“Trek, you gotta get out of the house, you can’t stay cooped up in there for the rest of your life reading books.”
“I’m fine mom.”
“No, you’re not. Come on, go outside hang out with your friends.”
“Mom, you know I don’t have any of those and I’m just fine that way.”
“Trek, you’re not fine. You gotta meet people and give’em a chance to know what a great kid you are and what a great friend you can be.”
“Right, I bring so much to the table. And as a conversationalist, I’m equal to a goldfish. Look mom, someday maybe, but not now alright?”
Phoenix saw the hurt in her son’s eyes and walked over and sat down on his bed and ran her finger through his brown curly hair. “I know you’re scared Trek, but honestly it’s not that hard to talk to people. You just have to ask them questions like, ‘Are you new here?’ or “Hi I’m Trek, do you know where the movie theater is?” Anything simple will break the ice.
“Mom, you don’t get it. I ‘LIKE’ the ice. There’s no expectations, no fears of saying the wrong thing. If I say nothing then there’s nothing to be wrong. I don’t do people mom. Not everybody has to be talkative. I like being invisible. And I’ve gotten good at it. Why don’t you just let things be. Just let me be safe and silent. I’m comfortable this way. YOU go out and meet people, you haven’t been out in like forever.”
“Don’t try and change the subject. You know I can’t afford it and besides, I have to work, so I’m tired when I get home.” She smiled and ran her fingers through his hair again. Trek set his book aside and got off the bed and went to his dresser drawer and opened it. He grabbed two fists full of crumpled up dollar bills and turned around and set the money in his mom’s lap. “Here, now you’ve got no excuses.”
“Trek, that’s your allowance, you’ve worked for that, that’s yours.”
“So, you worked for it first and harder than me. All I do is dishes 3 times a week and take out the trash. You work really hard. Besides, I don’t need it. I go to a movie once a month, the rest just sits there.”
She stood straightening the bills out and squaring them up before walking to his dresser and quietly placing them back in the drawer. “Trek, thank you. But no. You may not need it today, but you start high school this year, you’re going to need it for dances and dating and going to parties. It’s what 9th graders do. I know you don’t think so right now but one day, someone is going to catch your eye and you’re going to fall madly in love with them. You’ll need it to pay for stuff when you go out.”
Trek raised a single eyebrow and just looked at his mom. “Right. And Martians are going to land here and we’ll find out they eat crack heads and gang bangers and crap gold bricks. And mom, who would want me. And anyone desperate enough to want me would have to be worse off than I am. Talk about a dysfunctional relationship. “
“Trek, don’t talk that way, it rips my heart out to hear you put yourself down. Come here.” He sighed and set his book down now distraught that his mother had tears in her eyes. She hugged him and he hugged her back firmly. “I’m sorry mom. I’m just scared all the time. I just don’t fit in.”
“How will you know if you fit in or not if you never try?” It was an old argument. One he knew how to handle.
“Fine, I’ll go down to the mall and hang out.” He headed for the door.
“Hey!” she said a little louder than she meant.
“You’re going to need some money aren’t you? Or are you just headed to the park to hide again and pretend that you really went to the mall?”
Damn it, she knew. He resigned himself to having to actually go this time. With dread he took a breath and walked over to the drawer and grabbed a fist full of dollars and shoved them into his pocket before turning to leave.
“Wait, she said digging her keys out of her pocket, “I’ll drive you.”
Panic stricken he reacted, “No, uhm, I can take the bus.”
“Nonsense, I have to go back and work the dinner rush anyways, it’s right on the way. Maybe you can catch a movie and then come over to the restaurant and ride home with me.”
Looking down he mumbled, “There’s nothing good on.”
Then go to the arcade or just window shop. Look, even if you just get a coke and sit on a bench and watch people, it’s a step in the right direction. You’re out of the house and you’ll realize that people aren’t that bad. Just flash’em that dazzling smile of yours and they’ll be your friend instantly.”
“Right. Look can’t I just come to the restaurant with you? I can help bus tables or something.”
No, now you know they won’t let you. And I don’t need to get in trouble. Silvia already hates me because my tips are always twice what she gets so she thinks I’m stealing her best clients.”
“That’s crap. The old bag should try a shower once in a while, she might do better.”
“Trek, now that’s not nice.”
“Sorry mom. It’s just that I know how hard you work. You really take care of the customers. If she did too then they’d tip her better. But she’s always out back smoking then she comes in and smells like an ash tray.”
“Look Trek, she’s old and set in her ways. It’s difficult being old and alone. Alone sucks doesn’t it?” She lifted his chin and looked into those emerald eyes and flashed him her own tooth paste commercial.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Alright then. Remember that the next time you talk about her. And be nice when you come back. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” She said it in that sing song motherly voice.
He smirked, “Good, then if I spill honey on her it’ll keep the flies off the customers.”
She feigned angry as she grabbed him by the back of the neck, “What am I going to do with you! Come on, get in the car, I’ll drop you off at the mall.”
“Don’t ah mom me, just get in the car. Don’t make me late, now come on.”
The ride seemed like seconds, just like your average trip to the gallows. She pulled up to the curb and he just stared at the mall doors. “Go, quit stalling. And you have to say hi to at least one person alright?”
“Trek, promise me.”
“Alright! I promise. Gosh, just leave me alone will ya?” He got out and closed the door and taking a breath, walked towards the doors as his mother pulled away from the curb. His head turned left to right trying to find the danger. What that danger was he wasn’t sure. Anything that wasn’t just right. He stuck his hands in his pockets and kept moving. Staying in one place makes you and easy target.
He walked through the door and stopped, he was taking in everything when he was abruptly shoved aside by a mother dragging her young daughter along, obviously on a mission. “Move” she bellowed mumbling something about parents letting their kids run wild before disappearing into a clothing store. He moved to the side and walked slowly. That proved his point, standing still makes you a target. He had the art of crowd stealth down to a fine science. Avoid other kids, especially groups of them. And if you absolutely must interact or break cover, do it next to somebody who looks weaker than you. You stand a better chance of not being selected. And Never ever make eye contact. He made his way towards the theater to see if there was anything new. He saw a group of boys walking his way laughing and being loud. He panicked, this is worst case scenario, loud means they’re looking for attention and what better way to get attention than to point out the one who is different. But timing is everything, turn too soon and they’ll notice you staring into a shop window, wait too long and you’ll make eye contact and that is a sure fail. He glanced around him looking for a mom with a herd that he could fall in with. Just his luck. A heavy set black woman and her three daughters. ‘Damn’ he thought. I don’t think I can pull that one off. They’re closer now, no other choice, I’ll have to use the window shopping ploy. He turned sharply to the right as if he was looking in the window. ‘Damn!” he scolded himself and winced realizing he was looking in the window at a woman’s bra display. Well there’s nothing for it. He refocused on the reflection of the passing gaggle of boys praying that they passed. He noticed that one turned his head and looked his way. He paused as the rest of the group got a few steps ahead. ‘No choice’ he thought, ‘I’ve been found out’ and he bolted towards the opposite direction. He glanced over his shoulder to see if they were pursuing as he ran into and bounced off of someone landing flat on his back. He hit his head on the floor and saw stars. That was just before the pain reminded him that he just screwed the pooch on mall stealth. He felt a pair of hands pulling his arm bringing him to a sitting position. They were small hands.
“Hey, you ok?”
His vision was blurred a bit but it was coming back, the face was coming into focus. A boy about his age was kneeling holding him up. “Are you alright? He asked again.
“Yeah, sorry, I’m fine.”
The boy was sizing him up. “Looked like a case of failed mall stealth. Next time don’t worry if they’re chasing you, just keep moving. Look back when you make the corner and slow to blend in before you look.” He was grinning just a little as he helped him up. Trek looked at the face of the boy who was helping him. Black hair like shiny coal, and several large freckles on a very engaging face with chocolate eyes that smiled with his mouth. A mouth that was bleeding.
“Oh crap, I’m sorry. You’re bleeding.” The boy pulled out a tissue and held it against his lip.
“Damn braces, I hate’em.”
“Is it bad? Let me see.” He took his hand away and Trek used his thumb to pull his chin down to examine his lip. Damn, I got you pretty good, put the tissue back. Look, I’m really sorry. Can I call someone for you; that should be looked at.”
“My Dad’s over at Dick’s Sporting goods.”
“Come on, I’ll walk with you over there. Gawd I feel just awful, I just didn’t see you.”
“So you gonna tell me how your stealth failed?”
“How do you know about it?”
“How do you think? I know an abort and bail when I see one. I’ve had a few of those myself. I can’t say I’ve ever had a fail quite this spectacular though. Close, I tripped over a stroller once. Luckily it was some old lady with her dog in there. I would have topped the charts if I spilled some newborn out on the floor. As it was, the dog took off chasing me and barking. So much for mall stealth. I think every eye in the place was on me being chased by some old ladies long haired lawn shitter through the mall. Thank god we moved the next week. Half the school was there and laughing their asses off.” Trek studied his eyes. He had like a double row of eyelashes. It almost made his eyes look like he had permanent eye liner on. And his lashes were really long and that same coal black. He stopped, “What?” Trek came back from his introspection and blushed. He’d been caught, “I was just trying to figure out why a guy like you would ever need to even know what mall stealth was. I mean, you’re perfect and all.”
