Jennings stood in the corner of the gym and watched as the boys began their stretching and warm-up exercises for Physical Education. His eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses and he chewed gum as if his life depended on it.
He stood with cool detachment, his arms folded over his chest. When Will, the student leader, had finished the routine, he glanced over at the teachers. The teachers used the time right before they dismissed the boys to their PE activities to make announcements.
A long, heavy moment passed.
Would he do it again today? Brian fretted. And if he did what reason would he give this time?
"Rosato, Wagner, Dabagles, Lawson!" Jennings bellowed. "Five laps around the gym before you go to your activity."
Brian knew better than to protest.
But Jake didnít. He wasnít usually included in Jenningsí additional "conditioning" exercises. "Awww! Mr. Jennings!"
"Whatís wrong, Wagner? Not enough for you? Make that ten laps for you slackers!"
"I hate that son of a bitch," Jake panted somewhere during their seventh lap.
His work completed for the period, Jennings went back to his tiny office in the corner of the locker room to check on the readiness of the videotape machines.
Brian had a specific order in which he completed his homework. He completed the assignments for the subjects he liked the least. That meant he started on his Algebra homework first. Then, he moved on to biology and American History; subjects he liked somewhat. Finally he tackled his English homework.
With the exception of any reading assignments, he sat at the desk in his room, with the radio tuned to B96, Chicagoís Top 40 station. Matt had often commented that he was certain the program director was trying to recreate the sound of a gay bar. After he was done with homework that involved writing, Brianís habit was to sprawl on his bed to complete his reading assignments.
Tonight, however before he finished his reading homework, he felt a need to write a note to Robb. Brian was a good writer and he knew it. He thought about calling Robb but if Robb was aloof and cautious in person, he was positively icy on the phone. Robb never called him and he never wrote back.
And so, Brian lived for brief stolen moments when he could be alone with Robb. He prayed for just a bit of validation; just a scrap of reciprocation. Robb never gave one. They had only kissed once at the dance at St. Irenaeus.
Brian struggled over his word selection as he composed his note to Robb. He tried to keep the tone of the note light, staying away from heavy topics like their relationship and focusing on Homecoming that weekend.
This is not turning out the way I expected, Brian thought. I thought it would be more romantic. He ignores me. Iím sure he disses me behind my back. Pam told me the other day he called me a little faggot.
Brian found he couldnít finish the note. Writing the note upset him because it forced him to face uncomfortable truths about his relationship with Robb. He doesnít really love me. Iíve tried to change but he still wonít respond.
Maybe Iíll talk to Dad, he thought. With that reasonable decision, he pulled out his paperback copy of Great Expectations, sprawled out on his bed and began to read. When he finished reading, he went downstairs to watch Beverly Hills 90210 and await Mattís arrival home from work.
The first thing Matt heard when he walked in the back door that night was The Divinyls warbling I Touch Myself. For about the thousandth time.
"I love myself
I don't want anybody else, when I think about you I touch myself"
"Hey, kiddo," Matt said to Brian, who was watching TV on the couch in the living room.
"Where is everybody?"
"Timís cleaning upstairs, Tommyís on the computer, Jakeís in his room."
"How many times in a row has he played this song?" The sexy and very suggestive song had been popular a couple years ago. Jake had picked up a cassette single from a clearance bin in a record store in Lincoln Mall. Like many adolescents, he had fixated on the tune and played it endlessly.
Brian rolled his eyes. "I lost track. Whatís in the bag?"
Before answering, Matt walked to the top of the basement stairs. "Jake!" He yelled.
The music suddenly quieted. "Yeah?"
"One word for you, buddy: Walkman."
With a smirk of triumph, Matt addressed Brian in a more civil tone. "This is Timís birthday present."
Brianís eyes sparkled. "What is it?"
"A cell phone. Itís what he wanted."
"Can I see it?"
"Let me get changed and weíll look at it together." As Matt passed by the couch Brian extended his hand. Matt took it and gave it an affectionate squeeze.
Matt laughed at Tim who had wrapped a red bandanna around his head as he dusted the master bedroom.
