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    Jdonley75
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Empty Spaces Between Us - 10. Chapter 10

The hot June sun blazed down as Tyler wiped the sweat off his forehead and looked around at the other men on the roofing job with him. Calling them men was a bit of a stretch in his opinion. Except for Sean, everyone working with him was younger than he was. He wanted to curse Andy for going on a vacation right when the busy part of the season got into full swing, but Troy told him they could manage.

What Tyler didn’t take into account when he was informed of Andy going on vacation was Troy giving him a supervisor position over all the new kids. He was more than a little shocked when Troy gave him the “good” news.

“You must be desperate for help if you’re gonna have me supervise a job,” Tyler had said to Troy when he was told in Troy’s office.

His boss just laughed at Tyler’s reaction. “You’ll be fine. You know what you’re doing, even if you think you don’t. I’ll run you through the paperwork part and I’m sure me and your mom can run you through the standard idea of how I’d hope you’d conduct yourself when you’re getting final payment from a client at the end of the job.”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “Troy, I know how to be polite and I’m pretty sure filling out a receipt isn’t going to make my head explode. I’m just worried that there’s more experienced guys here that should be doing what you’re having me do.”

Troy nodded. “Experienced, yes. Trustworthy, maybe not so much. And if they got a problem with the decisions me and Dad make about who we put in charge, then that’s their problem and they can take it up with me. Besides, you’ll most likely be getting guys who are just getting started.”

So, for the next two weeks, until Andy returned, Tyler was in charge of some of the new guys, doing the smaller jobs that typically don’t take more than two days to complete. The more he thought on it, the more he started to wonder if things in the company were still doing alright or if they were in a bind. But the short conversation with his mom last week gave him the impression that things were going fine overall.

He still had Sean and Dex since they started back in April. They were both competent enough that he didn’t need to look over their shoulders constantly. But the three newer guys, Tom, Neal and Chris, had just started and needed constant guidance. It was awkward for him to give them direction. He went to school with all of them and remembered them all from the hallways. With all the inexperience on his crew, Tyler knew he had to take his time and slowly go over everything with them one on one. That made it more difficult for him to actually do any work himself.

So, the morning ended up being just Tyler going from person to person, checking on their work, answering questions and making sure they were all following the safety procedures they’d been drilled in. He was alert enough to catch some potential mistakes before they were made and emphasized all the safety instructions Andy had hammered into his head the previous summer. By the time everyone broke for lunch, he was a little surprised to find them in good spirits and they were ahead of schedule by his estimation. He checked again with each teammate to make sure they were doing fine in the heat and that they were drinking plenty of water before heading to his truck to pull out his lunch.

Tyler had just settled into a comfortable spot while also able to keep an eye on the others when he heard Sean’s voice behind him. “Mind if I join you, boss?”

Tyler glanced up at him. “I’m not anybody’s boss. I’m just filling in is all. And, yes, you can sit here.”

Sean smiled and sat down on the grass next to him, opening a vitamin water. “Thanks.” They were interrupted by Tyler’s phone ringing. When he looked to check who it was, he grumbled under his breath and sent it to voicemail. Sean looked at him and bluntly asked, “bad news?”

Tyler shrugged. “Not my problem.” He frowned darkly and bit into his sandwich.

Sean eyed him carefully before replying, “sounds like you’re making it your problem.”

“What do you mean?”

He shrugged and continued. “Well, you just suddenly look like someone pissed in your Wheaties. Obviously, whatever that was is bothering you.”

Tyler sighed, not wanting to really talk about it but decided to just say enough to mollify Sean’s curiosity. “It’s nothing. Just my dad.”

“Oh. I see.” Sean seemed satisfied with the answer.

After a moment of silence between them, Tyler blurted out, “he’s got cancer. I haven’t seen him in years and he’s never really been a part of my life since him and Ma divorced. All of a sudden, he wants me to come see him. I don’t owe him nothin’ as far as I see it so I’m just ignoring it.” His cheeks reddened, realizing he’d said it all without prompting. He tended to go out of his way to avoid talking about personal stuff, but for some reason Sean’s presence just brought it out of him.

“I can kinda understand that,” Sean replied. “Well, not the dying part. But, yeah, my mom is a bit of a hard ass. Always thinking she knows what’s best for everyone.”

Tyler gave him a curious look. “So, what, you ran away from home?”

He chuckled a little and shook his head. “No. I can go wherever I want. I just… wanted to get away from it.”

“Sounds like running to me,” Tyler said with a smirk.

It was Sean’s turn to blush as he looked down at the grass in front of him. “Maybe,” he said finally. “But it’s not supposed to last. I told her I’m out looking for a better life. I wasn’t happy with that life and really want no part of it if I had my way.”

"Must’ve been a horrible life if you’re out here in the middle of nowhere.” Tyler couldn’t put his finger on it, but he was finding it easier to relate to Sean now that he knew they were both from poor backgrounds.

Sean chuckled a little and replied, “it wasn’t the kind of life I wanted after a while. I’ll just leave it at that.”

“Well, whatever it is you’re looking for, I hope you find it.” Tyler finished his sandwich and tossed the remains into his bag.

Sean searched his face for a moment and smiled. “Me too.”

