A Special Place

By Sequoyah Pendor


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This is a work of fiction; any coincidence is just that, a coincidence.

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(Parts Eleven - Twenty)

Part Eleven

        When we were ready, we went to get Michael since his dad was at the hospital picking up Dr.  Bailey. When I yelled, "Anybody home?" Michael answered from his room. I ran up the stairs and into his room, "Whoa! Who's the stud now?" I asked. Michael had on a dark green silk shirt--loose, but which still managed to show off his build--with off-white jeans. He, too, had gone for the "show off the ass" look rather than the "may fall off the ass at any minute" one..  Michael had eyes which appeared sometimes blue and sometimes green, depending on what he wore. The green shirt made his eyes appear a startling green.  His hair, like Luke's, was blond, but darker. He truly was a sharp looking young man. I knew that inside his great body was a heart too big even for someone his size.
        Michael had taken his mom's illness and death hard--I mean who wouldn't?--and for a time after he was told her cancer was terminal, he overcompensated by putting on super jock airs. He, as all the Gang of Four, is an honors student, but his grades took a nose dive then and he was, generally, an asshole. We all talked about it, but didn't know what could be done. David was so involved with Elizabeth that he unintentionally neglected Michael. Good old Mom, with her usual wisdom and concern, took on the challenge and started calling him Teddy Bear when he was around the house.  One day when he was being a super ass in her class she said, "Teddy Bear, if you don't behave yourself and get to work, I'm going to bust your bare butt as I have done in the past."
        Michael said, "Fuck you, Old Lady!" and stormed out of the room. Mom ignored it at the time and when she got home, Michael was sitting on the front steps.  As Mom approached, Michael ran, threw his arms around her and cried until he ran out of tears. Mom just held him close until he stopped crying then gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "I think I know a handsome young man who could use something to drink."  When they got into the kitchen, Mom gave him a soda and sat and listened as he poured his heart out. From then on no one saw super jock again. Also Mom and Dad both made a special effort to see that Michael was cared for and loved.
        The loss of his mother had matured him rapidly, but with his maturity, he had kept his wild sense of humor, which he had practically from the time he learned to talk, and his concern for others. In fact, he became, if it were possible, more caring and loving. "If anyone is good enough and deserves Mary Kathryn, then it has to be Michael, "I thought to myself as I stood in his room admiring him for who he was. "I really love this kid and had the greatest respect for him," I said to myself, thinking about what he had been through and what a great human being he had become.
        "Hey, Matt, where are you? You look as if you're on another planet. Thinking of Luke?"
        "Actually, to tell the truth, I was thinking about you?"
        "Hey! Whoa! I'm taken!"
        "Gee, and I was hoping to add another conquest to my record," I laughed. "No, I was just thinking about all you have been through and how you never lost your concern for other people and what a fantastic and wonderful human being you are. I really admire, appreciate and love you, Lil Bro."
        He gave me a hug and say, "Thanks, Bro."
        "And you are a knock out. You can take that from someone who is in love with the most handsome, most beautiful man on the planet. You better watch it or Mary Kathryn will crawl you bod when you walk in the door."
        "I can always hope! But we better go or the family will wonder what happened to us."
        When we arrived at the Larsens', Mom and Dad were met in the living room by Jens and Gabrielle. Gabrielle said the kids were in their rooms. Well, the fact was they were both in Luke's room and as soon as Michael and I walked into the room, Luke kicked the door closed and Michael and I were attacked by the Larsens. When Michael and I escaped the lip locks Mary Kathryn and Luke had placed on us, Michael said, "And I though wild 'breeds' were aggressive.  I'm not sure I CAN handle this wild woman, Matt."
        "Yea, know what you mean. Maybe we need to try again and see if we can take this kind of aggression." With that words, I grabbed Luke and gave him a real french kiss, which he obligingly returned. When we came up for air, Michael and Mary Kathryn were still at it. "Luke, we're going to have to really get into shape so we can go without breathing as long as those two.
        Still holding Mary Kathryn to himself, Michael looked up, grinned, "Matt, I guess you have to breathe because your Larsen doesn't take your breath away the way mine does!" and kissed Mary Kathryn again.
        "Sorry to break up a good thing, but I think I heard David arrive so I guess we best abandon the passion pit and go downstairs."
        "Sad to say, but I guess you're right, Luke," I said, grabbing a quick kiss which had to last for awhile.
        As we passed the window overlooking the front, we crowded around and watched as David walked around the car, opened the door and helped Dr. Bailey out. When she was out of the car, they walked toward the porch, still holding hands. "Hand holding is hot stuff, right?"
        I got three immediate "yeses" and then we all looked at each other and there was a four- way high five and shouted "YES!" from the Gang of Four. Seems Project David and Margaret was moving faster than we dared hope.
        When we got downstairs, David and Dr. Bailey had just entered the den where my parents and the Larsens were. Jens was pouring glasses of wine for them when we walked in. I noticed four empty glasses on the table. "Tonight is a real celebration," Jens said as he handed glasses to David and Dr. Bailey and asked, "Michael, Matt, would you like wine?"  We all nodded and Jens poured four glasses. We had been allowed to have wine on special occasions since we were in grade school. It may seem strange but none of us drink other than with the family. It's something special for special occasions, not a way to show how grown up we are.
        "A toast," Jens said. "Here's to families and friends and especially to the family in this room.  May our friendship remain strong forever. Skoal!"
        "I'd like to propose a toast." As glasses were raised, Michael said, "Here's to failure, the one failure in Luke Hans Larsen's life which brought him back to us!"
        Luke was practically in tears, but proposed the next toast, "Here's to love, the love of family, of friends, of strangers without whom I would not have failed.  And in particular for the special love which David and Dr. Bailey, and especially Matthew, gave me when I thought I wanted to die."
        "You're getting dangerously close to revealing too much, Luke, my love," I thought.
        The room became very silent as we all thought about why we were here this evening. It took Mary Kathryn to lighten the mood. "Here's to us: the family, together and whole and complete with a new member--here's to us and to Margaret!"
        "Dad, does this mean I have a new, older feminine figure in my life?" Michael grinned.
        "Watch it, Michael," I thought, "or YOU'LL give away too much. Then I was reminded of the fact that maybe Luke and I had already given away far too much.  I was suddenly brought back to the present by Mom.
        "It means Margaret is part of the family, whatever that means now and in the future.  Welcome, Margaret," Mom said. "Welcome to the craziest group of people you're likely to meet anywhere."
        There were other toasts and the Gang of Four actually drank a second glass of wine, unheard of in the past, but tonight was the most special occasion the four of us could remember.
        After the toasts, we went into the dining room for dinner.  The food was great; Gabrielle is practically a gourmet cook and we all loved having dinner at the Larsens'. The mood was very festive, a real celebration of having Luke home and well. When desert was served, Dr. Bailey said, "Matt once told me there was a story behind how these three families became one. He promised I would hear it sometime. It seems this is a good time for that, not just for me, but as a kind of reminder of who we... you..."
        "We," Mom said.
        "Of who we are," Dr. Bailey finished.
        "I guess we'll have to use a short version or we'll be here all night," Jens said. "But while I'm the host, I'll have to defer to Greywolf. Lakota are the best story tellers and this is a real story. Greywolf."
        "Well, I'm not sure even a short version won't keep us here all night! So I'll just do the bare essentials." We all laughed because it was a story we had heard a thousand times, but as all good stories, one we all enjoy hearing again, even if were only the bare essentials.
        "All three of us males had been in ROTC in college: David in the Naval ROTC, Jens in one of the few Marine ROTC units and I in the Army. We had all finished college: Jens in accounting, David in pre-med and I in physics. As soon as we graduated, we received our commissions and were assigned duty. After training, I was sent to Korea where I met and married Yong Jin. Jens was sent to Germany where he met and married Gabrielle. Poor David was left in the States and apparently found no one. Actually, he and Elizabeth had met during his last year in college, but he thought it would be unfair to get engaged with his leaving for the Navy and facing med school afterwards. Marriage was definitely out of the question at that time so they more or less broke up. Michael almost wasn't to be and think what that would be like." I glanced at Mary Kathryn; she was looking at Michael, smiling.
        "After Jens and I finished our overseas tour of duty, we were assigned to the Pentagon. There we met David. He was going to school at night to get his RN since he had decided he was more interested in becoming an emergency nurse than being a doctor.  The Larsens and the Greywolfs lived off post in two pretty terrible apartments. David lived off post as well and had a great little efficiency. Jens found a triplex for rent and we decided that by scrimping and being very careful, we could afford to rent it or at least pay the rent. It was hard because both Yong Jin and Gabrielle were in school finishing up their degrees and could only work part-time and military salaries, even for junior officers, was pretty poor."
        "David had became a kind of perpetual visitor and when we pooled our resources for a dinner together every Saturday night, David was always there. When David discovered we had the triplex, he asked about renting the third unit. We were delighted to have someone to share the rent, but were puzzled as to why he wanted to give up his place for a more expensive one. He gave no reason, but told us early in the week he wouldn't be at the Saturday dinner because he had a four day pass and was going home."
        "Late Sunday night he appeared at our door with a beautiful young woman and introduced her as Mrs. David Andrews. It seems that several months before, David had contacted Elizabeth and they had been corresponding on a regular--daily if the truth be known--basis. When we got the triplex, he took that as a sign to propose to Elizabeth, got his four day pass, went home and married her. At the time we had about a year to serve and to finish our schooling."
        "Well, we spent about as much time together as we did apart and when the time approached for us to be separated, we all were very unhappy about breaking up. By that time we called the six of us the family. David, again, solved the problem. He had leave coming so he and Elizabeth went home and when they returned, David told us he had found three adjoining farms for sale.  Of course, we didn't have any money, but David, being from Lexington, knew people there and in Concord who agreed to purchase the farms and rent them to us until we could get VA loans. I certainly didn't want to go back to the res, Jens had no family to speak of and what family David had lived near enough..."
        "Sometimes too near," David interjected...."
         "...It seemed the perfect set up. David made all the arrangements so we all came here without having seen the places. When we looked over the farms for the first time, it was amazing. Each of us immediately knew which farm belonged to whom, even though only David and Elizabeth had seen them and we had never discussed the question."
        "The first Saturday we were here we had packed a picnic lunch and gone to the river. After we had eaten, we decided to walk up the river and that was when we discovered the falls.  Almost from the beginning they became a kind of symbol of the family. When the kids came along and reached the age where some thought skinny dipping was no longer to be permitted, I introduced the Lakota custom of crossed stick indicating a locked entrance. In short, the falls became a place for struggling with things, confessions, meditation, celebrations, all the things that hold the family together and sustain its members." Dad suddenly became quiet as we all had just been reminded Luke had gone to the falls to end his life.
         "Anyway," Dad continued, "in a year's time, Yong Jin and Gabrielle discovered they were pregnant and Matt and Luke were born on the same day....
         "Yes, but I'm the oldest," I had to add. Luke was holding my hand under the table and gave it a hard squeeze. Usually when our births were brought up he gave me a punch on the shoulder.
        "A little over two years later, Michael and Mary Kathryn were born. We had, all six, wanted a troop of kids, but it was not to be, but since we didn't get quantity we got quality." With those words, Dad raise his glass and said, "Here's to the four greatest kids in seven countries and, thank God they are all still here!" The family, including Dr.  Bailey, responded "Hear! Hear!"
        Luke was teary-eyed and, to tell the truth, so was Mary Kathryn, Michael and I. Luke started to wipe his eyes with his napkin and dropped it. He bent over to pick it up and when he came up from under the table, he gave my hand another squeeze, looked at me and winked. I managed to drop my napkin and when I looked under the table saw that Mary Kathryn and Michael, David and Dr. Bailey, Mom and Dad were all holding hands. Gabrielle's hand rested on Jens knee.
        "Thanks for telling me that story. I feel privileged to be included in such a group of friends.  And while I only knew her through my work at the hospital, I know all of you miss Elizabeth very much. She was a wonderful lady."
        "Indeed she was and we do miss her, but we think it's time David moved on in his life and it looks as if the family is willing to accept you as a real inside member," Luke said, cutting to the chase as always.
        "Luke!" Gabrielle exclaimed. The Gang of Four cracked up and was soon joined by all except David and Dr. Bailey, both of whom were blushing like teenagers.
        "Well, I guess we can adjourn to the den for coffee," Jens said.
        "Not just yet," David intervened. "We have a little surprise for you and Gabrielle. We know you both have been through a very trying time and that tomorrow proves, once again, that not all April Fools are fools since one man was wise enough to fool a beautiful German fraulein into marrying him on April Fools' day. We want you two to celebrate and forget about things here for a weekend. The cabin at the lake has been stocked, you have reservations for dinner tomorrow night at the lake lodge and a choice of times for Mass at St. Peter's on the Lake. And, to be honest with you, we'll not take "no" for an answer.
        Jens was speechless and Gabrielle had tears in her eyes as she leaned over and kissed him. I had never seen her do that before in all to time I have been around the Larsens. I wonder where Luke learned to like kissing so much. "Thank you so very, very much. That cabin is very special to us. The last chance we had to be alone together was there. I guess it's been a couple years now. The kids are old enough to take care of themselves...."
        "They may be, but that's not the way it's going to be. All four are going to stay with us," Mom said.
        "What's going on here?" I wondered.
        "There's another little surprise in the works," Dad said.  "David and Margaret , I've taken the liberty of making reservations for dinner and the theater for you two in Lexington Saturday night. Since you'll will be coming home late, we'll babysit for both families."
        Luke gave my hand another squeeze and I thought to myself, "Is this a test or something?"
        "That's awfully nice of you, Greywolf, but I am on duty tomorrow night and I think you are too, aren't you, David?
         "Well, I think both of you were, but not now. I talked with Dr. Walker and he is seeing that your duty is covered, Margaret, and the ogre of ICU has roped someone into taking David's duty. When we decide to railroad someone in this family we do it right. Now, Jens, we can adjourn to the den."
        "Mom, we'll clear the table and when we finish, can we go to the falls? It's such a beautiful and warm night it seems a sin to waste it," Luke said.
        "If it's ok with your father."
        "Sure, since you are all together."
        I was suddenly tempted to be a bit of a devil and said, "David, if you and Dr. Bailey. . . .
        "Matt, what do you call your dad in the classroom?" Dr.  Bailey asked.
        "Mr. Greywolf, why?"
        "And at home?"
        "Dad or Greywolf. What are you getting at?
        "Luke, how about you?"
        "Mr. Greywolf at school and Greywolf at home. Why?"
        "Well, I think if I'm going to be around, we can drop the Dr. Bailey bit. You know when it's appropriate. Otherwise, I'm Margaret, ok?"       "Ok, Margaret. David, if you can forego the coffee, why don't you show Margaret the falls in the moonlight? She has never seen them."
        "Sounds like a good idea," Mom and Gabrielle said together.
        The table was cleared in record time and as soon as Margaret had exchanged her heels for a pair of Mary Kathryn's sneakers, the six of us were walking toward the river.
        The moon was bright and the night warm as we walked. As soon as I thought we were safe, I took Luke's hand in mine. Throwing caution to the winds, he moved in front of me and, walking backwards, faced me and gave me a Luke's special kiss. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that Mary Kathryn was a full-blooded Larsen and had done the same with Michael.
        "I guess it's the hormone thing," David said, laughing.
        "Maybe it's just the moonlight," Margaret said and put her arm around David's waist. David put his around hers and they, too, were walking close. The Gang of Four just couldn't resist. We met in a circle, gave each other high fives and shouted, "YES!"
        When we reached the path to the falls, David crossed the canes. Usually that was for privacy, but the family had long ago realized that sometimes you need to talk and you need things kept confidential. So the second Rule of the Canes was, "What happens behind the canes is sacred and not to be repeated except when keeping quiet endangers someone." I guess, come to think of it, David could have pleaded that rule when he came after me when I ran out of Luke's room...and when we came to the falls and found Luke.
        The falls were unbelievably beautiful in the moonlight.  David and Margaret sat on the sand near the entrance path while Mary Kathryn and Michael went in one direction and Luke and I in another. Soon there were three couples sitting on the sand, holding hands and saying nothing. It was a priceless moment. The beauty of the place reflected our loves and I was sure now that there were three loves in this special place. As if to confirm that, I saw David kiss Margaret's hair as she leaned her head on his shoulder. Luke had, of course, unbraided mine.
        I laughed and pointed at Michael and Mary Kathryn who were making out big time. "I think you're letting your little sister show you up, Lover." I had hardly gotten the words out of my mouth when Luke grabbed me and pulled me on top of himself. A cascade of hair, again, created our private world and our lips met, our tongues dueling. Luke started unbuttoning my shirt and started kissing my chest, for the first time kissing each of my nipples. "God, Luke, I am so hard I hurt. I want to make love.... "suddenly a medallion fell across Luke's chest. "Damn, slow and easy strikes again," I whispered.
        Luke laughed, then shouted, "Remember Michael, Mary Kathryn, slow and easy!"
        "Man, you sure know how to ruin a moment," Michael called back. "Dad, are you and Margaret on a slow and easy track, too? If so, we need help from your years of experience."
        By then all six of us were giggling like mad. "I don't think my particular position on that matter is any of your business, Son."
        "He'd better be because I've been taking lessons on how to handle men from Mary Kathryn, " Margaret said.
        "Which lesson? The leave 'em aching on the hall floor or the see how quick you can get 'em panting?" Michael called back, followed by loud panting sounds, then "Ouch!" It was clear Mary Kathryn had struck again.
        Luke and I continuing exploring the touch and feel of each other until David called out, "Well, if you guys can get things under control, I suspect we better get back."
        Reluctantly, all six of us got up. As Luke covered my mouth with his, he buttoned my shirt.  He held his arms around my neck as I quickly braided my hair.  When we were all presentable, the six started walking toward the house. Knowing that there probably wouldn't be another opportunity, Luke and I stopped just before leaving the cane brake and held each other tight for a long, long, deep and, yes, lustful kiss. As our lips parted, Luke said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, there is no way you can know how much I love you."
        "Yonghon Tongmu, my love for you is a vast as the heavens and then some," I said as we looked into each others eyes. I saw a reflection of the stars overhead in Luke's bright eyes.. With a tender kiss which expressed not only our love for each other as lovers, but also our love and respect for each other as friends, we ended a time of freedom and turned toward the house, remembering to drop hands when we could be seen. I noticed that Michael and Mary Kathryn did the same.
        All six of us had walked in silence for a short distance when that song took over. Walking backwards, facing Luke, I said, "Yonghon Tongmu" and started singing,
         More than the greatest love the world has known.  This is the love I give to you alone
        I was surprised when Margaret took David by one hand and Luke by the other. Michael, being the sharp one, quickly caught on to what was happening and grabbed his dad's hand and then Mary Kathryn's. I caught on--finally-- and grabbed Luke's.
        "Now, Matt, where were we? 'More than the greatest love the world has known...'"  Margaret started singing. I was surprised when David knew the words and added his resonant bass voice. By the time we had finished the song, Michael, Luke, and Mary Kathryn were stumbling along. Margaret then told us we'd have to have the song "lined out, an African practice brought here by slaves. I'll give you the words and then you sing them. 'More than the greatest love...."'
        By the time we got to the house we were singing to our loves at the top of our lungs, swinging hands and it all looked perfectly innocent! We didn't stop and when we got inside Greywolf and Yong Jin started dancing and singing. Gabrielle, laughing, joined the singing and even Jens managed to sing a line or two. When we finally finished, Jens said, "I think I'm going to have to keep a tighter control on the wine...."
        David responded, laughing, "No, it's the moon. Lunacy, you know."
        "Well, I guess we better break up the party since Jens and Gabrielle will want to start for the lake early tomorrow," Dad said. "Luke, do you want to spend tomorrow morning in the lab? I'm keeping it open from eight until noon."
        "Well, I actually wouldn't say I would like to, but I will say I certainly better and thanks for having it open. Can I hitch a ride with you?" Dad nodded his agreement.
        "Mom, Dad, would it be all right if Mary Kathryn and I walked Matt and Michael to the Greywolf's and David can pick Michael up on his way home. It is still a beautiful night and I'd like to spend a little more time enjoying it."
        "I don't see why not," Mom said, "do you have any objections, Jens?"
        "No, no, none at all. Just remember you've got to get up tomorrow as if it were a school day, Luke."
        "Thanks, Dad, Mom," Luke and Mary Kathryn said.
        "David, why don't you let Michael sleep over at our place so you don't have to bother coming after him?"
        "Fine with me. How about you, Michael?"
        "Well, I'm not too sure. If I do that I'll have no idea when you get in and you and Margaret may just be setting this up so you can play around all night. As the other male in the family, I have to keep things respectable. But then again, I take it you are working on that second feminine figure problem, so I guess it's ok."
        If there had been a blushing contest on that one, Margaret and David would have been declared a draw. David gave Michael a punch on the shoulder and said, "You devil, I think you'd better stay out of my reach tonight." The Gang of Four cracked up and the elder Greywolfs and Larsens were just as bad.
         We all said good night and as soon as the three couples who had been at the falls got to the front porch we once again started singing at the top of our lungs. Mom and Dad joined in and we all sang "More" all the way through before David helped Margaret into his car as Dad helped Mom into ours. It was a beautiful moment and one that I knew I would always treasure.
        Maintaining a bit of caution, the Gang of Four walked down to moonlit road arm in arm, something we had done since we were allowed to go from one house to the other by ourselves.
        When we reached the house, the porch light, which was always on, was out. As soon as we were in to shadows of the porch, the Gang of Four became the Pair of Couples. Without discussion, Michael and Mary Kathryn went to one end of the porch, Luke and I to the other. As Luke embraced me, his lips covered mine and his tongue brought the sweetest of my Yonghon Tongmu into my mouth. Our kiss became more and more passionate, more and more lust-filled.  Luke had pressed my body against the wall and his hips were pressing into mine. I could feel his hard manhood pressing against mine. He unbraided my hair again--I think he is going to wear it out. He filled his left hand with my hair, pulling me closer to him while his right hand unbuttoned my shirt again. As soon as it was unbuttoned, his lips planted kisses on my nipples. I realized I was streaming precum as I pulled his shirt up and ran my hands up and down his powerful back. The feel of his bare skin was driving me wild as were his lips on my nipples.  "Luke," I whispered, "I want you so bad.. I need your body to love and if you don't stop, I'm going to...."
        "Me, too, Beloved Treasure." One hand still in my hair and the other around my waist, Luke licked a path down my chest then looked up at me and smiled. In his teeth was my medallion!
        "Luke, one of these days I'm going to strangle you! What a way to destroy a moment!"
        "Had the moment not been destroyed, you'd have had some explaining to do when you walked in with the front of your jeans announcing what the moment was like!"
        "Well, I'm not so sure they won't announce something anyway."
        "Matt, Man, I love you so much and tonight has been so perfect, but it can't end with breaking trust. I want you--all of you--your body as well as you heart, as much as you want me. Little Luke has been hard for so long I ache. Precum has soaked my briefs and jeans. I ache for you really ache. Tonight has been so perfect. It has been so perfect, so very, very perfect. But, because we are who we are, this perfect night has to end with less than we want, but what we want even less is our first time to be a quickie on your porch."
        "I know, Luke, but, Man, you make me so hot. I beginning to think I'm just one big hunk of lust. I dream of making love to you and my Chili Pepper demands that it be now."
        "So does Little Luke. I know it's difficult not to lust after someone as perfect as I am, but you'll just have to control yourself, you wild Lakota Korean 'breed I love more than life itself."  With those words, Luke's lips again covered mine in a long, loving, deep kiss which I returned one filled with love, but with lust turned way down.
        As we ended our kiss, Luke called out, "Ok, Little Sister, get your clothes back on, we've got to go home." As Michael and Mary Kathryn walked back toward the steps, I noticed that he too had something pointing out that some pretty heavy making out had been going on. And that's hard--pun intended --when you're wearing tight jeans. Of course, even in the moonlight, the wet spots on three jeans front were clearly visible and told the same story.
        Soon the two Larsens were walking down the road in the moonlight I noticed they were holding hands as Michael and I went inside.
        When we got to my room, I was anxious as to how Michael would feel about our sleeping together. While he did not sleep over as much as Luke, he did often. He too, had clothes in my closet. But now that he knew about my relationship with Luke, even though we were both still virgins and he knew it, I wasn't sure. He and Luke had slept over so often that after the three of us got some size on us, Mom and Dad had bought me a new king-sized bed. So we continued sharing my bed--sometimes two, sometimes three. But again, now was different....
        "Michael, if you don't want to sleep with a faggot...." and that was as far as I got before Michael blew up.
        "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, if I ever, ever hear you use that word or any other derogatory term for yourself or for Luke, I'll beat the living shit out of you! Man, I am not kidding. I am so pissed that I could do it right now! You are my bro whom I love, admire and adore. You are in love with the brother of the woman I love with every fiber of my being and whom I love as I love you. You are my brother, Matt, and nobody, nobody, is going to use words like that about you or Luke, not even you or Luke!" Michael was so upset he had tears in is eyes and I felt lower than dog shit.
        I walked over to him and put my arms around him and started crying too. "I'm sorry, Michael, so very sorry. I was trying to be funny because I didn't know what else to do. I wanted you to have a way out...."
        "Out of what? Are you any different today than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year? Maybe in some ways because you're in love with a wonderful, magnificent guy and you're happier for it, but you're still my bro. Matt, I'd trust you with my life. You're my friend, Man."
        "Michael, what can I say other than that you have to be the best bro any man has ever had and I love you dearly."
        "Matt, I think I may be number two in the bro department because in my book, you're number one. But right now that we have that settled, my balls are killing me."
         I laughed, "Mine too. Welcome to the slow and easy club and the results of what happens when slow and easy gets hot and heavy for too long. You have first crack at the bathroom and don't yell too loud when you get relief."
        "But what's wrong with me, Matt, I hurt."
         "Some call it having blue balls, others stone aches. It comes from having a hardon too long without release. So are you going or what?"
         "I'm gone," he said as he shot out the door for the bathroom. Meanwhile, I waited and ached.  Not only is this love thing complicated, it can give you a real pain!
        Michael soon reappeared and said, "What a relief!" as I made a beeline for the bathroom.
        Without giving it any further thought, Michael and I undressed and crawled into bed. "God, it has been a wonderful night, Matt," he said as he snuggled up against me and wrapped his arm around my chest. Nothing unusual about that. All three of us hugged each other when we slept, but it made a huge difference to me. It reaffirmed Michael's acceptance of me and my love for Luke.
        "Good night, Matt, Bro.
        "Good night, Bro Michael.
        Within minutes we were both in dreamland and I was sure he was dreaming of the Larsen who were the center of his universe and the love of his life as Luke was of mine.        


        As Mary Kathryn and I walked down the road toward home, we held hands just as we had done when we were small kids. We walked in silence for sometime.  I was in more than a little pain from my making out with Matt. I had heard guys talk about having stone aches, but had never had the "pleasure." As we walked, the pain gradually grew less until I knew that I would survive.
         "Luke, wasn't tonight one of the most wonderful you have ever known," Mary Kathryn asked.
        Thinking back over all that had happened, I had to disagree a bit. "No, Mary Kathryn, it was not one of the most wonderful nights I have known. It was THE most wonderful night of my life.  And not just because Matt and I did the heaviest making out we have ever done, although that would have made it the best, but also because of you and Michael and your playful love. I really love how you two can make out and play like two kids at the same time. You have something to teach me and Matt there. And because it looks pretty definite that David has found someone to fill a big hole in his life. I have always known and loved David and I loved Elizabeth and miss her very much. But Margaret Bailey is one of the most loving, giving people I have known and she deserves someone as great as David--and Michael--and they deserve her."
        "Didn't you enjoy singing that old song? I guess most of the stuff I listen to just doesn't talk about love, real love, the way that song does."
        "'More than the greatest love the world has known/ This is the love I give to you alone' I sang.  Yea, I guess most of what I listen to doesn't quite match that."
        "And Mom and Dad surely seemed more alive tonight than I have seen them in, perhaps forever. I know they will have a grand time at the lake."
         "Yea, and I bet Dad doesn't have aching balls because he doesn't get to finish what he starts!"
        "Luke, you're awful," Mary Kathryn laughed.
        "You can say that because you only give pain in the balls, not get it." It wasn't in the balls, but Mary Kathryn gave me a punch to the shoulder that left a blue spot the next day.
         When we got home, Mom and Dad had a suitcase sitting by the front door and the lights in their room were out. Mary Kathryn and I were very quiet as we walked upstairs. When we reached the top of the stairs, Mary Kathryn stopped and said, "Luke, I think your love for Matt and his for you is beautiful and magnificent and wonderful and right. I know that too soon it will cause a great deal of heartache for our mom and dad, at least Dad because I think Mom knows and will accept, if not approve, of it. But I want you to know that I am happy for both of you, intend to stand by you, because I love two and I know that it's wonderful and right. Good night, brother mine."
        "Good night, sister mine. Thanks and I love you very much," I said as I kissed her on the cheek.
         I was learning a lot from Matt and even though I was ready for sleep, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for him and his love, for the family and its new addition, Margaret. I offered thanks for the beauty of the night and especially for the river and what it meant to all of us. I then thought of how, as much as we wanted it to be otherwise, both Matt and I had reminded each other of slow and easy, convinced that my loving God understood how difficult it was. I gave special thanks that Michael and Mary Kathryn had found in each other someone to love who was as good, loving and caring as they. Finally I did ask for something. I asked that my parents would understand and accept me and Matt and our love even if they could not approve. I gazed out my window, recalling the wonderful evening the six of us had spent in the moonlight as I fell asleep.
        My alarm went off earlier than I wished as it always did. I put on my sweats and jogged to the Greywolfs. When I looked through the window, I saw Matt and Michael, sleeping arm in arm.  Jealous? Why?  Because Michael was where I wanted to be, but was not? Michael was sleeping peacefully in the arms of the man I loved and in whose arms I would one day sleep. They were my brothers, far closer I suspect, than most blood brothers.  I smiled as I thought about the love among the Gang of Four, not only the love of lovers between Mary Kathryn and Michael and Matt and I, but also the deep, deep love of friends among the four of us. As I watched my two brothers sleeping, also darkness and light, the soft morning light from the yet sun which was just below the horizon illuminating their handsome faces, I was almost overwhelmed with my love for them.
        Finally I couldn't resist. I shouted, "What's going on here?"
        Michael sprang straight up in bed and said, "Shit!" He too has a dirty mouth.
        Matt simply smiled and say, "Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, Light of my World."
        "Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, Joy of my Life."
        "Good Lord, what do we have here? You sound like my British lit class!" Michael shouted as he raced for the bathroom and released a stream into the toilet.  He, as was our habit, didn't bother closing the door. Matt wasn't waiting and joined Michael.  When they finished, both grabbed a toothbrush.
        When they finished, Matt came from the bathroom, of course still naked, and instead of grabbing me as expected, he slowly took me into his arms, placed his hands on each side of my head and gently drew me to himself for a morning kiss. Slow, tender, loving, passionate, the kiss continued as I felt as though I had been transported into a land of pure light. When Matt finally broke his kiss, he whispered in my ear, "Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, I love you. I can think of no other words to add. There is nothing beyond that. Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, I love you."
        Wrapping my arms about Matt's neck, under his hair which I so adored, I said, "Matthew, Sarang Hanun Pomul, I love you." We, then, exchanged another soft, loving kiss. Ending the kiss, we placed our foreheads together and gazed into each other's eyes. It was as though we were floating in some delightful place. Our moment was broken by Michael.
        "Hey, you two, I'm being left out."
         Matt was obviously in a playful mood because he grabbed Michael, who was as naked as he, and gave him a huge kiss on the mouth. Michael began sputtering and wiping his mouth with the back of his arm the way a small child does to "wipe off a kiss."  Suddenly all three of us were laughing like crazy. As the two of them put on their sweats I realized that with a morning exchange expressing our love to each other, neither Matt nor I had gotten hard. I first thought it was because Michael was present, but then I realized that I was so transported out of this world that I was not conscious of anything or any one except Matthew and the wonderful world his kiss created for me. Maybe there are expressions of love for your lover without lust after all.  I was jarred out of my thoughts by Michael's "Well, Luke, are you going to stand there daydreaming or you running with the two most handsome men in seven countries?"
        The three of us climbed out the window, down to trellis, and jogged to the road where we started serious running. The sun had almost cleared the horizon as we ran toward morning's light. I had expected to have to call for Michael and Matt to stop at the end of David's pasture because I knew that was my limit, but Michael reached the corner first, shouted "One mile!" and turned to start running back. I managed to get a bit farther than I had yesterday before I had to slow down. When I did, Matt kept pace and soon we had slowed enough to hold hands. Michael continued running full steam. When he reach Matt's house he kept right on running, maybe even faster. "Now what's Michael up to?" I asked.
        Matt started dying laughing. "When are your parents leaving for to lake?"
        "You know Dad is a super morning person. He gets up around 4:30 most mornings. I suspect they were on to road while I was still asleep. I noticed the suitcase they had packed was gone when I left. Why?"
        "And you want to know what Michael is up to?" As we continued walking, I saw two figures emerge from our house and head toward us at top speed. Mary Kathryn can't keep it up for a long, long distance, but on a short mile or two run, she could outrun any one of the guys. Since Michael was warmed up, he was managing to keep up pretty well, but just to let him know who was boss, Mary Kathryn ran ahead of him, turned and ran backwards, motioning him on.
        "I can tell you I'm glad I don't have to tame that one," I laughed.
        "What makes you think Michael wants her tamed?" Matt asked.  "I see little evidence that he wants her any way other than the way she is."
        "And that the way it should be, isn't it?" I asked. Matt nodded agreement.
        By the time we reached the front walk, Mary Kathryn and Michael were waiting for us. The four of us grabbed hands as we went inside. Now how did Yong Jin know there would be two Larsens to feed? I don't know, but she had a breakfast laid out which more than adequate I thought.
        "Mom I thought you'd sleep in since Dad is going to school to open the lab today," Matt said.
        "I figured I needed to get up to prepare breakfast for you and your Dad and our guest. I also had a feeling that you and our guest might pick up some lost or strayed children and drag them in for food," she laughed.
        "Are we running a restaurant as well as a bed and breakfast?" Greywolf laughed as he came into the kitchen where breakfast was laid out on the kitchen table. After he had given Yong Jin a good morning kiss, long and passionate I observed, but without any obvious lust, he joined us and said grace. The "amen" was a kind of signal for what must have looked like a plague of locust descending up the food.
        After breakfast, Michael and Mary Kathryn left for their respective homes. Greywolf and I kissed our respective loves and left for school. Matt was going to work on one or both of the compositions he was writing for his recital.
        Things went extremely well in the physics lab. There were two other students making up labs, Eugene Joyce and Larry Watley. I didn't know them extremely well, but had enjoyed being lab partners with one or the other on several occasions. Since a couple of the experiments they needed to make up were the same as two I had to make up, we joined up and got them done much quicker than I would have been able to do myself. A couple times they apologized when they started laughing at an inside joke.
        "You two must know each other very well," I observed.
        "Yea, the first day I started school here as a sophomore, Eugene befriended me. I was a real runt then and was being picked on by a couple of the jocks who beat up Gregory...." We all became very silent, deep, I suspect in our own thoughts.  "Anyway, Eugene was a lot bigger than I and had taken martial arts so he took both of them out in no time flat."
        "You were smaller than Eugene? I can't believe it. You must be three inches taller and out weight Eugene by fifty pounds!"
        They both started laughing. "Yea, he was as big then as he is now. I got a growth spurt that year and haven't stopped since. Also, Eugene got me working out here at school and I filled out some."
        "I'll say. You're what, six two and weigh close to two hundred twenty or twenty-five and Eugene is about five ten, five eleven and weighs what? One seventy, seventy-five.
        "You should join the circus as one of those guess your weight guys. You hit close enough in both cases. Anyway, we became best buds at school, but seldom saw each other outside school or some school event because Eugene lived in town and I lived in the country. Then, just after Christmas last year, my dad just up and left me and my mom. He blamed it all on m...my mom, but there was another woman. Since Mom worked in town and we couldn't handle the farm alone, she sold the farm and we moved into town."
        "Yea, and Larry had been so torn up by the whole mess that we didn't talk about a whole lot else. In fact, when he said they were selling the farm and moving, we were both so afraid we'd be separated that when Larry's mom decided to move into town, we were just so happy we could still be ...buds that it was almost a month before we found out we only live a couple blocks from each other. Now we practically live together, sometimes at one place and sometimes the other."
        "That sounds like me and my two best buds. We have clothes at each others' houses."
        "Who's that?" Larry asked.
        "Michael Andrews and Matt Greywolf, Mr. Greywolf's son. We live on three adjoining farms out in the country. Maybe you guys would like to come out sometime when I get caught up with the shit load of school work I have to make up."
        "Yea, I bet you do since you were out so long. Sure glad you weren't successful with the suicide attempt and seem happy now."
        "You are so right. Right now I'm almost as happy as I can even dream of being."
        "Hey, I know Matt Greywolf." Eugene finally got in another word. "He was in my music class last year. Haven't seen him in music this year though. I heard he was doing an independent study and has to present a recital for his whole grade."
        "You're right. In fact, he's home right now working on a composition."
        "You mean he writes music as well as plays?"
        "Sure does. He's doing two pieces for his recital. I think he's kinda keeping it a secret since he's not played any for me, or the other two of the Gang of Four, as we call ourselves."
         "Who's the other one?"
         "My sister, Mary Kathryn."
         "Wow, she is one foxy lady. And I loved it last year when she sent the jock to his knees. And, if I may say so, the rest of the Gang of Four are not ugly," Eugene said. Larry blushed. Was I getting vibes here?
        "Well, since we have nothing special to do until time to go, how 'bout we pitch in and help Luke knock out a few more experiments?" Larry asked. Eugene nodded agreement and they pitched in, helping set up experiments, recording data, and tearing down when an experiment was finished, all the time we were taking our heads off about music, movies, school, everything.  These two guys were good and they were fast. When Greywolf came from his office to check on us, I had finished gathering data for all the experiments I had to make up. Now all I had to do was the calculations and write up the experiments.
        "I don't know how to thank you guys. It would have taken me at least one more Saturday and probably two to get this much work done."
        "Glad to help a fellow out," Eugene said.
        "Don't worry about it. Actually getting to know you better was worth it," Larry added.
        "How are you guys getting home? Did you ride bikes?"
        "No, it was a nice day so we walked over. We thought we'd get caught up, then maybe catch the afternoon movie."
        "Gee, I'm sorry. You'll never make the movie now since it starts in fifteen minutes. I'm sorry I messed up your plans."
        "It's time to go," Greywolf announced, "and I'll be more than happy to drop you two off at the movies. Anyone who helps another student as you two have helped Luke deserve to be appreciated. I'll drop you off and the soda and popcorn will be on him!"
        "It was nothing, really. We had fun doing it and what's life about if it's not about helping each other? Larry asked.
        "You are so right, Larry, but most folks don't see it that way," Greywolf responded. "But get a rush on or you'll be late for the movies."
        After we dropped off Larry and Eugene at the movies--they didn't want to take money for sodas and popcorn, but I insisted, telling them that it was something I wanted to do, not an obligation--we went home where Yong Jin had lunch waiting.  Margaret and David were seated at the kitchen table.
         "Matt's upstairs in his room. I called him when I heard you and Greywolf arrive, but he doesn't seem to be responding. I suspect he's working at his keyboard and has earphones on.  Want to check?"
         When I got to his room, Matt was oblivious to the world, working hard at his keyboard. I walked up behind him and surrounded his waist with my arms. I expected him to be startled, but he just looked up, smiled and reached behind himself to pull my lips to his. After a short kiss, he sat back down, removed the earphones and said, "Luke, you have been my whole world for hours. I looked at the notation pad on his keyboard and read "Yonghon Tongmu: Variations on 'More'." Apparently he had been busy for there were several other pages of notation lying on the keyboard.
        "Matt, you mom called you to lunch awhile ago. Are you ready to eat?"
        "I'm ready to eat you with a spoon," he replied as he got up from his bench. We once again embraced and headed down stairs.
        When we got to the kitchen, Mary Kathryn and Michael had showed up. "Greywolf, did you put up a sign outside which said stray kids would be fed here?"  Yong Jin laughed. Obviously she had expected the strays because there were places set for them already.
        After lunch the table was cleared and we all went into the library for the family meeting. I had expected it to be Saturday night, but Greywolf had contributed to Project David and Margaret by arranging a night on the town for the two.
        Matt's dad was the acknowledged leader of the family so everyone waited for him to begin. We all knew how Greywolf ran a family meeting. Everything was as structured and organized as one of his physics classes. No horsing around and no small talk.  Family meetings were serious business and this one was very serious.
        "We all know why we are here so let's get on with it. Matt, Luke, you have the family here, why don't you begin."
        "I want to say about three or four things then I'll listen.  First, all of you know why I attempted suicide and the results so there's no discussion for this group about that, right? Second, I love Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf with every fiber of my being and want to spend the rest of my life with him. Third, I know that we face a hard road, smoothed considerably by all of you for which I will never be able to repay you or even express my thanks adequately. Finally, while I am almost convinced Mom knows about me and Matt, my dad does not and what he will do when finds out scares me half to death.  Also, I remembered today that Matt and I had been very excited when we were accepted at our first choice of schools Julliard and Ringling. Now the idea of his being in New York and me in Florida really sucks. That's it for now.
        Matt then spoke up, "I must admit I really hadn't thought too far ahead because I was too involved with the moment and having the man I love, love me in return. When Luke asked Fr.  Tom about a commitment ceremony, I was overwhelmed. Since that time I have been thinking about spending my whole life with Luke Yonghon Tongmu Larsen. We already face problems and we are going to need all the help we can get. You all have been so wonderful to us already that I hate to ask more, but if we are to survive as a couple--and that is the only way I can survive--we are going to need your help and support. Since we have always had it, I know we will have it in the future and for that I am eternally grateful.  I too, am almost certain Gabrielle knows about Luke and me and I too, fear Jens reaction to learning his son loves a man. That's it for me.
        "Well, Luke, you have a promise of two weeks before the question of your suicide becomes open for discussion in your family. What is your feeling about that?" Margaret asked.
        "Frankly, I'd like to put it off forever, but since that is not an option, I'd like to get it over with because my life, and Matt's is on hold until the question is dealt with."
        "Luke, I know Dad has a two day audit in Jackson Monday and Tuesday. What I think you should consider is talking to Mom Monday evening. I'm not almost sure she knows about you and Matt. I am positive she knows. Since she hasn't gone nuts yet, it seems to me that she is at least willing to accept reality whether she likes it or not.  Frankly, I can't see her approving, but I certainly don't think she will reject you or Matt. She certainly seems more open in expressing her love and affection for both of us since you did the high dive bit.
        "What's your reaction to that, Luke? Or do you need more time to think about it?" Greywolf asked.
        "No, I think Sis is right. Mom has gone out of her way to show me affection and she has made some very strange remarks which, when I think about them, can only mean that she either knows about us or thinks she knows why I tried to kill myself.  Several times since I has been home she has made statements such as, 'Luke, you are my beloved man-child'-- a term she used when I was very young-- 'always have been and always will be regardless.' I didn't know Dad was going to be out-of-town Monday and Tuesday, but now that I do, I think it will be a good time to talk to Mom.
        "Just you or do you want someone with you?" asked David.  "You know any or all of us are willing to be with you if you like."
         "I hadn't thought much about having anyone with me. I think if several of us showed up, Mom would feel she was being ganged up on and I don't want that.  Maybe Sis, but she's got her own situation to deal with later so I think she better stay clear. I think I'd like Matt with me, yes Matt, if you're willing."
        "Of course I'm willing," Matt responded immediately. He was sitting on the floor between my legs and I realized I was so nervous I had twisted a handful of his hair around my hand. If I was this nervous among friends....
        "Anything else need to be said about that? ... I guess your silence answers 'no' to that. Next item, school."
        The rest of the family meeting went on for another hour, structured as only Greywolf can structure something. When we were all talked out, Greywolf had a prayer for me and Matt, for Mom and Dad and for all of us. By the time the meeting was over, it was time for David and Margaret to get ready and leave for Lexington. Greywolf and Yong Jin left to do some things around the farm. "Matt, I'd like to go to the river. I need some time and space to think about all that was said and decided."
        "That's ok. I'll get back to work."
        "What do you mean you'll get back to work?"
        "I'll get back to my composing so you can have the time and space you need."
        "Matt, you make my time and my space; you're going with me."
        "You're sure you don't want to be alone?"
        "Not now, not ever."
        "You guys going to the river?" Mary Kathryn asked.
        "Yea," I answered.
        "Good. Be sure to cross the canes 'cause you two need time to talk and think and to digest what was said here today."
        We grabbed the blanket from Matt's Jeep, joined hands, and walked to the falls. Neither of us said anything and there was a solemnness about us as we walked.  When we reached the falls, we spread the blanket and lay back on it looking at the sky above.  For the next hour and a half we talked about what had been discussed. Looked at objectively it seemed pretty simple. In typical Greywolf logic, to whole situation could be listed:
        Mom probably knew, but in any event, Matt and I would talk with her Monday night, telling her about us.     Based on what Mom thought, we would tell Dad as soon as possible. David and Matt would both be present for that since there was no telling how Dad might react.
        Academically, Matt was in excellent shape and I had made rapid progress to regaining my 4.0. We should have no problems academically.
        Since we both had a whole semester's grade riding on a recital and exhibition, we would talk to Fr. Tom about holding them together.
        We needed to appear as "normal" as possible at school.  Provided the girls were clear that the date was just for the prom and knew we were not using them--we probably should have dates for the prom coming up in three weeks.
        The Greywolfs and Michael and Mary Kathryn would warn us when they noticed anything which might give away our secret.
        We needed to think about next year. We had already been accepted to our first choices for next year: Matt at Julliard and I at Ringling, but he would be in New York and I in Sarasota, Florida.
        We both had planned to do a summer program: Matt the Music Conference at The University of the South, Sewanee--St. Mary's was paying the expenses of that expensive, but top- notch program--I Ringling's Summer Art Camp. This would be important for our development as artists and a trial separation. A kind of test for next year.
        David had suggested we look at different schools, even though it was pretty late for applying, and consider joint programs since we both were very good in science and math. Maybe our two arts and engineering.
        Yes, it all looked so simple laid out that way, but the list didn't include all the emotions and prejudices and unforeseen events which made it very complex.  Matt and I both felt completely drained emotionally and physically when arrived but, as we gathered up the blanket to leave, the falls had worked their magic. We both knew the future would be difficult, but confidence in our love for each other and the support of family and friends sustained and would sustain us. After a single soft, loving kiss we walked back to Matt's home.

