was finished, we selected music for the background since that was to be it--pictures and music. Matt, before it's broadcast, you'll have to approve since all we used were excerpts from 'The Family' and 'Yonghon Tongmu' and, again, I am very pleased with it and so was Jonathan. We finished yesterday afternoon and he said, 'Larry, you have done a magnificent job this summer--with everything--and this is an excellent piece of work. I know you are missing Eugene like crazy. Why don't you call him and tell him you're ready to go home? Have him come over and we'll have dinner, a kind of celebration of this work and the summer, and then you two go home.' Needless to say, I didn't have to be told twice and Eugene must have broken every speed limit to get over so quickly. We had a wonderful dinner with the Greentrees and left about eleven last night."
"I learned two important things this summer. The first is that I am headed in the right direction. I even loved the scut work involved in getting productions together. The second is that I love kids. Every minute I spent with Jon, the Greentrees' son, was a perfect delight. I mentioned that to Laura--Mrs. Greentree--early on, and she said that there were lots of ways I could be involved with kids, and then floored me. She said, 'And if you and Eugene get settled in good jobs and a stable home, there's no reason you can't have kids. Lots of gay couples adopt. It's not easy, but it can be done.' Gene and I have done a lot of talking about that... a lot."
A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Eugene's Story
"You better believe Lar and I have talked a lot about having kids. I mean, when you start thinking about that, you kinda go beyond teenage romance and that sort of thing--not that we haven't gone beyond it in other ways--but the idea of having a family... Well, he really flipped me out when he first mentioned it. I know it seems a long time in the future, but it's not really."
"Anyway, after the trial I kept seeing the therapist with Lar and, when Lar suggested I get away and go to band camp, she thought it was a good idea. I wasn't sure. I was still pretty much an emotional wreck--at least on the inside--after the trial and, as if you didn't know, I didn't want to leave Lar. Of course, he pointed out he would be busy and I needed to be busy too. I'm glad he insisted I go. The camp was great! I learned so much. Of course, the fact that there were tapes shown of the concert, that were used as an example of how things should be, didn't boost my ego--NOT! That's about it, except to say that when Lar called and said he was ready to come home, I was more than ready to get him. I don't know about the rest of you, but absence does make the heart grow fonder--but I think there are better ways!"
As I finished, Lar pulled me back against himself and kissed me big time, and I returned his kiss and whispered, "Lar, I love you more than you'll ever know".
"About as much as I love you, I guess," he whispered in response, and gave me another kiss.
"Oh, and I can honestly say that I am convinced my place is as a high school band director--maybe with a group on the side. I really did love working with high school students who were serious about music."
A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Michael
Everyone was waiting for someone to speak, when Bill said, "I guess most of you know what happened with me and Linda this summer. We went to camp where we had an absolute ball. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the third and fourth graders especially. All of you seem to have found your niche in life and I think I have as well. I want to be a teacher in grade school--maybe a physical education teacher, but I think I'd like to just be a teacher. Beyond that, all I can say is that Linda and I really found out the difference between fucking and making love. I mean really. Our first time together was at camp and we vowed there that our next time would be here. Thanks to Matt and Luke, that got postponed--but they finally went off searching for a vision and we had the falls to ourselves, and I brought my vision with me." He then kissed Linda and she responded.
Linda said, "Look, we're all friends and know just about all there is to know about each other. I know 'kiss and tell' is really not something one does, but I think I'd like to tell you about the first time Bill and I didn't stop in our love-making." She then told us what had happened at camp, she and Bill blushing but obviously sharing something very personal and precious with people they loved and whom they knew loved them. When they finished--Bill had added a comment now and then--Linda added that she was headed to becoming a middle school teacher.
"Lots of luck!" Eugene said. "They are beyond me."
I guess everyone was being very careful not to ask Matt and Luke too much, and Mary Kathryn and I had said little. When I looked at Matt and Luke, both seemed ready to tell everyone what had happened to the Gang of Four. We told the whole story from beginning to end--Matt talking at length about Sewanee and Luke about Sarasota, as well as the results of their mistrust of each other. Eugene kinda made us all stop and think when he said, "Luke, and you too, Matt, when we get settled, you are going to see a counselor. I know what happened seems like a world crisis that's over but, Luke, I've been there and I think a second attempt at suicide cries out for more than just thinking everything's ok now."
