Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Man from Swift Current Chapter Forty Two - The Jeep

Chapter Forty Two – The Jeep

As we boarded the plane home, I couldn’t help thinking about what might lay ahead of us.   I know we have taken some precautions against the odds that Rick’s family would try to hurt us, but I couldn’t help feeling just a little anxious about things.   The plane took off from Regina, winging its way eastward toward Toronto.  

As soon as the plane leveled off and the captain announced we could move about the cabin, I asked, “Rick, do you think we will be okay?   I mean with your family trying to harm us.”

Rick took my hand in his and squeezed it.  “Yes, Babe, I think we will be okay.”   He smiled and leaned over to give me a quick kiss on the lips.   “Just relax and enjoy the flight.   I love flying because I get you all to myself for next few hours.”   Rick nibbled on my ear and then nipped the nape of my neck.

I glanced up and caught the airline steward looking at us with a big smile on his face.   His name tag said his name was James.   He was short (5’4”) and had a thin, wiry frame with honey colored skin.   His short dark brown hair had been bleached blond on the ends and stood straight up with the mousse he put in it.   His dark eyes met mine as he noticed me looking at him and he winked.   I smiled and said, “Rick, I think James is gay.”

Rick looked at James and then nodded his agreement, “Definitely.”

James continued serving beverages to the passengers seated in front of us and when he reached our row, he noticed we were holding hands.   “Thank you for flying with us today.   May I serve you a beverage?”

Rick nodded, “Coffee for me, thanks.”

I asked, “Do you have a diet cola?”

James replied, “Yes.   I have diet Coke.”   He poured Rick’s coffee and handed it to him.   Then he gave me a can of diet Coke with a small cup of ice.   He pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to Rick.   “I'm glad to see you two today.   It does my heart good to see you being so open about your relationship.   It gives me hope that someday I’ll find someone special.   I just wanted to let you know there are a lot of us out here who support you.   Please give me call if you plan to spend some time in Toronto.   I would love to see you guys.”

Rick smiled and said, “Thank you, James.   We will be sure to call you when we are in Toronto for a visit.   We're headed to Atlanta today.”

James replied with a grin.  “I know.   I checked the passenger list.   I have to admit I wanted to know who you two were when I saw you come aboard.”   His expression became serious and he said, “It is obvious you love each other.   Don’t let anyone or anything destroy the love you share.”

Before we could respond, James turned to the passengers in the seats across the aisle from us and took their beverage orders, then he moved on to the next row.

I looked at Rick and said, “That was nice of him to stop and talk to us.”

Rick smiled and said, “Yes, it was.   I wish everyone was as open and friendly towards gays.”

“Me, too,” I said.    

We chatted about our trip and remembered the wonderful memories we had created with my family.   Later, we changed planes in Toronto for Atlanta.   Thankfully, the plane was much bigger.   We were seated in an exit row so Rick could have a few extra inches for his long legs.   He took the window seat and I sat next to him in the middle seat.   An older, grey-haired gentleman took the aisle seat.   He gave us a glance but didn’t say anything.   I put up the armrest between me and Rick and I snuggled up to my guy.   When our seat companion saw me lean over and kiss Rick on the lips, he moved as far away from me as he could possibly get without actually sitting in the aisle.  

Rick grinned at me and whispered in my ear, “You're so mean.   That poor fellow must think you will try to kiss him next!”

I laughed and turned to kiss Rick, again, before leaning my head on his shoulder.   Rick took my hand and placed it on the inside of his thigh and rested his hand on top of mine.   Our seatmate looked like he was going into apoplexy as he watched us!  When I didn’t do anything more to make him uncomfortable, the guy seemed to relax.   I could just imagine what the guy was going to say to his friends and family when he got home!  As soon as we were airborne, I fell asleep leaning against Rick’s shoulder.   We were making our descent into Atlanta when Rick woke me up.

“We are almost there, Babe,” Rick said.

I glanced over to see what our seatmate was doing.   The guy actually smiled at me and said in heavily accented English, “I’m Osman.   I am sorry I seemed so rude when I got on the plane.   I have never met anyone who was gay before in my life and I didn’t know what to expect.   I talked with Rick while you were asleep.   He is a fine man and you made a wise choice when you chose him to be your life partner.”

“I’m glad to see you don’t hate us,” I said.

Osman looked shocked.  “I don’t hate anyone.   I am very sorry you thought that.   I did not mean to offend you.   Where I am from, homosexuals are put to death.   It was very shocking to me to see a man kissing a man like you did.”

I asked, “Where are you from?”

“I am from Mauritania,” Osman said.

“I'm glad we don’t live there.   We will never visit there as long as that is how they treat gays,” I said.

The plane stopped and the captain announced we had arrived and could begin exiting the plane.

We grabbed our carry-on luggage and followed Osman off of the plane.   As we made our way to the baggage claim, Rick said, “I can’t wait to get back to our apartment."  Rick took my hand as we walked down the concourse towards the escalators.  

“Me, too,” I said.   I paused, then asked, “When are the police going coming over to visit with us?”

“Tonight after dinner,” Rick answered.

“That doesn’t give us much time then,” I said.

“No.   It doesn’t, but we’ll make it,” Rick responded with a sigh.

“Do you think they will really be able to do anything?” I asked, glancing over at Rick.

“I don’t think so.   Melodie didn’t sound very pleased to be helping me at all.   I think she is doing it more out of a sense of duty than because she wants to help us.”

“Well, that is something.   I didn’t expect to get any help at all from them.” I replied.   “Uncle Dave didn’t have a very good experience with American police when there was a crime committed against a gay man while he was at school here.   So I won’t be surprised if they don’t do anything at all.”

We finally got to baggage claim and found the carousel where our luggage was waiting for us.   We hauled our luggage out to Rick’s Jeep Wrangler.   Rick and I jumped in and Rick started the engine.   I was glad I had my seat belt on as Rick managed to get us home in record time!  

We were just walking into the apartment when I turned to see the police climbing the stairs.   I turned to Rick.   “The police are here already.   I’ll take our luggage into our room if you want to let them in.”   I grabbed our bags and dragged them into our bedroom.   I returned to the front room just as Rick let them in.

