Castle Roland

Forever 1 - Beginnings

by Jack Schaeffer


Chapter 11

Published: 12 Feb 15

FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.

_"A beginning is a very delicate time."_
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch

I like flying. There's something magical about an object so big becoming airborne, held aloft by constant forward motion and the invisible power of lift, all to move people and cargo from one location to another quickly. Seated by the window, I looked at the clouds spread out far below me, perfect white cotton balls suspended in the blazing sunshine. My life was, in a sense, suddenly "airborne" as well. It felt like I was finally moving forward - but to where I was unsure. I just knew I was on my way.

I had a real sense of "lift" happening as well. At first I thought maybe it was just the money. Extra cash has a way of lifting burdens for sure. But when I looked a little deeper, I realized the lift or elevation I was experiencing was more in my thinking than in my wallet. I was seeing myself through different eyes now.

For nearly all my life I had lived below my potential. As a gay man, I did not believe I could be good or do good things, nor did I believe anyone would want me to. Better to just disappear and not offend. So that's what I had done. I left my home, my family - such as it was - and any aspirations of real purpose and just disappeared, before I could manifest as the deep disappointment I was bound to be. I could now see how I had mentally and emotionally suffocated my hopes and dreams, all in the name of not disappointing others. Instead I disappointed myself.

But my former downward-focused thinking was slowly being replaced by a new point of view. Yes, I was gay, but so what? I was still a good guy, and I was capable of doing good things - Or so a lot of people were saying lately. I just needed to believe it myself.

As I enjoyed my first class lunch served on fine china, I saw the meal as a metaphor of how my life was different now. It was not because I had money and could sit in the larger seats up front in the plane. No, it was because my thoughts about myself were now like fine china, instead of paper plates.

I could appreciate the utility of a paper plate. You use it once and you throw it away – cheap and easy. Brilliant in its simplicity, but severely limited. What happens to a man as he grows up and sees himself only as a paper plate? He will wonder at what point in his life people will realize he has served his limited purpose and should now be thrown away for someone new.

I had been a paper plate. I allowed my fear of others to put so many limitations on myself I eventually accepted the inevitable trashing of my life as the expected outcome. Pitiful and stupid.

Then I received Amanda's letter. Her real gift to me was in those words which became the genesis of my new hope, and the lift which was moving me along a different flight line now. I was not a paper plate - I could be fine china - able to provide years and years of reliable, reusable service in a multitude of situations. I needed to be tended to with care and safely stored away until the next opportunity I could be of some use. I wanted to be treasured, never to be tossed out with the leftovers.

I smiled as I thought of young brides-to-be registering for china patterns in the finer department stores, some spending more time and energy making their choice, it would seem, than they did in picking a potential husband. Why in those moments did china become so important? There must be something powerful in the symbolism present in a china plate. I think it represented a stability, a longevity, a lasting beauty which, whether displayed on a shelf or hidden away in a closet, could illicit a hope for a lasting marriage relationship.

Okay, maybe the cabin pressure was messing with my brain. I know I'm not really a china plate. I'm a guy. And while I had improved my outward appearance some, I was mostly the same guy on the inside. With one important exception: I was gay, but I was now okay with it.

It may seem like a simple thing, but I had agonized over my same-sex attraction for a decade – ever since Bobby Meyers had stripped down and stood totally naked and unashamed in the gym shower after 8th grade P.E. class, letting the water run down his amazingly muscled body with its large patch of pubic hair resting on top of the world's most perfect teenaged cock and balls. He was light years ahead of me and most of my classmates in the male development race, and he set an extremely high standard to follow. At the time I still looked every morning in hopes of finding a single pube to call my own.

I remember going home that night and jerking off to the images seared in my brain of Bobby standing naked and carefree in the shower. Years later I came to realize what had turned me on so much was not just his body, which was hot, but his confidence in who he was, which was hotter. I'm convinced the hottest guys, to girls and guys alike, are the ones who exude the most confidence in who they are. Bobby had confidence in spades. I had none. And never really found any, either.

Plus I was gay, which was strikes one, two, and three all in one. Hence I never had a chance in the relationship game. I did eventually have the body hair and musculature of a young man, but without the confidence, my outward appearance wasn't enough to overcome the fears.

I was not a virgin because I was some super good guy who was above all the evil sexual temptations. I was a virgin simply because I had been too scared to not be. It wasn't because I lacked desire – I was horny 24/7. On most days, any guy who took an ounce of care in his appearance could have had me with a smile. But deep-rooted fear and lack of confidence were my two most visible qualities, so aside from the occasional flirtation, I was making no progress towards a relationship.

Yes, I wanted sex. I needed it. But I had some deeper needs which were superseding sex. I know I wanted true friendship – with people who knew I was gay and still wanted to be my friend. I didn't care if they were also gay, I just wanted to be gay and okay myself.

I also needed to feel safe. Part of the reason I never jumped at the first dick available was I knew there would be no commitment in it. Most of my relationships, especially family, had suffered in the commitment aspect. And there is something so fundamental, so vital, in a commitment between two people. I knew I needed a commitment to feel safe enough to take the risk and be vulnerable enough to have sex.

I wasn't trying to be old-fashioned or be better than the average guy – I had no points to win from anyone. But I knew me well enough to know if I felt a guy didn't like me for who I was, beyond how badly he wanted in my pants, I'd never be able to go through with it. I could not do one night stands or random hookups, no matter how hard my dick got. If that's selfish and boring and lame, so be it.

Another thing about big airplanes is they fly at high altitudes. As I sat in my seat, flying across the ocean at 38,000 feet, I hoped I wasn't setting the bar too high for any future relationship. I didn't want to crash and burn before I even got off the ground. At the same time, I had to believe there was somebody out there who was worth the wait – someone who would love me first, and fuck me second...and third...and fourth...

After nearly nine hours, I was so ready to get off the plane. The pilot came on the PA system and announced last call for the bathrooms, and I was fortunately in line with only one other guy in front of me. He was pushing fifty, but was in great shape from what I could see. The flight attendants were busy all around us trying to prepare for landing. I wish Seth had been on this flight. He would have been fun to watch, I thought, grinning to myself. I passed my time in line thinking of him and his twinkling blue eyes. I hoped he and Tim had everything worked out.

I returned to my seat just as the seat belt sign came on. I dutifully buckled up and put my IPad away. I watched the approaching blue-green ocean getting closer and closer as we circled downward toward Honolulu. The islands looked so small from up here. I wondered if my forever love could be on one of those islands, and if he would find me this trip. He had three weeks. Get the lead out, man. My dick can't get much harder.

Since I was flying first class – thank you, Todd – I was one of the first off the plane. I skipped the traditional Hawaiian lei handouts and headed to baggage claim to collect my two bags which contained everything I currently called mine. I might have been sad at such a thought, but at that moment I thought it was the perfect state to be in. Open heart, open mind, and travelling light.

I saw him standing there, holding the sign with my name just over his crotch. He was my size, about my age, and dressed in khaki slacks and a traditional blue and tan Hawaiian short sleeved shirt. He had on a blue baseball cap, pulled down low over his eyes, so I couldn't see much of his face. Crap! Why was there a guy looking for me? I wanted to disappear in Hawaii. I sighed and headed over to him.

"I'm Jack Schaeffer. Are you looking for me?" I asked him.

"Yes. Welcome to Hawaii, Mr. Schaeffer." He extended his hand, and I shook it.

"Call me Jack. I wasn't expecting anyone to be here. What am I missing?"

"Oh...right. He said you might be confused...well, actually he said you might be pissed. The guy said his name was Todd, and he set up a car rental for you through my company. I'm here to get you to your car." I wanted to be pissed, but how could I be? I mean, Todd thought of everything. This was just Todd being Todd. I decided to roll with it.

My car porter friend turned out to be Aaron, and he helped me retrieve my bags from the carousel, which was moving at a rapid clip. He must have had some serious muscles hiding under his flowered shirt, as he grabbed my large bag and lifted it right off the conveyor as if it weighed nothing. I caught the medium bag and struggled to get it off loaded. I nearly fell on the elderly woman standing next to me. Embarrassing.

We rolled the bags out the exit and I followed Aaron to a waiting van emblazoned with some kind of exotic car on the side underneath the words "Hawaiian Luxury Rentals". Aaron opened the side door and hopped in, pulling in my bags. I followed. He introduced me to Wes, the guy driving the van, and we were off. Apparently I was the only customer.

Just when I was beginning to wonder if I had been kidnapped, we pulled into a small parking lot. The trip from the airport had been around 15 minutes, and I thought up a lot of scary scenarios in our short trip. But it was all for naught. We stepped out of the van into the most gorgeous sunshine and soft breezes I had ever felt. I stood there and tried to soak it in.

"Okay, Jack. We've got you set up right over here." He walked away, still pulling my large bag. He stopped at a sparkling white BMW convertible sedan. It was gorgeous. Todd had rented me a white chariot to explore Hawaii in. Way to go, Todd!

Aaron showed me how everything worked on the car, including how to take the top down and put it back up. He wanted me to promise I would never try to put it up while I was driving. I promised. I signed some papers, received instructions on how to drop the car off and get a ride back to the airport when my time in Hawaii was done, and then I was off. I had the address and directions to the property management office from the airport, so I followed Aaron's instructions to get back to the airport, and then continued on from there, the warm wind whipping around me.

I arrived at the management office a little after 3, which made it 8 o'clock for me. My stomach grumbled as I exited the car. I hoped the place I was staying was close by. I also hoped there was food nearby. I knocked on the office door – it was locked. Thankfully a woman answered it shortly.

"May I help you?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm Jack Schaeffer. I am renting a house near Kailua Beach. I was told I needed to stop here first so someone could show me the way and get me set up."

"Oh my goodness! Was that today? I thought that was for tomorrow. Come in, please. Here, have a seat and give me just a minute to see what's what." She was clearly distraught. I was surprisingly not upset at all - yet.

She was busy checking things on her computer screen as I watched and waited. She was probably in her early 50s or so, quite professional looking in her sky blue dress and pearls. Her shoes matched the color of the dress, and had a sensible heel. Suddenly she gave a small gasp, looked at me from the corner of her eyes, then grabbed a cell phone and dialed someone. This was going to get interesting.

"Madge, this is Claire. Yes, I'm at the office. No, he didn't. Listen, Madge. I have a Jack Schaeffer here. He says he's renting the Kailua Beach house today. I thought the rental started tomorrow." She listened while Madge explained something to her. I could see her face finally show some relief, and she was smiling.

"Yeah, sure, Madge. I'll tell him. No problem. Yes, I can do that. The folder is right here on your desk. Got it. See you soon." She hung up.

"Mr. Schaeffer, my apologies, sir. And please forgive my lack of manners. I've been a bit flustered today. My name is Claire Hoskins. My business partner, Madge Weinkoff, is on her way in. She will be handling your rental and any help you may need. She wanted to stop and get some things for the house before she took you up there. I think she thought you would be a bit later in arriving."

"I hope I haven't caused any trouble, Ms. Hoskins." I said.

"Oh, fiddlesticks. Nothing of the kind. And you can call me Claire. No, it just so happens I have a Mr. Shaftner coming in tomorrow to rent a condo down by Waikiki and I was a bit confused by the similar last names. Madge has you all set up and ready to go. In fact, I can get you started with the paperwork if you'd like so you can get going as soon as she arrives."

We worked the papers, me signing a half dozen forms promising to not destroy anything and to replace anything if I broke my first promise. I signed another form which indicated Todd had prepaid the rental in full. Claire then handed me a fairly large 3-ring binder full of information about the house, its location, and the local environs. There were telephone numbers for anything I could ever need. It would take two days to read through it all.

The little bell above the office door started ringing as another woman came flying in, a bit out of breath. She was a larger woman, with an ample, currently heaving, chest and a face framed with a large brown hair helmet. She was not exactly unattractive, just a little large everywhere, but it wouldn't have mattered to me anyway. I liked them a bit younger and a lot more male.

She came straight for me, hands outstretched, pleading. "Mr. Schaeffer. A thousand apologies for my tardiness. Please forgive me. Traffic is obscene – obscene! – out there this afternoon." She grabbed my hand with both of hers and shook my whole arm. Then she gave it back to me with a deep sigh.

"So, mahalo, welcome to Hawaii! Is this your first time visiting our fair islands?" She asked.

"Yes, ma'am," I replied.

"Oh my, drop the ma'am thing, pronto, sweetie. I'm old...well, older...but I'm not ready to be a ma'am yet." She laughed at herself, something I suspect she did often. I smiled, hoping this conversation would eventually lead to the house I was there to rent.

"Claire, did we get all the forms signed?"

