Lucas didn’t hear from Carl for three weeks and didn’t think about it, because he and Terry had back-to-back team-building sessions at three Archer Daniels Midland processing plants in southern Illinois. Lucas was happy when he could get back to his condo and out of the dingy small motels. One weekend, Lucas visited a college friend, Bill Cross, in St. Louis. He accompanied Bill to a birthday party for one of his friends, where he met a nice Latin guy named Carlos, who introduced himself as Bill’s friend. Both were pastors at different United Church of Christ congregations in the St. Louis area.
Bill invited Carlos to come home and said, “Want to have a three-way?”
Lucas said, “Why not, I’ve been celibate for three weeks.” Bill was a solidly built, hairy bear. Carlos was light brown with smooth hairless skin except in the normal places. It was crowded in Bill’s queen sized bed. After everyone was satisfied, Carlos confided to Lucas that he and Bill were a couple. Because of their jobs, they felt they couldn’t be out as a couple yet, even though being a gay pastor was not a problem with either of their congregations.
Lucas didn’t sleep soundly, because the bed was crowded and Bill snored. After showering Bill and Carlos, dressed with their clerical collars ready for Sunday services. Lucas left Bill’s apartment before ten, but was sleepy and stopped for a short nap on the way back to Decatur. While he was napping, his cell phone rang. He answered and heard Carl say, “Wake you?”
“Yes, I’m in my car near Ellingham, sleeping off a three-way I had last night.” There was silence.
“Was it fun?”
“It was. I was with a college friend in St. Louis. He and his partner invited me into their bed. They are sweet guys and we had a good time. I’m beat and have to start another team-building session tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got a mountain of work to do, once I get to the motel. What about you?”
“I wanted you to know about our trip. Friday I got confirmation that I’m registered for an international plastics innovation conference in Malaysia in December. I was thinking that we could fly to Singapore or Bangkok for a few days before. At the end of the conference, we could go for some R and R in Phuket, Thailand. We’ll be gone about two weeks.”
“Sounds fantastic. How much is it going to cost me?”
“If you can swing your airfare I’ll pay for the rest?”
“Are you flying business class or ‘back of the bus’?”
“Business on Cathay Pacific is about $5000. What do you say?”
“I need talk to Terry. We were discussing sessions with several clients about that time but nothing’s been finalized. I can handle the airfare. I’ll let you know within a couple of days if the timing will work. Let me get this straight: you think we will leave about November 30 and return mid-December, correct?”
“That is my plan but I haven’t confirmed the flights.”
“OK, thank you for the invitation. I’ve never been to Asia. It should be fun.”
Carl paused and more seriously said, “Any word on when Todd might be coming back to Wisconsin. Marshall said something that made me think Todd had scheduled his return.”
“Yes and no. I did get an email from him a couple of days ago confirming he wasn’t able to come back for a social visit. He did return for his mother’s funeral. He didn’t see Marshall, as far as I know. He said he planned to come for at least two weeks in the spring to clear up his mother’s affairs and get her house ready to sell. Carl, did something happen?”
“Yes, a young lawyer from the Vilas County States Attorney’s office asked to interview me. I agreed. He also interviewed Marshall, who you know was riding a jet ski near Swenson.”
“Marshall was one of the eyewitnesses. I saw the report.”
“Anyway, the attorney’s questions weren’t probing. When I asked him why the grand jury was taking so long, he simply said the case was complicated. He said something that he probably shouldn’t have said. He told me that Swenson’s wife was accusing his male lover of killing him or having him killed. He then shut up and said nothing further.”
“I wonder if the male lover was Marshall? I’ve got to get back on the road.”
Carl sheepishly inquired, “When am I going to get to play with you again? I’m missing you. I’m pretty lonely.”
Smiling to himself, Lucas replied, “Why don’t you plan to come to my place next weekend so we can discuss our trip.”
“Can’t, ‘cause my granddaughter is playing in a lacrosse conference championship game and I want to attend. How about the following weekend?”
“I need to check. I may have a family thing, but that should only be for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. I’ll talk to my mother and let you know.”
Lucas got back on the road. As he drove, he wondered if Marshall was Swenson’s lover. Otherwise, why would he have been on the jet ski on Star Lake?