Rick introduced me to them, “This is Glenn Nielsen.   Glenn, Officers Jones and Dougherty.   Please sit down.”   They sat down on the couch while Rick and I sat on the loveseat.

Officer Jones spoke first.   “Would you repeat for us what you told me over the phone?”

Rick rehearsed for them the phone conversation he’d had with his Dad and then gave some explanation for his concerns about the potential threat his family represented to us.

Office Dougherty spoke when Rick finished, “I know of a nice neighborhood where you would be safer than living here.   It’s a gated community with security cameras and guards at the gate 24x7.”   He pulled out his notebook and wrote down the name and address of the apartments and handed it to Rick.

Officer Jones looked at Rick.  “You do know you're very vulnerable to attack while you are on campus or walking outside the gated community?”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.   We've thought about asking our friends to accompany us whenever we're walking around campus or near our apartment so we're never alone.   We also thought about learning how to defend ourselves.   Do you know of a martial arts program we could enroll in?”

“Yes, there is a good one near here.   Let me see the note Officer Dougherty gave you.   I’ll add the name and address of the martial arts studio on it so you can call them about enrolling in some self-defense classes,” Officer Jones said.

Officer Dougherty smiled at us.  “I hope we have been able to ease your anxieties about this situation.   I want to remind you the best way to avoid trouble is to always be aware of your surroundings.   Don’t be caught off guard because you aren’t paying attention to what is going on around you.”

The officers stood up to go.   “Thank you, officers for coming over to see us.   Have a good evening,” Rick said as he followed them to the door.   Rick closed and locked the door after they had left.

Rick came over to me and wrapped his arms around my waist.  “Are you ready to become trained in the art of self-defense?”

“If it means being with you, yes, I’m ready,” I said, leaning against his chest.

“Good, let’s get some supper.   I’m starving.   They didn’t give us much to eat on the plane,” Rick said as his stomached growled.

I laughed as I lightly punched him in the stomach.   As always, Rick tightened his stomach muscles and I hit solid steel.   He caught my hand in his and led me into the kitchen.

“What do you want for dinner?” he asked.

“Some soup and a sandwich will do the trick tonight,” I replied.

Rick pulled out the sandwich fixings while I opened a can of tomato soup and poured it into a sauce pan to heat on the stove.

A few minutes later, we were seated at the table.   “I’ll say grace. “   I took Rick’s hands in mine and said, “God, we thank you for a save trip home and for this food.  Bless the food that it will keep us healthy. Amen.”

Rick’s amen echoed mine and we proceeded to demolish the sandwiches soaking them in the tomato soup.   We were done in double quick time.   We washed up and put the dishes away.

“I’m going to call those apartments tonight to see if they have an apartment available for rent.   I want to move tomorrow if we can,” Rick said.

He picked up the phone and dialed the number on the note paper the police had given us.   I overheard their answering machine come on with a message that they weren’t open.

“The answering machine message said they have apartments available for rent and to drop by the office in the morning if we are interested.”

“That sounds good to me.   I’m totally exhausted Rick.   Let’s go to bed,” I said, yawning widely.

“Okay, Babe,” Rick said and led me into our bedroom and helped me undress and then undressed himself.

“Come to bed, Glenn.” Rick said.   He pulled back the covers and we both climbed into bed.  

“It feels so good to be in our own bed,” I said as I snuggled against Rick’s chest.   I was so comfortable and relaxed that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.   Traveling always makes me really tired.

I woke up and felt cold.   I reached over to pull the covers back up when I discovered Rick wasn’t in bed with me.   I wondered where he was when he came into the bedroom and climbed back into bed with me.

“What’s up, Rick?   Where did you go?” I asked, yawning and stretching my arms over my head.

“I went to make sure the doors and windows are locked securely,” Rick responded.   “I know I sound paranoid but I can’t shake this feeling something bad is going to happen.   Maybe my imagination is just being over active and that’s why I can’t get to sleep.”

“I’m worried as well but we can’t do anything about it tonight.   Let’s get some sleep,” I said.

I wrapped my body around his and tried to comfort him.   It must have worked, because his breathing become regular and his taut muscles relaxed.   Now I was the one who couldn’t sleep.

My mind kept racing, going over and over the events of the last 24 hours. I kept rehearsing our discussions about Rick’s Dad threatening us with bodily harm if we didn’t break up.   What kind of parent would threaten violence against their own flesh and blood?   At least, Dad hadn’t threatened to kill Randy and Shawn or do them bodily harm.   I know, I know, what my Dad did wasn’t any better!    Throwing them out of our house and pretty much disowning Randy was a pretty terrible thing to do your one of your children.   Why is it parents can’t learn to accept who their children are?   Why do they have to try and force us into the picture-perfect mold they have created in their minds?

I watched my lover boy’s face as he slept.   I couldn’t help but think about how much Rick is hurting inside and all because his family can’t accept who he is.   I wish I knew what to do to make things easier for him.   He tries to pretend that he’s okay and that he’s handling it just fine.  Rick has been very open with me and has shown his emotions on many occasions but this time he’s trying to be all “macho” on me and trying to protect me.   I wish he’d stop it so we can work this out together!

I’ve always thought we were equal partners in this relationship and would face things together.   I know Rick is only trying to do what he thinks is best for me but he needs to let me help carry this burden because it affects both of us.

I’ve seen the sorrow and anguish on his face when he thinks I’m not watching him.   It’s like he’s a totally different person than the Rick I fell in love with a few weeks ago.   Those first two weeks were so wonderful!   Neither one of us had a care or worry to spoil our time together.   It was just me and Rick in our own little world.   I want so much to return to that happy, carefree time!

Damn!   I hate it when I start crying.   It always happens to me when I’m so frustrated and angry.   My body betrays me every time!  

The next morning, Rick and I were up with the sun.   Things didn’t look so bad in the morning light as they did last night.   Of course, our morning shower routine always puts us in a good mood.   It also means I walk funny for a while afterwards as well!   Needless to say, we ran out of hot water, again!

