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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 - 9. Chapter 9

The sun was shining down, heating the black roofing shingles Tyler was putting down as he worked from one side to the other. He had to admit to himself he was starting to enjoy the work more than he did last summer. While the roof was getting hotter under the sun, the wind was still blowing a steady, cool breeze over him and through his tank top which helped keep him feeling warm but not sweating too much. He couldn’t help but think to himself, if this was how it was a week before May, then it was going to be a lot hotter this summer.

“Hey, uh, Tyler? Am I doing this right?”

Tyler barely suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. In addition to the uptick in work the company was having now that the warmer weather was upon them, less than half of the workers from last year had shown back up after they left last Fall. That left them severely under staffed so they had hired more than a few new employees that had started off about the same as he had, only these guys had been dropped into the deep end of the pool instead of starting in gradually like he did.

This new guy, Sean, was a puzzle in himself. To begin with, Tyler couldn’t figure out why the guy was even working there. From his overall appearance, he looked like a model on a magazine cover and, until he had actually gotten up on a roof and started working, his clothes looked like they never had seen a bit of dirt on them. His dark brown hair was perfectly cut, short and sleek looking with a little bit at the front sticking up to give him a very attractive look. His face was blemish free and he looked tanner than he should considering that April wasn’t really known for having a lot of sunny days. Even working out in the sun for the last two weeks, Tyler was paler than this guy who only started at the beginning of the week.

The fourth person on their roofing team that day was a kid named Dex who was less than a year out of high school. Tyler felt some empathy for him. The kid seemed quiet and preferred to focus on his work rather than make small talk with the others. He had a thick build as well. Maybe as muscular as Jacob was now but noticeably shorter than he was. The kid was always wearing tight fitting shirts that seemed to barely contain him and Tyler suspected it was mostly due to him not able to buy anything new to replace them. Tyler felt a little jealous, knowing no matter how hard he tried at the gym and at work, his body just wasn’t made for that kind of bulk.

Tyler walked over to the side of the roof Sean and Andy had been working on. He could see Andy on the other side of the roof, working away at near record speed putting down shingles and using the nail gun to finish up before putting the next one down. Tyler looked down at Sean’s work and nodded. “Yeah. You’re doing just fine. As long as they line up right, three or four nails oughta be enough to set it in place, then move onto the next one.”

“Great. Thanks.” Sean smiled, his perfectly white teeth on display for Tyler’s benefit. With the way Sean acted, Tyler was left feeling like he was the older of the two of them. When he asked him the other day, he found out that Sean was twenty-six. While he seemed mature enough most of the time, whenever he was learning new skills on the job, he reminded Tyler of himself. In general, being looked up to like that wasn’t something Tyler was at all used too. Plus, whenever Sean smiled at him it gave him this odd feeling in his gut that he’d never felt before. Kind of like being on a ride at the county fair when he was a little kid.

Tyler returned to his side of the roof to resume his work. He would occasionally glance up to keep an eye on Sean and on Andy as well. Andy had been a little quiet at the beginning of the day, just giving everyone their jobs to do before he climbed up and got to work himself. With them being short staffed, Andy no longer had the luxury of just supervising. Jacob had mentioned in passing to him that Andy was probably finalizing his divorce at the end of the week, so he’d been busy with calls to and from his lawyer every day after work. He was hoping he could get some time this next weekend and go hang out with him for a day just to make sure he’s taking it well.

The four of them eventually met at the top and Andy put in the final shingles to finish the job. “Alright boys,” Andy said as he put in the last nails. “Let’s clean the place up and then head back to base.”

Tyler lead the others in picking up any leftover debris and tools then started loading all their stuff back into his truck while Andy was getting the final payment for the job. “You don’t mind if I ride back with you to the office, do you,” Sean asked Tyler in an almost shy voice.

“No problem,” Tyler replied with a shrug. “Go ahead and hop in. I’ll just be a minute.” Despite what he’d said, Sean riding back to the office in his truck – alone – was a problem. It made his spine tingle being that close to him. Tyler was discovering being around straight guys like Sean and Andy could get frustrating at times.

Tyler and Andy did one last check around the house they had been working on before they determined the area was clear and they both headed to their respective trucks for the drive back to the office. Tyler found Sean in the passenger seat, with his attention on his phone as he pulled away and started the long drive back. They’d been working in Karns City which was normally a thirty minute drive so long as traffic on the county roads wasn’t too bad.