Part Twelve

        As we walked away from the falls, it was sunset. The sky was absolutely aglow with reds, oranges, patches of blue and streaks of sunlight shining through clouds. It was so beautiful that Matt and I, without comment, stopped in the middle of the meadow and stood still and silent, holding hands and enjoying the beauty before us. Matt slipped an arm around my waist and I one around his, holding each other close for a very long time.  Finally Matt said, "Yonghon Tongmu, the very heavens proclaim the beauty of our love.  It is a sign. There are clouds, but without them, the sunset would not be as beautiful. So it will be for us. There are hard times ahead, but through them through your near-death our love will be made stronger and more beautiful."
        How do you respond to such words? My response was simply to
        pull Matt closer and keep silent. Finally, after a long silence, I turned and looked into the face of my beloved. His hair was loose and it was blowing in a soft spring breeze as our lips met in a kiss as beautiful and as innocent as the sunset. We then resumed our walk in the twilight.
        Supper--dinner was when you went all out, supper was when
        you just had good, plain food--was an unusually quiet affair, especially in light of the fact that the Gang of Four was present. Conversation was sadly lacking until Greywolf asked, "Have you four failed to tell me of the death of a friend? You surely are solemn this evening."
         "This afternoon was pretty heavy, Dad," Matt said. "Luke and I spent a long time at the falls talking about what lies ahead and it was not light stuff."
        "True," Yong Jin agreed, "but I can tell you from some pretty tough experiences growing up, you--both--are made of strong stuff and can weather the storms, especially with the support you have and if you continue to support each other. Also, you need to remember to ask for help from those who love you. We have our lives and our problems and may seem neglectful, but we'll not be. Ask."
        "Yea, I really wish I had known that when Mom was sick and dying. Now I know that Dad never intended to neglect or forget me, but it seemed that way. But all I would have had to do was ask. I guess I was just too young and immature to know so I let the hurt and pain eat away at me. Had it not been for Yong Jin I might well have ended up one of those super assholes--sorry Yong Jin, Mary Kathryn--at school. I was sure trying to get into that crowd. I thought if I became a big enough ass, Dad would have to pay attention. Not that I'm suggesting you two might become jerks, just that you might not ask for help when you need it."
        "You didn't do a very good job of being a jerk very long. First of all, because no one puts something over on Mom for very long and second because you are too great a guy to play a jerk, much less be one," Matt laughingly assured Michael.
        "Well, this is a bit better," Greywolf said. "I want all of you to know that Luke cleaned up his lab work in physics today. I expected him to have
        to spend at least one more Saturday in the lab."
         "I couldn't have done it without help. Two guys who were making up work finished theirs and helped me get mine done. While one helped me set up, the other took down equipment and one or the other was recorder for my data so it went really fast. I also had a grand time talking with them."
         "Who were they?" Matt asked.
        "Eugene Joyce and Larry Watley."
        "I know Eugene, not extremely well, but he was in my music class last year.  Both he and Larry have been one of my lab partners at one time or another, but you really don't get to know someone just working on experiments," Matt said.
         "Man, we talked about everything: movies, music, school...."
        "Relationships?" Mary Kathryn asked.
        "What do you mean?"
        "Well, I may be wrong, although I don't recall ever being wrong so maybe there's one chance in a million that I am, but I think those two guys have a very special relationship too."
        "You know, I thought I picked up some vibes there today.  Man, if they have they better be careful if you picked up on it and I thought I had."
         "Got to remember, Big Brother, we have a certain advantage here."
        "You may be right about both things," Greywolf said, "but also if they are lovers, they need to be very careful as do you Matt and Luke. The tolerance level at Independence High School is pretty low as it is in most high schools."
         "Well, intolerance is a daily practice at Independence.  And teachers often encourage it, usually by not doing or saying something, but sometimes they do or say things which encourage it. What particularly really burns me up is name-calling: African American kids calling each other nigger and guys calling each other faggot. It happens all the time in the halls and I know that a lot of teachers hear and ignore it," Michael said.
        "Which explains why Michael almost slugged hell out of me last night when I said,  'Michael, if you don't want to sleep with a faggot...' Before I knew it, he exploded and had his fist ready to slug me," Matt said.
        "Damn right. And next time, IF there is a next time, I'll do it too!"
        "I guess most people fear anything different and in the case of high school males, there's a real fear of not being macho enough and a fear of being gay because it is a very rare high school male who doesn't at one time or another, questioned his sexuality," Greywolf said.
        "Present company excepted, I hope," Matt said. "I have never questioned the fact that I loved only one person--I mean with that kind of love--and that's Luke."
        "But you didn't want to face the question of whether or not you were gay. You just blinded yourself to what loving me meant, at least to the man on the street."
        "You're right. I remember saying to Margaret, after I told her how much I loved you, 'I guess that makes me gay.' I GUESS that makes me gay."
        "I knew I was gay, devoted to Matt and Matt alone, but there was no question in my mind about my being gay."
        "When I told Margaret about my love for Luke and said I guess that made me gay, she said she hated labels. I guess--I know--I'm gay if loving a man makes me gay and that's no problem.  The problem comes when that label starts determining who I am to people and when they think it gives them the right to treat me differently," Matt commented.
        Michael said, "I worried about being different, about being gay, but the worst part was not being gay, but being different. I understand the questioning. I also understand how the super macho bit is often a cover up. What I don't understand is gay bashing. What does that prove? That you're a man? Hardly, especially when it takes five guys to beat up Gregory.  And I think what is even worse are those who aren't really bad guys but who go along because they are afraid someone will question their sexuality. To me, being gay or straight gives no privileges and takes away none. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all and if you don't interfere with those for me, I have no leave to attempt to take them from you." Michael had really gotten impassioned as he talked.
        "Well, I think that just about covers the issue. And I'll have to admit that while I do not condone or let derogatory name calling I hear pass , I have not done what I should have done in regard to my fellow teachers who, I know, passively encourage intolerance by their silence or actively by their own comments... And now, after this light supper conversation, what would you four like to do? Matt could run into town and rent a video, we can watch TV, you can all go to Matt's room and make out...."
        "After our songfest last night, I vote we listen to some of the music you and Yong Jin listened to when you were our age or even older tunes and just sit in the library and cuddle," Mary Kathryn suggested.
        "Well, that's what I had in mind for Yong Jin and myself, if she's willing to cuddle with me. I'd be happy to have you four join us," Greywolf said.
        "Hell yea--sorry," I exclaimed as Michael bowed in front of Mary Kathryn and took her arm, leading her to the library. Greywolf and I bowed to our loves and soon we were all in the library: Greywolf and Yong Jin on the love seat, Michael and I in the overstuffed chairs with our loves sitting on the floor between our legs.
         "I think I know where we start," Greywolf said as he gently and lovingly took a real record out of its sleeve and placed it on the turntable.
         "Dad, before you start the record, will you pop in a tape and make a recording of this old stuff."
        "What do you mean 'old stuff' Mr. Greywolf? Why half these tunes were written when I was about your age. Old stuff indeed," Greywolf laughed as he put a blank cassette in, then started the record.
        Soon the room was filled with Perry Como singing "More" and we all six sang along.  Other songs followed and the mood was mellow. Matt's hair was unbraided and I noticed, as I stroked it, Yong Jin was doing the same to Greywolf's loose hair. Michael was running his fingers through Mary Kathryn's hair, which was not as long as the Greywolfs', but wasn't short either. I guess we were just a room full of people with hair fetishes. Actually, we were three couples very much in love.
        "Well, I know we are all enjoying this and it is delightful, but it's time to break up the party. Michael, you were going to St. Mary's with Matt in the morning?"
        "Yea. And Dad is coming to go with you and Yong Jin later, right?"
        "Right. Luke, Mary Kathryn, which Mass do you want to attend at Immaculate Conception?"
        "I think I'll go with Michael. Mom and Dad needn't know and I want to if you don't mind. Since we Larsens can never settle on any one Mass, we go at different times. No one at Immaculate Conception will be the wiser since Fr. Muller has an assistant who does Mass as well as he."
        "We don't want to lead you astray, Mary Kathryn," Greywolf said, "but if that's what you want to do...."
        "I do."
        "I think I better show up since Fr. Muller will be sure to notice if I'm not there and will probably ask Fr. O'Brian if I was at one of his Masses. There's a plain Mass at 9:15 which is over by 10:10 at the latest. What time are you and Michael going in, Matt?"
        "I usually leave about 9:00 which would cut it close, but if we leave at five minutes of nine, we could drop you off."
        "And when's Mass at St. Mary's?"
         "The one I play for and everyone is attending is at 10:30."
        "Great! I can go to Immaculate Conception at 9:15 and have plenty of time to join the rest of you at St. Mary's for the 10:30 Mass."
        "Oh," Michael suddenly exclaimed, "I was supposed to ask  you about taking communion at St. Mary's. Since Dad will be coming with you later, I needed to know and I would probably forget it in the morning. I am NOT a morning person."
        "You are all welcome to receive the Sacrament. It's there for everyone who has been baptized and no one would turn you away if you weren't, mainly I guess because Fr.  Tom wouldn't know, but he'd never embarrass someone in church.  Mary Kathryn, Luke, your church says you cannot--should not--but so far as St.  Mary's is concerned, you're welcome," Greywolf said. "Well, it's time to break it up since it's about my bedtime. Of course I'm sure you four will be up half the night, but remember getting up time is like a school day."
        "Mary Kathryn, you're sleeping in the guest room--alone I trust," Yong Jin said with a laugh. "Boys, make your own arrangements."
        "Mrs. Greywolf...."
        "This must be serious business, Michael, Mrs. Greywolf indeed."
        "It is serious business. I'm really new at this love thing and I'd like to know the rules.  I don't expect to sleep with Mary Kathryn...."
        "Good to know you'll not be disappointed, Lover Boy," Mary Kathryn said in her you-want-your-legs-broken voice.
        "...but what about being in the room with her?"
        "Michael, I am willing to leave that to your and Mary Kathryn's judgement. On the one hand, you've been friends for years and I hope you will be for many years to come.  Being in the room with Mary Kathryn has never been a problem before but, on the other hand, you're in a new relationship now and at an age where control can pass by the boards...."
        "Tell me about it!"
        "What do you want to do? Or perhaps I better put it this way, what do you think you should do?"
        "I think the open door policy Matt and Luke have established for themselves sounds like a good one for us."
        "Then when you are in Mary Kathryn's room, leave the door open. That's a reminder for you two, not a means of keeping tabs on you," Yong Jin said,
        dumping the problem right back in the two young lovers' laps. Hard and fast rules are sure easier, but then hard and fast rules are just rules to be broken. Decisions and responsibility for them are much harder to live with, but make you feel like a real person. "Good going, Mom Greywolf," I thought.
        "Oh, I almost forgot. Matt, Luke, Margaret left something for you when she came this afternoon. Her instructions were that I was to give it to you when you were ready to go upstairs. You are not to open it until the two of you are alone." With these words, Yong Jin handed me a beautifully wrapped box which had an envelope addressed to Sarang Hanun Pomul and Yonghon Tongmu on top.
         "Thanks, Mom Greywolf."
        "Yea, thanks, Mom," Matt said.
        The four of us went upstairs. The guys had dibs on the bathroom so all three of us piled in to pee and brush our teeth. We were all out in about the same time it took Mary Kathryn alone. When Mary Kathryn finished, Michael asked Matt if he had a robe. Matt reached in the back of his closet and came up with a stunning black silk robe, floor length, richly embroidered with dragons. "Mom got this for me on her last trip to Korea. I think its great, but I seldom wear it." He handed it to Michael who was now completely naked.
        Michael disappeared in the bathroom and we heard the shower
        and Michael-- Michael!--singing at the top of his lungs "More than the greatest love the world has known.... " When he emerged from the bathroom he had on the robe and, to tell the truth, he looked good enough to eat. The silk allowed his build to show through and its blackness made his eyes look dark, dark green and accented his blond hair which set off a beautiful face. "I'm not sure an open door is going to protect you from getting your bod crawled when you walk in with that on," I laughed.
        "I keep hoping, but you Larsens just lead your lovers on, right Matt?"
        "Right. Michael, when you get ready, just crawl in the bed.
        If we're asleep...."
        "Not likely."
        "...just shove Luke over."
        "Look. guys, I know you two want to be alone tonight just like I want more than anything to go down the hall and crawl in bed with Mary Kathryn and fuck...."
        "Don't you dare ever use that word again Michael Jacob Andrews!" I exploded at Michael as he had at Matt the night before. "When the time comes I hope you make such mad passionate love to my sister that you both see stars, but if you ever fuck her, I will beat the shit out of you. I'll beat you within an inch of your life. What do you think Mary Kathryn would say if she heard you say you wanted to fuck her? You wouldn't have balls enough to fuck anything. If you went to her room right now and said, 'Let's fuck.' I'd place money on hearing your ass bounce in the hall. If, on the other hand, you went down to her room and told her how much you loved her and that you wanted to make love to her, she might or might not go along, but I think she'd tell you she wanted to make love to you just as badly. But I'll bet you both my balls that she'd not say, "Ok, let's fuck." I was livid.
        "Hey, Luke, Bro, I was being a total jerk and ass. I know exactly what you mean and how you feel. It IS the same way I felt last night when Matt called himself a faggot. I was pulling the super macho bit again, I guess, because, to tell the truth, I'm scared and put on a front to hide how nervous I am right now. I'm new at this love game and I'm scared shitless that I'll screw it up. I am not only sorry, but humiliated and utterly ashamed of myself. I feel like shit, but you know I really didn't mean that... damn I really feel lower than shit." Michael's eyes filled with tears. He was having a hard time talking through them, but managed to say, "I have managed to fuck up one of the most perfect evenings I can remember.  I've fucked up a friendship; I have, even though she doesn't know it, insulted the woman I love more than life itself. I've cheapened my relationship to her."
        "Michael, you're my brother and one asshole remark is not going to change that. And if you think your remark ruined a perfect evening, you've got another think coming. I'll place money on Mary Kathryn proving that before you get through the open door. I just got angry way more than I should have, not only because she's my sister, but also because I've become overly sensitive about words and what they say, as obviously you have yourself since you got angry at Matt for a word we hear over and over everyday in school. I've seen your love and devotion to Mary Kathryn and I should have taken a much more calm approach to simply remind you that certain words are not used about the person you love. Maybe I would have said the same thing about Matt, but Greywolf said that if he ever heard either of us talking about fucking the other there'd be a high price to pay. 'Dogs and people who are like dogs fuck,' he said, 'people who are people make love.' I then embraced Michael and Matt joined in.
        "Thanks, guys, thanks for loving me enough to set me straight. Thanks a million."
        "You ok now?"
        "Yea. Mind if I talk about this conversation with Mary Kathryn?"
        "It's your life you're risking bro. See you later. Leave the door open when you go out and when you come back."
        As Michael walked to the closet I was again struck by how stunning he looked. He reached into the closet and, as he turned, he was holding a sleeping bag. "I won't be coming back. I'm going to sleep downstairs on the living room sofa. I want you guys to have this night together to do whatever you want to do.
        "Well, Michael, I seriously doubt that we will do what we want to do. Need I remind you that our decision is to put off having sex until we are eighteen? So just as you are probably not going to do what you want to do...."
        "Make love to Mary Kathryn."
        "Neither are we going to do what we WANT to do, make love--if making love ONLY means having sex. But it doesn't, does it?"
         "Nope, and thanks for everything, guys, you're the greatest. Good night." And with those words, he walked down to hall to Mary Kathryn's room and, as if to make his intentions clear, tossed the sleeping bag down the steps as he passed the stairs.
        When Michael left the room, Matt pulled me to himself and gave me a deep french kiss which I returned with equal fervor. When we broke our kiss, I started unbuttoning Matt's shirt and he mine. I looked into his eyes and asked, "Ok, Matt, boxers or briefs?"
        "Boxers or briefs, what?"
        "Didn't you say that one of the things we would have to do if we continued sleep overs was to wear something to bed? So is it to be boxers or briefs?" I asked
        again as I walked to the chest where Michael, Matt and I all have both.
         "Luke, I know I said it, but I think it's the dumbest thing I have ever said. At least I can't think of anything dumber than believing that two layers of cloth--barbed wire for that matter--would stop our making love if we decided to do so. I know it will be hard....
         "Both of them...."
         "I know it will be DIFFICULT for me not to hop you body because I want you so bad, but I trust you and I know you trust me to keep our promises to each other. The evening has been perfect and I'm not sure but that making love to you and having you to make love to me tonight would not be a very, very special first time, but...."
         "Babe, I love you so much," I said as I pulled Matt to me and in doing so, fell on the bed. My head hit the box Margaret had left for us. Matt, who was lying between my legs, reached behind my head and got the box. "Matt, I love you dearly, but you're mashing my balls!" Matt laughed, got up and sat on the bed. I sat with Matt between my legs, looking over his shoulder. "Well, it's addressed to both of us; open it."
        Inside the envelope was a card which read, "This is for two men I love very, very much and who I know have made promises they are finding difficult to keep. Maybe this will help." It was signed, "With my deepest love and affection, Margaret."
        I was holding the box while Matt opened the envelope. When I opened the box the whole room, it seemed, was filled with a faint fragrance, the fragrance of Matt's hair which always drove me wild. There was another card inside the box:
        Menu for Slow and Easy Light Fare: Talking to each other about slow and easy Kissing and hugging Listening to music and/or dancing together Undressing each other Back rubs, foot rubs, & body rubs while undressed Rubbing body oil on each other Kissing or licking or fondling (except for you know) Caressing, tickling, pinching, & nibbling each other Showering together Stroking, brushing, or playing with each other's hair
        Entrees: Petting with no clothes on Stroking, caressing, tickling, pinching, & nibbling each other& fondling (except you know)
        Desserts: Licking flavored nonpetroleum-based oil off your partner's body
        Holding each other Sleeping together
        Under the card was bottle of body oil, shampoo, and soap, all with the same great fragrance: the fragrance of Matt's hair.
         About the time we finished reading the menu, there was a shout from Mary Kathryn's room.  Without thinking, we both jumped off the bed and raced down the hall, shirtless. Just as we reached the open door, there was another scream from Michael. As soon as we saw inside the room, Matt and I both started laughing our heads off. Mary Kathryn, dressed in a very feminine robe, was sitting astride Michael's stomach TICKLING him.  Michael has tears in his eyes and was begging her to stop and when it got to be too much, he let out a shriek.
        Between shrieks Michael finally was able to say, "Rescue me, please." Mary Kathryn looked up, saw us, and quickly released Michael and did her "cat licking its paw" routine. You know like a cat which has been caught doing something that it thinks it shouldn't starts licking it's paw as if to say, "I don't know what you're talking about."
        While Michael was catching his breath, Mary Kathryn sat back on her bed and became very serious, "Brothers Matt and Luke, Michael had the guts to tell me about using the F word and I admire him for being so honest with me and I do appreciate you jumping him about it. But as he said, we're both brand new at this love stuff and frankly, I'm as nervous as he is. I guess women just have a different way of hiding. But again, thanks. You may have to get him back on the right path again, but probably not since I remembered how ticklish he is." And with those words, she made a grab across the bed, snatched Michael to herself and gave
        him a grand kiss. Just when he was really getting into it, she goosed him in the ribs and he exploded.
        "Well, I guess we have done all the rescue work needed here, Matt. I'm surprised Greywolf hasn't rushed up the stairs to see what's going on."
        "I guess Mom and Dad meant it when they said we'd have our privacy. Well, you two, carry on," Matt said and we returned to his room.
        When we got back to the room, Matt looked at me with a strange look in his eye. "Luke, you know one reason we are finding slow and easy so difficult?
        "Yea, I think I do if you're thinking the same thing I'm thinking. Friday night at the river I mentioned that you and I needed to learn something from Michael and Mary Kathryn about playful love. There is not the slightest doubt that tickling session we interrupted is one of the ways they show their love and affection for each other. Babe, I think we're just way too serious."
         "That's exactly what I was thinking. But right now I'm ready to get to work on the slow and easy menu and I don't think I want to start with tickling!" Matt was standing in front of me and reached out and took me into his arms. Just as he did, the tape Greywolf had made, reversed itself and Perry Como started singing "More." As the music started, Matt started dancing, holding me to himself. "Who would have thought all those hated Saturday dance lessons Gabrielle dragged us to would come in handy?" he asked as we danced.
        "Who'd have thought that we'd end up each other's arms when we decided to put them to use?" I asked Matt as I pressed my forehead to his and gazed deeply into his black, beautiful almond eyes.
        "Hate to break in, but Mary Kathryn and I heard the music and, well, if you guys don't mind, we'd like to put into practice those dance lessons we hated so much." I turned and saw Michael and Mary Kathryn standing in the door, holding hands.
        "Sure," Matt said. "And you won't have the problem of deciding who will lead."
        "You can put money on that, Sir Matthew," Mary Kathryn laughed as she took Michael in her arms and started dancing--leading.
        After "More" was over and the next song started, I winked at Matt and he walked up behind Michael and tapped him on the shoulder, "Mind if I cut in?"
        "No, but don't expect to lead."
         As he stepped back, Mary Kathryn demurely placed one hand on Matt's shoulder and the other in his hand. "You just have to let Michael know who's in charge," she laughed. Meanwhile, Michael walked over to me, bowed, and we started dancing, he leading.
        When the song ended, we changed partners again and danced to two or three more songs before Michael and Mary Kathryn said good night and went back to
        her room. Matt and continued to dance, our lips pressed together, our bodies close.
        As we danced, Matt's hand found the button to my jeans, unbuttoned it and slid down the zipper.  When my jeans fell to my ankles, I didn't miss a beat as I kicked them off: one leg then the other. Taking my cue from Matt, I opened his jeans and he, too, kicked them off as we continued dancing, I in my briefs, Matt in his boxers.
        "Matt, we've got a problem here. We established an open door policy for our sleep overs, but now we have Mary Kathryn down the hall and it hardly seems appropriate to have the door open since she may need to come by."
         "Luke, we didn't say how far open and it was to be a reminder for us," Matt said, as he walked to the door and partially closed it. "That's open enough to be a reminder, but gives anyone walking down the hall the opportunity not to look in."
        Another song had just started when Matt came back and, as he stood before me, I hooked my thumbs in the waistband of his boxers and slipped them to the floor. As I stood up, Matt took my face between his hands and gave me a passionate french kiss. As the kiss continued, he slipped my briefs from my body. When the song ended we stepped back, standing naked before each other. Standing before me was not only the man I loved, but also the hard sculptured body I craved. Matt was so beautiful in his darkness. His almond eyes were sparkling as he drew me to himself and covered my lips with his. Before the kiss ended, I felt Matt's hard manhood against my body as I am sure he felt mine.
        As the next song started, I pulled Matt to the bed and as I lay down on my back, pulled him on top of me. We managed to do that without breaking our kiss.  As Matt lay on top of me, I saw him reach over my head and take the bottle of oil from the night stand where we had left it after opening the box from Margaret. As he lifted his lips from mine he had a devilish smile on his face and a gleam in his eye. He opened the bottle of oil--the fragrance of Matt completely filled my world--and poured a trickle down my chest. His hands began to gently rub the oil over my chest, giving special attention to my nipples. He continued to cover my body with oil as he started massaging my chest and stomach. "You know if you keep moving down, things are going to...."
         "Just relax, Luke Babe, this is slow and easy so don't let yourself get all hot and bothered," Matt laughed as he rocked back on his heels and poured a stream of oil on my legs. He continued to massage down my body, rubbing the oil into my thighs and legs then said, "Ok, turn over."
        When I turned over, lying on my stomach, Matt poured oil on my back and began to massage my back and shoulders. He poured oil on my ass and started kneading my cheeks. A couple times his fingers had brushed my rosebud and I started getting hard. Before I could say anything to him, he oiled my thighs and legs and was massaging them. It felt so good. His hands on my body felt so good. "Ok, turn over," he said. When I did he saw my hard cock and said, "Luke, I told you this was slow and easy and not to get hot and bothered." He laughed, bent over and kissed first one nipple then the other.
        "Matt, how can I keep a cool tool when your body alone sets        me off and now all this." Matt again started massaging down my body, moving his hands down until he reached my crotch where he moved a hand down each leg. "Matt, I told you that if you kept on... yipes!"
        Matt had been massaging a foot and suddenly started tickling the bottom of it. His hands were slippery from the oil so he couldn't hold on long, thank goodness, since the bottoms of my feet are extremely ticklish. When I escaped his grip, I grabbed the bottle from his hand, pushed him backwards on the bed and started pouring oil on him. We were soon wrestling on the bed and getting oil all over the two of us as first one then the other had the bottle. When it was almost empty, Matt was lying on his back laughing, holding the bottle above his head. I lunged for it and missed, falling on top of him. I immediately slid off. This was fun! We kept trying to grab and hold each other, but mostly our naked bodies were just slipping and sliding over each other. Both of us were laughing like crazy. I was finally able to catch and hold Matt but as I bent forward to kiss him, I slipped and again slid off his body.
        When we finally were able to stop laughing, we faced each other with Matt sitting in my lap, his legs out behind me and mine stretched behind him. After a kiss, which was broken up when Matt started sliding off my lap, we were giggling so hard we couldn't do anything."Sarang Hanun Pomul, " I said when I was able to stop giggling long enough, "turn around." Matt sat between my legs with his back to me and I slowly began to massage his shoulders and back. I then reached around him and opened my hands wide, rubbing them across his chest and then placing my palms over his nipples, moved my hands in small circles. Matt turned his head around and leaned back until I could kiss him.
        "Luke, I love you so much. So very, very much. I have your heart, but Babe, I want your body as well."
         "Yea, I know, Babe, I want your body too. But right now I think we had better clean up the mess we have made."
        "Man, that sure is a romantic statement if I've ever heard one," Matt said in little kid's pouty voice. He reached back and grabbed my head and did a kind of flip until he was facing me. We started wrestling again and once again kept sliding off each other. Finally, between giggles, Matt said, "On the other hand, I don't think there's anything very romantic we can do when we can't hold on to each other, so cleaning up the mess is probably a good idea. Where do you suggest we start?"
        "It would probably be a good idea to start by taking the sheet off the bed and then hit another item from the menu like taking a shower together."
        We managed to get the sheet off the bed and use it to cover        the carpet to the bathroom, all the time still giggling our heads off. Before we crossed the hall to the bathroom, which was directly opposite Matt's door, Matt stuck his head out the door to make sure the coast was clear. As we walked to the bathroom, I noticed Mary Kathryn's door was closed        and the sleeping bag was no longer on the stairs--not that I was checking up on Mary Kathryn and Michael.
        Matt had brought the soap and shampoo and when we got to the bathroom he said, "I hope playing with my hair is on the agenda Luke Hans Larsen because it's oily as all get out and it will take forever to dry unless you to dry it for me."
        "I don't know about that. I really am not much on the hair thing NOT!"
        Matt turned on the shower and when the water got hot, adjusted the temperature. We got into the shower and embraced for a kiss. Matt then turned me around and put my head under the shower. When my hair was wet, he started shampooing it. I loved it! No one had shampooed my hair since Mom stopped giving me a bath. As soon as Matt had finished my hair, I shampooed his. A major job since it was long enough to cover his ass. Once we had finished with each other's hair, Matt took the soap and started washing my body.  "Turn around so I can wash your back," he said. After a quick kiss, I turned my back to him and he started washing and massaging my back.
        "God, that feels wonderful, Matt." He was kneading the muscles of my back and shoulders and it really felt great.
        "Ok, turn around, Babe, so I can do your front." As Matt ran the soap over my chest and stomach I wondered where he would stop. As if to answer my question, he knelt and washed each of my legs. "Hold up a foot so I can do a good job." I held up one, then the other foot and remembered too late that my lover would probably go for the bottom of the last foot he washed.  He did and suddenly we were both a bundle of giggles again.
        When Matt stood up, he bent forward, kissed me and started washing Little Luke. As Matt washed my most private part, Little Luke came to life. I just looked into Matt's eyes as he finished. "You realize that is the first time you or any man has ever touched me there?" I asked.
        Matt smiled and said, "I'm the first and I had better be the last, and one day soon, when Little Luke comes alive it will be my pleasure to put him in his place!" He kissed me and handed me the soap.
        I washed Matt as he had done me. As I washed his Chili Pepper, it got hard as Little Luke had done, but when I gazed into Matt's eyes I saw love, not lust. "Do you think there's something wrong with us? I mean we are in a shower together and have touched each other in a way we never have before and neither of us lost control even after we got hard as rocks."
        "Might be there's something very right about us. I suspect it wouldn't take ten seconds for us to be so hard we could drive holes in the wall with our manhood if that's what we were about.  But I think maybe with the help of Margaret and Michael and Mary Kathryn we have added several more to the list of a thousand ways to show love and affection tonight. But I think we had better get out of the shower before we turn to prunes."
        Matt grabbed two towels from the linen closet and we dried each other. Damn it was erotic and great fun! When we had dried our hair as best we could with towels, Matt grabbed his brush and a hair dryer and we streaked across the hall to his room.  Since it was going to take so long, I started brushing and drying Matt's hair. Ever so often I had to stop and kiss this man I loved so much. When his hair was finally dry I realized that as much as I loved it, it sure took a lot of effort as he quickly braided it. "You realize that's probably a waste of time," I said as he finished.
        "Yea, but I don't want to take away your fun. Now let me do your hair." While Matt's hair is long and thick, it is easy to brush. My hair was curly and I hadn't had it cut in ages so it was just a mass of tight curls. Matt worked on it carefully, but finally I realized that if it was going to be dry tonight, I'd have to work on it. While I was finishing my hair, Matt remade the bed with the clean sheet.
        "No boxers and no briefs?"
        "No boxer and no briefs," Matt echoed. While he started the
        tape again and turned out the lights, I crawled in bed. The fresh cool sheet felt great on my naked body, but nothing in comparison to the body of my love, my life, which was soon pressed against mine. We lay, facing each other, our faces dim in the light of the full moon shining through a window. I put my arms around Matt and unbraided his hair. When it was free, he raised up on an elbow, leaned over me and his hair did its special magic of creating a world in which there were only the two of us. Our lips slowly came together in a long, long, tender and        passionate kiss.  As  we ended the kiss, Matt said, "Yonghon Tongmu, every time I think I couldn't possibly love you more, another day passes and I discover more love for you than I had the day before. Today has been a wondrous day.  Even with all the reality we had to face with the family meeting and in looking at our future, it was a wondrous day. For the first time I am sleeping with the man I love and even though I know that making love... no, I was going to say that making love would be a thousand times what we have had today, but that would be wrong. We have made love. All day long we have made love. We have made love when we were apart. So I guess all I can say is 'Yonghon Tongmu, I love you with my whole heart and being with you and knowing you love me is enough, not forever, but for now."
        Matt lay beside me, our legs entwined as we embraced each other. "Sarang Hanun Pomul, if I loved you any more I would have to be twins. And you're right.  Today was one of the happiest days of my life, as was yesterday, as will be tomorrow for I know you love me as I love you and, regardless of what happens, nothing and no one can take away the happiness you give me. And you want to know a secret? I was scared to death of tonight. I so feared that our raging hormones would get the better of us, but the touch of your body, the fragrance of your hair, the kiss of your lips has had an amazing effect on me. Somehow or other what I feared would make me nothing more than a lust-filled horndog has made me just want to hold you and feel your body next to mine." Matt pulled my face to his for another long, tender kiss, his tongue finding its way into my mouth bringing to me the wonderful taste of Sarang Hanun Pomul. Holding each other we slowly drifted into dreamland where Sarang Hanun Pomul and Yonghon Tongmu lived happy ever after.
        But I was to discover before I was ready for it that the real world is not the dreamworld' and that raging hormones have a way of their own. We had been asleep for about an hour when I felt something hot and sticky on my legs. "Holy shit," I exclaimed, "what the..."  As soon as I was awake I knew exactly what it was. Matt had just ejaculated on me! "Matt! What the hell..."
        "What's up, Luke?" Matt said, still half asleep.
        "Man, I hope you just had a wet dream."
        By this time Matt was awake. He looked at me, sitting up in bed, grinned and said " Did I ever, Hot Stuff, and you were the star."
        "Well, you just shot cum all over your porno star!"
        Matt laughed, then said, "Well, I guess we both better clean up and get another sheet."
        After cleaning ourselves up and remaking the bed with the second clean sheet, we once again crawled in bed and kissed each other good night. Before I went back to sleep, Matt had turned his back to me and I spooned myself against him, my arm across his chest. Not an hour later I was awoken by Matt. "Ok, we're even now. I didn't have to ask what he was talking about, the sticky mess on him and me told the tale. Giggling like mad, we got up cleaned up and changed the sheets for the third time. After that, we slept arm in arm until Mom Greywolf called.
        We tossed on clothes and went downstairs where breakfast was waiting. "Mom Greywolf...."
        "Luke, you've never called me Mom Greywolf until yesterday and now this morning."
        "Well, I guess I'm about as close to being a son-in-law as I'll ever be and calling you Mom Greywolf kinda makes that real for me."
        "Well, I am honored, Son." I walked over to Mom Greywolf and gave her a big hug. It felt great!
        Michael and Mary Kathryn walked into the kitchen as I released Mom Greywolf. Michael was wearing the robe Matt had given him and Mary Kathryn was dressed in the robe she wore last night. "Michael, that robe must have been meant for you," Yong Jin said, "it makes you even more handsome than usual."
        "It makes him look good enough to eat," Mary Kathryn said as she gave him a kiss.
        "Luke, you started to say something before I interrupted," Yong Jin said.
        "Well, what I was going to say was that there're three sheets upstairs which need washing.  You can blame Margaret for one of them, the one with the oil...."
        "I don't want to know," she laughed.
        "And I want you to know that the stains on the other two are
        the result of normal adolescence, not hanky panky. Matt and I both had wet dreams. Perfectly normal."
        "Well, I see my lover cut straight to the chase as usual," Matt laughed.
         "Since you're going to be washing sheets, Yong Jin, I guess you can throw the sleeping bag in as well," Michael said and blushed. And I thought this kid never blushed.
        "Oh the joys of adolescence!" Greywolf exclaimed. "Matt, Luke, I have a confession to make.  Yong Jin and I promised we would not invade your privacy and we intend to keep that promise, but this morning when she went upstairs to awaken you, you were so beautiful sleeping in each other's arms, Luke's golden curls resting on Matt's hair, she couldn't resist. She came back down and got me and the digital camera. I hope you two will treasure the picture forever as I intend to do." With those words he placed a picture on the table. Matt's hair covered both pillows, the cover was back revealing half our bodies and we were arm in arm, my head resting beside Matt's.
        "Thanks, Greywolf,"
        "Yea, thanks, Dad."
        "Well, if we have all that out of the way, we better get breakfast so you three fellows can be out of here," Greywolf reminded us.
        After breakfast, Michael said, "Look, if Mary Kathryn is going to St. Mary's, I think I'll just come later with her."
        "Makes good sense to me," Matt said as he and I bounded upstairs and got dressed. When we got into Matt's Jeep and headed for town, neither of us said anything for awhile. "Why so quiet, Luke?" Matt asked.
        "I'm not really sure. Why are you so quiet?"
        "I'm not sure either. I think maybe it's because last night proved something to me and I'm kinda digesting it. You got to know that you really get me aroused and had it not been for you, there have been several times when I would have taken your body.
        Yet, I know that you want me just as bad as I want you, but it's mostly been you who has drawn the line. I'm not complaining, it's just something I was thinking about. And last night I THINK we both worked hard at staying within the boundaries we set for ourselves and I feel good about that. I guess I'm trying to digest the fact that even though everyone talks about how mature I am, you made me really grow up last night."
        "I hadn't thought about that; I guess because it never occurred to me that you were anything but mature. I think I'm quiet because I have to make a decision that only I can make. I feel like a hypocrite going to Immaculate Conception this morning because I know that I cannot and will not accept the church's condemnation of our love. I would be willing to bet that there's not another nearly-eighteen-year old who will be at Mass who has his love condemned even if he and his girlfriend are fucking each other's brains out; even if they don't have any love for each other. Oh, there'd be a tsk tsk about their having sex outside marriage and using contraception but their love would not be condemned. And they could be married and make it all nice and legal and holy. But we cannot. In fact, the way I have lusted after your body, I'm already damned and I don't believe or accept a bit of it. My loving God loves me and you and our love, period. So I'll go, but it may well be my last time. And that's something else for Dad to go ballistic over."
        "Slow and easy may be the way we're trying to handle sex, but Luke Babe, easy our love is not." We stopped at a stoplight and after making sure no other car was around, Matt leaned over and kissed me and said, "But Yonghon Tongmu, our love IS!"
        After Matt dropped me off, I walked into Immaculate Conception and prayed God that Matt's love would sustain me through the next hour when I saw Fr.  Muller approach the altar.
        After Mass, Fr. Muller greeted me at the door with, "I'm pleased to see you are once more among the faithful, Luke."
        "Thank you, Father. Mom and Dad are away this weekend and will be attending Mass at St.  Peter's by the Lake. Have a good day, Father," I said, not wanting to get asked about Mary Kathryn.
        The day was beautiful and spring was definitely in the air as I took my time walking to St.  Mary's. When I arrived, I went into the church and saw the Greywolfs, David, Michael and Mary Kathryn sitting about halfway down the nave. Somehow or other I was not surprised to see Margaret sitting beside David. It was almost the whole family had finally gotten together on the one thing that had separated us, religion. As I joined them, Matt started the prelude. Somehow I had a feeling I was where I was supposed to be. After kneeling and offering a thanksgiving for the family and for Matt and his love, I sat back and listened to the prelude. It had a definite calming effect on me and, again, I felt I was home.
        The service was not very much different from Immaculate Conception, but I guess it was the fact that I knew that Fr. Tom KNEW and had not condemn me or Matt that made it seem very personal.
        When it came time to approach the altar for the Blessed Sacrament, I did not hesitate. I expected Michael and David and maybe Margaret to join the Greywolfs, but I was somewhat surprised to see Mary Kathryn go forward, even holding hands with Michael as she went.
        After Mass, the Greywolfs introduced us to several people including Millie Willingham. "I hear you are an artist," she said. "There's too many technicians these days and not enough artists. I hope you're going to pursue art."
        "I hope to be able to do so, Mrs. Willingham," I replied.
        "Call me Millie, only people who are trying to get something out of me call me Mrs.  Willingham. I'd like to see some of your work sometime."
        "Well, Matt is doing a recital here at St. Mary's and we thought about doing the recital and an exhibition of my work since I have to do one this spring and a place has not been selected.  We've got to talk to Fr. Tom soon about that."
         "Consider it approved. Tom just thinks he's in charge around here!"
        "Millie, has anyone ever defied you?" Greywolf laughed.
        "Only those resting peacefully in the town cemetery.  Actually, Matt had mentioned the possibility of a joint art exhibition and recital to Tom before church and Tom asked if I would organize the event, including a reception, so I know he's planning on it. Luke, how'd you and Matthew like to come by the house this afternoon so we can get the ball rolling for the cultural event of the century for Concord."
        "Why, sure. If it's ok with Matt."
        "It is. I have already spoken to him. See you about 4:30."
         Sunday dinner immediately after church often found the family all together and today was no exception except my parents hadn't returned from the lake and probably wouldn't do so until late.  "Well, how was your evening, David, Margaret?" I asked as soon as we were all seated. "Margaret, did you order everything on the menu?" The Gang of Four started laughing like mad.  Margaret blushed.
        "While it's none of your business, we covered only a couple things the menu had to offer," Margaret said, still blushing and laughing.
         "What's this about a menu?" David asked.
         "I'll tell you one of these days," Margaret said. David just looked puzzled. "How about you and Matt? Did you order everything on the menu?"
        "Well, I think there were a few items left. By the way, Yong Jin will probably make you do a load of washing after dinner. Seems there were several sheets which had to be changed last night. One, strangely enough, had oil all over it." Matt was laughing like crazy.
        "Well, if the outcome was what was hoped for, I'll be delighted to do the laundry, Yong Jin."
        "You'll have to toss in a sleeping bag as well, I'm afraid," Yong Jin said and Michael blushed again!
         Dinner conversation continued in a lighthearted way and we        were all enjoying ourselves tremendously. As desert was served, the conversation took a more serious turn as Michael and David, Mary Kathryn and I talked about our experience at St.  Mary's. The Greywolfs were obviously pleased when one after another we said we felt like we were home. "Well, Luke, you have made a great ally in Millie Willingham. She can be a powerful enemy, but fortunately she is generally on the right side, frequently the minority one. And when she's wrong and proven wrong she'll not hesitate to admit it and try to set things right," Greywolf said.
        "I spoke to Fr. Tom this morning about Luke and I having our recital and exhibition at St.  Mary's and he was all for it. He asked Millie to make arrangements for everything, including a reception. I'll have to check the dates with Mr. Smith in so far as the recital is concerned. Luke, you can check with Mr. Stephenson tomorrow when you ask about making the exhibition your whole grade."
        "Matt and Luke, I was looking over the Advanced Placement exam material Friday and meant to mention it earlier, but you can take an AP exam without having an AP course. I think the two of you should take another AP exam: Matt, you in music and Luke, you in studio art. Since you have to do the exhibition anyway Luke, it would not be difficult at all for you to put together the portfolio which is all the exam requires. It is due May 12," Yong Jin said. "There's no reason not to get as much mileage as you can out of your work, especially since you have to work so hard to get caught up. If you score high enough on any or all of the AP exams, not only can you skip introductory college course, but also will same the tuition costs for the courses you get to skip."
         "Calculus, English, physics and your art. Man if you two pull that off, I don't care how late you are looking into other schools, they will take a serious look at you," David observed.  "Michael, I guess you and Mary Kathryn will have to do some high stepping to keep up the family reputation next year. And, Michael, what's this about a sleeping bag that needs washing?"
        "Ok, Dad, you know I am in love with Mary Kathryn and she with me, right?"
         Both David and Mary Kathryn responded, "Right."
        "Well, I know we're only fifteen and it may not last--I think it will-- but that's not too important right now. Anyway, we had a good time last night and after we went upstairs, we made out a little bit...."
        "Both Matt and I exclaimed together, "A little bit?"
        "Ok, a whole lot, but we didn't cross the line. I didn't want to interfere with whatever Matt and Luke had in mind, so I slept downstairs in a sleeping bag and the expected happened, that's all."
        "Apparently there was a lot of that going around last night," David laughed.
        The conversation soon drifted to other things and finally Margaret asked, "Luke, have you and Matt discussed what you are going to do tomorrow night when you talk with Gabrielle?"
        "Not really. We were kinda busy last night, but I think we should. As a matter of fact, as soon as we get the dishes and kitchen cleaned up, I was going to suggest we go to the river and do that."
        "Mary Kathryn and I'll take care of that. You two go on," Michael volunteered.
         "And remember you have to be at Millie Willingham's about 4:30. You don't want to disappoint her," Yong Jin reminded us.
         "Thanks, all of you. This morning was great and I really appreciate it. Thanks, Michael and Mary Kathryn, Matt and I owe you big time."
        "Don't worry, Brother Mine, you will repay us big time."
        "We'll come back in time to get dressed again in our Sunday best and be at Millie's by 4:30," Matt said. Matt and I had changed into shorts and a loose shirt when we got home from church and needed to change so we didn't have too long together before we would have to come back, but we did need to talk.
         Once again we felt free to walk across the meadow arm in arm. "You know, Matt, sex is wonderful, I know it will be, but making love has got to include just walking across a meadow arm in arm."
         "Especially when you can grab a kiss from time to time," he grinned as his lips touched mine and his tongue entered my mouth. Man, why can't someone come up with something that tastes as good as my Sarang Hanun Pomul? As we continued walking my fingers found the bands holding Matt's hair and I set it free. I felt like setting Matt's hair free made me feel free as well.
         When we reached the path to the falls, Matt crossed the canes and we walked in and sat on the sand in the sun. "Matt, how do we go about telling Mom about us? There's no way to kinda ease her into what has to be something she wishes weren't true.  Even Yong Jin and Greywolf really wish it weren't true and they certainly accept and love us and accept and respect our love."
        We talked about that for a long time until finally Matt said, "But if she knows already or just suspects, then it's not going to be a real surprise other than the fact that we confirm what she suspects or knows. She knows that sooner or later you are going to have to discuss why you attempted suicide so maybe that's where we start. Maybe you tell her tomorrow morning that we'd like to talk with her tomorrow night and when we do, start by letting her read your suicide note."
        "Do you still have it?"
        "Always. It's in my wallet."
         "Because... I really don't know why. I guess because it's a kind of symbol of the beginning of OUR love. You know what I mean?"
        "Yea. Ok, so I'll tell her in the morning that you and I would like to talk with her tomorrow night and after she reads the note, we'll let her take the lead. Somehow or other, I'm not frightened about talking to Mom. I know she will not approve, she may not accept, but I am sure she will not reject either of us. Dad is another situation."
        "I know it won't do any good to say it, but try not to worry about that until we have talked with Gabrielle, ok?"
        "Ok, I'll try, but I don't expect to be successful."
        "Anything else?"
        "I don't think so. I mean there's not a lot we can do once Mom reads the letter except follow her lead. If I'm wrong and she orders me out of the house I'll have to go, but David says I have a home there."
        "You know you have one at our place as well."
         "Sure, but I don't think that would be a very good idea right now. We both have a huge job ahead of us finishing out the school year and, Babe, you are a major distraction."
         "Well, fortunately I can control myself and could handle any distraction you had to offer."
         "We'll see about that," I said as I pushed Matt back and climbed atop him. I started kissing him for all I was worth, ran my hands under his shirt and pinched a nipple. He promptly grabbed me, rolled me over and was atop my body in no time. He had a definite advantage because as soon as that hair fell around my face, I was his and he knew it.
        Our kisses became more and more passionate. Our hands were enjoying the thrill of bare skin as we ran them up and down the other's body. "I may not distract you Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul
        Greywolf, but I think Chili Pepper is not at all interested in school or anything except me," I laughed when it became very obvious that Matt was hard as a rock as he lay on top of me.
        "I guess I'm not the man of steel I thought I was," Matt whimpered.
        "I don't know whether you're a man of steel or not, but a part of you must be!" I laughed.  "But enough of this serious stuff. We've got to go attend to the frivolous stuff of our future."  Reluctantly we again left the river and crossed the meadow to the Greywolfs'.
        After we had changed, we hopped into Matt's Jeep and went back into town to Millie Willingham's. She lived in one of the old magnificent houses which was still the section of town where everyone who was anyone lived. My Dad actually worked for Millie although I suspect he never thought about it. Among the many businesses she owned was THE accounting firm for the whole area and Dad was the senior accountant for it, but I doubted very seriously that she knew him and much less me.
        When we arrived, Millie met us at the door just as her big grandfather hall clock struck the half hour. "I didn't think young people these days had enough respect or sense of responsibility to be on time for an appointment with an old lady. I know it might seen a bit early, but I'm having a glass of sherry. Would you like a soft drink or some fruit juice or something, Luke? I know Matt will have a coke."
        "Coke would be fine for me as well."
         When she came back, she handed each of us a glass of coke and said, "So you're an artist, Mr. Larsen. It kinda surprises me that Jens Larsen would have a son who is an artist. Not that there's anything wrong with Jens or being an accountant, but having an artist son must be a surprise to him."
         "I'm sure it is, Millie, but you also need to know that Luke is an honors student and is taking AP physics, AP English, and AP calculus this year," Matt said.  "And Mom wants him to take the AP art exam as well.
        "Two Greywolf classes both of you, right?" I'm surprised you're alive. As a matter of fact, Fr. Tom told me earlier, Luke, that you had postponed your exhibition because you almost weren't alive. Tried suicide, I understand. Care to tell me why?
        Not that it's any of my business."
         Matt looked at me and I looked at him and for some reason I just blurted out, "Because I was in love with Matt Greywolf and was afraid what happened to Gregory would happen to him and I loved him so much but was afraid to tell him...." It just all came pouring out.
         "Well, Luke, you couldn't have picked a better man to love than Matt. Matt, where do you stand in this?"
        I wondered what Matt would say. Would he admit we were in love?
        "Millie, I have loved Luke Larsen as long as I can remember and was afraid to tell him.  When he dived off the falls, he left a note to me and, well, I expect to spend the rest of my life with Luke."
         "Wonderful! I hope you two are as happy as my son and his companion who have been together 10 years and are still just as much in love as the first time I saw them. But I hope you don't just tell everyone the way you told this old lady. Life is rough for gay men and women, but if you're in love, you're in love. Now, about this cultural event." We talked about what we had thought about doing and Millie said, since it wasn't until May 21, there was time to get everything in order. She would take care of publicity, a reception, overseeing the printed program for the recital and catalog for the exhibition.  "Anything you need, call me or Gertie.  Men, I plan to have this event put Concord on the map. Don't be surprised at anything, just get the music and art in order and watch! Matt, Luke, do your parents know about you two?"
        I answered, "The Greywolfs and David and Michael Andrews know. Fr. Tom and Gertie, Dr.  Walker and Dr. Bailey and Gladys and Chelsea in ICU at the hospital know. My parents do not.  We have reason to believe that Mom knows or suspects and Matt and I will talk to her tomorrow night...."
        "Smart move because your dad will be in Jackson for a couple days." And I thought this lady didn't know us.
        "What Mom says will determine when and how we tell Dad.  That I am afraid of."
        "Rightly so, I suspect, but if he kicks you out, you can always come live with this old woman."
        After expressing our thanks, Matt and I drove home. On the way I asked Matt, "Why do you think I just blurted out that we were lovers? I don't understand        it."
         "I guess for the same reason I confessed to her that I stole a piece of chewing gum from her purse when I was six. Somehow or other you just don't fool around with Millie Willingham.

