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Gone Fishing - 1. Chapter 1 Hooked

Sometimes, you can go home again.

                                                                                                                                    *****

 

Chapter 1 Hooked

 

“What did you just say?

“You heard me.”

“I did… I heard some words, but what the fuck do they mean?”

Andrew walked over to the broad expanse of windows, his tall figure now silhouetted by the city skyline. From where Anthony sat, at their glass-topped dining room table, he suddenly seemed miles away.

“Are you going to answer me?”

“I thought I was pretty clear. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“So, we don’t sign the offer? I don’t get it. They signed it back at the price we hoped for, and it’s the perfect house for—”

“For what? To die in?”

Anthony stood up. “What the hell are you talking about? Who’s dying?”

Andrew spun around. “Me!” It came out as a desperate wail, and Anthony was stunned.

“You’re dying?”

“No! Not… not literally!”

Anthony’s grip on the tabletop lessened slightly as relief washed over him. For a few agonizing heartbeats, he thought he was losing his husband. Taking a few deep breaths while his mind raced in all directions, he watched the man turn back to the view, his broad shoulders curled down and in. Whatever was wrong, it was serious.

“Okay, then, you don’t want the house, we won’t get the house, but we’re running out of time. We close here in sixty-eight days… Drew… can you look at me? I don’t know what’s going on here. Do you want to stay in the city, because we can do that?”

“God, would you stop being so nice?”

“What?”

Andrew once again turned to face him. “You always want to fix things, and some things are just… look, I don’t want any of this anymore. I’m sorry… but we’re only twenty-six, and we have everything planned out, and it’s too much… I’m suffocating.”

Anthony was dumbfounded once more, not just by what he said, but how he said it. “You’re suffocating? From what?”

“Jesus, Tony”—he gestured all around their high-rise condo—“I look at what we have and… and it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“I’m confused. This place is sold, so—”

The man’s hands went to his head in frustration, and Anthony reeled from the slapping sound. “It’s not the condo! It’s everything. I don’t want a too-big house in the suburbs, I don’t want kids, I don’t want my job, and I don’t want—”

Anthony finally got it. “Me? You don’t want me? Is that what this is about?”

Andrew walked towards him, but stopped when Anthony backed away, knocking over one of their classic 1950’s bentwood chairs that he’d just had to have. His instinct was to run… to bolt from the room and away from clawing fear, but he needed to hear the answer.

“No… no… it’s not about you. I love you, but I don’t want to live this way anymore. It’s not how I saw my life going, and I’m sorry—”

“You’re sorry?” A wave of dizziness hit him and he was back to gripping the glass edge of the table. “I’m confused. Just what do you want?”

“I want to… to travel the world, and now, with the killing we’ve made on this place, I can afford to do that.”

“But we have good careers. Why can’t we travel the world on our vacations?” He stared into the face of the man he’d been with for four years, almost two of them as husbands. The truth soon became apparent. Andrew had said ‘I,’ not ‘we.’ “You want to do this alone.”

“I don’t want… look, you need stability. We both know that, and I know how important this life is to you. We want different things, and you could never live the way….” He stopped, looking suddenly embarrassed, like a kid who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar before supper.

“Is there someone else?”

“Fuck, no, of course not! It’s not about that. I love you—”

“Just not enough.”

“I’ve tried, I swear. Right up until last night, I was committed, but—”

“What happened last night?”

“Nothing happened. I finally accepted there would be no turning back once we bought the house. It’s not something I could do ever again, because the choice would be gone. We’d be back in debt again, plus the kids you want us to have… and that would be it. It’s now or never. I want to have adventures, see things I’ve never seen before, travel through war-torn countries and write about them. I want to see jungles… maybe live in one for a while, and finally put my journalism degree to use. I don’t want to be stuck in an office for the rest of my life.”

“The kids I want us to have? So you lied to me?”

“No, I didn’t. It’s not that I don’t want kids. I do, but not now, and probably not for a long time… too long for you to wait. I’ve been so torn, but Anthony, something has to give.”

“Yeah, and that something is me. Thanks for finally telling me,” he spat out bitterly. “So I’ve become excess baggage in your dream life.”

“No, don’t say it like that… but, please be honest. Does any of that sound like something you would want to do?”

“What’s it matter now? Remember our marriage, Andrew? It was supposed to be about compromise.”

“It totally is, and I tried, but I don’t want to look back in ten or twenty years with regret, or worse, watch us fall apart because I’ve become a bitter, resentful prick. Or for you to give everything up for me. I can’t ask that of you because I know you would be miserable.” He took another step closer, and his voice softened. “There’s no right way to say any of this. I know this is hitting you out of the blue, and I know you’re going to end up hating me, but it’s the right thing to do, for both of us.”

Anthony stared into his husband’s brown eyes, realizing he didn’t know this man. “Could you at least have the decency not to be condescending? Don’t tell me what’s good for me, or make my decisions for me. I can’t believe you’re doing this, but at least now I understand the distance between us. You were deliberately pushing me away, weren’t you?”

“Not intentionally, but maybe.” He looked guilty again. “I wanted to talk to you about it, but I knew once it was out there—”

“There is no going back,” Anthony said flatly. He was numb, and thankful for it. “I need you to leave.”

Andrew nodded as they made eye contact once more. “I’ll pack a suitcase and go stay with Annie. I’m sorry. I hope—”

“Don’t… just don’t.”

 

The process was all very civil. It was impossible not to see the excitement Andrew was feeling when he was finally allowed back into the condo, but Anthony made sure to hide his resentment as they worked out the details of ending their marriage. His whole world had collapsed around him, yet he wouldn’t give in to histrionics.

Andrew had been right about one thing—he had no desire to live his life as a nomad, moving at the whim of someone else. He loved his soon to be ex-husband, but he put those feelings in a box and buried it deep. What choice did he have? Beg him to change his mind? Not a chance. Andrew wasn’t Andrew anymore.

As hard as he tried, though, he couldn’t make a decision on where to go. He worked from home, and could do that anywhere, and frankly, he was still stuck on having a backyard after living in the middle of downtown for six years. His dream of adopting kids was gone, at least for now, but maybe he could still have the dog and the picket fence.

With only a few weeks before the new owners took possession, he made the decision to go back home. His parents lived three and a half hours northeast of the city, but there was decent high speed internet there, and their only child was always welcome. He was ashamed of the fact he hadn’t seen his parents since his wedding, but they’d never once tried to make him feel guilty. It would be a good place to lick his wounds while he figured out what to do next. So, what was left of his previous life was stacked into a storage unit by strangers, and he drove away.

 

He’d almost forgotten how beautiful their little town was. Sweetwater sprawled alongside a river that could be glimpsed here and there through the trees as he drove along. This whole area of the province was a network of lakes and rivers, and the locals knew all the best fishing spots. The rain that had accompanied him for the last hour, finally stopped, and the sun’s appearance made everything look fresh in the lulling heat of the day.