Sean was silent through most of the trip and it had started to bother Tyler. “So, how do you feel about your new job so far?”

Sean looked over at him and said in a slightly shy voice, “it’s a lot of fun. I haven’t done much work outside in the past.”

Tyler could definitely believe that. “Yeah, this is my first construction job too. Started last year.”

Sean put his phone down and looked at him in shock. “Last year?!”

Tyler laughed. “Yeah. What’s so surprising about that?”

Sean paused for a second before replying, “I guess you just seem so... sure of yourself.”

Tyler could feel his cheeks reddening a little. He couldn’t figure out what he did to prompt Sean to think he was that confident. “Oh. Well. Thanks.”

The silence descended again, and Tyler decided to leave it there. For reasons he couldn’t explain, talking to Sean made him feel uncomfortable. Almost like Sean was flirting with him but he also felt that it could just be his way of being friendly. There was also the obvious complication that Sean was drop dead gorgeous. A fact Tyler could not deny no matter how hard he tried. It was confusing and he didn’t know what to do about it. Messing around with Drake in the past had been pretty easy and he learned a bit about flirting and picking up on subtle cues. But Sean was an enigma to him and obviously straight. He’d never met him in the past and he had no idea where he was from. When he’d asked the other day, Sean just vaguely mentioned being from somewhere west of here. He didn’t want to pry, and Sean didn’t seem to want to be more specific, so he let it drop.

Tyler parked the truck and the two of them headed inside so they could fill out their timesheets and get them turned in before going home for the day. When Tyler walked in, he saw Troy sitting at one of the tables, going over sheets. “Hey, boss man,” he greeted him with a smile.

Troy looked up at the two of them and smiled. He seemed tired and Tyler could only imagine how he was coping with all the jobs they needed to do with so few workers. “Hey, boys. You’re my last two in for the day I need to speak too.”

“Aw, man,” Tyler groaned. “It’s overtime, isn’t it?”

Troy nodded. “Yup. Afraid so. I need you two to work with me and two other guys Saturday on a job over in Butler.”

“Well, I guess if you gotta be there to then I won’t be so bitchy about it then,” Tyler replied with a smile.

Troy grinned. “That’s the spirit. The job starts at eleven, so you and Sean should get here no later than nine and help me load.”

“What’re we gonna be doing,” Sean asked.

“Replacing siding,” Troy answered.

Tyler rolled his eyes and groaned. “Perfect. That’ll be an all-day job.”

Troy looked down at a sheet in front of him. “I got it slated for a six hour job.” He shrugged apologetically. “It can’t be helped.”

Tyler sighed. “Alright. At least we can get it done before the sun goes down.” Tyler started filling out his sheet, interrupted once by Sean, asking him to double check his own sheet. When that was done, he handed both sheets to Troy and headed out the door to go home.

Sean followed him out the door and over to his car. Tyler glanced over at him as he was getting in. Sean was driving a Camaro that looked practically new with Pennsylvania plates. Another oddity but he put it aside for now as he got in his truck and headed home. He didn’t notice Sean staring at his truck as he drove away.

 

****

 

“So, if you think you’re so smart…” David said to the giggling boys sitting around one of his apple trees. “What is ten plus ten?”

“Twenty,” Tanner replied with a grin. “That’s an easy one, Grandpa.”

David chuckled as he leaned back against the tree, enjoying his Friday afternoon with Tanner and Blake while their father was busy with his lawyer. He had spent the morning with Blake watching cartoons until they went to pick up Tanner at Kindergarten class in the early afternoon. Once they were back at the house, he got them some lunch before taking a walk through orchard. The first few blooms were just starting to open on the trees, and he knew the boys loved being out here in the warmer weather with the sun shining overhead and the few puffy clouds slowly meandering their way across the sky. One of their newest games was him giving Tanner simple math problems or teaching Blake the alphabet. It was informal and only meant for fun, but he liked to think he was helping them. “You’re just too smart then. How about we go back to letters.” He turned to Blake who was looking back at him with unabashed joy. “Where did we leave off?”

“H,” the little three year old declared.