We dressed alike today:  khaki cargo shorts, white tight-fitting muscle shirts, white socks and trainers.   I’m too skinny to really show off any muscle and I hate wearing a shirt that fits so closely but I’d agreed to wear the muscle shirt only because Rick had begged me to wear it.   Rick, on the other hand, looked great.   The shirt showed off the muscles rippling under his skin.   Watching him as he moved around the kitchen was making me salivate!  

Rick looked over and caught me staring at him.  “Hey, eyes off the goods, bud.   We’re having breakfast this morning NOT sex!”   Rick laughed because I was so obviously aroused and the color had risen in my cheeks.   He tousled my hair and pushed me towards the table.   “Sit!  Let’s eat.”

I reached for his hands and I said grace, “God, we thank you for this food.   Please help us to find the right place to live.  Amen.”

Rick didn’t release my hands right away.   Looking me in the eyes, he said, “Thanks for comforting me last night.   I really need you right now.   I’m sorry I’ve been holding back on you.   I know we promised each other we’d always be open and honest with each other and I haven’t been sharing my thoughts with you as I should.   I just hate to be a burden on you.   I didn’t realize just how much of a basket case I was going to be when my parents rejected me.”

My eyes misted over as I responded, “It’s okay big guy.   I know you’re trying to deal with the crap your parents have thrown at us.   Just remember, we’re in this together and don’t shut me out.   I love you and I want to help.”

“I know you do but it’s hard for me to let down my emotional defenses sometimes.   When I do that, please remind me to stop shutting you out,” Rick said, looking me in the eyes.

“But you have to promise me you won’t get mad when I do,” I said earnestly.

Rick smiled and said, “I'll try.   I promise I’ll never hurt you or harm you in any way even if I do get angry.   Will that do?”

“I guess it will have to do for now,” I said, letting go of his hands and smiling at him to reassure him I appreciated his apology and his efforts to protect me.

“Let’s head over to those gated apartments this morning.   I want to see if we can move in today.   I don’t want to wait,” Rick said in between bites of pancake.

“I think that’s a good idea,” I replied.   “I know I would feel a lot safer that way.”

We cleaned up the few dishes we had used and headed out the door.

As we approached Rick’s Jeep, I saw with horror someone had spray-painted the word “faggot” across the hood in white letters.

Rick let loose a string of curses that would make a sailor proud.   “If I ever find out who did this, they will wish they lived on another planet when I’m done with them!”

Rick walked over to Jeep and bent over to examine his tires.   “They even slashed my tires!”   He walked around to check the remaining tires.   “They slashed all of them!   I bet my family did this.   They must have been watching the apartment waiting for us to return home.”

They had broken into the Jeep and slashed the seats and there was a note attached to the steering wheel.   Rick read it out loud, “Death to all Faggots!   You’re Next!”

“I think we need to call the police, Rick,” I said.

“Yeah, let’s go back inside and call,” Rick responded, still fuming over the damage done to his vehicle.   Whoever did this didn’t know that messing with Rick’s car was not a good thing.   Rick loves his cars and treats them like his children.   I could see how angry Rick was.   It was a good thing his anger wasn’t directed at me!

Rick unlocked the door and stalked into the kitchen and dialed the police.   I sat down at the kitchen table as I listened to Rick explain what had happened to his Jeep to the person listening on the other end.   He hung up and came over to me and pulled me into his arms.

Rick said, “Glenn, I don’t know if I can handle this.   I knew they were going to try and hurt us but why did they have to go and mess with my Jeep!”

I could feel him trembling with anger as he held me.   “We should check the Corvette, too,” I said.

Cursing, Rick bolted from the kitchen and ran out of the apartment.   I followed him outside to the parking lot.   Rick walked around to the covered parking area where he kept the Corvette.   He walked up to the car and pulled off the cover.   Thankfully, there wasn’t a mark anywhere and no damage done that I could see.

I watched as Rick visibly relaxed as he walked around looking for anything out of place.   “I’m glad they didn’t find the Corvette.   I really would have been mad had they touched my baby,” Rick said.

Just then the police showed up in their cruiser.   We walked over to them as they climbed out of the car.  “Are you Rick Lernier?” one of them asked.

“Yes, that’s me,” Rick responded.

“I’m Officer Taliaferro (TALL-eh-ver, if you haven’t heard it before!).  Can you tell me what happened?” the officer asked.

“Sure,” Rick answered.

Rick pointed to the damage on the Jeep as he told the officer how we found the Jeep this morning. 

 “Do you know of anyone who would do this?” Officer Taliaferro asked.

“Yes, my family.   They threatened to do us harm.   They have probably been watching the apartment waiting for us to return from our trip.   We filed a report with your office last night.  Officers Jones and Dougherty were here to take the information from us,” Rick responded.

“We’ll take photos of the damages and we want to dust the vehicle for fingerprints just in case the perpetrators were careless enough to touch the Jeep,” the office said.

He signaled to his partner to join us.   “Will you get the camera and the fingerprint kit?” he said.    Turning back to us, he said, “I’ll finish filling out the incident report and Officer Willy will take the photos and dust the vehicle for prints.   Which apartment are you in?”

“We’re in number 212 on the second floor,” Rick replied.

“I’ll come get you when were done,” Officer Taliaferro said, dismissing us as if he were a sergeant in the army.

Rick and I returned to our apartment to wait for them to finish.   There’s nothing I hate more than waiting!   Rick is even worse!   He paced back and forth with his hands clenched at his sides fuming over the damage done to his Jeep.

“Rick, please come sit down,” I pleaded with him.  

“I can’t.   I’m so angry I can’t sit still or I’ll explode!”  Rick responded energetically, shaking his fists in front of him for emphasis.

“I think we should call my Grandpa and let him know what’s happened.   He’ll know what we should do next,” I said, getting up and moving into the kitchen.   I picked up the phone and dialed my grandparents’ home.

“Hello,” I said.   “Grandma, is Grandpa home?   Can I talk to him?   Thanks, Grandma.”

Grandpa came on the line, “Hello, Glenn.   How was your trip home?”

“It was great!   We really had fun being home,” I said.   “Grandpa, I need to tell you something.”

“Okay, go ahead,” Grandpa responded.

I said, “Last night, someone spray painted the word “faggot” across the hood of Rick’s Jeep.   They slashed all of his tires and broke into the Jeep ripping up the seats and left a note that said, “Death to all Faggots!  You’re Next!”