“Right, ol’ tin teeth here. And I’ve got Freckles that make me look like I belong on the cover of Mad Magazine or something. Perfect? You must’ve hit your head pretty hard back there. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but I’m not exactly a jock. In fact, if you look in Wikipedia under wimp, you’ll probably see my picture. So what’s your story? Why were you in not so stealthy stealth mode?”
He looked away checking once again to see what danger could be around, “Uhm, shy I guess. I just don’t like crowds or people for the most part. I just sort of freeze up and can’t talk to them.”
“Well you’re talking right now.”
“Yeah, but you’re hurt. That’s different.”
“So if I wasn’t bleeding out right here in front of you then we wouldn’t even be talking?”
Trek stopped and pulled his hand away from his lip which was swelling up pretty good now. “Well the bleeding has slowed up to next to nothing now, I wouldn’t exactly call that bleeding out. And no, I probably wouldn’t.” The boy looked hurt, “Well I’m not going to die of exsanguination so I won’t burden you anymore. You can return to your stealth mode.” Trek could see the tears well up as the boy turned and bolted. He resumed his stealth mode and followed quietly to make sure he arrived safely to his father. He felt a sadness inside, what had he said? “See, that’s why I don’t do people.” He said it more to himself than to anyone else. But he liked him. He was nice and had really pretty eyes. He vowed to hide in his room regardless of what his mom wanted. This was it, he was done. He followed until he saw a man come out of Dicks Sporting goods with a tackle box in his hand and the boy walked up to him. The man led him over to a bench and set his tackle box down and held the boy’s face cradled in his two hands as he wiped away the boy’s tears. Then he examined the boy’s lip and spoke to him. Trek couldn’t tell from this distance what was said. But then the man hugged him and placed his hand on the back of the boy’s head holding him against him as he cried. They stayed like that for a few minutes. Trek looked on with a sadness, not just for the pain he caused this boy twice but because he had something that Trek would have sold his soul for. A caring father. He didn’t even know he was missing it, he’s never known it. As long as he could remember, it was always just him and his mom. But what he’d seen, suddenly made a longing in his heart. Why didn’t he have that? What was so bad about him that he left? Tears welled up and flowed. And Trek ran out the closest door. He walked in the cover of darkness around the outside of the mall until he got to the restaurant where his mom worked. He looked at his watch, 7:30. He headed for the car and climbed in. It was never locked. Nobody would want to steal it, like his life, it was crap.
“Hey Trek, wake up. How long have you been sleeping in the car?”
“Huh?” Trek said waking up, “Don’t know. Not long.” His mom ran her hand over his head, he winced when she felt the knot. “Ouch” He said pulling away and rubbing it gently.
“You made me go to the mall, remember?”
“Yeah, don’t be smart. Now what happened?”
“I ran into a kid, that’s all. And it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t forced me to go to the mall. See, life hurts.”
“I’m sorry. Sometimes life hurts but you have to get out and live it too. Sometimes it can be pretty great if you give it a chance.”
“Yeah? Not so much. At least not for me. Can we go home now?”
“Sorry, Virginia had to call off. I have to close. I just came out to see where you were. Come on, Chet said he’d give ya dinner for free since I’m staying. I told him I couldn’t work late because I had to take you home. So this is his way of bribing me to stay. You’re hungry aren’t ya? Pick the stake, it’s free.”
“I think I’d rather have the mystery meatloaf. Chet couldn’t cook water without burning it.”
“Trek! Be nice.”
“Well it’s true. His steaks come out like leather. They should let you cook. The place would have lines out the front door.”
She smiled, “Come on then, have a burger. He can’t mess that up too much right?”
They walked back in the restaurant and she led him to a small booth, “Park it right there. Coke ok?”
“Yeah, thanks. Mom, you got anything for a headache? I hit my head pretty hard on the floor.”
“Sure, hang on a minute I’ll be right back.” He propped himself against the corner of the booth and closed his eyes wishing the pain in his head to go away.
“Hey, you alright?”
“Yeah. What are you doing here?”
“My Dad and I just came in for a bite to eat. I saw you here. You sure you’re alright? You don’t look so good.” Trek suddenly bolted past him and into the restroom and into a stall where he gave up the contents of his stomach.” He heard the door open and the boy led someone in.
“Ok, step back son, let me in there.” The boy moved back to let his dad in. “Hey there, you alright?” The man placed his hand on his shoulder.”
“Yeah, just sick.”
“I’m a doctor. Is your mom or dad here?”
“My mom’s the waitress. I’ll be alright in a few.”
“What’s her name?”
“My son tells me you hit your head pretty hard. You might have a concussion. Let’s get you cleaned up and we’ll have a look, will that be ok?” His touch was gentle. Trek looked up and saw the man who was hugging the boy at the mall.
“You’re his Dad aren’t ya?”
“Yeah. Look do you think you can stand up alright?”
“Yeah, sure.” He stood up and started to stagger a little when the doctor turned around to his son and handed him his car keys. “Go and get his mom and then get my bag out of the trunk would you son?” The boy grabbed the keys and broke for the door. The Doctor took a paper towel and wet it a little bit and wiped Trek’s mouth. His eyes were still half closed. He was very tired. “Hey, stay awake little man. You got a name?”
“Well I’m pleased to meet you Trek. I’m Mac. Mac Wellers. Do you feel well enough to walk back out to the table?”
“Yeah, sure. Just really tired.”
“Well try and stay awake for me alright?”
“Sure, where’s my mom?”
“I’m right here honey are you alright?” She said meeting them at the table.
The Doctor stuck out his hand, “Hi, I’m Mac Wellers. I’m a doctor. Seems our son’s ran into each other at the mall. Quite literally. I think Trek here has sustained a mild concussion. So with your permission we’ll sit him down at the table and I’ll just give him a quick look over. Will that be alright?”
“Yeah, sure. Is he going to be alright?”
“Mom, I’m fine, I just got a little sick that’s all.”
The boy eased up behind Phoenix, “Here dad.” He said as he passed his father his medical kit.
“Thanks son, why don’t you slide in there behind him and you can help steady him if he needs it. We can set Trek here down and have a look.” The doctor put on a pair of gloves from the bag and looked carefully at the bump on his head in the back and he touched it lightly as Trek winced. “Sorry.” Then he looked at the one on his forehead where he met the other boy’s lip and then looked at his eyes and shined a flashlight in each one a couple times.
“Trek, how are you feeling now?”
“My head hurts and I have a headache. But I’m alright. Just tired, that’s all.”
“The Doctor stood and took his mom aside. Your name is Phoenix?”
“Yeah, Phoenix Burns.”
Well, Mrs. Burns,”
“It’s Miss. There’s no Mr. Burns I’m a single mom.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Burns,”
“Don’t be. I’m not. And just call me Phoenix.”
The doctor smiled, “Phoenix. Trek appears to have a concussion, he’ll be alright but we should really get some pictures done so we can make sure there’s no fractures or excessive swelling.”
“That sounds expensive. Doctor Weller,”
“Mac, just call me Mac.”
“Okay, Mac,” she smiled “As you can probably figure out, I’m a waitress and they don’t have any benefits here. So we don’t have any insurance. And because I’m working the welfare won’t cover it either. Sorta damned if I do and damned if I don’t work. How much is this gonna cost?”
Mac thought for a moment, “What time do you get off?”
“Not until 11.”
“Ok, how about this. We’ll take him over to my clinic on third, here’s the address,” he said handing her his card. When you get off, come over there and we’ll have him close to being done. And don’t worry about the money. We do a certain amount of pro bono stuff and I’ll take care of this. I need to get your address and phone number. And just to be clear, we have your permission to treat him correct?”
“Uhm, ya. Sure. Thank you.”
“They’ll probably have a lot of forms to fill out when you get there. Is he allergic to anything?”
“Uhm, nothing that I can think of.”
“Do you have a family physician?”
“No, haven’t ever needed one.”
“Ok, let’s go tell him what’s going on so he doesn’t panic.” They started back and the doctor stopped her. “Wait.” She stopped and looked at the doctor and then looked at the table. His son, Ben was holding Trek against his shoulder and comforting him. He turned his nose into Trek’s hair and breathed in deeply closing his eyes as he lightly nuzzled his hair. The doctor smiled, “Looks like my Ben has made a friend. Come on.” Phoenix just smiled. She hoped he was right.
“Mac, look. You should know that he’s a bit agoraphobic. And he’s terminally shy. It’s a bad combination. It looks like your son’s been able to do something no one else has been able to do. But if he pushes him away don’t be surprised and explain it to your son. It’s not him. It’s Trek ok?”
