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3,146 You Wish You Were Me

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  1. Two weeks passed. There was no change in the Robert-Keno situation; the standoff continued. The old cliché says that time heals all wounds, but this wasn’t the case for Robert. Certainly, his mood improved marginally; he brooded less. However, during his time off he rarely left the property any more. At best, he’d take a mat to the beach and listen to music in the sun. Probably sad music. My-man-done-me-wrong music. Then one day something odd happened. Our security supervisor visited us bringing news of sorts. He opened his laptop and we watched an interesting video. Although filmed on multiple cameras it had been edited into a linear narrative. Keno’s truck entered our lane and proceeded to the lot we’d just purchased. Keno got out, leaned against the front fender and just looked. He didn’t move for fifteen minutes, then he got back in his truck and drove away. “This is good, right?” I said. Derrick lifted an eyebrow neither agreeing nor disagreeing with me. The security supervisor, however, disagreed strongly. “We need to take this as a serious threat,” he opined. “We know that Keno and Robert broke up, and...well...sometimes that can do funny things to a man’s head. Although technically Keno didn’t trespass he as good as did. This is stalking behavior....” I frowned. I didn’t agree with him but didn’t contradict him. Rather, I waited to see what more he had to say. His job was to protect us, he said. They were going to keep a close eye on Keno. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with his assessment of the situation, I respected his professional opinion. Bitter experience had taught us to comply unquestioningly with security’s ‘recommendations.’ (And if we didn’t, we’d have gramps to contend with, and that wasn’t something Derrick and I relished!) “What action are you...we...taking?” asked Derrick. “We’re treating this as an ‘orange’ situation,” he replied. “That means increased round-the-clock security—foot patrols, extra monitoring. Visible escorts for the immediate family including Robert.” “Are we going to tell Robert?” I asked. “For now, no. His...uh...response could be unpredictable and potentially precipitate a crisis.” “Ugh,” said Derrick, looking at me, “it’s going to be a bitch keeping this secret from Robert.” Robert was told only that the threat was an increased threat level, and he promised to be extra vigilant on our behalf. That he didn’t display the least curiosity about the situation (beyond ensuring our safety) only reinforced our view of his disinterest in life. Classic depression. A few days after that, we were going through our morning routine. Robert had set out the usual breakfast of fruit and cereal. Dane, not quite fully awake yet, and having stubbornly refused a helping of fruit, was munching through his cereal. Robert was reviewing the day’s schedule with Derrick and me. His phone rang. We’d come to arrangement about Robert’s phone calls. He’d check his call display, and if it was something important—for instance something that would impact the day’s schedule—he’d answer, otherwise, he’d send the call directly to voicemail. This time he did neither. A pained expression washed over his face. He glared at the phone like it was a coiled rattlesnake and the ringtone was its warning rattle. Derrick and I stared with wide, questioning eyes. I could see Robert losing color—the blood was draining from his face. A classic vagus nerve response to shock. He was close to fainting. He needed to sit down STAT. “Robert!” I ordered. “Sit down. Now!” I pulled one of the bar chairs up to his bum and pushed him onto it. “What’s wrong?” said Derrick. Dane, sensing something very much not boring was happening, stopped munching and gaped. “It’s K...K...Keno,” uttered Robert. “Well, for God’s sake, answer it!” I hissed, gesticulating wildly at the phone with my right hand. Talk about DEFCON 1. “H...Hello?” Robert listened for a few seconds; his brows drew down in puzzlement. He took a long shuddering breath. He shook his head from side to side as if denying what he was hearing. His face crumbled, his chin trembled, and tears began to flow like a river from his eyes. He sobbed and gasped, unable to speak. He took the phone from his ear and looked at it like it was poison. We peered at Robert in stunned silence. What hurtful thing was Keno saying to Robert? In defense of Robert, I became incensed. I’d had enough of Keno’s nonsense. Damn him! It was all very well to stay out of Robert’s love life, but if Keno was bent on hurting him I’d bloody well intervene. I snatched the phone from Robert’s hand fully intending to rip Keno a new asshole. Nobody—nobody!—was going to get away with maltreat our Robert like that! I grabbed the phone from Robert’s hand. “You jerk!” I said into it with all the outrage I could muster. “Uh...” came the timid response. Was that a woman’s voice I was hearing? “Who’s this?” I said. Surprise....it wasn’t Keno, it was his mother. Haltingly, through tears, she told me that she was at the hospital’s emergency department. Keno had been in a bad accident. The police car he was driving had apparently spun out of control on a wet patch on the Pali Highway. It crashed through a guardrail and slithered down a hundred foot embankment. Keno had sustained multiple injuries (I could only imagine how many, and how severe that type of trauma could inflict) and the attending doctor had told her that he might not live. Keno’s only utterance, in a short moment of lucidity, had been, “Robert...” Keno’s mother was asking, that since Keno was asking for him, if Robert would come to the hospital. “Of course,” I said. “I’ll bring him myself. We’ll be there in less than half an hour. Tell Keno that Robert is on his way. He may be unconscious, but he might understand. It just might be the thing he needs to hear to prevent him from giving up.” I’d seen it a few times. Some poor soul was standing on the lip of the Grand Canyon of Death and a loved one’s voice was all that was needed to stop from him from falling into the abyss. I had a love-hate relationship with my Bentley. It was a lovely, comfortable car but just a little on the pretentious side for my taste. But this time I was glad for its powerful engine and quick acceleration as I sped toward the hospital with Robert sitting rigidly in the passenger seat, hands clasped in prayer. I careened into the forecourt of the emergency department, threw the shift into park, and we jumped out of the idling car. There was the usual contingent of smokers outside the no-smoking perimeter; I rushed up to one of them and pushed a hundred dollar bill into his hand. “Park the car, will you?” I said before running through the hospital doors. Frankly, I didn’t care if he stole the damn thing. It was only a car. Naturally—Murphy’s Law—a new receptionist didn’t know who I was, which caused a few minutes of delay while I threw around my authority and found someone who did. We were finally ushered in to the ward, past a concerned looking man and woman—Kenos parents?—just as he was being wheeled from X-Ray to the operating theatre. Not surprisingly, looked like shit. He was tubed and wired to kingdom come. His face was pale, cut and bruised. His scalp was covered with a tight bandage cap. His neck was braced. My quick, professional, assessment of him was not optimistic. Robert and I followed the gurney at a rapid clip while the young resident, trying to impress me, threw medical Latin around like confetti. Robert would understand little; I’d translate it into English for him later. When we stopped at the elevator I said to Robert, “You’ve only got a few seconds to talk to Keno. Tell him not to give up. Promise him anything if he’ll hang on and live. I know he’s unconscious, but your voice might register. Go!” “Keno, my love, can you hear me. Stay with me okay. I can’t live without you!” The elevator chimed and the door began to open. “We can’t go any further Robert. It’s closing statement time,” I said. “Make it good.” “Robert gently gripped Keno’s fingers. “Keno, if you come back to me I’ll give you the world’s most supreme blowjob! I promise!” The resident looked a little surprised. I laughed. Robert had just made the best closing statement I’d ever heard. Robert’s hand was pulled from Keno’s as the elevator swallowed its fragile cargo. Robert put his hands over his tear-streaked face and made little keening, choking sounds. He couldn’t catch his breath, so I gently stroked his back hoping he’d accept the comfort. “I know,” I said. “It’s horrible, and it’s scary, but the medical personnel are excellent. They’ll do their best for Keno....” “No! That’s...not...why...I’m...crying...,” Robert managed to say between sputtering breaths. “Tell me,” I said. “When...when I told him about the...b...b...blowjob...” Robert, distraught, was unable to continue for a good minute. I waited patiently, continuing to rub his back. Finally, he was able to draw a deep breath. “When I said that.... He moved his fingers.... He heard me!” At that, Robert broke down completely. His legs gave out and he slumped to the floor with his back against the wall and his head on his drawn-up knees. I comforted him as best I could while he fought to regain his composure. I prayed that Keno’s hand twitch was in response to Robert’s words. If it was—and that was a big if—it boded very well for Keno’s recovery! Robert eventually calmed and I escorted him back to the waiting room to face Keno’s anxious parents. They turned their questioning eyes to me. I explained that Keno was in surgery and would likely be there for several hours. I was careful not to give any prognosis or divulge any medical information that wasn’t mine to give. They’d obviously been briefed on the seriousness of Keno’s injuries by the emergency room staff; their anxiety was understandable. Anything I could say—medically—would only add to that anxiety My words of comfort were vague. I urged them not to stay at the hospital, telling them it would be several hours before they would hear any news—that it was best to go home and get some rest. My advice was based on logic, but my experience told me that distraught loved ones usually didn’t embrace logic. They would rather hold an uncomfortable vigil in the hospital waiting room, their bums going numb on poorly upholstered chairs and their stomachs rotted by stale coffee and cafeteria sandwiches. Leaving the hospital would seem disloyal, and loved ones were always a little superstitious that their lack of presence would bring disaster. I steered Robert toward the cafeteria, sat him at a table and fetched two disgustingly burned coffees. “Do you want me to tell you what the resident said?” I asked. “Yes...” “Keno has several serious injuries. One badly broken leg, one not so badly broken leg. Several ribs are broken, his chest was crushed, causing a collapsed lung. By some miracle, and because he’s in good shape, his heart didn’t stop. His left arm is badly broken. He scull is cracked and there’s some minor brain hemorrhaging. He’s bruised externally, of course. You saw that. But he’s also got some bruising internally--his liver and kidneys. He lost a lot of blood before they transfused him, and no one can be certain of the long-term effects of that. I’m surprised his spleen didn’t rupture, but apparently it didn’t. Each one of those injuries is, by itself, treatable. However, given the extent of his injuries I’d say his chance of survival is about 51%. Robert, the one percent in his favor is your blowjob promise, and his response to that. You did well. I’m giving you some hope Robert, but if you’re a praying man it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of that too. Hours and hours later, Keno, still alive, and hanging on by a thread, was transferred to the intensive care ward to begin a long, arduous recovery. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, he’d live. The head surgeon had imparted the good news to the several members of Keno’s family now crowding the waiting room. Robert and I stood apart, mostly ignored by the family. The situation infuriated me. Once again, the gay lover—significant other—was relegated to a marginal role. The family had decided that the Keno’s mother would remain and sit vigil at his bedside. I spoke up. “Excuse me!” I said. “Keno asked for Robert. I mean no disrespect for Keno’s family, but I think Robert should share the bedside vigil with Keno’s mother. As much as Keno loves his family, it’s Robert he’ll want to see when he wakes up.” Several pairs of surprised—and some outraged—eyes were turned in my direction. I glared back, daring anyone to contradict me. My gaze came to rest on the family’s matriarch, Mrs. Williams. I could tell by her bearing and the others’ deference to her that she was The Ruler. My eyes locked on hers knowing that my implicit power trumped hers. Was I being a bully? Perhaps, but I was determined that Robert’s rights—and the rights of all gay loved ones—be acknowledged. Mrs. Williams gave her head a decisive nod and said, “C’mon Robert. We gotta go and watch over our boy.” Robert told me later that just as they were to enter Keno’s room she stopped him and said, “Now before we go in there, tell me truthfully: are you and Keno going to sort out this mess you’re in?” He told her that yes, they’d sort it out. Keno’s room was stark but clean. Robert immediately dubbed it ‘the blue room.’ Its floor, walls, curtains and bed linens were in various shades of blue. Even the screen displaying Keno’s life signs shone blue. Was blue supposed to inspire hope and optimism? It sure seemed more the color of depression or despair. And there, on the bed was Keno, or a version of Keno looking a little like the Pillsbury dough boy with arms and legs puffed like hot sausages with inflatable splints. There were various wires and tubes coming and going. One, particularly odious, draining into a piss bag dangling from the bedside. Keno’s normal shiny-as-a new-penny complexion looked tarnished to mud brown and green. Mother and lover cautiously approached the bed. Robert stood back to let Mrs. Williams touch Keno first, which she did on the hand. Robert could see her mouth trying for form words but no sound except for her raspy breath emerged. She looked to Robert, her eyes seeking comfort? Guidance? Lord, she loves her son so much. What could he do to help her? What hope could he offer? “It’s okay, Mrs. Williams. I’m sure he knows you’re here.” Robert approached the bed gently easing Mrs. Williams out of the way. He gently stroked Keno’s cheek. “Keno, it’s Robert. Can you hear me? Your mama and I are here. We’re going to be here to keep you in line. No giving up, you hear? Keno, I love you. You’re going to get better...and strong.” He leant down and whispered in Keno’s ear, “The blowjob offer still stands. It’s worth getting better just for that, hmmm?” Keno lay comatose for the better part of three days. Robert refused to leave his side except to use the room’s toilet. He subsisted on stale cafeteria sandwiches and cold coffee. He slept on and off in the chair beside Keno’s bed and spent hours speaking quietly to Keno about everything and nothing. Keno’s mother and father came when they could staying for an hour here or there and always extracting a promise from Robert when they left to call if there were any changes. The hospital routines went on around him. The hours stretched thin and echoed with thoughts. Robert wondered if he was somehow at fault for Keno’s accident. Gabe had told him about Keno’s visit to the property. Keno had something—but what?—on his mind. Did those thoughts contribute to the inattention that caused Keno to lose control of the car? If Keno didn’t make it that thought would haunt Robert forever. If only he hadn’t been so stubborn and intransigent about his job! On the third day of the vigil Keno’s breathing and heart rate sped up. His head bobbled weakly from side to side on the pillow in agitation. The nurse came and explained that Keno was beginning to regain consciousness. He was starting to feel pain. The nurse injected morphine into the IV line. Keno settled down, his heart rate slowed and his color regained more lustre. Robert sat tensely watching Keno hoping for a sign, a change—something! Eventually pent-up fatigue caused him to slump in the chair and drift off to sleep. A few minutes later he was startled awake by a premonitory feeling. His eyes snapped open to find Keno’s eyes open, studiously observing him. “Keno?” “Rrrrrr....Rob....” “Yes, my love, it’s me.” Robert jumped up, leant over and rained kisses onto Keno’s face. “Oh Keno....Oh Keno!” “R....” was all Keno managed before his eyes fluttered closed and he was once again asleep. After that the situation improved markedly. Keno’s lucid periods gradually became longer. Everyone—family, friends, colleagues—breathed a collective sigh of relief. An MRI confirmed that the swelling on Keno’s brain had abated. He was going to make a full recovery! Robert, of course, was elated—walking on cloud nine! Hopefully things would work out for them as a couple; that wasn’t certain yet. But one thing was for damn certain: the world was a better, brighter place with Keno in it. When it became clear that Robert and Keno were, indeed, going to work out their differences and face life as a couple, Derrick and I offered the use of our guest cottage for Keno’s rehabilitation period. Keno, having learned his lesson, it seemed, accepted the offer graciously. Robert’s apartment was turned into a fully equipped physiotherapy suite where Keno worked daily with a physiotherapist. Derrick, Dane and I walked a fine line between being supportive and helpful and becoming overbearing neighbor busybodies. Whatever we did seemed to work, and the atmosphere remained congenial. Keno, a strong man to start with, healed rapidly, soon navigating rather daringly on crutches. A little too daringly sometimes; I had visions of him going ass over teakettle into the pool, but he managed to avoid serious mishap as only those with innate athletic prowess can do. A few weeks into the process, during a communal poolside barbeque Keno broke the jovial mood by asking in serious tones if he might speak to Derrick and I. “Of course,” we replied as one. “About the lot...” he began before gathering his thoughts further. We waited for him to continue in deafening silence. “Well...” he finally said. “I’m sorry for being such a shit about it.” Dane gleefully informed Keno that he had to put a dollar into the swear jar. “Yeah, well, anyway...um...is the offer still open?” “Of course!” said Derrick. “Well,” he reached over and took Robert’s hand. “Robert and I would like to um...accept...the offer...” Derrick and I were elated at this news. Dane asked what we were talking about, and when we explained that Robert and Keno would build a house and live just down the street he whooped with joy. Keno, in the time he’d spent as our ‘guest,’ had become a sort of mythical superhero to Dane. And now he was going to be living next door! By this time, the old house on the lot had been demolished; the lot graded flat and planted with grass. The men would have carte blanche to build whatever type of house they wanted. “Any ideas on what kind of house you’d like?” asked Derrick. “If it’s okay with you,” Robert said to Derrick and me, “We were talking about a more modern design. Cubes, cement construction, and lots of windows... Of course if you’d like us to stay more traditional, like your house, we’d do that. We’re easy one way or the other.” It turns out that Robert and Keno had spent more than a little time ‘dreaming’ about the house they wanted. They’d been poring over architectural magazines. Robert, who was a good artist, had drawn a few sketches of what they had in mind. It was, we could see, all angles and planes, but the interior and exterior living spaces were designed with a livable, rather warm, scale. It looked perfect to me. And there were enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate, dare we hope, a growing family. Once Keno’s physiotherapy needs lessened, and he could attend a nearby outpatient facility, the equipment was removed from Robert’s apartment. They said they were more comfortable there than in the guest cottage. Robert showed up for work every morning with a satisfied smile. Dane was a little put out by all the attention Robert and Keno were receiving—perfectly normal for a healthy child to feel a little jealousy when his parents’ attention was focussed elsewhere. His birthday was coming up and he demanded a party. After we explained the different consequences of demanding versus asking nicely, and he got over his pout, we agreed to the party. A party? Hmmm....now wasn’t that an interesting idea?......
  2. Patsy barked three times, woof, woof, woof. Her signal that something was amiss with Dane. Patsy was so much more than a pet. She was a guardian and an emotional support animal. Her unconditional love did wonders to calm Dane and help him focus on task. But not, it seemed, at present. “Dad, the toilet’s flooding!” I threw down the medical journal I was reading and rushed up the stairs. Sure enough, the toilet in Dane’s bathroom was full to the brim and threatening to overflow. “What happened?” “I dunno.” Further observation told me that the water was clear. No urine or fecal matter in evidence. Thank the gods for small mercies. A closer look, however, revealed a wad of crumpled paper in the toilet’s outflow channel. I looked pointedly at the wadded paper, then slowly lifted my gaze to meet Dane’s wide-eyed, innocent look. I crooked an eyebrow. Dane wilted. “Am I gonna get into trouble?” Unfortunately the term ‘get into trouble’ was negatively charged. It was Dane’s euphemism for physical punishment. A slap, or punch, or whipping with a stick or belt—whatever corporal punishment one of his birth parents or grandparents decided to mete out for the occasion. The word ‘trouble’ was a semantic trap in our household. It need to be de-toxified, and Derrick and I were working on that. We wanted Dane to learn—to instinctively know—that Derrick and I didn’t, or wouldn’t ever, resort to that sort of punishment. Dan was beginning to trust us, but sometimes it was two steps forward, one step back. I took a deep breath, buying a few seconds to dredge up the wisdom I’d need for this encounter. “No, you’re not in trouble,” I said. Dane visibly relaxed. “However, it would be interesting to me to find out just how that wad of paper made its way into the toilet....” “I hate arithmetic,” said Dane. “Arithmetic?” “Yeah, it’s stupid. I hate it.” Realization hit me. “Would I be correct in assuming that crumpled paper in the bottom of the toilet is your arithmetic homework sheet?” “Um...maybe....” said Dane sheepishly. It was all I could do to not dissolve into gales of laughter, especially when I thought of Derrick’s likely response when I told him of this latest misadventure. He’s likely to say, “Well, we can be thankful, at least, that he didn’t set it on fire!” Our wonderful, funny, exuberant child sometimes had difficulty staying on task, especially if that task was, to him, boring. Any given task could be fascinating one minute and boring the next. Often, it depended on Dane’s overall excitement or anxiety level. It wasn’t that he had any difficulty with learning arithmetic. He was inordinately intelligent and learned classroom subjects effortlessly. I refused to label him, or any other child, “ADD” taking umbrage at the words “deficit” and “disorder.” There was nothing “deficit” about Dane and his exuberant personality was quite the opposite of a “disorder.” Dane was Dane. There was a good reason this time for Dane’s distraction. We were going to visit Cass and Khala in a few days, and Honey, their Golden Retriever, had a month-old litter of pups. Dane was beside himself with excitement. Perfectly understandable, because Derrick and I were equally excited. It had been far too long since we’d visited. Back to the toilet.... “How are you going to get that paper out of there, Dane?” “Me?” “Yes, you. I’m assuming the paper didn’t jump in there on its own. How do you intend to get it out of there?” “Um...ask Robert?” I laughed. “Nice try, buddy, but you know that Robert’s role isn’t running around cleaning up your messes. No, you have to get it out of there on your own. Any ideas? Besides sticking your bare arm in there, which isn’t sanitary.” Dane mulled over the problem. He always enjoys a challenge. “I could get a stick!” “Yes, and perhaps a pair of my surgical gloves to keep your hands clean.” We went into the garden together, lest he get sidetracked by something interesting out there, to find a suitable stick. After much debate, the perfect stick was selected. I fetched a pair of latex gloves from my den. Mission accomplished. Except, that is, for the uncompleted homework assignment. I managed to get a copy of the sheet from Tyler’s mom who scanned it and emailed it to me. I had to white-out Tyler’s answers and re-photocopy it. Once that was done, I sat Dane at the table and told him to ‘make me proud.’ I kept a sharp eye on him while he breezed through the answers. The toilet drama having banished the boredom, he was more than willing to focus on his homework. Besides, at this point it was a matter of redemption. If there was one thing Dane feared as much as ‘getting into trouble’ it was disappointing either Derrick or me. He would turn himself into knots ‘making us proud.’ Where was Derrick while all this was happening? He was with Robert, Keno and a real estate agent inspecting a house that was for sale at the end of our lane. It was one of the remaining ‘non-renovated’ houses in this subdivision, hailing from the 60’s. The value was in the lot, not the near-derelict house, because the lot, although small, had about fifty feet of beach frontage. We were thinking of buying the property because, after we’d arrived back from out summer motor home adventure, Robert and Keno announced that they tentatively wanted to get married. Essentially, that they were asking our permission. As single men, they maintained their own residences. Robert’s, of course, was supplied by us and that worked for Robert’s employment. However, married people lived together. Robert’s suite was too small and not private enough for a married couple. Living in Keno’s North Shore bungalow would be impossible because it was just too far from Robert’s job. Thus, when we saw that the property at the end of our lane come on the market we thought it would be the perfect solution for the newlyweds. That’s what we thought. Derrick arrived home just after Dane finished his math homework and I’d looked it over (all answers correct). He sensed something was a bit off and, under interrogation, Dane admitted to his role in clogging the toilet. “I’m guessing you found your homework boring?” said Derrick. “Yeah...” “What happened to the strategies that we talked about? The ones that relieve the boredom and help you focus.” “Um...I forgot....” “No harm done, buddy. All’s well that ends well, right? Next time, just try and remember to pet Patsy, or play some of your special sounds, or call one of your dads. No need to get frustrated. You know we’re always there for you, right? Now, give me a huge Dane hug. I haven’t had one of those for...gosh...it must be two hours!” I always marveled at Derrick’s easy rapport with Dane. I say ‘easy’ because many times they were simply on the same wavelength. Derrick himself sometimes had trouble attending to boring tasks—hence is choice of a career that was exciting and stimulating—so he had a lot of empathy with Dane. I, on the other hand, found it easy to focus—hence my career in medicine which had required untold hours of study. Cass was more like me—focussed--so Cass and I shared an easy rapport similar to Derrick and Dane’s. We got Dane settled into bed and asleep, which was no easy task given his level of excitement. Petting Patsy while Derrick read to him did the trick and he dropped off after two chapters of a Hardy Boys mystery. Derrick and I were a bit wound up ourselves, and sometimes it’s beneficial to channel that extra energy into mind-blowing sex. Yes, after over a decade together the sex was still mind-blowing. Every time it was fresh; what we did changed from session to session. Sometimes he fucked me, sometimes I fucked him. Sometimes it was a quick blowjob. We just seemed to be in tune with what each other needed at the moment. It never got old. Lying together in the sweaty panting afterglow I brought up the subject of the property. What was the boys’ reaction? Derrick sighed. “Not good. “We’ll definitely buy it, of course. It’s a sensible investment for many reasons. But the guys’ reaction was a little...um...disconcerting. Robert didn’t say much for fear of provoking Keno. Unfortunately you could feel the hostility rolling off Keno in waves.” “Uh oh,” I said. “Would you say it’s a pride thing?” “Maybe...but it’s more complicated than just simple pride. I think Keno needs time to get used to the idea.” “I’ll talk to Robert in the morning. I know your mom’s speech by heart now. It’ll probably sway Robert, but Keno’s a very proud, and stubborn, man....” Sure enough, the next morning Robert wore a hangdog expression, and the bags under his eyes indicated a lack of sleep. Under normal circumstances Robert’s love life should have been none of my business, but because I’d pushed him to go on a blind date with Keno in the first place, and because we were further interfering by offering them a home it was very much my business. Or more to the point, I was culpable in Robert’s current troubles. “Do you feel like talking about it?” I asked knowing that Robert would understand what the ‘it’ meant. “I should explain....” he began. “Only if you want to....” “I’m being intransigent...Keno has every right to be angry with me. But my job is important. It took every cent I had to go to butler school,” he said. “It was a roll of the dice, and I wasn’t naïve about a career in service. I knew that a good butler, or major-domo, made an unwavering commitment to his, or her, employer. I suppose you could liken it to a monk ‘taking vows.’” When I started to object, Robert held up his hand to stop me. “No,” he continued, “that concept was one my school colleagues and teachers discussed at length. A good butler commits himself to his employer 100%. If he can’t, then he’s not a good butler, is he?” “Robert, you’re not indentured!” “I know that. I do have the option of quitting any time I want....” That statement made my blood run cold. What would we do without Robert? The idea was unthinkable. “....which I have no intention of doing. I have what must be one of the world’s premier situations in my chosen profession. Why ever would I give that up? Keno doesn’t get that; he said it would be demeaning to accept a home from Derrick and you. He gave me an ultimatum: My job or him. He can’t see why I won’t move to his home in Waianae. He helpfully suggested I could have my pick of jobs in the hotel industry! I told him he could stuff his suggestion. He gave me an ultimatum; I chose my job.” “Robert, I’m so sorry.” He waved that away. “Don’t be,” he said. “Keno made his choice too. He’s as intransigent as me.” Unfortunately I had to cut our discussion short. I needed to get to work. Jordan had taken the week off, and the office was short staffed that week. I’d certainly discuss the situation with Derrick later, but my feeling was that it would be foolish to intervene in Robert’s predicament. He had a good head on his shoulders. Keno and he would have to work it out on their own. After work, on my way home, my phone rang. It was my mother calling. She was up late. With the time difference it was well after midnight in the UK. Whatever she wanted to talk about must be important, I thought. I answered it on the hands-free feature of my car. “Gabriel! I’m so glad I caught you! I wanted to update you on the progress on our project. It’s going well! We’re almost ready for our first group, but we’ve made some changes to our original concept.” “Great! But what changes?” “Remember we’d talked about horse riding, climbing, flying—those things we thought would help build independence and confidence?” “Of course I remember,” I said. “It was—is—a great idea.” “Well, not for everybody, apparently. We held three focus groups: One in London, one in Manchester and one in Edinburgh. My goodness, I hadn’t realized there was such diversity in the gay community!” “Yes, there is definitely that,” I agreed. Well, in our...uh...ignorance we focussed on the more...um...masculine pursuits. The young people in the focus group soon set us...uh...straight on that score!” “What did they say?” “Oh my goodness! They were very forthright. Some like art. Some like...uh...performing—singing, dancing, acting. Some boys want to express their more feminine side. Some girls want to express their more masculine side. As I said, it’s very diverse.” “But how are you going to address all those diverse needs? Wouldn’t that dilute your program?” “Maybe...a little. But that’s why we hired Phoenix!” “Phoenix?” “Yes! An amazing person! Very talented! He even competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race! And, he comes with impeccable credentials. He has a graduate degree in social work! We’ve hired him as our program manager!” “Mom, that’s great. Phoenix sounds like the perfect program manager. I’m really happy that your project is progressing so well. How is Lord Hunterscroft taking all this?” “Oh, Alastair is pleased as punch. He’s quite involved in the project. It was actually his suggestion that we hire a lesbian to be our stable manager and riding instructor.” “Well, you’ve certainly got your bases covered,” I laughed. We exchanged a few pleasantries and ended the call. I was delighted with my mom’s good news and enthusiasm which helped lift my somber mood. No sooner had that call ended when my cousin—the one in medical school in the Caribbean—phoned. I knew from frequent reports that he was holding his own in the coursework. He’d made respectable marks in all his term exams. I had no regrets about sponsoring him. He’d adopted me as a ‘mentor’ and liked to check in with me every week or so; my encouragement seemed to keep him motivated. It was a role I was only too glad to play. His younger brother, who was enrolled in flying school, had adopted Derrick as his mentor. We laughed about being “wise old men,” or “Yodas.” My aunt and her husband (the boys’ parents) were on a long, dream-come-true, meandering trip around North America in their recreation vehicle. On the home front, all was not so well.... Robert manifested all the signs and symptoms of clinical depression. But he silently soldiered on; his work remained impeccable though his tension was palpable. After our initial discussion, Robert said he preferred not to talk about Keno, and we respected his wishes. But that didn’t stop us from aching for him—it’s not easy recovering from a broken heart. They say time heals all wounds, but I wonder if you ever get over your first love. I sent up a small prayer of thanks to the universe that my first love, with my wonderful husband, was enduring. Derrick fled. He flew the jet to Maui for a quick visit his Gramps and Gram. They were noticeably elderly now, but could be described as “spry.” Although slowing down physically, they both still had sharp minds. Derrick tried to visit them regularly. They loved seeing him, and he them. And, of course, it gave Derrick a chance to play with his favorite toy: the Gulfstream jet. Robert, as part of his duties, facilitated those trips by arranging the ground transportation and security on both ends of the journey. He made our daily lives run smoothly. We’d come to depend on him. What would we do without him? On Friday afternoon I picked up Dane from school and drove straight to the airport. Derrick was already there running through the pre-flight procedure with Joe. Winston was the flight attendant for the trip. Winston was married to Jimmy, a firefighter, who was a friend of Keno. I knew the Oahu gossip mill was churning, and I was dying for an update on Keno’s side of the situation. Once we had eaten and settled into our flight, I invited Winston to sit beside me. He was more than willing to dish on Keno. Keno was miserable and cranky but was sticking to his hard-line, prideful position. Jimmy, apparently, was giving Keno no end of grief for his stupidity. “The trouble is,” explained Winston, “Keno’s head-over-heels in love with Robert—I mean, who wouldn’t be?” I agreed. “But being in love,” he continued, “Mean’s giving up a part of yourself, and not being in control.... And that scares the hell out of Keno.” “Yes, I know what you mean. It’s like jumping off a cliff in the dark.” “Right. So Jimmy is badgering Keno, purposely trying to make him angry, hoping to break through his defenses. But I told Jimmy that if Keno lets go he should run. I swear, I think Keno is a descendant of the volcano god, and when he blows it’s going to be more spectacular than K­­ilauea!” “Well, for now it’s a standoff. Robert has as much pride as Keno. But I know that Robert loves Keno, and if, as you say, Keno loves Robert, then, hopefully, they’ll work something out....” “Yeah, and when they do,” said Winston laughing, “The make-up sex is going to be spec-tac-u-lar!” It was late evening, local time, when we landed in Davis, but because we were on Hawaii time, Dane was still wide awake. Cass and Khala greeted us enthusiastically at the airport. Dane hung back shyly. Cass was having none of that. He practically tackled Dane, giving him a huge hug and telling him how happy he was to see his little brother and how much he’d missed him. “And Honey is looking forward to seeing you and showing off her babies!” After that Dane was chatting non-stop, encouraged by Cass’s questions and sincere compliments on everything from his newly emerging teeth and rapid growth to his expert care and training of Patsy. Dane knew to be gentle and avoid sudden moves around Honey and her brood, but the expression on his face was pure ecstasy as Honey greeted him as an old friend and looked on approvingly as he gently handled each of the pups. Khala, a very calming influence, got Dane ready for bed and read to him until he fell asleep. Then we sat and conversed over a glass of wine. We kept in touch with them regularly, of course, but there’s nothing like physically being with someone and sharing the latest news and family gossip. Cass and Khala were both excelling at school. Khala had been accepted into the PhD program at Berkeley and would be starting there the following September. Cass told us of his plans to breed Labradors to use as assist dogs. They would be specially bred for their intelligence and temperament. All the pups would be donated to a society—fully funded by Cass--that would train them and assigned them to their new, carefully assessed, working environments. Cass explained that as much as he enjoyed breeding Honey he just wasn’t comfortable placing the pups in strangers’ homes. The guide dog venture appealed more to his sense of right and wrong. Derrick and I were bursting with pride at Cass’s thoughtfulness and generosity. Later in bed, I said, “We did good, didn’t we? With Cass? He’s turned into a fine young man.” Dane was sullen on the way home, heartbroken that he had to part from his brother, Khala and Honey and her brood. Perfectly understandable. It was just him and me in the passenger cabin. Derrick was flying and Winston had returned home on a commercial flight rather than spend the weekend in Sacramento. He fussed, but I told him that I knew how to open the fridge if we needed something I’d flown enough in the jet that I knew where the safety equipment was stowed and how to open the doors. I left Dane to sulk and took the quiet time as opportunity to catch up on some reading. After about three hours, Dane came and stood silently beside me. I opened my arms and he climbed into my lap. Neither of us said anything as I held him tight, but then no words were really necessary. Dane and Derrick may understand each other, but I’m the go-to guy for comfort. I’d texted Robert to make sure that Patsy was at the airport to greet Dane when we arrived. Dog and boy were ecstatic at the reunion and Patsy listened attentively all the way home to how wonderful Honey and her pups were, and how wonderful his big brother and sister-in-law were. Luckily, Patsy doesn’t have a jealous bone in her body. Dane might have been over his sulks, but Robert certainly wasn’t. Oh, he tried to put on a good face, but truth be told, he looked awful. His eyes were sunken and even in two days I could see he’d lost weight. I held my tongue, but I felt like knocking Robert and Keno’s heads together.