“Have you called the police?” Grandpa asked.

I replied, “Yes, Grandpa, we did and they are outside now, dusting the Jeep for fingerprints and taking photos of the damage.”

“Do you know who may have done this?” he asked.

“Yes, we think it may be Rick’s family.   Rick’s Dad called him just before we left.   He asked Rick to leave me and to stop sinning.   When Rick said he wouldn’t, his Dad said that Rick’s Mom and her family would put a stop to us living in sin even if that meant hurting one or both of us.   In fact, he said it would better for us to be dead than to continue living in sin,” I replied.

“Why didn’t you call me before now?” Grandpa chided me.

“I’m sorry, Grandpa.   I know we should’ve called sooner but we thought we could find a new place to live and avoid having confrontations with Rick’s family.   Other than his Dad’s phone call, they have cut off all communication with us.   They didn’t even come to Keith’s wedding.   We talked with the police last night about the threatening phone call.   They said they couldn’t do anything for us but they suggested we move to safer place,” I said.

“So what do they consider a safer place?” Grandpa asked with more than a little sarcasm.

“They told us about a gated community where they have security guards 24 hours a day at the entrance and security cameras watching every entrance to the buildings.”

“Have you called to see if they have any vacant apartments?” Grandpa asked.

“Yes, we called last night and we were headed over to take a look at them when we found Rick’s Jeep had been vandalized,” I said.

“I’ll call you back in a few minutes, Glenn.   I want to make a few phone calls first before you two do anything.   Do you understand?” Grandpa asked.

“Yes, Grandpa, I understand.   We’ll wait until you call us back.”

“Good.   I may take me few minutes so don’t get impatient.   Good-bye.”


I hung up and turned to go back into the front room and was captured in Rick’s arms.  He had come up behind me while I was talking to Grandpa.   He kissed me and said, “I’m glad you called Grandpa.”

Rick released me and led me into the front room where we sat on the coach and cuddled while we waited for Grandpa’s call and for the police to finish their work.   I leaned back against Rick’s chest and he put his arms around me.   I could feel the tension in his arms as he held me.   I am just glad his anger isn’t directed at me!

We sat there for what seemed an eternity when the phone rang.   Rick let me go and I got up to answer it.

“Hello,” I said.

“Glenn, I have arranged for a real estate agent to pick you boys up to go look at a couple of secure condos downtown.   I’ve decided we need to buy a place for you boys to stay in while you go to school.   I don’t want to worry about crazy people trying to hurt you.   The man’s name is John Robertson.   He should be there within the hour.”

“Okay, we will wait for him,” I said.

“I’ve given him instructions on what I want but you two will have to be my eyes and ears to make sure we are getting a place that will meet your needs.   After you have looked at the condos Mr. Robertson has selected, I want you to call me and we will discuss which one we will buy,” Grandpa said.

“Thank you, Grandpa.   We will talk to you later then.   Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Glenn.”

I walked back into the front room.   Rick was where I had left him a few minutes earlier.   “Grandpa wants us to go with his realtor to look at condos.   Then we will call Grandpa back and decide which one meets our needs the best.   Grandpa wants to buy us condo where we will be safe and have good security.”

Rick looked at me for a minute in disbelief.   “You mean Grandpa is going to buy us a place to live while we go to school?”

“Yes, he said he was going to buy a condo where we could live and go to school.”

Just then, there was a knock on the door.   Rick launched himself at the door and pulled it open.   There stood the two police officers.

“Mr. Lernier, we have completed our work here.   Here is a copy of the police report we are filing.   We did find a good number of fingerprints.  We will let you know if we find out anything.”

“Thanks officers for your work,” Rick said.  

“You should probably call your insurance company and arrange for them to have their adjustor come out and look at the vehicle,” Officer Taliaferro suggested.

“I’ll give them a call in a few minutes.   Again, thank you for coming so quickly,” Rick said as he shook their hands.   Rick closed the door after they left and gave me a look of such anger and despair.   I immediately walked over and took him in my arms.  

“It will be alright, Rick.   Let’s call the insurance company while we wait, okay,” I said.

Rick didn’t respond at first but eventually acknowledged that calling the insurance company was the right thing to do.

We went into the kitchen and I found the insurance information and dialed the number.   I spoke to the agent and then turned the phone over to Rick who explained everything that had happened.   They agreed to send over an adjustor to look at the Jeep and then they would call us back regarding repairs.

Now that was done, all we had to do was wait for Mr. Robertson.   It was about 30 minutes later when the phone rang.  

I answered it, “Hello.”

“Hello, is this Mr. Nielsen?” a voice asked.

“Yes, speaking,” I replied.

“I’m Mr. Robinson.   Your Grandpa asked me to show a couple of our properties today.   I wanted to confirm a time that is convenient for you.   Is 10 AM okay?” he asked.

I replied, “Yes, 10 would be great.”

“I’ll see you at 10.   Good-bye.”


Rick asked me, “Was that the realtor?”

“Yeah, he’ll be here at 10 to pick us up,” I said.   “Are you okay, Babe?”

“I think so now that I know that the Jeep will be fixed eventually.   It’s a good thing I have another car so we aren’t completely without transportation,” Rick said.   He seemed a little calmer now but I could tell he was still upset.

“Let’s go out on the balcony and wait.   It’s a nice day and there’s a little breeze,” I suggested.

I opened the sliding glass door and stepped out onto the balcony.   Rick followed me and we made ourselves comfortable.  

Suddenly, Rick stood up.   His body went completely rigid and his face reflected a deadly fury, “I know who did it, Glenn.”

I was still trying to figure out why Rick had suddenly jumped up.   “Who do you think did it?”

Rick pointed across the courtyard to the gazebo.   “Look who is sitting in the gazebo.”

I looked and at first I didn’t see anyone but as I looked closer I could see two people seated inside.   I wasn’t sure who they were.   Then one of them stepped closer to us and I recognized her face.   I gasped, “Angie!”

“And Peyton’s with her.   I’m sure they did the deed.   Dad said Uncle George was planning something.”

