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GabrielCaldwell

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About GabrielCaldwell

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  1. Next month—November—is the annual National Novel Writing Month. People are signing up, or pledging—or just thinking about—writing a novel in one month. I’ve thought about doing it before, but never actually managed to make the target (which is to write 50,000 words in a month.) Do you want to write a book that’s only 50,000 words? Do you think you can write that much in one month? All good questions, and personally, I’m not going to take part because I want to end up with a completed novel in one month. But I’m pretty sure I can meet that goal (it’s 1,600 words a day) and I feel like it could be a fun exercise. And if it takes more than a month to finish, that’s okay too. Anyone else thinking of taking part? Even if you aren’t, you might want to check out the website for NaNoWriMo. It has some interesting resources for writers covering plot and characters. Things that are important whether you are writing a 50,000 word novel, or something more or less ambitious. https://nanowrimo.org
  2. 10. Mentoring is beneficial for the mentor A mentoring program is NOT operated solely for the benefit of the mentee. Mentors benefit from the experience—whether from seeing things from another's point of view, learning to clearly and succinctly explain processes and ideas, or just the satisfaction of helping someone advance. The mentor’s role is essential, but it's also a learning one. — Employee Handbook: Mentoring After talking to Pete briefly about Jonah, Pete made a hasty exit and I stayed in my office and hid. I spent a lot of time wondering what to do next about Jonah, and I didn’t like any of the choices. Could I ask Jonah to find another job? Was that something I could even suggest? Or did I just ignore the problem and muscle through it? Maybe no one else would find out, and it would be okay? But Karen and Peter already knew, and though I trusted them, who else might they tell? Especially now that Jonah was involved in a pressing business issue? To distract myself from those thoughts, I went through my email. I usually have hundreds of unread emails that I’ve skipped over. Now seemed as good a time as any to go through them. An email from my friend Chase caught my attention. I’d known Chase for over ten years, and I’d reported to him at a previous company. In many ways, he had acted as a mentor to me. Every six months or so, we’d exchange emails, and about once a year, we’d have dinner and catch up. Chase’s latest email talked about a new role he had taken on as an advisor to a startup. He added that he was no longer working full time and even thinking about retirement. Chase also suggested we have dinner sometime soon, and I responded enthusiastically. And then, I went through the rest of my emails. There was already a long chain of emails about the possible data breach and what needed to be done. I set about trying to douse some of the flames. At five o’clock, an emergency meeting was held in the largest conference room on the 4th floor. That’s how you knew how important it was; only a few people can book that room. It had become clear that many people had opinions about what should be done and how it should be handled. I’d hoped to keep the numbers in the meeting down to a manageable level. Still, even with my efforts, we’d had to invite representatives from IS, IS Security, Corporate Communications, Compliance, Legal, and HR. I’d also given the CEO a heads up on the issue and invited him, but he’d said he couldn’t make it, but to keep him in the loop. I was relieved he couldn’t come, as I wasn’t sure what might be revealed. It was a big crowd—probably too large—but that’s what happens with these things. Several senior people were present, which suggested how serious everyone thought it was. I felt it was serious too, but I thought it was too soon to start a full-blown panic until we knew more about what had happened. We should at least give ourselves a couple of days to understand the problem. Still, not everyone agreed with that way of doing things, so that was why we were having this hasty meeting at 5 in the afternoon. Much to my surprise, Jonah was sitting at one of the chairs lined up against the side wall. The over-flow seating. Notably, Edmund, his supervisor, wasn’t in the meeting. I wasn’t sure what that might mean. I started the meeting by outlining the problem and then passed it off to Cole, who described what happened in almost mind-numbing detail. Someone asked who had discovered the mistake, and there was a moment of awkward silence before Jonah slowly raised his hand. A little haltingly, Jonah began to explain how he’d found the problem with one of the databases, and then had found it in three others on the same system. “And did you tell anyone?” asked Mark from Compliance. “Ah, yeah,” Jonah nodded. “I told my supervisor.” “And what did he do?” Mark continued, obviously looking around for the person, but seeing no one volunteer responsibility. Jonah glanced at Cole, who nodded at him to continue. “He told me he deleted the files,” said Jonah. It was like you could hear everyone taking in a deep breath in shock. “Did you think that was okay?” Mark challenged, and I wanted to slap Mark down. This wasn’t Jonah’s fault, and it felt like Mark was blaming the messenger. “Ah, he said he’d take care of it,” said Jonah defensively, and I could tell he was embarrassed. “But you didn’t take your concerns to anyone else?” Mark persisted. “I uh…” Jonah glanced at me. “If he told his manager…” Erin Hayes, the General Counsel, began, but I interrupted her. “He told me,” I said, and everyone looked at me in surprise. “I’m his mentor,” I added. “Jonah was uncomfortable about what had happened and told me he was concerned. He wasn’t sure if it was okay. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but knew I needed to investigate it. That’s why I started asking questions about the security of the databases this morning.” No one asked Jonah any more questions, and I was uneasy about that. Were they wondering why I was mentoring a kid that had been with the company for only a couple of months? At least they weren’t interrogating Jonah—I guess I should have been relieved? The meeting dragged on for more than an hour as we discussed what we needed to do. It was decided we needed to hire a consultant to help with identifying what happened. If for appearances sake as much as whether we had the resources to fully investigate the problem. Pete said he’d already spoken to two different companies and expected to choose one tomorrow morning. Compliance and Legal were going to work on what we needed to do to notify the government. We'd also need to contact anyone whose data might have been revealed. But that would only happen once we knew if any data had been jeopardized. Corporate Communications was going to put together a press release. However, that too would have to wait until we knew what had actually happened. The meeting ended, and everyone disappeared into the night. I had wanted to speak to Jonah, but he left with Cole, and I had to trust that he would turn up at home later. “So he told you during a mentoring session?” Karen asked me, a broad smile on her face. The two of us had stayed behind, talking about a couple of unrelated issues. And then Karen had glanced around, checking that everyone had left, before asking me that question. “I definitely see myself as his mentor when we are talking about work,” I said primly. Karen raised one eyebrow, but keeping it professional, she didn’t say anything else like, ‘did you have your clothes on?’ It was only later that I remembered that yes, we had both been clothed when he’d told me. Admittedly I had my arms around him in a rather un-mentoring fashion. We’d also spent the rest of the evening in bed together naked, but that was beside the point. Karen simply nodded, and we exchanged a few more pleasantries before she left to go home. She said nothing about moving Jonah. I guessed that suggestion would come later. I ended up going back to my office and spending another hour talking with Pete discussing who to hire. Peter said he would take care of the PO in the morning. Fortunately, the estimated cost was under what I could approve. I sent an email to purchasing letting them know it would be approved and needed to be expedited. Pete didn’t mention anything about my relationship with Jonah. Yet, I felt like he kept wanting to, and would keep stopping himself. I didn’t want to talk about it either—not at the moment—so I didn’t bring it up. And once that was all taken care of, I went home, wondering if Jonah would be there. “Have you told anyone we’re dating?” Jonah demanded as I entered the house. He was waiting nervously for me at the door when I got home, and that was the first thing he asked before I was even in the door. “Good to see you too,” I said, hugging him and giving him a quick kiss, but he ignored it. “Have you?” he persisted. “Karen in HR already knew. I told you that,” I said defensively. “I also told Peter today,” I said, and when Jonah frowned, I added, “I felt I had to.” Jonah stood staring at me for a moment, and then he nodded slowly, chewing his lip. “I told her, too,” he finally said. “Is there going to be a problem?” Jonah asked. I thought about it. I still wasn’t sure. I didn’t think it should be, but I couldn’t be sure. “Could be,” I said, just because I didn’t want to have him upset with me if I was wrong. I had no idea what might happen over the next few days, or what these revelations would cause. “For you?” he asked. “You mean, about the database failure?” I asked him. “No, about us dating.” I sighed. I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I guess I had always assumed that the worst-case scenario was that Jonah would be dismissed, and I’d be a bit embarrassed, but that would be about it. But maybe that too was being optimistic. “I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “It’s hard to know. I think if it gets out, then yes, unfortunately, it could cause a problem.” “Why?” “People will think there’s favoritism. I think especially because you’re junior to me.” “And gay?” he prompted. And because we’re gay? Yes, that could make things worse. “I dunno. It probably doesn’t help,” I said. Jonah nodded again, and then he shrugged. “What do you want to have for dinner?” he asked, changing the subject faster than I expected. “I have some chicken. I was thinking of Chicken Korma. You like that?” I offered. “Sure,” he shrugged. The enthusiasm was muted, but I don’t think either of us could get up much excitement for anything. “Great,” I said, trying to inject some enthusiasm into the evening. “You can make the rice.” The following week I met Chase for dinner. When I told Jonah I was having dinner with a friend, Jonah said he would meet up with his friend Noah. The restaurant Chase had chosen was on Moody Street in Waltham. We generally met in Waltham as it was approximately halfway between my place in Lexington and his in Newton. Chase is in his late fifties, and six years ago, I’d attended his second marriage. He married a woman twenty years his junior. A few weeks before the marriage, we’d had dinner, just to catch up, and I hadn’t asked, but he’d told me that he had no intention of having more kids. He already had two kids from his first marriage. The youngest was just starting college, and in his words, he was glad to have them out of his hair. I was sure he loved his children, but I understood that he’d gone through that experience once and didn’t want to repeat it. Chase assured me at the time that he’d told his bride-to-be, and she had been quite okay with that. Now he had a five-year-old and four-year-old twins, and he seemed as proud of them as any parent. If anything, he talked about them more than he ever had about his older children. I never brought up what he’d told me prior to the marriage, and he’d never explained what had changed to push him into fatherhood again. Had he changed his mind? Had his wife convinced him, or had she become ‘accidentally’ pregnant? Part of me was dying to know, but I never had the nerve to ask him, and he never offered. My curiosity about children was just that, curiosity. What I really wanted to pick Chase’s brains about was what it was like living with someone much younger than yourself? What were the problems and pitfalls? I wondered if there might be a support group that met to discuss cultural references they didn’t understand, and where to get viagra at discount prices? Not that I needed viagra at the moment. When I arrived at the restaurant, Chase was already seated, and there were the usual few minutes of general conversation about traffic, parking, and the weather as I settled myself and scanned the menu. We ordered, and then Chase told me about the new car he’d just bought—a Honda Pilot. He explained that they needed something large to drag the kids and their friends around in. “How are things with you?” he then asked. “Oh, pretty good,” I said. “I’m dating someone.” Chase had never seemed squeamish about discussing my relationships. We certainly didn’t go into them at any length, but he used to inquire about John, and he already knew that I had broken up with John. That had been the topic of our last dinner together. So when Chase asked me how things were, I was comfortable talking a bit about Jonah. “How’s that going?” Chase asked, it was more a continuing of the conversation than an interrogation. “It’s going well, I hope. He’s basically living with me,” I said. “Oh,” said Chase, and I had clearly surprised him. “How long have you known him?” he asked, and now he really seamed curious. “Ah, a couple of months?” I said, feeling myself redden just a little. “And you’re already living together?” said Chase. “Going to get married?” he asked, smiling broadly, and then he winked at me. I hadn’t even thought about getting married. The idea hadn’t entered my head. “Uh, I don’t…we haven’t even thought about that,” I said, rattled. Chase grinned again. “You’re living together. That’s the next step, isn’t it?” he asked. “Uh yeah,” I agreed. But this wasn’t what I’d wanted to talk about. “Actually,” I began. ”Jonah’s a bit younger than me…” “Yeah?” “Like twelve years younger.” I could see Chase doing the math in his head, but he didn’t say anything, he just nodded. “Can I ask you a question?” I said. Chase looked interested; as if he was wondering what question he might be able to answer that would help me. “Sure.” “I’m kind of…” I tried to think of the right word to use. Freaked out seemed too incendiary. “Concerned that the age difference is going to be a problem. I wondered if you had any thoughts…” “Oh,” he said, and Chase sat there for a moment, obviously thinking. But instead of answering the question, he asked me another one. “Well, how’s the relationship at the moment?” “What do you mean?” “How is it? Ah…are things good?” “It’s good,” I said, unsure if I was supposed to talk about sex. I assumed that wasn’t what Chase was asking, but for a moment, I was unsure. “Yeah, but is it balanced? Do you see a future?” “Balanced?” I queried. Chase toyed with his pasta. “Well, you’ve only been together a couple of months, so…you know, sometimes the early days of a relationship are pretty much just the newness and the excitement and the…” and he trailed off. In my head, I supplied the word ‘sex.’ Yeah, that sort of described it. There was a lot of newness and excitement. And a lot of sex. “Is there something there to continue the relationship after—or if—that starts to fade away?” he concluded. I took that to mean; was there anything other than sex to the relationship? I thought there was. We did things together, and even the things we didn’t do together, we liked to do with each other. Whether it was work that we needed to do at home, or playing video games, we were nearly always around one another. “Yeah…I think so,” I said, pretty sure, but now I was busily analyzing the details of our relationship. Chase nodded. “What about children?” he asked. “Children?” I asked, almost shocked. “Do you think you’d want to have children?” “Uh,” I didn’t know how to answer that. Growing up, I’d always imagined having a family, because that seemed to be the thing people did. Still, I hadn’t thought about having a family once I’d gotten to my twenties, came out, and lived as a gay man. I’d never talked about children with a partner. “We haven’t talked about it,” I said slowly, not wanting to admit it had never occurred to me. Maybe the fact that I never thought about it was the answer? Chase nodded, but he didn’t add anything, leaving me a bit in the dark. Yet, since he’d asked, I figured it gave me a chance to ask something that I had wondered about. “How did you feel about having more?” I asked, trying not to sound to curious. Chase gave me a look that suggested I’d hit the nail on the head. “‘Well, to be honest, I hadn’t felt the need to have more, and I thought it might be nice to, you know, just be us,” and he pursed his lips and then took a sip of his wine, while I waited impatiently. “But then?” I prodded. “A change of heart?” he said simply, and smiled and took another sip of his wine. “A change of heart?” Chase stopped drinking and grinned. “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” he said. “Okay.” Chase put down the glass, glanced around, and then took a deep breath. “I think,” he continued, “in a relationship, there’s a lot of things you can negotiate on; what movie to see, what car to buy, where to live. But if one of you wants children and the other doesn’t, that’s sort of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.” “Yeah,” I agreed. “So we had Harry, and you know, on the one hand, kids really stress and challenge a relationship, because they become the focus of it. But I love the kids so much.” “Huh,” I nodded, “But you probably don’t want to have kids,” he said hurriedly. I don’t? Or do I? “I don’t know,” I said, truthfully. Suddenly all I was thinking about was, did I want kids? Did Jonah want kids? I couldn’t imagine that he did. He’d never mentioned anything about it, but then we’d never talked about it. We’d only been together a few months—should we be talking about it? Thankfully, the conversation drifted to other things, and I didn’t have to dwell too much on these thoughts. When I got home, the house was empty, and I was disappointed that Jonah wasn’t home. I watched some TV, but finally decided to call it a night. I guessed that Jonah would be out late with his friend Noah, and for a moment, I had visions of Jonah meeting some guy at a bar and going home with him. I had to bury that thought quickly. “You awake?” I heard Jonah whisper. I opened my eyes and glanced at my watch on the night table. It was just after one. “I am now,” I said. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to…” “It’s okay,” I said, rolling over to face him. Jonah climbed in and slid up to me, and I took him in my arms and kissed him on the lips. He tasted of toothpaste. “You have a good time?” he asked me. “Yeah. It was good to catch up with Chase. What about you? What did you and Noah do?” “We mostly hung out at his place. Noah is kind of down, His boyfriend is a bit of an ass.” “Oh,” I said. Jonah shrugged. “He’ll get over it,” he said. I kissed Jonah again. I wanted to ask Jonah if he wanted to have kids and whether he could imagine getting married. But I wasn’t sure how to bring it up without things getting serious. But now wasn’t the time for either discussion. I was half asleep, and besides, it was nice to just lie here and hold him. It worried me that I might actually ask Jonah to marry me if we started talking about it, and I had to think some more about that. A few days later, Jonah was working on the kitchen table, while I was tidying up the kitchen. I wondered if I should ask him if he wanted to use my office, but I liked him working in the kitchen. At least then, he was around. “How are things at work?” I asked him casually. “Okay,” he shrugged. “No one giving you trouble?” “Nah,” he shook his head. “I think words gone around that you’re my mentor, so everyone is scared of me,” and he grinned. “Uh, huh,” I said. Jonah nodded thoughtfully, then added. “The consultant seems to think no one broke into the system, despite the fact it wasn’t buttoned down.” For a moment I wondered if he was intentionally trying to change the subject. “Yeah?” I said, surprised that Jonah knew this. “How’d you hear that?” I’d only that afternoon heard the unofficial word that this was the case. It was still going to be a few days before the consultants would be willing to sign off on it, and we’d make an official announcement. Jonah looked slightly embarrassed. “I was helping the guy doing most of the work, and I got friendly with him. He told me that was what they’d found.” I nodded. “Well, that’s good then,” I said. “Edmund is happy,” Jonah said cryptically. “I bet,” I agreed. Edmund was the manager that had erased the files and told Jonah to forget about it. Jonah sat there for a long moment, and I wondered what he was thinking. Then I realized that he was waiting for me to say something, but I wasn’t sure what. “Are they going to fire him?” Jonah finally asked. Oh. So that was what he wanted to know. “I don’t know,” I said honestly. Jonah screwed up his face in puzzlement. “Really?” he said, clearly suspicious. “It’s not my call,” I said truthfully. “But you could do…something…” he trailed off. “No,” I said, “No, I can’t ‘do’ something.” “Why not? It’s your division,” and he genuinely seemed puzzled. Either that or frustrated—maybe a mixture of both. “Jonah, do you…if we fire him, and he finds out we’re dating, he could turn around and sue us for wrongful termination.” “That’s stupid,” said Jonah. “He’s an asshole that…firing him is totally appropriate.” “You and I know that, but a jury might not see it that way.” “That’s just…so he gets away with it?” Pete and I had already had a couple of cryptic conversations about what to do. In the end, I’d bowed out of the discussions because it wouldn’t look right if I was involved. But Pete knew about my relationship, and I knew that had tilted the decision. I realized that I hadn’t answered Jonah’s question. “I think they are going to put a warning in his file,” I said finally. “Figures,” Jonah grumbled. “Figures?” “He’ll get away with it,” said Jonah, and he seemed angry. “He’s not getting away with anything. Anyway, don’t worry about him.” “He’s an asshole.” “Is he?” “Yeah,” said Jonah snappishly, and then he seemed to reconsider his answer. “I didn’t tell you that,” Jonah added quickly. “I’ll try not to remember that then,” I grinned. Jonah stared at his computer screen for a moment or two. “So should we go public?” he asked softly. “Public? Not unless someone broke into our systems.” Jonah looked puzzled for a moment. “No,” he finally said. “With our relationship. In the company.” “Ah, oh,” I said, understanding. But what to say? I went with the first thing I thought of. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. At least at the moment.” Jonah frowned. “We’re just going to keep it a secret forever?” “Ah, no,” I laughed. “Not forever. But I don’t know, maybe things will look very different after it’s been a while,” I said truthfully. “What? Like you get sick of me?” he said, and I wasn’t sure if he was serious or joking. “I won’t get sick of you,” I teased him, reaching out and squeezing his shoulder. “What are you working on?” I asked, changing the subject. I didn’t like where this was going. “Oh, it’s a proof of concept for Pharmacy,” said Jonah, clearly brightening. “What do they want?” “They want a better analysis tool for their data.” “Oh, okay. How’s it going?” Jonah screwed up his face. “Not well. I don’t think we can do what they want, well, not without about three man-years of software development, and we don’t have the resources for that. I guess no one wants to get the resources.” “Huh,” I said. In my head, I was thinking maybe I should get involved, and then I very quickly realized that I shouldn’t. “You didn’t hear this from me either,” Jonah added quickly. “I won’t tell anyone,” I said, holding my hand up with my fingers crossed, and Jonah smiled. He shrugged. “They’re going to go outside to get something. They’re putting together a…” and he paused for a moment. “R…what’s it called when they ask people people to quote…” “RFP?” I offered. “Yeah, that.” “They have? Oh, so why are you working on it?” Jonah shrugged again. “Just playing, it’s an interesting puzzle,” he said. “Your manager has you working on this?” I asked, genuinely puzzled. Jonah shook his head. “I’m doing it on my own time,” he said. I took a second to digest that. “Wait? So this isn’t actual work?” “Well, its…” Jonah began, but I interrupted him teasingly. “You mean I’ve been waiting patiently for a blow job, and you’ve not actually been doing work you have to do?” I asked. I was joking with him. If he wanted to work on a puzzle, it was fine with me, but I liked to tease him now and again. Jonah grinned. “You’ve hardly been waiting patiently,” he said impishly. “Well, I’m hard,” I said, and he giggled. And then he closed the computer and turned towards me. “I suppose I should do something about that,” he said, grinning. I leaned forward and kissed him. “No. If you want to work on that, it’s okay. My erection and I can wait…” and I glanced at the time. “At least another half hour. But that’s it, cause then there has to be some bed action, cause I want to sex you up, and we also need to get some sleep. We can’t be ‘up’ all night.” “You got any more erection jokes?” Jonah asked me. “I don’t know. Do I have your attentionn yet?” I asked, dragging out the word attention. “Half an hour,” Jonah promised. I kissed him again. “I’m holding you to that.” It was early Wednesday evening, and I’d actually made an effort to get home early so we could barbecue and swim and hang out. I’d spent a lot of time lately thinking about our relationship. About what I wanted from it, and what I hoped it might become. I wasn’t sure, but I felt guilty that I had taken John for granted, and I was determined not to do that with Jonah. And if you’re going to make a change, you have to embrace and make it part of the routine. It doesn’t work to just say, ‘I’m going to be more present as things happen.’ Jonah was already swimming when I got home; he liked to swim after work, and when he saw me, he got out of the pool and came over and gave me a big wet hug. I was glad I’d changed after getting home, before going to find him. I hugged him and put my hands on his butt. “How was your day?” I asked him. “Okay,” he said. “Yours?” “It’s getting better,” I said, squeezing his ass through the swimsuit's wet cloth. We were in the kitchen, so not completely exposed, but it was still possible for the neighbors to see us. “You should wear this all the time,” I said. Jonah nodded. “Might provoke questions at work,” he said mischievously. “Probably.” The doorbell rang, and we both started. “Who’s that?” Jonah asked. “No idea,” I said since the only person that turned up at my place unannounced was currently in my arms. “I’ll go see.” “Okay,” he said. I went to the door and opened it. It was John. “Uh, hi,” I said. “Hey,” said John. I waited a moment, expecting him to say something, but he just stood there. “What’s up?” I asked him, conscious that I was wearing a swimsuit and a t-shirt. “Uh, oh, this and that,” he said, appearing flustered. “How about you?” he asked. This was very un-John-like behavior. Usually, John had an opinion, and he stated it immediately. “Should I start the barbecue?” I heard Jonah call, and I turned to see him walking down the hall towards us. Jonah was wearing a towel wrapped around his waist, one hip bone exposed, suggesting he had taken off his swimsuit. I was pretty sure the wardrobe was intentional. To me, he looked like a walking wet dream, and he probably knew that. “Ah, sure, if you want?” I said to him. Jonah came up to me, put his arms around me, and practically molded himself to the side of my body. “Are you going to be long?” he asked me, completely ignoring John. “Probably not,” I said, and I looked up at John, who had a quizzical expression on his face. I looked back at Jonah. “Ah, why don’t you get dressed? I should be done in a minute.” “Okay,” he smiled flirtatiously at me. And then, without acknowledging John, Jonah turned around. As he did so, he pulled off the towel and handed it to me like I was his servant, and I watched Jonah walk butt naked back down the hall to the kitchen. He did have a lovely ass. When he walked, it looked like… I suddenly remembered that John was standing at my door, probably looking at the same ass. I turned back to face John, feeling more than a little foolish, and John had a very ‘not amused’ expression on his face. We stood there for a few seconds, neither of us saying anything. “You wanted to talk?” I finally asked him, dropping the wet towel on the ground because I didn’t know what else to do with it—and I felt foolish standing there holding it. “Is he living with you?” John blurted out. I stood there for a moment, trying to think how best to respond to that question. It occurred to me that Jonah was. It also occurred to me that I wasn’t going to tell John that, even if the idea of rubbing his face in it did appeal to me. My immediate thought was to tell him it was none of his business, but I knew that would have no sway with John. “Did you want something?” I asked, instead. One eyebrow raised, and I waited for his rejoinder. “How old is he? Fifteen?” “Funny. He’s twenty-four,” I said, not altogether feeling like that made a big difference to what I assumed was John's point. “So that’s what…you’re half again his age?” he asked. John was always good with numbers. I was getting sick of this. “Anyway, how’s your…I’ve forgotten his name,” I asked. “Steven.” “Yeah,” I agreed. “How’s your Steven?” I asked, not really caring. “We aren’t together anymore.” The bluntness of the answer threw me. “You’re not?” “I had to fire him.” “You…What?!” “He was stealing from the cash register.” “Oh,” I said. Should I express sympathy? Secretly I wanted to laugh in his face, but that wasn’t very nice. I still wanted to. “Yeah…anyway…” said John. “How’s the car?” I interrupted. I was running out of small talk, and I wasn’t really interested in any other talk with John. “Oh,” said John, glancing back over his shoulder at the Jeep. “It’s going well. But I’m thinking of trading it in. Get something smaller.” I nodded. “Are you going to be long?” Jonah called out. I turned, and Jonah was walking toward us again. He’d obviously run up the back stairs and changed as quickly as he could. He was wearing a pair of my sweatpants, rolled up at the ankles, and a t-shirt of mine. The t-shirt was different, but otherwise, it was the same outfit Jonah had worn the first time he’d slept over at the house. The baggy clothes made him look like a mischievous elf, and I felt like it was another message. He had plenty of clothes of his own here. Jonah walked up and hugged himself to my side again and just stood there, staring at John. “I don’t…was there something you wanted?” I said to John, conscious that Jonah might start dry humping me in a minute if I didn’t get John moving. “No. It’s fine,” said John, and then he paused, looking around. “Have you repainted?” he asked. I had repainted the place, and I’d moved things around and replaced some furniture after he’d moved out. It was part of my effort to rid myself of his memory, and anyway, we had different tastes. He tended to like Vermont farmhouse stuff, while I preferred a more modern aesthetic. John had slowly been trying to convert the house into something he desired, and when he moved out, I had gotten rid of everything I didn’t like. “Yeah, just cleaned it up a bit,” I said. No sense in getting into details, though I could tell John wasn’t impressed. But then, what did he expect? Was I going to keep the place the way he’d made it? Like some memorial to him? “Did your little friend help pick out the colors?” John asked, and when he said ‘little friend,’ he glanced at Jonah as if Jonah was beneath him. I’d repainted the house months before I’d met Jonah, but that was none of John’s business. Now I was annoyed, but before I could say anything, Jonah replied. “I just picked out the color of the ceiling in the bedroom. I spend most of my time on my back in there,” said Jonah. John didn’t seem to know what to say to that. I tried not to laugh. I squeezed Jonah gently, and he made a guttural groaning noise, which didn’t help at all. “Well, I have to get going,” said John. “Oh, sorry you can’t stay,” said Jonah, his voice indicating he didn’t mean it at all. John glanced at Jonah, then he looked at me, and I wondered what would come out of his mouth, but John simply turned and walked out. I looked down at Jonah, and he gave me an innocent smile. “That wasn’t nice,” I said, not really meaning it, and Jonah rolled his eyes. “That wasn’t nice,” he mimicked. “Stay here for one minute,” I said, kissing him quickly. And then I walked out onto the front steps. “Hey! John!” I called. John stopped and turned. “What did you want?” I asked him. “Nothing,” he said. “I hope you enjoy your twinkie,” and he got into my Jeep and drove away. “Well, fuck you,” I mumbled under my breath. I had tried so hard not to get mad at John when he’d told me he didn’t think he wanted to be in a relationship anymore. Followed by the admission that he had been sleeping with someone else. I had felt guilty. That I hadn’t been around more. That I hadn’t worked harder at the relationship. That I hadn’t done…something. And besides, what was the point of getting angry and fighting? So I’d tried to be the adult about it. I’d let him take the car. Even some furniture that we’d bought together. We’d never married, though we’d been living together for a couple of years. All in all, I probably got away lightly. Anyway, it was behind me now. I turned around and walked back into the house, closing the door behind me, still wondering why John could be so bitchy to me. Not that the reception I received inside was any warmer. Jonah was standing where I’d left him, his arms crossed, looking a mixture of angry and hurt. “What did he want?” Jonah demanded. To be continued...
  3. Glad you liked it! The lack of an ending for this story really ate at me too, so even if it wasn't what the author intended, it made me feel good to have an ending for the characters!