The population was spread out over miles of farmland, and businesses in the town were few, but it had most everything a person needed. The main street had a grocery store that doubled as a liquor and beer store, a hardware store that sold fishing supplies and bait in season, a drug store, a barber shop which had one of those old-time poles that lit up, a seasonal ice cream parlor-variety store, a doctor’s office, a bank, and a restaurant that hadn’t changed since he was a kid. What it didn’t have, was a stoplight. It did have a four way stop, though, and a lot of waving went on through windshields during the course of a day.

There was a family-run plumbing business and a feed store down one side road, and a small library and two churches down another. If you went back out to the highway, a few miles away, there was a building supply store with a McDonalds and a Subway next to it. The sub shop was relatively new. A small city was about fifty minutes away, and that’s where folks went for any needs they couldn’t fill in Sweetwater, or for entertainment.

He was assaulted by memories as he drove, and for the first time in sixty-eight days, his emotions began to thaw. Other than the stuff packed in behind him, everything else he owned was back in that small metal room, in a place far away. His life was officially on hold.

Anthony stopped across from the little park next to the now-slumbering high school, and put his mud- spattered SUV in park. He was home, but he had no home, and he felt the burn begin behind his eyes. Tears soon spilled over.

They weren’t his first since his world came crashing down, but these felt different. The others had made him angry so he fought them, but these ones were pure sadness. He’d been married to a wonderful man and had a wonderful life, but it turned out one of them was pretending. Andrew had been handsome, loving, generous with his time, and kind… but he hadn’t been happy.

Swiping at tears, he rolled down his window to breathe in the heated July air. He was determined not to dwell on the failure of his marriage. He had his dark moments, but a part of him wanted Andrew to find what he needed, and there was nothing to be gained from wallowing in self-pity. Turning off the air conditioning, he rolled down every window. There were hanging flower baskets on all the lamp posts throughout town, and he could smell their sweetness. There was a familiarity here that spoke to him, and it was all around him.

Turning his head, he focused on the back corner of the little park. There was a bench there, hidden now by summer foliage, and that was where he’d kissed a girl for the first time. Julie. He’d had a full-blown crush on her, and imagined it true love, but that kiss had changed everything—the moment when he finally accepted it was never going to be.

The following year, at seventeen, on a frigid evening in February, he’d kissed a boy for the first time on that very same bench. Clark, the big, strong, and intriguing captain of the high school hockey team. Coming from a nearby party, it was the first time in his life he’d drunk enough beer to be foolishly brave. Clark had leaned in first, but Anthony had participated eagerly.

He recognized now they’d been an absolute cliché at the time, becoming a secret, sporadic couple until they went off to separate colleges that fall; him, as far away as he could get, and Clark, much closer to home. Sighing, he put the car back in drive and continued on to his parents’ house.

Everything looked the same as it had three years ago, including the dented and repaired mailbox that proclaimed “The Bartons.” He experienced another twinge of guilt for not visiting more often. His parents had never been anything but accepting and supportive, and in hindsight, he might have taken that for granted.

Stepping out of the vehicle, he turned in a slow circle, taking in the views of the river on the other side of the road. He considered walking over to see if his favorite ‘reading’ log was still there when he heard the familiar sound of the screen door squeaking open and then slamming shut. His mother stood in the carport, wiping her hands on a flowery apron. Anthony grinned at the sight.

“Jim, get out here. He’s home.”

“Coming.”

The door repeated its protest, and his dad appeared beside his mom, dwarfing her like always. “Good to see you, boy. Your mom’s been driving me crazy all morning.”

“Oh, I have not.”

His dad rolled his eyes at the same time his mother did, and Anthony laughed as he walked up and embraced them. “I think I believe Dad, Mom,” he said as he held the little woman in his arms.

“Don’t you start now. There will be no supper if you two gang up on me.”

It was Anthony’s turn to roll his eyes at both of them. “Empty threat if ever I heard one. I’ve missed you guys so much.”

“We’ve missed you too, dear. We haven’t seen you since your wedding… oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up—”

“No need to apologize. I’m fine.”

“Are you?”

He was caught in eyes a paler green than his own. It was a ‘mom look’ he knew well. “No… no, I’m not, but I will be.”

“That’s the spirit,” his dad said. It was such a ‘dad’ thing to say, but Anthony loved him for it.

He was wrong, he chastised himself. He did have a home, anytime he needed it.

“I liked that man a lot,” his dad continued, “but I’m thinking damn poorly of him now.”

“Now, Jim, don’t be—”

“It’s okay, both of you. You don’t have to be careful what you say. It’s done, and I’ll be getting the divorce papers to sign soon. Life goes on.”

“Well, it’s good I don’t have to be careful of what I say, because you deserved better than that. What the hell was he thinking, getting married if he wasn’t going to stick around? He asked you, for crap’s sake.”

“Thanks, Dad, but don’t be too harsh on Andrew. He’s following his dream.”

“What about your dreams? Sorry… sorry. I’ll drop it.”

“Don’t be sorry for being in my corner. And as far as my dreams, I’m not sure what they are anymore.”

“And you don’t need to be, dear. You’re home now, and you can take your time. Come on… get your suitcases and put them in your room. It’s all ready for you, and we have wifi, which apparently means you don’t have to plug in your computer, and your dad moved your grandma’s old desk in there for you.”

His father winked at him. His mother still couldn’t handle a smart phone—hers was an ancient flip, and ‘all she needed.’

“Sounds good. Smells good too… is that pot roast?”

His mother beamed. “Of course it is. I made all your favorites.”

All my favorites? Anthony could feel the added pounds already.

 

“I miss Grandma. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone three years already.”

“Three years, September,” his dad said as he pushed back from the table. “She was a going concern right till the end, though, wasn’t she? That was good, Maysie.”

“Yeah, it was, Mom.”

“Thank you, but you’re not done yet. There’s still rhubarb pie, made from my own patch.”

“Oh lord, I’m not used to food like this, and I ate too much already. Maybe later?”

“If you’re sure, dear. It’s best when it’s still warm, you know.”

Anthony eyed his father as he shuffled his chair back closer to the table.

“Your mother makes a good point, son.”

“Okay, you convinced me. I’m not going to be able to watch Dad eat that pie all by himself, but just a small piece, okay?”

“Of course. Ice cream?”

Both men nodded, and his mother smirked.

 

The pie brought back more memories, and Anthony savored each forkful. “I missed this, too.”

“Well, now you can have it any time you want,” his mother said. “I have so much rhubarb in the freezer, I could practically cook a pie a day.”

“Maybe I should learn how to make it before I go back.”

“It’s easy. Your grandma taught me when I was only about eight years old.”

“She was a great cook.”

“A better fisherman,” his dad said with a wry smile. “You know that woman was fishing in the river the day before she died?”

“Yeah, you told me at the funeral. Can’t say I was surprised.” His grandmother had always had a wonderful but competitive relationship with her son-in-law, and thinking about it had Anthony smiling. “You sure lost a lot of money over the years betting you could out-fish her.”