"All right there in the folder on your desk, Madge. I gave him the book. He's all set to go." She was trying to speed things along as well. We shared a knowing smile.

"Alrighty then. Let's get going. I'm assuming that's your white chick magnet out there, Jack. Am I right?" She was laughing at herself again. Little did she know.

"Something like that," I replied innocently. Madge rattled off some instructions of where we were going, but there was no way to follow them. I decided to just follow her the best I could. Hopefully she would not forget I was behind her. We pulled out of the lot, Madge in her dark green Nissan Maxima and me following in my white chariot – a dick magnet, not a chick magnet, I hoped – and joined the "obscene" traffic. It really wasn't bad. Chicago rush hour was ten times worse. Madge would have been doomed.

Three turns and we were on Interstate H1 cruising through Honolulu. It looked like any other big city to me from this point of view, although every once in a while I could see glimpses of the blue ocean to my right. There were lush, green mountains to my left towering over the buildings and other developments. Madge suddenly switched lanes and I heard honking behind me as I tried to follow her.

We were now on HI-61, also called the Pali Highway, a four lane road which started to climb up into the mountains. Everything was so green and beautiful, with palm trees lining the road on either side, along with many varieties of tropical plants providing the majority of landscaping for the homes we passed. Traffic was moderately heavy, and the speed limit was posted at 45 MPH so we were not moving too fast, which was fine by me, as I could see more of the scenery and I swear I could smell the most heavenly scent in the air.

As we climbed higher, the air temp dropped a bit, but it was still pleasant in the convertible. So different from Chicago. We went through two tunnels near what I guess was the top of the mountain and then started a slow descent on the other side. I could see the ocean again in front of us, with a good sized town spreading from the water up into the mountainside.

An ambulance passed us, lights flashing and sirens wailing, and I saw it turn into a hospital complex up on our left. At the same intersection, we turned right onto HI-72, Kalanianaole Highway. So far I think I could remember how to get back to the airport. I do have a good sense of direction, even when I'm in a new place.

About a half mile up the road, Madge signaled we were turning right, and we branched off onto Old Kalanianaole Road. We were climbing up again, the road running along to the top of a ridgeline against the mountain side. There were gates across the driveways of the houses on my left, each one looking more and more expensive, the landscaping getting more impressive the further we went. I could no longer see the ocean beyond the trees.

Finally, Madge slowed down, and we turned left onto a single lane road marked "Private – Owners Only". I followed her about 500 feet to a beautiful wrought iron gate blocking further passage. I recognized the gate from the Internet pictures. Madge got out of her car and motioned for me to join her by the gate. She showed me the keypad and gave me the code. We got back in our cars, this time with me in the lead. I entered the code at the gate and it swung open, allowing us passage.

We followed a driveway lined with palm trees and dense, tropical foliage which provided a natural fence-like barrier along the car path. It felt private and luxurious, like a hidden resort. No more than a fifty yards in, the driveway ended in a large, open car lot. To the left was the main house, a single story dwelling with a box-like modern architecture. To the right was a matching four car garage with beautiful wooden garage doors done in a carriage house design. Beautiful.

I slid out of my car and looked back at the main house. Behind a deep and long covered porch stood two magnificent wooden doors with ornate black wrought iron handles and knockers. There were floor to ceiling windows everywhere, whole walls made out of glass. If not for the boxy design, I would have thought fishbowl for sure.

While unusual, for me anyway, the house was somehow inviting. It felt homey, even standing in the driveway. And peaceful. I could hear birds chirping many different songs. The landscaping was breathtaking. There were hibiscus bushes everywhere, with flowers of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Smaller palm trees stood as sentries up closer to the corners of the house, surrounded by shorter trees and shrubs, many blooming with vibrant colors. The plantings were dense and varied, and there was an amazing scent in the air, almost like gardenias. My grandmother had always worn a gardenia perfume. I never liked it on her. She was not a sweet woman, so it never seemed to fit on her. But here, the aroma was perfect.

Madge was trying to balance her purse, keys, and a big box she had pulled from her trunk. I walked over and took the box from her, and she motioned for me to come inside, so I followed. She showed me how to key in the front door. There was a panel with metal buttons which you pushed in the right order to unlock it. We entered and I stood there, taking it all in.

It was all much larger on the inside than it appeared from the driveway. We were standing in the middle of a huge rectangular room. It must have been 50 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Above us, exposed in the vaulted ceiling, were thick teak wood beams. Rich bamboo wood covered the floors throughout. Here and there the owners had placed expensive oriental type rugs arranged in furniture groupings. The furniture was mostly leather and there were tables and assorted other objects which worked together to divide the large room into sensible zones. I could see it working really well for a large gathering.

I followed Madge across this main room and into an open hallway of sorts which ran the length of the house to the left and right, essentially bisecting the front and back of the house into two equal halves. I could see the ends of the hallway on each side turned a corner and headed further back. I assumed the bedrooms were back there.

The back of the house was even more impressive. Again, it was one large open space, divided by function. The entire back wall of the house was all glass, separated every 16 feet or so with a slim teak wood vertical support beam. The overall effect was one of you standing on a deep, covered porch. I could see the space continued outside the glass walls for another 20 feet, and there was a large pool beyond the lanai, flanked on either side by covered walkways fronting other "boxes" of living space.

To my right was a large, square dining table with seating for 16. The color of the wood matched the color of the floor. It sat on yet another gorgeous carpeted rug. An elaborate wooden chandelier hung above it.

To my left was an open kitchen fronted by a long, granite-covered island with six stools placed up against it. From where I was standing it was obviously a gourmet style set up, with a huge, six-burner high end stove, three wall ovens, and other stainless steel appliances I did not recognize. In the far wall there appeared to be at least three large doors covering refrigerators and freezers.

"Set the box down on the island there, Jack." I complied. "So. What do you think of the place? Is this what you were looking for?" She asked, clearly proud of the space.

"And then some, Madge. It's breathtaking."

"Yeah, this is our best property. We are fortunate to be the exclusive representative for the family who owns it. They rarely rent it out anymore. The couple has retired here. Took them 20 years to get everything just the way they wanted it. Now they intend to enjoy it as much as they can. Their granddaughter is getting married back in California, so you're the lucky one to rent it for the next three weeks. Come on, I'll show you how everything works."

For the next 30 minutes Madge taught me all about the house. She showed me how to work the lights and the temperature settings. There were three different heating and cooling systems, so it took me a minute to get it straight. The house was wired throughout with a sophisticated speaker system, so I could select a radio station or even play music from my IPad and I could hear it anywhere in the house, even outside.

The kitchen had more gadgets and appliances than I could ever use. I just wanted to know where the refrigerator and freezer were, and how to work the microwave. They were easy enough. I don't think I would need two dishwashers, ever.

The house was shaped overall like a giant "U", with the main part of the house as the base and the two side wings contained mostly bedrooms. Madge lead me down each of these side wings so I could get the full picture. On one side, there was a large sitting area with a flat screen TV on the wall and some large comfortable furniture. I came to call it the lounge. Further along the wing were three bedrooms, each with its own full bathroom en-suite. The bedroom wing on the other side of the house also had three bedrooms, including a much larger master. The hallway over there also branched over to the garage. There was a large mudroom and laundry room between the garage and the main house.

The most amazing thing about the house was the entire back wall of glass opened up to the covered deck. Madge called it the lanai. The glass wall sections folded in together and moved on tracks in the floor and ceiling, like an accordion, then slid to the far sides of the house, out of the way. It was all mechanized and with a touch of a button, the walls magically disappeared. There were hidden air vents in the ceiling just behind where the walls would be when closed, and they shot out a continuous volume of air to discourage insects from flying into the house.

With the walls opened, the kitchen appeared to extend out onto the lanai. There was an outdoor cooking station, complete with two sinks, another dishwasher, two mini fridges and a mini freezer, all hidden in cabinets underneath a matching granite countertop. In addition, there was a gas cooktop and a propane powered stainless steel grill with six burners. It was huge!

Across the lanai there were two groupings of outdoor rattan furniture, sitting on solid color rugs made of some magic fibers which must have stood up well to the elements. It all looked brand new. There was a large table with a glass top and 10 matching chairs. Everything you could ever want for an outdoor feast had been thought of. Above it all, in the high covered ceiling of the lanai, spun three large ceiling fans with blades looking like palm branches.

About 8 feet beyond the covered lanai was a large, sunken hot tub big enough for 10-12 people. When the air jets were turned on, the water from it would also overflow like a short waterfall into the swimming pool, which was set about three feet lower in the ground.

The 30' by 60' rectangular pool and hot tub were surrounded by a rich, dark teak deck. Together the pool and deck essentially filled the space between the sides of the "U" shaped house. There were wooden lounge chairs with cushions done in various shades of reds and oranges and yellows. Planters with beautiful arrangements of tropical and native plants were placed around the chairs. At the far end of the pool, there was an infinity edge backed by a short wall of tropical plants and two smaller palm trees. It looked like the pool ran off into the foliage.

And beyond the pool, far down the mountain side and across the town below, was the magnificent Pacific Ocean, of which I now had an unobstructed view. There was a well-manicured lawn beyond the pool which sloped down the hillside and ended in a hibiscus hedge of yellow flowers. Behind the hedge the landscape had been allowed to grow natural and wild.

Madge showed me how to run the hot tub, how to set the temperature, and how to select the colors for the pool lights.

"Well, Jack. I think that's everything. You have our numbers, so if you run into any issues, just call. The book Claire gave you has directions for how to get into town and where to find things.

"Oh, I almost forgot. The gardener comes on Saturday mornings around 10. He's usually here for about two hours. The pool maintenance guy comes Mondays and Thursdays, generally around 3, but he can be late sometimes. If you have any trouble with the hot tub or pool, he's the guy to ask. Now you don't have to worry about being here or not. They both have the gate code and they can get around to the yard and pool behind the garage. So they don't need to come into the house. Any questions?"

"Nope, I think that's it for now, Madge. Thank you for your help," I replied. I walked her to the front porch and she shook my hand weakly. She drove off immediately and I finally had the chance to look things over without her incessant chattering. She meant well, and I was grateful for the instructions – the house was kind of complicated - but she clearly subscribed to the belief of why use one word when fifty would do. Exhausting.

I wanted to jump in the pool so badly, but I was hungry. I checked the fridge and pantry - no joy. There was no food. Apparently the family who owned the place cleared out entirely when they rented it out. Kind of odd, but then again, I wouldn't want to be eating other people's food.

I saw the box on the island Madge had me bring in. She had completely forgotten it. Inside were four rolls of toilet paper, three rolls of paper towels, some dishwasher detergent, and two water bottles. Nothing to eat in there.

I used one of the nine bathrooms in the place and then opened up the "book" about the house. I found the directions for getting into Kailua, as well as how to find a grocery store and department store. Good enough. So I grabbed my car keys and headed out to find sustenance.

Back in the car, I steered down the driveway, pausing to let the gate open. It happened automatically. I guess there was a sensor of some kind in the dense foliage on either side of the driveway. I turned right onto Old Kalanianaole Road and made my way down the mountain and into town.

I backtracked to Highway 61, which was now called Kailua Road. In less than 15 minutes I was passing Windward Boats on my right, crossing a small stream and entering the main part of town. Following Kailua Road around, I found a place to park and decided to get something to eat before I did any real grocery shopping. Walking two blocks had me standing in front of a California Pizza Kitchen. Not exactly local cuisine, but I liked pizza and I was hungry, so I went in and ordered a Chipotle Chicken pizza and a Diet Coke. My waitress was a beautiful Hawaiian girl, with long flowing black hair and a slightly exotic island look about her. I'm sure she looked better in a bikini than in the black plants and yellow t-shirt she had on now. I'm gay and even I knew as much. She brought my food quickly, made sure I had everything I needed, and left me in peace to replenish my energy.

After dinner, I walked over to Whole Foods. I never shopped there back in Chicago – way too expensive – but I was curious. Mary Ricketts had said she would sometimes get prepared foods there whenever she was having the girls over for a game night and she didn't have time to cook anything. Well, I was on vacation, and while I had all the time in the world, I had no cooking skills to speak of, so unless I wanted to drive down the mountain every time I was hungry, I needed options.

Okay, so I went a little nuts. They had everything, and it all looked incredibly delicious. I selected a fresh fruit platter, a chicken wings platter with various sauces, a small cheese platter, and something called a crisps and toasts platter to go with it. I had no intention of cleaning and preparing food. This way it could all go in the fridge and I could nibble on it whenever the urge struck. Someone was sampling chocolate covered strawberries, and of course they were fabulous, so I grabbed a dozen of those as well.

