Eddie turned and looked over at his best friend. They had known each other since...forever. Well, since Tom had moved in across the street. Smiling, he could still remember that day. It had been mid-afternoon, because he had already had his nap and he had been playing in his front yard when a car pulled up next to the empty house and the biggest man he had ever seen got out.
The man had scared him a little. Thinking it was the giant from Jack and Beanstalk, Eddie had hid behind the bushes that surrounded three sides of his yard. Peeking out at the giant, he'd seen him open the back door, reach in and lift out a boy around his age who was fast asleep. He couldn’t really see what the boy looked like, as his face was buried his father’s shoulder, but he could see that he had sandy blond hair.
A woman got out of the other side of the car and smiled at man. She stroked the boy’s back, and they both walked towards the house. Suddenly Eddie was picked up from behind. He'd cried out until he realised it was his daddy.
“Daddy, a giant moved in across the road.”
His daddy smiled and shook his head. “Tell you what scamp, why don’t we go over and say hello?”
His father started to carry him across the road. Eddie wrapped his legs around him and put his head on his shoulders. He held him tight; he was never scared when his dad held him like this. As they crossed the road, the woman came back out of the house and his dad walked over to her.
“Hi I’m Paul Skinner. I live across the road and this little monster in my son Eddie. I just thought I would drop over and say hi and see if you folks needed anything.”
“Hi, I’m Sharon Phillips.” She leaned close to Eddie and said, “Hi Eddie.”
Eddie turned his face into his father’s chest. His dad laughed and said, “Acting all shy today. You caught him on a good day. Usually I can’t get him to shut up.” He rubbed Eddie's back and gave him a quick squeeze. He smiled at the lady and said, ”My wife usually does the introductions, but she took our eldest daughter to the dentist. We are going have a small party tomorrow and have some people from the neighbourhood come over. We would love it if you could join us. It would give you a chance to meet everyone.”
Eddie's parents were always like this. They would have regular parties and invite people from the neighbourhood. They believed in community.
The giant walked up behind his wife and put his arms around her.
“I put Tommy in our bed for his nap.” With one hand still around his wife he reached out and shook Eddie's dad's hand. “Hi I’m John Phillips.”
“John, this is Paul and Eddie, he was just inviting us to a party tomorrow. I was just about to accept.” Turning to Eddie and his father, she said, “We would love to come to your party thank you.”
“Well, I’ll leave you to finish unpacking. I had better get this one his bath before his mother gets home and kills us both. The party usually starts around four, but drop over early and we can get better acquainted.”
Slowly he carried Eddie back across the road to their house, with Eddie peaking over his shoulder at the giant and his wife.
Suddenly he was pulled out of my reverie with a sharp nudge from Tom.
“You’re being very quiet, what are you thinking about”
“The first day you moved in,” Eddie smiled. It had been a running joke for years now, after his dad told Tom's parents that he thought John was the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. His dad was six foot five inches in height and probably just as broad across the chest. He'd played ball in college, but was injured and couldn’t become a professional. He had completed his degree and become a fire fighter instead. Which was cool because it meant that Tom and Eddie had spent many an afternoon playing at being firemen in the station. For Eddie's tenth birthday, John had given him his own fire hat, which he kept on a hook on his wall in his room.
They parked next to a clear blue lake that was so calm it acted as a mirror for the world around. The mountain beyond glowed in the evening sun and acted like a beacon in the dying light. He stood looking out across the calm lake and felt peaceful. This place always calmed him and left him with a sense of inner peace. He felt his dad’s arms drape over his shoulders. He looked up and smiled and leaned in the hug. They stood there for the moment and looked out over the lake.
A cough from behind brought them out of the reverie. “Come on, I’m not unloading the car myself.” He went over and helped Tom to unload the car.
Tom took out his radio from his bag and put on the roof. Turning it on, a DJ’s voice invaded the tranquillity. “Now Elvis with Jail House Rock.” The song blasted out, mixing with the gentle laughter of the two boys jostling and playing.
* * *
Eddie woke and stretched. He could smell breakfast cooking. He crawled out of the tent and saw Tom sitting by his father. The sun hung low in the sky as he stood, barely peeking over the mountains, the sky a mass of colour. He could hear the sounds of birds and animals in the woods around them; the sounds of the world awakening, ready for another day.
He walked silently towards the two figures, right up behind Tom and squeezed his waist. Tom jumped and squealed. “Ow, I’m going to get you for that.” Laughing they ran and Tom jumped on him. They rolled around wrestling for a few minutes until his father called them.
“Enough boys! Come on breakfast is ready.”
When they'd finished their breakfast and cleaned up the camp they asked if they could go swimming. They were told to stay close to the camp site. Quickly changing into swim trunks and grabbing towels they ran to the water and spent the morning swimming.
