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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 - 6. Chapter 6

“I thought the last place looked nice,” Colleen said in a diplomatic tone.

“No way,” Tyler shook his head emphatically. “There were cockroaches in the bathroom. No way are we staying there for eight hundred a month.”

Colleen sighed and stared blankly out of the passenger side window of her son’s truck. They’d spent the last two weeks looking over houses for rent, apartments, even another trailer park that was twenty miles north of town. None of what they found they could agree upon. The best option they had found so far was a one-bedroom place that was neat and clean and for five hundred dollars a month, it was within reason for their budget. But, with only the one bedroom, there was no chance that Tyler could have slept on the couch for the rest of his life. “How many more places are we looking at today?”

“There’s three more on the list,” he answered. “Let’s hope we get lucky.”

Tyler had taken the day off work, telling Troy and Andy he had some personal things he needed to take care of. They hadn’t pressed him on what it was but told him if he needed anything to just ask. He couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t tell them what was going on, but he just wanted to keep it to himself for a while. Once he finds a new place to live, then he’ll tell them. Was is shame? It might have something to do with the fact that being poor was generally looked down upon and so he went out of his way to never appear as poor as he was or felt.

He drove to the east side of town, staying silent but trying to keep a positive attitude. Tyler had spent the last week feeling more and more anxious about moving. While he was looking forward to finally getting out of the trailer park (even if it wasn’t really a choice) the thought that he was going to be the primary renter of wherever they ended up wasn’t making him feel any better about himself. While he was proud that he had a good job that allowed him to get something better than what they had now, he also was aware that his mother was going to have to rely on him for the foreseeable future. Any dream of having a place of his own was gone for the time being.

For as far back as he could remember, Tyler had had dreams about what he wanted to be and to do. He wanted to go to college, play baseball and get a job better than sweating in a hot sun all week long. He wanted to go places and see new things. Take trips around the country and even around the world at some point. It wasn’t wealth or riches he was focused on. He just wanted to live! Yet, for all that passion and desire, he always felt as if he was just existing. Going from one moment to the next, trying to make it the best way he could. And each time Life denied him one of his dreams, he imagined it being tossed down into a black pit that grew a little bigger each time another dream of his silently died. This time, it was feeling almost too much to bear on his own.

As the truck made its way through the residential neighborhood, he had a sinking suspicion that they were in for another disappointment. As he turned onto the street he had listed on his paper, his heart fell. He saw the dilapidated house that matched the address he’d written down. He slowed to a stop as he pulled to the curb and stared dully at it. The house had been painted brown probably before he was even born. The siding appeared to be made of wooden slats and some of them were missing, exposing the insulation which also looked like it had seen better days. The windows were dirty, and the front porch appeared to be ready to collapse in on itself at any moment.

Tyler sighed as he stared at it. “Should we even bother getting out?”

Colleen looked at the pathetic house. Her own thoughts almost as dark as her son’s. “Guess not.” She tried to avoid turning her head to better hide her look of resignation and tried to put more optimism in her voice. “Let’s try the next one.”

Tyler pulled away from the curb and headed as far away from that nightmarish house as he could. He was starting to wish he could get as far away from this nightmarish life he found himself trapped inside as well. September had the cooler breezes of Autumn in the air but that wasn’t the only thing that was cooling in Tyler’s life.

Drake seemed a little busier than usual lately. He claimed he was busy with work and Tyler could only take his word for it. And with him and his mother looking every weekend he could at potential new places to live, their time together had been limited. In fact, he’d only managed to spend two nights at Drake’s house for the last three weeks. The sex had been just as good, but there was this new unspoken gap between them. Tyler had no idea what the problem was or how to fix it. The only thing he knew to do was to just take what’s given to him and make the best of it. It was starting to look like Drake was going to be another desire of his going into that pit inside him. But, then again, he figured, Drake was nice, and he was special, but there was this thing missing between them. Tyler couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew that their relationship was always going to be just as friends and never anything more than that.

They arrived at their next stop. At first glance, the house seemed nice. But, Tyler reasoned, anything would look nice compared to the last few places they looked at. They got out of the truck and walked up the driveway to the front of the house. “We’re early,” he noted as they started looking around the outside of the house.

Colleen squinted and looked through a window into the house. “It looks clean from out here,” she said.

Tyler was looking up, checking how the gutters and roofing looked. “Well, maybe we finally caught a break.”

A few minutes later, an old sedan pulled up behind Tyler’s truck and a middle-aged man got out, walking up to them. “Afternoon… You the Brewers?”

“Yes, sir,” Tyler replied as he turned to greet the man.

The man moved past him and walked up to Colleen and extended his hand. “Al Tucker. Pleased to meet you.”

Colleen shook his hand and smiled. “Thanks for meeting us here. I’m Colleen and this is my son, Tyler.”

The man finally spared him a glance and a nod before reaching into his pocket for a set of keys. “Well, let’s head inside and let you two take a look around the place.” Tyler frowned a little being so casually dismissed by the landlord, considering it was his money that would be paying for the place.

When the two of them followed the landlord into the house Colleen’s face relaxed with a small amount of relief at the sight of the room with the clean walls, carpet and baseboards all in good condition. She nodded and looked to her son with an approving smile as she stepped towards the kitchen. Al followed in behind her with Tyler coming up behind him. “I went through and patched up any holes and double checked to make sure everything was in working order.”

“The listing said there was a washer and dryer here in the house,” she queried as she inspected the cabinets.

The old man smiled and nodded. “Yup. And they work just fine. I did a load of my own two days ago in them just to make sure.”

Tyler realized the guy wasn’t going to talk to him directly. “Ma, I’m gonna go check the basement.” She nodded as she moved out of the kitchen and went looking in the other rooms.

He kept the door open as he descended the stairs, keeping one ear on his mom as he got his small flashlight out of his pocket and went looking for any problems with the water heater or the furnace. Tyler took his time as he scanned the areas around the furnace and the water heater and was a little surprised to find no problems. In the last few houses he looked at there had been signs of age and rusting. He did a cursory glance of the rest of the basement but found nothing amiss in the empty room, so he headed back upstairs.

Following the sounds of voices, he stepped into the larger of the two bedrooms and saw his mother looking around as the landlord was speaking. “The place was last lived in by an older couple for the last few years. But she passed away last year, and their kids put him in a retirement home down in Florida. They kept the place pretty neat and clean on their own. I have someone drop by once every ten days to do the lawn, but you’ll need to have your boy here shovel any snow you get off the driveway.”

Tyler glared at the back of the man’s head but held his temper in check. “How much is the deposit again,” he asked as he stepped inside.

The man looked at him, with a look on his face like he didn’t understand why he was asking. “First and last month’s rent so that’s fourteen hundred. Rent is due at the end of every month.”

Tyler turned to his mom. “I can get the rest of that in the next paycheck. But we still got one more place to look at today.”

Colleen looked at him a little confused. “You don’t like it?”

“It’s okay,” he said, purposefully sounding unimpressed and pointedly not looking at the man who’d all but ignored him when he was going to be the one paying for the place.

“Well, there’s no need to rush,” Al said. “Give the kid some time to keep looking around, I guess. I don’t have anyone else coming to look at the house until next week.”

Tyler knew it was probably a good place, but he was tired of this guy treating him like he was inconsequential. “Well, I guess the sooner we take a look at the next place, the sooner we can make a decision.”

The older man had his full attention on Tyler now. “Well, hope you make it soon.”

“We have your number, Mr. Tucker,” Colleen said, getting in between the two of them and looking at her son with a raised eyebrow. “We’ll be in touch within a day or so.”

