AN: Here it is, the fist story of my stories to ever see completion. The ending wasn't what I'd had in mind, and some rough spots defy smoothing, so I apologize in advance. It is also un-beta'd…I have no excuse, save the fact that it's been sitting in my computer for weeks and I just to post it and be done with it. Like pulling off a bandage.
Well…that's all for now. Enjoy.
We took the train back to Rhone Island that year, through the formidable New England countryside. POS, having exhausted itself self like some automotive herald in its last glory of the Boston-Serendipity marathon, heaved its last, exhaust-filled rattle and died in my driveway.
We mourned it with alcohol and amazing, mind-blowing sex.
But as January grew bored with itself and readied to turn the year over to February's own brand of bitter winter chill, Cal and I loaded freshly laundry clothes into duffle bags and set off to Boston Station. My mother drove us in, seating us in her old and equally eccentric station wagon between ceramic pottery wheels and battered easels. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
And yet sitting in the train, somehow comfortably seated in the cramped coach seats with Cal lying against me, I had mixed feelings about returning to school. I would miss mom and the old farm, but there was a whole world of opportunities ahead of us. Cal shifted next to me in the lumpy seats. Asleep, he nestled against my side, my arm thrown across his shoulders and bringing him close. Whatever reservations he'd kept of others knowing the nature of our relationship had vanished. If the opinions of his family hadn't mattered, how could strangers'?
The train rattled along the trails, sighing and swinging around bends that alternately brought us to forests or cities. The countryside was beautiful, still laced with this morning's early flurries. Evergreens and skeletal Maples whipped past like phantoms. Gorgeous and dead.
I breathed in the citrus smell of Cal's hair gel and smiled. We must've made love every night in the past month. It had been amazing, passionate, and perfect on a plain I never even knew existed. Everyday, three times a day, fast, slow, gentle, rough…with post coital affection that was honest and comforting.
Grinning a little wider, I turned up my head phones. Cal mumbled something and turned farther into me, effectively placing his eternally chilled nose against the skin of my neck. God, I thought, running a hand down his back, still amazed at the caliber of emotion that continually ran through me, I love him.
I was half asleep, just drowsy enough to ignore the drool slowly soaking its way though Alex's sweatshirt. A more conscious state of mind would have brought mortification at the puddle on his chest. This uncaring half-sleep was quite comfortable, thank-you-very-much.
I was drifting through one of those lazy states of mind, where the present and past intermingle and memory morphs into something indistinguishable from reality. The intoxicating sway of the train seemed far off, and Alex's hand – which ran up and down my spine in a chaste rhythm – lulled me into a deserved slumber.
And so it was in this in-between state that a conversation I'd never expected to have drifted back to me. My cell phone had let loose a rather unexpected ring several days after Christmas and the ensuing conversation left a marked impact on the rest of my break. I remember every single word…
"Hello?" I yawned, holding the phone to an ear as I leaned back on my elbows, enjoying the feel of Alex's sheets beneath me. I was nude, and happily basking in the after-glow of afternoon sex. From his bed, I watched Alex putter around nude through the open bathroom door.
"Ah, Frances? Is that you?" the voice was male, and stunningly familiar. Swallowing the knot of nervous that had formed spontaneously in my throat, I grasped for someway to respond. I must admit a little irritation as my after-glow dissolved. This wasn't a conversation during which one could entertain hot daydreams.
"H-hey Dad" I choked out "It's, uh, it's Cal...I've told you that before" A forced laugh, dry tone
He laughed uncomfortably, but the deep rumble could have as easily been a cough. The two had always sounded so much the same "Yes," He agreed, forced smile plain in his tone, " I believe you have"
A weighted silence followed. Why he had called was lost to me, and evidently the reason had escaped dear old dad as well, if his hesitation was any clue. But god, was that quiet awkward; long and stifling, like an unforgiving August day.
"So son" he said with poorly feigned interest, "Did you catch that Red socks game last Sunday?"
What then followed was a somewhat awkward father-son discussion of sports and all things manly. It was a strained and familiar exchange about the game's events, a general recipe for conversation that I'd grown used to having with my father. There were several profanities on Dad's behalf over what the old police chief considered a blatant miscall by one of the god-forsaken-zebra-painted-sons-of-bitches that served as officials in the Socks stadium. But after every play in the game had been rehashed, and Alex had started to frown at me warily through the bathroom door, asking with his eyes who I was talking to, I grew weary of Good Ol' Dad's attempt at normalcy, and signed heavily into the receiver.
"Dad" I started, rubbing my eye with a free hand, "Why are you calling?" I tried to make the question neutral, free of frustrations or mistrust. I think, though, that it may have come out dejected, "I mean," I said, continuing in the same fed up voice, "You don't really care what I thought of that call, I know you don't"
He coughed, not for any chill or cold, it was just a stalling device, and we both knew it. I didn't call him on it. "Look" he said after a moment, "I…I just don't want to loose you, boy." There was a degree of honesty and desperation in his voice that I was sure I'd never heard before. The old man hated being open, but I think he somehow understood that I, for once, actually needed him to be something, and he was trying his damnedest. "We've never been close" he continued on bravely, "And that's more my fault than yours" he coughed again, and I thought of criminals that went behind bars on many a birthday and HS football game. "But you're a good kid, Cal. You really are. Your mother" he paused there, searching for words, I suppose, or maybe thinking of delicacy and propriety, "…your mother was a different woman when I married her." He said plainly, "Not that she's a bad one now...she's just different." Another pause " We all change, I suppose.