“Yup. I never learned. Even when we switched rods and reels, that woman still won. She had the magic, no doubt about it.”

“Magic, eh?” He grinned before taking the last bite of his pie and eased back in his chair. “You still own her cabin, right?”

“Of course,” his mother said. “Don’t know what we’re going to do with it, though, now that the tenants have moved out.”

“Can’t you find new tenants?”

“We could, but there’s so much headache with that, for the little bit of rent we get. There’s the insurance, and that driveway can be treacherous in the winter.”

Anthony scoffed. “Not if you know what you’re doing. Grandma never had a problem.”

“No, she never did, but our tenants didn’t have four wheel drive, and they couldn’t seem to drive down and turn at the same time,” his dad said with a shake of his head.

“Just rent it out for the summer then. It’s right on the prettiest spot on the river. Otherwise, you’re going to lose money on the upkeep, and Grandma wouldn’t want that. You should sell it if it gets to be too much.”

“Maybe… but there’s something we want to talk to you about.”

His mother looked to her husband, and Anthony saw the almost imperceptible nod. They always could communicate without talking… could he ever do that with Andrew? He didn’t think so. Hell, he hadn’t had a clue what the man had really been thinking.

“You want my opinion? Grandma wouldn’t want it to be a burden, and yes it’s been in the family for generations, but sometimes you have to let go.”

Another shared look before his mother spoke. “You know she wanted you to have that house.”

“Yeah, I remember she used to say that when I was a kid, but that’s because I was her only grandchild. Once she knew I wasn’t staying here, she stopped.”

“She stopped saying it because she didn’t want you to feel any pressure, but it’s what she wanted. She left it to your father and me, but asked us to keep it for you in hopes one day you'd want it. There was a note for me in her will.”

“Oh… I didn’t know that, but, Mom, what would I do with a house out here?”

“You could move into it… if you wanted.”

“You know I’m only here temporarily, right?” He gave them both a challenging look. Best to set the boundaries now.

“We do, and we don’t want to put pressure on you either. We just wanted you to know it’s yours if you want it. We’d sign it over in a heartbeat.”

“I appreciate that, I really do, and l do love the place, but—”

“No worries, son. None at all. It’s all spruced up, though, and still furnished pretty much like it was, if you want to go stay there a day or two. Still great fishing in that spot, and all the gear is right where it always was, in the shed. Keys are up there on the hook by the door,” his dad said with a gesture.

“You know… I just might do that.”

His mother smiled her approval. “If you do, supper will be here waiting for you every night.”

 

Two days later, on the Monday, his father went off to his job as a machinist and his mother left shortly after for her volunteering gig at the local hospital in the next town north. For the first time since arriving, he was alone. He had a couple of productive hours on the computer before he closed the lid and grabbed the keys to his Grandma’s cabin from the hook. She had given him his love for fishing, and it had been way too long.

Anthony had no trouble maneuvering the winding driveway, but saw a couple of places where it could use some shoring up. One truckload of coarse pit-run stone would do it. The cabin wasn’t really a cabin, not in many decades, yet they still referred to it as such. In actuality, it was a full-fledged two bedroom, two bath, fully insulated house with a loft, now sitting on a cinder block crawl space his grandmother had commissioned soon after the deed passed to her. The century old pilings had begun to rot, and unchecked erosion had taken a toll. Today, it was as solid as any home around, new or old.

The original, steep-peaked roof and sixty-year-old side addition were covered in a newish dark grey steel, and the sage-green wood siding blended into the treed, hillside site. It occurred to Anthony that, as a home, it was far superior to what he and Andrew had almost bought. It was a place with privacy, history, and character.

Stepping inside, his gaze swept over the spacious, open interior before settling on the upstairs loft. That was where he used to sleep, or played when it was raining or cold out. The back window up there had a cushioned bench seat he would curl up in and read, or watch the pines sway in the wind during a storm. It was the tower of his castle, a place to dream he would one day find his prince. So much for that.

Walking around, he fell in love with it all over again. Light streamed in the large windows of the kitchen and dining areas, and everywhere you stood on the main floor, including both bedrooms, you could see at least parts of the river. It felt like you were perched over it, and in a way, you were, with the cabin being situated on a point at a wide bend, like a great big thumb. In effect, water was on three sides.

He was relieved to see that, whoever the tenants had been, they hadn’t done any damage. His grandmother’s sturdy, mostly handmade furniture looked as it always had, and carefully placed rugs had done their job in protecting the ancient maple floors. Climbing up into the loft, he smiled to see his old bookcase, still filled with volumes of The Hardy Boys and Lord of the Rings, and even his softcover Harry Potter series. He’d expected they would have been cleared out long ago.

Leaning on the railing his Grandma had built to replace a flimsy one that had become dangerous, he took in the peaceful, good-for-his-soul views. Sunlight glinted off the wide, shallow river, and a gentle breeze played with the willows on the other side, causing them to shimmer. Could he be happy here as an adult gay man?

Could he turn his back on the city, with its LGBT+ community close at hand? He’d been in such a hurry to leave Sweetwater at the time, feeling like he was suffocating because of its limits, but he wasn’t feeling that now. Suffocating? That was exactly how Andrew had said he felt when he dropped his nuclear bomb on their lives. No, he wasn’t going there… it was over and done.

Everywhere he looked, he saw his grandmother. She had raised her daughter, his mom, as a single woman in this very house. His absent grandfather was never spoken of, but nothing appeared to be lacking in the woman’s life. She was, as his dad had said, a going concern. She’d put in thirty-five years at her job with the Roads Department before retiring, none the worse for the physical labor involved. Even then, she was always doing something, whether it was piling every rock she could find on the hillside or using a chainsaw to keep the brush and dead wood cleared. And of course, there was fishing. More often than not you could find her out on the river in hip waders, and if she ever disappeared for a while, it was to fish some other body of water.

The last time he’d been in this house, he’d admired the concrete counter-tops she’d put into the kitchen with no help from anyone. Staring at them now, they looked as good as the day he’d first laid eyes on them, their initial gleam undiminished by those few years. They were a perfect complement to the meticulously-crafted cupboards, again the work of his Grandmother. Not for the first time, it crossed his mind she might have been gay too.

He’d gotten to know a number of lesbians in the LGBT+ community, and every so often he would see his grandmother in some of them. He could be wrong, but the fact was he had never seen her show any interest in men, nor could he remember ever seeing her in makeup, or a dress for that matter.

One day, out of the blue, she had told him she was there for him if he ever wanted to talk, and that she would always have his back. It gave him the courage to finally tell her he was gay. Her response was to hug him and fiercely say he deserved love as much as anyone else in this world—and to never let anyone say otherwise.

Looking back, he could see she might have been talking about herself as well. At the time, he was just thankful she had taken the news well. His eyes began to burn, but he had no desire to get weepy. He just hoped she’d lived the life she wanted.

