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    Wayne Gray
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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.

Ash and Ember - 21. Integration

24 January 2019, Thursday 4:22 p.m.

Expertly handling all of the orders for Grant's last patient of the day, Rhett disappeared into an exam room to clean it up. Unlike every other provider/medical assistant team in the building, they were on track to finish a little early. Grant sat at his desk working on their last patient's chart to complete the visit before he left for the day.

They were now up to full productivity. Grant and Rhett saw at least twelve patients every four-hour block of clinic time and often had additional patients squeezed into their schedule. They had yet to break the thirty patient barrier in a day, but they'd gotten close.

Rhett blew into the office, always on the move. "Great job today, Grant. Man, you work fast." Coming from Rhett, that meant something.

Grant grinned. "You too." Grant shook his head. "There's no way I could get it done without you."

"We're a team. That's how it works." He draped his stethoscope around his neck. "Okay, I gotta run to help Penelope, then if you don't need anything, I'll head out to get to my night class."

"I'm good. You've done plenty. Get out of here as soon as you can."

Rhett nodded and left the room, always busy. Grant continued working on the chart of the last young man he'd seen. The fellow was a squeeze into the schedule, referred to him by Dan, Rhett's brother. He was another young gay man. Just like Dan, he seemed relieved that he now had a choice of a gay male provider at the clinic.

After another five minutes, Grant was almost done with his note. A shadow fell across him, and he looked over his shoulder. Dr. Petrucci stood at the doorway. "Hey, Grant. Got a minute?"

Nodding, Grant turned to face the doc. Dr. Petrucci took a seat, pulling up so they could talk easily, his green eyes resting on Grant. "How are you doing? I know you recently hit full productivity, and I wanted to check in."

Grant smiled. "I'm doing good. Rhett has a big part to do with that. He's great."

Dr. Petrucci nodded. "Yeah, we knew Rhett was going to be an asset to you. He's young, but man, he can really get the work done."

Grant agreed. "Absolutely. Look, I know I'm new here, but I really think Rhett isn't getting paid enough for the work. Without him, I'd only see about half of these patients."

The doc grinned. "It's good you want to go to bat for him. That's great, Grant." He exhaled and seemed to give it some thought. "I'll take a look at the pay scale and see where he falls compared to the other Medical Assistants."

Grant smiled. "Thanks for that. He deserves it."

"Sure." Dr. Petrucci cocked his head, obviously interested in another topic. "Marcy tells me you're seeing quite a few new patients. As in, completely new to the practice." Marcy was the office manager of the clinic, and she tracked such things and reported them to Dr. Petrucci. The doctor smiled slightly. "How's that going? New patients are a bit more work."

"Good. These are guys that otherwise wouldn't be getting seen, so I make sure to try to get them in."

Grant could tell by Dr. Petrucci's face that he was curious about that statement. Grant expelled a breath. "Ah, they're young gay men. And until recently they weren't really comfortable coming to the clinic to be seen for their particular issues."

The doc digested this information. "Oh." He frowned. "Do you know why they wouldn't want to see one of our other providers? If someone said or did something to make these young men uncomfortable …"

"No. No, it's nothing like that." Grant bit his lip. "The truth is, word has sort of gotten out that I'm a good person for them to see." Grant knew it was a tricky thing for an employer to inquire about his sexuality, so he decided to just let that cat out of the bag. "I'm gay. And these guys trust me to understand them, and they tell me things they wouldn't tell another provider."

Dr. Petrucci's eyes lit up with realization. "Ahhh. Okay." Then he grinned. "Well, this is a demographic the clinic isn't serving well. Our numbers for self-identified gay and bisexual men are far below the national average." He eyed Grant and slowly nodded. "You're really performing a service here. I appreciate that."

Grant relaxed at his mentor and boss's reaction. "Thanks. And I'm happy to do it."

Russell Petrucci looked thoughtful. "You know, I have a few patients who have self-identified as gay, but I know they're not telling me everything that pertains to their sexual health. I'd like to collaborate with you on these patients - give them the option to see you for certain issues. Would that work for you?"

