Chapter 19

“What was that?” Jim asked when his father hung up the phone.

“I … I don’t know what to say,” Andy said. “It was your mother. She’s in town and wants to see you.”

“She’s what?” Carl asked angrily. His daughter had no reason to think they weren’t out of town visiting him and his wife, as usual. She was just playing a game.

“Apparently, she’s here, and thought she’d see if Jim was available, but she understands we’re probably away,” Andy said. “But now she’s in a bind, because we’re here, and we know she’s here.”

“Do I have to?” Jim asked.

“I’m not going make you, son. But this is your chance, if you want it,” Andy sighed.

Jim got up and ran out of the room. They heard him go upstairs and close a door behind him. Paul gave him a moment before he followed.

Paul walked upstairs and peeked into his room, where he found Jim standing, staring out the window. Paul walked up behind him and wrapped his arms around the big boy, rubbing his tight stomach gently. Laying his cheek on the boy’s back, Paul asked, “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Jim said. “Part of me wants to tell her to go fuck herself! And then there’s this other part of me that wants to go and finally have its say – to tell her what she’s done to us!”

“Who knows when, or if, you’ll have another chance?” Paul asked.

“I know,” Jim said. “I guess I’ve got to go….” Then he chuckled and asked, “Can I hit her?”

“Probably shouldn’t,” Paul said. “But you can be as mean to her as you want!” And then Paul giggled. “I’m not sure what the rules about gay boys hitting women are, but I’m pretty sure as long as it’s openhanded, slapping and scratching is allowed, so if she hurts your feelings, I’ll hit her!”

“You’ll come with me?” Jim asked, softening and turning in his arms.

“Of course! If you want,” Paul said.

“Okay,” Jim said. Then he took Paul’s hand and let the boy lead him downstairs. Jim nodded at his dad and said, “Alright!”

“You don’t have to do anything for her!” Carl said, angry at his daughter’s insensitivity.

Jim smiled and said, “I’m not doing it for her….”

Andy nodded with concern, and looked at Bethany and Carl. “You … didn’t know she was planning on contacting Jim?”

“Of course not,” Carl declared, but his wife looked away.

She spoke softly, “I had no idea she was going to be so … insensitive about the timing….”

Carl looked at her and asked, looking wounded, “You KNEW?”

“She’s his MOTHER!” Bethany said. “You don’t know what that means!”

“NEITHER DOES SHE!” Carl barked and stormed from the room.

Andy looked at her with deep disappointment and said, “You could have warned us … to avoid the shock!”

“I thought,” she said with a sigh, “that you’d keep it from happening if you knew….”

“DAMN RIGHT!” Andy yelled. “And I’d have been in my rights! She’s the one who walked out on US, you remember!”

Bethany nodded, sadness tinged with shame. “I remember….”

Andy looked like he was about to say something else, but Paul said, “That’s enough….” This time it was Andy who looked ashamed as he picked up his phone and went to the other room to make the phone call.

Jim looked at her and said, “If it wasn’t for Paul, I wouldn’t have been strong enough for this,” making the boy blush. “You know I don’t plan on ‘making up’ with her? Or being ‘nice’ to her?”

“Then why didn’t you just say no?” Bethany asked, wiping her eyes.

“Because I want the chance to tell her the truth,” Jim said. “And that’s something I can’t depend on her to give me another opportunity to do!” The woman looked away, but she was silent.

Andy returned a few minutes later and asked Phil and Molly. “I’m sorry to ask, but … can we do this here?”

Paul looked at his mom and said, “I want to be with him….” Phil and Molly nodded their assent and Andy returned to his call.

***

Robert returned to the kitchen, where he had heard a noise. The woman’s screams had long since ceased, so he had heard the man’s chair crash to the ground. Robert smiled and chided, “What a naughty boy! Trying to escape before we’ve had a chance to get to know one another?” Robert knelt down beside the man and said, “I was going to give it to you nice the first time! I’ve never done a daddy before!”

He slid his hand up the man’s thigh, and though Chris snarled, “Get your filthy hands off of me,” Robert laughed to feel him shudder beneath his touch.

“Maybe I’ll still give it to you nice,” Robert laughed. “You’ll hate yourself for begging for more!”

“Just kill me then,” Chris snarled.

“This is about me and my fun, daddy,” Robert teased the man, grabbing his package. Robert grinned as the man’s cock jumped when he called him daddy. “And I don’t enjoy the easy way out!” Robert grabbed the man by the hair of the back of his head and jerked it back before kissing him, slipping him tongue. Robert smiled as, after initial resistance, the man returned his kiss, involuntarily reacting to his innate, repressed desire.