Not long after that, Tyler got the team back to work to finish up the job so they could get done and head back. As he was going around to the guys on the job, he noticed Sean was occasionally looking in his direction. Tyler could feel his eyes on him a few times as well. He wasn’t exactly uncomfortable with the attention, but he figured it would be best to not get involved with a coworker now more than ever while he’s in charge of people. Things could get out of control and then potentially turn ugly if he misinterpreted things.

He had to admit that there were times after they first met, he wasn’t all that impressed with Sean. He seemed a little weird with the way he talked and how he would act in general. And it wasn’t exactly weird in the way he talked. Sean had a very smooth voice and an easy smile. Tyler couldn’t deny that. There were just moments when Sean would say something that would seem out of character for him or he would stop himself in mid-sentence for no particular reason Tyler could discern. He could see Sean becoming a good friend in time but there were mysteries about him Tyler couldn’t figure out.

The job was done earlier than Tyler expected. As they cleaned up the sight, Tyler went to get the final payment from the owner of the house after the man looked over the new siding around his house. Tyler was polite and courteous as the man handed over the check which he put in the folder he had the prepared receipt in. Once that was completed, he headed back to his truck to find everyone gone save for Sean who was putting the cooler into the back of Tyler’s truck. He smirked as he walked up and said to him, “good job. I guess that’ll earn you a ride back to the office.”

“Oh, gee, thanks,” Sean said playfully with a superstar smile on his lips.

Tyler chuckled and felt his cheeks blush as he climbed inside, waiting for Sean to get in and get his seatbelt on before starting up the truck. Ever since his accident he’s been a little more aware of the need to make sure everyone in his truck is secure before putting the truck in gear. Most of their conversation on the way back was work related. Sean always had at least one question to ask him which he was always happy to answer. Sometimes, he just wanted to make sure he had done a good job. Tyler always wondered why Sean felt like he needed his opinion. But it gave him a good feeling when he knew it made Sean feel better.

There was a moment of silence in the cab before Sean asked, “so, what is it you like, exactly?”

Tyler was dumbstruck not knowing where that suddenly came from. “Uh…”

“I mean, what are your hobbies or what is it you like to do for fun?” The clarification settled Tyler’s nerves. “There isn’t much to do around here, I’ve noticed.”

“Yeah, well, that’s small town living for ya.” Tyler took a moment to ponder the question before answering. “I like reading mostly when I’m at home though I tend to keep busy. I go to the gym every once in a while. Spend time with my friends when I can and when I’m feeling up to it, I go down to The Steel Door for some grub and watch the Pirates game or play some pool if I got someone with me.”

“So, you like baseball,” he responded. “You only ever just watch on TV at the bar?”

“No. Sometimes at a friend’s house. Drake or Jacob or Andy usually.”

“But you’ve never actually seen a game in person,” Sean concluded.

Tyler made a face and shrugged. “It’s not something I can afford, really. I got bills to pay now. I mean, Ma brings in plenty and all, but she’s been getting kinda personal with a guy from her church. Haven’t met him yet but I kinda see where it may be going with them.”

“Okay,” Sean’s cheeks flushed slightly as he looked out the window. “Good to know.”

Their conversation came to an end as they pulled up at the office and unloaded the equipment. Once completed, Tyler headed inside with the folder to hand off to Troy and go over the timesheets of the men on his team that day. Sean was very helpful and hung around for a few extra minutes in case Tyler needed anything. When Tyler told Sean he could go on home, he flashed Tyler another dazzling smile before heading out the door.

Tyler gathered up all the papers from his team and went to Troy’s office door, knocking before opening it and stepping in side. “Got it all here if you wanna look over any of it,” he said as he sat the small stack on Troy’s desk.

“As long as you got the check and it’s for the right amount, I’d say everything is fine.” Troy looked up at him with bright smile. More so than Tyler could remember in the last year he’s worked there.

“You’re glowing,” Tyler said with a chuckle. He still found it hard to believe he got along so well with his boss now compared to the last job he had.

“I don’t glow,” Troy replied with a grin.

Tyler thought about it for a moment and did the quick math in his head. “Oh, wait. You and Liz are three months in now, aren’t you?”

“Yup.” Troy’s smile seemed to get even brighter, but his happiness became infectious.

“Have you told anyone else yet,” he asked.

“We’re waiting for Andy to get back from his vacation and then tell everyone at the same time.”

“That’s not gonna be easy for you from the looks of it.”

“We’ll manage,” Troy said as he leaned back in his chair. “Anyway, I’m sure the last thing you’re interested in is hearing about us having another baby. Go on home. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Have a good night.” Tyler stepped out of Troy’s office, headed back out to his truck and drove home.

 

****

 

“What bothers me most is that Nathan has yet to bring his new girlfriend to visit,” Lisa Stewart said insistently to her son as she sat in her kitchen with her smallest grandson on her lap.

“Well, he’s got a busy job and he lives a lot farther away from you than I do,” Andy explained as he sipped the tea his mother was serving. It was a nice blend and if he was the sort for hot tea in the morning instead of coffee, he was sure he would enjoy it. “Shoot, he only lives an hour away from me and I only just barely see him once or twice a year.”

“You could both stand to visit a little more often,” she said as she looked across the table at him. “I’m glad you’re here now though,” she added with a smile as she looked down at little Blake who was occupied with his breakfast.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner,” he replied. “She wasn’t much for travelling. With me at least.”

