Kyle stepped carefully out of the rain and into the local coffee shop near the courthouse, re-adjusting his tie out habit. This place was one of the more enjoyable parts of living in Harrisburg over the last five years. The atmosphere was very warm despite the hard floors and the dark wood of the walls with lighter shades mixed in. The tables were metal and the chairs were surprisingly comfortable. All together, it had a mismatched appearance that made it endearing. The service was top notch with most of the employees working through school in the area which meant they tended to stay for a couple years at a time. Somehow, management had pulled together a group of young men and women who were outgoing and friendly all while managing to remember most of the names of the regular customers like Kyle.
He gave the room a cursory glance before walking up to the coffee bar. He smiled when he saw the familiar brunette smiling at him as he walked up. “Natalie, how’s it going today?”
She broke into a wide grin and responded, “not too bad today, Kyle. You want your usual?”
“If you could. I’m meeting someone here.” He looked around the room, searching the crowded shop.
“Sure thing. Will just be a couple minutes.”
He handed her some cash and made his way around the room, knowing she would bring the coffee to him when it was done. He stepped away from the bar and began to slowly wander around. His dress shoes clicked on the painted concrete floor with each step. It only took half a minute to find what he was looking for. He suppressed the urge to frown as he made his way over to the older man sitting quietly, sipping his coffee as he stared out the window at the rain. Without asking, Kyle sat down across from Adam Gordon’s attorney. Lathrum’s eyebrows raised slightly as one side of his mouth tilted up in a smirk. “I got your message,” the older man said as he sat back in his chair. “You’ve been a busy boy the last few weeks.”
“No reason for you to be complaining,” he said with only a hint of irritation. “Your client is free and clear. In about two hours, we’ll have our press conference and it will be done. Charges have been dropped and he can return back to his life.”
“What’s left of it,” Lathrum remarked caustically. “He’s back on the force but will be a pariah for years no matter what happens.”
“Mr. Lathrum,” Kyle began.
“Jack,” the older man insisted. “We’re not standing on formalities here.”
They paused as Kyle’s coffee arrived at the table. “Fine. Jack,” he said when they were alone again, “part of why I’m agreeing to this press conference is to try and give him some of that back. He’s lost enough as it is.”
“She’s going to take a plea bargain,” Lathrum asked.
He nodded. “After a couple hours of grilling her, the police finally got her to confess. Honestly, her lawyer saw the writing on the wall. We had the video of her in the hospital the evening of the murder slipping into the nurses break area and back out. We found the pharmacy she had been working at had suspected she had taken some controlled substances when their inventory list was short a few doses. She confessed to purposefully sickening her husband and then dosing Theresa’s drink so by the time she went home not feeling well, she would be completely unconscious.”
“Well, good work then, counselor,” he said with an oily grin on his face. “Only took you five months to figure it out.”
“Well, that’s part of why I asked you here this morning,” Kyle said in a lowered voice.
“What do you mean?” His face became serious and unreadable.
Kyle leaned his head in, looking right into Lathrum’s eyes, “I wanted to know exactly when you knew she was the real killer.”
“Mr. Howard,” Lathrum began.
“In about four hours,” Kyle broke in, “I’m not going to be an assistant district attorney anymore so, let’s cut the bullshit and tell me the truth.”
The older man regarded him silently for a moment before he gave Kyle a sardonic grin. “Alright. It wasn’t long after I talked to the two of them together and then talked to Amanda privately that I had my suspicions. He seemed too truthful and beside himself with loss over Mayfield’s death to have actually killed her and Amanda lacked anything close to a poker face. She could lie with the best of them as I’m sure you figured out when you went to see her a couple weeks ago. I did some asking around and I had suspicions. I didn’t have proof like you found. Not enough to seal it, but I knew I had enough I could get an acquittal.”
Kyle studied him before saying, “you were going to hold her back until the very end. Then get her on the stand and expose her as the real killer right there in court in front of everyone.”
“I have a way with words,” Lathrum nodded.
“And you weren’t going to tell the DA’s office,” he said bluntly.
Lathrum’s smile disappeared as he said coldly. “I’m sure someday you’ll figure it out.”
“Oh,” Kyle shrugged his shoulders slightly. “I already know. You gave it away when we were in conference. You wanted to humiliate the DA’s office for their inept investigation and their rush to judgement on a police officer. I was just curious to see if you’d actually tell me or not.”