They said their goodbyes at the door and Tyler opened the door of the truck for his mom who said nothing until he was in the truck and pulling away from the house. “What was that all about?”

Tyler grumbled, “gettin’ tired of being treated like a kid. That old asshole didn’t even look at me until he realized I was the one that was gonna be paying the rent.”

Colleen barely suppressed a chuckle. “Sweetheart, you’re only twenty-one. And you have a baby face. Everyone who doesn’t know you is going to think you’re still a high school kid for a couple years. Enjoy it now while it lasts.”

His frown eased slightly. “Let’s take a look at the next one and see what we see. Then we gotta get back to the trailer so I can get cleaned up.”

“Hot date?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “No. Jacob invited me to his place for dinner is all.”

“Sounds like a date…”

“It’s not.”

“What about that other guy?”

“Drake’s been busy a lot with work lately.” He was proud of himself for keeping any disappointment he may have felt out of his voice.

“How come I haven’t met any of these boys?”

Tyler groaned but it turned into a laugh, despite himself. “They’re not boys. Jacob’s Thirty years old and Drake is even older.”

“How much older,” she asked with a little more concern in her voice.

“Thirty-two or three, I think.”

Colleen stared over at her son. “Thirty-two?! Shouldn’t you be spending time with people your own age?”

Tyler shrugged. “I like hanging out with them. Well, the sex is fun too.”

“You’re having sex with both of them?!”

Tyler laughed at the idea. “No! Just Drake. For a couple months now. It’s no big deal. We’re not a couple or anything.”

“Just having sex…” Colleen wasn’t sure how she felt about her only son having casual sex.

“Friends,” he replied. “We have fun doing stuff together. Having some beers, watching baseball. Then we have sex at his place.”

Colleen rolled her eyes. “Alright. Don’t think I need to know any more.”

Tyler smirked. “Good, because that’s about all I’m gonna tell you anyway.” She chuckled and dropped the matter.

They got to the final address on their list and did a quick look around the place. It was decent but the owner wanted a lot more than what they wanted to pay. They politely went through the house so the man didn’t feel like it was a waste of time and thanked him before letting him know they would let him know by the end of the week. They mutually agreed that the house before was the best choice they’d seen so far.

Tyler was quick to get cleaned up and change before leaving again and heading out to the farm for dinner with Jacob and his dad. As he drove, he started to wonder if this was a date he was going to? And, even if it wasn’t, could he turn it into a date? Jacob always seemed a little lonely. Even though there were occasional times he would run into him at the gym and working together from time to time, Jacob always seemed a little distant. He could warm up whenever Andy or Troy was nearby and his smiles would come easier, but the moment they were alone, his eyes would be more introspective. Tyler was hoping when he got there, he would see the friendlier Jacob. And he was desperately hoping Mr. Howard was going to be friendly.

He parked his truck and walked up the ramp leading to the back door of the house. Having been here enough times by now, he knew that while it wasn’t exactly frowned upon to come to the front door, it was more acceptable to go to the back door. The moment he got to the door he realized that he’d never been here by himself. It wasn’t his house and while he was invited and the back door was certainly less formal, he didn’t feel he had the right to just walk in. So, as odd as it felt to be doing it, he knocked on the door and waited.

It wasn’t a long wait before the door open and David appeared on the other side with a slightly perplexed smirk on his face. “Tyler? Did you just knock?”

Tyler shrugged and smiled a little. “Wasn’t sure what else to do.”

David chuckled and moved aside. “Guess I’m not used to having new people over. Come on in. Dinner will be awhile.” He closed the door after Tyler stepped into the kitchen. “You want something to drink?”

Tyler felt a little relief. It sounded like David was in a good mood today. “Sure. Water’s fine. Where’s Jacob?”

“Upstairs taking a shower.” David moved back to the stove where there was something in a pan sizzling. “He’s been working most of the day in that shop of his. Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge.”

“Thanks.” Tyler went to the fridge and pulled out a bottled water. “So, what’s for dinner tonight?”

David grinned. “Pork chops. Marinated in a Caribbean jerk sauce. Got some green beans and some mashed potatoes to go with it. Hope you like spicy.”

Tyler sat at the table and took a drink of his water. “I’m fine with spicy. I’m surprised there’s no apples involved.”

“The apples are in the salad,” he replied glancing back at the young man at his table. “And in the pies.”

Tyler chuckled a little and sat back in the chair. “Sounds like a good dinner to me.”

“Well, if there’s any left over, you can take some home to your mom.” He moved to the counter to grab a few things to add to the pork. “How has she been lately, anyway?”

“She, ah,” he hesitated for a moment. “She’s fine. We were busy earlier today, running some errands.”

David nodded absently. “Maybe you should invite her along next time you come visit.”

“We’ll see,” he replied. Right now, the last thing he wanted was his mom around while he was with Jacob.

The sound of footsteps echoed through the house and Tyler looked over at the doorway until Jacob stepped in, looking relaxed with slightly damp hair. He had a simple white shirt and jeans on. Tyler smiled and Jacob nodded and smiled back as he headed to the fridge. “Hey, Tyler. How’s it been?”

“Oh, doing good,” he said as he watched Jacob move through the kitchen, trying hard not to obviously look over every inch of his body he could while he was grabbing a bottle. “Was busy with stuff today.”

“Busy with what,” Jacob asked as he sat across the table from him.

“Oh… nothing big,” he demurred.

Jacob raised an eyebrow, looking unconvinced. “Had to be something slightly big if you took the day off.”

“Well, Troy said it was okay,” he flushed slightly like a kid caught playing hooky.

Jacob chuckled. “I don’t mind that. Just saying, you’re not the kind of guy who just takes off work for nothing important.”

“Thanks. I try not too.”

“So, what was it you were doing today?”

As much as he didn’t want to make a big deal out of all of it, he also couldn’t bring himself to lie to Jacob. “Ma and I were out looking for a new place to live.”

“Oh.” Jacob smiled slightly. “Getting tired of living in that trailer park, huh?”

“More like we don’t have a choice.” Despite himself, he couldn’t keep all the bitterness of it all out of his voice. “They sold the place. Everyone has to be out by the end of the year.”

Jacob sat back in his chair, the most curious look, as if he’d been told the best and worst news of his life. Tyler had never seen a look like that before and he started to get a little concerned as Jacob sat there wordlessly staring at nothing. Even David, upon hearing the news, turned to look over at the table, watching the two of them as Jacob absorbed what Tyler had just shared. His eyes centered on Jacob, watching his reaction. After a long silence where only the sizzle of pork chops cooking on the stove was in the air David finally asked in a voice of concern not unlike Tyler’s mother would use, “Jacob? You alright, son?”

Jacob blinked once, his countenance returning to something closer to normal as he replied in an odd tone, “yeah. Yeah. I’m fine.” He shook his head slightly and added in a clearer voice, “Good. I’m glad they’re tearing that place down. Sorry if it’s been a problem for you though.”

Tyler shrugged. “We saw a place we both liked. I can afford it, so it’ll probably end up being our new home.”

“Sounds like a good thing to me then,” David commented as he scooped out the last of the pork chops and placed them onto a tray. “Dinner’s ready. Jacob, get the salad out and let’s start serving.”

David and Jacob both moved about the kitchen, getting plates, silverware and everything else to set on the table before serving the meal David prepared for them. Tyler watched them both and felt a small pang of regret that he never got to share a moment with his own father like they were having. Their movements and their light banter as they sat down at the table made him wish he could have had a father like David.