  4. Let's hope it doesn't come to that....
  5. 9. Don’t Assume Anything Always double-check, and never assume. If you explain something to someone, have them retell it in their own words. Then you’ll know if they really understood what you were teaching. — Employee Handbook: Mentoring For the next couple of weeks, things settled down, and life had almost become a comfortable routine. Or at least comfortable—it was barely routine. Weekdays were filled with work—Jonah seemed as inclined to work long hours as I was—but we also watched movies on TV and played a lot of video games. We weren’t playing the same games, but we’d usually play in the same room. On the weekends we went to the movies, rode the bikes, and went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. We were getting comfortable with one another. And then, everything changed again. I’d noticed that Jonah had been distracted for a couple of days. Something was worrying him, but he wouldn’t say what. I’d be talking to him, and I’d realize that he was staring off into space. “Hey!” I said to him one evening, trying to get his attention. I’d been putting together dinner while he was sitting at the kitchen island, staring out the window. “Spaceman!” I said a little louder. “Huh? What?” he said, shaking himself. “Where were you?” I asked him Jonah shrugged. “Nowhere,” he said, shrugging again. That evening we watched some TV, but Jonah didn’t seem interested in anything. He spent half the time on his phone texting or looking at Instagram or something. I started to wonder if I had done something wrong, or if he was getting sick or bored of the relationship. That night, after washing up, I went into the bedroom, and Jonah was already in bed, lying on his side, facing away from me. “You all set?” I asked him as I climbed into bed, and he nodded. I turned out the light and moved over to cuddle up to him, putting my hand first on his chest, and then slowly sliding my hand down towards his stomach. I’d just about reached his belly button when he put his hand up and grabbed mine. I lay there waiting for him to say something, but he didn’t say or do anything. I tried moving my hand again, but he gripped it tighter. “You tired?” I asked him. “Yeah,” he said, the answer sounding more on edge than sleepy. It was the first time Jonah had resisted sex or intimacy, and it panicked me. He didn’t seem ill, and he hadn’t appeared tired. If anything, he seemed tense and wound up. “Are you okay?” I asked him. “Yeah,” he mumbled, and then Jonah turned his head to face me. I leaned down, kissed his lips, and was about to press my tongue into his mouth when he pulled away. “I’m just really tired,” he said. There was a long pause, and then he added, “Sorry.” “That’s okay,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. I lay awake for about an hour or so, running it all through my head, trying to make sense of the past few days. The next morning I awoke to find the bed beside me empty. Jonah had gotten up well before me, showered and dressed, and he was literally heading out the door as I came down to have breakfast. “Hey!” I called out to his back. Jonah stopped at the door and just seemed to freeze for a few seconds before turning slowly to face me. He gave me an uncertain smile as I tentatively walked up to him. “Morning,” I said, waiting for him to say something, but he just nodded and stood there. I leaned in slowly…and ended up kissing him chastely on the side of the mouth. Jonah smiled a more genuine smile, but then he looked uncomfortable. “I’ve got to go,” he said. “I’ll see you tonight?” I asked, holding my breath for the answer. He nodded casually. “Okay,” I said, and he turned and walked out, and I watched him go, trying to figure out what might be going on in his head. After Jonah left, I went and poured myself a bowl of cereal and sat at the kitchen island, wondering what was going to happen next. I wondered if he was seeing someone else, or if he’d just realized that it made no sense to be dating someone so much older? Was he bored? Had he grown tired of me? John had said some cruel things when we’d had our final fight—after he’d told me he’d been sleeping with the guy that worked part-time in the sandwich shop. He’d said that I was cold and self-centered. At the time, I thought he was just trying to hurt me or to make me the bad guy so that he wouldn’t feel guilty. But maybe John’s picture of me was more accurate than my own? Well, I thought, I had enjoyed a couple of glorious and exciting months, and I hadn’t even dreamed of getting that. Shouldn’t I just revel in the memory of what was, rather than grieve for losing it? This sounds like great advice in theory, but it can be impossible to accomplish in reality. That day turned into a succession of long, boring meetings, and I made a note to myself; Fewer Meetings. I wrote it in large letters on the notepad, though I knew it was unlikely to happen. Being a senior VP pretty much means that all you do is have meetings. You never actually do any work. Well, hardly any. I was a late getting home—the last meeting ran over—and on the way home, I dreaded what I’d find there. Would Jonah have already moved out? Would he be waiting to give me the bad news? The ‘hey, we need to talk’ speech. Part of me didn’t want to go home and find out. But Jonah was there when I got home, swimming in the pool, and for a couple of minutes, I stood there watching him swim. Trying to burn the memory into my brain. It was a hot afternoon, and part of me thought about changing and going in the pool with him. But he probably wouldn’t want me. I was just about to turn and go back inside when he turned and spotted me. “Hi,” Jonah called out, and he swam over to hang on the edge of the pool, close to where I was standing. “Hey,” I said. Was it my imagination, or was he less ebullient? Less playful? “You been home long?” he asked. “No. I just got in,” I said. “Okay,” he nodded. “Ahh…any thoughts about dinner?” I asked him. Jonah shrugged, and now he looked sad. “You want to get pizza?” I asked. I was tired and didn’t feel like cooking before getting into an awkward conversation. Something easy like takeout seemed the better choice, and then maybe over dinner, we can figure out the breakup. Or when he wanted to move out. “Sure,” Jonah nodded. “I’m going to swim for a bit more.” “Oh yeah,” I said. “I’ll order it,” and I went in and ordered his favorite pizza. When the pizza arrived, Jonah came hesitantly into the kitchen as I put out a couple of plates. After getting some slices, we sat down across from each other. I realized that the usual hugging, kissing, and touching of the earlier relationship had been avoided. We sat there, eating pizza, and struggling to make small talk. I thought about getting a beer, but decided that if I started, I might not stop. The last thing I wanted to do was get drunk and make things worse. “How was work?” I asked, thinking that small talk would be best while we ate. “Okay,” he said. “Anything interesting happen?” I asked. Jonah looked nervous. I wondered whether it was someone at work that he’d hooked up with. “No,” he said, his voice sounding strained. There was a long silence. “What about you?” he asked. “Oh, you know. The usual meetings,” I said. Jonah nodded. Another long silence. We were struggling just to talk to each other. Fuck, I thought to myself, this is hell. “Anything else happening?” I asked. He shook his head. “No,” he said. This was getting us nowhere. I guessed that one of us had to be the adult and move things along. Put a fork in it, as they say. “Listen,” I said, taking a breath and preparing for the devastation to follow. “If you want to move out, it’s okay.” I almost choked on the words, but I managed to get them out. Jonah looked up in surprise, his mouth hanging open. I could see some half-chewed pizza in his mouth, but he still looked adorable. “I mean,” I continued, “it’s been fun, but if it’s time…” “You’re kicking me out?” Jonah asked, his voice clearly surprised, almost hurt. “No,” I denied, confused by his response. “I’m just saying, if you want to go…” I began, but Jonah was looking puzzled. I began to wonder what I had got wrong. “…if you’ve met someone else, I understand,” I continued. Jonah sat there for a second, and then he literally laughed. I think that hurt most of all. “Okay…” I began, trying to reclaim some dignity. “I haven’t met someone else,” he interrupted. Now I was more confused. Was Jonah just bored with me? “Okay, well, what…?,” and I didn’t know what to ask. Jonah sat there for a moment, the puzzled expression still on his face. “What are you talking about?” he blurted out. “Ah…I’m talking about you being so distant,” I said. Jonah looked like I was talking in riddles. “Not wanting to have sex…” I added uncertainly. “I was tired!” “You’re distant…” “I’ve been busy at work!” he snapped back, looking hurt. Was I the bad guy here? “Really?” I said, annoyed and trying not to get angry. “that’s what’s going on?” Jonah looked guilty, and then he looked down. I took a deep breath and tried to think of how best to say what I was thinking. “Jonah,” I said, trying to sound as gentle and consolatory as I could. “Look…I understand if you’re having second thoughts. If you want to take a break, …slow things down…” He looked up, and now he really looked upset. “No…that’s not…” he began and then stopped. I waited, but he just sat there, looking conflicted. “Then what’s going on?” I asked softly. “I can’t tell you!” he exclaimed. Shocked, I shot back, “Why not?” We sat there for a moment. “I can’t tell you,” he repeated quietly, almost whispered. “Why not?” I repeated. There was another long silence, and I resisted the urge to fill it. “It’s not about us,” Jonah finally said. “It’s not…I still love you.” “What can’t you tell me?” I asked, sweeping over this unexpected proclamation of love. He sat there in silence. “Jonah?” “It’s work-related.” “Work-related?” He nodded. I sat there for a second, digesting this information. Wait, Jonah said he still loved me? He loved me? And it was something about work? Maybe this wasn’t as bad as I thought? Perhaps this was salvageable? I tried to think of what it might be at work that upset him, and immediately suspected the worst. “Has someone found out we’re sleeping together?” I asked him. Jonah shook his head. “Oh…Is someone hitting on you, threatening you?” I asked. In my head, I was checking off all the possibilities. Jonah shook his head again, and we sat there in silence, and I couldn’t think of what else it could be. “I can’t do the job,” he suddenly blurted out. “I’m going to quit.” For some reason, this shocked me more than the idea that Jonah didn’t want to be with me anymore. He’d seemed so happy the last few weeks, and full of confidence about his abilities. How had it gone so wrong? “You can’t do the job?” I said slowly. Jonah looked up and nodded, looking uncomfortable. “You?” I said carefully. “What?” he asked, now confused. “You’re the smartest guy in the department!” I said, teasing him with the words he’d used to compare himself to his co-workers just a week or so before. Jonah pursed his lips, obviously getting the reference. “I was wrong,” he finally said. I got up and walked around, Jonah watching me closely as I came towards him, but he didn’t object or move away as I put my arms around him. I hugged Jonah tightly to me, his back against my chest. “Jonah, you have to tell me what’s going on,” I said softly into his ear. “I can’t,” he whispered. “Yes, you can,” I said, kissing the side of his face. “Tell me, please. I’ll do everything I can to fix it.” We stayed that way for a minute or two. “I found something,” he finally said quietly. “What?” I asked, trying not to sound like I was interrogating him. “An unprotected database on the public server.” “Okay,” I said, unsure what it meant, but knowing enough that it wasn’t good. “I told my supervisor,” Jonah continued, “and he told me not to tell anyone…and then he deleted all the files.” “Oh,” I said. That wasn’t good at all. “Do you know what was in the files?” I asked. Jonah shook his head. “Not exactly. I think it might have been the results from a drug study.” “Patient data?” I asked. “Ah…Maybe.” “Fuck,” I mumbled. Patient data was, after industrial secrets, the worst thing to lose. The government had rules and regulations about protecting patient data. If we screwed that up, we could lose government contracts. “Do they know if anyone got into the database?” I asked. Jonah shook his head again. “I don’t know. He told me no one did, but…I’m not sure they could tell, and I don’t think they are trying to find out.” “Okay,” and then I kissed him softly on the cheek and hugged him closer. “It’s gonna be okay,” I said softly, and he nodded, and I kissed him again. “You can’t tell anyone,” Jonah said hurriedly. “What?” “Don’t tell anyone I told you. Please,” he said, turning and staring at me with wide eyes. I still had my arms around him, and I pulled him back towards me. He reluctantly moved towards me, and I squeezed him gently. “I can’t promise that it won’t come out that you told me, but I’ll do my best.” “They’ll fire me,” he said. “No,” I said. “They won’t do that. Not for reporting this. Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll hate me if they find out. It’ll be shit,” Jonah protested. “Let’s…one step at a time. I have to look into this, okay? You did the right thing telling me,” I assured him. Jonah leaned back, turned his head, and his mouth met mine, and for the first time in a couple of days, he opened his mouth and started kissing me. And then he just leaned against me as I hugged him, and I was so fucking grateful he was still mine. We didn’t talk anymore about what had happened. Neither of us was hungry, and we ended up going to bed early and spending the rest of the evening just hugging and holding each other. And I wasn’t even disappointed I didn’t get to have sex with him. At least I still had him. Jonah was brighter the net morning, but still anxious. I kept assuring him that he wasn’t going to get into trouble, but he didn’t seem to believe me. He was unhappy when I explained that I had to do something about what he had told me. My insistence that, as an officer of the company, I’d be exposing the company to even greater peril if I didn’t act, seemed to hold little sway with him. But by the time Jonah left, he appeared at least resigned to me doing something. I just hoped that it wouldn’t cause new problems at work, and that Jonah wouldn’t be upset with me. It was 10:15 a.m., and we were a quarter of the way into the departmental manager's meeting. The IS Security manager had just finished her update. “Ah, thanks, Erin,” I said, and I could see the next person about to start talking. “Ah, just a question…” “Yes?” she asked. Erin was one of the most efficient and competent people on the team, so I didn’t like putting her on the spot, but I wasn’t sure how else to handle this. “Where do we stand on software updates for our web servers? There’s been a lot of press about companies being hacked that haven’t been updating software…” Erin frowned for a moment and then replied briskly. “We’re running the latest patches on all the web servers.” “Same for our vendors and partners?” I asked. “Uh, it’s policy that they do so, yes,” she said, but now she was starting to look concerned. “Have we checked?” I asked, hoping I didn’t sound either concerned or accusatory. I was just trying to sound curious. There was a pause, and I could see her thinking. “We do,” she said, finally, and then paused again. “Ah…I’m not sure when we last did.” “Okay,” I nodded in a conciliatory way. “Can you make it an item to check, and also whether we need a policy to check with them? And if we already do, let me know what it is?” “I’ll put that together,” Erin nodded, writing something in her notebook. “Thanks. Now you’re talking server software. What about databases?” “Databases?” she repeated. “Don’t some of them have their own external interfaces?” “I think that would be handled by the database team,” said Erin, looking to someone sitting across from her. I looked over at Cole, who—and it might have been my imagination—looked a little uncomfortable. “Where do we stand with that?” I asked him. “Uh…I don’t…I’ll have to look into that,” he said stuttering and definitely looking a little red. “Okay,” I said, trying my best to continue sounding casual. “Can you do the same and get us an update by the end of the day?” I asked. “A rundown of all databases that are external facing. Any potential problem areas?” There was a ripple of something through the room, but I did my best to ignore it. “Yea…Yes,” Cole stammered. “Great. Moving on…Gerald?” and we continued on with the next agenda item. After the meeting, Peter came up to me. “What’s going on?” he asked me quietly. “Going on?” I asked, trying to appear as calm and disinterested as possible. “Is there something going on? Why were you asking about the databases?” “I don’t know if anything is going on,” I said truthfully. “I just want to make sure everything’s being done correctly.” I regretted not being completely transparent with Pete, but I didn’t want to make an issue of it and find out it was really nothing. Jonah might have been wrong, and I couldn’t charge off assuming things without checking them myself. “Okay,” Peter said, but I could tell he was suspicious. I realized I might have to tell him about Jonah sooner rather than later. That was what probably irritated me the most about the whole business. If someone else had come forward with the problem, I would have done what needed to be done to solve the problem and move on. It would have been unlikely to affect my position or reputation. The revelation of my relationship with Jonah might not be so easy to move past. At about 1:15 p.m., I got a text from Jonah. ‘Shit hit the fan’ was all it said. I texted him back. ‘Are you ok?’ ‘So far,’ he replied. ‘Let me know if you’re in trouble,’ I texted back, but I didn’t hear anything more from him. Just after three o’clock, Peter arrived at my door with Cole, and another guy, Edmund, who I knew was Jonah’s supervisor. “We need to talk,” said Peter, his tone serious. I waved them all in. They came into my office almost reluctantly. As soon as they sat, Cole told the whole story; about the unsecured database, that they didn’t know how long it had been unsecured, and that they didn’t know if anyone had accessed it. It sounded pretty much identical to what Jonah had told me. “When did you find out?” I asked casually. Edmund looked unsettled. “A couple of days ago,” he finally said. “How’d you find out?” Cole took a deep breath. He clearly was unhappy about having to explain what had gone wrong. “One of the interns was running a diagnostic tool…” he began slowly. “He ran it on all the databases and realized this some were configured incorrectly.” “An intern?” I asked, confused. Was this a different problem to the one Jonah had found, or had someone else found the same problem before Jonah? If that was the case, it meant Jonah wouldn’t have to be involved in any investigation, and I felt hopeful. “I don’t think he’s an intern,” said Peter, and the two of them looked at Edmund. Edmund shifted uncomfortably. “He just joined the database group,” he corrected. There went all my hopes; it was Jonah. “And what did you do?” I asked, trying to move the conversation away from Jonah. “They were no longer being used, so we deleted the files,” Edmund said. I nodded. “Do you know what was in the databases?” Edmund looked unsure of himself, and Cole jumped in. “Patient data from several older clinical studies. Most of the data was encrypted and anonymized,” said Cole. “Most of it?” I repeated. “We think so,” said Cole, less certainly. “You don’t know?” I asked. “Ahh…” Cole turned to Edmund, who looked like he didn’t know either. “We need to know,” I pointed out. “How many records are we talking about?” “A few thousand…maybe a hundred thousand,” said Edmund. “Do we know if anyone accessed it?” “No,” said Cole firmly. I waited, expecting him to explain, but he didn’t. “No, they didn’t, or no, we don’t know?” I asked. There was another awkward silence. “Ahhh...We don’t know,” said Edmund. I sat there for a moment, just letting the enormity of the screw-up sink in. “We need to find out what was in there and if anyone accessed it,” said Peter, expressing my thoughts before I could. “Yes,” I agreed. “And we need to have a meeting with compliance and legal and probably corporate communications to figure out what we do next… alright, I’ll put that together, you need to work out what was visible and if anyone got into it. Or if you’re unable to do that, you find out who we need to get in to figure it out. Any questions?” Ending with the statement ‘any questions’ was a shit move to do. It basically implied ‘don’t ask any more questions, we’re done.’ But I was annoyed, and I didn’t want to say what I was really thinking. No one said a word. “Okay then,” I said. They all got up slowly. “Hey, Peter,” I said, “do you have a minute?” “Ah sure,” he said, closing the door behind the other guys. I took a breath. “I think I have to tell you something.” “Okay,” he said slowly. “The software engineer that found the unsecure databases…” I began. “Jonah …someone?” “Yeah. Harris. Jonah Harris.” “Okay,” he nodded, and it was clear he had no idea what was coming. There was no sign he suspected anything. For a moment I thought about not saying anything, but it was too late for that. “Yeah. He and I…we are…” I wasn’t sure how to put it. Probably best to just get to the point. “We are in a relationship.” “Oh,” he said, and I saw his eyes noticeably widen. “Uh…that’s how I found out about it…” “You’re in a relationship?” repeated Peter, clearly shocked. “Uh…yeah,” I agreed. Didn’t I just say that? “It started before he joined the company,” I hastily added. “I didn’t know he was going to be working here. It’s just…not what I planned,” I said, feeling myself redden a little, and here was I trying to appear cool and collected. Pete stood there for a moment, and then he nodded slowly. “Are these things ever?” he asked, and he grinned just a bit. “I…ah…told Karen as soon as I realized he was working here, and it turned out we were still…interested in each other.” It’s interesting the euphemisms you come up with for ‘fuck partner.’ “Okay,” he said. I got the impression that Pete really didn’t want to talk about the details either, and I was grateful. I didn’t want to talk about them at all. “I’m not planning to spread this around,” I continued. “It’s difficult enough as it is, but I thought it important that you know since…well, I wanted someone else in the division to know, and he isn’t actually in your reporting chain.” “Okay.” “We’re…Karen, is talking about transferring him to another division. That’s what Karen wants to do, but we haven’t found anything that would be appropriate, and she doesn’t think it would be good to create something, even though she’d dearly like to move him.” I was babbling. I think my nervousness was making me babble. “What about another company?” Peter suggested. “Maybe he needs to go somewhere else?” I’d been thinking about that, but it seemed like a real imposition. Could I ask Jonah to do that? “He doesn’t have much work experience, it’s really his first job out of school,” I said, feeling awkward. Peter looked even more surprised, and I could see his mind working. “How old is he?” Peter asked before he could stop himself. “He’s twenty-four,” I said reluctantly. I’ll give Pete one thing, there was no visible reaction on his face this time. Remind me not to play poker with him. “And he only just graduated?” Peter asked. “He put himself through college, and he had to take a year off at one point.” Peter stood there, digesting. “I wish it hadn’t happened this way,” I said. “How serious is it?” he asked. “The data breach?” “No,” said Peter. “The relationship?” “Oh,” I said. I had to think about that. How best to answer. “Very,” I finally said. Peter looked at me thoughtfully and then nodded. “What are you going to do if it comes out?” he asked. “No idea,” I said honestly. “The fact he’s younger, and so much junior, and he’s in my division. It’s…I was going to say awkward, but that’s not even the half of it.” “Do his manager, or anyone in the chain know?” “I don’t think so,” I said. “How would he do if we had to let him go?” “Well, he has no family, debt from school…now obviously I can help him out, but he doesn’t like me just giving him money. And he’s only been working for a couple of months. It’s going to be very hard for him to find another job and explain…” “We’d give him a good reference,” Peter cut in. “It wouldn’t look like he was being fired. We could keep him on until he finds a new job. We wouldn’t have to boot him out the door right now. Not at the moment. Not while people don’t know…” He paused. “It might change if people know.” “Maybe, yeah,” I agreed. “Uh, it’s not my place, but I’d encourage him to start looking elsewhere if it was me. It would solve a lot of problems for everybody.” “Yeah,” I nodded. To be continued…
  6. Thank you. No, it wasn't Covid - but oddly enough I was released from the hospital just before it started taking off, so I've been in a sort of 'house arrest' aver since!