“Alright then,” David said with a nod. “What’s a good word that starts with the letter H?” Blake only had managed to get up to ‘J’ in the past few months. It wasn’t easy teaching a child so young these things, but Blake was doing his best to learn.

The little boy seemed to ponder the question, trying to remember what sounds ‘H’ made. “Ah… I dunno…” The boy waved his arms in surrender.

David smiled. “Hair. Hat. Heather. That’s your grandma’s name. Heather Peterson.”

Blake giggled at the new piece of information.

“‘I’ is for ‘ice’,” Tanner jumped into the conversation.

David nodded. “That’s right. Not eye,” he said pointing to his own eye. “That starts with another letter.”

Blake grinned and said, “ice cream!”

David laughed at the look of pride the little boy had on his face. “Yeah, sweetheart. That’s another good one. What about ‘J’?”

Both boys seemed to draw blanks for a moment. David helped them out by sounding out the letter. “Oh!” Tanner nearly jumped to his feet. “Jacob!”

David laughed at his enthusiasm and nodded. “Yup. That’s the first letter in his name, so that counts. What’s next?”

“K,” Tanner said. He looked at his little brother and sounded out the word. Blake’s first initial answer was “cat” only to find that to be incorrect. Tanner looked up at David for help and found him staring wistfully into the distance.

He was about to say something to get David’s attention when they heard a voice in the distance calling out. “David? Boys? Where are you?”

“Daddy!” Blake scrambled to his feet. Their game was quickly forgotten as he scampered off towards the sound of his father’s voice. Tanner wasn’t too far behind him and that was enough to slowly get David up on his feet again to follow.

By the time he caught up to them, Andy had Blake in his arms, giving him a warm hug. As David stepped closer, he could see Andy had undergone a few changes since he dropped the boys off in the morning. For one, his beard was mostly gone, shaven down to just a goatee. The other thing he noticed was the look in his eyes. Like a man who was desperate for his little sons’ love. “How did it go,” David asked him.

Andy was quiet for a moment as he held his son and kissed his cheek before he looked up at David and said simply, “it’s done.”

David rubbed his hand over his beard and asked the obvious. “Any reason for the sudden change?”

Andy seemed to ponder it for a moment. “I just… wanted something new. Something else.”

David studied him closely before asking him, “how are you feeling?”

“Relieved, to tell you the truth.” He bent down and pulled Tanner into another warm hug. “She agreed to give me full custody in exchange for a very small amount of child support.”

David nodded. “Good. She, ah… I’m betting she didn’t fight you too much on that.”

“No.” David wasn’t sure if Andy sounded relieved or saddened by that.

“So, what’s the next step?”

Andy smirked slightly. “Right now, just wanna take my boys home and spend the rest of the day with them.” He let go of Tanner and stood up to meet David’s gaze. “I’m fine. Nothing here to worry your head over.”

“Just because you say that doesn’t mean I won’t still worry about you,” David said with a grin. “You’re still one of my boys. No matter how old you get, I’m always gonna worry about you a little bit.”

Andy grinned a little and then tilted his head as his smile faded to a more concerned look of his own. “I think it’s only fair I ask if you’re doing okay. You look a little out of sorts.”

David waved his hand dismissively. “Just not enough sun out here yet. And maybe a little tired after chasing after two of my favorite little boys.” The last he said with a wide grin to the boys looking up at him.

“Alright then,” Andy said. “I’m gonna go ahead and take them home. We’ll see you later.”

“Stop by tomorrow. Maybe we’ll throw a little party for you to celebrate.”

Andy chuckled. “I’ll think about it. Troy’s gonna be out of town all day though. Maybe wait until Sunday.”

“Okay. Be careful driving home.” He waved as the two boys each took one of Andy’s hands and walked back towards the house. Blake turned to look back at his grandpa David and waved happily before they were out of sight.

David stood there for a long while, staring at them until they were out of sight. Even then, he was reluctant to move. It had been a good day with the boys, and he hoped to see them more often once summer started. Eventually, he moved to one of his many trees and slowly sat down until he was leaned back against the tree. His mind replayed memories of his orchard in the height of spring which would soon be approaching. When the time came, the field would be white with the flowers blooming all around him which would eventually become the fruit that would bring residents all over the area back here again and shippers to contract workers to collect crates full of apples. It would be a good harvest he was sure, and it would keep him busy throughout the rest of the spring and the summer until fall.