We were all silent, looking at the two, when Luke said, "Matt and I have already decided to do that. Maybe nothing more is needed, but we can't go through that shit again."
A Special Place--Part Fifty-six--Matt
I was glad to hear Luke say we would look into counseling and whatever we needed to do. I felt we were both in excellent shape--but hadn't I thought that before? I guess there is a deeper side to me as well as Luke.
We continued to talk about the summer--having a lot of laughs. I kept an eye on Jacob to see how he was taking things after being thrown out of his house. I think maybe he was relieved because he was certainly having a good time. Of course, he had Paula again and that should be enough to make his heart sing. I knew having Luke back sure made mine sing!
We were finally talked out and Linda shouted, "Skinny dipping time!" I doubt that there are many friends who skinny dipped as often as the Fellowship did. It was so natural and we had done it so often we thought nothing about it. Michael had not taken off his shirt before and, when he did, everyone had to have a look. "Damn, your chest's a mess," Jacob said. "Did it hurt?"
"The knifing or the piercing?" Michael laughed. "The knifing hurt like hell. The piercing wasn't exactly pleasant, but bearable." Everyone was as quiet as if they were in church, as they looked at Michael's chest.
I thought the mood was a little heavy, so I shouted, "Skinny dipping time!" and leaped in the water. We swam and played around for a while, and then the guys started wrestling in the water until Mary Kathryn tossed a ball into the basin and the girls took on the boys in a game of water keep-away. I hate to say it, but they beat us big time. Of course the fact that all of them felt free to grab anything hanging loose was a definite advantage!
Late afternoon, Bill said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm a growing boy and I'm hungry!"
Linda walked in front of him, swinging her well-rounded butt and said, "Well, I'm no growing boy!"
Bill grabbed her, pulling her on top of himself and said, "Damn right you're not. You're a well-built woman," as he kissed her. Soon we had all the food spread out on a blanket and were eating as if it was going out of style. When we had finished, we paired off and found a blanket and, after a little making out I suspect--Luke and I did anyway--all of us fell sound asleep. Food, sleep and sex, aren't they the only three things in a teenage mind? I guess I knew they weren't, but they sure took up a lot of mind space!
One after another, we woke up, and soon all of us were sitting on the beach, when Luke said, "I think Matt and I have an announcement to make." When he did, a huge smile spread across my face. "You all know we can't be legally or officially married, but we are going to have a commitment ceremony. We'd like to have it here next Saturday. That means we may have to put off going to Ohio and since you are all involved in that, you have to decide what we should do."
As soon as he finished, the whole gang started hugging the two of us and I guess we knew our answer. "I better call Janet and Douglas and let them know the trip's postponed," Luke said.
"Why?" I asked. "They can be here with us all next week so we can get to know them. Besides, I suspect they are already on their way here."
"Guess you're right, Lover," Luke said.
"So, let's get some planning done," Mary Kathryn said.
"Damn, she's a lot like Jens--get it lined up, organized and in the book," I thought. She got a pen and paper and soon the whole crew were involved in planning "the social event of the season," in Paula's words. We made up a guest list, planned the food, made a note of who we'd need to call about what--like asking Fr. Tom to celebrate a eucharist, and getting Millie to record music since I wanted more than the keyboard.
When we finished planning--at least we thought we had covered everything--Michael got all excited and said, "Look, we know Fr. Tom can't bless this union, but a medicine man could. I think I could do it, but we left one person off the list--Taequo. Why not have him bless the union?"
"Michael, you're a genius!" Luke said.
"Of course, that's perfect," I added.
We talked longer about our ceremony. I asked Luke if he minded making it traditional--well, I knew that to talk about a gay wedding being traditional was kinda crazy, but he knew what I meant. "Whatever you want, Babe, so long as it says this is forever." I was trying to remember some words of a service I had read at Sewanee, when my cell phone rang. Paula grabbed it and tossed it to me.
When I answered, David said, "Matt, there's been an accident and the young man involved asked about Luke as we were bringing him in to the hospital. Is Luke there?"
"Sure," I answered, and handed the phone to Luke. After listening for a few minutes, Luke asked, "How bad?" looking very serious. "Are you sure? I'll be right there," as he handed me the phone. "Douglas and Janet were coming early, I guess, and had an accident just outside town. David said he didn't think they were seriously hurt, even though the car rolled over three times. They were wearing their seatbelts and are bruised. Douglas was conscious when they brought him in. Janet wasn't." Luke started getting dressed as he talked, and the rest of us did the same.