  3. Happy Birthday!

  4. Gwyn: I padded down the hall and came across the bizarre sight of Dusty, Paco and Michael.... Dancing? They were standing in a circle, legs bent, arms outstretched and bodies swaying. There was an odd absence of music, and I heard Paco say, “Yes! Like that....” And they were laughing! With our present travails, I didn’t understand what they could be laughing at. But I must admit, there was something...infectious...in their good humor that lifted my gloomy spirits. Michael spotted me first and after exclaiming my name became solicitous, rushing to ask me if I had slept well, if I was okay and if I was hungry. Dusty took two long strides and wrapped me in a hug. A gentle but firm hug that said, ‘I’m not letting you go!’ He didn’t speak. He didn’t need to. It felt wonderful—like a safe harbour after a long sea journey. I breathed his wonderful scent and reveled in the feel of his strong body as I, too, clung to him. There really was no need for words; there passed between us a wordless communication that said everything. Love, need, commitment, lust...everything. But I was hungry, so I answered Michael. “Yes, to all three questions, Michael. And will you get me two of my chocolates?” Dusty walked me to kitchen bar and helped me onto a stool where he stood behind and snuggled me around my large waistline. The baby, active as usual, rolled and kicked. Dusty chuckled, “Does that me he likes me?” “Mmmm, very definitely. He...adores...you.” “And what about his mother? Does she adore me to?” “Yes...very much.” Which encouraged Dusty to kiss my neck—which felt very good. Michael gave us a mock angry look. “Knock it off you two. If you keep that up you’ll be sent to your bedroom!” “A wonderful idea,” Dusty whispered into my ear. Michael plonked a steaming mug of tea and two chocolates in front of me. I sipped the milky tea and popped first one, then the other chocolate into my mouth. Delicious. “Nothing like satisfying a girl’s cravings,” I sighed. Dusty got my double entendre and chuckled into my ear making me shiver in delight. The microwave beeped and Michael set a wonderfully aromatic breakfast burrito in front of me along with a fork, knife and napkin. Dusty released me so that I could eat. Paco, quietly hovering as usual, finally spoke. “Uh...I was teaching Dusty how to surf.” “Oh. That’s what that was. I thought you were dancing,” I laughed. “Paco’s a good instructor,” said Dusty. “I’m looking forward to getting on a surfboard.” “Oh, that reminds me, “said Michael. “Paco and I were thinking of meeting friends over at Waimea Bay. Gwyn, I made an appointment for you with your obstetrician at eleven. Dusty said he would drive you over. Would you mind if Paco and I took off?” “No problem, Michael. Go. Have fun. I’m sure Dusty is more than capable of...uh...looking after me.” Dusty poured me another cup of tea and we sat on the couch with me tucked up against his side. “Gwyn,” I’d like to ask you a question. A hypothetical question.” “Um...sure...I guess.” “Well...if you were free to marry me—if, for instance, Don and Marco were in full agreement and it wasn’t going to harm the children in any way—would you marry me? “But....” “No ‘buts’ allowed. Remember, this is hypothetical. Do you love me enough to marry me and be my lifelong soul mate?” “Yes, Dusty, I do, and in a perfect world I’d marry you in a heartbeat, but... ....” I let the sentence trail out. Dusty wrapped me in a bear hug. “Oh, Gwyn, I love you so much! And I have wonderful news. Don, Marco and I had a long talk last night. First off, we agreed that the children are a number one priority for all of us; the last thing they need at this point is instability. But—and this is a very good but—with your agreement, of course—we came up with a plan that will work perfectly!” We didn’t have a lot of time left until I had to leave for my doctor’s appointment, so Dusty quickly explained the situation. If I agreed, Dusty and I would continue to live in this house, which Don and Marco offered us as a wedding present. We would become honorary aunt and uncle to the children, seeing them frequently, although I would no longer be an employed nanny. “We’d more or less meld our families. Socially, we’d be equals.” explained Dusty. “And Don and Marco were okay with this?” “Yes, more than okay. They already consider you part of their extended family.” How could I possibly reject an offer like that? Two weeks later I took Dusty’s name in a fairy tale beachside wedding at Don and Marco’s home. My beautiful, flowing peach silk gown had been designed and made by Michael and Paco—with help from Paco’s mother. Angie, in a frothy concoction of her own choosing, was my bridesmaid. Michael stood as Dusty’s best man. Brad was the ring bearer—a job he took very seriously. Dusty’s parents had come for the wedding. They seemed a little bewildered by the suddenness of our nuptials and the fact that in a very short time they would become grandparents. Nonetheless they warmly welcomed me to the family. I found his mother a bit ‘regal,’ but his father was a big softy who radiated the same sort of warmth as his son. Unfortunately, my parent’s ‘couldn’t get away’ due to some church function requiring their attention. That didn’t really come as a surprise, but it still stung. I thought they’d be happy to hear I was marrying the father of my baby, but my mother simply replied, “That’s lovely, dear.” Michael commiserated. Our reception was a luau style feast (although I drew the line at roasting a pig in the sand!). We kept the speeches to a minimum, although everyone kept clinking their glasses to get Dusty and I to kiss! Then, once the sun was down, we engaged a DJ to provide dance music. Dusty and I began by waltzing to ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ by Elvis Presley from the movie Blue Hawaii. Honestly, who doesn’t cry when they hear that song? After that Dusty took the microphone and dedicated the next song to our wonderful extended family and friends. A huge cheer went up when the opening chords of ‘We are Family’ by Sister Sledge came through the speakers. Two weeks after that, we welcomed little Lucinda Maleia Millbrook into the world. Michael and Dusty were both with me in the delivery room—Michael as my birth coach and Dusty holding my hand and giving silent encouragement. Luci, perfect little Luci, had her proud papa (and her mama and uncle for that matter) wrapped around her finger from the get-go. Once I was taken to a regular bed and Luci had her first meal, Don, Marco and the children visited. Brad didn’t say much but Angie was completely enthralled having a new baby to fuss over. And being able to hold a sleeping Luci positively sent her into raptures. There was no shortage of ‘help’ over the next few days, but I was grateful to Michael who acted as ‘gatekeeper’ while Dusty, Luci and I bonded. After that, life settled into a routine of sorts. Dusty and I reveled in our love—he was the perfect husband. When he wasn’t taking care of Luci and me he put a lot of time into his hotel project. Marco was awarded a top secret contract with one of the spy agencies--something about algorithms to filter data. Consequently, on weekdays Don and I became the ‘stay at home’ parents of a blended family. Dusty and Marco were forbidden to work on weekends so we often took outings ‘en group’ to the zoo, aquarium or parks. An absolute favorite outing for the older two children was a trail ride on one of the large Oahu ranches. Sometimes we took a picnic and went surfing. And it wasn’t a weekend without a visit to or from Dane and Alfy. Brad idolized those two little reprobates; Angie tolerated them. Michael and Paco began the fashion program at Honolulu College in January. Michael almost wasn’t accepted. The admittance clerk refused to approve his UK academic credentials. That is, until Paco accidently let it slip that Michael was tied to the Deacon family. Michael received his acceptance letter the next day. Paco was able to start in January by virtue of having taken advanced coursework and receiving his high school diploma a semester early. Dusty’s offer to buy the boys an apartment near campus was politely refused. Both said that they were more comfortable staying at their respective home, at least for the first semester. Having Michael at home with us was no hardship. He and Dusty got along famously sharing a similar sort of sarcastic humor. Dusty told me that Michael gained his respect the minute they’d crossed paths, in that awkward moment after Dusty appeared from my bedroom, when Michael demanded Dusty show his colors. “He may have used humor,” said Dusty, “But he was dead serious about protecting you.” Michael, for his part, positively thrived under all the positive attention, and much good-natured teasing, he received from the men in the family. Paco, too, came out of his shell. Dusty nicknamed him Pac-Man and always greeted him with back slapping man hugs and a complicated hand procedure that ended in a fist bump. He’d tease him by purposely mixing up surfing terms “Yo, bro, how’s the ten curl hangin’?” Paco responded by calling him Dustums and ribbing him about being a preppy. “Hey, Dustums, no letter jacket today?” Luci thrived. She was a well behaved baby who only cried when she was hungry, wet or tired. Lord knows, she received more than enough affection from her extended family. Angie would read children’s books while Luci cooed and gurgled her approval. Dusty would rock her to sleep in his arms after her last evening meal. He fetched her in the middle of the night for me to feed the minute he heard her little hungry snuffles. Our family flourished.
  5. Don and Marco: The family hadn’t so much ‘settled’ into Hawaii as Hawaii had ‘embraced’ the family. The transition to a cohesive family group had gone much smoother than they’d hoped thanks to the support of family, friends and kind strangers. The children were adapting well socially, especially picking up the local dialect, and had begun to speak to each other in pigeon Hawaiian—a few words here and there. Don and Marco found this adorable and thought it would bode well for the future. To give the children exposure to the proper Hawaiian language they hired a tutor to work with them on Saturday mornings. Even flying visits from the grandparents hardly caused a ripple in their weekly routine. Don’s parents were, as usual, somewhat reserved, but supportive. Don’s mother declared the children as “darling!” but remained well out of reach of drool and sticky fingers. Don’s father went as far as to declare, “You’ve done well, son.” Don’s mother did something surprising. Besides bringing gifts for all the children, she pulled a velvet box from her purse and asked Angie to approach. She opened the box to reveal a single strand of evenly matched pearls. “Angie, these pearls are very old and very valuable. Something special like this is called a family heirloom. My great grandfather gave them to my great grandmother. They were passed to my grandmother, then my mother and finally to me. I don’t have a daughter, and as my only granddaughter it’s you who are next in line to keep them. I hope one day you’ll pass them on to your daughter.” Sensing the seriousness of the moment, Angie held the pearls reverently while it was explained that they would be kept in her fathers’ safe. They were to be worn with great care for special events. Marco’s parents, being Italian, were the polar opposite. They showered the children with affection and encouraged boisterousness and candy eating. They cried copiously when it was time to go home. It took Don and Marco two days to settle the children down again. “Well, we survived two sets of parents,” said Marco. “Everything else is going to be easy!” “Maybe not,” replied Don. “Dusty is arriving for an extended stay. I think he has a tendre for our Gwyn. He’s coming to oversee the renovation of his family’s hotel, but I sense he has an ulterior motive! Marco, he cannot, absolutely cannot, be allowed to take our Gwyn away.” “I see what you mean. Losing Gwyn would be a catastrophe. Well, he’s your friend; you’ve known him for how many years now? Maybe you can talk some reason into him.” “I’ve known Dusty for about 15 years, ever since we were dorm mates in our first semester at Berkeley. Our fathers had known each other through business for many years before that.” “And doesn’t he have some strange, name?” “Dusty? Yes, his real name is Dunstan Elliott du Pont Millbrook III. Old New England money. His family is into banking and real estate, although I think they’ve branched out into high tech now. ...Well, everybody has.” “So the cowboy thing was what, a break? Rebellion?” “Probably a little of both. Dusty was always a bit wild, jumping from one crazy scheme to the next. He can’t seem to settle. He’s got a law degree from Columbia, but after he was called to the New York Bar he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Africa. After that he worked for the UN in Geneva for a couple of years. He’s always moved around every year or two. Unfortunately, he’s also an unrepentant womanizer, which is what has me worried. Naturally, he and his conservative father don’t see eye to eye. Deciding to run off and be a cowboy for a year to ‘get his head together’ was another of his schemes, so he approached my father and got a position on the Wyoming ranch. He grew up on his family’s equestrian estate on Long Island, so he was already a very good rider. The year seemed to do him good; I thought he might be settling down a little....” “So now he’s back to claim his birthright and sweep Gwyn off her feet?” “Yes, it would appear so. But is Gwen just another in a long line of adventures? He has to be stopped this time! Security confirmed he’s at Gwyn’s. Has been for the whole afternoon. I’ll phone him. He needs to be confronted! Gwyn: I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night. For one thing, the babe was rolling around and kicking me like a horse. And, the eventful week I’d had gave me plenty of food for thought. But it was Dusty who occupied the majority of those thoughts. Who, exactly, was he? Did he come to Hawaii solely on business? Was I destined to unrequited love? Was he even remotely interested? I got up feeling groggy and looking like I’d been run over by a truck. The bags under my eyes! A warm shower revived me somewhat, and a cup of camomile tea helped settle my edginess. I carefully applied a light touch of makeup as I’d been taught, using a little extra concealer to cover the bags under my eyes. My hair just needed to dry naturally, and the shampoo I’d used gave it a lustrous shine. I chose a short, loose sundress that de-emphasized my largess and drew attention instead to my long legs. Simple leather sandals and bangles at my wrist completed the outfit. Security alerted me to Dusty’s arrival. I made one last check in the hall mirror, straightened my shoulders and practiced a dazzling smile which, unfortunately, looked more like a dazzling grimace. I opened the door to a Dusty I almost didn’t recognize. The cowboy look had been replaced by a well-to-do-tourist look. Lacoste golf shirt, khaki cargo shorts and leather boat shoes. His hitherto unruly hair, still long and curly, had been brushed back neatly away from his forehead. But the new look didn’t disguise the dusty I remembered. He was still all: Male! Testosterone! Sex! “Dusty?” Of course I knew it was him, but my greeting came out as a question. “Gwyn?” Dusty had never been effusive at the best of time, and I suddenly found myself tongue tied. I stepped aside and gestured him in. The door closed; we faced each other. I don’t know who moved first, but suddenly I was in his arms and we were kissing each other like there was no tomorrow. And what an amazing kisser he was! “Oh, God, Gwyn, you’re beautiful! I need you so badly!” That’s all I needed to hear—he was echoing my own desperate thoughts. (Fortunately, I’d discussed sex with my obstetrician who told me it was perfectly okay almost right up until my due date, providing I was comfortable and used a condom.) I led him by the hand down the hall to my bedroom where we set ourselves diligently to the task. Dusty certainly knew how to please a woman, and he had all the right equipment to do it! Afterwards, we lay sated, my head resting on his hairy, muscular chest. The regular pulse of his heart hypnotizing me. “Gwyn?” he rumbled. “Yes, Dusty,” I sighed, barely awake. “Will you marry me?” “Mmmm....” It seemed like I was dreaming his words—a lovely, pleasant dream.... “I want the baby to have my name. We’ll get married before he arrives.” “Mmmm....” This dream was getting better and better. “Gwyn, are you listening to me?” “Mmmm....” In my dream Dusty wanted to marry me and be a father to my baby. Lovely! Unfortunately my lovely dream was rudely interrupted by the arrival home of the boys. “Gwyn!” cried Michael loud enough to wake the dead. I jerked awake, annoyed at the interruption of my beautiful dream. “Um...I’m in my bedroom, Michael. I’ll be out in a minute!” I jumped out of bed, my brain throwing off its lethargy. I quickly threw on some clothes, tried to smooth down my disheveled hair, willed myself to be calm, and left the bedroom shutting the door on Dusty. “Where’s Dusty? Was that his rental car out there?” “Um....” I watched Michael’s eyes grow wide as the penny dropped. “Gwyn! You didn’t! That was fast work!” he said. Then he yelled toward my bedroom door, “Dusty you dastard! Come out and face your nemesis!” That’s my Michael, a real joker! Dusty, clothed but rumpled, appeared looking not the least contrite. Men! Michael gave Dusty a stern, withering look, and in a stern, but fake, upper-crust British accent said, “Young man, what are your intentions toward my sister?” I was just about to give Michael a rebuke, but Dusty spoke first. “Sir,” he replied, playing along, “I would most respectfully ask for the hand of your sister in marriage.” Michael turned to Paco, who had been standing silently taking in the drama. (Lord! This would be all over the Hawaii grapevine by sundown!) In the same hoity-toity voice he said, “Paco, should I permit this scoundrel to marry my ward?” “Um...I guess...” mumbled a dazed Paco. “The oracle has spoken!” intoned Michael. He bowed to Dusty. “You may carry the damsel off on your white steed, Sir!” “Michael, Paco,” I said, “This is all just a...misunderstanding...we haven’t...discussed...uh...committed to anything!” “Au contraire, my dear Gwyn,” contradicted Dusty. “You responded most positively to my proposal. We shall be married within the fortnight.” I puffed myself up to contradict him, but Michael pre-empted me by stating, “Gwyn, trying to avoid fate is futile!” At my glare, Michael wisely chose to make himself scarce, leading Paco to his bedroom. “We need to talk, Dusty. Like two, sensible, independent adults. Did you really propose? I thought it was a dream. At any rate, I don’t remember saying ‘yes.’ It was presumptuous of you to tell Michael.” Dusty, completely unrepentant, smiled broadly and informed me that, in his humble opinion, my ‘Mmmm’ was legally binding. “Dusty, please listen to reason,” I said. “I’d marry you in a heartbeat if I was free, but I’m not. I’m duty bound to Don, Marco and the children, whom I love as if they were my own. Please don’t force me to choose. Besides, Dusty, you hardly know me!” “Gwyn, I love you madly. As for not knowing you, well, that’s not true. I watched you all summer long interacting with the children, and calming Don and Marco’s worries. You were charming to Derrick and Gabe, and you even had that little terror, Dane, under your spell. Also, you even managed to mollify that dragon of a security supervisor. And Gwyn, I see the way you look at me, the way you respond to me. You love me. Am I right?” I took a deep calming breath and decided to tell the truth. “Yes...you are right,” I admitted. “I fell for you observing your patience and generosity. Well that, and the way you looked astride a horse!” “Well then, that’s a good start,” said Dusty. “As for you commitment to Don and Marco, I think I have an idea that might please everybody...” “Dusty, I’m attracted to you, there’s no question about that. But I don’t really know you,” I said. “I’d rather put off hearing your plan until after I find out more about you.” “Okay,” he said, “Fair enough.” Then he proceeded to tell me about his background. I was surprised to learn that Dusty was from a wealthy family; that he, in fact, was independently wealthy. The stint as a cowboy was his attempt to ‘get his head together.’ “There’s nothing like hard physical labor and having to work in the broiling sun or a howling blizzard to set a guy on the straight and narrow,” he said, laughing. And, I had no idea that Don and Dusty had been good friends for many years. He asked me for a quick summary of my life and showed a surprising interest in the minutia of my more modest family, and asked about Michael’s currently role. I explained it, and he said he had no wish to usurp Michael’s position, asking only if he could be present, in the room, when the baby was born. He also said that his family had contacts with New York and London tailors. He’d use his influence to obtain apprenticeships at a prestigious house for Michael and Paco. He also explained that the origin of the Deacon fortune was in tailoring and fabrics, so there was that connection as well. He admitted that he was in Hawaii to oversee the renovation of one of his family’s hotels, but that was just an excuse to ‘settle’ here for awhile. He emphasized that it was me, who lured him to Hawaii! “Okay,” he said, “You know about me; I know about you. Can I tell you my plan for our future? I think everyone will be happ....” He was interrupted by his ringing phone. It was Don calling. “Shoot,” he said, “I should answer. I haven’t spoken to him since arriving here. He’s probably having a heart attack wondering what I’m up to.” “Hey, Don!” .......... “Don, Don, slow down or you’ll give yourself a stroke!” .................. “Yes, Don, I understand, and, no, I have no intention of ‘dragging her into one of my crazy schemes’ or ‘trifling with her emotions’ as you are so eloquently suggesting! ......... “Just calm the fuck down, buddy! Gwyn and i will come over and we’ll talk like sensible adults!” Hearing Dusty’s heated words, and knowing that Don was upset with him, and probably me, sent my stomach roiling. This conflict was entirely my fault. If only I wasn’t so impulsive! I loved Dusty but marrying him was impossible. I had a sacred duty to Angie, Brad and Johnny whom I also loved dearly. Love, duty, trust, responsibility, heartbreak...all those words were ricocheting around in my brain making me feel light headed. The room began to spin. Red spots danced in front of my eyes. I broke into a cold sweat. Then everything went black. The last thing I remember was trying to call out to Dusty for help.... “Gwyn! Gwyn, honey, can you hear me?” My eyes opened to see Dusty’s face inches from my own. I became aware that I was lying on my back on the couch with my legs elevated on a cushion. “Jesus, Gwyn, you scared the life out of me! Are you okay?” “Um...yeah, I think so....” “I’m not so sure. Fainting isn’t normal Gwyn. I’m going to call 911.” Michael came and put a very welcome cold cloth on my forehead. “Dusty’s right. You need to get checked out.” “No really, it’s too embarrassing....” I was overruled, and minutes later two paramedics entered the house. They checked my vitals and pronounced me ‘out of danger’ but suggested I go to bed and rest. I was ordered to rest frequently, to avoid strenuous exercise and to avoid stress for next month. I was also instructed to call me obstetrician first thing in the morning. Just as they were leaving, Don showed up looking panicked. “What happened? Security told me an ambulance had pulled in here. Gwyn, are you okay? Dusty, if you’ve caused....” He and Dusty were glaring daggers; it looked like they’d be at each other’s throats any second. “Stop!” I hissed, but the emotion and the effort of speaking set my stomach churning again. Seeing theof pallor of my face, they took the hint and shut up, both looking contrite. Michael, who’d been hovering in the background through all this drama, came to the rescue. “Both of you, take your dispute outside! You heard the paramedics, Gwyn needs rest.” Who knew my Michael could be so assertive? The men complied sullenly. Michael, after changing the sheets, got me tucked into bed. My head was hardly on the pillow when I fell into a deep sleep. I awoke to see rays of sun pushing through the shutters. I’d been having the most wonderful dream about Dusty making love to me...and...proposing marriage.... As the veil of sleep lifted, reality came flooding back. Dusty had made love to me. He had proposed! Shame, and guilt, and fear washed over me like a cold wave as I realized I had a very difficult decision to make: Stay with the children, or marry Dusty. Either way, I’d be hurting people I loved and rendering my own soul broken. My father would tell me to pray. I was praying alright...praying the earth would open up and swallow me whole! At any rate, that was unlikely to happen, and, as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t hide in bed all day. I could hear conversation coming from the family room. Not loud, but definitely two or three masculine voices. I hauled myself out of bed, used the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face and put on my robe. I took a deep breath for courage and stepped out into the family room....