  7. I hope to, but some things are beyond my control, as I've discovered over the last six months:
  8. 8. Re-evaluate your initial assumptions Don’t be surprised they were wrong. Instead, adjust your plans and your actions to handle the new reality. — Employee Handbook: Mentoring Upstairs, Jonah was quieter than he’d been all day. We washed up—I found an unused toothbrush in a drawer for him—and then he stripped and climbed into bed. I turned off the overhead light, and walked over and climbed into bed next to him. Jonah sat there looking pensive, as I climbed into bed. “Everything okay?” I asked him. “Yeah,” he said, but it was clear that everything was not okay, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I lay down, facing him, hoping he’d say something, or that he would at least lay down beside me, but Jonah just sat there for a long minute, and then he turned to face me. “Do you like me?” he asked. The question floored me. “Like you?” I repeated, puzzled that he could think I didn’t. “You like having sex with me,” Jonah said. “Well, yes, but I like you too,” I said. “Do you?” he asked me challengingly, and I got the feeling this was going to turn into some kind of argument, and I wasn’t sure why. I motioned to him. “Come down here,” I said softly, “and I’ll tell you what I like about you,” and I helped adjust the covers as Jonah—a little reluctantly—slid down and turned to stare at me, his eyes bright. I put my left hand on his right shoulder and gently ran it down the top half of his arm. “I like your enthusiasm, and your smile,” I said. “I like that you’re smart and fun to talk to, I like that you like to cuddle,” and I pulled Jonah to me and hugged him. Jonah laughed, and then he stopped laughing and frowned. “You like that I like to cuddle?” he asked skeptically. “Yeah. Have you ever been with someone who’s not into cuddling? They’re always; ‘it’s too hot,’ or ‘I’m sticky’ or ‘you’re sticky’ or ‘I’m not comfortable, or ‘I have to go floss.’” Jonah laughed, and I pulled him towards me and hugged him again. “You’re a wonderful cuddler,” I whispered into his ear, and Jonah laughed again, and I laughed with him. “But you don’t want to be with me?” Jonah asked, and the laughter seemed to evaporate. “What makes you say that?” I asked. I wanted him from the moment I first saw him. “You keep saying it, and you never invite me over,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t want to be with you…I just…this whole…the work thing makes it difficult, and you are younger than me, so I worry…” “Why?” he interrupted. I shrugged. “I dunno. That you’ll get bored with me?” Jonah pursed his lips. “What if you get tired of me?” he asked quietly. “I don’t think that would ever happen,” I said softly. “You know I think you’re fantastic, that I enjoy being with you. You know that, right?” Jonah gave me a small, hesitant nod. “I really do, I love it when you’re here,” I said. “I’ve missed you so much the last couple of weeks,” and I didn’t tickle Jonah, but I moved my arms and hugged him tightly to me, and he laughed like I was tickling him. “I want you to stay. I want to spend more time with you. Will you come over tomorrow night?” I asked him. As I said it, I wasn’t sure why I had said it. It wasn’t something that I’d thought about; it just came to me, and I blurted it out. “Well, I don’t know,” Jonah said, pretending not to be sure, though I could tell it was an act. “I’d like you to come over tomorrow night,” I asked again. “Why?” he asked. “For lots of reasons. All those reasons, and a few more. But mainly because I miss you when you aren’t here, and I love talking to you and having you snuggled up to me,” and I hugged Jonah and kissed him on the side of the head, and then on the lips, and we lay there, holding each other. I stared at Jonah, and he was blinking, and I realized that his eyes were watering, but he seemed okay. And we didn’t talk anymore, and we didn’t have sex, but just holding him was more than enough. The next morning, Monday, we shared a rushed breakfast around the kitchen island, and then Jonah was standing at the door, ready to go, and I realized he was waiting for me to say something. “You coming over tonight?” I asked him, trying to make it sound casual. “Maybe,” said Jonah, grinning, but I could tell the answer was yes. “What would you like for dinner?” I asked. Jonah shrugged. “Pizza?” he offered. If we kept eating fast food, I’d be in danger of putting on weight, but I decided to spoil him. “Okay,” I said, “but Tuesday night we’re eating healthy. We can’t live on fast food!” Jonah grinned, and the look he gave me said he’d registered the fact that I was inviting him for the next night as well. “I have to pick up some clothes,” he said. “From your apartment?” I asked. I don’t know why I asked. I guess I was playing for time while I thought about how to respond. This was advancing faster than I had intended, and yet I was excited rather than scared. “Yeah.” “Okay,” I said, still trying to buy time. “What should I get?” he asked me, a clear suggestion from him to define the terms of the invitation. Was this a few days of sex, or was it something else? I walked over and put my arms around him. “I’d get everything you normally wear,” I said. That seemed pretty clear an invitation. Jonah stared at me for a moment, and then he nodded and smiled, and he leaned in and kissed me. “Okay,” he said. I kissed him back. “You better get going,” I said. “Another five minutes, and you’ll be late for work. Another ten, and I’ll be dragging you upstairs and ripping those clothes off you.” “Then you’ll be late for work,” he pointed out. “Yeah,” I agreed, “but I’ll have a good excuse.” We kissed quickly once more, and then Jonah left, leaving me standing in the kitchen. It took me a moment to figure out what I’d just done. I realized that I might have invited him to move in with me permanently. Is that what I did? Is that what I wanted? I mean, my dick wanted it, sure, but did I want it? The best I could come up with was that my dick and my heart wanted him to move in. My brain wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. Two to one, I decided. Majority rules. I was happy Jonah was moving in. I needed to buy more lube. And more food. Jonah may have moved into a new apartment, but his roommates wouldn’t have noticed. After that weekend, Jonah stayed with me nearly every night. On Tuesday, I gave him a key and showed him the security code for the house. On Wednesday, I gave him the opener for the second bay in the garage, and we spent a couple of hours moving bikes and other things so that he could get his car in. It wasn’t like Jonah couldn’t have continued to leave his car in the driveway, but as I pointed out, when the snow came, he’d be glad to keep it in the garage. Snow was still months away. “Who’s bike?” Jonah asked as he moved the second bike that had been standing next to mine. “Oh, that’s John’s, but he left it. He didn’t really like riding anyway,” I explained. “Would it fit you?” I asked. Jonah looked at the bike and frowned. “Maybe?” he replied hesitantly. It took us about twenty minutes to adjust the seat, mainly because for half that time, I couldn’t find a wrench that would loosen it. When we finally had it set up, Jonah took the bike for a short spin in the driveway. “It’s fine,” he said, riding up and stopping in front of me, a broad smile on his face. “We can go for a ride on the bike path this weekend,” I suggested. “Where’s that?” Jonah asked. “Over that way, a few blocks. Other side of Mass Ave,” I said, pointing in the general direction. It wasn’t like you could see the bike path from the house, but it was close. “We can ride down to Somerville, or ride in the other direction. Whichever.” Jonah nodded enthusiastically. Was he living with me, or was he just staying over? Was this a long term thing, or a short term infatuation? I had no idea, but I wasn’t stopping to think things through. I was too happy. We still drove to work separately, and we avoided each other at work. Not that I had run into Jonah at work much before this. He spent most of his time in another building. On Tuesday of that week, I had seen Jonah in the cafeteria. We ignored each other. I guess I was sort of expecting him to say something, but he walked past me without acknowledging me. I wondered if he thought I didn’t want him to talk to me. I decided not to ask him. On Thursday morning of that week, I had to travel out of town. I would be back the next day, but though I had suggested he stay at the house, Jonah decided to go back to his apartment for the evening. “You seem happy,” said Karen. It was Friday lunchtime, and she and I were having a business lunch in the cafeteria. We’d just finished discussing an issue with a new job position. Compensation had balked at what we wanted to pay a recruit, and we were having to figure out whether to reclassify the job or rewrite the whole job description. “Yeah, it’s a Friday,” I agreed with her, not really thinking about her question. I chewed my sandwich slowly, and decided that while edible, it certainly wasn’t the best thing to come out of our cafeteria. Karen and I didn’t have any contact outside of work, but she was a close work friend, and we often spent time chatting about family and other things. I had only arrived back in town an hour earlier, and I was already looking forward to seeing Jonah that evening. And spending all weekend with him. I was tired from the trip, distracted by thoughts of Jonah, and I might not have been at my brightest. That’s why Karen’s next comment blindsided me. “I take it things are going well in the database department,” Karen said, her tone casual. I looked up from my sandwich, and she was staring at me thoughtfully, and then she grinned. For about ten seconds, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. “Uh…” I mumbled. Karen glanced around, perhaps checking that no one was close enough to hear what she was saying. “He came down yesterday,” she answered obliquely. I immediately knew who ‘he’ was. “He did?” I said, pointedly not using his name. I was trying to act casual, but my voice sounded a little higher than normal. “Yeah,” continued Karen. “He wanted to talk to someone about interpersonal relationships, so we talked for a bit.” “Oh,” I said. It hadn’t even occurred to me that Jonah might do that. I also realized that I’d never told him I’d already told Karen about our relationship. “I can’t tell you everything he said, but he wanted to report that he was,” Karen glanced around again, “in a relationship with a colleague.” “Okay.” “He seemed to think the relationship started a week ago,” she said, smiling. I was surprised at that, but before I could say anything, she continued. “I once had a supervisor who had been sleeping with one of their direct reports tell me it wasn’t a relationship because they only had sex.” “Huh,” I said, wondering how to respond to that. I decided to ignore the indirect suggestion. “Did you tell him anything different from what we talked about the other day?” I asked. Karen shook her head. “I told him we weren’t saying you two couldn’t …but that it could be a problem if…well if it became a problem. We talked a bit about that, and I told him that if anyone found out, and was making things difficult for him, that would be harassment and he should let us know. Or tell you.” I nodded. I sat there, considering my sandwich and wondering what else I should say. Frankly, I didn’t want to talk about Jonah at all. “He seems nice,” Karen said suddenly, surprising me, and I couldn’t help but smile at that. Yeah, Jonah was nice. “I can see why you like him,” she added, which puzzled me. “How so?” I asked, curious that Karen thought she knew what I liked in a person. We were friendly, but did she know me that well? Even my mother was unable to figure out who I liked. “Oh, I didn’t mean…” she paused. “Honestly, when you first told me, I had a bit of trouble figuring out why you’d be interested in a…” there was a long pause. “Twenty-four year old?” I supplied. Karen grinned nervously, as if she’d said something she shouldn’t have, and then she nodded and quickly took a bite of her sandwich. I decided not to answer. Often it’s best not to respond to difficult statements. Karen swallowed her mouthful. “But he’s not your average twenty-four year old,” she continued. “He seems much older, more mature than most.” That was interesting. Through the ups and downs of the last few weeks I had seen many sides of Jonah. When we’d first met, he’d seemed so confident and mature. But then I’d seen him at his most vulnerable, and I’d almost felt like I was taking care of him. It was only in the last couple of weeks that the old Jonah had started to reappear, and the relationship had changed again. “He uh, his mother died when he was young, and he’s pretty much been on his own since he was 18,” I said. Karen nodded, her mouth frowning for a moment. “He’s still young,” she added softly, which seemed almost like the opposite of what she’d just said. “You think I shouldn’t date him?” I asked, puzzled. “Not my business,” Karen said cryptically, and then she added. “You’re just dating him?” and I realized that maybe she knew more than I had expected. That we were practically living together. I felt myself blush. “We’re in a relationship,” I said, and I raised my eyebrows sort of in jest, and Karen smiled. I didn’t want to go into whether Jonah had moved in, or was just on an extended visit. It was a question even I wasn’t sure of the answer to. Saturday was a beautiful day, and Jonah wanted to go riding, and I regretted suggesting it. But Jonah wanted to go. I’d screwed up so much with John, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes with Jonah. I was going to be bright and enthusiastic, even if it killed me. It had been a good year or two since I’d ridden on a bicycle, and I had forgotten how uncomfortable they can be to ride long distances. Why do people even think these are a good idea? But Jonah was excited, and a little after 10 a.m., we were riding down the bike trail. With no destination in mind, we ended up heading south towards Cambridge. Just before Cambridge, we pulled over and sat under some trees. “Works okay?” I asked Jonah, indicating the bike. “Yeah,” Jonah nodded tentatively. I wasn’t sure if the bike was troubling him, or something else. “What are you working on at the moment?” I asked. I wasn’t really fishing for information about his department, I was just interested in what he was doing. “Going through some of the older databases. They are looking to upgrade some of them, and we have to figure out if it’s going to be easy or not.” “You’re enjoying your job?” “It’s okay,” he said, smiling nervously. “Hardly a strong endorsement,” I pointed out. Jonah shrugged and then looked at me challengingly. “Do you like everything about your job?” he asked. “You got me on that,” I grinned. “What are you working on then?” Jonah asked, and I spent the next few minutes telling him about the many meetings I had to spend most of my workday in. “Sounds boring,” Jonah said, though I detected a note of sarcasm. “Sometimes,” I agreed. “So…uhh, I asked you before about your parents,” I said, deciding to change the subject. “You did?” he asked, puzzled. “A while back,” I said evasively. I didn’t want to bring up the adventure we had when Jonah’s car had broken down. “You said you had foster parents. What happened?” “Oh,” Jonah said, and he frowned. I suddenly realized it might not be a happy story, and now might not be the best time to discuss it. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” I said hastily. “No, it’s okay,” Jonah said, but then he took a deep breath, and didn’t say anything. I took a drink from my bottle of water and held it out to him, but he shook his head. “You want to…” I began, trying to change the subject by suggesting we start riding again. “I didn’t know my father,” Jonah interrupted me, staring off into the distance as he talked. “My mom had me, and I’m not sure if she knew who my father was,” and then he turned and gave me an embarrassed shrug. “Or maybe he was married or something. She never told me or my grandmother. Well, she told me he was dead when I was young, but I figured out later that wasn’t true because I asked where he was buried one time and she just…” he trailed off. I nodded, not sure what to say. “And then,” he continued. “She was killed in a car accident when I was 14.” “Oh… I’m sorry,” I said, which sounded as hollow and pathetic as it was, but what do you say to someone when they tell you that? Jonah shrugged again. “I stayed with my grandmother after that, but she died when I was 16, and then I was in a couple of foster homes.” He shrugged once more. “The first one was awful, but I had this friend in school, and his brother went away to college, and I used to stay over there, and then I asked them if I could stay with them and they…” he paused and wiped his eyes with his hand. “They let me stay with them…until I went off to college. They were nice, but I was always worried they’d change their minds….” He stopped and collected himself before continuing. “And then I got into college, and I’ve been taking care of myself ever since.” I nodded as Jonah sat there, wiping his eyes and staring off into the distance. “You had no other family?” I asked softly. Jonah shook his head. “There was an aunt, but she couldn’t take me. I don’t know why, but I think she didn’t talk to my mother or grandmother…and she’s never been in touch since, so I don’t know anything about her or what her story is. Don’t care,” he said dismissively. “I’m sorry,” I said again, the two words still sounding wholly inadequate, but what else could I say? Jonah sat there, still staring off into the distance. Part of me wanted to go over and hug him, but we were sitting beside the bike path, and he seemed so closed off that it was just awkward. For a second, I thought about changing the subject but decided instead to give him a minute. And then Jonah turned to look at me and gave me a sheepish expression. “You want to start riding again?” he asked. “Sure,” I said, nodding. We stood up, and as he was close to me, and he still looked so pained, I finally couldn’t stop myself. I put my arms around him, and then he was hugging me close, and we stood there for several minutes, holding each other. And then Jonah was pulling away, and acting like it was nothing, and I was pretending like I didn’t feel wretched inside. We got on our bikes and startled peddling. That night, lying in bed, I held Jonah close to me as he told me what he remembered about his mother, and he cried, and it tore my heart out. Three weeks after Jonah started sleeping over, I was scheduled to go on a business trip for