"Luke, I'll drive. Why don't the rest of you stay here? We'll call as soon as we know something. There's really no place for all of us."
"We'll go to my place. That way we'll be close if there is anything we can do," Eugene said.
I started driving pretty fast when Luke said, "Look, we've had one accident already. Take it easy so there's not another." I did and we arrived at the hospital in a matter of minutes anyway.
Inside, David met us. "They're still in the emergency room," he said. "To be honest, I don't think there's any real damage done beyond bruises from the seatbelts. Both will be plenty sore tomorrow, but I think that's it. Now that you're here, I'll go in and see what I can find out." He was gone for a very short time and when he came back said, "Douglas is in good shape. Just as I expected, he's only bruised. Janet, on the other hand, is just regaining consciousness. Apparently there was something loose in the car and, when it flipped, it struck her on the head. She has a laceration which has been stitched up--there was a lot of blood, but there always is with a head wound. I still don't think it's bad, but Dr. Walker thinks she might have a concussion so she'll have to stay overnight for observation. I think all's well--considering. Douglas should be released shortly."
Twenty or thirty minutes later--it seemed hours, and both Luke and I were getting kinda nervous because the hospital brought back some pretty bad memories--a nurse helped Douglas as he walked out of the emergency room. When he saw Luke he burst into tears and Luke held him--carefully--as he cried. Finally he said, "God, Luke, I am so glad to see you. They told me Janet would be all right, but when I saw her she was covered with blood."
"David--he is on the EMS team that picked you up and is a member of the Family--said she had a head wound which wasn't too serious, but mighty bloody. He thinks you're both ok. She'll probably have to spend the night here because she took a lick on the head, but you..."
"The doctor told me I could go, but I'm not leaving until I can see Janet and see she's all right. Luke, my friend, it has gotten pretty serious--between Janet and me I mean." He smiled, then groaned, "Man, I feel like I have been hit by an elephant," stroking his chest.
"David calls that the sign of life. It's bruises your seatbelt made. Think what it would have been like if the same force had tossed you about the car."
Luke suddenly remembered that I only knew Douglas through him and that we had never met. "Oh, Douglas, this is..."
"Matt, Luke's Sarang Hanun Pomul if I remember correctly. Matt, it would be pretty hard for you to hide, even in a crowd." Douglas smiled as he shook hands with me.
As we were shaking hands, the emergency room doors opened and a gurney was wheeled out. I had no doubt it was Janet because Douglas was at her side in a flash. "Babe, are you all right?" he asked. "I mean really all right?" He bent to kiss her on the forehead.
"I'm covered with blood, I have the headache from hell, every time I breathe I feel like an elephant sat on me but, yes, I'm all right. I'm especially all right now that I see you are. They want me to stay here tonight for observation, so I guess I will."
"Sure you will," Douglas said.
Dr. Walker walked out of the emergency room just as Douglas spoke, saw me and Luke, smiled, and said, "I thought you two had dropped off the face of the earth. These are friends of yours?"
"They are my friends," Luke said, "We met this summer. They were coming up to go to Ohio with the crew when the accident happened."
"Don't think it would be a good idea to plan on going until next week. No serious damage done, but both will be very sore."
"Well, they didn't know it, but we postponed the trip until next week anyway. Matt and I are having our commitment ceremony next Saturday if we can get it all arranged. We've been living in sin long enough," Luke laughed. "And we expect you and Mrs. Walker to be there. You know if it hadn't been for you and your breaking rules, I probably wouldn't be here now."
"Of course we'll be there. Wouldn't miss it. And you're right. Had Matt not spent those nights here, I don't think you would have made it. And I heard you tried something foolish again."
Luke hung his head and stared at the floor. "Luke, I think there may be a problem here. I talked with Dr. Bail... Margaret and, if you are going to be here next week, I'd like for you to come in Monday for some tests. I'll make an appointment. Matt, I want you to come with him. Douglas, sorry this was your introduction to Concord, but I'm glad there's not too much damage--well to you and Janet anyway. Your car, I'm told, is a hopeless wreck. What happened?"
"Driving all night without sleep the night before," Douglas said, "I just fell asleep and went off the embankment."
"Then you are indeed lucky. And had you not had on your seatbelts, you would have been in another establishment down the street--the funeral home."
