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    Geron Kees
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Star Light, Star Bright - 5. Part 5

Part Five

Annie came into my office just before closing and laid another holo tab on my desk. "You don't have to even look at that until Monday, okay?"

I nodded absently, smiling at the text floating in the display atop my desk. "You mean it's not important?"

She shrugged. "It's from Warren, at Tel-Canter. He said it was important, but I know better. I told him you had already gone home for the day." She leaned forward and patted my shoulder. "Don't make a liar out of me, okay? Go home."

I looked at the clock and nodded, waved a hand at my screen to save my file. The display folded in on itself, and was gone.

Annie grinned, produced a small package out of thin air, and laid it on my desk. "Happy birthday, Mr. Ballard."

"Aw." I looked up at her and smiled. "Thanks, Annie. Do I need to give you a raise to pay for this?"

She shook her head, and leaned closer. "Discount website," she whispered. "Cheap."

I laughed, getting to my feet. I knew better. Whatever it was, it would be thoughtful and useful, or beautiful and necessary. Annie's good sense and good taste were not to be trifled with.

She laughed, and went back out to the front office. I stretched, glad to be up from the desk. I had been working all day on a project for one of the private orbital services, making the harrowing boost to geosync sound both affordable and exciting to those upper-level earners that might want to make the trip up to one of the orbiting hotels. I'd never made the trip myself, but I had heard from reliable sources that it was less than fun.

I picked up the package Annie had left behind, could immediately tell by its heft that it was something expensive. I shook my head. That girl!

For just a second I looked around my office, and then out through the corner windows at the city below. It had grown in the years I had been located here, but was still a small city by world standards. Still comfortable, still reasonably safe.

I let my eyes travel about the office, which was actually a suite, and which was large and comfortable, and suitably impressive for my clients that still chose to visit and do business in person.

Successful, I thought, smiling to myself. And happy.

Annie and I rode the elevator down to the garage and parted. I thanked her again for the gift, and told her I would see her on Monday.

I climbed into my Lex and lay back into the seat. "Home, James."

The car started, and pulled out of its slot. "We'll be taking route thirty this evening," it said. "There is construction going on along route eight."

I nodded. "Doesn't matter. Just get me there."

It was nearly dark already. Winter was slightly depressing for me, because the days were short and sweet, and not friendly for those that loved the outdoors. Here it was, scarcely December, and I was already pining for the soft breezes of spring.

Fifty, the thought came to mind. Tomorrow I'll be fifty.

I shook my head. Where did the time get to?

But then I smiled again. It didn't matter. Fifty was an arbitrary number, really. I still had many years left, twenty or more, even, before I would even consider retirement.

Twenty or more working years, each spent with Benny. And then many more years, after that. All of them spent with Benny.

I didn't pay much attention to the ride, and so was surprised when the Lex turned up our driveway to the garage. The house was well-lit, aglow with some small wonder there among the trees. That we had stayed so rural all these years was a sign of our total retreat from the city. Benny and I had had the house built here at the edge of a wildlife preserve because we knew that the land would never be developed, never be more than it had been the day we moved in. And it had stayed the same all these years, far away from the world, nestled among the ancient trees, out beneath the stars.

There was another car in the driveway, and I smiled. I had told Benny I didn't want any big get-togethers for my birthday, that I wanted to spend it with him and family and maybe a few special friends.

These would be the special friends. I recognized Clint's big SUV, and smiled. They had been invited to spend the weekend.

The garage door opened, the car pulled in, and said good night to me as I climbed out.

"Thanks for the ride," I said, as the door closed behind me. Always be polite to your machines, because you never know what they're thinking.

I entered the kitchen, and smiled at the three sitting around the dining room table. Benny hopped to his feet and came over, smiling, and gave me a quick hug. "You look a little beat. Tough day?"

"No, not really. Just...you know."

He nodded. "Yeah. Winter blahs."

I laughed, and so did he. He helped me off with my coat, and then frowned at it, and felt in the right-hand pocket. He pulled out the small, heavy, wrapped box and looked at it, smiling. "I see Annie has struck again."