"Whatís so funny?"
"You," Matt spluttered, "You look like Aunt Jemima."
"I cooks and I cleans and what do I get?"
Matt wrapped his arms around him. "Iíll give you something!" He grabbed Timís cock through his jeans.
They embraced and kissed with passion.
"Are you working the late or early shift on Friday?" Tim asked.
"The guys from work are taking me out for drinks after work for my birthday. They wanted me to invite you, too."
"Where are you going to meet?"
"Jimmyís in Chicago Heights."
"That ought to be fun," Matt said dryly. "Just how I want to spend a Friday evening. Drinking Pabst and talking about football and babes at a breeder bar."
"If youíre going to be that way about it, Iíll go by myself," Tim said, the hurt audible in his voice.
Matt had the decency to feel chastened. He had dragged Tim to many events in their time together. He sighed. "Do you want me to meet you there or are you going to wait for me and we can go together?"
Tim grabbed him roughly but playfully. "I love you. Iíll wait for you to get home. I wanted to come home first and shower anyway. They all want to meet you."
Matt rolled his eyes. "Iíll just bet they do."
After he had changed into a T-shirt and the blue pair of shorts he always slept in, Matt sat beside his blond son on the living room couch with the Radio Shack bag in his lap.
"I got two phones, actually," Matt explained as he pulled them out of the bag. "They had a buy-one-get-one-free promotion. I bought them on my dinner break."
"Those phones are phat! I want one like that."
"You already have one," Matt reminded him. "And where is it, by the way? I havenít seen it recently."
"In my backpack. Who are you going to give the other one to?"
Matt grinned. "Me."
"I thought you hated cell phones."
"I do. But now that I have threeÖ.umÖ.young men Iím responsible for, itís a different story. I wouldnít want to have to carry a cell phone for work. It would be like an electronic umbilical cord to my job. And itís not like thereís that many emergencies in the book business." Matt imitated a crackling cell phone call. "íMatt? Weíre out of Dr. Suess books.í"
"Seriously, itís for you and your brothers to reach us. Iíll give you the numbers and you or your brothers can get a hold of us at anytime. And I want you to feel free to call about anything - anything at all." Matt sighed and stared blankly at the MASH rerun now on Channel 32. "I feel as if Iím missing so much because I have to work evenings."
"Missing out on what?" Brian asked quietly, although he already knew.
"Missing out on watching you guys grow up," Matt smiled wistfully at him.
Brian leaned on his father. Matt moved the cell phones from his lap to the coffee table and draped his arm around his son.
They were quiet for a time as they watched MASH. It was the episode where BJ and Hawkeye were trying to save a patient who needed an aortic graft. The only way they could get such a graft was from a recently deceased soldier. The entire episode featured a small clock in a lower corner of the screen. This was to remind viewers that they were racing against time.
During a commercial, Brian picked up one of the phones and began to play with it. Matt had gone to the kitchen when the phone rang.
"Hi, dad itís me!"
"Brian! Knock it off!" He hung up the kitchen extension. When he returned to the living room with a Mountain Dew for Brian and a Diet Pepsi for himself, Brian was laughing.
Matt smiled wryly and shook his head. "You are such a mess, boy."
"I donít know how you can drink that crap," Brian said, referring to Mattís Diet Pepsi.
"I donít know how you can drink that crap." Then he mumbled, "Carbonated horse piss."
Brian giggled. "I heard that."
"Itís about time for you to hit the sack. You have school tomorrow."
"Iím serious, young man."
Matt resumed his place on the couch.
"Dad, can I ask you a question?"
"How did you know you were in love with Tim?"
Matt smiled to himself. He had told the story to Brian several times. Matt suspected Brian had an ulterior motive in asking again and staying up later probably factored into it. He also suspected that the story was like a bedtime story. It offered comfort in itís predictability. Like a young child who wanted to hear the same story read over and over again, Brian wanted to hear the story of their romance.
So Matt told him the story of how they met and how they discovered their mutual attraction. Matt had initially held out because he felt he wasnít ready for another relationship. But Tim persisted and won Matt over.