“Thanks for telling me. I’ll keep an eye on him. Ben’s a bit shy too. Especially since his mother left us. She made a point of telling him it was his fault
“Ben, why don’t you help Trek get into this gown over in exam one and then into bed. And would you mind folding his clothes up and put them on the cabinet. I’ll get cleaned up and make a few calls to get things rolling.”
“Sure, come on.” Ben said as he led the boy into exam room one.
“I can change myself, I don’t need any help.”
“Shuddup, you’ve got a concussion,” Ben said with a smirk. “So you’re gonna get help one way or another. You want me or the old battle axe coming in here to help you out of your clothes?”
Trek resigned himself to his fate and really didn’t have the strength or the will to object, he just wanted to sleep. Ben lifted his shirt off and then stooped to untie his sneakers and slipped them off. “I’ll take your socks off once you’re in bed. The floors pretty cold. He looked up from his shoes and reached for his belt. He was sad that Trek was hurt but honestly this was a dream come true. He undid his belt and then his pants snap and unzipped his jeans. Trek was almost robotic, allowing himself to be undressed. He pulled his boxers down absorbing his aroma and then slowly rose taking in the view. He grabbed the gown and slipped it over his arms, “Turn around, don’t trip on your pants. Let me tie this and then you can climb into bed, I’ll get you a warm cover.”
Trek lethargically climbed into bed and lay down, he was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Ben came back with a warmed blanket and covered him ever so gently. He glanced around before leaning over and gently kissing the sleeping boy’s forehead. He folded the clothes and stacked them neatly on the side table, then he sat down and slipped a hand under the blanket and took Trek’s hand and just held it. Trek opened his eyes long enough to see the beautiful boy holding his hand and studying his face before drifting off to sleep once more. “Shit” Ben whispered. He was awake and he knows what I did. But a small squeeze on his hand told him it was alright. But he wasn’t sure what else that might have meant.
A nurse stepped in and took his vital signs and shook him a little to wake him up. “Hey.” She said. “I need to ask you a few questions. First what’s your name?”
“Is that Trek with a ‘c’ or without?”
“How about a middle name?”
“Nope, they were all out.” Ben giggled and the nurse smiled.
“Oh a comedian. How about a date of birth?”
"June 10th, 2001”
“No WAY! You’re only two days older than me!” Ben was smiling ear to ear. Trek couldn’t help but feel the contagion and its effects began to curl his own lips into a grin. He couldn’t believe this beautiful boy was holding his hand and smiling and he even kissed him albeit on the forehead it was still a kiss! Did it count as his first?
“Gravity, fists, people and open spaces.”
“How about medicines?”
“Cute, I’ll take that as a no.” I’ll be right back.”
The Nurse left and returned with a Tyveck bracelet with his name and date of birth on it. “Someone will be in to take you to get some pictures of your head just to make sure there’s something in there ok? So just hold tight for a little bit.”
“And if there isn’t?” He asked.
“Simple, we’ll fill you full of candy and turn you into a Pez dispenser.” She grinned and pulled the curtain closed.
Ben looked at Trek, his brow furrowed, “You feeling any better?”
“If I’m not will you kiss me again?”
Ben’s jaw dropped and the blush bloomed brightly, “Uhm, well I was worried about you and just wanted to comfort you.”
“Yeah, well these beds are not terribly comfortable you know?” Ben blushed crimson.
An orderly came into the room and opened the curtain, “Trek None Burns?” He asked looking at the paperwork in his hand.
“Yep.” He said smiling. “You can call me Nun for short.” Ben almost doubled over he was laughing so hard.
“We’re gonna take you down and get some pictures.”
“Great! Mom couldn’t afford the school ones, can I get an 8 by 10 and a couple of wallets?”
“Yeah, right. I was warned about you.” He looked at Ben, “You his brother?”
“Uhm, no, just his friend.”
“Okay, well if you want to wait in the waiting room then you can see him when we bring him back.”
“Can’t I walk along? My Dad’s Mac Weller. I know what not to touch.”
“You’re Doc Weller’s son? Sure come on along. You’ll have to wait outside when I’m doing the scans but you can come along. But you might have to let go of his hand for a bit.” Ben started to let go but Trek snatched it back under the covers and looked at the orderly, “What makes you think it was my hand he was holding!?” Ben snatched his hand out from under the blanket as the orderly and Trek both laughed.
“Hey, be if far from me to say anything. I’m a guy too, we get it where we can!” Ben was squirming, “But I wasn’t”
“Hey, the next thing you’re gonna say is that you don’t kiss on a first date!” Trek said winking at Ben. “Look, I told you we need to get a matching set of these gowns for when I get out of here.” Ben’s jaw dropped as they reached their destination and the orderly rolled him into the scanning room.
“Ok, let’s get you on the table here.” And as the orderly removed the blanket the tent was more than obvious. Trek looked over at Ben and glanced down and then winked at him before laying back on the table. Ben just stared at the raised stake poking straight up under the gown. The orderly Just smiled. Trek grinned, “You see what he does to me? I can’t help it. Every time we go someplace! He just can’t keep his hands off me. But hey, I don’t mind. I mean look how hot he is.”
Ben was slack jawed and blushed as he pulled the gurney out in the hall recognizing it was time to start the scans. His words echoed in his head. But this couldn’t be the same kid he ran into in the mall. And was he playing with him? He said he probably wouldn’t even be talking to him if he wasn’t hurt The Tech closed the door saying, “It’ll be about 30 minutes.” Ben sat down on a chair in the hall and waited.
“Hey tiger, how’s the patient?” It was Mac.
“He should be out any minute. I’m a little worried about him dad.”
“He’s acting different. Like he’s all popular and everyone loves him kind of acting.”
“Well, maybe he’s just trying to impress you.” Mac said smiling at him and ruffling his hair a little.
“No dad, you don’t understand. He’s afraid of everything. He even told me if I wasn’t hurt he probably wouldn’t have even been speaking to me. And now he’s like crazy talking. He even said I’m hot.”
“Maybe he’s not as crazy as you think then. Because I think you’re a little hottie too, so why wouldn’t he?”
“Dad! It’s not funny. He’s acting really weird. I know I don’t know him much but I know a kid who’s used to doing mall stealth and I’m telling ya, he’s not acting right.”
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll look at the scans and talk to him. His mom should be here soon and we’ll ask her opinion too. It’s possible that he has a little swelling from hitting his head and that may cause some behavioral changes. I mean it’s possible. But even if that’s what it is, he’ll be fine just as soon as the swelling goes down. So don’t worry about your friend ok?”
“You mean if he was shy and afraid before he’ll go back to being that when the swelling goes down?”
“Well, yeah, most likely.”
“Then he’ll go back to not liking me again won’t he.” It wasn’t a question.
Mac placed his hand on his son’s knee and gave it a little pat, “Well we’ll just have to make sure he’s okay and comfortable with you then too. We’ve got some time.” He paused to look at his son, “You really like him don’t you?”
Ben blushed and looked at his dad, “Yeah, I do.”
“Then don’t worry. You just be you and I can’t see how he could help but to see just how lucky he is to have you in his corner. So just hold tight.” He stood up just as the door opened and the orderly retrieved the gurney and helped Trek back up on it.
“I’ll wheel him back down Ken, thanks.”
“Sure Mac. The scans are uploaded. You can access them from downstairs.”
Mac looked at Ben, “Come on son, you can steer.”
They navigated the gurney towards the elevator. “Hey, you’re the doctor dude right?”
“Yep, that’s me. It’s Mac remember?”
“Yeah, you’re this studly’s dad right?”
“Right again. How do you feel? Your head still hurt?”
“Yeah, but I’ll live. Whatever they gave me made the headache bearable. Hey, what do you think of my mom? She’s hot isn’t she?” Mac grinned.
“Yeah, she’s alright.”
“Alright? Just alright? Dude she’s built like a stripper. And how about that red hair, you should see it in the sunlight, man it sparkles like it’s on fire. That’s why my Grand called her Phoenix. When she was born and the nurses put her in her arms for the first time the sun came through the window and it sparkled so grand called her phoenix. Get it, Phoenix Burns, you know, like fire? Burns?”
Mac laughed, “Yeah, I got it.” Ben looked worried.
“What?” Trek asked seeing his look as Mac locked the wheels on the bed.
“Aren’t you supposed to be shy and scared all the time?” he asked.
“Yeah, not so much right now, I feel great. Hey, come here,” he pulled Ben closer and leaned up and kissed him. Ben was breathless and wide eyed as he looked at his dad.
“See?” he said simply. Mac smiled, “You keep an eye on him while I go look at the tests.”