“If that’s what you think, feel free to believe it.” His voice may have shown no hint of emotion but Kyle could see the cold fire in the older man’s eyes.
“Sorry if I ruined your chances running for Attorney General or whatever you were aiming for,” he said with a tone that let Lathrum know he wasn’t sorry at all. “I don’t care really why you did it. It could be seen as unethical and you could get in some serious trouble if you have any documentation that you didn’t share with me during discovery. I know you’ll be at the press conference standing right behind me. I just wanted to let you know if you think you’re going to trash the DA’s office when you get any questions from the reporters or later on years from now if you do decide to run for office, I’ll be there, ready to set the record straight.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he replied. They were silent for a while, drinking their coffees before he asked, “I do have to say, you have a good instinct, Kyle. What’s your plans after you’re married? Gonna start your own practice?”
Kyle smirked a little to himself. “Not right away. My main goal is to get myself moved out and back home by the end of the week. I’ve been without my fiance and my son for three weeks now and all I want is to see them. For the next few years I only plan to be a husband, father and son. I’m gonna learn how to run an apple orchard and then, maybe when I feel ready or when it’s time, then I’ll look into practicing law again.”
Lathrum shook his head and chuckled. “Despite what you may have assumed, I thought you did a great job as a lawyer. I’d heard about you before I met you. You did some outstanding work in the last few years. And you sure have a talent for it. If you ever do want to get back in the game and work on my side of the fence for awhile, let me know and I’ll be happy to recommend you to anyone.”
Kyle was a little surprised by his admission. “Well… thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.” He checked the time on his watch and finished his coffee. “I need to get going. I have an office to clean out and goodbye’s to make before the press. I’ll see you at noon.”
Lathrum just nodded and watched him walk out. His brow furrowed slightly as he noticed the younger man seemed to be walking differently. More relaxed than the other times he’d met him. After Kyle was out of sight, the older man shrugged, chuckled to himself and went about his way.
Kyle stood in the doorway of what used to be his office, clutching a box that contained his personal effects. He was giving the room one last look, telling himself it was to double check to see if he had missed anything. The truth he kept denying was that a part of him wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this. The selfish, stubborn, need to stay and do the job he had set out to do years ago. Other than his son, this job had defined his life for the last six years. Now, it was over. This life had ended and a new one was waiting for him. He took one last look around as he headed to the elevator.
He was stopped by Jeff as he stood there waiting for the car. “Kyle,” he called out to him.
Kyle turned with curious amusement, wondering what he could possibly want. “I’m off the clock, Jeff.”
He older man with his wispy white hair stopped, giving him a kind smile. “I hope you don’t mind we dropped her attempted murder charge for her taking the double murder and life without parole.”
Kyle rolled his eyes and shrugged. “I’m fine with it, Jeff. Best if it doesn’t come out anyway. I didn’t tell my dad or Jacob about it and it’s best that they never know. If I ever become a prosecutor again it’ll give them reason to worry about me all the time.”
“Well, it was gonna be a hard sell anyway. There was enough GHB in there to probably really screw you up but not enough to kill you. Had you been driving while it kicked in then it might’ve been hard to pinpoint.” Jeff’s smile returned a little as he shook his head regretfully. “You did a great job here, Kyle. I hate to lose you.”
“Thanks, Jeff,” he replied. “I’m gonna miss this place.”
“Whatever you end up doing, I’m sure you’ll do a great job. And you got a letter of recommendation for when you’re ready to return to practice.”
“Just do me a favor,” he asked, “make sure Steph doesn’t overwork herself. She’s got a baby on the way and the last thing I need is for her to push herself and have my fiance worried sick. You got your invitation to the wedding?”
He nodded. “And sent back the RSVP. I’m encouraging everyone at the office to attend.”
“Ok,” the elevator door opened. Kyle stepped inside and turned back to his now former boss. “Thanks for all the opportunities you gave me.”
“You’re welcome.” The elevator door closed and made its way down to the lobby.
Kyle carried the box out to the parking lot, his thoughts turning inward as he started feeling the loss of a life he once had. He didn’t feel any guilt about his decisions and was looking forward to being together with Jacob again. Just regret that it was over and he had gone through most of it not appreciating the people around him. That was the realization that had been bothering him all day; all these years working in this office with the same people day in and day out and he had barely known most of them. He had been so divorced from them because of a mistake that had created a barrier between him and the rest of the world. Most of them probably wouldn’t remember him being there by next week. With a sigh he placed the carton into his backseat. Just as he reached for the front door a voice just behind his startled him out of his inner thoughts. “You don’t mind if I ride with you, do you?”