Brian listened with rapt attention. They ignored the TV. The next program after MASH was a rerun of MarriedÖ.With Children, a show which neither of them liked. Matt picked up the remote and changed channels to The Late Show. David Letterman had just started his monologue.
Matt placed his arm around his sonís shoulders again. "So, whatís on your mind, son?"
"I donít think Robb likes me."
"Why do you think that?"
"He never calls me; I always call him. And when we do talk on the phone, it seems like he doesnít want to talk to me. He avoids me at school. I write him notes but he never answers them."
"Hmmm. Robb is a junior, right?"
"And he has his driverís license, right?"
"Yeah, he just got it."
"Thatís part of it right there. Two years is a big age difference."
"But Tim is ten years younger than you."
"Thatís true, but weíre adults. Two years is a big difference when youíre fourteen and sixteen. Plus, Rob is still pretty deep in the closet. You have to take that into consideration. Maybe heís not ready to come out. Think about why you want him to come out. Is it really in his best interest, or do you want him to come out so you have an ally at school?"
"I guess I want him to come out becauseÖ." Brian was at a loss for words. He didnít know why he wanted Robb to come out.
Matt pulled him closer. "Remember when you first came here and we made up the rule that you could tell anyone else about your sexuality but you couldnít talk about someone elseís? Thatís kinda whatís going on here. If Robb shows interest in you, heís out. Itís an admission that heís gay. Do you understand?"
Deep in thought, Brian frowned. "Yeah, I guess." After a pause, Brian asked, "You donít like him, do you?"
Brianís perceptive comment caused Matt to raise his eyebrow. He chose his next words carefully. "How I feel about him is of no importance. As long as heís not abusing you, forcing you to do things youíre not ready to do or introducing you to drugs or alcohol, it really doesnít matter to me one way or another."
"You mean you donít care?"
"Of course I care! That was a poor choice of words." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a second. "There are some things you have to find out for yourself. I canít tell you who to love. Youíd resent it if I did. You donít really want your old dad to choose your boyfriends for you, do you?"
"You have to find out some things for yourself. What you want in a boyfriend and what you want from a relationship. I canít tell you these things. Itís my impression, though, that Robb is not nearly as secure about his sexuality as you are. That can cause a lot of problems." Matt sipped his Diet Pepsi.
"Seriously, what do you think of Robb?"
Matt shook his head ruefully. "Brian, I donít want you to break up with him on the basis of my opinion. Go with your feelings. How do you feel anyway?"
"Like I want someone to care about me - in a romantic way. Like the way you and Tim care for each other."
"Do you think Robb can be that person?"
"He could be. If he changes."
Matt playfully tweaked his nose. "Son, never, ever go into a relationship hoping youíll change the other person into what you want them to be. Itíll never work out." Matt paused again. "I think, too, that itís a relationship of convenience. What I mean is that you chose him because heís one of the few gay kids at Rich East. Thatís not exactly a solid foundation for a relationship either."
They were quiet for a long moment. Prints hopped up on the couch, crossed their laps with his tail straight in the air and settled in a ball on the cushion next to Brianís thigh. Brian absentmindedly stroked his fur.
"He almost looks like heís smiling, doesnít he?" Brian said.
"Yes, son, he does." A thought occurred to Matt. He debated the wisdom of voicing his thoughts to the young man but ultimately decided he should. "You know, Brian, I love you as my son. But I also like you as a person. Youíre my friend, Brian."
"Oh!" Brian hugged his father tightly and blinked back tears. "Thatís the nicest thing anyoneís said to me today - this week - this year! Youíre my friend, too."
"And Iím honest with my friends. I would tell them if their fly was open or if they had bad breath or if they had a booger hanging from their nose."
Brian laughed as he placed his large hands on Mattís shoulders and looked directly into the manís brown eyes. "SoÖwhat are you trying to say here?"
"Come on. Itís something about Robb, isnít it?"
Matt looked directly into his sonís blue eyes. "You can do a lot better than Robb."