Robert dragged the man to his feet after roughly cutting off his restraints and led him at knife-point out of the kitchen. He didn’t want the man to see his wife yet, so he told the man, “Let’s go to Billy’s room!” Suddenly Chris was putting up less of a fight.

***

Andy stood by the window as only intermittent, nervous conversation filled the house. Billy quietly approached Paul and asked, “Can I watch television or play video games in your room? I … don’t really want to see this.”

Paul nodded with a weak smile and said, “Turn it up as loud as you want….” Sean soon followed the boy upstairs and joined him in a game of Wii Golf.

“What’s wrong?” Sean asked.

“I’m kinda enjoying the new extended family thing,” Billy blushed a bit. “I’m not exactly ready to see the reality.”

Sean said, “You’ve had enough of that kind of reality!” He put a gentle hand on Billy’s shoulder and squeezed. “She’s already hurt him about as much as she could….”

“I don’t think so,” Billy said darkly, taking his turn.

There was a knock at the door, and everyone just stared at it. No one wanted to answer the door. At last it was Paul who stood and walked over, grabbing the knob. There was a general sigh of relief as Paul smiled and said, “What are YOU GUYS doing here?”

Christina barged in and hugged him, Danny in her wake. “We’re ready to get away from our families so we thought we’d come see what you guys were doing!” She looked around and saw there were guests.

“I thought you guys were going out of town,” Danny said to Jim.

“Dad got the grandparents to come here so we could all spend the holiday together!” Jim smiled.

“Then why does it look like a funeral in here?” Christina asked.

For a moment, no one said anything. “First of all,” Paul said, “you should both know the police were here this morning.”

“What for?” Christina asked.

“Robert,” Paul said. “Last night they found a couple of bodies, and everything points to him….” Christina looked horrified and even Danny blanched a bit. “He’s a full-fledged psycho!”

Just then, Billy came running down the steps to get a drink from the kitchen. “WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?” Danny asked.

Billy stopped dead in his tracks and looked terrified. No one knew what to say, and Billy looked extra fragile for one second before he sighed and said, “My parents kicked me out two days ago…. I didn’t have anywhere to go.”

“Why did they kick you out?” Christina asked, looking at him with deep suspicion.

Before Paul could chastise her, Billy said, “They found out I’m gay.”

“All this time you’ve been picking on him, and you’re,” Christina began, but Danny put a hand on her shoulder and she fell silent.

Danny walked over to the Billy then and patted him on the shoulder and said, “You got a place to stay? Cause you ain’t stayin here….”

Jim smiled a little, knowing his friend was looking out for him, but also that he was offering to let a gay boy stay with him. “It’s taken care of, Danny,” Sean said. “Billy’s gonna be staying with me from here on out.”

“Coach!” Danny said. “What are you doing here?”

“Merry Christmas to you too, Danny,” Sean said, walking down the steps. “It just so happens I’m here with someone!”

Danny looked around and was about to ask, when it occurred to him. The only other single person in the house was Jim’s dad. Danny looked back and forth between the two men for a second and then exclaimed, “Jesus! Is it contagious?” with a chuckle.

“There’s more,” Jim said with a sad smile.

“What?” Danny asked, his eyes cutting to Jim sharply. Just then, the doorbell rang and the house fell silent again. There was no escaping it this time. She was there. “What?” Danny repeated, going to the door and peeking through the peephole. “HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Do you want me to get rid of her, Jim?”

“She’s …. invited,” Andy managed without too much of a grimace. Then he grabbed the knob and opened the door on a beautiful woman in her late thirties who looked much younger. The years unburdened by family and children had done her well, Andy thought bitterly.

“Andy,” she said with a shameless smile. He waved her in and she looked around the crowded foyer and living room. “Jim….”

Jim looked at her with big sad eyes and said, “Hello … Gloria.” He looked calm but Paul could see his hand’s shaking.

At that moment, Carl returned and wrapped a protective arm around his grandson and Gloria added, “Dad! Andy … didn’t say you were here!”

“Where else would we be, on Christmas, but with OUR FAMILY?” Carl asked her pointedly, his eyes boring into her.

“Touché,” she said with a smile that barely masked her scowl.

“Well, you’re here now,” Andy began, but she cut him off.

“And where is here?” Gloria asked. “Let’s be civil!”

“Civil?” Andy began. Then he swallowed his response and said, indicating each as he named them, “This is the home of Phil and Molly Anderson and their son Paul. Billy is a boy from school, and Sean, his ‘guardian,’ is Jim’s coach…. You remember Danny? Cause I can tell he remembers you,” Andy smiled as the boy glowered at the woman. “And that is his lovely girlfriend Christina! Civil enough, dear?” he asked nearly growling the last.