But in that moment, he was tired. His legs didn’t want to keep him up. It would probably take another half hour of sitting there before he could work up the energy to make it back up to the house. He’d been feeling fatigued like this for a couple days now but hadn’t thought much of it. At worst, he figured it was just the beginnings of old age. Eventually, it would pass like it had before and he would get back to his life. As he rested there under one of his beloved trees, his mind was kept occupied remembering the first time he taught a little boy what ‘K’ stood for.

 

****

 

Tyler was sitting alone at The Steel Door after a very long Saturday in Butler. His back still ached a bit and he was hungry while he waited on his food. Normally, Drake would have joined him, but he had opted to go to Pittsburgh to hit the clubs in town before Tyler got back from work. He offered to meet up with him if Tyler wanted to join him, but the thought of another long drive dissuaded Tyler from going.

As tired as he was when he first got home, he nearly decided to just stay home but the shower revitalized him enough, and he had an urge for the food at the bar instead of cooking up a frozen pizza. His mom wasn’t even home tonight. With her newfound job and confidence, she’d also started going out and hanging out with her friends. He was happy for her but the idea of staying home alone most of the night was the other deciding factor that got him out the door.

Now, he was sitting at a table between the bar and the side of the main room with the pool tables and other games the bar offered its patrons. He sat there nursing a beer and texting Andy off and on to check up on him. He offered to stop by his place later, but Andy declined the offer, telling him he just wanted to spend a quiet night with his kids now that his divorce was settled. Tyler respected his decision, but he also felt a little concern for his friend. The last couple days at work he’d caught Andy staring at his phone blankly and one time he could’ve sworn he saw him reach for something that wasn’t there on his hip when Sean accidentally pulled the trigger on his nail gun and sent a nail flying over everyone’s head. Tyler almost felt like he had to stand in between Andy and Sean from the look in his eyes. Andy had been short tempered and jumpy the rest of the day.

His food finally arrived, and he felt himself relax a little more as he satisfied his hunger. Still mentally tired from his long day, he let himself just enjoy the food and the game on the television nearby. The beer and the food went a long way to making all stress of the work week fade away. In the last month, that had really been the only stress he’d had to deal with. True, his mind would keep wandering back to the situation with his dad, but he mostly ignored it. He didn’t want to get caught up in the drama surrounding that situation. His mom hadn’t pressed him further but in the last couple days he’d received a couple phone calls from a number he didn’t know. They all had the New Jersey area code for the Trenton area and he promptly ignored them. Somewhere deep inside him, the thought, “you can’t run from this forever,” continued to percolate inside. Eventually, he’ll have to deal with this one way or another.

After eating, Tyler got another beer and paid his bill in case he decided to leave early. The Pirates weren’t doing much on the TV and he decided if they weren’t gonna pull off a comeback in the next inning he was just gonna head on home for the night. Just as he was about to take a drink from his bottle, he noticed movement off to the side. When he looked, he saw that same guy from the other night looking up at him as he was leaning over the pool table, getting ready to make a shot. Their eyes met again, and Tyler felt that spark run through him. This time, he didn’t look away. He nodded once to the stranger and then calmly turned his attention back to the ball game. Tyler tried to tell himself it was just a fluke, but he had to admit, getting a better look at the guy, he wouldn’t mind getting to know him.

Tyler kept his attention on the game, even though he could see the guy out of the corner of his eyes, and quietly drank his beer. He was nearly finished and was starting to get up to get another when he heard a deep voice with a slight twang behind him. “Where’s your buddy tonight?”

He turned around, looked up and there was that tall stranger looking down at him with a blank, unreadable stare. Tyler suspected the guy was a little rough around the edges, but that voice and his dark eyes gave him a handsome quality that made Tyler’s heart stir. “Oh, uh, he went out of town tonight to meet up with some friends.”

The guy frowned slightly in confusion. “How come you didn’t go with him?”

Tyler shrugged, wondering if this guy was suggesting something. “I worked late today, and he had already left. I didn’t feel like another long drive so I’m just hanging out here until the game’s over.”

“Oh.” The guy’s face never softened and there was barely any movement in his lips to indicate a smile. “Well, okay then.” He remained in place for a second more, saying nothing, before moving over to the bar. Tyler glanced at his retreating back and noticed the guy fit in his jeans rather well. On impulse, he got up from his seat and followed the man over to the bar.