I nodded. "I can't open it until tomorrow, though. You know Annie's rule. It has to be done on the actual birthday."

Benny kissed me, and went and laid the coat over a chair, and placed Annie's gift atop the little cabinet near the dining room table.

The other two got up then from their seats at the table and came to trade hugs with me. Clint was the tallest of us, large and powerful, and he gave me a squeeze that would have tested the ribs of a lesser man. He was followed by Gary, still red-haired, who hugged me and pulled back to gaze at me critically. "Is that a gray hair I see?"

I nodded. "There are three. I have executed all of them, but they persist in returning. The prognosis is not good for a full recovery." I stepped back and looked him over. "Have you gained a couple of pounds?"

He sighed. "Kind of you to notice. My metabolism has slowed down a bit."

I grinned, and leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "You still look good enough to eat, so don't sweat it, okay?"

He laughed, and we went to sit at the table. There were places set, but I couldn't smell anything cooking. At my questioning look, Benny grinned. "I ordered out. Italian. It should be here in a minute."

I smiled at that. Italian was reserved for special events, and having the guys over was definitely that.

Clint sat back in his chair and took a sip of wine from the glass before him. "Benny was just telling us about the day when he came out to his folks, how his mom threw up her hands and yelled, 'Oh, what else can happen!', and his dad just laughed and said, 'Honey, it could be a hell of lot worse! It could be Angelica, and she could be pregnant!'."

I laughed, remembering. "Yeah. We thought it would be the other way around, with his mom accepting it and his dad going off about it. But his dad shook Benny's hand, asked if I was the lucky guy, and then gave Benny twenty bucks to take me out for pizza!"

Benny rocked back and forth in his chair, smiling. "That's right. And every year at Christmas, I get a card from my dad with a twenty dollar gift card inside, and a note to take Griff out for pizza!"

We all laughed.

"At least your pop didn't chase you with a branding iron when you told him," Clint said, looking dead serious.

Benny's mouth dropped open. "Your dad was going to brand you?"

Clint grinned, his green eyes merry. "Oh, heck no. He was gonna hit me with that sucker. Fortunately, my mom grabbed a shotgun and shot that iron clean out of his hands!"

Gary tossed his head back and howled. "Don't listen to him. That story gets bigger every time I hear it."

I grinned at Clint, and he smiled. I remembered the last time he had told us the story about when he had told his parents he was in love with a boy. His mother had reputedly hugged him and said she would still darn his socks, and his father had just been silent for the rest of the day. Along about the time Clint had decided that his daddy was never going to speak to him again, the man had come and poked his head into Clint's room and asked if his boyfriend was a Republican or a Democrat.

"Dad, he's fourteen," Clint had said. "I don't think he's either."

The man had nodded then, and smiled. "Well, good then. There's some hope left!"

I don't think we know the true story to this day.

The kitchen holo popped up and announced that a drone was inbound, and broadcasting the ID signal of the Italian restaurant in town. Benny gave it permission to land on the roof, and a few moments later the door to the kitchen dumbwaiter opened, revealing several large thermopaks inside. We got up and doled out the food, and the room hissed to the sounds of the vacuum seals being broken. The air was immediately filled with the steamy, hot smells of lasagna and Fettuccine Bolognese, and the more muted tones of Broccoli Pesto Pasta.

The dinner was excellent. Some more wine went down with it, but not enough to really notice.

After that, the four of us sat around the living room, rehashing old times. Clint was persuaded to retell the story about the time the county cop finally caught up to him on his dirt bike, and Gary rolled his eyes the whole time, and squeezed Clint's hand. "I thought they were going to arrest him and take him away from me," he said, remembering.

Gary said he had heard from Jerry Creed, now a prominent attorney in the city. Jerry had said that he had had one too many days in a New York City courtroom, and that he and his wife were packing it in and moving back to our area. Benny and I smiled at that, recalling our own move back to the sticks more than twenty years past now, and admitted that Jerry must be one tough dude to have made it in the city for so long.