At their prepared foods bar I grabbed some Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken with Sweet Onions, two servings of Cajun Beef Skillet, a whole rotisserie chicken, six grass-fed ground beef patties, and some assorted salads and other side dishes. I picked a few things I was unsure of, like quinoa pilaf and berry goat cheese salad, but they looked good. I figured I could get the grill going and cook the hamburgers at least. The rest I would nuke as needed.

I found the cereal aisle and grabbed a couple of boxes of organic whole grain raisin bran and granola. I finished up with bread, hamburger buns, catsup, mustard, a couple bags of chips, some milk, and two cases of bottled water.

I paid, tried not to choke on my organic chewing gum, and asked how I could get all of it to my car. They had curbside loading for no fee. Who knew? I ran to get the car, and a cute teenaged boy with deep dimples helped me load it all in the trunk. I tipped him five bucks which seemed acceptable. He smiled and winked at me and then headed back in side. Hmmm. I might have to run out of something tomorrow and need to come back. But I couldn't buy another trunk load of groceries just to flirt with a guy, could I?

Back at the house, I went through the front door and around to the garage, opened it, and carried my groceries through to the kitchen. Once I had it all in its proper place, it was time to finally relax and unwind. The pool looked so inviting. I found the controller for the hot tub, turned it on, and set the temperature. Then I went to put on my swim suit.

My bags were still in the car, so I went out the front door, retrieved them, and picked the first bedroom on the lounge side of the house. I figured it was nearest the TV and the kitchen, so it made sense to me. I started to unpack my clothes and put my toiletries in the bathroom.

Crap! I couldn't find my swim suit. I hadn't had time to get a new one in Chicago – it wasn't exactly swimming season there yet. So I thought I had decided to keep my old one until I could replace it. But now I was remembering sadly it had ended up in the giveaway pile on my last day of packing. Now what do I do?

I thought about just going in in my underwear. They were black so they wouldn't show a lot, even if they got wet. But the water was chlorinated, and I wasn't sure what it would do to the color. Make them grey? Same reason I didn't want to use either of my two pairs of gym shorts. Chlorine was a killer on those.

Then my lightning fast mind realized how silly I was being. I was the only one there. Nobody was around to see anything but me. And the house and pool were totally private. The nearest neighbor was half a mile away I think. I certainly didn't see any other houses close by when I was out on the lanai earlier.

I grabbed a towel and made my way back to the kitchen in my underwear. I tucked a water bottle from the fridge under my arm and pressed the buttons on the control pad to open the lanai walls. It was still so fascinating to watch them disappear like magic. I put the water bottle down with my towel and then looked around, double checking to make sure I was alone and could not be seen. I then shucked off my boxer briefs and stepped naked into the hot tub.

Instant erection! Not surprising, with the movement of the water through the jets massaging every inch of my body. I was relaxed and full on horny in two minutes flat. I settled back into the built-in seat and laid my head back on the padded neck rest, my thoughts drifting to nothing in particular.

The way I was sitting had positioned by cock directly in the flow of one of the jets. It felt like magic fingers were massaging my dick ever so gently. Soon I was remembering Bobby Meyers and his beautiful body and his incredible confidence and my left hand joined the water jets working my dick. Then Andy, the clerk at Abercrombie and Fitch, joined the show in my brain. He was sitting in the hot tub next to me and I imagined it was his hand which was working with mine to get me off. The steam rising from the water around my head was like his hot breath on my neck, as he teased me with soft caresses of his lips. I felt us both pick up the pace and my orgasm arrived without warning. I was suddenly bucking in the water and gasping for air, riding the short-lived wave of ecstasy as my cum mixed into the swirling waters.

Five minutes later and I was in danger of falling asleep and drowning. I was exhausted. I dragged myself up out of the water and dried off. I didn't put my underwear back on – what would be the point? The pool would have to wait until tomorrow. I turned off the hot tub; the pool lights were on a timer, I think. They were glowing with a light blue color, now that the sun had gone down.

The clock on the microwave said it was almost 7. No wonder I was tired. It was midnight for me. Jet lag was tough. I skipped my normal bedtime prep and collapsed on the bed, still naked. I was in the same place the next morning.

The sun was streaming through the bedroom windows, warming up the room a little bit. I had my normal morning hardon, but I was not horny, just needed to piss. Which I did, then brushed my teeth. The taste in my mouth after my pizza last night was not pleasant.

I put on a pair of gym shorts – I am not one to walk around naked all the time, even when there is no one else around – and walked barefoot to the kitchen. Wow! I had slept 13 hours straight. I felt good. Hopefully I could get functioning on Hawaiian time quickly.

I poured some cereal in a bowl I found in a cupboard and added some milk. I unwrapped my fresh fruit platter from Whole Foods and threw a few raspberries and blueberries into my granola. My bowl now matched the picture on the box. Small pleasures.

Three slices of pineapple later, I was finished with breakfast and put my dishes in the sink, wrapped up the fruit and put it away in the fridge, and turned my thoughts to the day ahead. The thing about vacationing alone is you have no one but yourself to consult. No other agenda competes with yours. But my agenda was blank, so I was slow getting started.

I did need to get a swimming suit. Going naked at the house was fine, but on days when the gardener or the pool guy came by, it was not going to work – unless they were hot and wanted to join me. I think Madge said the gardener's day was Saturday, so I wouldn't be seeing him until next weekend. The pool guy came tomorrow. So I had a day to get my act together. I also needed some regular walking around shorts and new T-Shirts. In Chicago, summer clothes had not been out yet - the temps were still in the 40s when I left.

I checked the "book" and looked for shopping options. There were a few stores in downtown Kailua, but the really big mall was back in Honolulu. That's what I would do today. It only took 30 minutes to get to the house from the property management office, so the drive back would be no big deal. Heck, in Chicago we measured distances in how long it took you to get somewhere, not in miles. Anything less than an hour was a short trip.

I checked the weather report on my IPad after figuring out how to connect to the house Wi-Fi service. The password was in the "book". Everything was in the "book". I wondered if there was a section in there about how to find a real man to love you forever. Probably not.

With the temps in the low 80s and no rain in the forecast, I laid out the lightest weight pair of jeans and shirt I had. It was time to hit the shower. It was amazing. There were water jets on three walls, lots of them. It took me a few minutes to get them adjusted to my body, but once I did, the feeling was incredible. I didn't want to get out, but my fingers started pruning, so I reluctantly shut it down and toweled off. I put on deodorant, shaved, brushed my teeth again – I had raspberry seeds stuck in my teeth – and got dressed. Some flip flops might be great, too. My tennis shoes were getting noticeably raggedy. They were three years old.

I went back out to the kitchen for a water bottle and realized my big mistake. The glass walls were open to the lanai, and I had not opened them in the morning - which meant I had left them open all night. Oops! I found the controller for the walls and shut everything up tight. The last thing I needed was for something to get stolen on my watch.

I locked up, hopped in the car, and headed back towards Honolulu. Traffic was much lighter on a Sunday morning at 9 o'clock. I went back through the tunnels and down the mountain on the other side. I took the exit for I-H1 East and started looking for Piikoli Street. A couple minutes later I was headed toward the ocean on Piikoli, basking in the sunshine beating on my head. The street ended at Ala Moana Boulevard, across from the Ala Moana Beach Park. Since the mall didn't open for another 30 minutes, I drove around the park to the ocean side and found a space to park the car. I thought about getting out and walking in the sand, but I didn't want to have sand in my shoes all day. So I settled for enjoying the sun and ocean breezes, listening to the sea gulls crying out to each other.

I just about fell asleep, I was so relaxed. So far I was enjoying my vacation immensely. But it was time to shop. So I started up the car and drove over to the mall across Ala Moana. I saw some signs indicating free valet parking, so I followed those and stopped in a line of idling cars. While I waited my turn, I put the top back on the car for safety sake. A handsome valet in a surprisingly tight pair of shorts eventually took my keys and handed me a card with a number on it. I couldn't help myself – he caught me staring at his cock and balls, which were clearly outlined in his shorts.

He blushed and whispered, "I know, it's embarrassing. My boyfriend shrunk my shorts in the wash. They were the only clean ones I had to put on today."

I just smiled at him and said, "It's okay. I think they look great on you. You fill 'em out nicely, that's for sure." His blush went several shades darker, but he smiled back.

"Have a pleasant day shopping at Ala Moana, sir." He hopped in my car and drove off. I wondered if those shorts really were a last resort, or if he wore them on purpose. Hmmm.

Here I was in a tropical paradise, and I did the unthinkable. I spent the entire morning and half the afternoon shopping. There were over 250 shops in the expansive mall, and I think I went into every one of them not selling just girl's clothing. I bought several pairs of shorts, some great summer shirts, including three Hawaiian flowered shirts, and a pair of top sider shoes I was supposed to wear with no socks, according to the sexy clerk who helped me try them on. He must have been into feet, because he held on to mine a lot while I was trying to decide which color to get. I decided on the traditional brown. He was smiling as I paid at the register. Ah, another satisfied sales clerk.

I also managed to find two new swim suits, mostly because I couldn't decide which one I liked the most. One pair reminded me of red beach lifeguard shorts. They fit snuggly and showed off my ass nicely, but they were a little short in the legs. Not too short, just definitely not board shorts. Almost like a boxer brief. The other pair were traditional board shorts, mostly royal blue with a gradation of stripes from blue to white down the legs. I liked the way they fit and how they looked on the mannequin in the store. I purchased several cool t-shirts to go with them as well.

For lunch I had a Chicken Pesto Panini sandwich and a salad from one of the many food court restaurants. It was okay, but I absolutely loved my lemon sorbet from Aloha Gelato. Perfection.

The highlight of the afternoon had to be finding the Bvlgari store. I must have stayed in there for over an hour, smelling different colognes and looking at watches. I needed a new watch, but the only one I even came close to purchasing was $18,000 and I just couldn't do it. It made no sense to me to spend so much money on a watch. I wasn't interested in trying to impress anyone, I just needed a good watch. I did splurge and buy a new leather wallet. It was a little less than $400. I was thinking the whole cow probably cost less than my one wallet, but I guess I was partly buying the name. I did buy more of the Bvlgari shower gel and cologne I liked. I found out it was called "MAN" and the name turned me on a little somehow.

I was finally shopped out, so I took my bags and headed for the valet parking podium. The same cute valet from the morning was standing there, looking more relaxed. He had obviously changed his shorts to something a little less form fitting. He still looked good though. He looked up as I approached and smiled.

"Well, judging by the packages you're carrying you had a good day at Ala Moana."

"Yeah, I found a few things. I see you found some new things as well," I said, pointing to his shorts. He blushed again.

"Yeah, my boyfriend took mercy on me and brought these to me a couple of hours ago. He was apologizing all over himself when he saw me in the other pair." The valet started laughing. "He told me I would have been less sexy if I stood here naked than be in those shorts." I laughed too. His boyfriend was probably right.

"Well, you still look great to me. And lucky for you, you have a guy who obviously cares a lot about you."

"Yeah, he does. He's my rock. We've been together for five years. Only guy I've ever been with. He's amazing. I'll get your car for you right away." He had a wistful look in his eye, thinking about his man. I was beyond envious.

I watched him trot off to get my car and wondered if I would ever find my rock. He had to be out there somewhere, right? I was encouraged, too, by the valet's comment he had only been with one guy. Maybe not every gay guy hopped from one bed to the next. Perhaps I wasn't the only one who would rather wait for a sense of permanence before slipping between the sheets.

He returned with my car and I gave him a $100 tip. He stood there with his mouth hanging open. "Tell your boyfriend to buy you some great shorts with that so you never have to be out here embarrassed again. And tell him I said he's one lucky guy to have a hot stud like you." I smiled and drove away with him staring at me, mouth still open. Seeing the look on his face felt better than any purchase I made all day.

I arrived back at the house about 40 minutes later and changed into my new red swimming suit. I opened up the glass walls, started the hot tub cooking, then jumped in the pool. It was a little cool at first, but I adjusted quickly. The sun overhead was hot. The pool started at 3 1/2 feet deep at the hot tub end and gradually sloped deeper to around 6 feet at the far end. I know I had to tread water before I reached the wall. It was a big pool for one person, but I imagined it would be perfect for a larger gathering.

I love the water. I'm not a fast swimmer or anything, but I felt at home in the water. Like I was more graceful somehow. I spent an hour just moving around in the pool, diving under again and again and swimming from end to end. It was so relaxing. Day two of my vacation was a winner in my book.

Eventually I got tired and hungry – again – so I dragged myself out of the pool and took another shower with those glorious jets spraying me all over. I dressed in a pair of my new shorts and a new shirt and decided to heat up the Peruvian chicken dish for dinner. It was delicious. A little spicy, but I liked it. I ate some salad alongside the main dish. For dessert I had two chocolate covered strawberries.