The three of them settled into their seats and began to eat. Tyler found the food very much to his liking. He and his mother weren’t the best cooks in the world and did what they could to just get by, so they lacked the resources to prepare a meal much like the one he was eating here. Discussion was light but pleasant between the three of them in the beginning. Jacob talked about his workshop now that he had it up and running. He had a look of quiet pride on his face talking about the few jobs he had taken on in the last few weeks. David talked about finishing up the harvest for the year and the complexity of gathering all the apples that were left after closing down the tourist side of things for the year. Tyler learned about how David used to travel all around western Pennsylvania years ago to farmers markets selling some of his produce until his son started high school. After that, he opted to start opening the orchard to individuals and charging admission per basket. Over the years, with Jacob’s help, he added new apples and some other items of interest for those willing to pay for them like apple butter and some premade pies that he lets volunteers make and keep part of the profits every year.

“So, now that you got your workshop up and running, what’re you gonna do with it,” Tyler asked as David cleared the table and started slicing up the pie.

“For the most part, it’s going to be the usual stuff. Furniture, cabinets and stuff like that,” he replied. “What I’m hoping to end up doing is stuff with a little more artistic flair to it. I want to stand out a little more in the area.”

“If what you did here is any clue,” David said as he put two slices of apple pie in front of them, “then you’re going to do just fine.”

Jacob’s cheeks tinted slightly as the corners of his mouth tilted up slightly. “Thanks.”

David retrieved his own slice of pie before sitting down. “Known him since he was a kid in high school,” he said to Tyler as he pointed a thumb at Jacob. “Quiet, a little shy sometimes. I think it was two or three months before I finally saw a smile on his face. Doesn’t say much but you could tell he’s a good kid. He starts working as a carpenter and he says to me one day, ‘hey, you mind if I replace some of the old molding on the walls?’ I tell him sure, if he wants. I get busy with my own work and forget about it.” His lips spring up in a smile that Tyler can’t help but share as Jacob’s face turns redder and he starts to look away, despite the smile growing.

“I come in one day and all the bordering on the ceilings is gone and replaced with all this stuff you see here,” he continues, pointing towards the edges of the ceilings where pieces of wooden trim went around the ceiling with intricate carvings in them in a whirling pattern not unlike ivy. It wasn’t just a repeating pattern, Tyler noticed. It had an organic look to it as it went around the room. “I look all around the house, seeing this and I think to myself, ‘Christ, he must’ve spent a fortune on this.!’ I ask him where he got it and he tells me at the hardware store. Well, what about the design in it? ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘I did all that myself.’” David chuckles and glances at a slightly embarrassed Jacob. “All these years, he never once let on he’s got a gift for artistry.” The obvious pride David had for Jacob was clear in his tone.

"I never thought it would be useful, I guess,” Jacob said with a dismissive shrug.

“You guessed wrong.” David ate the last bite of his pie before standing and removing the dirty dishes from the table. “Why don’t you two get out of here and I’ll get all this cleaned up.”

“Yes, sir,” Jacob replied with a half smirk. David gave him a playful frown before they both chuckled. “Let’s go take a walk, Tyler.”

“Sure.” Tyler rose obediently and followed him out the back door. The sun was just starting to touch the horizon beyond the orchard and Tyler zipped up his jacket, knowing the evening air could get chilly. Jacob had on a similar jacket as he led Tyler down the path leading into the expanse of apple trees.

“Well,” Jacob began with a relaxed sigh, “glad today is my off day from the gym. I’d be too sore to move right now if I’d gone out there.”

“How often are you going there now?” Tyler walked next to Jacob, not wanting to be too close but also not too far away in case Jacob wanted to touch him.

“Every other day. I’m feeling better than I have in years.”

“Drake mentioned you looked a lot different from the last time he saw you.”

Jacob nodded absently. “Last time he saw me I was still drinking a lot. I more or less avoided him and a lot of the other people I used to know back then.”

Tyler started feeling a little uncomfortable, given his situation with Drake. “Oh… So, they were part of the problem with your drinking?”

“Oh, no,” Jacob replied. “It’s no one’s fault by my own.”

“So, why did you avoid him?”

“It’s complicated. It was part of my therapy. When I finally admitted I had a problem, I didn’t want to take the AA route. So, I went to a substance abuse therapist. Part of that was learning to avoid the places I used to go where I would drink, get drunk and do stupid things.” He was quiet as they kept a slow pace while they talked. “It wasn’t easy. I like Drake. But I didn’t want to get involved in all that and I didn’t want him or anyone else just thinking of me as that guy I used to be. That’s probably confusing, I know. I don’t dislike him. I just… I’m not going to be going back to bars anymore. And that’s where I’d always meet with him.”

Tyler nodded. “I think I understand.”

They continued walking in silence for a few minutes. Tyler wasn’t sure what to say and it looked to him like Jacob was working his way up to something. Eventually, Jacob stopped next to a tree and turned to look at Tyler. “I have something I need to ask you. I’m not really comfortable about saying it like this but I can’t find another way to say it.”

Tyler stared at him as he felt himself tense up inside. Was this actually a date the whole time and he wasn’t aware of it? “Well… just… say what you feel.” He braced himself for what he was about to hear.

Jacob sighed, looked down at the ground for a moment before looking back up at him. “How has Andy been the last couple weeks?”

“Andy?!” That had been the furthest thing from his mind in that moment. “What about him?”

Jacob frowned slightly. “He’s been real quiet for a while now. He hasn’t been by here and I barely get any kind of reply from him on text messages. Troy hasn’t gotten much from him either. He hasn’t pressed him about Stacy because when he’s tried, Andy gets real pissed when you mention her. I was just wondering what he’s been like lately since you’ve spent more time with him than the rest of us have.”

Tyler was still emotionally reeling from the unexpected turn of their conversation. “Uh… well, he has been a little quieter than usual. What about his kids? Who’s been taking care of them?”

Jacob’s eyes took on a worried gaze. “I don’t know. It’s almost like he’s been avoiding us.”

“Why would he do that?” Tyler’s personal problem started to take on less meaning now as he centered more on his friend.

Jacob sighed. “It’s… complicated. It’s not that I don’t trust you to tell you. It’s a very personal problem with Andy and I can’t really talk about it. What does he talk about with you when you’re working with him?”

Tyler looked around as he pondered the question. “Well, he has been a little quiet. But anytime I’ve talked to him he’s seemed normal. I mean, nothing that came off as weird, you know?”

Jacob’s eyes never left him as he took it all in, nodding a little. “Well, that’s something at least.” He frowned again as he thought it all through. “I need to ask a favor of you.”

“Sure. What is it?”

“I want you to go spend time with him when you have a chance. I don’t know what he’s been doing or who he’s been hanging out with. I’d feel a lot better if I knew someone was there with him who I trusted.”

Tyler cringed a little. “I’m not that good at inviting myself to peoples’ houses.”

Jacob grinned. “Trust me, I know what you mean. But, if he’s your friend, you should do this. He’s in a really bad place right now. For his own reasons, he doesn’t want to talk to me or Troy or even Dad right now. I could go with you, if you want. But I think you’d get a better reception on your own than with me.”

He stood there, quietly thinking about it. He wasn’t wild about the idea of getting involved in someone else’s business but from the way it sounds, he might be able to make a difference. But, in truth, what it came down to in his mind was doing something for Jacob and hopefully looking good in his eyes. “I’ll try. Maybe talk to him about getting together to watch the game or something sometime.”

Jacob exhaled in obvious relief. “I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you’ll do this for me.”

Seeing Jacob’s smile was reward enough for now, he figured. “So, what should I look for and tell you about?”

“Just, whatever sounds weird, I guess,” he replied with a shrug. He looked around, his eyes taking in the fading light of the sunset. Tyler watched his eyes settle on a small hill in the distance. He stared for a moment as Tyler thought he saw a soft, melancholy gaze in his blue eyes before he sighed and refocused his attention on Tyler. His smile returned as he clapped his hand on Tyler’s should. “Let’s head back inside and see if Dad has fallen asleep yet.”