Sitting at the campfire during lunch, Eddie’s dad asked if they wanted to go fishing with him. The boys looked at each other for a moment and then said, “No thanks, we want to swim again”
“Okay, but remember stay close to the camp site. I will be out in the boat, but I will still be able to see you”
They waited for him to row out to the middle of the lake. Tom turned to him and said, “Why don’t we skinny dip? Your dad won’t be able to see us clearly if we go over by those rocks”
Eddie looked at his friend and smiled. They had heard older kids talk about skinny dipping, but they were never brave enough to try it at home in case they got caught. He nodded and suggested they bring the radio.
Tom headed for the tent and Eddie started to head for the rocks. Turning, Tom called him and for a second looked directly into his eyes and said, “Wait for me”
They swam and splashed for the next few hours, their laughter echoing across the lake, filling the world with an ancient music which seemed to make each colour brighter, each bird song sweeter and fill the world with hope and energy.
After a while they got out of the water and lay on the grass, looking up at the clear blue sky and talked of nothing and everything, just happy to be with each other. But that endless well of energy inherent in all boys there age reasserted itself and Tom grabbed Eddie, initiating a tickling war; their screams and laughter once again recharging the earth’s soul.
Eddie had pinned Tom and was sitting on his stomach holding down his arms. They were both smiling and Tom was struggling. They both realised that they had become hard during the wrestling. Tom had suddenly stopped wriggling and his cock and touched Eddie’s butt. They both became motionless. Looking deep into each other’s eyes the atmosphere around them seemed to become extremely charged. Eddie let go of his friend’s arms and put them on the ground. He stayed in the same position. His face inches away from his friend. He could see the little beads of sweat and water on his face and feel his every breath. His felt strange. He swallowed, but could seem to take his eyes away from his friends deep blue eyes. He'd never realised just how deep they were and he didn’t seem to want to move. They hadn’t broken eye contact for all this time. Slowly he bent down and lightly kissed his friend on the lips.
Tom remained rigid. He was having feeling he never had before. He was breathing hard. Waves of electricity were coursing through his body. When his cock had touched Eddies butt, it had almost happened. What happen when he rubbed it. He looked deeply into his friend’s eyes and slowly Eddie was moving closer to him and then they kissed. They were kissing. The heat from his friend’s lips was like nothing he had ever felt before. He lay rigid for a moment and then returned the kiss. He wrapped his arms around Eddie and turned him over until he was on top. They kept kissing; their cocks touched and sent waves and waves of power through their bodies.
Millions of years of instinct took over and they began to rub against each other, only pausing their kissing to catch a breath. Eddie moved his hands down Tom’s back and took hold of his butt and pulled him even closer to him. They both began to move faster and with more purpose. Suddenly Tom arched his back and cried out, shooting his load between them. Eddie thrust his crotch forward and mixed his juices with his friends.
Tom rolled off his friend and lay beside him. He was breathing hard. He didn’t know what had happened. He felt drained and yet more alive than he had ever felt before. He turned on his side and looked and Eddie. He never wanted this moment to end. In that instant he realised his love for Eddie went beyond friendship. He wanted to be beside forever, to feel him in his arms forever. He didn’t know what this meant, only that he would never be truly happy unless he was with Eddie.
Oh fuck, Oh Shit. What have I done? Tom is going to hate me.
Eddie had wanted to do things with Tom for a while. He even dreamed about it and woke up with his PJs sticky. He wanted to curl up and die. He was nothing but a queer. He could sense Tom turning to face him and he forced himself to look at him. Looking into those blue eyes he wanted to cry. He smiled at Tom and was about to say something when they heard.
“Boys where are you.”
“Shit my dad, he can’t see us like this. He’d kill us.”
They both jumped up and race to the water and jumped in. Eddie’s father came in to sight and looked at both boys. He had caught enough fish for supper and had called it a day. He had heard their laughter and decided to join them swimming for a while. He had walked over to where they were and had seen their embrace. He had backed away quietly and had sat trying to think of a way to talk to the boys about it. He knew they were just been thirteen and horny, but was afraid for both of them. Society wasn’t exactly liberal about this.
He had always suspect Eddie might be gay. He had a couple of gay friends and had seen something of them in him. He had hoped he was wrong, he hoped it was just a phase. But either way he would support them no matter what. He decided to call the boys and have a talk with them.
He called out and walked towards the boys. He could hear them scramble into the water and smiled.
“Okay boys enough swimming for today”
“Okay dad. We'll be over in a minute, we just want to dry off,” Eddie replied, a hit of panic in his voice.
Please please don’t come over here.
His dad turned and started back to the camp. Tom jumped out of the water and started to dry off and get dressed.
Eddie watched him for a moment and the feeling that he was about to cry came again. He brushed away the tears and headed for his clothes and started to dress. Tom, already dressed, started for the camp. They hadn’t spoken since...well, since. Eddie's throat felt dry as he called, “Wait for me!”