  6. Gwyn: I maintained a very serious countenance when Michael, stumbling over his words, came out to me. The devil in me wanted to laugh, and say, Well Duh! However, I knew from a module I’d studied on diversity that uttering that initial statement: “I’m gay,” is a huge, huge step for an LGTB person. “Am I the first person in the family you’ve told?” I asked. “You’re the first person I’ve ever told.” “Oh, Michael, then I’m honored you trust me!” “It wasn’t really a surprise, was it?” he asked. “Well...sort of. Well...maybe not...I suspected.” “Why? Do I act gay? Sound gay?” he bristled. “No...well, again, maybe a little. If you know what to look for. But I don’t think most people would think one way or the other about it.” “Don and Marco figured it out!” he said. “I’m not blind. I saw the look they gave each other!” “Is that why you chose to tell me today?” I asked. “Yes. I didn’t want them saying anything to you before I did.” “Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad you told me,” I said. I also knew from that module that coming out was very personal. It was up to Michael to spread the news or not. I added, “Michael, you have my word I won’t discuss this with anyone else. I leave it to you to tell whomever you want whenever you want.” “Well, I don’t want Mom and Dad to know. At least not yet,” he said. I nodded agreement. Then, thinking that we’d become awfully serious, I suggested celebrating his declaration with a bowl of chunky cherry ice cream. “You know what I’d like, Sis,” he said a few minutes later between spoonfuls of ice cream. “A boyfriend.” “You and me both kiddo!” I laughed. “Seriously,” he said. “How would I meet other gay guys my age?” “I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe there’s a gay youth group on the island....” “At home I could go to a bar. Here, I can’t,” he lamented. “In Hawaii the stupid drinking age is twenty-one.” I’d forgotten to tell Michael about the upcoming party to which we’d been invited. “Oh, by the way, some friends of Don and Marco are throwing a big party for them. A real Hawaiian luau. Next weekend. We’re invited. From what I’ve heard they have a huge extended family and tons of friends. We’ll get to meet lots of people. And it will be a real gay friendly crowd, because Kelly and Jordan, who are the hosts, are gay. Then there’s Don and Marco, and Don’s cousin Derrick and his husband Gabe. Robert, their butler, who by the way is a super nice bloke, and his boyfriend, Keno, will be there too.” I reflected for a moment and added, “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to let word that you’re gay leak out. I’m sure once that crowd finds out they’ll all try to match make like crazy! And besides, if you don’t let it be known that you’re gay all the young girls are going to be swooning over a handsome bloke like yourself!” The next day Michael had a briefing from Don and Marco’s security supervisor. Apparently as well as going over security protocols Michael was expected to follow, he was also read the riot act on ‘appropriate’ behavior. He was told that a huge part of the family’s security was the goodwill of the local citizenry, and if he did anything to ‘fuck that up’ he’d be sent packing before he knew what hit him. “Did the guy get specific about that?” I asked. “Yeah. He said no getting drunk in a public place. No using drugs. No dangerous driving. No rudeness to or provoking the locals. No getting into fights. Stuff like that.... Oh yeah, he told me that news spreads like wildfire on the island. That’s why I have to be ‘extra vigilant’ not to do something negative that gets noticed.’” “Did you tell him that you’re gay?” I asked. We’d discussed the issue before he spoke to the supervisor, and I thought it would be best if Michael got his cards on the table. “Yeah, he said that my sexual orientation wasn’t important. How I behaved was important.” Buoyed by the positive reception (or the absence of a reaction) from the security supervisor, Michael decided to tell Don and Marco, which he did right after the briefing. As I’d expected, they were positive and supportive. Michael gave them permission to tell Kelly, Jordan, and Derrick and Gabe, after Don had reassured him that these people would absolutely rally around him. “Hey,” Don said encouragingly, “We’ve all been in your shoes at one time or another!” I was given permission to tell Robert who, in turn, was given permission to tell his boyfriend, Keno. We knew by the time Saturday night rolled around—given what Michael had been told about the local gossip mill—there wouldn’t be a person in that huge crowd that didn’t know Michael was gay! That week, Don delegated to Michael the task of finding me a suitable car. He was delighted to be given the responsibility. He was told to look for something that, once modified, would meet security’s standard for transporting the children. An SUV was pretty much the only suitable vehicle, but I insisted that it not be too large. Don and Marco told Michael that it was to be ‘high end’ meaning BMW, Mercedes, Lexus.... Michael, of course, was thrilled. He’d get to test drive some very luxurious cars. Don asked him if he’d be buying a car for himself, and when Michael replied, yes, he had almost one thousand dollars, and did Don think he could get something decent for that price? I watched an expression of near pain wash over Don’s face. “Um...well...I suppose so....But I doubt at that price it would be safe,” said Don, overcoming his shock and warming to his subject. “Michael, you’re here with your sister, but you’re under our protection. I can’t allow you to drive a car that’s not safe.” “Oh,” said Michael dejectedly. “So I’ll add another thousand so that you can buy a safe car,” said Don. “And I think Gabe knows a man who’ll give you a good deal. He mentioned that he bought a car—a Toyota Solara, I think; Gabe loved that car—from a recommended vendor when he first arrived in Hawaii, and I think that man is still in business.” I appreciated Don’s tact. He could have simply purchased a new vehicle for Michael (not that he had any obligation to, but I was learning that this family was naturally generous). However, he knew instinctively to let Michael feel good about his own contribution. I mouthed ‘thank you’ to Don who winked at me in acknowledgement. Meanwhile, I had a million and one things to do at work, and as my belly expanded workdays became more wearying. Michael was my rock. He put his heart and soul into being my ‘nanny.’ “Sit down, Sis. Put your feet up. Would you like a cup of tea, Sis? I’ll bring you a cold cloth for your head, Sis. ....” He also indulged me in my wacky cravings. Pickles at midnight—no problem. Chocolates at breakfast—no problem. He volunteered to be my birth coach and came to prenatal classes with me. He drove me to my obstetrics appointments. He picked up prescriptions and vitamins. He did all the housework and cooking. When I was tired and frustrated and snappish he was kind and patient. What would I have done without him? The night of the luau arrived. Michael was understandably excited and more than a little apprehensive. I lumbered beside him as we entered. Kelly and Jordan, who I hadn’t met, greeted us warmly. Kelly was quite a surprise. A big Hawaiian dreamboat! Was it just my imagination or did they give Michael a special sort of greeting? A gay thing? Something like the Mason’s handshake, only gay? Whatever it was, I could tell by Michael’s body language that he ‘got it.’ I observed him physically relax. There were people arriving just behind us, so while Kelly stayed at the door to greet them, Jordan took Michael and me out onto the front lawn to meet what seemed like hundreds of other people. He called for attention and introduced us to the masses. He told everyone to show us the ‘Aloha spirit’ and added several Hawaiian words I didn’t understand. We were pulled into the melee. The ‘aunties’ and female ‘cousins’ surrounded me and made me comfortable. They nodded knowingly when I described what I was experiencing and how I was feeling. I saw Michael disappear into a crowd of youths who led him to a fire on the beach. Dane came up to me and gave me a big ‘Aloha’ and introduced his friends, Alfy and Tyler. Derrick and Gabe came and said hello. Robert introduced his boyfriend, Keno, to me. (Lord, this island is overflowing with good looking men!) And the food! Luau pork, poi, macaroni salad, and one hundred and one other tempting dishes. Don’t get me started on the desserts! The young children did a ukulele and hula show which was received with great enthusiasm Many of the older people, who obviously knew the music and dance, could be seen swaying and making graceful hand motions along with the children. By 10pm I was exhausted—I’d stayed longer than I should have for Michael’s sake; he was having a lot of fun—so I drew him reluctantly away from his new friends and we headed for home. “You had a good time?” I asked. “Oh, Sis, the best! It was brilliant! They tried to teach me Hawaiian words and some of the hula movements, but I was hopeless, and they laughed at my efforts. But in a good way! Everyone was so nice! And I might have a date!” “A date?” “Well, maybe...I think. This kid asked me if I’d like to try surfing. He said he’d come out to Don and Marco’s beach and give me a lesson. Well, I’m not absolutely positive, but I think....” “How old is he?” “Siiiiiis,” he said, dragging out my name theatrically, “I know what you’re asking. Don’t worry. The security guy filled me in on the age rules. At eighteen I’m considered an adult for everything but drinking. The age of consent is sixteen for you-know-what. Paco is seventeen, only nine months younger than me. See? It’s all cool.” “Well, good luck! But Michael, if he breaks your heart I’ll break every bone in his body!” To his great credit, Michael didn’t remind me of my own stupidity—getting left high and dry by a French wanker. Paco was a sweet, very shy boy. His eyes were dark but often restless and downcast; he hadn’t quite learned the importance of eye contact. His smile was lovely, when he actually smiled. I would describe him as a ‘cute’ boy who had the potential for handsomeness. At any rate, Michael was taken with him, and he with Michael. After their first ‘surfing’ date they became almost inseparable. I often observed Paco’s expressive eyes, worshipfully trained on Michael. And Michael hung on every word Paco uttered. Paco’s opinion was sought, and followed, when Michael chose an affordable car for himself. A ten year old Audi convertible (which I thought was lovely) was declared an ‘old man’s car’ and thus rejected by Michael. A twelve year old Toyota Tacoma pickup truck was declared ‘cool’ so that’s what Michael bought. (What Michael didn’t know, and I found out later through the grapevine, was that there was a behind-the-scenes contribution from Don. The car was ‘affordable’ because Don subsidized the price. And once Michael chose the truck it was taken into the repair shop under the guise of fixing the brakes, but the truck was, in fact, thoroughly refurbished mechanically.) I was working at home one morning that week when security alerted me to a female visitor approaching. A quick check of her car’s license plate told them it was Paco’s mother. My first thought was that she’d come to ask me to thwart the boys’ relationship That wasn’t the case at all. In her hands she had a beautiful boxed cake to ‘welcome’ us to Hawaii. She introduced herself as Mary Pa`ahona and before she set foot in the house, she told me what a wonderful boy ‘my’ Michael was, and (surprise!) didn’t he and Paco make a wonderful couple? She handed me the cake, telling me she had to retrieve something, and returned to her car where she pulled a box from the boot and carried it to me. Recognizing its shape, I said, “Is that a....” “Yes! A sewing machine!” she announced cheerfully. Why ever would she bring me a sewing machine? I wondered. Seeing my bewildered expression, she said, “It’s for Michael! He wants to learn to sew!” (Every sentence she uttered seemed to end with an exclamation mark.) “He does?” Finally, remembering my manners, I invited her in, put the sewing machine aside and placed the cake on the counter. I offered her a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, both of which she accepted. I directed her to a seat in the family room area adjoining the kitchen. Preparing the coffee gave me a chance to collect my wits, notwithstanding Mary’s steady stream of exclamations. I served the coffee and cake, seated myself, and mentally prepared to chat with this remarkably friendly woman. Mary’s conversation didn’t follow a linear path; there were several branches, asides and returns to the main topic. But, ultimately, there were two main points to her visit: The first was to deliver the sewing machine to Michael, who, unbeknownst to me, had expressed an interest in learning to sew. He’d seen Mary’s sewing room and learned that Paco was, secretly, a moderately good sewist himself. The second was to invite me to a ‘girls’ get-together at her house on Thursday evening. She said one of her friends sold Mary Kay cosmetics and was doing a demonstration. I didn’t have to buy anything, of course, but she was quite insistent that I come to ‘meet some people!’ There was simply no polite way to refuse, so I agreed to go. I did, however, want to clarify what she’d said about Michael and Paco. “So, you don’t mind that Michael and Paco are...um...dating?” “Oh no! Hawaiian culture is very open and accepting about gays! There’s even a name for gay couples: aik­­āne. It was only when the missionaries came in the 1800’s that it became illegal. Isn’t that stupid? Those people! Anyway, we’re just happy that Paco’s found himself a nice boy! I told him, ‘Michael’s a keeper! You should marry him!” “Marry? But...but...they’re far too young for that!” I said, using my own exclamation. Mary waved away my objection. “Why? I got married at eighteen! Had my first baby at nineteen!” Her logic made a twisted sort of sense. I prudently decided not to argue. After all, who was I to judge? Later, when Michael arrived home, he was delighted to see that Mary had dropped off the sewing machine. In the box there was also a length of printed cotton, a pattern for a simple short-sleeved shirt, scissors and thread. Mary told him he might as well dive into a ‘real’ project; making an apron or a cosmetics bag was just a waste of time! I thought this sewing business might be a passing fancy to follow, or impress, his boyfriend, until he said, “I want to be a tailor. Maybe apprentice later on, after I take a degree in fashion design and merchandising.” “A tailor?” I asked. Today was certainly a day of surprises. “I thought you were going to pursue a business degree at uni?” “No,” he said disdainfully, “That’s what Dad wanted me to do. Not what I wanted.” “But isn’t this all rather impulsive?” I asked, reflecting guiltily as I said it, that everything had been so focussed on me since Michael had arrived that I hadn’t asked him about his career plans. “No,” he said again in a tone that implied I was a complete dunce. “Let me show you something.” He disappeared into his bedroom returning with a sketchbook. Handing it to me, he said, “Here’s some of my work. This book goes back a few months. I’ve got other books that go way back. I’ve kept quiet about it because it’s not really something you want known in school....” I opened the book randomly and saw sketch after sketch of mostly men but some women, all beautifully posed and draped in the most intriguing clothes. I’ve seen designer sketches before, of course—skinny models with impossibly small waists—but Michael’s models were all different shapes and sizes. There were even some pregnant ones that looked suspiciously like me! Michael was a good artist, but he was also, in my opinion, a talented designer. I was simply stunned. “What do you think?” he asked. “Michael, they’re brilliant! Tell me about your plans.” Michael, full of enthusiasm, began, “Well, Sis, I’d like to be a bespoke tailor. Like Savile Row. Maybe design suits, like Giorgio Armani. Eventually, I’d like to have my own shop that caters to a really good class of customer.” “Well, you’ve got artistic talent. I would imagine that would be transferable to sewing and tailoring?” “Mrs. Pah [Pa`ahona] said I should start sewing right away. Paco can sew pretty well. He mostly makes all his own shirts and shorts. She said next comes jackets. Maybe a suit jacket. But I’ve got a ways to go before I can do that!” Michael, tired of talking, excused himself to go play with his ‘new’ sewing machine leaving me to reflect on this latest development. I’d certainly do whatever I could to help him. Where there’s a will there’s a way, right? On Thursday evening I made my way to the Pa`ahona’s home, a modest two story house in the Haha’ione Valley. I wasn’t keen on buying any cosmetics, but I did think that meeting new people, and seeing again some of those I’d met at Kelly and Jordan’s party, would be pleasant. You can imagine my shock when I was greeted with a chorus of SURPRISE! It wasn’t a cosmetics party at all. It was a baby shower for me! They had a little ‘throne’ set up with a canopy of streamers above. There were pink and blue streamers draped about the room with bobbles hanging from them. It was absolutely charming, and so very, very heartwarming. Naturally, I began to cry, but the women, who all had children of their own, knew to interpret the tears as ‘happy,’ and laughed at my discomposure. Introductions or made, or re-made as necessary. Everyone was so kind. They had organized silly games that made everyone laugh. There was a secret vote on weather baby was a boy or girl (I’d asked the ultrasound technicians and the doctors not to tell me—I wanted it to be a delicious surprise). The ‘girl’ ballots carried the day. Then there was a betting pool on the actual birth date garnering heavy wagering. There were many, many lovely and thoughtful presents, including toys and clothes, blankets and diapers. My favourite of all was a crib sized, handmade (group effort) quilt in the Hawaiian style with a big bird of paradise flower appliquéd on it. There were even thoughtful and funny presents from the male couples who weren’t allowed to attend a women-only shower. And the gossiping! Everyone knew everyone else’s business, but in a benevolent way. I wouldn’t describe any of the information exchanged as malicious, just interesting and fun with a lot of laughs thrown in. There were so many interwoven relationships on the island that it was mind boggling. They asked me several questions about my background, which I was happy to answer, but they never strayed into uncomfortable territory. There were absolutely no prying questions about Don, Marco and the children. One of the women there owned a beauty salon. She insisted I come in on Saturday for a do-over. I demurred, but the chorus was taken up by the whole group. I laughingly gave in. Apparently it was to be a ‘spa’ day with a mani, pedi, facial, hair style, eyebrow shaping and makeup...and did I want a bikini wax? Well, apparently I did! So that was put on the agenda as well. Of course they knew about Dusty’s upcoming arrival on Sunday. Was he my boyfriend? “No,” I explained, “Just a friend.” “He’s drop dead good looking, isn’t he?” asked one lady. “Um...well, yes! Okay...I’ll admit he’s gorgeous! You should see him astride a horse!” This remark got shrieks of laughter. “And he’s rich!” said another woman. “You should snap him up!” “Um...I don’t think so. He’s a cowboy. He works on Don’s family’s ranch.” All the women exchanged puzzled looks with one another. Conversation ground to a halt. Finally one woman said, “His name is Dusty, and he’s arriving on Sunday, right?” “Yes.” “Well, my cousin is the manager of the Swaying Palms Hotel in Waikiki, and she says that the owner, or the owner’s son, whose name is Dusty, is arriving Sunday because they’re planning extensive renovations. Dusty Millbrook, whose family owns the hotel, will be overseeing the work. It’d be a mighty big coincidence if two Dustys arrive in Honolulu at the same time! Is your friend’s last name Millbrook?” I honestly didn’t know Dusty’s last name. The whole situation was quite disconcerting. I felt a pang of disappointment. I thought Dusty was coming to see me. But he was coming to Hawaii on business? A business I had no prior knowledge of? Ah, Gwyn, my girl, that’ll teach you for getting your hopes up. You should know by now that men, straight men anyway, are lying bastards! Perhaps I’m a masochist, because part of me was still very much looking forward to Dusty’s arrival. On Saturday I was petted and pampered and, quite literally, transformed. My hair was streaked and styled in a cut that suited my face. My eyebrows were beautifully sculpted. I was taught how to apply minimum makeup that highlighted the positive features of my face. With carefully applied liner and eye shadow my eyes seemed bigger, and the color brighter. My cheekbones benefited from a touch of blush. Concealer disguised the ‘tired’ bags under my eyes. New lip gloss imparted a sensual pout to my lips. After the do-over (including a Brazilian Wax!) I was taken to a boutique shop next door (which was run, of course, by another cousin) and, in spite of my baby bump, outfitted with some stylish, colorful and beautifully feminine clothes. I’d never considered myself good looking, but after this wonderful team of women had transformed me, I was no longer a dowdy, bloated nanny. I was beautiful and glowingly pregnant. Feminine and confident! Dusty, whoever the hell he was, may be coming for his bloody hotel, but, dammit, he was going to notice me...and I was going to knock his socks off!