“Thank you, Grandma,” he said softly. “I miss you, and I’m sorry I didn’t come back more often.”

A flash of silver caught his attention through the front windows as a big fish jumped.

It made him smile. Maybe she’d heard him. After all, her ashes had been spread in that very spot by him and his parents, right after her packed service had ended. It was the only time he’d seen his mother in hip-waders. Right after their private family moment was over, he and Andrew had driven back to Toronto, and he hadn’t been back since.

Sighing, Anthony headed back down the stairs. Enough with the memories—it was time to go fishing.

 

The shed was really more of a workshop, and three years after she was gone it looked like his grandmother had just been there. There wasn’t even any dust on the tools, counter-top, or shelves, something he attributed to his dad’s care.

The fishing gear was right where it always was and Anthony grabbed his favorite rod, inspecting it with a knowledgeable eye. It was still in perfect shape and the spin reel operated smoothly. The four-pound-test line should probably be replaced—three years was usually its absolute limit—but there was no new spool around he could see. It would have to wait.

His excitement built as he searched through his beat-up tackle box, looking for just the right lure. It had been a gift from his grandmother on his twelfth birthday to go with the rod he was now holding, and his eyes lit up at the sight of it. It was a red and white beauty that had always brought him luck. He knew just where to cast his line at this time of day, at this time of year, and it had caught him trout, bass, perch, and even a few catfish in the past.

Walking out into the shallow water in hip waders, he truly felt at home. He’d never met a gay guy who liked to fish—other than Clark—but he supposed they were out there somewhere. He could spend hours in the same spot, casting over and over again, and it was where he found peace. It was a pastime that had helped him greatly when he was a scared and confused gay kid. He wasn’t out of his element when he was fishing, and he hadn’t had to worry what all those feelings meant at the time.

He spied the eddy where the opposite shore jutted out, causing the current to turn back on itself, thereby creating a calm little pool shaded by overhanging willows. Erosion hadn’t destroyed it, although some big, gnarly roots were now exposed. He heard a familiar voice, his grandmother’s, telling him if there was a trout out here today, there was a good chance it was in that spot. He smiled.

His first cast produced nothing, but he didn’t care. For the first time in a long time, he felt like he was right where he should be. On the second cast, he watched the lure sparkle in sunlight before it dropped with a plop into that little pool. In an instant, something struck his line, and he crowed aloud as he set the hook. “Fish on! You see that, Grandma?”

The battle was on and he was winning. He moved slowly backward as he attempted to reel the fish in. After a few minutes of some impressive fighting, it was beginning to tire, and showed its shiny, speckled side more and more often. Anthony unhooked the net from his waders, and got ready to snatch up his prize. It was a beauty, and he pointed the rod straight up and held it still as he swooped with the net. One last effort from the large trout was to be expected, but the sudden snap of the line wasn’t. In a heart-stopping second, it was gone, along with his favorite lure. Anthony stood still for a moment, before something snapped in him too, and he began to bellow with rage.

“Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch! You bastard! You fucking son of a bitch. How fucking could you? You bastard,” he screamed in a voice he didn’t recognize. Uncontrollable tears came quickly, and out of breath, he sank to his knees, the water quickly invading his waders. “God damn you, Andrew! How could you do this to me? What about your vows… you fucking liar… you promised….” The words petered out as he took in breath in gasps, but the sobbing didn’t.

It was like a dam had burst, but he didn’t have much time to process before he heard splashing coming from upriver. It was hard to maneuver with his waders full of water, but adrenaline took over, and he got turned around, and even managed to stand up for a few seconds, before he stumbled back, right onto a rock beneath the surface. This time his wail was from physical pain.

“Dude, are you all right?”

Anthony looked up into a face shaded by an angler’s hat and sun shades, and embarrassment replaced everything else. “Um… no. I think I just bruised my tailbone.”

“Here, let me help you up. I thought maybe you bruised your ego.”

“What?” Who was this guy?

“Sorry. I was trying to make a joke. I saw you lose your fish. He looked like a beauty, but that’s not why you were upset, was it?”

Anthony averted his gaze, trying not to get any more flustered than he already was as the man helped haul him up. “Just having a bad day, that’s all.” He winced as one more sob escaped, hoping it went unnoticed in the sounds of splashing water as he stood. “Thanks for your help, bud, but I’m fine.” Anthony expected the man saw through the lie with ease, especially after the performance he’d just given, not to mention the tears not yet dry. He tried to be casual as he wiped at the damage.

“No you’re not. Can you walk to shore if I hold your arm?”

“I’m fine, really.”

“Hey, I know what it’s like to have waders full of water. Come on. You need to get them off before you fall again.”

The grip on his arm was solid but gentle. Anthony unclipped his waders as soon as he left the river, stepping out of them while he had this guy’s support, and watched the water drain quickly into the sand.

“Thanks again. I live here, so….” He tugged at his soaking wet jeans, trying to regain control after such an unexpected emotional display.

“I know, Anthony. You don’t recognize me, do you?”

He could see better now, and when the man removed his sun shades and flipped up the wide circular brim of his hat, his jaw dropped. “Clark?”

“The one and only.”

That brilliant smile was one he could never forget, and Anthony was momentarily speechless.

“I heard you were in town,” Clark said, the smile staying in place.

“Oh… ah… yeah, I’m visiting my parents for a couple of weeks.”

“That’s what I heard.”

The smile slipped, and something in his expression told Anthony that wasn’t all he’d heard from the always-active rumor mill. “So… what else did you hear?”

“Oh, you know, the usual small town gossip.” He unclipped his own hip-waders and stepped out of them before taking off his hat.

Anthony laughed before he could stop himself.

“What’s so funny?”

“Sorry… uh… I see you still have hockey helmet hair.” He laughed harder as the man tried to make his shaggy, dark hair behave.

“Yeah, I was working with some kids on their defense at the rink on the weekend, and safety first, you know? Guess I need a haircut so I can look like a city boy.”

His tilted grin was as appealing as ever, and Anthony forgot about everything but the man in front of him. “No… you don’t need one… city boys are overrated, and besides it looks good on you.”

“Yeah? I don’t think so.”

“Seriously. The wild look suits you,” Anthony said, and he wasn’t kidding. “You always had awesome hair. And you… you look great. You look an inch or two taller… and bigger.”

“Late growing spurt, just like my dad.”

“Apparently,” he said while looking up at the man. “Still playing hockey?”

“Men’s league. November to March. You look great too. You got handsomer.”

Self-consciously, Anthony wiped at his eyes again, hoping there weren’t any visible tear streaks left. The man’s stare was intense. “I’m not sure that’s a word, but thanks. Jeez, how long has it been?”

“The summer we were nineteen, so seven years. I saw you at the ice cream parlor with that friend of yours from college.”

He remembered. He’d really wanted to talk to Clark, but the whole meeting had been awkward since he was with a new boyfriend at the time. “That’s right. Darren. He was here for a week, but got bored.”