His mother’s face saddened at the mention of her former daughter-in-law. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out, sweetheart.”

“Like hell you are,” he said with a chuckle.

“Language,” she reminded him as she bounced her little treasure on her lap. “No need to corrupt this little darling so soon.” He did have a point, she conceded privately. She never liked Stacy or her family when Andy married her. If Stacy hadn’t been pregnant at the time, she probably would have tried to put a stop to it. But they already had that discussion the first night Andy showed up with the children.

Andy’s call to her two weeks prior had come as a pleasant surprise for her. While they had spoken on the phone since she moved back to her hometown, the calls had become fewer and fewer over the years. She was aware that Stacy had been making life hard for her son, but she was powerless to do anything for him other than to talk to him when she could. She had thought about returning to Pennsylvania and to her old house but the idea of living in that house without her beloved husband was a painful one.

They had spent the first week of his vacation focusing on the children. Lisa loved getting to spend time with them. Tanner was so well behaved and kind, she felt he acted older than he should. She had only ever seen Blake once before and that was shortly after he was born. Even then, she could tell their marriage had become strained. Stacy had always been taciturn at the best of times. Once, Lisa had overheard the way Stacy spoke to Andy and it nearly sent her into a rage. But she knew her son needed to handle things on his own.

Blake was a treasure to her. Much like her other son, Blake looked so much like her husband Peter with the Irish green eyes and red hair. She even suspected he was developing the same smile. She felt blessed to have such a wonderful grandchild and knew that he had a good future ahead of him. She smiled as she set the boy down on his feet. “Go and sit with you brother and watch some cartoons while me and your daddy talk, huh?” The boy agreed but only after getting one more hug and a kiss from his grandma before scampering into the front room where the adults could hear the television playing.

Andy got a little uncomfortable when his mother turned her gaze onto him once Blake was out of the room. “So, you haven’t told me about your friends,” she said casually.

Andy smirked, knowing this was going somewhere he wasn’t sure he was comfortable with. “Troy and his wife are getting ready to have another baby, from the sounds of it.”

She smiled politely, her eyes never leaving his. “Well, that’s always good news.” She let a moment pass, giving him a chance to continue. When he didn’t, she continued questioning him. “And the others?”

Andy looked around the room only to find his mother’s patient eyes still there, watching him. “Jacob seems to be doing good. He started his own business a couple years ago but he’s just now getting it to be something he can live on.”

Her lips carefully fell into a small frown. She didn’t like her son being so evasive with her. He knew what she was getting at and he was avoiding it. “And what about Brian? How’s he been?”

Andy lost his smirk and couldn’t look at her and attempted to sound casual as he replied, “I’m not sure. Haven’t heard from him in a while now.”

“How long is that, exactly?”

He shrugged. “I dunno. Two or three years now. And that doesn’t count much. We just happened to be in the same room together. We didn’t talk to each other much and once we were done with what we were doing, he left pretty soon after.”

“I find that kind of odd, Andrew,” she replied smoothly. “The two of you were nearly inseparable when he first moved into the neighborhood. Then something happened and the two of you barely speak to each other and never see each other? That doesn’t add up.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Mom,” he said with a shrug. “We just… drifted apart, I guess.”

She sighed and set down her tea. “The last time I saw him was at your wedding. He seemed polite enough. But I could tell there was something wrong. We talked for a few minutes, but he seemed preoccupied.”

Andy shrugged. “I was a little busy that day and to be honest, I barely remember most of it.”

She offered a small but warm smile. “When your father and I got married, it was a little like that for us too. I’d never met a man I loved so much as him. And I knew he loved me back. We had a good thirty-three years together.” Lisa sat back in her seat as her eyes gazed into the past. “I remember you and Brian together when you were all in school. You were always a playful sort. Then Brian came along with his rambunctious personality and that witty little smile of his. That’s when you started getting in trouble. Just like your father used too. Nothing serious but enough mischief just to make me start to wonder.”

A smile made its way onto his face as he remembered. “Yeah. I think he brought out the worst in me.”

She laughed softly. “I wouldn’t go that far. Just taught you how to have fun in new ways. After awhile, I thought about separating the two of you. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I loved seeing how you smiled when the two of you were together.”

“How I smiled?” He looked up at his mother curiously.

“I guess it’s just one of those things only a mother would notice,” she explained with a shrug. “You were just… happier with him than the others.”

Andy could feel his eyes misting up the more he thought about those times with Brian so many years ago. “I guess, maybe.”

“Andrew Patrick, I don’t know exactly what happened between the two of you and I’ll understand if you don’t want to talk about it with me. But whatever it is, I know in my heart, that if you were to reach out to him, he would be that friend for you again, if you needed him.”

He looked up at her and gave her a weak smile. “We’ll see. Maybe I’ll call him. He’s a busy guy though, from what I’ve heard. He’s got classes to teach and stuff.”

“I’m sure he’d make time for you,” she replied with more confidence than he felt.

“Let’s talk about something else.” He sighed and got up to make some coffee. It was too early in the morning still for this kind of interrogation.

“Well, what about your other friend? Kyle? Whatever happened to him?”

He frowned and shrugged. “No clue. None of us have heard from him in years.”

“Years?” She seemed genuinely confused and concerned. “Not even David? They were so close.”