“Don’t be so dramatic, DEAR,” she replied, twisting the word ironically. “It’s been years….”

“Yes,” Jim nodded, “YES IT HAS!”

“Jim,” she began, stepping forward. But he cut her off, raising his hand and stepping back. No one wanted to watch but it was like having a train wreck right in the midst of the little crowd.

“Just … what do you want?” Andy asked, his voice soft now.

“I just want to talk to my son,” she said. “Alone.”

All eyes were on Jim now, asking the question. After a long, long moment, he nodded and walked off to the kitchen. Gloria followed him momentarily, finding him standing on the other end of a prep island. She took her place at the opposite end, and Jim said, “Talk.”

“Jim,” she said, sighing his name, “I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes but….”

“Mistakes?” he demanded.

“I … leaving your father, I don’t regret. Don’t get me wrong, your dad’s a great guy, Jim, but neither one of us was getting anything out of it….. We’d been together since we were both college kids and I’d never got to follow any of my DREAMS, JIM! So I ran away from my life! But I shouldn’t have abandonded you,” she said with something like actual remorse. It took the wind out of some of Jim’s sails, actually. It made it harder for him to be as angry as he wanted to be.

“THAT is what you did,” Jim said with a impassive face.

“I know, Jim, but you were better with your dad,” she began.

“I KNOW THAT! EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT! But you could have called me! Let me come visit! Sent me a birthday card, instead of some out-of-the-way postcards!” Jim replied.

“I know,” she sighed.

“Did you get to live your dream? God knows dad didn’t get to live his after you dumped everything on him,” Jim said.

“Oh yes he did,” Gloria said. “YOU were his dream!”

Jim blushed. “Maybe…. But not all of it! You think he wants to be a probation officer, spending his day with scumbags? Having no friends? You know how many dates dad’s had in the last … since you left?” She shook her head and he said, “One.”

“I,” she began, shaking her head, “I was sure he’d find someone better….”

“He never bothered to look around,” Jim said, “after what you did to us! Then he only found someone when it fell into his lap.”

“When?” she asked.

“A week or so ago,” Jim said.

It was as if Gloria had willed herself to ignore the consequences of her actions, despite having been told of them by her parents, and only standing face to face with those consequences brought them home a little bit. “I….”

“Why did you come here, Gloria?” Jim asked.

She now looked truly ashamed, sick to her stomach even. “I … can I tell you something, Jim? Please don’t interrupt til I’m finished?” Jim looked at her and nodded, moved by her tears. “I … did get to live my dreams. I work as a stage actress in the Metropolitan Theatre.” She could see Jim about to interrupt, but held her hand up, knowing what he would ask. “No. Except when I’ve traveled for a show, I’ve never lived further away than that, and I’m sorry!” The Metropolitan Theatre was based about an hour-and-a-half’s drive away.

She shook her head and patted her face with tissue. “Anyway, the artistic director and I fell in love, almost immediately. I held off for a year, but at last I did marry him. We’ve been happy together, our passions shared. I … never told him I had a son, Jim, until last week…. I was embarrassed about what I’d done, not about you, son!” she insisted in a hurry.

Jim broke his promise and asked, “Why now?”

She looked at him, tears rising to her eyes and a sob bubbling up. “I didn’t have a choice….”

“WHY NOW?” Jim demanded.

“Jim … I’m so sorry!” she said, closing her eyes. She couldn’t say it to his face. “I have a little boy.” The pain on Jim’s face was why she had closed her eyes. “A few months ago, he got sick and started getting these bruises. The Children’s Hospital did a bunch of tests, and … it’s leukemia, Jim.” She heard his sob, but had no idea what he was thinking until she felt a pair of strong arms wrapping around her.

He whispered, “Of all the things you’ve done to hurt me, not telling me I had a baby brother is THE WORST!” barely controlling his anger. “What do you need?”

“His father and I aren’t a match for … bone marrow, and blood relatives are the best chance of finding an exact match. They’ve searched the registry, Jim,” she whispered.

“When can I get tested?” Jim asked, and she nearly collapsed in his arms. “If you knew me, Gloria, you’d have known it would go like this!”

“Would … would you like to see him?” she asked.

“Is he here … in town I mean?” Jim asked.

“No, in the city with his father. I wanted to do this alone,” she replied.

Jim shook his head. “Yeah, I’d like to see him….” Jim stepped back and said, “I’ll give you a minute to get straightened up,” before hurrying out of the room and past the waiting group. He was out the front door before anyone could say anything.