Tyler made sure to stand close to the guy as they both waited for the bartender to get their orders. He stood there, waiting for him to say something and was more than a little surprised when the guy got his beers for him and his friends and walked away from him without a word. An irrational anger flared up inside him. Who the hell does this guy think he is? Tyler almost made up his mind right there to just leave but he couldn’t without looking like an idiot after standing there waiting to get another beer only to turn around and head out the door. It would be too obvious that he was jilted about being ignored. He got his beer and decided to go over to the other side of the bar away from the pool tables.

Even while watching the game, inwardly, Tyler was fuming. Why would the guy come right up and ask him why he was alone and then just ignore him like that at the bar? What kind of a person does that!? Maybe the guy was a creep or just a dumb hick. Either way, he decided he wasn’t going to bother trying to get to know the guy. He smirked to himself thinking how this was all Drake’s fault for giving him the idea that this guy was checking him out when he obviously wasn’t. He’ll listen to his own instincts from now on.

Bottom of the ninth and the Pirates were still behind by four. With the batters on deck Tyler knew the game was lost and his beer was nearly finished. He drank down the rest in a hurry, texted Andy one last time to make sure he was okay before he headed out of the bar. Just before he left, he glanced over at the pool tables and saw that guy again. He was lining up a shot and paused to look up at him. Tyler didn’t give him the chance to stare too long before he turned his head away and headed out the door.

He smiled to himself, claiming the moment as a small victory for himself. Let the guy wonder. Next time they see each other, Tyler would have no inclination to acknowledge his presence. He hopped up into his truck and headed home. His mom still wasn’t home yet, and it wasn’t really that late, but he was done for the night. He parked out on the street, headed inside and went straight to his room. Stripping out of his clothes and shutting off the lights, he collapsed into his bed and closed his eyes. He’d worry about deadbeat dads and stupid asshole hicks some other time.

 

****

 

Jacob parked his new truck next to his workshop. It was nearly midnight and he’d been gone most of the day. One delivery made for a simple night stand and pick up some lumber he’d ordered. The trip had taken him through Pittsburgh again and since he was by himself this time, he decided to drop in and visit Brian. They ended up going out to dinner together and then back to Brian’s apartment for some long talks to catch up and reconnect. He sent David a selfie with him and Brian while they were out eating. Partly for amusement and partly to show him without saying it, “I’m not out drinking, I’m with someone you know you can trust me with.” He didn’t get a response, but he didn’t expect one either. David wasn’t known for texting all that often. If he wanted to communicate with you, he’d either call or wait until you got home.

But it was worth seeing Brian and celebrating his second year of sobriety. He tried not to show it, but Brian was quick to point out his nervousness being out in public at a restaurant where there were wines and liquor all around him. Their closeness and affection for each other was enough that it kept his mind distracted and a night out with his friend was exactly what he needed. He honestly didn’t want to talk about the drama surrounding Andy and his impending divorce and Brian went out of his way to not ask about him. That suited Jacob just fine for the time being, but he knew eventually, someone was going to have to do something to settle whatever fight was going on between Brian and Andy.

Jacob entered the house and locked the heavy oak door he made himself before making his way down the hall and up to his room. He hadn’t bothered with any lights, having a long memory of going up and down these stairs and hallways for thirteen years now. But as he got to the top of the stairs, he saw a dim light coming from under the first door on the left that made him stop short.

Kyle’s room.

Jacob could count on one hand the number of times in the past eight years he had set foot in that room and each time was an unpleasant memory. He hated opening that door because he knew what he would find. Guilt. Sorrow. Anger. He could stay sober another twenty years and it wouldn’t matter because the one thing in the world that his drinking had cost him, that meant more to him than anything else was gone and never going to come back. David still held out hope and in some ways he did too. But the reality was, Kyle was gone, and they had no way to find him anymore. He tried searching for him on the internet a few times over the years, but he had no real presence online. Jacob was starting to think he’d changed his name and had moved across the country. Deep down in his heart, he was angry at Kyle. Not for what he did or for his own sake, but for Kyle hurting his father so badly by ignoring him and then disappearing.