Carl came to Chicago on a sunny weekend in October, arriving at Lucas’s place in Andersonville about noon. The condo was one of three in a new building off of Clark Street. When Carl rang the bell, the door was opened by an older teenager in rumpled tee shirt and saggy blue jean shorts, who said, “Hi, I’m Jonathan, Lucas’s cousin. He’s in the shower and asked me to get the door when you arrived. He’ll be down in a couple of minutes, I guess. Come in.”
Lucas came into the room, drying his hair, “Oh, I see you’ve met Jonathan. He’s staying the weekend, because his parents are out of town at a college football game. He’ll do his own thing, don’t worry. Let’s get some lunch.” Lucas picked up Carl’s bag and Carl fell in behind him. Once they reached Lucas room, he turned and gave Carl a big kiss. “Don’t worry, Jonathan knows I’m gay. I think he is, also. We can be ourselves. Let’s go.”
They said goodbye and started walking to Clark Street with Ann Sather’s as their destination. Lucas asked, “Mind if I hold your hand?”
Carl was surprised, since in Wisconsin men his age usually didn’t hold hands with other men. “OK, I’ve not had much experience holding hands with a man, but I will give it a try.” He extended his left hand to Lucas. Halfway down the block, they encountered another male couple holding hands.
Carl said, “When in Rome, or in this case Chicago. That started a full afternoon of walking and talking on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, along Navy Pier and finally down to the Field Museum. They ended up having drinks at Kitty O’Shea’s in the Hilton before taking the “L” back to Lucas’s place. Jonathan wasn’t there. They were tired and decided to shower and rest before dinner. They left the bathroom door open and with the noise of the shower didn’t hear Jonathan return. He stood in the bathroom doorway as Carl and Lucas exited the shower sporting hard-ons.
He smiled, “I’m back. Sorry to disturb you guys. Lucas, do you know when we’re having dinner?”
Unconcerned, Lucas said, provocatively drying his mid-section, “I’ll get going on that but probably not for an hour or so. Carl wants to rest, and I’m going to join him. Will that work?”
“In that case, I may catch a burger at Mickey D’s because I want to go with some of my friends to the youth center. A band from our school is performing at 7:00.”
Lucas having draped the towel around himself said, “OK, but I want you back here no later than 9:30pm. Will that work?”
“That’s too early but what if my friends came over for pizza and some TV time? We won’t bother you and Carl. They’re OK with gay guys.”
“OK, I want them on their way home by 11:00.”
Carl stood speechless at the casual nature of the conversation between Lucas and Jonathan. As Jonathan walked away, Carl said. “I can’t imagine that I would have been as calm as you were, being caught with a full hard-on by my son or even another male friend. I know everyone says things are changing, but I’m old-fashioned.”
Lucas smiled, “Jonathan is a good kid. We’re comfortable together, and I know he’s gay. I didn’t ask you, but how did you like holding hands in public.”
“The longer we did, it the more comfortable I got. I saw a few annoyed stares but only a few. I didn’t give a fuck, anyway, because I was with my favorite boyfriend.”
Lucas took a deep breath and reached his hand out to Carl. “Let’s lie down.” Lucas pulled Carl across the hall and into his spacious bedroom with a queen sized bed covered in a red and black plaid duvet that matched the curtains at the two large windows. They threw their towels onto the reading-chair/footstool that occupied the corner.
Lucas plumped the pillows and leaned against the headboard as Carl snuggled close to him. He started, “Carl, I have thought a lot about our relationship. You and I are almost twenty years apart in age. You called me your boyfriend a few minutes ago. I appreciate that. I consider you a good friend but I can’t say I am ready to be a boyfriend, which implies a solo relationship. I hope you understand. I guess you can say I’m still looking for Mr. Perfect. That isn’t to say I don’t like you, because I do. By the way, your being my client in no way affects my feelings toward you. I’ve been able to keep our business and personal dealing separated in my own mind. I hope you do, too. When our business relationship ends, and it will, I want to find a way to remain friends.”
Carl was quietly stroking Lucas from his smooth abdomen down his right leg touching, ever so gently, Lucas’s soft cock. He said, “Yes, I know I’m an old man, but I feel so young. Spending time together makes me realize how much I missed, denying my gayness. But it is what it is. And I want to assure you that if I can’t have all of you, I’ll take whatever part you’re willing to share. Like you, I’m not ready to commit to a celibate life, waiting for sex with you alone. I want you to know I like you and would enjoy referring to you as my boyfriend if you don’t mind.”