  7. Gwyn: I’d been given photos of three houses and asked to choose which one I’d prefer to live in. It was a daunting choice, but I chose the smaller of the three because it seemed more cozy. It was still very large by my standards, and very posh. The rear yard was enclosed around a kidney shaped pool and the landscaping was lush with palms, hibiscus and bird of paradise. Unfortunately, the current owners were still in residence and the house wouldn’t be available for my occupancy for a month. We decided that it would be best for the children if we started off as we intended to go on with me living independently of the family. That way I wouldn’t be living with them for a month then upsetting the children by ‘leaving.’ A lovely AirBnB was acquired for my first month. Don surprised me by saying that they’d also taken a short-term lease of a car for me while I looked for something that would suit me long term. These people definitely got things done! Don’s father had lent him his Boeing Business Jet for the trip 8 hour flight to Hawaii so we traveled in ultra luxury. Still, the children, who were used to wide open spaces, became bored and restless. I’d brought along a good supply of games, books and craft supplies, but nothing seemed to hold their attention for long. Finally, a movie seemed to settle them down and all three children, dropped off to sleep. We woke them up about an hour from our destination, fed them a snack, and got them toileted and washed. All this flying about was old hat to Don and Marco, but for the children and me it was very exciting to think that in a few minutes we’d be landing and a new and interesting place! Don had the pilot circle the island of Oahu before we landed in Honolulu, and Marco, playing tour guide, pointed out various sights and features. I simply had to express my wonder at all the beauty of the island, and my excitement was communicated to the children who became perhaps a little too worked up. Don and Marco didn’t seem to mind, in fact they encouraged the excitement. Marco, in an aside to me, said, “There’s nothing quite as powerful as a good first impression.” And these kids were more than primed now to like their new home. Me? I was in raptures. I had to pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t all just a wonderful dream! As I stepped out of the plane I was assaulted by wall of warm, humid air. It was like stepping into a conservatory. And even though we were surrounded by industrial buildings there were tropical plants and palm trees in evidence. I was chauffeured in one vehicle and the family divided into two others. My driver was very friendly and pointed out the sights along the way. After we left the airport we followed a large motorway up into some very rugged but lush mountains, which had been the sight of an ancient battle, then down into the village of Kailua. I was agog at the scenery and the trip took no time at all! The AirBnB was lovely and beautifully furnished including a gourmet kitchen and one of the ubiquitous outdoor swimming pools. And, there was a beautiful little white Mercedes for transportation. I thought, This is like being on a permanent vacation! I was to join the family at their new home for dinner after I’d freshened up, rested and settled in. I kicked my shoes off and lay on the bed, but there was no way I could sleep because I was just too excited. I decided to telephone my little brother instead. Michael, the youngest, and I had always been close. I was seven years older, and I was half mother, half big sister to him. He’d been a restless child, brilliant, but never quite fitting in, never quite settling into anything; I was the only person in the family that he seemed to bond with. It had been difficult for him once I’d left to pursue the nanny’s course. Now the tables were turned. With me being pregnant I needed a shoulder to lean on. He stepped gladly into the role. It was midnight in Wales but I knew he’d still be awake. He was a gamer and a bit of a night owl. “Sis!” he exclaimed, “How was your trip? What’s Hawaii like? Do you like it? Are you well?” My day’s experiences had been so luxurious, novel, exciting, that I hardly knew where to begin. “Oh, Sis,” he said, after I’d told him some of the highlights, “It truly sounds grand. I’m green with envy.” Suddenly, hearing his voice, I was hit with a wave of melancholia. There were parts of my old life that I missed, and Michael was on the top of that list. “Oh Michael, I miss you so much! Don and Marco are wonderful, they’ve all but adopted me and the babe, but they’re still my employers. There’s boundaries, if you know what I mean.” “I know, Sis, I miss you too. Maybe I could get there for a visit some day. That’d be grand, wouldn’t it? You could show me the sights!” Poor guy was at sixes and sevens. He was entering university after just completing his A levels with honors, but he wasn’t keen on the idea of facing three years of uni. Michael reminded me of a hummingbird, always going from flower to flower. Still, I felt much better for having talked to Michael. No one else had quite the capacity to cheer me up as he did. His comment about visiting me got me thinking.... I managed to make by way to Don and Marco’s house following the car’s GPS all the while terrified of crashing the expensive car and feeling completely disoriented from driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Much to my relief, I made it without mishap! The photos I’d seen of their house didn’t do it justice. It was truly magnificent. Very open and spacious. And there was the famous beach, just out the front, only steps away! The decorator had done a marvelous job of giving it a ‘family’ scale, and already I could see that the children were already settling in comfortably with toys and books scattered here and there. It already looked like they’d been in residence for months rather than just hours. I was happy for them, truly I was, but my conversation with Michael had left me aching for something familiar. Perhaps my thoughts were clouded with missing Michael, but impulsively I said, “Would it be all right if my brother, Michael, visited me? He’d stay with me, and he wouldn’t be in the way or anything....” And I outlined a plan that was taking shape in my mind. Don and Marco thought that was a wonderful idea, even offering to send him an airline ticket! “It’ll save you from having to hire one of the Ka’ena or Applebaum cousins as a babysitter once your baby arrives,” added Don. The next day I toured ‘my’ house with a sense of disbelief. Could all this good fortune really be coming my way? I would be perfect for me and the babe and Michael! Once again, I telephone Wales and put the proposition to Michael. “Sis, what a brilliant idea! I’d love to help out! I can delay uni for a term or two. Can I come right away?” He’d have jumped right through the telephone wire if he could. Talked to Mum and Dad. They seemed...relieved. I wasn’t sure if it was because Michael was going to take care of me, or because I was going to take care of Michael. Maybe both. Don and Marco: Home sweet home. It was a true ‘family’ house—just what they’d hoped for. The rooms were open and airy. The decorating unfussy and comfortable. After an inspection tour with everyone poking in corners and looking in closets (Don shook his head and asked himself, “Why did I just look in the oven?”) they all went to the beach for a short walk. Rufus had the time of his life chasing shore birds and pissing on every bit of flotsam on the beach. To Marco, a surf break right outside his house was heaven on earth. The children loved the sand but thought Marco was a bit off when he told them they’d soon be swimming in the ocean. Afterwards, back at the house, they all swam in the pool. Angie and Brad, by this time, were good swimmers, and Johnny had no trouble holding his own in the water. After exploring and marking every corner of the yard Rufus laid quietly in the shade but kept a sharp eye on the children. Gwyn arrived in the late afternoon looking stressed and declaring, “Oh the roads! The traffic!” Marco said dryly, “Gwen it’s only half a mile, and it’s residential streets. How much traffic could there be?” “Yes, but what would you say if I crashed that grand Mercedes?” Don and Marco laughed. Gwyn harrumphed. They entirely supported Gwyn’s idea of bringing Michael to Hawaii. She was, in some ways, part of the family, so her family—especially a brother for whom she held such affection—became extended family. Their support was rewarded by seeing some of the tension drain from Gwen’s body and worry lines leave face. What they all needed now was a chance to rest and recover. The family needed just a bit more time to ‘settle’ before school began. They were just in time to register Angie and Brad in the local private school. The fall term would be starting in just one week. Don and Marco held a tête-à-tête with the school’s principal explaining the children’s history and emphasizing that they would tolerate no teasing or bullying. The principal, of course, defended the school’s anti-bullying policy but promised to be extra vigilant when it came to Angie and Brad. He well knew the danger of getting on the ‘bad side’ of the Deacons! Cousins Derrick, Gabe and Dane came for the day to view the new house and enjoy some beach (surfing) time bringing with them custom sized surfboards for the children as a ‘welcome to Hawaii’ present. They were all subjected to Gabe’s rant on eco-friendly sunscreen use. Dane was observed rolling his eyes behind Gabe’s back, but Angie and Brad listened attentively. Don stayed behind with Johnny making sandcastles in shade of a little beach tent. The children were given life jackets and soon their trepidation of the ocean vanished under the encouragement of the adults. Marco had Angie and Brad practicing standing and balancing on their boards which was easy thanks to the ‘balancing’ work they’d practiced on teeter-totters at the ranch. Twenty minutes later Angie and Brad rode their first waves and were thrilled—and hooked. Marco was happy and proud, shouting, “Don! Did you see that? Did you see that?” Johnny said, “Surf! Surf! And became quite annoyed that he couldn’t be out there with his older siblings. Don put him on a small foam boogey board and they played around near the shore. That, luckily, mollified him for the moment. “He’s keen! He’ll be surfing for real before next year!” enthused Marco. Later that afternoon they enjoyed a poolside barbecue and shortly after dinner the children all fell asleep watching a movie. “How’s Gwyn working out?” asked Derrick. “Fantastic! She’s amazing,” replied Don. Then they told Derrick and Gabe about her brother coming to support her, which everyone thought was a brilliant strategy. “This idea you had of buying her a house is a good one,” said Derrick. “We’re thinking of doing the same for Robert. You know, he and Keno are getting pretty serious, and it’s time they had a little more privacy. And us too, for that matter.” “Speaking of Robert,” said Gabe, “Perhaps tomorrow Gwyn could come over and meet him?” Gwyn: My combination of psychology and intuition (common sense?) was paying dividends with Angie. Most of her obsessive-compulsive behaviors were gone. She’d ‘revert’ if she was tired or stressed, but generally, her anxiety was manageable. She still, however, insisted that the siblings all sleep in the same room. I suggested that an ‘incentive’ might work. To that end, Angie’s bedroom wasn’t ‘decorated.’ It was painted off white and was furnished with only three, plain single beds. I began by suggesting that Angie might like to paint or wallpaper her room in her favorite colors. “And get some nice furniture,” I added to sweeten the pot, so to speak. “I used to have a princess bed,” said Angie wistfully. “What about Brad, did he have a boy’s bed?” I asked. “Oh yes! He had a pretend fire truck bed!” “Well, perhaps it’s time for Brad and Johnny to have their own bedrooms so we can make your bedrooms special for each of you,” I added hopefully. “Ummm...” said Angie. “Okay, you and your dads should look on the internet see if you can find a bed you like!” Besides dealing as best I could with the children I had a million and one administrative chores to do. I was tasked with determining a ‘needs assessment’ for the local community. I was told to refer to the one Don had done years before for Gabe when he wanted to set up a downtown clinic. My goal was to find the genuine unmet community need. It was a lovely job for me because it would involve interviewing local people for background material. I’d get to know them, and they me. Meanwhile I’d made travel arrangements, and arranged a visa, for an excited Michael. His stay was to be indefinite. I spent almost one whole day with the security supervisor being briefed on security protocol. I was amazed to learn the sophistication of the house’s security system. Several types of sensors, day and night cameras, drones. The systems were all customized for that particular house and its needs, which was complicated due to its proximity to its neighbors and openness to the beach. Everything was monitored 24/7 from the security offices above the garage. There were threat assessment reports that were reviewed by the security supervisor daily. (I would be informed of any security alerts.) There were kidnap prevention protocols and after-kidnap procedures. Under no circumstances was I to transport the children in my personal car. My head was swimming at the end of the day! I met with that paragon, Robert, to get a ‘feel’ for the Oahu scene. Driving the Mercedes to Derrick and Gabe’s house nearly gave me a nervous breakdown! It was thrilling, but everything seemed backwards on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. On the smaller streets I had to repeat the litany, “Right is right!” Oh, but what luxury! But Robert was a wealth of information and was full of nothing but praise and admiration for the Deacon-Nichols and their friends. He gave me contact information for various Island services, and I was able to arrange pediatric and dental appointments for the children and engage cleaning and catering service contracts. Coordinating the family’s schedule with security was a big part of my job. I was coordinating the readiness of my own house—luckily undertaken by the decorator. I spent at least two hours with the children each afternoon. (Sometimes Don and Marco went out, and sometimes they locked themselves in their bedroom.) I’d babysit for longer periods when they needed it. Don and Marco took care of the day-to-day school routine, but I still coordinated schedules, and would do more so once the children began extracurricular activities. Plus, there were family visits from Don’s parents then Marco’s parents with related schedules and meal planning. I was busy and fulfilled. Thankfully, Don and Marco, ever considerate, told me to take a few days off after Michael arrived. At the end of the month, my house was ready and I ‘moved’ in. It came furnished, right down to the pot holders, so all I had to do was bring over my personal possessions. For the first couple of days I wandered aimlessly in what seemed to me a vast cavern. It was far too big for just me, but with Michael and the babe it would feel more to scale. Michael arrived bursting with exuberance. He’d flown first class thanks to some sort of business deal between the airline and the Dea-Con Corporation. I was surprised how much he had matured in the year since I’d last seen him. He’d filled out some, so was no longer a gangly youth whose arms seemed too long. His face, now more angular, showed maturity. His hair dark brown, curly hair was longish, and his deep brown eyes seemed almost too knowing. His dark whiskers cast a shadow giving his face the look of a Welsh warrior. My little brother had grown into an exceeding handsome young man! By then I was fairly comfortable with driving, and I’d driven to the airport to meet him. We came ‘home’ via the coast road and Michael was suitably awe struck with the scenery with me pointing out the sights. I’d only been on the Island a month myself, and here I was playing tour guide to a newcomer! Michael, looking every bit a man, was still endearingly childlike in his enthusiasm and declared the house as “Brilliant!” He immediately proved his mettle by insisting I sit while he made us a ‘nice cup of tea.’ There were a few moments of superficial conversation: “How are things back home?” “Are Don and Marco good to work for? Do you like the children? .... “ Michael then turned very serious—he was at that transition age where he could switch from boy to man in a heartbeat—and said, “Now, Sis, I’m here to help you. Tell me what needs doing. Whatever you need....” I became emotional and teary as relief flooded over me. Damn hormones! I knew Michael was true to his word; that I could now count on him. A little part of me had worried that perhaps Michael, the boy, would mean extra work. We’d always had a parent-child kind of relationship, and I didn’t know if I had the strength to play that role given everything else that was happening. But as promised, he was here to ‘help’! Finally, after months of ‘being strong’ I had someone, a man, I could lean on! Paradoxically my relief and happiness made me cry even harder. Next thing I knew Michael, hand around my shoulder, guiding me to my bedroom. He laid me on my bed and tucked a quilt around me. “You just rest a bit,” he said. “I’ll check in the kitchen and see what I can scrounge up for tea [meaning dinner], shall I?” I was asleep before he’d even finished the sentence. The next day, before setting out on our round-the-island sightseeing tour, I took Michael to meet Don, Marco and the children. Michael blushed and stammered like a primary school boy when he was introduced, and I didn’t think he was impressed for the sole reason that these men were my ultra rich employers. No, there was another reason entirely for his discomposure. Interesting.... And I wasn’t the only one who noticed; I caught Don and Marco exchanging knowing looks. A somewhat pensive Michael and I were on an around-the-island tour and had just stopped at the Bonzai Pipeline where Marco had insisted we stop for a look. (“It’s like, totally, my home away from home,” he had declared, surfer accent in full sail.) We watched, fascinated, as the surfers rode their boards. (Did they have no sense of danger; of self preservation?) My phone dinged, interrupting my reverie. It was the oddest text from, of all people, Dusty: Hope you are well. Miss your smiling face. Thinking of a trip to Hawaii. Would that be okay? Love Dusty I’d been making moon eyes at the man the whole summer, obsessing on the way his chest muscles filled out his plaid shirt, and how his jeans held no secrets when he was sitting astride his horse. The wanker hadn’t so much as spoken a few polite words to me. Now it’s “Love Dusty”? Ah well, nothing ventured nothing gained. I replied: Would love to see you. Come anytime. The double entendre was intentional. And me with my belly out to here. Ha! Of course I didn’t think he’d take me up on the offer. Two hours later I received another text: Have booked a flight to Honolulu. October *** to ***. Hope that works for you. Can you recommend a hotel? XO Dusty Oh boy! I’d be eight months pregnant, looking like a whale, probably feeling sluggish. However would I ‘entertain’ Dusty? Well, I’d think of something, and there’d be Michael to help me out with hosting, meals, cleaning and sightseeing. I entertained, briefly, the thought of inviting Dusty to stay at my house, but dismissed the idea as just a little too much to take on. It would be too much to ask Don and Marco if he could stay at their house. I was aware of a charming little B & B (it was a little on the expensive side, I hoped Dusty could afford it) in Kailua, not too far from where I lived. We arrived home tired after several hours of driving and sightseeing. I would have killed for a glass of wine! Michael helped himself to a beer and brought me fruit juice. He then prepared a gourmet chicken salad. (Thankfully, my Michael was a good cook!) After a fairly silent meal, Michael, who had been unusually subdued after our visit to Don and Marco, finally came out with what was on his mind. “Sis, there’s something I have to tell you....”
  8. As Gwyn led the children away to inspect her new house, Marco grabbed Don in a bear hug and kissed him senseless. Don, as always, responded in kind and things became heated quickly. “I wanna fuck you hard,” moaned Marco, “But I’ll settle for giving you a blowjob.” He dropped to his knees and began loosening Don’s pants. “Marco...the kids....” “I know, Babe, but I’ll be quick.” Which he was because he knew exactly what Don liked and just what drove him over the edge. “Arghhhh!” cried Don in under two minutes. His legs gave out and he collapsed into the office chair. “Marco...” he panted. “Good, eh?” beamed Marco. “The best!” agreed Don. “Who knew that house pictures could be such a turn on? How about you now?” “Naw, I’m gonna let this boner go down, then tonight I’ll be as horny as a two-peckered owl. Think you can handle it rough?” “Oh, gawd,” moaned Don again. “I’m getting hard again just thinking about it!” After a few more minutes of kissing, they reluctantly ‘got themselves together.’ Breathing returned to normal, and they addressed the house issue. They’d received an independent engineer’s report on the house, so they knew it was sound. The location was almost perfect. It was situated in an upscale neighborhood, at the north end of Kailua Beach, on a small stretch dubbed Castle’s Beach, which Marco knew was a good surfing spot. Marco pointed out that it was a windy area, but the house was designed with a pool courtyard that was sheltered. “And,” added Marco optimistically, “The wind doesn’t blow all the time.” The security team had pronounced the house ‘doable’ with a few modifications. There was an excellent private school for the children in Kailua. “I’m very tempted,” said Marco. “We should have Derrick and Gabe take a look at it. Just to be on the safe side...” suggested Don. Derrick, Gabe and their son, Dane we off traveling in the continental USA, but their friend, Kelly, had a free afternoon, and after picking up his son, Alfy, from school he drove out to Kailua (a 30 minute drive) and inspected the house. His report was glowing except, Kelly pointed out, the furniture that came with the house was too formal and uncomfortable for an active family. Gwyn brought the children back. Then, after a brief reiteration of her role, which she was delighted with, especially after meeting the family, she was ordered to rest until the next day, which, being Thursday, was a pool day for the children. Gwyn: The hardest part about my new job was not being one hundred percent involved with the care of the children. But Don and Marco wanted to be ‘hands on,’ and that’s what they were in an organized pandemonium sort of way. I was amazed when it all came together and everyone was bundled into the car and happily on their way to the pool. My first job of the day was to meet with the security supervisor to whom I’d been introduced the day before. I was surprised to learn that one of the Deacon children had been kidnapped about ten years before! I was thus read the proverbial riot act: Security was not to be taken lightly! One of my main jobs was to coordinate the schedule between the family and their security detail. “We don’t like surprises,” deadpanned the supervisor. My next job was to phone this near mythical chap, Robert, in Hawaii, and consult with him about engaging and interior decorator for the new house. After hearing Kelly’s opinion and studying the pictures in more detail, Don and Marco decided they wanted a more ‘comfortable’ ambiance for the house. Robert assured me that the decorator to whom he referred me was top notch (she’d apparently proven her mettle on a recent refit of a guest cottage). I could confidently put total reliance on her. Engaging her services turned out to be an easy task. Robert told me the name Deacon was like “open sesame” in Hawaii. I was sceptical, but when I told the decorator who I worked for she practically fell into the phone cooperating. “Of course I can have it done by the end of August!” When I said ‘comfortable’ she gushed, “Yes! I know exactly what you mean. Leave it with me. They’ll love what I have in mind!” The group arrived home from the pool famished, and luckily I had sandwiches prepared which were attacked enthusiastically. After lunch, Johhny and Brad fell asleep while Don was reading them a story, but Angie showed no signs of wanting to rest. I asked her if she could come and help me set up my little house knowing that task would appeal to her. It gave me a chance to be alone with her and begin my ‘counseling.’ I’d done research and spoken at length to a grief counsellor who specialized in children. He gave me good advice. “Get them talking,” he said. “All too often adults think that it’s taboo to talk to children about loss and death, so they’re encouraged not to talk about it. All that does is drive grief ‘underground,’ so to speak. But grief always rears its ugly head later, usually in adolescence, sometimes in very negative ways. “Angie,” I began, “Do you think about your mom and dad?” Her little face crumpled and she shrugged her shoulders. I took this as an affirmative answer to my question, and continued. “How do you feel when you think about them?” Again, she shrugged. Tears formed in her eyes. “I’m guessing you sometimes feel sad?” “Lisette said I shouldn’t think sad thoughts,” she said. I didn’t know who Lisette was, but rather than interrupt the flow of the conversation, I let that slide. (I was later to find out she was the house mother of the foster home in which they’d been billeted.) “Well, I’m sure later on you’ll think lots of happy thoughts about your mom and dad, but for now it’s perfectly okay to feel sad sometimes. In fact, it’s natural and very healthy to feel that way, especially when your loss is new, which yours is.” Angie continued to cry silently. She was definitely a girl who bottled things up inside. But I’d felt we’d done enough for today. I considered that just opening up the subject for discussion was progress. Assigned a task, Angie perked up at being able to direct the placement of dishes in the kitchen cupboards (that girl is a born manager!) Later that day Don surprised me by thanking me for engaging a decorator for the house. “That’s one less thing to worry about,” he said. In my previous experience the ‘help’ was never thanked, so I was both surprised and delighted by Don’s comment. Marco and Don encouraged me to rest, which I was grateful for. Between the jet lag and my new duties, not to mention the lovely Nebraska fresh air, I was feeling completely knackered! Life settled into an easy routine. I made slow, but sure progress with the children. Brad’s nightmares became less frequent, and Angie began to use the second porch stair. She even allowed, on occasion, the food on her plate to become mixed. Dealing effectively with the children was made easier by Don, Marco and I agreeing to cooperate and not counter or contradict the direction of the others. The children were not allowed to play one against the other. Plus, Don and Marco were never harsh with the children—an approach with which I very definitely agreed! Discipline was easy—in fact it was non-existent—because the children bent over backwards to please Don and Marco and win their praise. Excitement was building because a visit from Don’s cousin and his husband and their little boy was imminent. The young cousin, Dane, was the object of much conjecture and discussion because Marco had mentioned that he was a real little ‘firecracker.’ Not only that, but Dane’s dog, Patsy, was reputed to be ‘almost as smart as Rufus!’ I watched the arrival of the cousins from my own house. A large, recreational vehicle (I later learned they were called ‘motorhomes’) pulled into the yard and pulled to a stop at the front stoop of the house. Don Marco and the children were waiting impatiently on the porch, and once the door of the motorhome opened, a young boy I assumed was Dane descended its steps making an ‘entrance’ worthy of the most famous Hollywood star. Wearing a loud Hawaiian print shirt, a backwards baseball cap and oversized sunglasses, and leading a black and white Border Collie by its leash, he stepped onto the ground, looked up at his uncles and new cousins, paused dramatically, then waved his free hand in a sweeping greeting, and declared, “Aloha hoa hanou!” Don and Marco shook their heads and laughed, the children gaped. Then all hell broke loose. Prior to this, the only visit from relatives that I’d observed first hand was several years ago when my aunt and uncle arrived for a visit at the vicarage. The event was all very low keyed and proper. Air kisses. ‘Lovely to see you.’ ‘I do hope your journey wasn’t too tiring.’ ‘Do come in.’ This event, on the other hand, was like the Norman invasion. The dogs were barking, sniffing each other’s butts and chasing in circles. Two men, obviously Derrick and Gabe, descended laughing from the motorhome. There were hugs and back slapping. Exclamations were made over the absolute wonderfulness, good looks and intelligence of the children. It was declared that Dane had grown at least six inches! Everyone talking at once created an unholy din. Dane and Angie circled warily. (Oh oh, I thought, I can see where those two strong willed children might come to blows.) Eventually, the scene settled and everyone, including the dogs, mercifully no longer barking, was herded into the house, where, I knew, snacks and beverages were ready. From my observation point I watched as quiet once again enveloped the yard, and I shook my head in wonder at this exuberant, loving family. On an intellectual level, I knew they were a rich and powerful group, but their behavior was a complete odds to this fact. It was a little disorienting, but I knew that given enough time (and by God, I wasn’t going anywhere) I’d get used to it. Within minutes my tranquility was interrupted by the arrival of Angie, Brad and Dane who informed me, once introductions were completed—all talking at once—that I was requested to go to the house to meet Derrick and Gabe. I was ‘escorted’ to the house—one child on each side firmly holding my hands lest I should try to escape. Derrick and Gabe were charm itself, and I could tell Gabe was giving me the doctor’s once-over. But I was confident that what he saw was a woman who was six months pregnant and in the peak of good health! As soon as it was polite to do so, I suggested that the children come with me for a tour of the yard. I added that we might even see our favorite frog in the creek which prompted Dane to declare that he “loved frogs!” (No surprise there.) That evening’s dinner was a huge, noisy, cowboy style barbeque with the family, the security crew me. There was enough beef, sausages, hotdogs, potato salad, coleslaw, crisps, beer and soda to feed an army! After the meal there were games like football (soccer), volleyball and badminton. There was no segregation, that I could see, between the ‘workers’ and the family. Everyone, including kids and dogs, mingled comfortably. Johnny had the time of his life getting lots of attention from every adult there. Angie and Dane had a little contretemps which was quickly extinguished by Derrick and Don. Dane had become Brad’s ‘mentor’ (much to Brad’s delight) and was teaching him Hawaiian words. It was all a little sad when two days later the big motorhome pulled out of the yard and the cousins departed to continue their own summer adventure. A few days later, Don and Marco had a surprise visit from the Child Protection caseworker, Tim Van Slade. With him was another caseworker, a female they’d not previously met. The visit had been expected—it was part of the process—but the actual timing was a surprise, as it was meant to be. It was the first time I’d seen Don and Marco anxious. They were perfectly affable towards Mr. Van Slade and the woman, but I could tell by they were nervous. As Don later explained to me, the Deacon’s had influence and power to expedite the adoption process, but only if the caseworker agreed that it was in the best interests of the children. I understood their nervousness. Don and Marco had become inextricably attached to the children, and vice versa. A reversal at this stage would be catastrophic. Of particular concern was the ‘private’ interview the caseworkers held with the children. As they left, Mr. Van Slade didn’t say anything one way or the other. He just said that his report would be prepared ‘in due course.’ Meanwhile, my own anxiety was building. The weeks were flying by and I’d yet to broach the topic of staying on permanently with the family. Added to this was the niggling uncertainty engendered by Mr. Van Slade’s visit. It seemed to me that the odds were heavily in favor of the adoption proceeding. But what if it didn’t? For all of us, the alternative was unthinkable. For me, I’d have no choice but to return my parents’ home in Wales, at least until the babe was born. After that, I’d try and to support the babe and me. As a teacher? A day nanny? It was all very uncertain! In the interim, my parents would take me in without reservation, but I knew they’d be terribly inconvenienced, and with my father’s position in the parish they’d be viewed as benevolent martyrs to their wayward daughter. Don and Marco: Tim Van Slade’s parting words brought uneasiness to the table. What exactly did Tim mean when he said, ‘my report will be prepared in due course’? What sort of influence did the female caseworker have? What questions did they ask the children in private? More importantly, what were the children’s answers? And what sort of ‘spin’ would be put on those answers? Logically, they argued, there was a 99% chance that everything would proceed as expected (or hoped). But the 1% doubt was worrying. And nothing is worse than uncertainty! The situation was especially uncomfortable for Marco. He was a numbers man. Anything could be worked out with a decent equation. But in this case rational probability was no help. There was no ‘proof’ when that 1% doubt was factored. Marco, frustrated, recognized the early warning signs of simmering anger. The current dissonant situation reminded him of the one in which he and Don had found themselves not so very long ago. He knew, from bitter experience, that he and Don should ‘communicate.’ When he broached the subject with Don he, too, admitted to feeling frustration and anger—impotent anger—because there was nothing they could do but wait.... And wait. Very frustrating! In high dudgeon they focussed on a problem they could do something about. Gwyn! “She’ll be gone in a few weeks. Then we’re going to have to replace her. How? How can we replace her? She’s irreplaceable!” lamented Marco. “She’s bonded with the kids!” “I know, Marco, but we did accept someone on a temporary assignment. She has every right to go home when we leave Nebraska.” “Yeah, if that’s what she wants we can’t stop her. Unless we kidnap her!” “Marco....” Just kidding....” “Is that what she wants?” “To be kidnapped?” “No, Marco. To go home?” “I assume so.... She’s got the baby to consider and all that.” “We could ask her,” said Don. “It’s a long shot, but maybe she will say ‘yes’... But what if she does say yes? In two months she’ll be a new mother....” “We could sweeten the pot by offering her accommodation nearby us. And she could bring the baby to work. Or, the Ka’ena clan could supply a babysitter. Yeah, a babysitter for the babysitter’s child. How cool is that? All joking aside, there’s plenty of different options that would make it work.” Don and Marco got the ball rolling by calling their Hawaii property agent and asking her to put an option on a house in the neighborhood. That way they’d have an attractive perk to offer Gwyn. The agent could be heard tapping keys at the other end of the phone and informed them that there were three houses for sale in the immediate neighborhood. “Option them all!” said Don. “We’ll decide on which one later.” That evening, when the children were finally settled into bed they called Gwyn over to ‘discuss something.’ She arrived in a state of trepidation thinking she was going to get a bollocking for something. She couldn’t think of what she’d done wrong, but it must be serious if they called her over in the evening. Don had prepared the outline of what amounted to a sales pitch. He didn’t know why he was so nervous; he’d made presentations to POTUS without breaking into a sweat. But here he was, nearly brought to his knees by his children’s nanny. Having children was certainly a humbling experience. The presentation as outlined was to go thusly: First, he was going to clearly and succinctly make Gwyn an offer of permanent employment—an indefinite continuation of her current contract. Next, if he noticed she was hesitant he’d emphasize the perquisites of the job: Excellent wages. Housing provided. Car provided. Childcare provided. If that didn’t do the trick he would point out the advantages of living in Hawaii: The salubrious climate. The vibrant culture. Finally, if she still didn’t bite, he’d roll out the guilt: The children are attached to you! You’ll break our hearts if you leave! Marco approved of the plan. He promised to add encouraging comments at appropriate intervals. Gwyn arrived. They seated her. She looked nervous. They offered chamomile tea which they knew was her favorite evening beverage. Marco perched nervously on the edge of his seat. Don cleared his throat. “We wonder if you’d consider staying on with us...I mean coming to Hawaii...rather than going back to England....” The stunned expression on Gwyn’s face brought Don’s presentation to an abrupt halt. After a pause, which seemed to Don and Marco to go on forever, Gwyn burst into tears and covered her face. “Is that a ‘no’?” asked a stunned Marco. “No!” sobbed Gwyn. This ambivalent, but emphatic, ‘no’ did little to reassure Don and Marco. “But...you can’t say no!” blurted Don. “I haven’t finished my presentation yet!” An overwrought Gwyn was unable to respond, only shaking her head. Water was fetched. Gwyn sipped and gradually recovered her composure. “Sorry...I mean ‘yes’ to your job offer! I’d like nothing more to stay with you. I’ve thought about it, and I know I can still do the job with having a babe of my own.” “Yeah, we thought of that,” said Marco. “We have some ideas....” ********* It was two fretful weeks before Don and Marco were told an official adoption hearing was scheduled. Tim Van Slade was able to put their mind somewhat at ease when he told them his report recommended approval. The judged granted the adoption order. Don and Marco told the children and tried to explain what that meant. Angie relieved by assurances that she wouldn’t be separated from her brothers. Leaving the ranch meant another change for the children—hopefully the last one for many years! On the last Wednesday of their Nebraska residency everyone said a tearful goodbye to Dusty and the horses. Two days later, at the end of August, they were on a chartered jet heading west toward their new home.