He sighed and stepped up to the door. If Kyle wasn’t going to be the one to help his father, then the duty fell to him. He steeled himself for another second before he gently pushed the door open. Sitting on the single chair next to the neatly arranged desk in the room was David, leaning forward, staring down at something in his hand. Jacob kept his focus on David, hoping that would be enough to keep his own feelings of loss in check. “You’re up late,” he said quietly to break the silence.

David’s head lifted and gazed over at him. “Sorry,” he said in a voice that was tired and sounding older than it should. “I must’ve lost track of the time.”

Jacob’s eyes glanced at the bed and then at the dresser. Sure enough, as he predicted, the guilt was there. Waiting in the shadows for just the right moment to pounce. “Any… ah… reason for being here tonight?”

David looked down at his hands again and held up a medal attached to a simple ribbon. The ache in Jacob’s heart grew as he saw it for what it was. “Just came in to do some dusting. Got caught up in… memories.”

Jacob stepped over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “You should probably go to bed.”

“Yeah. You’re right.” David rose slowly for the chair. Jacob noted he seemed to put more effort into it than usual. “In fact, I think I’ll sleep in tomorrow. Not much to do on a Sunday.”

Jacob kept his hand on David’s shoulder, as if to safely escort him out of the room. “Sounds like a plan to me. I’ll deal with anything that comes up.”

As they passed the doorway, David took one more look behind him before turning the light off and closing the door behind them. “Andy’s divorce was settled yesterday.”

“I know. He told me.”

“You looked like you had fun with Brian tonight too.”

Jacob smiled. “Yeah. Yeah, I did.”

David stopped and looked at him. “Two years now, Jacob. You’ve come a long way.”

“Doesn’t seem like that long.” He chuckled and added, “though, sometimes it seems longer.”

David’s lips lifted slightly and nodded. “I know the feeling, son. I’m proud of you. And I know the others are too.”

“Goodnight, Dad.” Jacob gave him one last smile before turning and heading back to his room.

David sighed, feeling more tired than he had the last two days and stepped into his room, locking the door behind him. Jacob stood there for a moment in the hall before going into his bedroom. It hadn’t changed much since he was a teenager. He had clothes and a few other items of his own, but it always looked like a room he was just borrowing for the moment. There was nothing on the walls and he hadn’t painted the room to better suit him. It never really felt like it was his room anyway.

Without bothering with the light, he undressed and laid down on the bed. Closing his eyes, he let his mind go back and remember that face and that voice from so long ago. That voice that used to make him melt inside. That smile that made him feel like he was the only person in the room. It still hurt. Like a wound that never quite healed right. Worse than the drinking, losing Kyle had cut deep. But no matter how hard he tried, he could never give up that one addiction that remained. Hope.

 

****

 

Andy was sitting quietly in the darkened house. The only illumination coming from the television which he stared blankly at as the replay of the Pirates game played out in front of him. He was only barely paying attention. All night while he was with the boys, the main thought going through his mind was how trapped he felt. He’d gotten his divorce but that didn’t solve all his problems. He was faced with the new reality of having to raise two children on his own and also the prospect that it was going to be that way for the next fifteen years.

Stacy had never been much of a help with the kids but the reason why Troy gave her the job was to help give them enough money to make a comfortable living. Now, she took half of their savings and was only going to be required to give a laughingly small amount of child support. He was sure making ends meet was going to be his main challenge, but there was more to raising kids than just money.

His mind kept going over his own childhood and how his parents had raised him. He was trying to remember how they managed to live as well as they had. The most he could remember was how upbeat his dad always seemed and how his mother seemed to always have a solution to any problem. They did fine for themselves, but he knew his parents had struggled now and then. He had been occupied with his friends. School, swimming, hanging out at Kyle’s on those warm summer nights. The memories were bittersweet because he knew those days were gone for good. They were broken apart and it was unlikely that he would see all of his friends ever again. He missed Kyle but he missed Brian even more. His heart lurched in his chest now whenever he thought about him. That blonde hair and that little grin of his that made his heart skip a beat. Something he’d never told him no matter how many times it happened.

How many times in his life did he hear Brian’s voice as he entered a room and could literally feel his heart stop for a moment? How many times had they wordlessly flirted in the pool during practices? How many times did his heart ache and he had to bite his lip to contain the tears when he was laying in a cot or in a ditch on the other side of the world and wish he could have held him in his arms like that first night in his room after prom? How cowardly was he now that he couldn’t bring himself to say to himself that he didn’t want to go on without the one person in the world that meant everything to him? He sat there, staring blankly, letting all of these thoughts drift in and out of focus with no answers and no hope.

