As Matt pulled up to the back of the townhouse, he could see Tim through the kitchen window. He was on the phone and laughing. It had been a long day for Matt. All the Christmas merchandise was arriving, even though it was only the end of October. He and his staff were rapidly running out of places to put books.
As Matt opened the door he heard Tim say, " .Girlfriend you know thats right!" Matts jaw almost hit the floor. He had never heard Tim talk this way. It certainly didnt do much for his image as a tough guy.
"Yeah, she just walked in the door," Tim said as he handed Matt the phone. He gave Tim a strange grin. Tim had never had pronoun problems before.
"Its Marty," Tim explained, although it only explained part of Tims behavior. Tim kissed him hello.
"Hi, cupcake," Marty said to him after Tim handed him the phone.
"Martin, what have you done to my man? The next thing, hell be wearing a tutu."
"Calm down. Hes just getting comfortable with himself." Marty was right, of course. It was just Tim getting in touch with his queer self.
"So whats up?" Matt was tired and hungry.
Marty sighed dramatically. "I dont think its going to work out for Patrick and me."
Matt paused. Im sorry, sweetie. I really am."
"So am I. Hes just not ready to settle down."
"I have said before and I maintain that coming out is a process. Hes going through the Slut Stage. You and I have already been through that stage. Add this to the fact that he probably didnt get any sex from his ex-wife The Ice Queen for the last ten years."
"Youre right. Matthew the Sage. What other words of wisdom do you have for me?"
"I thought you were the one dispensing wisdom."
"Its your turn now. So what are you doing for Halloween?"
"Not much." Just then, Brian entered the kitchen to check out the contents of the refrigerator. It never ceased to amaze Matt how much the kid could eat, and still stay so slim. He was a growing boy, as demonstrated by his height and feet. He had shot up at least two inches since Matt had first met him in March and he was now wearing size eleven shoes.
"Im shocked at you, Matt. Halloween is one of the two National Gay Holidays."
"Brian is talking about having a party here Saturday night."
Brian approached Matt, leaving the refrigerator wide open. He placed a hand on Matts chest, and looked up at Matt with pleading eyes. Please, he mouthed.
"Child, close the refrigerator." Brian spun around, slammed the door shut, spun around again, and resumed his pleading look. Matt found his actions highly amusing.
"So, are we having a party?" Marty asked.
Matt chuckled. "I guess so."
"Yes!" Brian exclaimed.
"He sounds excited," Marty said.
"I hope hes this excited when he has to clean up the next day." Matt paused. There was a conflict somewhere. To Marty he said, "Ill call you back, sweetie."
"We have a problem here, Brian. Isnt that the weekend Mike is coming over?"
"What are we going to do about it? You cant take him back to St. Lukes Saturday afternoon before the party. How do you think hell feel knowing you are throwing a party and hes not invited?"
"I just wont tell him."
"Itll be pretty obvious, Brian. Youll be decorating, and Tim is going to take you to the grocery store for food."
"He can come Sunday for the day."
"You are going to clean up Sunday. Thats the deal. If you are going to have the party, then you have to have the responsibility of cleaning up."
"He can help."
"But, then we run into the same problem as before. Hes going to help clean up after a party he wasnt invited to? It will hurt his feelings."
"Ill just invite him, then. Or he can come next weekend."
"Brian, I know this means a lot to you. But coming here means a lot for Mike. You cant break your commitment to him." Bill had filled Matt in on some of the problems Mike was having, and now Matt was concerned for him. "Hes going to feel pretty uncomfortable at a party with a bunch of kids he doesnt know."
"He gets along with everybody. Hell fit in."
"Im not sure," Matt said skeptically. "Well have to think of a back-up if he doesnt feel comfortable."
They blamed the weather on El Nino. For much of 1993, the weather had been rainy and cool. It had caused floods in the Mississippi valley during the spring and summer. Several months had recorded record rains.
Tims cast had long been removed and he returned to work. But every time it rained, he felt pain in his arm that had been broken. His grandfather had always told him about a war injury that hurt when it was cool and damp. He could even tell Tim when it was about to rain. Tim had passed it off as an affectation, but now knew it was true.