Part Thirteen


        When Luke came through the window for our morning run, he didn't call so I was awakened by a kiss. As I opened my eyes, I looked into the face of my beloved. "Good morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul," Luke said as he brought his lips to mine. His beautiful eyes were a sparkling sea of blue as I wrapped my arms around his neck and drew him down to me. "Do you want to run or stay here and make out?" he laughed.
        "You know what I want to do, but I suspect I need to piss, brush my teeth and hit the road."
        "One of these days...."
        "Yea, but if you don't let me up, you're going to have to shower to get rid of the shower I'll give you." I hopped out of bed, ran across the hall and just barely made it.
        Soon Luke and I were running down the road toward Michael's. Before we had gone very far, Michael came running out of his house to meet us. When we reached the end of David's pasture, Luke said, "Let's try a bit further, we can always walk back. After another half mile, we turned around and ran back to Michael's. When we reached his house, he continued with us until we slowed down and then turned back and ran home.
         Since it was Monday, ordinarily I would be going to St.  Mary's after school and Luke would go to school with David or Gabrielle, whoever was driving Mary Kathryn. Luke was really doing well, but was not yet up to biking to school. However, I needed to talk with Mr. Smith about the recital and would not be going to St. Mary's until later to clear up any problem or confirm the date Fr. Tom suggested. Luke, of course, had to talk with Mr. Stephenson about the exhibition and the possibility of letting it count for his final grade so I told Luke I would pick him up for school.
        When I came in from running, Mom had breakfast well on the way so I quickly showered and dressed for school--baggy pants and loose shirt--braided my hair and dashed downstairs.
         "Big day today," Greywolf said. "Teachers to deal with and Gabrielle tonight. Son, I want you to know that you and Luke are very much in my thoughts and prayers today--not that you aren't everyday--but especially today."
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, my Sarang Hanun Pomul, I wish I could make life easy for you, but I cannot. Just know you are loved and your Yonghon Tongmu is loved as well," Mom said as she hugged me.
        Our breakfast conversation then turned to the usual topics: school, where Luke stood in getting his work caught up, the prom, etc. As soon as we finished breakfast, I hugged both my parents and kissed Mom on the cheek. "You don't know how much you have done to make my life easy already and you'll never know how much I thank you and love you," I said, then grabbed my backpack and went out the door.
        When I reached Luke's, he came out of his house, jumped in the Jeep, leaned over and kissed me. "Luke, what do you mean?" I asked. "We are in your driveway, for heaven's sake."
        "Matt, Gabrielle knows or will know tonight. If she sees us now, what difference will it make? Besides, I needed a kiss."
        "Well, you better make that one last because today is the big test as to whether or not we can appear n-o-r-m-a-l. Did you ask Gabrielle about our talking with her tonight?"
        "Of course I did."
        "And she said?"
        "She said, 'Great, I was going to suggest we have a talk soon anyway. And you want Matt here?'"
        "And you said?"
        "I said 'Yes.' and she said, 'Fine.' And that was that.  Since Dad is not home she suggested you come to supper and we'll talk afterward."
        "Luke, you think I can eat with that hanging over our heads?"
         "Matt, you could eat on your way to the gas chamber if Gabrielle had done the cooking."
         "Well, you're probably right, but I get nasty butterflies in my stomach just thinking about what your parents will say and do."
        "Me too, that's why I try not to think about it."
         Luke's attempted suicide was old news at school. The latest girl fight, what was on MTV, who was cheating on whom, who was being screwed by how many--the usual high school gossip and lies occupied talk time. The most common comment made was something like, "Hey Dude, glad to see you," obviously said by those who didn't know Luke very well. Girls who knew him well gave him a kiss and the boys slugged him on the shoulder, both without comment.
        Since Luke and I were practically siamese twins from the day we were born, the fact that we were always together today was no change. A couple times each of us did reach out for the other's hand only to remember or be reminded where we were. All in all, we at least thought we were acting perfectly normal. Of course there was one time. When we were headed to the cafeteria, Luke grabbed me and pulled me into a stairwell and planted a quick kiss on my lips. I was scared shitless, but there was no one around.
        When we got to lunch, the usual gang was already there: Mary Kathryn, Michael, Paula Wright. Paula, Luke and I were seniors and had been close school friends since grade school.  Since she lived as far out in the country on the other side of town as we on our side, so we were just school friends, seldom seeing each other except in school. Linda, a sophomore along with Mary Kathryn and Michael, used to be a member of the "Select Few," but she had been dating Orion Greenley, super jock and all around jerk in my book, so she ate with him. Sheldon, who had dated Paula for a long time, was a junior who had moved out-of-town while Luke was in the hospital. Paula was still pretty broken up about it. So far as she was concerned they were still a couple, just separated for awhile. So the lunch gang who had done all the speculation about Luke had dwindled down to only one who wasn't aware of what had gone on and what was going on.
         Luke sat down and said immediately, "Look, Gang, I know you are all curious about why I did something as stupid as attempting suicide, but I just want to tell you that I thought I had an unsolvable problem and when I learned that there really was no problem, it was almost too late. I almost didn't make it. Thank God, Mom came home early and found my note, Matt knew where to find me, and David, Michael's Dad, and the EMS team got there quickly and knew what to do, so I made it. Let me tell you, life is glorious! Regardless of the problems you have or think you have, don't ever give serious thought to killing yourself. You may not be a failure as I was.  Find someone to talk to or something. I am getting things sorted out and feel more alive and am happier than I have ever been, but I could just as easily have been dead. Subject closed?"
         "Wow," Paula exclaimed. "I think that is a speech you need to give to a lot of teens. I suspect most have at least thought about suicide at one time or another. I know I have, but usually the problem of the moment passes or someone intervenes or something. But, ok, subject closed."
         "Hi, Select Few," I recognized Linda's voice although I could not see her because she had walked up behind me. "Can I join you guys again?"
        Turning around, I said, "Sure, but where's super jock?"
        "Ok, you guys have been my friends since forever and I sorta deserted you when I started dating Orion. I should have known with a name like Orion and being called Orie by his mother I was in big trouble so I guess you deserve an explanation. No, that's not it, I need to talk."
         "Talk. We were just discussing how important it is to talk out things when you walked up."
         "Yea, by the way, Luke," Linda said, "I'm glad you failed at least at one thing in your life. Know it's your affair and I have no desire to pry, but I'm sure as hell glad you got yourself rescued. You are too kewl a kid to end up in the ground. Anyway, I need to tell Select Few what has been going on and why I am ready to deball a jock!"
        Linda was obviously on a tear.
        "Orion Greenley's mother and my mother have been friends since high school. Over the years, they have tried to get the two of us together, but we were generally involved with someone else.  Unfortunately, it turns out, both of us had broken up with someone a couple months ago and were free. Orion called me one Saturday night and asked me to go to church with him. I told him I couldn't because I was serving the altar at St. Mary's Sunday. Needless to say, he didn't have the foggiest idea what I was talking about, but asked about my going to their youth group Sunday night. I figured St. Mary's group wouldn't miss me, so I said 'Yes.' I must confess I had a great time. It was just like St. Mary's youth group except they kept praying for people to get saved, naming names. I half expected my name to be called, but it wasn't. Aside from that, I really enjoyed myself. I especially got into the rousing hymns because St. Mary's was in the middle of Lent and Matt, you have to know the hymns are terrible during Lent."
        I nodded agreement, knowing that this was not the time to discuss liturgical music and that it wouldn't make any difference because the ball was in Linda's court and she was running with it, hell-bent for leather.
        "Anyway, Orion was the perfect gentleman. After church, we went to MickeyD's and then he drove me home, walked me to the door, told me he had enjoyed the evening and said goodnight.  I don't kiss on the first date, period, and expected to have to set him straight, but he simply said good night and left. He called me again and asked me to go to church with him Wednesday night. I have a 'no dates on school nights' rule and told him so."
        "When I hung up the phone, Mother asked who had called-- She always does, do your parents do that to you? I hate it. When I told her 'Orion', she wanted to know what he wanted and I told her. She then turned to Dad and said, 'Herman, that nice Orion Greenley, Shirley McIntosh used-to-be's son has asked Linda to go to church with him Wednesday night. Don't you think that might be all right even if it is a school night?' Dad isn't overly fond of Shirley McIntosh Greeley or her husband and the socialite crowd, but he knew Mama so he just grunted."
        I told you once Linda got moving there was no stopping place.
        "Mom said I could call him back and tell him I could go so long as I got my homework done before we left and I got home by 10:00. I called him and he said he'd pick me up at 7:15 and that church should be over by 9:00 at the latest since it started at 7:30. Now, Matt, I know what you're thinking: 'Something must be wrong if church is going to last an hour and a half,' but it almost did. We got out at 8:55, did the MickeyD's drive through and then drove out into the country somewhere. It was a beautiful spot, a bluff overlooking the river. The night was unusually warm for the time of year and the moon was full...."
        I remembered the warm moonlit night, looked at Michael and Mary Kathryn and winked and they both blushed. I'm glad I don't have a monopoly on that.  Linda had not slowed down.
        "Orion had borrowed his uncle's convertible so he put the top down when we parked, got some nice music on the radio and we were just enjoying the evening. He put his arm around me and we cuddled. I must admit I enjoyed it. When the announcer said it was 9:45, Orion leaned over and kissed me and then said, 'We better go. I don't want you to get in trouble or me to be declared off limits at your house.'"
        "Well, to make a long story short...."
        "At this point, I don't think it's possible, Linda, my friend," I was tempted to say, "I think it's too late already," but knew I couldn't get a word in edgewise.
        "He called Thursday and asked me to go inline skating Friday night and to dinner and a movie Saturday night. Of course, church Sunday night. I had made it plain that I would be at St. Mary's Sunday morning and, besides, I could take being asked only so many times if I had been born again or washed in the Blood of the Lamb--gag, what a gross picture that paints in my head.  Anyway, we did all that, and church on Wednesday. Afterwards we usually went to the place above the river and parked. I admit that we were beyond a kiss at the end of the night, but certainly not into what I would call heavy making out. He was moving fast and I told him he better slow down, and he did--I thought."
         "Well, Mom was very pleased that I was finally dating Shirley McIntosh Greenley's son and lifted the 'no dates on school nights' rule, even though I had not asked her to. She told Shirley that at their bridge club two days ago and Orion called that night and asked me out last night. 'Nothing special, just dinner then maybe a drive in the country.' Fool like, I agreed and he picked me up at 7:30. We went to Pizza Hut and ate pizza, then drove to the spot above the river. When we got there, he took a blanket from the back seat, spread it on the ground, took out a small bottle of champagne, two glasses and two candles and placed them on the blanket with a rosebud in a vase already! It was damn romantic.  "
        "Well, after a glass of champagne, I was feeling the effects of the bubbly and didn't drink any more. Orion did. We were making out a lot more than we had ever done before, but still within my bounds. After he finished the champagne, he got really aggressive.  Kissing, even frenching sometimes is permitted. Getting your hand in my bra and pinching my nipple is definitely off limits. He started telling me how much he loved me and if I loved him I would show it. Paula, Mary Kathryn, I suspect you know the whole routine. I did like the guy, I liked him a whole lot and thought that I might fall in love with him, but I wasn't in love with him and only someone I love is going to pinch a tit and he better be easy with it! Then the asshole pushed me back on the blanket and started french kissing me so hard I couldn't keep his tongue out of my mouth. I was ready to bust him one when he shoved his hand in my panties. By this time he had left the 'if you love me you'll put out for me' and gone to the 'you know you want this as much as I do' routine. When he said, 'Linda, you know you want this jock's big cock in your pussy,' I let him have it. I was taught a trick by old man Stenson, my last year's English teacher. A guy was messing around with a girl in the hall and old man Stenson said to her, 'Does your leg work like mine?' as he bent his knee and brought it up suddenly. When the girl said it did, he said, 'Aim for the spot between his legs. He will probably leave you alone after that.'"
        "When Orion raised up to take his pants off...."
        "He was taking his pants off!!" Mary Kathryn was horrified.
        "I had a perfect shot and performed the Stenson manoeuver! Orion was suddenly rolling around on the ground, clutching his crotch and cussing like crazy. The sweet, mannerly church-going boy was reduced to a whimpering pile. When he recovered enough to get up, I told him to take me home. I started to insist on driving even though I don't have my license yet, but I realized he was not nearly as drunk as I thought. He wasn't so drunk he didn't know what he was doing. He knew exactly what he was doing. Anyway, when we were still several miles from home, he turned into a side road, parked the car and started again. Finally he said, 'You're gonna have to trade pussy for transportation,' the old 'put out or get out.' Again he tried to kiss me and slipped his hand in my panties. I shoved him off of me, opened the car door and got out. He drove behind me telling me all was forgiven and he would take me home. I ignored him and walked about a mile to a farmhouse where the people let me use the phone to call my Dad."
         "He was ready to kill Orion and Mama kept telling him there must have been some mistake or maybe I had lead Orion on because she knew Shirley McIntosh Greenley's son would never push himself on a girl. Dad finally had enough and shouted at her, 'Your damn socialite friend's rotten son tried to force your daughter to have sex with him, and you defend him! I'd not be surprised if he didn't end up raping some girl who can't defend herself. Some mother you are when you defend the son of a bitch that tried to force your daughter to have sex.' Mama shut up then, but panicked when Dad picked up the phone and asked her for Shirley Greenley's number.  He called and got Mr. Greenley and told him, 'Your son tried to rape my daughter tonight. Fortunately, she is a better jock that he, so he failed. If he so much as calls here or says anything to her or about her, I will charge him with sexual assault. He is over seventeen, I believe, so he'll be charged as an adult.  Do I make myself clear?' and hung up the phone. Mama almost had a litter of kittens, but she knew better than to cross Dad at this point."
        "Then the dumb jock came over to me just now, tried to put his arm around me, and said, 'Linda, I am really sorry about last night. I was too drunk to know what I was doing.' I took the jerk's tray, pushed it in his face and reminded him that all I had to do to put his ass in jail was to call Dad. So that's that. If you guys will have me, I'm back, have learned a lesson and just wish he had. But he hasn't. So no jock, no prom date and a lot better off."
        "Glad you kept the story short, Linda, but you may just be the answer to my prayer.  See, Luke and I have a major problem here. We would like to have dates for the prom but we're in love...."
        I heard Luke choke on his drink, then cough and spray half the table with fruit punch. He was finally able to say, "Sorry, I just got strangled," as we all helped clean up the mess.
         "As I was saying before Larsen decided spray us with fruit punch, Luke and I don't have prom dates because we're in love. We each met the person of our dreams at a kinda special swim meet not long ago. We soon found we were madly in love, but there's an age difference in Luke's case and a racial difference in mine--it is best--well you know what would happen in this small town. But, Linda, since you have just lost a prom date and are not likely to accept should the jock ask again, how about being my date?  We'll have fun, I promise no moves on you beyond a goodnight kiss since it will be our last date so we can call it that instead of our first so you don't break your rule."
        Linda laughed, "Don't get me wrong, Matt, but you weren't what I had in mind originally but I would be delighted to be your date for the prom and no strings attached before or after."
         "I guess I am just left out in the cold," Luke said, pitifully.
         "Since I am still Sheldon's girlfriend, I'm without a date because he's not able to come back for the prom.  But it doesn't matter since as you all know, my mom is really having a hard time since Dad died. She gets a small social security check for me until I am eighteen which is very close and makes a very small salary where she works. She is paying for school so she can get a better paying job and trying to put some money in savings for my college. Maybe one of these days the insurance company will settle--I don't know what the problem is--and she will have it easy, but I sure can't ask for money for a prom dress and all that goes with it. Otherwise, Luke, I'd make you the deal Matt just made Linda."
        "Ok, we've got a problem to solve, maybe. Luke, do you accept Paula's offer?" Mary Kathryn asked her brother.
        "I would be deeply honored to do so," Luke got up and made a sweeping bow. "Accepted with great delight."
        Obviously, Michael and Mary Kathryn were going as a couple, so most of the old gang, was going to be together for the prom.
        Just before the bell rang, Mr. Gray the principal came on the intercom and announced that all members of the Mixed Chorus and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion Ensemble should report to the band room as soon as the bell rang ending lunch.  "Teachers, I will announce when their meeting is over and they have five minutes to get back to class," he concluded.
        Mary Kathryn said, "Linda, Paula, we have a problem to solve. We've got to get Paula a prom dress and I don't mean going to a thrift shop either, but I guess we'll have to get together later since you have a meeting, Paula. What's that all about?".
        "Beats me. We were supposed to start working on a spring concert today, but surely that wouldn't call for an extra meeting. Probably some silly request that we do two concerts when hardly anyone comes to the one we do. You'd think more people would show up for something other than football and basketball, but I guess that's just the way it is." Paula was a member of the mixed chorus and was well known for her excellent soprano voice. When the bell rang, Paula said to Mary Kathryn and Linda, "I'll catch you two right after school and we'll look into this prom dress problem."
         When the three girls left, Michael could hold it no longer. He was ready to burst from holding in a laugh. "Future Brother-in-Law, I thought you were going to have a heart attack there for a minute. You should have seen your face when Matt started talking about the two of you being in love. And Matt, you need to be a lawyer. Not a thing you said was a lie, but everything Paula and Linda heard was an out and out lie. Brilliant."
        "Of course it was brilliant. I always am."
        During physics, the next class, Eugene and Paula came walking in just as Mr. Gray announced the meeting was over. "I suspect everyone is curious about your meeting so you might as well tell us so we can get along with class," Dad said.
        "Eugene, I guess you'd better tell them. I'm still too pis... mad to talk."
        "Well, it seems that a regional marching band festival is to be held at Independence. As a result, Mr. Smith will not have time to work with the ensemble or chorus for a spring concert.  Seems even football and basketball music takes precedence over everything else."
        "Well, if I know you and Paula, you could direct your own groups and still do a spring concert," Dad said. "Give it some thought."
        By the time the words were out of Dad's mouth, I had an idea. "Eugene and Paula, could we get together soon? I have an idea."
        "You can have the time right now if it's important and related to the chorus and ensemble."
        "Mr. Greywolf, could we step into the hall for a few minutes?" I asked Dad.
        When we got in the hall, I told Eugene and Paula about my recital. "It's scheduled for May 21 at five in the afternoon at St. Mary's. That's six weeks from now. The program is not complete or set in stone. I would be happy to change it if the chorus and ensemble would be interested in being a part of it.  Paula, you could direct the chorus. Eugene, if you could direct the ensemble, there are some really splendid pieces for organ, brass and percussion. Additionally, I am composing two pieces which would be great with added chorus and brass and percussion.  What do you think? There'd be a lot of new music to learn in six weeks."
        "Matt, you know the mixed chorus has the best voices this school has to offer. We work very, very hard to be good and you see how we are appreciated. Plus, if we gave a concert, maybe a couple dozen people would show up. I'm sure the chorus would welcome an opportunity to perform AND the challenge the music would offer. There are a couple guys who also could conduct should I be needed for a solo. They have done that before. I'll talk to Mr. Smith next period and get the chorus together immediately after school...  actually some of them have to ride the bus. I'll see if Mr. Smith will call a meeting for the last ten minutes of school.  How soon can you get me music?"
        "I'll have enough in the morning to keep you busy until I get the rest. How about you, Eugene?"
        "I'm sure the ensemble feels the same way as the chorus, but the three best horn players in the ensemble are also in the marching band and I don't know how Mr. Smith would feel about them playing the ensemble and not the band. Otherwise, I think we could handle it."
        "I have to talk with Mr. Smith about the date for the recital since he hasn't approved it yet. I planned on seeing him last period. Could you two meet me there then?"
        "I have music last period anyway so I'll be there. How about you, Paula?"
        "I have Hard-as-Nails Greywolf for senior English," Paula laughed. "I'll just say her that her bitty baby boy needs me and I'm sure she'll excuse me."
        "Don't be too sure. She frequently says 'no' to her bitty baby boy," I laughed. "Ok, it's settled, we'll meet with Mr.  Smith last period."
        As soon as the bell rang for the last period, I went to the band room. Eugene was already there and had told Mr. Smith we wanted to meet with him. He said he'd let the student director take over as soon as roll was checked. Seems kinda strange that a student can take charge of a class but can't legally check roll. About half-way through the roll, Paula walked in. "I told you Hard-as-Nails couldn't refuse something for her bitty baby boy," she grinned.
        As soon as he competed the roll, Mr. Smith turned the class over to the student director and came into his office where we were waiting. "What can I do for this distinguished trio?" he asked.
        "First, I need to check a date with you. I'd like to schedule my recital for Sunday, May 21 at five in the afternoon--at St. Mary's of course. Luke Larsen has to mount an art exhibition this spring and St. Mary's has offered to host both events on that date."
        Mr. Smith checked his calendar and said, "Well, since I don't have to do anything to prepare for it except shower, shave and get dressed, that's fine with me. I have nothing scheduled that whole week since the regional marching band festival is the weekend before and I know I'll be ready to bury when that's over. I got that sprung on me by Mr. Gray when I walked in the door this morning. I don't know how long he had known about it, when, where or why he issued the invitation for it to be here. I guess I just work here. But anyway, we'll do a good job hosting it, I'm sure. Now Paula, what's your and Eugene's problem or problems?"
        "When Matt heard that the spring concerts for the mixed chorus and brass and percussion ensemble had been scratched, he suggested we might take part in his recital," Paula responded.
        "Well, the whole problem with the spring concerts is that I simply do not have time to put them together and work with the chorus and ensemble with all the extra work this regional marching band festival is going to create. Sorry."
        "Mr. Smith, I can handle the chorus with Ron Johnson's and Alex Smith's help. Eugene can handle the ensemble."
        "There's no problem then with the chorus, but the ensemble takes three of the best horn players out of the marching band. I like the idea you three have come up with, but I don't know."
        "Mr. Smith, will taking three horn players out of the marching band make a big difference?  The ensemble simply cannot do without them. Why not let the three decide which they rather do?" Eugene was almost pleading.
        "I suppose you're right. I know the ensemble is a better indication of this music department and, God knows, we need all the support we can get to even keep music education in schools.  So, yea, you present the situation to the horn players and I'll abide by their decision. Now that leaves only one more, kinda sensitive, problem. Matt, I believe you indicated in your proposed plan for your independent study that you would include a religious service, something called Evening Prayer or something like that, as a part of your recital. Now, so long as the recital involved only you, that was ok since a part of your plan was to demonstrate your abilities as a church organist. Is that still part of your plan?"
        "Yes Sir."
        "Well, I am sure you are aware of the fact that some members of the chorus and ensemble are not members of your particular faith. Some are not Christian.  Some, I suspect, are not anything.  What about that?"
        "Well, since we only came up with the idea of providing an opportunity for the chorus and ensemble shortly after lunch, I hadn't even thought of that. I guess that is a problem. I'm sure Fr. Tom would be willing to drop Evening Prayer and just do the recital/concert. I could call him right now or check tonight. I guess we'll just have to eliminate the service. I'm sure Fr. Tom will understand."
         Eugene said, "I'd sure hate to have you do that, Matt, since it's so much a part of who you are and, really, it's your recital. You were just providing a chance for the chorus and ensemble to perform before an audience who would really appreciate us. I'm not an Episcopalian--in fact, I'm not anything--but I'd sure hate to have you cut out the service."
        "Look, when we do the Christmas--I beg your pardon the winter concert--the chorus program always has a statement that the music does not reflect acceptance by the participants or school of the tradition out of which it comes. Why couldn't we just put something like that it the program for the recital and concert? I'm Jewish and I'd be happy with that," Paula suggested.
        "Well, I doubt that the nit-picky administration would think that was enough. It would be ok for those attending, but since students are involved, it could be seen as coercion. I don't think just a note on the program would be enough. What are your thoughts Matt?"
        "I'd like to kinda stay out of this, if you don't mind."
        "Look, Mr. Smith, we get permission slips from our parents for everything from field trips to mixed classes in sex education to going to pee when we want to. Why not a permission slip for members of the chorus and ensemble? After all, there is no grade involved in this, right? So if a student or his parents don't want him attending evening prayer or whatever, they can just not
        sign," Eugene suggested.
        "Eugene, that just might work. I'll write a permission letter before I leave school today and try to run it by Mr. Gray if I can catch him before he goes running out well before the last bell--forget I said that. I'll e-mail it and an explanation to the superintendent and the chairman of the school board as soon as I can get him to approve it."
        "Could you, please, really rush that, Mr. Smith? We have a lot of music to learn in six weeks. We'll have to do some rehearsals after school anyway and that's a problem for kids who live in the country, ride a bus and don't drive. Plus, we'll have to get together for some rehearsals at St. Mary's," Paula urged..
        "The ensemble will have to do some rehearsing at St. Mary's as well and we could have transportation problems, so the sooner we know the better," Eugene added.
        "I'll just go right now and talk with Mr. Gray and tell him I'd like his approval before I send the permission letter to the central office, but I'll have to have it today. That should put some pressure on him to stick around awhile. By the way, kids, I may seem to have put some blocks in your way, but I am really delighted that you are willing to take on the responsibility for this undertaking and I am positive it will make Independence High School look much better than a marching band will. Eugene, have the three horn players see me before they leave today so I can give you their decision."
        "Thanks, Mr. Smith," we all three said as Paula and I left.
        "Matt, remember to get me something to work with pronto," Paula said.
        "I'll see that you have a hymnal and a Book of Common Prayer tomorrow morning. I'll also have some of the pieces for the recital. I do know that I want you to start work right now on Gounod's 'Sanctus'. Do you by any chance...."
        "I know what you're going to say, and yes, I do have the CD of Jessye Norman's called 'Sacred Songs.' I love that piece. I know it by heart, but I don't have the music."
        "You will in the morning--copies for the whole chorus. Man, I owe you and Eugene big time, even if we don't get to do this."
        "We owe you too because we really felt cheated out of a chance to perform to maybe 25 people. Now we will have a chance to really shine and have someone to hear us."
        "You'd probably faint dead away if I told you who is handling everything except the music for the recital--which I guess is now a recital-concert--and Luke's exhibition. It's Millie Willingham."
        "Holy shit!" Paula exclaimed. "And Smith thinks his letter might not get past the principal. I bet Millie will roast Gray's ass if she thinks he's playing it safe!" she laughed.
         "See you in the morning with a ton of music," I said to Paula as she headed back to class.
        After I left Paula, I went by Mom's room and told her Gabrielle had asked that I have supper with her and the kids and talk afterward. She said, "Good luck!" I then went to the art room to check on Luke. When I got there he was still talking with Mr. Stephenson who waved me into his office, a glass enclosure in one corner of the art room.
        "Luke was just telling me St. Mary's has agreed to host your recital and his exhibition. I think that is a great idea.  Says Millie Willingham is determined to make it the cultural event of the century. I hope you guys can pull it off."
        "Well, if they can get permission to participate, the Mixed Chorus and Symphonic Brass and Percussion will also be part of the gala event. It might well be a cultural event Concord has never seen before."
        "Luke also requested that his class be transferred into an independent study so he could skip class and work independently for the show. I have no problem with that and have given him a letter to that effect to take to the counselor's office. If she approves, it's ok by me. Also understand that he is taking the AP art exam. I should have thought of that, but I don't know a great deal about AP and certainly not as much as your mother and father know, Matt,"
        "Luke, do you want to take care of that now? We have time to go by the counselor's office and sign up for the additional AP exams and get your class changed before we need to go by St.  Mary's and confirm the date."
        We left the art room and Luke grabbed my hand before he realized where we were. "Man, you've got to watch that!" I said as we headed to the counselor's office.
        Ms. Norman was the senior counselor and was often hard to find, but today she was in her office on the phone telling some parent about a student who wouldn't be graduating unless he got all his back work made up in the next week. She motioned for us to come on in the office. "No, there is no slack left. He has made contract after contract to get work done and he still is not doing it... No, there is no way he can graduate without the credits for the courses in which he is behind and failing... No, he's behind and failing because he has cut so many classes...  Well, you should have known about his failing and his cutting classes because I have sent you two registered letters... I'm sorry if he got them and didn't let you see them, I hope he was disciplined for that... I understand he's a senior, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be disciplined for tampering with the mail. That's a federal crime you know...  You have also had calls from his teachers and two from me...  Certainly you may make an appointment with Mr. Gray and speak to the school board if you wish, but it will not change the graduation requirements... Please do, but I have done all I can do and now it's up to him... Goodbye."
        As she hung up the phone, Ms. Norman said, "I'll kill both of you if you say I said it, but that was the mother of one of the jokers who abused Gregory and, so far as I am concerned, got away with it. Now she thinks he can get away with cutting classes and failing. All she wants is to see him walk at graduation. Kids aren't the problems; parents are. Well, now that I got that out of my craw, what can I do for you two.  You're not having problems graduating are you?" she laughed.
        Luke explained what he wanted to do and she immediately signed the form and made the change in his schedule on the computer. "That takes care of that. You are now a free man last period. Congratulations. I took care of signing you two up for the additional AP exam as soon as I thought about it. I'm glad your mom asked you about it Matt since I had forgotten to tell you two I had taken the liberty.  You score high enough on the AP exams you take this year and with the AP exams you two made 4s and 5s on last year will mean you're almost college sophomores the day you enter. And Luke, I don't want to be nosey, but I do hope whatever caused you to try to destroy yourself is no longer a problem."
        "To tell the truth, Ms. Norman, it never was a problem, but I didn't know that and it just ate away at me until I couldn't see any other way out. I realize now that even if the problem had been what I thought it was, suicide was not an answer. But, thanks, I couldn't be better."
        "That's good to know. By the way, I was looking at the SAT scores for you both today. It seems Independence has a tie for star student this year--you two. Good thing Michael Andrews and your sister aren't seniors or it would have been a four way tie. All four of you missed a perfect score by only two points. That is amazing, especially since they are only sophomores. I was surprised when they asked to take it instead of the PSAT. "
        "I guess it just runs in the family," I laughed.
        "Must be some family is all I can say. I seriously doubt if I called about one of you cutting class I'd hear excuses from Andrews, Greywolf or Larsen!"
        "You'd probably hear the echo of a hand on a bare butt!"  Luke laughed.
        "When was the last time you had a hand laid on your bare butt, Luke Larsen?"
        "It's been awhile. I think Dad stopped giving me spanking, some folks would call them butt whopping, after I turned thirteen. Matt never got a swat from Mr. or Mrs. Greywolf and we thought they'd never do it, but once Michael kept torturing a cat and Mrs. Greywolf yanked his shorts down and swatted him one on his bare bottom. I think he must have been about five or six at the time. It was the first and only time she did that anyone although she did threaten to do it to him in class when he was acting up during the time his mom was dying."
        "I was really worried about him for a while there, but he surely has turned out to be a great kid. You all are. So where are you off to now that both of you have your freedom?"
        "We're on our way to St. Mary's to confirm the date for Matt's recital and my exhibition. If all goes well, it will be a big event because the Mixed Chorus and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion will be performing with Matt."
        "That will, indeed, be a special event. I'll look forward to it. When is it?"
        "It will be at five on Sunday, May 21," Matt said.
         Ms. Norman made a note on her calendar and said, "I'll be there. You can count on it."
        We said goodbye and left. When we got to St. Mary's we told Gertie the date was fine and about the possibility that the chorus and ensemble would be performing as well. "It depends on getting a permission letter approved by Mr. Gray. As soon as Mr Gray approves, Mr. Smith is submitting it to the superintendent and chairman of the school board, but we need fast action since there's a lot of music to prepare and it will all have to be done by students," I advised her. I also told her that I would eliminate the Evening Prayer part of the recital if permission to include it wasn't given--provided Fr. Tom approved.
        "Well, tonight's bridge night and if Millie hasn't heard from the principal by then, I'm sure he'll hear from her in the morning. I'm sure we'd all like to have Evening Prayer included, but if permission is not given, I don't think Fr. Tom will object. He'll understand. So what else are you two up to?"
        Luke told her we were talking to Gabrielle tonight and she hugged us both and said, "You'll be in my thoughts and prayers. Millie's too. She told me Luke had told her about you two. You couldn't have a better friend on your side. She kept talking about Luke when she called me last night. Of course she has always thought Matt hung the moon if for no other reason than because he can make that organ Frank insisted on putting in St. Mary's behave. Luke, he fought the Flentrop company tooth and toenail because they didn't want to put all that organ in St. Mary's, but they finally relented and built one almost as large as Frank wanted. Before Matt came along the congregation needed seatbelts because the organists we had insisted on opening her up all the way every Sunday. Well, guys, you need to run along and steel yourselves for tonight." Gertie hugged each of us again and followed us to the door.
        When we got to Luke's place Gabrielle's car was not there so I drove on to the river bridge, pulled off and we walked across the meadow to the falls. While we had only three kisses all day, there was not a lot of heavy making out. In fact, we just sat close together, Luke's head on my shoulder, my arms around him. We didn't even talk. Finally it was time to go. When we stood up, Luke took my face in his hands, put his forehead against mine and said, "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, I love you beyond all measure," and kissed me with a slow, tender, gentle kiss.
        "Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen, I love you more than life itself," and returned his kiss in kind.
        When we emerged from the cane brake Gabrielle's car was at home. Nonetheless, we walked across the meadow to the Jeep, arm in arm. I dropped Luke off at home and went on home after telling Luke I would be at his place about 6:30. That gave me a couple hours to do school work.
         Actually, it took me less than half an hour to get all my assignments done. When I finished, I looked at what I had sketched out for the recital and thought about changes that would be made if 1) the permissions worked and Evening Prayer could be included and 2) what would be left if Evening Prayer had to be eliminated. I could certainly understand why Evening Prayer might have to go by the boards and I knew that Fr. Tom would not put a block in the way of the two groups performing if that happened.
        When I was in the midst of thinking through what I would do in each case, I heard Mom and Dad arrive. "Matt, could you come down," Dad called. Mom and Dad were in the library looking very like cats which had eaten the canary. "Just what did you do to upset applecarts at school today?" Dad asked.
        "Absolutely nothing that I can think of. I mean once Luke did grab me and drag me into a stairwell and give me a quick kiss, but I know that was unobserved. Other than that, I got a date for the prom no strings attached, talked with Paula and Eugene about the chorus and ensemble performing at my recital and met with Mr. Smith.  Nothing really."
        "Are you sure," Mom asked, trying to hide the fact that she was about to burst out laughing.
        "That's it."
        "Well, I saw Mr. Smith coming out of Mr. Gray's office laughing like he was crazy. As he passed me he said, 'Your son did what I've never been able to do. He got Gray's ass in high gear,' and went on down the hall, laughing like mad. So what was your meeting with Mr. Smith about? Don't you think that your meeting might have something to do with his laughing about Mr.  Gray?"
        "Well, I don't know." I then told my parents about the meeting with Mr. Smith and what Paula, Eugene and I had proposed in regard to my recital and that Mr. Smith agreed provided we could get a permission letter for parents approved by the superintendent and the school board.
        "Well, did Mr. Smith have any concern about that?" Mom asked.
        "Only that Mr. Gray might not approve it or would delay in approving it so it could be sent to the superintendent and school board chairman."
        "Where did you go when you left school?" Dad asked.
        "Luke and I went by St. Mary's to tell Fr. Tom that the date was fine. He wasn't there so we left a message with Gertie."
        "And you didn't tell Gertie about the possible change in the program?" Mom inquired.
        "Yea, but I also said it wasn't certain because we had to wait until Mr. Gray got around to approving it and that Mr. Smith was sending copies of the letter, if Mr Gray approved it, to the chairman of the school board and the superintendent, that's all."
        "And do you have any idea what Gertie did before you got out the office door?" Dad asked.
        "Why would I?"
        "Guess you don't keep up with who's who in the school system. Don't you know who the chairman of the school board is?" Dad asked.
        "No, I guess I don't."
        "Millie Willingham. And you do know who her best friend and bridge partner is, right?"
        I suddenly saw the picture and burst out laughing. "Well, I guess I know why Mr. Gray got in a rush!"
        "Well, I don't know what Millie will do. She's very firm in her belief in separation of church and state, but I see no reason why, with parental support and permission and the clear disclaimer in the program, the program can't go on with Evening Prayer, but I'm equally sure Fr. Tom will not prevent a performance by the chorus and ensemble if the decision is to eliminate it," Dad said. "Now is guess it's time for you to get to the Larsen's. I hope it's not too painful, Son."
        "I feel the same, Matthew," Mom added.
        "I do too. I'll be back when it's over.
        When I reached Luke's house, he came out to meet me. Just before we went inside, he put his arms around me and gave me a quick kiss. "Babe, I am sorry you have to go through this."
        "Luke, WE are going through this. This is about us, it's not just about you. I have to be here and I am glad I am."
        Luke embraced me again and gave me another quick kiss before we went in.
        "Matt, it's good to see you. Welcome."
        "I am always, right Gabrielle? How was your weekend at the lake?"
        "Perfect, absolutely perfect. For the first time in months I didn't give any of you kids a moment's thought. It was supposed to be a get-away and it certainly was. And thanks for the champagne. Well, we're ready for supper if you are ready."
        "Gabrielle, I am always ready for food at your table!"
        Supper, which I expected to be tense, was very relaxed and delightful. Needless to say, the food was fabulous. We talked about school, especially about St.  Mary's hosting Luke's exhibition as well as my recital. Gabrielle was really pleased that the exhibition would be in a good location. We also told her Millie Willingham had taken charge of publicity, the program for the recital and the catalog for the exhibition and arrangements for a reception.
        "Well, you can be sure it will be a major production with Millie in charge and everyone who is anyone will be there!"
         As we continued to talk about school, Mary Kathryn told Gabrielle about Luke's date for the prom. I almost choked on a mouthful of food when she started, fearing she would say too much. Gabrielle seemed to see nothing strange in Mary Kathryn's interest in finding a way to get a nice prom dress for Paula.
        When we finished supper and cleared the table, Mary Kathryn said she had school work to do and went upstairs. As Mary Kathryn left the room, Gabrielle turned to Luke and said, "Son, you and Matt wanted to talk to me? Let's go to the den.
        When we reached the den, Luke sat in a large chair facing his mother on the sofa. Without thinking, I sat on the floor between Luke's legs. "Matt, wouldn't you like to sit in a chair?"
        "Thanks, I'm fine right here, Gabrielle."
        "Ok, what are we to talk about?"
         "Gabrielle, the day Luke tried to commit suicide, I came here to change clothes because I had dived into the river fully dressed. I don't know whether you noticed or not, but instead of getting some of my clothes out of the closet, I put on those Luke had left folded on the river bank." I then told her of how I had found the letter from Luke addressed to me. "I'd like for you to read that letter before we talk." I handed Gabrielle the letter.
        As she took the letter she looked at Luke and asked, "Luke, will this letter tell me why you attempted to take your life?"  Luke nodded.
        Gabrielle looked at Luke for what seemed a very long time then slowly opened the letter and began to read. From time to time she looked up, first at Luke, then at me. When she finished the letter she was silent for what seemed like hours, but was hardly a minute. She then let out a great sigh and said, "I am so glad we can all be open about what we have been hiding--at least what we thought we were hiding from each other. Luke, I have suspected your feelings toward Matt were more than friendship, as deep as your friendship was and is. For some time now--maybe a year or more--I have seen you looking at Matt with a great deal more than friendship in your eyes. Matt, I must admit that I saw the same thing from you. Not only because of the church's teachings, but also because of the heartache and pain that a ga... ga... gay couple have, I kept praying it was just a phase and that you would get over it. I kept hoping that one or both of you would fall in love with some girl and it would all be over. Luke, I knew in my heart that your attempt to kill yourself was in some way or other connected with your being in love with Matt."
        I was surprised that Gabrielle had figured out Luke and I were in love with each other before we knew it. Michael had figured it out after he read Luke's journal, but Gabrielle had nothing to go on other than what? Her instincts as a mother? Her sensitivity to looks of love? What? I don't know, but she surely had figured it out and had kept quiet about it, hoping it would just go away. Well, it didn't and it hasn't.
        Luke had loosen my hair and was stroking it, "Mom, had Matt not found that letter, I would not be alive today." Luke then told Gabrielle how I had spent every night by his bed, talking, praying, pleading. "Dr. Walker was right. I was not conscious, in a coma, but I knew Matt was there and that he loved me. I was in a place being dragged into nothingness, blackness, death because that was what I wanted, then I felt Matt's presence and heard is voice and his expressions of his love for me and his pleading for me to come back. I fought and fought and fought against death and because Matt was there night after night, I survived and am alive. I love Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf more than I can tell him, much less you."
        "And, Gabrielle, I love Luke Hans Larsen more than life itself."
        "Matt, Luke, anticipating this conversation--at least I hoped that you would come to me since I would never have mentioned my suspicions to you--I went to see Fr. O'Brian a couple weeks ago. I knew I couldn't talk to Fr. Muller, not only because of his insensitivity the night you lay near death, Luke, but also because he is so rigid in his views. I asked Fr. O'Brian about what the church taught about... about... "
        "Mom, we're gay if you want a label, but just look at it as two men very much in love with each other."
        "Anyway, he gave me a book for parents of gay children which I have read carefully. The church has recently said that children are who are gay are, well, gay rather than having chosen a lifestyle."
        "I certainly didn't choose to be gay or not gay," I said, "I just have known I loved Luke more than a friend for as long as I can remember. If you had asked me if I were gay, I probably would have said 'no'. I don't know. I hadn't thought about that.  All I knew was that I loved Luke and was afraid to tell him."
        "I guess I inherited those German genes which call a spade a spade. I knew I was gay because I was in love with a man. But I didn't choose to be gay and I certainly didn't choose a lifestyle. I chose death because I didn't think I could ever be who I was and wanted to be, Luke Larsen madly in love with Matthew Greywolf and loved by him."
        "Well, Luke, Fr. O'Brian pointed out that the American Bishops have issued a statement which recognizes that being gay is not something one chooses, but something one is. Their admonition to parents is to love and support their gay children rather than abandoning them or turning them out of the house. You know that you are my beloved man child and I have told you and I meant it then and I mean it now, that will not change regardless. However, you cannot receive the Blessed Sacrament unless you are celibate. Do you know that? Did you receive the Sacrament yesterday?"
        "Are you asking if I am celibate?  If you are, the answer at the moment is 'Yes, I am.' And I did receive the Sacrament yesterday, twice in fact. If you are asking if I intend to remain celibate, the answer is 'No, I do not.' Greywolf... "
        "Greywolf knows about you and Matt?"
        "Mom, I think half the world knows. It all started just after I had been taken to ICU. Matt, perhaps you'd better tell Mom why so many people know."
        "Gabrielle, when I found Luke's letter and read it, I almost fainted. Dr. Bailey and David were with me. David carried me into her office and when they asked what was wrong, I showed them the letter. Then Dr. Walker came down and said that Luke should live, but he was willing himself to death. Dr. Bailey told him why Luke had attempted to kill himself and why he was willing himself to death. They agreed that if I would try to talk to Luke he might be able to hear me. I spent every night at Luke's bedside, talking, praying, pleading until he regained consciousness. In the course of that, Chelsea and Gladys, the ICU nurses figured out what was going on between us and so they know. I told Mom and Dad because they needed to know why I was spending every night at the hospital. Michael knew of Luke's love for me before I did because he read an entry in Luke's journal Luke had accidentally left open on his computer. Gertie and Fr. Tom know. I told Fr. Tom and Gertie figured it out on her own when I came to St.  Mary's half dead day after day."
        "This has to be the exception to the rule that to keep a secret you can only tell two people if both are dead," Gabrielle smiled. "Anyone else in the county who knows? How about Mary Kathryn?"
        "Mary Kathryn has known almost from the beginning. It was something that she needed to know," Luke said.
        "Good going, Luke," I thought.
        "And," Luke continued, "Millie Willingham knows. Yesterday Matt and I went to her home to discuss the recital and exhibition and she just flat out asked if we weren't more than best friends and before I thought I said 'Yes.' She just said she hoped we would be as happy as her son Jason."
        "I guess a mother is the last one to know... Not really true since this mother was sure she knew. So, how did the Greywolfs take this announcement?"
        "Both said they wished we had a choice and would have chosen to marry and raise great grand kids, but since they knew we had no choice, we have their support and, yes, their blessing."
        "And Greywolf is the reason I am still celibate, as difficult as it has been. He asked that we not have sex until we are eighteen; he asked us or rather said he would like for us to wait. He didn't tell us. Out of respect for him and the support he and Yong Jin have given us, we intend to respect that request. But I'll be honest with you, Mom, I don't expect to be a virgin very long after I'm eighteen."
        "Which brings us back to the position of the church. Luke, will you live a lie by receiving the Blessed Sacrament while you are having sex with another man?"
        "You mean when I am having sex with Matt? No, I don't intend to live a lie. I told you I received the Sacrament twice yesterday. Since I knew Fr. Muller would check up on me after my confession, I went to Mass at Immaculate Conception at 9:15 then walked to St. Mary's. I sat with David and Michael, who had decided to go to St. Mary's because Fr. Tom doesn't gay bash, Dr. Bailey--who may well be Mrs. David Andrews before long...."
        "It seems love is bursting out all over and I was only aware of you and Matt."
        "And you don't know all of it yet," I thought with a chuckle.
        "And of course the Greywolfs. Mom, they all knew I was gay, and they all accepted me for who and what I was. I felt loved and at home there. I can never feel that way at Immaculate Conception where me and my love are not only not accepted, but where my deep, deep love condemns me. So I may be damned for not being a true Catholic, but I will not give up worshiping my God who created me and Matt as we are and who, I believe, has given us true love for each other. Fr. Tom has assured me that there are people at St. Mary's who would condemn us and our love, but neither he nor the church will and I will be welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament even when I am no longer a virgin."
        "Matt, Luke, I do not claim to understand how or why two men love each other. I can accept the fact that it happens. I, as your parents Matt, wish you two would have fallen in love with two beautiful women, married and given us loads of grand children. I wish with all my heart that was the way it would have been. But it is not. I can accept that. I don't understand it. I don't approve of it, but I don't have the right to approve or disapprove so I guess I will just say I hope you keep your expression of affection low-key around me until I can get used to the idea....
        I started to get up, but Luke placed his hands on my chest and held me where I was.
        "I mean, don't shock me too much. Let me gradually get used to the idea that you two are going to express your love as Jens and I do...."
        "Actually, we may do a better job of it Mom, but we will respect your wishes about expressing affection here."
        Gabrielle smiled. "Now we get to the really difficult part."
        "Yea, how and when to tell Dad. Mom, I wasn't afraid to tell you. I suspected you knew already especially since you saw me kiss Matt in the middle of the meadow...."
        "So you figured that out, did you?"
        "Yea, with the help of Mary Kathryn. But Mom, if you'll pardon the expression, I am scared shitless when I think of telling Dad. I don't know what he will do, but I know he will not take it the way you or the Greywolfs have. I am even afraid he might be violent. I have seen his temper and although he has never been violent with the family, I think it is possible that he might be to me this time."
        "I wish I could reassure you, Luke, but I am afraid as well. I know Jens loves you very much, even though he seldom shows it, but I also know he can be--is--often very rigid and especially when it comes to what he perceives as the teaching of the church. I can live with you as an Episcopalian; you are an adult and should be free to make your own decision. Besides, the
        Catholic church would deny you her Sacraments and damn you to hell. I don't believe that. I can't believe that love can condemn, but I'm not at all sure Jens could ever come around to accepting you and Matt as lovers or even you as a non-Catholic.  I could try to talk with him...."
        "Mom, I am very tired of hiding from you and Dad and so long as I hide my love of Matt from Dad, I am also hiding me. And I don't think it is your place to try to run interference for me. I just need your help in how I go about telling him and when, and the sooner the better I believe."
        "Luke, I agree that you should tell him. If I told him he would see that as your hiding behind me and/or being ashamed to face him and I know that is not true. I do think you need to tell him soon because putting it off will only make things worse. He will react no differently a month from now than he will tomorrow and the longer you put it off, the more pressure and stress you and Matt are placing on yourselves."
        "You think we should tell him tomorrow?"
        "No, because he will just be getting back from Jackson and will be worn out. I'd suggest that you talk with him Wednesday night and get it over with, whatever it is."
        "Mom, David has offered to be with us and I have always assumed that Matt would be with me when we told you and Dad when we talk to him. David is probably more frightened than I because he had a gay brother who was beaten and thrown out of the house when he told his parents. David didn't see him for a very long time. Knowing he would never be welcome at home, he went by the school to see David. When David's father found out, he beat David so badly that he had to be hospitalized. David has never seen or heard from him since. For that reason, and knowing Dad's temper, David almost insists on being with us."
        "I think David is over-reacting. I can't imagine Jens becoming angry enough to harm you. You may need to stay with Matt a few days...."
        "That's been ruled out, Gabrielle, as much as I would like it. We know we have a hard time getting what we have to do for school done. Luke is going to take the AP exam in art as well as the three for which he has classes and I will take one in music. So we have AP exams, a recital and an exhibition as well as regular school work. Your man-child just takes my mind off of most everything except him.  But David told us both before my parents knew that if we needed a home, we had one with him."
        "Matt, that's kinda amazing and mature, and, Luke, you may have to take David up on his offer for a few days until Jens cools down, but probably not.  Matt, would you like to have Greywolf with you? That would make it kinda 'men of the family' meeting."
        "I hadn't thought about it, but, yes, I would."
        "Mom, just in case, I'm going to get some of my things tomorrow and put them in Matt's Jeep. I have clothes at Matt's but there are some things I want or need. If all goes as well as I wish it would, then they'll come back in when Matt leaves. If things go as I fear, I won't have to come back until it's ok."
        "Luke, I want you to know that with all the 'I wishes' I have and all the 'I wish it weren'ts, I still love you as I always have and always will. Nothing is going to change that.  And Matt, if my beloved man-child is to love another man, I cannot imagine someone I would rather he love than you. If you two are going to love a man, you are both very, very lucky and blessed with the man you love."
        Luke and I both got up and embraced Gabrielle. We all had tears in our eyes. Mine, and I was sure Luke's, were tears of joy and of love for Gabrielle. Hers were, I hoped and believed, tears for our love--even though she did not understand it, she accepted and loved us for who we were.
        As Luke and I walked out of the front door, the porch light was turned off and the darkness gave us privacy for our goodnights.