Thursday was also rainy, damp and chilly. Matt spent the day doing chores while the boys were at school and Tim was at work. He planned on picking the boys up from school and taking them to Burlington Coat Factory for outfits for the Homecoming Dance.
Matt was relaxing on the couch for a moment when the phone rang.
"Oh! Youíre home!" The male voice on the other end of the line said.
"No, Iím not home. This is the bathtub answering."
Bill laughed. "I wasnít expecting you to answer."
"So whatís up?" Matt knew Bill seldom called without an agenda.
"Just checking in. Howíre things going?"
He wants something, Matt thought. "Good," Matt began. He plunged into the boysí activities, including Homecoming. He outlined how his job was going.
Bill asked a few questions, but then just listened to Matt continue.
After a time, Matt stopped. The best way is just to come out and ask him. "Whatís on your mind, Bill?"
Matt heard him inhale before answering. "I have a young man here Iíd like you to meet. Now, before you say no, let me say that I wouldnít place him with you if I didnít think you could handle him."
"Why donít I like the sound of that?"
"Matt, this boy has special needs. He could benefit from the love you and Tim can give him."
"Bill, weíre bursting at the seams already. Heíd have to share a room. I donít think Iím ready for another one. And besidesÖ."
"Matt," Bill interrupted in an even tone, "calm down, please. I just want you to meet him. Are you free Friday night? Thatís when the next Prospective Adoptive Parents mixer is."
"Not a chance. Brian and Jake are going to Homecoming this weekend and Timís birthday is Monday. This weekend is going to be insane around here."
"We could set up another meeting."
Matt sighed. "Bill, let me talk to Tim about it before we set up anything, OK? I really need to talk to him first. By the way, whatís his name?"
"Think the boys will be all right?" Tim asked as they drove to Jimmyís, a bar in Chicago Heights.
"They had better be. My mom volunteered to come over to watch them, but I told her the boys needed another chance."
"Jake said that they had wanted to invite some friends over."
"And I told him no. Theyíre going to see all their friends tomorrow at the dance and some of the boys are spending the night tomorrow. I donít mind that their friends hang at our house all the time. I like most of their friends. ExceptÖ" Matt cut himself off.
"Never mind," Matt grinned in the dark.
"Tell you the truth, I donít like Robb either. Such an arrogant little son-of-a-bitch."
"Where are they taking the girls for dinner?"
"Oooh! Very classy," Tim said as they passed St. James Hospital. "I set up an appointment to see a couple houses on Sunday. We do want four bedrooms, right?"
"Definitely. And at least two baths."
They were silent for a few blocks. Tim chewed on his lower lip in concentration. He was trying to think of a way to approach his next subject. "Too bad we canít go to the mixer at St. Lukeís this weekend."
"This weekend is insane, you know that. Weíre going to be playing taxi driver most of the weekend. And Iím going to need your help. The kids are planning on meeting at our house and then one of us will need to drive them to the Tivoli and then pick them up again and drive them to the school for the dance. By the way, I promised Tommy weíd take him to see The Lion King. Heís feeling quite left out this weekend."
Tim was silent for several blocks. Matt wondered if Tim had heard him. When they stopped at a traffic light at the corner of Route 30 and Dixie Highway, Tim said quietly, "Iíd like to meet him, Matt."
Matt regarded him in the darkened vehicle. "OKÖ.then, what?"
"He needs us, Matt. I donít want to sound mystical, but I can feel it."
Matt knew his partner was seldom given to professing feelings of a metaphysical nature. That was Mattís department. "Letís meet him, first. Then we can decide, OK? Bill hasnít even given us his full history, and I have a feeling from what he said on the phone that heís holding something back. I also get the impression that Dennis is not going to be a picnic."
"Still, Iíd like to try. I have my foster license. Iíll take primary responsibility for him."
"Weíre in this together, remember?"
"Matt! Will you just listen to me for a sec!" Matt folded his arms over his chest. "I want a son, too. I want a boy to carry on my name. You arenít the only one with paternal feelings, ya know."