He was about to get up and just go to bed when he heard a door open and the sound of small feet padding down the hall. As he turned to look over his shoulder, the most adorable bed head he’d ever seen appeared and was heading his way. “Tanner,” he kept his voice low so as to not wake the other child in the house. “It’s past midnight, bud. You should be asleep.”

The small boy climbed up onto the couch and laid his head on his father’s chest. “Blake was in my bed again.”

Andy rolled his eyes, but a smirk lifted his lips and his spirits. Since Stacy left the house, Blake had seemed to not want to sleep alone. He started out getting into bed with Andy but once he put a stop to that, he switched over to getting into bed with Tanner instead. Troy even mentioned him crawling into bed with Chase once when the boys stayed the night at their place a couple weeks ago. He held his oldest son and sighed. “Well, I guess you should bunk with me tonight then.” He knew their beds couldn’t hold two kids. Probably before morning he’d have both his sons in bed with him.

Hearing no objections, Andy turned the TV off and effortlessly picked Tanner up as he got to his feet to head to bed. He laid Tanner down on the bed before he stripped his shirt off and joined him. Tanner was quick to snuggle up to his dad. Andy could hear a small sigh and felt his little body relax. He wished he could relax like that again. A sudden thought came to him as he held his son close. “Hey, Tan?”

“Mm?”

“How would you like if we went to visit your grandma in Cleveland?”

The idea seemed to waken the boy a little as he asked, “when?”

“First week in June, maybe? Just the three of us.” The idea of going to see his mom was suddenly very appealing. Maybe he could talk to her about his problems and she could offer a solution he hadn’t thought about yet.

“Yeah,” the sleepy boy responded. “It’ll be fun.”

“Good. Then that’s what we’ll do.” Andy closed his eyes, thinking it’ll be nice to see her again. He needed some kind of hope to keep going. She was probably his best bet. He could feel sleep starting to take hold of him and he didn’t fight it, even when he heard his door open and felt the bed shift as another person joined them.

His last thought before sleep claimed him was of who he really wished was there with him when he needed someone most.

Copyright © 2019 Jdonley75; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

6 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

I wouldn't call Tyler "confident."  The more correct word might be "competent."  While Sean is giving him a compliment, he seems to not take is very seriously.  He still has a ways to go to get to a point where he feels confident in himself.

Yea, I really meant competent. 

I'll not go back and edit it though. Might make your reply not make sense. :) 

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22 minutes ago, Geemeedee said:

Did the hick lose his nerve? Or does he not realize that he’s gay (or at least bi)?

Pretty sure the answers will be coming soon.

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I continue to enjoy this story! It is so interesting to see things from Tyler's point of view. I really grew to care about these characters in The Acquittal, and it's nice to revisit them. Thanks.

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Sean is interested in Tyler and Tyler has no clue because he doesn’t think he has it like that.  The one glimmer of “What’s up” that Drake put in his head seems to be a confused closet case.  Tyler is right to let that be (for now?).

I still have my hopes set on Drake and Tyler long term but their relationship is a marathon, not a sprint so I’m interested to see where their relationship will be parallel to Kyle and Jacob getting back together (I do recall Jacob hired Tyler as his extra help since he was uncomfortable at the construction site after being outed at work)

Events at the orchard are coming to a head and it is distressing to see David’s physical decline.  Depression can manifest physically and David’s depression is deep seated;  Given all that happened between he Jacob and Kyle, I feel he would have died if Jacob left.

Andy is dealing with his own trauma and depression;  Each apple on that team tree ripens is with deep sadness.  Unhappiness and dissatisfaction is exhausting.

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On 7/15/2019 at 12:35 AM, JeffreyL said:

I continue to enjoy this story! It is so interesting to see things from Tyler's point of view. I really grew to care about these characters in The Acquittal, and it's nice to revisit them. Thanks.

I really love these characters.  It means a lot to me that I get this opportunity to expand their past and (eventually) continue their story past the previous stories.