I spent the rest of the evening reading a Robert Ludlum spy novel on my IPad. I really lost myself in it, because before I knew it, it was nearly 11 and my head was drooping. I shut everything down, remembered to close up the lanai, and got ready for bed. I dreamed of valets who were actually spies chasing bad guys. They kept losing their shorts and running around naked. Not sure if they ever caught anybody but each other. But that part was hot. Or at least what I remembered of it the next morning.

I slept until 10 Monday morning and woke up with a headache. I stumbled to the bathroom, did what you always do first thing in the morning, and then looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like crap. My skin was all blotchy with pink patches of sunburned skin here and there. No wonder I had the headache. Sunburn always did that to me. Thankfully none of it was too painful. Sunscreen went on my mental shopping list for the day.

Out in the kitchen, I opened up the lanai and the cool breeze flowing in felt wonderful – it cooled my hot skin and lifted my spirits. I decided on raisin bran for breakfast, with some more fresh fruit. Simple and satisfying. I picked up my IPad and started reading my spy novel again over my cereal bowl.

An hour later I was feeling a little stiff sitting on the stool at the island counter, so I stretched and headed to the bathroom to clean up for the day. I used some of my Bvlgari shower gel – I loved the smell – and enjoyed the multiple jets in the shower again. This time I closed my eyes and imagined I was in there with three other guys, all stroking my body, each one intent on being the guy who got me off. I was stroking hard and fast, and when I came I nearly collapsed onto the shower floor. I managed to get all the jets turned off, and my breathing returned to normal as I dried off. I was feeling much better.

As I was picking out clothes to wear, I realized I had a lot of dirty laundry. I didn't have time to wash most of my clothes from last week before I left, so I started making piles on the bed. I had three loads, what with all the new garments which should probably be washed as well.

I dressed in a pair of gym shorts and t-shirt, no socks, and took the first load down to the laundry room. Eureka! They had two washers and two dryers, just like my old apartment building. I had the first load going after finding some laundry detergent in a cabinet. Then I went back and grabbed a second load and had it churning in the other machine in short order.

I read my book out on the lanai until all the clothes were clean and dry and ready to be folded or hung up. I stayed out of the direct sun until I could get some sun screen. I was also struggling a bit with the glare coming off the pool. My eyes felt a little itchy and sore.

Once the clothes were done, I had no more work to do. Back to vacationing. And more shopping. This time I headed down into Kailua. I found a drug store which had plenty of sunscreens to choose from. I grabbed a tube of blue aloe vera gel to cool things off if I burned again. I also grabbed some Tylenol and Advil just in case.

I threw the plastic bag with my purchases in my car and drove around, exploring a little. As I passed the Whole Foods market, I saw the cute guy who helped me load my groceries helping an elderly gentlemen with his today. I smiled. I stayed on Kailua Road, figuring it was like a Main Street for the town, and eventually it dead ended at the ocean at Kailua Beach Park. I found a spot to park on the street and locked up the car.

I took off my shoes – I was wearing my new top siders – and carried them with me as I walked on the beach. The sun was already scorching hot, so I didn't stay long – my feet were hot in the sand as well. But the water was so beautiful. There were kids running everywhere, screaming with joy and excitement, many of them building sand castles with little toy shovels and buckets. Out in the water I could see several kayakers, some paddling out to the big flat island rising a few feet out of the water approximately 1000 feet off shore.

When I had had enough sun, I walked over to the public bathrooms just off the beach and rinsed my feet in the outdoor shower installed against one wall. I sat on a bench and waited for my feet to dry, which they did in short order, and I put my shoes back on after carefully brushing every speck of sand off my toes. I was mentally adding some things to a new shopping list in my head. Needed some kind of beach shoes for sure.

I arrived back at the house shortly before 2 and immediately drank two cold water bottles. I was dehydrated from the sun and all the running around, and my headache was back. I took a couple of Advil and laid down on a couch out on the lanai. It was so peaceful and cool, laying there under the spinning ceiling fans. I drifted off to sleep.

About an hour later I was startled awake by a voice calling, "Hello? Anybody here?" I sat up slowly, trying to focus, and my eyes eventually tracked the voice to a young man standing down by the pool. He saw me sit up, so he started walking along the deck towards me. I stood up to greet him but my legs were a bit wobbly and my head didn't feel quite right. I couldn't lift it up totally straight without a searing pain in my neck. I managed only about three steps towards him by the time he was up on the lanai himself. I put my hand out to shake his and he grabbed mine firmly. I tried to straighten my head again, this time managing to see his face fully.

I stared at him. My eyes couldn't decide what to focus on. He was beautiful! Tall, dark and deeply handsome. In the relative shade of the covered lanai his buzzed, dark hair sculpted the outline of his head and merged seamlessly with the kind of beard which made me weak in the knees – short, dark stubble, clean neck lines. I was still holding his hand and had yet to speak.

"Uh...hi. My name is Sam. Sam Wainwright. I'm here to work on the pool for you." Then he dazzled me with a smile of bright white teeth and I nearly swooned. I let go of his hand and grabbed the island counter top to steady myself.

I looked at him with a sheepish grin. "Sorry about that, Sam. I'm not feeling too great at the moment. I think I got too much sun."

"Do you need to sit down?" He asked, suddenly all concerned for my welfare.

"Yeah, maybe I should." I pulled out a stool and sat, then looked at him again. Yep. Still gorgeous.

" name is Jack. Uh...Jack Schaeffer." I sounded like I'd forgotten my name for a minute. Ugh!

"Nice to meet you, Jack. Are you gonna be staying here for a while?"

"Yeah, for three weeks. I just arrived on Saturday."

"Well, you picked a great place to stay. I love this house. It's one of the best ones I get to service in the Islands." I wondered what sort of services he provided and if they went beyond taking care of pools. I'm such a perv.

"I see your shirt says Paradise Pools. I'm assuming that's who you work for?" Small talk is hard when you are mentally undressing the guy and fantasizing about sex in the hot tub. Geez, I was horny all of a sudden.

He laughed politely. "Yeah, a college buddy of mine, his dad owns the business, and he gave me the job last year. It keeps me busy and out of trouble. Plus I get to be outside, so I can't complain."

"Madge told me you come here twice a week. What needs to be done to the pool so often?" Take an interest in his work, maybe he'll take an interest in me? I was grasping at straws. I didn't want him to start working just yet. Looking at him was making me feel better.

"Well, on Mondays I mostly check the chlorine levels and do any servicing of the pumps and filtering systems down below the pool. Takes about an hour or so. Thursdays are the bigger job. I have to clean the pool, including run the robot bottom scrubber and empty all the filters and traps. It takes the better part of two to three hours, depending on how dirty it gets." He spoke about his work with pride. I liked that.

"Sounds like you enjoy it. Well, I'll try to stay out of your way. I don't think I'm going out in the sun anymore today, anyway."

"If you don't mind my asking, you said you think you got too much sun. Just how long were you out in it?"

"That's the thing – I didn't think it was long. I swam in the pool yesterday afternoon for a couple of hours at the most. Then this morning I walked on the beach for no more than 30 minutes. I do have some patchy sunburn on my back and neck and shoulders. I guess coming from the Chicago winter, my body just isn't ready for this kind of intense sunshine. Oh, and I have been driving around for three days in a convertible with the top down."

He laughed. "That'll do it. Give yourself a day to recover and drink lots of water. People come out here to Hawaii and they rent convertibles all the time. They forget their head is exposed directly to the sun, and the rays here are insanely intense, being near the equator. Can give you a brutal headache. Did for me when I first started out here. Better slather on the sunscreen before you do any more driving. Put it in your hair, too. It'll keep your cool hair color from fading too fast."

I absentmindedly stroked my hair with my right hand. He noticed my hair? Huh? Interesting. Was he just being thoughtful and polite, or was there something more there?

"Well, I better get busy. I have another service call after this one. If you have any issues with the pool or hot tub, just call this number and one of us will come out, usually the same day." He pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to me. It said the owner's name was Thomas A. Barlow. So much for flirting with me. He was all business.

I watched him walk back along the deck towards the far end of the pool, the mounds of his round ass moving in perfect tandem in his cargo shorts. The skin which was exposed was a beautiful even bronze tone. He disappeared behind the landscaping at the end of the pool and it looked like he went down a set of steps, because his head went lower and lower behind the flowers until it disappeared. I guess the pumps and what not were all down there, hidden from view.

I sat on a deck lounge chair out of the sun, sipping cold water, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sam working. He had given absolutely no indication of interest in me aside from his comment about my hair, so I knew I was being silly. But even sitting there wishing he might be the one made my head not hurt so much.

I was nearly dozing off again when I heard him walking on the deck again. I shielded my eyes with my hand and watched him approach.

"Get everything in good working order down there?" I asked.

"Yep. You're good to go. No problems. Didn't expect any. I did clear out a couple of the pumps, so the hot tub should heat up a little quicker for you. You feelin' any better?" He seemed genuinely concerned for me.

"Yeah, a little bit. Your advice helped. This is my third water bottle and the headache is moving into the background."

"Always works for me. Stay hydrated. Keeps ya goin', in more ways than one." We both laughed, and I nearly dropped my water bottle when I saw his eyes crinkle up into the laugh. They were the deepest crystal blue color I had ever seen, and just like Seth's, they had a fire in them. If anything, Sam's eyes were way more intense. Playful at the moment, but still seriously intense. I caught myself staring and forced my eyes down to his feet.

"Hey, question for ya. Where can I get some flip flops like those, and a decent pair of sunglasses?" When in danger of revealing yourself as a perv, change the subject quickly.

"Hmmm. I grabbed these things at a swim shop in the big mall in town. My feet are size 13, so it's hard to find my size at department stores. Sunglasses are another thing. I wouldn't skimp on those if I was you. You need true polarized lenses. I'd go to like a Sunglasses Hut or higher end place and get the real deal. You'll pay a lot for them, but your eyes will thank you."

"Cool. I was there yesterday, but I can always go back. Thanks."

"Okay, well I'm glad you're feeling a little better. Take it easy. I'll be back on Thursday. Will you be around?" I wondered why he would care.

"Not sure. Probably. I don't have a lot of plans except for sitting around reading or swimming."

"Cool, well hopefully I'll see you then. Have a great evening." He turned and headed back towards the rear of the pool. I watched him go, and this time I caught the back of his head as it disappeared behind the side wing to the house. I stood up and went across the lanai and down the hallway to the laundry room. There was a window in there from which I could see the driveway. Sam came around the garage and put a tool bucket in the back of a small, white pickup truck and jumped in. I couldn't be sure, but I think he looked right at me in the window as he pulled away. He was smiling his dazzling white smile.

I didn't want to get myself all worked up with false hope and wanton lust for Sam, but at the same time, he seemed to indicate he hoped he would see me again on Thursday. He'd said it two different times. Was he just being polite, or was he interested in me? I had no way to know. I don't necessarily believe in gaydar – or at least I don't feel I have any. If I end up flirting with a guy it's usually because they made the first move. I never took a chance if I didn't already know I was dealing with a fellow gay guy, who was already interested in me, however superficially. Sam had given me nothing to go on.

In the end, I decided to let it go for now. If I was here on Thursday, I would see how things went. Otherwise, I was going to assume he was a thoughtful and interesting straight guy. A guy who looked criminally good in his cargo shorts.

With my headache receding, I decide to eat, my usual fallback position when I am at loose ends. I pulled out the rotisserie chicken and carved off a leg, a thigh, and a breast – essentially half the chicken – and put in the microwave to warm up along with a helping of quinoa pilaf. I made up a lettuce salad while I waited the three minutes, then took it all to the island and enjoyed every last bite, washing it all down with another cold water bottle.

Despite having napped a bit in the afternoon, I was still feeling groggy. Eating four chocolate covered strawberries put me over the edge. I needed to sleep. But it was only 5 o'clock – too early for bed. So I went to the lounge and fired up the TV and watched some mindless comedies for about four hours.

At 9 I called it a night. I did my usual prep and settled into the bed with my IPad. I was going to read a little more of my spy novel, but then I had a different idea. I started the internet browser and googled Paradise Pools Hawaii. Turned out they had a website with a logo which matched the one on Sam's shirt. I searched through every picture on the site, hoping to find one with Sam in it, but no such luck. No mention of him anywhere. There was a picture of Thomas A. Barlow, the owner. He was obviously a native Hawaiian man, late forties or early fifties, about 5'10" with short black hair. He looked like a guy who preferred being outside rather than standing in a suit to be photographed. Bummed I didn't find a picture of Sam, I did a google search on his name – Sam Wainwright. Got a ton of hits for a character in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart and some Australian politician. But no one who looked like my Sam Wainwright.