Grant didn't even have to think about it. "Definitely. I'd like to help any way I can."

Russell smiled. "That's great. I appreciate that." The man stood. "I've got to finish up charting. If you have any issues you'd like to discuss with me or difficult cases, just let me know."

"Will do, doc. Thank you." Grant watched as Dr. Petrucci left the room. He turned back to the computer, a small, unconscious smile on his face. It was now just after five p.m., and he had finished with his last chart. Shutting down the computer, Grant slipped the laptop into his bag and stood.

Rhett came back into the office. He looked over at Grant. "All done?"

"Yeah. How about you?" Grant put his computer bag over his shoulder.

"Yes. We just finished." Rhett smiled at Grant, his interested blue eyes behind his glasses. "What are you up to this weekend? Anything fun?" He knew Grant had Fridays off, though he himself had to work.

"Yeah, actually. Saturday afternoon we're going to have some friends over for a game day. We'll play board games, and probably drink and overeat. How about you, Rhett?"

The short man chuckled. "Ah, not really. Probably just study." He shrugged into his jacket that hung on the back of the door, his shoulders slumping a bit.

Grant noted the resignation in Rhett's response. From what he knew, Rhett didn't do much outside of work, study and go to school. He was a busy guy and was on the path to becoming a registered nurse. But over the last couple of months, Grant had begun to notice Rhett's lack of social time.

"Well, would you want to come over? You can hang out, play games, meet our pack of friends." Grant smiled at him. "You could meet Troy, too." Then Grant remembered something. "Ah, you may already have. He's the Van Handyman you told me about."

Rhett couldn't hide his surprise. "Really? You're dating the Van Handyman?" He tried to walk back his reaction. "Uh, not that there's anything wrong with him."

Grant laughed. "Well, Troy has probably cleaned up a bit since you last saw him."

Rhett made a pained face. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be so judgmental."

"No worries, Rhett." Grant watched Rhett's expressions. "So, what do ya say? Do you want to come hang out? You'll get fed, and we'll have wine and beer to drink."

An audible swallow, and the agonized frown as Rhett thought made it look as if Rhett had been handed hemlock. The expression was gone after a moment, and he smiled. "Uh, yeah. That sounds pretty nice. If you're sure you don't mind, yeah, I'll take you up on it."

What was that? "I don't mind. None of the friends will either." Grant took a business card and wrote down his address on the back. "Here you go. We start at two p.m. Come on over anytime after that." He handed the card to Rhett.

Rhett took a deep breath and stared at the card. "All right." He blinked and raised his eyes to Grant's. "Do I need to bring anything?"

"Nope. Just yourself. We'll have the food, drinks, and snacks covered."

The small man looked at the card again. "Cool. It has been a while since I've been to anything like a party, or a game day. It, ah … It'll be fun." He sounded as if he tried to convince himself that was true. "Thanks for the invite."

"Of course. You're welcome." Grant patted his back. The two walked out of the building to the parking lot. Grant waved as Rhett got into his little car. Huh. I wonder why Rhett reacted that way. I hope he really shows up.

Just to make sure nobody would be surprised, Grant sat behind the wheel of his car and started a text to the group of friends. Hey, all. I invited one of my coworkers, Rhett to hang out this weekend with us at our board game event. He's a good guy. Hope that's all right. He sent the message, then thought a minute. He smirked and started another text. Brian, no humping the new guy.

Grant was proud of his little remark. He started the car, then his phone buzzed. It was only a sad face from Brian. Grant laughed, and began the drive home.

 

26 January 2019, Saturday 1:49 p.m.

Saturday rolled around, and Troy and Grant both prepared for their friends to come over. Grant was handling food while Troy worked at tidying the house and getting their game selections squared away.

While Troy cleaned, Grant put the finishing touches on his meal. He made pineapple chicken breasts. He'd found a recipe for it online, though he had tweaked it slightly to add spicy and savory flavors to the meat as well. The chicken was baked, and the sugars in the pineapple juice carmelized to a beautiful brown color on the chicken; it also made the house smell amazing. As he took it out of the oven, Grant's mouth watered uncontrollably.