Part Fourteen

        The next day started as usual with a run. I jogged to Matt's, climbed the trellis and when I looked through the window, his bed was empty. I climbed through and heard him brushing his teeth. He was already dressed in sweats and when he turned and saw me, a radiant smile spread across his face. He came across the hall, took me in his arms and planted a great good morning kiss on me. "Love you, Luke, love you" he said as he looked into my eyes. His black, black almond eyes were shining.
        "Love you too, Matt. Let's run."
        Michael was waiting for us at the end of the front walk.  "Morning, guys."
        "Morning, Michael. Ready to run?"
        "Let's fly."
        Today Michael led the way and we really did some serious running. We passed David's pasture without slowing down and ran another mile.  Michael peeled off when we got back to his place and Matt and I ran about half a mile more, then slowed down to a fast walk, but slow enough to hold hands.
        When we reached Matt's place, we went inside and I had orange juice while the Greywolfs ate. We talked about last night's meeting with Mom. Yong Jin and Greywolf were pleased it had gone so well.
        "I'll admit I was a bit anxious, but I was sure Gabrielle would do nothing other than love her son, even if she didn't approve," Yong Jin commented. "Now Jens is another question."
        "She loves your son as well, Yong Jin. In fact, she said if I was going to love another man, she thought I was blessed in being loved by Matt."
        "And he you," Yong Jin said.
        "Well, I've got to run so I can be ready when Matt comes by. School may be a bit interesting today if Mr. Gray hasn't gotten the permission thing straightened out." Little did any of us know just how interesting the school day would prove to be!
        By lunch, we had heard nothing about the permission or anything else related to the chorus and ensemble participating in Matt's recital. The girls were all excited because Mary Kathryn had talked to her mother and Yong Jin about Paula's need of a prom dress and Yong Jin was hatching up something. It seemed that it was all a big secret. Other than that, lunch was the usual affair other than the fact that Paula had asked Eugene and Larry to join the Select Few. We spent some time getting to know them. Just about the same time as yesterday, Mr. Gray came on the intercom and announced there would be a short assembly program immediately following lunch. "All students are to report to the auditorium immediately after the bell rings," he demanded.
        "I wonder what that's all about," I said.
        When the students were all in the auditorium, Mr. Gary walked to a podium and announced that a group of students had taken it upon themselves to offer to perform at St. Mary's Church. "While I had no objection to Matthew Greywolf's including a religious service as a part of his personal recital, I am very concerned that when school groups take part in a religious service some would see this as implying the school endorses a particular religion. Accordingly, when Mr. Smith asked that I approve a permission letter to be sent to parents of those in the participating groups, namely the Mixed Chorus and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion, I had some very serious questions. After checking with the superintendent and president of the school board, I have decided to allow members of those groups who obtain parental permission to participate. However, there is still the implication that this is a school-sponsored event. For this reason...."
        Mr. Gray was interrupted by his Miss Grimes, his secretary, who handed him a note. "Excuse me," he said and read the message she had handed him. "Well, it seems there has been a change. Rev. Thomas Moore of St. Mary's has just called and left the following message and I quote, 'Mr. Gray, there seems to be some concern about the inclusion of The Order for Evening Prayer as a part of Matthew Greywolf's recital and the participation by the Independence High School Mixed Chorus and Symphonic Brass and Percussion. Neither St. Mary's nor the Episcopal Church approves any endorsement of a religion or religious organization by a public school. Therefore, to avoid any semblance of endorsement of St. Mary's or the Episcopal Church The Order for Evening Prayer will not be included in the recital to be performed by Matthew Greywolf. St.  Mary's is delighted to serve as host to the recital and the young performers in the Mixed Chorus and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion. Further, St. Mary's will insist, as I am sure the school system will, that students in those organizations have permission from their parents to participate in the recital/concert. Again, St.  Mary's is delighted to host this event and to support the cultural activities of Independence High School.' Well, in light of this message, my reason for calling for this assembly...."
        Miss Grimes walked across the stage again and handed Mr.  Gray another message. He read it then looked up and said, "I have very sad announcement to make. The office has received notice that Gregory Burnette, a former student at Independence, has taken his own life. His uncle found him this morning hanging from a rope in his room. I am extremely sorry to learn of this young man's death as I am sure you are. While I in no way condone the violence committed upon him while he was a student here, all of you need to take that violence and his suicide as a warning. You must realize that if you choose to be a pervert and live the lifestyle of a pervert, normal society can and will exact a price from you. So I urge you who may be considering being a pervert and living the life of a faggot...."
        Suddenly I head a sound from behind me I had not heard in years. It was a Lakota war whoop! As it continued to echo through the auditorium, Greywolf, who is well known as a soft spoken man, was racing down the aisle toward the stage. Michael, who was sitting with the sophomores, was right behind him also giving a Lakota war whoop. We had all been taught the somewhat complex whoop when we were young and had been running around the house whooping like movie Indians when Greywolf came home from somewhere. He sat us all down and told us about the warrior tradition and taught us the proper war whoop.  Not to leave Mary Kathryn out, he taught her the call Lakota women used to encourage their warriors.  While I was thinking this, Matt joined in the war whooping as Greywolf mounted the stairs to the stage three steps at a time.  He was followed by Michael, both continuing war whoops. Without realizing it, I had joined in. The students were either chanting 'Greywolf, Greywolf' or attempting to do war whoops.
        When Greywolf reached the stage, he took the microphone from Mr. Gray and said, "Miss Grimes, call the superintendent and Mrs. Millicent Willingham and tell them they are needed at Independence immediately." Miss Grimes looked at Mr. Gray, not moving. In a deadly tone of voice, Greywolf said, "Miss Grimes, that was not a request, that was an order. Now do it!" Miss Grimes ran from the stage as fast as she could on her four inch heels.
        Greywolf then turned to face the students and held up his hand for silence.  "This high school is named for a document called the Declaration of Independence. That document, which laid the foundations for this country we enjoy, states that all have rights which cannot be taken from them: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Mr. Gray, you have effectively told this group of young Americans that those rights do not apply to ten percent of our population who are not perverts, but gay. I am sure that Ms.  Boynton and the other biology teachers will tell you that those who are gay do not choose a lifestyle. They do not choose to be gay. Why would anyone choose to be gay when there are people such as some students sitting in this very auditorium who believe that they have the right to beat, abuse, and yes, rape someone who is gay?
        "Gregory Burnette did not choose to be gay, he was gay. But even at that, he harmed no one. In fact, he was harmed, first by someone who claimed to love him then betrayed him. He was harmed when five males who were and are students in this school choose to prove their manhood by beating, abusing and raping him.  He didn't have sex with them, they forced sex upon him. His right to liberty and pursuit of happiness was not only denied, it was taken from him.  Now he is dead.  His right to life was cut short when his family, his fellow students, and his society made living worse than death."
        "And you, Mr. Gray, while you say you do not condone what happened to Gregory, say anyone who is gay should expect to be treated as he was. You are wrong, Mr. Gray. Your very words contradict your statement that you do not condone the violence visited on Gregory."
        "But there are others here who are equally guilty. There are students who have made heroes out of those who abused, beat and raped Gregory.  They are young and we are supposed to be guiding them into responsible citizenship.  There are teachers here who actively encourage the use of derogatory terms for people who are different such as the one you used: faggot. But perhaps worse than those who actively support prejudice and hatred are those of us who stand silent when students and faculty actively encourage it."
        "Mr. Gray, aside from the lack of moral and ethical leadership you have shown in your statements regarding Gregory, you stand in direct violation of the school board policy on bigotry and prejudice. In light of that, and as a senior teacher on this faculty, I am ordering you to your office until such time as the president of the school board and superintendent arrive and can decide what is to be done about your outrageous conduct. I suggest you go now after appointing your assistant principal Ms. Jones acting principal."
        "Mr. Greywolf, you are over-reacting. I certainly feel sorry about the death of Gregory, but he should have known the lifestyle he chose could only lead to active condemnation by society."
        "Mr. Gray, I suggest you leave now. Any further hesitation on your part will only increase what I sense is the anger of this student body."
        "Greywolf, you are going to be sorry for this."
        "No, I may suffer serious consequences. We will see about that, but I will never be sorry. Now go!"  Mr. Gray turned and walked off the stage, obviously angry. By this time the students had just about grasped the Lakota war whoop and the auditorium was resounding with it.
        Ms. Jones took the microphone from Greywolf and said, "Students...." There was almost instant silence, something I had never seen in all my school years.      "Students, I am deeply ashamed and humiliated that you had to hear the words which came from your principal's mouth. Maybe it is insubordination, but I cannot support someone who, as Greywolf has said, even hints that some group does not have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am deeply saddened by the death of Gregory. Few of you and few faculty, I suspect, knew Gregory. I knew him well since, for whatever reason, he chose me as someone to whom he could talk. He was a gentle, kind, loving young man. He was gay. That was who he was. And we all failed him to the point that death seemed better than life. At this time, I would offer the microphone to any faculty member who would like to address this assembly."
        Mr. Allan, a member of the PE department walked up the aisle slowly, took the microphone and, with tears in his eyes, said, "There is no doubt that the cesspool of prejudice and hatred toward anyone who is gay or suspected of being gay or who is simply different is the PE department. Those who raped--did you hear that? Those who RAPED Gregory are considered heroes when they are in the men's locker room. Members of the PE faculty have often encouraged that while I have sat back and kept my mouth shut. Well, it is not shut any more. Two of the real jocks in this school--if we mean a real man when we say jock--are standing here on this stage with me: Greywolf who is fearless in his defense of justice and fairness and Michael Andrews who has more balls--if you'll excuse that expression--than any ten of you who yell 'faggot' in the hall, or who laugh when someone else does, or who simply says nothing. I beg your forgiveness Greywolf and Michael for not being a real man as you are."
        The auditorium exploded with chants of 'Greywolf and Michael' punctuated by Lakota war whoops.
        When Mr. Allan stepped from the microphone, Michael looked at Ms. Jones and she nodded. Michael took the microphone and said, "It is neither a matter of pride or choice, it's simply the way God put me together. I am heterosexual. I am in love with a wonderful, beautiful woman. But that gives me no special rights, no privileges, no freedoms; I have neither more nor less than I would have if I were homosexual and in love with a man. This school faculty, students and administration has failed in its responsibility to Gregory Burnette. Who knows what the world has lost because he could no longer live in it?  Think, if you dare, what the world would be like without some of the most brilliant artists, musicians, poets, architects, scientists, doctors, writers, religious thinkers and leaders and thinkers who we know were gay. Different is different, it is not wrong. Rape is rape, abuse is abuse, violence is violence regardless of the intended victim. I say intended victim because we are all victims when one of us is a victim. I know and appreciate the care which the school board and superintendent took to make sure no one's religious beliefs or non-belief were violated in regard to the recital, concert and exhibition at St.  Mary's.  Nevertheless, while I am not a member of St. Mary's and cannot make the final decision, I am announcing a memorial service for Gregory Burnette this evening at 7:00 at St. Mary's. I will check with Fr. Tom to make sure that is possible and have an announcement for you before school ends. Now I hope we will all observe silence in commemoration of the life of Gregory Burnette after which I suggest you file out of the auditorium in silence and go to the class you have immediately after lunch. Let there be silence."
        I have been a student at Independence High School for four years. There have been assemblies in which silence was observed in commemoration of two or three faculty members who had died and for several students killed in auto accidents, but I have never heard a silence like the one which descended upon the students. Slowly students started drifting out of the auditorium and still the silence was as absolute as it could be with almost a thousand people walking. As I stood, I realized tears had been steaming from my eyes and when I looked around, I was not the only one crying. I thought I was throwing caution to the wind as I turned and embraced Matt but, as I did, I noticed that students all over the auditorium were hugging each other and, most amazing of all, men were hugging men.


        As Luke and I walked in silence to physics class, I felt as though I and the students at Independence had started being cleansed of filth we had all carried because of the treatment Gregory had received when he was in our midst. I also was so proud of my father and my brother Michael. Coach Allan was right, the kid--the MAN--had balls.
        I noticed that students remained silent until they reached their classroom doors--most walking arm in arm regardless of sex--and as they went into classrooms, felt free to talk. I was surprised when Luke asked me, "Matt, what is Greywolf's name, I mean other than Greywolf. I have never known."
        I smiled and wondered just why Luke thought to ask that question at that moment. It seemed so much a part of what was going on.  "Dad's full name is Patanka St. Michael Greywolf. It would be great if you could prevail upon him to tell the class where he got his name because it is the perfect name for someone who has done what he just did. I won't spoil it and if he won't tell you its history, Mom or I will later."
        By the time Luke and I were seated, most students were in their classrooms. A few minutes later the intercom came on. It was Michael. "Students of Independence High School, I have contacted Fr. Tom at St. Mary's and he has agreed to a memorial service at St. Mary's this evening at seven. He will give us help in designing the service so if you want to work on it, please meet me in the commons area after school. St. Mary's is relatively small and will not hold all the student body, but those who cannot be in the church itself may go to the parish hall where audio and video will make the service available.  Thank you."
        "I guess I better be thinking of music for tonight. Here's Dad. Ask him about his name."
        While AP physics is a small class--9 men and 6 women--when Dad walked into the room it rocked as the men burst into Lakota war whoops and the women did their call for warriors. Greywolf was obviously speechless. As the students grew silent, Luke stood up and said, "Mr. Greywolf, I think I speak for the entire class when I say you made us proud of being a part of this school today and deeply honored to have you as our teacher." The room again sounded like a Lakota camp.  "I realized," Luke continued, "as I was walking from the auditorium that I have known you for my entire life and look upon you as a father, but I have never known or heard your name, I mean other than Greywolf. When I asked Matt, he told me your name and said it fit perfectly with what was going on and suggested you tell the class the story of your name."
        "Luke, I am very proud of my name, but I am not sure I can talk about it without appearing to be bragging and taking credit for something that belongs to the students in this school."
        "Mr. Greywolf, everyone in this classroom has known you for at least four years. We know you are not a braggart--I learned that word from Mrs. Greywolf by the way. If you would, please tell us the story of your name."
        "As perhaps few of you know, I was born on Rosebud Reservation to a Lakota woman. My grandfather delivered me and when I was born, the moon was full and as I came from my mother's womb, the moon came from behind a cloud and bathed my face. My grandfather immediately gave me my child's name: Moon-in-the-Face...." Greywolf then told the whole sordid story of his birth, abandonment by his mother, and his abuse by his uncle.
        "When I was perhaps nine or ten, an Episcopal priest who had a deep understanding of the way of the Lakota and appreciation of our traditions took me into his home. Through his and his wife's love and understanding, I was gradually being healed. But when I was thirteen I still had nightmares and was still deeply disturbed. In his wisdom, the priest took me to visit a Lakota elder--you'd call him a medicine man. I lived with him through the spring and summer.  I learned much and much healing took place. Finally he suggested I do a vision quest to allow Wakan Tanka--the Great Spirit--to guide me to seeing who I was and give me my adult name."
        "I did a sweat to cleanse my body and spirit then I was led to a place far removed from anyone. I went into a small opening to a hole in the ground only slightly larger than I. The opening was covered and I was there seven days.  During that time I had many dreams and visions, but none revealed to me who and what I was. Then, near the end of the last day, I fell into a trance and a buffalo appeared in the space with me and then I became the buffalo. When the elder came and opened my quest place, I came out bent and lowing like a buffalo. As I came out, he gave me my adult name Patanka. It's a word which, in one sense, means buffalo, but to bear that name means your purpose in life is to be as a buffalo to your people to give that they may be protected, especially the weak and downtrodden--those who are unable to protect themselves. When I returned to Fr. Mack, I told him my new name."
        "Since my birth had never been registered and I had never been baptized, he gave me a Christian name which held much the same meaning as Patanka, St.  Michael. Thus my full name, with which I was baptized, is Patanka St. Michael Greywolf and I have tried very much to live who I am." Once again I was in a room that was absolutely silent. Slowly first one then another student started applauding until all fifteen were standing and applauding.
        A strange mood pervaded the school for the rest of the day, a mood very difficult to describe. On the one hand, the mood was a very somber one as, I was sure, students thought about Gregory and his death. On the other hand, there was a sense of pride and of being cleansed. I knew I would need to meet with Michael and the students planning the memorial service, but I also felt I needed to spend time with Luke who, I knew, had been affected by Gregory's death more than even he realized. As soon as the bell rang, I told Luke I would meet him at the Jeep since I needed to see Michael. When I found Michael, I told him I would come back after school to meet with the planning group because I felt I needed to be with Luke. "Matt, I was worried that you might not stay with Luke. He needs you right now; he really does and don't worry about coming back.  Meet us at St. Mary's. I've made arrangements for those interested in working on the service to get there so I'll see you then. Now go to Luke."
        When I reached the Jeep, Luke was sitting, glassy-eyed. As I got in and started the Jeep, I placed a hand on his thigh and he looked at me with a weak smile, then turned and stared out the window. Something was definitely wrong and Luke was not telling me. I left my hand on his thigh and drove toward home. As we neared the river bridge, Luke spoke for the first time, "Matt, could we go to the falls?"
        "Of course." I pulled to the side of the road, parked, and the two of us started across the meadow. I didn't know what to do so I just walked beside Luke. Finally he reached out and took my hand and we continued to the falls.  He crossed the canes and we walked to the sandy bank of the falls' basin and sat down. Luke still had not said a word since he asked that we come to the falls.  Suddenly he grabbed me and started crying, sobbing. He continued sobbing like a child, completely out of control. All I knew to do was hold him tightly, his head resting in my shoulder as I stroked his hair. Gradually his sobbing slowed as he clung to me. I still held him, at a complete loss as to what was going on.
        When Luke's sobs had stopped, he looked up at me with a tear-stained face and red, swollen eyes, placed his hands on the sides of my head and pulled my face to his and gave me a hard, passionate, desperate kiss. As his kiss continued it became harder and harder, almost brutal in its intensity. "Matt, I love you, I love you, I love you," Luke said as he broke the kiss, but only momentarily. Once again his lips were crushing mine.
        Luke broke his kiss and he looked into my eyes. "Matt, I love you so much and I have hurt you so much. Today the assembly was torture for me.  I was filled with emotions which were racing around, clashing with each other. I thought about how terrible life had been to Gregory and yet he kept going for so long. I thought about what a coward I had been because I had not suffered at all as he had, yet I tried to kill myself. I also understood the feelings Mary Kathryn expressed when she said she both hated and loved me: loved me as her beloved brother and yet hated me because I had tried to kill him. I felt the same way about myself. I loved me because you loved me and hated myself because I tried to kill the one you loved. I felt like a coward because I didn't get up on the stage as say, 'I ask nothing more of you and nothing less than Michael asks and deserves and I am in love with a beautiful, wonderful man. I am gay. At the same time, I hated myself because I even thought of exposing you to the hatred and abuse that you would undergo because it is you I loved and everyone would soon know that. Matt, I just didn't know what to do or why I was having all those feelings and others I can't describe or explain."
        As I held Luke close and stroked his hair, he once again placed his head on my shoulder as a baby rests its head on its mother. "Luke, my beloved, you have gone through a very difficult time. Maybe you need to see a counselor or maybe you just need to talk. I don't know and I can't tell you what you need to do. Both of us have been cowards because we should have trusted our friendship enough to know that confessing our love to the other would not destroy it.  We should have known, both of us, that our hearts would not allow us to hate the other. But we did not. If we had it to live over, would it be different? I would like to think that it would, but in my heart of hearts I know it would not. The past is the past; what has been done and left undone cannot be changed. Maybe, I hope, I pray that the tears you have shed here washed all the past, not away, but into the past. I love you, Luke. I have loved you for a long time and I expect to love you as long as I live and after if that is possible. If my love is enough, then so be it, but if you need to seek other help, please do. I want you to love Luke as I love Luke."
        "Matt, hold me; just hold me."
        I pressed Luke's head down on my shoulder and gently rocked back and forth.  Without realizing it, I started singing softly to my Yonghon Tongmu, "More than the greatest love...." Soon I felt Luke's body relax and he sighed. I realized that he was emotionally drained and had fallen asleep. I held him close as he slept. I became anxious about the time since I would soon need to be at St. Mary's, yet I dared not disturb Luke. I realized that he was sleeping peacefully and assumed that was the result of exhaustion from the emotional roller coaster he had found himself on today and, I dared hope and pray, the release he had found in his tears and his few words to me. I decided that the group planning the memorial service could pick the music and I could play it since it had to be familiar, so I relaxed and thought to myself, "I will stay here until Luke wakes up or I just have time to get to St. Mary's before the service."
        Just as my thought was completed, Luke raised his head, looked into my eyes and smiled a pure Luke smile. "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I would love you if I were straight as an arrow because you have a wonderful, caring, loving heart. But I am not straight as an arrow and I love you because of your heart, but also because you are my beloved who loves me in return." With those words, Luke placed his lips against mine for the gentlest, most tender kiss he had ever given me.  "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, will you pledge yourself to me forever as I pledge myself to you?"
        "Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen, I will." Our lips met once more in a tender, loving kiss.
        "Matt, I know you don't expect it or require it, but please accept my thanks for allowing me to pour out the past, for holding me and giving me the courage and power to allow myself to be healed. Matt, I believe with all my heart the time we have spent in this place today has made me whole again and it would not have been possible without your arms around me."
        "Luke, being whole is what our love is about. I can't think of a better way to describe it. Without you, I am incomplete and I know that you make me whole and we make each other whole."
        "I could stay here forever, but you, especially, have to be a part of what I hope and believe will help make a lot of people whole again. We better get to St.  Mary's because I don't know how, but I am going to be a part of the healing which I believe this memorial service will be."
        "Luke... ah, never mind. Ah, Luke...."
        "Matt, trust."
        "Luke, you said you felt you should have joined Michael on the stage today.  I.... "
        "Are you afraid I will announce that I am gay? That we are lovers?"
        "Afraid? Honestly I don't know. I think I am, but had you done it today, I think I would have rushed the stage and given you a kiss you'd never forget. But...."
        "No, Matt. I do not intend to announce that I am gay or that we are lovers.  That would take the focus off of where it belongs, on Gregory and the repentance that I hope this service requires of all of us. I don't know what I will do, but let's go see what shapes up." We got up, Luke went to the river and bathed his face in the still chilly water, making his eyes less red and swollen.
        Arm in arm we walked across the meadow to the Jeep. As we drove into town, Luke freed my hair and placed his arm around me. I wondered if there would be other crises in the future and if Luke really needed to seek professional help.  After all, since he left the hospital he had seemed ok, but the events of the day had overwhelmed him.
        "Matt, do you realize that I proposed to you and you said yes," Luke asked out of the blue.
        "I certainly do. We are now engaged."
        Luke started laughing outrageously and said, "And we don't even know if we're sexually compatible!"
        "The time is coming."
        "And so will we," Luke laughed again.
        When we reached St. Mary's, I turned into the side street leading to the parking lot. There two school activity buses were in the parking lot, along with a large number of cars I recognized as students'. Additionally I saw, parked down the side street, vans which I recognized as TV news remote units. Before I could say anything, Luke said, "Holy shit! Do you see what I see? Not only does the Lexington TV station have a remote here but also there's one from Jackson." Now just who gave them the word? They had to have been called just after the assembly."
        "Kid, this may be more than we expected and I hope will accomplish more than we dared dream. Brother Michael will really make headlines!"
        When we got to the parish hall, Michael and about a dozen students and Ms.  Jones and Fr. Tom were sitting around tables arranged in a square looking a The Book of Common Prayer and hymnals from several different churches. Rabbi Feldstein, Dr. Rogers from the United Methodist Church and the Rev. Ms.  McDougall of the First Presbyterian Church were also present. "Matt, good timing.  Mr. Smith is here with the Symphonic Brass and Percussion and Paula is working with the Mixed Chorus. We're putting together a service.  If you'll work with them on the music, we'll put it all together later. We need to get things ready so Gertie can do programs. She's volunteered to stay as late as necessary to get that done," Fr. Tom informed me.
        "Were all the clergy invited?" I asked, because I wondered where the others were.
        "Of course, but one had bought a piece of land, another a cow and a third had married a wife.  I believe that's about the way it goes isn't it my Christian brethren?" Rabbi Feldstein smiled.
        "Well, most weren't polite enough to offer an excuse," Dr.  Rogers replied.
        "Luke, would you call the family and let them know where we are? Of course, Greywolfs know, but Dad and your family does not," Michael said.
         "Sure. I'll be right back."
        I sat down at the table and immediately looked over what had been planned so far. The service had been divided into two parts. The first was a penitential section which seemed appropriate in light of student reaction this afternoon. The second was the memorial service proper. Three speakers had been confirmed: Ms.  Jones, Greywolf and Michael. No doubt there would be others.  "Do you know that both Lexington and Jackson have TV remote units outside?"
        "No, we didn't. We have been so busy in here. Don't you all think we need to get an official spokesperson to deal with he media? Otherwise everyone will be hounded by them," Ms. Jones said. "Greywolf was here a while ago. I'll see if I can find him and get him to be spokesperson."
         I went into the church to find out what as being done about the music. As I opened the door from the sacristy, the brass and percussion started Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." How appropriate, I thought. We were celebrating the rights of the common man and recognizing in the memorial service what happens when those rights are denied.
        "Matt, glad you got here. All we have so far is "Fanfare" and "Amazing Grace." Any input from you would be welcome," Mr. Smith said.
        "First question is would you like organ with "Fanfare?"  Don't think I have ever heard it that way and I know I don't have an organ transcription."
        "I've heard rumors of some Millie Willingham state trumpets here. How about you just using those and play the trumpet part with the trumpets in the ensemble?"
        I laughed, "One of these days you'll have to hear the whole story of the trumpets. Using them is a great idea on two counts. First, the state trumpets are great. I'll hold the volume down otherwise they would be all you would hear.  Second, Millie gave them in thanksgiving for Jason, her son, and his companion/lover Anthony on the seventh year of their commitment to each other."
        "And St. Mary's allowed that?" someone in the ensemble asked.
        "Not only allowed it, but there is a bronze plaque stating that affixed to the rear wall below the trumpets. The trumpets are those trumpet-shaped pipes extending over the rear door."
        "Ok, let's get on with it. Matt, could you do a prelude?"
        "Sure. How about the old standards I do when I haven't done adequate practice: Bach's 'Sheep May Safely Graze' and 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring?"
        "Sounds good. We'll have 'Fanfare' and what other hymns?"
        "The first part of the service is penitential and the memorial service proper is the second." We continued to talk about the music and finally got it together. I took the music list to the group working in the parish house and they had just about finished their work. "Here's the music," I said. "We can put it all together if you are ready." Fr. Tom finally had a copy for Gertie and took it to the office.  Three or four students went with Fr. Tom to help Gertie.
        As soon as Fr. Tom left, Luke said he had called his parents and David and we were all to go to the Larsens' for supper after the service at Gabrielle's invitation.
        Fr. Tom walked back into the room and said, "If I know teenagers, you'll need something before the service is over. I have ordered pizza and drinks for everyone. Also, Greywolf is holding a news conference in the parish library so I guess that's under control."
        When the pizza arrived, everyone gathered in the parish house and in spite of the fact that there were about a hundred high school students in the room, it was unnaturally quiet.  About that time the students from the office and Gertie brought in the programs to be collated and folded. They had done an amazing job, especially in light of the time bind.
        As soon as the programs were ready, students, under Gertie's direction, started setting up the parish hall in the event that there was an overflow from the church.  The chorus and ensemble would be in the chancel and that took care of about seventy students. St. Mary's held 250 comfortably and almost 350 with added chairs
        At 6:30 students started arriving. The first dozen were made ushers as soon as they stepped inside the church.
        When I went into the church, I saw the TV crews setting up cameras and microphones. Fr. Tom was overseeing that. Michael was speaking to a small group of students in one corner of the church. "What's going on here?" I asked.
        "These students are taking part in the service, reading, leading psalms and prayers. We're looking over the program and will make sure each person knows where to sit and where to go to do their part."
        "Great." I went to the organ and looked over the program.  The first speaker gave me a real shock. It was Luke! The program, in spite of being put together by a committee--mostly students--was impressive:
         ****        A Penitential Service for Independence High School
                                 and a
                Memorial Service for Gregory Burnette
                Prelude: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring         Bach
                 Sheep May Safe Graze                     Bach
                 Matthew Greywolf, organist
        Psalm 6: The Psalm will be read from The Book of Common Prayer found in the pew. It is the red book.  Psalm 6 is found on page 589.
        The reader will read the odd numbered verses, the congregation will read the even ones
                Angile Ledbetter, reader
                Hymn: "Forgive our sins as we forgive"
        "Forgive our sins as we forgive" you taught us, Lord to pray; but you alone can grant us grace to live the word we say.
        How can your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart that broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?
        Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls and bid resentment cease;that reconciled to God and man, our lives will spread your peace
                Mixed Chorus, Paula Wright, conductor
                Exhortation to Repentance and Confession
                Luke Larsen, speaker
        A Litany of Repentance:      Students who wish may kneel. A period of silence will be observed  before and after the litany.
        Reader and Congregation:
        Most holy and merciful Father: We confess to you and to one another, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
        R: We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
        C: Have mercy on us, Father.
        R: We have been deaf to your call to serve others,  loving them as we love ourselves.
        C: Have mercy on us, Father.
        R: We confess to you, Father, all our  pride, hypocrisy, and intolerance,
        C: We confess to you, Father.
        R: We confess our self-indulgent appetites and ways,  and our exploitation of other people,
        C: We confess to you, Father.
        R: We confess our anger at our own frustration,  and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
        C: We confess to you, Father.
        R We confess our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,  and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
        C: We confess to you, Father.
        R: Accept our repentance, Father, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
        C: Accept our repentance, Father.
        R: Accept our repentance for all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
        C: Accept our repentance, Father.
         R: Most especially accept our repentance for the hurt and harm visited upon your child Gregory by our actions and inaction.
        C: Accept our repentance, Father, may he rest in peace.
        R: Accept our repentance, Father, and grant him peace.                              Alexander Johnson, reader
        Hymn: Amazing Grace      Hymn 671 in the blue hymnal in the pews.
        Fanfare for the Common Man         Copland     
        Symphonic Brass and Percussion with Organ, Eugene Joyce, conductor
        Gregory: A Gentle Spirit                  Constance Jones, speaker
        The Rights of Every Human Being: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness                                                      Michael Andrews, speaker
        America the Beautiful      Hymn 719
        Failed Obligations                      Patanka St. Michael Greywolf, speaker
        Brother Love: If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Whoever loves God must also love his brother.                          Larry Watley, speaker
        Love divine verses 2 and 3      Hymn657
        Who is a Man?                         Linda Lipinsky, speaker
        Who IS a Man?                          Macon Allan, Speaker
        Commendation      Silence will be observed for a period.
        R: Give rest, O Father, to your servant Gregory,
        C: where sorrow and pain are no more.
        R: You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return.  For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
        C: Give rest, O Father, to your servant Gregory, where sorrow and pain are no more.
        R: Into your hands, O merciful Father, we commend your servant Gregory.  Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
        Silence will be observed for a period.
        R: Amen.
        C: Amen.                         Mary Kathryn Larsen, reader
         Amen (from "The Lilies of the Field)    Mixed Chorus
        The Congregation is asked to join in.
        God of Our Fathers      Hymn 718
         Postlude: Overture for Trumpets         Purcell
         Symphonic Brass and Percussion with organ
        As the Congregation leaves, please take a candle with you.  Take light into the darkness.
        By 6:45 the church was packed. Extra chairs had been brought in earlier and people were standing any place they could find. Gertie and the crew had to run off more bulletins and still people came. While the original intention was for this to be for Independence High School, parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors came. The parish hall was filled long before the time for the service to begin. The two remote units were able to set up monitors and sound systems outside so people stood in the street and on the lawn.
        If there had ever been any doubt about the talent at Independence, it should have vanished. I knew that "Forgive Our Sins" needed to be a part of this service, but also knew it was not known by many people. In fact, no one in the mixed chorus had ever heard of it. You would never have known that from the performance Paula got out of them. The speeches were all excellent and all done without notes. Luke almost scared me to death when he opened with the statement, "I too, have attempted to take my life, but I was more fortunate than Gregory. I failed. My reason.... " My heart skipped a dozen beats in a half second.  "...is unimportant." He then talked about the suicide rate among gay teens and how the cause was not their sexuality, but the treatment they received from peers, parents, teachers and society in general. He then addressed the treatment Gregory had received while a student at Independence. When Alexander took his place to begin the Litany of Repentance, every person in the church knelt. I learned later that those in the street and on the lawn did the same.
        Ms. Jones showed all of us a side of Gregory that we had not allowed ourselves to get to know. And now it was too late.
        Michael's speech was impassioned, direct, and hard hitting.  He had really gotten a hold on the idea of the equality of everyone in regard to their rights.
        Greywolf spoke of the failure of the faculty to curb--no, not tolerate--harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. He did not leave out parents or the community. He certainly made it clear that treating bigots as heroes or exempt from the law cannot be countenanced by a community, a school or a family.
        Larry hit hard at the position churches take in regard to people who are different. I thought he came very close to outing himself he was so passionate about what he was saying. Obviously he was a very religious person who had suffered greatly at the hands of religious bigots but he managed to say all that without saying why. And, of course, I really didn't know why, but I too, had seen him look at Eugene and had noticed Eugene's glances at Larry and I was almost positive they were a couple.
        The only real levity of the whole evening came when Linda attempted to answer the question "What is a man?" Her sarcasm was a welcome break, but also doubly strong for those of us who had heard her story only yesterday.
        Well, it was over. Students were standing in small groups, holding candles and talking quietly. Gradually they started drifting off, many arm in arm, men as well as women, as they had been after the assembly.
        "Gregory," I thought, "you have accomplished more by your death than many accomplish in a lifetime." My eyes filled with tears as I thought of how he suffered that some of us might become more fully human and uttered a prayer for him and thanksgiving for his life.
        As I walked back into the church, I saw Eugene and Paula and assured them that I would have them at my recital if I had to fight the whole school board. As I was taking off my vestment, Luke came up behind me and put his arms around me and gave me a kiss. "Luke, you have scared me to death tonight, but I was so proud of you. You are a wonderful human being and I feel so very, very lucky that you love me."
        He took me into his arms, kissed me again, and said, "No more lucky than I am that you love me, Sarang Hanun Pomul." As we walked out of the church, a TV reporter came up and asked if I had been the organist. When I told her I was, she said she had taken organ for many years and thought she was qualified to judge an organist. "You are really very, very good. And I want you and all the students who put together tonight's service to know that it was very powerful and moving to someone as hardened as I think I have become. And all this was done after school today?"
        "Yes, it kinda followed a student rebellion over comments our principal made."
        "That's what I understood from Mr. Greywolf.  From your hair I wouldn't be surprised if he were your father."
        "Yes, I am Matthew Greywolf."
        "And you, young man?"
        "Luke Larsen."
        "Luke, what you said was very moving. Well, I've got to go.  We're doing a long segment on today's events during the 10 o'clock news unless we can get the news director to let us start at 9:30. We have enough take to go for a full hour, but you never know what is and is not news until the news director tells you.  Again, the students of Independence should be very proud of themselves in spite of the tragedy which brought out the concern and talent. Well, Good night."
        "Good night." I knew it was dark, but I failed to realize just how late it was. It was almost 8:30 already. The buses had taken kids back to school and the parking lot was even empty. Luke and I continued walking arm in arm to the Jeep. As soon as we were inside, he immediately started letting down my hair as he pulled my body to his and we exchanged a deep, passionate kiss. "Luke, I love you, Man, I love you." He answered with another kiss.
        I think we were both just about exhausted by the events of the day since we rode in silence, his arm around my shoulder, my hand on his thigh. Just before we reached his house he suddenly said, "Man, it is 8:30 already and all I have had since lunch was a slice of pizza. I'm starved."
        "Gabrielle will have the cure for that in a few minutes," I laughed as we pulled into his drive.
        Yong Jin was helping Gabrielle get supper ready. Jens was nowhere in sight.  "Where's everybody?" Luke asked.
        "Greywolf and Coach Allan had to drive the buses back to school. Michael and Mary Kathryn took the bus back to school and David and Margaret went to get them and Greywolf since I drove the car home to help Gabrielle.  Jens called and said he would be late getting home since he got back from Jackson later than he planned and still had to take some things by the office.  Everyone should be here soon," Gabrielle said.
        "We're going to my room after we get washed up. Call when you're ready for us.
        "Just what makes you think we'll ever be ready for you two," Gabrielle laughed.
        "Because we're so darn cute," Luke quipped.
        We went upstairs, washed up and went to Luke's room. He closed the door behind him and dragged me to his bed. "Babe, I have been thinking about you all day, even with all the excitement. He lay down on top of me, covered my lips with his and started deep kissing me, his tongue exploring my mouth. As the kiss became more and more passionate, I could feel his hardness pressing against my own. He started grinding into me as my hips rose to meet his.  Before we knew it, we were dry humping each other like mad. "God, Matt, I want your body so bad."
        "Babe, I want yours too. I need your body."
        "Luke, Matt," Gabrielle called from downstairs.
        "A mother's voice can be added to the means of keeping it slow and easy," I laughed. It took us a while to get presentable, otherwise our manhood would have announced our approach since we both had tents large enough for a family in our baggy pants.
        When we got downstairs, everyone was seated around the table except Michael and Mary Kathryn who were in the den. When they came in they were excited. "The Lexington station just announced they were doing an hour and a half special report on Independence's protest and tonight's service. The announcer said it had originally been scheduled for 9:00, but due to technical difficulties it had been delayed until 10:00.
        "I'm sure Greywolf and Yong Jin would also like to see the report," Gabrielle said.
        Jens asked, "What's this about a protest and service? I've been out of town two days and haven't watched tv. Tonight as I went to the office I noticed TV equipment around St. Mary's, but didn't know what was going on. Then as I was driving home I heard an announcement on the radio that there would be news later about the events in Concord, but nothing more."
        "This afternoon Mr. Gray announced that Gregory Burnette had committed suicide and made some very derogatory remarks about him.  Greywolf protested...." Michael began.
        "It must have really been bad for you to get bent out of shape, Greywolf," Jens laughed. "But let's finish dinner then we'll see what the news has to say about the whole thing."
        I suspect those of us who had participated in the day's events were emotionally drained; Jens was obviously tired as was David. Nonetheless, Jens tried hard to play the cordial host, but got little response. He, of course, was the only one in the dark about what had been going on at school and St. Mary's. Come to think of it, he was the only one in the dark about me and Luke. I looked around the table and just knew that I was the last one to think about that since almost everyone was sneaking glances at me and Luke. Supper was over quickly and we cleared the table and went into the den. The TV was showing a teaser for a special report.  After the usual used car ads and a couple for toilet bowl cleaner and deodorant ads, the opening credits began. A picture of the school was superimposed on the Declaration of Independence and as the picture of the school faded, pictures of people replaced it. The voice over said, "Today a small high school in a neighboring town took seriously words from the Declaration of Independence.  Suddenly there was Michael speaking at St. Mary's saying, "We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and we have witnessed what happened when they were taken away from a fellow student, Gregory Burnette."
        "Wasn't Gregory that queer who was beaten up and abused by some school kids some time ago?" Jens asked.
        "Gregory was a young man who was beaten, abused and raped by some of Independence's jocks, yes. And he was gay," Luke said.
        "Well, why all the fuss this late in the game?" Jens asked.
         "We were told today in assembly that he hanged himself in his bedroom where he was living with an uncle because his parents disowned him," Luke said. I could see Luke's clinched teeth and wanted to say, "Stay cool, Babe," but I wasn't even sitting close to him.