They chuckled slightly. “I guess, you brought me out here to talk about this privately?”

Jacob smirked as they walked back up the path to the house. “See? Handsome and smart.”

Tyler’s eyebrows rose as his face beamed for a moment. Jacob thought he was handsome!

They came back in through the back door and followed the sound of the tv in the front room where David was watching the local news.

“A college freshman succumbed to his injuries this morning at Pinnacle Medical Center this afternoon.

“Nineteen-year-old Jeremy Alberra suffered severe trauma to his head and chest a week ago during what police are now calling a fraternity hazing ritual. Investigators are looking over the Elizabethtown college dormitory where the anonymous 911 call was made. One official said they had recovered security footage and are questioning the other students in the hall. So far, the state’s attorney’s office has declined to comment, due to this being an ongoing investigation.”

David was leaned back on one of the sofas, shaking his head sadly. “Poor kid.”

“Stupid assholes,” Jacob muttered as he moved to sit down. Tyler followed suit and sat down near Jacob.

“Makes me kinda glad I didn’t go to college,” he remarked, looking over at Jacob.

Jacob chuckled quietly before saying, “isn’t there a Pirates game on right now?”

David gave Jacob a faux annoyed look before pressing the remote, changing from the news to the night’s baseball game.

 

 

****

 

 

It was midway through the next week when Tyler finally got a moment alone with Andy at work. Tyler was grabbing his jacket from his truck as the wind brought a slight chill through the area when he noticed Andy going to his truck, ready to go to lunch. On impulse, he called out to him. “Hey, Andy! Where you headed?”

“Thinking about Subway,” he replied.

Tyler waved him over. “I’m headed there too. Come on, I’ll drive.”

Andy seemed to hesitate for a second before he smirked and headed over to him. “Just so you know, this isn’t a date,” he said in a low but humorous voice.

Tyler chuckled and nodded. “I’ll buy anyway.”

They climbed into the truck and headed off down the road. It was a short trip to the local Subway in the area. Business was fairly slow, allowing them to quickly get their meals. Tyler suggested they sit and eat there and headed over to a table before Andy could raise any objections. “Sure was nice of you offering to pay for lunch,” Andy remarked as they sat down at a table.

“I owed you,” Tyler replied with a playful smirk. They enjoyed their sandwiches in silence for a few minutes before he finally spoke up. “So, how are the kids lately?”

Andy looked surprised by the question. “They’re okay… Next door neighbor has been watching Blake all day. Tanner’s bus drops him right off, so he knows to just go right over. All in all, they’re doing good.”

Tyler nodded. “That’s good to hear. I was at Jacob’s last week. He was wondering about you.”

Andy grinned as he sat back in his seat. “So that’s what this is about? Jacob’s checking up on me?”

“I think they’re both just worried because they hadn’t heard from you is all.” Tyler had decided he wasn’t going to lie or hold anything back. He didn’t want Andy to think he was hiding something from him. “How come you haven’t been around to see them lately?”

Andy chuckled silently and shook his head. “Well, we’ve been working a lot, if you haven’t noticed. Plus, I got two kids to take care of on my own. The lady next door offered to take care of them while I’m at work and that’s just a lot easier than trucking them across town. And after work, I’m tired and I got tons of stuff at home to do, not to mention talking to lawyers while I’m going through a divorce.”

Tyler smirked. “So, what you’re saying is, you’ve just been busy.”

“Exactly.” Andy took another bite of his food, his eyes on Tyler as he chewed. “Jacob worries too much, is what it is.”

Tyler shrugs. “You’re his friend. Maybe you should call him when you get a chance tonight?”

“We’ll see. Maybe I’ll let him stew a little while longer just to see if he starts sending the cops over to check on me.” Andy’s green eyes glimmered with mischief at the idea.

Tyler laughed. “You’re mean. Hey, maybe you should get a sitter and join me at the bar later this week? We could watch the game and have some beers.”

“Would love to, but I don’t like asking her too often and feel like I’m taking advantage of her.” Andy was quiet for a moment before adding, “but if you wanted to stop by that’d be fine. Could get a pizza and some beers. Might not be as exciting at the bar and you’re not gonna get laid at the end of the night, but it could be fun.”

Tyler thought about it. It would mean basically having to cancel on Drake. But he could stop by his place later if he was free. Even though Andy sounded and acted normal, he probably could use a friend to just hang out with while taking care of his kids at the same time. “Sure. Sounds like fun. I’ll bring the beer; you order the pizza.”

Andy grinned. “Awesome.”

 

 

****

 

 

Drake was sitting across from Tyler at their usual table at the bar. Tyler had just finished explaining to him about Andy’s divorce and how he needed to be there for him. Drake listened to him tell the entire story without interrupting. It was hard to keep a grin off his face, seeing how nervous Tyler was when he was explaining having to cancel their usual Friday night get together. “Okay. I understand. You’re concerned about your friend, so you want to spend some time with him. I can understand that.”

Tyler looked relieved as he sat back in his seat. “I was thinking maybe Saturday we could get dinner or something. To make it up to you and all.”

Drake laughed. “Tyler, you don’t have to make anything up to me. I never expected to take up all your time. And, besides, there’s other things I can do.” He lowered his voice a little and leaned in towards him. “It’s not like we’re dating or anything. I told you when we first started this that it wasn’t something serious.”

“I know,” he replied. “I just didn’t want you to think I was blowing you off or anything.”

“And I appreciate that.” Drake’s lips rose in a playful grin. “Besides, it’s Jacob you got the hots for.”

Tyler stared at him for a moment as his lips slowly inched up. “Maybe. Can’t blame me.”

“No, I can’t,” he replied with a chuckle. “He’s a good guy. But I wouldn’t get your hopes up. He’s got more skeletons in his closet than you’d guess.”

Tyler frowned, wondering how Drake knew so much about Jacob. “Like what?”

Drake shook his head. “Sorry. I’m not gonna talk about what people say to me when they’re too drunk to know better.”

Tyler thought about it for a moment and shrugged. “People change. He seems to like me well enough.”

“I guess it doesn’t hurt to try,” Drake said with a shrug. “How’s your plans for your move coming along?”

Tyler felt a sense of relief that he didn’t have to explain himself anymore. In a lot of ways, Drake was right in that they weren’t really dating or that Tyler had any obligation to him, but he still felt like he was disappointing him. If Drake was changing the subject, it told him that he was fine, and it didn’t need to be discussed any further. “I’m gonna give the guy the deposit in a week once I get my next paycheck. Me and Ma are gonna be a little more poor than usual for a while after that. But give it a month or two and we should be fine. The plan is to move in sometime in December before the weather gets bad. Plus, no need to give any kind of notice when we leave the trailer park since it’s all gonna be cleared anyway.”

Drake seemed pleased as he nodded. “Sounds like you have things headed in the right direction. Just make sure you don’t overextend yourself. Never know what could happen.”

He giggled slightly and replied, “I’ll be fine. Troy made it sound like we were gonna be working a lot even after it starts getting cold out. As long as there’s no snow or anything, I should have a lot to do at work.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” Drake replied.

They ordered some burgers to go with their beers and spent the next hour talking about the playoffs and the current football season. Football wasn’t Tyler’s most favorite sport to watch but it got Drake’s interest, so he went along with the conversation. After they finished eating, they walked out to their cars together. Drake gave Tyler a friendly hug and said he told him to call if he wasn’t busy on Sunday before they both drove away into the night heading to their separate homes.