Rick sat back down in his chair as we continued to watch.   Sure enough, Peyton stepped into view and put his arm around Angie.   As we watched them, Peyton kissed Angie and pulled her back towards the center to the gazebo.

“Do you think they saw us?” I asked.

Rick responded, “I’m sure they did.   I think Peyton is intentionally letting me know that he’s out to do me harm.   Why else would they wait around in such a visible place directly across from our balcony?”

“Are you sure they did it?” I asked already know the answer.

“I’m so sure I would be willing to bet the cops will find their fingerprints on the Jeep.   Peyton is too stupid to think about wearing gloves so he won’t get caught.” Rick said derisively.   “But Angie’s not dumb.   She may have thought about it and made sure her fingerprints aren’t on the Jeep.”

We heard a knock on the door.   I looked at my watch and saw that it was 10 AM.   “That would be Mr. Robertson.   Let’s go Rick.”

We went back inside closing and locking the sliding glass door behind us.   I opened the apartment door to find a short, fat bald man in his 50’s standing there.   He had little piggy eyes and a bulbous nose.   He was very well dressed.   He reached out his hand and said, “I’m Mr. Robertson.   Mr. Nielsen, I presume?”

“Yes, I’m Glenn Nielsen and this is my partner, Rick Lernier,” I said, moving aside to let Rick shake his hand.

“Nice to meet you both.   If you’re ready, let’s go,” he said.

Rick locked the door and we followed Mr. Robertson out to his car.   I went to get in the back seat and was surprised to see Keith and Kerry already sitting there.

“Your Grandpa asked me to take your cousin, Keith, with us.   He wants to buy two condos in the same location.   One for you and one for your cousin,” Mr. Robertson said by way of explanation.

I climbed in next to Keith while Rick got to ride in the front with Mr. Robertson.

“Hey, Keith and Kerry!   When did you get back and how was the honeymoon?” I asked smiling at the newlywed couple.

They both smiled but Kerry responded, “We got in really late last night and it was wonderful!   Keith is such a wonderful husband!”

“We had a great time as Kerry said.   I know you and Rick would enjoy it, too,” Keith added.   “Did you have a good time at home last week?”

“Yeah, we enjoyed seeing all the family.   Rick was a huge hit with everyone.   It was good to go home,” I said.

Rick joined in, “I found out a lot of things I didn’t know about Glenn!   His Mom told me that when he was about two years old he would run around the house pretending he was a ballerina.   He’d wear a little tutu over the top of his pajamas and spin around the room doing pirouettes!”  

“I did not!” I said heatedly.

Everyone laughed but me.   Rick contradicted me, “Yes, you did.   Your mom showed me the photographs she took of you wearing your little yellow tutu!”   I stuck out my tongue at him and he just laughed even more.

Kerry came to my rescue, “I’m sure you were just adorable and that’s why your mom took the pictures of you.”

I looked gratefully at Kerry, “Thanks, Kerry.   You’re right.  I am still adorable now.   I just don’t need a tutu to show off in anymore!”

“Would you like me to get you a tutu?” Rick asked, again, grinning broadly as he continued to tease me.

“No, I don’t!  What else did my mom tell you?” I asked almost dreading the answer.

“Oh, quite a few things actually,” Rick grinned mischievously.   “Do you really want me to share them with everyone here?”

It only took me a second to decide, “No, I don’t!   But I do want you to tell me later what she told you.”

Keith spoke up, “And you have to tell us, too.   You can’t hide from us, Glenn!”  Keith playfully jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow.

“Okay, but I get to edit out any embarrassing material,” I said defensively.

“No, you don’t,” Rick said, his grin getting even wider than it had been.   “I think Keith and Kerry should come over for dinner tonight and I will share with them everything I learned about you last week.”   Rick was enjoying himself immensely at my expense.

“Yes, Keith and Kerry, please say you’ll come,” I said.

Kerry said, “Yes, we will come for dinner.   We are heading out to the beach house tomorrow.   Are you and Rick going to be joining us there?”

I looked at Rick, Rick smiled but his eyes didn’t reflect that smile and said, “Yes, we will be there.   We will be going in the Corvette since someone totally trashed my Jeep.”

“Grandpa told us what happened and explained that he wanted to make sure we were safe as well.   That’s why we are going with you to look at condos,” Keith said.

Kerry said, “We’re sorry such a terrible happened to you, Rick.   I hope they catch the people who did it.”

Mr. Robertson interrupted our conversation, “Here we are folks.   This is the first property I would like to show you.   There are three others that we will visit today.”   He stopped at the guard house and talked with the guard on duty.   After confirming that Mr. Robertson was expected, the guard opened the gate and let us through.  

Mr. Robertson pulled into the visitors’ parking and turned off the engine.  “Please follow me,” he said as we all got out of his car.

He took us to the front desk where the receptionist asked for our identification to make sure we were who we said we were and handed Mr. Robertson the keys to several different condos and provided us with a map of the property showing all the amenities and the locations of the different buildings.

We toured all of the condos they had for sale and visited the club house which had meeting rooms, game rooms, swimming pools and a large gym.   Everything was very well appointed and obviously very expensive.

Mr. Robertson took us to the other properties before returning us to our apartment.   He said he would call my Grandpa and thanked us for going with him to see the properties.

While Rick showed Keith the damage to the Jeep, Kerry and I went up to the apartment to start dinner.

I got all the ingredients out for a green salad which Kerry volunteered to prepare.   I put some water on to boil for pasta and defrosted some salmon in the sink.

Kerry asked, “Which condo you do you like the best?”

“I liked the first one the best.   It had the best layout and I liked the club house.   The others weren’t as nice nor did their security seem to be up to snuff,” I said.

“I agree with you.   The others were nice but I definitely prefer the first one,” Kerry said.   “Do you think your Grandpa will let us buy one of those?   They were very expensive.”

“I think he will.   He said money wasn’t a concern as long as we are safe and secure.   He doesn’t want anyone in his family to come to harm because he was too stingy to get the needed security to ensure their safety.”

“Well, if we are voting on where we want to live, we have at least two votes for the first one.   I’m sure I can convince Keith to agree with me.   How about Rick?

“I’m sure he will agree with us.   After dinner, we’ll call my Grandpa to let him know what we think.”