He then turned to Janet and said, "Young lady, I want you to behave yourself tonight. If you do and all goes well, as I am sure it will, you'll be out of here tomorrow. By the way, Douglas, be sure to call your parents and Janet's. We didn't try since both of you were over eighteen. Well, goodnight all," he said as he walked toward the exit.
After an orderly took Janet to her room, the nurse on duty told us we could see her for a few minutes then we'd have to go. When Luke and I went in with Douglas, Janet smiled and said, "Matt, I was jealous as hell of you the first week of the summer, but I think if I had seen you first, you would have given Luke a run for the money--not that you would have been interested either. You are one good-looking hunk." Need I say it? I blushed. "You're both damn lucky, almost as lucky as I am." She smiled at Douglas who leaned over and kissed her very gently.
"I don't think you lucked out as well as I have, Janet, but you've done pretty damn well," Luke said. "Well, we'll say goodnight and give Douglas some privacy. See you in the morning."
Luke leaned over and kissed her and, as he turned to go, she said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul--damn that's a mouthful, don't I get a kiss from a Korean Indian?"
I kissed her and said, "Take care. We have a busy week planned."
Douglas joined us shortly. He was obviously getting very sore and stiff. "We'll take you home and get you as comfortable as possible," Luke said. Actually, we all went to Eugene's where the Fellowship was waiting. After introductions, Millie insisted Douglas spend the night there--in case the hospital needed to call. "I'll ring them and give them this number," she said. "I think you might find Eugene's spa a bit comforting and when you're ready for bed, down to the downstairs guest room. Those two have been separated for a couple weeks and probably would like a little privacy. I sure as hell would!"
"Millie, before you go," I said, "We're having Sunday dinner at the Andrews' tomorrow. Be there for an important announcement."
"That reminds me," Luke said, and called Uncle Michael and John and asked them to join us for Sunday dinner at the Andrews'. "We have an announcement to make," he had said. He also called Chelsea and Gladys. "By the Way, Chelsea, have you heard anything from Jake?" When he hung up the phone, he said, "Seems Jake has definitely disappeared."
"Douglas, don't you need to call your parents? And Janet's?" Luke asked.
"Mine can wait. I'll call Janet's. I'll talk to her dad or mom--the one I can get, if either and, by damn, they can make the effort to call the other. They were both relieved, and didn't hide it, when they learned she was staying in Florida. She was right, neither really wanted her." Douglas made two phone calls and when he was finished, said, "Well, that's true to form, neither was at home. I just left a message that she had an accident and was ok. They can call here if they like, but I won't be surprised not to hear from either."
We all went upstairs to Eugene's place and Douglas got in the Jacuzzi. Paula and Jacob joined him and the rest of us just sat around, the whole crowd in the bathroom! Finally, Luke asked, "Why were you and Janet outside Concord today. We didn't expect you until tomorrow."
"I had a major fight with my parents a couple days ago--the first in ages, since I see them so seldom we didn't even have a chance to fight. I told them Janet was moving in with me. They had no objection at all. 'It will be good for you to experiment,' Dad said, winked and added, 'I know young men need a woman now and then, and it's nice you can have one handy.' Mom was pretending she didn't hear him and I was getting pissed. He was talking about Janet like she was a common whore!"
"So I broke the news which really flipped them out. When Janet and I finished the summer course, we came to my grandmother's vacation place here in North Carolina. While we were there we did a lot--a whole lot--of talking about what we wanted to do with our lives and, by that time, I was pretty sure of one thing I wanted to do with mine--and that was to spend it with Janet. 'Are you serious?' she had asked when I told her."
"'I'm damn serious. I'm so serious that I'd like to ask you a question,' I said."
"'Shoot,' she said, and I got down on one knee..."
"You didn't," Luke laughed. "spiked hair of all colors and things pierced you wouldn't believe--hey, where's the spiked hair and all those studs and rings?"
"Another story," Douglas grinned.
"Anyway, old Douglas of the spiked hair got down on one knee? I can't believe it."
"I did, swear to God I did, and asked Janet to marry me. 'You got to be kidding!' she had laughed. I was a bit pissed and said, 'I'm sure as hell not kidding! Damn it, Janet, stop the nonsense and get serious! Will you marry me?'"
"'You're sure you're not kidding?' she asked, and again I assured her I was not--not in very nice language, I think."