Tim reached over and took Mattís hand in the darkened Jeep. "I love you, Matt and I love our sons. I never knew I had fatherly feelings until I saw you and Brian together. I never knew a gay man could be a parent, and a damn good one, until I met you. Everything I know about parenting I learned from you."
"Youíre really piling it on thick, bucko."
"Iím serious, Matt."
"Tim, weíre not collecting boys and we sure as hell arenít opening a queer version of Boyís Town. We have to draw the line somewhere."
"You told me once that love is limitless. You said that the more you give away, the more you have to give."
Matt understood what Tim was trying to say. He recalled a night more than two years ago when Bill had asked him if he had ever considered being a father. The longing and desire were written in his heart.
Matt nodded. "OK, Tim. Weíll meet him."
"Thank you," Tim leaned over for a kiss. Matt obliged him a quick smooch at the next light.
Matt added a proviso. "But, weíre just going to meet him. Bill said he has a lot of issues. We can start visitations, if he agrees. But if heís too much for us to handle, weíre going to pass on him."
Tim nodded. "Agreed."
By this time, they had reached downtown Chicago Heights, or what was left of it. Once a bustling commercial and government area on Halstead Street, it now resembled downtown Beirut, with large, weed-choked empty lots and an occasional dilapidated building. Until the late 60ís it had served Chicago Heights and the surrounding suburbs with a JC Penney and Carsonís department stores, a Walgreens, and an assortment of specialty stores. Two ornate movie palaces provided entertainment. It all had been abandoned when the retailers moved to enclosed malls and the steel processing plants that had provided fat paychecks closed or moved away.
Tim had no problems finding a parking space near the bar. Jimmyís had been in business since 1934, the year after Prohibition was repealed. Recently the current owner, Jimmyís son John, had renovated it into a sports bar. As one of the last remaining taverns in downtown Chicago Heights, it did a brisk business.
He turned to Matt and puckered his lips. "Did I tell you how much I love you today?"
Matt kissed him quickly. "Nope."
"Well, I do." Tim turned off the CD player in the Jeep and switched off the headlights. "And donít drop too many hairpins." His dimples appeared in the gloom.
The light from a neon Budweiser sign glinted off the wet sidewalk in front of the bar. "Itís been so long since Iíve been in a straight bar."
Matt exited the vehicle and shut the door. "Damn!" He slapped his forehead.
"What? Whatís wrong?"
"I forgot my purse!"
"Youíre going to die for that, bitch!"
They were both laughing as Matt held the door open for his lover. The sour smell of beer assaulted their nostrils.
The interior of Jimmyís was dark. The walls were painted brown and covered with sports memorabilia, group photos of the sports teams they sponsored, old license plates and metal advertising signs. A huge projection TV in the corner was tuned to ESPN, although the sound was muted. Toward the back of the bar, patrons hovered over two pool tables. Loud music blared.
Several male voices sounded at the same time; "Tim! Over here!" It was almost like Norm entering Cheers.
Immediately, Timís coworkers surrounded him like a human life preserver. They draped their arms around his neck, shook his hand and delivered hearty, affectionate pats on his back. A couple even hugged him, although the hugs were of the football variety. Many thrust cards and small gifts into his hands.
Matt stood awkwardly off to one side but grinned widely. It was touching to see how much affection the burly men had for his lover. They obviously held Tim in great esteem. Matt found himself looking over the burly, masculine men who had surrounded Tim. A few of the men had brought their wives or girlfriends. Two of the women looked matronly in a suburban sort of way. Another had bleach blond hair and Matt mentally categorized her as a barfly. Overall, though, it seemed obvious to him that this was a boyís night out.
Matt recognized Adam, Ronís brother. Ron and Tim had been working on the same construction site in Frankfort where Ron was killed by a tornado. He recognized the faces of a few other coworkers but didnít know their names.
Patrick elbowed his way through the throng and embraced his youngest son tightly. He released Tim after a few hearty pats on the back and turned his attention to Matt.
When Patrick wrapped his arms around Matt, he could smell beer on his breath. Patrickís hug was a rib-crusher. "How ya doiní, Matt?"
Matt grunted at the tight bear hug. "Good, Patrick," Matt wriggled free. "Whereís Tony?"
