We stayed at Ken's until about nine, when I said we had to go. Jim apologized for embarrassing me, and I told him I wasn't embarrassed, just flattered.
Barry pulled us aside and held out a key in each hand. "These are for you guys. I gave two to Brian and Rafe earlier. I was gonna make up some rules, but I think you kids already know them. Just respect my privacy and my things. Respect each other, too. If you do that everything will work out fine. Promise?"
We promised in unison, then took turns giving Barry hugs. "When can we go there?" I asked.
"It doesn't really matter. If it's late at night make sure you don't bother the neighbors. If you want privacy, you're gonna have to work things out with Brian and Rafe. Oh, yeah. Bring your own food and drinks. I don't have a bottomless refrigerator like some people I know." He smiled at us. We said thank you again, then goodbye.
When we got outside, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. Tim and I got in his car and left, but he stopped at the bottom of the driveway and reached his hand over to mine, then pulled me into a kiss.
He sat back after a few minutes, looking at my face. "Davy, I love you. I don't know the words to say how much, so I just love you, okay? You keep tellin' everybody that I'm the best person, but it's not me. It's you, Dave! You're the best, and I'm not tryin' to compare. I care about you, but you care about everybody. I didn't know Butch, either, but you had all those guys thinkin' you're a saint or somethin'." He grinned. "I guess even saints can be queer, huh? Wanna kiss me or somethin'?"
"How about 'or somethin'?"
A '68 Camaro isn't the best place to make love in, but it did just fine that night because we just hugged and kissed. We got jolted back to reality by the honk of a horn, then watched Jim's New York plate disappear down the road.
I took Tim's hand and looked at his watch. It was ten past ten. "Shit! Fire up this puppy, Timmy! I'm late, and I promised I'd be home on time. I don't wanna get off on the wrong foot."
Tim started the car and drove towards my house as fast as he dared, given the wet roads. It took ten minutes, and my mother didn't even look at the clock when we walked in. Everybody was watching television, and we went to sit down with them. My mother looked at us and said she wanted to talk in the kitchen. We followed her in there and sat down, then she asked if we wanted anything, but we both declined. I thought we were going to get yelled at for being twenty minutes late, but as soon as my mother sat down, tears formed in her eyes.
"I want you both to know that I'm very proud of you. Arthur told me some of the things you said to him. You both have every reason to hate that man, but you've accepted him as your brother. I don't know if you appreciate exactly how much that means to him right now. He's really still a child in a lot of ways, and you two have helped him more in one afternoon than he's gotten before in his entire life. I want to hear your opinions, but I believe there's a kind, loving person inside Arthur, and it's been literally screaming to be let out for a lot of years."
She picked up a napkin and wiped her eyes. "David, I was going to start seeing Mary for a while. I think I'll send Artie to see her instead. I thought I needed a bit of help accepting your love for Tim, but I don't need any help. I can see it for what it is. You have grown up in so many ways. You certainly don't need your doddering old mother even thinking about your love life."
She looked over at Tim. "Timmy, I know you're the reason that I still have David. There is no way I can ever thank you enough for that, but I'll try. I can see the love you have for each other. I can feel it. Tonight I understand it."
Tim and I looked at each other, then back at my mother. Her lip was quivering a little. "Timmy, I want you to have David. Let your love develop, and have a wonderful life together." She looked down for a second, then at me. "David, your sexuality is not what I expected, but it means nothing. You have turned out to be a wonderful, caring, understanding person. I think I love you more right now than I ever thought I could, and I've always loved you. You make me proud, proud, to be your mother."
We were all silent for a few seconds. "Ma? Do you think Dad..."
She smiled again. "You little stinker! I just knew you were going to ask that. David, I really don't have an answer. Your father never mentioned the subject to me, but he was a loving man. Whether he agreed with your love for Tim or not, you would have always been the apple of his eye. His love for you was boundless ... endless. He was so proud when you were born! He loved your sisters just as much, but now he had a son! I think Latin men have a need for that, and you fulfilled it in ways you'll never know. You were so bright and happy all the time ... you made his life complete, David. Your father's love for you will never end."
I started crying, really hard. I managed to sob out, "I miss him so much, Ma. Sometimes I can't stand it."
My eyes weren't functioning as anything but faucets right then, but my ears were working fine. I heard my mother say softly, "It's your job now, Timmy."