“Yeah and while he’s looking at the tests I have a few tests I want to try myself. Like how well you can kiss on this side of the bed rail. Ben’s eyes got large as he wasted no time putting the rail down on his side and climbing in next to him. If this was temporary then he wasn’t going to waste it. And Trek wasn’t going to waste any time either as he put a squirming lip lock on Ben that took his breath away. Trek rolled over on his side and threw a sheet covered knee over Ben’s and thrust against him as he kissed him passionately. Their breathing quickened as Ben’s hips came into play and they writhed and kissed as the curtain was drawn back and Trek’s mom stepped in.
“Well I guess this means you’re feeling better.” She said amused and Ben squirming to get free fell out of the bed and got to his feet wiping his mouth. His tent was more than apparent. She turned away briefly blushing to give him a chance to straighten himself out.
“Mom! We’re a little busy here. You could’ve knocked or said something ya know. Jeeze I was just about to get lucky in here.”
Phoenix’s eyes went large. “Oh, uhm sorry. Where’s Mac?”
“I’ll get him! Ben said and ran past her. He was in a hurry to get away.
“Now see what you did? He was all mine and you chased him away.”
“Are you alright son?”
“Never better mom. Besides the headache I feel great.”
“I can see that.”
“Mom, the doc’s pretty cute too, why don’t you get you some.”
Phoenix blinked, “Some what?”
“You know, some cute doctor stuff, you could use a little lovin’.”
“Trek! I can’t believe you said that.”
“Well he’s hot? I mean there’s no denying it right?”
“Well yeah, I guess. I mean, Trek, when were you going to tell me you liked boys?” She said looking to change the subject.
“What, you didn’t know? Come on, you’re my mom. I thought you guys always knew ahead of time. It’s like that in all the stories I’ve read.”
“Well I’ve had my suspicions but….”
“Well suspect no more. He’s really cute isn’t he mom?” he said cutting her off.
Smiling at this changed boy of hers she answered, “Yeah, he is a cutie. Look I better go find the doctor and find out how long you’re going to be. I’ll be right back.”
“Yeah, well send my boy back in here, we’ve got some stuff to finish and like cough or something when you come back will ya? I plan on being busy if you know what I mean.”
She stepped out just as the doctor and Ben were coming back in. Phoenix smiled and looked down at Ben. “He wants me to send you back in. Says you guys have a discussion to finish.” She winked and Ben slid by her blushing madly.
Mac smiled, “Come on we can talk in this office over here.” He led her into a consultation room.
As they were sitting down she smiled and said, “Who is that boy and what have you done with Trek?”
He chuckled, “Yeah, Ben was asking the same thing. I can assume then that is behavior is a little off?”
“You could say that, I’d say that he’s the complete opposite of the Trek that lives with ME however. Now it’s not all bad. And frankly I’d sorta like to keep him this way. He’s always been so shy. I didn’t even know he was gay! And he’s like, ‘What, you didn’t figure it out?’ And when I came in well he and your son were uhm, oh jeeze I guess I shouldn’t have said anything. I mean is your son, uhm like.”
Mac laughed, “Yeah, I’ve known about Ben for a while. It’s why his mother and I got divorced. She couldn’t deal with it. Are YOU alright with it? I know this had to come as a bit of a shock to you.”
“Well I’ve had my suspicions. I just wanted him to be happy. I don’t care if he’s gay or straight. But doc, why is he like this all of a sudden? Is he going to be alright?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is a result of a subdural hematoma.”
“A what?” she said looking panicked.
“It’s ok, it’s basically some swelling from the place he hit his head. We just need to watch him for the next four or five days and make sure it doesn’t get any worse. As he heals, the body will reabsorb the swelling and he should revert back to his old self. But we need to keep an eye on him.”
She thought for a second, “How long? I mean, if I have to take much time off I’ll lose my job. Will he be alright by himself while I’m working? I mean even if they don’t fire me I can’t miss the paycheck, we have to eat and my rent is already behind.”
Mac placed his hand on her’s to calm her. “I’ll tell you what. He can stay at my place and Ben can keep an eye on him. I’ll tell him what to watch for and he’ll be fine. You can even come over and stay in the guest room until he’s better will that work for you?”
“Well yeah, but why would you do that? I mean you don’t even know us.”
Mac sat back and took a breath, “Look, I have to confess. I’m not being completely selfless here. Ben’s had a really tough time since his mom left. He blames himself. And I’ve not seen him happy since it happened. The boys running into each other has been fortuitous and I think it’s bringing Ben out of his shell a bit. And I think taking care of Trek will help him put this all behind him. So you see, I’m actually being a little selfish in my generosity.” He looked at Phoenix. “I love my son. And I want him to be happy again too. So if we can both get something good out of this mishap then why not take advantage of it. Perhaps it will bring Trek out of his shell a bit too when he starts to return to his former state. The bottom line is that we both have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So what do you say?” He noticed his hand was still on hers as he self-consciously took it away.
She smiled and thought for a moment, “Alright. But you gotta let me do something for your kindness. Can I at least cook for you guys when I’m not working?”
Mac smiled, “Uhm yeah, sure. That would be fine. I’ll tell you what, why not get him dressed and we’ll follow you to your house, you can pack a couple of bags and follow us to my place.”
She smiled, “Sure.” And she checked him out casually as they got up and headed out of the consultation room and back to exam one. She placed a hand on Mac’s arm as they entered the room and he paused. She smiled as she cleared her throat loudly and they gave them a minute listening to the scrambling from behind the curtain. Mac covered his mouth with his hand to stifle the laugh. As they pulled the curtain back they saw that Ben was back sitting in the chair flushed and blushing. His hands folded in his lap covering his excitement. Mac looked at Phoenix and she gave him the nod to go ahead.
“Okay, you have a slight concussion. And since we have to keep an eye on you for the next four or five days then what do you think about coming over to our place and Ben can keep an eye on you while I come in for my rounds and your mom is at work. Then when she gets off she can come back to our place and stay in the guest room. She even said she’d cook for us.”
At that Ben sat up, “Real food? Like not fast food?” Mac tried to hide his embarrassment while he smiled, “Yeah, real food.”
Ben launched himself at Phoenix and hugged her. “Thanks! I’ll take real good care of him I promise.” She smiled and glanced at Mac trying to let him know she understood his feelings.
Mac looked back at her, “I’m a much better doctor than I am a cook.” He looked at Trek, “Well we’ll wait outside, your mom has some forms to sign.” He looked at Ben, “Can you help him get his clothes back on? Then come on out in the waiting room. It’s late so we’ll skip the mandatory wheelchair ride to the car.” He looked up at Trek, “Unless you don’t think you can walk?”
Trek smiled, “Get me a skateboard. I’m good to go.”
“Mac, why don’t you head home, I’ll take the boys with me and Ben can help Trek get his stuff together and then show us the way to your place. I’ll stop and get some groceries for breakfast. I’m sorta guessing that you won’t have much in the fridge?” It wasn’t a question.
“Uhm, yeah. That would be a good guess. Look take my card, Ben knows the pin. There’s really nothing in the house but some juice and drinks and snack stuff. We buy most of our meals out.” He said a little sheepishly.
“Great,” she said handing the card to Ben. “You’ll take charge of this right?”
“Right.” He said smiling at his dad. “See you at home.” And they strolled out the door to her car. The boys climbed into the back as she started it a huge backfire occurred and a puff of smoke blew out the back. She turned the key again and it sounded like the pistons were swapping holes.
“NO damn it. Not now!” she said smacking her hand on the steering wheel. She paused and just leaned her head against the steering wheel. Tears flowed silently.
“I’ll catch my dad, it’ll be alright.” And Ben let himself out of the car.
Trek placed his hand on his mom’s shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. “Look at the bright side mom. We won’t have to keep pouring money into it. And the bus runs right past the house, it’s no big deal.”
She composed herself and smiled, “Nothing fazes you does it?”
He smiled back, “Well I’m still not overly thrilled with people and open places.”
“I don’t know, you seem to be doing alright with Ben.”
“He’s different.” Phoenix looked over her shoulder at her son. A small grin appeared on her face, “Yeah, he is isn’t he.” And she winked as an escalade pulled up beside them.
Mac got out and walked over and opened her door, “I understand you need rescuing.”
“It just died. God I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
“One crisis at a time, ok? Come on, we’ll get you squared away and I’ll give a buddy of mine a call and he’ll come over and take a look at it.”
“I think it’s hopeless. We’ve been nursing it along trying to make it last. My mechanic told me it was headed this way. It’s just... WHY everything all at once?” She broke down in tears, “I’m just... you know one day after the next.” Mac pulled her into him and hugged her. “Cry it out, you’ll get past this one too.”
He maneuvered towards the passenger door. “Come on, climb in.” He closed the door and climbed in, “Trek, why don’t you show me your navigation skills and tell me how to get to your house.”
Trek gave him directions as they motored in relative silence. He could have plugged it into the GPS but figured it would be good to break the silence with human interaction. And it continued until they pulled up at their apartment. “Ben, how about you helping Trek put enough stuff together to get through the week and the weekend.”
“Great I’ll help Phoenix. Be quick its way late and we still need to stop at the grocery store.”
