Author's Note: Yes, it's really me; I'm finally back! I really am sorry that it's been so long since the last update, but my summer has been insanely busy.
Well, this is really it, the final instalment of Love and Secrets (wipes away a tear). I want to really sincerely thank everyone who has read this story and left reviews: your comments have kept me going! I feel so lucky to have such dedicated readers, and I'm so happy that you have been enjoying my writing. As I said before, I would like to write about these boys more, so you can probably expect something in the future, whether it's a sequel or just a one shot. Greg and Conner still have a long future ahead of them, so there must be something worth telling in there, right?
Again, thank you so much for reading. I hope you all enjoy the end of this story …
"We need to make a list," Greg insisted. "And we need to make a budget, and set deadlines, and start doing stuff right away."
"I think what you need is to calm your ass down," Matt said.
We were sitting in the breakfast room of Matt's house, eating French toast and starting to discuss what needed to be done.
"Matt's got a point," I said. "You're kind of freaking out."
"What?" Greg glared at me, and his red cheeks flushed a deeper crimson. "Calm down? Conner, all you ever want to do is calm down. But now is not a time to be calm. We are about to embark on a huge undertaking. We're going through one of the biggest transitions of our pathetic little lives. And you want me to be calm?"
I looked at Matt, who raised his eyebrows at me. "You're moving in with this guy?"
"OK, Greg, you're right," I said. "A list is a good idea. Matt, could you grab us a pen and some paper?"
He left the room, and I turned to Greg. "Hon, maybe you've had enough coffee this morning."
"I'll only stop drinking coffee now if you promise to get me Starbucks later."
"Fine. Now have some French toast."
Matt returned, and I took the pen and paper from him. "OK. Where do we begin?"
"Hm, let's see … we need a car, we need an apartment, we need furniture, we need money, we need jobs …"
It took us a week to get everything done. Greg remained stressed throughout most of it, but as things started to fall into place, he began to calm down. I tried not to think about it all too much. Most of the time, I went around getting jobs done as if they were part of my everyday life. But sometimes, I would slow down and think about the fact that Greg and I were really starting our lives together. When I thought about that, nothing looked the same. The things and people around me were the temporary objects and people of the temporary time I was living in. I could not predict what was going to come next; every moment felt like falling off of a cliff, into the next second, the next reality of my life. I told Greg many times to calm down, but I understood his anxiety.
Headmaster Page managed to get some additional funds from Oakland Academy for Greg's university tuition, so he did not have to defer his acceptance. We shopped online for apartments and jobs, but did not finalize anything before getting to Montreal. We spoke to the landlords of a few apartment buildings that were renting, and made appointments to look at places once we arrived in the city. I booked us a room at a Holiday Inn in Montreal for us to stay until we had a place to live. Both of us e-mailed CVs to places that were hiring, and lined up a few job interviews.
The families of Matt, Mel, and Tom all agreed to donate old furniture to Greg and me, most of which would be sent with Matt and Mel when they moved to the city. Matt was moving into an apartment in Montreal with another friend from Oakland, and Mel was moving into the McGill dorms, but the two of them were going to come to Montreal together at the end of August.
Greg and I had planned on taking a bus to Montreal, and getting around by public transportation once we were there, but then we had our best stroke of luck yet. Tom's father had an old red Ford truck that needed fixing up, and that he was planning on selling. When Tom found out that Greg and I had no mode of transportation, he bought the truck from his father, repaired it himself, and offered to it us as a gift. It was the most incredible thing anyone had ever done for us. At first, Greg and I tried to insist that Tom take some money for it, but he absolutely refused it. The truck would become the vehicle Greg and I drove for the next five years. During that time, it only needed to be repaired twice before it completely broke down: once to fix the brakes, and once to repair the muffler.
On the second of August, we packed everything up in the back of the truck, and prepared to set out. Matt, Tom, and Mel met us out on Matt's driveway to send us off.
"I'm pretty sure this'll hold it all in," Matt said as he and I secured bungee cords over the bed of the truck where all of our luggage was piled.
"Pretty sure?" Greg said, eyeing the truck.
"It'll be fine," I told him, and went to stand next to him.
"Well," Mel said, "I guess this isn't really goodbye since Matt and I will be in Montreal in a few weeks."
"It's goodbye for me," Tom said.
"We'll miss you, Tom," Greg said.
"You'll have to come visit as much as you can," I said.
"Except," Greg said, giving me a nudge, "you should probably plan on staying in a hotel since I know that on our budget, Conner and I are basically going to be living in a box."
I laughed. "That's not true, Greg. We'll find something decent."
"If you guys ever need anything," Matt said, "just ask. I know that mine and Mel's families would both be willing to give you guys a hand if you need it."
"We appreciate that," I said. I looked at my three friends. "We appreciate everything you guys have done for us."
"It's true," Greg said. His eyes traveled from Tom to Matt to Mel. "I have to say that I have so much to thank you guys for. Your continued friendship when I came out, your acceptance of my relationship with Conner, your support after my parents … after what they did. I would be so lost without you guys."
Matt shook his head, smiling, but I could see tears in his eyes. "What did you expect, Taylor? We're your friends, man."
Greg nodded. "I know."
"And hey," Tom put in, "I think that … that my parents wouldn't exactly be cool about you guys if they knew, but I'll always be your friend. So if you need anything, I'm here too. You know, like if the truck needs fixing or something …" He blushed.
"Thanks, Tom," I said. "That means a lot to us."
We all exchanged awkward hugs and tried not to get too sentimental. I could see from Greg's moist eyes and the way he kept biting at his lower lip that he was trying to hold back his tears. I knew that this was really the end of a huge part of his life. These were the people who had gotten him through the last two years while I was absent.