  9. This ranch house was to be their temporary home for six weeks or more. The Nebraska Child Protective Services deemed that to adopt a child from Nebraska state residency was mandatory. (The ranch, having been in the Deacon family for generations helped meet that requirement.) And, until the adoption was approved by the court, removing the children from the state could lead to charges of felony kidnapping. The ranch seemed as good a place as any to set up a legal, interim home. Besides the main house, two temporary structures had been installed on the periphery of the property for the security minders. So, home sweet home for six weeks or so. Brad declared, “This place is cool, dudes!” in an almost perfect imitation of Marco. Don looked at Marco and raised his eyebrows. Marco returned the look with a sheepish smile. Johnny was focussed on Rufus, he didn’t express an opinion on his new home one way or the other. Angie looked around cautiously. “What do you think, Angie?” asked Don. She gave that question some serious thought, and said, “It’s okay. Can we all have the same bedroom?” “For now, yes,” said Marco. It was already very clear that Angie had some serious anxiety issues. And who could blame her? Given the tragic and sudden disappearance of her parents, combined with the natural leadership expectations bestowed on eldest girls, she was dealing the best way she knew how. By taking charge and being in control. This sometimes translated into her being a tad bossy. It didn’t take a PhD in psychology to figure that out. The question, however, was what to do about it. Brad was easy going—perhaps a little too easy going—and mostly followed unquestioningly Angie’s dictates. Johnny didn’t care; he just sucked up affection like a sponge. He adored Don and was constantly asking for hugs and to be picked up and held. Brad had a serious case of hero worship for Marco and shadowed him everywhere when he could escape Angie’s smothering. Nebraska nights are very dark and crystal clear. Stars fill every corner of the sky, so close you can almost reach up and touch them. The first night on the ranch Marco grabbed a blanket and spread it on the grass. He got everyone to lie on their backs and he pointed out the major stars and constellations. He told stories—simplified Greek myths—about them that fascinated the children (and Don). This activity became a regular occurrence, and it didn’t take long for the older children to learn the names of several of the night sky’s major players. The next morning a big Ford F350 dually drove into the yard. It was Dusty from the main ranch. He explained that it was his job to check on this homestead every week to ‘keep things up.’ “You want me to bring a couple of horses over?” he asked, luckily out of the earshot of the children. “You could keep ‘em in that pole barn over there.” It was a good idea, but Don, who was used to looking at situations from a cost-benefit point of view, thanked Dusty for the offer and said they’d think about it. Horses were fun, yes. And looking after them encouraged responsibility. As Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” However, the downside was that horses were like kids and puppies, you could get attached to them real quick. Then what would happen when they had to leave Nebraska and say goodbye to the horses? The children didn’t need more ‘losses’ in their lives. Don and Marco were learning quickly that parenting required all kinds of decisions that weren’t necessarily cut and dried. Finally, in compromise, it was agreed that Dusty would bring the horses over once a week on a ‘borrowed’ basis. That evening, after the logistics of dinner, baths, stories, goodnight kisses, giving thanks and tucking ins were completed and the kids were finally asleep, Don and Marco had a chance to talk. They needed help....maybe. A nanny, Mary Poppins, kind of help. Someone with superpowers who was part psychologist, part medical doctor, part nutritionist, part recreation director, part executive assistant.... They phoned cousins Derrick and Gabe, who were always sensible about these things. (After all, it was they who found Robert the Magnificent.) “Write down what you want and expect, then phone that famous Nanny school in England,” they suggested. “Be clear about what you need, and you’ll find somebody perfect.” Each of the men approached the problem in their unique way. Marco said he could write an algorithm to analyse the options. Don lamented that he no longer had an executive assistant to whom he could delegate the task. It didn’t take long for ranch life to evolve into a routine. The children spent a lot of time outdoors. Dusty would bring the horses over on Wednesdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they took the children to a community swimming pool over in Scottsbluff. Marco was determined to teach them to swim before they went to Hawaii and ‘all that water.’ He also initiated balancing exercises on boards over a fulcrum so the children would eventually find balancing on a surfboard easier. The boys seemed healthy and well adjusted. They played games, they loved stories, they ran off their youthful energy outside with Rufus. Angie remained well behaved, but anxious. She worried if her brothers were out of sight for more than a few minutes. She arranged the food on her plate so that nothing was touching. She always stepped over the second step up to the porch because it creaked. When they baked she insisted that the measurement of ingredients was absolutely precise. When they played checkers she made sure the disks were exactly centered on the squares. In other words, she was obsessive-compulsive. Don and Marco were at a loss over it. Was it just a ‘normal’ childhood coping strategy, or was it the start of a deeper, crippling pathology? They waffled about hiring a nanny finding it difficult to admit they needed help. Determined to succeed on their own, they were loath to bring in an ‘outsider.’ The decision was forced one night when Don and Marco woke up to a cry from the children’s room. They donned robes and went to investigate. Angie was in Brad’s bed comforting him. “What happened?” asked Marco. “Brad was having a bad dream,” replied Angie as Brad sobbed quietly in her arms. “Has this happened before?” asked Don gently. “I can take care of him!” Angie said defiantly. But she reluctantly admitted that Brad had ‘bad dreams’ almost every night. There was absolutely no doubt now they needed help. Marco expressed the situation succinctly. “Don, we can’t fuck this up!” Although determined to be full-time parents, they finally admitted that it wasn’t necessarily best for the children if they tried to make a go of it alone. They spent the remainder of the night analysing their needs. They decided on a full-time ‘nanny/assistant’ employee, but not someone who lived-in. Instead, they would provide offsite, nearby, housing as a perquisite. Early the next morning they phoned the famous English nanny school. The placement officer of the school listened to them carefully and asked several clarifying questions. Unfortunately, graduates of the school are snapped up quickly, and she knew of no immediate candidates. She did promise, however, to ‘look around’ and see if she could find somebody that suited. She was not optimistic of immediate results, but she committed to calling back ‘either way.’ Don and Marco agreed to wait 48 hours before pursuing other avenues. The phone call came the next morning. A young woman, Gwyn Williams, miraculously met all their qualifications! Gwyn was a graduate of the Early Childhood Education Program at the University of Cardiff in Wales. Subsequent to that she attended the prestigious nanny program in Bath, UK. Her references were impeccable, her work ethic unimpeachable. She was available immediately. It all sounded too good to be true... And it was. Gwyn was available only for a temporary assignment. Why? Because she was five months pregnant! Nonetheless, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and Gwyn’s CV was emailed to them. Marco and Don read it over carefully. There was a picture included. Gwyn in her official nanny uniform wearing that ring funny little brimmed hat. Mostly, she was unremarkable, except for lively eyes which seemed to shine with mischief. Marco said he had a good feeling about her. Don agreed. Certainly, she’d be an immediate help, especially with Angie and Brad’s anxieties, and she would fill the gap until they were permanently settled in Hawaii. But would she want to come to the middle of Nebraska in her delicate condition? Apparently, yes. They set up a Skype interview. Gwyn had done her homework and knew there was an excellent medical clinic an hour’s drive from the homestead. She even agreed to have Cousin Gabe, who was a doctor, look over her medical records. Gwyn’s was a normal, healthy pregnancy, and Gabe concluded there was minimal risk to living an hour’s drive from the clinic. Providing, he added, that she had regular medical care. In any case, her duties wouldn’t be physically taxing and were primarily psychological in nature. Don and Marco, after the interview, and Gabe’s feedback, had a good feeling about her. They offered her a six week position. She accepted with alacrity. A few days later, temporary American work visa in hand, Gwyn flew (luxurious first class) British Airways, to Chicago where she changed to a private jet for the two hour flight to western Nebraska. Don and Marco left a reluctant Angie, and a horse happy Brad in Dusty’s care—it was Wednesday, and therefore horse day—and took Johnny with them to the airport in Scottsbluff to met Gwyn. As soon as she’d descended the steps of the little jet, all three ‘men’ were enchanted by her. She was outgoing, vibrant and no-nonsense all in one package. She was tall, Don estimated about 5’ 9”. Her face wasn’t necessarily ‘beautiful’ but it was animated, so that you wanted to focus on it. She made eye contact, not in an aggressive way, but in a way that told you that you were the most important person in her world at that moment. Within two minutes she, Don, Marco and Johnny were ‘best friends’ and interacting like they’d known each other for years. She was effusive in her praise of Johnny, but not patronizingly so. She clearly had an instinct for the arts of tact and of ‘balance.’ They climbed in the large SUV for the ride to the homestead. Johnny fell asleep almost immediately. Gwyn took the opportunity afforded by Johnny’s somnolence to address the ‘elephant in the room.’ “Right,” she began, “You probably want to know about this spot of trouble I’ve found myself in.” “Well,” responded Don tentatively, “We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t curious, would we? But it’s not our business, really. As long as you can fulfill your contract we’ll be happy.” “I think you deserve a little more than that, after all, we’ll be cheek by jowl for the next few weeks. It’s a matter of trust, isn’t it?” said Gwyn. She was quite matter of fact explaining that she had met a ‘wanker’ in a bar on a weekend trip to Paris. They went back to her hotel room. She threw caution to the wind. When she woke up in the morning the ‘wanker’ had disappeared. Soon after, she discovered she was in ‘the family way,’ and there was no doubt in her mind that she was going to keep the little sprout. Her employer wasn’t pleased and suggested she look for another job. (“I mean, they couldn’t fire me, could they? But I knew they’d make my life a misery, so I left without a fuss in exchange for an excellent reference... ‘Coz I really was good at my job, wasn’t I?”) “So,” she declared, “Here I am! And happy for it!” Gwyn, of course knew the outline of the situation with Don, Marco and the children, but she took the opportunity of the ride home to flesh out some details. The car eventually turned into a drive and Gwyn saw the little ‘village’ ahead. There was a main house, a couple of modest outbuildings and two caravan-like houses that Don explained were for the security detail. The car pulled to a stop in front of the main house and Gwyn’s new life began... Gwyn’s point of view: I was enchanted from the get-go! It was pandemonium, and it was bloody marvelous! Kids, dogs, cowboys and assorted others seemed to be everywhere and all talking at once. The little girl, obviously Angie, rushed out and hugged Don’s waist, relief written all over her little face. The boy, obviously Brad, hugged Marco. “Dude!” said Marco by way of greeting. The dog, Rufus? poked his nose in my crotch causing me to jump back. “Dude, your dog’s being rude!” said Marco to Brad. Brad admonished Rufus, “Bad dog! Come here!” and Rufus complied happily, tail wagging. A cowboy, Dusty? observed the goings on from the porch, leaning casually against a pillar, arms crossed. He looked the Marlboro man in his tight jeans and Stetson hat. From one of the caravans near the trees a woman emerged and sauntered over. “Our security supervisor,” Don said. Somehow introductions were made. I was, apparently to be called “Miss Gwyn” by the children. Otherwise, everyone was on a first name basis. What a contrast from my previous job! I’d worked for snooty, pretentious gits who insisted on calling me ‘Nanny Williams’, and I was address them as ‘Lady Patricia’ and ‘Lord Persom’ (he was an earl), and the children as ‘Lady Elspeth’ and ‘Lady Sarah.’ They were sweet girls, but never really allowed to be children. Instead, they always had to be immaculately dressed, occasionally seen, and never heard. In contrast, Angie, Brad and Johnny looked, and acted, like a group of ragamuffins. But they were happy, exuberant little ragamuffins. Best of all, Don and Marco were beaming with pride. I couldn’t help smiling, and a feeling of joy washed over me. Somehow, in the midst of all this confusion and noise and wide open country, I felt completely liberated! Like I’d been freed from jail! It made me feel clean and tall and confident and beautiful. What a strange, wild, informal, magical place America was! What a contrast from what I was used to. My dad was a vicar at a small parish just north of Cardiff. I had three younger siblings who, although boisterous at times, were expected to ‘restrain’ themselves. As the eldest I was expected to be ‘responsible.’ And I was responsible. A responsible child, a responsible student and a responsible employee. Until Paris. I wasn’t responsible in Paris, was I? So here I was on a temporary assignment in the middle of this vast country, surrounded by mayhem, vowing to myself I would never leave this warm rag-tag group. They might think they were sending me back to England in six weeks time, but they had another think coming. I’d found ‘our’ spiritual home; the babe and I were staying with this family, and I had six weeks to convince them of that fact! Dusty, from the porch called out, “Anybody hungry?” and was met with a chorus of ‘yesses.’ We all trooped into the charming little house where we used both the bathroom and kitchen sinks to wash our hands, everyone running around higgledy-piggledy. In the middle of the kitchen table was a platter piled high with...sandwiches? Well, there were chunks of bread with meat and lettuce and cheese here there and everywhere. Dusty pointed out, “The kids made the sandwiches!” Don enthusiastically declared, “They look delicious! Well done guys!” Marco said, “Dudes! Totally awesome...thank you!” “Grab a plate and dig in everybody,” ordered Dusty as he pulled a variety of beverages out of the refrigerator. Lady Patricia would have succumbed to an apoplectic fit at such a sight. I thought, very uncharitably, Stupid cow needs to get the poker out of her arse! I dug in like everybody else, and the sandwiches were the best I’d ever tasted! In spite of the seemingly randomness of the situation, I noticed that the children knew their table manners. They said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. They were reminded gently not to speak with their mouths full and complied obediently. Rufus, although begging, was not fed from the table. Don’s phone chirped with an incoming message which he ignored until the meal was finished. So, it was an easy-going household, but it had its rules. Once lunch was consumed and the clear up done (once again, the children were expected to do their bit), Dusty announced that he had to be getting the horses home. Don excused himself to check his phone messages. Marco volunteered that he and the kids take me on a tour of the grounds. We’d just admired the stream when the roar of a huge lorry pulling a house, similar to the two already sitting on the property, drew our attention. “Ah,” said Marco, “Your house has arrived.” “My house? I thought I’d be in the main house with you?” “No, we thought you’d like your own space, and privacy. I think you’ll like it, it’s a park model RV. They come all set up with everything you need. Even dishes and linens!” Like it! I’d never lived in anything more than a shared room or tiny bedsit in my life, and they were giving me my own little house! “It’s wonderful!” I gushed fighting back tears. “It’s going to be set up just over there,” pointed Marco. “Should be ready in about an hour.” Don called out from the main house, “While they’re setting up Gwyn’s house, c’mon in here I’ve got something to show y’all.” He’d just received, via email, the photos of the house on which they had a purchase option in Hawaii. We all gathered around the computer to look. It was magnificent. Breathtaking! All open plan and high ceilings with fans. There was a gorgeous courtyard pool, and the house itself was situated on a long white sand beach. I counted six bedrooms on the floor plan. “Don, it’s perfect!” said Marco reaching down and hugging Don from behind and kissing his cheek. I noticed there was no reluctance to show affection in front of the kids and me (a virtual stranger, really). Marco’s accent kept changing. In the UK we’re very attuned to speech patterns and Marco’s seemed to switch from what I’d dubbed ‘California Hippie’ to ‘Educated Middle Class’ quite randomly. “What do you think, Dudes?” he asked, the California accent back. “Castles beach, Kailua! Primo surfing right outside our door!” “Cool!” declared Brad. “Um...it’s nice...” said Angie tentatively. “Can we still share a bedroom?” “Well, that’s certainly negotiable,” said Don, giving me a speaking look. I’d certainly noticed Angie’s obsessive-compulsive quirks and insecurities and realized that I had my job cut out for me. That, after all, was why I was there. “Listen, guys, do you like the house?” asked Don Imagine that, I thought, He’s including the children in the decision! Angie looked at Brad for an almost telepathic approval and, receiving it, said simply, “Yes.” “Excellent!” said Don. “Outstanding!” said Marco. “Angie, Brad,” I said, “Why don’t we go watch the men finish setting up my house while your dads talk to the estate agent in Hawaii,” I said. Don and Marco looked at me gratefully while the children and I trooped out the door with Brad pulling me along by the hand and Rufus jumping around excitedly. Back to Don and Marco: “She’s a keeper,” said Don. “Totally,” agreed Marco. “Too bad she’s only here for six weeks.”
  10. Donald Deacon, as CEO of the Dea-Con Foundation, was one of the most powerful men in America, yet little was known about him. Introverted—some would say shy—he avoided social gatherings and cultivated few friends. His father, Darius, and his brother, Darius, were the faces of the Dea-Con Corporation. They were the ones attending the glittering galas and being photographed warmly shaking politicians’ hands. Accolades and praise were heaped on them for the billions of dollars the Dea-Con Foundation disbursed to various good causes every year. But it was Don who oversaw the smooth running of the Foundation and set its philanthropic policies. As a second son, Don had been groomed from a young age to run the Foundation. His older brother, Darius, had, of course, been groomed to head the Corporation. That was the way it was in the Deacon family, the direction of which was modeled on the British aristocracy model. Older sons, or daughters, inherit the ‘title.’ Subsequent children could do what they wanted provided they didn’t cause trouble. But after Uncle Douglas’s defection to Buddhism, Don’s grandfather and father stepped in to steer him in the direction of the Foundation. To keep him ‘in the family’ as it were. If he’d wanted to, Don could have played a much more public role in the Foundation. But he made it clear from a very early age that he shunned the limelight. He cultivated, and was content with, anonymity. He was in all respects an ordinary man. Not short, but not tall either. His body, although well toned from regular gym workouts, lacked that sort of look-at-me shape of the typical gym bunny. His facial features were even and pleasantly portioned, but a certain roundness to his jaw lent an ordinariness to his looks. His strawberry blond hair was thick and lustrous, but he wore it short and conservatively styled. Then he stepped out of character and married a free spirit. Don’s husband, Marco, was every bit the image of a free spirit—some might label him a hippie. He was tall and rangy and strikingly dark, except for his startling blue eyes. He wore his jet black hair in a queue tied at the nape of his neck. His face was all planes and shadows. High, prominent cheekbones set off a long, Roman nose. His lips were full and sensual, perched as they were on a leading chin. Definitely counter culture, but also a genius. Marco had a PhD in Astrophysics from MIT and was currently employed in a post-doctorate fellowship by an observatory in Hawaii. A mathematical prodigy, he wrote algorithms to filter out background noise from cosmic signals for the study of black holes, specifically the gravitational effect thereof. He often worked at night using his facility’s super computer. Although he enjoyed the company of his colleagues, he found he could concentrate better when undisturbed. Undisturbed, like when he was on his surf board. Few of his colleagues also knew that he was a passionate surfer. He enjoyed nothing better than seeking the perfect wave while hanging out with like-minded, half naked, ‘surfer’ dudes and girls. In fact, he and Don met at the beach. Marco had spotted the self-contained man sitting watching his cousin, who was one of Marco’s surfing buddies. For some reason, the very un-surfer-like dude drew him like a magnate, and the rest, they say, was history. Now here they were, over a year later, happily married, living the good life on the Big Island of Hawaii. They were the proverbial two peas in a pod. Every love cliché ever penned applied to them; they couldn’t get enough of each other. Their bodies’ hummed in tuning fork precision when they were together. Marco even wrote a mathematical proof about it, which is the closest thing to a love poem that a mathematician can do. They ached when they were apart, even for a few hours. Which was a problem, because they spent far too much time apart. Don spent part of every week in San Francisco on Foundation business, and Marco’s fellowship demanded long hours in the lab. As newlyweds do, they ignored the not-quite-right situation, sweeping their frustrations under the carpet, avoiding conflict. Marco felt it wasn’t his place to ask Don to stay home more. Don ‘understood’ that a mathematical genius would need to spend long hours ciphering. Neither having had a significant other before, they didn’t recognize the warning signs. The pressure built, little by little, and just like the volcano on the Big Island the release came in a fiery eruption. Accusations were thrown, voices were raised, tears were shed. Either one could have won an Oscar for his performance of the ‘wronged man.’ Fortunately, the battle lasted only a few intense minutes before they, as many couples before them did, ended up in bed having incredible, intense make-up sex. Then, as they should have done before the situation reached critical mass, they talked. And talked. And talked. They were in total agreement on one thing: they wanted, no needed, to spend more time together. And, logically speaking, it wasn’t like they needed jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. So, bottom line, what could they realistically do? Marco wanted to be free of ‘academic bullshit’ to be with Don, work on his equations, and spend more time surfing where, he told Don, he did some of his best thinking. Don, in all honesty, simply wanted to start a family and be a stay-at-home dad. “What’s stopping us?” asked Don. The next day he phoned his executive vice president and told her she was taking over his duties immediately, and that he was supporting her as his permanent replacement. Marco spent the day at the facility finishing the algorithm he was working on. When it was done, he walked to the lab director’s office and handed him his security pass and key card. He said thank you and goodbye, and left. They made love repeatedly that night. Don ignored repeated phone calls from his father. The next day they chartered a sailboat at the marina and had it take them to Honolulu where they’d arranged to spend a week as guests of Don’s cousin Derrick and his husband, Gabe. They’d use that time to ‘think things over.’ Once Don’s father got over the surprise at Don’s sudden departure from the Foundation, he said he fully understood and supported Don and Marco’s decision. In typical Deacon fashion he said, “You can do anything you want. Just as long as it’s not illegal or immoral.” Derrick and Gabe were also very supportive of their new venture, as directionless as it was for the moment. Marco enjoyed a few days surfing and thinking, while Don sat on the beach doing his own thinking. They spent hours talking to Derrick and Gabe about the ‘reality’ of having children. “Nothing is more rewarding or frustrating,” they were told. “Even with help, it’s an unremitting commitment. And if your kids are in school you’re tied to one place for ten months a year!” It sounded like a big job to Don and Marco. Was the aggravation really worth it? What tipped the scales in favor was watching Derrick and Gabe and their friends, Jordan and Kelly, with their boys. They could see how demanding the two very active youngsters were. Every spare moment the parents had seemed to be taken up with child-rearing activities. Yet the parents showed almost infinite patience—not that they let the boys take advantage of them, there were obvious boundaries and rules and limits. . More than obvious, however, and what really sold Don and Marco on the idea of parenthood, was the love the parents and children shared that was demonstrated in countless tangible and intangible ways every day. Adoption or surrogacy? There were advantages and disadvantages to either route, but in the end they concluded adoption was the better choice for them irrespective of the fact that a ‘biological’ child of Don’s would have Deacon DNA, therefore the child, or children, would be eligible for Dea-Con shares. Don felt that was discriminatory to Marco, whom he felt protective of. Plus they had the example of several adoptions within their circle of friends, which they admired and respected. To create fiduciary fairness for the child, or children, Don negotiated (more like extorted) a multi-billion dollar trust settlement from the Dea-Con board. (The logic being that adoption was more beneficial in the long run for the existing shareholders and their biological decedents.) It only took a few phone calls, and with Gramps in their corner, the trust was unanimously approved. At Derrick and Gabe’s urging, the search for eligible children was contracted to Sam Kozitsky’s former ‘spy’ team who had the means to search any and all necessary electronic records. Nonetheless, they wanted a legitimate, legal, state sanctioned adoption. Of course the Deacon ‘influence’ was a big help in cutting through red tape. Their preference was for a family of two or three sibling children. Sam, who had experience with adoption—both his boys were adopted—assured them that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of just such children in need of adoptions. Once the ball was rolling, Don and Marco traveled to Fiji where Marco surfed by day while Don relaxed and read. They passed several idyllic and hedonistic days, and when they weren’t making love, they talked about their future. Specifically, where they should ‘settle.’ They wanted to make the right choice because, once committed, with children in school, they would be there for a long time. Sam had told them it wouldn’t take long to find kids, and it didn’t. Three recently orphaned children (a girl 8, a boy 5, and a boy 18 months) were in immediate need. They were Nebraskans whose parents had been tragically killed in a multi-car crash on I80 the previous winter. All attempts to place them with relatives had failed. They were temporarily housed in a group foster home awaiting a more long-term placement. The case worker was nearly at his wits end trying to find a placement that would keep the children together. The Deacons pulled strings at the highest level, and the governor—not immune to appropriate incentives—was onside, but insistent that ‘procedure be followed.’ In other words, he was, as politicians do, covering his ass. Sam explained that the eight year old had taken on the role of ‘mother-protector’ and it was mainly she who needed to be won over. The children, who were naturally suffering the trauma of losing their parents and removed from their home and friends, were in otherwise good physical health. The Protection Services case worker invited Don and Marco to come to Omaha and spend time—as much time as necessary—getting to know the children before proceeding with the adoption process. Meanwhile, photos of the children were emailed, and against all rational logic, Don and Marco fell instantly in love. They were excited and terrified. And not ready! “We still haven’t decided where to live!” lamented Marco. “Marco, think!” said Don. You want to be near a surfing spot, right? Where would that be?” “Well, there’s Fiji,” said Marco, since they were there at that moment. “Australia. New Zealand, South Africa, Canary Islands, Namibia, the Maldives, California, Tofino, BC. Those are all world-renowned spots. I could write an algorithm, putting in all the factors, then we’d have our answer!” (Don rolled his eyes, but Marco was nothing, if not serious, about his mathematics.) “There’s one other fairly obvious one,” encouraged Don. Marco thought for a few seconds. “Hawaii!” “Yes!” said Don. “Didn’t you say that Oahu has three of the top surfing spots in the world?” “Do you think Derrick and Gabe will mind if we invade their territory?” asked Marco. “I could work that into the algorithm.” When asked, Derrick and Gabe didn’t mind at all. In fact they were delighted and more than encouraging, pointing out the many advantages of Hawaii. Don and Marco engaged the services of a property manager in Honolulu and gave her a rough idea of what they wanted: Beachfront, good neighborhood, large house, a second, neighboring house for the security minders. Naturally, they were willing to pay a premium for the right properties. The agent said that often beachfront homes were bought by investors looking to make a quick profit, and Don and Marco could be optimistic about getting what they needed. Two days later, after receiving a detailed report about the children, special delivered from Sam Kozitsky, Don and Marco’s chartered jet landed in Omaha where they were they whisked to the offices of the Child Protection Services Branch. They were kept waiting at least thirty minutes in a room fitted with plastic chairs and year-old, dog eared issues of Good Housekeeping and Time. Don was fuming; he’d never in his life been treated in such an insulting manner! Marco who, like most average Americans, had been subjected to the vagaries of government employees, advised him to “Chill Bro.’” Finally! They were called in by a harried looking, and somewhat confused, case worker who introduced himself as Tim Van Slade. “So you guys are interested in adopting the Allenby children?” “There’s no interested about it,” said Don in his most authoritative, aristocratic voice. “We are going to adopted them.” “Yes, well, I’ve been told by the director, who was apparently told by the governor, to cooperate. Just who are you people anyway?” “People with a lot of clout,” replied Don coolly. “Yes... Well, these kids need a good home. They’re really sweet. Easy to love. In fact, my wife and I considered applying to adopt them, but we already have three kids.... But my instructions were to cooperate and expedite, but also to follow all due procedure, and that could take months, maybe a year or more! You can understand my concern about the children going to a good home. My job is to protect kids. Clout or not, I will stop this adoption like that (he snapped his fingers) if I feel any discomfort about it. I’ll...I’ll...go to the president if I have to! Let me check your application and see what we’ve got.” He read quietly for a few moments. “This defies belief! The process is...well underway... Ah, I see you are resident in rural Harrison, in the northwest corner of the state. Everything is in order...state tax returns, drivers’ licences, voter registration. The application is complete...there’s a record of your initial interview...background checks...oh, and look here...a home inspection. All approved, of course. And what’s this?...records of renunciation of guardianship by all of the children’s surviving relatives. Now the renunciation doesn’t surprise me, we asked all of them, and they all made excuses...but to get their actual sign-off on guardianship...and duly approved by a judge...now that’s nothing short of miraculous! What’s next? Are you going to pull rabbits out of your asses for me?” “Dude, there’s no need to get snarky,” said Don in his best surfer dude accent. “Indeed not,” said Don aristocratically. “Okay, I get the CIA shit and the NSA computer hacking shit, and all the corner cutting bullshit that you guys are pulling off. But is any of this crap true?” he asked redundantly, waving at his computer screen. “And, most importantly, true or not, what I really want to know is: are you decent human beings and will you make good parents for these kids?” “Yes!” Don and Marco chorused. “Yes to both questions,” added Don. “We do have a residence in rural Nebraska. It’s part of a ranch that spreads across the border into Wyoming. It’s been in the family for generations. As for making good parents, well, we hope so, and we will do our utmost. We’ve got family and friends with adopted children and those kids are thriving, so we’ve got lots of support. Will we be perfect? Probably not. But we’ll do our best, I can promise you that.” Marco switched to his MIT accent and said, “Tim, if you honestly think we’re not parent material we’ll accept that. But don’t judge us superficially. Don’s family has money and power and influence, and I had to cut through that shit—overcome my own negative prejudices—to realize that Don is one of the nicest, most decent, people to walk this earth.” “And Marco,” added Don, “Is a genius with a heart of gold.” “Okay...” said Tim contemplatively as his body language changed to a more easy, open posture. He’d somehow decided that Don and Marco were okay. “Well, if you’re serious you can meet the kids tomorrow. How about 10am at the group home? They’ll be expecting us. Angie, the oldest, is quite precocious, and she understands what ‘adoption’ means. Brad, the middle boy understands that he might be getting a new mummy and daddy. Sorry about the hetero bias, it didn’t occur to us that a gay couple might adopt, although that’s perfectly permissible in Nebraska. The youngest boy, Johnny, just wants comfort and love. Well, they all do. Their parents, apparently, were quite affectionate, mores the pity. For the moment, the house parents at the group home are doing a wonderful job with them, but they’re stretched thin. I know they’re kind and loving as much as they can be...really, if nothing else, the kids are lucky there.” As soon as Don and Marco left Tim’s office, Don called Susan Daniels and expressed his concern about the hetero bias Tim had inadvertently let slip. Marco had picked up on the same thing. Kids can pick up on very subtle messages as well. Did Tim have his own agenda—even a subconscious one—in spite of the orders he’d received from on high? He seemed to be on board, but a good offense is often better than a good defense, especially in a state as red as Nebraska. Susan Daniels understood their concern, but said not to worry. She’d take care of it. “Trust me,” she said, “I’ve dealt with this nonsense all too often.” That night, Don and Marco found sex to be a delightful outlet for all the worry and anxiety they were experiencing about the next day’s meeting. After their post coital breathing slowed to normal, Marco said, “I think we just discovered a new wrinkle in the space-time continuum.” “How’s that?” “Well, when you had your legs up over your head and I was kinda angled sideways...well, it defied the laws of gravity, and physics, and quantum mechanics!” “Awe, Marco, you’re so sweet....” They arrived on time for their appointment the next morning. Tim was already there. The group home manager, Lisette, ushered them into a sitting room where they caught their first sight of the children perched on the couch. Angie was holding Johnny on her knee and Brad was snuggled up to her side. Her arms were wrapped protectively around the boys. Mother-protector, indeed, thought Don. In plain sight on the coffee table were two books. Two Very Interesting books: Two Dads by Carolyn Robertson, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine and Melody Sarecky. Introductions were made, and Don and Marco were directed to seats across from the children who stared round-eyed at them. It was all either man could do not to rush over and hug the three adorable children. Lisette began, “We’ve told the children that you, Don and Marco, are potential adoptive parents, and well...these wonderful books arrived this morning from...uh...the governor’s office, so we’ve just finished reading them. Susan Daniels had come through. Don, who was used to taking charge in the boardroom, led the charge. He directed his question to the children. “And what do you think of the idea of having two dads?” Angie lifted her little chin and said quite assertively. “We don’t need a mother. We have me!” “Yes, and I bet you are more than capable of taking care of the boys,” agreed Don. “It’s a big job, though. Perhaps Marco and I can help a little?” “I’ve assured the children that they’d all be together, in the same house,” said Tim. “Oh, that’s for sure!” added Marco. “You can even have the same bedroom if you like. It’ll be your choice.” Angie wordlessly consulted the boys, who seemed to answer, wordlessly, in the affirmative. “Yes,” said Angie. “Yes?” repeated Don. “Yes, you can adopt us.” “Whoa, not so fast,” interjected Tim. “There’s a process to follow, Angie.” “Why?” Angie asked. “You said we could go live with them if we liked them! You promised! They’re nice! We like them! You said we might not be able to stay together! And then you said we could because you found a...um...potent...family! You can’t change your mind! We have to stay together!” Tears glistened in her grown up, eight year old eyes. Although instructed not to touch the children, Marco sprang up and went to Angie putting his arm around her and encompassing Brad also. “Oh Angie! ... Everything will be alright. Don and I will take good care of you all. You’ll see!” Angie sniffled, but some of the tension drained from her thin shoulders. “Rufus,” said Brad. “Rufus?” said Don. “Our dog, Rufus. He couldn’t come with us here, but you have to ‘dopt him too!” explained Brad. “And where is Rufus?” Marco asked Tim. “Uh...he’s in a shelter over in Sutton. It’s about two hours from here.” Don pulled out his phone and sent a text: Find dog Rufus. Shelter in Sutton NE. “Rufus would like the ranch, I think,” said Don. “Ranch...?” said Angie. “Yeah, that’s where we’ll live for a couple of months, until school starts. It’s in Nebraska, way over by Wyoming. It’s a working ranch. Cowboys, horses, cows, and lots of sheep.” “Cowboys!” said Brad. “Wufus!” said Johnny. “Wufus!” After several simple questions to the children--What is your favorite food? What are your favorite toys? TV program? Movies?—they took their leave with a promise of an outing to the park the next day. Once outside, Tim said, “That went well. The kids took to you. As you saw, Angie is eight going on thirty, but she’s got good survival instincts, and, most importantly, she trusts you.” The next day Don, Marco and Tim escorted the children to the park where they walked, fed the ducks and entertained themselves at the children’s playground. Angie seemed taken with Don and she didn’t stay far from him. Johnny was in his stroller, but he didn’t like the confinement so he walked hand-in-hand with Don but mostly Don carried him on his shoulders. Brad took to Marco and the two of them were having a great time conversing about everything and nothing. “Don, can I talk to you in private for a minute?” asked Tim. “Sure. Angie, can you take Johnny over to Marco for a minute? We won’t be long.” “I’ve got pretty good intuition,” began Tim. “And I think you guys would make good dads for this brood—which is pretty much a done deal, is it not?” “Yes, my family...well...we get things done. You know?” “Yes. I figured that out two days ago. There’s the plane you came on. Everybody in Omaha is talking about it. Then there are the security guards that seem to shadow you everywhere. So you’re rich; you can afford kids. But that doesn’t necessarily make kids happy. You haven’t said much about your life. I mean, obviously, you’re not going to settle in Nebraska. Where do you really live? Where will the kids end up? More importantly, what will life be like for them? I mean, what will it really be like?” “Well, it’s no secret that we’re a rich family, and by that I mean all my relatives, collectively. The minute the ink’s dry on the adoption papers these kids will have big trust funds. Beyond that the kids will be loved. Marco and I intend to be hands-on parents. The kids will have routines, chores and rules just like other kids. Deacons are good at teaching their kids responsibility, and instilling good morals.” “So they won’t grow up to be spoiled rich kids...” summarized Tim. “Not if we can help it,” replied Don. They were joined by Marco and the children at that point and Brad was excited to be the spokesman who announced that, “Marco promised us ICE CREAM!” Johnny said, “Up.” So Don swung him onto his shoulders again where he immediately started to bounce and point. “Wufus!” he yelled. “Wufus.” Everyone’s eyes turned in the direction of a man leading a scruffy looking dog, who was vigorously straining at his leash to get to the children and barking joyously. “Rufus!” yelled Angie and Brad together. It was quite a reunion once the leash had been passed to Brad and the security guy withdrew. Rufus barked and whined. The kids were shouting with joy, jumping around wildly stirring Rufus up to a near frenzy of excitement. Tim raised his eyebrows and gave Don and Marco a pointed look that said, Let’s see what you’re going to do about this, then. Marco’s voice broke through the din. “Dudes! Too excited. Need to chill!” Immediately the kids obeyed. How did he just do that? wondered Don. The noise and excitement abated somewhat. Rufus stopped barking and stood quietly wagging his tail like mad. Angie on her knees cooed quietly to him. Brad stroked his back. Johnny grabbed his tail, which Rufus tolerated remarkably well. Rufus was not an attractive dog. Part German Shepherd and part Scottish Terrier, he looked like a miniature version of the Hound of the Baskervilles with wiry hair sticking up in all directions. But his face bore a happy expression and his eyes were bright and eager. Ice cream forgotten for the moment, the kids raced around with Rufus bounding along, running in circles and rolling on the ground. It wasn’t an off leash park, so Rufus was tethered and, luckily, when the leash was dropped, as it was frequently, Rufus stuck close. Unfortunately, when it was time to leave the park the kids kicked up a fuss about not being able to take Rufus ‘home’ with them. Don explained that the rules didn’t allow Rufus to stay at their house. He would instead be staying in a luxurious doggy hotel for a few days until the children came to live with Don and Marco permanently. All three children wore pouty expressions, but they didn’t put up much of an argument. That made Don feel particularly sad because he realized their parents had done such great job in instilling good behavior and manners and probably gave the kids a lot of love in the process. He sent up a little prayer to them promising to carry on their legacy. The next day went much the same, with the children and dog running wild in the park. That afternoon, they received word that their foster parent application had been approved by the court. With Tim’s sign-off on the paperwork they were free to take the children to the ranch in northwestern Nebraska. The next morning they all said a tearful goodbye to Lisette and Tim. The flight to Western Nebraska Regional Airport took less than an hour. The kids were curious about the plane and explored every inch available to them. “It’s like a house!” declared Angie. Once they landed, they were driven to the ranch by the security agents who had made the long overnight trip in SUVs. The ranch, which seemed out in the middle of nowhere was on a meandering creek just east of the border with Wyoming. It was flat, unforgiving country, but the homestead was picturesque with green grass and a copse of surrounding trees. The house was adequate. It was built in the classic ranch style with two stories and a wraparound porch. It wasn’t large, but it would do for the six weeks or so that they’d stay there. That’s how long they were told it would take to finalize the adoption process and the children could be taken out of state.