 

 

****

 

 

Tyler knocked on the door to Andy’s house just as the last rays of the sun were fading into the night. When Andy opened the door, he grinned at the sight of the young man carrying a case of beer in each hand. “Jesus, boy, what makes you think we’re gonna drink all that in one night?” He stepped aside giving Tyler room to step into the house.

“Well, I wasn’t sure, and I said I’d buy the beer,” he replied. “What we don’t drink you can just save for next time. I hope Bud Light is good enough for ya.”

“I hope Pizza Hut is good enough for you,” Andy responded as he closed the door. “Got pizza and wings which should be enough for all four of us. Plus breadsticks since Blake will have a hissy if I don’t order them. They should be here in a little bit. Go ahead and have a seat and I’ll put these in the kitchen.” Andy took the beers from Tyler and headed into the kitchen to put some of them in the fridge.

Tyler looked around the place as he went to the nearby sofa. It was mostly clean but the presence of two children meant that no room was ever going to be completely clean. Tanner and Blake were both sitting on the floor, leaned back against the couch with their eyes trained on the television as the pre-game show droned on.

“Hey, boys,” he said as he sat down on the couch, looking down on them.

Tanner’s eyes looked up at him and gave him what could almost be thought of as a suspicious look if he wasn’t six years old. Tyler was never good with little kids and Tanner always made him feel awkward. Blake turned around to look up at Tyler and broke into a wide grin before he started to slowly climb up onto the couch and onto Tyler’s lap. “Hi, Tywer!”

Tyler laughed, unable to stop from giving the little toddler a gentle hug. “Hey, little buddy.” He noted Blake and Tanner were both wearing oversized white shirts that were covered in stains. He had pants on underneath, but they looked like some of the poor kids he used to see wandering around the trailer park.

The boy giggled and squirmed in his lap, his body language letting Tyler know he was wanting to cuddle with him. He wasn’t sure how he felt about having a small boy in his lap for the entire game, but Andy rescued him when he returned from the kitchen carrying two bottles of beer. “Blake,” he said in a playful but admonishing tone, “you’re not supposed to sit in Tyler’s lap. We got food coming soon.”

Blake looked at his father and crawled back down to the floor without a word but not before getting a kiss on the cheek by Andy. “Sorry about that,” he said to Tyler as he passed him one of the beers. “He’s been a little overly affectionate lately.”

Tyler chuckled as he took the offered beer. “No harm in that. He’s just being friendly. What’s with their shirts?”

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough.” Andy smirked and sat down, opening his beer and just getting time to take a drink before there was a knock at the door. Tyler got a laugh out of the annoyed look on his face as he got up again to go answer the door. For a moment, Tyler thought it might be Jacob coming to check up on Andy while he was there but when the door was opened, he saw the delivery man with their dinner for the night. Andy signed for the food before grabbing it and bringing it to the small table in the dining area of the room. He grabbed plates and called Tyler and the boys over. Tyler got his own plate while Andy made plates for Tanner and Blake before heading back to the couch with a fist full of napkins in one hand and his plate in the other.

“Boys, stay on the floor, don’t get up unless your hands are empty,” Andy said in a tone that made Tyler think it was something he’s said dozens of times now for. “Make sure all sippy cups stay as upright as possible and if they are empty, you say something to me.”

The boys gave the affirmative responses he was wanting to hear, and they all returned to the front of the room. “Should I get a sippy cup too,” Tyler asked him with a grin.

Andy shrugged with a playful grin. “I got plenty of them. Not sure how a beer would taste in one and make sure they don’t mistake your sippy cup for theirs.”

As they settled into eat and watch the start of the game, Tyler started to understand why the kids were wearing stained shirts as they sat on the floor. Before the top of the first inning was over, Andy had set aside his food and beer to get down on the floor with Blake helping him to break the breadsticks up into smaller pieces for him to safely eat. He found it humorous as Andy talked him through nearly every bite, but he kept his laughter muted. To him, it looked difficult, trying to feed a two-year-old. But the longer he watched the more he was touched watching this gruff looking, bearded man with the bulging biceps carefully tearing up pieces of a breadstick for his little boy to eat. Andy got Blake to try dipping the pieces into some sauce only to see the boy’s fingers dip in as well only to be wiped off automatically onto the stained shirt. He could only shake his head, thinking he would never be able to have the patience to do what Andy was doing.

“Saves me a fortune in napkins if I just keep these old shirts of mine around,” Andy finally explained when he glanced up and saw Tyler looking over. His green eyes seemed brighter than they have been the past month and Tyler took that as a sign that while his life wasn’t going that well and there were pieces missing, he was taking some enjoyment in the simple moments of being a parent.

“Pretty smart move, if you ask me,” Tyler said with a smile before returning his attention to the game. The next hour passed as the game on the screen went from inning to inning with not much action in between. Andy finally had time to crawl back up on the couch and eat some of his mostly cold food, but Tyler figured he didn’t notice. His opened beer from earlier hadn’t been touched since he had been occupied with both of his children who, by the time they were done eating, were covered in pizza sauce on their hands, face and shirts.

At about eight o’clock, Andy finished his beer and rose to his feet. “Okay, boys, time for baths and bedtime.”

The boys crawled up to their feet and Tanner started to follow his father to the back of the house. Blake detoured over to stop in front of Tyler and stared at him with an innocent plea in his eyes. “Hug?”

Tyler chuckled and leaned in to give the tiny child a hug and was surprised when the boy locked his arms around his neck and didn’t let go. “Hey, you need to go get cleaned up with your dad.”

“No.” The little red headed boy seemed content to be right where he was and saw no reason to leave.

“Uh… Andy,” Tyler called out, unsure of what to do.

Andy poked his head out of the bathroom doorway as the water was running in the bathtub. “Blake, get in here.”

“No…!” Came the whining response. Tyler felt that the situation had suddenly become chaotic for no discernable reason.

“Blake Douglas Stewart, you get in this tub right now or you’re not gonna get to play with Carter this weekend!” Andy’s voice rang out and he sounded serious. That got a pouting look on Blake’s face who finally reluctantly let go of Tyler and slowly made his way into the back of the house and into the bathroom.

Tyler felt sorry for the little boy but at the same time was relieved he wasn’t being used as a human shield against Andy. He shifted his attention back to the game while the ambient noise of two children in a bathroom drifted through the house. He went into the kitchen and helped himself to some more beer before sitting back down. It was about ten minutes later he could hear Andy shepherding the boys into their room followed soon after by Andy quietly coming back into the room and plopping down onto the sofa with a sigh. “Well, that battle is won.”

“They gonna stay in there all night?”

“No,” he said with a soft laugh. “Last few weeks, one or both of them will end up crawling into bed with me.”

“How come?”

There was a slight pause before Andy replied, “to make sure I’m still here.”

Tyler had a sudden realization. “You’re not avoiding Jacob and the others. You’re doubling up your attention on your kids.”

Andy smirked and nodded as he stared at the television. “I gotta learn how to do all this on my own. Not that Stacy ever helped that much.”

“You know, you don’t have to do it all on your own,” he said. “There’s no crime in asking for help.”

“Damnit,” Andy muttered. “Forgot my beer.”

“I’ll go get it,” Tyler got to his feet faster than Andy did. “Might even warm up some pizza to, if you deserve it.” He went into the kitchen, grinning at the sound of Andy’s mocking laugh. He returned with two more beers, handing one to Andy and keeping the other next to his half empty one.

“Thanks,” was the only reply Tyler got before they both leaned back and got comfortable as the game they were watching went into the seventh inning stretch. They were quiet while the last few innings were being played out in front of them. Andy got up once during a commercial break to heat up some of the leftover pizza and another beer.

