"So, you want to go to the Hemingway Museum first, I suppose," Antwon said as we started out the estate drive.
"Unless you have another suggestion," Susan said.
"No, I think the museum is a good place to start. Mrs. Metzer said you had scratched the beach for tonight and she had made reservations for us at a waterfront restaurant Sharky and I really like. He'll be joining us, as will the Captain if you don't mind."
"Would be delighted," Bobbie said. "I plan to squeeze every ounce of fun I can out of this afternoon and evening, and both sound like a great addition to dinner. I know Sharky is." Her reason was clear when she said, "I am really angry at Adam for making such an ass of himself."
"If you don't mind my asking, what's his problem. I thought he must be sick or something," Antwon said.
"Oops, a lover's quarrel. Never mind."
"It didn't start as a lover's quarrel, but it's one now!" Bobbie said. "He is all up tight about ... oops, never mind."
"He's got problems with my being gay? Wow! And he saw Sharky's and my house and now he's thinking about Dry Tortugas and the fact he'll be on a boat with two gays -- well, three but he doesn't know that yet. On target?"
"I'll not pretend so he won't look so much like a horse's ass," Bobbie said. "On target."
"Well, it's his problem, not mine," Antwon said. "I learned a long time ago that I was who I was and I liked who I had become and that included admitting I am gay. If someone doesn't like who I am, there is nothing I can do about it. I do not have a problem -- they have a problem. Anyway, I take it the rest of you have no problem with my being gay?" He looked at me in the rear view mirror and gave me a quick wink.
"None at all," John replied.
Bobbie added, "But I bet there are plenty of women who do, simply because they know they are not going to get in your pants."
Antwon laughed, "Doesn't keep them from trying! You'd be surprised at how many women take it as a personal challenge, women who'd never think about trying to seduce a straight guy."
"Ah, but maybe they just like to flirt and know that you are safe," Bobbie said.
"Could be. Who knows?" We rode in silence for several minutes and then Antwon said, "Well, here we are. I have been through the museum an awful lot of times so, if you don't mind, I'll sit this one out. Here's the tickets and a cell phone. Give me a call when you are finished and I'll be back. You can walk around the town and then call if you like. I will need to pick you up in time for dinner. Our reservations are for 8:00. Let me know where you are and allow me thirty minutes pick you up and get us to the restaurant. Ok?"
"Sounds good," Justin answered.
The Hemingway Museum was a very interesting place in its own right, but the fact that Hemingway had actually lived and worked there made it very special. We had, of course, read works by him as well as done research on the man and his work. In fact, we had done a detailed reading and in-depth discussion of For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was written while Hemingway lived in the very house in which we were standing.
Since there were five of us, we had a guide all to ourselves. His name was Boston Blackie, a retired English teacher who, I'm sure, never had any trouble keeping students awake. Or maybe he did, because I'm sure the administration would not approve of some of his approaches to things.
After Adam's comment about Hemingway being gay, I was not surprised when Bobbie asked, "Was he gay? Hemingway I mean."
"Gal, you give a definitive answer to that and you'll put a lot of graduate school teachers and students out of business. Depends on who's being questioned and who's giving answers. Unlike many in my own gay community, I don't think so. I think he was just a mixed-up, sexually repressed mid-westerner, but what do I know? Like a lot of other things, what you read in his work is definitely colored by what you bring to it, namely, you and your experience. Look at his life -- four wives and all -- and you could conclude just about anything you want about his sexuality. So was he gay? Don't know."
After we had been taken on the 'official' tour by Boston Blackie, we wandered around for another hour with the guide close by to answer any questions we had. Finally exhausting our questions about the house and Hemingway, we left the museum.
Without any destination in mind, we just wandered around town, window shopping. Bobbie and Susan were doing some actual shopping in some of the really interesting shops, but the three fellows, being fellows, just wandered around looking. Bobbie and Susan came out of a shop, both carrying bags of gifts they had purchased. John, Justin, and I had purchased nothing. "Ok, Jokers," Bobbie chided us, "I know you hate shopping, but you better find some gifts for folks back home."