  11. The two days we spent with Derrick’s parents at Orcas Island were disconcerting. They were preoccupied and eccentric; their entire focus had become translating ancient Chinese Buddhist texts. To that end, they were acquiring—either buying or borrowing—rare and priceless manuscripts, then inviting experts—either university professors or Buddhist monks—to become ‘resident monks’ helping with the translations into English. It was intense work, often generating arguments about what the ancient Chinese symbols ‘meant’. Mom wasn’t quite as engrossed in the work as Dad. She, at least, was interested in how Dane and Cass were getting on, and what Derrick and I were getting up to. Dad, on the other hand, was off in his own world, sometimes just getting up and wandering away from a meal or a conversation. I thought it was just plain weird, but Derrick said they’d always been like that, with their heads in the clouds. The behaviour was just getting more pronounced as they aged. In spite of Derrick’s reassurances, I was determined to keep an eye on them lest Douglas be slipping into a dementia like Alzheimer’s. Derrick, of course, could read me like a book, and he knew that my lack of acquiescence to that statement meant I was concerned. He gave me a searching look and said, “We’ll keep a good eye on them. Especially Dad. Okay?” While I was feeling meddlesome, I figured I might as well address the situation of my aunt and uncle, and their boys, in Manitoba. From what Robert had reported, something didn’t quite add up. My guess that their resistance to being helped stemmed from that Canadian pioneer spirit with its philosophy of ‘make your own way in the world’ and ‘don’t be beholden to anyone.’ I was certainly guilty of the same line of reasoning: I’d tried to break up with Derrick when I found out he was rich. I empathized with Zena and Mike, but again, through the lens of my own experience, knew that accepting someone’s aid didn’t necessarily put you in a subservient position. To pass the time on the plane ride home, I opened up the security report I’d had prepared on them. An invasion of privacy, to be sure, but necessary to ensure I wasn’t planning on supporting a completely dysfunctional family. The portrait painted by the report showed a typical small business owner who struggled from year to year to keep out of the red. Mike drove a nice truck, but it was leased through his landscaping company. They owned a house on two acres on which there was also a large workshop for Mike. Zena drew a wage from the company for bookkeeping, but she also took in sewing and was known as an excellent seamstress. Their mortgage was nearly paid off, but there was a new application, presumably for Mike Junior’s college tuition. They had very little in the way of retirement savings. Mike paid himself a modest wage through the company, but the company’s profits were minimal, some years even producing small losses. I got the picture of a determined, hard-working, proud family. Their expenditure history showed little in the way of extravagance. Except for Zena’s recent trip to Zurick, (which had been paid for by my mother), the family hadn’t taken a vacation in years. The boys had both played hockey, which was pretty much de rigueur for any Canadian youth. The plane touched down in Honolulu, and as soon the plane’s engines been shut down, and the stairs lowered, Robert ‘released’ Dane—think of a pit bull straining at a leash—and he came rushing into the plane for hugs. You’d have thought we’d been gone for two months instead of just two days. Derrick carried him off the plane (he refused to get down and walk, determined not to let Derrick ‘get away’ again) and I followed greeting Robert with a handshake at the bottom of the steps. Robert was smiling, but there was something just a little off in his expression—embarrassment, or guilt?—and the cause was obvious. There were abrasions on cheek and lip, which was also a bit swollen. He saw me looking and tried to deflect my attention away from his face by exclaiming an enthusiastic Welcome Home! and what a Beautiful Day! it was in Honolulu as he pointed to the sky. Obviously he didn’t want to talk about his face, so I let the subject go...for the time being. Trouble was, his diversionary tactics only made me more curious. I was determined to get to the bottom of that little mystery later. Besides, there wasn’t an opportunity at that time. Dane was demanding one hundred percent of our attention and clinging to Derrick like a limpet. He’d drawn us pictures including one quite good one of an Orca which we admired. Then he regaled us with how he’d been treated royally at Alfy’s house, with the unstated implication that he wouldn’t mind being treated like that at home! They’d practiced the Hula. Kelly and Jordan taught them more Hawaiian words, and Kelly had PROMISED! to treat Alfy and him to a ride in an outrigger WAR! canoe soon. And Patsy had been allowed to sleep ON the bed with him. The latter I was NOT pleased about but there was no use mentioning it to Kelly, he’d just laugh at me and tell me to chill. Well, there were ways to get even. Maybe next time Alfy was over I’d feed him a bunch of sugary treats and send him home on a sugar high. Deal with that, Kelly! Robert had everything organized, so we didn’t have to worry about a thing except giving Dane the attention he needed. Once home, it took two complete stories and Derrick lying on the bed with him to calm Dane down and get him to sleep. The next morning, Robert pulled me aside before we embarked on our day’s routines. He was obviously agitated, and had difficulty starting the conversation that he seemed so eager to have. “Robert, is everything okay? You want to discuss something personal with me?” I prompted. “Um...yes... Well, Dr. Gabe, it’s just that...well... Is it okay for me to have a boyfriend?” I was delighted he’d found a ‘boyfriend,’ but felt bad that he even needed to ask that question. I understand why he did though. His contract stipulated a ‘flexible schedule’ of 40 hours per week for which he was paid an annual salary. In reality, he often worked very long days. In fact I’d told him several times to take time off and he’d ignored me. Getting him to go to Winston’s picnic had been like pulling teeth. Ah, the picnic, I thought. The blind date! The problem was that Robert didn’t have any regularly ‘scheduled’ time off—it just wasn’t an issue we’d faced—making ‘dating’ a challenge. “The blind date guy? Keno, was it?” I asked. “Yes,” Robert sighed, then explained how Keno had come over and spent two nights. He was very concerned how Derrick and I felt about that. I couldn’t answer for Derrick, of course, but I was delighted to hear Robert had met a potential ‘boyfriend.’ I offered my blessing on the relationship and reassured Robert that Derrick would likely feel the same way. It was a tricky conversation because Robert was more than just an employee. He was a de facto family member and as much as we tried to clarify employer/employee boundaries they often shifted unexpectedly, like now. Robert seemed pleased with my position on the matter. He thanked me, and assured me that he and Keno would be discrete, and he would let nothing come in the way of doing ‘the best job he could’ for us. But I had to ask... “Robert, what happened to your face?” A very alarmed look passed over his face before he regained his composure. “I knew you’d be concerned, Dr. Gabe, and I thought I better tell you the truth.” Then, much to my surprise, he blurted out the story of a wild night of passion, thankfully leaving out most of the details, but he told me about breaking the lamp and falling off the couch onto the coffee table. I burst out laughing. “You were that wild?” I asked incredulously. “Yes. It was like a damn bursting and all this emotion just came pouring out,” he said very seriously. After I stopped laughing—poor Robert was not amused; his serious expression did not falter—I redirected our conversation to our daily business, in particular a project I’d been thinking about for several months. I wanted Dane to be aware of his heritage. To that end I was drafting a proposal to present to the Tribal Council of which Dane’s home reserve was a member. My idea was to create a summer workshop where children would learn about their culture. The ideas I had in mind were arts and crafts, language, dance, spiritual pursuits, nature hikes, and so forth. Really, there were unlimited opportunities for children to learn about, and become proud of, their heritage. It was a little self-serving, I will admit, but I thought it had a wider benefit than just meeting our needs. Robert had been assisting me with the project, and to that end he had arranged for me to attend a meeting and make my presentation. It was perfect timing because I’d also stop in Winnipeg and talk to my Aunt Zena and her family. From there I’d fly on to Flin Flon, Manitoba, for my meeting with the tribal council. I felt guilty for going away again so soon after our last trip, but this time Derrick was staying home so Dane didn’t seem to mind in the least. I think he’d figured out that with one parent away the other would, perhaps, bend the rules a little. Pizza, ice cream, more story time, dog sleeping on bed (after Kelly’s sabotage on that score it looked like a losing battle in any case). Zena and Mike agreed to a meeting, and their attitude was thawing a little as evidenced by there suggestion that they bring the boys to the airport to meet me. Ryan, their younger son, and aspiring pilot, would be thrilled to see the plane. So Robert arranged it that the family got VIP treatment at the civil aviation facility, and once the plane’s door opened, and Canadian Immigration had cleared our entry, they were escorted out to join me in the plane. Zena entered first, looked around wide-eyed and gave me a shy smile. I welcomed here with a hug. Mike senior entered next. He was a well built man with muscles honed from years of hard work. His face weathered from hours in the sun. The boys were right behind him so introductions were done quickly. I gave them a quick tour of the interior. Not surprisingly they were all awestruck. Zena was quiet but Mike and the boys were thoroughly enjoying themselves. I could tell Mike senior had a special rapport with his boys. Alexander, our flight attendant, pointed out the safety features of the cabin and the amenities of the galley, bedroom and lavs. Ryan was enraptured with the cockpit as Joe pointed out the main controls and computers. Unbeknownst to the boys I’d arranged a little surprise with their parents’ permission. “Anybody up for a short flight?” I asked. The boys couldn’t believe their good luck after being reassured by their parents that it was allowed. They got to choose their seats, then Alexander explained what the procedures were, just as if they were clients who had booked a private flight. Alexander served beverages as Joe went through pre-flight procedures. Take off terrified and thrilled them. Once we reached cruising altitude for the hour-long flight Alexander served the hot beef tenderloin meals we’d had especially brought on board. After that the co-pilot, Anne (a contract employee) vacated her seat and the three ‘boys’ all took turns sitting there with Joe pointing out ‘live’ features of the cockpit. After Mike Junior had returned from his turn in the cockpit I mention I’d heard he was interested in becoming a doctor and asked him if he had any questions for me. He asked me several good questions that illustrated he’d well researched the field. I asked him if he was willing to commit the next few years living, working and breathing toward his goal. He assured me, quite emphatically, that he was, and I got the impression he meant what he said. Once back on the ground Zena and Mike took the boys home and the crew and I dispersed to our hotel for some much needed rest. I had arranged to visit Mike and Zena the next morning when the boys were at school. I hoped our discussions would go well; the boys were obviously well cared for and well brought up. I couldn’t see Mike and Zena throwing roadblocks up against their futures. It turned out that, not surprisingly, my father had done something to deeply offend Mike and Zena. They refused to give me the details, but I strongly suspect that he had sexually assaulted Zena (remember, she is several years younger than my mother). Mike said that he couldn’t hold me accountable for my father’s actions, and I’d more than demonstrated I was a decent sort of guy. He told me how much the boys had appreciated the plane ride and how special that was for them all; that it was a very generous action on my part. We established a sort of wary trust. I remembered my lesson from Derrick’s mom, Mackenzie, from many years ago, telling them that we were offering ‘no strings attached’ - ‘because you are family’ help. I even pulled out her analogy of giving the boys tools to build a house, but it was up to them to build the house. I think Mike, particularly, liked that because he was a self-made man. They wanted what was best for their boys and it only took a little push to convince them our (for I always made sure that they realized Derrick and I were partners in crime, so to speak) offer of help was unconditional, and that it would truly be an honor for us to assist. I was blunt about Mike Junior’s medical school prospects and why the Caribbean was a good opportunity for him. Flying school for Ryan wasn’t a problem. There were many available options for that; it really depended on what Ryan preferred. With those issues more or less settled we moved on to more general topics. They asked about life in Hawaii, and Mike joked that it was every Canadian’s dream to go someplace warm in the winter, which was a perfect segue into my next agenda item. “Maybe that dream could become a reality for you and Zena,” I said. “I know you both work tirelessly, as entrepreneurs, to provide for your family. Ever think of slowing down? Maybe retiring, now that the boys are leaving the nest, so to speak?” Mike’s face clouded with anger. It was a touchy subject, as I knew it would be given they had almost no resources for retirement. “That’s none of your concern,” he said through clenched teeth. “Sorry, Mike,” I quickly said. “I know that was tactless of me, but I wanted to cut to the chase. Here it is: Derrick and I want to offer you financial security from here on out. You and Zena have lived an exemplary life. You’ve built a successful business and raised two very fine young men. You’ve ‘built your house’ so to speak. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Derrick and I will fund the life of your dreams. No strings attached. Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? This is it, Mike and Zena, you’ve just won the equivalent of the Lotto Max jackpot.” “You can’t be serious,” said Zena. “Serious as a heart attack,” I said giving them each a direct look. Mike and Zena looked at each other. Zena burst into tears. Mike moved to wrap an arm protectively around her shoulders. He glared at me—a glare that said, If you’re fucking with us I’ll kill you. I pulled my phone out and sent a quick text. “Mike, why don’t you check your personal banking app?” I said. He opened his phone and logged into the app. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Holy shit! Zena, Gabe just deposited a million bucks into our checking account!” To me he said, “You can do that? Just like that? You have that much money? Just to give away like that?” “Yes to all your questions...and that was just a good faith deposit so you’ll take me seriously, because now we have to discuss this topic seriously,” I said. “There’s several more million to come. What we need to do now is have our lawyers talk to your lawyers and get a family trust set up. It’s a little complicated, but it’s always best to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. Down the road this will effect the boys; they need to be protected, too. There are tax implications to consider, as well as your wills, and so forth...” It took me a while to calm Mike down after that. Hi kept jumping up and pacing in circles and running his hands through his hair. I had to reassure him several times that this was all ‘real.’ After some direct questioning and gentle—somewhat leading—questions I got him and Zena to see the wisdom in taking some time to ‘think things over.’ I didn’t want to get into details right then. The only thing I stressed was that the Mike junior and Ryan be encouraged to pursue vocations in spite of their parents’ newfound independence. I explained how everyone in our circle had some sort of profession or calling, and how important that was. I gave numerous examples within our circle of acquaintances. Mike and Zena agreed, as I knew they would. They’d instilled a good work ethic in their boys. I left them alone for a couple of hours while I went back to the motel and worked on my presentation to the Tribal Council. It was done, but I wanted to think about go over it one more time. Back at Mike and Zena’s, after they’d had time to discuss the situation, they informed me that Mike would probably sell the business. They’d keep the house they had, but they’d buy a recreational vehicle and explore ‘all over’ Canada and the USA. I thought that was a marvelous idea. The next day we flew up to Flin Flon for my presentation to the Tribal Council. I was very proud of my ideas and feeling cocky about my success with Mike and Zena, but I learned quickly that “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Generally quoted as ‘Pride goeth before a fall.’) My presentation was NOT well received! I’d walked into a trap of my own making. “Why do you think you know how to teach culture to our children?” asked one member. “Cultural appropriation!” said another. They even implied that we had ‘stolen’ Dane away from his culture. It was dreadful. With the best of intentions I’d been blind to current political issues making myself a lightning rod for their anger. I thanked them for their time and left. These were grievances that were beyond my pay grade. Feeling thoroughly chastened, I had no choice but to put the incident behind me and move on. Derrick and I would think of something else we could do to preserve Dane’s heritage for him. Well, that certainly thwarted our summer plans. Now what would we do to keep our active little boy busy (and out of mischief)?