"'Well, since I haven't had time to think about it, I'll give you an answer tomorrow,' she said. That really got me. 'Janet, are we going to have our first fight over whether or not you are going to give me an answer?'"
We were all laughing our heads off at Douglas who was being very dramatic about the whole thing and, I think, getting pissed all over again. "Finally I said, 'Janet, I want an answer tonight. Right now.' She laughed and said, 'You look so cute when you're mad. I guess I'll just have to keep you mad!' I realized how funny all this was and started laughing with her. When I did she said, 'Douglas, I'd marry you in a minute'."
"'Do you mean that?' I asked, and she nodded and gave me a kiss to die for."
"When she turned me loose, she said, 'I sure do'."
"Well, to make a long story shorter, we were married last week by a judge in South Carolina."
"You and Janet are married, actually married?" Luke said, looking as if he didn't believe it. In answer Douglas held out his left hand where there was a shiny new band.
"Damn!" Luke said. "Some summer romance!"
"Yea, and we're spending our honeymoon in hospitals and painting a house because of you," Douglas laughed. Then he added on a very serious note, "Thanks, Luke, for that talk we had, which ended making me a very happy man." Luke gave him a very gentle tap on the shoulder, but still he said, "Ouch!".
"Anyway, we didn't see Mom and Dad until the day after we got back. One night I heard them when they came in late--as usual--and we went down and told them we were married. All hell broke loose. She was not 'quality', she had no money, etc. Then Dad made the mistake of saying, 'Douglas, if you need sex, we told you she could move in, but now you have messed up everything by getting married. We'll have it annulled.'"
"'Like hell you will!' I shouted at him, and we left them storming at me and went to our room. Janet was upset, but not for long," Douglas smiled.
"The next morning, Dad left a note telling me to call the family lawyer 'about getting this ridiculous marriage of yours annulled'. When I read it I started pitching a major fit and Lupe told me to shut up and calm down. She then asked what I was carrying on about. I told her Janet and I were married and the first thing she said was, 'Then you need to start looking and acting like a responsible married man. Get rid of that spiked hair and most of those rings and studs you have poking in and out of your body!'" Douglas smiled and looked at Luke and said, "And you know what Lupe wants, Lupe gets!" as he rubbed his hands though his short hair.
"She then gave me and Janet a good lecture, starting with, 'You're both artists and know that requires discipline, technique and practice. Well, marriage is an art.' Then she really got moving on our being too young to get married and, well, you know Lupe, Luke."
"Finally she stopped for breath and I said, 'Lupe, as I seem to recall, you and Hector were fifteen when you married'. She started telling me that was different and I stopped her and asked, 'Lupe, how often have you regretted It?'"
"She started dying laughing and said, 'Ok, what'll we do about this? You don't need to call the family lawyer. What you need to do is see Mr. Blalock.' Mr. Blalock was my grandmother's lawyer and her close personal friend. He had long since retired, but managed some trust funds for old clients--including one she had left me. When my grandmother died, he kinda took her place. I called him several times a year and we got together just to talk. He also called me every few weeks just to ask how I was doing. I knew by the time I was fifteen I would probably do best by following any advise he gave, which he only gave when asked. God, this is getting to be a long story."
"We all had naps this afternoon, so go on," Mary Kathryn said, just as Luke helped Douglas out of the jacuzzi.
"Damn, I'm sore," he said.
"Just wait until tomorrow," Bill smiled.
Douglas settled himself on a sofa and continued his story. "Lupe picked up the phone and, before I knew it, made an appointment for me to get my hair done. 'But what if Janet doesn't want a new look?' I asked."
"'Douglas, if I had been going for looks, you'd still be single,' Janet laughed. 'Now get upstairs and get dressed. You can't go to see Mr. Blalock looking like a member of some street gang.'"
"'I'll call Mr. Blalock,' Lupe said. 'And, Janet, don't let him start anything. We don't have time for messing around today!'"
"Janet blushed," Douglas smiled. "I understand she has caught the MGTD, the Matthew Greywolf Transmitted Disease." Everyone laughed like crazy when I blushed.