That fall, the rain continued, mostly as drizzle. Some mornings had produced heavy fog. The leaves on the trees simply turned brown and fell off, instead of producing colors.
The Friday before Halloween it was drizzling again. Tim was supervising a remodeling job in a store at Lincoln Mall. He liked the job because he was indoors, and because it was close to home. He could be in Park Forest in ten minutes. He normally worked from seven to four, and he could be home for Brian. Some days he beat Brian home, since Brian was involved in so many extra-curricular activities. After-school supervision had concerned both Matt and Tim when Tim went back to work. They didnt want to leave Brian alone too long, even though they basically trusted him. There were too many temptations.
With Tims schedule, Brian would be home alone for less than an hour. Brian had strict instructions about the time. He could have no friends over nor could he go anywhere else, unless it was pre-approved by Matt. He was to keep phone time to a minimum so either Matt or Tim could call to check up on him, or Tim could call to let him know he was going to be late. If an emergency arose, Brian was supposed to call Leah, or simply go next door.
All through the day, Tim rubbed his hurting arm. Adam, who had replaced Ron in more ways than one, teased him about it.
"Youve been jacking off too much, thats why your arm hurts," he said to Tim.
Political correctness and sexual harassment were non-issues among the all-male construction crew.
Adam was Rons younger brother. He had the same way of joking with the other guys that Ron did. He looked uncannily like Ron, except younger and even better looking. When he was first hired, Tim felt a twinge of guilt whenever he looked at Adam. He felt guilty for two reasons: First, he still harbored guilt for allowing Ron to go upstairs to get the tools the day of the storm. Second, he was as attracted to Adam as he was to Ron. Intellectually, he knew that a simple attraction was OK, perhaps even inevitable. Tim was completely devoted to Matt, and doubted that he would ever act on the attraction. As the months passed, the feeling of guilt about the day of the storm faded, but the attraction never went away completely.
Traditionally, the crew went out for drinks after work on Friday. Tim declined this afternoon. His arm hurt, and he was tired. He planned on taking a prescription pain pill he had left over.
Brian wasnt home yet when he arrived. Unthinkingly, he washed down the large pill with a beer.
Tim was aware he was not alone in the bedroom. It was probably Matt. Someone sat on the end of the bed. Tim opened his eyes a tiny slit.
There was a glowing being seated on the corner of the bed!
It was Ron! He looked translucent, and Tim could see the furniture right through him. He gave off a faint glow.
A thrill of shivers ran down his spine. He bolted upright and rubbed his eyes. This couldnt be happening!
"Take it easy, stud," Ron said to him.
Tim could only stammer. "W-w-what...."
"Its me, Ron. You remember me, I hope."
Yeah," Tim managed to croak out.
"Just calm down. Im not going to hurt you. I just came back to talk. I think we have some unfinished business. Sit up."
Tim followed directions and swung his legs over the edge of his bed, but sat as far away from him as he could.
"Its OK, Im safe and happy," he explained to Tim. "Sometimes, we come back to finish stuff we didnt finish while we were alive."
"What does that have to do with me?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. When are you going to let yourself off the hook? First of all, it was my time. It was time for me to leave this world. Second, you know what a stubborn son of a bitch I can be. I would have gone upstairs whether you tried to stop me or not? Aint that so?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Tim, it has nothing to do with you. Its not your fault. Stop beating yourself up. I made the choice to go to the next world."
The spirit scooted a little closer to Tim, but Tim was still frightened.
"Let me tell you what were here for." Tim expected him to say something like grab it while you can, or take the money and run. "Were here to learn about love. Love is the highest power. Everything else is secondary. Everything you learn in school is crap, unless it leads you to love. I care about you. Thats why I wanted to come back and tell you. Believe me, it wasnt easy convincing Sky Chief!" He chuckled.
"Are you a ghost?"
"I guess you could call me that. Im a spirit. Im a soul without a physical body. But I still can motivate objects to move, if I choose." He pointed at a copy of Further Tales of the City on the nightstand, and it fell to the carpet with a thump.