He turned around in shock at the man standing behind him. “Goddamn! Troy?! You nearly scared the shit out of me.”
Troy broke out into a quiet laugh. “Sorry. Couldn’t help it.” Before he could say anything else, Kyle embraced him in a tight hold. Troy’s laughter died off and he hugged his friend. “You looked like you’d lost your best friend there a minute ago.”
“I already did that once,” he said with a hint of a smile, “I don’t plan on doing it again. So, what the hell are you doing here?” He didn’t want to talk about what he had been thinking right before he was interrupted. And seeing Troy again after months brightened his mood anyway.
“I would think it would be obvious,” he said, a soft smile warming his eyes, “I’m here to take you home.”
Kyle shook his head. “There’s no way I’m ready to move. I’ve been here all day, I need to rent a truck and load up all the stuff. It would take hours. By that time, it would be too late and I’m already kind of tired as it is. I told my landlord I would be out by the end of the week.”
Troy seemed to contemplate what he was just told and grudgingly nodded his head. Having made a decision, he went around Kyle’s car to the passenger side. “All good points. Let’s head to your place and we’ll talk. The least I can do is stay with you until you get a truck, get the stuff loaded up and I can drive your car back.”
Kyle was too mentally tired to argue too much as he got into the car. “What about your wife and kids? Aren’t they going to wonder where you are for two days?”
“They know where I am,” he replied as he put on his seatbelt. “Maybe we can get something to eat later too.”
Kyle started the car and made his way out of the lot. “What got it into your head that I could just take off for home this afternoon?”
“Wishful thinking, I guess,” he replied with a shrug. “We all miss you.”
“Wait,” he said, suddenly thinking, “how the hell did you get here? And how long have you been here?”
“I got here… hm. Well, let’s just say that I managed to find a way. Elizabeth needed the van after all.” Before Kyle could press further he added, “and I’ve been here long enough to watch your press conference from a live perspective. Gotta tell you, dude, I was impressed by how you handled yourself. Makes me wish I’d had the chance to see you in a courtroom.”
“There’s always a chance you’ll get to at some point,” he shrugged. “I’m just taking a couple years off, that’s all.”
Troy seemed satisfied with his answer and said nothing else. They rode in silence for a few minutes which was all it took before Kyle made the final turn onto his street. It took him about two seconds to notice the moving truck parked near his townhouse and another two seconds to realize that his front door was open. “What the fuck!?” He parked his car in a hurry and turned his head to look at Troy.
Troy shrugged with a knowing smile as he released his seatbelt. “How should I know? Sure looks like a moving truck to me.” Before Kyle could admonish him Troy was out of the car and heading up to the open door with Kyle in pursuit. He stopped to look into the back of the moving truck and remarked, “you may wanna double check but it looks like you’re already packed.”
“The hell?!” Kyle rushed over and looked inside to find all of his furniture, his television and a number of large plastic totes were all sitting inside the truck. He looked over at Troy accusingly. “How did you do this?”
“I didn’t do it,” he said casually as he turned to the open front door.
Just as Kyle took a step towards the house, two figures each carrying another plastic tote emerged from the house. “Yeah, he didn’t do shit. We did it all,” Andy proclaimed as he headed up to the truck to deposit it with the others. Once he and Brian got them both inside, he turned towards Kyle with a shit-eating grin.
Kyle stared at the three of them as they moved to stand together in front of him. Each of them sporting one manner or another of self-satisfied grins. When he managed to find words, he found his voice oddly heavy with emotion. “I… I don’t understand.”
“I told you,” Troy said as if explaining it to a child. “We miss you. We want you to come home.”
A sudden, powerful wave of emotion swept over Kyle. Seeing the expectant looks on their faces, it suddenly occurred to him that in the time since he went home to see his dad, he had never offered an apology to any of them. That after all their years growing up together with everything they had done as a team and as best friends, when they were growing up he had taken the three of them for granted. The memories of his childhood was incomplete without these three and when things had turned bad, instead of relying on them he ran away. After all that, years apart where he had forsaken friendships that he suddenly felt he didn’t deserve, here were three of the best friends God could have ever given him who only wanted to see him come home.