They made small talk, mostly about work until the final inning played out and the game ended. Tyler got up, finishing the beer he had in his hand. “Thanks for letting me come over.”

“What’s your hurry,” Andy asked looking up at him.

Tyler seemed surprised. “Oh… Well, I just figured you wanted to be alone or… something.”

“No,” he shrugged slightly. “I just thought since you came all the way out, we could actually drink the beers you brought and just hang out and talk. Do you like to play cards or anything?”

“You know how to play Gin Rummy,” he asked with a small smile.

Andy chuckled and stood up. “There’s a deck of cards in the drawer in the kitchen. I’ll get some paper and we’ll set up at the table.”

Tyler went into the kitchen and found the drawer with the cards in them. While he was there, he grabbed a couple more beers from the fridge. He sat down at the table and went through the cards, making sure they were all there. After a few minutes, Andy returned and sat across from him with a paper and pen to keep score, putting their names at the top as Tyler started to shuffle.

“I haven’t done this in a while,” Tyler said as he dealt their first hand.

“I haven’t done this since high school, so don’t worry.” Andy seemed to get more relaxed as his smile started to show more.

“Well, then it’s been longer for you, old man,” Tyler said with a playful grin.

Andy chuckled as he opened another beer and started to look over his cards. Their first few hands were slow and low scoring as they both bantered back and forth. Andy won the majority of the points, but Tyler kept up with him as best he could considering the cards he was dealt. After a couple wins by Tyler, he managed to tie things up and before they knew it, another two hours and four more beers had been drunk. “Let’s take a piss break,” Andy said with a grin as he stood up. “You can go first.”

“Okay,” Tyler giggled as he rose and quietly went down the hall to the bathroom. As he stood there, getting rid of most of the beer he had been drinking the last couple hours, he realized he was feeling more intoxicated than he had planned. He hadn’t expected to be having this much fun tonight. It wasn’t the same as it was with Drake. That usually ended up with some kind of sex. While that was fun, it had also started to feel more routine the last few weeks. Tonight, he was just having fun and spending time with a friend. Maybe in a few weeks he might hook up with Drake again. Right now, he just wanted to enjoy this night with Andy.

When he finished and went back in the front of the house, Andy was nowhere to be found. He sat back down and listened for where he might be. He hadn’t heard anything while he was in the bathroom. Just as he was starting to think something was wrong, he heard the door to the garage open and close, followed by the fridge opening and closing before Andy walked back in. “I decided not to wait and just took mine outside,” he said in a slightly smoother tone than he had the entire night.

“You pissed in the garage,” Tyler asked him dubiously.

Andy giggled as he sat and opened his new beer. “No, genius. I pissed out in the backyard.”

Tyler chuckled and started to deal out the next hand when he caught an odd scent in the room. It didn’t take him long to figure out what it was and where it was coming from. “Yeah, and what else were you doing out there besides pissin’?”

Andy laughed as he started looking over his cards and putting them in an order he preferred. “Can’t put much past you.”

“Is that why you didn’t want Jacob over? Since he’s got a substance abuse problem?”

“And Troy is an upstanding goody-two-shoes who would never think about taking a hit,” he confirmed with a nod.

“Did you used to smoke pot in high school?”

“No. Only started doing it after I discharged from the corps.”

Tyler glanced up at him over his cards as they began to play out the hand. “What was it that got you hooked.”

“Well, doctor, for your information, I’m not hooked.” Tyler noticed a playful half-smirk on Andy’s lips. On most people it would probably look cocky but in some way, he made it almost look charming, if not handsome. “It’s not addictive for most people. I only use it once in a while. Usually to help me sleep or unwind.”

Tyler shrugged. “It’s not my place to tell you what to do or not do. As long as you’re not hurting yourself, it’s fine by me.”

Andy’s half-smirk turned into a sly grin. “Okay… Are you more upset I didn’t offer to share or that I did it behind your back?”

Tyler laughed at the notion that he would be upset either way. “Truthfully, if you’d offered, it wouldn’t have been my first time. It’s fun and yeah, if you’d asked, I probably would’ve joined you. But I’m not pissing in front of you.” The last part he added with a playful simper. For that, he was rewarded by an honest laugh from Andy.

“A couple more hands and then we’ll head out back,” Andy said as his laughter abated. “The only rules I have about smoking weed is to not do it in the house or around the boys. Which means, usually only at night when they’re asleep.”

Tyler nodded in understanding. “It’s cool. Let’s play.”

They went through the next couple hands in record time, both of them seeming to have the same goal in mind. After the last card was played, they both stood up and Tyler followed Andy out to the garage where Andy opened a rusty can and pulled out a plastic bag with a joint, already rolled. They stepped through another door that lead into the small backyard of the house. Andy pulled out a lighter and lit the end, sucking the smoke in. He held the smoke in as he passed the joint to Tyler and then let it out in a drawn-out exhale. “This is pretty good stuff so don’t overdo it.”

Tyler nodded as he took his own hit before passing it back. “So, this helps you sleep? It usually keeps me up.”

“It does different shit to different people.” He took the joint from Tyler and took another draw from the joint. “Just… makes me feel… normal, I guess.”

“You seem pretty normal to me most days.”

Andy chuckled. “Nice to know. I know I might look it and sound like it, but most of the time, I’m just waiting.”

“Waiting for what?” Tyler noticed his voice sounded slower to his ears. He figured it must be the pot kicking in.

“For something to happen. What, I don’t know.” He shook his head, wanting to push aside the unwanted thoughts. “At least I don’t have a crazy slut of a wife to deal with anymore.”

“What did you see in her anyway,” Tyler’s curiosity was becoming harder to hold in and he didn’t really mind it much.

Andy laughed softly. “Nothing. I married her because I got her pregnant one night when I was on leave.”

“So, like, you never loved her?”

He shook his head. “Not even close. Pretty sure that was part of the reason why she was always finding other guys. I couldn’t give her what she wanted.”

“Love?”

“Lots of sex and a bank account twice as big as what I had.” He took one more puff from the joint before passing the remnants to Tyler to finish. “Pretty sure she doesn’t know what love is anyway.”

Tyler finished the joint and passed it back to Andy for him to get rid of. “It’s getting cold out here.”

“Yeah, let’s head back inside. But be quiet.”

Having stood there the entire time, the first step Tyler took was more of a stumble as his brain tried to remember how to work his legs. When he caught himself, he giggled involuntarily before managing to get back inside the house with Andy right behind him. “Maybe you should stay here tonight. You can bunk on the couch if you want.”

“Probably a good idea,” he reasoned. “I never thought I’d be getting high with my boss.”

“I’m not your boss,” Andy said, sounding a lot more sober than Tyler but there was an ever-present smirk on one side of his mouth and a kind of spark of mischief in his eyes. “I’m your friend.”

“Well, that’s good. I really don’t have many of those anymore.” He went and plopped down on the couch, figuring being on his feet wasn’t something he either wanted or needed at the moment. “They all took off without me. Left me behind.”

“Your buds from school, you mean,” Andy asked as he sat down across from him with a beer in hand.

Tyler nodded only nodded in response. He saw the beer in Andy’s hand and suddenly felt the need for one himself. He managed to get up and make his way to the kitchen to retrieve one before returning. He wasn’t sure how long he had been gone but he returned to find Andy with a thoughtful expression on his face. As he took a drink of his beer, he stared off at the ceiling. “I hated school. Did you hate school?”

Andy smirked and shook his head. “No, I had a good time with my friends. Were you close to any of your friends? You know, tell them everything no matter what? Stuff like that?”

Tyler thought about it for a moment before shaking his head. “No… I mean, I liked them, and they seemed to like me, but we only hung out once in a while outside of class, you know?”