Tom turned and smiled. “Always.”
The rest of the evening seemed strained and uncomfortable. Nobody seemed to want to talk. Finally his dad said “Okay boys, time for bed. We have a long drive home tomorrow.” Both boys headed to their tent, neither saying a word. Tom wanted to say something. He wanted to hold his friend and never let go. Eddie couldn’t look at his friend. He knew that if he did he would see hate, fear and he couldn’t handle that. He lay down and turned his back to his friend.
When Eddie had lain down, Tom sat and watched him for a moment. Did he hate him for what happened? Tired, but unable to sleep he lay down on his back and listen to his friend breath. Slowly he fell asleep. He awoke in the dark to the sound of his friend crying. He crawled over to him and wrapping his arms around him held him. Never saying a word.
Tear gas canisters were raining down on the crowd and Tom wrapped a cloth across his face. The police were lining up and getting ready to charge. Had been through this before, the man was always doing this. The demonstration had started off as usual, peaceful and then the cops had arrived and things had started to get ugly. He grabbed Carol's hand and started to move towards the back of the crowd. This was going to get ugly.
He was in his last year of his law degree and had already spent time in both hospital and jail. He couldn’t believe this country. All they wanted to do was peacefully protest the war. It was their legal right, but dickheads – and he had to admit they were on both sides – had to make this a pissing contest.
“Carol, we'd better moved. They’re going to charge any minute.”
Carol looked at him and sighed. She had been going out with Tom for two years and had seen him become more disenchanted with the movement each year. She could remember the first time she'd seen him. He was big, over six feet tall and built like a football player. His blond hair shaggy, he had been standing in front of a campus security officer, or she should say towering over the security man, protesting the recruitment office on campus. She had seen him around campus a few times after that and then had been introduced to each other by a mutual friend and it had started from there.
They started to move to the back of the crowd when the police charged, hitting people indiscriminately with their batons. He grabbed Carol and began to run, when he felt a blow on his back and two cops started to rain blows down on him. Gathering his body around Carol he fell to the ground and curled up around her, protecting her from the blows. Once he was down the two cops moved on.
They lay there for a while and once the noise started to drift away from them, they got up and Carol helped Tom to his room. Laying him down she stripped him and started to treat his wounds. She had gotten enough practise of this over the years and in fact this was one of the reasons she had decided to go to medical school. Once she had treated the wounds she lay down beside him and held him. She had never loved anyone as much as she had Tom.
She had taken him to meet her parents over Easter break and her dad seemed to like him. She had met his parents on a couple of occasions when they had come to visit. She felt comfortable holding him. The first time they had made love he had surprised her when he started to cry. She had held him until he had fallen fast asleep. He always seemed strong, but she had seen a soft side of him on a number of occasions and it never ceased to surprise her.
She rested her head on his chest and he wrapped his arm around her. “Well, there goes this evening. I wanted to take you to dinner tonight to celebrate before we leave tomorrow.” He reached across and took out the small box he had hid under his pillow earlier. Sitting up he looked in her eyes and smiled, “I had wanted this to be a little more romantic. But will you marry me.”
Carol jumped up and screamed, “Oh my God, yes, oh my God!”
The door burst open and Slavo, Tom’s roommate walked in. “Am I disturbing anything? Only there was no sock on the door.”
Carol was dancing around and the room and hugged Slavo. “He just asked me to marry him. I have to go. I have to ring my Mom.” She ran out the door. She ran back in a moment later, full of excitement, kissed Tom again and then ran out of the room.
Slavo congratulated Tom and grabbed some books and left. Tom lay on the bed and smiled. He loved Carol and wanted to marry her. Then why did this feel like a betrayal. He closed his eyes and another face appeared; a boy, dark haired with a crooked smile and dark eyes, Eddie. He hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. They had been close friends forever and more since the weekend when they were thirteen. They had never spoken of what had happened or ever done anything like that again, but he had never forgotten how it felt to touch him and hold him.
He had taken philosophy in his first year in college and one of his lecturers had talked about a perfect moment. A moment in time when the world seemed to work, everything was brighter, clearer and more real. He had had a moment like that. That afternoon with Eddie.
He closed his eyes and heard Eddie call, “Wait for me”. He whispered “Always”, turned to face the wall and cried himself to sleep.
* * *
The Jungle was thick and bullets bounced against the tree he was crouching behind. He could hear Jackson screaming from a wound and knew a least another two were dead. They had walked right into an ambush. He crouched lower behind the trees and fired into the bush. He couldn't see anyone. He never could. He was on short time now. His tour was finishing up in two weeks and he was fucked if he was going to get killed this close to going home.