To pair with the chicken, Grant roasted cauliflower and broccoli tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. A pot full of brown rice also bubbled away, in the last stages of cooking. Their friends were to bring various appetizers and anything they wanted to drink that wasn't beer, wine, or water.

Coming around the corner of the hall to enter the kitchen, Troy went to the sink behind Grant to wash his hands. "Okay, all cleaned up, and ready for our friends to mess it up." Troy chuckled, and Grant smiled. The tall man finished washing and turned off the water. He looked over at Grant's chicken. "Good gravy, that looks awesome."

"Thanks!" Grant grinned at Troy. "What they won't know is all of this is really healthy. It has a ton of flavor, a lot of fiber, but it's low in fat and simple carbs." Troy made a surprised face and Grant continued. "I wanted to eat and not feel guilty about it!"

Troy rolled his eyes. "Like you need to watch what you eat, Mr. Yoga!" He pinched Grant's flat belly through his shirt, eliciting a yelp from Grant. He tried to get away, which made Troy laugh evilly, and soon the men struggled playfully with one another against the kitchen counter.

Troy finally held Grant firmly, their chests together, and Troy's arms around Grant's torso, pinning his upper arms to his sides. Grant simply gave Troy his lopsided smile. He wasn't trying very hard to escape.

Troy grinned and leaned forward. The men kissed, and then again. It wasn't long before their tongues explored one another's mouths.

A knock sounded.

"God damn it." Troy put his head down on Grant's shoulder and laughed. They were both hard, thanks to their make-out session. "I know that's Aaron."

"Tell him he's a cock block. He'll love that." Grant smirked.

The men separated, and Troy pushed at his dick to try and make it less obvious in his loose cargo pants. It sort of worked. He looked down at his crotch and pulled out his shirt to cover himself. "That'll have to do."

Shaking his head, Grant laughed.

Troy walked to the door and opened it. Sure enough, Aaron and Georgette were outside, bundled up from the chilly afternoon temperature.

"Come on in!" Troy greeted them both with a hug, careful to keep his hips back away from his friends. Luckily, neither seemed to notice his difficulty below the waist.

"Hey, Troy." Aaron seemed to be in a great mood as he released Troy. "Hey, Grant!" Aaron walked into the kitchen, followed by Troy and Georgette. Troy was amused to see the awkward hug Grant gave their friend, with his pelvis carefully turned.

Georgette set her bowl of guacamole and a big bag of corn chips down on the kitchen counter. "Thanks for hosting, guys." She smiled at the men. Georgette was now in her tenth week of pregnancy. It wouldn't be long before it was evident that she was carrying a child. He could tell a difference in her. It was subtle, but she seemed calmer to him.

"Hey, Georgette. And no problem." Grant smiled at the woman. He nodded at her still-flat belly. "How's that treating you? Doing okay with the pregnancy?"

She sighed and laughed. Aaron stepped up, put his arm around her shoulders, and she leaned against him. "It's good. I'm exhausted, but I hear that's pretty normal."

"She's a trooper." Aaron looked down at her with unstinting love and respect. "I know she's tired, but she just keeps going."

"You make me sound like a hero," Georgette said, but she smiled against him. That's when Troy realized that the calmness he saw in Georgette was simply a symptom of her pregnancy. She was beat. Her body was madly replicating cells in the creation of another human being, and that process was incredibly draining. Georgette was a high-energy kind of person, and the pregnancy forced her to dial back on her regular, manic self, making her seem "normal".

"You are a hero." Aaron kissed her head. The moment was a sweet one, causing both Grant and Troy to grin at them.

Another knock came. "I'll get it." Troy peeled off the group and headed for the door. "You guys hang out, get comfortable."

Troy opened the door.

"Hey, buddy!" Brian instantly folded him in a hug. Troy stood helplessly as the big man trapped his arms down along his sides and squeezed him. Natalie stood a little behind Brian, shaking her head.

"Hi, Troy." She chuckled and stepped around the men. "I'll just take our bacon-wrapped, cream cheese filled dates inside."