At six o'clock that evening, I climbed into the driver's seat of our truck, and Greg settled himself into the passenger's seat. We put on our seatbelts, and then both of us remained motionless for a moment. I turned my head to look at my lover. He was staring out of the front of the truck, breathing deeply. I slid my hand onto his thigh. "Can you believe what we're about to do?"
He looked at me. "Hardly."
"We're finally together, Greg. For real this time: no secrets; just the two of us together."
Greg did not say anything at first, and I began to worry that one of his old insecurities would resurface. Or that he would get upset about leaving. Or that he was thinking about his parents. Then, he brushed his hand against the side of my face and coaxed my head towards his. He gave me a light kiss, then smiled. "It's all I've ever wanted."
You got a fast car Anyplace is better You got a fast car You see my old man's got a problem You got a fast car I remember we were driving driving in your car You got a fast car You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove
And I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
We won't have to drive too far
Just 'cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living
He live with the bottle that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
I say his body's too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
So I quit school and that's what I did
But is it fast enough so we can fly away
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone
And we go cruising to entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
And I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a big house and live in the suburbs
You got a fast car
And I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way
Anyplace is better
You got a fast car
You see my old man's got a problem
You got a fast car
I remember we were driving driving in your car
You got a fast car
You got a fast car
by Tracy Chapman
(NOTE: OK, the lyrics of this song don't all exactly match the context, but I think the general idea is about right. It's just a beautiful song about escaping a bad situation, and I couldn't resist including it.)
There are times when I look back on my years at Oakland and have difficulty believing that those years are a part of my lifetime. There are other times when I am amazed at how much time has passed since events that seem to have only occurred yesterday. Conner and I have become so close that it seems impossible now to untangle the intertwining of the stories of our existences. We have not so much become one person as we have become two people whose lives are so synchronized with each other that they have become inseparable. And the story of our beginnings is a part of that synchronicity.
During the three years following our departure from Ontario and the past, Conner and I have built a life together in the exciting, cosmopolitan, accepting city of Montreal. We have a cosy three-and-a-half just outside of the downtown area of the city. We were able to the apartment afford thanks to the discount we get on our rent in return for repairs work that Conner occasionally does around the building. The little apartment in the hundred-year-old building has plenty of character to make up for its many faults, such as ancient pipes, poor heating, and uneven floors. We like the ornate moulding around the doors, the way that the ceiling slopes in our living room, and the bay window in our bedroom. We like to cook together in our kitchen, read silently next to each other on our lumpy couch, and sleep together in our bed, the bed we bought together specifically to be our own, the one we would share during the years to come.
When we first arrived in the city, Conner got a job at a coffee shop on the trendy Saint-Denis Street, and I worked at an art store. When I started university, I had to switch to only working part time, and money became tight. Conner realized that he needed more than just a coffee shop job, but only wanted to commit himself to a job he would enjoy. So, he set in to motion the plan he had been considering since he started working at Cravings in Vancouver. While still working at the café to make the money we desperately needed, Conner began to make arrangements to open his own restaurant. It took him two years, but the genius nineteen-year-old who was my lover opened a place called Community that was part café, part restaurant, part bar, and part general hang out area. The restaurant became a success quickly. It became a favourite hangout for students, partly due to its fair prices and delicious and unique food, and partly due to its warm, accepting, laid-back atmosphere. Conner had set out to create a place where everyone would feel welcome, part of the community, and he succeeded.
I became quickly immersed into the community of my university once my classes started. At first, I had difficulty believing that the place I went to every day to create and learn about art was really school. I knew that I had done the right thing by choosing to pursue a career with my art; every day I went to classes, I burned with fascination and passion for my subject of choice. Conner was, as always, supportive of my passion, and helped me start to think about my more distant future, the career I would one day select. I did the same for Conner as well: though proud of the success of his restaurant, and as much as he enjoyed running it, he was quite sure that it was not what he wanted to do for his entire life. But he still had difficulty imagining what kind of career he could select that would exercise his full potential, and that he would be happy with. But I encouraged him not to feel rushed about making a decision: we had our entire lives ahead of us to plan.
Conner and I see Matt and Mel relatively frequently: we go out drinking, and visit each other's places at least a couple of times a month. Tom joins us on his occasional visits to Montreal. However, Conner and I became more private once we moved in together, and spend less time with our friends than we may have expected we would. A lot of the time, we just want to be together, the two of us. Matt and Mel dated for a year before breaking up. Two months later, they got back together, and have split and reunited three times since. Their tumultuous relationship may seem unhealthy, but Conner is convinced that the fact that they keep coming back to each other indicates true love. He often reminds me that the time that we spent apart is longer than all the time Mel and Matt have spent apart put together. Love is a strange thing that way: it is usually unexpected, and almost always inconvenient. Just as you cannot choose the person with whom you fall in love, you also cannot force the course of that love to run smoothly.
Seven or eight years ago, I would have done almost anything to make myself fall out of love with Conner, to be able to repress the feelings I had that I believed to be so wrong, that I expected would cause my downfall. Now, the thought of my life without Conner seems a dreary and unhappy existence. The love that Conner and I share was a huge inconvenience for a number of years, but that it survived through that time proves its strength. My life with Conner in the present is brighter because of him. Conner and I do not rely on each other for our individual happiness, but we draw strength from each other, from our union. The intertwining of our lives, of our past and present, has brought us the wisdom we need to survive, to move forward every day in a world that does not always accept us. We have found people who accept us, and a place where we are welcome, and we know now that that is all we need, that together, we can make it. We can be happy, and we deserve to be happy.