He had joined the Marines right out of high school and loved it. He had always wanted to be a soldier. But the reality was different. This was his second tour and he had been made Sergeant two months ago. His Lieutenant was right out of West Point, all full of piss and vinegar, as his dad always said.
He hit the floor and crawled towards the radio man Kilowski, who along with the Lieutenant had been one of the first killed. He grabbed him by his web gear and dragged him into the bush. He checked the radio to see if it was working. Yes, thank fucking god. Bullets hit the trees around him and he could hear more screams of the injured. Fuck they were being cut to pieces.
This was supposed to be a routine patrol. Intelligence said there were no enemy units in this quadrant. Typical intelligence bollocks. Taking the handset he started to transmit.
“Baker Two to base, over.”
“Baker Two this is base, over.”
“We need evac, under heaving fire, three dead, over.”
“Copy, Evac on the way, can you estimate enemy size, over?”
“No, I can’t even see the enemy.” Fucking REMFs
“ETA on Evac ten minutes, over.”
He could feel the panic and fear begin to rise. He crouched as low as he could and fired to where he thought the enemy was. Suddenly he felt a burning in his back. Fuck he was shot. He started to scream and fired into the bush. He was not going to die, not out here, not lying in muck and shit. He knew that panic was the enemy now. Closing his eyes he pictured the lake, the mountains beyond and started to feel calmer. He lay there for what seemed like forever, the sounds around him fading. Someone knelt down beside him and started to talk to him. He couldn’t hear him. He was going to die. He closed his eyes and the last thing he saw before passing out was a boy. Blond hair, blue eyes and a smile to light up the world. “Wait for me!” he called, and the boy whispered back “Always”.
He woke up in a hospital surrounded by his parents, his brothers and sisters. He had been shot twice in the back and had been medivaced back to the States. He would recover, but would never be a soldier again. His parents had cried when he woke. They had never left his side since they had arrived. Now that they knew he was going to be okay, they had gone to a hotel to rest.
He lay looking at the ceiling trying to forget about the pain, when the door open and one of the best sights he had ever seen walked in, Tom. His heart skipped. Tom moved over to the bed stood over him, huge just like his dad.
“You scared the fuck out of me, you bastard,” he half-joked.
“You think you were scared?”
“I’m getting married. I want you to be my best man.”
A huge lump rose in his throat. This hurt more than the bullets, “Of course,” he nodded.
Tom sat down and reached out and took his hand. They said nothing else for the rest of the evening, just looked into each other’s eyes. Tom visited everyday for two weeks, but had to go back to college to finish his exams.
Eddie got out of hospital after three months and was best man at Tom’s wedding three weeks later.
“Daddeee! Eddie won’t give me my doll back!”
Waving the smoke from the barbecue away, Tom turned and said to his eight year old son, “Edward Phillips, you give your sister back her doll right this minute.”
He smiled over at his wife who gave him the he gets that from you look. Shaking his head, he turned back to the grill and turned over the burgers. It was the fourth of July weekend and he was having neighbours and friends over. He had inherited the house from his parents when they had been killed in an auto accident five years ago. He was going to sell it, but Carol had said no. She had always loved this house and it meant they could move out of city. Better schools, better life and a yard for the kids.
The gate open and the Skinners came through. They were his second parents. They had stood and mourned with him when his parents had died and were now a second set of grandparents for his kids. He smiled at Paul when his four year old daughter ran up and jumped up on him. He swung her around and she giggled. He had always been a gentle man.
Then his heart stopped behind them in walked Eddie. He gripped the spatula tighter and fought back the urge to run over and grab him. Even after all these years, just the sight of him was enough to set him off.
He smiled and waved at Eddie who walked over to him. Grabbing two beers on the way, handing one to him he joked, “Thank god I ate on the way. Didn’t know you’d be cooking.”
“Ha Ha, very funny. Now make yourself useful and toast the buns.”
It was like this with Eddie. They may not see each other for a while, but when they did it seemed as if no time had passed and they slotted into place easily. He looked tired and he stretched his back. He knew Eddie still had pain from his wounds. Carol came over and hugged Eddie.
“You’re looking tired, how are you feeling?”
“A little pain, now and again, nothing too serious.”
She looked deep into his eyes to make sure he was telling her the truth. After getting out of hospital Eddie had be prescribed strong pain killers and had become addicted to them. It was Carol who first recognised this and helped him get over them. It had taken years for him to get some sort of life together and they had been with him all the way. Carol had realised that they had a special bond and had made it a goal to become Eddie’s friend.
She was also one of the few people who knew that Eddie was gay. He had come out to them a couple of years ago and Carol was fine with it. He was godfather to little Eddie. He had gotten a teaching degree and had followed his parents into that profession. He was teaching fourth grade in a school in Northern California.