Troy made a noise of surprise and squirmed. "Turn me loose! Those things will be gone in like three minutes!"

With a laugh, Brian let Troy go. The tall man followed Natalie closely until she put the plate down on the kitchen counter. He instantly grabbed one of the dates. Natalie had stuffed the dates with cream cheese, then rolled each in half a slice of bacon, and she had finally tossed them in brown sugar. After that, they baked until they were crispy, sticky, cheesy bites of sweet and savory.

Upon seeing them, Grant gave Natalie a scathing look. "Nat. Why?" He then gazed longingly down at the plate of treats. "These are the weapons of the devil when it comes to my meal plan, you know that?" He said the words but also took one.

Natalie laughed. "I've not heard them described that way before, but I'll take it as a compliment!"

Grant answered by popping a date in his mouth. He chewed and made a face of rapture, raising a thumb as he did.

Another knock came, and Troy started to go for the door. Grant held up a hand and hurriedly chewed. "I got it." He swallowed his bite. "It should be Rhett."

Troy was happy to stand near the plate of bacon wrapped dates among all of the friends. Each of them happily chewed the sweet and savory bites.

 

26 January 2019, Saturday 1:58 p.m.

Knocking, then fidgeting with the basket he carried, Rhett stood on the welcome mat. He scraped his feet free of ice and snow on the bristly material, then shifted the little basket of muffins around. He wasn't exactly a great cook, but he got by, and he'd made a snack that he hoped would go over well.

Grant opened the door. The dark-haired man smiled at Rhett. "Hey, glad you came, Rhett. Come on in."

"Hi, Grant. Thanks again for inviting me." Rhett stepped inside. There were voices, but he couldn't see anyone else from the vantage point of the hall.

"You're welcome." Grant looked at Rhett's basket and closed the door. "You didn't have to bring anything."

"Oh, I know." Rhett laughed a little, hearing the nervousness in his own voice. "Uh, I just like to have an offering when I go somewhere new." He tried to calm down. Being around Grant helped. He knew Grant. Come on. Be normal. Just for a little bit. Be normal. Sweat beaded on his upper lip.

Grant frowned a little at him. "You okay?"

Rhett made a face. "Ah, yeah. I just get anxious around a crowd of people I don't know." He waved a hand. "Patients don't bother me. I can handle them one on one, easy. It's groups that give me a little trouble."

Rhett saw the light go on for Grant. "You have social anxiety?"

Grimacing, Rhett couldn't help where his thoughts led. Well, that didn't take long, did it? He tried hard to push the negativity down. "Yeah." He hesitated and handed the basket to Grant. "I'm sorry. I probably should go."

Grant smiled, the expression one of understanding. "If that's what you want, then that's fine. But I'm going to tell you that the people in that room are some of the best I've ever met." He put a hand on Rhett's shoulder. "Why don't you give it a shot? And if it gets to be too much, then you can just get out of dodge. No social niceties. You just get up, and you leave. I'll tell you now that it's fine if you need to do that."

Rhett licked his lips. Laughter came from deeper in the house, and people happily chatting followed. Grant gently patted his back. "Come on. Meet them. If you like."

They're gonna find something wrong with you. That you're weird, or dumb. You'll fuck up in front of them. They'll laugh at you. Rhett took a deep breath. No. Grant's right. Just get in there. Just do it. He looked at Grant. "Okay." He nodded, steeling himself. "Okay. Let's do it."

Grant grinned. "All right." He handed the basket back to Rhett. "Here. You're bringing food. It's a good icebreaker."

Rhett took the basket with one final nod. Grant stepped in front of him, and Rhett followed him inside.

They were now in the living room. A fire crackled in the hearth and it was comfortably warm in the house. Two women and three men stood in the kitchen, talking and laughing. Rhett felt his heart beat a little faster.

It was almost as if Grant could sense his tension, and he put a hand on Rhett's back. "It's okay," he whispered it then cleared his throat. "Hey, everybody. This is Rhett. We work together. He's the guy who keeps me running on time."