"His wife went nuts when she heard," Clint said, smiling. "She tried to give their apartment to the mailman so that she and Jerry could get out of town quicker."

Gary reached over and slapped his boyfriend's knee. "That story-telling of yours is going to get you in trouble some day!"

We all just laughed.

Benny and I rehashed some of our science fiction tales, and we got onto the one about going to our first science fiction convention in the city, dressed as Dweedles from the planet Albacore. We were seventeen then, and it was our first road trip, too. It had been Benny's idea, and I had never even contemplated such a thing. The costumes were hideously outlandish, and after several hours of clomping around the hotel in more hair and leather than the average motorcycle gang could boast, I was more than ready to head home. But as we were on our way out, we had been stopped and pulled into the con room by two guys dressed as Klingons, and handed the second place award for best costumes. It had been totally unexpected, and Benny and I had laughed ourselves silly all the way home.

"You guys have done a lot of crazy things like that," Gary said, giving me the eye. "Considering how serious you were when I first met you, Griff, I was pretty surprised how nutty you turned out later on."

I smiled, looking at Benny. "It was the company I was keeping. Someone taught me to dare to have fun." I shook my head. "I wouldn't trade those memories for ten sacks of gold."

Benny laughed, but snuggled that much closer to my side.

Clint smiled then, and leaned forward. He held up Gary's hand, and then dropped his head and kissed it. "Gary told me it was the two of you that hatched the plan to get the two of us together. I never thanked you for that. It's long overdue."

Gary sighed. "Amen to that."

Knowing how happy the two of them had been together all these years made it more than worth the effort, and Benny and I said so. "That's what friends do," Benny said, smiling.

We talked until the mantel clock struck midnight, at which point Benny dragged me to my feet and hugged me and kissed me. "Happy birthday, sweetheart."

I then had to endure a crushing hug from Clint, and a very sweet kiss from Gary. And then the two of them said they were heading up to bed, because they knew we'd like some time alone.

Benny and I both grinned at that, knowing full well who it was that wanted some time together.

But then, Benny and I were alone. He squeezed my hand a moment, and then went to the closet and returned with both of our coats. "Come with me, Griff."

I looked at him questioningly, but knew better than to argue. The look on Benny's face said that he had something special in mind, something he wanted to share with me.

He led me outside, and down the driveway to the street. There was a strip of lawn there, brown with winter sleep and covered in dried leaves. He drew me out to the middle of it, and then sank down to his knees, pulling me with him. "Lay down, Griff."

He stretched out, and I stretched out with him. The ground was cold, and hard, but Benny snuggled against me.

Above us, the stars stretched away into the night in every direction. The house was surrounded by woods, and the only place to properly see the stars just by eye was by the open road.

"Why are we here?" I whispered. "We can skywatch by holo with the rooftop scope."

"Not for this," Benny said. He turned his head and kissed me. "We're here to wish."

I stared at him. "You're kidding."

"No." He seemed disappointed that I didn't feel the same way about it, and I immediately felt contrite. "I'm sorry. Are we wishing for something in particular?"

Benny laughed. "Every wish is for something in particular."

He was quiet a moment, and then squeezed my hand. "Do you remember that last time we did this?"

I did. All those years ago, Benny had taught me about wishing. I remembered then what I had wished for, and smiled. "Yes."

Benny sighed. "You're not supposed to reveal a wish, at least, not for a long time after it's made. Or until it comes true. But it's been a long time since we made those first wishes." He looked over at me, and I could see his eyes full of starlight. "You know what I wished for that night?"

I shook my head. "No."

Benny squeezed my hand. "I wished that you and me would be happy together, forever."

For a moment, I didn't know what to say. Wishing ran against everything I knew about science, and even after all these years of allowing imagination to temper my reality, my first thought was to rebel at the idea that Benny wishing for us to be happy had made it so. But...what about my wish, the one I had made that night? As much as Benny's wish had come true, so had mine.

"That's happened," I said quietly. "Nothing could have made me happier than my life with you."