They arrived home well after one AM.
“Ben, why don’t you take Trek in the house and I’ll bring his stuff in after I get the groceries.”
“We can help Dad.”
“Thanks but we’ll get it. I want Trek to rest, he’s had a pretty big day. Just make up the couch for him, we’ll be right in.”
“Alright Dad. Come on Trek.” He said as the groggy eyed boy edged out of the Escalade.
“Phoenix if you want to put the groceries away I’ll get your things out of the car. Do you work tomorrow?”
“God yes, I have to open at 9. Is there a bus stop near here?”
“No clues but I can take you in. I’m sorta flexible on my rounds. And I can pick you up afterwards. Come on and I’ll show you the guest room.” They went through the living room and noticed there was no sleeping boy on the couch. He led her upstairs and pointed to a door off to the right, “There’s the guest room. You have your own bathroom off to the right as you go in. This is Ben’s room,” he said tapping on the door. A moment later Ben came to the door in his boxers hiding behind the door slightly to hide his near nakedness. He put his finger to his lips telling them to be quiet. They could see Trek asleep and his bare shoulders sticking out from under the blankets. “I thought I told you to make up the couch for him?”
“Well, yeah, you did. But I got to thinking that if he needed anything how would I know? I mean it’s so far away and we didn’t have time to give him the tour or anything so he wouldn’t even know where the bathroom is. So I figured my bed is plenty big enough for two….” His voice trailed off.
“Alright but let him sleep. He really needs to rest, ok?” A huge smile grew on Ben’s face as he said goodnight and closed the door. They listened and heard a faint voice, ‘Did they fall for it?’
“And don’t be up talking all night either boys!” He said with mock sternness.
“Alright dad.” Came the voice and subsequent giggles. Before the shushing commenced. Mac and Phoenix smiled at each other before he said goodnight and headed back down the stairs.
The flavors of bacon and eggs, pancakes and maple wafted through the house silencing the need for alarm clocks. Another fragrance that brought the young doctor to full wakefulness tickled his nostrils. The lifeblood of every doctor; Coffee! He appeared in the kitchen in a terrycloth bathrobe grinning. “I smelled the coffee pot go off.” He said smiling. Phoenix was dressed and smiled pouring him a cup.
“Cream or sugar?” She asked. He reached for it quickly as if even the proximity of such condiments would defile the brew. He savored the smell and then relished in the taste. “Mmmm, so good. I usually don’t get my first cup until I get to the clinic.”
“Well it took me a bit to figure out the coffee pot but it looks like it turned out alright. I never got used to the stuff. If they could make it taste like it smells I’d drink it constantly.”
“Well you might give this a try, it’s a special coffee pot. It does the temperature just right to bring out the flavor and it keeps the air away from the brew so it’s never bitter. I forgot just how good it was. Since it’s just me I stopped making it because it just went to waste.”
“Ok, I’ll try a cup.” She poured herself a cup as he excused himself to get showered and dressed. The boys followed their noses and woke up at the dining room table with a glass of orange juice in their hands. Phoenix shoveled eggs and bacon onto their plates and gave them both a second plate with pancakes and hot maple syrup. Ben’s eyes opened wide as he bit into his pancakes. Trek just smiled and winked at his mom as he started in on his bacon.
“This is delicious!” Ben said just before shoveling another forkful of the sweet hotcakes into his mouth.
“Thank you. I’m glad you like them.
“Like what?” Mac said just coming back into the room.
“Dad! You gotta try these. And the syrup tastes all buttery and thick. It’s incredible.”
“Thanks, I will.” He sat down and she served him a large stack and poured him another cup of coffee. He noticed her own cup was a muddy brown and grinned, ‘Lightweight!’ he thought to himself. He bit into the bacon and the crisp explosion of smoky flavor had him making his own grownup yummy noises. He looked at Trek. “How are you feeling this morning son?”
Trek took in a sharp breath before answering and he did so without looking up from his food. “Better thanks. The headache’s gone. The bump still hurts pretty good, though.”
“Good. He looked at Ben, “You’ll need to be with him every moment today especially. He may seem fine one moment and dizzy the next. He may get sick again too, but I’m hoping that has all passed. You call me if he’s feeling dizzy or lightheaded ok? And don’t wait. You call right away. I’ll be calling from time to time to check on you so keep your phone with you ok?”
“Sure dad. I’ll keep an eye on him.”
“And no swimming. I don’t want you guys in the pool until we’re sure he’s not going to get dizzy or pass out or something. I’ve left some medication on the counter for him. There’s three bottles. One is for an upset stomach if he gets sick. One is for pain if he gets a headache and one is an anti-inflammatory to make the swelling go down faster. Give him one of the anti-inflammatories right after he finishes eating. Write the time down on the pad next to the bottles. Ok? He shouldn’t need the others and if he does, then call me first ok?”
“What are you guys going to do all day?” Phoenix asked.
“I don’t know, probably watch movies. We have a ton of them.” Ben said seriously.
Trek grinned a devilish grin, “No worries mom, I’m sure we can think of some things to keep ourselves busy.” He winked at Ben.
“Well you behave yourself you hear?” She said in that motherly tone that brokered no defiance. They finished their breakfast and cleaned up.
Mac looked at Phoenix, “You ready to go?”
“Yeah, thanks so much for this.”
“No worries. Mike, my mechanic will pick up the car and see if he can do anything with it. SO don’t worry about it ok? I’ll pick you up when you get off.” And they departed for work.
Ben got Trek his medicine and dutifully wrote the time on the pad before bringing it to him to take. He offered it to him with a glass of water.
“Nope, don’t want it.”
“Ya gotta take it Trek. My dad said.”
“Yeah, well I’m not so good with that at the moment ok?”
“Why not? You have trouble swallowing pills or something? I mean it’s better than getting a shot.”
“No, it’s not that Ben. It’s not that at all. You just wouldn’t understand.”
“Well, it’s the swelling that’s well made me not care about people, or being in big spaces.” He looked at Ben, “Or being too shy to kiss a really beautiful boy.” If I take that, it might make it all go away.”
“But if you don’t it might get worse and there’s no telling what damage could be done.”
“I’ll chance it.”
“I won’t, take it.”
“Nope, not going to happen.”
“Look, you’re fine now, you’ve gotten past all that. There’s no telling, you might be this way forever even if the swelling goes down. And besides, it’s a choice now. You’ve seen how it can be.” His logic was hard to refute, “Please?”
“Will you give me a kiss?”
“If you take it!” Trek reluctantly reached for the caplet. He held it studying it for a moment before placing it in his mouth and swallowing it with the glass of water. He put the glass down and smiled as Ben moved in for the payment. Commerce had been made and they lay on the bed holding each other resting after their repast.
“Ben?” Trek said, a question of some seriousness on his lips. Ben pulled him a little tighter against his chest, signaling silently that he was there, he had his attention. “If you see me getting scared again, or going back to how I was, will you stop me? Remind me how it is today?” Ben leaned up on his side and rolled Trek back on his back to look him in the eyes.
“You won’t. I just know it. And I’ll do whatever I need to do to keep it from happening ok?” And he kissed him. “Come on” he said getting up and reaching for his hand.
“Where are we going?” Ben looked back at him with a big smile, “Well, we’re not supposed to be apart today, not even for a minute.”
“Right, so where are we going?”
Ben smiled, “I need a shower.” Trek took only a moment before he caught on and willingly became a participant. Walking into the bathroom hand in hand Ben gave the door little kick to close it before turning to Trek and releasing his hand reached for the hem of his shirt. Trek stopped him, “Nope!” he said pushing his hands away, “My turn.” And he reached for the hem of Ben’s shirt and lifted it off of the willing boy. He paused and ran a hand slowly down his chest, pausing as Ben shivered and sucked in his stomach muscles as trek’s fingertips caused the involuntary ripple of his muscles. Trek grinned and undid the snap and zipper and allowed his shorts to puddle about his ankles. He just looked at him again, nose to toes and then slowly back up stopping when his eyes met Ben’s. His brow wrinkled a little as he looked into his eyes. “What?” Ben asked, the concern apparent in his voice as he self-consciously started to cover himself, sensing something was amiss.
“Tell me again why you know about mall stealth? You’re beautiful.”
Ben Blushed and reached for the shower door, “Get undressed, I’m getting cold. And hurry up, I’ll need to call my dad when we get out.”
“Why? I’m not dizzy or anything.”
“You’re obviously going blind.” He said as he got in and started the water and stepped in. The steam was immediate.
Trek striped and stepped in reaching for the water to test its comfort, “Geese if it was at my house we’d be standing in ice cubes for about another 5 minutes.”
Nah, it’s one of the features I really like about the house, it’s called hot water on demand. It’s like having a mini hot water heater right here in the bathroom. Saves us a bunch on the water bill because there’s less waste waiting for it to run all the cold out. Dad’s into conservation and recycling and stuff.”