"You know she's right," John said. We were standing in front of yet another gift shop, this one specializing in things nautical. We went inside and all of us did some serious shopping there. We also did some in several other shops, ending up with each of us carrying a load of parcels.
Walking down the street, I noticed several couples -- straight and gay -- walking hand-in-hand. "Wouldn't it be nice to be so open with who you are and who you love?" Justin asked.
I was surprised when Bobbie answered before I could, "That's the way it should be. So why aren't you two taking advantage of it?"
Needless to say, Justin and I were hardly prepared for that. "You know?" I asked.
"I think the only people who haven't known for some time were you two," Bobbie laughed.
"Adam?" Justin asked.
"Why do you think he is so upset?" Bobbie responded. "After our visit with Sharky and Antwon, he came back foaming at the mouth about 'god damn ass-fucking queers.' After he had ranted and raved about Sharky and Antwon like a complete idiot, he started on you two. Surprised me because he'd never said anything about it before, but he started on 'I bet Justin and Marc are queer, too.' I responded, 'I suspect they are gay, yes.' He started shouting, 'Justin fucking Marc's ass. Makes me fucking sick. Yeah, they are damn queers, bet my ass on it. You knew they're queer?' I told him I had been pretty sure you two were gay for some time, but it didn't make any difference to me. 'Adam, we're all good friends and who we sleep with doesn't have anything to do with it.' He really went off then and I finally said, 'Asshole, I've heard all of your rating and raving I can stand. Shut up or leave.' He said he'd never have anything to do with cocksuckers even if they had been his best friends." Bobbie laughed, "I asked him if that included me, and that's when he went absolutely postal. He'll simmer down or he'll have to take care of himself! He got all sweet and lovey- dovey and promised to behave, but I don't think it's over."
"Sorry about that, Bobbie," Justin said. "You know we don't want to make a problem for you."
"Antwon said it. Adam has a problem, I don't. You know he is as homophobic as hell, sorta. If you're Mr. Universe you can be gay and still be ok. But let's face it, you two guys, two of his best friends are not -- Mr. Universe, that is. Although, Justin, lugging around furniture has given you a bod not to be sneezed at. Afraid Adam envies the results, but is unwilling to put his back into it -- literally and figuratively." John was about to explode he was laughing so hard and trying to hide his glee from Bobbie. "So why aren't you two taking advantage of the place you're in and the person you're with?" Bobbie concluded.
I was trying to decide just exactly what I was going to do, when Justin grabbed my hand and pulled me to himself, wrapped his package-laden arms around me and planted a kiss on my lips. I could feel my face burning as I blushed, then thought, 'What the hell!' and kissed him back.
"Now that's more like it," Bobbie said while Susan and John applauded. We continued walking down the street, little fingers hooked since I, too, had a load of bags, with Justin turning to look at me from time to time, a huge grin on his face.
"Yes, that's more like it," Bobbie said. "Guess you need to be careful in Elizabethton, since there are some there who would do you harm simply because you love each other. Sad, and I don't think Adam is the worst of the bunch, but here? Be free!"
It was great to walk down the street, holding hands -- fingers anyway -- with Justin, and enjoying the goofy grin on his face.
We gave Antwon a call at 5:30 and he arrived shortly after and suggested we take in the southernmost point in the US. "No big deal," he laughed, "but you come to Key West, you gotta do it." After we strolled around for half an hour, Antwon took us to Fort Zachary and we had a grand time there, leaving for the restaurant in time to meet Sharky and the Captain at the seafood place.
Sharky and the Captain were in the bar having a beer while they waited for us. After we were all introduced to the Captain and had shaken hands, we were shown to a table on 'the upper deck,' a second floor outdoor area overlooking the waterfront.