Matt saw a flash of emotion pass through Patrickís eyes. Was it anger? Hurt? A combination of the two? "He didnít want to come tonight." Matt thought it best not to pursue the question.
With an arm around Mattís shoulders, Patrick steered him toward the knot of men surrounding Tim.
Tim turned, smiled and handed him a bottle of Budweiser. It wasnít Mattís first choice of beers, but he knew that someone else had paid for the drink. Somewhat of an adventurer when it came to beer, he liked to try different brews. If all else failed, he would settle for a Miller.
"Matt, this is Adam. Heís Ronís brother." Matt shook the handsome manís hand, reminding himself to return the firm handclasp in kind.
Tim directed his attention to another man, short with a receding hairline. "This is Rich." Next was a tall, lanky man with droopy brown eyes and a scruffy goatee. "This is Eric." Then came a very powerfully built man with huge arms and shoulders. Ericís black hair was buzzed close to his scalp and his brown eyes sparkled. Matt privately thought his little button nose was cute.
Matt felt as if all the guys were assessing him, trying to decide if he was good enough for Tim. On the surface they were smiling and friendly, but each one seemed to regard him with a critical eye. At least, thatís the way it appeared to Matt.
As he finished his first beer, Matt began to relax a little. Tim continued to introduce him to a few more coworkers and their girlfriends. Matt wondered how he was going to remember all their names. Tim was still engulfed by his coworkers. After the introductions, they unwittingly excluded Matt.
He found a stool somewhat beyond the crowd and in a very short time, he was bored. There wasnít mush else to do but listen to the conversational winds flowing around him.
"I donít know what the Bulls will do without Michael Jordan. Heís the whole team."
"Iím jonesing without the World Series. Shit! If there hadnít been a baseball strike, we might be watching the World Series right now! Itís those fucking greedy players that caused the baseball strike this year."
"The other day I tried to enter my password on the microwave."
"Thatís nothiní. We got like 15 phone numbers. A separate line for the computer, and another one for the kids. Plus all the cell phone numbers."
Matt smiled to himself. He felt a bit out of place like a Mormon in a Starbucks. He felt as popular as Fatherís Day in East St. Louis.
The jukebox played an assortment of music mostly, to Mattís ears at least, for the straight patrons. He recognized Old Time Rock Ďní Roll by Bob Seager, And We Danced by the Hooters and Letís Go by The Cars. Music to land a babe with, Matt thought.
"Címon Tim! Shot time!" The bartender produced a bottle of Jack Daniels with a spout and began to fill a tray full of shot glasses. Tim grabbed a full one, reached across the bar and handed it to Matt. Matt grimaced as he took the proffered shot. Tim nodded his head subtly but firmly. Matt understood the drink was not to be refused.
Since Tim was paying more attention toward his coworkers, Matt set the shot glass on the bar in front of him. He began comparing and contrasting a straight bar with a gay bar. In a straight bar, men didnít wear outlandish or suggestive clothes. Women were the targets of their attention. Even so, all of Timís coworkers had taken pains to clean up and look nice. And, Matt admitted to himself, many had cleaned up real good. Still, none of the men wore skin-tight jeans or mesh shirts in loud neon colors. The music was different. It was still loud but it was not intended for dancing. Straight guys didnít drink blue-colored drinks nor did they down cartoon-colored shots. Both types of bars were just places for elaborate mating rituals. But at least gay bars were moreÖcolorful.
Matt was bored. And to make matters worse, he was feeling a little resentful of Tim. He had to keep reminding himself that it was Timís birthday and this is the way he wanted to spend it. Still, after his initial introduction to the other construction workers, he was virtually ignored.
Matt drained his beer. The moment he set the empty bottle on the counter, the bartender replaced it with another.
"Compliments of Brendan," he said with a backward gesture of his head. Mattís eyes followed the gesture to a handsome man across the bar who was smiling widely and holding up a beer bottle as if to toast him. He had dishwater blond hair buzzed close to his scalp.