Trek puled Ben to him as they stood embraced under the water. Trek reveled at the warmth, both in his arms and what flowed over him. Ben reached for the liquid soap and the squirming commenced.
“What time do you get off?”
“It’s a short day. One O’clock unless Virginia calls off again.”
“Then I’ll be here at one, look don’t worry about the car. Dean’s a wizard with these things. If it can be saved, he’ll be able to do it.”
“Thanks. But I think it’s time to call a car priest and see if he can give it last rights. It’s had three wheels in the grave and one on a banana peel for about a year now. I’ll just have to get used to the bus. I knew it was coming.”
Mac placed his hand on hers, “Look, I don’t want you to worry about that. Just have a great day alright? Everything is going to work out alright, trust me.”
She smiled and lifted his hand on hers and kissed his knuckles gently, “Thanks. You’re a good guy Mac. I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
Mac was flustered a little at the praise, “Hey, your name is Phoenix. I’m sure as soon as the flames of this week die down, you’re going to rise out of the ashes. Just wait and see. Now, don’t be late. I’ll see you at one.”
Phoenix let herself out of the car and gave the slightest of glances back at the car. He was watching her go. She smiled and walked in the door to the restaurant. “You’re late!”
“I’m not late.”
“Fifteen minutes before the shift! You’re late!”
“Yeah well when you start paying me for that fifteen minutes I’ll start showing up then. Until then, you get what you pay for.”
“You’ve got tables one through eleven.”
“Hey Dean, this is Mac.”
“Hey Doc, what’s up. No problems with the Escalade I hope.”
“No, I’ve got a friend who has a broken down Honda Civic. She’s pretty special to me. I was wondering if you could take a look at it. It’s broken down up at the mall in front of Petersons Restaurant.”
“Sure doc, I’ll scoot up there in about an hour. Where are the keys?”
“Uhm, well if they’re not in it go in the restaurant and see the waitress named Phoenix. Tell her I sent ya and I’m sure she’ll have them.”
“And Dean, if there’s any charges, I’ll take care of them alright?”
“No worries doc. I understand.”
“What would you like to watch?”
“You.” Trek said without breaking a smile
“I’m afraid I’m not very entertaining.”
“Why are you so down on yourself? You’re amazing looking. I’m just blah.”
“Yeah, right. Do you think I would just kiss a blah guy? I’m just as shy as you are, or uhm were anyways.”
“As beautiful as you are I suppose you’ve probably kissed dozens of boys.”
“Yeah, right. You were my first.”
“Yes way. And I thought you were asleep or I wouldn’t have chanced that!”
“Is this where I’m supposed to cry and storm off?”
Ben looked at him in puzzlement, “Why would you do that?”
“That’s what you did when you asked if I would have spoken to you if you weren’t hurt.”
“I don’t get it. Where’s the parallel?”
“If you weren’t hurt and I wasn’t worried about having hurt you then I would have mall stealthed right by you. Beautiful or not, I wouldn’t risk the rejection. You said you thought I was sleeping. Would you have kissed me if I were awake?”
“Of course not.”
Ben looked him in the eyes as his understanding dawned on him. “Then it wasn’t because I’m gay or because I’m ugly?”
“Better call your dad. I don’t think I’m the only one with a concussion. You’re obviously not the only one who’s gay. And I told you when the little birdies stopped flying around in my head that you were perfect.” He took Ben’s hand. “Seems we both have rejection issues. Until I ran into you I never really understood mine.”
“I didn’t reject you.”
“No you didn’t. But you showed me what I was afraid of.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I followed you.” He glanced up at Ben, “Stealthily of course. I wanted to make sure you got to where you were going alright.” I was sad because I made you cry and I didn’t know what I said or did. I saw you and your dad. When he hugged you it made a huge sadness well up inside of me. It took me a bit to figure out why it made me so sad I cried. Enough that I was going to stay in my room no matter what. Except for school I wasn’t going to ever come out.”
“Why did me hugging my dad make you sad Trek?”
“I’ve never known my dad. He was gone so long ago that I don’t remember him. I figured he left because he didn’t want me. I was afraid if I screwed up again maybe my mom wouldn’t want me either. I don’t know why he left really. But what if it was me?”
He looked up at Ben and saw him looking away with huge silent tears rolling down his face. “I’m sorry Ben. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“You didn’t. But I’m here to tell you that knowing can be worse.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mom left because I’m gay.”
“No way. Are you sure? I mean grownups have shit going on between them all the time. At least the kids I know at school tell me about their parents and they always try and hide the shit from their kids like they can’t hear the screaming in their rooms.”
Ben grabbed a tissue from the coffee table and blue his nose as his tears subsided. “Nope. She even told me so. She said I was a disgrace, that if I had any decency I would have just killed myself.”
At this Trek sat up. “Are you serious?”
He nodded, “I don’t think she ever cared about anything but how she looked at the country club.” He got a smile on his face.
“What’s so funny?” Trek asked.
“You should have seen my dad. He was as calm as sand on the beach. He walked over and picked up the phone and called Jerry his lawyer, He said, Jerry I want a divorce. My wife is to get nothing, I get custody and she gets out. She’s leaving as soon as a cab gets here and I’m calling them as soon as I hang up here. And he was staring at her while he said it. He hung up and told her to get her bags and to take anything she wanted because he was going to have a restraining order put on her. He said if that doesn’t work he’d hire guard dogs. She screamed at him that he’d never get away with it and that she was going to take him for everything he had. She lost. As soon as the Judge heard that she told me I should kill myself because I was gay the judge threw the book at her. Had her charged with child abuse and child endangerment and a butt load of other stuff. Said she was never to have access to me ever again and even said she had to pay child support and half my college. She was so pissed. She’s never worked a day in her life. When she asked the judge about alimony the judge said no, he was going to be lenient that my dad was a doctor and didn’t need HER money. Mom’s mouth dropped open and she screamed, not for him! For ME! The Judge took a deep breath and said quietly so she would have to stop ranting and listen. Let me tell you what you get out of this. Whatever you managed to ferret away when you left, your freedom from ever having to be around your ex-husband and your beautiful son. You’ll even get a jump suit to wear when they take your mug shots and I imagine the press clippings when they’re posted in the society pages. Bailiff! Remand her into custody, divorce granted in favor of the plaintiff. He said, Dr. Weller I’d like to see your young man in my chambers for a few minutes if you please. I freaked. I thought I was going to get in trouble but the judge saw it and said, you can come with him and son, don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble. When we went in the judge shook my hand and told me to sit down. He told me that mom was way out of line and she will get some help to straighten out her head. He smiled at me and asked me, you would never do something so foolish as to hurt yourself would you? I said no but broke down in tears. The judge put his hand on my shoulder as dad hugged me. He waited until I was done crying and he said, look at me a moment. I did. The judge said, there are a lot of people some good and some bad but nobody pleases everybody. Good people do bad things and brilliant scientist say stupid shit sometimes. Here’s the bottom line. You need to live to be happy and to always do what you see as the right thing to do. No matter who it pleases or who it pisses off. Your mom isn’t ok with gay, that’s HER problem. She just tried to make it yours. And that was wrong. Every life is precious Ben. Every life changes the world. So you go home with your dad and try and put this behind you. You deserve to be happy Ben. But you may have to work at it a bit. And I know you’ll miss your mom, but you’ve got a great dad and he’s got a really great son. So you guys take care of yourself. You call me if you ever feel down or need help ok? And relax, I’m not very popular with a lot of folks either. Then he leaned over and whispered, ‘My husband even gets a little miffed at me at times.’”
“No Way! The judge was gay!”
“Yep. You can ask my dad. And mom got kicked out of the country club and everything.”
“So you wouldn’t ever do that right?”
“What kill myself?” Ben nodded, “No. There were a couple of times I thought about it back when it was all going on. But only for a moment. I knew I wasn’t a bad person. And I loved my dad too much to ever really do anything like that.”
Ben was on him and kissing him before he could even finish the sentence. “You’re never to ever even think that for a moment, you hear me?”
Ben smiled, “It was a long time ago and I would never do something like that. I told you that.”
“I know, but you’re never allowed to even think it for a minute ever again.”
“Well that’s not likely, I’ve got you and I’ve got Dad.”
“And you’ve got my mom too.”
“And you’ve got my Dad too.”
“Really? You’d share him?”
“Silly of course I would. You’re sharing your mom with me aren’t ya?”
“Well yeah, but well… he’s a Dad. Can I tell you something?”
“Anything and always.”
“Your Dad, well at breakfast, he called me son. I almost cried. I wanted a hug from him so bad.”
Ben looked at Trek, Trek could see wheels turning, Ben looked back at Trek and his eyes smiled and it leaked down until his lips had to agree. “I have an idea.”
Phoenix opened the door of the Escalade and slid in.
“Hey! How was your day?”