I realized I was starting to obsess over a guy I had known for ten minutes time. It was silly and stupid. I didn't even think he was gay. I went back to reading my novel, and thankfully the action picked up. An hour later I had fallen asleep with the lights on, drooling on my pillow.

The next morning I felt like my normal self. No more headache and no sunburn pain. Even the splotchy pink patches had all but disappeared. After my breakfast of cereal and fruit, I got ready. My new final grooming step was to rub in a serious amount of SPF 70 sunscreen all over my head, neck, shoulders and arms. It took a few minutes to get the white cream blended into my skin and hair, but if it kept the headaches at bay, I was all for it.

Dressed in a new pair of shorts and one of my cool Hawaiian shirts, I put on my top siders sans socks and headed out. I debated with myself about putting the top up on the convertible but decided to risk keeping it down – I looked cooler driving without it. Ah, vanity.

The drive to the mall was tedious. A lot of traffic, all moving slowly. I almost turned around to try again later, but then it opened up a bit and I drove down into Honolulu with no more aggravation. The mall was less crowded on a Tuesday, and my valet friend was unfortunately not at the desk when I dropped of the car. Bummer.

I found a Sunglasses Hut fairly quickly and the clerk helped me try on nearly twenty different pair before I chose one I thought worked for my face. Sam was right – they weren't cheap. Almost 300 dollars! I put them on as I walked out of the store, and I swear my eyes felt better immediately.

I wandered around, looking at a few watches in some jewelry store windows. I still needed one. I eventually went into a store called Ben Bridge Timeworks. They had the super expensive watches, but they also had more reasonably priced versions as well. I found one for which I could live with the price – a Hamilton Khaki Pilot Automatic watch. It had a black leather strap and a black face. It was cool looking. Not too fancy, not too dressy. And not too complicated. I negotiated with the store manager and bought it for $795.00. I loved it on my wrist.

I found a store directory and started looking for any shops who sold swimming attire. There was one called Blue Hawaii Surf which sounded promising, so I walked over there. They had a great pair of flip flops – light blue with black leather straps and a funky pineapple painted on the bottom of the left slipper. The right one had the Blue Hawaii logo. I was all set to go back out in the sun.

After I drank a frozen fruit smoothie at Jamba Juice, I decided to give my Centurion card its own vacation for a while. No more shopping. I wanted to go to the ocean. So I retrieved my car – still no sexy valet in tight shorts – and drove across Ala Moana Boulevard and into the park. I put on more sunscreen before locking up. In my new flip flops and sunglasses, I strolled over to the beach and joined the other people hanging out there.

I walked around the curve of the beach to the left until it ended at a wall. Here I could walk in the water along the edge of the shoreline – there weren't many rocks. The water felt really good on my feet and legs. Further around there were serious rock formations which made walking and playing in the water a bit tricky. But I still had a blast.

Halfway down the beach and across the park road was a tennis club, and you could hear the players hitting the balls back and forth and grunting. I continued on to the far end of the beach, which ran into a small marina full of boats. I walked around there for a few minutes looking at the different kinds of boats and wondering why anyone would want to be out on the water in a cramped boat. It didn't seem like a good time to me, but then again, I had never tried it, so who knows? Probably get sea sick.

It was a small beach and I had walked from one end to the other and back to my car in less than an hour. I put the top down again and sat there trying to decide what to do. The fact was I was already bored. Sightseeing and shopping was okay, but I was starting to feel lonely. I didn't know anybody on this island, and even spending time at the beach seemed like something to do with others. So in a bit of a funk, I drove back to house.

The rest of the day was spent reading, eating chicken wings, and napping. For dinner I decided to try to get the grill going, which I succeeded at on my first try. I put a couple of burgers on there, sprinkled them with some salt, pepper and garlic salt I found in a cabinet, and while they cooked, I dished up a generous helping of potato salad and opened a bag of chips. I ate my little picnic sitting at the table on the lanai, reading the last of my Robert Ludlum spy novel. The last five chapters were "can't put it down" intense.

After dinner I swam in the pool. It was relaxing and refreshing for me. I had managed to chase my earlier blues away and I was feeling better. At one point I jumped in the hot tub and let my thoughts drift, landing on Sam Wainwright and pondering again what he may be thinking about me. I knew what I was thinking about him. He was sexy, hotter than any guy I had ever seen.

I wasn't sure why exactly, and that's what intrigued me. I mean, yeah, he had killer looks. And those eyes! I could drown in those eyes and not care. He was the perfect size, a little bigger than me in every way. A couple inches taller, shoulders broader, muscles bigger, everything bigger? He was perfectly proportioned and just my size. Intensely masculine, which is why I was convinced he was straight, and I was just torturing myself.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized what was really so hot about Sam was his confidence. It was so evident, even in the short conversation we had shared. And it was a huge turn on for me. He was Bobby Meyers on steroids. That's the thing about straight guys and how they innocently torture gay guys. They've got this swagger and certainty about them and it is so blasted desirable. Ugh!

My thoughts were strangely not turning me on – I was getting frustrated. I didn't want fantasy anymore. I wanted the real deal. Sure, it wasn't likely to happen with Sam, but there had to be a gay guy out there like Sam who would want me for me. There had to be. Maybe I could somehow work on my own confidence. I had shown a little with the valet guy. I didn't hide the fact I thought he was hot. I never explicitly said I was gay, but it was clear to him just the same. And I enjoyed the flirtations with him. It was fun. He was real. And taken. Crap!

I put myself to bed. There was no point to this line of thinking anymore, and besides, I was tired again. I had had a lot of sun. I hoped I hadn't overdone it again. Tomorrow I needed to find something to do, or I'd go crazy. I was thinking this vacation was not such a great idea after all.

I awoke the next morning with a plan. It was just there in my head, my first conscious thoughts of the day. As I stood at the toilet pissing away my morning hardon, I knew exactly what I needed to do. The bottom line: I was not going to find my guy sitting alone in this house. He was out there somewhere, and I owed it to myself to put it all out there. How else was he going to find me?

With a renewed energy I hurried through my breakfast as I searched on the internet for things to do in Honolulu. Millions of people from all over the world came to this city. Surely there was something to do which involved other people. The thing which kept popping up the most was a tour of Pearl Harbor. I had always been fascinated by history, so I selected one and booked a ticket. If I hurried, I would just make the cut off. I could park at the Ala Moana Hotel and leave my car in the parking lot. A bus would pick up tourists and drop them off after the tour.

I arrived at the hotel parking lot just as the Viator tour bus was pulling in. Thankfully there were other people joining the tour there, so I was able to walk up and not keep the bus waiting. I found a seat near the back and settled in for my 9 1/2 hour day.

Things started out promising when I realized the driver of our bus was also going to be out tour guide for the day. His name was Gus, and he was charming and sexy hot in his cargo shorts and tour guide polo shirt. His pectorals and biceps were barely contained inside it. He had the perfect voice for this job, deep and resonant. It reminded me of a high school English teacher I'd had who could read Shakespeare and have all the girls and half the guys salivating for more. It was sexy and powerful, and I hung on every word. He would talk and my dick would get harder with every syllable.

The only problem was I couldn't get anywhere near him. He was on duty, so he was primed to not allow anyone, male or female, monopolize his time. So I contented myself with enjoying his voice as he told the stories of battles won and lost, lives saved and lost.

After we picked up the last of our fellow tourists we headed to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center. We walked through the displays of artifacts from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while Gus verbally walked us through the sequence of events from the battle which would live in infamy.

Next he led us out to a nearby dock, where we boarded an actual US Navy Launch. The naval officers operating the boat were scorching hot in their white uniforms. The one guy's dick was large and his pants were so tight, I could easily see the outline of the head of his cock. I tried hard not to stare at his crotch – I didn't want to be strung up on the yardarm or something.

It was a somber time on the USS Arizona. It was eerie to know I was standing on a floating memorial, just above the tomb of nearly 1,000 sailors who died on during the fight. My eyes were not the only moist ones in our group. Even Gus, who had probably done this every day for years, appeared to be moved by it. While I was on the ship my thoughts were not on sex – I was thinking thoughts of deep respect and honor for the men who died defending our country. I remember thinking probably all men want to have that kind of respect. I know I did. I wanted to have it for myself, too.

Gus paused the tour for a while and gave us an opportunity to grab some lunch at the snack bar. I had a hotdog and a bag of chips and my usual Diet Coke. I ate while I looked around at all the people coming and going. There were several tour groups at one time walking through. I spied two guys from a different tour than mine who were obviously into each other. You didn't need gaydar – anyone with eyes could see they were together as a couple. The dark haired one was constantly touching the blond guy in little ways. Nothing lasted longer than a second or two. But the touches were frequent. It was beautiful to me. I watched them interact from afar for as long as I could, until Gus called our group back together for the next leg of the tour.

Touring the USS Bowfin submarine was way cool. I could easily see myself moving through the tight passages of the sub while torpedoes were being launched and the sonar guys were confirming we had destroyed another enemy ship. I really got into the mood of it. It helped this ship didn't sink, but was instrumental in winning some major battles on the high seas.

I didn't care as much for the Pacific Aviation Museum. There were a few interesting stories, but after a while I started losing focus. Probably just getting tired. Gus did his best to make it all interesting, but most of the group was struggling near the end.

They saved the best for last. The USS Missouri, the battleship on which the Japanese officially surrendered to the Allies in 1945. It was surreal to be standing on the same deck where peace was restored to one half of the world at the time. Gus told the stories in such a fascinating way, he had us reliving it for real. It was an awesome moment of the day.

The drive back to the hotels to drop people off was tedious. People were tired and hungry, including me. The hotel where I parked was the first pickup, so of course we were the last to be dropped off. I was the last one off the bus. As I stepped down, Gus put out his hand and thanked me for taking the tour and asking some interesting questions. He smiled at me and I felt all warm inside. There was nothing happening between us – I eventually saw the wedding ring on his finger earlier in the day – but it made me feel good to have him smile at me.

Since I was near the big mall, I headed over there and had dinner at Morton's Steak House. I was in the mood for a big, juicy ribeye steak smothered in grilled onions. It was early for the dinner rush, so I was shown to a table right away. Harry was my waiter, and hairy he was. He had a long black hair tied in a neat ponytail, his five o'clock shadow definitely pronounced across his square jaw. His hands and arms were covered in dense, black hair as well. And it was all intensely sexy to me. Maybe I was just desperately horny, I don't know. He was friendly and easy going. He told me the specials, none of which interested me, and I decided on a Jumbo Lump Crab Cake for a starter, the Sliced Beefsteak Tomato salad, and a Center-Cut Prime Rib Eye steak. The food was delicious, the service top notch, and after my desert of Key Lime Pie I expected to be feeling satisfied.

I wasn't. My stomach was full, but I was empty on the inside. I had spent the whole day surrounded by people, many of whom I had chatted with here and there, trying to be friendly. I wasn't pursuing anything exactly, just trying to be out there amongst the people. And I never felt lonelier. There was something about being in a crowd of people you don't know and who don't know you which can make you feel so isolated.

I drove back to the house, happy I had gotten out but a little disappointed nothing had really happened. But it had only been one day. Tomorrow was another day, and who knows what could happen. I needed to find something more to do – perhaps a tour of the city, or maybe even see another island. I had money so I had options.

I finished off the chocolate covered strawberries just because I could – and because they were a decadent delight. I ate them as I sat and watched the lights in the pool randomly change colors – I had changed the settings on the controller to see the effect. It was cool, and I felt peaceful on the inside. Not satisfied, but at least a bit calmer and more relaxed. Probably all the sugar. I fell asleep on the lounge chair where I sat, the hot tub bubbling away with its soothing sounds.

I felt a little lost the next morning when I woke up outside. My body was twisted and sore when I tried to stand up, but at least my head felt okay. My mouth, on the other hand, felt like I had tried to swallow a box of cotton balls. I went to the fridge and downed two water bottles as fast as I could get them in, and immediately felt better. I decided to wait on breakfast until I had cleaned up a bit.

Once I was showered, shaved, and dressed in yet another pair of shorts and Hawaiian shirt, I felt a lot better. I fixed myself some granola and ate the rest of the fruit platter with it. Looked like I might need to make another trip for groceries soon.

I had no plans for today, and frankly, my bright ideas from the day before didn't seem so great now. I don't know if I was tired, bored, or just lonely. I think it was a combination of them all. I just had no motivation to do anything. All I could foresee of interest for the day was Sam coming out to the clean the pool. At least he would be someone to talk to for a while. Maybe he would even let me help run the robot scrubber thingy. That sounded kind of cool.