A tall, lanky, brown-haired guy stepped around the kitchen counter. Rhett recognized him as the Van Handyman. "Hi, Rhett. I'm Troy." Troy's face crinkled as if he tried to remember something. "Have we met before?" Troy extended his hand.

"Hi. Yeah, when you did some work for my brother, Dan." Rhett shook Troy's hand.

"Ah. Okay, on a job." He smiled easily at Rhett. "Well, glad you made it. Grant has nothing but good things to say about you."

Rhett felt surprised at the comment. Grant says good things about me? "Ah, well, that's nice to know." He smiled, genuinely happy at what seemed to be a casual comment by Troy.

Troy took the basket from him. "I'll take this to the kitchen." Troy stepped into the other room with the rest of the people. "Oh! You should come in here; grab one of these dates before they're gone, Rhett."

One of the women rolled her eyes. "Oh god. We're capable of saving him a couple." The dark-haired woman eyed a big man as he picked one up and ate it in seconds. There were now four remaining on the plate. "Maybe." She shook her head and smiled at Rhett. "I'm Natalie. Good to meet you, Rhett."

Additional introductions to the group followed. They all seemed nice, but Rhett was on high alert. He watched to see if anyone seemed put off, or if there were any sort of negative comments about him. His anxiety was a daily struggle for him.

He fared well at work. Patients flowed into and out of the clinic. He didn't have to spend a lot of time around each of them, and one on one he had a much easier time. He knew all of the staff, and didn't have a problem with people he knew well.

College was another matter. Before he went to the campus, he had to take his clonazepam. It was the only way he could get through it. He took as many distance learning courses as possible, but some classes required him to go and sit in person. It was two sides of a coin. On the one hand, he loved learning, and he was smart, so he did well. But on the other, he dreaded the necessary interaction with a full class of people he barely knew.

Rhett did indeed get a couple of the dates. The big man, who introduced himself as Brian, curiously unfolded the cloth over Rhett's basket. "Oh. What are these?" He picked up one of the little corn muffins, and smelled it.

"Ah, nothing much. I took the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix. I put shredded sharp cheddar and diced jalapeno into the mix right before I baked them."

Brian's eyes widened, and he smiled. "Cheddar, jalapeno corn muffins?" He gingerly took a bite, then made a sound of approval. "It's good!" he said around a mouthful of muffin.

Looking for any sign Brian messed with him, Rhett relaxed when it seemed Brian enjoyed the muffin. "I'm glad you like it." He swallowed, trying hard to just accept the compliment. "It was really simple. I don't cook much."

"Neither did Grant." Aaron came around the counter, and he grabbed a muffin too. "Now everything Grant throws in the oven turns into something delicious."

Rhett smiled. His muffins almost disappeared before he even got one. Okay, I guess they really like them. As they chatted and snacked, he could tell the group specifically tried to include him in conversations, and they also seemed to know when to back off. Over the next few minutes, he slowly relaxed.

"Okay. You guys ready for some games? After we've played for a bit, we'll have dinner." Grant stood in the living room, holding a long, rectangular box in his hands.

"Cards Against Humanity?!" Georgette almost squealed. She loped into the living room. "Yes! Let's do it!"

"Oh, god." Aaron rolled his eyes. "Here we go - Georgette's chance to prove she's the worst human being in the room."

Putting her hands on her hips, Georgette glared at the redhead. "You're just mad because I win!"

Making no reply, Aaron only sighed and nodded. Georgette smirked at him.

Rhett really didn't get out all that much. He'd never played the game. They'll think I'm lame. He glanced at Grant, and the man smiled a little at him. Rhett realized that his anxiousness must have shown on his face.

"Well, we're gonna go over the rules again, just so we're all clear." Grant waved a finger at Georgette. "Writing your own white cards during the game is not permitted!"

Georgette made an innocent face. "Me?" Then she smiled, all teeth, like a shark.

The group laughed, and Rhett again felt his anxiety quell just a bit. They all sat down around the coffee table. Rhett took the end, right next to Grant.