It was a testament to that same friendship when they saw the tears making his eyes shimmer in the afternoon sun the three of them converged on him with no other thought than to comfort him. “Kyle,” Andy asked, “what’s the matter, bro?”
“Guys, I’m so sorry,” he said in a voice choked with remorse. “I’m sorry I didn’t trust in you enough to tell you about what happened with Jacob and Dad. I’m sorry I doubted that you would care or want to help me.”
“None of that matters anymore, dork,” Brian said with a smile and an arm around his shoulder. “What matters is that we’re friends. We know you never stopped caring about us. We never stopped caring about you.”
“We’ve been friends forever, Kyle,” Troy added. “I couldn’t have asked for a better brother in the ways that matter. We started out as friends but we’re a family now. There’s nothing for you to be sorry about. And there’s nothing that needs forgiving.”
Kyle stood there recovering from the unexpected tears in the comfort of their friendship and love. He made a promise to himself that he would never take any of them for granted ever again. When he felt the tears and the emotion pass, he wiped his face and asked, “where’s Jacob?”
“Oh, he’s at home. Hard at work,” Brian quipped with a playful smile.
“It’s a shame he couldn’t come,” he said a little disappointed.
Troy’s face broke into another faux innocent look as he said haltingly, “well… it’s possible that we may not have… actually told him what we were doing.”
Kyle rolled his eyes and managed a small laugh. “Another surprise?”
“Yeah, but this time it’s planned,” Brian said flashing Troy a meaningful look.
Troy could only laugh before asking, “okay you two, did you manage to get everything out of the house?”
“Yes, sir,” Andy said. “Looked in every closet, cabinet and drawer. Everything that wasn’t nailed down is in the truck and ready to go. Kyle, if you want you can look it over yourself. We got a change of clothes for you to before we leave.”
“No,” he said, “I trust you.”
“Anything else then,” Troy asked.
Kyle looked around and stepped over to the doorway to his townhouse, looking inside. The front room and everywhere he looked was bare as the day he first moved in. The walls would never remember he had ever been here. No proof that this part of his life ever happened. He got an odd kind of relief knowing that. Maybe, ten or fifteen years from now, he’ll have forgotten about it as well. He closed and locked the door before returning to his friends and said, “let’s go home.”
Jacob had spent most of the day working in his shop trying to get ahead of deadlines for orders that had been placed the last few months. When he had posted the pictures of the door with it’s glowing lines in the wood, the demand for his work increased more than he had anticipated. The fortunate part was that he could set his prices a little higher since he was one of only a few carpenters in the area to be able to do such work. He also enjoyed the increased artistic challenges that it posed to him. Since he had come back from Harrisburg, he had spent hours nearly every night drawing new designs for people interested in his work.
David had begun to refer to him as a “master carpenter,” but Jacob was quick to deny such a title. He knew he wasn’t quite up to that level yet, though eventually he felt he could reach that goal. As the days started to grow warmer through March, his attention had to be split three ways between his orders, starting work on the new edition to the house and caring for Matt.
It had been something of a sore spot between him and Kyle towards the end of his stay. Jacob had wanted to take Matt back home with him when he left, reasoning it would give Kyle more free time to finish up what he was working on and Matt would have plenty of care and attention between Jacob and his grandfather. Kyle wasn’t used to being away from Matt and vice versa so he initially balked. After a couple days debating the issue, Kyle had to admit that Matt would have more one on one time with Jacob and his grandfather than he would staying with him while he was working frantically to finish his last case. It never became an argument but it was a touchy subject up until the final day. In the end, Kyle got Matt’s opinion and that’s how the debate ultimately ended. Jacob made sure Kyle never felt left out even if he was hundreds of miles away. They were on the phone every day and sometimes video chat online between the three of them for a few moments. It was tough but they made it work.
The time together with Matt this time felt different than before. It was easy to give a child love and attention and shower them with gifts and play time. It was another thing entirely to see a young boy look up at you and know that you were now one of the examples he was going to emulate as he got older. He felt the need to be more careful about what was discussed around him and what words were used. Jacob hadn’t thought of himself as the kind of person known for a lot of cursing but he suddenly found himself censoring his words. Bedtimes had started to become his responsibility completely.