The next thing I knew, Tim pulled me over and sat me on his lap, then began comforting me. I hadn't actually cried over my lost father since right after he died, but I was making up for lost time. Every time I thought I could stop, another memory would enter my head and set me off again. Tim was shushing me, but I still couldn't stop crying. I curled up and hung onto him, hearing my mother's voice say something, then the door opened and closed. Timmy cuddled me for a long time, wiping my face with his fingers and kissing my hair, until I finally started to settle down.
I got up and went to the sink to rinse my face off, then dried myself with a paper towel. I looked at Tim, and there was only concern on his face. "Thanks, Timmy. I'm sorry ... I never got like that before."
"I did ... lots of times. I know how rotten you feel. You okay now?"
"You're still here aren't you?"
"When you're here, I'm fine. Let's go say good night to our brother."
Tim looked at me, then smiled, and it turned into a grin. "Brother Arthur?"
"Yeah! You got it!"
"Does that make you Brother Dave and me Brother Tim? Everybody's gonna think we're monks or something."
I laughed. "We should get robes, huh? We could hang around the train station and hand out pamphlets. You stayin' tonight?"
"You heard what Ma said. Call your mother. We could at least sleep in the same bed."
Tim smiled softly. "I like sleeping with you. It's ... different than sleeping alone. I'll call, but she probably won't let me stay over. I stayed with you last night."
"Geez, that was just last night? What a day, huh?"
"That's for sure. If you told me yesterday that I'd be calling Artie Loomis my brother I would'a thought you were nuts. Now, I don't know. I really do like the guy. I feel for him too. I thought my life stunk, but his was so bad it wouldn't even make a decent bad movie." Tim looked right at me. "You're serious, right? We're really gonna help Artie?"
"Yeah. I want to anyhow, if we can. You heard Ma. She's gonna bring him to see Mary. You an' me can just be nice guys, Mary can help him. Call your mother, okay?" I put my hands together in a prayer position in front of my face, and Timmy laughed. We left the kitchen so he could use the phone. The lights were out, but I could see Artie laying on the couch. I walked over and whispered, "You asleep, Artie?"
"I don't know. Is this just a dream? It's so real! Man, I could taste the cake and the meatloaf, hear people saying they cared about me, feel Timmy hugging me." His eyes jerked open, and he looked at me. "Is it real, Dave? Is it?" Tears started coming from his eyes. "Oh, please, tell me I'm not dreaming this time. I want it to be real."
He sobbed once and I took hold of his hand. "It's real, Artie. At least I think it is. We could be sharin' a dream I guess, but who the hell could think up this shit? You're okay now. It's gonna be fine. We're all together now, and it's gonna be just fine. I shouldn't say this without askin', but Tim'll share his Dad with ya just like he does with me. We all got Ma!"
I put my other hand on Artie's chest. "It's gonna be okay, Artie. I just know it is."
Tim came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. "I can't stay, man. Sorry. Bye, Artie. I'll pick you up tomorrow."
Artie sat up and held his hand out to Timmy. They shook, and Artie said, "I love you, Tim. You're a good brother."
Timmy looked at me, then at Artie. "I'll try to be, Artie. See ya tomorrow."
I walked down the stairs with Tim, and we kissed in the dark entryway. I could barely see him, but I knew exactly what I was looking at. "Bye, Tim. You're the most beautiful person on earth."
"No I'm not, you are. I get to decide because I own you now."
"Jeez! Maybe you are gettin' dumb. Not an hour ago your mother gave you to me to keep. You're mine!"
"You forgot one thing."
"Yeah, Tim! She didn't give ya the keys yet!"
He backed out the door grinning. "I have my own key, Dave. There'll never be a spare, so you better take good care of it!" He turned to go to his car, snickering all the way.
I climbed back up the stairs thinking about Tim. Best person, best looking person, nicest person, smartest person, best eyes, best lips, best fingers ... wait! ...worst toenails. I had to humor myself somehow.
I said goodnight to Artie and went to my room. I got undressed and set the alarm clock for six, then got into bed, falling asleep immediately.
I must have slept soundly, because it seemed like the alarm went off just seconds later. I thought I must have goofed up setting it, but when I opened my eyes I could see that it was indeed morning. I groaned and climbed out of bed, grabbed my bathrobe, and headed down the hall for a shower.