Matt immediately began searching his memory banks. Do I know him? Should I remember him? It frustrated him that he couldnít and didnít.
The blond man rounded the bar with his beer in hand. "Hi. Iím Brendan Danaher. You must be Matt."
He had incredible eye contact and he held Mattís hand just a little longer than socially acceptable. "I must be."
"I work with Tim."
Matt smiled and nodded, not quite sure what to say.
"Arenít you going to do your shot?"
"Me and brown liquors donít get along. Besides, Iím driving."
"Awww! Come on! Donít be a wuss!" He slapped Matt on the back. "Down the hatch!"
A defeated smile flared across Mattís lips. He picked up the shot glass, put it to his lips and downed the drink. It burned all the way down and caused him to cough. Brendan laughed and slapped Matt on the back.
Just then, I Touch Myself played on the jukebox. Matt chuckled.
"Whatís so funny?" Brendan asked.
"This song. One of my sons plays it endlessly."
One of the women, Dee, approached. She smiled at him widely. "You have sons?" She asked with genuine curiosity.
Matt smiled and reached for his wallet. "Well, two are adopted, one is a foster son." From his wallet, he produced pictures of Brian, Jake and Tommy.
The other two women gathered around. "Ooh!" "Theyíre adorable!"
Matt smiled with pride. It reminded him of the scene in Terms of Endearment where Emma passes around pictures of her children at lunch in New York.
"You adopted them as a single man?" Dee asked, flipping her long curly hair out of her eyes.
Matt smiled and nodded. "Yup."
"Youíre a brave man, especially to adopt teenagers."
Just then the group of men surrounding Tim began to chant, "TimÖTimÖTim!" They clapped and cheered as Tim downed another shot.
Matt rolled his eyes.
Brendan tossed an arm around Mattís shoulders. "One of the pool tables is free. Wanna shoot a game?"
"Want something to drink?"
"Just club soda with a twist."
"Wuss!" But he smiled and winked at Matt.
Matt inserted quarters into the table and the balls fell from the table with a clacking thunder. He watched Tim across the room. He was laughing boisterously. He was riding the express train to Inebriated.
Brendan returned with two drinks and handed Matt his drink with a smile that was dangerously close to a leer. Under the low-hanging Budweiser light fixture over the pool table, Matt got a better look at Timís co-worker. Matt judged him to be about Timís age or perhaps a year or two younger. He was wearing a very snug navy blue polo shirt over Tommy Hilfiger jeans. He was even more muscular than Tim. The little V of his open polo shirt revealed a hairless chest. He had round, friendly blue eyes and his blond hair was buzzed close to his scalp. Brendan was a few inches shorter than Matt yet he had a deep, sexy voice. He had a very cute dimple in the middle of his chin. Matt could smell his Obsession for Men cologne. Pretty gay cologne for a straight man, Matt found himself thinking.
Matt concluded he was a very sexy young man.
Matt watched the play of muscles under his shirt as Brendan racked up the balls with the triangle. Matt selected a cue.
"You can break," Brendan said with a smile.
Matt did, and the 4 ball skittered into a corner pocket. "Looks like Iím solids."
As Matt leaned over the table to line up his next shot, the 12 ball into a side pocket, Brendan grabbed himself through his jeans.
Matt almost missed the shot. Did he really do that or did I just imagine it?
Matt leaned over the table again to align the 6 ball into a corner pocket. His eyes flicked ever so quickly to Brendanís crotch. Brendan did it again.
This time Matt missed the shot. "Good job," Brendan complimented, even though Matt was a less-than-adequate player.
As Brendan prepared his first shot, Matt watched Tim down yet another shot.
"Shit," Brendan muttered. Mattís attention returned to the table just in time to see the 7 ball stop short of a corner pocket.
Matt considered all the angles and finally decided on a shot to put the 10 ball in a corner. He hit the cue ball just a little too roughly. Not only did it put the 10 ball neatly into the corner pocket, it also smacked the 14 ball in as well.
"Great shot!" Brendan placed his hand on the back of Mattís neck and gave it a friendly squeeze. Matt shivered involuntarily.