four days. I’d been away for a day or two over the previous weeks, and each time Jonah had gone back to his apartment. Still, I couldn’t help feeling this was becoming an imposition for him. Nearly all his stuff was now at my place. “I told you I’m going on a trip on Tuesday, right?” I asked him Monday morning as we ate a hasty breakfast. “Yeah,” Jonah said. “About five times,” and he smirked at me. “I just wanted to be sure,” I said. “I’m going to be away until Friday.” “Yeah,” Jonah nodded, looking a little downcast. “Where are you going?” “California. Meeting with researchers,” I explained. “Why?” he asked. I paused for a minute, thinking. “Okay, there are some things I might tell you that you can’t tell anyone. Okay?” “Yeah,” he nodded casually. “I’m serious. You can’t tell anyone.” “Okay,” Jonah said, his tone frustrated. “And no buying and selling stock either,” I said, trying to make it a joke. Jonah gave me a half-smile. “I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s just, some of this stuff, I’d like to tell you, but I shouldn’t…” “I won’t tell anyone,” he said, and I knew I trusted him. “Okay, well, it’s a company we’re in talks to buy,” I said. “Can’t tell you more than that.” “Oh,” he said. “Where in California?” “A business park, in Palo Alto, or near there,” I said. “It’s not that exciting, trust me.” “You could go into San Francisco,” Jonah suggested. I’d done that on some previous trips, but now, rushing in to spend an evening in San Francisco didn’t appeal to me. Maybe I was getting old. “Or stay over the weekend,” Jonah added. Clearly, he was much more excited by the possibilities than I was. “Hmm, that’s a good idea. Next time you could come,” I said thoughtfully. “For the meeting?” he asked, clearly puzzled. “No. You could come out on Friday, and we could spend the weekend.” “Yeah?” Jonah replied, looking brighter. “Yeah. Next time. I’ll keep that in mind if I’m going somewhere interesting, and I have enough notice. Sometimes these things pop up, and there’s not enough time to really organize anything.” “Sure,” Jonah said, looking disappointed again. “You going to be okay?” I asked him. “What? Yeah. Sure,” he said dismissively. “You should stay here while I’m away,” I offered hesitantly. Not because I was worried about Jonah staying, but more because of what it meant about the relationship. Jonah looked up, the surprise evident on his face. “Really?” “Sure. If you want. No holding wild parties while I’m gone,” I joked. Jonah rolled his eyes. “If you’re gonna have a wild party,” I continued, “at least have the decency to do it while I’m here.” There was a long pause as Jonah sat thinking, and then he said, “You sure it’s okay?” “Yeah. You’ve got keys, you’re living here now. Though you know, if you find it lonely and want to stay at your apartment, that’s okay. Just let me know, so I know what’s going on, okay?” “I’ll stay here,” Jonah said quickly. “Great,” I said and meant it. Tuesday morning, waiting for the limo, I hugged and kissed Jonah goodbye, and looked forward to having him here when I got back on Friday. Wednesday night, we’d exchanged text messages during the day, but around 10 p.m., my phone rang, and Jonah was FaceTiming me. “Hey,” I said, happy to see his smiling face. It was clear that, like me, he was in bed. “How’s the trip going?” Jonah asked. “Pretty boring,” I said. “You haven’t gone into San Fran?” “No. I’ll wait for you to come next time,” I said, and he smiled. I glanced at the clock on the phone. “What time is it there?” I asked, even though I knew what time it was. “Almost one,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” I teased him. “Nah, I’m horny,” and then he moved the camera lower to reveal his bare chest, and the top of the sheet. He brought the camera up to his smiling face, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. “You know you shouldn’t be doing that,” I said to him. “Why? You don’t like?” he asked, obviously puzzled. “Do you know how many hours I spend in meetings with IS Security telling me not to trust open networks and Wifi?” I asked. Jonah shrugged his bare shoulders, and the next thing I saw was the tip of his erection, his fingers sliding over the skin that covered the tip, a small bubble of pre-cum forming at the piss-slit. I lay back in the bed. “Jonah,” I admonished him, even though at the same time I reached down to stroke my own erection. His face appeared again. “Show me your cock,” he whispered. “Jonah! No, come on, we can’t do this.” “Why not? I’m horny.” “Jonah, we can’t go flashing our junk on FaceTime. Or anything.” I switched to audio. “What are you doing?” Jonah asked, obviously frustrated. “I wanted to talk to you,” I said. “I thought that’s what we were doing,” he grumbled. “Because I can’t wait to get back there and hold you,” I said, because it was true. “Yeah? What are you going to do to me when you get back?” he asked, and it almost sounded like a challenge. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be easily deterred. I wanted to tell him that we should hang up and I’d call him back using…what? I didn’t know what the safe choice was. Where was IS Security when you really needed them? Which left the option of ending the phone call, or carrying on. But Jonah was horny, and I was horny, and I missed him. “Well,” I said, taking a moment to think. I’d never been into aural sex. That was the advantage of reaching puberty when the internet was around; you could get a lot of visual stimulation. You didn’t have to survive on phone sex. Males are—from what I’ve read, and from my own personal experience—visually stimulated. I can’t talk for females, but it’s what you see in porn that turns you on. Listening can get you off, but it takes more…work. I took a breath, lay back into the pillows, closed my eyes, and thought for a minute. “You still there?” Jonah asked, his voice raspy. “Yeah,” I said. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Getting comfortable, and thinking about you…” “Thinking about me?” “I always think about you,” I said truthfully. “Yeah?” Jonah asked, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “Yeah,” I confirmed. “I think about you a lot. What you’re doing, when I’m going to see you again…what you’re wearing…what we’re going to do together…” “Kay,” said Jonah, obviously encouraging me to say more. “Well…” I began, and then took a heavy breath. Were we really going to do this? “And what are you going to do when you get home?” Jonah prompted me. “Well…” I said, thinking. Trying to get into the moment. I imagined him standing in the bedroom, smiling at me, holding out his arms to me. Wanting me. “I just want you so much…” I said softly. “I want to hold you tightly to me and smell your hair. I want to run my fingers over your bare chest, and down to your nipple…slowly rolling my finger tip around the nipple, feeling it get firmer.” “Yeah?” mumbled Jonah. “Yeah.” “That’s not the only thing getting firmer,” Jonah said, his voice oozing passion. “Yeah…I want you,” I whispered. I arrived back late Friday night, and Jonah kept me awake for a couple of hours exploring new ways of showing me how much he was attracted to me. I ended up sleeping until noon the next day. There was no sign of Jonah when I woke up, but I went downstairs to find him working on the deck. “You’re finishing the deck?” I said, surprised, as I walked out onto the part of the deck that was already dry. Jonah stood up and smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “Gotta get this finished.” “Okay,” I nodded. Jonah put the brush down and padded over to me, and we embraced. “I missed you so much,” I told him, and he grinned. “Me too,” he said softly, and he kissed me, a quick, perfunctory kiss, and then he turned and went back to the painting. “Are you hungry?” I asked him. “Not yet,” he said over his shoulder. “Maybe in an hour?” “Sure,” I said, and I went into the kitchen and tried to figure out what I could make him for lunch. In the end, I used the cold cuts and some fresh bread to make sandwiches, and when he took a break we sat at the kitchen table while I told him about the trip. Jonah filled me in on what was happening at work, and he told me about the night out he’d had with his friend Noah and a couple of others. They’d gone to a drag show. “You’ll have to come next time,” Jonah said happily, and I said, “Sure,” though I wasn’t certain I wanted to go. “Oh, I saw Harry,” Jonah added casually, and it took me a minute to remember that Harry was his ex. “Yeah?” I said, not sure how I should react. “He was at the club. He didn’t say hi.” “Oh. You ever hear from him after you split?” I asked. It was something that had bothered me, but I hadn’t asked before because I didn’t feel like it was right for me to be bothered. “Not really,” said Jonah evasively. “What happened with you two? You were going to get married…and?” I asked tentatively. Jonah frowned. “It’s okay if…” I began, but Jonah interrupted me. “Nah. It’s …well, it was never going to be a big wedding or anything. I don’t have any family, and his family hates him, so…yeah” Harry’s own family hated him? That had me curious, but I decided not to ask why. “When did the wedding get canceled?” I asked instead. “Oh,” said Jonah. “Three months before. I mean, practically a week after I made the booking for the trip.” Jonah paused, clearly waiting for me to ask him to continue. “What happened?” “I slept with someone,” he said matter-of-factly. That was the last thing I had expected. “You cheated on your boyfriend?” I said, slightly louder than I intended. “No,” he replied adamantly. “But you just said you did!” I said, puzzled. Jonah grinned mischievously, and then he sighed. “He wanted to have an open relationship,” Jonah began reluctantly. “I don’t know. Things hadn’t been great, and I think we kept trying to fix it. That’s why we were getting married. Things would be okay for a couple of months, and then it would start to fall apart, and we’d try something else to fix it. We moved in together….then we decided to get married…then he wanted to have an open relationship, which really sucks to hear a month after you’re talking about getting married.” “Yeah,” I agreed. I didn’t like open relationships, even though I know some people think they are a good thing. Sure, maybe I couldn’t live with someone for an eternity, but I was definitely a serial monogamist. I was way too possessive to share. “And having an open relationship was his idea?” I asked. “Well, that was another thing he wanted to try. Like it was okay if he slept with someone else. But then he got jealous that I was sleeping with other people. Which was stupid, because it was his fucking idea. And then I hooked up with his ex-boyfriend, and he felt that was going too far.” “Really? You slept with his ex?” “I thought it would piss him off,” Jonah grinned, and it clearly had. “Then why did you do it?” I asked. “Because Harry was being a fucking asshole,” Jonah almost exploded. He took a moment and then continued. “We were at a party, and he was flirting with this guy, and…I was right there.” “Huh.” “I mean, I wasn’t really into the open relationship thing anyway,” Jonah continued, “but flirting with someone right in front of you is…” “Not cool,” I suggested. “No,” Jonah agreed. “So this other guy was also there, and he had dated Harry before we got together, and he had been trying to get in my pants. I knew it would piss Harry off. I guess I didn’t think it would piss him off that much. But we had a big fight, and we both realized we didn’t want to keep doing that.” I leaned over, and for a moment, Jonah seemed puzzled, and then he smiled and leaned forward, and I kissed him. “He’s an idiot,” I said. “Why?” “I can’t imagine why he’d have been interested in sleeping with anyone else. Or even being with anyone else.” Jonah's grin grew wider. “You know what the sick part is?” asked Jonah. “What?” “We didn’t even sleep together,” Jonah said sheepishly. “What?” I exclaimed. Jonah let out a sort of snicker. “I left the party with the guy, but it was just to get Harry jealous. When we got outside, I told him I changed my mind.” “So you didn’t sleep with him?” “Nope, but Harry didn’t know that. He thought I slept with him.” “He can’t have been happy,” I observed. “Who?” asked Jonah, puzzled. “The guy you left the party with.” “Oh. I guess. He actually said to me, ‘are you trying to get Harry jealous?’ I said no, I was just trying to show him I wasn’t going to sit around at home while he was out banging whoever he wanted. But when I got home, we got into this big fight, and I didn’t even bother telling Harry I didn’t sleep with the guy.” “Oh.” “Though he found out a couple of months later.” “Yeah?” Jonah nodded. “Yeah. And he called, this was like a week after I started at the company, and at first, I thought he wanted to get back together, which I didn’t want. But he was just pissed off and accused me of tricking him into acting like an asshole. Like that makes sense.” “Yeah, that doesn’t make sense,” I agreed. If his ex’s behavior hadn’t obviously hurt Jonah so much, I probably would have laughed. Maybe in a couple of years Jonah would think the whole thing was funny. I hoped so. Jonah looked wistful, and it occurred to me that Harry had called Jonah about the time Jonah was trying to get together with me. If Harry had been more diplomatic, scratch that, hadn’t been such a jerk, I might have missed out entirely. “Is it okay,” I asked Jonah, “that I’m glad things didn’t work out with him, so I was lucky enough to get you?” Jonah grinned. “Maybe,” he said, and he smirked, and I kissed him quickly on the lips as he laughed. “You want to go somewhere for lunch?” I asked Jonah. It was Sunday afternoon. The deck was finally finished, and we were driving to the supermarket. We had intended to go food shopping and then make lunch when we got back home, but now, as we drove towards town, I realized how hungry I was. “Yeah,” Jonah agreed. “There’s the Thai place, or do you want a sandwich?” Jonah mulled the two options. “A sandwich is okay,” he said, not sounding particularly excited. We were both tired. The sandwich store was empty, and it was only as we walked in that I remembered that this might be the store where John’s boyfriend worked. Or used to work. I didn’t even know what the boyfriend looked like. I wondered if I could guess who it might be, and if I did, what my reaction would be to seeing him. It turned out I didn’t have to worry. There was no sign of the boyfriend. But my ex was standing behind the counter. “Oh, hi, John,” I said, shocked to see him there. “Hi Brian,” said John a little stiffly, and then he glanced over at Jonah, and Jonah reached out and put his arm through mine. I wasn’t sure what to say, but then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to say anything. We were there to get sandwiches. I was a customer, and John was behind the counter. His job was to offer service, and nothing more. I turned to Jonah. “Know what you want?” I asked him. Jonah was staring at the menu apprehensively, and he shook his head. I turned back to John, who was staring at me, his expression blank. “You’re …working here now?” I asked. I was really just making small talk. I didn’t want to get into a discussion with John, but I didn’t know what else to say. “Yeah,” John said. “I’m the store manager.” “Oh,” I nodded, wondering if I should congratulate him. Did that mean he was now his boyfriend’s manager? “I’ve changed my mind,” whispered Jonah. “What?” I turned back to him. “Let’s get Thai,” Jonah said, and I could see the nervousness and worry on his face. I stared at him for a moment, thinking it was silly for us to be chased from the store by me ex-boyfriend. “Please?” Jonah begged quietly before I could say anything. “Sure,” I said. I could understand why Jonah felt awkward. I felt awkward, though I realized something else that surprised me. I didn’t care about John anymore. And I didn’t care if we left without ordering; the important thing was that Jonah was happy. I turned back to John and smiled at him. “Change of plan,” I said, and I turned around, and we walked out of the store, Jonah practically dragging me along. We had walked about a hundred yards before either of us said anything. “That was your ex,” said Jonah quietly. “Yeah. I had no idea he worked there. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have gone in there if I thought he was going to be there.” “That’s where his boyfriend works?” Jonah asked. “Uhh…yeah. I guess.” “You didn’t say anything,” he said, his voice more upset than accusatory. “I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I never met him, the boyfriend. I just knew he worked somewhere downtown. I honestly didn’t think about it until we were in the store, and then, I was just thinking maybe the boyfriend would be there. I didn’t think John would be there. I am sorry. I wasn’t trying to show you off to him or anything stupid like that.” “You weren’t?” Jonah asked, and though he sounded hurt, I suspected it was an act. I smiled, playing along with him. “No. I don’t want him to know how happy I am,” I said, and Jonah gave me a small smile. “I’m sorry,” I repeated, and he nodded. Neither of us was in the mood for Thai, so we drove to the Burger King drive-through. I’m going to have to start working out again. To be continued…
  9. Even I can’t believe it, but here it is mid-2020, and I’ve been incommunicado for over six months. I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but four months of that was taken up with an illness (mine), a family death, a move, and then for the last couple of months, I’ve just been recovering from all that. And after all that, whenever I went looking for things, they often proved illusive; “Three moves are as bad as a fire’—Benjamin Franklin. In many respects, I should be surprised that I ever got back at all. But here I am, and I’m hoping to get into the rhythm of writing in the next few months. Not Your Mentor has been on hold, but the next chapter is complete, and I’m doing the final edit. I’m planning on posting that chapter in a couple of weeks. (Sooner actually, but I’ve been wrong before!) My apologies to the readers for the long delay. I hope you understand. I would promise that it won’t happen again, but I now realize that there are many things in life that you really can’t control. You might think that you are in control, but unexpected events will overturn your apple cart. I don’t think I’m alone in that experience over the last few months. Gabriel
  10. Hi everyone, Sorry for the long delay in posting the next chapter. I won't bother you with the details for the delay, but I do hope to get the next chapter up in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for reading! Gabriel