“Well, it is a boring place… far cry from Toronto.”

“I used to think that.”

“Used to?”

“Yeah. I’ve been doing some soul searching lately, and coming back here… I don’t know. It doesn’t seem so bad. So what about you? You happy here?”

“Boring or not, this is where I belong. Always going to be a small town boy.”

“I get it. Got a wife and a couple of kids by now?”

“Wife? Hell no. Why would you think that?” He almost looked offended, and Anthony wanted to kick himself for his absurd attempt at fishing for information.

“Sorry. I just thought—”

“Thought what? You knew better than anyone I was…am gay.”

“I know, but we were never out as a couple, and you dated plenty of girls before me. You didn’t exactly seem sad when it was over.”

“Well, seem is the key word, Anthony. I acted that way because you were so anxious to leave and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. What would have been the point? You didn’t seem sad either, so—”

Attempting to change the subject, Anthony blurted out the first thing he could think of. “So, then, are you still in the closet?”

Clark hesitated, as if surprised, and then gave a derisive snort. “Kind of impossible when you live with a man, especially in a small town like Sweetwater.”

“Oh, you live with someone? Who is he? A local?” Trying to act nonchalant after asking the question, he reached down and pulled off each wet sock, and lost his balance in the process. Clark was quick to grab hold and steady him.

“Careful.”

“Thanks… again. You certainly are coming in handy today. So, you were saying?”

“Oh, right. Your question should be who was he? He wasn’t a local, and he’s been long gone for two years now. He found the place ‘boring as shit,’ as he used to say on a daily basis. One day I came home to find my place empty, of him, a lot of my stuff, and my bank account.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Clark.”

The big man snorted again. “Don’t be. I moved back home, and that can be hard sometimes, but to be honest, the only thing I missed was my money. It was worth a couple of thousand and some electronics to say good riddance, though.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m back to living with Mommy and Daddy too, but I can stay here at the cabin if I want.”

“That’s cool.”

Anthony waited, but Clark had gone silent, seemingly staring at something on the river. He shouldn’t have cut him off when he was talking about how he’d really felt back then.

“Clark?”

“Yeah?”

“What you said earlier? I was sad… I really cared, you know? I really did. It took me a long time to stop thinking about you. Maybe if you’d said something….”

“Interesting… I’ve never stopped thinking about you, not really, but I always knew I wanted to stay around here, gay or not, so if I had said anything, would it have made a difference? It’s not like we’d been together for years, and you made it clear from the beginning what your plans were, so what right did I have to expect that to change?”

“No… you’re probably right. It wouldn’t have made a difference because I had all these dreams of building a life in the big city, and nothing was going to stop me. I didn’t think I could be happy staying here, so I had to try to follow them.” His brain froze as he heard his own words. He remembered how important those goals had been at the time, and wasn’t that what Andrew was doing now… following his?

“Anthony?”

“Oh, sorry. I spaced out there.”

“Are you okay? You didn’t hit your head when you fell, did you?”

“No, nothing like that. I… never mind. Enough about the past.”

Their eyes met and held. Clark really did look good. The added years had served him well, enough to give Anthony butterflies. It suddenly became awkward, but he had no desire for the man to leave. “Ah, I think I need to sit down, though.” He gestured towards the picnic table a few feet away, and they sat down side by side, facing the lake.

Anthony ran his hands over the wood, noticing it could use a coat of stain. His Grandma had built this table when he was in Grade eight, and he’d been the one to put on that first coat.

“I’m not intruding, am I?”

“Huh… oh… no, not at all. Aside from the part where you saw me make a colossal fool of myself, I’m enjoying this.”

“Yeah, sorry for showing up like that. I was just coming around the point when I heard you, and it kind of freaked me out. I don’t mean to pry, but it wasn’t about losing the trout, or that you were having a bad day, was it?”

“Yeah, I said that because I didn’t know who you were when you asked me. No, it wasn’t, although I did lose my favorite red-and-white my Grandma gave me.” An attempted grin failed miserably. “So what did you hear through the grapevine?”

“Oh, you know… the usual stuff. When you arrived, what kind of car you drove… that your marriage broke up… that was it… no details or anything, but I take it he was a bastard and a son of a bitch.” Clark’s grin coaxed a real one from him this time, despite the subject matter.

“I did call him those things, didn’t I,” he conceded sheepishly.

“If I recollect right, it was a few times, and there was a lot of emphasis.”

Anthony shook his head, and his grin faded. “Oh boy, I lost it bigtime for sure. That’s the thing, though. He dumped me with no warning, and backed out of… ah… some plans I thought we had, but he really isn’t like that. How I felt about following my dreams, back when you and I went our separate ways… that’s what he’s doing now. His timing sucks, but he wants to travel the world and write about it, and he didn’t want to be tied down, to me or anyone else.”

Clark rubbed his large hands together, and Anthony remembered he did that a lot when he talked. It was startling to realize just how well he knew the man sitting beside him.

“Well, okay, but you sounded pretty damn hurt by the guy... that was pure pain if ever I heard it. It’s not my business, I know, but it’s okay to be angry, Anthony. Owen—that was the thief’s name—he ended up doing me a favor, but I’m still pissed as hell at him.

“It’s like with hockey. I don’t mind a clean hit, but a dirty one, no way. I don’t respect people who give dirty hits, whether it’s a game or in life. Sorry… that was preachy.”

“No… no it wasn’t. What you saw was what I felt, and I guess I need to stop being so understanding. You’re right, even if I get the why, I can still be pissed off, and it did feel good to let it out. He’s off to God-knows-where, and I’m fucking homeless.”

“Homeless?”

“No, not as in I can’t afford a place to live. I just have no idea where I go from here.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Yeah, and then there’s this place. It’s mine if I want it. My parents told me they’ve been holding onto it for me, at my grandma’s request.”

“Wow… cool. This is just about the nicest spot on this stretch of river, and it’s so private compared to the places in town. I can still picture the inside from that one time I stayed overnight. Remember that?”

Anthony did, and he blushed at the memory of what they did in the loft while his Grandma was on one of her fishing trips. That night he had learned how perfect it was to be gay.

Clark, now sitting on an angle and facing him, laughed. “Are you blushing?”

“Maybe.”

“So, you do remember?”

“Yeah, of course I remember… I remember it very well. Nobody could forget something like that.”

“Good. I’m glad it’s not just me.”

When Anthony glanced sideways, he saw a blatant smirk. “Ah, can we change the topic now? Tell me about you? What’s going on in your life?”

“Not much to tell. I’m single, which you already know. I’m a licensed electrician and I work for Ontario Hydro—it’s a good job, and I like it—but I might start my own business one day. I live at home, which you already know, and I save most of my money. My parents are great, but my mom wants grandkids, and I feel bad about that. I still love hockey, which you already know. I usually fish on my days off. I’m gay, which you already know, and most of the time I’m a pretty happy guy, but I’m tired of being lonely. That’s about it.”