When I was done in the bathroom, I went to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee and see what there was to eat. I almost grabbed some bacon, but there was meatloaf left, so I fried up some of that with three eggs, making a sort of hash. I had just taken the first delicious bite when Artie came into the room. "Mmmm ... what smells so good?"
"Meatloaf and eggs. You want some?"
"I'll make my own - just tell me what you used."
I told him, and in a few minutes he was sitting across the table from me. He hadn't showered or anything yet, and he looked almost comical. His hair was sticking out all over the place, and he had a pretty heavy growth of whiskers. He was enjoying himself, though, smiling at me between bites.
"You look pretty happy. Got a hot date?"
He just grinned. "Yeah, I have a date with Timmy. It's nothing special, though. He's taking me home to get some food, then he's going to help me make dinner."
"Does he know that last bit? If he does help, you better hide the salt shaker. What're we havin', anyway?"
"I don't know yet. I'll have to see what's there. Can I ask you something?" His expression had become serious.
"Do you really think you can like me?"
He had a pleading look in his eyes. "I always did like ya, Artie, I just got mad is all. Timmy likes you, too. Do you really think you'd be sittin' here if we didn't?"
"You know what's nice?"
"Eating breakfast with you again. When you stayed at my place last year, that was the thing I liked best. I couldn't tell you anything then, and I wanted to so bad, but just having you there to eat with was ... it was wonderful. I always ate with your pictures before that. I made believe you could talk, I even talked for you, but it was just wishful thinking."
Artie was really making me feel bad for him again. "Cheer up, Artie! You're here now, and it's all real. Give us a day or two ... you'll be wishin' we were pictures again."
He stared at me for a moment, then just burst out laughing. I'd heard him laugh a little before, but never at something that really struck him funny. His laugh wasn't in a league with Tim's, but it made me start laughing with him just the same.
He had tears coming from his eyes when he could finally speak. "That day won't come, Dave. It'll never happen. You know, I never laughed like that before in my life. I didn't know you were so funny! Does Timmy really like me too?"
"Yeah, Artie. Timmy likes you a lot. He called you his brother, didn't he? I don't think he even likes his own brother very much. Your food's gonna get cold if you don't eat it!"
He looked at his plate, then at me. "I don't care. I can put it back in the pan after. I'm just loving this right now. I can see why you feel like you do about Tim. You are the two nicest guys I ever met."
I just looked across the table at him. "Thanks, Artie. Just don't expect nice out of us all the time. There's days when we just wanna kick ass, and you don't wanna be in our way."
Artie was going to say something, but my mother came in. "Good morning, boys! Arthur, you really need to comb your hair. Did you sleep alright on the sofa?"
Artie was following my mother around the kitchen with his eyes as she poured a coffee and put some bread in the toaster. He finally caught her eye. "I didn't sleep very much, but not because I wasn't comfortable. I just didn't want this all to be a dream, so I kept waking up."
My mother came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest. "This is very real, Arthur. I know that it's a sudden change for you, but you just try to get used to it. You're going to need a lot of rest to deal with this family. I have to take David shopping and then to see about school. The girls already have plans. Will you be alright here by yourself?"
Her eyes caught mine the moment she asked that. It probably wasn't the perfect question to ask a guy who'd spent most of his life alone, but Artie didn't seem to catch the irony. He looked up at her. "I'll be fine. Timmy's picking me up, then we're cooking dinner. I'm going to take a walk and look at the shop that's for sale. Don't worry about me, I'm used to taking care of myself." He grinned again. "I'm real used to it!"
I went to get ready while my mother had some breakfast. None of my clothes fit any better than any others, so I just put on a pair of too-short and too-tight jeans, a striped jersey and my sneakers. I knew I needed a haircut, but it didn't seem possible that day. Then I remembered that it was a Monday and the barbers would be closed anyhow.
My mother drove into the center of town and we went into a men's shop. I picked out a pair of dark gray slacks, a belt and a blue dress shirt, then we walked two doors down to a shoe store and I got a pair of brown penny loafers. I wore the new things right out of the stores, putting my old clothes in the shopping bags.