“OH! That idiot cook couldn’t boil water without burning it and it’s MY FAULT that people don’t like steaks frozen in the center and charred on the outside but he’s married to that bitch that owns the place and…” She glanced over and saw he was slackjawed and the anger left her face immediately and she pasted a smile on her face and finished with, “Just the usual, how was yours?”
Mac busted into a fit of laughter before he got out, “A gall bladder infection, a twisted ankle a fourteen year old who thought he could fly off the roof and back using a trampoline and he may have made it if he hadn’t broken his arm when the trampoline shot him into the neighbors privet hedge, a second stage case of lung cancer from a guy who swears he hasn’t smoked in two years but his fingers were stained with nicotine and he smelled like an ash tray that should have been emptied before the last rain soaked it. Other than that, it was just sorta normal. He glanced over at Phoenix to find her just as slack jawed before they both broke up in fits of laughter. Listen, do we need to do some serious shopping? I mean we just got breakfast yesterday right?”
“Yeah, you want to do it now or go to the house and check on the boys?”
“I called while I was waiting for you, they’re doing fine and Trek says the headaches are less and he’s feeling a bit better.”
“Awesome, then let’s grab something for dinner tonight. If you don’t mind I’d like to wait to do the serious shopping until tomorrow. That’ll give me time to find out what kinds of things you and Ben like to eat and what you hate. Would that be alright?”
“Sure, fine by me.” Mac thought about what she said. Anyone else would have planned out a menu and not really cared or checked to see what a little boy would like or not like.
“Is Ben a finicky eater?”
“Are you kidding? He’s thirteen, he’ll eat just about anything that smells better than he does or moves slower. I mean he’s a typical kid. Not big on cauliflower or broccoli but he’ll eat it to be polite.”
“Oh I know a recipe he may just love. Trek was the same way until he tried it and now it’s a favorite dish. But maybe not. I’ll include some other stuff for him if he doesn’t want to try it. But who knows, maybe he’ll be another convert. How about you? Anything in particular that you don’t like? “
He glanced at her for a moment, “Well really only one dish. Mac and cheese and it’s not the flavor, it’s the memory. I think we had it three nights a week, it’s what she knew how to cook best, so we didn’t complain, we just ate it.” Phoenix just smirked.
“How about lasagna with garlic bread tonight?”
“Like Stouffers’? Will we have time to thaw it out?”
Phoenix giggled, “No, mine won’t be frozen. I’ll have it ready in about an hour and a half. Is that too long or should I fix a snack to tide you guys over?”
“Better plan on the snack, I imagine the boys will be starving.”
“They shouldn’t be, I left them sandwiches and potato salad.”
“When did you do that?”
“Before breakfast. The potato salad was store bought but it’s pretty good. Not as good as mine but edible. Well according to Trek anyways.”
“Wow, you’re pretty amazing. I can’t imagine anyone letting you go.” Mac glanced over at Phoenix. She smiled a coy smile.
“I had a miserable home life, was a cheerleader in school. Had dreams of getting out of the house, he had dreams of college and as many girls as he could. I got pregnant and he got wings. I figured that he wouldn’t be a good dad anyways. I was right. Trek could be the president of the club. Seems he was pretty fertile. Three other girls found themselves in the same condition. I think I’m the only one who kept the baby. And as crappy as my life has been I wouldn’t trade one minute of it for a life without Trek. He’s a great kid and I’d do anything for him. I love him unconditionally.”
“I can see that. And I can see why you love him.”
“Sure, he’s a sweet kid who just wants to be loved. Not a mean bone in his body. As scared as he was he still made sure that Ben was ok. He had to be hurting but his first concern was my Ben.”
“Well I think you might find that you have to share him a little it looks like he’s Trek’s Ben too right now.”
“Yeah, and I don’t mind that a bit. I haven’t seen Ben this happy in a long time. Ever since that bitch of a wife I had told him he should just kill himself to save her the embarrassment of having a queer son he hasn’t smiled once.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Phoenix said staring at him.
“Nope and she was serious. I threw her out and called my attorney before the cab even got there. Thank god that’s over. But I’ve been trying to get my son back to even a smile ever since. I’ll never forgive her for what she did. I can’t see what I ever saw in her. Seems like the second the ring slipped over her knuckle she changed into something horrible. The only good thing to come out of her after that was Ben. He looked over and saw tears running down Phoenix’s face.
“What’s wrong, hon?”
“That poor boy. What is wrong with women? They give up babies like there a gumball machine and those that have them don’t care for them. I don’t know which is worse. And how can anyone look at their child and say something like that!” It wasn’t a question.
“Thank you.” Ben said taking her hand and giving it a little squeeze. Mac realized that he called her hon. He was falling for her and bad. And way too fast for comfort. Look what he just got rid of!
“Come on, it’ll only take me a few minutes to get what we need for dinner and the boys lunch for tomorrow.”
“I’ll get the wine for Lasagna. You do drink wine don’t you?”
“Uhm, well honestly I’m more of a beer kind of girl. I don’t think I’d even know how to get the cork out of the bottle.”
“Well then you’ll get a treat. And I’ll pick up some beer too for later if you want. Or if you don’t like the wine.”
“Great, what kind of ice cream does Ben like?”
“Ah! This one I know. Vanilla with butterscotch and hot fudge topping.”
“Together? How interesting. Ok, I’ll meet you in ice cream in 15 minutes. GO!” And she rushed off with her carts like it was a shopping spree. Mac just smiled as he watched her go, “Just like a bag full of puppies” he mumbled to himself. He grabbed another cart and headed for the back of the store.
“See! It’s just that easy.”
“Yeah, it was a great movie. But there’s a slight flaw in your plan.”
“What flaw? It’s perfect!”
“Yeah, except we aren’t twins. I think they might notice if we swap places. And besides, your dad can’t cook. I’m not sure I could do without mom’s cooking.”
“Ugh! Don’t be silly. We just skip to the romantic dinner part. You know, give’m a slight nudge in the right direction.”
“Except that we don’t have a maid to cook the dinner.”
“Details! Look we’ll just play it by ear.” Then the door opened.
“Groceries! Come on boys help us bring them in.”
“Hi Mom,” Trek rushed up to her and gave her a peck on the cheek and was out the door. Ben followed suit with a “Hi Mom” and another peck. He was out the door before he could see the shock on Phoenix’s face and then the smile. She went into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. Ben raced past Trek and up to his dad giving him a hug and then grabbing bags, followed by Trek doing the same but as Mac instinctively hugged him back, Trek hung on just a moment longer. He sniffed turning with his head down and grabbed two bags and turned back to the house at a run. They ran into the kitchen and started putting things away as Phoenix intercepted the ingredients for dinner. Mac came in and put the beer on the table and the wine. And turning around he grabbed Trek and pulled him into a hug just holding him there. Trek couldn’t help it, he burst into tears Phoenix turned to come see what was wrong but Mac just shook his head and picked him up and carried him into the living room and he sat down and just held him tightly. Holding his head against him as he told him to let it out.
“Do you know what that’s about?” Phoenix asked Ben. “Did something happen?”
Ben thought for a moment. Should he tell her? He and his dad had no secrets, “He figured out why he was so afraid of everything. It was after he ran into me and I went to meet my dad and he hugged me. He said he didn’t know why he was afraid of everything until that moment. He said he figured he did something wrong and that’s why his dad left. He was afraid if he did something wrong he might lose you too. He said he knows in his head that couldn’t happen but the fear of rejection was just too much to take a chance. He said he didn’t even know he missed having a dad until my dad hugged me. So I think when my dad hugged him he just let loose.” Phoenix was in tears as she started to get up but Ben just put his hand on hers. “Let Dad do this, I don’t think you can. I think he needs the time. Ben looked down, I think I know how he feels.”
Phoenix was confused but just for a second. He was right and he knew it. Right now it was Ben who was in need. And she was a mom, she pulled him into her and he melted into her embrace, “Oh baby. Do you think we can help him?” She could feel Ben’s tears. She hugged him harder. Cry it out baby. You can have a hug anytime you need one. Even if we’re not here honey. My door will always be open to you. I promise. You’re a beautiful boy who deserves to be happy.” His sobs grew louder. “It’s alright baby. I’ll be your momma whenever you need me.” She let him cry himself out. She handed him a tissue from the box on the counter. The great thing about a doctor’s house is there are tissues in every room. When he was done, she smiled and pulled him away, “Hey, I’m behind schedule. You wanna help me make dinner?” He nodded. “Wash your hands then, and let’s get to it.”
“You want to talk about it, son?”
Trek just looked up trying to remember his eyes. “I think I just needed a Dad hug. That was my first ever. You called me son. No one has ever said that word to me. I mean well, mom has, but it’s not the same. I mean, I love my mom and all….”
He was shushed by a finger placed gently against his lips. “I know what you mean, son.”
“Can I… would you mind, I mean if sometime I could maybe come by and get one of those from you. I mean, I know you don’t know me and I promise not to do it too often.” He was hushed again.