"I did as I was told and Janet picked out a good-looking shirt and slacks and we were off. After an hour and a half, I came out from the hair place looking like this and Janet and I went to see Mr. Blalock. He seemed delighted to see me and actually kissed Janet's hand. I mean he is a real old-fashioned gentleman and I really look at him as I would a favorite grandfather. I told him the situation and he asked us a bunch of questions--all about Janet and her family, why we had decided we were meant for each other, and why we thought we should have gotten married. Not easy questions either. When either of us didn't have an immediate answer, he'd say, 'Take your time, we're in no rush'. I hadn't realized how long we had talked until he said, 'Let's go out to the terrace. Lunch is waiting for us there.' Mrs. Blalock joined us--a striking woman still, at least eighty. When we came out, Mr. Blalock kissed her on the cheek and it was obvious this was not for our benefit. He then told her, briefly, of our situation."
"'Granville and I wanted to get married when we were your age,' she said, 'but our parents objected and said we should wait until Granville was settled in a practice, and we did. That was fifty-two years ago and I have only one regret. I regret that we didn't defy our parents and get married six years earlier when we wanted to. We would have had six more years together. So don't let anyone tell you that you can't make a marriage work just because you're young. And don't let any fool tell you it's not work!' she laughed."
"As we ate, Mrs. Blalock wanted to know all about how we met, when we decided to be friends--and she made a point of talking about being friends, not lovers--and when we decided there was another dimension to our relationship. You know, all that. Luke, Janet even told her about hitting on you and your giving her to me, so to speak," Douglas laughed.
"After lunch, we got down to business. Mr. Blalock called the family lawyer and told him he was wasting his time and my family's money filing for an annulment. 'If there's any question, you can tell Douglas' parents to call me--after you remind them of the trust funds' conditions.' He then explained that Mom had a trust fund from grandmother--the source of the family's wealth, I learned for the first time--and that my trust fund's conditions changed when I turned eighteen and when I married. I didn't know that, as Mom had always handled my money. Seems when I turned eighteen, I could write checks on the fund up to a certain--obscene--amount, and when I married--so long as I stayed married to the same woman--the house was mine and the trust fund limit increased. I did, however, have to provide for my parent's housing. 'Da...darn,' I said when I heard that, 'makes sense why they wouldn't care if I just kept a woman, and raised hell when they found out I was married.'"
"Anyway, when I finally caught Mom and Dad at home, they both exploded when I told them Mr. Blalock had blocked any annulment. Since they didn't know I knew the conditions of the trust, they were howling all sorts of reasons why the marriage should be annulled, until I calmly told them I knew why they were concerned. 'You needn't worry. The easiest way for me to provide for you is to keep things as they are so far as the house is concerned--that is, as long as you don't interfere with me and my wife'--Mom blanched when I said 'my wife'--so all's cool.' That seemed to calm things down until night before last."
When they came in--late as usual--Dad handed me a paper which the family lawyer had drawn up, spelling out an agreement between me and Janet. 'Just in case she's nothing more than a gold digger,' he said. Well, I blew my stack. 'We're leaving in the morning'--I had just decided--'and when we get back, I expect you and Mom to show my wife the respect she deserves and I demand," and stormed upstairs. I started to tell Janet nothing, but she said, 'Look, if we're going to make this work, we're going to have to be a team. Now what's going on, HUSBAND?' That did it! I ranted and raved for an hour about how my parents had never really cared about me and how, now, they wanted to treat my wife like a common streetwalker and on and on and on. When I finally wound down, Janet and I talked until sunrise, packed and started here. Well, you know the rest."
"Wow," Luke said. "Lupe to the rescue again."
Douglas grinned a wicked grin and said, "Yea, and she's being rewarded. I gave her and Hector a month off and money to travel first class wherever their hearts desire. We'll see how Mom manages without Lupe!"
Douglas needed help getting up and, as Luke and I helped him, he asked, "You two have an announcement you're going to make?"
"Yea, Matt and I have been saying we would have a commitment ceremony--since we can't be legally married--when the time was right. Well, after this summer, the time is right. We both think it is high time we made our commitment--well, kinda--public so to speak. I don't mean coming out--hell, everyone who cares knows that, but our commitment. We plan to have it next Saturday."
"You'll love married life," Douglas smiled.
Luke and I helped him downstairs and into the guest room and, after all the excitement, no-one really wanted to go back to the falls, so we all went home.
That night was Luke's night in my bed and we cuddled together, just talking about the events of the summer--our last summer before we started a whole new life. From time to time we exchanged soft kisses as we talked about our relationship and, finally, enclosed in each other's arms, drifted into peaceful sleep.