We drove up to the Board of Education building and found a parking spot, then walked inside. It was an older four story building, and there was a sign inside that listed the departments. The Superintendent's office was on the fourth floor and there didn't appear to be an elevator, so we hiked up the stairs. We wandered down the hall until we found the right office. The door was open, and a woman was sitting at a desk there. My mother told her who we were, and she picked up the phone and announced that we were there.
In just a few seconds a door flew open and a short, stocky man with white hair burst through it. He introduced himself as Doctor Miller and shook my mother's hand, then held his out to me. He had a grin from ear to ear.
"Hello, David. Donny has told me all about you, and you sound like one impressive young man. Come in, come in. Let's see what we can do to help you."
We followed him into his office and there was another man in there. He was younger and had black hair. Doctor Miller introduced him as Mr. Romano, the Guidance Counselor for the high school. "Whatever we decide here Mr. Romano will have to implement, so it's best if he sits in on things from the beginning." He looked at me. "You missed most of the last year, David. What happened?"
"I ... I ran away from home."
He looked at my mother, then back at me. "Problems at home?"
"No, nothing like that. Just problems with me bein' stupid. It was a crazy thing to do, but I just did it."
"That is stupid, David. Very stupid. Are you all done with that now?"
"Were you ever arrested?"
His face brightened back into a smile. He slapped the top of his desk. "Good! My nephew said you want to be a teacher, and he thinks you'll be one of the great ones. Don's a smart man, and I trust his judgment. What would you like to teach?"
"I'm not sure yet. I just want to learn as much as I can and decide what I like best. I'm pretty sure it won't be Social Studies."
That got a laugh from both men. Doctor Miller slapped his desk again, then stood up. "You know, David, I'd like you to consider teaching in the lower grades. All the men these days seem to want high school positions. It's gotten to the point that almost all of the teachers in grammar school are women, and I don't think that's helping our boys very much. It's just something for you to think about. There's plenty of time."
"Okay. I will think about it. Am I gonna be able to catch up with my class?"
Mr. Romano spoke up. "That depends on your capacity for hard work. It's certainly doable, it just won't be easy. There are three courses that you're going to have to repeat. English, science and social studies. Those are content based studies, and you need the content. You can try taking the math final, and if you pass it that will be your grade for last year. You can ride with incompletes for things like gym and art. You're going to have to give up your study hall all three years to make up for the things you missed. There's an English program at the community college that approximates our Freshman English course. You can take that, and we'll accept your grade from there."
Doctor Miller spoke again. "David, you should really consider just repeating the ninth grade. We'll accommodate you whatever you decide, but you're fifteen years old. The program Mr. Romano will have to put together to get you out in three won't leave you with much time at all for a social life, which is very important at your age. I know that the extra year seems like a long time to you, but I can tell you that when you reach my age the memories of good times with your friends are some of the most precious things you'll have."
I had to think about that. I looked from face to face. My mother and Mr. Romano had pretty blank expressions, but Doctor Miller was still smiling at me. I really wanted to get through high school as fast as I could, but I didn't want to totally give up my life to do it. I wondered how bad it could be. It seemed like it should be just an extra hour or two of homework every day, maybe more if there was a test coming up. I'd just need some discipline and I could do it.
"I wanna do it in three years. I can take the drill, I know I can." I smiled. "If I get lonely I'll just study with my friends."
Doctor Miller literally leapt from his chair with a huge grin. "Great! I was hoping you'd try it. We'll do it for one semester. If you're keeping up, we'll stick with it. If you need to back out, it won't be a problem in the first semester either." He looked at my mother with a huge smile. "What a kid! Now, you wanted to talk about scholarships?"
I said, "I guess. I don't really understand them."
My mother broke in. "I really don't think that will be necessary. Our family will see to it that the money is there for David. Oh, Doctor Miller ... Mr. Romano, thank you for taking the time to speak with us! It's such a thrill for me to picture David in college, then as a teacher! I'm sure you'll find your reward when you see what a good one he becomes."
Doctor Miller was still smiling. "That would be a great reward. Okay, David. On the first day of school you find Mr. Romano first thing. You can skip the orientation program. He'll have your class schedule and any special instructions ready for you." He looked at Mr. Romano. "Can he take the math test right then?"
"I'll try to arrange it."
"Good. That way you'll know if you're also going to have to repeat math." He stood up and held his hand out to me. "I'm glad we met, David. If you have any serious problems just talk to Mr. Romano. Do you mind waiting for a few minutes while I speak with your mother?"