Andy nodded. “No best friends then.”

“Did you have a best friend in school?”

Andy’s smirk returned. “Yeah. Best person I ever knew. We did everything together.”

“Troy or Jacob,” he asked with a grin.

Andy chuckled silently and shook his head. “Brian.”

“Brian? Who the hell is Brian?” He wasn’t sure if he was getting too loud and a new name had been suddenly introduced to his pot infused brain that he wasn’t sure he was up to remembering.

There was a silent moment before Andy replied, “he was my best friend. Still is, I guess. But we don’t talk much anymore. Only saw him once in the last seven years and that was because we had to have an intervention with Jacob about his drinking problem.”

“How come he doesn’t come by?”

He shrugged. “He didn’t like who I married. Figured I deserved better, I suppose.”

“Aww. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“It’s cool,” he said sounding unphased. “I was the one who brought it up.”

“Well,” Tyler replied as he reasoned it all out, “I guess once you divorce maybe he’ll come back?”

“I’d like that,” he said wistfully. “I’ve missed him.”

“Then call the bastard up and have him come over.”

Andy laughed at Tyler’s sudden turn of language. “Not that simple. He doesn’t live around here.”

“Not like Jacob then,” Tyler said out of nowhere.

Andy’s eyes took him in appraisingly. “You like Jacob a lot, huh?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Why?”

“Just exactly how much do you like him?” Andy tried hard to stifle his mischievous side but was failing. He could tell the pot was making Tyler more open and he liked this kid and wanted to know more about him.

“Like, like him enough I’d swallow his cock in one gulp if I ever got the chance.” Tyler blinked, suddenly realizing what he just said and sat up. “Oh my God. That’s not what I meant.” Andy was suddenly wracked by sudden giggles which turned into muffled laughter as he watched Tyler’s face turn bright red. “No, dude, seriously.” Tyler desperately to take back what he said but Andy wasn’t listening as his laughter sent his entire body shaking. Even with his eyes squeezed shut, a couple tears still managed to escape. Tyler was about to panic but then Andy’s stunted laughter started to affect him, and he started to get his own giggles. “Please promise me you’ll never say anything to anyone about that.”

“Are you kidding?” Andy managed to get his laughter under control enough to respond. “There’s no way in hell I’d tell anyone that. It’s too funny to share. You really wanna suck Jacob’s dick that bad?” With the laughter, the pot and the company, Andy could feel years being stripped away from him, leaving him feeling like the man he used to be.

Realizing that Andy wasn’t passing judgement on him or thinking he was gross. He didn’t feel the need to really hold anything else back. He believed Andy when he said he wouldn’t tell anyone. “Well, given the chance, I’d do just about anything else to him too. That face and those eyes? Hell, I’m surprised no one else wants to fuck him.”

“Oh God,” Andy said as he wiped the tears from his face, “that is too good. It’s more fun to keep that to myself really. I’ll have to keep my eye on you whenever we’re around him.”

“I’m not expecting to get him in bed or anything right away,” Tyler said as he relaxed again and sat back and took a drink from his beer. “Just saying, if the opportunity was there, I’d take it. Just keep that to yourself.”

Andy grinned and nodded his head. Glad to have a drinking buddy he can spend time with. “Your secret is safe with me.”

Copyright © 2019 Jdonley75; All Rights Reserved.
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You did a great job writing Andy's and Tyler's pizza, beer, and a game night! The conversation seemed so natural, and I was tickled by Tyler's interaction with the kids. It was fun to watch Tyler loosen up due to the beer and pot. And the evening was certainly good for Andy. Thanks.

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3 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

You did a great job writing Andy's and Tyler's pizza, beer, and a game night! The conversation seemed so natural, and I was tickled by Tyler's interaction with the kids. It was fun to watch Tyler loosen up due to the beer and pot. And the evening was certainly good for Andy. Thanks.

Thanks.  I wanted to show off a lot of Andy as a father and a real live person instead of just a two-dimensional character.  At the same time, give some insight into his thinking and the choices he's making.

The last time pot was used in a scene it left a kind of negative connotation and I thought I'd show a little more honesty in it this time around.  Andy's just getting started and of course, he still has yet to patch things up with Brian, but it will all happen in due time.

I should also point out, the little news report.  Kind of "thunder on the horizon" moment, letting readers from the previous book know that Kyle's return is getting closer.

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3 hours ago, starboardtack said:

Excellent chapter -- really like the ending.

As bad as things seem to be for Andy at the moment overall, I felt it was important that his life isn't just one bad day after another.  That's as unrealistic as characters who live in complete joy with no suffering at all.

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You're really doing a great job with this new story. There is so much new that is going on, yet you've managed to weave those threads that connect it to The Acquittal without letting it get overpowering. I'm glad that you've shown such a different side to Andy in this chapter. He's such a complex character and I'm glad that we're getting to see more of him. 

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1 minute ago, spyke said:

You're really doing a great job with this new story. There is so much new that is going on, yet you've managed to weave those threads that connect it to The Acquittal without letting it get overpowering. I'm glad that you've shown such a different side to Andy in this chapter. He's such a complex character and I'm glad that we're getting to see more of him. 

Andy became my favorite boy a while back.  He's probably the most complex of the five that it requires a lot of effort to get inside him and see just who he really is.  I've had to study more for portraying him than any other character.  There is still a lot more of him to be seen (both good and bad) in this story.  There will be topics brought up without being discussed in a few places.  By the end, his story will hopefully be told as much as possible.

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Another great chapter!

I loved the dialogue all the way through this chapter. It all seems so natural.

We're seeing more of Tyler's caring nature. Even when he feels trapped by circumstance, he still thinks about others, as evidenced by his concern about where his mother would live, and his willingness to make sure that Andy is okay. The more I read this story, the more likeable he seems to become. I know he's the central character to this particular story, so in a way that's only to be expected.

I'm glad he told Jacob and David why he had taken time off work. It shows that he is starting to trust people (friends). I'm not sure whether any of his friends would be able to help, but the old saying 'A  trouble shared is a trouble halved' is more often true than not.

And the TV news about the death of Jeremy Alberra whilst Tyler was having dinner at David's helped me to at least somewhat place the timeframe of this book in relation to The Acquittal.

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Marty said:

Another great chapter!

I loved the dialogue all the way through this chapter. It all seems so natural.

We're seeing more of Tyler's caring nature. Even when he feels trapped by circumstance, he still thinks about others, as evidenced by his concern about where his mother would live, and his willingness to make sure that Andy is okay. The more I read this story, the more likeable he seems to become. I know he's the central character to this particular story, so in a way that's only to be expected.

I'm glad he told Jacob and David why he had taken time off work. It shows that he is starting to trust people (friends). I'm not sure whether any of his friends would be able to help, but the old saying 'A  trouble shared is a trouble halved' is more often true than not.

And the TV news about the death of Jeremy Alberra whilst Tyler was having dinner at David's helped me to at least somewhat place the timeframe of this book in relation to The Acquittal.

 

 

 

Tyler has had a hard life growing up.  Despite that, he tries to do the right thing instead of the selfish thing.  It's a great trait to have but there can be downsides to that.  Also, him being likable is just him.  I don't go out of my way to make a character likable. (I wouldn't call Kyle the most likable guy in the world.)

Him talking to David and Jacob was a good way to advance the story and get the scene between Tyler and Andy to pay off as well as it did.

And the news report was supposed to give a timeframe and kind of a countdown of sorts.  The closer the case comes to a close, the closer Kyle gets to coming home.  (Also, the closer David gets to going to the hospital.)

Thanks for the comment.  Enjoy the rest of the story.  :)

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Andy chuckled. “Nice to know. I know I might look it and sound like it, but most of the time, I’m just waiting.”