“That’s fine with me,” Lucas said as slipped down next to Carl and kissed him gently before closing his eyes.
The dinner Lucas had planned was scrapped when he and Carl awoke, hearing voices in the living room. Lucas quickly dressed and went to find Jonathan and his two friends ready for pizza. After a call, three pizzas arrived within thirty minutes. Lucas and Carl joined the boys watching an action film on Netflix, after which Jonathan said “good night” to his friends. He stripped to his boxers, laid an inflated mattress on the floor at the men’s feet, and dropped off to sleep with all the lights on. The two men retreated to their bed.
The remainder of the weekend sped by, except for the three hours when Lucas left for the senior care center to attend his great-aunt’s 80th birthday party. When Lucas returned, Carl said, “I can’t believe how much I have enjoyed being in Chicago. I hope we have this much fun on our trip to Asia. Are we staying here for dinner, or can I take you out?”
Lucas said, “We’re staying here. I’m fixing the dinner I planned for last night. I’m grilling a steak, with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. We’ll have red wine with it. Do you have more details about the Asia trip?”
“Yes, I brought along an itinerary. I already bought our airplane tickets, because the price was going to change. We leave for Hong Kong non-stop on November 30. You can see for yourself where we’re going.” He handed Lucas a typed page, and Lucas glanced at it. “Your airfare will be about $5300. You can pay me anytime.”
Jonathan came into the house, and the trip discussion stopped. He walked quickly past Carl and Lucas and went into the bathroom. Lucas could tell something was wrong, so he got up and pushed open the door. Jonathan tried to close it, but Lucas intentionally stuck his foot in the way. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Jonathan turned with blood running down under his nose. “Did you fall?” Seeing tears in Jonathan’s eyes, he said, “Did you get in a fight?”
“No, some jerk called me a faggot and punched me.” Lucas was seething. He reached his arm around Jonathan’s shoulder and pulled him close. “Do you want me to do anything?”
“No, I can handle it. The guy is an asshole. He’s always bullying me but this is the first time he touched me.”
“Does he go to your school? The principal should be told.”
“Unfortunately, he doesn’t go to my school. I don’t think he goes to any school. He dropped out.”
Lucas stood back to examine Jonathan’s nose, which didn’t seem to be broken. He suggested that Jonathan hold a wet washrag on it and come join him and Carl in the living room. He was with them in five minutes as the men discussed the situation.
Carl drove off, Monday morning. Lucas accompanied Jonathan to school and decided to stop by the principal’s office before leaving the building. He spoke briefly with an assistant principal about the reason for Jonathan’s bruised face. The woman took down some information and said she would make Jonathan’s advisor aware of the situation.
Lucas spoke to Carl a couple of times before Thanksgiving to finalize trip plans. During one of the phone conversations Carl told Lucas that it was important to have the team-building session for his managers early in the next year. He was quick to say that the managers were getting their jobs done but each seemed to be in a silo. “I never get any information except when I specifically ask for it.”
Lucas replied, “I’ll talk to Terry, and we will propose possible dates.”
Lucas called Terry to decide on suggested dates for the team-building. When he reminded Terry he was accompanying Carl to Asia, Terry got quiet. He said, “Can you be objective with the team if you’re sleeping with their boss?”
Lucas snapped, “Carl and I are just friends. He invited me to go along.”
“That means you’re not fucking him?”
“That means I feel I can keep my professional relationship with Moraine Plastics separated from my feelings about Carl. As I said, we’re friends. OK, we’re friends with benefits. Anyway, I don’t see myself long-term with a guy his age. He’s twenty years older than me!”
“OK, if you think you can separate professional from personal, I’ll agree to do the team-building session with you. I’m as puzzled as you are about the attitude of his managers toward him and to each other. Have you found out any more about what’s going on in Vilas County and how it might affect Moraine?”
Lucas admitted that he had not. At the end of the conversation, Lucas emailed Jeff three proposed dates in late January and early February for the team-building sessions. Jeff’s reply stated that he would have the session scheduled by the time Carl returned from Asia. That response suggested that Jeff was not aware that Lucas was going with Carl.
Lucas didn’t speak to Carl again until the day of their flight. It was an afternoon flight, so Carl drove to Lucas’s to leave his car, and they took a taxi to the airport.