Carol had a soft spot for her husband’s friend. He was very much like her husband. He had this hard crust, but a soft centre. He showed this when he was around kids. From talking to his parents he was happy and quite a good teacher. But he always seemed somehow sad. She supposed it had a lot to do with been gay. He would never be able to show affection to someone he loved.
She had been shocked when he had come out to them. It hadn’t been long after he had moved out of his home. He had moved back in after been arrested for vagrancy. Hooked on those damned pain killers those idiots had prescribed him, his life had spiralled out of control. She had gotten him help not just for his addictions, but for his other problems. When she had been treating him for the addiction he would wake up screaming in the night and start crying and she had held him like a child on many nights until he had gone back to sleep. She had forced him to get help from a psychiatrist she knew who worked with vets. He had gotten his life together and now seemed happier.
The party was a great success and everyone was mingling and talking. Carol walked over to were her husband and Eddie were talking to his parents. “Honey we’re running low on white wine. I told you we should have gotten more.”
“Oh shit! Sorry,” he quickly added when his wife gave a look.
Paul Skinner said they had some in their basement and told Eddie to go over and get some. Eddie started to head to the gate joking about been treated like a kid.
When Tom called, “Wait for me!”
Eddie turned and smiled, “Always.”
Eddie knelt by the coffin and looked at the face of his father. Tears rolled unashamedly down his face. His father had always been a source of strength for him. He had passed away two years nearly to the day his mother died. They said he died of a heart attack, but he knew it was from missing his mother. He had never known two people who had been so much in love with each other.
Both his parents and stuck by him while he was sick. Sick, that’s want the called it. He had been an addict and become homeless for a while wandering from city to city unable to find a place to settle. He had finally woken up in a cell under arrest for vagrancy. He had wanted to cry when he had had to call his parents to come and get him out.
He had moved back home for a while, but kept taking the pills. Carol, Tom’s wife, had spotted something was wrong and confronted him on it, saying that he was hurting everyone around him and slowly killing his parents. She had called him a selfish bastard and they'd had a huge row, ending surprisingly, with him crying and her holding him. God, that woman was strong. At one point she had punched him and knocked him to the ground.
She had helped get over the pills and back into life. He loved her for that. She had supported him when he had come out to his parents and them. She was one of his closest friends, but he hated her a little even while loving her because she was with Tom and he wasn’t.
Getting up he walked to one of the seats in the chapel and sat down. He remembered a conversation with his dad, not much after he had come out. His dad had told him that he had always suspected that he was gay and that it never made a difference to him. They had both held each other and cried.
He was going to miss that gentle strength. He suddenly felt all alone in the world and closed his eyes and thought of the lake where they had gone camping every year when he was a boy. Tom had started to take his family up there now. They had invited him each year and each year he had declined. He couldn't go up there with Tom – it would break his heart.
The door behind him open and his sister Beatrice came in and sat down beside him. She had moved in with Dad after Mom had died and lived there now. He was glad the house was going to stay within the family. He was still living is California in a small town called West Phalin. He was now the deputy head of his school and had a good life.
His sister put her arms around him and hugged him. She was so much like their mother. He almost started to cry again, but was out of tears. They both got up and went out to their guests. Tom greeted him at the door and wrapped his arms around him. He could feel Tom’s tears on his cheek and hugged him back.
The funeral was the next day and his two brothers, he and Tom carried the coffin from the chapel to the graveside. They were burying him in the same grave as their mom. Not far from where Tom’s parents were buried. Standing at the graveside with Tom on one side and Carol the other. They had become very close to his dad over the last few years and Tom had always been like another son. Carol had her arm around his and was comforting him. She was still as beautiful has ever. There were grey hairs showing, no dye hiding the passing of the years. She was a partner in a successful medical group and Tom had opened up a practice of his own working from home. He was proving to be quite successful.
Looking at Tom, he too was showing grey hair and a slight paunch. Thirty years, he couldn't believe it was thirty years since the camping trip that changed his life forever. In the dark of the night, when he couldn’t sleep because of the pain in his back, he could still feel how it felt to hold Tom and feel his skin against his. He had never had a long term relationship and was never really into casual sex for two reasons. Firstly his job. He loved to teach, and with the principal retiring next year he had a good chance of becoming the next principal. The second reason was that he was still in love with Tom and always would be.
He hadn’t wanted to go back to the house and have to talk inanely to people he didn’t know about his father, but Carol and Beatrice insisted. They were two women cut from the same stone and had become fast friends. Poor Tom surrounded by two bossy strong women who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
* * *
Tom stood at the door and greeted everyone. His oldest son Eddie, sorry Ed, as he now demanded to be called, was taking their coats and storing them in one of the bedrooms upstairs. He opened the door and Carol was coming down the drive way with Eddie. He looked a little worn. Beatrice had told them he hadn't slept since he arrived two days ago and that his back was playing up.