David got the best fun of his life on one of their first nights together when Matt had balked at the idea of going to bed, opting to stay up with grandpa. His playful half smirk to Jacob let him know that he was in no way going to intercede on his behalf and he would have to tackle the challenge on his own. The only comment he made to Jacob was later on when he joined him in the living room after their conflict was resolved and Matt was in bed where he was supposed to be. “It was hard loving Kyle when he was four too, just so you know.” Jacob gave his dad a side glance and muttered a curse under his breath to David’s utter amusement.
As the month dragged on and the cold rains started to set in, work in the shop and caring for Matt had both become full time jobs. He felt fortunate that at least he had David there to watch and play with Matt through most of the day while he could work without interruptions. Working out every other day started to become twice a week due to all of his other tasks that were piling up. David finally had enough of seeing his future son-in-law becoming overly stressed that he finally took him aside and insisted he find someone to help him. After talking to Troy over an hour, he decided to go ahead and hire an assistant for the easier jobs. Tyler jumped at the idea. He had been getting a little uncomfortable being outed at Troy’s construction company when someone saw him with his new boyfriend. He felt safer with Jacob and they could work well together while they talk. Jacob realized in the future, he would have to either expand the workshop out or find a new building altogether.
Jacob indulged in a moment of silence as he stood in the shower, cleaning the sweat and dust off of him from the day’s work. He’d been so busy all day he’d only had a few minutes for Matt earlier in the morning before he had been seemingly everywhere. He ached from the careful work he had performed on some new front doors for a new couple in town. He knew he should get out and tend to Matt but his body wanted to stay under the warm water for as long as he could get away with it. Maybe the worst part was no matter what he did or how busy he kept himself, nothing could make him stop thinking about Kyle. He had become so accustomed to sliding into bed with him over the winter in Harrisburg that it felt so foreign now to be expected to sleep alone again.
Not only that, the deep affection and friendship they had together was something he couldn’t replace with Brian or Andy or even Troy. They were his closest friends and have been through a lot together. If Kyle was the best thing that ever happened to his life since high school, the others were a very close second. He couldn’t imagine a life without them. In their own way, they’d made the lonely years without Kyle bearable, even if they couldn’t erase all the pain Kyle’s absence left inside him. If not for them, he may have left here years ago and he wouldn’t be looking forward to the day he and Kyle were finally married as they always dreamed about.
Finally forcing himself out of the shower, he dried himself off carefully before reaching for his phone and turning on Spotify for some tunes while he shaved. After applying shaving cream he got to work, keeping the blade hot. After the first song ended, the music changed on his phone and he paused as he heard Garth Brooks’ “To Make you Feel my Love” playing. He paused as he listened, staring at himself in the mirror. Despite the loneliness he felt, the words put a smile on his face. Their time apart would be over soon, he knew. They’d both proven to the other that they were ready to be together for the rest of their lives. It wouldn’t be long now.
The razor blade removed the last of the stubble on his face and he did a quick look before washing and wiping off his face. It had been awhile since he last shaved everything completely off but he felt the need tonight to look clean and fresh. Looking himself over in the mirror one last time, he gave some thought about maybe cutting his hair short. He grabbed his phone and wrapped his towel around his waist before leaving the bathroom and heading into their bedroom to put some clothes on before dinner. Just before he finished, his phone rang. A quick look told him it was Stephanie. He dropped the shirt in is hand onto the bed and quickly responded. “Stephanie. Hey, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing just fine, future-baby-daddy,” she said casually, “and how are you and Matt doing in paradise?”
He laughed lightly. “Oh, I dunno about paradise. Been sweating up a storm trying to get orders done. Me and the guys are supposed to start on the new edition to the house next week. How’s Kyle doing?”
There was a slightly pause before she replied, “that’s why I was calling you, actually. I figured he might be there. I called him a little earlier but didn’t get an answer. When I stopped by his place, it looked empty. You haven’t heard from him?”
A chill started to creep into his chest. “No. Hold on.” He hurried out of the bedroom and down the stairs. “Dad?” he got a response from the living room and he stepped in. “Have you heard from Kyle today? Stephanie’s on the phone and she said she hasn’t seen or heard from him most of the day.”
David shrugged and picked up his phone. “Let me see if I can get a hold of him. Text the boys and see if any of them heard from him.”