Andy sighed and looked at the floor with a melancholy expression. “Nothing. Would be nice to know he’s at least okay. But something happened between him and his dad, I think. No one’ll talk about it. Kyle isn’t something his dad or Jacob like to talk about much.”

“Poor, Davey,” she said remorsefully. “That boy was his world for so long. Especially after Helen left. How’s he been?”

“He’s quieter than he used to be. I think he’s just upset, and it gnaws at him.” He poured himself a cup and sighed. “I really wish I knew where he was. Wouldn’t mind talking to him again.”

She smirked. “He’ll come home one of these days. He’s got his father’s stubbornness but his mom’s bravery. That much I remember very well.” She wanted to press Andy more about his beef with Brian but decided it was enough for now. She harbored a private suspicion but didn’t dare put it into words, not knowing how Andy would react. “How about we take the boys shopping this afternoon for some new clothes? Blake’ll be growing again before you know it so we can find something cute for him to wear that he can grow into.”

Andy grinned. “Hey, if that’s what you wanna do, that’s fine with me. Then I’ll cook dinner tonight for all of us.”

Lisa grinned back and him and nodded. She was going to make sure her little boy went back home feeling better than when he got here.

 

****

 

By the time his second week as a supervisor was over, Tyler was ready to finally relax and enjoy himself. He got home from work early after finishing up a re-siding job ahead of schedule and went into the house to get cleaned up. As he stepped into the house, he was surprised to find Colleen there, looking at him expectantly. “Hey, Ma,” he said as he made his way to his bedroom.

“Hey, just a minute sweetheart.” She put a hand on his shoulder to stop his progress.

Tyler groaned inwardly, feeling a little annoyed by being stopped. “What?”

She hesitated for a moment before giving him a shy smile. “I was wanting to talk to you about some stuff.”

“Like?” He put just enough irritation in his voice to let her know he wasn’t interested in a guessing game.

Colleen raised an eyebrow and smirked. “You’re getting bossy, I can see.” Before he could raise an objection, she continued. “You know I’ve been seeing a lot of Stan the last few months. He’s a really nice guy. You like him, don’t you?”

Tyler chuckled silently. “Yeah. He’s a nice enough guy. You seem to like him pretty well that I hardly see you here.”

“Well, that’s what I was gonna talk to you about.”

Tyler sighed a little and nodded. “You wanna move in with him.”

She looked over his face, mildly surprised. “You’re not upset?”

“Why should I be,” he asked with a shrug. “I think you’re going a little fast, but if it’ll make you happy, then that’s fine with me. So, do you know when you’ll be leaving?”

“Stan and I discussed it and we decided the beginning of next month.” She gave him a hopeful look, hoping that Tyler would accept it.

Tyler chuckled. “Okay, great. Then I can have a huge party here for my birthday.”

She giggled. “Well, it’s your place, sweetheart. You can do whatever you want. Besides, don’t you think it’s time you’re on your own anyway without me? You’ve got a good solid job now. I can tell Sam and Troy think a lot about you.”

“Well, it’s good to know they’re not gonna fire me after these last few weeks,” he replied. “Man, will I be glad when Andy’s back next week.”

“No. They really like you. And they trust you.”

Hearing that gave Tyler a warm feeling. He knew Troy and the others liked him, but it was nice hearing it confirmed by someone else. “Anything else you wanna tell me or can I go get in the shower and clean up?”

“Go,” she said. “Stan is picking me up around seven. Don’t wait up for me.” He turned to continue to his room, but his mom stopped him again. “Oh, wait. Did you call your father?”

Tyler frowned. “No.”

“Tyler, you should at least call him.”

“Not gonna happen.” He ended the conversation by going into his room and shutting the door. The last thing he wanted to think about was that again. He quickly rummaged through his drawers and pulled out some comfortable shorts and a tank top to wear to the bar. He wasn’t sure what was gonna be on tap, but he had an urge for their spicy burger and now he wanted a few serious drinks to go with it. He knew he’d have to pace himself though. Drake informed him the other day he was seeing someone in Pittsburgh. While he wasn’t clear exactly, it sounded serious. He wished him the best of luck while privately lamenting his sex life taking an unwanted hiatus.

He showered and got dressed, taking a few extra moments to style his hair before heading back the way he came. As he passed her, his mother was giving him a silent stare that slowed his pace. “What?”

Colleen shook her head and muttered, “nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

He sighed, knowing he messed up. “Ma, just go ahead and say what you’re thinking.”

She shrugged slightly. “It’s just that I’ve never seen you this angry before. I know you’re not wild about your father and I know you have every good reason not to be. But he’s still your father. You need to deal with this and not run from it.”

“Why is it so important to you?” Tyler couldn’t believe they were still having this discussion.

Colleen sighed. “If you don’t give him a chance… If you just ignore it and let him die without saying anything to him, then you’re gonna spend the rest of your life wondering what you might have said to him and what he may have said to you. I’m not asking you to see him for his sake. I want you to do this for you.”

He stood there, looking at her silently. Thinking it all through and wondering how right she might be. In the back of his mind, he’s had all those things he wanted to say to his dad. He had questions he wanted answers too. But he wasn’t sure he really wanted to hear the answers. “I need time to think about this,” he said finally. “Just give me some time.”

“Time may be something you don’t have a lot of, sweetheart,” she replied.

“I know. I’ll figure out what to do. Right now, I just need some space.”