Carol had tried to get him to take a painkiller, but he refused. He would rather endure the pain than take one of them again. His wife looked up at him and smiled sadly. He moved to them and gave all three a hug. They moved into the house.
The last people had gone by 7pm and the house was deafeningly quiet. It had always seemed so full of life. Eddie had left at around six as he couldn’t stand it anymore. Carol had made him go over to their guest room and lie down. He slept a little, but his back was giving him a good deal of pain. Getting up he did some stretches that usually worked and felt a little better. He went back over to the house.
They were cleaning up and he joined them. Glad to be doing something, anything. They sat in the garden afterwards and told stories about their dad, their mom, laughing at the things they had got up to and the love they had shared with him.
He still had a couple of days left before he had to go back and decided that he would go camping up at the lake. He decided not to tell anyone as he knew they would want to come and he needed to be alone.
He got up the next morning and his back was feeling a little better. After having a shower he went down to breakfast and decided to take a walk. Grabbing a coat he told his sister he would be back in a little while and started to walk down the street. From behind he heard a familiar voice call.
“Where are you off to?”
“Just going for a walk.”
“Wait for me.”
“Always,” he whispered
He had headed out the next morning and spent two wonderful days by the lake just fishing and sitting watching the stars. Allowing the calmness of the lake and the tranquillity of the mountains beyond to flow into him and help refill his energy. When he left the camp site he was filled with calm and hope. He decided to drive the hundred odd miles home rather the take a flight.
He watched as his son walked up the driveway from the car and stood. His son was so much like his wife. He never grew as tall as him, but was still a big man. He had become a doctor like his mother, and a after a few years working in a hospital decided to join her practice. He was glad. He had heard too many stories of doctors and nurses being attacked these days. Walking towards them he held out his hands for his grandson Thomas, aged one month.
Once he had the baby in his arms and looked into his eyes, no one else existed. He had his father’s eyes, his eyes. He was the most beautiful thing in the whole world.
Laughing his son said, “I see where we rate.”
He looked at his son and smiled. He was extremely proud of how both his kids had turned out. Eddie, he allowed to call him that again, and Sarah who was finishing up her law degree this year. She wanted to work for the public defender’s office. She had her mother’s sense of right and wrong and her strength as well.
Looking across the road, his wife was coming out of Beatrice’s house. She walked over and hugged and kissed her son and daughter-in-law and then took the baby out of his hands and started to gently rock it.
They moved into the house and he helped his son take their bags up to his old room where he had put together their old crib for the baby and where they would stay. He looked around the room and was almost drowned with old memories. This had been his room as a boy and then his son’s and now his grandson’s.
He left his son and his wife to settle in and went down to the kitchen to his wife. He walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. He had loved her for all their married life, but knew in his heart of hearts that she was not his soul mate. He always felt a little guilty about that and had tried to love her as much as he could.
He grabbed a beer from the fridge and talked idly with Carol about everyday things. The kids came down and they had lunch while the baby took a nap. He could see they were both tired and remembered those days of midnight feeds and babies crying in the night.
His son said something to him and he snapped out of his reverie. “Sorry I was off in a world of my own, remembering you when you were a baby. Do you remember he had colic? We didn’t he get a wink of sleep for about a month.”
Carol laughed at the memory and Eddie blushed. “Not to change the subject or anything. We were up at the teacher’s conference a couple of months ago and we ran into Uncle Eddie. He was up there giving a talk on the changes in education over the last twenty years.”
His son had his full attention now; he hadn’t seen Eddie in four years now. He didn’t come home as much since his dad died. He missed seeing him, and he and Carol had been planning on visiting him for a while.
“How was he?”
“Great, he said to say hi and that he was coming up to visit soon.”
“Did he say when?”
“Once school was out, so anytime now I suppose.”
The visit went well and they left for home after a couple of days. He missed the kids now they were gone. The house seemed emptier and it had been great having his first grandchild here. They settled back into a routine. He would sit out on the front porch each evening and watch for the taxi with Eddie in it to arrive. Two weeks later it did.
Eddie was totally grey and but still skinny. He got up from the porch and walked over to him. Calling out his name Eddie turned and smiled at him. He put down his bags paid the taxi driver and waited for his friend. They hugged and looked at each other marking the passage of time in each other’s faces. Tom grabbed his bag and they walked to the house, talking as if they had never been apart.
Eddie told Tom about meeting little Eddie as he always called his son at the conference. “You missed them. He and Sarah stayed for a few days with the baby a couple of weeks ago.”
“How was the baby?”
“Loud, that boy has a pair of lungs on him” he laughed. “And I’m too old for night time feedings.”
“Don’t you believe a word he says,” came Carol’s voice behind them. “We had to fight him to get close to the baby. You’d think he was the father.”
She came up and hugged Eddie. “Good to see you. I almost thought you had forgotten where we live. How are you? How is your back? Are you sleeping?”