Grant looked over at him briefly. Again, that reassuring smile came from the dark-haired man, then he refocused on the group. "Okay. So, everyone gets seven white cards. I'm gonna go ahead and deal those out now."

Dealing cards, Grant continued with the instructions. Rhett both listened to him explain and looked around at the faces.

Now and again his eyes would meet one of the men or women at the table. Always, he saw in them an openness and an acceptance.

They're happy I'm here. Rhett let the realization wash over him. He blinked, and a smile pulled at his lips.

Grant finished up with his instructions on how to play the game. "Okay. Got it?" There were nods around the table. Grant grinned. "Okay, I'll draw the first black card. Here we go." Grant drew a card from the top of the black deck, and the game commenced.

For the first time in a very long while, Rhett Olson had a good day.

We're watching Rhett be pulled into Grant's orbit a bit tighter too now. And hopefully all will be better for it.

I spent a long time researching Rhett. I based him on someone I know, and worked hard at getting his particular case of social anxiety right. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the chapter.

Thanks for reading!

Copyright © 2020 Wayne Gray; All Rights Reserved.
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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.
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Wow! My generalized social anxiety is very mild compared with Rhett’s. I can sense his near-panic at just the thought of being surrounded by a bunch of people he’s not familiar with. I used to make other people go with me to new places – that was the only way I managed to go to Berkeley’s Gay community center the first couple times. Most of the time when I’m in a crowd where I only know a few people, I hang around near the edge observing.

Having been homeless ‘broke’ me and forced me into new situations among people very different from those I was accustomed to growing up in the suburbs. I still don’t like new situations, but I’m better at handling them than I used to be. Just not quite at a ‘normal’ level.
;–)

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Rhett is very lucky to have met Georgette when she’s pregnant when her natural exuberance and bluntness are attenuated (‘attenuate’ is my rediscovered new word). He would definitely have fled her normal personality!
;–)

How soon before Georgette and Natalie try to match Rhett up with one of their single friends? He seems like quite a catch for the right person. Someone more sociable than he is, but not a social butterfly who needs to constantly be out there partying. Someone who is comfortable in quiet settings and empathic enough to be able to read Rhett the way Grant has.
;–)

Edited by droughtquake
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26 minutes ago, kbois said:

What an interesting chapter! I really love the empathetic way you handled Rhett's social anxiety.  It sucks to be constantly second guessing yourself when faced with a new social setting. Kudos to Grant (and his author) to how he handled it. I'm lucky that while I've never been comfortable with myself in new or large group situations,  I've never had to experience anxiety that prevented me from functioning.  

Also you hit the nail on the head with Natalie and her first trimester exhaustion.  Nothing prepares you for the wave of sheer and utter bone weary tiredness that hits you like a brick wall in the first trimester. I swear, with both my kids it was the only time I could picture myself falling asleep standing up! At least after the baby is born there are other people to help out. 

Cards Against Humanity....so much fun!! Especially when you play with your college and high school aged kids and you discover that they get their warped senses of humor from you!😂

Awesome chapter!

Thanks, kbois!

Grant and friends really want Rhett to feel good about himself, and about being there. The friends don't have a name to go along with how Rhett presents to them, but they can sense he's a bit tender. Yes ... even Georgette can tell. 😛

Georgette is the pregnant one, but I get what you mean. I worked in an OB clinic for a couple of years, and I got to hear repeated accounts of that malaise which strikes pregnant women. I felt bad for them. But, it was nice to watch their partners with them. Most were so loving and sweet. I liked that a lot.

That game is hilarious. My pack of friends loves it, and there are some terrible things that come out of some of the card combinations. FYI, you should check out Joking Hazard. It's like Cards Against Humanity, except with comics. It's ... awesome.

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28 minutes ago, yarameb said:

Great chapter, looking forward to more...

Thanks, yarameb.

There's more to come. Next chapter will drop on Thursday, and it's a fun one! 😄

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7 minutes ago, Wayne Gray said:

I bet homelessness did many things to push you. I can't really imagine it. I'm glad you're not in that situation anymore.