Benny nodded. "Me, too. As far as I'm concerned, I got the wish I wished for."

"Then why are we here tonight? Isn't it tempting fate to ask for something else?"

Benny laughed. "Maybe. But we have a lot of life left in us, Griff. A lot of years. And I don't want to ask for something else. I want to ask for the same wish, just to reinforce the old one."

I smiled at that. "I don't think it can hurt."

He nodded. "Just to be safe, you should wish for the same thing you wished for, back then. That way neither of us will be asking for something new."

What Benny had just said was not borderline superstition, it was right in there with the rattles and the shrunken heads. But...I could tell it was important to him.

And, again, I had to remember that the universe held far more that is unknown than known, and that wishing, somewhere, somewhen, might even be the accepted way of doing things. What could it hurt to try?

"Okay, let's do it."

Benny snuggled closer, squeezing my hand. For a moment I was transported back to that starry night so long ago when we had laid in the grass behind Benny's house and made that first wish, and how not only Benny's wish, but also mine, had come true.

I looked over at Benny's face, tilted up to the stars, and just loved him so much.

And then his quiet voice reached out into the night:

"Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
have the wish I wish tonight."

Superstition, science - none of it mattered just then. All that mattered was Benny's wish, and his happiness, and my love for him, and his for me.

Yes, Benny's wish had come true. But so had mine, and I remembered that as I made the same wish again, and then cast it towards the heavens.

It sailed away into the night, right along side of Benny's wish, finding the zenith and points beyond. I squeezed Benny's hand, feeling a deep and personal satisfaction.

The wish I had just wished now, the same wish that I had wished that very special night so long ago...was that all of Benny's wishes would come true.


 

Copyright © 2017-2019 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



16 hours ago, BooRadley said:

This was a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us!!!! 

Thanks for commenting! :)

 

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Every time I read one of your stories I think it's the best one yet. But then, I haven't read them all. That's my next project. 

I love happy endings.

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45 minutes ago, Nick Brady said:

Every time I read one of your stories I think it's the best one yet. But then, I haven't read them all. That's my next project. 

I love happy endings.

May I ask why? I mean, there are higher places to aim in life than reading all my stories. I certainly don't object, of course.

 

All I can say is that I hope you feel it's worth your time. :)

 

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2 hours ago, Geron Kees said:

May I ask why? I mean, there are higher places to aim in life than reading all my stories. I certainly don't object, of course.

 

All I can say is that I hope you feel it's worth your time. :)

 

Why? Because they're great stories and I enjoy reading them. And, as an author, I learn from them. You set a high bar, Geron.

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4 hours ago, Nick Brady said:

Why? Because they're great stories and I enjoy reading them. And, as an author, I learn from them. You set a high bar, Geron.

Thank you for the compliment. You're not half bad, yourself! :)

 

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I loved this story and I am glad that all 4 boys stayed together as life long friends.

Is there going to be a sequel to this story?  

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7 hours ago, Bft said:

I loved this story and I am glad that all 4 boys stayed together as life long friends.

Is there going to be a sequel to this story?  

Thanks for the kind words. A sequel? Well, maybe.  The story is still playing out! :)

 

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4 hours ago, Geron Kees said:

Thanks for the kind words. A sequel? Well, maybe.  The story is still playing out! :)

 

Oh do tell. 💕

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I enjoyed reading this story 🙂

the time jump into the last chapter had me a bit puzzled to start with🤔 I eventually realised that it was a big jump in time and not a sudden change in tack. I did think at one point that it was going to be like an introduction that Griff was writing SciFi as a sideline😉

Anyway, another well written and well thought out story - thank you Geron.

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On 6/26/2021 at 2:01 PM, Luke Past said:

I enjoyed reading this story 🙂

the time jump into the last chapter had me a bit puzzled to start with🤔 I eventually realised that it was a big jump in time and not a sudden change in tack. I did think at one point that it was going to be like an introduction that Griff was writing SciFi as a sideline😉

Anyway, another well written and well thought out story - thank you Geron.

Thank you for the nice comment! :)

 

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