Once I had my mind on Sam, I kind of went a little nuts. I started thinking about what I should wear when he arrived. Should I have anything special to drink for him, maybe ask him to stay to dinner? Desperate, I know, but I was lonely. It would be great to have one meal with someone to talk to besides the waiter. I knew nothing would come of it – he was straight – but he was also friendly, and he needed to eat, right. He might say yes. It was worth a try. At least it was a fun way to kill time.

I decided to go for a casual meal. I couldn't really cook, but I could grill steaks. I could even try to bake a potato. Better yet, I could have Whole Foods bake the potatoes and make the salads and all the rest, and all I had to do was grill. I thought I might just be able to pull it off. I took stock of everything I already had by way of food, then headed into town.

Whole Foods was busy. The lines in front of each counter were long, but I had only this one thing to do today, so I was content to wait my turn. I spent the time looking at recipe cards for interesting dishes which they had displayed everywhere. I would not attempt to make most of them, but a lot of them sounded really good.

At the meat counter, the swarthy butcher guy selected two large, grass fed Prime New York strip steaks. He suggested a specific dry rub marinade for them, and told me how to prepare the steaks. He asked how I was cooking them, and he gave me some detailed instructions on how to do the grilling so they came out perfectly medium. I could adjust a couple of minutes either way for rare or well done.

I chose a simple garden salad to be safe. I had no idea what Sam liked to eat, and frankly I nearly scrapped the whole idea over the salad bar with all its options. How do you put out a meal for someone you don't know? Madness! Salad dressing was another tightrope of despair. I settled on a balsamic vinaigrette, again playing it safe.

The prepared foods bar had one of my favorites – twice baked potatoes. They were huge, and looked yummy. I bought four in case I screwed something up. The clerk told me to put them under a broiler for 5 minutes before serving. I thought I could do that. If I can figure out how to get the broiler on. That's somewhere in the oven, right?

I don't really like vegetables, but Sam probably did, so I selected some thin green beans to cook. They were one vegetable I could get down. I asked another clerk what was the best way to cook them, and he had a super simple way of doing it. I needed to remember olive oil now. And garlic and shallots, whatever those were.

At the olive bar, I gathered an assortment of them into a large plastic tub. I still had my cheese platter and the crisps and toasts platter. I thought they were still good.

I found garlic and shallots, which turned out to be tiny little oniony things, in the fresh produce area. Olive oil was tough – there were over 40 different kinds on the shelf. I stood back and watched other people select their favorites. The first brand selected by three people was the one I grabbed. Turned out it was the only one I'd ever heard of anyway.

For dessert I was going to get more chocolate covered strawberries, but then thought better of it. Much too suggestive. This was just a meal between two guys. Nothing romantic, just good food and conversation. Hopefully. I instead purchased another fruit tray and some flavored dipping creams for an added treat. That could be fun.

I thought about getting a bottle of wine, but I was completely lost when it came to alcohol. I knew nothing about beer, wine or liquor of any kind. I decided to skip it. I didn't want Sam getting drunk anyway. He had to drive home after dinner. And besides, he might as well get to know me as the teetotaler I am.

By the time I had all of the food back to the house it was nearly lunch time. I put it all away for now and made myself two sandwiches from the left over chicken and ate those with a salad and some chips. I realized as the food hit my stomach I was excited and nervous about the dinner plans. What if he said he couldn't stay? How do I not seem desperate and freakishly lonely? I decided to play it as cool and casual as I could. In the end, it was only one meal. And it wasn't his last meal ever, so if he did stay, and I screwed something up, oh well. He'd live to eat again with somebody else.

I started a new Robert Ludlum novel, a sequel to the first one I'd read, as a way to get my mind off of the upcoming meal. It sort of worked for a while, but then my thoughts would drift back to Sam and whether or not he would stay. Somewhere in there I also realized that my thoughts had moved fairly far away from Sam being a potential lover. I still thought he was hot, but like always, once I figured a guy was straight, I stopped fantasizing about having sex with him. Which in this case was a real relief. I wanted Sam as a friend, even if it was only for two more weeks.

He was due to start on the pool sometime around 3, and I figured he wouldn't get done until 5 or so. Maybe halfway through that time frame I could casually suggest he join me for a steak and potato. It sounded plausible to me. I hoped it worked, otherwise I had a lot of potatoes and green beans to eat.

I stayed in the clothes I had put on that morning. Honestly, since it wasn't a date, I figured he probably wouldn't notice my clothes anyway. I hoped my dick stayed down this time. I didn't want him thinking I was a perv, even though I really was. I giggled to myself.

I heard his truck pull in around 3:15. Actually, I saw it from the laundry room window where I had been camped out since 2:45 hoping he would show and not send someone else in his place. Maybe he was scared of me, if he really did catch me staring at him out the same window the other day.

He was dressed much the same as Monday. Fantastic ass in form fitting cargo shorts, a tight Paradise Pools t-shirt, and brown leather flip flops today. He had a pair of dark sunglasses on that I swear looked just like the pair I bought. He grabbed his tool bucket from the back of the pickup truck and headed around the garage. At least that's where I think he went. I'd ducked down lest he see me spying on him again.

I hurried back to the lanai and arranged myself on a lounge chair as if I had been there all afternoon and had no expectation of his arrival. I saw his head come around the side of the house and gradually rise up to pool level as he came up the steps to the deck.

"Hey, Jack! You're here! Good to see you, man." He practically shouted at me. He really seemed glad I was there.

"Yep, I'm here. And now you are, too." Real smooth, Jack. Moron.

"How's your head today? Get over that headache from the sun okay?" He remembered. Damn. This was a great guy.

"Yes. I followed your advice, bought some sun screen and I keep that on whenever I go out, especially driving with the top down. I also purchased some shades. Mine are similar to yours, I think."

"Really? Let's see 'em." Interesting. A version of you show me yours, I'll show you mine? I went to my bedroom and returned with the sun glasses.

"Wow! They're exactly the same. Cool. Sunglasses Hut?" He asked.

"Yeah. And you were right. They cost a bundle."

"I know, right. But your eyes are probably already feeling better in the sun. I know mine did, and I'm around water all day, so the sun reflecting off of that was murder on the eyes. So I decided it was worth not eating for a week." He laughed. I hoped he was joking. That would be sad if it were true. But then again, how much can a pool boy make?

"Well, between the sunscreen, the sun glasses, and the case of water I drank, I'm feeling just fine now."

"Glad to hear it, Jack. I hated the idea you were laying here on the lanai in pain when you should be out enjoying your vacation." Is this guy for real? Amazing man. I think he really, truly cares. Friendship was looking like a real possibility.

"Thanks, Sam. I appreciate your advice. And your concern. But I'm all good now."

"So I better get started on the pool. It'll take about two hours, more or less. I'm sorry, but you'll have to stay out of the hot tub and pool 'til I'm done."

"No problem. Could you use a hand with anything?" I could ask. He didn't have to say yes.

"Sure, if you want to. We might get it done faster that way." He was grateful; I was cursing myself for speeding things up. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"You'll have to show me what to do. I've never cleaned a pool before."

"It's easy. There's a couple of things you can do right away. Let me get the equipment out and we'll get started." He turned and headed back down to the pool control room. He came back carrying a long pole with a flat oval-shaped net on the end. He laid it down on the deck then went back and returned with a long plastic blue and white vacuum cleaner type hose and a canister contraption on blue plastic wheels.

"Okay, Jack. Here's what we'll do. I'll put Robbie here in the water and get him going scrubbing the bottom. He'll wander around and take about an hour to get it all. In the meantime, if you wouldn't mind skimming the top surface with the long net, I can work on cleaning out the mechanicals down below."

Crap! I wanted to work with him, not for him. Oh, well, it was helping, that's what friends do, right? Be cool, Jack. Sam hooked Robbie the robot scrubber up to the vacuum hose and then plugged the other end of the hose into a hidden receptacle in the flower bed at the end of the pool. Immediately Robbie started making sucking noises. Sam dropped him gently over the side and positioned him in one corner. Robbie took off at a snail's pace, hopefully doing a good job of scrubbing the bottom.

Next, Sam motioned for me to join him at the side of the pool. He put the long skimmer pole in my hands, then stood close behind me and grabbed the pole on either side of my hands from around back. It was like a reverse hug was happening, and suddenly my dick was getting in the act. I closed my eyes and thought about Madge until it went back down a bit. Close call.

"Now, Jack. This isn't hard, but if you don't hold the pole in a balanced way, your back is gonna hurt in a little while, okay?" Again with the thoughtful concern for me. I really liked this guy.

Together we maneuvered the cleaning screen across the surface of the pool, catching a surprising amount of gunk in the process. Sam showed me how to turn the screen over and put the mess is a single place on the deck for easy disposal later.

"Robbie down there cleans the bottom, but some of what he stirs up floats to the surface. That's why we do both at the same time. It does a better job of getting everything out of the pool before it can clog up the filters. Which is what I need to go clean out now. You alright with this pole, Jack?"

"Yeah, I think so. Does it look like I'm doing it right?"

"Sure does. Just try to remember where you pull out and put it back in and you'll do great." He turned and walked away and I smiled at his unintended double entendre. My dick was hardening again. This time I let it have some fun, too.

He was gone for about twenty minutes, during which time Robbie the robot had completed almost a third of the pool floor. He was stirring up a lot of crap at the deeper end, and I was trying to keep up with it. Thankfully Sam came up behind me and reached around and grabbed the pole by my hands and we moved it around together. I wasn't sure that was necessary, but I wasn't going to complain. He felt good back there. There was nothing sexual about it, but proximity can breed its own excitement.

Once we had caught up to the crap storm floating to the surface, Sam let me have the pole back and I kept pace with the robot until the job was done. Sam busied himself opening up trap doors and filters around the edge of the pool. He pulled out loads of gunk. Yuck! I could now see why it needed to be done every week.

By the time Sam called the job done my arms and back were tired. But I felt good for helping him out. To be honest, other than tipping the valet the other day, that might have been the best part of my vacation so far. It was clear I was craving human interaction, and I would take it however it came my way.

I helped Sam pull Robbie out of the water and together we got him, the hoses, and the cleaning pole back down to the pool control room. I didn't go in there, as it was a tight squeeze for Sam alone.

"Can I get you something to drink, Sam? I don't have any beer or anything, but I can get you water, milk, or lemonade, maybe?"

"I never drink alcohol, Jack, so no worries. But I'd love some water. Cleaning the pool is hard work." Interesting. No alcohol, like me. Cool.

"You did great today, Jack. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you'd done pool work before."

"Nope. I just had a good teacher. Come on, let's get a drink."

We stepped up onto the lanai and I pulled two cold water bottles out of the fridge. Sam saw the fruit and cheese platters inside and asked, "Wow, you planning a party tonight, Jack? Looks like you have a lot of nice food in there."

"If you only knew, Sam." He raised his eyebrows as if to say, go ahead, tell me. So I did.

"The thing is, Sam, I'm here by myself. I don't know anybody in Hawaii and the longest conversation I've had in nearly a week is you teaching me how to clean the pool. And...I can't really I grabbed some prepared foods that I can reheat easily. That way I won't starve."

"Gee, Jack. You're here by yourself? Must get awfully lonely. Hawaii is a place to explore and have adventures, not sit alone somewhere. No offense."

"None taken, I promise. I agree with you. I tried going on a Pearl Harbor tour yesterday, and it was okay, but I came away feeling even lonelier because I was the only single person on the tour."

"Yeah, that would suck. Nobody to talk with about what you're seeing and doing. I'd go with you if you want to do another tour or something. I love that stuff. I've done Pearl three times I think. I learn something new every time."

I swear I nearly fell off my stool. Here I was dreading him declining my dinner invitation, which we hadn't even gotten to yet, and he was offering to be my tour buddy. I was going to have to find a way to take him up on that.

"I appreciate the offer, Sam. That's huge. But you have work to do. I can't drag you away from your job."

"Sure you can. I've worked six days a week for nearly 11 months straight. My boss makes me take Sundays off. I usually hit the beach with some friends and we hang out all day. Then it's back to work on Monday. Tommy, that's my boss, and my best friend, he's always on my case about taking a day off. Says I'm gonna burn out. How ya gonna burn out cleaning pools? It's like the most mindless thing you can do outside. Probably why I like it so much. But hey, if you want to take off and see the sights someday, I'd love you show you around. It'd be fun." He was thinking about it and the thought was making him happy. It was making me happy, too.

"Well, I'll look into it then, Sam. I'm sure there are some things left to do around this island besides shop."

"Ewwww. You can keep shopping. Only way I go into a mall is if I know what I need and where it is. I'm in and out as fast as possible. 'Sides, I don't exactly have a ton of money to blow anyway. But I'm cool with that." There's a story there, but it will have to wait. I'm hungry, and I'm hoping he is too.