I think I was in shock through most of it. There are still many aspects of my experiences that I can’t remember. And I had an overwhelming goal to stay sheltered that kept me focused on making sure I knew which shelter I’d be staying at next when my inevitable time limit expired where I was staying.

I’m glad I’ve been out of homelessness and sheltered for just about seven years now. I’m safe unless they tighten requirements and I lose my benefits.

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35 minutes ago, Wayne Gray said:

 

Georgette is the pregnant one, but I get what you mean. 

Oops...my bad!!  😊

Or maybe a premonition? Seems like when one lemming jumps the others follow!! My group of friends all have kids in the same age group!🤔🤭😁

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41 minutes ago, Wayne Gray said:

Thanks, yarameb.

There's more to come. Next chapter will drop on Thursday, and it's a fun one! 😄

You keep misspelling it... it's W-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y. Geesh!🤣😉

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37 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

I haven't read the chapter yet, but yes this is so true ... had people say that to me about Don from Changes. Someone with a disability who is having a real life, is good to see. I'm glad your characters are real... that means a lot to me as a reader.  xo

Well, I hope you enjoy it, tim.

you really said it well ... "Someone with a disability who is having a real life,..." That's a big deal.

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Just now, Parker Owens said:

And now we get to see the beauty of love flowing outwards, from Troy and Grant through the Quad Squad and now into Rhett. These people, through a simple chain of friendship, will change a whole community. For now, it’s great to see them lift Rhett into their warmth and light.

Thanks, Parker.

Yes, you're right. Now that the men aren't struggling with their own external stresses and internal messes, they're better able to see and respond to the needs of others. Grant really is a part of the group now, and he's not selfish with them. He's more than willing to bring Rhett along if that's what he wants. 🙂

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5 minutes ago, Bft said:

Great chapter, I am pleased that Grant is out to Dr Russell and that he is ok with that and will refer his gay patients to Grant as the need arises. 
I think that Rhett will attend more of the social gatherings with Grant, Troy and co. 

Thanks, Bft!

Grant's finding it easier to say the words thanks to how he has been treated by his coworkers and boss. Rhett had a lot to do with that. Now, it seems that Grant is repaying Rhett's easy acceptance with some careful treatment.

Maybe you're right about mister Rhett. Time will tell. 🙂

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5 hours ago, droughtquake said:

How soon before Georgette and Natalie try to match Rhett up with one of their single friends? He seems like quite a catch for the right person. Someone more sociable than he is, but not a social butterfly who needs to constantly be out there partying. Someone who is comfortable in quiet settings and empathic enough to be able to read Rhett the way Grant has.
;–)

Has anyone else noticed that Mr Gray carefully avoided commenting on this post?

It’s not as though I were pondering the possibility of Rhett being asexual or Transgender. Or that he’s likely to be going all ‘Harris’ on us in a few chapters. Rhett and Dan don’t have a brother who disappeared under mysterious circumstances…
;–)

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It was great to learn more about Rhett. I liked the way Grant kind of took him under his wing at the party. I hope this group of friends will work some of their "magic" on Rhett. I also really enjoyed the conversation between Grant and his boss about his sexuality. There should be more bosses like Dr. Petrucci. Thanks.

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8 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

It was great to learn more about Rhett. I liked the way Grant kind of took him under his wing at the party. I hope this group of friends will work some of their "magic" on Rhett. I also really enjoyed the conversation between Grant and his boss about his sexuality. There should be more bosses like Dr. Petrucci. Thanks.

Rhett is a good man with some challenges most of us don't have to deal with in our day to day life. The friends can sort of sense that something's different about him, and they're being pretty gentle. Grant works in a good place with good people. Dr. Petrucci values him for what he brings to the practice, and he doesn't care one way or another about Grant's sexuality. Though, in this case it works out to the practice's advantage!

Thanks for your comment!

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Wow. Just wow.

Every time he turns around, another facet of Grant’s big heart is revealed. His kindness and his caring continue to shock me in the best way. He’s a great man and an even better friend. A caregiver through and through.