I went outside with Mr. Romano. We stood in the outer office talking. He seemed genuinely anxious to help me make it through the next three years, and that made me feel good. He was a nice guy, and I could feel myself adding him to my list of friends. He said he was in charge of announcing the home football games, and that if I was interested I could help him. He'd heard that I was a bit talkative and, since he wasn't, it would be a good thing for both of us.
When my mother came out, we said our goodbyes just like we were all old friends. I practically danced down all the stairs, then had to wait for my mother.
"Let's eat out, David. Just you and me! How's that sound?"
"It sounds great! Where, Chinese?" She loved Chinese food. I liked it, but it wasn't really my favorite.
"Ooh, Chinese. What a good idea! Fong's?"
"Sounds good to me."
We got in the car and drove back downtown. Fong's restaurant was on the second floor of a two story building, so we had more stairs. When we had been seated I asked, "What was the private talk about? It's nothin' bad is it?"
"It's nothing bad at all. Doctor Miller just told me some of the things his nephew told him about you, and some signs to watch out for if the work load is too much for you. He likes you, David, and he wants to be sure that you can do all the work and still be happy. Ah ... are you happy?"
I finally took the time to really look at my mother. She hadn't aged noticeably in the year that I was gone. My mother was a heavy woman, but she carried her weight well, almost muscularly. She was waiting for an answer, and I thought for a few seconds, then smiled.
"I'm happy, Ma. I really am. I'm sorry I put you all through the crap I did, but I learned a lot. Now I'm back home, and I got Timmy ... I'm real happy, Ma. I think I know who I am now. Does that make any sense?"
She looked puzzled for a second, then smiled. "Yes, it does make sense. It makes perfect sense. You didn't know where you fit in, how you mattered? I'm sorry, that's really my fault. I should have seen it and I didn't. You've found it on your own, though, haven't you? You seem to be so much more comfortable now. Just hearing Doctor Miller say what Don thinks of you was a revelation to me. Don and Ken and all of those men see something in you that I've managed to miss. They think you're good for other people, David. Not just good to them... good for them, and I can see it, too."
The waitress came to take our order. I told my mother to just order for me - I didn't know what all that stuff was. I heard her, but didn't really understand. It was something duck for her and something pork for me. I had a question in my head.
"Ma, how can I be good for somebody? I ain't a medicine or a box of cereal. Everybody keeps tellin' me how I helped them, but I never thought I did. What do you see? Am I different or somethin'?"
She stared at me for a moment. "You are different, David ... different than most people that I know. You seem to be so ... tuned in, I guess ... to what other people actually feel, not just what they say. It's a very special gift that you have, and I hope it stays with you. I think you're going to make a world of difference in a lot of people's lives."
I thought for a second. "Like Artie?"
A whole slew of names raced through my head - Rafe, Brian, Adam, Mary, Ken, Don, Lisa, Barry, Jimbo, Donna - I didn't want to go through them all with my mother. "Ma, I don't really try to do anything for people ... maybe once in a while. People keep tellin' me how I helped them, and I didn't do anything."
She smiled at me. "I don't know what it is, David, but I feel it too. You're making me feel so good ... so worthwhile. I'm not sure where you found it, but you have a light in you that just shines on all of us. Don't you ever dare to put it out again. Do you hear me?"
"David, I knew how hard it was for you when your father died, and I should have pulled you closer. I was walking around with all that anger, and I didn't. You were such a happy little boy, but ... well, you're happy again and that's all that matters right now." She smiled, and seemed to relax. "You are my handsome young son, David. I'm your mother, and I've always had a mother's love for you. Right now I'm starting to love you as a friend, too. You really are some kinda kid!"
"Stop it, Ma! You're givin' me a big head."
Our food came right then, and we had a good reason to shut up while we ate. My ribs were okay, but a bit too sweet. My mother seemed to be having a great time with her duck.
"What's gonna happen with Artie? I mean, do you think he can make it?"
"I'm sure he can, David. His life has been nothing if not strange, but he just needs to grow up some. The important thing is that he knows he has problems ... that he's deficient in some areas. He really wants to fix that, and I'm sure he will. Have you noticed that he talks just like your father did? Arthur seems to be quite intelligent, David. He's lucky that he didn't end up speaking like your uncle!"