“Can I ask you a question, Glenn?”

“Sure you can ask but I reserve the right not to answer,” I said sitting down across the table from where she was chopping celery and carrots for the salad she was making.

“What happened between you and Ruth Ann?  I thought you really liked her,” Kerry said looking me in the eye.

“I do like Ruth Ann and we had a great time together at your parents’ beach house and at my grandparents’ place,” I said truthfully.   This is the conversation I had been dreading for some time now.   I knew it was inevitable and I had hoped to avoid it at least for a little while longer.

“So why didn’t you keep in touch with Ruth Ann after she left?” Kerry asked earnestly.   “You weren’t already involved with Rick were you?”

“No, I wasn’t involved with Rick at that time.   You have to remember I had just met Rick a few days before Keith and I joined you and sister at the beach.   In fact, Rick had a different girl in his bed almost every night I was here,” I laughed.   “I thought Rick was straight and would never even be interested in me let alone become my life partner.  Do you really want to know the reason why I didn’t want to continue my relationship with Ruth Ann?”

“Yes, I do.   I know Ruth Ann really liked you and I thought you two were so cute together.”

“Has Keith told you anything about Ian?” I asked.

“Yes, but he said he didn’t think you were really gay.  He said you messed around with Ian in high school but thought that you would fall for the right girl if given the chance.   We both thought that Ruth Ann was the right girl for you.   You and Ruth Ann seemed to really hit it off with each other while we were at the beach.   You were practically inseparable.   So I was surprised when I found out you were with Rick.   Keith is usually pretty open about most things but he just clams up every time I’ve asked him why you chose Rick over my sister,” she said this last with just a hint of anger at Keith.   “He told me I needed to ask you and that you’d tell me if I wanted to know.   So I’m asking!” she said with more than little energy.

“The easy answer is I’m gay and I’m not interested in girls but it’s more complicated than that.   During my senior year, I met a really wonderful guy who was an exchange student from Norway.   We were boyfriends for most of my last year of high school.

“We made plans to go to college together and that we would spend the rest of our lives together.   Ian seemed so sincere and told me he loved me.   I fell for him in a big way.   In hindsight, I should’ve known that Ian was just using me but I was totally blind to anything negative in his behavior towards me.

“We both applied to the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) where a friend of Ian’s family is a professor.   We planned to meet up at UTEP.   We were going to share a dorm room and help out Mrs. Hernandez with one of her projects.   I thought we would be together forever and rooming together at UTEP was to be just the beginning of my “happy ever after.”

By this time, my eyes had started to mist over as I tried to keep control of my emotions.   “After I flew to Atlanta and was staying at my grandparents’ house, I kept trying to get Ian on the phone and no one answered for days.   I finally got hold of Ian’s mom on the phone.   When I asked for Ian, she told me he was engaged to be married and was off with his fiancée.   I was totally devastated.   I felt like my entire life had come to an end.”   By this time, tears were flowing down my cheeks pretty freely.

Seeing my distress, Kerry said, “I’m sorry.   I didn’t know.   I didn’t’ mean to make you unhappy.”

I finally got myself under control and continued, “I met you a few days later when Keith introduced you to me.   Then when we went to your parents’ beach house and met Ruth Ann, I wasn’t ready for any kind of a relationship.  I was still trying to recover from the worst thing that had ever happened to me.

“I needed someone to talk to and Ruth Ann is a very good listener.   It wasn’t long before I told her everything.   She must have thought I was crazy to have fallen in love with a guy and worse because he was a foreign exchange student,” I said.  

“She didn’t think that at all.   She told me how much she enjoyed being with you.   She wanted to make you happy because you seemed so sad all the time.   Ruth Ann couldn’t stop talking about you.  You two spent every waking moment together the entire time we were at your grandparents’ house,” Kerry said.

“I like Ruth Ann a lot, Kerry.   She’s beautiful and has a great personality but I’m in love with Rick,” I said hoping that Kerry would understand.

“I know that you love Rick,” Kerry said laughing, “It’s pretty obvious when you two are together that you are so totally in love.   I just wanted to know if there was something Ruth Ann did that offended you that’s all.”

“I’m afraid we upset Ruth Ann pretty badly on your wedding night,” I said.

“Why?   What happened?” Kerry asked as she finished putting the salad together and cleared the table.

“Rick and I were outside loading all of the wedding gifts into the cars to take to your parents’ place when Ruth Ann came out and saw Rick kissing me.   I didn’t know she was there but Rick made sure she saw us.   Rick is pretty jealous sometimes.   I told him not worry about me and Ruth Ann but he wouldn’t believe me when he saw how much Ruth Ann liked me.”

“He’s a lot like Keith.   Keith used to be that way every time one of my ex-boyfriends would come around,” Kerry said.   “I found it irritating at the time so I can relate to how you felt.   I guess it’s a guy thing.   They have to make sure no one invades their territory!”

“I was afraid you would hate me,” I said.

“Why?   You didn’t do anything wrong,” Kerry said looking at me curiously.

“I thought you might be angry because I didn’t continue dating your sister,” I replied.

“I was a bit miffed about that at first.   I didn’t know all the details about your relationship with Ian and how badly he treated you,” Kerry smiled.   “Now that I know, I’m not angry anymore.   But you need to talk to Ruth Ann and let her know that you love Rick.”

“Sure, if you think it will help Ruth Ann,” I said hesitantly.   “I’m not sure she would be as understanding as you have been.   I want us to continue to be friends but I’m afraid she wants something more than that.”

“You’re right about that.   She was thinking you would follow her to Utah to go to school,” Kerry said.  “She wanted me to try and persuade you to consider moving out west.”

“I couldn’t leave Rick.  The only way I’d move would be if Rick moved with me,” I said.   “I’m afraid Rick may leave me though.”

Kerry looked at me in surprise, “What makes you think that?”

“I don’t think Rick was prepared for the hatred his family has towards him and the violence they did to his car.   I worry about him because he has been so depressed since his parents rejected him.   They have made it clear that if he doesn’t get rid of me, they will do everything they can to hurt us.   I’m afraid he will leave me rather than take the risk that I will be harmed.”