“One second, Steph, Dad is calling Kyle and I’m gonna text Troy and the others.” A few minutes passed before both of them came up empty. They stared at each other with suspicious look before he got back on the phone with her. “Steph, let me call you back in a little bit, okay?”
“Sure,” she said cautiously. “Something up?”
“I’m thinking there is,” he replied. “Did you see him at all today?”
“Earlier before his press conference,” she said, “after that, I lost track of him. My boss saw him at the elevator and that’s the last reported sighting.”
“Uh, huh, okay. I’ll call or text you before the night is over but I have a feeling one of us is going to see him before too long.” He ended the call with her and looked over at David. “Just a coincidence that we can’t get a hold of any of them, huh?”
“Bullshit,” David chuckled. He picked up his phone again and tried another number. “I think I got an inside tip though…” He sat there looking at Jacob as he got an answer. His smile widened as his voice dripped with sarcasm. “Why, Elizabeth. How nice of you to take my call. You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find your husband, would you?” David was quiet as he listened to the other end of the conversation. He nodded and made a few affirmative grunts. “Alright. Thank you, sweetheart. Just pretend I didn’t call, okay? Alright. Kiss the boys for me. Bye.” He hung up and stood up grinning. “The boys didn’t think about warning Stephanie, I guess. They’re on their way home now.”
Jacob blinked and his face lit up in a surprised smile. “When?”
“Any minute now, according to Liz,” he replied. “Do your best to act surprised. Oh, and be ready to move some furniture. In fact, you may wanna just go ahead and open up the barn and make room.”
Jacob ran back upstairs and threw on his shirt before running back downstairs. The chill of fear was long forgotten with the knowledge that his dreams were about to come alive tonight. And then, forever. He skidded to a halt to grab his shoes. Matt got caught up in Jacob’s excitement and ran up to him. “What’s going on?”
“It’s a surprise,” he grinned to the little boy as he mussed up his hair. “You’ll see soon. Stay with grandpa. I gotta do some work in the barn.”
“I wanna come with you,” the boy said plaintively with a noticeable pout. Jacob figured it was easier to let him come than try to explain why he couldn’t come.
He hurried the two of them outside and into the chilly evening air. The sun was almost completely set so he used the lights in the barn to help move the heavier items towards the back. He had Matt help by moving the smaller things out the way, making sure to keep an eye on him at all times.
He only had moments to spare when he heard the sound of a truck coming up the drive. He steeled himself, wondering if it was all really just some dream or one of Andy or Brian’s practical jokes. He motioned Matt to come close and stood just outside of the barn.
The first thing he saw was Kyle’s car, parking in it’s usual spot. Curiously, Troy was the one getting out of the driver’s side. Before he could come closer to ask, he saw Kyle step out of the other side. As their eyes met, Jacob knew that the wait was over between them. There life together was starting now. No more long partings. No more sleeping alone. No more fears or uncertainty. Jacob ran faster than he ever had in his life, grabbing Kyle around the waist and lifted him off his feet before he could bring himself to a stop. He could hear someone giggling but he didn’t care. The reality of the moment overwhelmed him when he tried to speak. He managed to get out the only two words that were in his heart as he buried his face in Kyle’s neck. “My love.”
Time seemed to stop for them as they held each other. Their friends stood nearby as they watched their reunion. Kyle sniffled and smiled as he whispered, “I’m home now. And I’m never leaving you again.”
David sat in the small waiting room watching his son in his black tuxedo, adjusting his bow tie in the mirror for the fifth time in ten minutes before looking over a copy of the introduction being handed out at the door to all the guests.
As time passes our bonds grow ever stronger,
It is through those bonds of love and friendship that we measure our lives
As Kyle and Jacob celebrate this joyous day,
They celebrate the love of their friends
Who have been with them through joys and sorrows
And stand together with love and pride.
We welcome you to celebrate our joys, our love and our lives
As we all begin a new life together.
He ran his hand through his trimmed beard which was now more grey than dark brown. He had no qualms about that. He accepted it as a part of life. He stood up and joined his son in front of the mirror, looking at both of them dressed similarly. “Son, you’re gonna rip it off if you keep fidgeting with it.”
“Sorry,” Kyle said with a sigh. “I just want to get started.” He’d been nervous all morning since he woke up. The day was warm and bright outside. Everything was set to go. The invited guests had been filing in for the last half hour now. Brian had been running back and forth between Kyle’s room and Jacob’s, awaiting the final moments.