Paul peeked and saw him sitting on the steps. “He’s just getting some fresh air,” Paul calmed the boy’s friends and family. Billy gave Sean a pregnant look, as Paul said to Andy, “Maybe you should?”

Andy walked out onto the porch and sat down by his son, putting an arm around the big boy. “How bad was it?”

Jim looked at his dad and broke down crying into the man’s chest. “Terrible,” he whispered. Andy’s face was a mask of fury, and then Jim added, “She only came back to try to save her son….”

“What is she trying to save you,” Andy began to ask before realization struck and he hugged his son with both arms tight.

“He’s three,” Jim said, “and he needs bone marrow….”

“You don’t have to,” Andy began.

“I’m going to get tested,” Jim said. “I … want to see him, dad!”

Andy sighed. “Why don’t we cancel that camping trip and all go visit … wherever it is?”

“They just live in the state capital,” Jim said. “That’s where she went!”

Andy was fuming again. ‘Bitch leaves her son and moves an hour and some change away!’ he was thinking. “I’ll book some hotel rooms, we’ll see some shows, go to museums, have a nice New Year’s celebration. How does that sound?”

“Not as much fun as zipping my and Paul’s sleeping bags together, but it’ll do,” Jim smiled slyly at his dad.

The man hugged him again and said, “You coming in?”

“Give me a minute?” Jim asked, wiping his eyes on his sleeves.

Andy went inside, and shortly Gloria emerged from the kitchen. “Do THEY know, Gloria?” She shook her head. “You should tell them now. We should all get tested at once, instead of waiting to see if Jim’s a match,” Andy said, and Gloria nodded, giving him a thankful smile and tearing up all at once.

Carl looked at his daughter and asked, “Tell us what? What tests? What are you doing to Jim?”

“Dad,” Andy said, raising a hand, and Carl fell into a grumbly silence.

“Dad,” Gloria began, “I’ve got a baby boy….”

Carl’s look of shock and anger turned to his wife. “You knew?” Bethany nodded and looked away.

“What neither of you know,” Gloria said, “is that Jonathan, that’s his name, Jonathan’s been diagnosed with leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant….”

“So you came here to pressure,” Carl began.

“DAD!” Andy said. “This is about the baby! Jim’s volunteered to get tested, and so have I! He just wants to see Jonathan….”

Carl nodded, grudgingly. “Me, too!” Seeing his daughter’s look, he grumbled, “On both counts!” Bethany grabbed his hand and squeezed, knowing he’d forgive her eventually.

Gloria took out a picture of the baby and handed it to her father. “This is your youngest grandson….” The man had tears in his eyes.

***

Paul stood staring out of his window on the porch when the felt the big presence next to him. He felt a hand on his shoulder and then heard Billy say, “You talk too much!”

“Says the guy whose secret I never told,” Paul smirked over his shoulder. Then he put a hand on Billy’s and squeezed.

“I just mean, you want to go out there and tell him everything’s going to be alright; you’ll talk to him and hug him and make him feel better, and what he wants is to stew for a bit,” Billy said.

“Why?” Paul asked softly.

“Because he has every right to be angry, but he’s telling himself he shouldn’t be…. But he wants to feel it before it gets swallowed up by doing the right thing, and Mr. Goodie Two-shoes’s hugs and kisses,” Billy teased.

“What good does that do?” Paul asked.

“None, but I know what he’s feeling. You’ve been wronged and you’ve got a right to be angry, and you want to feel it, even when there are more important things!” Billy said. Then he looked in Paul’s eyes and said, “I know you were wronged and let it go all too well Paul, but guys like us aren’t like you. Don’t get me wrong, Jim’s better than me….”

“Guy’s like us?” Paul asked, anger rising a little. “Men, I guess you mean?”

“No,” Billy said. “Guys who aren’t too good for their own good.” Billy squeezed his shoulder again and Paul smiled at him. Outside, Jim and Danny sat in silence, shoulder-to-shoulder.

***

Robert removed the gag from the man he still lay half on top of and asked, “Well, how was that?” When Chris refused to look at him, Robert smiled and pouted, “Now, come on! I gave it to you all nice! What’s wrong daddy?”

“So that’s your thing?” the man asked with disgust. “You’re sick!”

“You’re sick too,” Robert smiled. “It isn’t my thing, it’s yours! I just call you daddy because it makes your cock jump every time I do it, and you hate it that I know!” He laughed. “Just like I fucked you because you hate that you loved it!”

Chris’s eyes burned with anger as he looked away. “Come on, daddy!” Robert teased. “Don’t be like that!” Robert laughed and asked, “Did you ever fuck Billy?”