Eddie laughed she had been asking him these questions for twenty odd years now. “Fine mommy.”
They all laughed, but Carol watching him closely as he struggled to bend down to pick up his bags. See looked and could see the same worry on her husband’s face. They had both seen him wince. She had seen the bags under his eyes and knew he wasn’t sleeping. Ever since he had been addicted to painkillers after getting out of hospital after he was wounded, he refused to take painkillers and knew that he was afraid he would become addicted again. She would try to talk to him again and prescribe some medication for him.
They knocked at the door and Anna, Beatrice’s granddaughter, answered. She hugged her great uncle and called, “Nana, Uncle Eddie’s here.”
Beatrice walked out and Eddie was shocked, it was liked seeing his mom again. She was getting to look like her more and more. He got a sharp pain of regret in his chest that he didn’t see her as often as he would like. He was getting harder to travel with his back these days and though he hid it well most days, the pain was getting worse lately.
He gave his sister a great big hug and kissed her cheek. “Hey, when you came out of the kitchen that time I thought it was mom. You look so much like her.”
He put his bags upstairs in his old room and had to lean against the door, as a pain had shot up his back. The doctors had told him he would need to take in easy for a while. But he was so busy with getting the new school ready and working with the PTA there never seemed enough time to relax. They had told him to take a holiday and relax or they would admit him and force him to rest.
He slowly walked down the stairs and, bracing himself, he forced a smile on his face and walked into the kitchen. They had a great evening laughing and remembering the old days. He lay in bed and for the first time in a while he slept.
He started to think again about moving home. Beatrice had been asking to move in with her since her husband died two years ago. He was in two minds about this. He had a good life in California; his job was there all his friends and Tom wasn’t. Each time he came home, even after all these years, the pain of being around him was strong. He was the love of his life and he had never had the strength to tell him, especially after he became friends with Carol. He loved them both and would hate to cause any problems. He know his chance was gone a long time ago, if it ever existed. He had loved Tom from the moment he had looked it to his eyes that day at the lake. He had known that day he was looking at his soul mate and the thoughts of seeing him every day and been unable to touch him would kill him. No he couldn’t move back, not now.
Beatrice came in to the kitchen and looked at her brother. He was the youngest of the family, but looked older than her two brothers and the only one to move away. She missed him and wanted him to come home. He was standing looking out the window deep in thought and arching his back. She wiped away a tear from her eyes thinking of the constant pain he was under. He had served his country and they were all proud of him for that, but she wished he had never gone to that awful place. He had come home broken.
She knew he spent a lot of time alone out in California. Even though the world had change some things remained the same. Her parents had been teachers and so had she, and she knew that his sexuality would never have been acceptable. Even now that attitudes were changing he was too set in his ways to show his feelings. He had never had a long term relationship with any and she could not imagine not having someone in her life. She still missed her husband Jack everyday and knew he was waiting in heaven for her.
She got herself a coffee and sat at the table, “Good morning, Eddie.”
Eddie turned and smiled, “Hey, Sis.”
They sat having breakfast and idly chatted about how everyone was doing. She had organised a big dinner for them all. They rarely got together now and it would be nice to see them all. She looked at the clock and realised she needed to get started if she was to have everything ready in time.
“Look at the time. Shoo. Out of my kitchen go and find something useful to do.”
“I could give you a hand.”
“No thank you, you’d just be in the way, now shoo.”
Laughing, he left the kitchen and taking his coat headed out the door. Taking a deep breath he decided to visit his parent’s grave. He went back into the house and called a cab and sat on the front porch waiting for it.
The journey to the cemetery was quiet; the taxi driver tried to engage him in conversation, but failed. He just wasn’t in a talkative mood. He walked slowly to the grave and sat on the grass. The grave was well kept and he felt a little guilty about that. He really should be doing his fair share of the work. He knew this was silly, him living a couple of hundred miles away. But he still felt guilty. Not just about maintaining the grave, but not visiting it very often.
He spent a pleasant morning picking the few weeds out of the grass around the grave and talking to his parents about his life and clearing his head about things. Getting up to leave he promised to visit more often and slowly ambled towards the gate. The taxi was waiting for him at the gate as arranged which he was glad off as he hated to wait around here. Even at fifty-three years old being around a cemetery really creeped him out.
Went he got back to the house it was a hive of activity. He was ordered out of the kitchen by the ladies saying he was under their feet and he went out to the yard to where his brothers and Tom were setting up tables in the backyard so everyone could eat together. He hugged his brothers and took their jibes about being the only one gone totally grey. He tried to help set up the tables, but his back became too sore. He was handed a beer and told to sit. He hated this. His fucking back was really starting to get him down.
He could hear his nieces and nephews laughing and playing out the front. He missed this, the sense of being together, being part of a family. He had a number of friends in California, but nothing like this. He sat and watched Tom work. He was still fairly fit for his age, just showing a slight paunch. His blond hair had no grey and his smile was still as infectious today has it had been when they were boys.