"What she said back on Christmas Eve…Hell, it wasn't right." And for the first time I detected a degree of agitation in his voice, for mom, not me. "What your brother said, that wasn't right either" He paused a moment, and then chuckled deeply, "Hell Cal! You shoulda told me you could hit like that! We could have gotten you into boxing!"
I laughed lightly and smiled. I'd been listening to all he said, but most of all, to what he hadn't. There was one thing for me to ask.
"And you don't care that I'm g-…that I'm with Alex?" I ventured, trying for nonchalance and settling for hesitance.
He sighed then, and a small twinge of hurt went through my chest, "Look," he said, and I could just see him rubbing his pink forehead with one hand, "I'm not gonna say I understand it, I'm not gonna say I approve, and it's sure as hell not what I'd have chosen for you." He paused a beat, as if to let the timber of his tone fall back to comfort and understanding, "But if I'd needed all that from my parents before doing what made me happy, I'd be stuck runnin' grand-pop's deli down in Quincy.
"This…this guy makes you happy right?" He said after a short pause,
"Yeah dad," I said, red tinting my ears as I glanced at Alex brushing his teeth half-nude in the bathroom. There was a short pause and I could almost see my father nodding to himself
"And this guy, what team does he root for?" Dad demanded, his voice suddenly stern
"Red socks, pop, all the way"
"Damn straight he does!" He boomed, his voice delighted, "Gotta say, havin another man 'round the house wouldn't hurt. Beats the hell outta those little twits your brother brings home. Wouldn't know the difference between a touchdown an' a field goal if they're lives depended on it."
So things really weren't great, not by a long shot. I haven't forgiven my mother; I don't really care if I ever do. Same goes for that good old brother of mine. But Dad thinks I'm a good kid.
Hell, if all I needed to do to get adulations from the old bastard was come out, I would have done it years ago.
Cal muttered something in his sleep and turned farther into me. We had just blown through Providence station and the next stop would be ours.
Things back at Boarding house had not been static in our absence. Alice had a persistent tendency to get bored when all her boarders (read: victims) left her over break. So we all made promises to stay in tight correspondence. And Alice, like some maternal eccentric, made a traditional round of calls to all her student's homes on Christmas morning, asking if the Old Fat Bastard had left us any Tonka trunks or Flavored Lube. And it was through this twisted and thoughtful custom that she came to speak to Paul, the Calhoun's dry and witty butler.
Now, the specifics of the conversation were not related to me, but I know that it most likely began with Polite Paul inquiring as to who was calling. The reply, knowing Alice, was probably something along the lines of 'I'm Rick James, bitch! Smackety Smack!"
It snowballed from there. Paul was…enchanted. I don't know quite why...I mean, for God's sake, Alice doesn't exude charm or even sanity. But maybe that's what the old guy's been looking for all these years…a little spandex clad mistress to keep him in line. But, I get ahead of myself. After listening to Alice prune and preen about her deep rooted affection for Cal (after all, she was the self-proclaimed Fag Hag of the Year), he recognized the senile (he referred to her dementia as "a cute and loveable disposition") voice as one to be trusted and related the Christmas Eve disaster to her.
It took him several minutes to convince her that tearing up to Boston in her neon Spyder, ladened with several Kegs o' Whoop-Ass was not the best of ideas. He did, however, commiserate with her concerning what a "playa hating mo'fo" Mrs. Calhoun was, and how Connor needed to "get his honky ass beat into next week". From the sound of it, Paul did a lot a "uh-huh"-ing and "damn straight"-ing. But hell, in a conversation with Alice, that was more than most could boast. In most cases, there would be a dull "Uhh..." as the poor fellow realized that Alice was…well, Alice. Shortly there after there would follow a faint 'pop' as something snapped inside the victims head and they continued to stare at the babbling Alice in a semi-cataonic, helpless state.
Alice, a well renowned and prideful accent whore, fell fast and hard for the crisp and eloquent British voice that answered her rants with warm "quite so!"s and "Indeed!"s. She called me later that night and said, simply, "He called me Madame, Alex! Can you belive it! And he wasn't even a waiter at one of them hoity-toity restaurants!"
They met for lunch at Cheers a few days later, ostentatiously to swap stories about myself and Cal. It turned into something more. The type of something more that requires an unexpected overnight stay at a Motel 6, and a room service breakfast the next morning.
Gross. But sweet….in an it's-cute-as-long-as-I-don't-think-about-it-too-much kind of way.
Paul left the employ of the Calhouns the very next day, lifting one gnarled middle finger in Mrs. Calhoun's direction and crispy telling her to "kindly fuck off". And, more importantly, I believe he and Cal's dad may have had a talk before Paul left for good, perhaps about loosing a child and the fickle way fate blows love around.