I almost choked, then burst out laughing. "He told me that, Ma! That Dad spent a lot of time making him say words right. This all started with a dream I had about Uncle Sal and the way he talked - all the dem's and deze and doze. Honest, Ma! If I didn't have that dream I'd still be balin' hay and gettin' up at four AM. It all went back to when you went to Italy and I stayed with them! That dream made me see the whole thing - the whole reason I've been messed up. It was my 'Bimmy' dream."
My mother sat back and grinned. "You remember being called Bimmy? I don't believe it! You must have been three or four years old! Your father threatened to cut Sal's ... ah ... never mind, if he didn't stop calling you that. Are you all done eating? Let's go back out and finish shopping for clothes. It looks like you need everything."
We went to the town's largest department store and spent about two hours in the men's department. The salesman measured me once, then helped me find school clothes, regular clothes, socks and underwear. I got a new fall jacket and a winter coat, then gloves and a hat. Then we went to the shoe department, where I got another pair of shoes, two pairs of sneakers, a pair of boots and some slippers. By the time we went to pay, we had piles of bags and boxes. The salesman and cashier helped us carry it all out to the car.
On the way home, my mother pointed out the shop that she'd told Artie about. I'd been in there a few times for a soda or to get a candy bar. It was run by two old guys who weren't especially friendly, but it was right in the middle block of the main street. I guessed that if Artie ran it right and tried to make his customers feel good he'd do just fine there.
When we got home I saw Timmy's car parked just down the street. I told my mother to just prop the doors open and I'd carry everything upstairs. She went inside and I grabbed what I could carry and followed her. Before I got to the porch, Tim and Artie came running out to help. They were both wearing aprons, which made me laugh. We managed to get everything upstairs in two trips. I didn't know what they were cooking, but the house smelled fantastic.
I hadn't had a good look at them while we were carrying packages, but Tim had white flour on his face and in his hair. I grinned at him. "You been bakin' or somethin'? You're all white!"
He put on a hurt expression. "Dammit, Davy! I cook and clean for you all day and I don't even get a kiss before you start asking questions? Alright, I'll tell you about my day anyhow." He glanced at Artie. "How do ya like this guy? We do all the work and he just waltzes in and makes rude comments!" Tim looked back at me. "What did you learn today?" He puffed out his chest and tapped it with his fist. "I learned how to shop for mushrooms, how to peel shrimp, and how to make Beef Wellington!"
"I give up! What the hell is Beef Wellington? Is that what smells so good?"
Tim stood up even straighter. He grinned his best. "It's me that smells good. Are you gonna kiss me willingly, or do I hafta take advantage of ya?"
I put my hands on my cheeks and tried for a horrified expression. "Take advantage? You'd do that to me? But ... but ... you have flour in your hair!"
I noticed Artie. He was looking back and forth between us with a totally amazed expression on his face. I could tell that he wasn't sure if we were fooling around or serious, so I just grabbed Tim and pulled him into a hug, then reached a hand to Artie and made him join us. I kissed Timmy, then looked at Artie. "Sorry. Ma might kiss ya, Artie, but I only kiss Timmy."
He looked relieved, then he grinned. "Wow! You guys go do whatever, and I'll just go back in the kitchen." He looked at both of us again. "Wow!"
Tim and I both laughed a little at his reaction, then I asked Artie, "Did you look at the shop today?"
"Yeah, I went down there and talked to the owner. He's only selling it because his partner died and he wants to retire anyhow. I think I'm going to do it! The place needs some fixing up, but the location's great and it already has a pretty good business. I think I can make a go of it."
I was happy for him. "That's great, Artie! You'll do fine, I just know it. Can I borrow your helper? We have some things to, uh ... talk about."
Artie wasn't stupid. "It's fine. You guys go and, uh ... talk." He winked at us. "Oh, there's a note for you by the phone. Some guy called earlier and I wrote it down."
Artie headed back towards the kitchen. I looked at Tim. "Did you hear from your father? Did he get the job?"
"I haven't heard anything yet. I'm sure he'll call either way. Whattya wanna do?"
"Hey, I'm tryin' to stop swearing! I'm havin' some good thoughts, though."
"Why not? You're my owner ... I can't get in trouble doin' what you tell me to. Anyhow, there's a lock on my door."