“Do you really think he would do that?” Kerry asked doubtfully.

“I do.   Rick really loves me and will see it as the ultimate act of love by protecting me from harm as he denies himself the happiness he feels when we are together.   I know it’s a kind of twisted logic but that’s how he is.   And most of all, I hate to see him hurting so bad because of me.”

I got up and prepared the salmon and put it in the oven to bake.   The water had started boiling by then so I added the pasta.   “Kerry, what should I do to help Rick?” I asked.

“I think you are already doing what you can to help him,” Kerry said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You love him and have done everything to let him know that,” Kerry said.   “As much as you want to fix what’s wrong, you won’t be able to change Rick’s family.   They will have to come realize how much they are missing by cutting themselves off from their son.”

“I know you are right but I wish there was more I could do,” I said.

Kerry nodded, “I understand.   Keep doing everything you can to let Rick know you love him.   Rick is a wonderful man and he will always be there for you.”

I replied, “Yes, he is a great guy.   He is so tendered hearted that it makes me mad when I think about how his family has hurt him.”

We were still talking when, Rick and Keith came in from outside and joined us in the kitchen.   Rick asked, “What’s cooking?   It sure smells good.”

“Baked Salmon – just the way you like it, Babe,” I replied, wrapping my arms around Rick’s waist and pulling him close to me.

Rick smiled looking over at Keith and Kerry and said, “See what good care he takes of me?”

Keith said, “He’d better take good care of you.   We can’t have my best friend wasting away to nothing because he doesn’t know how to cook!”

“I know how to cook!   I just don’t like to cook.   Besides, Glenn loves to cook so I give him all the opportunities he wants to do so.   I like helping clean up afterwards,” Rick said grinning at me.

“Don’t believe a word he says,” I said, “he only likes to help do dishes because he gets me where he wants me and I can’t get away!”

Rick laughed and added, “Guilty as charged!  Glenn is so irresistible when he’s got his hands in the dish water.   I like trying to distract him just to see if I can!”

“Rick always does.   That’s why it’s so hard to keep the kitchen clean around here because he’s always distracting me from what I’m doing!” I said laughing.

Kerry interrupted laughing at us, “Hey you two, let’s get the table set before you start embarrassing me with too much information.   I think the salmon is almost ready.”

“Yes Ma’am!” Rick said as he made an exaggerated bow.

I retrieved the salmon from the oven.   Rick dished the fish onto a serving plate and put it on the table next to the salad.   Next I drained the pasta and then tossed it with olive oil, fresh basil, chopped tomatoes and parmesan cheese.   I put it on the table and we sat down to eat.

After we said grace, Keith said, “Your Jeep is pretty much trashed, Rick.   Do you think you will try to repair it?”

“Depends on how much the insurance company will pay,” Rick responded.   “I don’t have much money so if they don’t pay for repairs and decide to total it, I can’t pay for the repairs myself.”

“I’m sure they’ll pay up,” Keith said.

Kerry said, “Guys, which condo did you like the best of those we saw today?”

Rick said, “The first one.   Which one did you like, Keith?”

“I liked the first one, too.”

“Okay, we’ll call Grandpa after dinner and let him know,” I said smiling and giving Kerry a wink knowing we had gotten what we wanted without even trying to convince our significant others of our point of view.

Rick asked, “Is everything ready for the ring ceremony?”

Kerry responded, “Yes.   Our parents have already taken care of everything.   It will be just the two immediate families, mine and Keith’s, plus you two and the grandparents.   We kept the number of people small enough so that everyone can stay with us.”

“Is Ruth Ann going to be there?” I asked nervously looking over at Rick to gauge his reaction to my question.   I small frown crossed his face for only second before he looked me in the eyes and smiled.

“Yes, Ruth Ann will be there.   She leaves for college at the end of the week,” Kerry said.

Keith looked at me and asked, “Are you guys okay with that?   I mean staying in the same house with Ruth Ann.”

“I need to talk to Ruth Ann and try to repair our friendship,” I said.

“Why?  What did you do to Ruth Ann?” Keith asked.

Kerry chided husband, “Don’t you get it, Keith?   Ruth Ann fell in love with Glenn during those two weeks we were all together.”

I added, “Ruth Ann saw me and Rick making out in the parking lot at the reception center.”

Rick spoke up, “I was being a little jealous and wanted to make sure she knew Glenn was mine.   I’m really to blame for upsetting Ruth Ann.   Glenn kept telling me it was okay and not to worry about Ruth Ann but I didn’t like the way she clung to Glenn and how she seemed to think she owned him!”

I took Rick’s hand and said, “It’s alright, Rick,” trying to calm him down a bit.   “I just need to talk to Ruth Ann and let her know that I love Rick very much and that I would still like to be her friend if that’s possible.    If not, I will have at least tried to reach out to her.”

Keith looked at me and then at Rick, “Rick, are you okay with Glenn talking to Ruth Ann?”

“As long as he’s not alone with her,” Rick said. 

My face must have shown the shock I was feeling.   I thought we’d worked through this already.   I’d tried to reassure Rick that I loved him and that he had nothing to fear from Ruth Ann.

“Please, don’t be angry with me, Glenn,” Rick pleaded with me.   “I trust you and I know that you love me but I can’t help how I feel.”

Kerry came to the rescue, “Rick, Ruth Ann is feeling very hurt and needs to be reassured that there is nothing wrong with her.   Glenn was her first boyfriend.   She’s always been very shy and has never dated anyone before and she thought Glenn was madly in love with her.   While you two were outside, Glenn told me about Ian.   I understand now why Glenn didn’t want to get into another relationship so soon after being hurt by Ian.   He also told me that Ruth Ann knew about Ian.”

I said, “I was so depressed about Ian and Ruth Ann kept asking me what was wrong so I finally told her.   I was totally surprised that she knew about Ian already.   Ruth Ann started asking me questions about how I felt and where I was emotionally.   She tried to help me work through my issues and we had many, many long talks.   We became very close friends.”

Keith looked at Kerry, “Did Ruth Ann tell you about how she feels about Glenn?”

“Yes, she did.   She told me many times how much she loves Glenn,” Kerry replied.