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3 hours ago, FanLit said:

Sean is interested in Tyler and Tyler has no clue because he doesn’t think he has it like that.  The one glimmer of “What’s up” that Drake put in his head seems to be a confused closet case.  Tyler is right to let that be (for now?).

I still have my hopes set on Drake and Tyler long term but their relationship is a marathon, not a sprint so I’m interested to see where their relationship will be parallel to Kyle and Jacob getting back together (I do recall Jacob hired Tyler as his extra help since he was uncomfortable at the construction site after being outed at work)

Events at the orchard are coming to a head and it is distressing to see David’s physical decline.  Depression can manifest physically and David’s depression is deep seated;  Given all that happened between he Jacob and Kyle, I feel he would have died if Jacob left.

Andy is dealing with his own trauma and depression;  Each apple on that team tree ripens is with deep sadness.  Unhappiness and dissatisfaction is exhausting.

Tyler still lacks enough confidence to realize that someone is interested in him as more than just a friend.  He seems to have more than enough guys interested in him though.

Drake and Tyler do have a long-term relationship already.  Now, does it turn romantic?  That remains to be seen.

Things with David are heading downhill.  I can't comment on what may or may not have happened if Jacob had left.  It's entirely possible that all three of them would have suffered from the loss the rest of their lives.

Andy's story is far from over and regardless of what you have read in other stories, there is still a lot you have yet to learn.

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We are starting to see symptoms of what we found out about when The Acquittal first began. Of course no one in the story knows what’s happening or what will happen because of that. Are we about seven months (based on Liz’s being a couple weeks late) away from the main events (as opposed to the flashbacks) in The Acquittal?

Tyler is inexperienced enough not to realize how many guys are attracted to him. I’m thinking barguy is not out to his drinking buddies. He doesn’t want them to know that he’s interested in Tyler. One or both of the new guys at work seem to be interested too. But it’s not good to date a coworker because if anything goes wrong, you’re stuck working with him unless one of you leaves for a different job.

Poor Andy is suffering for a mistake that he compounded by marrying the mistake and having a second child with that mistake.

Yay! Jacob has passed a major milestone in his sobriety. Two years is an important date.

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14 hours ago, droughtquake said:

We are starting to see symptoms of what we found out about when The Acquittal first began. Of course no one in the story knows what’s happening or what will happen because of that. Are we about seven months (based on Liz’s being a couple weeks late) away from the main events (as opposed to the flashbacks) in The Acquittal?

Tyler is inexperienced enough not to realize how many guys are attracted to him. I’m thinking barguy is not out to his drinking buddies. He doesn’t want them to know that he’s interested in Tyler. One or both of the new guys at work seem to be interested too. But it’s not good to date a coworker because if anything goes wrong, you’re stuck working with him unless one of you leaves for a different job.

Poor Andy is suffering for a mistake that he compounded by marrying the mistake and having a second child with that mistake.

Yay! Jacob has passed a major milestone in his sobriety. Two years is an important date.

We're in the month of June in this chapter.  The Acquittal takes off in the middle of August.  Liz doesn't give birth until Thanksgiving.  (imagine trying to keep all that in place.)

Tyler is inexperienced in life at this point.  He's still kind of just trying to make his way as best he can with what he's got (which isn't much.)

Andy is suffering in many different ways.

Jacob's my baby.  He's pretty much the reason this is all here.  But the next couple chapters is going to illuminate the other side of The Acquittal the readers didn't see last time.

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You go Tyler! Listen to your gut.

Ah the moment of stillness when the water is just below the boiling point: David, Jacob, Andy, and their shared misery and needs.

It's taken me awhile to figure out whose voices I'm hearing in my head and whose faces I'm seeing in my mind's eye:

For David, I'm definitely hearing John Collum/Holling Vincoeur

I'm working on the others.

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10 hours ago, BlueWindBoy said:

You go Tyler! Listen to your gut.

Ah the moment of stillness when the water is just below the boiling point: David, Jacob, Andy, and their shared misery and needs.

It's taken me awhile to figure out whose voices I'm hearing in my head and whose faces I'm seeing in my mind's eye:

For David, I'm definitely hearing John Collum/Holling Vincoeur

I'm working on the others.

Wish I could help you on this, but their voices and faces in my mind are all unique.  There are no famous people I can think of who would fit the roles.

Well, there is ONE celebrity that always pops into my head for one character, but you haven't met them yet. ;) 

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