"I knew you were in love with someone. I suspected it was a guy. Thats why I teased you about the ring. Ive been watching you and Matt. You are so perfect together. Ill tell you a secret. You two have been together in past lives."
"We have?" Tim was relaxing a little.
"Yup. So have you and I. But your destiny is with Matt in this lifetime. You have a lot to teach each other. Why dont you lay down again?"
Tim did so. He almost felt comfortable. Ron was radiating a feeling of complete love and acceptance. "And you have much to give Brian and the boys who are yet to come."
"What do you mean, the boys that are yet to come?"
"Just what I said. Theres going to be more. And you are going to play an active role in raising all of them. Just make sure you and Matt find time for each other."
Ron paused. Very slowly, he stretched out on the bed beside Tim. The sensation was that of someone actually stretching out on the mattress. Tim could sense the weight and pressure. "Theres one other issue we need to talk about."
"I have to start by saying that there is no gender or sex where I come from. Only love. But I have to tell you, when I was alive; I was attracted to you. I was bisexual and really wanted to tell you." The ghost touched Tims face and Tim could feel the love in the caress. "Im sorry we missed each other in this lifetime, but there will be others. Well be together eventually. Perhaps I will be a woman next time, or maybe you will, or maybe we both will." He chuckled.
"Before I go .."
"Youre leaving?" Tim interrupted.
"I cant stay here. But dont worry, Ill be watching over you, and Matt and Brian. And you can always talk to me. Ill listen. Also, dont forget to talk to the Big Guy once in a while. Give him thanks for what you have, because what you have is very special." The spirit paused. "Anyway, be careful of Adam. Hes got a big mouth. He is a young soul with a lot to learn yet."
"Do you feel better about the storm?"
"Much better, thanks."
The spirit moved closer. He smooched Tim on the lips, and Tim could actually feel the sensation! He wondered if it looked like a scene out of Ghost. Ron slipped a hand under his T-shirt.
"Mmm-mm-m. I always wanted to touch your chest." He moved his hand under his shirt. A lump appeared on his shirt where he felt the sensation of touch.
"Before I go," Ron repeated, "I wanted to give you something to remember me by." His hand slipped under Tims jeans. Ron pushed Tim onto his back and worked his hand underneath his shorts. Tims cock sprang to attention.
"I have dreamed about this." Tim sat up, but Ron pushed him down on the bed again with surprising force. "Relax and enjoy it." He unzipped his jeans and pulled out Tims erect cock.
"Mmm-mm-mm. A big one." In a single motion he too the whole thing in his mouth, then down his throat. Tim was getting head from a ghost! It felt real enough. It was a superior blowjob, in fact; just the right amount of pressure and motion. Within moments he was ready to cum.
The being swallowed every drop. Tim was still on his back. When he was finished, the ghost hovered about three inches over Tim. They were face to face. Ron looked even less distinct, as if someone had readjusted the focus on a camera and made the picture slightly blurry.
"I have to go, now. Thank you."
"Do you have to go?"
"Yes, my work here is done. You are loved here, Tim. Everything is working out the way it should. Remember that when youre finished here, I will be waiting for you on the other side, along with your Grandma Menard." He kissed Tim on the lips. "Be happy, Tim." He stroked Tims hair. "Go to sleep, now, Tim. When you wake up, you wont feel any guilt and you wont remember anything about my visit." Tims eyes drifted shut, and he fell asleep.
Ron kissed Tim once more on the forehead. And then he disappeared.
When he awoke, Matt was leaning over and kissing him. "Wake up, sleepyhead."
Tim felt groggy and disoriented. "What time is it?" Outside, it was already dark.
"Its almost six. Are you OK?"
"Yeah, my arm was hurting so I took a painkiller. I had the strangest dream.
"Want to tell me about it?"
"I cant remember it. Maybe I will later later. Right now, Im hungry."
"OK, hon, dinners ready." He kissed Tim again, then started to leave the room. He almost tripped over the copy of Further Tales of the City. He picked it up. "Were you reading before you fell asleep?"