“That’s … NO, I DID NOT!” Chris yelled.

“Shame,” Robert said. “But you wanted to! Tell me what you wanted to do to daddy’s little boy!”

“NOTHING!” Chris yelled. “I DID NOT WANT TO FUCK MY SON!”

“Did you want him to fuck you then?” Robert asked. With an impassive smile, he said, “You’ll tell me your fantasy about Billy, or I’ll go get my knife and cut your balls off and leave you here to bleed to death!”

Chris glared at him and said, “I always thought about … coming in here after practice while he was changing and catching him in his jock. I’d smack him around a bit until he cried like a little bitch and then I’d bend him over this bed and fuck him raw!” Chris’s mouth was contorted in something between rage and desperate desire. “Satisfied?”

Robert looked over his shoulder, into the lens of a camera Chris had not seen and smiled. He smiled just for Billy. Then he looked at Chris and said, “Never!” Then he put the man’s gag back in. Couldn’t have him making a lot of noise and alerting the neighbors. They were all home, after all. It was Christmas. As he turned his attention back to Chris, he whispered, “Unfortunately for you, we’re a lot alike!” He struck the man until tears began to flow and mix with blood from his nose, and Chris could feel Robert hardening against his thigh.

***

Andy and Sean leaned against the counter in the kitchen, away from the others, and Andy said, “I told Jim we’d cancel the camping trip and spend the week over in the city. He wants to see his baby brother…. I understand if you want to stay out of that lion’s den!”

“Hey, in the woods, in a hotel, doesn’t matter to me! A week away from work with you and the boys sounds good to me!” Sean replied. But then his smile darkened almost imperceptibly. “Unless you don’t want me to come, I mean.”

“It’s not that,” Andy said. “I just don’t want her making trouble for me and Jim. You noticed Jim never said anything about Paul being his boyfriend?”

“You don’t know what was said in here,” Sean retorted.

“True…. And you know what?” Andy said. “Jim’s nearly 17! No one’s taking him away if he doesn’t want to go and … he doesn’t. Let’s go! But there is one problem….”

“What’s that?” Sean asked.

“Billy,” Andy said.

“Hmmm. Can’t leave him on his own. I’d like to bring him along. I’d planned on bringing him camping,” Sean said.

“We’ll need a third room,” Andy said. “What do you think Paul will think?”

“I was more worried about Jim,” Sean said. “Paul and Billy are getting along pretty well, but Paul will be spending a lot of time with Billy if Jim is off with his … Gloria and the boy.”

“Jim will understand,” Andy said.

“Third room, huh?” Sean smiled then, wrapping an arm around the man.

“I don’t want an audience for making out!” Andy said. “I guess we could get a room with two queens for the boys, but Jim would probably rebel!” He thought a minute and said, “But then again, they did sleep with Billy when he showed up here.”

Sean said, “I wasn’t real keen on him sleeping in a hotel room all alone while we all have company.”

“I’ll talk to Jim,” Andy said with a nod.

***

After Gloria had gone, headed back to her family in the city, Jim and Andy left to spend some time with Jim’s grandparents alone. The couple would now be staying in town a couple of more days, and would also be heading into the city to see their young grandchild.

Christina asked Paul, “Want to hit a movie? They’ll be packed this afternoon – everything else is closed – but what else is there to do?”

“Sure,” Paul said with a sly glance at Billy. “You want to come?” he asked the big boy.

Billy lowered his eyes at the look he was getting from Christina, and Paul glared at the girl. “I don’t want to be in the way.”

“If he can’t come, I won’t go,” Paul said simply.

Christina shrugged and nodded. “Sorry!” she said. “Old habits.”

When they asked the adults, the less experienced Sean happily handed Billy a $20 and said, “Have fun!”

Molly, however, suggested, “What about the psycho-killer? His two worst enemies and former best friend in one place? In the dark?”

“He’s too cautious to come after us together on his own in public,” Billy said.

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Anderson,” Danny said. “I won’t let Paul alone the whole time!

“You’ve all got your cell phones,” she asked worriedly.

“Yes!” they all said at once. Then Billy pulled his out and realized it didn’t work. The bastard had already thought to cancel it!”

“Mine’s disconnected,” Billy said.

Sean pulled out a few more $20’s and said, “Stop at gas station or drug store on the way and get one of those reloadable ones until we can get you a contract and a nice phone….”

Billy smiled and pressed back some tears as he hugged the man tightly and whispered, “Thanks!”

The teens went to the mall and the theater was packed. But they needn’t have worried about Robert that evening. He was busy elsewhere, hard at work on a gift for his friend.