“Okay then,” she said with a shrug. “Go on. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have a good night, Ma.” He walked out the door and headed to his truck, doing his best to dispel the dark cloud their talk had conjured up around him.

By the time he arrived at The Steel Door, Tyler had mostly put the conversation behind him. He walked in and headed to the bar to get a beer and grab a menu. The woman behind the bar greeted him cheerfully as she normally did and let him know she’d send someone out to get his order in a little bit. He smiled his thanks to her before looking around for a convenient place to sit. The was no baseball game on tonight so he only had pro-wrestling and soccer to choose from. As he took a seat off to the side, he was suddenly very glad he had a smartphone.

After he got his food order taken, Tyler occupied himself on his phone and occasionally glancing up at the television nearby. The soccer game was more interesting than the wrestling, he decided and focused his attention more on that. By the time his food arrived he was more than ready to eat. He’d had a very light lunch at work and the burger and onion rings were going to make him feel a lot better. As he ate, thoughts of his dad and his predicament drifted around his mind. The last thing he wanted to do was admit that his mother may have had a point.

He tried to remember back to the last time they were in the same room together. What he was like and how he sounded. He can remember being very young, when his parents were still married, how it felt to have his dad’s arms around him. He wasn’t a bad parent back then, that he could remember. The biggest puzzle in his thoughts was what had made his dad change? Maybe, if they talked, he could find out.

Tyler frowned darkly. Angry at himself for dwelling on it again. He finished up his burger and his beer before going to the bar to get another bottle. He pushed it all aside again, wishing he had a ball game to watch. That usually helped him clear his head. There was a determination inside him to want to just ignore it for tonight. Enjoy a well-earned night to relax and forget everything else. He contemplated texting Andy to see when he was going to get home and maybe hang out with him tomorrow if possible.

“Hey,” a familiar voice muttered behind Tyler setting his hair on the back of his neck to rise.

Tyler turned and looked up at him. He couldn’t deny the compelling eyes staring back at him or the oddly attractive short, spikey hair on top of his head. Despite all that, Tyler remembered their last encounter in this very spot weeks ago and how frustrated he felt then. He gave the guy a polite if indifferent smirk and nodded. “Hey.” He turned back around and waited to get his beer from the bartender.

His sense of vindication only lasted for a moment before guilt started to grow within him. While the guy may have been an asshole to him before, that didn’t make being an asshole back to him right. He sighed and got his beer. When he turned back, the guy was still looking at him and he gave a more friendly nod before heading back to his table. Tyler nursed his beer as he stared at the soccer game blankly and occasionally checked his phone.

It was only a few minutes later that he saw the guy approach him out of the corner of his eye. He wasn’t sure what to expect this time. Maybe another cold question followed by a silent retreat. Tyler turned his head to look at him as he slowed his approach, adding a little caution to his steps as he stopped at Tyler’s table. “You wanna shoot some pool?”

Tyler thought about it for a moment as he looked at the guy. He was forced to admit that he was bored and if something didn’t come along soon, he was going to go home. While this guy had been an asshole the last time they ran into each other, Tyler decided to go ahead and give it another shot. “What’s your name?”

“Alex,” the guy replied. One side of his lips tilted up slightly.

“Tyler.” He looked around and nodded to an unoccupied table in the corner. Alex followed behind Tyler, stopping to select a pool cue before getting the table ready. Tyler took a moment to find a cue before turning to Alex. “You live here in town,” he asked in a more casual voice as he stood and waited.

“Naw. Out by West Valley.” He kept his eyes on his work as he racked the balls.

“Not all that far then,” Tyler relied.

“About twenty minutes away, give or take.” His tone was less impersonal but still guarded. “Folks got a farm out there.”

“Is that what you do? Work out there? Come here on a weekend once in a while?”

“I’m a mechanic here in town,” he answered as he finished setting up before walking up and handing him the cue ball. “You can go ahead and break.”

Tyler shrugged, placed the cue ball on the table and took aim. He tried to stay calm as he struck the ball with his stick. The ball rocketed into the others, sending them in all directions. By the time all the balls on the table came to rest, none of them had fallen into any of the pockets. He kept his displeasure to himself and turned to Alex before stepping back from the table.

Alex took his turn, making his shot with a practiced ease saying, “stripes.”

Their game progressed slowly. Tyler was a little sloppy on some of his attempts and from what he could tell, either Alex was in a similar situation or he wasn’t trying that hard. As the time wore on, Alex’s pensiveness seemed to ease and there would be a rare, dimpled smile now and then on his face that Tyler thought made him look more attractive. There was little talk between them in that first game which Alex ended up winning other than short comments about their performance.

After they finished the first game, Alex spoke up. “Wanna grab another beer and have another go?”

“Sure,” he replied with a relaxed smile. “I’ll set up since I lost the last one.”

They both went to get another beer and Tyler got change to feed to the pool table. A few minutes later they were set for their rematch. Alex got the game started and seemed a little more relaxed, he allowed himself to be more talkative. “So, what is it you do?”

“Oh, I work for ‘Adam’s Construction,’” he said with a shrug. “Pays decent. Keeps me busy a lot. Especially now.”

“I see you haven’t been here with your friend much,” he commented. The tone of his voice made Tyler wonder about why he brought Drake up.

“How come your buddies aren’t here tonight like they usually are,” he countered, curious to see where this conversation was going.