“Does Ruth Ann know that we’re coming and that we’ll being staying at the house?” Rick asked.

“No, I haven’t told her, yet,” Kerry said.   “At first, I thought it would be nice surprise for her but at the wedding Keith told me about you two being a couple now.   I didn’t know what to do at that point.   To be honest, I was a little upset at Glenn for playing my sister for the fool.”

I said, “I think we need to let her know ahead of time that we are going to be there.   I don’t’ want to make a scene in front of our families.   It’s better if we can work with things out between us without it becoming a public spectacle for both our sakes.”

“Glenn’s right about telling Ruth Ann, Kerry,” Keith said.   “We should call her tonight and let her know so she can decide if she’s okay being in the same house with these guys.   We’ve asked them about it and it’s only fair to Ruth that we ask her as well.”

Now that we had settled that issue between us, dinner continued with the four of us enjoying each other’s company.   After we cleaned up the kitchen, I called Grandpa.  Keith and I both talked to him and let him know that we were unanimous in our choice of condo.   Grandpa said he would further check out the place we had chosen and would let us know if he agreed with us.

After Keith and I hung up with Grandpa, we joined Kerry and Rick in the front room.   We were all excited at the prospect of moving to a new condo.  

“I hope Grandpa moves quickly.   I’d like to know where we are going to be before school starts,” Keith said.

“I’m sure he’s aware that school starts next week,” I said, “By the way, what time are we leaving for the beach tomorrow?”

Keith responded, “I think we should leave around 8 AM.   Is that okay, Rick?”

“I’m okay with 8 o’clock.   Glenn and I will drive up in the Corvette.   I don’t know what I’m going to do with the Jeep though”

“Let’s call a tow truck tonight and have it hauled over to the repair shop.   I know of a good one not too far from here,” Keith said.   “The owner runs a towing service as well.   He should be able to come over tonight and take the Jeep to his place.”

Rick looked relieved, “Great!   Let’s give him a call then.”

Keith and Rick disappeared into the kitchen to call the towing service guy.   They returned a few minutes later.   Rick looked much better that he had all day.

“The tow truck will be here in 10 minutes,” Rick said.   “They said they can start working on the Jeep tomorrow.   They offered to work with the insurance company as well.   Mr. Stewart is a very nice guy.   Thanks Keith.   I didn’t have any idea who to even call.”

“No problem, Dude!” Keith said.

Rick and Keith went outside to wait for the tow truck.   They returned about 15 minutes later.

“Whew!   I’m glad that’s taken care of now,” Rick said.   “I’m ready to call it a night.   I have never been so stressed out.   I’m totally exhausted.”

Kerry said sympathetically, “I’m sure you could use some peace and quiet.   Come on, Keith.   Let’s go back to our place and let these two have some quiet time.”

Keith grinned widely, “Yeah, I’m sure they need some time but it certainly won’t be quiet!”

“Keith!  Stop teasing them and let’s go,” Kerry said as she took Keith’s hand and led him to the door.

Keith didn’t say anything more but signaled to us to have a great time with each other.   Kerry had already gone out the door and was waiting for Keith.  We bid them good night and closed and locked the door.   As soon as they were gone, Rick grabbed me around the waist and pulled me close and started kissing my neck.

“Are you going to be okay, Rick?” I asked.

“I will always be okay as long as you’re with me,” Rick said.   “I just need a little reassurance right now.   I’m scared for both of us.   My cousin, Peyton, and Angie are pretty vicious people.   I’m absolutely certain they did the deed on my Jeep.   It’s a good thing I keep the Corvette covered or they would have damaged it as well.   Who knows what they will try next?”

“I don’t know what they will do.   However, I know what we will do next.   Let’s take a nice long, hot shower together and then I will give you a backrub.   How does that sound?”

“I think that sounds like a great idea.   Race you to the shower!” 

About an hour later, we were wrapped in each other’s arms with my head on Rick’s chest.   I felt rather than heard Rick crying silently.

I know he is still pretty traumatized by the brutality that had been shown through the vandalism to his Jeep.   I know I am.   I reached my hand up to his cheek and pulled his head closer to mine.

“Rick, I love you.   I wish I could take the hurt away but I don’t know how,” I said, my voice full of emotion.

“I just need you to hold me.   I know that I’m supposed to be the tough Marine and that the training they gave me will help me survive but nothing prepared me for this kind of terrorism.   When I’m with the Marines, I know how to fight the enemy and I have a clear mission and support from my comrades to get me through tough situations.   I’m close to my fellow Marines and I know I can count on them.  

“I know I can count on you to keep my back, too, but in a different way.   You’re my mate for life and I want to keep you safe from harm.   I feel like I’ve failed you because I’ve endangered both of us.”

“You haven’t failed me, Rick.   You are still here with me despite the danger.   You haven’t run away or hidden from the danger.   It takes a lot more courage to stand up to your family than it does to face enemy fire.   In this case, your family has turned against you and is using terror to get you to do what they want.   They are no different than any other terrorists.   I’m sorry if I’m hurting you more but that is what they are right now.”

“I know you’re right but it still doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept,” Rick said.

“We will face this together.   Just remember, I admire your courage, your strength, and above all your gentleness with me.   The tenderness of your love for me makes me feel all more and cozy inside.  That’s why I fell in love with you.   Of course, it helps that you’re extremely handsome, well-built and a fantastic lover!   I’m very lucky to have found you!”

“You’re making me blush with all the compliments!” Rick exclaimed.

“You know they are true, every one of them!   I have no reason to lie to you, Rick.   You are a wonderful, kind human being and deserve to be happy.   I hope I can help you achieve that happiness,” I said.

“Thank you for the pep talk, lover boy.   I needed to hear that right now.   I’ve been feeling pretty down since I got the phone call from my Dad.”

“I will always be there for you.   Are you feeling better?” I asked trying to assess Rick’s state of mind.

“A little bit.   Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.   I love you,” Rick said.

“I love you, too,” I said.

I snuggled closer to him and rested my head on his chest.   It wasn’t long before I felt his breathing become regular and his body relaxed next to mine.   I knew Rick had fallen asleep.   I lay awake for a while longer thinking of what I could do to help Rick and what we could do about Peyton and Angie.

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