David chuckled and leaned in to kiss his son’s golden brown hair. “You’re ready for this. You both are.”
Kyle smirked at his dad’s reflection and said, “does that mean you’re not gonna complain about the song again?”
David grumbled. “I wasn’t complaining. Just saying it’s silly that you two are getting married to the tune of a song from a video game.”
“Blame Brian,” he said simply. “He’s the one who had us listen to it. And it fits. Jacob and I decided that this wasn’t just our wedding. This was our celebration of all our lives. What better song to use than ‘Stand by Me?’”
“You could’ve stuck to the original,” he remarked in a cantankerous tone.
“The original doesn’t have a full string orchestra and doesn’t really set the right mood in a church. By the way, we need to thank Harry for agreeing to do this for us.” Kyle was getting good at diverting the topic away from his anxiety to keep himself calm.
His father nodded. “He’s doing it for free. Probably to make things up with Brian but I’ll take it. He gave me a taste of his sermon too. It should be good and go with your theme.”
Kyle finally turned to look at his father and smiled. “If all goes right, I’m hoping everyone gets a ceremony none of them will forget.”
David grinned. “I’m sure of it. Just about everyone you invited is coming. By the way, be nice to your mom when you see her today. She was ecstatic to get an invitation and bent heaven and earth to get here.”
Kyle nodded. “I’m glad she’s here, actually. It means a lot to me. If you weren’t part of the ceremony, I’d insist you sit with her.” Even if he hadn’t seen her since he was Matt’s age, it was a kind gesture to invite her and was surprised at how glad he was that she responded. They stood there looking at each other before he finally asked his dad in an expectant tone, “So…? Any words of advice before I head into a life altering moment?”
“Are you nervous,” he asked.
“Yes,” he said bluntly. “I can feel my anxiety starting to build up in me but I have it under control. Took my meds today like the doctor told me to from now on. I just want it done. I’m not good with crowds and the openly declaring I’m gay and in love with my best friend from high school.”
“Son,” he said with a little irritation, “what everyone else thinks doesn’t matter today. All that matters is you’re marrying the person you’ve loved nearly half your life now. You two are still madly in love with each other and if anyone says otherwise, I will gladly set them straight.”
Kyle giggled. A sure sign to David that his son was nervous. “Dad,” he said after his giggles passed and he looked more somber, “I want to thank you for everything you did. Taking care of him. Taking care of me. You’ve done so much I can’t even put it all in a list. You’ve been everything to me. I’m sorry I doubted you when I should’ve have.”
David shook his head. “You can’t keep beating yourself up over the past. It happened. It’s fixed now. Move on.”
“As odd as it sounds,” he remarked, “the person I feel sorry for is you. You should have had a day like this with Travis. He should be here with you.”
David blinked and looked at his son quizzically. “He’s here.” He reached under his collar and pulled out a chain from under his shirt until a set of dog tags were revealed before he pushed them back in under his tuxedo shirt and patted his chest. “Right where he’s always been, son. Travis and I weren’t as strong as you and Jacob have been. This is your day and no one else’s. Stop thinking about everyone else. Focus on just you and Jacob today.”
Kyle hugged his father tight. “I love you so much, Dad. Thank you for everything.”
“You’re welcome, baby boy,” he said softly. “Just remember, I’ll be right there next to you the whole time.”
There was a knock at the door and an usher’s head poked in to inform them that they were ready to start. Kyle looked from his father to the usher and nodded. The door closed again and the two men stood there looking at each other, waiting in silence. Kyle started thinking about the first day he met Jacob. Their first hug. Their first dance. The first moment he knew in his heart he loved Jacob Michael Eaton more than anyone else in the world. His eyes misted over, remembering how innocently it had all started. He never would’ve guessed that bully in the hallway was in another room nearby, waiting just as he was now to stand in front of over three hundred people and declare their undying love to each other.
The sound of a harp playing ascending notes followed by soft violins filled the room from the overhead speakers. In his mind, he could see the large projection screen over the front of the chapel beginning to show a slow montage of pictures of him, Jacob and their friends from over the years. Starting as children and slowly working up through the years. They had spent an entire night at the house together going over all the old photos David and their other parents had taken of them, choosing what should be added for the wedding. Reliving old memories and laughing at some remembered moment that a camera had captured. What should have only taken an hour or more turned into an entire night of dinner, music, laughter and sweet memories that they shared with each other and their children. The music was soft and carried a serenity with it. As the first verse began Kyle’s his lips quivered. The words having never meant more to him than on this day.