Alex shrugged nonchalantly. “They had other things to do tonight, I guess. We only ever just happen to meet up here. Nothing planned.”

“Well, Drake’s got himself a date tonight so he’s in Pittsburgh again.” He leaned over the table to take his shot. “Seems like it could be serious.” He stood and turned to look at Alex just in time to see his eyes come up from where they’d been focused while Tyler was taking his turn. Alex’s face seemed to turn to stone again but Tyler thought he could detect a little tint of red on his cheeks. Tyler gave him a little smirk, letting him know he’d been caught. “Your turn.”

Alex didn’t react as he moved around to look over the table before leaning over to take a shot. “So, he’s got a date, then. And you two are just friends.”

“You sound surprised,” he remarked. He watched as Alex sent the cue ball flying across the table, connecting with one of the balls, sending it into the pocket.

He shrugged as he went around the table. “You two just seemed… I dunno… close.”

Tyler blinked in surprise. Had he been that obvious with Drake in public? Not that he minded all that much. But it was a bit of a shock to hear it from someone else. “Well… we’re really good friends. Not much to tell beyond that. But, it’s not like there was anything really intense between us.” He felt like smacking himself in the face being so obvious.

“Well, now I know, I guess.” Alex lined up his shot and struck the cue ball, but he over compensated and scratched.

Tyler retrieved the ball and looked over the table. “Looks like you got all flustered about it,” he said in a joking manner. It was telling that Alex made no reply as Tyler made his shot and went around to set up another. In his periphery, he could see Alex watching him thoughtfully. He was relaxed again, Tyler noticed, which hopefully boded well.

Their second game took longer than the first, but Alex managed a last minute victory. When the eight ball fell into the pocket, he smiled in a way that lit up his face allowing Tyler to see the handsome demeanor underneath the formerly stoic mask. That brought a smile to his own face and he congratulated him on his win. “I got lucky,” he said in response, looking into Tyler’s eyes with that smile still making his eyes shine.

“Well, maybe some of your luck will rub off on me in the next game. If you’re up for another one, that is.”

“Only if you let me buy this round,” Alex replied.

Tyler watched him walk away. His eyes were drawn to Alex’s backside again, with his slim profile. In the last hour, Alex had shown himself to be a totally different person from the man Tyler first met. It intrigued him and he wanted to know more about him. It felt like his first interaction with Drake, but this had something else involved. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. A strange new sensation that defied description.

He sat on a stool near the table they had been playing and waited for Alex to return. He checked his phone and found a message from Andy waiting for him. “I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon so quit worrying,” the message read. Tyler chuckled to himself before putting his phone in his pocket. When he looked up, Alex was returning with two beers in one hand and two beers in another. What caught his attention was how Alex’s face look so much more animated compared to when they first met. His smile came easy to his lips and his dark eyes shown as he kept his eyes on Tyler while he made his way back to the table.

“I figured I’d save us another trip,” he said as he handed two of the beers to Tyler.

“Thanks.” They both took a drink from their bottles. As they did, Tyler noticed that their eyes seemed to not want to look away. “So, you wanna break or is it my turn?”

“I’ll set it up. You can break this time.” Alex set his bottle down to get to work.

Tyler went to chalk up his stick while still watching Alex out of the corner of his eye. It might be the beer or the setting or the lights, but Tyler was starting to find him more and more attractive. Watching him move sent an odd thrill up his spine. His eyes seemed locked onto Alex as he was reaching for the balls to get them in the rack. His old worn tee shirt he had on seemed to compliment his body. Keeping everything covered but also offering hints as to what lay underneath. His jeans were also worn but in one piece. They had a look about them that suggested he’d been wearing them for a long time, and they had become a part of his character. Tyler took another drink to steady his nerves as he moved to the other end of the table.

Once Alex was finished setting up the table, he grabbed the cue ball and came around the table before setting it down in front of Tyler. Before Tyler could take it, Alex suddenly moved in behind him, put his hands on Tyler’s arms and started to vigorously rub his hands up and down his arms. “What the hell….?!” He couldn’t help but laugh at whatever it was Alex was doing.

Alex chuckled. His breath his Tyler’s ear and sent him shivering, almost turning his laughter into a moan. “You were wanting my luck to rub off on you. Thought I’d help out.” As soon as he finished speaking, he backed away from Tyler and went to grab his beer and take a long drink. Tyler noticed that even as Alex drank his beer, his eyes were still on him and a mischievous grin was on his lips.

As the night continued and their conversations became more personable, Tyler started to gain a real appreciation for Alex and his skill. Tyler ended up winning their third game, though he thought that perhaps Alex had thrown the game. After that, the two of them played a couple more times but Alex stayed near him and gave him assistance for Tyler’s shots. They’d both stopped drinking by that point and were spending more time just talking about other things.

When the last ball dropped into the pocket on the table, Alex turned to put his stick back where he found it. “I should be getting home. Gotta get to sleep at some point.”

“Yeah,” Tyler agreed. “I got stuff to do in the morning and I don’t wanna sleep the whole day away.”

They returned their empty beer bottles to the bar and headed out into the warm night air. “Thanks for the game,” Alex said. He sounded much more comfortable than he had at the beginning of the night. “I had a good time.”