"Sam, can I ask you something? I was planning on grilling a steak for dinner. I have two. Care to join me? I haven't had a meal with another human being in I don't know how long."

"Did you say steak?"

"Yeah, and I have some potatoes, salad, green beans, and some other appetizers if you want."

"Oh, yeah, I'll stay, Jack. You had me at steak. Hell, you'd of had me with just a hamburger."

"Awesome. It'll take just a few minutes to put it all together. You wanna do the grilling part?" I thought I should give him something to do. Guys like to be useful.

"Do I get to use the monster grill over there?" He was looking like a kid in a toy store.

"Go get it, Sam. It's all yours. Let me know if you need a hand, but I doubt you will." He jumped up and started figuring out how to light the grill, and I turned the broiler on. I had practiced earlier so I was prepared. I also turned on one of the other ovens to 450 degrees for the green beans. I was secretly referring to an index card in my pocket where I had written everything down.

I had two things to cook, along with the steak, which was now Sam's responsibility. I had put the dry marinade on the steaks just before Sam arrived, so they should be perfectly ready to go. I pulled them from the fridge to come to room temperature. Next, I pulled a flat cookie sheet from the cabinet by the stove for the green beans which I had washed and trimmed earlier. I drizzled some olive oil on them, getting them good and coated, added salt and pepper, and they were ready for the oven. I grabbed a chef's knife and smashed two cloves of garlic like I had seen my mother do on occasion and minced that up. I sliced up the shallots as thin as I could without cutting my fingers. I cut too close once. That's all I needed - a trip to the hospital instead of dinner with Sam. Be careful, Jack. Don't screw this up.

I pulled two of the potatoes out of the fridge, unwrapped them from the plastic wrap keeping them fresh, and put them on another cookie sheet. All was ready. It was now all about timing.

"Grill's ready to go, Jack, whenever you are."

"The steaks are right there on the counter. The butcher suggested 8 minutes the first side, 6 on the other to get them to medium. Does that sound right to you?"

"Sounds perfect to me. I like mine medium, too. Let's do this." I heard the sizzle as the steaks hit the grill. I put the green beans in – they needed 15 minutes. The steaks would come off the grill and rest for 5-10 minutes so I think we had this right. I quickly pulled together the salad into a big bowl I'd found and set a couple of places at the table. I had even found some linen napkins in the dining room hutch. I hoped it was okay I was using them.

When Sam turned the steaks, I put the garlic and shallots on the green beans and stirred them up. They were just starting to soften and char a bit. They smelled delicious. I put the potatoes under the broiler and set the timer for 5 minutes and mentally crossed my fingers they didn't burn.

When the timer dinged, I pulled the potatoes – perfection. Sam pulled the steaks onto the platter I had given him and covered them with foil wrap. I pulled the green beans and scraped them into a serving bowl and we were almost ready to eat.

Of course I had forgotten the olives and cheeses and crackers. Crap! But really, did it matter? We had a serious amount of food to eat already. I let it go. Maybe he'd stay for dinner next Monday, too.

We sat down and dug in. It was all perfect.

"Sam, great job on the steaks. Mine is wonderful. And I love the flavor. That butcher knew what he was talking about."

"This might be the best steak I've ever eaten, Jack. And killer potatoes. Twice baked are my absolute favorite. My mom makes them for me whenever I get back home. My sister and I fight over the leftovers."

"I like them, too. I'm not a fan of vegetables, but I like the way the green beans turned out. Kinda different."

"They're great. Excellent meal. Thanks for asking me to stay. This sure beats ramen noodles again."

"Come on, Sam. You don't eat Ramen noodles for every meal, do you?"

"Naw, but it feels like it. I'm saving up everything I can. I start law school in the fall, and I don't want to have to work a job my first year. So every penny counts right now."

"So, you're finishing your undergrad and then starting law school, huh."

"Not exactly, Jack. I finished my pre-law degree and graduated last May from UCLA. I received a full ride scholarship for Law School at Washington University in St. Louis. But I decided I needed to take a bye year and get my head straight before starting that. I move to St. Louis in August I guess." He didn't elaborate on why he needed the break, and I didn't ask. If my mental math was right, he was probably a year younger than me.

"What about you, Jack? How'd you end up here in Hawaii?" He sat back and held his hands across his stomach. I had to decide quickly how to play this. I opted for a similar story to what I told Marcus.

"Well, I earned my Business Management degree two years ago, and I've been working as an office manager and bookkeeper ever since. I'm from Chicago, by the way, but I actually grew up near St. Louis, on the Illinois side of the river. Anyway, a few weeks ago I found out a relative I had never met had left me a house in Denver and some money. So last week I packed up what little I had, and I'm starting over in Denver in a little over two weeks. I never had the chance to travel, so I came here thinking a three week vacation would be a dream come true. I found a sweet, sweet deal to stay here last minute, and the rest you know. It hasn't worked out all that great, but today has been a big improvement."

"So you're what, about 23, 24?"

"Yeah, I'll be 24 next month. And you?"

"I turn 23 in July, so you've got a full year on me, Jack. You're old." He smiled like that was a cool thing to him. He was a bit of a smart ass, I think. I didn't care. I liked him.

"So, law school. Is that something you've always wanted to do?" I asked.

"Pretty much since I was in junior high. My old man is a lawyer, corporate law mostly. I went to court with him on like a bring-your-kid-to-work day, and I was hooked. I kept looking at the judge sitting high up there in front, in the robes and the gavel, and I thought, that's what I want to be someday. Gonna take a long time to get there, but it's all I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember."

"What about you, Jack? What are you going to be doing in Denver?" Crap! What do I say? I didn't really know myself.

"Well, I'm not totally clear on all the details yet. I have a job offer in a financial services group with a bank. They said they are willing to teach me the ropes if I'm willing to learn. So it will be a learn-on-the-job thing. I also have thought about going back to school to get my MBA, but I'm not sure what I'd use it for yet. So we'll see."

"So you're a smart student, Jack?" He really wanted to know about me. This was cool.

"Kinda, I guess. I got mostly A's in high school and college. But nobody really cares after you graduate. At least that's been the case for me. I suppose if I decide to go to grad school I'll have to take some kind of test or something."

"Tell me about it. I well in school, too, like you. But the LSAT test for law school was a bitch, let me tell you. I studied for 6 months. Thankfully I did well enough to get the scholarship. Probably helped my old man graduated from there a thousand years ago." He started yawning, and I realized that it was nearly 8 o'clock and we hadn't had dessert.

"You want any dessert, Sam? I have fresh fruit and cheese if you'd like some."

"Sounds great, Jack, but I'm still stuffed. My steak was huge. I don't eat like this all the time. But thank you. Whadda ya say we clean up and then I better get going. I have a 45 minute drive back to my apartment and Fridays are an early day for me." He stood up and started carrying dishes to the sink. I followed with mine.

We had everything ship shape in short order. I was hand washing the meat platter and the cookie sheets – I wasn't sure they could go in the dishwasher – and Sam was drying. I caught him looking at me out of the corner of his eye and couple of times with a puzzled look on his face, like he was trying to figure something out.

I told him he could walk through the house to the front door to get to his truck. It seemed silly to have him walk all the way around outside. Besides, he wasn't the hired help anymore. He was my friend. At least I hoped he was becoming my friend.

"Jack, this was a great afternoon and evening. Thanks for helping me, and for the great dinner. I was wondering, could I return the favor and invite you out tomorrow night to a movie and maybe some pizza afterwards? The guys, that is, some of my friends, are wanting to see the new Jason Statham action movie. You interested?" Did he just ask me out? No, Jack. It's a guys' night out. Get a grip.

"Well...are you sure your friends would be okay with me tagging along? I mean they don't know me."

"Forget that, Jack. I didn't know you before today and you're a great guy. They'll be cool with you along. Say you'll come. You don't want be here all by yourself, and to tell you the truth, I'd like you to meet Tommy, my best friend. He's a native Hawaiian, and he knows all the little secrets of the cool stuff off the beaten trail, if you know what I mean. You'd like him."

I threw caution to the wind and jumped. "Okay...yeah, I'll go. When and where do I meet you?"

"Tell you what, driving in Hono on a Friday night can be a nightmare. I'll pick you up here at 6 and we should have plenty of time to meet the gang for the 7 o'clock show. Sound good?"

"Whatever you say, Sam. I'll be ready. Do I need to bring anything?"

"No, and leave your wallet, too. It's my turn to treat. 'Course there's no pizza in Hawaii as good as that steak, so you'll have to make do." He laughed and stepped out into the dark driveway. I stood there as he slid behind the wheel of his truck and waved back to him as he drove down the driveway.

Holy crap! That went better than I could have ever dreamed. I was in shock – a pleasant shock for a change. Sam was an awesome guy. And not only had he stayed for dinner, he was taking me out tomorrow. What the hell just happened?

My mind started down multiple paths at once. Was Sam really straight and just wanted to be friendly and help me out, or could he maybe be gay, and his interest was much more? I didn't really know. I was reasonably sure he was straight. I mean, there was no clue otherwise. I was also sure I had given him no clue I was gay, but that was by habit, not real intention – I think.

If he did somehow think I was gay, he still asked me to meet his friends – his best friend, even - and go to a movie with them. That was huge for me. That meant he wasn't freaked out by me being gay. And he didn't feel like he had to hide me from his friends. And maybe, just maybe, if he was gay, too...

I couldn't let my mind go there with Sam. Yes, he was smoking hot, and my dick got hard yet again just thinking for two seconds about his laugh, his face, his ass, and those eyes! But if he was straight, and I was still thinking he was, then I would just be torturing myself.

I was content to have Sam as a friend. He was an incredibly decent, thoughtful guy. He made me believe he cared about me – in two short visits together! He looked at me in a way which made me feel like he wanted to take away every difficulty or challenge in my life and make it all easier. Who does that? I'm sure it was the main reason he invited me to the movie – so I wouldn't be stuck at the house, alone again.

I started crying, thinking about all the little ways he had tried to take care of me. The sunscreen, the sunglasses, holding the pole with me so my back wouldn't hurt. Offering to go on tours with me he had already been on. Inviting me out and including me with his friends. No guy had ever been that kind to me. Ever.

I wondered again why I always seemed to cry at the beautiful things in life. I finally dried my face, blew my nose, and called it a night. After the emotional catharsis, my body was screaming for sleep. I thought I'd be tossing and turning all night but surprise, surprise, I dropped off to sleep the second I hit the bed. Slept like a baby.

The next day was filled with alternating excitement and anxiety. My mind just wouldn't calm down with all the questions and doubts. What would Sam do when he finds out I'm gay for sure? Because he's going to - because I'm going to have to tell him eventually. I had promised myself no more hiding. I didn't have to walk in a room singing show tunes – although that actually sounded like fun to me – but I wasn't going to pretend to be straight, either, just to keep his friendship. Did he already have a clue? Was there something I did or said that gave away the secret? We didn't talk about relationships, so there had been no false dodge on my part. I replayed every minute of the day over and over again and could not think of anything that came close to my revealing I was gay.

And I was nervous about meeting his friends. I usually didn't do well in a crowd. I was more of a one-person-at-a-time kind of guy. And if one of them sussed out I was gay, well then, the whole crowd could go nuts. And I would not expect Sam to side with me, although I suspected he was a kind enough guy he would not be the one causing trouble. He might even be willing to still drive me home. I decided to make sure I had plenty of cash for cab fare in case I needed it.

I spent the day agonizing over what to wear, how hot or cold was it going to be at night, where exactly was he taking me, how many guys were going to be there, would they want to go drinking afterwards, how did Sam handle that since he said he never drinks? Ugh! Endless questions.

I finally settled on jeans and a Hawaiian shirt that Sam had not seen me in yet. I would wear my top siders with no socks. Casual, but appropriate for any typical movie theatre or dining establishment. I didn't want to look like I was trying too hard. I hadn't been out on a guys' night in ages. The last one had ended early for me when Fred's friends decided to start with tequila shots at a club first thing.

By 5:30 I had showered twice, fixed my hair three times, and put on and washed off my Bvlgari cologne twice. I put a light spray on for the last time and told myself enough was enough. I liked it, and it wasn't super strong. I dressed and made sure my shirt was not wrinkled. I ironed it again, just to be safe. I even wiped my leather top siders with a damp towel so they shined.

Sam pulled in promptly at 6. I was watching from the window, but then I stepped away. I didn't want to appear too eager. But I was shaking, I was so excited. It was only a movie. Get a grip, Jack!

The doorbell rang and I opened the huge wooden door. Sam was dressed in almost an identical outfit. His shirt was tan with off white flowers, mine was a light blue with similar flowers. He had on black loafers, and no socks as well. He stood there with a big smile on his face.