"You must have knocked this off the nightstand." Matt caressed his face almost the same way Ron had done earlier. As Matt walked to the door, Tim called out to him softly."
He turned around in the doorway. "Yeah?"
"I love you."
"What brought that on?"
"Oh, I dont think I say it enough to you."
"And I dont say it enough to you, either. I love you, too, Tim." He sighed. "We have such a crazy schedule and having Brian doesnt make things any easier."
"Maybe we should set aside time just for us."
"Thats a good idea, babe." He turned to leave.
Tim slowly lifted himself out of bed, but was aware of a dampness in his crotch. He peered into his underwear, thinking he had somehow wet his pants. Instead, he saw cum.
Damn, he thought, I havent had a wet dream since I was thirteen.
"Hi, Matt," Debbie McIlvain said to Matt when he entered Trees cottage late Saturday morning. "Its good to see you. Never thought Id see you again."
"I never thought Id be in Trees again, to tell you the truth."
"Me neither," Brian added. "No offence, Debbie," he quickly added.
"None taken," Debbie replied. "Mike," she hollered down the hall, "Matt is here."
Both Brian and Matt were taken aback when Mike appeared. He looked so different! His thick glasses were gone. His hair had been cut in a style similar to Brians. He had grown about four inches since Brian had last seen him in mid-July. He had the faint shadow of a moustache on his upper lip. Through the magic of puberty, Mike had metamorphosed from a caterpillar into a butterfly.
"Thanks so much for letting me come over this weekend, Mr. Rosato," Mike said as they drove to Park Forest.
"Please call me Matt, and its my pleasure."
Brian sat in the front seat, but he turned his body so he could look at Mike. There was a lot to look at. Now, all of a sudden, Mike was interesting. Brian hated to admit to himself that looks were the basis for his relationship with Mike. But seeing a changed Mike, he changed his mind.
The weather was dreary, overcast, cool, and blustery with intermittent rain. It was a perfect day to prepare for a party. Leah came next door to lend a hand. She and Brian strung little pumpkin lights across the basement, and moved tables and chairs into the family room. Brians costume was all set he was going to be a priest, courtesy of Father Grimes.
"I dont have a costume," Mike said.
"Well, we can take care of that," Matt replied. "How about a vampire?"
"I have some black pants that would fit him," Brian said.
"Do you have a white T-shirt?" Matt asked him.
"I can make him a cape," Leah offered.
"You dont have to go to the trouble."
"It will only take me a little while. Come with me, Mike. Ill need you to measure the cape."
From the moment he walked into her home, he felt comfortable. Her home was pleasantly scented with potpourri and decorated in a country style. She served him with iced tea and a piece of cake, while she disappeared into the basement. She appeared again with an old Singer sewing machine and some black cotton and red rayon materials.
She asked him to stand up and she measured him with a tape measure. All the while she asked questions to gain an insight into his life. She was measuring him emotionally as she measured his shoulders. She spread the materials out on the dining room table and drew a trapezoid design. She pinned the seams together, and turned the material inside out.
Mike watched her hands as she sewed. She did so with years of practice. She told him that she had sewn a lot of clothes for her sons when they were young to save money. Leah was an expert at joining seams. Whether it was the seams of a garment or the torn pieces of a persons life, Leah could join both with tender care and precision.
"So, Mike, with a last name like Rosen, you might be Jewish," she said to him.
"My dad was."
"Do you know where he is?"
"Hes dead. My mom killed him. Thats why shes in prison. I hardly remember him now."
"What would you say to him if you met him now?"
"Id tell him how much I missed him. Id tell him about all the things Ive done. So he would be proud of me."
"You still can," she said quietly. "Its called praying."
"I dont know how. Nobody ever taught me."
"Theres nothing to teach. You just find a quiet place alone and do it. And dont forget to tell God how thankful you are for the things you do have."
"I dont have much to be thankful for," he said bitterly.
She stopped sewing and looked him directly in the eyes. "Of course you do. You have your life, you have your talents, and you have your intelligence. Those are gifts from God."