“Why are you lonely? I mean, there are gay people everywhere, and you’re not that far from a city.”

“I’m not talking about hooking up. I can use an app and connect with someone every day, but I don’t want that. I’ve been there, done that, and no thank you. I’m talking about finding the right guy. That hasn’t happened yet… or maybe it has, but the timing was all wrong.”

His last words struck home for Anthony. He had a good idea he was talking about him, and he wasn’t sure how to feel. “So, Monday is your day off?”

“Oh… no… actually, I took one of my emergency days today. It’s the first time I’ve used one in a couple of years.”

“I work from home so I don’t need them.”

“You still do the financial stuff?”

“Yup, it’s how I make my living. I’m good at it and I like it.”

“I always wondered why you were ever with a lughead like me.”

“Really?”

Clark nodded. “You were the Brainiac of our school, and I was at best, a mediocre student who only had community college in his future.”

“And captain of the hockey team, our best pitcher, and the best looking guy in the whole county.”

“Really? Well, thanks, but look where all that got me.”

“Look where my nerdy brains got me.”

“Sorry… guess you’re feeling pretty raw still. I think it’s time for me to get going and let you have some peace.”

“Why? You got something to do?”

“No, I just thought—”

“I told you I’m enjoying this, Clark, and my jeans are almost dry, which helps.” He smiled, hoping Clark saw his sincerity.

“I am too. It always was easy to talk to you.”

“When we were alone, yeah. Not in public, though. That was hard.”

“Or around our parents… or your Grandma. I could never tell if she liked me.”

“She liked you.”

“How do you know?”

“Because she told me. The way she said it made me wonder if she knew about us. She would never have asked, though, even with knowing I was gay.”

“Oh. Well good, because I liked her. I really wanted to be out, Anthony… we should have been. I hated sneaking around.”

“Me too, but I don’t regret those times, and you shouldn’t either. For a secret boyfriend, you were pretty great.”

“See, I didn’t think so, but it’s good to know. I didn’t think I was good enough for you.”

“You know that wasn’t true, right?”

“I was young. I got stuff wrong.”

“We all do. I sure as hell did.”

“I got one thing right, though, for as long as it lasted. You were everything I wanted, but you weren’t….”

“Staying?”

“Yeah.”

“And is that what you meant about timing… and the right guy?”

“Sorry, Anthony. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“We haven’t seen each other in seven years, right?”

“Yeah?”

“And here we are, having an honest conversation. I think that is pretty special, so don’t apologize.”

“That’s because you provided the icebreaker,” Clark teased, looking less apologetic now.

“Oh God, did I ever. I thought I was completely alone. That was embarrassing with a capital E.”

“Hey, we all need to vent… holding stuff in is poison. Besides, it’s been a while since a guy fell for me, so I’m not complaining.”

Anthony rolled his eyes, but he loved seeing that familiar sparkle in those blue, blue eyes. It brought back some more vivid memories. “So, why did you take an emergency day?”

“No clue. I woke up at four this morning—think I had a weird dream, but I couldn’t remember it—and I called the switchboard before I even had a chance to think about it. Didn’t have to give a reason, which was good, because I didn’t have one.”

“So you went fishing?”

“Not at first. I was restless, so I chopped some wood and aired out my old tent. Made sure I had all my camping supplies in order—still have to pick up food supplies. I’m a Big Brother, and I’m taking my charges camping this weekend.”

“Charges?”

“Yeah, two brothers… Louis is eight and Damian is nine. They don’t have a dad, and their mom works a lot of hours.”

“How long have you been doing this?”

“Just since May. A guy I play hockey with is a Big Brother, and he loves it. I love it too, and they don’t care that I’m gay. Besides, it makes Mom happy when I bring the kids by the house.”

He loves kids. Anthony’s mind started to go places that surprised him. He needed to slow down. “Do you often fish around my Grandma’s house?”

“No! I swear I wasn’t looking for you or anything. I was canoeing in the cove and I beached it right around the corner because I wanted to fish the shallows.” His voice was earnest, and his posture had become defensive.

“Hey, I wasn’t inferring that!” His hand reached out and settled on the man’s arm for a second. “I was just curious, is all. I haven’t been home in years, and you couldn’t have known I’d be here at the cabin.” He felt the man relax, and reluctantly relinquished his hold.

Clark watched his hand draw away before speaking. “Sorry. I… is this weird for you?”

“Yeah, kinda, but in a good way. Is it for you?”

“Yeah, kinda, but in a good way too. Can I tell you something?”

“Sure.”

“I liked it when you touched me just now. Is that too much, Anthony?”

“No… I liked touching you, so no.”

“I’m remembering a lot of things.”

“About us?”

He nodded. “It feels good to be sitting here. I can almost pretend that you and I—shit—I should go.”

Anthony couldn’t take his eyes off of Clark’s face. What the hell was happening here? He heard a fish jump just offshore, but didn’t look. “Do you have a habit of running away?” Where the hell did that come from?

“No! I’ve never run from anything in my life. But, you’re only here temporarily, and that feels way too familiar.”

Anthony finally did avert his gaze, scalded from the flash of pain he saw. He had no doubt now Clark had loved him. It hadn’t been a fling or convenience for the man, and he’d been so hell bent on getting out of Sweetwater that he hadn’t seen what was right in front of him. But he could now. He twisted his head and took in the cabin. Could he be happy there… here? Maybe… if he had someone to share it with. Andrew had the guts to jump into the unknown… did he?

His gaze returned to Clark. No, he had that wrong. This man wasn’t an unknown at all. This was the first man he’d ever made love with, and he knew his heart. This man was solid and kind and loyal, and this man cared about people. It was all coming back to him. People can change, yeah, but not Clark—he was sure of it.

“Maybe I won’t be here temporarily after all.” Another fish jumped, making him smile. “We should be out there fishing… I think they’re teasing us.”

Clark was frowning. “I’ll do my fishing right here. What did you mean by that?”

“That I have to make a decision sooner or later, and this is feeling more like home all the time.”

Clark expelled a blast of air. “Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that. I know you said you see this town differently now, but you’re used to the big city.”

“That’s true, I am. But you know what my big dream turned out to be?”

“Ah—”

“What I wanted most was to live in the suburbs with kids, a dog… I wanted a family. We had an offer on a house, and all it took was signatures for it to be ours. That was my big dream. It turned out it wasn’t Andrew’s.”

“Well, it’s my dream too, except for the suburbs part.”

“The suburbs are a poor substitute for living on a river, surrounded by my family and people I care about. I see that now. Other than some good friends I’ve made, I wouldn’t miss it.”

Clark cleared his throat, started to speak, stopped, cleared his throat again, and then got some words out. “Any room for me in that dream?”

Anthony thought his heart might burst from that simple question. “Any room for me in yours?”

“Jesus… is this really happening?”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“And you didn’t answer mine.”

Anthony nodded, and it was quickly followed up by one from Clark.