Tim smiled and took my hand, leading me to my own bedroom. I closed the door behind us, then locked it. We had barely fallen onto the bed when we heard the phone ringing, then my mother knocked on the door. "Tim? Your father's on the phone."
Tim jumped up and hurried out of the room with me right behind him. We ran over to the phone. From the one side of the conversation that I could hear I knew that Rennie had gotten the job and that they were both overjoyed. I noticed the message that Artie had left for me. It said to call Jerry, and it had his number. I heard Tim telling his father that they should celebrate, then he invited him over for Beef Wellington. I think Rennie might have had other plans. They argued a bit, but Tim ended the call by saying he'd pick him up in half an hour.
"He got the job?"
"He got it! He sounds like he's ten feet off the ground. I asked him over to celebrate. Your Mom won't mind, will she?"
"Hey, she's your Mom, too. Why would she mind? I gotta call Jerry to see what he wants - maybe he'll come over, too."
I dialed the number on the note. Whit answered and said to wait a minute because Jerry was out back. When he got on the phone he was a little out of breath, as if he'd run to take the call.
"Hey Dave! I went to Ken's to see you guys yesterday, and he said you already went back home. How's it goin'?"
"It's all okay. Thanks for thinkin' about me."
"That's not it! I saw Don today and he told me what you and Tim said last night. Do you really think we're all brothers? I love that idea!"
I had to smile. "We're brothers, Jer. Tim's goin' to Ken's right now to get his father. Why don't you come over for dinner? We got a couple of surprises for ya."
I could hear him asking Whit if it was okay. Everything was always okay with Whit. "Let me wash up and change. Tell Timmy to wait for me at Ken's."
"Okay. See ya in a bit."
I looked at Tim. "Jerry doesn't know what this is about. I think I should tell him all of it. Can you make sure we have some time by ourselves when he gets here?"
Tim looked a question at me.
"Tim, if he's gonna be a brother he has to know things. I told him I'd tell him all about it someday if he wanted to hear about it. I guess today's someday."
Tim understood and nodded. "I'll call you when we leave Ken's house. You go sit on the porch, then you can talk to Jerry when we get here. You want my father to hear it too?"
"I don't think so, Tim. He already knows about the drugs. If you think he needs to know the rest I don't mind, but what's the point?"
"You're right; there is no point. I'll go pick them up now."
"You might wanna wash up first. You look like the dough boy right now."
"Hey, it's better than Goldilocks! I'll be right back."
Tim headed down the hall to the bathroom. I plopped down on the sofa wondering what Jerry would think about what I'd done when I was away. Damn, is that a euphemism or what? When I was away ... that sounded way too easy to me. The details of that time flooded over me. I'd stuck my butt up and opened my mouth to strangers ... anybody who could pay for it. I had prostituted my own body for the sake of drugs. I was beyond crying about it, but I did cry when I realized that Timmy knew all that and still loved me ... cherished my body and soul the way God intended them to be cherished.
He came over to me and saw that I was weeping. He knelt down and took my hand, kissing my cheek. "What's wrong? You want me to stay?"
I looked up to him. "It's just me, Timmy. Go get your father, I'll be okay. You love me, right?"
"That I do. Remembering bad things?"
"Just what I gotta tell Jerry." I tried to smile. "Don't worry ... I'm fine ... just thinkin' about how stupid I was. I think I'll tell Richie someday. That way everybody that has a right to know about that stuff'll hear it from me." I had a horrifying thought. "Oh, shit! What if one of my old customers recognizes me somewhere?"
Tim looked scared for a second, then he smiled at me and kissed my hand. "If they do they'll prob'ly run the other way thinkin' you'll recognize them. Stop worryin', Bucko. If anybody says anythin' just send them to me ... your owner."
I laughed. "Bucko?"
"Yeah, Bucko! That name's your happy for today. Enjoy it. I'll be back in a few, okay?"
He stood up and headed for the door.
Tim stopped and looked back at me. "What?"
"I didn't give you a happy today."
"Yes you did."
"I did? What?'
"You love me. That's all the happy I need."
"Did I say it?"
"I love you, Tim. More than anything, I love you."
Tim smiled. "I love you too, Dave. I really do."
"You really look good in that apron you're wearin'!"Next Chapter Previous Chapter