Tom was an only child, but had never felt like it. Ever since he was a boy these people had been a second family to him. They were his brothers and sisters. He had always been involved in family trips and parties and fights. He was even known as uncle to their kids. They worked away getting everything ready for the party and he kept an eye out for Eddie. He had seen the look of pain on his face when he tried to help and ordered him to sit down. He was really beginning to worry and would talk to him about taking up Beatrice’s offer to move home where they could take care of him.
The party was a huge success, the food was excellent. They all sat around after telling embarrassing stories to the kids and grandkids about each other, laughing at the memories and just enjoying each other’s company.
The next morning Eddie couldn’t get out of bed the pain in his back was too bad. Beatrice asked Carol to take a look and she told him that he was to stay in bed for the next few days and she would look in on him. His brothers checked on him regularly and Tom was over each day with Carol. After a couple of days of this he couldn’t stand it anymore and got up.
He walked out to the front porch and sat down. In what seemed like an instant Carol was over demanding to know what he thought he was doing. Tom, standing behind her, trying to hide a smirk at his wife talking to Eddie like a naughty child rather than a fifty-three year old man.
“I couldn’t stand it anymore; the walls were closing in on me. I had to get up. Anyway my back is better today.”
“Hmm. Let me have a look and see.” Carol touched his back and Eddie winched sharply. “Just as I thought, you really need to get that seen to by a specialist. I have a friend from college practising in LA. I am going to make you an appointment with him and you had better attend.”
Carol headed into the house to talk to Beatrice and Tom sat down beside Eddie. They sat there quietly not talking; not needing to talk. Both of them comfortable enough just to sit in each other’s company. They watched some boys play stick ball on the road and slowly sipped their coffee.
“Beatrice was telling us she invited you to come live with her. Have you thought about it?”
“Yeah, quite a lot lately, but I don’t know if I could. I’ve built a life out for myself in West Phalia, and I would miss my job. I’ll think about though. I’ve enjoyed being home more than I realised. I miss the peace here.”
“We’d love it if you would come home.”
They both looked back to where the boys were playing, both of them wanting to say more; but both unable to. They sat and watched the game enjoying the boy’s laughter and shouts. Each lost in their own worlds; filled with the other. The game finally broke up and one boy ran towards his house, his friend shouting after him.
“Wait for me.”
Both the men whispered at the same time “Always” they turned and smiled at each other.
Carol and Beatrice stood beside the grave. Tears flowing down their faces, this was the second funeral in a year. First Tom, he collapsed in the front yard. They said he had a massive coronary. Dead before he hit the ground. Carol still couldn’t get over that. Her husband had always been so full of life, he had kept himself in shape and now he was gone.
And now Eddie, everyone had expected him to go first. His back had got increasing worse over the last few years and he had had to take early retirement. He moved back home to be with Beatrice. He ended up in a wheelchair unable to stand, but still full of piss and vinegar. But when Tom died all life seemed to drain from him. The last few years they had gotten really tight and spent a good deal of the time together.
Beatrice had said that since they had both entered their second childhoods it was only natural they would get back to how it was in their first. She smiled at the antics they had both gotten up to over the last few years. She would miss them both.
As the priest said his last few words and they each threw a rose into the grave, she put her arm around Beatrice’s and they both walked away from the grave.
“It’s nice they're both buried close to each other,” Beatrice said as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
She would miss her brother dreadfully. He was the youngest and yet the first to go. The house seemed empty now, but sometimes she could still here the echoes of them all. Her parents, her husband and her brothers, Eddie and Tom, two to the most irreverent old men she had ever known. They had been either up to some mischief or planning some. It had been a joy to watch their friendship re-establish itself in that way. She could see how close they had been.
Her daughter was talking of moving in with her to take care of her. She was looking forward to that. Her daughter had divorced two years ago and had three kids. It would be nice to have kids in the house again. Taking a deep breath she got in the funeral car and headed back to the house.
The boy awoke and stretched. He could smell breakfast cooking. He crawled out of the tent and saw the blond boy with his back to him, bending over and taking the pan of the fire. He looked around and knew where he was, the lake. He stood and looked across the clear lake to the mountain shining in the morning light. Again he felt the usual calm inside. All his fears faded.
The boy by the fire turned and smiled, the smile lit up his face. The boy walked over to the fire dressed only in his shorts and t-shirt. He walked over to the boy and stood before him looking deep into his eyes for what seemed an eternity. He smiled back.
“I waited for you,” said the blond boy.
“I know, want to swim?”
“What about breakfast?”
“It can wait,” taking the boy’s hand they ran for the lake and into forever; their laughter ringing through the air and filling their world with love, joy and life eternal.
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