They've been dating three weeks now, and the wedding is set for early next fall.
"Can't stand around and wait too long when you're our age," Alice had quirped, "Rigor mortis might set in!"
The bride will wear a lovely white leotard from the Walmart collection, the groom a top hat and tails, and as for the guests invited…clothing will be optional. It will be held on the beach, perhaps on one of the salt-kissed jetties, and they're seeing about getting an ordained Elvis impersonator to wed them. Just the other night Paul asked Cal to be the best man, and he accepted immediately. I believe that Sugar will be the Maid of Honor, and by that time the surgery will be done and she'll be living it up, Pam Anderson style. Well, if Pam Anderson had style. And grace. And class.
They'll honeymoon in Vegas…where else?
I couldn't be happier for them. Love is love. There's no reason to it, no norm or basic structure that you could apply to every couple. It's formless and beautiful, and you never understand it until you've felt it. Actually…never mind. Even then it's something strange and exotic that enters your world, screws it up, changes it forever, and leaves you feeling pleasantly ravaged.
Thinking such deep and philosophical thoughts, I looked down to see my own lover curled against my side…and the puddle of drool slowly expanding on my sweatshirt. Nice. Well, maybe love is not caring…at least not enough to wake him up.
I stroked his back gently and looked around the small car. We had a perimeter of empty seats around us. Evidently, people were freaked enough to give us privacy but not enough to mutter their disapprovals or slurs at us. Within ear shot, that is. But I didn't think about what I couldn't control. Not good for the aura, so sayeth mother-dear.
I let my mind slip away for a while, simply reveling in the contented haze that settled around me like a thick London fog. Cal was snoring now. I hadn't let him sleep much the past couple nights, I realized with a mix of pride and shame. But hell, it wasn't as if he hadn't enjoyed it. With that thought, and the memories that followed, I smiled wickedly and let a hand squeeze the tension out of his lower back. He sighed happily and slowly started to wake up.
The train began to slow imperceptibly as a station became visible round a curve in the tracks. Cal was blinking sleep from his eyes as the conductor's voice came over the speakers.
"North Kingston, Rhode Island, folks. Shuttle service to Newport and the URI campus. This is North Kingston, Rhode Island…."
The station was cleaner than most, but small. The cement platform stretched no more than 200 ft long along the ungainly tracks. The benches along the porch were usually populated with college students coming or going or just plain lost. Today, as I looked through the dingy Plexiglas that served as the train's window, I smiled when my sleepy eyes hit upon familiar faces. There on a park bench, talking in what must be the soft tone of soon-to-be-newly-weds were Alice and Paul. Alice wore a pink tank top and pleather pants, and Paul was decked out in a Hawaiian shirt and khakis. Her clothing tastes were seeping into her hubby and whether or not that was a good thing was irrelevant. The pair looked too happy to have any sort of judgment passed on them.
Besides, nothing ever stayed beige long under Alice's roof, whether it be walls, clothing or personality.
Mikey, Katherine, and Sugar were standing a few feet away from the couple, conversing softly. Well no, that's not true. No conversation housing such personalities as Brain Kenny-wanna-be, a drag queen, and an all out fag-hag in training could be described as anything less than rambunctious. But it seemed quiet by their standards. Sugar look fabulous, new dress, new weave, new nails, all lady. Katherine had dyed her hair again, it was a faded green and red highlighting job, most likely left over from Christmas.
Mikey looked as if one of his rare quiet moods had taken him. He was laughing as the train pulled to a stop, but there were lines of tension around his eyes that did not abate. He and Brent were through, that much I'd gathered from a terse conversation we'd had over break. He hadn't volunteered the specifics, and I didn't ask. But the break up was for the best, I knew, but did not relate that little opinion to him. Some things you know in your heart but have no desire to hear from others, even friends.
Our own demented little family, I thought fondly. Alice and Paul, the respected elders (well…at least elders) looked after their eclectic little flock. Sugar, the outlandish aunite, always done to the nines, and demanding a just-a-little-kiss from all the young ones. Mikey and Katherine, the psychotic siblings, always good for a laugh or a little drama, depending on your mood. And then, there was Cal and I, the devoted young lovers.
The train jerked slightly as it finally stopped. I leaned over and gently kissed Cal from the last remnants of sleep. I felt him smile against my lips and knew he was truly awake.
"Come on" I urged, standing to get the bags, "We're back home again"
AN: Well, there it is. There's some sort of emotion fluttering around my head as I finish up my editing. This is my baby. It's my ugly duckling. It started out rather horrible and poorly written, but evolved into something I can bring myself to be proud of. Those first couple chapters were rather bad, and I send major thanks to all of you who read through them and stayed with me.
Everyone that reviewed helped drive me to get through writing this. Thanks eternal. You helped me learn how to write.
There's a rather promising fic bouncing around my brain right now, expect its first chapter soon. Winter, my other fic is dying inside my head, and to all those that actually wanted it….don't hold your breath on the Mikey story. We'll see what time brings, but his character doesn't seem to want to come front and center.
Well, I suppose that's all. Thank you once again. I hope you enjoyed reading IH as much as I enjoyed writing it.