        The reporter Matt and I had met earlier then came on the screen, standing in front of St. Mary's. "This afternoon, Mr. Michael Gray was in a school assembly when he was given a message that a former student, Gregory Burnette, had committed suicide. Gregory, who was gay, was brutally abused, beaten and sodomized by five students from Independence a few months ago. When his parents learned he was gay, they disowned him. An uncle from another state took him in. We talked with the uncle by phone earlier and learned that Gregory had gone into deep depression but treatment seemed to have been making some progress until students in his school learned last week that he was gay. He was subjected to constant ridicule and verbal abuse and slipped into deeper depression. This morning when his uncle went to awaken him, he found him hanging from a rope in his bedroom."
        I felt some of the same feeling and emotions I had experienced earlier rising in me. I needed Matt to hold me again, but that was not possible. I sat, hugging my knees to myself, wanting to leave the room, but also wanting to stay.
        The reporter continued, "When Mr. Gray announced Gregory's death, he is reported to have said students should take Gregory's death as a warning not to choose to live as perverts. 'Those who make that choice,' he is reported to have said, 'should expect pay the high price normal people would demand of them'. Mr.  Patanka St. Michael Greywolf, a senior faculty member and physics teacher at Independence, interrupted the assembly with Lakota war whoops and bounded on the stage demanding that Gray go to his office after appointing Ms. Constance Jones acting principal. Gray was reluctant to leave, but finally did so. Greywolf pointed out to this reporter that Gray was making statements which were not only in conflict with the Declaration of Independence, but also violated the policy of the school system regarding bigotry and use of derogatory words and names."
        Dad looked at Greywolf and said, "Why don't you think what Gray said was right? Society does extract a high price of perverts and I think they should expect that."
        "Greywolf simply said, "Jens, gays have the same rights as you and I. I guess we could count ourselves lucky that we were born heterosexual."
        So far I was managing to hold onto my emotions and myself, but it was getting harder. I saw Matt looking at me with a very worried look on his face.
        "Born heterosexual? Everyone is born heterosexual. Some just choose to be otherwise."
        I opened my mouth to answer, but before I could, Mom spoke up, "Jens, even the church says that people are born gay. They do not choose to be gay or straight."
        Dad didn't answer. The TV reporter had told about Michael's announcement of a service of repentance and memorial for Gregory while Dad was talking and he missed that. "The service was scheduled for 7:00 and by 6:45 St.  Mary's church and parish hall were filled to overflowing. Our TV crew and one from Jackson set up monitors and sound equipment outside where at least an additional six or seven hundred people listened and watched. The service, which had been put together by students under the guidance of Fr. Thomas Moore of St. Mary's, Rabbi Irvin Feldstein of Temple Bethel, the Rev. Dr. Roger Whitfield of First United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Miriam McDougall of First Presbyterian Church, was entirely student led. Music was provided by the high school's brass and percussion ensemble and mixed chorus. Matthew Greywolf, who is the organist at St. Mary's and a student at Independence did an excellent job, and that comes from someone who took organ for years. With the exception of Ms. Constance Jones, who knew Gregory exceptionally well, Mr.  Greywolf, and Coach Macon Allan, who apologized to the student body earlier for remaining silent when the men's locker room was, in his words, a 'cesspool of prejudice and hatred', the speakers were students."
        "Our intention is to bring you the service without interruption. A reminder, the service is divided into two parts. The first part is a service of penitence which the students felt was needed since many felt they had, by action or inaction, contributed to Gregory's death. The second part of the service is a memorial service for Gregory. Before we start, there is one final note.  Gregory's body was cremated and his ashes disposed of without a service. In a very real sense, tonight's service is the only service acknowledging the tragic life and death of this young man. Now we will go to St. Mary's Church in Concord for the service by students of Independence High School."
        I knew I couldn't endure what was coming without support.  When I looked up, I saw Matt looking at me. He had an even more troubled and worried look on his face. At this point I didn't care what anyone thought. I got up, walked over to Matt and sat between his legs. I felt his hand on my hair and was comforted. When I moved, Mary Kathryn got up and went and sat between Michael's legs. Dad seem oblivious to our move, thank goodness. I noticed, however, nothing escaped Mom--it never does--who looked at Michael and Mary Kathryn with a kind of 'aha' look on her face, then smiled.
        The camera focused on Matt at the organ as the prelude began. When Angile stepped up and started the psalm the response was thunderous.  I'm sure St. Mary's had never witnessed the responses to a psalm which shook the roof before.  Anyone would be hard pressed to prove the chorus had never seen "Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive" two hours before they sang.
        When I started speaking, Dad turned to me and said, "Luke, a lot of people  know you tried to take your life and while I still don't know why, why did you  have to announce it? In fact, why did you take part in this whole service? People  will think you're a pervert." I felt Matt's hand pressing down on my head as if to  say, "Luke, stay cool." But I was becoming less cool all the time. As my speech  continued, Dad's face grew more and more disapproving, but at least he said  nothing.
        I looked around the room and saw tears in the eyes of everyone except Dad as my speech drew to a close. As Alexander led the litany of repentance, Dad commented that he didn't see why so many students felt the need to repent since only five boys had actually harmed Gregory. David finally spoke up and said, "Jens, sticks and stones only break bones, but words cut to the quick. They can kill." Dad did not respond.
        Everyone was silent as the service went on until Mary Kathryn started the commendation. Before she had opened her mouth Dad said, "You too? I can't understand all this carrying on about a pervert who killed himself. It is sad, yes, but you all had nothing to do with it. His parents kicked him out, the judge didn't take his mistreatment very seriously and maybe he should have, but all this seems too much. He was a pervert."
        "Jens, you have visited the concentration camps in Germany and you wept tears there. The Jews were not the only victims of German silence in the face of Hitler. Thousands of gay men were gassed as well because, as the students at Independence, Germans did nothing, said nothing. I wasn't born when that happened, but I still feel guilty because my parents supported Hitler and kept silent. Your children did the right thing. The students at Independence did the right thing, they repented for having helped bring about the death of a young man by keeping silent. I am very proud of all four of the children in this family for taking a major role in what I believe will be a new beginning for their school," Mom said.
        "I guess if it had to do with race or gender, even religion, I might understand it, but Gabrielle, this boy was a pervert. He is in hell right now because he chose to have sex with men."
        I finally had enough and even though I could feel Matt trying to hold me down, I had to speak. "Dad, can't you understand? First of all, if Gregory had sex with another man, it was only one, not men. No one knew he was gay until his lover, for whatever reason, broke up with him and to make his life miserable, told everyone he was gay. The only other time he had sex with men was when he was raped. Can you understand that? He was RAPED! After being abused in every possible way, beaten almost to death, he was RAPED. Why? Because God, for whatever reason, created him gay. He didn't choose to be gay.  Why would anyone choose a lifestyle which would subject him to such abuse as happened to Gregory? He was not insane. In fact, he was a brilliant kid. He did not choose!" I was standing, shouting and crying when I finished.
        "Jens, I think you need to talk to your priest about your own church's understanding of homosexuality. Even the American Bishops have said people do not choose to be gay, they just are," Greywolf said in a very soothing voice. It had no effect. I had seen Dad this way before. He would either have to admit he was wrong or dig in his heels. There was no question in my mind what he would do.
        "Well, you can say what you will. Perverts are a pest to society and so far as I am concerned, society owes them nothing and they have no right to expect other than what they receive. And Luke and Mary Kathryn, I am ashamed of you for having taken part in this whole mess. I will not have a pervert around me. I know the church may say a lot, but the bottom line is that perverts will burn in hell unless their life here is made so miserable they choose to live as God intended them to live. They are damned and I will have nothing to do with them and that is that!" shouted Dad.
        As I once said, the one part of me that I hate most is that my anger can boil over as does Dad's. I lost all control. Matt was practically pulling me backwards, trying to get me to sit down. I might have been able to take what Dad was saying about me, but he was also talking about Matt and that was too much. I would not be like Dad. I would not shout. In an apparently calm and reasonable voice I said, "Then I guess you'll have nothing to do...."
        "No, Luke, no!" Mom and Matt exclaimed together. I paid no heed.
        "I guess you'll have nothing to do with me then because I am gay and I am deeply in love with Matt Greywolf who loves me in return."
        Dad looked stunned for a few seconds then lunged at Matt, grabbed him by the hair and hit him in the face twice as he shouted, "You God damned queer. You have made my son into a pervert, a hell-bound faggot!"  He drew back to hit Matt again, who was already covered with blood, but was restrained by Michael and David.
        In her go-to-your-room-and-stay-until-I-tell-you-to-come-out voice, Mom said, "Jens, go to our room. I will deal with you later." Dad left the room without comment. Dad is lord and master of the house until Mom puts her foot down.  When that happen--and it seldom does--we all know to obey without question!
        I was crying my eyes out and trying to get to Matt, but Margaret and David were examining him. Greywolf had gone into the kitchen and returned with a plastic bag of ice. Yong Jin was hugging Michael and Mary Kathryn, both of whom were in tears. Mom came and held me tight as I sobbed and shook.
        David had gone outside and returned with his first aid kit and he and Margaret started cleaning up Matt. "Well, Matt has a bloody nose, but it is not broken. He's got a small cut on the lower lip--no kissing for a day or two, Luke--and he had a cut on his other cheek which will probably match the one from the barbed wire.  Oh, and he will have a major shiner tomorrow morning. Other than that he is physically ok. Right Matt?"
        "As right as I can be, I guess, having just been put on a no-kiss diet! Well, Luke my Yonghon Tongmu, I guess that blows the 'never out yourself to your parents when you're angry' rule and gives you a free evening since I don't think you'll need to tell Jens you're gay tomorrow night."
        We both started laughing like crazy. Partly it was pent-up emotions being vented and partly it was the fact that what we had dreaded and worried about was over. Luke was finally able to get through the medical profession--David and Margaret--and while he couldn't kiss me on the lips, he certainly covered my face and neck.
        "I guess I'm not half as shocked as I thought I would be to see my sons showing their affection and love," Gabrielle said with a laugh. "Luke, Matt, I won't attempt to apologize for Jens. What he has done is inexcusable. I only hope and trust that his love for you two which I know he has, and think you know too, will win--maybe in the short run, maybe in the long run--but love will win out."
        "Mom, it is hard to believe he loves either me or Matt right now. But if anyone believes in the power of love, it has to be Matt and me."
        "And I can only say 'Amen' to that, Gabrielle," Matt said through swollen lips.
        "After today, I know I want to work harder at having a forgiving spirit, Gabrielle, and I know that is true of the four kids. Things will work out, I know they will. They have to. Matt and Luke know that friendship is not something to be lost if there is any way to prevent it. We all love Jens, but I'll admit, right now I think he is a real grade-A son of a bitch and bigot," Greywolf said.
        "Gabrielle, I think it would be best if Luke went with me tonight. He can stay as long as he needs," David said.
        Matt looked at me and said "I see what I saw earlier in the day when we went to the falls, Luke.  I know you do not need to be anywhere other than in my arms tonight. David, I think Luke can come to your place tomorrow, but tonight he's sleeping in my bed in my arms."
        "Matt, I think you are absolutely right," Margaret said.  "And I think it might be a good idea for Mary Kathryn to spend the night with David or the Greywolfs as well."
        "And Mom, just to complete the revelations for the night, Michael and I are also a couple. We, as Matt and Luke, loved each other for a while, but Michael was too chicken to take me on until last Christmas. We have kept it a secret because we didn't want restrictions which would interfere with our friendship.  And while it looks as if we will have to supply the grand-kids for the entire family, we are not going to get an early start on that so don't worry." Leave it to Mary Kathryn to find the light side of even a pretty terrible situation.
        "Well, in the light of the latest revelation, what can I say? Luke is gay and in love with one of the most wonderful men I know. I might wish he weren't gay, but I could not wish for a more wonderful companion for him. And who, especially after what I saw tonight, could desire a better man for a daughter than Michael Andrews. Mary Kathryn and I hugged Mom and she kissed both of us, then hugged Matt and Michael and gave them a kiss as well. "It's time you all were on your way. I know it has been an exhausting day even without this latest episode.  Now I'll deal with the Dane in the other room."
        After our good nights, we all left. Mom and Dad drove their car, Luke drove my Jeep so I could keep the ice on my eye, and Michael and Mary Kathryn rode with us. On the way home it was decided that the Gang of Four really needed to be together tonight and when Yong Jin came upstairs in the morning, all four of us were in Matt's bed. She announced, as she came into the room, "I hope you three guys have on more than you usually wear". We laughed and didn't answer.

Part Fifteen


        "I'll leave you four to get decent," Yong Jin laughed. "Matt, Luke, David is downstairs and needs to talk to you two. Mary Kathryn, Michael, breakfast will be ready in half an hour or so. I suspect you guys are going to have to miss your morning run today."
        "We'll be right down, Mom.
        We, of course, did have more on than usual. Mary Kathryn had on a shorty nightgown and we three guys had worn boxers to bed. I suppose some people would have had a fit because we had all slept together, but we were four friends--very, very close friends--who had been deeply hurt last night and needed the support and love of each other. We had slept in each others arms and there was absolutely nothing sexual involved, in spite of what anyone might think.
        Of course, there were three woodies in the bed, but that had to do more with a need to piss than anything sexual. Luke, Michael and I rushed to the bathroom for a piss, then Luke and I threw on some clothing and went downstairs.
        When we walked into the kitchen where David sat having a cup of coffee, he got up and hugged both of us. "How're you doing fellows?"
        "Better than I expected," Luke said. I nodded in agreement. "I guess what I expected wasn't as bad as it turned out to be. No, that's not right. What I expected wasn't what happened. I didn't expect Dad to become as violent as he did and I expected that if he did and attempted to hurt anyone, it would be me. When he hit Matt I really wanted to beat the shit out of him. But I guess I was more concerned with getting to Matt. This morning? I haven't had time to think beyond waking in bed with three of the most important people in my life and realizing that I am not alone. And I am loved, I am loved!"
        "I'm fine, I think. I don't hurt as bad as I expected. I too, spent the night in bed with three people I love very much and who love me. I have loving parents and you and Gabrielle who love me. I'm fine."
        "What are you two planning on doing today? Margaret wrote out a medical excuse for you should you not want to go to school."
        "I never thought about not going," Luke said. "Mr. Mitchell has bent over backwards to provide tutoring for me and Matt and while we have caught up on our work, there's still the AP exam coming up and I don't think it would be showing much respect for him if we were not there after school. Besides, I think I need to be in school today because... because, I don't know why, I just do."
        "Same here. Plus I need to get together with Paula about the recital/concert. I have music to take to her and I need to see Eugene to find out if the horn players are going to choose to play with the ensemble. If they do not, I don't think the ensemble will play."
        "Well, I guess that settles that. How are you going to explain the shiner you have? Man, it is a beautiful black and purple and green abstract."
        "Don't know. I haven't thought about that."
        "I have thought about it. I'll simply say that someone took exception to something I said last night and took it out on Matt," Luke said.
         Matt laughed, "Just wait until Michael hears that! He thought I did a major move with explaining why we needed dates for the prom...."
        "I don't want to hear it," David chuckled.
         "Matt has an amazing ability to tell the absolute truth and have people hear an absolute lie," Luke said. But I do need to go home--to Jens' house--and...."
        "Luke, it may be awhile before you live there again, but never, ever forget that it is your home," Yong Jin interrupted.
        "That's hard for me to do right now, Yong Jin."
        "I can understand that, but you are a part of that family and always will be if THE family is to hang together."
        "Anyway, I need to go and get my things. I have clothes here and at your place and I assume I still can live at your place, David?"
        "No question about that," David answered.
        "But there are things I need and want--my computer, my art supplies...."
        "Margaret and I talked for several hours last night and I guess I am finally ready to let Elizabeth go. That doesn't mean I don't still love her, it just means that I am ready to acknowledge that she is not here and will never be here again. After Margaret left, I went out to the craft house Elizabeth had and cleaned it out, putting away things that might be of use to someone and putting everything else in the dumpster down the road. It was very freeing. The craft house is a perfect studio with great light and it is yours for as long as you want or need it. Now I've got to get some sleep, but this afternoon I'll call Gabrielle and make arrangements to pick up your things. I know it would be a bit rushed, but if you and Matt could come home the free period you have and get things together, I will pick them up later. You can have the guest room most of the time. Margaret may sleep over occasionally and you can share Michael's room then."
        "Pity you two can't be trusted and share the same bed the way Michael and Mary Kathryn do," Luke said with an evil grin on his face.
        "They did what?! Man, if you think Jens was upset because you are gay, you haven't seen anything like what he'll be when he finds out his little girl and Michael are sleeping together!"
        Yong Jin, Luke and I started laughing as if we were mad and Yong Jin said, "I don't think anything untoward went on since she was sharing the bed with all three of the young males in the family."
        "That's a relief, but can you imagine the tale that would be told if that got out?" David chuckled. "Well, if you guys are going to school, you won't need the excuses. Oh, I almost forgot, and I don't see how since that magnificent shiner is right before me, Margaret sent some medicine which will help the eye, Matt. Before I go, let me check the cut on your cheek. I don't think it is actually as bad as the barbed wire one, but let me check." David examined my cheek and said it was fine. "Well, I'm going to bed. Luke, call your mom at work and let her know you're ok and make sure you can get your things together without running into Jens just yet."
        "Will do, and thanks, David."
        "No thanks needed. I kinda feel I'm doing it for my brother. See you later."
        "Guys, you have time to shower and Luke, I guess you'll have to go without shaving unless you or Michael have a razor here. That's one advantage Matt and I have; we never have to shave," Dad said.
        "I've had a razor in Matt's bathroom for ages. Matt may not have to shave, but he sure as hell can grow hair," Luke said as he grabbed mine and pulled me to himself for a kiss and then remembered. "Man, I don't know if I can live without a kiss."
        "Babe, you let me do the kissing and maybe it'll hold you," I said as I gave him the lightest touch of my lips. "Ouch, even that hurts. Babe, you're just going to have to get by without a kiss for awhile."
        "There's nothing which says I can't kiss you so long as I avoid the lips," he smiled and started kissing me on the neck, under the chin, behind my ear.
        "Food or fooling around. You're going to have to make a choice soon, like right now," Greywolf said.
        "Well, I guess without food we'd be too weak to fool around, so we better shower and one of us shave. Be down soon," I said.
        When we got upstairs, Mary Kathryn was going into the guest room, her hair obviously wet since she had it wrapped in a towel. Michael wasn't in the room, but came out of the bathroom a few minutes later. He had a sheepish grin on his face and said, "I hope you don't mind, Matt, but I read your and Luke's 'Slow and Easy Menu.' Man, that showering together is really hot stuff! The only problem is I had to take care of a hard problem after I had dried Mary Kathryn!"
        "You didn't! With my sister?" Luke tried to sound angry.
        "I sure as hell did and I'll do it again if I get a chance," Michael said, then did the big 'YES!' You guys just don't know how sexy kissing a nipple on a perky breast can be."
         "Not sure about the perky breast, but kissing a nipple I know about!" Luke laughed.
        "And I guess you must have missed out on just how hot and sexy it can be having your nipple kissed," I said.
        "Hell, you guys are always ahead of me!" Michael moaned.
         "Well, Luke, I don't think you should let your sister get one up on you! And I know I don't want Michael to gain too much ground since I have kinda been sidelined for injuries." I grabbed his hand and headed to the bathroom.
        As we showered, Luke very carefully washed my face then gave me a very gentle kiss on my cut cheek and black eye. "There. Now it's all better," Luke said, using the phrase all three mothers said when they kissed a cut or scrape one of the Gang of Four had gotten playing.
        "It sure is," I said as I nuzzled his neck. Luke washed my hair and I his, then we washed each other's back.  As I washed Luke's chest, legs and manhood, he became hard as a rock as did I. We both stayed hard as Luke washed me. "Luke, I think we need to take care of a couple of members who are begging for attention, Chili Pepper and Little Luke."
        "Matt, I don't want to sound as if I want hard and fast rules, but what do you think 'having sex' means? I know we promised to wait, but it never occurred until now exactly how far we go before we step over the line."
        "Come to think of it, I don't really know.  I do know I have to give attention to Chili Pepper 'most every morning and I don't think that your being here makes it 'having sex.'"
        "I agree and we can find out what else is ok later, but right now, Babe, I'm going to give Little Luke some pleasure!" and with that, Luke grabbed his manhood and started stroking it. I did the same with Chili Pepper and while I wished I could kiss Luke as we worked to release our sexual tension, we had to be satisfied with nuzzling each other. Luke exploded, covering my stomach and pumping hand with a cascade of cum. That triggered my own release and our fronts were both covered with man's seed. "I think we better get washed up quickly," Luke said when he could get his breath again, "I think we're running out of hot water."
        Once again, I soaped Luke's front and washed away evidence of our release and he did the same for me. "Yonghon Tongmu, that was awesome!" I whispered in his ear and very gently kissed his ear lobe.
        "Awesome? Awesome? First thing I know you'll try to call me dude and saying kewl!" Luke laughed, kissed me on the ear then stuck his tongue in it, tickling like mad. He quickly dried me off and when I had dried him, we dressed and went downstairs.
        When we got downstairs, Greywolf said, "There's four happy faces around the table this morning and I'm sure I don't want to know why."
        "No worry Greywolf, Mary Kathryn and I did nothing that is not on the 'Slow and Easy Menu.' Now I'm not sure about those two," Michael said as he pointed to me and Luke."
        "Same here, Sir, Mr. Greywolf, Sir," Luke stood and saluted Dad.
        Then Dad said, "Luke, Gabrielle called to make sure you and Matt were all right. I told her you wanted to get your things together so David could pick them up this afternoon. She said she would come home early and help. Since you would be very rushed if you only had last period, I called Ron Mitchell and explained that you and Luke needed to skip today's tutoring session, but were unwilling to do so because you felt it would be showing disrespect for the sacrifice he was making for you two. He said he was pretty comfortable with where you were and was going to suggest that you drop back to only one session a week anyway so you can leave at the beginning of the last period. Luke, you need to call Gabrielle and tell her that. Again, I suggest you wait until you get to school and call her at work. She will know whether or not Jens will be away."
        "Thanks Greywolf. Matt and I will make a point to speak to Mr. Mitchell and thank him."
        When we got to school, the Select Few, now including Larry and Eugene, immediately crowded around us and wanted to know what had happened to Matt. Luke said, "Well, you know what I said at the service last night. Later I said more and someone took exception and decided Matt was responsible for it somehow or other and started beating the shit out of him. With the help of some friends, the assailant was forced to leave but, as you can see, not before Matt had taken a couple hits to the face."
        "Well, it's over and done with. I simply cannot tolerate violence and so long as I can protect myself or be protected, I'll not fight back," Matt said. "Eugene, what was the decision of the horn players?"
        "They said they'd be absolute fools to pass up an opportunity to perform serious music to march and swing a horn with the marching band. You have the full ensemble to work with."
        "And after last night, I have no qualms about the Mixed Chorus performing anything you want to toss our way," Paula interjected. "With all the excitement yesterday, Mr. Smith didn't get permission letters for us, but I suspect we'll get them today and I'm sure after last night everyone will be anxious to take part."
         "Great. I have most of the music together and we can talk more at lunch."
        The opening bell rang as we broke up and went to our respective classes. No sooner were we in class, the roll checked and everyone settled down than the intercom came on and Ms. Jones announced that all students should report to the auditorium.
        As we walked to the auditorium, students were all speculating what this was about. Luke and I were walking together and he said, "Matt, you know you're the school hero, don't you?"
        Michael walked up just as Luke was speaking and said laughing "Yea, Matt, you are a real hero. I understand you took on eight or ten rednecks."
        "Why? Those of you who spoke last night are the heroes and you know I did no such thing."
        "But none of us got a black eye and cut face defending anything."
        "Neither did I."
        "Michael laughed and said, "Try telling that to your peers. Luke has learned from you, Sir Matthew. Not a single word he said was a lie, but what everybody heard was an absolute lie." Shaking his head he said, "I don't know about you two. See you later. I've got to sit with the sophomores and, I guess, by that sister of yours Luke. Much rather be lying in bed with her in my arms. Ah, the sacrifices we have to make."
        "Just remember what Greywolf said about playing around with Mary Kathryn and don't forget this face," I reminded him.
        When the students had gathered in the auditorium, Mr. Gray was nowhere to be seen. Ms. Jones stepped to the microphone and, again, the students fell silent. Amazing. "Students of Independence High School, before I get to the purpose of today's assembly, and I hope the last called one for awhile, I want to tell you how proud I am to be associated with students like you. In all my years as a teacher and as an administrator, I have often been proud of my students, but I have never been as proud of any as I was of you last night. Let no one say that today's youth are not some of the best that the world has ever known. I am also very, very proud of the faculty members who helped make last night possible, especially Mr. Patanka St. Michael Greywolf and Mr. Macon Allan. You are indeed fortunate, as I am sure you know, to have men of such outstanding character as your teachers. Now I am very happy to present to you Mrs. Millicent Willingham, president of your school board. Mrs. Willingham."
        Millie Willingham stepped to the microphone and said, "Thank you, Ms. Jones. If you think you are proud of this student body, I assure you and them that I am equally proud to be a part of this school. I wanted to come today, first of all, to let you know that not only I, but the entire school board was moved by what you did last night. To be frank, it took guts and the students of this school proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have guts. In that regard, I especially commend Michael Andrews, who I understand, was responsible for announcing, without consulting anyone, last night's service, and Patanka St. Michael Greywolf who first protested a blatant example of bigotry. You will be happy to know, as I was, that Michael and Greywolf have received invitations to appear on the Today Show tomorrow morning."
        I looked across the auditorium where Michael was sitting and saw he started to utter his usual "Holy Shit," but was not able to do so because Mary Kathryn covered his mouth with hers. Well, so much for that secret! "You can kiss him for me too, Mary Kathryn," Millie announced for all to hear. Not to be outdone, Mary Kathryn did just that and the whole student body started chanting, "Go Mary Kathryn, go!" Then they all started applauding and Millie and Ms. Jones joined in.
        "Michael, I'm sure that meant more to you than the thanks of an old lady, but you have both. You and Greywolf are to be at the Lexington TV station tomorrow morning at 6:30. Sorry it's so early, but that's the request. All the information you need is in the front office."
        "Your school board met last night after the service and was in executive session until midnight. Several decisions were made, all of which have a direct bearing on you and your school. First of all, your former principal, Mr. Michael Gray, has been placed on unpaid leave for four weeks. During that time he will attend and complete a course designed to increase his sensitivity to and acceptance of those who are different, not just gays, but also those of different races, religions, cultures, etc. Should he complete the course successfully, he will return as an assistant principal at Constitution Middle School. Should he not wish to take the course or not complete it successfully, he will no longer be with this school system."
        "Also, as of midnight last night, Ms. Constance Jones is principal of Independence High School." Students had always referred to Ms. Jones as Jonesie behind her back, but now they chanted "Jonesie, Jonesie " with great delight until she stood up and did a turn on the stage, her hands held high. "The school board asked Greywolf to become assistant principal, replacing Ms. Jones--sorry, I guess I should call Greywolf "Mr. Greywolf", but I have called him Greywolf so long Mr. Greywolf doesn't sound right, so pardon an old lady. However, Greywolf politely refused the job saying he was a teacher and the classroom was where he wanted to stay. He also said it would be unfair to his students, especially those who were preparing for the AP exams coming soon." The students burst into Lakota war whoops and cries. Millie let them continue for awhile, then held her hand up for silence. "Fortunately, Independence has a second teacher who has completed his administration degree and who, yesterday, proved himself worthy of being a leader of the students in this school. Effective midnight last night, Mr. Macon Allan became assistant principal of Independence High School."
        Again the students erupted in a chant, this time "Allan, Allan."
        "I have devoted my life to fighting intolerance, bigotry, discrimination and prejudice. I was horrified when I learned that students from this school had abused, beaten and sodomized Gregory Burnette. Last year the school board, at my insistence, passed a policy on bigotry, harassment, pejorative name-calling and intolerance. Gregory's fate here in this school demonstrates that policy has not been enforced. As president of the school board, I assure you it will be enforced to the limit in the future. A vast majority of you proved that you agree with that policy and will, yourselves, no longer tolerate bigotry. The school board and I intend to support you in your decision. Again, thank you for making an old lady happy beyond her wildest dreams with what you did yesterday and last night."
        Independence students had never been known for their school spirit, but that had definitely changed as the chant started, "Millie, Millie!"
        Ms. Jones took the microphone from Millie and said, "Mr. Greywolf and Mr. Andrews, you will surely make us proud again when you appear on nationwide TV." Lakota war whoops and cries echoed throughout the auditorium. "Students, I can only underscore what Mrs. Willingham has said. Intolerance will not be a part of this school. Pejorative name-calling, even in jest, will be punished swiftly and firmly. If you are not aware of it, the first offense will result in a ten-day suspension from school and attendance at mandatory classes on prejudice. A second offense will lead to a tribunal hearing with possible permanent expulsion from this school system."
        "But I do not want to end on a negative note. I have sensed a different atmosphere in school today. I think many of you found a cleansing of your spirits in yesterday's events and know a new wholeness. I know I do. We are one family. And again, I have never known the pride I felt yesterday and last night because I was a part of you. Thank you!"
        Someone, somewhere started the alma mater and soon the whole student body was singing it, probably for the first time in the school's history. As the song started, Millie and Ms. Jones walked off the stage. Without being told, students started filing out of the auditorium, still singing. Again, as yesterday and last night, many were walking arm in arm. I couldn't miss this golden opportunity; so Luke and I walked out of the auditorium arm in arm. We were soon joined by Michael and Mary Kathryn. "Well, I guess your secret romance is the worst kept secret in metro Concord," Luke joked.
        "Yea!" Michael responded, then became very serious, "and I really wish yours could be as open as mine. Damn, I am still sick over what Jens did last night."
        Just as Michael finished, we turned the corner and Millie and Ms. Jones saw us. "What in hell happened to you Matthew," Millie exclaimed.
        "I don't think we'd better talk about it here," I replied.
        Ms. Jones said, "The four of you come with me," as she led the way to her office. When we got inside she closed the door and said, "Ok, now you can talk." We all four looked at each other with questioning looks.
        Finally Millie said, "Oh, ok. Constance Jones I would trust with my life, but if you'd rather not talk in front of her, I'm sure she will excuse herself."
        "Of course I will. I'm sorry. I guess I just thought this might involve last night. I've heard gossip in the halls and the teachers' lounge, but if it's something else...."
        I looked at Luke and he nodded that it was ok with him so I said, "Well, Millie, Ms. Jones...."
        "You call Ms. Willingham 'Millie'? Isn't that being disrespectful?"
        "I'm sorry, I have called her Millie since I could barely talk and it never occurred to me it was being disrespectful. Of course I'd never call her that except among family and at St. Mary's." I responded.
        "We're among family here, Matt, so Millie's ok," Millie said. "Now explain this messed up face I see before me."
        "Well, Mrs. Willingham...."
        "Luke, you're family too. It's Millie."
        "Well, Millie, I guess I'm to blame. Last night after the service we were watching the TV special and Dad kept making worse and worse remarks about "perverts" until, finally, he said he'd have nothing to do with perverts. I said I guessed he'd have nothing to do with me since I was gay and in love with Matt. He started shouting, grabbed Matt by the hair and punched him in the face twice, saying Matt had turned his son into a pervert and hell-bound faggot. Michael and David restrained him and Mom sent him to their room."
        "Your mom sent him to their room? Gabrielle told Jens to go to his room...."
        "...and stay there. Yes, she did. Dad is Lord and Master until Mom becomes the avenging Teutonic warrior and then we all seek shelter," Luke laughed.
        "What did you do last night, Luke? Surely you didn't stay in the house."
        "No, David had said when he first learned about me and Matt that I would always have a home at his place, but Matt thought that the Gang of Four--that's what we have called ourselves for ages--needed to be together so all four of us spent the night at the Greywolfs'."
        "Well, I certainly hope you were some comfort to each other."
        Mary Kathryn blushed a little bit and said, "Well, we all crawled in Matt's bed and hugged each other all night."
        "I gather from your display this morning there is more than a friendship between you and Michael."
        Mary Kathryn blushed even more and said, "Yes ma'am, but we had kept it secret so we wouldn't lose the freedom we had as friends since we don't intend to give up our friendship."
        "Well, I certainly hope not! Matt, how did you handle questions at school today? There were bound to be some given that great shiner you have."
        Michael laughed and said, "Millie, Luke has learned a lesson from Matt. Matt can tell the absolute truth and have people hear an absolute lie! Luke told those who asked that after last night's service he had more to say and someone took his rage out on Matt. Absolutely true, but suddenly Matt is a hero who took on a dozen rednecks."
        Millie laughed and said, "Comes as no surprise to me. That Greywolf kid has always had the ability to come out on top, right Matthew?"
        I smiled and said, "Well, I may have come out on top so far as the students here are concerned, but Luke and I have been placed on a no-kiss diet and that sucks."
        "So what are your plans, Luke?"
        "David is providing a place for me to stay and he has cleaned out the craft house Elizabeth--Michael's mother--had for me to use as a studio. I'm going to stay there until Dad comes around or...."
        "I thought you'd stay with Matt."
        "I would, but I can't keep my mind on what I have to do with that wild Korean Lakota around," Luke said as he kissed me on the neck.
        "Well, I can certainly understand that. If I were younger and Matt was straight, I'd give any woman a run for her money. In the meantime, I think I might better call Mr. Jens Larsen in for a little chat. I don't like to mix business with people's personal lives, but I just wonder how I can take an employee of mine calling my son a pervert, hell-bound faggot. I don't think I like that at all and I know I won't tolerate him beating up on my favorite organist and putting the organist and his lover on a no-kiss diet. I think that might interfere with my Sunday mornings."
        "Millie, I appreciate that, but I think I'd prefer, if you don't mind, to give Dad time to think about what he has said and done. Basically he is a good person. He just has some ideas put in his head by his upbringing that he needs to examine. I don't think he will ever approve of mine and Matt's relationship--my Mom doesn't--but I do want him to accept me and my relationship to Matt as my mom does."
        "Luke, I didn't think I'd ever see someone I thought would be good enough for Matt; he's special, you know...."
        "Of course I know!"
        "...but I think--I know--I have met someone as good and great as Matt. You are all great--all four of you--and you have my greatest respect and support. Anything I can do, anything, please ask. I would be honored to be considered part of this remarkable family even with its present bigot!"
        All four of us gave Millie a hug and were surprised when Ms. Jones said, "I guess this conversation explains some of the passion you four put into yesterday's and last night's events."
        I had forgotten she was still in the room since we had all been focused on Millie. "I suppose it explains some of it, but I hope and trust there was more than hormones involved," I said.
        "Matt, I hope there is more than hormones involved in all you four do. It's the friendship that will stand the test of time and the basic goodness I see in all of you which is a big part of who you are. I guess that's one of the reasons I'm willing to give Jens a bit of slack because he has to have some goodness to have produced Luke and Mary Kathryn. Well, we'll see what develops, and remember, anything you need and I can provide, ask. But I'm not letting Jens off the hook yet. Anyway I've got to run and you four need to get to class." Having said that, Millie hugged each of us and left.
        "I have passes for all of you to get into class. Again, let me say I am very proud of you and hope that the new atmosphere at Independence will last. Matt and Luke, I know you will have hard times ahead. I hope if there is any way I can support any of you, you will call on me."
        We all said thanks and went to class.  The rest of the school day went as usual, more or less, except for a definite different atmosphere throughout the school. Students were greeting each other with a smile as they had not done before. I couldn't believe the people who went out of their way to speak to me and say they were sorry I had been beaten by some rednecks. I was laughing inside all day as the story of my "fight" took on the proportions of an urban legend. Finally the school day ended for me and Luke. He had talked to Gabrielle and she assured him Jens would not be home and that she would meet us at their house.
        When we reached the Larsens', Gabrielle greeted us with a hug and Luke started crying on her shoulder. Through his tears he said, "Mom, why does Dad hate me? I'm no different from what I was yesterday or last week. I haven't changed. I love you and I love Dad, but he hates me."
        "No, Luke he doesn't hate you."
        "Well, it certainly seems that way. And if he doesn't hate me, he hates the man I love more than anything. More than anything, Mom, and he hit Matt. Look at him. His face and lip are cut, and his eye is black and my dad did that."
        "Luke, your dad and I talked well into the night. He doesn't hate you. He doesn't hate Matt. He's very confused. His world--and you know this--is like his books. It's all in neat categories of good and evil, right and wrong. And then along comes a son who was all on one side of his ledger and tells him what he thought was one way is not that way. Not only had he placed you in the wrong box, but you tell him you belong in a box that he has marked as evil, as sin, because in his mind you chose to be gay. Oh, he could not admit that last night. Someone had to be to blame else he might have had something to do with your being gay. I simply told him that while I might not approve of your loving Matt, I was not going to reject a son and a young man I have always considered a son because of what I had been taught. I say what I have been taught because there has never been a reason to question it; now there is. I am struggling with what I believe and what I have been taught to believe without question. I know your father and you do as well. You know he can be--he is--rigid. He does not question what an authority says or does and his ultimate authority--I realized last night--is not God, but the Church and what he thinks/believes the Church teaches about being gay. You know it takes him a long time to admit to himself he is wrong. It is even harder for him to admit to someone else. But he will. He loves this family and the family too much to isolate himself from it. He'll come around. It will be awhile, but he will come around."
         "But he hit Matt."
        "And for that, at least, he is profoundly sorry but, again, you know how difficult it is for him to admit it. He loves Matt as well but Matt, too, is not in the box your dad thought he was in."
        "Mom, how would you feel if someone hit Dad because he loved you?"
        "Luke, Matt, I thought about that very thing. I guess I know that's when your loving Matt really hit home. I had not thought that way and when I did, well, I guess I came to see your relationship to Matt in a whole new way. It's hard for me to understand, but I'm getting there and so will your father. Because of who he is, it will just take him longer."
        "Gabrielle, I never wanted to come between Luke and Jens. I would give almost anything to mend that break, but the one thing I cannot do is stop loving Luke. No one could love him more and I know that my love is returned. I almost lost him because of my foolishness and I will never do anything that would take his love from me and I know that nothing he can ever do would stop my loving him. Beyond that, I will do anything to heal the wound Jens has given his son."
        "I know that, Matt, and, believe it or not, so does Jens. Just give him some time. If he doesn't come around, he's going to have to deal with me and I think this German can make that Dane come to his senses! Now let's go get Luke's things ready."
        "Mom, David cleaned out Elizabeth's craft house last night after spending hours talking to Margaret. He is giving it to me for a studio. I got my art class changed to an independent study so I can come home... go there and work. I have a great idea for an addition to my exhibition and I am going to have to work hard to get it ready, but it will be worth it."
        We went to Luke's room and, as Luke and Gabrielle got things ready, I took them to the Jeep. Since we had the rest of the afternoon, David would have nothing to move when he came. Luke took his computer, his art supplies and a few clothes, although he didn't really need to. When everything was loaded, Gabrielle looked at his room and said, with tears in her eyes, "It is so empty and this house is so empty."
        Luke hugged Gabrielle to himself and said, "We'll just have to give him time, Mom."
        As we turned to go, the phone rang and Gabrielle picked it up. She said few words and when she hung up, she said, "That was Yong Jin. We are to have supper at your place tonight, guys. I'm to tell David when he comes. I'll see you then. And both of you remember, I love you very much and that has not and will not change." We both hugged Gabrielle and left.
        As we approached the river bridge, Luke said, "Matt, to the falls."
         I parked on the side of the road, we got out, and holding hands ran toward the river. When we reached the entrance, the canes were crossed. "Now why do you think the path is closed," I asked Luke. He looked as puzzled as I felt.
        "I'm sure I don't know. Greywolf and Yong Jin are at school and Michael and Mary Kathryn better be. I know it's not Dad. Maybe David needed some time to think after last night. I don't know why, but they're crossed and no one's in danger. So I guess we'll go on to David's place," Luke said as we turned and walked back to the Jeep.