  12. When Robert arrived home in the early evening there was a lot of noise—mostly laughter—coming from the pool area. Derrick, Gabe and their friends were, in Robert’s opinion, having some deserved old fashioned fun. He’d heard the rumours, of course. Malicious gossip had it that during the last gathering of friends there had been an orgy. Preposterous, thought Robert. In any case, there was sure to be an air of propriety tonight because Sam and Nick’s son, Joe, and his partner, Tyler, were at the gathering. But still, if Robert were honest, the idea of an orgy was...well...titillating. Although he’d only met Sam to date, that individual was certainly drool-worthy, and he’d seen photos of the rest of the handsome guys that made him weak at the knees. The party broke up about midnight, with everyone heading for their respective homes or accommodation. The next morning Robert supervised the caterers laying out the breakfast selections. Coffee, juices, pastries, cereal and some warm breakfast burritos. He was just heading back to his apartment when Sam exited the guest cottage with a thin, dark haired man. Ah, Nick, the husband... Sam saw him and called out. “Robert, come and meet my husband!” “Nick, this is the famous Robert. Robert, my husband, Nick.” “A pleasure to meet you, sir,” Robert said as his hand was pumped in a firm, friendly handshake. “Not, sir. Nick,” the other responded. “I hear marvelous things about you.” “Thank you si...uh...Nick.” And so it went as Rob and Jerome exited the guest cottage. Introductions were made, and the guys complimented Robert sincerely on what they’d been told by Derrick and Gabe. Then Derrick yelled from the door of the main house. “Leave Robert alone you schemers! He’s not going anywhere! And get in here and have breakfast. We’ve been up waiting for hours. (Which Robert knew was an utter falsehood.) But there was definitely an air of ‘bromance’ about their morning hugs and kisses, and Robert wondered if the orgy rumour might have held an element of truth. As per Gabe’s instruction, Robert left the men to their own devices for the day, coordinating food delivery and clean-up services from the background. Robert, therefore, was able to make a good start on the project he’d been assigned by Dr. Gabe sorting out education opportunities for Gabe’s cousins, his aunt Zena’s boys. Michael, the eldest was just about to graduate from the University of Manitoba with a science degree and wanted to go to medical school. Brian, the youngest was just finishing twelfth grade, and he wanted to become a pilot. Gabe’s instructions were: “Get them into decent schools. Deacon resources are available to you, of course, but use your discretion. Do the best you can, I don’t expect miracles if the boys aren’t qualified.” The next morning the entire party left for the airport. The friends flying back to San Diego and Santa Barbara and Derrick and Gabe going on to visit Derrick’s parents on Orcas Island for two days. Dane was staying over at Jordan and Kelly’s. Robert was looking forward to having two whole days to himself. He had that project for Dr. Gabe, but otherwise it was ‘free’ time, the first he’d really had since starting his new job. His phone chimed. The incoming text read: He checks out. Good to go. “He” meaning Keno, and “Good to go” meaning it was safe for Robert to pursue a relationship with Keno. Sometimes working for the über rich could be trying, and Robert cringed with embarrassment at having to have his boyfriend—make that potential boyfriend—vetted by the Dea-Con security office in San Francisco. They were very discrete, but still.... Felling guilty, he put that thought aside because the family’s safety was far more important than his own minor lack of privacy. Plus, he’d felt duty bound to ask Dr. Gabe’s permission to bring an unknown person onto the premises. Of course Dr. Gabe already knew about the blind date situation, and knew that Keno was some distant relative of Kelly—3rd cousin or thereabouts. So Keno wasn’t per se unknown. In fact, when approached, Dr. Gabe seemed a little too happy about the situation. “Of course! You know you can invite your friends here any time. You’ve got condoms, right?” Keno seemed pleased to be invited (a good sign?) and arrangements had been made for an at-home dinner that evening. The compound was delightfully quiet that day. Enjoying his leisure at the pool, Robert found himself keenly anticipating Keno’s arrival. The word anticipation reminded him of Carly Simon’s song Anticipation, and that tune was stuck in his head like the proverbial broken record. Robert had decided to cook chicken cordon bleu indoors instead of barbequing something on the grill outside. He was shamelessly manipulating to keep them inside, in the cozy intimacy of his apartment. How exactly does one plot a seduction? he wondered. Should he be subtle or direct? What if Keno wasn’t keen? He’d been flirtatious at the beach, and responded positively to the invitation, but what if he’d had those sober second thoughts? What if, what if... Then the song You Can’t Hurry Love by Diana Ross got into his head. You can’t hurry love, no you’ll just have to wait.... These songs inside his head were disturbing Robert’s peace. He decided to go inside and start cooking. Soon, dinner was prepped. Beer and white wine were in the fridge. The apartment was spotless. The sofa cushions fluffed. The air conditioning was set at a comfortable 75 degrees. Robert finished these preparations quickly—a good hour before Keno’s expected arrival. That left time for a quick run, which, Robert thought, should have the double effect of running off a bit of steam while getting the blood flowing nicely. Trouble was, the blood seemed to be flowing in one direction only; He’d been semi-hard most of the day in anticipation... Unfortunately the jogging only exacerbated the boner situation—Robert was acutely aware of how good his cock felt rubbing against his jock. He was definitely having a cold shower when he got home. He needed to cool off. Literally and figuratively. He was determined to greet Keno decorously, not like some rutting elephant. Unfortunately, a truck’s unexpected and suspicious arrival put paid to that plan. Robert became aware of the vehicle slowing to match his pace. He’d been briefed a hundred times what to do. He turned his phone’s camera toward the car and pressed the talk button which immediately connected him to the security duty desk. “You guys got this?” “Yeah, we see it. We’ve been watching it on the drone too. No worry, bro, it’s your boyfriend.” “My boyfr.... You guys are....” Robert was going to say “assholes” but thought better of it. “Incorrigible!” he substituted. “Over and out, Romeo,” came the reply. He slowed to a walk, then stopped, turning to face Keno’s truck. He couldn’t help the huge welcoming smile that spread on his face. Keno noted the warmth of the smile. “Good to see you too, Robert! Got away a little early. Hope you don’t mind. Would rather spend a few extra minutes with you than kill time getting here. I’m glad I did because you look fine—edible in fact—all sweaty in your jogging outfit.” Keno’s face mirrored Robert’s happy expression. Robert like the ‘edible’ reference. He couldn’t help wondering just what body part Keno might be referring to. His guts were clenching with a mixture of lust and longing that was making his knees week. His cock expanded. There was no hope of hiding the telltale bulge short of doubling over and pretending to be out of breath, which was perhaps a good idea considering that his legs, and every other part of him but his cock, were turning to jelly. But it was too late for that. Keno had already noticed and his eyes were darting between Robert’s face and his groin. Keno’s obvious interest only made the situation worse. It was what you could call a vicious circle. “Get in the truck,” commanded Keno. Robert complied with alacrity climbing into the cab of the big F150 and noting watch a luxurious vehicle it was. He was just about to compliment Keno on his vehicle when he felt a large, warm hand grasp the back of his neck and pull. Then his vision was filled with Keno’s eyes boring into his and he felt Keno’s lips urgently cover his own. Robert’s body reacted instantly. Not only did whatever bit of blood remaining in his brain drain to his cock in one great whooshing flood, every nerve in his body fired at the same time. He felt hot: he felt cold. He felt the pull of ten G’s: he felt weightless. He was ecstatically happy: he was bereft. He was supremely confident; he was terrified. But then, to his absolute horror, he felt the warning tingle of an imminent orgasm. Lord, if Keno could make him come from a kiss the man must be supernatural. Luckily Robert hadn’t quite reached the ‘point of no return’ so was able, with great mental effort, to pull back from the brink of orgasm. What an embarrassment that would be! He pulled away from the kiss. He needed to breathe; to bring himself back under control. The kiss now broken, Keno put his forehead against Robert’s as both men tried to calm the unexpected, extreme ardor they’d just experienced. “We need to...slow down,” Robert managed to wheeze. “Right...” responded Keno, drawing out the word. “But I need to get you naked, Robert. I need you like I’ve never needed anyone in my life before. I’m not bullshitting. That is God’s honest truth!” “Then you better put this truck in gear and take me home, ‘cuz I’m about to burst into flames myself!” The second the apartment door closed, sealing them off from the prying eyes of the courtyard’s security cameras, Keno pushed Robert face first against the wall, trapping him there with his muscular body. His hands loosened the drawstring of Robert’s shorts and yanked them, along with the jock, down in one swift motion. Robert felt rough fingers exploring his ass crack. He arched and pushed back demanding closer contact. He was completely incapable of rational thought, aware only of unbridled, primal need. “Fuck me here!” “If that’s what you want...” “Oh yes. Hurry.” So Keno pushed his own shorts to his knees, took a moment to don a condom, and, with the accuracy of a heat seeking missile, probed Robert’s opening with the bulbous head of his thick cock. Robert felt initial pressure at his anal ring, then sudden burning pain as Keno thrust quickly past his asleep-at-the-post guard muscles. Robert had never felt anything so exquisitely pleasurable. Keno began a series of small withdrawals and thrusts, going a little deeper each time, until his cock was entirely surrounded by Robert’s sweet, hot ass. Even then, he thrust his pelvis forward to achieve those last few precious millimetres. Robert felt gut pain, his anal ring felt stretched beyond endurance, and his prostate was burning from the friction, but every thrust brought pain-pleasure sensations that took him into the stratosphere. He urged Keno on with grunts and profane words of encouragement. Before long, Keno gave a guttural cry, his entire body went rigid, and he shuddered violently. Robert felt the pulsing of Keno’s cock, and even the repeated spurts of Keno’s man juices as they filled the condom’s reservoir. Neither man moved. If they had separated their bodies would have dropped to the floor like limp rags. After a few minutes of ragged breaths, Keno withdrew and stepped back. Without a moment’s hesitation, Robert whirled around and grabbed Keno’s shirt lapels in his fist. He pulled Keno, who was shuffling like a chained prisoner, with his shorts tangled around his ankles, toward the living room. At the back of the sofa he stopped and stepped behind Keno. Then he shoved Keno’s upper body over the top of the couch bringing his ass up and making him open and vulnerable. He reached down and pulled off Keno’s shorts and sneakers pushing his feet apart to make his ass even more accessible. He quickly grabbed a condom from the drawer of an end table (a good butler is always prepared for any eventuality) and rolled it on. He positioned his cock perfectly, then hesitated.... He had a better idea. He dropped to his knees and laved his tongue across Keno’s winking hole. Keno moaned and mouthed a string of invectives that would make a navvy blush. Robert licked and tasted and drooled. Temporarily satisfied with a good taste of Keno’s musk, be repositioned his cock and drove it violently home. Keno’s body convulsed like he’d been hit with a Taser and he man screamed in reaction to the sudden pain. Robert growled, “Like that, you pussy?” and was utterly amazed at his own ability to switch from masochist to sadist with satisfying ease. It only took a few thrusts for Robert to erupt like Krakatau, then he collapsed over Keno and the two men let their over stimulated bodies recover. They used eleven condoms that night. They broke one lamp, one vase, two wine glasses (sweeping table settings to the floor) and the glass in Robert’s mama’s picture. Robert wasn’t sure about Keno, but he personally had at least six extremely intense orgasms. They didn’t get around to dinner until two in the morning. Then fell into an exhausted, but short, sleep. Mid-morning, Keno finally tore himself off Robert and rushed out to work. “I might call you,” he said running across the courtyard to his truck. “I might answer,” responded Robert in kind. Robert closed the door, leaned his back against it, and slowly slumped to the floor. He was in rough shape. His cheek was bruised from where he’d hit it falling into the coffee table His lips were swollen and abraded from Keno’s ‘kisses.’ He had a hickey on his neck and bite marks (luckily no broken skin) on his shoulders. His nipples ached and were undoubtedly bruised as well. He knew his ass was raw, but it felt mostly numb and tingly. His cock was tender and his balls throbbed painfully. His entire muscular frame felt as if it had just completed the Hawaii Iron Man. And he’d never felt better in his life. He’d certainly unleashed his inner wild man; he wondered if he’d ever be the same again. Did he want to see Keno again? Perhaps not. Robert reflected that something like that night only comes along once in a lifetime. It’s like seeing the Eifel Tower lit up in the dark for the first time, or a first ride on the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s breathtaking to experience it the first time, then the second time it’s never same. Perhaps he and Keno should leave things as they stood. It would make an amazing memory, which might be best unsullied by a second, guaranteed futile, attempt. And, if nothing else, it was a cathartic experience. Robert looked up ‘catharsis’ and thought, yes, it was definitely “a discharge of pent up emotions.” Robert showered carefully then set about cleaning up his apartment. He found two more discarded condoms bringing the total to thirteen. He tried to get some work done but was ready to throttle Aunt Zena and Uncle Mike who, while wanting the “best” for their sons, seemed to be fearful of their boys stepping foot outside the door. Robert had found an excellent medical school in the Caribbean that was prepared to overlook Michael’s less-than-stellar grades. “Aren’t Caribbean Islands unsafe?” whined Aunt Zena. Uncle Mike was having second thoughts about his younger son taking flying lessons. “Those little planes only have one engine. What would happen if it broke down?” He was angry at the parents’ ingratitude, and he felt sorry for the boys. Certainly such mollycoddling wasn’t doing them any favors. Robert was tired and sore, his patience and equanimity were stretched to the limit. Just at that moment, Keno phone. He was in no mood to sort out his feelings about Keno. His feelings were mixed up, conflicted. Talk about waffling, he could give Zena and Mike lessons. “Keno?” he said warily into the phone. “Can we talk?” responded Keno with no preamble. “Right now?” “No. Can I come over after work? I can be there before nine.” Robert equivocated. “Um...well...okay. But just to...ah...talk...okay?” “10-4,” said Keno and hung up. What the hell does 10-4 mean? thought Robert. Is that some marijuana jargon? Naw, couldn’t be. Keno’s a cop for goodness sake. Robert was determined NOT to have sex with Keno when he came over. Nonetheless he counted his remaining stock of condoms. Nine. Keno arrived as expected, gave Robert a quick buss on the lips, and brushed by him into the living room where he sat on the couch giving the back of it a rueful look. It was an awkward moment. Robert offered refreshments. Keno accepted a bottle of Corona. Conversation began in fits and starts. Robert at first thought Keno’s, “Last night was great, but...” meant he was suggesting a break-up, or rather a non-start of the relationship, but that wasn’t the case. It just turned out that Keno was saying he wasn’t normally that aggressive, and he hoped the Robert wasn’t put off. Robert admitted to the same thing. “I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “It was like I turned into the Incredible Hulk or something.” Then he went on to tell Keno his thoughts on how he’d feel the situation might not have quite the same impact if repeated. Keno agreed but said, “What about ordinary sex? I mean, I think we have a spark. We’d just have to tone it down...or not...I guess it depends....” This sex talk made Robert’s raw cock stiffen uncomfortably, and his ass began to tingle causing him to shift and wiggle to get comfortable. Keno observed this and smiled like a wolf in s sheep pasture. Oh, oh, here we go... thought Robert. By mutual consent, the sex that night was gentle, but it nonetheless culminated in Saturn rocket launching orgasms. After a few gentle kisses and strokes, each getting the measure of what physical stimulation they could endure, they ended up in a 69 stroking each other’s well lubed cocks. Slow and gentle, barely a touch...edging...edging...edging. The ‘session’ lasted for an hour, and Robert’s eyes took in every pore, pucker, curve, flair, and hair of Keno’s man parts. Robert’s excitement crested so high from Keno’s prolonged ministrations that when he crested the-point-of-no-return his cum muscles contracted with fierce, sudden intensity. He felt the pain-pleasure sensations explode out from his core to reach the top of his head and the tips of his fingers and toes. Keno erupted similarly only seconds later, and both men’s guttural cries were dampened by lips clamped around cock heads. Not a drop of cum escaped. Robert was sure of only one thing. He and Keno shared a ‘connection’, but what that actually meant for the future was another matter. He liked Keno, but he liked his job more. He knew where his real commitment and loyalty lay. He just hoped Keno wasn’t the nesting kind. They slept soundly until morning. After showering separately, they sipped their coffees on the patio near the pool. Something needed to be done, a compromise needed to be reached. Robert didn’t quite know how to bring up the subject. Keno took the initiative. “How’s this going to play out?” “Well, to be honest Keno, I’m not ready to get married. I’d be a fool to give up this job, and I really don’t want to...but at the same time I do want more of what we’ve got.” “I pretty much feel the same way. I know our schedules aren’t very good for a ‘going steady’ relationship, but maybe we can hook up occasionally.” “Define ‘occasionally’.” “Once a week or so. Is that too much? It might take a bit of doing to match our schedules.” Keno worked a regular monthly shift rotating days and nights, but he was often called in for emergency overtime especially during the busy tourist season, which seemed to be pretty much the full twelve calendar months these days. Robert was entitled to regular time off, but the demands on his time weren’t nine-to-five, five days a week. Up to now he’d been going more like twelve hours a day, seven days a week. There was always something to keep him busy. It wasn’t all scrubbing floors, more like planning and coordinating the schedules of the three busy family members (four if you counted Patsy), (eight if you counted Jordan, Kelly and Alfy). Robert thought about his choices for a minute, then made a decision. He said, “I’ll work around your schedule as much as I can—it’s really just one more schedule to fit into my planning—and I’ll try to get over to your place once a week. How does that sound?” “You got yourself a deal, Mr. Gantry. For now it’s just sex, right? We’ll leave the emotional, touchy-feely stuff for later. Sound good?” “Sounds good,” agreed Robert. They sat back and sipped their coffees in silence watching an ocean going freighter gliding by on the horizon, its course set for some distant shore.
  13. From Robert’s point of view....... Well, he’d tried. It wasn’t going to be his fault if the hors d’oeuvres were undercooked or the steaks burned to a crisp! Robert had accepted Jimmy’s invitation to the beach party two weeks earlier, but when he heard Derrick and Dr. Gabe were having guests he phoned and gave his regrets. Well, thanks to the Hawaiian grapevine, Dr. Gabe found out he’d cancelled. Jimmy told somebody, who told somebody else, who told somebody else, and eventually it ended up in Kelly’s ear and he ratted Robert out to Dr. Gabe. See how that’s how the Hawaiian grapevine works. Everyone is somebody’s aunt, cousin, brother-in-law, .... and news travels at the speed of light. But what did Robert care about soggy hors d’oeuvres anyway on such a beautiful day? He was in the Bentley, top down, motoring along the Farrington Highway, the turquoise ocean to his left and the dry, craggy hills to his right. With condoms and lube graciously provided by the good doctor. Dr. Gabe had also said, winking at him, that he wasn’t expected home that night. Really, the man’s sense of humor was too much! Robert couldn’t help but reflect how fortunate he was. Being raised by s single mom they weren’t dirt poor, but close. His mama did what she could, but times were lean until Robert was old enough and landed a part-theme job at McDonalds. How they celebrated that! Imagine, a whole fifty dollars a week! It seemed like a fortune. Fifty dollars will go a long way if you’re careful. Robert missed his mama something awful. She had been his friend and confidant. As much as he loved his employers, they were just that, employers, not friends. But mama would have been so happy and proud to know he’d landed on his feet. In his head he still talked to his mother constantly. He told her that, more than just having a great job, he was with a family who treated him with respect. (And in butler school stories about employers treating their servants badly, even abusing them, were rampant.) Anyway, he just knew mama was smiling down from heaven, and he was counting his blessings—lost in a daydream—when the chirp of a siren brought him crashing back to reality. Shit! Wire did that cop car with its flashing lights come from? Robert double tapped the steering wheel button to let the security team know he had a ‘situation’. Immediately, the voice of a security guy came over the car’s speaker system. “Hi, Robert, yeah, we see that.” Of course they had full access to all the car’s systems, including cameras. “Give us a few seconds, don’t pull over yet.” He continued driving. The police car siren chirped again, a little longer this time, obviously growing impatient. “Okay, Robert, it looks safe. Pull over. Cop’s name is Kenahoa Williams. Don’t know why he’s pulling you over. You were only about ten miles an hour over the speed limit. Let’s see what he wants...” Just then an image of the cop appeared on the car’s dash screen. A guy of mixed heritage, like many Hawaiians, cute, but looking awfully serious in his official police ID photo. Robert pulled over and waited while officer Williams climbed out of his car and approached. In the car’s rear camera image and the side mirror the cop looked even better in person than in his photo. He moved gracefully and looked to be in good shape. His uniform was crisp and tailored nicely. Robert thought, if you’re going to get pulled over, might as well be by a hot looking cop. Unfortunately, this cop didn’t seem particularly friendly. He towered menacingly above Robert looking sternly down into the convertible. (Robert did take some consolation that he had a great view of his impressive basket.) “This your car?” the cop asked in a gruff baritone voice. Ha! He knew very well whose car it was! Everybody on Oahu knows exactly who Derrick and Dr. Gabe are, and who all their associates are, and what cars they drive. As much as the Deacons would like to lead ‘ordinary’, in-cognito lives, that was pretty much an illusion. They were local, much loved, celebrities whom people generally left alone But the positive side of was that they were looked after, pretty much 24/7 by the locals. Any bad guys trying to do them mischief would have to run the gauntlet of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins and so forth that make up the fabric of the ‘local’ society. Robert had learned all this from the various trades people and shopkeepers that he had contact with. In fact, he had learned that Dr. Gabe’s shooting had been a very freak accident. And if Bernie hadn’t have killed the guy then the locals would have torn him limb from limb. Everyone on the Island knew about Dr. Gabe’s clinic and the good work he was doing, and Derrick’s philanthropy was no secret either (although he thought it was). So, yeah, the Deacons were known, loved and protected. And as the employee, Robert was under local protection as well. Robert was tempted to say, You know damn well who’s car this is! Instead, he bit his tongue and said, “Um. No. It’s my employer’s car.” “A little careless to speed in your employer’s car, isnt’ it? You in a hurry to get somewhere?” His heart sank. How was he going to explain to Dr. Gabe that he got a speeding ticket in his Bentley? But he’d been daydreaming, and the Bentley was so powerful and smooth that it’s easy to let it creep up over the speed limit. Even well looked after people can’t be exempt from traffic laws; Robert figured he was well and truly busted. Not quite willing to admit guilt, he stammered that he was meeting friends up at Lualualei Park, just up the road, for a picnic. He wasn’t particularly surprised win the cop said, “Jimmy and Winston’s party. Officer Williams was probably Jimmy’s cousin or brother-in-law. Of course he’d know that Robert was going to the party, and exactly who he was. After that, the stern facade softened and Robert got the impression of...if not warmth...not quite the asshole he’d first come across as. “Right....” said Robert. “Okay,” the handsome cop said with a grin. “Go ahead. I’m just giving you a warning this time. But watch your speed. I wouldn’t want to have to pull this fancy car out of a ditch...” Robert breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you...I promise I’ll be more careful.” The cop smiled and that grin went straight to his traitorous cock causing Robert to shift uncomfortably. “Good,” said the cop as he turned to walk away. But he stopped after a few paces and threw over his shoulder, “And I don’t want my blind date getting himself all banged up and bruised.” The security guy, who’d been listening to everything, cracked up laughing. Eavesdropping bastard! Robert found Lualualei Park easily enough and it was obvious where the picnic was. There were four pop-up shelters set up over picnic tables. People were already setting out food, and a few guys were staring at a smoking barbeque. He spotted Winston almost right away. Like him, Winston is African-American, so he was easy to pick out of the crowd. He called out to Robert, then Jimmy joined them and they started introducing him to a bewildering array of friends and relatives. When Robert had Winston to myself for a few minutes he said, “Winston, I’m not sure about this blind date idea... Is it really that cop guy?” “Keno? You know who he is?” “He pulled me over just back there on the highway!” “Oh, then you’ve got a look at his hotness. I thought you looked a little hot and bothered when you arrived,” he said, laughing. “Very funny. I’ll admit he’s hot. But honestly, Winston, he’s way out of my league...and he comes across as a bit...um...confident.” “Arrogant, vain and overbearing you mean?” “Well...maybe...a little, I suppose.” “Oh, that’s just an act,” he said dismissively. “Once you get to know him you’ll realize Keno’s the nicest, sweetest guy on Oahu. Well, except for Jimmy, of course....and you...and me.” He sipped my diet coke. No drinking and driving for him. People kept arriving and Robert was introduced to so many people there was no way he was ever going to keep all the names straight. Everybody made a real effort to make him feel welcome. He was enticed to try all pot-luck food everyone had brought. A type of pulled pork that reminded him of home. Macaroni salad. Even poi. Keno didn’t show up until much later in the afternoon—Robert was beginning to wonder, and worry, if he’d even show up—but he finally arrived, much to Robert’s happy/chagrinned relief. Just shaking hands with Keno caused Robert’s cock to do its little happy dance again. But, Robert reflected, it was only lust, nothing more. He knew that the chances of having a ‘relationship’ with Keno were zero to nil. For many reasons, that just wasn’t something Robert could afford, but he figured it wouldn’t hurt to admire the merchandise. Keno had changed out of his uniform into the ubiquitous Island attire of board shorts-flops, muscle shirt and baseball cap. He’d put his sunglasses above the bill of his cap and Robert was able to study his facial features. Almond shaped, deep brown—almost black—eyes, high cheekbones set in a narrow face, straight, a slightly wide but even nose, and perfectly generous (kissable!) lips. Keno, as it turned out, wasn’t grumpy, he was outgoing, and much to Robert’s delight, just as personable as Winston had predicted. Keno was very popular and it seemed everyone, from grandparents to small children wanted his attention. Keno accepted the adulation graciously, but after a while, in a rare lull, he suggested to Robert that they walk up the beach together. “If this blind date thing is going to work, we need to get to know each other a bit, don’t you think?” he said. Robert found himself inordinately pleased at the suggestion. For some reason he couldn’t quite put his finger on he found Keno more than just physically attractive. Keno, he sensed, had the potential to become a friend. Someone outside the Deacon sphere with whom he could converse with a less guarded tongue. It took a few minutes for them to extract themselves from the heard, but they soon found themselves a few hundred yards up the beach where they sat on the soft sand. Keno surprised Robert by saying, “You’re very good looking, you know. Has anyone ever told you that you look like that actor on L.A. Law. I think his name is Blair Underwood.” “So, I’m not the blind date from hell then?” “No! Quite the opposite. At least in looks. I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped your car and got a look at you!” “Well, the feeling was mutual, officer Keno. In fact, you were a little too quick with letting me off with a warning. If you’d had pulled out your ticket book, I’d have offered to bribe you with a blowjob.” Keno cracked up laughing. “Okay, good looking and has a sense of humor. That’s two ticks on the positive side of the blind date ledger,” he choked out. Once he’d sobered a little he said, “Tell me about yourself, Robert Gantry. I know you work for the Deacons, but how did you get here? Where are you from? What’s your story?” Robert told Keno that, inspired by Downton Abbey, he enrolled in Butler school. “I thought it looked like a dignified profession,” he said. “And the school in Belgium seemed light years away from my hometown. It was a grand adventure. A roll of the dice really, all my life savings, and the proceeds from the sale of my mama’s house went on tuition.” “And you got hired by Derrick and Gabe right out of school?” “Yes, that was truly a stroke of luck. Most people don’t get the ‘big’ positions right out of school. Many end up as concierges at high-end hotels. Some get secretary positions, depending on their skills. I was lucky that the woman who does job placement at the school had a soft spot for me. She told me that when Dr. Gabe called she knew I’d be perfect for his family.” “And now you drive a Bentley convertible.” “Sometimes, yes. It’s really special. Now it’s your turn. Tell me about Keno Williams. You have a Hawaiian first name, but a Scottish last name. There must be a story there...” “Well, my grandad, an African-American, not Scottish, by the way, was from the mainland. He met and married my grandma while serving in Vietnam in the early 60’s. They settled in Hawaii where he got a civilian job with the Navy after he’d completed his service. My dad was born here. Then he married my mom who was born and raised here as well. In fact, they were high school sweethearts. I wanted to be a policeman from an early age, so I studied criminal justice at the U. of Hawaii, and here I am...” “And you’re single?” “Yes, and you?” “Yes. But to be honest, I don’t really know if I’m interested in a boyfriend or anything. My work takes up the majority of my time.” “But you agreed to a blind date?” “Well, I was coerced. But I’m glad I came. I’m glad I met you, though. Maybe, I hope, we can be friends.” “I don’t know, Robert. After that blowjob comment, I’m thinking of other possibilities...” “Friends with benefits?” “Yeah...that might be a place to start. Can I call you later? Maybe set something up. Maybe we could go out to dinner or something some night.” Robert said he’d like that. The sun was getting low in the sky setting diamonds sparkling on the Pacific as the two men made their way back to the main party. If anyone noticed their absence, nobody commented on it, although Robert was certain a few questioning glances came their way. After thanking Jimmy and Winston for a lovely afternoon—and for all the glorious picnic food!—Robert made his way back to the Bentley, but not alone. “I’ll walk you to your car,” said Keno. Having enjoyed each other’s special company for the afternoon, neither was eager to say goodbye. “Call me when you get home,” added Keno. On the way home Robert was distracted by a lively debate between the devil on his left shoulder and the angel on his right shoulder. The devil was all for a wild, rutting, raunchy sex affair with Keno. “It would do you a world of good,” said the devil. “For once in your life, just Go-For-It!” The angel was quick to point out that debauchery was the path to ruin. Yes, sex with Keno might well make the earth move, but when bodies collide, so do hearts. And the angel reminded Robert that he was already losing his heart to this handsome rake. And the angel had no doubt Keno was the rakiest rake in Hawaii. After all, a guy that good looking and charming must have the boys lining up. Robert would be just another notch in his belt, and he’d be left mooning about like an adolescent with his first crush. But the devil was quick to point out that Keno probably had a big, beautiful cock. “Oh God,” Robert moaned aloud as he gave his own semi hard cock a squeeze. And there was another concern. There were no secrets on Oahu. No matter how circumspect they tried to be somebody would spot them together and word would get back to Dr. Gabe. Robert simply couldn’t risk that. It was just lust, pure and simple. A cold shower or five would take care of that. A relationship at this point in Robert’s life was just not going to fly. He needed to concentrate on his job, which could often be 24/7. The solution was easy. Simple! When Robert called Keno, which he’d promised to do when he got home, he’d simply tell Keno that he wasn’t in a position to, well, date. Keno would understand perfectly; he was most likely too busy to date himself, he, too, had a demanding job too. Easy! Piece of cake! “Hey sexy?” That deep voice answering the phone melted Robert’s resolve like an ice cube left out in the Hawaiian sun. “Keno...um....” “When can I see you?” Robert was aware that he had two free days coming up. Derrick and Gabe were flying back to the West Coast with their guests then continuing on to Orcas Island to visit Derrick’s parents for two days. Dane would be staying with Kelly and Jordan. Robert thought, what the hell! And said, “Um...well... Day after tomorrow. I’ll be here by myself for a couple of days. Would you like to come over for a swim and dinner?”