“Okay, so how do we do this?” Clark asked, inching closer with an eagerness in his expression that gave Anthony confidence they really had something here.

“Good question. I suggest we date, and see what happens.”

“Date, huh? I’m a little out of practice.”

“So am I. How about I cook you dinner for starters?”

“Tonight?”

Anthony grinned. “Slow down, tiger.”

“Hey, you probably don’t remember, but you said that to me one other time.”

“Oh, I remember, and I also recall you took direction well.”

“Still do.”

Anthony laughed gleefully. “Good to know. So how about dinner here, tomorrow night. Nothing fancy… barbecue? Is six too early?”

“Barbecue sounds great, and I can be here at four-thirty.” His teasing grin was sexy as hell.

“Make it five-thirty, tiger.”

“Deal. It will give me time to get a haircut.”

“Not on my account, I hope?” Anthony reached up and ran his fingers through the thick curls, cupping the back of his head in the process. Ever so gently, he pulled him closer. “I think we should get our first kiss out of the way.”

“An excellent idea, but it’s not our first,” he murmured as their lips met.

It was a perfect kiss, relatively chaste and tender, and when Anthony drew back and opened his eyes, he saw Clark’s were still closed. As they slowly revealed themselves, what he saw in the blue boosted his courage.

“Is this is really happening?” Clark asked in a throaty whisper.

Anthony smiled, not even trying to decipher his feelings. It wasn’t all that complicated, and he wasn’t going to make it so. “Are you going to keep asking that?”

“I can’t help it. This has been my impossible dream, and when I heard your name a few days ago, it all came back, and now here we are and I’m….”

Anthony waited for Cark to finish, but no more words came, and he read the naked vulnerability in eyes that were locked on his. That was something he understood well. “I get it, and I’m a little scared too, but let’s just go with it, okay? We can call it fate, or a second chance—and maybe a week from now we’ll change our minds.”

He must have said the right thing, because Clark’s expression morphed instantly into a determined one. “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m going with it, and there will be no changing minds, not on my part.”

“I wasn’t really worried… I think I know you pretty well.”

“Yes, you do, and you can trust that. I’m still the same guy.”

“Well, I’m not, but I think I’ve finally figured out what I want.”

“What matters is you’re still the same open, direct, gorgeous guy I fell for seven years ago. I could feel it then and I can feel it now. Maybe you have changed, but I still know you, and I still… um… okay, so this is really happening. I should… I should go.”

Anthony took in the sudden blush, and his heart floated up into his throat. He was certain he knew what Clark had been about to say, but now was not the time to go there. If his instincts were right, they would have plenty of opportunity to explore these renewed feelings. “Why? Should you… ah… go, I mean?”

“Because… because I have a lot to do, I need some new pants and a shirt and… oh, are we keeping this a secret?”

“Keeping what a secret?”

“That we’re going on a date. My mom, she knows about you, our history, and I’d like to tell her.”

“Fine with me. Maybe I’ll tell my mom too.”

Judging by the look on Clark’s face, he’d just made it more real for him. When the bigger man stood up, he did too, and they immediately hugged. What followed was a much more passionate kiss, so much so that he didn’t want to let go. The next one was even hotter. When they came up for air, he pushed his face against Clark’s chest and breathed. Yeah, this felt like home. Pulling away slightly, he looked downward. “I’m remembering that too.”

Clark, looking quite flushed, chuckled. “It might have grown an inch or two too… part of the late growing spurt.”

“You’ve already got me hooked… are you reeling me in now?” He was feeling pretty flushed himself.

“Maybe. Do I need a net?”

“Uh uh. I’ll come willingly.”

“Good, because I won’t be throwing you back.”

“Finally, someone whose sense of humor is as lame as mine is.”

Clark chuckled again. “I was just thinking the same thing. Okay, I’m off. I need me a cold shower.”

“We could jump back in the river.”

“Maybe tomorrow, after supper.” He winked and began to walk up the hill.

“Hey, where are you going? Your waders?”

Clark smacked his head. “Oh yeah.” Grinning adorably, he picked up his waders and started off again.

“Um… Clark? Your canoe?”

“Oh shit. Right, I forgot. I canoed here. See what you’ve done to me? ” He walked back and sat down to put on his gear, muttering something unintelligible.

“Hey, are you complaining?”

“Hell no. Not a chance. This has been the best day since possibly ever, so… thanks?”

“You’re welcome, and hey, you made me forget what an absolute mess my life was.”

The humor disappeared as Clark became serious. “I love hearing that—you have no idea—so you’re welcome too. I hope the key word in that sentence was was.”

“It was. I know what I want now, and I don’t see mess anymore. Ditto on the best day thing too, okay?”

Clark nodded, exuding a sudden and compelling confidence. “Yeah, this is happening. See you tomorrow, Anthony.”

“I’ll be here.” He captured his arm as he walked by. “One more kiss?”

“Just one?”

Anthony’s laughter was soon cut off, but there was no complaint from him.

 

He sighed as he watched Clark walk away, touching his lips and moving the moisture around with his finger. That man had not lost his touch, turning his insides to mush like he had with their very first kiss on the park bench, so many years ago. “Hey?”

A smug Clark, at the water’s edge, stopped and turned. “Yeah?”

“There’s one thing about you I don’t remember. Do you like dogs?”

“Love them, but Mom’s too allergic to have one in the house.”

“Ah, perfect.”

The man raised an eyebrow in question.

“That’s it. You passed.”

A shit-eating grin appeared before he strode into the water. Anthony had never seen anyone strut in hip waders before, and he found it both amusing… and hot as hell.

He watched him until Clark disappeared with a final wave around the treed point. Whatever had just played out, he had new faith his life was heading in the right direction, and he was already anxious for tomorrow to arrive.

Let Andrew follow his dreams on his own… he was going to follow his with his first love, in the place he should have been all along. Another flash of silver splashed directly in front of him, as if trying to catch his attention. He smiled all the way back to the cabin. Man, it had turned out to be a great day for fishing.

 

Anthony woke the next morning to the long and varied call of a Belted Kingfisher. It took him a second to realize it was coming through the open window of the loft. Stretching, he listened to the sometimes cheery, sometimes haunting song repeat over and over again. It was a welcomed sound of his childhood, and a perfect way to start the day.

He’d intended to sleep in the master bedroom after he got back from his parents’ house the night before, but the loft and its memories had drawn him up the narrow stairs. The single bed was no more, replaced by a more comfortable double, but everything else was the same, and he’d fallen asleep thinking about a handsome prince named Clark.

An extensive conversation with his parents had unfolded during and after a supper that had included the season’s first corn on the cob. He’d chowed down on five, one more than his dad, in a competition they’d enjoyed many times in the past.

They’d listened intently when he spoke of his experience in the river, and his mother had sniffled and nodded when he talked about the anger he’d let loose over Andrew. He relayed much of his heart-to-heart talk with Clark, and they took it all in without saying much, but erupted when he finally got around to his decision to stay and build a life in Sweetwater. His parents were ecstatic that he would be moving into the cabin, and there was a lot of celebration, but he could see his abrupt turnaround had really thrown them, especially his mother.