        After the episode at the Larsens', David and I went to his place and talked for hours. We sat in his living room and, before long, he had first placed his head against my shoulder, then lay with his head in my lap. I guess I had contracted the hair fetish because as he talked, I found myself stroking his hair. He started talking about his life with Elizabeth and how lonely he had been since her death.
        "I was so exhausted by her illness that I neglected Michael and was like a robot doing my job. When she died, I felt guilty because I was so glad she was out of pain and, I guess, because I felt free from the day-to-day misery of caring for her and seeing her suffer, all the time knowing nothing would change the outcome. As time passed, I gradually got over the initial shock--I guess we're never really ready for the death of someone we love. I began the recovery process but, as I realized on some level she was not coming back, I had a big, empty hole growing inside. Michael has a big place in my heart, but there is still a huge empty space there."
        "A year or so ago, I saw you come into the ER and felt my heart do a flip-flop. I felt like I was Michael's age for a minute. I guess, in spite of what I told myself rationally, it was kinda love at first sight--well, hardly first sight since I had known you for, I guess, a year or two then--but it was kinda first sight, the first time I had seen you that way. But I was only a nurse, several years older than you and have a half-grown son, so I put the whole idea of even asking you for a date out of my mind. Margaret, when Michael told me he had picked you to be the 'older feminine figure in his life,' I thought to myself how great that would be if things were different. But...."
        "David, Luke and Matt called my hand about being afraid to love. I denied it, of course, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized a med school romance turned sour had, indeed, made me afraid. I still am. But I know the feeling you had when you saw me that day. I had much the same feeling one afternoon, about the same time I guess, when I saw you bringing a child into the ER. You were so strong, masculine, yet so gentle and tender as you held the frightened and hurt child. But I denied my heart because of that earlier romance."
        We continued to talk until I had to leave because I had to be at the office in the morning--actually in about three hours. David had a late shift and said he thought he'd spend some time "cleaning his mental attic." I didn't ask what he meant.
        When I went to lunch, Gladys was there. I found it strange that a woman worth a million was still working. When I said something about it, she said, "Where else would I be? I think I was made to be a nurse." I couldn't have agreed more. "But I may not be here much longer. I'm trying to get Chelsea involved in a project with me. This county needs a hospice and I'd like to spend some of my money starting one."
        "Gladys, you're a wonder," I said.
        "By the way, did you know about the service at St. Mary's last night? I watched on TV long after I should have been in bed. Chelsea told me she was able to watch almost all of it while she was on duty. Our boys really looked good."
        "The whole thing was Michael's idea," I said, then told her of the events which followed.
        "Luke's dad hit Matt? Why I ought to go to his office and give him a kick in the butt right now! Where's Luke? Where's Matt? Is Matt all right?"
        "Well, Matt no doubt has a beautiful shiner today; he's got a cut lip and the way he and Luke get into kissing, that's a major injury. He also had another small cut on the cheek. It's opposite the one the wire cut. All four of the kids spent the night at the Greywolfs' and Luke will be living with David until Jens comes to his senses."
        "I hope that happens soon. I know Luke loves his dad, but I have seen Jens and I can see how difficult he could be."
        "I've got to get back to the office. Let me know how the hospice idea is going."
         "Will do. See you later, Dr. Bailey," Gladys said as we left the hospital cafeteria.
         "Dr. Bailey, there is a message from David Andrews on your desk. He said it was important," Marcie, the receptionist, said as I walked in the office.
        "Thanks, Marcie."
        The message simply said, "Call me. Important. David." I had Marcie dial the number and when she buzzed me I said, "David, what's up? What's the problem?"
        "I'm not sure there is a problem. How many patients have appointments this afternoon?"
        I looked over my appointment book. It was not nearly as full as usual. "I have seven appointments. Why?"
        "How many can you cancel or reschedule?"
        "Well, I can cancel all of them except the next two. The rest are physicals and those can be rescheduled. Why? What's going on?"
        "Reschedule or cancel those. I'll pick you up after the last one. That'll be about 1:30 or 2:00, right?"
        "Right. But what's going on?"
        "It's a surprise. See you at 2:00," David said and hung up.
        I had Marcie reschedule all my appointments except the two who needed to see a doctor today. When the last one left, I changed and waited in my office for David. When he walked in, he looked as if he hadn't been to bed, but had a little boy sheepish look on his face. "What's going on, David?"
        "I told you, it's a surprise. Come on."
        We drove to David's place and he took me out back and into a small building. "This was Elizabeth's craft house where she did all sorts of things. When she died, I closed it without disturbing anything. Last night, after you left, I came out here and sat for a long time. While I was here, I let Elizabeth go. Everything I though was usable, I put aside and the rest I took to the dumpster. It was kinda like cleaning up my own past. This morning I told Luke this place was his studio. It has wonderful light. Margaret, it was a very tough time, but very freeing," David said and took my hand. "Now it's time to go. You like to walk?"
        "You know I do."
        "Then let's walk."
        When we reached the front of the house, David took my hand and we started walking. It didn't take long for me to guess our destination. After we crossed the river bridge, David held the barbed wire of the fence up so I could crawl through. Hand in hand we walked toward the river. When we reached the path, David crossed the canes and we walked to the falls. The day was really warm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The trees were all in full leaf and there were wild flowers blooming around the falls' basin. David had placed a blanket on the sandy beach. When we sat down, David lay back and looked up into the sky. I sat beside him, stroking his hair realizing, suddenly, how very much I loved this man. It was not the hot, passionate--no, I think desperate--love of my med school romance but a softer, warm, longing love for this man who had known so much heartache.
        David turned his face toward me, looked into my eyes and smiled. "Margaret, I love you. I love you very much. I don't think I knew that--I mean beyond that 'love at second sight' bit--until I put the last load into the dumpster last night." He laughed, "How's that for a romantic statement?  'I realized I loved you when I went to the dumpster.'"
        "David, any statement with 'I love you' in it is romantic. I love you too--even without a dumpster."
        David pulled me to himself and covered my mouth. His kiss made me feel like a love-smitten teenager. I returned his kiss and, as I did, felt his tongue enter my mouth gently. As we continued our kiss, he pulled me on top of himself and I lay between his legs. As he broke our kiss I laughed, "David, I guess this marks the end of our slow and easy stage." He laughed and answered with another deep, passionate kiss. I could feel his manhood pressing against my body and realized that I was as hot as he. We continued what the kids would have called real heavy making out. I felt his hand enter my blouse and cup one of my breasts as he continued kissing my face and neck. I slowly unbuttoned David's shirt and removed it, revealing his manly chest. As I ran my hands over his bare skin, I realized how much I had missed loving a man, not sex, but loving and feeling the hard body of a man.
        David had removed my blouse and bra and was kissing my hard nipples. We lay side by side, our bodies pressed together as he began kissing me more and more passionately. His mouth was against my neck as he was nipping and kissing a spot below my ear. "Margaret, I love you so much. I really didn't know how much until this moment," he said and started kissing and biting my neck again. "I need you, all of you. I want you right now."
        "David, I need and want you as well." With those words, slow and easy went by the boards big time. David tenderly undressed me and I lay bare under the sky. I pulled him to myself and managed to find and loosen his belt. He stripped his pants from his body and lay beside me, his manhood creating a tent in his boxers. I slid them down and off his powerful legs. Both freed from the restraint of clothing, David lay between my legs, as he, once again, started passionately kissing my lips and neck. Reaching between his legs, I found his rock-hard manhood and felt its slickness. "David, I want--I need--to feel you inside me. I want us united; I want us to be one!" With those words, I guided his man's tool into myself. As he entered me, he bit me hard on the neck as I did on his.
        As he thrust in and out of me, I started breathing in short gasps and whimpering. "I love you, David, oh God, I love you. I love the feel of your hardness in me; I love your body against mine. I love you, David!" An orgasm took control of my being and I felt David's body go rigid as he shouted "Margaret!" and shot his hot seed into me. Once again an orgasm shook my body. I had pulled David to me and as the second orgasm shook me, I bit into his neck hard. His seed continued to shoot into me again and again until he finally collapsed on top of me.
        When he again regained control, he eased himself to my side and pulled me to him. Now his kisses were gentle, tender, sweet, born of love, not lust. "Margaret, I do love you; I do; I do."
        "David, I love you too, very, very much." We lay side by side, naked beneath the blue sky, gazing into each other's eyes, awash in the afterglow of making love which was born out of need, lust and, I knew, deep love. David started tracing the lines of my face with a finger and smiling at me. "David, when Matt and Luke asked me if I was afraid of love, I pretended I didn't know what they were talking about and I guess I didn't, but I had never given it any thought. They started me thinking and I am sure had you not been around, I would still be afraid to love because I realized I was, but when I saw you day after day caring, giving, without asking anything in return, I gradually came to realize I had nothing to fear. The guys also reminded me of something else..." David had raised himself on an elbow and was looking down into my eyes now, still with a beautiful smile on his face. "They reminded me that this is a year evenly divisible by four...."
        "Margaret, we have just finished what I thought was earth-shattering love making and you want to talk math?"
        "No, silly. It's leap year. David Andrews, will you marry me?"
        "You're damn right I will. When? Tonight? Tomorrow morning? An hour from now? Yes, Margaret Bailey, I will marry you!" To seal his answer, he pressed his lips against mine in what started as a tender kiss, but which grew more and more passionate. His tongue explored my mouth as our legs entwined and our arms held each other tight. The feel of his hard body against mine was causing me to become more and more aroused.
        "David, if I remember my physiology, you're starting something you're not going to be able to finish," I laughed. "I know you're a stud, but twice...."
        As if to answer, David rolled over and pulled me atop his hard body. When he did, I realized that one part of his body was considerably harder than the rest. Once again an emptiness I had felt for so long was filled as David's manhood entered that special place women reserve, if they are wise, for men they love. Our love making the second time was more tender, more playful, more gentle, yet our orgasms were no less intense. I felt as though the earth shook under me and I'm sure David felt an equally strong sensation as he came inside me for the second time.
        David held me in his arms and then looked into my eyes and said, "Margaret, you cannot know how happy you have made me. I love you and want you as my wife more than anything in the world."
        "I did the proposing, you name the date."
        "Here, in this place, as soon as possible," he said as he kissed me again.
         We lay in each other's arms, the warm sun on our naked bodies. Soon, too soon, David said, "Margaret, I have to go and get Luke's things. I'd like to stay here forever with you and your love in this world without problems...."
        "Yes, I know, but our boys have real problems and need us."
        "Yes!" David shouted. "Our boys need us! God, Margaret, you don't know how happy that makes me feel! Our... us. YES!"
        It took awhile to get dressed since we kept stopping to kiss a nipple, to tongue an ear, to stroke hair, but we were finally presentable, or so I thought. Then David laughed, "Dr. Bailey, I think you may have a hard time explaining a hickey to your patients tomorrow."
        "Not if they see yours first," I laughed in return.
        "Man, we better be ready for heavy kidding from the Gang of Four!" he said as we started walking through the cane brake, hand in hand. As we started across the meadow to his house, I saw Luke and Matt climbing through the fence and getting into Matt's Jeep.


        Matt and I took my things to David's. We all have keys to all three houses so we let ourselves in and started carrying my clothing and computer upstairs to the guest room. The art supplies we took to the craft house. "Matt, this is like your having a full-size organ at home. This is great."
        We started putting the supplies away and, before we finished, David and Margaret came walking into the craft house. As they walked in Matt said, "The answer to the mystery, Yonghon Tongmu." Turning to David he said, "From the looks on your faces and the glow, I have a hunch that you went past the slow and easy stage at the falls." Margaret turned bright red and, when she did, I noticed the hickey on her neck. I quickly checked David and said, "They even left evidence, Matt, look at the hickeys on our lovers' necks!" Margaret turned an even brighter red and David was not far behind.
        "Well, what do you two have to say for yourselves," I laughed.
        "Guilty as charged and no regrets and no promises it won't happen again," David said, still blushing.
        "Margaret, did you remember the math lesson we gave you when we decided to get on your case about being afraid to love?"
        "I sure did and he said 'Yes!'"
        Matt and I grabbed both of the lovers and hugged them. "So when's the big event?"
        "Well, we definitely know where. It will be at the falls. Now there's a question of who and when. Matt, you're the church expert here," David said. "Give the word."
        "Well, I'm positive Fr. Tom would be honored to officiate. So unless you have someone else in mind, ask him. Now as to when. We're still in Lent and unless there's a real emergency... you're not pregnant are you Margaret?
        "Not likely, but I would be ecstatic if I were, though it would be just barely."
        "You would?" David asked Margaret with a strange look on his face. "I'm too old to become a father again."
        "I see we need to do some premarital counseling here, Matt," I joked. "Now it's a real problem when a couple gets married and have never discussed whether or not they want children."
        "We have four already," David protested.
        "But the family wanted a troop of kids and only have four," Margaret responded. I was sure she was, at most, only half-joking.
        "Ok. We'll start a second generation of the family. What the hell, I feel about your age right now, Luke."
        "That's the spirit, but let's see about getting you two married. So far as we know there's no emergency, Matt."
        "So that means no wedding until Easter. Easter's a really big day and I'm sure Fr. Tom will be feeling more like his grandfather than like Luke when it's over, but this is a very special event. I think we should ask him to do the whole big production Easter Sunday afternoon. He's not afraid to say 'No' if he feels he can't. Do you two think you can hold out that long?"
        "We may bend a rule now and then, but that sounds good. I'll call Fr. Tom right away," David said.
        Matt turned and gave me a high five and said, "Man, I wish all the other projects of the Gang of Four were as easy!" Margaret laughed. Matt said, "David, why don't you go and call Fr. Tom right now while Margaret helps us here. That way we can get the planning underway."
        "Do you think he'll be in?"
        "If not Gertie can have him get in touch with you," Matt said.
        "By the way, Luke, there's a phone jack here so you can have a phone out here."
        "Thanks, David, but I don't want one. I have a grand idea for a project and if I'm to pull it off, I'll to have to have some time when I am not disturbed."
        "Ok, I'll call Fr. Tom," David said as he left for the house.
         "Ok, guys, how can I help?"
         "To be honest, Margaret, Luke and I had a question for you and I didn't really want to ask in front of David. This morning Luke and I showered together--and I don't think we have ever thanked you for your gift. It meant a whole lot to us when we got it and even more this morning. Anyway, I guess you know that showering together is great and we love it, but when we do, we get har... aroused."
        "Margaret, this morning we were both hard as nails and that usually requires attention to Chili Pepper and Little Luke...."
        "Chili Pepper and Little Luke? I've heard that guys often named their penis, but Chili Pepper and Little Luke?"
        "Sounds a lot better to me than penis or cock or peter or pecker or a hundred other generic names. Chili Pepper is what my Korean Mom called my penis when I was young and I kinda kept it. And with Luke around, it is usually about as hot as a chili pepper!" Matt laughed.
        "Little Luke is small, compared to Big Luke, but he is Luke all the way," I said.
        "Little Luke and Chili Pepper. Now I wonder...."
        "Don't know about David. We don't discuss these things between generations, but Michael carries the Sword of Love although, when he first told us, we told him it was more like Pen Knife of Lust. Anyway, this morning we kinda took care of... well, you know, but we were wondering what making love or having sex meant. You know we have chosen to wait--at Greywolf's request--until we are eighteen to have sex, but we are not sure where making out stops and having sex begins."
        "I suppose in one sense you have to make that decision. And we need to get together soon and talk about gay sex but, right now, I guess I'd go with having sex to mean penetration--oral sex or anal sex. Mutual masturbation would, so far as I am concerned, be permitted. In fact, I'm surprised you two haven't done that already. My understanding is that most male best friends do, experimenting, gay or straight."
        "Margaret, we, both of us, were trying so hard to keep the other from knowing he loved him that I suspect we were more cautious about experimenting than two of the straightest guys in the world. Guess we missed out on a lot."
        "Babe, we are going to make up for that!" Matt said with a huge grin.
        "Well, back to the present. Since you are both engaged in the activity at the same time, why not express your love by giving the other pleasure? Seems entirely reasonable to me. But no anal or oral intercourse and no oral contact with Little Luke by you Matt or with Chili Pepper by you Luke. So no anal or oral intercourse until you decide to make love by having sex. Ok?"
        "Thanks, Margaret."
        "Yea, thanks," Matt said, "watch Little Luke, here I come!"
        "I don't think that's the way it works," Luke said, and kissed me on the neck.
        Margaret laughed and said, "I said it before and I'll say it again: you two are impossible and I love you to death!" as she gave each of us a hug and kiss on the cheek.
        As we stood laughing, David came back. "Fr. Tom said he was overjoyed that we finally came to our senses, Margaret, and that he might be bushed, but he wouldn't miss this for anything. So as of now, we will be married at the falls Sunday afternoon at 5:00 on April 16. You can send out the invitations."
        "That's the only sad thing about this, David. The only family I had were Mom and Dad and both are dead. I was born long after Mom thought she was past childbearing age and had decided they would never have a child so they were almost fifty when I was born. Both have been dead for some time now. I have no family."
        "You do now. David comes complete with more family than he probably wants."
        "Never!" David said, emphatically.
        "Luke, I don't know how many more of these action-packed days I can take," Matt said.
        "It has been a real week, hasn't it," I replied. "And just think, it is only Wednesday. David, I guess I don't need to worry about having to give up the guest room after all."
        "Not tonight anyway," Margaret said, "I'm going home after dinner and I think I'll keep David on the Slow and Easy Menu until the sixteenth."
        "From the looks on your faces when you arrived, I suspect the best you can do is put him BACK on the Menu," I chuckled.
        Margaret blushed--again--and said, "Whatever...."
        After the engaged couple left, Matt and I continued putting away my supplies and I started setting up my studio. "Matt, this is really going to be great," I said when we had finally finished. When I looked at my watch I noticed it was much later than I thought. "Sarang Hanun Pomul, it's time we got to your place for supper." Matt embraced me and very, very gently kissed me on the lips. "See, I told you when I kissed it, it was all better."
        "But not well. Yonghon Tongmu, I am about to die for a real kiss."
        I held Matt close and kissed his neck, his cheeks, his forehead. "Maybe that will hold you until you're kissable again."
        "I guess it'll have to do, and that doesn't mean I don't like it, but it's like dinner without dessert."
        "Speaking of which, we'd better go."
        When we reached Matt's place, Yong Jin and Mom were in the kitchen, Greywolf was in the library with Michael and Mary Kathryn. David and Margaret were nowhere in sight. Where's Dad?" I asked even though I knew the answer.
        "I guess he's at home. I told him we were having supper here tonight and he just grunted. He'll just have to make do for himself. I'm not humoring him," Mom answered. "I told him he should go by Immaculate Conception today and talk with Fr. O'Brian. When I asked him, he said, 'I went by Immaculate Conception and talked to a priest.' I suspect that means he talked to Fr. Muller and that probably made things worse, but there's nothing I can do about his hardheadedness. He'll just have to deal with the situation," Mom said in her "I'm-through-fooling-with-him" voice. We all knew that voice well. It meant "case closed" until the offender was ready to come around. "We're here to enjoy supper and I intend to do just that!"
        About the time the Gang of Four had the table ready, Margaret and David showed up. David announced as they walked through the door, "Ok, Greywolf, break out your best and Yong Jin, we need glasses in the library." Greywolf got two bottles of wine and opened them. Mom and Gabrielle came into the library carrying nine glasses.
        As Yong Jin sat the glasses down she said, "What's the celebra... " She laughed and added, "Now that I see your and Margaret's necks, David, I don't think I need to finish the question."
        "Man, if slow and easy leaves that kind of mark, I don't think I'll be able to take fast and hard," Michael joked.
        "Margaret, I have some cover-up makeup to use to hide zits; it might hide love bites, but I've never had the problem."
        The adults were laughing like mad and Margaret and David were blushing like middle schoolers. "Ok, David, Margaret, what's up?"
        "Margaret proposed to me today and I said 'yes,'" David said.
        "That, indeed, calls for a celebration," Greywolf said as he started pouring the wine. When we all had glasses, he raised his glass and said, "Here's to David and Margaret and to their love and the loves of us all!"
        Supper continued in a festive mood even without Dad, but I missed him. When we finished, we kids cleared the table and all went to Matt's room. We all sat on Matt's bed. Mary Kathryn sat between Michael's legs and I between Matt's. We talked about the recent events for awhile, then Greywolf called up to remind Michael they had to hit the road early tomorrow morning. He gave Mary Kathryn a great kiss, which she returned with equal passion and the two said "Goodnight" and went downstairs.
        "Matt, I miss my Dad," I said as I leaned back against him. His arms encircled me, holding me close.
        "What do you want to do, Luke? What can you do? Do you want to...." Matt choked up. Tears were falling from his eyes and wetting my shoulder. "Luke, I love you so very, very much, but I will not stand between you and your father."
         I turned and, forgetting his cut lip, pressed my lips to Matt's. He winced as my lips touched his. "Oh, Matt, I hurt you, Babe. Why am I always hurting you? I'm so sorry, so very, very sorry." Then I started crying. Before I knew it, I was once again crying out of control. Matt pulled me to himself and held me tightly, stroking my hair, rubbing my back until I stopped sobbing. Then, ignoring his cut lip, he kissed me with a soft, gentle, loving kiss.
        "Yonghon Tongmu, I know you have no intention of hurting me any more than I would you. It's just that both of us are in a place, a situation which hurts. But as much as I love you...."
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, you are not standing between me and my father. No one is. All that stands between the two of us is his hatred, maybe, certainly his rejection of me, of who I am. He wants his Luke and that Luke does not exist. I love him; I miss him, but until he decides he loves the real Luke, there is nothing I can do and certainly losing you would only make me more miserable and make no difference to him. So don't ever, ever think that it was you who has made my father act as he is. Mom's right; he had to have someone to blame because his Luke is not the Luke that is and he always finds a the guilty party as far away from himself as possible."
        "Luke, come tell your mom goodnight," Greywolf called up the stairs.
        When we got downstairs Gabrielle's German "call a spade a spade" came out and she said, "You two have been crying. Is it about Jens?" We both nodded. "Probably know it already, but you have done nothing to warrant Jens' treatment of Matt or apparent rejection of Luke. Frankly, he has a bigger problem than you two have because you have done nothing and there is nothing you can do. Jens has just got to change his attitude. She laughed and said, "I'm thinking a few night's on the den couch may have to be used. But give him some time."
        "Millie wanted to kick his ass today," I said. "She was at school announcing all the changes and saw Matt and wanted to know what happened. She hauled the Gang of Four into Ms. Jones' office and was told the whole mess. We asked her not to do anything--yet."
        "Well, if I can't get the Great Dane to see the light, I'll turn Millie loose on him. Luke, are you staying here tonight or going to David's?"
        I looked at Matt and he said, "After today, neither of us are going to get any work done tonight, so why don't you stay? Before we go to bed, we'll lay out some kind of schedule so we can have some time together and still get done all we have to do before May 21. Please."
        Greywolf had gone to bed since he had to leave about 4:00 or 4:30 the next morning so Mom and Yong Jin were standing with us. "Go ahead, Luke. You can have one night of freedom before you get chained to your easel," Mom laughed.
        "Mom, tell Dad that I love him and that I missed his being here with us tonight. Tell him I really, really love him and want him to love me. Mom, I miss my dad." I was near tears again.
        Mom reached out and put her arms around me. "I know you do Luke, as I--and your dad--miss you. I'll give him your message, Luke and don't think it won't matter to him. Danes have a thick skull and it sometimes takes a long time for things to sink in. But he does love you. Right now he is angry without really knowing what he's angry about. He's just angry at the world for not being the world he wanted it to be. Give him time. Luke, Matt, I love you both," Mom said as she kissed us both goodnight.
        "Goodnight Luke, Matt," Yong Jin said as she kissed us and went to her room. We climbed the stairs arm in arm.
        When we reached Matt's room, we did some very serious talking about what we had to do before graduation on May 27. We laid out the schedule for the AP exams: AP English, May 10; AP calculus, May 11; AP physics, May 17; AP art portfolio due, May 12; and AP music, May 15. The prom is April 22 and the big event, our birthday, is May 31! "Sarang Hanun Pomul, we have a rough six weeks ahead of us. I don't know about you, but while I'm fairly confident about the exams, I know that I still need to work on those as well as the usual school work. And while I could mount a passable exhibition with what I have, I know that I can do a real knockout if I try and I have a couple of great ideas to work on. I thought there was a disease called senioritis which made seniors quit the second semester and just coast."
        Matt laughed and said, "Well, I guess we were hanging around the hospital when the germ was at school because I don't see any coasting in that schedule. But, Yonghon Tongmu, I do see a great climax to the whole race!"
        "You would have to say climax! You're a devil, you know that?"
        "Maybe, but I'm your devil!"
        "No, you're my dark angel, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf!"
        "And you're my bright angel Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen!"
        "Well, Dark Angel, what are we going to do about a schedule? If we don't have one and hold each other to it, we'll spend all our time making love--with or without sex."
         "Bright Angel, I'm pretty sure it would not be without sex if we had nothing to hold us to what we need to be doing," Matt said as he started to brush my lips with his then remembered, so he just pressed his forehead against mine. "So what will it be?"
        "Ok, what will it be? We are free now after 1:30 except the one day we have with Mr. Mitchell. You need to practise how often at St. Mary's?"
        "By myself? I think I better do two days a week. Maybe Monday and Wednesday. Then I'll have to schedule time with the ensemble and chorus when they are ready. We'll meet with Mr. Mitchell Thursdays if he's agreeable. That leaves Tuesday and Friday for me to work on composition along with Saturdays to do what we need to do."
        "Ok, I'll work in the studio Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Saturday we'll plan a week ahead. What about the transportation problem for the ensemble and chorus?"
        "I'll need to talk with Ms. Jones about that tomorrow. One year the two activity buses were used to take kids home after football practice. Maybe she can authorize the buses to take kids home. If she oks that plan, Greywolf can drive one of the buses and maybe Mr. Allan will drive the other even though he has a more responsible job now. But tell me, what is this great idea you have for your exhibition?"
        "You tell me what your two compositions are first."
        "I'm saving them for a surprise."
        "And you think you can keep that secret with the chorus and ensemble involved?"
        "I'm sure going to try."
        "Well, mine is also a secret and a surprise."
        "How are you going to keep that a secret since you're working at David's?"
        "Ha, apparently you didn't notice the studio has a lock, so there."
         "Well, I guess we'll just have to wait on the projects the way we have to wait on everything else."
        "Weelll, if you have finished with all these frivolous things, there's one thing we don't have to wait on. THANK YOU, Margaret!"
        I pulled Matt to myself and gentled nuzzled at his neck and under his chin, nipped his ear lobe and finally stuck my tongue in his ear which I knew tickled him good fashion. "Matt Babe, I want to kiss you sooo bad," I whispered in his ear as I started unbuttoning his shirt. As soon as it was off, Matt started nuzzling my neck as he pulled my shirt up and finally sat back, looked into my eyes, smiled and pulled my shirt over my head. As soon as my chest was bare, he hugged me to himself then lay atop me and gently brushed a nipple with his lips. "Ouch," he exclaimed. "Damn, I can't even kiss a nipple. Serves Jens right if Gabrielle puts him on the den couch for a month!" His hair cascaded over my chest and I found it made me just about as hot and hard as a kiss--at least since I wasn't going to get a kiss.
        "I don't have any lip injury, Lover Boy," I said as I started kissing first one then the other of Matt's nipples. As he leaned into my kisses, I took one of his nipples in my mouth and started sucking on it as it hardened in my mouth. Matt raised himself up and rolled off of me and, as he lay beside me, he unbuckled my pants. I raised my hips off the bed and he slipped my pants off, revealing a pair of snow-white briefs being tested for a breaking point by a steel-hard man's tool.
        Before he could remove my briefs, I unfastened his pants and slid them over his luscious ass. "Dark Angel, did anyone ever tell you your ass is beautiful?"
        Laughing, Matt replied, "Not that I recall, although an awful lot of girls must think so since they pinch it all the time."
        "Well, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, you have a beautiful ass and I think I'm going to put a sign on it which says, 'This magnificent ass belongs to Luke Larsen. Hands off!'"
        "Bright Angel, did anyone ever tell you your ass is beautiful?"
         "Not that I recall, although an awful lot of girls must think so since they pinch it all the time."
        "Well, Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen, you have a beautiful ass and I think I'm going to put a sign on it which says, 'This magnificent ass belongs to Matthew Greywolf. Hands off!'"
        We both started laughing like we had gone completely nuts. When I looked, I realized that Chili Pepper was struggling as hard as Little Luke to be free and I believe in freedom! I stood on the floor, pulled Matt to me and placed my hands on his hips and my thumbs in the waist band of his boxers and freed Chili Pepper. As he stood naked before me, I almost got tears in my eyes because, to me, he was an angel, a beautiful, beautiful dark angel. As I stood in awe of my beloved, he nuzzled my neck as he slipped my briefs from my body and I stood naked before him.
        Suddenly he encircled my body with his arms and, literally, swept me off my feet and carried me back to the bed. Placing me gently on the bed, his body covered mine as he started licking one nipple then the other. He raised his head, looked into my eyes and said, "I guess that will have to do since I can't kiss."
        As he continued I said, "Kissing's great but, man, that tongue!"
        It was pretty obvious that Matt was as hot as I was, because I felt a wetness where Chili Pepper rested against my thigh and I certainly knew that Little Luke was not being stingy with precum either. Matt lay beside me and raised up on one elbow and slowly reached out and took Little Luke into his hand. He did nothing more than look at Little Luke intently as he slowly moved him around. "You know I have never really looked at your manhood before except when I stole a glance, hoping you didn't notice? Look, it is beautiful--so white, so like you--firm, solid, so right, so you."
        I raised up and as Matt had done, took his manhood in my hand. Because Greywolf would not permit it, Matt was uncircumcised. His foreskin almost covered the head of a hard, dark shaft. I slowly pulled the foreskin back, revealing an arrow shaped head. It, too, was dark as was my love. I started stoking Chili Pepper slowly as Matt gave Little Luke the attention he was demanding. We matched strokes in a slow, even rhythm. I was kissing Matt's neck and he was nuzzling mine. I was surprised how long the slow even stroking continued before Matt said, "Luke, I can't hold out much longer."
        "Neither can I," I replied and, as I felt my own point of no return approaching, my hand started moving faster and faster. Matt still matched me stroke for stroke. Suddenly Matt bit into my neck and I felt his hot seed explode from his man's tool. That sent me over the edge and I, too, exploded. I knew we had said we would set stars spinning with our love making, but I didn't think it would be literally true. But I did see stars--shooting stars--as my breath came in gasps, my body arched upward and I continued to shoot charge after charge from my body. I stopped stroking Matt because I couldn't stand any more of his stroking me. He was gasping for breath, his eyes closed, and then his body totally relaxed.
        Slowly he opened his eyes, smiled at me and said, "Yonghon Tongmu, if real sex is any better, I'm not sure I can stand it!" and, in spite of a cut lip, he pressed his lips to mine in a passionate, tongue in the mouth, all out Matt kiss. I returned the kiss with equal passion and, yes, lust. As we broke the kiss I tasted blood and, when I looked at Matt, his lip was covered with blood. "Babe, I hurt you. I'm sorry."
        "I'm not," he said as he passionately kissed me again. "Luke, I love you, Babe. I really, really love you."
        "Matt, I love you too, Dark Lover. I love you with all that I am and, maybe not all the way, but tonight with my body." Awash in the afterglow of our first orgasm brought by the one we loved, we fell asleep in each other's arms, our bodies pressed together.