"All of you drive, I assume?" Antwon asked. When we said we did, he said, "In that case I will join my business partners in a beer. Sure I'll not drink enough to be over the legal limit, but I just as soon one of you drive home and then there sure won't be a problem." Our server brought him a beer and the rest of us a tropical punch the Captain recommended.
"So, where's Adam?" Sharky asked. "Hope he's not sick or something."
I suspect we would all have beaten about the bush, but Bobbie really must have been put out with him because she jumped right in. "He's back at the manor feeling self-righteous and superior because he's not gay and two of his best friends are."
"The rest of your friends know, I take it," Sharky said, looking at me. I merely nodded.
"He's pissed because you and Antwon are gay and going to be handling our tour to Dry Tortugas," Bobbie said. "Then he found out -- actually, he must have known all along, all the rest of us knew except Justin and Marc -- that Justin and Marc are gay and he came unglued."
"Guess he doesn't need to know I'm gay even if partnerless," the Captain laughed. "He'll get over it."
"Or he won't," Bobbie said. "If he's going to be around me, he'll get over it, no question about that!"
The waiter brought our food and we settled down to eat after traipsing around all afternoon. After we had kinda dulled the hunger, the Captain started telling tall tales about his seafaring days, which kept us all in stitches.
John drove the van back to the estate although Antwon had only two beers. When we arrived and told Antwon goodnight, he climbed into the driver's seat and headed for the village.
As we walked upstairs, John said, "Crew, I think we need to have a sit down and then haul Adam's ass in for a 'Come to Jesus' talk."
"An end to a perfect afternoon, NOT!" Bobbie said, "but I agree it needs to be done."
"Our place?" I asked.
"By all means," John responded.
When we reached our suite, we all sat down and waited for someone to say something. "Well?" Justin asked.
"Yeah, well," John responded. "Look, the way I see it we could just ignore Adam and hope he goes away or comes around. I mean, like we really don't care."
"Except I really do care," I said. "I really care. Adam has been my best friend since forever, until he and Bobbie got together. He was -- is -- still a friend and I cannot just ignore that and pretend it doesn't matter. It does."
"Same here," Justin said. "Saying it doesn't matter doesn't make it so. Nothing will make it so."
"Exactly," John said. "So the option I proposed is, in fact, not an option at all. We all knew that, but it needed to be made clear. So we really do care about whether or not Adam accepts your new relationship."
"But," Susan said, "we can't determine how Adam is going to deal with the situation. Sure, this afternoon he was carrying on like an idiot, and the truth of the matter is that may not change regardless of whether or not we care."
"Right, and in that case we'll just have to ignore him as much as it might hurt," Bobbie said. She was obviously really and truly put out with Adam's behavior.
"So do we want a confrontation now or do we let it ride and see what develops?" Susan asked.
"I don't see letting it ride as an option either," Bobbie said. "This is Saturday. Wednesday we get on a boat -- which may be a big boat so far as what we are used to is concerned, but it will be a small boat if some of us are trying to avoid others of us -- and we are, more or less, going to be on that boat for two days. I say we have it out here and now. If Adam insists on being an asshole, I say we all chip in and buy him a ticket to Elizabethton."
We talked for another half-hour, but essentially said nothing new, when John finally said, "I think it's time to call Adam in. We are just spinning our wheels."
"I'll do it," Bobbie said. "If one of you did it he'd start thinking you had chosen Marc and Justin over him."
"Good idea," Susan said.
"Give me half an hour and if I'm not back, send out a search party," Bobbie said with a very weak smile.
As soon as she was gone, John said, "So Bobbie is worried Adam will think we have ganged up on him. What's he going to think about Bobbie? You know he thinks she should be toeing the line he dictates. We've all seen that before. Could be interesting."
" So now we just wait," Justin said with a sigh.
"Yeah, and I know how the condemned man feels," I responded. "So we wait."