He looked Trek caringly in the eyes, “You can have as many of those as you want or need. Anytime. Even if you guys aren’t here you can come buy and get one anytime you need one. I think any dad would be proud to have you for a son.”
It was just what he needed to hear and he still had some tears left. He hugged him as he cried out 13 years of tears. When he was done Mac pulled him away and said, “Hey, what do you say we set the table. Your mom is cooking lasagna and I can smell the garlic bread fresh out of the oven. Will you help me set the table?” Trek nodded and stood up. Mac started to follow suit but paused.
“Here, why don’t you throw these tissues out and wash your hands then come back and we’ll set the table together. By the time you get back I should have some feeling back in my legs.”
Trek gathered the tissues and giggled as he went to follow orders.
“Did you make the salad dressing too?” Mac asked after his last mouthful of salad.
“Nope! Ben made that.”
“Really? This is fantastic!”
“Well I just did what mom told me to. She said, add this and that and then shake it up.”
Yeah, but I told you the basic ingredients and made some suggestions about what else you could add. You chose the garlic and the pepper and that makes it all yours. And that’s what makes all the flavor. So you made this.” She said smiling. “And your dad’s right, this is really good. I don’t think anything I’ve made before is as good. I think you might have a knack for this.” Ben Beamed
“Now for the real test! Dish me up some of that lasagna, it smells delicious!” Phoenix dished up the lasagna as the boys passed the garlic bread around. And he poured the wine. The boys looked on expectantly, Mac looked at Phoenix. “Just a little bit” She said. He complied.
Mac sat back down and took a bite and stopped chewing as his eyes grew large. He swallowed and tool a sip of wine before wiping his mouth with his napkin and getting up he went around to Phoenix and bent over and kissed her on the cheek. He went back and sat down. The boys were looking at him smiling. “What? It’s fantastic. That was a thank you kiss, that’s all. Where I come from when a beautiful lady makes something fantastic it’s worth a kiss of gratitude.”
Trek stopped chewing, took a sip of his wine and dabbed his lips with his napkin and got up and walked past his mom and leaned over and kissed Ben on the lips. Not a passionate kiss just a kiss. He went back over and sat down as everyone looked at him.
“Hey, that salad dressing was tops!” And everyone giggled. Phoenix just smirked as she looked at Trek. Trek blushed.
Trek and Ben both blushed. “That was so sweet!” Phoenix said. Trek looked at her. “Don’t start mom.”
“Hey! I think it’s great. That was my baby’s first kiss!”
Ben Giggled, “Uh no, we’ve had lots of practice.”
Trek looked at Ben, “Don’t help me here! And mom, watch yourself, I’ve got the goods on you too don’t forget.”
Trek got up and cupped a hand over her ear and whispered. Whatever it was set her to blushing and had the desired effect as she changed the subject. “More Garlic bread?” She said nonchalantly.
Mac laughed and looked at Trek, “Boy, we’re going to have to have a conversation.”
“Yum! This wine is really good.” Phoenix said with a grin. So Ben when did you know you were gay?”
“I don’t know. I just always knew. I didn’t know it was wrong until I said that Freddie Highnore in August Rush was cute. Things went downhill pretty fast after that.”
“Son! It’s not wrong. It’s just how it is. It’s how you were made. You couldn’t change that anymore then you could change your eye color.”
“Yeah, well tell mom that.”
“Son, it’s your mom that’s wrong. Not you. And like the judge told you, that’s her problem, not yours.” He looked at Trek, “So how about you. When did you know?”
“I think I’ve always known too. But I knew right off that it wasn’t something to talk about. I just knew. I mean I didn’t know about sex or anything but I knew I like looking at boys.”
“You did? Why didn’t you say something?”
“Mom, how do you tell your mom you like boys?”
“You say, Mom, I like boys.”
“You don’t understand Mom. What if you reacted like Ben’s mom. I mean, I think I knew you would be alright with it but it was a chance and there wasn’t any reason to tell you until last night.”
“Wait. You mean your mom didn’t know until last night? With me? At the hospital?”
“Yeah, well when you fell out of bed when she walked in I figured the jig was up so I might as well come clean.”
“Wait let me get this straight. Until your mom pulled the curtain back last night, she had no idea you were gay?”
“Well I had my suspicions but nothing solid.”
“And you didn’t get upset or say anything?”
“Nope, was I supposed to? I mean, so what? So he like cute boys instead of cute girls. What’s the big deal?”
It was Ben’s turn. He got up and dove into Phoenix’s arms. “Thank you!”
“Well at the risk of sounding insensitive, can I have another piece of that lasagna?” He looked around at everybody’s faces. “What? It’s the best I’ve ever had?” Phoenix smiled as she shoveled another piece on his plate. He cleared his throat, “Uhm Ben, could you pass me the garlic bread please?” He looked at Phoenix, “More wine?” She passed him her glass. The boys dove back into doing what teenage boys do best. And grinning at each other between bites.
“Well that was delicious! How about the cooks taking a break and we’ll load the dishwasher?”
“I got a better idea Dad, Why don’t you and mom go sit down and rest, you’ve both worked hard today and Trek and I will load the dishwasher. We don’t have to worry about leftovers so it’ll be an easy job.”
“Well! Now that sounds like a deal.” He looked at Phoenix, “Shall we?” She smiled. She got up and joined him as he took the bottle of wine with him. He noticed her glass was with her as well. The boys began their clean up.
“It’s going better than we planned and we didn’t really have to plan anything it just sorta happened.”
“Yeah. I mean we didn’t have to do anything really. Your Dad hugged me and it just sorta took off.”
“So what was the whisper to mom?”
Trek Grinned, “Tramp stamp.”
“Would you like to catch the weather?” Mac said wandering over to pick up the remote. “Well what have we here?” He held up the DVD by the two opposite corners and smiling as he showed it to Phoenix.
“Why those little devils! The Parent Trap!”
“What do you think we should do?”
“I think we should teach them a lesson. Play along.”
SLAP! “Fresh! Well I never! Trek! Trek, get your things. We’re leaving right now! We’re not staying in this mad man’s house one more second!” Both boys appeared in the doorway to the living room, panic in their eyes. “What!? What happened?!” Ben asked in a panic.
“YOUR father! He, he, well let’s just say I’m not his type! He likes a woman a little faster than I am!”
“But Mom, We don’t have a car, and… and I need to be watched remember? I’m sure he didn’t mean it. Tell her you didn’t mean it.”
“I can’t. Your mom’s just hot. I couldn’t help myself.”
“Dad, do something.”
“Alright I will.” And he took Phoenix in his arms and laid a lip lock on her that would boil a priest’s blood. Their kiss broke and they started laughing. And then they started laughing harder. The boys looked at each other and started to retreat to the kitchen. “Hold it right there partners!” They both turned around and walked back in the room. Perhaps you’d like to watch a movie with us? How about THIS one? Oh wait, it was out, perhaps you’ve already seen it?”
They both swallowed at the same time. “Perhaps you’d like to sit down for a minute?”
“Dad, we watched it and yeah, it gave us some ideas but honest, we didn’t do anything.”
“You both played us pretty hard tonight. You trying to say that none of that was put on just to try and get us together?”
“Yeah dad. It was real. All of it. We watched and I thought the romantic dinner part might work. Trek reminded me that neither one of us knows how to cook, and if mom cooked it then it would take a bit of the surprise away.”
“And calling her mom right now isn’t a continuance of this idea?”
“No. She said I could call her mom. Well, kinda. She said she would give me mom hugs whenever I wanted one. It just really felt good to call her mom. I mean she’d be a great one, you can tell. Look at her son.” Trek took his hand.
Their looks softened, “Alright sit down boys and let’s talk. We staged the fight to teach you a lesson. We both love you both a lot. But we just met. We aren’t rushing into anything. That’s not responsible. We both have a son we have to think of first. What if we find we’re too different? Then we’d argue every day and that’s not a loving environment to raise a son. So we’ll go at this at our own speed IF we decide to go forward at all. So promise me, no meddling ok?”
The boys looked at each other. “Sorry Dad. We have our own interests to look after. No deal. If we can push you guys together it’s our duty to the one we love. Right Ben?”
“Right. So give it your best shot Dad.”
“Yeah, well give it YOUR best shot. Now how about the two of you finishing the dishes and off to bed.”
“Ok dad. Oh by the way, I spilled a mop bucket on the bed in the guest room when we were horsing around. I’m afraid mom will have to bunk in with you.”
“GET!” Mac laughed. Nice try. Geese these boys are something else. Can you believe them?”
“Wow, we’re going to have to stay on our toes.”
“Hey, how about another glass of wine? Oh by the way. I spoke to Dean, Your car is going to need the priest. Looks like you’re stranded here. At, my, mercies.” And he snuck in for another kiss.
“You finish the dishes. Hey, how’s your head?”
“Hasn’t hurt since last night. What are YOU gonna do?”
“I gotta sneak upstairs with this bucket of water!”
(Or the beginning depending on how cynical you are.)