Part Sixteen


        "Ouch! Holy shit," Luke exclaimed and, of course, waked me up. I knew what had prompted the outburst at once as he was ungluing himself from me. I had said before we were like siamese twins, but we had never been actually joined before, but it was obvious the results of our first attempt--successful I might add--at a new way at giving each other sexual pleasure had dried and glued us together. Clearly we had spent the night holding each other. After the initial shock of finding ourselves attached, we both started laughing like mad. That made my need to get to the bathroom on the double even more necessary. As I jumped out of bed and sprinted across the hall, Luke was right behind me.
        When we had taken care of the need to piss, we donned our sweats, climbed down the trellis and headed for the road. Michael wasn't waiting for us. "I wonder where Michael is?" I asked.
        "If you'd get sex off your mind you might remember something," Luke laughed. "He and Greywolf are in Lexington waiting to appear on nationwide TV."
        "Well, how do you expect me to remember something like that when you're around," I smiled and gave Luke his first kiss of the morning. Rather I started to when he pulled his head back.
        "I don't think you want to do that, Dark Angel. Remember last night?"
        "Do I ever--and I'm not talking about sore lips. But you're right. I don't think my insisting on kissing you last night aided the lip healing process very much." But I did give him an angel kiss. Some things are worth the pain and kissing Luke, even an angel kiss, ranked near the top of that list.
        When we finished our run, we hit the shower. After washing each other, Luke pulled my back to himself, reached in front of me and stroked Chili Pepper. As he did so, he kissed my neck, tongued my ear and with his free hand, pinched a nipple. "Luke, Babe, I ready to cu..." My climax hit me like a tornado. I became so weak-kneed Luke had to hold me up. I mean really. Had he not held me up, I would have collapsed in the shower. When I had recovered enough to be able to stand without falling, I stood behind the man I loved, wrapped my arms around him and caressed his powerful smooth chest, rubbing his nipples in small circles with the palms of my hands until they became quite hard. Only then did I take his manhood into my hand and start slowly stroking it. As I moved my hand up and down his steel-hard tool, I nuzzled his neck and nipped at his ear. Luke still had not had his hair cut so it was long enough until no longer curled tightly to his head. I rested my face in it, inhaling his wonderful scent as I continued to stroke Little Luke harder and harder, faster and faster. Luke was groaning and then started gasping in short breaths just before his climax hit him. Suddenly I realized that he too, had grown weak in the knees as I held him tightly. We washed away the evidence of our morning love making, and both came out of the bathroom with a smile on our face. We quickly dressed and went downstairs.
        As we were finishing breakfast, Mom asked about our schedule. "We have one worked out that we will just have to keep, otherwise we'll never be able to get done what we need to do," Luke said.
        "I can understand why you think you need to have and adhere to a schedule, even a rigorous one, but take it from someone who has a bit more experience, you also have to allow time for each other and all of that can't be scheduled, otherwise your time together will be all scheduled serious business. You're young and in love. You need time just to play and be foolish, I mean relatively foolish, not reckless! And I'm not talking about sex or even making out. I'm talking about playing and enjoying each other's presence. I'm talking about maintaining another important relationship--your friendship."
        "I really hadn't thought about that. I guess we have been so wrapped up in all that's going on, the only time we are just being friends is when we run," Luke said with a very serious look on his face.
        "Even then there was time for a kiss--when I was kissable," I added.
        "Nothing says you can't mix being friends and lovers," Mom said, "but you have to allow time for both. So think about your schedule and make time to be friends and lovers, but be sure there is time just to play. So, what's on the docket for today?"
        "It's Thursday so we stay after school to meet with Mr. Mitchell. That means we have the final period free, but there's hardly time to come home or anything. After the tutoring session, I think we should just come home and relax.  I need to talk with Ms. Jones and maybe Mr. Allan about transportation for the ensemble and chorus when they practice after school and at St. Mary's. I'll have Paula and Eugene get a list of the members of the two groups and where they live. If it works as well as it did with the football team, two activity buses can make sweeps on opposite sides of town and drop kids off who don't have transportation. I'm sure Dad would drive one if we can get authorization to use them. I'll talk to Mr. Allan about driving the other even though he has more responsibilities now."
        "Matt, when the school was setting up sweep buses for the football team, the front office was able to supply county maps and the kids marked their houses on the map. That was a lot better than just a list. With the marked map it is easy to plan the buses' sweeps."
        "Great. I'll see if I can get maps for Eugene and Paula then we can combine them."
        "What about you Luke?"
        "I need to talk with Mr. Stephenson about a couple things I have in mind. One, at least, will require doing some work in Lexington--I hope--or maybe even Jackson. Matt, I wanted to start working out during last period when we have to stay for Mr. Mitchell, but I guess that will just have to wait until next week."
        "Maybe not. Maybe I can catch Ms. Jones and Mr. Allan before school, get the maps to Paula and Eugene and we can see how things look at lunch. If you could talk with Mr. Stephenson before school, maybe we can meet in the workout room and do a workout. I surely need to get back to some regular schedule and even once a week is better than nothing."
        "Why don't we combine the equipment you, Michael and I have and make our own workout room? We have enough stuff for a good workout and if we get Michael involved as well, he will not let us slack off."
        "Sounds like a good plan, Luke. And, Mom, that would give us some real play time together."
        "Ok, now for another problem. How are you going to work transportation when you go to St. Mary's since Luke will be with you?"
        "Hadn't thought of that."
        "Seems you are having a real problem with remembering and thinking this morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul," Luke grinned.
        "I don't want to know," Mom laughed. "Matt, I'm sure Luke is properly insured to drive the Larsens' cars, but I don't know about him driving yours. I'll call today and make sure he is covered then he could drop you off at St. Mary's and come on out so he can work in his studio."
        "I bet Mom would pick Matt up and bring him home and that way there wouldn't be an extra trip back into town."
        "I think that would work. It's a pity it couldn't be you who comes home with Gabrielle, Luke, so you'd have some time together," I said.
        "That's something else that will have to be worked out," Luke said, as tears formed in his eyes.
         Mom walked over to him and hugged his face into her bosom as she stroked his hair. "Look, we're not on the welfare rolls yet. It won't hurt for you to come on out and if you're not engaged in something you don't want to stop, you can drive to St. Mary's and then be dropped off at Gabrielle's office and come home with her.
        "Thanks, Mom Greywolf. I'm ok now," Luke said as he hugged her about the waist.
        Since Michael was not going to school, Mom called Gabrielle to see if Mary Kathryn wanted to go with us. She did. Mom also told Gabrielle Luke would come into town if he wasn't too deep into what he was doing at the studio and come home with her. "If he's not at your place by 5:00, would you go by St. Mary's and pick up Matt? That way Luke can drop Matt off at St. Mary's and go to his studio the days Matt practises at the church."
        As soon as we finished breakfast, Luke and I headed for school, early, hoping to see the people we needed to talk with today. When we picked up Mary Kathryn she told us that Gabrielle was giving Jens the "Teutonic iceberg treatment." "She has tried to talk with him, but he just grunts. When she got home last night she gave him your message, Luke. I saw a little thaw, but he quickly covered it up. You know Dad."
        "Yea. Well, I thought I did. Anyway, today is your Prince Charming's time in the spotlight."
        "Yea. I wanted to stay home and watch, but you know the rule--school or the doctor. I think we got the VCR set to tape it, but you know that dumb thing."
        Before we reached the school grounds, I pulled off the road and pulled Luke to me. "Luke, I'm going to die if this lip doesn't heal. I'm dying for a real kiss." Mary Kathryn laughed as Luke kissed just about everything not covered except my lips. "Now we'll have to have a slow ride the rest of the way so we are presentable," I said.
        "Haven't you heard of another use for a notebook," Mary Kathryn laughed. "I think Michael is going to have one growing to his pants one of these days."
        When we reached school, I went immediately to Ms. Jones' office and saw she was in.
        "What's up, Matt?" she asked when I knocked on her open door.
        I explained to her about the transportation problem. "That's no problem so far as I am concerned. I certainly will authorize the use of the buses. Unfortunately, I can't authorize pay for the drivers; there's no money for that."
        "Dad will drive one and won't expect pay. I plan to ask Mr. Allan if he would. I know he has a lot more responsibilities now and I didn't think about the pay."
        "Ask him. He just got a big raise with the job change, for which the Gang of Four gets much of the credit, and if he has work he can't handle, I'll see that it gets done one way or the other. How's Luke doing?" she asked, changing the subject abruptly.
        "Pretty good. His mom is giving him wonderful support even though she says she doesn't understand or even approve of our relationship. And of course the family is doing all we can for him. But sometimes he just can't quite hold back the tears. He really loves his dad and misses him."
        "I'm sure he does. Do let me know if there is any way I can be of help."
        "How about being a help to all of us and let us see the Today Show today."
        "I had planned on having it piped to all the classroom monitors, but it would be up to each teacher to decide whether or not to turn it on. Of course, it starts during homeroom and there's no reason all the sets couldn't be on then, but you know how Mr. Gray is about using TV, even for instruction."
        "Hey, Jonesie, have you forgotten? You are the head cheese around here now!"
        "To tell you the truth, Matt, I had forgotten for a moment. I'm running this show now and we'll have an extended homeroom. Thanks," she said, as she grabbed my braid and swatted me in the face with it, laughing.
        "Later," I said, and went to see if Mr. Allan was in.
        He was unlocking the door to what had been Ms. Jones office when I walked up. "What's up, Chief," he asked and jumped when I answered with a Lakota war whoop.
        "We have a small problem that I believe an assistant principal--even a new one--will be able to solve."
        "Come in and tell me about it." When we were in the office, I explained the transportation situation, including the fact that there was no money to pay drivers. "You're right, Greywolf will do it without expecting anything in return--money or otherwise. I am swamped trying to learn this new job, but with Jonesi... Ms. Jones' help, I'll find a way to help out. I really feel obligated to all of you who got this school on the right track, including some of us faculty. When we had to do sweep buses for the football team, we had county maps to find out where people lived. Ms. Jones handled that so I don't know where copies of the map are." He picked up the phone, pressed the intercom button and asked Ms. Jones about the maps. She told him they were in his office file cabinet and he got a couple out. "Here you go, Matt, and again thanks for what you and your friends have done and are doing for this school." We shook hands and I headed to the commons area.
        As luck would have it, Paula, Eugene, Mary Kathryn and Larry were all sitting together chattering away. I quickly explained the maps and that we needed to get them done as soon as possible so we could set up schedules for the ensemble and chorus. "We'll see how much progress we have made at lunch," I said as Paula and Eugene grabbed the maps and started dashing about the commons area, chasing down members of their groups.
        Just before the homeroom bell rang, Luke walked up and gave the big ok sign. "Mr. Stephenson is very excited about my idea and is making all the necessary arrangements for me. Man, it's a go!" Just then the homeroom bell rang, students gave the obligatory groan and started to homeroom.
        As soon as roll was taken, Ms. Jones came on the intercom and announced that the Today Show was being sent to all classroom monitors. "And so we can enjoy seeing Independence High School in the light we would always like to see her, I am extending homeroom until the interview with Mr. Greywolf and Michael Andrews is complete."
        The Today Show was near the end of the first hour when the host gave a brief summary of what had happened at Independence: "Last week, the students of a high school in a small southern town were led in a protest by a faculty member objecting to derogatory remarks and use of pejorative names in an announcement made by the principal, Mr. Michael Gray. The announcement concerned the suicide of a former student at Independence. In the studio of our affiliate are Mr. Patanka St. Michael Greywolf, the senior faculty member who started the protest, and Mr. Michael Andrews, a sophomore who led the protest to a remarkable conclusion. "First of all, Mr. Greywolf, what were the events surrounding the suicide of Gregory Burnette, the former Independence High School student?"
        Dad told the whole story, including the fact that the five who had abused, beaten and sodomized Gregory had gotten off with a slap on the wrist. He gave an account of the reason Gregory had left Independence and why, finally, he had taken his own life.
        "And what prompted your protest last Wednesday?"
        Again, Dad told about the remarks Mr. Gray had made and how Michael had brought up the bigotry and attitude of acceptance or indifference to it at Independence at dinner earlier.
        "Mr. Andrews--may I call you Michael?" Michael nodded assent, "Michael, what part did you take in all this? Michael explained how upset he was because people were being denied their basic human rights and that he had just had enough. He looked as if being interviewed on national TV was an everyday event--cool Michael. "My producer has just given me a word. We will cut away briefly and be back with Patanka St. Michael Greywolf and Michael Andrews." After the commercial the host came back and said, "During the break, our producer has been reviewing the tape fed to us from our affiliate. She has decided to reschedule guests who were to have appeared in the second half of this hour in order that we may show the tape from Wednesday night's 'A Penitential Service for Independence High School and a Memorial Service for Gregory Burnette'. Before we start--oh--my producer has just advised me there will be no commercials during the tape. Mr. Greywolf and Michael may be asked questions or make comments, but those will be the only interruptions. What you are about to see, my producer tells me, will give the lie to those who claim today's youth are worse than ever before. A couple further notes: the organist is a senior at Independence High School, Matthew Greywolf, son of Mr. Greywolf. The Mixed Chorus was directed by a senior, Paula Wright, and the Symphonic Brass and Percussion Ensemble was directed by another senior, Eugene Joyce. In order to keep the full texts of the speeches by students and faculty, with the exception of an opening hymn, the music has been shortened as have the readings. The opening hymn will be heard in its entirety because, as I have been informed, the Mixed Chorus had never seen the music before they began putting together the service."
        Fortunately Luke and I had the same homeroom because I knew the tape would be tough for him, and for me as well--but especially for Luke. I worried about Luke as the service started and went on. I was sure there was no way he could hold back the tears and was afraid someone would kid him about it. I needn't have worried, most of the students in homeroom were weeping silently as the show progressed. When it was over and the bell for first period rang, students started hugging each other and most, again, walked out of the room arm in arm. Talk about a conversion experience; one had happened at Independence.
        By lunch, Paula and Eugene had contacted all the members of their groups and had the maps. We worked while we ate and got the two maps consolidated. Two sweeps could handle transportation very well, except for one kid. "I don't think Jackson will prove a problem. We just asked them to mark where they lived. Jackson got his graduation present early, a new red Thunderbird," Paula laughed.
        Well, Luke and I had gotten all the mess out of the way so when we were freed by the bell ending next to last period, so we met in the workout room. There were several guys working out so there was no time for anything except sweating, which we did in great abundance. When the bell rang ending school, we hit the showers, got dressed and met Mr. Mitchell.
        "Matt, your friend here is ready to roll with the AP exam. He's a natural at math. I think you're in good shape as well, but I know it comes harder for you than Luke. I checked with Ms. Norman about the AP exams and she told me you two were taking four as well as doing a recital and exhibition," Mr. Mitchell said, shaking his head. "When are you going to have time for high school fun?"
        "Mom got on us about that this morning," I said. "I guess we're just going to have to have fun later."
        "I want you to understand that I am perfectly willing to have an after-school session with you two until the AP calculus exam but, to be honest with you, I think you would do much better taking that time for yourselves and having a little fun. Luke will make a 5 on the exam, I'm positive of that. Matt, I think you have a chance of making a 5 as well, but I would place money on your making not less than a 4. Again, I'll be here if you wish, otherwise, take an hour a week to enjoy being yourselves and alive with my blessing."
        "Mr. Mitchell, you will never know how much your being here for me--us--has meant. If you think I can make a 4, then I'd say why don't you also take an hour and enjoy being yourself and having some fun," I laughed.
        Luke embraced Mr. Mitchell in a bear hug as I had done before and said, "Not only am I very thankful that you were willing to give up your time to help me get back into the swing of things, but even more for your confidence in me. It's been a hard time and knowing you cared made a difference." Mr. Mitchell--old Hard-nose himself--got tears in his eyes as he hugged Luke back.
        "Luke, Matt, students such as you two come once in a blue moon, but they make this job worth it. If you think you need help or get stuck, ask, I'm here to help. He then actually hugged the two of us and as we walked out the door said, "Remember, the hour you have free because you're not here is to be spent enjoying being who you are!"
        "Thanks," Luke and I said together.
         I had just started the Jeep and was backing out of my parking place when my cell phone rang. Luke unlocked the glove box and took out my phone (Of course he has a set of keys to the Jeep! We all carry a bundle of keys to everything. We are family!). "Matthew's rolling love machine," he said into the phone with an evil grin. That was followed in a split second by "Holy shit! Matt, stop the Jeep." I immediately dropped the gear into neutral and slammed on the brakes, throwing both of us into our seatbelts, then bumping our heads against the head restraint. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" Luke exclaimed, "what are you trying to do? Kill us? I guess you might as well and save Mary Kathryn...."
        "Holy shit is right!" I practically shouted and immediately threw the Jeep into reverse and backed into the school parking lot at top speed. Before I got stopped a very mad Mary Kathryn came out of the building. "Bring on Jens," I told Luke, "but protect me from that wild woman!"
        Mary Kathryn got into the Jeep and promptly bashed Luke a good one upside the head with a huge science textbook. "The very idea leaving your beautiful, loving, gentle sister stranded at school." I was dying laughing when Mary Kathryn said, "And just what are you laughing at Mr. Greywolf? What makes you think you've escaped?" Before I could get out of the way, the textbook landed upside my head.
        "Will you get that wild woman under control so we can enjoy being ourselves?" I managed to say to Luke while making sure the attack was over.
        "You know, Mary Kathryn, I believe in early marriage, like at fifteen, if the bride and groom are sent out of the country. I'll have to discuss that with Michael."
        "Ok, guys, you're forgiven. But what happened to the tutoring session?"
        "Mr. Mitchell thinks we are about as ready for the exam as we'll ever be so he said he was giving us an hour a week to enjoy being ourselves."
        "Hard-nose said that? Course, I don't know how you two could enjoy being you. The very idea leaving a poor, beautiful, loving, helpless girl stranded at school," Mary Kathryn said in a pouty kid's voice.
        "Beautiful, yes; loving, maybe; helpless, never," I said.
        "Matthew, you say the nicest things," she said, this time in her magnolia-scented-helpless-southern-belle voice.
        "I'll tell you one thing, Luke, Michael has more balls than I think I could muster if he thinks he can tame this hellcat."
        "Ok, guys, fun's over.
        When we reached our place, we stopped and I saw there was a message on the machine. Mom's voice said, "Dinner at Millie's Saturday night. Bit of a celebration Millie has cooked up. I'll be home before five. Supper's at 7:30."
        "Greywolf and Michael should be home by now. I wonder where they are?" Mary Kathryn was puzzled.
        "Don't know. Anyway, you want to go home?"
        "Matthew, you are trying to get rid of me so you and Luke can make out. I know what's up."
        "I just wanted to know whether you wanted to go home or stay and observe how real making out is done."
        "Don't think I need any lessons, O Busted Lip. Take me home."
        As Mary Kathryn started to get out of the Jeep, she turned and kissed Luke on the cheek. "I miss having you around, brother mine."
        "Miss you too, sister mine," Luke said and I saw tears forming again.
        She then leaned over the seat and kissed me. "Matt, love you man, and everything will be all right. But don't you ever leave me stranded again!" she laughed, jumped out of the Jeep and ran inside.
        "Lover, we have the house to ourselves... "
         "Yea, but to the falls, Sarang Hanun Pomul."
        I parked the Jeep at the river bridge and the two of us walked, arm in arm, across the meadow to the falls, crossing the canes behind us. Luke had snagged the blanket from the Jeep and spread it in the shade of a huge oak at the basin's edge. He stretched out on it and raised his arms. I was on his body immediately, wanting more than anything to kiss his lips, to taste my Luke. Luke smiled up at me, took the bands from my hair and kissed my eyes. "You are so beautiful my Sarang Hanun Pomul; I almost hurt just looking at you. My heart is so full of love for you that at times I think it will just burst wide open." He continued looking into my eyes as I used a finger to trace patterns on his face, paying particular attention to the lines surrounding his gentle smile. "Matt, would you mind if we just lay here holding each other? I just want to feel you near me right now." In answer, I looked into the depths of his ocean blue eyes. I saw pain there, but I also saw oceans and oceans of love which bought a smile to my face. "My beautiful Korean Lakota, you are mine and I am yours. What if there are problems to be solved or there is work to be done? We have all we need right here--except, damn it, I really do need a kiss!" he laughed, his eyes shining.
        After discovering the power of bringing each other off, I kinda expected that's what we'd do until we did the REAL thing, but suddenly I realized that just being here, looking into the eyes of the man I adored and who adored me, being held in his arms as I held him in mine was just as great. "Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, every day I think I couldn't possibly love you more and every day I discover I am wrong. You are... no, there are no words good enough. You are you and for that I am thankful beyond belief and you are mine and... throwing caution to the wind--almost--I gave Luke the gentlest angel kiss and nuzzled his neck as he kissed my hair.
        I guess the events of the past few days--it only seemed like years--finally caught up with us because, as we snuggled in each other's arms, we drifted off to sleep.

        After everyone had left following Luke's claim that he was a queer and in love with Matt Greywolf, Gabrielle and I talked for a couple hours. Actually, there wasn't much talking on my part--or listening for that matter. Gabrielle was carrying on, but I had learned long ago that when Gabrielle was in this kind of mood just to keep quiet until she ran down. The bottom line was that Luke thought he was a faggot and in love with Matt Greywolf.
        My conscience was clear about what I had said about Matt because I knew that Gabrielle and I had raised Luke right. We had been firm with him, but fair. The Greywolfs, on the other hand, had not believed in "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Of course, I had never seen Matt do anything that would have caused me to take a stick to him but, then again, I had not lived with him. I'm sure there had been plenty of times when he needed his butt busted and didn't get it.
        I had to admit to myself that I lost my temper and hit Matt. I probably shouldn't have done that, but he had made my son a faggot--I was sure of that because I knew how we had raised Luke.  I also knew that faggots roast in hell. I was trying to snatch my son from the very jaws of hell.
        Gabrielle kept talking and I was only half listening, nodding occasionally. I was listening enough so that when she asked, "Jens, do you love your son?" I answered.
        "Of course I love my son. I love Luke dearly. Why do you think I was upset? Why do you think I care that he's a faggot? Gabrielle, you've talked enough. I'm going to bed."
        "I don't expect I'll sleep too soundly after tonight, Jens, so I think you might sleep on the couch. Or you could sleep in Luke's bed; because of you it won't be used."
        I expected to sleep because my conscience was clear. I was more than a little bit upset with Gabrielle because she seemed to be defending what Matt had done and what Luke was doing. But I didn't go to sleep. I kept thinking about what I needed to do to set Luke straight. The next morning Gabrielle was a little cool, but said very little about the night before. She did suggest I go to Immaculate Conception and talk with Fr. O'Brian. I had already decided to call and see if I could talk with Fr. Muller. Fr. O'Brian was too liberal and I wanted to know what the church really said instead of some of the liberal stuff Catholics were saying and doing these days.
        Fr. Muller assured me that I was right. Luke might be gay, but he could only remain in good standing provided he remained celibate and asked me if he had. I confessed I didn't know and he told me Luke had been to confession and hadn't mentioned being gay or what he was doing because he thought he was gay. "He did take the Blessed Sacrament last Sunday so he either was celibate or he added more to the damnation of his soul," Father said. He suggested that I remain firm in order to save Luke's soul.
        When I got home, Gabrielle informed me that we were having supper at the Greywolfs'. "How can you act as though nothing has happened?" I asked. "You are giving approval to Luke choosing to live the life of a pervert."
        "I'm doing no such thing. Did you talk to Fr. O'Brian today?
        "I went by Immaculate Conception and talked with a priest," I responded.
        "Well, if you're not going with me to the Greywolfs', you can make do on your own. I'm going."
        When Gabrielle returned from supper, she told me I had missed a great family celebration. "David and Margaret are getting married Easter afternoon at the falls. Fr. Tom is officiating. Also I have a message from Luke." I expected he would have made some smart-mouth comments and was thunderstruck when she told me he said he really, really loved me and he missed his dad. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing.
        "Jens, Luke asked me a question which has me really thinking."
        "What's that?" I asked, not having any idea what to expect.
        "He was talking about the fact that he was no different now or night before last than he was a week ago or a month ago or even a year ago. He asked why you hated him now when you had loved him before. I assured him that you still loved him. You do, don't you?"
        "Of course I do, Gabrielle. Does he, do you, think I am some kind of monster that hates his son?"
        "I know that you love him and that he loves you, but he also loves Matt. He asked me a question which opened my eyes. He asked, 'Mom, how would you feel if someone hit Dad because he loved you?' In an instant I saw Luke's love for Matt in a whole new way. I'd ask the same question of you, Jens, how would you feel if someone hit me because you loved me? How would you feel, Jens? Maybe if you can answer that for yourself, you can understand how Luke feels because you hit Matt." I pretended I had not heard what Gabrielle had said, but she knew I had.
        I slept on the couch again, not because Gabrielle had said anything, but it was just the easy way out. I had little trouble going to sleep. I had done nothing wrong. Well, I had hit Matt and I wished I had not done that. But I was only protecting my family and especially Luke, as any real man would have done.
        Sometime in the night I had a dream. I dreamed Gabrielle and I were in her family's home in Germany. We were young and walked in where her mother and father were sitting. Gabrielle said, "Dad, I am in love with Jens and were are going to be married." Her father immediately started shouting in German so rapidly I couldn't understand him, bounded from his chair and hit me in the face twice. Gabrielle tried to get to me, but was held back by her mother.
        I woke in a cold sweat. What kind of nightmare was this? I slept, fitfully, for the rest of the night. The dream would not let me go. The next morning, Gabrielle fixed breakfast and we ate, almost in total silence. When we finished, I got ready for work without mentioning the dream to Gabrielle.
        When I got to work everything was topsy-turvy. Millie was present and, when she is present, things always get a little crazy. Millie had ordered a large-screen TV set up and packed all the staff from herself to the janitor in the large conference room. "I might have to bail some of your clients out of jail for filing some report late, but this morning we're going to watch my kids shine."
        She kept on and on talking about what happened at Independence and with "her kids". When the announcement was made that the Today Show was going to carry most of the service, she shouted, "Hell, yes! Now we'll really see my kids shine!" When Luke stood up to speak she said,"'Course you all know my son is gay--don't attempt to deny it. I know you get a charge out of talking about it. Well, I love that boy to death and his lover maybe more. So you see, when that bunch of kids at Independence decided to do what they did because a gay young man was driven to kill himself, I have never been prouder. So watch them shine."
        When Luke was speaking Millie, who sat beside me, saying, "Jens, I can't understand why you're not busting the buttons off your shirt out of pride over that young man. You and Gabrielle must be some kind of parents to produce someone as fine as Luke Hans Larsen." I didn't respond, but inside I was being eaten alive. I was proud of Luke, damn proud, but at the same time, he was defending the rights of gays to live like normal people and, while no one knew it, he was defending his right to be treated as if he were normal. Later Millie would tell Gabrielle, "You should have seen poor Jens. I'll tell you Gabrielle, that man was wrestling with his soul."
        By the time the program was over, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Even I was crying like a baby. Why? What was wrong with me? I was still in the conference room when everyone else had left and Millie came over to me and said, "Jens, you're taking the rest of the day off. You might stop by that church of yours and spend some time thanking God for giving you two of the four finest kids this old lady has ever known. I've always claimed Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf as my own, but I'm claiming the other three as well. I'll let you keep your two since you and Gabrielle have done such a fine job so far, but you better remember, they are also mine. They are the grandkids I'll never have. Only thing I regret about Jason being gay, but that's my problem, not his. Go on and I'll see you Saturday night because the whole family, is going to be celebrating at my place. Tell the kids dress is casual, but I don't want those boys in those horrible baggy pants. I've always liked a man with a nice ass and those boys have three winners!" As I said, when Millie's around, things are always a little crazy.
        I called Immaculate Conception to see if I could talk with Fr. O'Brian. He could see me in half an hour so I left the office and spent fifteen or twenty minutes sitting in the church. I don't think what I was doing was really praying. I was still trying to sort things out. Luke was gay and in love with Matt. Ok, that was pretty clear. Why was he gay? I surely didn't know the answer to that one. Looking back I realized that while the approach to child rearing used by the Greywolfs was certainly different from that of the Larsens, Luke and Matt were no mama's boys; they played sports. They both had strong father figures--three, in fact, when I thought about it. The women in their lives were certainly strong women, but no one would ever mistake them for anything less than real women. It just didn't make sense.
        I also thought about what I had done. Sure I was angry, sure the church said Luke would go to hell if he loved Matt carnally, but I had hit Matt, who was as much my son in most ways as Luke and whom I loved as I loved Luke--I never showed it, at least not enough, but I did love them both. There was no doubt in my mind that both had loved me and that Luke still did. Yet I had hit Matt and, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I wanted to... ok, I wanted to kill Matt, to protect Luke from him.
        Since Gabrielle had talked with Fr. O'Brian, I didn't have to tell him what had happened previously, but I did talk about my reaction then and what had been going on in my head since. He listened without speaking, nodding occasionally to let me know he was still listening. When I had finished he said, "Jens, my concern is with you and your actions. Luke has not talked to me and probably won't. He knows the position of the church and he is honest enough not to live a lie. You know and I know the church's position on a lot of things--abortion, birth control, homosexuality, many things. And you know and I know at every Sunday Mass there are many people sitting in the pews and receiving the Blessed Sacrament who have violated the rules and will violate then again. Luke is not one of those. Perhaps it would be better on you if he were less honest, but you raised a son who is good and who is honest. He is neither going to deny his love nor remain celibate. The church's teaching that his actions will put him in a state of mortal sin,but that is not your problem or mine. Luke is an adult and must made adult decisions and face the consequences. Those consequences will not wait until judgement day either, as Gregory Burnette's abuse and suicide prove."
        "But you are responsible for your actions." He then took out a book and read me the statement of the American Bishops concerning the responsibilities of parents of gay children. "It seems to me, Jens, that since Luke is still a virgin, as he told his mother he was and I don't think Luke would lie about that, you are more in danger of being in a state of sin than he."
        "But what am I to do, Father?" I asked. Fr. O'Brian and I continued to talk about me and what I had done. Finally I was in tears again when he asked if I felt contrition for what I had said and done. All I could do was nod. I was somewhat surprised when he pronounced an absolution.
        "Jens, your penance is, in so far as you are able, to reconcile yourself to Luke, to Matt, and to the whole family. And Jens, I suspect that you will no longer see Luke at Immaculate Conception. Even though no one knows he is gay and has a lover, he knows and knows that his church condemns him and his love. Much as what Luke said to Gabrielle, how would you feel about your church if it condemned you because you loved Gabrielle. Remember, Luke must make his own decisions. Some will be good, some will be bad. With some you will agree, with some you will disagree, but it's his life. Love him for the fantastic child he is."
        As I drove home, I thought about that nightmare and realized that the nightmare was exactly what Gabrielle had asked me last night. How would I feel if someone hit her because I loved her? I certainly didn't understand Luke loving another man, but I began to understand how he must have felt when I hit Matt.
        My thoughts drifted about until I recalled Fr. O'Brian saying he expected Luke to leave the church.  I would not have thought Luke would even consider giving up his church. I thought about the terrible price Luke had shown he was willing to pay for his love, but I didn't yet know the whole story.
        When I got home I noticed a note on the dining room table. Thinking it was a note from Gabrielle, I picked it up and started reading. It was Luke's suicide letter to Matt. I had accused Matt of making Luke a faggot when neither of them were willing to tell the other of their love for fear it would destroy their friendship. And Luke, literally, would rather have died than place Matt at risk after what happened to Gregory. I knew that I had loved Gabrielle almost from the moment I first saw her and I know I told her I would sacrifice anything for her--and I meant it--but I don't think my love for her was close to Luke's love for Matt revealed in his short letter, a letter which clearly showed he would give his life for that love.
        I took the letter with me as I slowly walked upstairs into Luke's room. It was a room empty, not just because Luke wasn't there, but because Luke was gone out of my life. The full impact of what I had done hit me at once. Grasping for some sense of Luke's presence, I walked around the empty room and, with each step, the room seemed more empty. As I passed his closet I noticed through the open door an old school jacket carefully hung at the back. I smiled remembering how much he wanted the jacket his first year in high school. He asked for one only once and when I told him it was too expensive, he accepted the answer without question, but I still remember the disappointed look on his face.
        The next day, as I sat my desk, I recalled having once asked my dad for a school jacket and he told me it was too expensive. "Besides, you have a good jacket." Of course I did, but I didn't want the school jacket because I needed a jacket. I told my secretary that I was going out and wouldn't be back. I went to the shop and bought an Independence High School jacket and waited until the clerk could get Luke's name embroidered on it. When I got home, I put it away until we had finished supper. I went to my room, got the package and came back to the den. "Luke, I have something for you, Son," as I handed him the package. He looked puzzled, slowly opened the package and became as excited as he was on Christmas morning when he was a kid. He grabbed me, gave me a big hug and kissed my cheek--something we never do. He put on the jacket and practically wore it day and night thereafter. When he could no longer wear it--I would say when he outgrew it, but he wore it long after it would have been called "outgrown"--he placed it on a hanger and carefully hung it in the back of his closet.
        I took the jacket and, as I slipped it off the hanger, I felt as if Luke was there. Tears started filling my eyes and soon I was crying so hard I couldn't see. I clutched the jacket to myself and lay down on Luke's bed. "If my Luke and, yes, his Matt don't forgive me, I would go insane," I thought as I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness.
        Luke and I must have a built-in alarm clock because we both woke an hour later, still entwined in each other's arms. As I opened my eyes, Luke opened his and we looked into the soul of the other as smiles spread across our faces. Once again I brushed his lips ever so gently with mine--I guess the healing was going well, but I wasn't ready for heavy action again, yet--and he kissed me on the neck and under my chin then said, "Much as I'd like to stay here forever, I guess we better go."
        When we got to my place, Yong Jin was home.
        "What's going on, Mom?"
        "Well, Millie had a big-screen TV brought in this morning and had everyone working for the firm to watch the Today Show. Apparently she put Jens in a hard spot by bragging on you four. She called Gabrielle to tell her we were all to be at her place Saturday night for a 'little celebration.' She had told Jens the Gang of Four belonged to her, 'the grandkids she would never have' and Jens better remember that. Also, she told Gabrielle she had told Jens dress was casual, but to tell you guys no baggy pants because she likes a man with a nice ass and you three have winners!" All three of us started laughing. "Knowing Millie as I do, that is the toned-down version of what happened. Kinda feel sorry for Jens because when you hurt someone under Millie's protection, you have taken on a she-bear." Mom concluded, "So you two better get yourselves dolled up in something that will show Millie some ass tomorrow night!"
        "Mom!" I said as I turned bright red.
        "If you don't want to do it for Millie, do it for me," Luke laughed. "Guess I'd better run. Have homework to do and may get started on my project. Love you, Babe," he said as he kissed me on the forehead.
        "Luke, do you know I kissed you like that day after day when you were in the hospital?"
        "Yea, now that you mention it, I did know that. Babe, it kept me alive."
        "Maybe it'll keep me alive until my lips heal. I'll run you home."
        "Think I need the walk. Later."
        I went to my room and worked on a composition. I had a rough sketch of the two which I planned as the heart of my recital. I needed to get one of them done so I could get Eugene to help me with the brass and percussion parts and, while I would have the choral parts written, I did want to run them by Paula. And, of course, the two groups needed to get them so they could start practice.
         After I had worked about an hour, the phone rang and Mom called upstairs, "Matt, Greywolf, come quickly. Gabrielle needs us." I was so absorbed in what I was doing, I neither knew Dad was home nor had I heard what Mom had said at first, then my heart skipped a beat because her tone of voice let me know something very serious was wrong.


        I walked home, absorbed in thought about what had happened in the last week. I had never realized just how much I really loved my dad and how much I would miss him. I finally convinced myself that I had to stop focusing on his rejection or I would be a puddle of tears again. When I reached David's place, no one was home and I debated a few minutes whether I should do homework or go to the studio. Actually it wasn't much of a debate. Given that choice, my art always wins. I guess I had been working almost an hour, deep in thought and sketching for two major projects I was planning as the centerpiece of my exhibition as Matt was working on two compositions for his, when I suddenly realized someone was pounding on the studio door. "It's open," I yelled.
        Matt rushed in and said, "Luke, Gabrielle just called and needs us. David is not home and Michael and Greywolf just got back and went straight to your place. I came to get you when I remembered you didn't have a phone in the studio. I have no idea what's up."
        "My God, I hope Dad hasn't done something foolish. Millie kinda laid one on him today and he doesn't take things lightly as we all know so well. Let's go."
        It took less than three minutes for us to reach the Larsens'. When we went inside, Mom was crying and Mary Kathryn and Yong Jin were trying to comfort her. Michael and Greywolf were nowhere to be seen. "What's going on?" I asked, completely bewildered.
        Mom started to talk and choked up so Mary Kathryn answered, "When I got home today I had homework and went outside to the patio to do it since the day was so pretty--so I didn't hear anything going on. When Mom got home she asked where Dad was and I told her I guessed he was at work. She told me his car was in the garage, so we called him. When there was no answer we looked the house over and didn't find him. That's when Mom called Yong Jin."
        "Where are Michael and Greywolf?"
        Mary Kathryn swallowed before she answered, "They have gone to the falls."
        "Maybe he needed time to think, Luke, and you know we all go to the falls to sort things out," Matt said.
        "That's not why I went there," I said as I pictured Dad in the river.
        "Luke, you know your father and his absolute devotion to the church; you can't possibly think he'd do anything..." Matt paused and I saw reflected in his eyes the fact that I had never questioned my church's teaching until.... Matt embraced me and held me tight as tears started to flow. I knew that soon I would be out of control. Trying to keep control of my emotions, I held Matt tighter and tighter.
        As I was regaining some control, the door opened and David and Margaret came in. Yong Jin explained what was going on and both were stunned. David asked if anyone had searched the outbuilding and when Gabrielle shook her head, he went outside.
        "Mary Kathryn," Matt said, still holding me close as I clung to him, "you and Gabrielle have searched the house?"
        "Sure, the den, Mom's and dad's room, kitchen, dining room, even the bathroom."
        "Luke, come with me," Matt said, "I know where your Dad is." How could he know when the entire family was frantically searching and had searched everywhere? "Mom," he continued, "get Margaret and David, please." With those words, Matt put his arm around my waist and we walked toward the stairs.
        "Why are we going upstairs?" I asked. "I can't recall the last time either Mom or Dad set foot upstairs.
        "Because I know where your Dad is," Matt answered as we continued up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, Matt turned toward my room and when he reached it he very quietly pushed the door open. He was right; he knew where my dad was. Dad was lying on my bed, hugging an old school jacket of mine to his chest, his knees in a fetal position. We walked as quietly as possible to the bed. As I reached the bed and looked down on Dad, I could see the tear stains on the pillow where he had been crying. From the size of the stain, he had cried more lying there than I had seen him cry in my entire life.
        I reached out to touch him when Matt restrained me, placed his finger to his still swollen lip and motioned for us to leave the room. I didn't want to, but Matt would not stop pulling at my arm. When we left the room, Matt closed the door without a sound, again placed his finger to his lips and led me downstairs. As soon as we were downstairs Matt said, "Luke, I didn't want you to wake your dad because I think maybe more is involved here than just his falling asleep. I want to check with Margaret before we do anything."
        We walked back into the living room where David and Margaret were waiting with the others. "We found Dad, he's upstairs in my room. Someone needs to tell Greywolf and Michael."
        "We saw them walking this way when Yong Jin came to get me," David said.
        "Margaret, Matt thinks you should take a look at Dad before we do anything."
        "How does he look?" she asked. Matt and I described what we had seen when we went into my room.
        "Luke, it sounds to me as if your dad has a perfectly natural reaction to traumatic shock--more than one shock, actually. Yong Jin and Gabrielle have been filling me in on all that happened today, but think back to night before last when he learns his only son is gay, something he has just condemned. In reaction, he becomes so violent he attacks a young man he loves as much as if he were his own son. He draws blood from a man he had watched grow up, played with and loved for almost eighteen years. Further, he realizes that he has driven his son from his home. Finally, he placed himself outside the family which has always been of supreme importance to him.
        "Last night came when he knew we were together and he was here alone. Surely he condemned himself over and over again as he sat here utterly alone. Your mom comes home and says something like, 'Jens, you missed a wonderful celebration. David and Margaret are getting married!' Not only did he miss out on an important family event, but also the family went along as always without him. Try to understand how he must have felt inside. Think how he must have struggled with his 'I'm right, they're wrong' position when all around him everything pointed to his being in the wrong. Think of the guilt he was carrying, whether he was conscious of it or not."
        "I could be wrong, but I suspect Gabrielle could tell you that this morning he put on a more 'business as usual' front than his usual one." Mom nodded in agreement. "So he goes to the one place where everything is neat, orderly, predictable--debits on one side, credits on the other--only to find it is topsy-turvy. That he might have been able to handle, but his internal conflict was also tied into what was taking place at work. Millie had brought the whole thing right into his territory. Not only that, but he and everyone--from the janitor up--watched as the event which started the chain of events involving him was replayed right before his eyes, big-screen and in living color."
        "Now add to all that Millie's making it known that she thought you and Mary Kathryn were two of the finest people she had ever met. She kept holding the two of you up as models for all kids AND--here is the biggie--she gave him and Gabrielle credit for being outstanding parents. While she knew what he had done, he did not know that. Again, try to imagine the internal conflict. To cap it off, she gave him the day off and told him to go to church. She said to offer thanks for you and Mary Kathryn, but I suspect she knew that if he went, he'd have to struggle with the whole question of your being gay, loving Matt, and his reaction to it. Yesterday, if Gabrielle was right, he had his position more or less reinforced by Fr. Muller. If he went today, I don't think he talked with Fr. Muller and Fr. O'Brian is going to stick to the teaching of the church which includes telling parents they are not to disown their gay children, but to love and support them."
        "I suspect he drove home, went upstairs, looked at that empty room and collapsed. The closest he could come to you, maybe forever, was an old school jacket which, for whatever reason, held more of you than anything else. He lay down and either his body just gave up and he went to sleep or, more likely since he is in a fetal position, his mind tried to take his body back to a place and time of peace. When he wakes up he may be, outwardly at least, the same as before--I doubt that--or he may be, in a real sense, a newborn Jens."
        "What needs to be done, Margaret?"
        "Gabrielle, one question. Did you tell Jens that Luke had asked you how you would have felt had someone hit Jens because he loved you?" Mom was crying softly as she nodded "Yes."
        "And Jens' reaction?"
        "He didn't show any reaction at first, but when I added, 'And that's when I began to see Luke's love for Matt in a very new light,' he got a strange look on his face, a kinda puzzled look, but said nothing."
        "Then Luke, I suggest you and Matt, both, go upstairs and wait for Jens to wake up. Don't wake him unless he sleeps for more than another couple hours. If he continues to sleep longer than that, then come get me. Otherwise, sit and wait."
        Holding hands, Matt and I went back upstairs, opened the door quietly and walked over to the bed. I sat at the head of the bed beside my dad and Matt sat next to me. He put his arms around me and nuzzled my hair. I smiled to myself thinking the hair fetish was indeed catching. We sat perfectly still for what seems hours, but was really only fifteen or so minutes.
        I kept looking at my dad's face and the tear stains on the pillow. My eyes became tear-filled as I thought about how much I really loved Dad and how deeply he had hurt me and the man I loved above all else but, instead of becoming angry, I thought about what Margaret had said and how much I had hurt and disappointed him. I didn't feel guilty because I was who I was and could not change that and even doubted that I would if I could.
        Unconsciously, I began stroking Dad's hair. As I looked at Dad's face, his eyes slowly opened and he smiled. Dad has a great, hearty laugh, but he seldom smiled. I think he considered smiling unmanly. But he smiled, reached out an arm and pulled me to himself. His other arm reached out to Matt and Matt was also in his embrace. "Luke, Matt, I was wrong. I have never been more wrong in my whole life. Can you ever forgive me?" he asked as his eyes filled with tears.
        "Dad, I love you and of course I forgive you. I know that who I am and who I love has caused you great pain and disappointment, but you also caused me deep pain and hurt and you hurt the man I love more than I love life itself. I am who I am and Matt is who I love so, for that, I cannot ask forgiveness because it is not wrong; it is just the way it is. I do ask your forgiveness for the way I told you and for the pain I caused by attempting to take my life. I love you, Dad, and I never want anything to separate us."
        "Luke, you are who you are and I am proud of the Luke who is and, Son, I love you more than you can ever know and certainly more than I have ever told you." Dad held me to himself in a bear hug until both of us stopped crying."
        "Matt, I cannot excuse myself for striking you. I will neither forget nor forgive myself for that. I have loved you as a son since the day you were born. I don't understand two men loving each other in the way you love Luke. My church does not approve of it, but that is my problem. Can you ever forgive me for what I have done to you and Luke, please?"
        "Jens, you are the father of the man I love. I love the son who loves you. How could I not forgive you? I know how difficult it is for you to see that what you thought was one way is actually another. I am sorry that you learned about my love for Luke the way you did and I am sorry that the results caused so much pain for the whole family. I knew my face would heal, but I was terrified that the wound to the family would never be healed. Had that happened, I would not have been able to forgive, but I know that forgiveness on all our parts is the only way the wound can be healed and, other than my love for Luke, nothing is more important to me than the love I get from and have for the family. Of course I forgive you. Not only that, you must also forgive yourself. You're right that you'll never forget and that's ok, but you must forgive."
        Dad sat up, pulled Matt and me into a huge bear hug and held us both until Matt said, "Jens, I can't breathe!" We all laughed and the weight of the world was lifted from our shoulders.