Brendan grabbed himself again. Is he doing it on purpose? Is he trying to distract me? Is he trying to tell me something? Does he have a bad case of jock itch? What the fuck?
As the game progressed, Matt casually questioned his opponent. He discovered that Brendan had grown up in Tinley Park, he was single and he lived with three roommates in an apartment not far from Patrick. He spoke very highly of Tim and seemed to be close to Tim. Matt wondered why Tim had never mentioned Brendan before.
Brendan answered all of Mattís questions directly and honestly except for one: "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Why?" His eyes were shining with mischief.
"Oh, just curious."
Brendan dispatched three balls in a row and caught up to Matt. They had only the 8 ball to pocket.
With an easy flourish, Brendan sank the 8 ball into the corner pocket. "Wanna play another game?"
Matt had the distinct feeling that Brendan did want to play another game, and it involved sticks and balls, but the game Brendan had in mind was not pool.
"Uh oh!" Matt heard from across the room.
He saw Tim jump up from his seat and dash toward the bathroom at the back of the bar. Immediately Matt shifted into husband mode and followed Tim to the bathroom.
Brendan followed them.
The rest room was located at the end of a dimly lit hallway. Somehow on the way to the bathroom, Brendan got ahead of Matt.
Over Brendanís shoulder, Matt saw Tim burst his way into the restroom. Brendan blocked his path and turned to face Matt.
"Excuse me, Brendan," Matt tried to get around the younger man.
"I saw you looking," Brendan whispered.
"I donít know what youíre talking about. Excuse me, I want to see if Timís all right."
"Oh, heíll be OK."
Brendan lowered his voice. "Timís a lucky guy."
Matt began to lose his patience. "Get out of the way, Brendan."
Brendan licked his lips. "Handsome man like you. I play both teams, Matt. I do stripes or solids, if you know what I mean."
"I think I get the general idea. But Iím not interested right now."
"Not interested? Damn shame. You donít know what I could do for you." He grabbed Mattís cock through his jeans. Matt was beginning to get an erection, and he was angry with his body for betraying him.
Matt brusquely pushed his hand away.
But Brendan would not be deterred. His voice was low and sexy. "We could have a little fun right now. Címon, stud. No one will ever know."
"No, Brendan." Matt could hear Tim retching in the restroom. Matt finally made his way around him.
In the restroom, Tim knelt in front of a commode. His eyes were glazed and his face pale. A dribble of vomit lingered at the corner of his mouth. Brendan moved into the small room with his back against the door. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched Matt attend to Tim.
Matt tore off a long piece of the rough, brown paper towel and dampened it with cool water. He flushed the toilet.
"OK, sweetie," Matt knelt behind Tim as well as the tiny stall would allow. He spoke gently to Tim, not caring that Brendan could hear his endearment. He wiped his face and held the paper towel on the back of his neck.
"Iím sorry," Tim managed to mumble.
"Itís OK, babe." He helped Tim to his feet. "Letís get you to a chair."
Brendan also helped Tim off the floor. They half-carried his limp body to an empty chair at the back of the bar near the hallway that lead to the restrooms. Tim looked a bit green. He flopped into the chair and his head drooped forward onto his chest.
The screaming sexual tension between Matt and Brendan quieted a bit. Timís presence had a lot to do with that. But also, Brendan was helping him take care of Tim. It gave them a common goal and distracted Brendan.
But Matt was about to discover that Brendan was not so easily distracted.
Tim moaned, crossed his arms and put his head down on the table in front of him.
Brendan took Matt by the elbow and led him away from the table, not far from the large screen TV.
Brendanís voice was breathy and husky with need. "You could put Tim in your car and we could have some fun," he suggested with a grin. "Heíd never know the difference."
"BrendanÖ.." Matt was attracted, that was the problem. And he was tempted. It was extremely flattering for someone as virile and handsome as Brendan pay attention to him.
"Come on, Matt. I know you want it. Just think about it."
Matt bit his lower lip. In fact, he was thinking about it.
From across the bar, Patrick mutely observed Matt and Brendan silhouetted by the big screen TV as they talked.