He didn’t have to wait long to find out why. Maysie Barton had gotten suddenly serious, and cautiously expressed concern Clark might be a rebound thing over his marriage breakup. He’d assured her quickly and honestly that he didn’t believe so. She’d studied him in that way he was long familiar with, and he felt relief when she patted his hand and said, “Good, because I always liked that boy.”

She hadn’t stopped there, though, and surprised him when she said she’d known they were a couple that last year of high school. According to her, ‘the spring in his step’ had given him away. His father agreed he’d had that ‘spring,’ especially when ‘that boy’ was around. Apparently, so had his Grandma. So much for having a secret boyfriend.

 

Walking outside, from a house that would be legally his as soon as papers were drawn up and signed, he took in the incredible early morning views. There were no neighbors here, like there would have been in the Toronto house he’d once thought ideal. To think he hadn’t wanted this magical place until yesterday... now he could hardly believe his good fortune.

“I’m finally home to stay, Grandma,” he called out as he headed down to the river. He was barefoot, and reveled in how great it felt. Imagine doing that anywhere back in the big city. His mind was filled with new possibilities, but the one that mattered most would be here later today, and that was enough for now.

As he neared the little beach, he searched the river for signs the fish were active. There was something shiny ahead, but it wasn’t in the water. As he got closer, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Sitting on top of the sand was his favorite red-and-white. How was that possible? If it had come free of the trout he’d hooked, it should have moved downriver or sunk to the bottom, not up onto the beach… his beach. He picked it up and turned it over. It was definitely the one he’d lost, complete with the snapped piece of four-pound-test. Examining the line, he was thankful now it did break—if he hadn’t had the meltdown it initiated, Clark might never have come running to his aid.

He looked from the lure in his hand out to the spot his Grandma’s ashes were spread. As weird as it was, even more so than yesterday, he could feel her presence. “You’re out there, aren’t you, Grandma, and you still have my back.”

A sunlit flash of silver appeared in the same spot at that exact moment, and he felt he had his answer. Like the unexpected reunion with Clark, yesterday, he didn’t question it. He examined the lure once more, and marveled at the perfect storm that had brought him and his first love together again after seven years.

“Well, I don’t know what you did, or how you did it, but thank you,” he called out, and he wasn’t just talking about his favorite red-and-white. “And don’t you worry about your cabin. We’ll take good care of it.”

He scanned the water, but it was flowing serenely with no new disturbances. Heading back to the cabin, he stopped, turned, and waved “I’ll see you later, Grandma. I have a date to get ready for. It’s with Clark… but something tells me you knew that already.” Again, no flash or ripples, and he could feel her presence fading. “I love you, Grandma,” he whispered. Content in a way he hadn’t been in months, he continued his short trek up to the cabin with a definite spring in his step.

 

 

                                                                                                                                       *****

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment or review if you can. Cheers! Gary.

Copyright © 2019 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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2 minutes ago, dughlas said:

This is classic Headstall romance ... with a dash of magic. Some of your best work. Thank you for sharing it with us.

I totally agree with you Dughlas :yes:

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2 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

No! I need more of this one! I love it!!!!

That's how I feel about it :rofl:

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3 hours ago, Albert1434 said:

Well this is such a powerful story and I just love it. This story is full of Gary magic which we have come to look forward to. We come from pain to the hope of love full filled. And a old love set a flame once more with hope for the future. Clark is a great charter a light in the life of Andrew. I cant wait for the next chapter. Thanks so much for sharing this story. :hug::thankyou:

Wow:yes:

Thanks, Albert. I'm so glad I didn't disappoint. :D  Sorry to say, this story is complete, but you just never know with these things. Still, it's nice to know you found some magic in this one. Sometimes, we have to stop and look around us, and take that leap of faith. For Anthony, it was a leap named Clark. :)  And it's nice to think his grandmother might have played a part. isn't it? Cheers, and thanks, buddy... Gary....

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2 hours ago, dughlas said:

This is classic Headstall romance ... with a dash of magic. Some of your best work. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Really? Thanks, bro! That is so nice to hear... I mean... really great. I haven't been very productive of late, but hopefully that will change in the future. Cheers, my friend... Gary....

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2 hours ago, Albert1434 said:

I totally agree with you Dughlas :yes:

:hug:  Thanks again, buddy. 

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1 hour ago, Wesley8890 said:

No! I need more of this one! I love it!!!!

lol. You guys are good for my faltering ego. :D  Whatever you do, don't stop. :P  Sorry, buddy, but thanks. I really appreciate the support. Cheers... Gary....

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1 hour ago, Albert1434 said:

That's how I feel about it :rofl:

Is that cheep cheep cheeping I hear? :P  :hug: 

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2 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

This is such a sweet, romantic story. These characters aren’t the only ones who were hooked. You reeled me in like an expert, and you didn’t have to use very exotic lure either. It’s a really beautiful story. Thank you.

Thank you, Parker! Your kind words mean a lot to me... and I'm pretty good with a rod in my hand. ;)  Cheers, buddy... Gary....

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2 hours ago, FanLit said:

I loved your comment ❤️ but this part made me laugh out loud!!  😆

I appreciated you putting your Cards on the Table. 😉

CG has a wonderful and clever way with words. He's both witty and charming. :) 

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Every time you post a story - I realize how much I miss your writing. I hope you find the time to write more, I miss reading your stories; you cannot go wrong with a well written romance. 💘

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17 minutes ago, Jeugie said:

Every time you post a story - I realize how much I miss your writing. I hope you find the time to write more, I miss reading your stories; you cannot go wrong with a well written romance. 💘

Aww, thanks, Jeugie! I'm hoping the same thing. I've been dealing with a shoulder injury  for the past year that was finally operated on on Friday, so I'm counting on that giving me back my mobility and focus. It's difficult to write when you ache more with each passing minute. The damage was more extensive than the surgeon realized, and also involved my bicep, so I'm feeling positive. You are a person after my own heart... romance makes my world go round. :) Thanks for the wonderfully kind words... they mean a lot... cheers... Gary....

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What an awesome hopeful love story! Thank you as always! Hope you’re on the mend!

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29 minutes ago, mfa607 said:

What an awesome hopeful love story! Thank you as always! Hope you’re on the mend!

Hey. mfa! It's been a tough year, but finally, I am on the mend. It's going to be rough going for a while, but I'm so glad I opted for surgery. It helps the pain to hear you liked this story of mine. My goal is to be as productive as I was before the injury... fingers crossed, my friend. Cheers... Gary....

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Andrew can chase his quixotic dreams, but I somehow doubt he finds happiness. Anthony and Clark are taking it slow, but I suspect they end up in the loft sooner than later. You can run from your fate, but it sometimes catches up with you in delightful ways. 

Good job Gary...a delightful read.

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