"But, the person I love doesnt love me back. And Im all alone, and Im in high school, and nobody will adopt me now."
"Dont be too sure about that. You may be wrong about both of them." She resumed sewing. "How would you like to come to Temple with me some Saturday?"
"Id like that. It would be interesting."
A half-hour before the party, Brian and Mike were in the upstairs bathroom. Brian was helping Mike apply gel to his hair. For some reason, they thought it was appropriate for a vampire to have gelled hair. Since Mike had never worn gel before, he requested Brians help.
Brian suspected it was a ploy to get close to him. Of course, it was.
They were both shirtless in front of the mirror.
"Turn toward me, so I can part your hair down the middle." Mike complied. "This looks cute, Mike. Maybe you should wear it like this all the time."
"It wont stay this way."
"You have to train it." Their eyes met. Brian noticed how much he had grown. When he masturbated Mike in front of the sink in the Nature Lodge at camp, he had been much shorter. Brian also noticed for the first time that his brown eyes had specks of green and gold in them.
"Your shoulders are getting some good definition," Brian said as he squeezed his right shoulder.
"Thanks, Ive been working out."
"On the Universal machine in the training room."
Their eyes met again. Mike moved his face closer to Brian. The question was in both their minds: Does he want to kiss me? Their faces moved closer and closer. Mike placed his hands lightly on Brians hips and urged him forward with his fingers.
From below, Matt shouted, "Brian, Jakes here."
The party was a success. Diane dressed as a Christmas tree; Allegra came as an army recruit. Pam dressed as a disco queen and Valerie came as Hillary Clinton. John appeared as Superman and Marcie was a cat. But the surprise was Jake who dressed as a Chicago cop.
"My cousin lent me some of his clothes," he bragged, proud that he could almost fit into them, and proud of his cousin. It was the beginning of Brians cop obsession.
The other kids had readily accepted Mike, and before long he was laughing and playing right along with them.
Matt and Tim cruised through the basement on a regular basis on what Matt termed "Nookie Patrol." Matt didnt need any upset parents calling demanding what kind of orgy he had allowed in his basement.
They danced, they played Twister and Truth or Dare, although they suspended the latter game whenever an adult appeared. Matt was friendly and cordial toward each kid, and complimented them on their costumes. He laughed and joked with them comfortably. It seemed Matt enjoyed their company as much as Brian did.
The party broke up promptly at ten, and Brian, Jake and Mike put away the remains of the pizza and the rest of the food. They promised Matt they would finish cleaning up in the morning.
Mike chose the top bunk, and promptly fell asleep.
Jake and Brian slept together in the bottom bunk, but in separate sleeping bags.
"It was an awesome party. I love your dad, man. He is so cool."
"He is. It was a good time."
"I wish my dad were so cool."
"Do you ever see him?"
"No, the fucking asshole," Jake said with more anger and resentment than Brian had ever seen him demonstrate. "And hes a fucking faggot."
Brian gulped. "Hes gay?"
"I mean, I dont care. I really dont. I just wish he would tell me the truth." Brian wondered if Jake was trying to tell him something. "I mean Im not .gay."
"I know," Brian said sadly. He almost said faggot again, Brian thought.
"I just want people to tell me the truth. Especially people I care about. Youre my best friend, Brian."
Brian snickered. "Best Friend, Male Division," he said, trying to change the subject. Jake was sending messages that Brian wasnt ready to address.
"Yeah," Jake said with a chuckle as he rolled over and faced the wall. "Im going to sleep."
"Me, too. Goodnight, Jake."
It would be another hour before Brian would fall asleep. He kept playing Jakes words over and over in his head, like a tape. Jake was trying to tell him something, but Brian just wasnt ready to deal with it. Brian had a vague idea he was fishing for information about his sexuality. Or perhaps he already knew, and he just wanted confirmation from Brian. Finally, he fell asleep.
In the morning, Jake woke up first. He climbed over Brian to use the bathroom. When he returned he whispered to Brian, "Mike is still asleep. We need to talk."