  14. My mother and Lord Hunterscroft were staying at the Dolder, another very nice Zurich hotel. Our security guys escorted us up to their floor and then discretely withdrew a few paces down the hall. I took a deep breath and knocked on their door. Derrick’s hand on the small of my back was giving me comfort. The door was opened by a slim, elegant—obviously wealthy—woman whom I didn’t recognize. With a quick glance I took in her perfectly coiffed, silver-blond hair, tasteful makeup, the double strand of pearls at her neck, a tailored, belted cream-colored suit, light pink manicured nails and elegant matching pumps. We’d clearly knocked on the wrong door. I started to stammer an apology. The stranger’s lips curled into a smile. “Gabriel?” she said. “Mother?....” I was so stunned that I stood there with my mouth agape. This was definitely not the mousy woman I remembered. Nobody moved for a few uncomfortable beats. “Come in, come in,” she said, breaking the tension. We entered the suite and Derrick stood at my side, his hand still on my back. I felt the pressure of his touch increase and that brought me out of my stupor. Mother had stepped back a couple of paces, gesturing to enter into the suite’s sitting room. Not quite sure what I was feeling at that moment—at least it wasn’t anger—I was relieved that she didn’t gush some sort of sentimental nonsense. I was particularly grateful that she didn’t initiate a hug. “Mother, this is my husband, Derrick. Derrick, this is my mother Claudia Nichol.” “And soon to be Claudia Grey,” said the man approaching in a cultured English accent. “Gabriel, Derrick, allow me to present my fiancé, Alistair Grey, Lord Hunterscroft. He heartily shook our hands and declared it was a pleasure to meet us. “And thank you for coming,” he continued. “It means a lot to us. And please call me Alistair.” The man’s manners were impeccable, I’d give him that. We returned the courtesies and were ushered into the sitting room. Fortunately, Lord Hunterscroft—Alistair—had the knack of putting everyone at ease, as did Derrick. We were soon seated, non-alcoholic drinks in hand, making pleasant small talk. The only one of us who looked uneasy was my mother. She was steeling herself to make a statement, and I could guess what the topic was. I knew from my studies that recovering alcoholics, as part of their recovery process—step nine—are encouraged to make amends (not to be confused with apologies) to those who’ve been harmed by their behaviour. For instance, if $20 was borrowed and never paid back, paying the money back would be the ‘amend.’ But in my mother’s case, she simply couldn’t ‘give back’ the hurt she’d caused. I wondered what she’d do. There was a lull in the conversation; Alistair reached out to take Mother’s hand. “As you boys probably know,” she began, “Part of a recovering alcoholic’s process is to make amends to those we’ve harmed. So, yes, Gabriel, I know I harmed you, very grievously. Alistair, unfortunately, has also harmed his children, more benign neglect, than my purposeful behavior, but nonetheless... “To this end, Alistair and I are going to support a public service organization that assists homeless youths, particularly gay homeless youths...” Yeah, right, I thought cynically, Throw a bit of money at the cause and assuage your conscience. Bah! “...in a hands-on way. We’re already working with a youth homeless shelter in Edinburg, and we both intend to be regular volunteers.” Warming to the topic, and becoming very animated, my mother continued, “Also, and this is something we’re very excited about, we’re thinking of establishing a youth camp for gay at-risk adolescents. One that will provide opportunities for self-discovery, direction and, hopefully, engender self-confidence. Youths will have an opportunity to try their hand at a number of things: flying, cooking, singing, musical instruments, first aid, sport, horses, writing—whatever the child wishes to try. It’s not intended a one-size-fits-all approach.” She looked at Alistair, turning the discussion to him. “I’ve got a property in Scotland that would be ideally suited for such a venture. There’s plenty of room, and there’s already a small airstrip.” He paused to let that sink in. They both looked at us expectantly in the ensuing silence. Derrick and I are no strangers to philanthropic efforts, and far be it from us to discourage one. And I must admit, my heart was beginning to thaw. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out why they were almost overdoing the whole ‘amend’ process. So I expressed, diplomatically, exactly those thoughts. Mother replied, “Of course you are absolutely correct, Gabriel. I should have explained that from the initial idea of volunteering at a shelter grew a more ambitious scheme, one that would give meaning to my life. I need something I can get my teeth into....” That was a concept I could relate to, given that I was applying my medical skills in a similar manner. A knock at the door interrupted our conversation. Lunch had arrived. At the small, square dining table I sat on my mother’s left, with Derrick across from me and Alistair on my left. Alistair adroitly distracted Derrick with questions about the G650. That left Mother and I free to have our own conversation. She said, “Tell me about your boys.” A topic near and dear to me, of course. She paid close attention, genuinely interested in what I had to say. She laughed heartily at my dramatic telling of the roof climbing incident. She reached over and put her hand on mine. “Oh Gabriel, I’m so happy for you...that everything has worked out so well. “I’m s-sorry...I failed....” she said, tears leaking from her eyes, her remorse genuine. I felt tears welling up in my own eyes. “Mom....why? How...?” Sniffing, she said, “I was weak. Your father was, um, demanding. I turned to Ativan and alcohol to give me strength, and well, you know, that really only made me weaker.” “You couldn’t fight him,” I stated. “No. I tried...at first. Then it was just easier, less conflict, to go along with him. Then the drugs and alcohol numbed me. He blamed me...about you. Said I mollycoddled you. Hah! If only! “When you left to go live with the Foroughis—such good people—I was so relieved; happy that you’d ‘escaped.’ And I left you alone. You didn’t need my emotional baggage dragging you down. And you succeeded brilliantly. Ironic, isn’t it, that my greatest accomplishment as a mother was to stay out of your life and let you go? “And, here I am, thanks to you, sitting in a swanky hotel in Zurich. Sober. Marrying a wonderful man tomorrow.” She paused and drew in a deep breath which she let out slowly. “Listen to me, I’m getting maudlin, and I swore I wouldn’t....” “I’m glad he’s dead,” I said. She snorted a laugh. “So am I. Isn’t that awful?” “No, not awful. But let’s be grateful that you, James and I have ‘overcome,’ as the gospel song says.” “Yes, I am grateful, very much so.” She lifted her water glass, got Derrick and Alistair’s attention, and said, “A toast. To a glorious future!” We all clinked glasses echoing her sentiments. My phone buzzed with an incoming text from Robert. Time to get back to our hotel. The boys were arriving back from their ski outing in a few minutes. “Things ended on a good note,” observed Derrick in the car. “Yes, a very good note,” I replied. “Thanks...for everything....” “You’re welcome, my love.” The boys arrived home from their skiing trip, not long after we got back to the hotel, chattering like magpies about how much fun they’d had. It was the first time Alfy had experienced snow—and a snowball fight—and he was thrilled. They both begged to be taken skiing again. “We went soooo fast down the hill! Can we go again? Please!” There wouldn’t be time on this trip, but maybe in the future... Red-cheeked and tired, full from the hamburgers they’d had on the way home, and after a hot bath, they were more than ready for a nap. They’d just dropped off to sleep when James and Monique arrived. Of course they wanted to see Dane, so their first glimpse of him was as a sleeping angel. They both declared him the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen. Derrick and I agreed, that yes, when he was sleeping, he was an angel. James had a goofy grin that didn’t seem to leave his face; I suspected he had news, so I told him to spill. “Well, there are two Doctor Nichols in the family now,” he declared with pride. “Your thesis was approved!” “Yes! And my presentation!” “I’m so proud of him!” declared Monique. “We’re all proud of him!” I seconded. I’d wondered why Robert had an iced bottle of Champagne awaiting their arrival. There was a knock at the door and a waiter entered with a tray of canapés. Robert had thought of everything. At dinner that evening, in one of the hotel’s private dining rooms, we met Alistair’s son and daughter and their families. Both were married, with spouses in attendance. One couple had two children and one had three, but it was hard to keep track of who was who with our kids thrown in the mix as well. They all got along—noisily! The get-together was lively. Mom’s younger sister, Zena, was there as well. I hadn’t seen her since I was a small child and had no real recollection of her. She seemed nice enough, if a little lost in the crowd—she was perhaps shy. Her husband and two boys (my cousins) hadn’t accompanied her. I wondered why and gently probed her on the subject. As it turned out the two boys, both in college, were studying for final exams and her husband couldn’t get time off work. He ran a gardening/lawn care business and spring was his busy season. I was probably badgering the poor woman, but being a doctor I was used to getting away with asking personal questions. Knowing I was a doctor, she told me that her oldest son wanted to become a doctor, but that competition for medical school was fierce. He’d applied to the University of Manitoba, but even with honor grade marks wasn’t guaranteed entrance. When Derrick joined the conversation she told us the younger son wanted to become a pilot, but.... The ‘but’ spoke volumes. My immediate guess was that this family was going to be financially challenged to provide the education their boys (both, according to their mother, excellent students) aspired to. Well, I’d already asked enough personal questions, I wasn’t about to ask for their annual tax returns as well. But as you know, Derrick and I have our ‘ways’ of finding things out, and I was definitely going to have the family checked out. I wasn’t going to leave them swinging in the wind if we could help. But one thing I knew (from personal experience) was that we just couldn’t disturb their whole social ‘ecosystem’ by simply writing a big check. Most people, after all, had their pride. That night I had another of my recurring dreams—the ones that usually turn bad with me thinking I’d flunked out of medical school and let everybody down. Well, this time, I was writing an anatomy exam and instead of putting gibberish on the paper I was answering the questions correctly! Then it switched to my graduation ceremony and the Deacons were heartily congratulating me. I woke up, smiling, feeling on top of the world. I wrapped my arms around Derrick and hugged him tight. “Everything, okay?” he asked. “Couldn’t be better,” I said feeling that a huge burden had finally be lifted from my soul. The wedding the next day was a low-key affair. The same private room we’d dined in the evening before had been transformed into a wedding chapel with chairs, and a lovely arbour at the front. There were vases of flowers filling the room, and just walking in one could feel the ‘emotion’ in the well staged setting. The actual ceremony was short and sweet. Aunt Zena stood up with Mother, and Alistair’s son with him. Afterwards there was an informal buffet lunch. Alistair’s son welcomed our mother to his family with a small speech and toast about how happy they were that their dad had found love again. James, being the oldest in our family made a similar toast. And as I raised my glass of sparkling water I caught Mom’s eye and gave her a special smile, which she returned. The flight home was uneventful. Derrick was mulling over the idea of expanding his airline business and was weighing the pros and cons. I could tell the cons were winning, but Derrick hadn’t quite realized that yet, and I thought I’d let him come to it in his own time. I just hoped his crew wasn’t too disappointed. Derrick would feel terrible about that. Dane and Alfy talked non-stop about their skiing adventure. We got through the entire flight without an altercation. Our arrival home went extraordinarily smoothly thanks to Robert. Jordan and Kelly, and the dogs, met us at the airport and there were huge hugs all round. Then, effortlessly, we were driven home where everything—right down to a nutritious snack—awaited our arrival. When we crawled into bed that night it was on to gloriously soft, high thread count, cotton sheets. Robert had somehow arranged all this from Europe. As Dane settled back to school and Derrick and I got on with our ‘professional’ lives. Robert kept track of everything from running the household to work and social schedules. I hadn’t realized just how stressed and tense Derrick and I had become. We hadn’t really thought about how many details we had to deal with day-to-day. With Robert running things our cares and worries, for the most part dropped away; we hadn’t felt this relaxed in years. Mom and Dad Deacon were spending less and less time in Hawaii. The last few years had seen them pursuing Buddhism in an academic way. At Orcas Island the emphasis had moved away from hosting ‘retreats’ to hosting ‘conferences’ where Buddhist academics and religious leaders would pour over ancient text and debate vigorously. They were having the time of their lives, but it meant we saw them less and less. Finally, on one of their rare, brief visits to Hawaii they approached us and gingerly broached the subject of their Hawaiian residency. It was clear they didn’t want to hurt our feelings by telling us they were effectively moving back to Orcas Island, but they wanted us to know that, if we wanted, their little ‘villa’ on our property could be adapted for our use as our personal space, or a guest cottage, or whatever we’d like. The heavy use of conditionals in their spiel was indicative of just how sensitive to our feelings they were, especially since their change of habitat coincided with Dane’s arrival. But our feelings weren’t hurt. Their increasing absences had started long before Dane’s arrival, and we were able to offer them our support and encouragement in their quest. We decided to use the space as a guest cottage hoping to encourage friends to visit. Robert said he’d handle the project, and after a fairly brief discussion of our needs and wants he had an army of workers on the property updating the cottage. Robert managed to pull off just what we wanted with a sleek, updated look with some Asian highlights honoring the villa’s original Buddhist theme. Meanwhile, Robert had arranged a series of barbeques and dinner parties for our Hawaiian friends and extended family. It had been an age since we’d gotten together with the Foroughis and we had a delightful, relaxed evening with them. Dane’s school “best friend,” Tyler, and his parents came for an afternoon swim and meal. They were a warm, fun loving family, and we hoped to see more of them. We’d noticed that the relationship between Alfy and Dane was changing. Their relationship had become less ‘clingy’, and both had developed their own school friends. They were still close, but more in a brotherly way. Jordan, Kelly, Derrick and I all agreed it was a healthy development and testament to the boys’ growing self confidence. Derrick finally decided, unequivocally, not to expand his aviation business. It was no surprise to me when he said that he never bought the plane as a commercial venture but as a personal hobby. He admitted he hated letting strangers use the plane. Arlyss, his head pilot, who had ‘ambitions,’ was disappointed. She gave notice almost immediately saying that she and her family had decided to move back to the mainland to be closer to family. (We heard later that she was already considering an offer from a major airline with opportunity for swift advancement.) The other three crew members supported Derrick’s point of view. In fact, they welcomed it, saying that they, too, had never been comfortable working with strangers in the plane. And as it turned out, now that we were settling into a comfortable routine, and had Robert to take a lot of the worry off our shoulders, we were keeping the plane quite busy. Sam Kozitsky called and asked for a meeting with us about ‘security matters.’ He was working more and more as a consultant to the Deacons and had become the de-facto security liaison with Derrick and me. I suggested he bring his husband, Nick, with him for a getaway in our newly renovated guest quarters. Nick phoned to discuss plans; then I asked about their friends, Jerome and Rob, and suggested that they come also. Sam would come a day early for the security briefing, then the others would join us the next day. So the jet was dispatched, first to pick up Sam for our meeting... His news wasn’t good. I should explain that with the Deacon’s increasing wealth (the family’s net worth had almost doubled since I had first met Derrick) their security operation had become very sophisticated. It was no longer just military-like men and women shadowing us and escorting us in SUV’s. There were numerous intelligence analysts working behind the scenes evaluating reams of data—the operation was becoming a mini CIA. Between terrorist organizations and organized crime the ‘threat’ to the family had reached alarming proportions. Bottom line was that our security protocols were being updated. Most changes—like the behind-the-scenes analysis—we wouldn’t notice, but our ability to engage in spontaneous activities was more restricted. Our first concern, of course, was for Cass and Dane, but Sam assured us that with the new procedures the increased danger was ‘mitigated.’ We certainly hoped so! We had no time to dwell on Sam’s news, because we were focussed on our guests’ arrival the next day. And I was further distracted that night by Derrick’s ardor in bed. In fact, he thoroughly distracted me twice. I enthusiastically returned the favor. I was feeling very mellow the next morning. Euphoric even. That is, until Robert started giving me trouble. “Go!” I hissed pointing to the street. “But...” “No buts! Go! Now!” “The hors d’oeuvres...” “Robert, if you told me once, you’ve told me six times. I know how to heat the hors d’oeuvres.” “The towels....” “We have a mountain of towels! Enough to last for a month! Quit stalling.” “The barbeque...” “Sam’s in charge of the barbeque. He’s an ex navy seal for chrissakes! He can handle grilling a few steaks.” I saw Robert take a deep breath preparing for another volley. I decided to counterattack. “Do you have your bathing suit and towel?” I demanded. “Yes, but...” “Sunscreen?” “Yes,” he admitted. He knew better than to sass me about that. “Condoms and lube?” “What?... Really, Dr. Nichol, I don’t think it’s going to be that kind of party.” “Better safe than sorry, Robert. I’ve put a few condoms and some packs of lube in the glove box of the car. Just in case you get lucky.” Robert was going to spend the day with Winston (our flight attendant) and Jimmy (his partner). There were other friends joining them, including a sort of, maybe, blind date for Robert. The group was having a big Hawaiian style picnic on the beach near Makaha. We were thrilled that Robert was finally getting out to have a bit of fun with friends. Robert on the other hand was reluctant. He just needed a bit of gentle encouragement. “Go!” I repeated He finally shuffled off to the garage, his whole demeanor telegraphing that he was leaving under duress. Robert had barely driven off in my Bentley when the SUV motorcade bringing our very animated guests arrived.
  15. “I hope you don’t mind,” said Robert with a note of uncertainty in his voice, “But I took the liberty of preparing a proposal for you.” Derrick, Robert and I had just been seated in the hotel’s dining room, and the server appeared with a carafe offering coffee and the breakfast menus. “A proposal?’ said Derrick. “Well, yes. When we talked yesterday I got the impression—and please forgive me if I’ve overstepped my bounds—that you need help running your household but are a little unsure about what exactly a butler can do for you...to help. So, I...um...wrote down a few things, as suggestions only, you understand.” He handed Derrick and me copies. I quickly scanned the three page ‘proposal’ and was impressed with not only the content but also with the professional presentation. I particularly liked the part where he proposed coordinating our schedules with our security supervisor. (Our spontaneous, unplanned schedule had been a bone of contention with our security guys for some time now.) And I was delighted to see that Robert planned to organize and update our linen supply. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d purchased new towels or sheets. “You’re suggesting we use more outside services for cleaning and laundry?” asked Derrick. “Yes, and other services as well,” said Robert with some confidence. “I just think that given your station in life—your ages, careers, uh...financial success—that you might enjoy being well taken care of...pampered, if you will.” Derrick looked at me to gage my reaction. “I wouldn’t mind being pampered!” I said. “Neither would I,” laughed Derrick looking at me, the question on his face clear: Should be make an offer now? I smiled and gave a small nod of assent. We’d discussed this moment in the car on the way to Robert’s hotel earlier. Dane had said that Robert was “okay,” which was about as good an approval that he’d get from Dane. If we still felt good about him after this interview, we would make him an offer. And with Robert providing us with a professionally prepared proposal the scales were definitely tipped in Robert’s favor. “We’re prepared to make you an offer,” began Derrick. “It would be subject to a six month probationary term.” He then made a starting salary offer (in the range recommended by Madame Poulain, the school’s employment officer), which would be increased on the completion of the probationary period. Derrick further explained that an employment contract would be forwarded to Robert forthwith (yes, he actually used the word ‘forthwith,’ making him sound like the quintessential man who would hire himself a butler!). “I...um....” began Robert. “I’m...uh...very grateful...I was hoping.... And yes, I’m honored to accept your offer. Thank you so much!” That was all he could get out before his voice choked up, and he reached for his water glass. After taking a sip of water, he added, “I feel like I’ve just won the lottery!” Derrick and I exchanged knowing looks, then burst out laughing. Robert still had a few weeks off classes before receiving his diploma, and he was eager to start with us immediately after that. We told him that, subject to signing the employment contract, his official start date would be the day after his classes ended, but the real start date would be decided after we’d firmed up our spring plans. After breakfast we hustled Robert to the airport where Derrick’s crew was waiting to take him to San Francisco for a meeting with the Dea-Con VP of security who’d brief him on that score. Then he’d be on a red eye back to Brussels. It was no doubt a tiring, but worthwhile, trip for him. Meanwhile, a recent request, relayed via James, had left me in a dilemma. Alistair Grey, 9th Baron of Hunterscroft, had asked my mother to marry him. James had relayed my mother’s request that Derrick and I attend their wedding, which she said they would schedule at a convenient time for us. When I looked at the situation logically, this seemed like a good chance at reconciliation. My mother had completed a top notch rehabilitation program that, besides sobriety, addressed issues of physical and mental health. By all accounts she was a new, vibrant person; not the zombie I remembered. So why did the whole idea of seeing her again cause me so much anxiety? What I needed to do was knock down the protective walls I’d build around myself. Truth was that hating her was easier, and much safer, than facing the risk of the indifference and rejection that I’d experienced as a child. Time to grow a pair Gabe. Man up. Say yes! So I said...yes. Derrick, who said he’d support me one hundred percent, whatever my decision, seemed relieved that I’d finally made up my mind. Now that I was “off the fence” we could move ahead with making plans for the period of Dane’s school break in March. James, somewhat more biased than Derrick, was pleased I’d at least give our mother a chance at reconciliation. Mom and I still weren’t communicating directly. James was put in the position of being a go-between, but he didn’t seem to mind. After multiple emails and phone calls it was decided we’d fly over to Zurich the last week in March for the wedding. Meanwhile, Mom and Lord Hunterscroft were living in a posh hotel suite and taking mini trips to various European cities. The 9th Baron was not hurting for money. Our background check of him revealed that his net worth was substantial—close to, if not exceeding the equivalent of $100 million US. Reassuring though that information was, I worried that Alistair might be a tight-fisted Scot. Would Mom still be reduced to ‘fucking for a couch’? Would old patterns be repeated? I sure hoped not. James thought that Alistair was ‘generous’ and Mom was happy. I was determined to confirm that for myself. We told Robert we’d meet him when we arrived in Zurich, and his official duties would start prior to that with him arranging our stay, ground transportation, interesting tours and so forth. He would also liaise with my mother and help plan the wedding and reception. Several people would be coming from Alistair’s family in Britain, and Mom’s sister (an aunt I had virtually no recollection of) and her husband would be coming from Winnipeg. Robert was excited about taking on these tasks. We gave him a black American Express card and told him we’d be happy with whatever arrangements he made. We explained to Dane what would be happening during his school break. It was a lot for him to take in. All he really seemed to understand, once we’d reassured him we’d be with him the whole time, was that it would be a long ride in the jet. He asked if Alfy could come with us. Oh boy. Jordan and Kelly equivocated over the decision to allow Alfy to travel such a long distance. It reminded us of when Cass had gone to Saudi Arabia with Abu all those years ago and our angst about letting him go. Eventually, they decided that Alfy, who was made to promise solemnly, many times, to behave, was allowed to go. The next weeks passed quickly, and all too soon I heard the door thunk, sealing us into the plane, and sealing my fate. In less than the span of one whole day I would be meeting my mother for the first time in almost 20 years. The distance from Honolulu to Zurich was just beyond the range of the G650, so we planned a refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. Two legs of nearly 10 hours travel each. We wondered how the boys would fare. Not well, as it turned out. We’d loaded up with games, books, cards, movies, puzzles, activity books and favorite snacks. About half way through the first leg of the flight all was quiet. Alexander and Winston had fed us a great meal. The boys were playing some sort of card game—Snap or Old Maid—and I was somnolent from food and catching up on my medical journal reading. Lisa, our security escort was resting in the back bedroom. The boys were fine. Derrick was in the cockpit flying. I put my seat back and closed my eyes.... “I HATE YOU. YOU’RE STUPID!” “WELL, YOU’RE A BIG BABY!” “STUPID!” “BABY!” I’d been deeply asleep and I came to a sudden heart-pounding, head-exploding awakening. “BOYS, STOP!” I added my own raised voice to the melee. Thank goodness they were both buckled into their seats so the disputed hadn’t deteriorated to fisticuffs. Alexander and Winston appeared from their rest area and looked on, ready to assist if asked, but otherwise not interfering. Lisa appeared from the back, alarmed, with her hand on her holster (luckily empty). I nodded to everyone to let them know I had control...it was up to me to sort out this mess. I went for the tried and true ‘time out’ method. I got them separated, as far as the main cabin seating would allow, and buckled in again, but they continued to hurl insults, jibes and blame at one another. “Boys,” I said in the most authoritative voice I could muster, “You will both be quiet or face the consequences!” (What ‘consequences’ they might face I had no idea, but I was hoping my bluff would work.) They did heed me, but with arms crossed over their chests and almost identical scowls they made a comical picture. Then they both started to appeal to me at the same time. “It was his fault! It was his fault!” I put my hand out like a traffic cop. “Stop!” I will admit, my patience was at its thinnest point. I was on the verge of launching into a good guilt-trip lecture, but I held myself in check and counted to ten. I reached into the activity bag and gave each boy a book. Dogs for Dane; military helicopters for Alfy. “Now, both of you, sit quietly and read your books,” I ordered giving them my best stern look. They glowered back but settled in to look at the pictures. Ten minutes later they had both nodded off to sleep. I took a deep breath to let go of the tension I was holding, glad that the crisis was over. Really, their little spat was understandable given that they were locked in a little tube together for a ten hour stretch and not able to run around expending pent up energy. We’d just have to give them a little more attention and keep them distracted to prevent future conflict. Derrick appeared a few minutes later. He sat beside me, took my hand and kissed my cheek. “I heard you had to deal with a little conflict?” “Yeah. At least it didn’t deteriorate to physical violence.” “A possibility with those two,” he chuckled, “But I think they know better than that.” They woke up and, as only children can do, forgot all about their conflict and were best friends again. We just kept a closer eye on them for the rest of the flight, and gave them periods of individual attention. Lesson learned. We were on the final approach to ZRH (Zurich) when the boys started behaving oddly. They were both sitting rigidly exchanging anxious looks. I couldn’t think of any reason for their odd behavior; they weren’t (or hadn’t been) nervous flyers. I wondered if, in the way of little boys, they hadn’t conjured up some fear just for fun. The closer we got to landing, the more agitated they became. I’d been enjoying my view of the Swiss Alps, but turned my gaze inward to keep an eye on the boys. Derrick was flying the plane, and brought it in for a smooth-as-silk landing. “Yes!” exclaimed Dane, pumping his fists in the air. “Damn!” exclaimed Alfy. “Boys, what’s going on?” I asked. Dane responded, “I bet Alfy five bucks that Daddy would land the plane without making it bounce! And I won!” I only hoped the next couple of days would go as smoothly as that landing. I was anxious about seeing my mother again. James said she was a different woman now, but I had trouble imagining her as anything but the indifferent, rather absent, mother she’d been. I still carried a lot of hurt. Hurt that had morphed to anger which, when I analysed it, was a defensive shield. So what was I expecting? A contrite mother who would apologize? A son who would roadblock her attempts to reconcile? A son who would wield his success and wealth like Thor’s hammer in vengeful wrath? Could I be that petty? Probably. Christ, what a mess. Thank God for Robert. He herded us into waiting Mercedes limos—a welcome change from the usual SUVs. During the short ride to the hotel he reviewed our itinerary for the next three days. It seemed he’d thought of everything. From rest periods to meals to social events, it was all there, and all coordinated with our security team. However, he pointed out, nothing was set in stone; all could be adjusted based on our needs and whims. Robert would see to everything; he would take care of us. I loved the sound of that and took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, letting body and mind relax. We were scheduled to meet my mother and her beau the next day for lunch. Meanwhile, Robert explained, we needed new, appropriate clothes. A tailor was waiting in the suite for us. “Not necessary, Robert, we brought our suites.” I swear, Robert looked down his nose at me—a decidedly withering look. “This is Europe, sir.” We were whisked into the hotel and up to our suite. No pesky check in, no worrying about luggage, no need to tip. Robert took care of everything. The suite was elegance itself. Gleaming wood floors covered in thick, colorful carpets, antique furniture upholstered in silk. A marble fireplace. Several arrangements of fresh flowers. All with a magnificent view of the lake and valley beyond through floor to ceiling windows. Even the boys were awed into silence. The tailor and his assistant were done in a jiffy. Derrick, the boys, and I were quickly measured. “Um, Robert, what are we getting?” “New suits and, of course, tuxedos for the wedding. Oh, slacks, sports jackets, shoes, shirts, accessories.... Ski outfits for the boys.” Robert had arranged for the boys to be taken to Flumserberg, a ski resort about an hour from Zurich, the next day. He’d thought of everything. We passed a quiet evening “at home” with a room service dinner, a quick second fitting by the tailor, and a movie following. Later, in bed, cuddled up to Derrick, he asked, “How you doing? Nervous about meeting you mother tomorrow?” “Not really,” I said. “I’ve cut up a corpse, been shot.... How bad can seeing your negligent mother be?” “That’s the spirit,” he said. “And however it goes I’ll be there for you.” Robert babysat the next morning while Derrick and I worked out at the hotel’s gym. The tailor delivered our outfits. The very excited boys—and their security watchdogs—departed for a day of skiing. Derrick and I took a walk to the lake, but the cool spring weather, with a fresh breeze blowing off the lake, meant we didn’t stay out long. Robert selected the suits we were to wear. Dark blue for me, grey for Derrick (so we wouldn’t look like twins). We had to admit, the suits, tailored in the slim fitting European style, did look damn good. “Are these suits Armani?” I asked. Robert looked horrified. “Absolutely not! These suits are bespoke by Zurich’s best tailor.” “Are you going to start making us act like rich people now, Robert?” asked Derrick. “I’m afraid so,” replied Robert with a sigh. “Okay, Robert, do your best,” said Derrick with a smile. “I will, sir, but any time you find fault with my guidance, please let me know.” We discussed Robert and his “guidance” in the limo on the way to my mother’s hotel. We agreed that being “bossed around” by Robert—then amended our description to “guided by”—was already relieving a huge amount of stress. We no longer had small, niggling, day-to-day worries. “And I think,” said Derrick, “That we’ll be able to surf a fine line between enjoying our wealth and becoming arrogant or pretentious.” I concurred. My mother and Lord Hunterscroft were staying at the Dolder, another very nice Zurich hotel. Our security guys escorted us up to their floor and then discretely withdrew a few paces down the hall. I took a deep breath and knocked on their door. Derrick’s hand on the small of my back was giving me comfort. The door was opened by a slim, elegant—obviously wealthy—woman whom I didn’t recognize. With a quick glance I took in her perfectly coiffed, silver-blond hair, tasteful makeup, the double strand of pearls at her neck, a tailored, belted cream-colored suit, light pink manicured nails and elegant matching pumps. We’d clearly knocked on the wrong door. I started to stammer an apology. The stranger’s lips curled into a smile. “Gabriel?” she said. “Mother?”
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