When the night has come And the land is dark And the moon Is the only light we’ll see
He looked to his father who stood there with a patient, kind, loving smile. It helped him remain calm as the first chorus began and in his mind he could see little Carter walking down the center aisle wearing a white tuxedo and holding the small white pillow the the two wedding bands were resting on. He’d been so proud and excited when he had been asked to do, “the most important job.” The boys looked adorable when they were trying them on the night before and they were all looking forward to them participating. Matthew and Blake entered next, arm in arm. Matt in black like his father with Blake in a white tuxedos.
As the song progressed, he could chart Chase and Tanner’s course down the aisle and then into the second chorus when Andy and Brian were to be going down the aisle arm in arm. That was their cue to leave the room. David took his son’s hand and lead him out of the room and down the short hall to the closed doors to the chapel. David stood there next to his son, head up and looking at the closed door in front of him. There was so much he wanted to say but he knew there wasn’t enough time. For now, it was enough that he take his son, arm in arm and wait for their moment together. He watched Kyle brush his tears away and gave into the temptation to give him one final hug. This was going to be a day none of them would ever forget.
The music had softened into a light interlude and Kyle could just imagine those final pictures everyone in the chapel could see. Brian, Andy, Tanner and Blake on the sofa together at Thanksgiving. Then Troy, Liz holding baby Emily next to Carter and Chase. And finally Kyle and Jacob with Stephanie and Matt. Three families, forever linked together. The doors to the chapel opened and the chorus returned with the words as powerful as they felt in his heart and the music playing to match as Kyle and his father, arm in arm, walked down the aisle between hundreds of onlookers who stood watching them. Kyle only had enough sense to notice a few of the people there. Some he didn’t recognize, maybe people Jacob knew or some of his more endearing clients over the years. What he saw were happy smiles and a few wiped eyes as he and his father passed. Kyle saw Stephanie’s bright happy smile with a tear running down her cheek as she watched him pass. Her stomach had grown over the last few months and had debated not coming. Kyle and Jacob were adamant that she attend. Other faces he saw were more of a blur to him as he focused on taking his time and remembering to breathe.
As they stepped up to the altar, Andy, Brian and the boys were waiting, gathered around expectantly. It was all happening so fast it seemed to overwhelm him. Andy and Brian were embracing him before Matthew moved to stand next to him. Kyle smiled down at his son and hugged him for a brief moment before he turned to the door. There was a roll of drums and the doors to the chapel opened again. The music reaching an emotional crescendo as he watched Troy and Jacob enter, arm in arm in their white tuxedos.
It was that moment that he would never forget for the rest of his life. A tear ran down his cheek and he felt an overwhelming outpouring of his love that threatened to turn into sobs. Then he felt his father’s reassuring hand on his shoulder and the moment passed. His eyes never left Jacob’s as he got closer and closer. They were halfway down the aisle when Kyle’s eyes widened slightly and he broke into a bright grin. Jacob’s hair was cut short and made him look as beautiful as that fateful prom night they shared so long ago. The music, the moment and this man he loved more than his own life came together as Jacob stepped up to him.
They looked at each other with love and wonder in their eyes. The future was uncertain. Anything could happen to either one of them. But in this moment, on this day, none of it mattered. They loved each other with a depth that years apart could never hope to defeat. They had learned to trust not just each other but themselves. Whatever the future held for them, it would be a wondrous journey and one they would embark on together. Jacob extended his hand in offering to Kyle, his clear blue eyes were bright and the small smile on his lips was inviting him one more time to come with him. As they joined hands, they knew it was a gesture that would mark their lives forever.
As one, Kyle and Jacob turned to Pastor Whitman. The music faded into the background and, with hands held and their friends gathered nearby, they embarked on their new life together.
That would be the version of the song that was played at their wedding.
And now, it is with mixed emotions that this special story that I started writing back in February has come to a close. I welcome any and all comments, reviews etc.
Also, I feel it only fair that anyone who's read the entire thing can ask me any questions they would like about what what's, when's how's and why's The Acquittal came about. I thank all of you for reading and giving me your opinions. Even the ones I may have not liked. lol