“I should be thanking you,” Tyler replied, looking up at him with a smirk. “I was getting bored all by myself.”

“Well, we could do it again sometime if you want,” Alex offered.

Tyler gazed up at him, seeing a gleam in his eyes. “I’d like that.”

“Great. You have my number.”

“I do?”

“Yup,” he said with a chuckle. “I put it in your phone while you were taking a piss.”

Tyler was a little stunned but, he guessed that meant Alex must have liked him more than he thought. “Well, that’s a weird thing to do. But, sure, I can give you a call sometime and we can meet up.”

“Cool.” Alex looked around the deserted parking lot for a moment before he suddenly leaned in and kissed Tyler with a sudden passion and intensity that threatened to overwhelm the smaller young man. It lasted only a brief moment before Alex broke the kiss and backed away. His smile was a little bolder as he said in a husky voice, “I’d been wanting to do that all night. Hope to hear from you soon.” Without waiting for a reply, Alex turned and walked into the night and out of Tyler’s sight.

Tyler stood there, still wide eyed and stunned from the sudden turn of events. Alex hadn’t given him any indication that he was that interested in him, otherwise he may have been better prepared. But now, after it was done, Tyler’s only wish was that he’d done it sooner. One thing he knew for sure; He’d be ready the next time it happened.

Copyright © 2019 Jdonley75; All Rights Reserved.
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A possible romance for Tyler is a good thing! I am trying to remember if Alex appeared in "The Acquittal". If he did I don't remember. I am still really enjoying this story and these characters. Thanks. 

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Oh I guess we’re all about to play a guessing game on who would Tyler end up with. :)

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Tyler is so oblivious to his appeal, lol.

Sean and Alex.  Something tells me that Tyler will be seeing his first live baseball game soon and that Sean’s quirks may soon not be as annoying to Tyler, much like Alex’s.  Tho I still have Drake in the running, it’ll be interesting to see where Tyler’s relationships with both young men end up.

Thanks for the visit to Andy’s mom.  Seems like the remaining family are all guilty of not keeping in touch (like a lot of families).  Lisa has a special place in her heart for Blake, like I do, lol.  What an impish little charmer he is.  Lisa also knows about the feelings her son and Brian share for each other, wonder if that was something she and her husband both knew or if she kept that to herself.

Adams Construction seemed to be in flux, as I imagine is typical of that industry but were they ever in real trouble?

Good chapter....our orchard men were background material with the exception of Andy but there was still setting up for what is to come with David’s health and Tyler’s advent.

Edited by FanLit
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5 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

A possible romance for Tyler is a good thing! I am trying to remember if Alex appeared in "The Acquittal". If he did I don't remember. I am still really enjoying this story and these characters. Thanks. 

Other than the principle characters from "The Acquittal," most of the rest are all original to this story so don't bang your head against the desk trying to remember. :)

As for possible romances...  Well, it's definitely there.

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4 hours ago, nix said:

Oh I guess we’re all about to play a guessing game on who would Tyler end up with. :)

Oh.... if only it were that simple..... 😈

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2 hours ago, FanLit said:

Tyler is so oblivious to his appeal, lol.

Sean and Alex.  Something tells me that Tyler will be seeing his first live baseball game soon and that Sean’s quirks may soon not be as annoying to Tyler, much like Alex’s.  Tho I still have Drake in the running, it’ll be interesting to see where Tyler’s relationships with both young men end up.

Thanks for the visit to Andy’s mom.  Seems like the remaining family are all guilty of not keep in touch (like a lot of families).  Lisa has a special place in her heart for Blake, like I do, lol.  What an impish little charmer he is.  Lisa also knows about the feelings her son and Brian share for each other, wonder if that was something she and her husband both knew or if she kept that to herself.

Adams Construction seemed to be in flux, as I imagine is typical of that industry but were they ever in real trouble?

Good chapter....our orchard men were background material with the exception of Andy but there was still setting up for what is to come with David’s health and Tyler’s advent.

Tyler is cute in that he really doesn't see himself as attractive so whenever he is flirted with or anything more than that he's always shocked.

Tyler is going to be 22 soon (I know, right?) and that's kind of the time in a young man's life when those kinds of emotional relationships start to set the tone for his future.  What may or may not happens remains to be seen.

Andy's visit to his mom is short but it will have a larger affect to Andy's overall story, even if he doesn't know it yet.  Lisa loves her boys and her two grandchildren.   Her reasoning for leaving town was a little selfish.  After the death of her one true love, she couldn't go on living there alone, so she left to be in a place where she could continue to be a happy.

Sam's company is doing just fine.  So fine I can never find a way for Sam to be in a scene..

Andy.... David... Tyler.... their lives are going about how you'd imagine.  And then... 😉

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4 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

   Her reasoning for leaving town was a little selfish.  After the death of her one true love, she couldn't go on living there alone, so she left to be in a place where she could continue to be a happy.

 

Selfish indeed but sometimes we have to be to stay happy in life.

Any deets on what she looks like?

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8 hours ago, FanLit said:

Selfish indeed but sometimes we have to be to stay happy in life.

Any deets on what she looks like?

I was heading out the door to work this morning when I wrote that and I realized later that I didn't really get to finish my thought on Lisa.  Yeah, it would look to someone else like he left her kids behind when she left town.  However, looking back on it, she left while Andy was away in the marine corps and Nate was busy with his own life and not living in the same area.  She was lonely and being in the house she shared with her husband most of her life wasn't really a good thing for her.  So, she packed up and went back home to be with her family for her own benefit.