The way he rolled with Rhett’s social anxiety was perfect. He put control of the situation back in his friend’s hand, which is just about the best thing he could’ve done. Control is so important to those of us suffering through severe anxiety. By giving Rhett his blessing to leave at any time, lower his guard enough to relax a bit. He became more receptive to the group and less focused on that little voice whispering self-doubt in his ear.

I’m agoraphobic — terribly so — and I completely understood what was going on inside Rhett’s head. I too have to medicate — in my case, just to go to the store — and the thought of sitting in a crowded lecture hall is terrifying. That Rhett does so regularly, with or without medication, is admirable. Making it to game day, somewhere new and with new people, must have felt liberating — scary but liberating — and oh so rewarding once he started enjoying himself.

I bet Rhett made a killing at Cards Against Humanity. If there’s a silver lining to anxiety, it’s being hyper-aware of other people. Not only must it help him care for patients, but it’ll give him insight into, say, Georgette’s twisted sense of humor.

Speaking of the pregnant lady, I take back all the negative comments I made about her. If she’s as horrible a person in that game as Aaron implied, she’s good people in my book. Anyone who excels at Cards Against Humanity is among the best of us. (The all-time winner for “selfish” in our games is always Helen Keller.)

You better be careful there, Wayne. Now we’re hoping for Rhett’s happy ending too. (And, I mean, if it comes after a four hand massage from Aaron and Brian, who am I to complain? Hehe.)

A beautiful chapter as always. 

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2 hours ago, Danners said:

Wow. Just wow.

Every time he turns around, another facet of Grant’s big heart is revealed. His kindness and his caring continue to shock me in the best way. He’s a great man and an even better friend. A caregiver through and through.

The way he rolled with Rhett’s social anxiety was perfect. He put control of the situation back in his friend’s hand, which is just about the best thing he could’ve done. Control is so important to those of us suffering through severe anxiety. By giving Rhett his blessing to leave at any time, lower his guard enough to relax a bit. He became more receptive to the group and less focused on that little voice whispering self-doubt in his ear.

I’m agoraphobic — terribly so — and I completely understood what was going on inside Rhett’s head. I too have to medicate — in my case, just to go to the store — and the thought of sitting in a crowded lecture hall is terrifying. That Rhett does so regularly, with or without medication, is admirable. Making it to game day, somewhere new and with new people, must have felt liberating — scary but liberating — and oh so rewarding once he started enjoying himself.

I bet Rhett made a killing at Cards Against Humanity. If there’s a silver lining to anxiety, it’s being hyper-aware of other people. Not only must it help him care for patients, but it’ll give him insight into, say, Georgette’s twisted sense of humor.

Speaking of the pregnant lady, I take back all the negative comments I made about her. If she’s as horrible a person in that game as Aaron implied, she’s good people in my book. Anyone who excels at Cards Against Humanity is among the best of us. (The all-time winner for “selfish” in our games is always Helen Keller.)

You better be careful there, Wayne. Now we’re hoping for Rhett’s happy ending too. (And, I mean, if it comes after a four hand massage from Aaron and Brian, who am I to complain? Hehe.)

A beautiful chapter as always. 

Thanks for the great message, Danners.

Grant has a lot of empathy, and he values Rhett. Grant wants to do what Rhett needs to feel safe and accepted, and his friends are conscious and smart enough to follow his lead. He truly is a caregiver; it's who he is.

That control you mention is important to all of us, and even more to someone like Rhett. Situations that I find exciting, and mildly stressful can paralyze someone with social anxiety. Handing over as much control over the situation was something Rhett needed, and Grant did it instinctively. Yes ... you're right that he found it rewarding once he got through the fear.

Also, I appreciate that you shared your own struggle here. Thanks for doing that. I hope it helps to see people like Rhett in stories. We've all got our "something" but that doesn't mean we can't have lives.

Rooting for Rhett is good. Rooting for Rhett to get mauled by Aaron and Brian is likely going to result in disappointment. So far the only handsy behavior with men Brian and Aaron display is with one another, and even that has, so far, been done in fun.

But you keep hoping. 😉

Edited by Wayne Gray
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