"You ready, Jack?"

"Yep, all set. Let's do it." I closed the door behind me and heard it latch. I followed him to the truck. I could be mistaken, but it seemed like he almost stopped to open my door for me, but then shook it off and kept moving. I was glad. It would have been awkward and confusing for me. I did not now, nor did I ever, want to be treated like a girl in any relationship I may have with a man. I am not a woman, I don't act like one, and I don't want to be treated like one. Some guys eat that up – which is cool for them - but not me.

We chatted about his work day as we made our way down the mountain and into Honolulu proper. He was right – traffic was a nightmare. We barely made it to the theatre in time for the start of the show. When we pulled in and parked, he turned off the truck and checked his text messages. His phone had been going off for the past ten minutes.

"Fuck! Oh, sorry, Jack. That slipped out. Shit!" He seemed seriously upset.

"What's wrong, Sam? Something happen?"

"Yeah. Look, I'm sorry, Jack, but it looks like the other guys have bailed on us tonight. One of the guy's cousins is over from the states and they are taking him out drinking for his 21st. Tommy knows I don't do that shit. I hate drinking just to get drunk. So stupid." Wow! Sam felt the same passion I did about it.

"So what do we do now, Sam? See the movie anyway? We're here." I was trying to be helpful, but I knew he was disappointed. He wanted me to meet Tommy if nothing else.

"Do you still want to, Jack? I's just me. Are you cool with that?"

"Cool with what? Hanging out with a new friend? Yeah, I can handle it. And thank you for not dragging me to a bar. I can't handle that scene either." I hoped calling him a friend didn't scare him off. I guess not, because he was smiling again.

"Alright then, let's do this. Movie, then pizza." So we did.

Sam offered to buy me some popcorn, but I declined. I was having pizza later and I noticed my jeans were a little tight tonight. Need to lay off the rich desserts and other crap.

The movie was okay. Jason Statham was a good actor, for an action flick. I actually kept watching him, seeing the resemblance to Sam in his face and mannerisms. Of course the accent was totally not the same, and Sam had all his hair, but standing there, they could have been brothers – or at least close cousins. Both of them were hot.

After the movie, Sam went on and on about it for the entire 15 minute ride to the pizza joint. I liked to hear him so animated and passionate, even about something that wasn't real, like a movie. I was beginning to realize Sam put a lot of himself into the things he cared about. If it was on his radar, he was all in.

His mood was back to happy. He had shrugged off the earlier change in plans and was laughing as he remembered a funny scene from the movie. He was still talking about the movie as we were seated in a wooden booth with high backs and a red checked table cloth.

Sam looked at me and stopped himself mid-sentence. "I'm sorry, Jack. I'm running off at the mouth again. I get like this when I'm excited about something. Just ignore it."

"No, no, Sam. It's cool. I like it that you get passionate. Shows you're alive...real. I liked the movie, too, though not as much as you, I think." I smiled at him and he smiled back.

There was a small connection in that exchange of smiles. I almost didn't catch it. It was a fleeting moment and then it was gone. I didn't think it was sexual. It was deeper, like we had taken some silent step to cement a friendship. It was weird for me, because this was truly an all new experience.

Nothing more was said as we looked over the menus. They had more than thirty options for pizza. I was a simple and traditional guy. But I decided I would eat whatever Sam wanted, as he was buying. I felt really funny about him spending his hard earned money on me, but I was determined to let it go.

"Alright, Jack. Decision time. On the count of three, we both put a finger on our pizza of choice, then we see how close we are. Ready? 1-2-3." We both slammed a finger down on the menu. Our fingers landed on the same spot on our menus. We both started grinning at each other.

"Jack! You picked the same as me!" Sure enough we were both pointing to the house special – sausage, onions, green peppers, tomatoes and extra cheese. "That's so cool. Whadda ya want to drink?"

"Diet Coke is fine, if they have it."

He ordered everything when our waitress came over. She was quite beautiful in a college coed kind of way. I was surprised that Sam hardly ever even looked at her. I'm gay, and I looked. He was staring at me.

"So Jack, tell me more about yourself. Are you excited to be moving to Denver?"

"Yeah, I think so. Excited...and a little scared too. I met some people on my trip there who were helpful and kind to me, so I won't be totally alone. And I'll be busy with work most likely. I tend to jump in and bury myself in it until I have some idea that I know what I'm doing. How about you, are you excited about law school?"

"Yeah. I am now. For a while there I wasn't sure I could go through with it. It's three years of intense study. My dad tells me all the time it was the most grueling and rewarding thing he ever went through. I guess I'll see for myself. Not wild about living in St. Louis. Seems lame compared to LA."

"Hey now, you're talking about my home town – well, kinda. I grew up in a small town in the country. We went to St. Louis maybe a couple times a month at most. Usually for shopping. It's not huge, not like Chicago, or LA, I guess. But it has its good points, probably. Though it's not the weather, that's for sure."

"Oh, why not?"

"Hot and humid in the summer, cold and snow and tons of ice in the winter. You definitely get four seasons, and some extreme days mixed in. Nothing like Hawaii."

"Ha! There's no place like Hawaii. It's like too perfect almost. I'm spoiled living here. I like the pace and the job and the carefree attitude of it all. But I can't make a living cleaning pools. This was only supposed to be a temporary thing, so I guess it's time to suck it up and get on with my life."

Our waitress arrived with our pizza and drinks, and we dug in with gusto. It was really, really good pizza. Or maybe it tasted good because I was eating it with a really, really good guy. If I could, I would have stayed in that booth with him, talking all night.

When the last slice was consumed, and I couldn't swallow another mouthful of soda, we both leaned back in the booth and turned a little sideways to get more comfortable. My jeans were feeling really tight now. Sam was looking very thoughtful, like he was working out a puzzle or something. He must have made a decision, because he nodded his head once, I guess to himself, and then looked up at me.

"Jack, I want to tell you something. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I should. Is that okay?" He looked at me for permission. What was I going to say, no?

"Yeah, Sam. You can tell me anything. Go ahead." I sat back, intrigued.

"The only other person who knows about this out here is Tommy. He's why I'm here, or at least he's the one that asked me to come here. Ugh. This is hard. Let me start at the beginning.

"I was in a two year relationship while I was in college. I thought it was forever. I mean I was totally in love and I thought it was mutual. We were planning on law school together, even. It was all set. Then, in late March, just over a year ago now, it all fell apart. The relationship ended – I had no idea it was coming. I was totally blindsided. All my plans, our plans, were scrapped in a single conversation. It was devastating.

"I don't know how I made it through my final semester. I don't remember much of it. The only person who knew what had happened was my best friend Tommy. I think he was really concerned for me, like maybe I was going to hurt myself. I would never do that, but I was definitely depressed.

"I eventually told my parents. My mother was my mother. She wanted to get on a plane and fly to LA and make me food. My dad was sort of sympathetic, but then he started reminding me in every conversation that I needed to pull myself together and go to law school. Stay with the plan. The thing is, that plan only reminded me of what I had lost. I didn't want that plan anymore.

"During finals week, Tommy told me he had heard that sometimes you could defer a scholarship for one year. Maybe I should do that – I think he knew if I went right away I was never gonna make it through. So I called them, and they didn't like it, but they agreed to it. My old man went through the roof. Said some not nice things to me, told me to grow a pair and get over it, and shit like that. He later apologized. He never stays mad. I realized later he was just scared I was gonna throw my life away.

"So anyway, that's how I ended up here in Hawaii. Tommy talked to his dad and they gave me the job. I live in a small studio apartment near the shop and I work in the sun all day and try not to think about what could have been. I'm now starting to think about my future again, and I'm ready. I want it now more than ever. I realized it's what I really want after we talked last night, so thanks, Jack, for the clarity." With that he sat back, and took a deep breath.

"Wow, Sam. That's quite a story. I'm sorry you had to go through the breakup. It had to be awful. Thank goodness you had a friend like Tommy to help you through it. I can see why you talk about him the way you do. He must mean a lot to you now."

"Yeah. He probably saved my life. He certainly saved my future. But don't tell him I said that. He's already a pill sometimes. Thinks he's the greatest guy alive and every woman is searching the oceans for him. A lot of them find him, too," he said, laughing.

"So Jack, any special relationship in your life. Ever get close to settling down?" It was an innocent question, and I was expecting it to happen at some point. I had two seconds to decide what I was going to say. Do I hide, or do I tell him the truth. I squeezed my hands together under the table to hide the shaking. I was glad it was just the two of us.

"No, not really, Sam. I've never been in a relationship to speak of."

"Nothing? Surely you've dated though, right?" He wasn't challenging, just gently inquiring. He really wanted to know me. He'd just told me his biggest secret. I needed to tell him mine.

"No, I haven't, Sam. To be honest, I've been too scared to pursue relationships. I don't have a ton of confidence, though I'm trying to get better. The thing is, I...uh...well, it's not easy for me. I get scared...I've sort of been hiding a lot." I was struggling to find the right words. This was so hard.

Then Amanda's words came to me – do it afraid, Jack. Do it afraid.

"Hiding what, Jack?" In that simple statement, Sam gave me the opening to say it. I took a deep breath. I couldn't look at him – I kept staring at the checkered tablecloth.

"I've been hiding the fact that I'm...that'm gay." It came out in a whisper, but I got it out. I let out the breath I'd been holding, too, and waited, shaking in fear of how he would react. I had just found him as a friend, maybe my best friend, if it was even possible this fast, and I knew I was going to lose him now.

There was silence on the other side of the table. Now I was really scared. I slowly looked up at him, and he was looking at me, staring right into my eyes. I know it sounds clich├ęd, but he was looking right into my soul. I couldn't tell what he was thinking – his stare was so intense, so focused, so all-consuming somehow. I looked away and then the room started closing in on me. My old anxieties starting rising up, and I could feel the pizza rise with them.

"Sam, I need to get out of here. I'm sorry." I stood up and walked as fast as I could outside. I moved over away from the entrance a few feet and stood near a trash can, in case I did lose my dinner. It was 50-50 at the moment. I was trembling, and I was angry. Angry at myself for being so emotional about it, still so fearful. This had to end - it had to.

Sam came rushing out a couple of minutes later. He must have had to pay the bill I guess. He was frantically looking for me, and when he saw I was still there and had not run away, he sighed and walked slowly over to me. His eyes were back to full on intense, exploring my soul.

"You gonna be alright, Jack?" I nodded, and he reached out his hand and put it on my shoulder. It was comforting, but still a little awkward. I wished he had put his arm around me completely, like he had when we cleaned the pool. I suddenly wanted to be in his arms so badly, straight or not.

"Come on, let's walk a little." He turned, never taking his hand off my shoulder, but sort of guided me to follow him. We crossed the street, and I noticed that his hand was now at the small of my back. Not in constant contact, but often enough I knew it was there. I trusted that touch. I don't know why, but I did. At that moment it was the only thing holding back a total breakdown.

A block down the road, he led me onto the beach. It was dark, but the street lights threw enough light I could see the sand at my feet – barely. The darkness was comforting in its own way. The walking started to get tough in the sand. Sam suddenly stopped.

"Jack, let's sit here for a minute or two, okay?" I nodded, and plopped down on the sand and drew my knees up to my chest. I wrapped my arms around them and held myself tightly. Sam sat in a similar fashion next to me, almost touching shoulders. I wished they were. We sat there, in a surprisingly comfortable silence, for several minutes. Then Sam wanted to talk.

"How ya doin', Jack?"

"I'm a little cold, but I'm okay. Sorry about the freak out back there. I hate that I do that." I was almost in tears, but I held them back with everything I had.

"Here, don't move." He stood up and moved behind me, then sat down with his legs on either side of my butt. He scooched up close so my back was touching his chest. He leaned into me and put his long arms all the way around mine and pulled me close to him. I melted into his embrace. The silent tears fell. There is no way I could have stopped them. I had done the scariest thing of my life and I landed in the safest place I had ever known – Sam's arms.

"Jack, you don't need to say anything, just listen, okay?" I nodded silently.

"It was very brave what you did back there. You're a lot tougher than you think you are. Thank you for trusting me. My guess is you haven't trusted too many people, so I'm honored you shared your secret with me. I really am." He squeezed me a little harder to hopefully convince me he meant it. I believed him. I relaxed back into him and he held me firmly.

" more thing. You know the relationship I told you about – the one which fell apart?" Again I nodded silently. Sam leaned into me even closer and put his lips next to my left ear.

"His name was Jeremy."

Author's Note: If you are enjoying this story, please take a moment to comment in the Forum on CastleRoland – you can click the link labelled "Forum Discussion" just under the story synopsis at the top of this page. Or, if you prefer, send me an email to I would love to hear your thoughts about the story.

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