I kind of left what she looks like up to the readers to decide.  I might fill in more of her later, but her overall appearance kept shifting a little in my mind.

Edited by Jdonley75
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8 hours ago, mfa607 said:

Great chapter! Trying to figure Sean out. Thank you. 

You and me both... 😄

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3 hours ago, spikey582 said:

Not entirely sure what to think of Alex just yet, for whatever reason he doesn’t feel like the right fit for Tyler.  I like Sean though, and still trying to figure him out as well.

I gotta say, when I’ve read certain points of view in this story, I have had to go back to the Acquittal and read sections of that story again.  Just to remind myself that it’s all going to be okay for them after all.

I'm not going to give anything away about Alex or Sean.  I think their performances will speak for themselves in time.  Besides, you like my surprises, right?

Yeah.  The next few chapters are probably going to bring some moments from the last book to mind.  Everyone seems to be running on hope for the moment.  And while I think hope is a good thing overall, it's not something you wanna sustain yourself on forever.

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Tyler is going to have to deal with his Dad soon.  I'm with Colleen on this - he'll regret it if he doesn't.

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5 hours ago, Brokenbind said:

Tyler is going to have to deal with his Dad soon.  I'm with Colleen on this - he'll regret it if he doesn't.

You may very well be right in that.

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I’m on Team Alex. I like his confidence once he knew the coast was clear. Sean seems needy to me, always asking for Tyler’s approval. Also, I don’t know how Tyler got it into his mind that Sean is from a poor background — his clothes were nice when he showed up and he looked like he’d never done a day of manual labor. I think it’ll be between Sean, who has the means to take Tyler to a ballgame and more; and Alex, who may have experienced a similar financial upbringing and is more assured in his approach. Either way, Tyler’s romantic life is looking up.

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On 7/20/2019 at 10:37 AM, Geemeedee said:

I’m on Team Alex. I like his confidence once he knew the coast was clear. Sean seems needy to me, always asking for Tyler’s approval. Also, I don’t know how Tyler got it into his mind that Sean is from a poor background — his clothes were nice when he showed up and he looked like he’d never done a day of manual labor. I think it’ll be between Sean, who has the means to take Tyler to a ballgame and more; and Alex, who may have experienced a similar financial upbringing and is more assured in his approach. Either way, Tyler’s romantic life is looking up.

(Dunno how I missed this comment earlier)

There's a lot of ambiguity in Sean that makes him hard to tack down.  For all we know he could have gotten all of those things from less than reputable means?

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I think I’m like Tyler, it’s taken me a long time to believe it when people used to tell me how good looking I was in my twenties and thirties. I suffer from Cognitive Dissonance and that’s one of many situations where my brain tells me one thing and people tell me something else that I just cannot believe. And I am not attracted to people who look like me because I am not my type. You’ll never see me dating someone who looks like my clone, I am not a narcissist.
;–)

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I am wary of both Alex and Sean. Alex seems like he’s very closeted. Sean just doesn’t feel right. I think Tyler should hold out for something better…
;–)

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12 hours ago, droughtquake said:

I think I’m like Tyler, it’s taken me a long time to believe it when people used to tell me how good looking I was in my twenties and thirties. I suffer from Cognitive Dissonance and that’s one of many situations where my brain tells me one thing and people tell me something else that I just cannot believe. And I am not attracted to people who look like me because I am not my type. You’ll never see me dating someone who looks like my clone, I am not a narcissist.
;–)

I have a hard time accepting a compliment because I very rarely got them growing up and I tend to not see anything I do as noteworthy.  Pretty sure the two are related. 🤣

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12 hours ago, droughtquake said:

I am wary of both Alex and Sean. Alex seems like he’s very closeted. Sean just doesn’t feel right. I think Tyler should hold out for something better…
;–)

Have you ever known a 22 year old man to make a good decision regarding their love life?

Neither have I. 😆

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As they cleaned up the sight,  As they cleaned up the site, 
more confidence than he felt.   more confidence than she felt.
wanted answers too   wanted answers to
“Not all that far then,” Tyler relied.  “Not all that far then,” Tyler replied.
 became more personable    became more personal.

Edited by Will Hawkins
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On 10/15/2019 at 5:53 AM, Former Member said:

I am wary of both Alex and Sean. Alex seems like he’s very closeted. Sean just doesn’t feel right. I think Tyler should hold out for something better…
;–)

You're right about one of them. Re-reading a story later makes stuff like this difficult, but you know how it turns out in the end.

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4 hours ago, G90814 said:

You're right about one of them. Re-reading a story later makes stuff like this difficult, but you know how it turns out in the end.

The less pleasant parts (Especially regarding Alex) are in fact still difficult for me to read as well.  I wish Tyler hadn't fallen for him but that's how the story went.  One of the more annoying aspects of having written this series is that no matter how hard I tried to change some of the situations I found that I couldn't.  Where Tyler was more bright and forward thinking in the other areas of his life, his love life had a pretty shitty start.  In the end though, I think his experience with Alex made him a better person in the long run.  Now, he understands how easy it can happen to anyone getting caught up in an abusive relationship and knows how to help someone that might be in the same scenario in the future.

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