  11. They are pretty much made up, though based on things I've come across of found here and there.....
  12. 7. Small changes can have the most significant impact Changes in attitude and behavior have the greatest impact on success. They can also be the hardest to implement. Focus on small, doable actions that build to change. — Employee Handbook: Mentoring I didn’t hear from Jonah again that week, and I wondered if he would turn up on Saturday. It seemed very likely that he wouldn’t. In truth, I was thinking things would be a lot simpler for me if he didn’t. But on Saturday morning, just before 9 am, my doorbell rang and I opened the door to find him standing there. Jonah acted much like he had on his previous visit; nervous and uncertain, but his wardrobe had changed again. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He looked casual, but he clearly wasn’t trying to look sexy. From his manner, I had the feeling he wasn’t going to stay. Jonah gave me a small smile, but he looked very uncomfortable. “Hey,” he said softly to me. “Are things okay?” I asked him. “Yeah, thanks,” Jonah mumbled. Once more, he came into the entrance and was standing there, seemingly unsure what to do. “Good,” I said, wondering what to say next. It occurred to me that I should tell Jonah he didn’t need to finish the deck, and give him the option to go. “I did some checking, and you should get at least three grand for the car,” Jonah said. “So you’ll get your money back. Or most of it.” “Great,” I said. I hadn’t even thought about selling his car. “We could go sell it this afternoon,” he suggested. “One job at a time. Let’s finish the painting?” I replied. The last thing I wanted to do that day was to go and try and sell a car. His car. If Jonah sold it and repaid me, then that was okay, but I wasn’t going to be involved. “I’m not keeping the car,” Jonah said hotly. “Okay,” I said, trying to remain calm and neutral. I didn’t want to argue with him. “If you don’t want to come, I’ll just go sell it myself tomorrow and give you the money.” “Okay,” I agreed. Jonah was upset, and I didn’t think arguing with him was going to get me anywhere. “I just…I just…” and he looked around, clearly frustrated. “What?” I asked gently. “I just don’t want you to think I’m useless. That I’m just here to get money from you,” Jonah blurted out. “I don’t think that,” I said honestly. He took a deep breath and then swallowed. “I wasn’t always this fucked up,” he said quietly, and I could see that his eyes were watering. Clearly, we weren’t going to get any work done with him in this state. I just wanted to hug him, but I figured that wasn’t the best thing to do at that moment, either. “I’m gonna have some coffee. Come and have coffee,” I suggested. “I should…” and Jonah looked around, obviously not sure what to do. He seemed close to turning tail and running. “Come on, you can make the banana bread,” I said. “Banana bread?” Jonah repeated, as if it was the strangest thing to have suggested. “Yeah, you like banana bread?” I asked. “Ah …it’s okay,” he said. “You’re making it?” “It’s from a mix,” I admitted, and without giving him the time to think about it, I led Jonah into the kitchen, showed him the box of banana bread mix, and set him to work measuring the oil into a bowl, while I turned on the oven and fetched the other ingredients that needed to be added. By the time Jonah had poured the banana bread mixture into the bread tin and put it in the oven, he seemed to have calmed down a bit, and I motioned him to sit at the island. “You had anything to eat?” I asked him. Jonah shrugged, which I guessed meant no, and I took out a bagel and toasted it, while I started making ham and eggs. “You might feel better on a full stomach,” I told him. “Is that another mentoring tip?” Jonah asked shyly. “Maybe,” I said. I sat across from him, chewing on half a bagel, as Jonah demolished the breakfast of ham and eggs I’d made him. He washed it down with two glasses of orange juice, and though he was reluctant at first, I toasted another bagel, and Jonah covered that in cream cheese and polished that off as well. “Feeling better?” I asked him when he’d finished. Jonah nodded, grinning a little. “You know,” I began carefully. “I think your real financial problem is that you can’t afford the apartment you have.” I wanted to ask him what had possessed him to rent such an expensive one-bedroom apartment. Jonah couldn’t easily get a roommate to share the cost, but I didn’t want to point that out to him. Jonah looked miserable again, and I worried that I had stirred up something he didn’t want to talk about. “When we moved in, we were each paying half, and it was okay,” Jonah began. “Then Harry broke up with me, and he moved out of the apartment, so I was paying twice what I had been paying for rent and utilities, and he took almost five thousand dollars from our bank account.” “Was it yours or his?” I asked. “He said it was all his, but it wasn’t.” I didn’t think it was worth re-litigating that. Some of the money might have been Jonah's, but I wondered how easy it would be to prove that, and would it be worth going to small claims court to try and get it back? And anyway, that could take months, and Jonah’s problem was much more pressing. “Have you thought of moving? Maybe share with others?” “I have a lease,” he said glumly. “You can usually get out of those. Particularly if they can find someone to move in. Even if you had to pay a month's rent, it might work out cheaper than staying. How long is your lease?” “There’s another nine months.” “How long was the lease?” I asked. I was puzzled because, with that much time left on the lease, they must have broken up about the time they moved in “The original lease was for eighteen months,” Jonah explained. “Oh. Well, you should talk to your landlord. Explain the situation. Say you’d like to move out, and ask whether you can do that. Or you might ask if you can find someone that would take it over as a sublease.” Jonah nodded. “You need to sort that out,” I continued. “If you had a cheaper rent, if you were paying maybe half what you’re paying now, your financial situation would be manageable, right?” Jonah nodded, though not enthusiastically. “So, focus on that this week. Start looking around for somewhere else, talk to your landlord, see what they say. Once that’s all sorted out, we can talk about the car. Maybe you can buy it back from me.” Jonah grinned. The banana bread tasted good, and we ended up in the living room watching a movie. Later he talked about doing the painting, but I suggested it could wait for next weekend. I told him to focus on finding somewhere to move. The weekend would be a good time to call people and look at apartments. I asked Jonah if he wanted to stay for lunch, but he said he wanted to go home and contact some friends about possible places, and I didn’t attempt to dissuade him. When Jonah got up to leave, he hugged me quickly, and I kissed him on the top of his head, and it was all oddly platonic. As he left, I wondered if the relationship had changed, and now we were no longer in a sexual relationship? Maybe that was a good thing. It wasn’t what I secretly wanted—I wanted to take him upstairs and roll around naked with him—but it was the right thing to do. And I had to keep telling myself that. On Monday, Jonah called me in the middle of the day to tell me that he had found a place where some friends-of-friends were looking for a roommate, and the rent would be about half what he was currently paying. Now all Jonah had to do was get out of his lease, but he didn’t want to talk about that. I told him to call the landlord, which Jonah was clearly reluctant to do. “Can’t I just email him?” Jonah asked. “You should call,” I insisted. “Write out what you want to say and rehearse it, and remember, you don’t have to agree to anything then. If he says there’s no way he’ll let you out of the lease unless you pay a penalty, don’t agree. Tell him that you’ll think about it and get back to him.” There was a long pause that I resisted filling. “Okay,” Jonah finally said, sounding not so sure. “If I were you,” I continued, “I’d explain to him that you are having financial problems and you can’t afford the apartment. Tell them that your partner moved out.” There was another long silence, and I wondered if Jonah was too embarrassed to talk about that. “I don’t know, I don’t think he liked that we were gay to begin with,” Jonah said softly. “That’s not the issue. You want to let him know you might not be able to pay the rent.” “I don’t…” Jonah began, but I knew I had to push through his objection, or he’d dig in and not listen to me. “I know you don’t want to tell people you’re having financial problems. It’s embarrassing. I understand that. But look at it from his perspective. You just tell him you want to move out, and he thinks you’re a lazy bastard trying to get out of a contract.” I heard a little snort of laughter and was glad my joke worked. Now I just had to clinch the sale. “You tell him you are worried you might not be able to pay the rent,” I continued, "and he’ll be much more likely to want to get someone in there that can pay, rather than have you being late or not paying.” I waited, anxiously. “Uh…I guess,” Jonah said, the hesitation still there. “And you can just explain that you two broke up, which you did. That’s not your fault.” Jonah was still reluctant, but after a bit of cajoling, I persuaded him to practice telling me what he was going to say; a little bit of role-playing that might actually be useful. “You okay?” I asked Jonah once we’d been through it a couple of times. “I think so,” Jonah said tentatively. “You can do it,” I encouraged him. “Can’t I just email him?” Jonah tried a final time. I took a deep breath. I was so used to telling people to do something, and they’d just do it. It was now a real challenge for me to persuade someone that didn’t want to do what I was telling them to do. Maybe I should have taken a course on how to be a mentor? “Listen, I know you don’t want to call him,” I said, trying to sound as sympathetic as possible. And I was, I felt for Jonah. But he had to do this. “The thing is, he probably doesn’t want to talk on the phone either. So in some respects, it might even be to your advantage. Harder for him to say no.” “I don’t know…” “You can do it, Jonah. Give it a try.” There was another long pause, and I wondered what he would say next. “Okay,” he sighed reluctantly. I actually felt a great sense of relief. Jonah hung up, and then I sat there, anxiously waiting to hear back from him about how it went. Or even if he did it. I was trying to read a report, but for the next ten minutes, I don’t think I made any progress, and then my cell phone buzzed, and I saw it was a text from Jonah. 'He said okay! :)’ was all it said. I was so excited, I had to call him to get more details. “He said I can move out!” Jonah said without any pleasantry when he answered the phone, the excitement—and relief—evident in his voice. “He did? When?” “Well, he said he may already have someone that would move in at the end of the month, and he said if they do, I’ll get my deposit back, or if they don’t, he said I can definitely move out the following month, and he’ll give back the deposit!” “That’s great! See, I told you, you could do it.” “He wasn’t that happy at first, but when I told him I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent, suddenly he said he had someone else that was looking for a place!” Jonah finished the sentence, and then he laughed. “Great.” “Thanks. Thanks for your help,” said Jonah. “You’re welcome. Now you need to think about packing up your stuff.” “Oh yeah,” he said. He clearly hadn’t thought about moving. Jonah called back two hours later, even more excited. The landlord had called to see if he wanted to move out at the end of the month as someone else did want the apartment. They were going to come and take a look at it that evening. “That’s great. Do you need to tidy the place up?” I asked him. “No, it’s fine,” Jonah said. “You’ve cleaned the bathroom and taken out the trash and everything?” “Uhhh….” “You might ask your supervisor if you can leave early to go home and do some cleaning up,” I suggested. “Yeah, okay,” he said a little unhappily. “You want to do what you can to make sure they like it, right?” I prompted. “Yeah, I’ll do it,” Jonah reluctantly agreed, and then he paused. “Can you help me move?” he asked. I thought about that for a moment. I also thought about the fact that I really needed to stop seeing Jonah. “Don’t you have friends that can help you?” I asked. Surely he’d have more fun with his friends, and my being there would just be awkward. “A couple, but the more there is, the easier it will be,” he said, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “I’ll see,” I replied noncommittally. Jonah hung up, and I’m not too sure who was more excited; me or him. I’d actually coached him through a momentous event. I’d helped him practice what he’d said to the landlord. Maybe I could just be his mentor. Over the next three weeks, it became apparent that our relationship had changed again. It seemed that I was now just a friend, as Jonah would text me now and again, but there was no move to meet up, and no unexpected visits. Yes, I was disappointed, but it wasn’t like we’d had a relationship. We’d had sex again, but that was it. I wondered if I should let Karen know that we weren’t dating, and were now just… ‘friends?’ After some thought, I decided to wait on that. Maybe I was still hopeful—even though I knew I shouldn’t be—but I didn’t want to keep going back to Karen every time something happened between Jonah and me. The Monday before Jonah was planning to move, he showed up at my office door. It was just before lunchtime. I hadn’t seen Jonah since he’d come to finish painting the deck, which, I suddenly remembered, was still not finished. “Hey,” Jonah said a little nervously, and I wondered what this meant. Was there some new problem to be dealt with? “How’s it going?” I asked him, trying to be casual, even though I was happy to see him. “Okay,” Jonah said, but from the sound of his voice, I was pretty sure it wasn’t. I waved him in. I was supposed to be his mentor, it was okay to have him in my office. I just had to remember to keep the door open. And try not to think about sex with him. Jonah sat down in one of the chairs across from my desk. “You ready to move?” I asked him. “Yeah, ah, sort of,” Jonah said. “Sort of?” I queried. “Ah…I wondered if you could help me move on Saturday?” “Oh…” I started thinking of excuses I could make for not being able to. “I’ve got one friend that’s gonna help me, but it’s kinda difficult with just two of us, and also…” and he trailed off. “Also?” “I need to rent a van.” “Like a U-Haul?” “Yeah,” Jonah said. “Okay. Do you need money?” I asked. Jonah grinned embarrassedly, but then he shook his head. “Ah, I think it’ll be about one hundred dollars, so I can cover that,” he said. But he was blushing. “Then…” I began, not sure why he needed me. “Um…you need to have a valid driver's license,” Jonah said. I stared at him. “You don’t have a valid driver's license?” I asked him slowly. “Not really?” Jonah said, his tone making it sound more like a question than an answer. “Not really?” “Well, I have an out of state one, but it’s expired.” I let out an exasperated breath. “Why didn’t you get it renewed?” I asked. “Well, ahh…” and Jonah looked uneasy. I waited. “It was just…I forgot, and then it was going to cost money…and…” he looked down. “Let me see it,” I said finally, and I held out my hand. Jonah took out his wallet, fumbled about for a minute, during which time I wondered if he didn’t even have a license, but then he pulled out a card and handed it to me. It was from New York and had expired almost a year ago. I handed it back to him. “You need to get a Massachusetts license as soon as possible. Today or tomorrow if you can,” Jonah nodded, but then he blurted out, “I don’t know when I can get time off.” “Well, you better ask for it and find out. You can’t be driving with an expired license…I mean, I’ve done it. I once discovered I’d forgotten to get my license renewed, but…you better see to that.” Jonah nodded. “What about your friend? Can’t he rent it?” Jonah shook his head. “He doesn’t drive.” I sighed. “All right, I’ll help you rent the van. But you have to promise you’ll get a license.” “I will,” he said. That Saturday, I met Jonah at the U-haul, filled out the paperwork, and Jonah paid for the small truck. I was going to, but he insisted. And then I realized that I couldn’t let Jonah drive the truck. His promise to get a license hadn’t translated into immediate action, but he said that he was getting time off the following Wednesday and would do it then. “So who’s helping you?” I asked Jonah as we drove to his apartment. “Oh, Noah,” Jonah said. “Noah?” I asked, thinking that it was amusing to have a Noah and a Jonah. “Yeah,” said Jonah obliviously, and I decided not to make a joke about it. Besides, what I really wanted to know was whether Noah knew anything about Jonah and me. “How do you know him?” I asked. “From school. We were roommates for a while.” “Oh, are you moving in with him?” “No. But they’re friends of his.” “Ah, okay,” I said. “He’s bi,” Jonah said, which startled me. I wasn’t used to people announcing other people’s sexual orientation like that. Not really knowing what to say, I just nodded. “But we’ve never been more than friends….” Jonah added. I wasn’t really concerned about whether Jonah had slept with Noah. I wanted to know something else, but I wasn’t sure how to ask him if he’d told Noah we had… “And I haven’t really told him about…us,” Jonah interrupted my thoughts. “You haven’t …really?” I asked, trying to figure out what he meant by the word 'really.’ Did that mean he had hinted at it, had mentioned something in passing, or he had told him everything? I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to guess. “I told him we had sex, but it was just casual,” Jonah clarified, and the off-handed nature of the sentence threw me for a loop. So he had told Noah everything about us? “Okay,” I said. What else could I say? “Don’t worry,” said Jonah, “he’s cool with it.” “Um, okay,” I said. “And you can’t have sex with him.” “What?” I asked, surprised. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. “You heard,” Jonah said, grinning. “Why would I…” “Cause he’s pretty hot. But he’s got a boyfriend, and you can’t have sex with him,” Jonah repeated, and I wasn’t sure if it was an observation, an instruction, or an order. I decided not to question it further. The last thing I was going to do was have sex with Jonah’s friend. Noah, it turned out, was about the same age as Jonah, taller, with a thin, wiry build and short dark curly hair. And tight blue jeans and a nice ass, and though he was shy and quiet at first, as the afternoon progressed, he started to relax and become more animated. The two of them spent much of the time bickering at each other. I tried to stay out of it, even though I found it amusing. Noah didn’t say much to me, but I got the sense that it was because he was shy, rather than because he didn't like me. Noah didn’t ask me anything about what I did, or about my relationship with Jonah, which only convinced me further that Jonah had already told him everything. He seemed like a nice guy, but Jonah didn’t have to worry, as good as Noah was to look at, I was only interested in one of them. We loaded up the truck, and then the three of us got in the cab and drove over to the new apartment where Jonah was moving in with three other people. Jonah had the smallest bedroom, and the apartment was on the third floor, and it was a rather old and tired building. I could see why it cost him so little to live there. None of the other roommates were about while we unloaded, and the three of us quickly got the bed, dresser, night table, desk, chair, and boxes of clothes up and into the room. There was barely enough room for the table and the bed, but Jonah seemed happy with it. With everything reassembled, and most of the boxes emptied, Noah announced that he had to go. I offered to drop him somewhere as I had to return the truck, but he said that he would just catch the bus, and after saying goodbye to me, he and Jonah went downstairs, leaving me to unpack the last of the boxes into the bottom of the dresser. “He’s gone,” Jonah announced, coming back into the bedroom ten minutes later. I stood up and nodded, and we surveyed the room. Most of the stuff was put away, and the small room looked full, but not overly so. “He said he liked you,” said Jonah, catching me off guard. “Oh, he did?” I said. “Yeah. He doesn’t want to sleep with you, but he thought you were okay.” “He doesn’t?” I said, feeling oddly insulted. I never imagined Noah would have wanted to have sex with me, but it was somehow still a blow to my ego to be explicitly told that he didn’t want to. Jonah paused and then looked at me, his brow furrowed. “You wanted to sleep with him?” he asked, his voice curious. “No, I just…he didn’t like me?” “No,” said Jonah, sounding relieved. “You’re just too straight for him.” “I’m what?” “Straight. You know.” “No. I don’t…” I said, puzzled at what seemed to be another veiled insult. “You act straight when you’re nervous around people or trying to impress them,” said Jonah. “You’re not, but you do,” and he shrugged. “I act straight?” I asked, confused. Jonah looked at me, and then he grinned, and he stepped up to me and hugged me briefly. “Don’t worry. I like it,” Jonah said, before stepping away. “Ah, thanks?” I said, grinning, not sure if that was a compliment, or what that was. I guess it was nice to know Jonah didn’t think I was a total loser. Jonah grinned. “Thanks for your help,” he said. “Well,” I said, “now you don’t need me,” I teased him. “Yeah,” he said, and then the smile changed to a bit of a frown. “I still owe you the money from the car. I’ll sell it,” he said. “You’re not doing that,” I said. “But…” “How are you going to come visit if you don’t have a car?” Jonah shrugged. “I thought you didn’t want me to visit?” he said quietly. “I’m used to you now,” I said, giving him a comradely slap on the back. I was aware that his new roommates could turn up at any minute, and I wasn’t sure I wanted them to know about our relationship. Though for all I knew, like Noah, maybe they already did. I had no idea if Jonah would ever come to visit; it wasn’t even a serious invitation. I knew it was best that he didn’t visit again, but I wasn’t going to take his car. I’d only said he could use it to come visit as a pretext for letting him keep it. “I guess…we shouldn’t really be sleeping together,” Jonah said quietly. I thought about that for a moment, because he was right, even if I still wanted to. “Yeah, we shouldn’t,” I agreed. Inside I was disappointed that it was ending here. “I think I’ve been telling you that for a while now. It’s not because I don’t like you, you’re a great guy …it’s just…awkward.” There was a long silence. “Listen,” I said, trying to sound optimistic. “I think you’re going to be in a much better situation now. You should take some time to settle in, figure things out. If you need help or advice, I’m always available. We still have those mentor meetings.” Jonah grinned and nodded. “I guess,” he said slowly. “I’m gonna get going,” I said, before my resolve weakened. I needed to leave, and I had to take the truck back to the rental place. “Oh, is your car at the U-haul?” I asked him. Jonah shook his head. “I took the bus,” he said. “Oh. It’s going okay?” I asked, wondering if maybe he had sold it already. “Oh, yeah. Yeah,” Jonah said. “Okay. Well, I’m gonna get going. You okay?” I asked him one final time. “Yeah,” Jonah nodded. “Thanks for your help…and everything.” “You’re welcome. I’ll see you Monday,” I said vaguely. Maybe I’d see him at work, though it was unlikely, unless one of us searched out the other. Jonah nodded. There was no hug or other show of affection. Jonah held his hand up in a fist, and we bumped fists. It seemed that we were now just friends. When I got home, I felt oddly lost. Almost the same way I’d felt the day after John had moved out, except that this time, I didn’t have just the hurt. I was definitely sad, but I felt like I was doing the right thing. When John had left, my primary reaction was anger. This time I felt a real melancholy. I still loved Jonah, and yet, I thought this was for the best. Maybe I was exaggerating it in my head, but it felt like I’d helped Jonah sort out his life, and that was something. I wondered how many other mentors in the mentor program would have had as significant an impact on their mentees as I had? And I wasn’t talking about the sex. But it occurred to me that the company would be pleased that no other mentors had gotten so involved with their mentees. I wanted to feel happy for what Jonah had accomplished, but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t just the sex I was going to miss, or the touching and holding him. Jonah was funny and interesting and exciting to talk to, and I just felt more alive when he was around. I had dinner, watched some TV, and was thinking of going to bed when the doorbell rang. I looked at the clock. It read 11:15 pm. I went and opened the door, and Jonah was standing there. “Hey,” he said, looking hesitant. “Sorry it’s so late.” “That’s okay,” I said. “Is everything okay?” I wondered if there was a problem with the new apartment; had we forgotten something? Were his roommates insufferable? “I can go if it’s a problem,” Jonah offered. “It’s not a problem,” I said, and he grinned. I thought about telling him I was about to go to bed but decided that was a bad idea. It sounded suggestive, which was the last thing I wanted to do. “Well, come in,” I said, trying to wake myself up. I’d been starting to drag, and I wasn’t as awake as I needed to be for whatever this was. “Okay,” Jonah said, nervously, and he followed me into the living room. “You want something to eat? Drink? Coffee?” “No, I’m fine,” Jonah said, still grinning. We were standing in the living room, and I didn’t know why. Why was Jonah here? I waved at the couch and sat down at one end, and then Jonah sat down, very close to me. “How’s the place?” I asked him. “It’s okay,” Jonah said, and he grinned at me, and then he slid closer so that he was right against me. “Jonah?…” I began tentatively. Jonah leaned forward, and I could tell he was going to kiss me, and I should stop it right there, but those lips, I just wanted them, and I leaned towards him and we kissed, a long lingering kiss, and then he pulled back just a little. “Can I stay?” he asked tentatively. “Stay?” I repeated, mentally digesting the question. I should tell him no. Tell him that this wasn’t a healthy relationship for either of us. That’s what I should have done, and I considered it for all of five seconds. And then I reached out and put my arm around his shoulder, and I pulled Jonah to me, and kissed him on the lips again, exploring his mouth for a few seconds, and then I stopped and kissed along his jaw to his ear, and I whispered: “Of course you can stay.” Jonah followed me upstairs, and I was pretty sure we were going upstairs to have sex. Why else would he want to stay? And yet he’d been so distant the past three weeks, I thought he’d changed his mind about us. Mentally I was trying to prepare myself for any option. Whether it was sex, or just sleeping together. Maybe Jonah just needed someone to hold him? I turned to face him when we got to the bedroom, waiting to see what he’d do, and he stepped up to me, put his arms around me, and stood up on tip-toes, and I leaned down and kissed him. “I should shower first,” he whispered. “Okay,” I said, hugging him. “Come on,” and I led him into the bathroom. “What are you doing?” he asked me curiously. “I was gonna watch you,” I said. “Yeah?” Jonah grinned, as he slowly pulled off his shirt, and then he did a slow and erotic striptease. Sunday morning, I woke to a mouth licking my nipple, and that didn’t take long to wake me up. And then I spent an hour sucking and licking him, bringing him close to the edge, and then stopping. And bringing him close again, until he was mumbling and cursing incoherently, sweating and thrusting desperately into the air. And then I took him into my mouth once more, and he yelled and groaned, and his body writhed as he came. After I’d sucked him dry, I lay beside Jonah and pulled him close to me, his wet, warm body practically stuck to me, and I felt his chest heaving as he breathed, and I lightly kissed his face. He looked exhausted, but he smiled at me, and his eyes stared into mine, and that was the most wonderful feeling in the world. We had a late breakfast, and Jonah asked me if I wanted him to go home. “You don’t have to go home unless you want to,” I said. “You doing anything today?” I asked him. Jonah shrugged. “No,” he said. “We could do something. Anything you want to do?” “Want to go to a movie?” he suggested hopefully. “Sure, which one?” Jonah took out his phone, and we went through the movies and spent several minutes arguing between two films, but I let him win. We went to an afternoon screening, and then brought home Chinese food for dinner and ate it sitting on the couch in the living room, just chatting about things like two good friends. “Thanks, I had fun today,” Jonah said as we were cleaning up the containers of food from the kitchen island. “I had fun, too,” I said. It had been fun, even if we had been tentative around each other. Jonah seemed shy again, and I wasn’t sure what he wanted, and so I didn’t push him. Jonah took the plates over to the sink, and he was standing there rinsing them, and I walked up behind him, and put my arms around him and hugged him to me. “Should I go?” he asked me quietly, staring down at the dishes in the sink. “Do you want to go?” I asked him. Jonah was silent, and I guessed he was waiting for me to ask him. “I don’t want you to go,” I said, “unless you want to. Will you stay?” I saw Jonah’s reflection grin in the window, and he turned his head towards me, and we kissed. To be continued…
  13. I might take you up on that. I actually started an attempt to reread it, and I'll see how that goes! Thanks!
  14. I really appreciate everyone's comments. Also, that you mostly liked the one I like!! 😄
  15. 6. Celebrate Their Achievements When a problem is solved, or a project successfully completed, don’t immediately move on to the next one. Take a moment to acknowledge the success. It will provide the energy and enthusiasm to keep working on the next problem and give the confidence to tackle even bigger problems. — Employee Handbook: Mentoring I awoke around 9 am the next morning. The night before, I had thought that this one moment of weakness would be enough. I would have sex with Jonah one more time, and in the morning, reality would set in. I’d have the resolve to send him away. It might be an awkward and curt morning, but it had to happen. I’d rebuff any attempt on his part to continue things, and then he’d leave, probably a little angry with me. But that would be the end of it, and I could stop thinking about him. Stop worrying about him. Instead, I woke up to Jonah, gently licking and kissing my chest, and then he looked up at me and gave me a sunny smile, and I didn’t even think about pushing him away. Instead, I spent the next hour or so licking and kissing his body, and yeah, 69 is the best number. And I didn’t want him to ever leave. I wanted him all to myself. We did eventually get up and have breakfast, and then Jonah announced that he needed to work on the deck. He spent five hours working, while I kept busy doing various things around the house that I’d been putting off, like assembling a storage shelf for the garage, and taking apart an old wooden bench that had been slowly rotting under a tree. With Jonah there, I had done more work on the house in two days than I had in the past five months. I think it was the guilt from watching someone else work. As I worked, I spent some time wondering what was going to happen next. Would Jonah just leave? Would he stay the night and have sex with me again? And what the fuck was I doing? The truth was, I didn’t know, but I spent much of the day with an erection, especially when I was watching Jonah working. Around five, I went down to the town center and got a pizza, and withdrew some cash from the ATM, and then we ate the pizza at the kitchen table. Neither of us talked about what we’d done that morning, but we were much more relaxed around each other. After dinner, Jonah worked another hour before cleaning things up. When Jonah had finished for the day, there was still a lot more to be done, but he’d made significant progress. “You’ve done good,” I told him, as the two of us stood admiring his handiwork. The entire deck had been sanded down, and he’d completed the first coat and started a second. He needed to complete the second coat, and depending upon how that looked, maybe a third. “I can come back next weekend and finish,” Jonah offered, as he followed me inside. We walked down the hall towards the front door, and the stairs that lead to my bedroom, and I wasn’t really sure where we were going. “Great,” I said, as I took out the money I had in my pocket and held out the little bundle of notes to him. “Here’s the money for the first two days,” I said. Jonah stopped in the hallway and looked at the money and squinted at it suspiciously. “How much is that?” he asked, and I wondered if he had expected more. “It’s $420. Fourteen hours at $30 an hour.” Jonah frowned and shook his head. “That’s too much,” he said. “No,” I said, stepping up to him and pushing it into his hand. “We agreed. You worked really hard.” Jonah hesitated for a moment, and then he took the money, but then he looked up at me and pursed his lips. “I still owe you for the car,” he said softly. I nodded. “I know,” I said. “But you can pay that back later. You need some money, so you…you know, you’re not getting in more debt.” Jonah stared at me for a moment, and then he nodded slowly. “Thanks,” he said quietly. “No, thank you,” I said, and he grinned at me, and I was staring at him, and he was staring at me, and I was starting to think we might have sex again. “I’d stay,” Jonah said, glancing towards the front door, “but I’m really beat.” “Oh, yeah?” I grinned, acting like everything was fine. I was a little disappointed, but I wasn’t going to show it. “Well, you wore me out,” I continued, “and I didn’t even do any of the painting.” We stood there for a moment, just staring at each other. “You’re getting old,” Jonah grinned. “You’re the one that said he was really beat,” I pointed out. “I painted all day!” he objected. I nodded, but then Jonah stepped forward, and I wondered what he was going to do. Jonah put his arms around me and kissed me, and as we kissed, I ran my hands down his back to his butt, and then I squeezed those two perfect cheeks as I attacked his mouth. Our tongues wrestled as he rubbed his body against mine, and I started getting hard again. He’d said he wasn’t going to stay. He’d said he was tired. But now he was practically mauling me, rutting against me, and I was running my hands over his body, and he was moaning into me, and I could feel his erection against my leg, and I was hard, and I was going to do everything that he would let me. I ran my hand around to the front of his pants, and squeezed his penis through his shorts, starting to slowly stroke it, feeling him move in response to the motion. My other hand was working to shove down his pants, and when they slid below his waist, I grabbed his bare cock and felt the precum on my fingers, and used that to lubricate the head of his cock as I continued to stroke him. His arms were around me, holding himself to me. As I stroked faster with my right hand, my left reached around to his butt, and I started sliding my finger over his hole. Jonah was moaning now, his body sliding against me as he moved his hips, trying to find a motion in sympathy with my stroking hand, and then I felt his body tense, and he was clutching tightly to me and groaning loudly, and I felt warm liquid spurt from his penis, and he collapsed against me. I had to grab him and hold him to keep him from falling, and I held him as he shivered through the last of the orgasm, and then I pushed him up against the wall, and I crouched down and took him into my mouth and sucked the last of the liquid from his cock, and he groaned and shook, his penis was always sensitive after he orgasmed. I took one last lick of his cock, and kissed it’s head a couple of times, and then I stood up, and he was staring at me with lidded eyes, still lost in a dream, and I kissed him on the mouth again, and he groaned against me. “I guess you weren’t beat after all,” I said. Jonah just hung there in my arms, like he was made of jelly. “You okay?” I asked him. He grinned. “I’m totally fucked,” he said, breathing heavily. I leaned in and kissed him again, and then I looked at the time. It was only a little after 8, but I didn’t want him driving if he was exhausted. And besides, I wanted to hold his naked body against me again, even if I didn’t have sex with him. “You better stay tonight then,” I said. Jonah frowned. “I’ve got work tomorrow,” he said, the objection not really strong. “I’ll get you up early, and you can go home and get changed before going to work. Want to do that?” Jonah still looked unsure. “I promise, no more sex,” I said, and he grinned. “I’ll let you get your rest,” I added, and I kissed him chastely on the cheek. Jonah nodded. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “Come on then,” I said, “let’s get you to bed.” “You didn’t cum,” he said softly, almost apologetically. “It’s okay,” I said, and it was. I’d had a fantastic time, and maybe I’d beat off in the shower. I didn’t care, I just wanted to get him into bed and hold him to me. I took his hand and began to lead him upstairs. “So you’re not planning to fuck me?” Jonah asked as we brushed our teeth. I slapped his ass gently, leaving my hand there for a moment, squeezing the warm globe. “Nah, I really am tired too,” I said, and it was true. Naked in bed, I kissed him a dozen, maybe a hundred times. I held him close, feeling him breathing and his heart beating as I ran my hands gently over his skin. And it was warm and sensual and caring, and I didn’t want it to ever stop. And we did finally fall asleep, and woke when the alarm went off at 6. The morning was a rush, and though he kissed me quickly when he awoke, we didn’t do anything else in the morning. Jonah had a quick shower and left. I was already trying to think of other jobs I could get him to do. I even wondered if I’d fire the regular pool and yard company. Jonah and I hadn’t talked about where things stood. We’d had sex multiple times, and he’d slept with me Saturday and Sunday night and then left Monday morning. But we didn’t talk about getting together again, though we had talked about him coming back the following weekend to finish the painting. Yet when we’d been in the pool, before I’d given in, he’d talked about just having sex one more time. That no one would know, and we wouldn’t do it again. Maybe he was serious, but I didn’t think he was. I knew I wasn’t. I knew that if Jonah came back, I’d have sex with him again, assuming he wanted to. But if I continued to see him, it could be a potential problem at work. Monday morning, I called Karen in HR. “Hi, Karen,” I said. “Hi Brian, how are things?” said Karen brightly. “They’re good. Do you have any free time today? There’s something I need to discuss with you.” “Sure. Let me just look…” there was a pause. “How about at 10? Would that work for you?” “Yes, thanks,” I said. “Do you want to come down here, or I can come up…” she offered. “I’ll come down,” I said. I got down to HR just after 10, and Karen was in her office, seated at her desk. She got up and waved me to an empty chair at the table in her room, and she came over and sat next to me. For the first few minutes, we made small talk about her two children, and what was going on in the C Suite. “So what’s up?” Karen asked me, finally moving the conversation along. “Well, it’s to do with an interpersonal relationship,” I said, nearly tripping over the word interpersonal when I said it. “Okay,” she said slowly, almost suspiciously. “And it involves me,” I added. “Ah, okay, so you’re dating someone in the company?” “Yes. Well, I don’t know if we’re dating, but lets’ say …we’ve dated, and I don’t know where it’s going, but…” “Do they report to you?” she asked, using the pronoun ‘they,’ even though she knew I was gay. “He doesn’t report directly to me, but he’s in my division, unfortunately. He started recently.” “So his manager reports to you?” “Something like that.” “Were you involved in his hiring?” “No. We first met after he was hired, but prior to him starting work here. I had no involvement in his hiring at all, and he never told me he was going to be working here when we first…dated.” “And you’ve been dating since he started here?” Karen asked. “Ah. We…we met in New Orleans. Kind of by accident. He was going to be starting here the following week, but I didn’t know that when we met.” “Okay, so you met in New Orleans…” she asked, her voice obviously curious. “Yeah, I didn’t think it was more than a weekend thing,” I said, feeling myself blush, and wishing I had described it differently. “Then he started here, and I guess you’d say he was interested in pursuing a relationship. I tried to discourage him, but…that hasn’t worked out.” Karen raised her eyebrows just a fraction, and I couldn’t help wonder what she must be thinking. “And you didn’t know he was going to be working here?” she asked. “No, we didn’t talk about it.” “But he knew you were working here?” That was the problem. He did know. I’d told him. “Yes,” I said, “Did he know your position?” “I don’t know,” I said, thinking about it carefully. Did he know my position? I’m not sure that I told him during our conversations. “I don’t think I told him. I might have,” I said slowly. “Which would mean he was the one to break the policy…we really like to know if someone an applicant is dating, is involved in the hiring decision.” “But I wasn’t involved,” I pointed out. “You’re in the chain. By definition you’re involved,” Karen replied briskly, but then she paused and smiled. “Most of the time,” she said, her voice a little warmer, “it’s not about what actually happened, but about appearances and opportunities.” I was about to say that he was young and wouldn’t have thought about that, but it occurred to me that was the wrong side of the argument to be making. I did not want to start out by saying he was young and immature. Then another idea occurred to me. “But it was before he started. He’d been hired before we met. And he probably hadn’t even been given the company handbook, let alone read it.” “There’s a link to it on their offer materials.” “And they’re expected to read it through, prior to starting? And then let you know ex post facto?” “Probably not,” Karen sighed. “So you’re dating him?” Well, there was the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Was I dating him? “I don’t know. Maybe? Or it may have already ended, I just don’t know, but it’s …fluid…and I thought I should report it before…” She looked at me quizzically, clearly trying to understand. “It’s…I don’t know what’s going to happen,” I continued. Karen nodded slowly. “But I might not know for months,” I went one. “Or maybe tomorrow he’ll decide he’s not interested. I just…there is something there.” Karen sat there for a minute, and then she smiled purposefully. “Who does he report to?” she asked. “Ah, Edmund Proctor,” I said. “Who's’ that?” “He’s in the database group.” “What’s his name?” Karen asked, and I realized she meant Jonah. “Jonah. Jonah Harris.” She stared at me for a moment, and it was clear she was trying to place him. “He only joined a few weeks ago,” I offered. Karen got up and went over to her computer and brought up the employee directory and found his picture. “I don’t know him,” she said, coming back to sit down with me. She sat there for a moment, thinking. “Do you know how old…” she paused, “No scratch that.” “He’s twenty-four,” I said, and I felt myself blush again. But I might as well get it out in the open as she could easily go and find out how old he is. “Okay…” and there was another long pause, and I didn’t know what to say. Honestly, I was embarrassed enough as it was. “Okay,” she began again. “So company policy is that we discourage relationships between people that report to others, and well, because you’re head of the division it’s sort of unwritten that anyone in your division is a problem. You have to report the relationship, which you have. But then, depending on the situation, we reserve the right to move someone or even terminate one or both of you.” “Ah, does he need to notify you, since I’ve done it?” “No, this counts as you both reporting it.” “Okay.” Karen sat there for a long moment. “I don’t think I can give you a complete answer right now,” she finally said. “Okay.” “Are you thinking you’re going to be dating publicly?” “I don’t know. Probably not?” “I’m just…this is just thinking out loud right now, the problem is that with your position, if it becomes known, people will think he’s going to get treated differently, and that can be a problem.” “I understand,” I agreed, reluctantly. “The best thing would be to transfer him to another division if there’s a job he’s interested in. I think that would be the preferred solution. We could make that happen.” I thought about that for a moment, but I didn’t think Jonah would like that, and it made me uncomfortable. “That makes it sound like he’s getting preferential treatment because he is dating me,” I pointed out. “Yes,” Karen nodded. “But it’s in the companies interest to reduce any obvious issues like this. It may be okay to leave him where he is, but I just think that once—or if—it’s known you are dating him, then it’s going to make things…difficult.” “Because we’re gay or because he’s in my division?” Karen gave me a look that suggested she was disappointed in me. I guess I had sounded a bit defensive. “Honestly,” she said, “it’s because he’s in your division and…so junior to you. If he was your age, it probably wouldn’t provoke mention, though it might. If he was female and that age, then we’d have the same problem. It really is the age and seniority difference.” “It’s not that big a difference. Trump’s wife is 24 years younger than him,” I tried pointing out. Karen smiled. “Yes, but she’s not 24. It’s all about perceptions…” “Twenty four isn’t a child,” I said, and immediately realized I needed rein in my annoyance. Karen wasn’t the enemy here. Don’t shoot the messenger. “I know,” Karen nodded. “I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong, I’m just trying to interpret how this is going to be perceived, and unfortunately, with interpersonal relationships, it’s not so much ‘are they getting preferential treatment?’ it’s more about the perception that they could.” I nodded. “So what do we do?” I asked. Karen looked thoughtful. “At the moment, you’ve reported it, so that’s good, at least we aren’t going to be surprised by it. I’m going to talk it over with the business partner for your division…ah maybe you could encourage him to look for something in another division?” “I’m not sure there’s anything that’s going to appeal to him, but I’ll ask him to look.” I was pretty sure that Jonah wouldn’t like the suggestion. I suspected he’d be annoyed and unhappy. He was just starting to feel comfortable where he was, and he wouldn’t like being moved so soon because of me. Maybe it would be best to hold off until Karen definitively told me we had to move him. “I’ll check with Talent Acquisition,” she added. “Just in case.” “The more people that know about this,” I pointed out, “the more likely that word will get out.” Karen gave me a sympathetic smile. “We’ll do our best to keep it quiet. I can’t promise that it won’t get out. That’s the problem with these kind of things. They get out eventually.” “Sure.” We chatted for a bit longer, and then I said I had to go to a meeting. I went back to my office and wondered what I was going to tell Jonah, and when. I realized that I probably needed to tell him something soon, or he might be surprised by a call about a job opening in another division. I didn’t hear from Jonah for the next couple of days. He had left on Monday morning, seemingly happy enough, but there had been no discussion about what was going to happen next, other than that he would have to come back to finish the deck. I hadn’t reached out to him—even after talking to Karen—and he hadn’t texted or stopped by my office, and I wasn’t sure what it meant, or what I should do. Or even if I needed to do anything. I knew what I should do. Never see him again. I think that was why I hadn’t attempted to contact him. Maybe in my mind, I subconsciously thought that if Jonah always came to me, then it wasn’t really my fault. If I wasn’t initiating it, no one could accuse me of chasing after someone so much younger than myself. Someone with less power and autonomy. But that troubled me. It felt like I was being a coward. But what was the right thing to do? Besides, I was developing feelings for Jonah, and his financial situation worried me. On the one hand, it was clear that Jonah had spent much of his life taking care of himself, and he liked to be in control of things. But on the other, it was like watching a high wire artist. It was a delicate balancing act, and he seemed right on the edge of falling off. And there was always the possibility that Jonah would come to his senses and wouldn’t want to see me again. Would Jonah turn up next weekend, and, if he did, what would happen? Would we act like nothing had happened, or would we end up back in the bedroom again? Wednesday evening, I was sitting watching a Netflix comedy special and debating if I would even bother having dinner, when the doorbell rang. I rarely had people ringing my doorbell unannounced in the evening, but every now and again I’d get someone from Greenpeace or another action group coming around with a clipboard and an earnest story, and if they were funny or I felt sorry for them, I’d chat for a bit and give them fifty dollars. And sometimes I just told them I was sorry, but I wasn’t interested. I opened the door, getting mentally ready to tell them ‘not today,’ and was surprised to see Jonah, dressed rather plainly in jeans, dress-shirt and hoodie. He looked a little embarrassed and nervous. “Uh, hey,” he said, raising his right hand in a little wave of greeting. “Hi,” I said, almost shocked that he’d turned up without letting me know. What if I had guests or something else going on? I was about to snap at him and ask what he was doing, but there was something about his demeanor that stopped me. It was obvious he was upset about something, so I checked myself. After all, all I’d been doing was watching television. “Uh…can I come in?” he asked quietly. “Oh, sure. Come in,” I said, and Jonah stepped inside, and I closed the door, but he just stood in the entranceway. There was no move to intimacy. No sign of flirting. Not even the confidence to come fully into the house. Jonah just stood there looking uncomfortable. “You want to come into the kitchen? I was just thinking about making dinner,” I lied. Jonah shook his head. “I won’t stay,” he replied. “Okay,” I said, puzzled that he seemed so distant. Or that he wasn’t planning to stay. Had he come to tell me he’d realized it was a mistake? Was that why I hadn’t heard from him? I actually felt a terrible sadness. I didn’t think I’d feel that bad about breaking up with him. It shouldn’t hurt that much. “What’s up?” I asked, trying to keep it casual. “I uhh….” and he just stood there. Now I began to think he really did have something terrible to tell me. My mind raced through the possibilities, wondering if someone had found out about us, and what would that mean? “Are you okay?” I prompted. “Yeah…yeah,” he said, but Jonah still didn’t seem to be able to form sentences. “Is something the matter?” I asked gently. “I uh…” he began and then paused. “Just tell me,” I encouraged him. Jonah pursed his lips, and then in a jumble, it spilled out of him. “Stupid phone company changed the stupid way they charge for their stupid plan.” “What?” I asked, totally confused. Jonah sighed and started again. “They used to put it through at the end of the month, and then the stupid fuckers changed it to the beginning of the month, and they sent me a notice, but I didn’t really read the stupid thing and…” he stopped talking, but he was balling his hands into fists in frustration. “Okay, so what happened?” I asked gently. “So they took the money out, and that meant I didn’t have enough money in there for the payment on my loan when that went through, so now the loan company charged me a late fee and a failed payment fee, and the bank’s charged me a fee and it’s like over a hundred dollars, and now I won’t be able to pay rent,” he said, and now he was shaking. “Hey,” I said softly, and I stepped up to Jonah as he stared at me wild-eyed, and for a second I thought he might lash out, but I reached out slowly and put my arms around him and gently hugged him to me. At first, he was reluctant, almost pulling away, and then he collapsed against me, leaning his head on my chest as he started to cry. “The fucking bastards,” he mumbled. “How come they charge almost fifty bucks for not paying something?” I ran my hands up and down his back. “What happened to the money I gave you?” I asked him. “I used it to pay some bills, and to buy some food,” he said quietly. “Well, I can give you money to…” Jonah shook his head. “No, no, you’re not just giving me money,” he said. “Jonah,” I said, but he shook his head again, stepping away from me and wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his hoodie. “A friend offered me five hundred dollars for my car. Do you want it?” “What?” “I’ll sell it to you for seven-fifty. It’s worth more than that. You’ll get like two thousand five hundred if you resell it.” “Why don’t you sell it then?” “I need the money today,” he said. “What are you going to do without a car?” Jonah shrugged. “Take public transportation,” he said. “You do know that you still have to finish the deck? You’d get at least 150 for that. How much do you need?” “That’s not enough,” he said. “Why not?” Jonah took a deep breath. “I’m still overdue on the electricity and gas bills,” he said. “So you need 750?” “And you can have the car.” “I’m not taking the car, Jonah," I said, and I turned and started walking back to the kitchen. “You want a check or cash?” I asked. Jonah followed me into the kitchen, wiping his eyes some more. “A check is okay,” he said quietly. I grabbed my checkbook and wrote him a check for fifteen hundred dollars. He looked at it puzzled. “You said the car was worth two-fifty at least,” I said. “If we get more, then you can have it. I’m not making a profit off you.” Jonah seemed reluctant at first, but then he took the check. “And you might as well keep the car until we sell it. I don’t want it in the driveway.” “Okay, we can sell it this weekend.” “You’re painting the deck this weekend. We’ll deal with the car the following weekend,” I said. Or maybe never. Jonah took out his phone and used a mobile app to deposit the check. It was only when it went through that he seemed to calm down any. “Thanks for this,” he said quietly, and he waved the check in his hand. He now seemed embarrassed. “You’re welcome. Are you hungry?” I asked him. “Uh…I should go,” he said. “No, come on, stay,” I said. “I was going to order take out,” I lied. “You like Thai?” Jonah nodded slowly, and I went and got a menu and handed it to him. “Pick something you like,” I said. The rest of the evening, Jonah was quiet and distant. He didn’t flirt with me, and we sat and watched the comedy special on Netflix while we ate dinner. He didn’t seem to be in the mood to laugh. I was sorry when Jonah said he had to go. I wanted to hug him, and kiss him, and tell him it was going to be okay, but he had sat on the couch a good couple of feet away from me, the entire time giving off ‘don’t touch me’ vibes. When he’d first arrived, I’d actually thought about having sex with him, of him staying over, of holding his body against mine in the dark, but he clearly wasn’t interested at all. I felt bad about that. After Jonah left, I spent some time wondering whether I now wanted him more than he wanted me, and what that meant. Was I now going to spend my time trying to get back into his pants? Now that would be wrong. If Jonah was no longer interested, I needed to stop thinking about him. Jonah wasn’t even that cute, now that I thought about it. And how much money had I given him now? About three thousand dollars? Was I out of my fucking mind? Was he just extorting money out of me? I wondered about that, but Jonah would have had to have been in league with the local garage to get most of that, which seemed unlikely. I couldn’t believe that he was just using me. And yet, I thought about it. To be continued…
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