“Waiting for what?” Tyler noticed his voice sounded slower to his ears. He figured it must be the pot kicking in.

“For something to happen. What, I don’t know.”

That statement broke my heart. 💔

News about the Alberra teen’s death had me thinking we were going to see Kyle on the news (as that is how Troy found him) but not yet, apparently.  

The hang out at Andy’s was nice (and sweet).  Blake is my favorite kid.  It was nice to see signs of the old Andy, he was my favorite individual on the “team”.

Gotta say, I’m not real impressed with Andy’s mom;  Other mothers would have been there to help their child deal with what Andy’s going through, or at least call more.

Was David the only parent who possessed real parental love?

 

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9 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

Also, for my own sanity, it's best to keep the cast of characters down to something under 30.  I can only have so many people running around in my head at the same time. lol

lol !!

I know just what you mean! There's been more than once already when I've had to stop and think "who's this again?' whilst reading parts of this story. :) 

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10 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

Also, for my own sanity, it's best to keep the cast of characters down to something under 30.  I can only have so many people running around in my head at the same time. lol

Yeah, more than you can handle could give you a headache, lol.

I remember the start of the “team” being an offshoot of the friendship between Andy, Troy and Kyle’s parents, with Brian and Jacob joining at later times.  I would’ve said they were a continuation of their parent’s team but their friendship is far deeper than what their parents shared, in my opinion.

I think Andy does a boss job being a single dad, sometimes you just have to hunker down and do what you have to do, to the exclusion of anyone else’s understanding;  Andy didn’t have the time to let Jacob and Troy know what was going on (I also think a part of him plain didn’t want to, he and Brian were always head gaming the others in small degrees).

It was Interesting you said that Kyle wasn’t likable in a previous comment, I thought all the guys were great, tho I admit Kyle could be a bit more self involved than the others, that could be attributed as part of his extreme fight/flight panic attack issues.

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10 minutes ago, FanLit said:

Yeah, more than you can handle could give you a headache, lol.

I remember the start of the “team” being an offshoot of the friendship between Andy, Troy and Kyle’s parents, with Brian and Jacob joining at later times.  I would’ve said they were a continuation of their parent’s team but their friendship is far deeper than what their parents shared, in my opinion.

I think Andy does a boss job being a single dad, sometimes you just have to hunker down and do what you have to do, to the exclusion of anyone else’s understanding;  Andy didn’t have the time to let Jacob and Troy know what was going on (I also think a part of him plain didn’t want to, he and Brian were always head gaming the others in small degrees).

It was Interesting you said that Kyle wasn’t likable in a previous comment, I thought all the guys were great, tho I admit Kyle could be a bit more self involved than the others, that could be attributed as part of his extreme fight/flight panic attack issues.

Their children are tied closer together because of many more shared memories.  By the time they are in adulthood, they've become a family.

Andy is an awesome dad.  Someone should tell him that.  Him not telling Jacob or Troy is mostly a choice he makes because he doesn't want them thinking they need to fly in and save him.  He has some pride, after all.  Hell, he's a marine.  He will find a way to get the job done.

Perhaps saying Kyle was unlikable was a little too strong.  Rather, he had moments where he made it difficult for others to see his good side. ;)  Kyle's GAD and his stubbornness enabled him to create a lot of his own problems.  And, whether he wants to admit it or not, not relying on his family was the biggest mistake he ever made.

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On 7/5/2019 at 7:28 PM, Marty said:

lol !!

I know just what you mean! There's been more than once already when I've had to stop and think "who's this again?' whilst reading parts of this story. :) 

I swear, this all started with two people.  Jacob and Kyle.  Then came David.  And then Troy and Andy and Brian.  And then....  I dunno.  Somewhere along the way they all spawned and I'm thinking about drawing out family trees to keep it all straight in my head.  And I have to keep it all straight because if I screw it up then it's gonna be a big ol' cluster:X

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I don’t like being around people who are drunk or high in real life, but I enjoyed seeing Andy and Tyler interacting.

Using Andy’s shirts as giant bibs is kind of a Mr Mom-type solution that most women would never think of doing. Blake is such a needy, attention-seeking 2-year-old. With all the chaos Stacy caused, Andy seems to be taking good care of his two sons. Especially at their ages, that’s a very demanding job especially if you’re a single parent.
;–)

On 7/6/2019 at 6:00 PM, Jdonley75 said:

Somewhere along the way they all spawned and I'm thinking about drawing out family trees to keep it all straight in my head.

JRR Tolkien created huge family trees – there are family trees for the Hobbits as well as Elves, Dwarves, and that of Aragorn in the appendices of the Lord of the Ring. George RR Martin also has family trees of the major houses in A Song of Ice and Fire. I know that some GA authors maintain extensive notes on their characters to avoid mistakes like mentioning incorrect eye colors. You wouldn’t be the first author to employ such tactics…
;–)

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4 hours ago, droughtquake said:

I don’t like being around people who are drunk or high in real life, but I enjoyed seeing Andy and Tyler interacting.

Using Andy’s shirts as giant bibs is kind of a Mr Mom-type solution that most women would never think of doing. Blake is such a needy, attention-seeking 2-year-old. With all the chaos Stacy caused, Andy seems to be taking good care of his two sons. Especially at their ages, that’s a very demanding job especially if you’re a single parent.
;–)

JRR Tolkien created huge family trees – there are family trees for the Hobbits as well as Elves, Dwarves, and that of Aragorn in the appendices of the Lord of the Ring. George RR Martin also has family trees of the major houses in A Song of Ice and Fire. I know that some GA authors maintain extensive notes on their characters to avoid mistakes like mentioning incorrect eye colors. You wouldn’t be the first author to employ such tactics…
;–)

Showing Andy's parental side was important to do in this story.  Showing off his ability to parent and his dedication to his children is his stabilizing element that keeps him from slipping into whatever darkness he holds inside.

I think for now I'm good with keeping everyone in my head for the time being.  If we creep into a fourth generation (which we won't) then I would consider it.

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3 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

If we creep into a fourth generation (which we won't) then I would consider it.

Never say never…
;–)

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19 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

Never say never…
;–)

🤣

In this case, yeah, it's never going to happen.  I would rather move on to other worlds and write other stories than feel like just a one-hit-wonder writing the same characters for decades.

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11 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

🤣

In this case, yeah, it's never going to happen.  I would rather move on to other worlds and write other stories than feel like just a one-hit-wonder writing the same characters for decades.

But after your five year mission ‘to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations’, you just might find time to return to a familiar home.
;–)

Star Trek returned to Earth frequently and the Doctor spends an inordinate amount of time in London!
;–)

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5 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

But after your five year mission ‘to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations’, you just might find time to return to a familiar home.
;–)

Star Trek returned to Earth frequently and the Doctor spends an inordinate amount of time in London!
;–)

It's doubtful.  There's one book left that's a long ways off and some short stories in between but I wanna try new things outside of romance.   I used to do so well as a storyteller for intrigue, backstabbing, subtle games of power and such.  I really want to get back to that in a new way.  Also, adventure and a little horror.  Not like, Friday the 13th horror.  But evil creatures like vampires, werewolves and other things that we're taught to be afraid of.  (Not gonna lie, I'll likely take some ideas and turn them on their heads.)

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On 10/14/2019 at 10:47 AM, Jdonley75 said:

It's doubtful.  There's one book left that's a long ways off and some short stories in between but I wanna try new things outside of romance.   I used to do so well as a storyteller for intrigue, backstabbing, subtle games of power and such.  I really want to get back to that in a new way.

That sounds like Hollywood! Except for the subtle part…
;–)

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