Part Seventeen

        Jens, Luke and I disentangled ourselves and all three sat on Luke's bed. Luke and I laughed as Jens kept shifting around, trying to sit "Indian style", as we were, until he was finally able to get himself in some sort of position. I knew that we were in for some serious talk but, in spite of the hug and laughter, I wasn't sure what to expect.
        "Matt, I want to say again just how very sorry I am for my reaction to Luke's announcement that he was gay. Luke, if you had told me under different circumstances, I can't promise that my reaction wouldn't have been the same. Maybe I would have reacted less violently. I like to think I would, but I don't know.
        "Dad, that's all behind us now."
        "Yea, Jens, that's behind us."
        "Well, it may be behind us, but as I said, I will never forget what I did. Matt, I will try to forgive myself for slugging you, but I haven't yet. Anyway, I want to say some things so if you'll just let me speak my piece, then we can talk further if we need to."
        "Ok, Dad."
        "Luke, Matt, you both know that I have never questioned the teachings of the church. I can remember the day when the question of sexuality would never have been brought up, but things such as the TV broadcast of Gay Pride parades and the constant debate about gay rights has moved it from the closet...." Luke and I both started laughing. "Well, I didn't intend to make that pun, but anyway, as the question came to the forefront, Fr. Muller mentioned it frequently in his homilies. I had been taught--I'm not sure when or where or by whom, that being gay was a lifestyle chosen by some pretty sick and perverted people. Fr. Muller had made it abundantly clear more than once that such perverts were doomed to hell. I have tried very hard to teach you, Luke, and Mary Kathryn, right from wrong, the rules of the church and how to win heaven--I guess that's how I would put it. So you see, Matt, with my understanding of homosexuality and my determination that Luke and Mary Kathryn be raised right, the only explanation I could imagine for Luke's claiming he loved you was that you had seduced him into a perverted lifestyle. You had doomed him to hell in spite of all Gabrielle and I had done over the years. Later, of course, I learned differently."
        "When I came home yesterday there was a note lying on the dining room table. I supposed it was from Gabrielle but, when I started reading it, I realized it was your suicide note to Matt, Luke. I guess Gabrielle had left it where she knew I would pick it up and read it. If Luke was in love with you, Matt, and was afraid to tell you, it meant he knew he was different--gay--and had not been seduced by you since you obviously didn't know he was in love with you. And it was clear that he didn't know you were in love with him. So I had blamed you and hit you for something that I thought was true, but could not have been. Not only had I made a terrible mistake in assuming something, but made it worse by acting on it. I guess even if it had been true, the way I reacted was wrong but that was no longer a consideration."
        "This morning, during the Today Show, Millie kept telling me how proud I should be of all of you and especially of you, Luke, and Mary Kathryn. When it was over, I was in tears and really didn't know why. When she gave me the day off, she told me to go to my church and give thanks for my two kids. I went, but I was more concerned with trying to come to some understanding of what was going on. It was almost as if Millie knew everything...."
        "Jens, I guess we need to come clean with you. She did. Yesterday she was at school and saw me and demanded to know how I had gotten beat up. We asked her to lay off you for awhile."
        "I'm glad she did," Jens smiled--again--"otherwise I don't know I could have taken it. That woman is a titan! Anyway, I called Immaculate Conception and went over to talk to Fr. O'Brian. He said some things which really got me to thinking--and I had a nightmare the night before which I later realized placed me squarely in Luke's shoes. Luke, remember asking your mom how she would feel if someone had hit me because I loved her?" Luke nodded. "Well, I dreamed that her father had slugged me because she told him she loved me. I didn't understand that at first, but it became painfully clear later. In any case, Fr. O'Brian told me first off that the church's teaching was that parents of gay children should offer them love and support, not disown them as I had done you, Luke and, in a very real sense, you too, Matt. He also told me that the church had said--at least the American bishops--that being gay was not something someone chose, but something someone was. That knocked my prejudice into a cocked hat. He said that since you were still a virgin, Luke, you were ok, but I was in danger of falling into a state of sin if I hadn't already."
        "I was in tears--as much a surprise to me as I suspect to you--when I realized what I had done. I was completely flabbergasted when Fr. O'Brian gave me absolution. He also told me, Luke, that you are an adult and responsible for your own life as I am for mine. I guess that made me realize for the first time, really, that you are no longer my little boy. As I drove home I was struggling with a question and found no answer. 'If being gay is something a person just is and being gay means that sexual love is to be found in the arms of another man--and I'll admit that the whole idea kinda repulses me still--then how can the church say that it dooms you to hell?' Oh, the church can go with the 'no sex outside marriage' rule, but then she denies the possibility of marriage. In my world, things have to balance...."
        "As Margaret said earlier, 'debits on one side, credits on the other'," I mused aloud.
        "Exactly. And something didn't add up right. Priests are supposed to remain celibate, but that's an offering to God they freely choose to make. If there is no choosing being gay, then why aren't gay men free to choose being celibate or not. Doesn't make sense otherwise. Now, I want you to understand that I still can't see two men loving each other sexually, that doesn't make sense to me. It's not normal in my brain, but if the bishops are right, then it is normal except forbidden. I was thoroughly confused by the time I got home, but mostly I was terrified that I had lost a son--two sons--I loved deeply--even though neither of you have heard that from me, at least not very many times--and alienated myself from the family. But mostly, Luke, I was afraid I had lost you forever. Not only had I disowned you, but I had also hit the man you loved. I loved him too and I kept thinking how I would have felt had I been in your place and Matt been Gabrielle."
        "I came up here to your room, feeling it, the house, I, was empty and as I walked around, the place became emptier and emptier. Finally I saw that old school jacket and remembered how I got it for you and I guess it was like the blankets you and Matt carried around until you thought you were too big and even then you both had a piece--that was all that was left--of the blanket you slept with until, I guess, after you started school." Jens smiled--I think he's discovered something new in his life!--and continued, "That was another time I got sent to the couch, when I tried to take that ratty piece of blanket from you because it was unmanly. So I took the jacket off the hanger and collapsed on the bed crying. I cried until I was so exhausted that I just kinda passed out. I guess what I'd say right now is that I really wished things weren't the way they are. I don't understand and don't pretend to understand two men loving each other as I love Gabrielle. I can't approve of you two having sex because... well, I guess because the church doesn't approve and I have tried, always, to be faithful to the teachings of the church. I'll admit that I am having some problem with two teachings which seem to contradict themselves."
        "Mom said essentially the same thing, Dad. The Greywolfs said they wished we had a choice and would fall in love with two beautiful women and have loads of grandchildren, but they know that we had no choice. We are gay. We have always been gay and whether we admitted it to ourselves or not"--Luke looked at me and smiled--"we knew that we were, at least, in love with a man."
        "Another thing I have been thinking about," Dad said, "is the fact that the church teaches the purpose of sex is to have children. You both know that David and Elizabeth, Greywolf and Yong Jin, Gabrielle and I all wanted a house full of kids, but it was not to be. And even when we knew there were to be no more children, we didn't stop making love--having sex."
        "Well, Luke, I assume you knew you were not born of a virgin!" Jens laughed. "So there are other reasons for having sex--making love--expressing your love for the one you love reaches its highest peak through sex. So--again--you can see where I have a problem. To tell you the truth, the books just won't balance and that is a very painful situation for this old bookkeeper."
        "But that's just it, Jens, making love I mean. Luke and I have vowed we would find a thousand ways of expressing our love and devotion to each other, but sex is definitely on the agenda."
        "Then Fr. O'Brian was right, you are still virgins."
        "Yes, we are. Greywolf asked--not told... well, actually, it wasn't even asking. He said he would like for us to wait to have sex until we were eighteen. Out of respect for him and Yong Jin and the love and support they have given us, we made the decision to do that, but it has not been easy!" Luke said.
        I pulled out my medallion and showed it to Jens. "Jens, Luke gave me this and has one himself as a reminder that we are to take things slow and easy. They have proven very useful at times."
        "Dad, I guess we need to get downstairs before someone thinks something is wrong. Margaret told us to come get her if you slept more than two hours so she could make sure you didn't need help of some kind."
        "Before we go, I want to say a couple of things and I mean them from the bottom of my heart. I have told you where I stand right now as nearly as I understand it. Sorting things out is my problem, not yours. But regardless of anything else, I want both of you to know two things. First, in spite of my behavior earlier which seemed to the contrary, I love both of you very much. Matt, I am confident that I love you as much as I would were you my son. Luke, I am proud of you and I love you deeply. Please remember that in spite of how things may sometimes appear. The second thing, and it's strange to even hear myself say it, is Luke, if you are to love a man, you love the best and Matt, you are in love with the finest the world has to offer."
        Luke and I said together, "We know that Jens!"
        "Well, let's go downstairs; I guess there's a lot to discuss."
        "To tell the truth, Jens, there is not a whole lot that hasn't been discussed so most of what we need to do is catch you up with what has gone on," I said. "But we need to go on down since the others are involved and, no doubt, are concerned."
        Luke uncrossed his legs as I did mine and we stood up. We both had to laugh as Jens struggled to get out of his "Indian style" sitting position and then nearly fell when he tried to stand. His legs had gone to sleep! Luke saved him as he started falling to the floor.
        When we got downstairs, there was the smell of something wonderful cooking. One thing about it, when Gabrielle is happy, sad, glad or mad, she heads for the kitchen. It's almost enough to want to keep her in a mood--at least a good one. No one, but no one, wants Gabrielle pissed off. It's hard to do, but when she is, somewhere else is the place to be. Mom, Margaret and Gabrielle were all in the kitchen, Michael and Mary Kathryn were setting the table and David and Dad were sitting in the den, talking quietly.
        "The dead has arisen!" Luke shouted as we came into the room. Gabrielle came from the kitchen, an anxious look on her face. She looked at Luke, then Jens, then me. Seeing that all was well, she ran to Jens, threw her arms around him and gave him a pretty hot kiss. I had been around the pair for almost eighteen years and that was the first time I had ever seen either Jens or Gabrielle give the other more than a peck on the cheek. Luke started laughing hysterically and pointing at Jens back. Gabrielle had been stirring some kind of sauce and still had the spoon in her hand when she embraced Jens. The sauce ran off the spoon and down Jens' back. When Gabrielle noticed what was happening she did the "cat licking its paw" bit as if to say, "Who? Me? I did nothing." Like daughter like mother!
        "Well, Jens, don't just stand there, change that shirt--maybe your pants as well. We're ready to eat and anything you and the boys have to say can wait." Jens saluted and went to their room to change.
        "How're things?" David asked.
        "Better. Actually, pretty damn good," Luke said.
        "Yea, better than I had dared hope," I added.
        When Jens had changed, he came back and the family--all the family--sat down to dinner. It was obvious that Gabrielle had really been upset because there was food enough for an army and it all looked delicious. When it came time for grace, Jens who, as our family, usually used a short "standard" mealtime grace, tonight put his heart into it. He offered thanks for the family, for the Gang of Four in particular, he offered thanks for David's and Margaret's love for each other and prayed for grace and understanding for himself and all of us. Then he, once again, offered thanks for the restoration of the family to wholeness. The "Amen" which followed was a roof raiser--we were all very happy to have the family whole again. The food not only looked delicious, its taste far exceeded its looks!
        When we had eaten, Jens said, "Kids, if you'll clear the table, we'll gather in the den." The task was completed quickly. When we got to the den, Jens was pouring wine--a sure sign of celebration. Of course, the Gang of Four had a glass with the grownups. "Here's to four of the greatest kids in the world," Jens said. "May we all continue to love each other even in the face of confusion and the struggle to understand." When we had all drunk the toast, Jens said, "I understand that I have been in the dark for a long time. Someone, please start at the beginning."
        "Dad, you have read my letter to Matt so you know what that was all about. But you don't know why I am still here." Luke then told Jens how I had spent every night at his bedside, how I had told Mom and Dad about us since  I had to be gone every night. "The upshot of my getting out of the hospital was a family meeting, but it had to be held without you and Mom, so we arranged for your weekend get-away. I hope it was a good time because I think we all felt a little guilty about sending you away."
         Jens smiled--and his face was still together even though he had smiled more in the past few hours than I had seen him smile all my life--and said, "Well, Guys, I told you begetting children in not the only reason for making love!" The whole family cracked up. This was a new Jens indeed!
        I took up the story and reported what had been discussed at the family meeting. "Jens, Gabrielle, you know Greywolf. When we had finished, Luke and I wrote down a list of what had been discussed. Seems kinda like a long time ago, but we both kept a copy."
        When I mentioned the prom, Yong Jin said, "Gabrielle and I both noticed Paula when she was conducting the chorus. We have talked with Mary Kathryn and I think we have the problem solved but, Luke, it's a secret."
        When I got to the item concerning school for next year David asked, "Have you two done anything about that?"
        "Given the excitement at home and school, it has just kinda got pushed into the background. It's something we really need to think and talk about yesterday--I think we need to look at that carefully tomorrow. Matt and I will see what Ms. Norman has to offer," Luke mused.
        "Our summer plans haven't changed--at least as far as summer programs go. I'll go to Sewanee and Luke to Sarasota. We both need to do the summer programs."
        "But I can tell you right now, I will do the program, but it's not a trial separation. It's just a separation. To be very honest, I am not going to be separated from Matt unless I have to and where I go to college next year is going to be with or near Matt. That's that!"
        "Same here. I don't want to toss my life and future down the drain, but both of those include Luke. There has to be some way we can be together and still do what we need to do. Even if it means putting off school for a year, I'm willing to do that."
        "I don't think that is an option," David said. "Even if you go to the community college in Lexington next year, you can move ahead with your education. The first year is mostly required courses anyway."
        "For most," Margaret commented, "but remember, these two have almost a year done if they pass their AP exams. The community college route would really be a waste of time, even if they took a full load. We all need to see what can be done. Have you guys thought about the dual enrollment option?"
        "Been kinda busy lately. Luke and I need some time to discuss that--soon."
        "Luke, you said we needed to talk about your coming home," Jens said.
        "Dad, it has nothing to do with being welcome at home or not, but I now have a studio set up at David's. I have already made arrangements so Mom will pick up Matt if I didn't show up at her office before 5:00. That's so if I am really involved in my work I'll not have to be interrupted. What do you think about my staying at David's if I have breakfast after the Gang of Four run and dinner with the family unless I am really involved in what I am doing? Of course there is not a phone in the studio. There is a jack there, but I really like the idea of being away from everything when the creative juices are flowing."
        "So long as you are not staying away because of me and David is willing, I guess that's a good idea. How are we going to know if you will be here for dinner?"
        "We always have dinner at the same time," Luke smiled, "It's the old bookkeeper and Teutonic genes, I guess. So if I'm not here fifteen minutes before, go ahead without me."
        "Jens, I told Luke he would always have a home at my place. Now that he's settled in, I think what he says makes sense. I know you will miss him. I know that I would like very much to know the studio is being used and I'm sure he'll be home most nights for dinner. I mean, after all, Gabrielle is still cooking, right?" David laughed.
        "So long as you are sure you're not staying away because of me," Jens said, with actual tears in his eyes. Luke walked over to him and embraced him. The Larsens are becoming as mushy as Greywolfs!
        "I'm sure, Dad. I just know that I have to have a great deal of uninterrupted work time, I need time with Matt, and I need to be with you, Mom and Mary Kathryn. The best way to do that is for me to be near the studio. I have to have my AP portfolio completed and submitted by May 12 and that's only five weeks away."
        "So where does that leave us?" Greywolf asked, always for neat and orderly conduct of business.
        "House rules? I guess Luke and I won't be together very much the next few weeks--not enough anyway--but when we are here, what are the house rules?"
        "Yong Jin, Greywolf, what's the house rules at your place? Maybe they can be the same," Gabrielle said.
        Yong Jin laughed, "It might work, but if the changes in Jens don't take, maybe not. Our rule is no more displays of affection than the boys have seen between me and Greywolf. The boys--I find it hard not to call them boys, but when I see what they have done and accomplished and the kind of decisions they have made, they are men, Gabrielle, Jens--the boys have set their own rule for when they are in Matt's room: the door stays open. But Greywolf and I have also made it clear that was their decision and we respect their privacy."
        "Sounds reasonable to me," Jens said. "I am having a hard time understanding how men can love each other the way Gabrielle and I love each other, but then that's my problem, not Luke's and Matt's."
        "Mr. Larsen, Sir, do the same rules apply to me and Mary Kathryn, Sir?"
        "My good God, Michael, I wouldn't have expected as much formality if you were asking for Mary Kathryn's hand in marriage," Jens laughed a genuine Jens' laugh. "But what's with this 'me and Mary Kathryn' bit?"
         I could see Michael's mouth forming his well-known 'Holy shit!' as he blushed, stammered and coughed a couple of times. The whole family cracked up, especially in light of the fact that old cool Michael seldom--almost never--got himself in a bind from which he could not talk his way out, but it looked as if this was one of those times. But he would not admit total defeat. "Well, Jens, you can toss in asking for Mary Kathryn's hand and save me coming back in a few years!" Michael responded. "But right now, Mary Kathryn and I are in love too and have the same rule as Matt and Luke at the Greywolfs'.  Except, of course, when she sleeps with all three of us guys." Michael will not be outdone.
         Jens looked taken aback for a split second, then laughed another hearty laugh. "Well, you'll just  have to make an extra trip, young man. And since it looks as if you and Mary Kathryn will be responsible for producing all the grand kids, you might think you need to get an early start, but I can wait for grand kids and you better wait as well if you ever expect to be able to father kids by my little girl. But, yes, I see no reason why you and Mary Kathryn should not have the same rules as Luke and Matt," Jens said.
        Mary Kathryn grabbed Michael and laid one of her hot specials on his lips.
        Jens cleared his throat three or four times before Mary Kathryn let Michael breathe then said, "I believe, Mary Kathryn, your mom and I were to be the models for your showing affection in this house and I don't think you have ever seen anything like that from us!"
        "I would have, had you been properly trained as a young man AND I almost saw it not long ago had Mom been trained to take kissing seriously enough to make it top priority instead of mixing kissing and cooking AND it was Michael who wanted the rule, I didn't agree to it, AND I think you and Mom need a good role model and I intend to provide it--with Sir Michaels' help AND...."
        "Mary Kathryn, you have made your case, I believe," Jens chuckled and I thought "Someone has kidnapped Jens and replaced him with a look-alike" and it was wonderful. Could a person really change that much? Talk about miracles!
        "Since I am the newest member of the family, I suspect it might be hard for all of you to realize how happy I am we are a family whole again. As new as I am, I don't think I would have been able to take it if it had remained fragmented," Margaret said, "and I know that all of you would have had your very hearts torn out.  Matt's and Luke's relationship will, no doubt, continue to raise questions, not just for you and Gabrielle, Jens, but in different ways for all of us, but we are whole and, I know, willing to see that living relationships change, but the basis for them all is deep, deep love."
        "Margaret, that brings up something else since we are all here," Greywolf said. "We need to get this wedding planned. Have you and David given any thought to that?"
        "I don't think Dad has," Michael laughed. "To use an old Lakota expression, I think 'his brain is in his crotch'." Isn't that the right expression, O Wounded One?"
        In my best movie Indian voice, I said, "White Boy speak'um truth."
        Greywolf, who didn't permit a lot of movie Indian anything, in an even better movie Indian voice said, "Heap lot'um that going round."
        "Actually, I have given it more thought than I have had time for. I know that there are a lot more people I want to invite than I first thought about. And if they will do me the honor, I would like for Matt and Luke to give me away. This is going to be an old-fashioned ceremony that way. And, Mary Kathryn, I would like for you to be my maid of honor."
        "Margaret, I'd be honored to join Luke--in just about any way!--in giving you away. But I thought I'd be providing the music."
        "Is that possible? At the falls?"
        "Sure, of course it will not be St. Mary's organ, but my keyboard can be programed to sound great. We can borrow a generator to run it. Doesn't take much."
        "Matt, that would be fabulous!"
        "Yong Jin and I are taking care of the reception which will be held at the falls as well. Anything special?" Gabrielle asked.
        "Anything you two do will be special."
        "Well, I guess all I have any say about is my best man and that is my best man, Michael," David laughed.
        "Matt, music is completely in your hands," Margaret said. "I guess that takes care of everything. Gee, that was easy."
        "I suppose there will not be any big rehearsal, but if Fr. Tom can manage to forget it's Holy Saturday, I'll see if he can do a rehearsal around noon on Saturday. Jens and I will take care of a rehearsal luncheon," Greywolf offered.
        "Sounds great. Thanks fellows," David said.
        "This may not be the time to bring it up, but since we are talking wedding plans, Matt and I cannot be married, but when we are ready, we are going to have a commitment ceremony. Just wanted everyone to know. Fr. Tom is not willing to jeopardize his ministry by having a same-sex wedding, but he did say he would celebrate a Eucharist after the ceremony," Luke said.
        "Which brings up another subject needed to clear the air. Luke, Fr. O'Brian said he suspected you would no longer be going to Mass at Immaculate Conception. Was he right?" Jens asked.
        Why did I feel like this was a loaded question? Could it be because Jens was absolutely adamant about there being only one catholic and therefore, true, church. It was the one subject never to be discussed among the families. I held my breath. I looked at Luke who was obviously bracing for another outburst.
        "Dad, Fr. O'Brian said I was an adult and had to be responsible for my own decisions. I have been a loyal son of the church since birth. The first time I ever stepped outside the bounds was when I attempted suicide. I did that for love of Matt, a love that is stronger now than then. I know he loves me in turn. I wish with all my heart that the church in which I grew up would at least acknowledge that love for what it is, love. Instead, it tells me that my expressions of love for Matt are sinful and will damn me to hell. It tells me that the man I love is sinful because he loves me. Last Sunday I sat among friends who knew I was gay, listened as my love played for a congregation which appreciated and loved him. I know that Fr. Tom may be unwilling to officiate at our union because he sees his ministry extending beyond what he might like to do, yet I know he will never stand in the pulpit and condemn me, Matt or our love. Right now I can receive the Blessed Sacrament at Immaculate Conception--I think, I'm not sure where the line the church draws between homosexual feelings and action lies--but I do know that soon the only way I could would be to live a lie. That is a price I am not willing to pay, especially since that lie would be denying my love and my very life. So, in a word, 'Yes,' Fr. O'Brian was right. Beginning last Sunday I made St. Mary's my church home."
        "Luke, that saddens me as you well know. At the same time, you know that for the first time in my life I am struggling with questions about the church. But a simple yes would have been enough," Jens chuckled and you could hear everyone in the room give a sigh of relief.
        "Well, folks, it's been an eventful time," David said. "I think we should call it a day."
        "It has been a good day," Greywolf said. "One which has seen much pain and much more healing. It has been a good day."
        "Margaret, I suspect if you are going to put David back on the Slow and Easy Menu, you'll be using David's guest room tonight," Luke said with that evil grin of his.
        "Actually I had planned to drive back to my place."
        "If you keep your door open, you can stay over," Michael joked.
        "I promise," Margaret laughed.
        "Luke, we're not going to get any school work done tonight. If I promise to keep the door open, will you spend the night with me?" I asked, positive I knew the answer.
        "Slow and Easy Menu, promise?"
        "What's with this Slow and Easy Menu bit?" Jens asked. All three of the unwed couples blushed. Luke and Mary Kathryn, being so fair, practically lit up the room. In spite of her blush, Margaret saved the "youngsters" further embarrassment by carefully explaining that she had made up a "menu" of acceptable means of showing affection for those who were postponing sex.
        "You know, I wonder if any couple, of whatever persuasion, ever had the kind of loving care the Gang of Four has," Jens mused. "Thanks, Margaret for caring. Especially for caring enough to make all the trouble and pain of the past two days possible, for without you and Matt, Luke would not have been here. In a very real sense, the trials and pain will, in some form or other, be with us all for a long time I suspect, but that's because my son is alive and that makes it all worth it. Thanks."
        "It's good to have the family back again," Mary Kathryn said, "and now I'm going to turn the porch light out, take Michael Andrews outside and show him what pain is!" She grabbed Michael's hand and flipped off the outside light. I knew what kind of pain Michael was in for and I'm sure he felt it was a small price to pay for what Mary Kathryn was about to do to him!
        "Night all," David and Margaret said and followed the two young lovers out the door.
        "Goodnight, Mom," Luke said as he hugged and kissed Gabrielle. When he started toward Jens, Jens walked over, took his son in a bear hug and said, "Goodnight, Luke, I love you very much. He then embraced me and said, "I love you too, Matt Greywolf."
        Goodnights said, Luke and I left. As we walked past Michael and Mary Kathryn they were so into Slow and Easy they didn't notice. As we got into the Jeep, Luke chuckled, "I bet we can hear Michael groaning all the way to your place when she gets finished with him."
        "Guess it runs in the family," I replied.
        When we reached our place, Luke and I said goodnight to Mom and Dad and went to my room.


        As soon as we were in Matt's room, he pushed the door almost closed, and I took him in my arms. The events of the day had just about done me in. Suddenly, for no reason I could figure out, I started sobbing out of control. Matt picked me up like a baby, kissed me ever so gently on the forehead and took me to his bed. He lay beside me and held me tightly to himself. I kept sobbing out of control and started shaking. As he held me, he kept angel kissing my face and started singing softly, "More than the greatest love the world has known...." Slowly my sobbing stopped and I clung to him as he continued to sing. I finally looked into his face and saw the depth of his love for me in his pained eyes.
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, how can I ever repay you for loving me the way you do? How can I repay you for loving me when I keep falling apart?"
        "Yonghon Tongmu, you repay me a thousand times over just by loving me. Falling apart? I don't think you would be normal if you didn't come unglued after the last two days. Luke, Babe, loving you means standing by you, holding you when the going gets rough. I'm afraid we will both have to hold the other many times because we will have rough times. But being committed to each other means in good times and bad times--for better or worse, Babe."
        As I gazed into Matt's eyes, I was spellbound by the love I saw there and almost wept at the pain also there. He kissed my lips, much harder than he should. I said, "Matt, Beloved, you shouldn't do that. Your lips...."
        "Luke, Soulmate, my pain from a cut lip is physical. Your pain is deeper. I will heal soon...."
        "With your love, Matt, so will I.
        He kissed my forehead and said, "That's where healing kisses belong," and kissed me again. He began to undress me and when I started to help, he said, "No, I want to do it myself. When I was undressed, he started angel kissing my nipples, running his tongue over them and nipping one, then the other.  I was was getting very hot and very hard. Matt raised up on his knees and undressed himself. When he was undressed, he lay on top of me, his hardness pressing against mine. I reached up and took the bands from his wonderful hair and, as it cascaded about my face, I gazed into those magnificent black almond eyes.
        "Luke, I want to make love to you with my body. I am tired of hurting and waiting, waiting and hurting and not worshiping your body with mine."
        Matt looked into my eyes as I said, "Matt, you know there is nothing I would refuse you. If that is truly what you want, then..." While I was still speaking, almost as if by magic, his medallion fell on my chest. I raised up enough to see it lying there, a shiny silver symbol of our love, not just for ourselves, but for others as well. I looked at Matt's medallion for what seemed like a very long time and when I looked up I looked into the eyes of my love. "Matt, is that what you really want? If that is what you really want, then I will."
        "Yonghon Tongmu, that is what I really want. Yes, that is what I really want. I really and truly do...." Then he reached out took our medallions from my chest, held them together in his hand as tears started running down his cheeks--those beautiful, dark Lakota cheeks. "I want my Luke. Why does it have to be so difficult, Luke?" his tears flowed freely. "Why does it have to be so difficult?"  We held each other tightly, my lips pressed against his face as he cried. He cried, I knew, because of the pain we had endured, because we loved so deeply, he cried because... because. When he stopped weeping, I kissed his tears away.
        He was clinging to me, clutching my body to his, frantically. He pulled my lips to his in a passionate, lustful kiss. His tongue invaded my mouth--I couldn't have stopped it had I wanted to do so. Suddenly my mouth, my world, was filled with the taste of Matt. His kiss continued, passionate, lustful, hard, almost brutal. Along with the intoxicating taste of Sarang Hanun Pomul there was also the taste of blood. When he broke the kiss, I said, "Dark One, your lip is bleeding again."
        He said, "I don't care. I want you and if your lips and mouth are all I can have, I willing pay in blood if necessary." Once again he kissed me with an abandon I had not known before and I knew it cost him pain and would continue to demand payment until he had time to heal. Once again his tears started flowing and I held him tightly as he had done me so many times it seemed. As he wept into my shoulder, his tears wetting my chest, I stroked his hair and sang his mom's Korean lullaby softly, rocking him in my arms.
         Gradually I felt Matt's body relax as he snuggled in my arms. He had endured much pain for me; he had been the strong one and tonight he felt free to let out his pain, his frustration. Now, thankfully, he was relaxed in my arms. I thought he had drifted off to sleep he was so relaxed, until he asked again, "Why does it have to be so hard Luke?"
        "Because we love each other so very, very much, yet we are unwilling to forget those who love us and whom we love. Because we care so very much and love so very much those who love us. Matt, we love so deeply it hurts, not just each other, but those who love us, care for us and honor our love. It's difficult because we refuse to be animals when our whole being is screaming to--not make love, but fuck! But...."
        I reached up and pulled Matt to myself, covering my face with his hair, drawing strength from the fragrance that was his alone, a fragrance which might have started in a bottle, but which his body made his very own. Matt rolled off of me, his hair still covering us, pulled me to himself and kissed me so softly I knew there was only love and not pain in it.
        As Matt continued to angel kiss me, I felt his manhood harden between us as I am sure he felt mine. I raised up, looked again into the black depths of his almond eyes and smiled as my hand found his wonderful, beautiful hardness. As I grasped my love's manhood, I felt his powerful hand grip mine. We continued gazing into the other's eyes as we gave each other the pleasure that only lovers can give. Suddenly, together, we were among the stars of the night. As we collapsed in each other's arms, I gave Matt a tender, loving, ever-so-gentle kiss which he returned. And, to prevent the morning after we had experienced before, Matt handed me tissues which were to become a permanent fixture on the nightstand. After a goodnight kiss, we held each other as we drifted into the land of dreams where there is only love and no pain or problems.

Part Eighteen


        I knew I was sound asleep, but I also knew that Matt was near. It was the same feeling I had when I was unconscious in the hospital. I became frightened, fearing it had all been a dream and I was still unconscious, facing death, in the hospital. But I felt Matt's presence and that was all I needed to drive fear away. I slowly became conscious and opened my eyes. As I did, I looked up into the smiling face of my Sarang Hanun Pomul, my Beloved Treasure. As I returned his smile, I loosened his hair and allowed it to cover my face, enveloping me in the fragrance of my Matt.
        "Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, my Soulmate," he said as his black almond eyes smiled into mine.
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I want to wake up every day for the rest of my life and see your smile greeting me," I said.
        "That is my dream, Bright Angel," Matt replied as his lips almost touched mine. As he bent forward, I could see where his utter abandon last night had left dried blood on his swollen lips.
        "Matt, you have to promise me you will not kiss me again until your lips are healed. You are constantly opening the cut and that cannot be good."
        "I promise, Luke, but last night I had just had more than I could take. I had a horrible nightmare as a result I suspect. I dreamed I had forced myself on you and I awoke crying my eyes out. I was ashamed and frightened. I was afraid you would wake up and I would have to tell you why I was crying. I was so ashamed, so ashamed, Luke."
        "Babe, it was only a dream. You may make mad passionate love to me, but Babe, you'll never have to worry about forcing yourself on me!" I smiled.
        "Luke, I don't know how I can love you more each day when each day I think I love you more than any human has ever loved another, but I do. I waked up and saw you sleeping beside me and I almost wept for joy. You were so beautiful, so wonderfully beautiful lying there asleep. I wanted just to stay here all day and watch you sleep."
        "Don't think that could happen, Matt. In fact, I need out of bed right now!" I laughed. Both of us made the sprint across the hall, then laughed when we had trouble getting any action going because of our morning woodies. When we finally were able to take care of that morning ritual, we brushed our teeth, crawled into our sweats and hit the road. We now tried to run at least five miles each morning when we had a chance to run. Our schedule, which cut back on workouts at school, had made us more concerned with keeping up our running. Now Mary Kathryn joined us for a run, but she usually did not run as far.  Michael, I noticed, tended to shorten his run to something just beyond hers, turn back and race her to his place. She usually won.
        When Matt and I got back to David's place, Mary Kathryn and Michael were doing cool-down stretches. All of us did stretches and ran in place while we talked. "Michael, Matt and I think it would be a good idea to pool our equipment so we could do workouts at home since getting around to it at school seems pretty difficult these days."
        "Sounds super to me," he responded, "that way I can make sure you get your lazy asses sweating on a regular basis. Where do we put the stuff?"
        "There's an unused storage building at our place," Matt said. "It's large, clean and airy. There's even water outside if you can take a cold shower."
        "Babe, with you around, I'll need a cold shower!" I laughed.
        "Well, let's plan to get that done this weekend. Michael, Mary Kathryn, Luke and I have to see Ms. Jones and maybe Ms. Norman today about the college situation so we'll be around until the end of the school day. Would you two like to ride to school with us?"
        "IF you will keep your eyes on the road and your mind on driving sure, but if brother mine keeps distracting you and gets us killed, I'll really kill you!"
        "Sister mine, you are such a charming, gentle lady," I laughed. Then I turned to Michael and said, "Man, you sure have balls to take on this woman, but you better guard them carefully or she'll have'em."
        "Not you should worry, brother mine, they belong to me already!"
        "Well, I guess we could stand here all day and avoid the mind dulling drug of school, but probably not. See you later," Michael said, kissed Mary Kathryn, and turned to go inside. The three of us remaining did a fast walk to Matt's place, where I kissed him on the forehead before Mary Kathryn and I raced home for breakfast.
        Mary Kathryn sprinted ahead of me and had taken over the bathroom when I got upstairs. I knew that would take awhile, so I selected clothes for school. I had always been careful about dressing since I never wanted to look like I had just grabbed the first things I saw, but lately I was even more conscious of my dress. I wanted to be sure Matt saw me at my best and Matt had always looked sharp, selecting outfits that complemented his darkness and showed off his bubble butt. When the baggy look started (I didn't know it at the time, but it would get worse and worse until keeping pants on would become a major problem for those who had to wear the latest, regardless.) Matt and I never joined that group. As a friend once said, "If you've got it, flaunt it or lose it!
        Mary Kathryn had finally finished her "toilet" and I had the bathroom to myself. As I showered, I realized that I had no desire to take care of Little Luke. I had the feeling that he belonged to Matt now. When I had finished in the shower, I dressed and went downstairs. Mom was just ready to sit down to breakfast. Not only was Gabrielle a great cook, but also was a demon about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. She was equally adamant about our school lunch and always packed lunch for all of the Gang of Four to keep us from eating mystery meat and other school delicacies. When I walked into the kitchen--we ate family meals at a great kitchen table--Mom was placing the last dish on the table and Dad was, as always reading the morning paper. I put my arms around Mom as she placed the dish on the table and kissed her on the cheek. She turned and embraced me, something new. But that was not the surprise of the morning. When I said, "Good morning, Dad," Dad folded his paper, put it aside and said, "Don't I get a good morning hug?" I was so shocked I hesitated and then walked over to him and bent over to place a kiss on his cheek. As I did, he reached up and put his arms around me and kissed me first! I knew Jens had been captured by an alien and replaced with a look-alike!
        I was even more thunderstruck when he said, "Luke, I have missed so much by being so "manly." I didn't let you and Mary Kathryn know how much I love you. I hope you two will let me try to catch up."
        "Let anyone try to stop you and they'll have a fight on their hands!" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.
        "And, Dad, if you don't know it, when you have a fight with Mary Kathryn on your hands, it makes Gabrielle look like a pussy cat!" I said as all of us had a good morning's laugh. "Damn, this is great! I guess all the shi... beg pardon, Mom... all we've gone through was a small price to pay."
        "I'm glad you feel that way, Luke. I worried...."
        "Don't, Dad.
        We had just finished breakfast when Matt and Michael came in. Without thinking, I grabbed Matt and kissed him on the forehead. "Ready for school, Yonghon Tongmu?" he smiled as he barely brushed my lips with his. Mary Kathryn didn't have to be careful and gave Michael a good morning kiss he would, no doubt, smile about all day!
         I suddenly realized what we had done and took a quick glance at Jens. He had just grabbed his paper and was pretending to be absorbed in it. I laughed and Matt; Michael and Mary Kathryn all joined in. "Sorry, Jens," Matt said. "I guess Luke and Mary Kathryn got carried away. I think its in the genes"
        Jens looked up and said, "What? What did you say?"
        "I was apologizing for Luke and me."
        "For what? What are you talking about?"
        In answer Matt said, "Jens, you have the paper bottom-side up!" I didn't know what to expect.
        Jens looked up and laughed. "I guess Mary Kathryn is trying provide a role model."
        "Later, Mom, Dad," I said and kissed both on the cheek. Mary Kathryn did the same and we left for school.
        At lunch, the Select Few were essentially just chattering about nothing when Paula said, "Wonder where Linda is? She's usually one of the first here." She hardly had the words out of her mouth when Linda sailed in for a landing.
        "'s up, Linda?" Michael asked.
        "Wellllll, (We're in for it," I thought.) I had a note to call my mom. She was reminding me that I needed to help out my cousins from Lexington."
        "Help'm do what?" Larry asked.
        "Well, you know their prom was last weekend. They go all out--no decorated gym for them. They rent the downtown ballroom, have dinner at the best restaurants, have a limo to drive them to the prom, pay a fortune for their dresses--you know, the whole nine yards. Well, after they paid a fortune for their dresses, they realized they had spent all that money for a one night stand, so to speak. When they asked about coming to our prom so they would at least get to wear them once again, I told them they couldn't unless they had dates with an Independence student, thinking that would close the case. But nooo! Their mom called my mom--and you know how my mom gets into the social whirl thing!--so Mom started bugging me about finding dates for them. I mean, they're good looking--in fact they are real lookers--and really fun, but I'm not running a dating service!"
        I looked at Matt, who was looking at Michael. I could just see the wheels turning in Michael's head. His plotting brain cells were in overdrive. As he started smiling, I looked back at Matt who said a silent "YES!" "Linda, I know you have a real problem there and I am sure we'd like to help you out. You're sure these two cousins are not real dogs?" Michael asked.
        "No. I mean it. They are great looking and are really, really fun. It's just that I am sick and tired of Mom pushing and pushing and pushing. That's it, otherwise I would have tried to get dates for Lois and Louise...."
        "Lois and Louise?" Michael asked.
        "Yea. They're twins."
        "Do you think your mom would spring for a limo? I mean if she really wants this to happen, wouldn't she do that?"
        "I'm sure she and their mom would do just about anything to get them to our prom."
        "Well, Select Few, it seems we have an extra pair of unattached males in our midst. Larry, Eugene, you don't have prom dates do you?"
        "Well, no. I don't," Larry said as he looked at Eugene.
        "Neither do I," Eugene said and a smile crossed his face. He had finally figured out where Michael was headed.
        "Linda, what's your curfew?" Michael asked. I wondered what he was up to. Clearly this guy was going to be a lawyer, or a career criminal--or was there a difference?"
        "Well, since the incident with Orie Greenly, it's back to no dates on school nights and a 10:30 curfew. I still could kill that jock! Anyway, they have given me a 1:00 curfew for prom night."
        "I think we can handle that. Larry, Eugene, how would you like dates with two real lookers for the prom?" Michael asked and winked at Larry and Eugene.
        "Sounds like a winner to me," Larry said and winked at Eugene. Poor Linda was so involved in seeing her problem solved that she didn't see the side play.
        "Let me sum up," Michael said. (I expected to see him stand up, tuck his thumbs under his armpit and begin, "Your honor....") You will tell your mom that you have friends who, unfortunately, find they did not have dates for the prom and you convinced them, in spite of their disappointment over their original plans, to date Lois and Louise. Since you planned to go with the six of us--Matt and you, Luke and Paula, Mary Kathryn and I, you think the least she and the twin's parents can do is supply a limo so we can still all go together...  and pick up the tab for a nice dinner for all of us at Concord's finest. Of course, since the family is providing a party for us after the prom...."
        "They're what?" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.
        "I'm not sure they know about that yet, I guess I forgot to tell them, but sure they are, after the prom, we'll go there for awhile and have you three girls safely at home by 1:00. You see, Linda, you need some pay back for your mom arranging your life for you."
        Linda jumped up, gave Michael a high five, shouted the big "YES", then planted a major kiss on Michael. The rest of us just shook our heads as Linda went dashing out of the cafeteria calling over her shoulder, "I'll call Mom right now!"
        "Hope you guys don't mind being railroaded into prom dates," Michael said. "I promise it will be an evening you'll long remember."
        "It is already worth the effort just to see how you managed to get the star attraction for the prom--I, at least, have never seen a limo at an Independence prom--and a great dinner with good friends. And I am sure that we will have two real beauties on our arms if Linda admits they are lookers," Eugene said.
        "I want you to be there when I tell Mom," Larry said to Eugene. "I want you to see the look on her face!" They were both laughing like crazy.
        "Matt, Michael, do you realize that we have been so tied up we haven't rented tux for this glorious event?" I asked. "We better take care of that this afternoon. Would you two like to go with the three of us?" I asked Eugene and Larry.
        "Sure, but Matt'll have a Jeep load without us, won't he?" Larry asked.
        "I'm sure sweet, loving, helpless little Mary Kat..."
        "You better watch it, O Wounded Face, or you'll be sporting a fresh black eye for the prom!"
        "Mary Kathryn would be more than delighted to place her smooth, round butt in Michael's lap, I'm sure," Matt said. "There's room."
        "And you'd better not be punching my innocent little sister with anything, Michael." Sometimes you can get Michael. He blushed and Mary Kathryn swatted me one, but had a devilish grin on her face.
        "Sounds good," Larry said.
        "Actually, I think I was supposed to go home with Hard-as Nails Greywolf today to investigate what she has cooked up for me to wear," Paula said.
        "Great! Luke and I have to talk with Ms. Jones and/or Ms. Norman today last period about a change in college plans. We'll meet you three guys at the Jeep after school," Matt said. "Speaking of getting together, I need to get together with you, Eugene and Paula, as soon as possible. What do you have planned for tomorrow morning?"
        "I'm free," Paula said. I usually have to work Saturdays. but I'm off tomorrow and next Saturday."
        "I'm free. When and where do we meet?"
        "I'll pick you up 8:30, 9:00, name it."
        "Let's make it 9:00. I don't get to sleep in except Saturday and Sunday and I love it," Eugene said.
        "Nine's fine with me," Paula said.
        "Plan to have lunch at my place at least and we can see where we need to go from there. Eugene, I need to know how to find your place." He quickly drew a map and gave it to Matt. "Luke, if you are not too deep into something, drop by for lunch."
        The bell rang and, as we got up to leave, Linda appeared in the cafeteria door and gave us the ok sign. Man, prom never looked better. As we walked out, Michael was listening intently to something Paula was whispering to him. What was being plotted now?
        School was really winding down for seniors and it showed. Both teachers and students, for the most part, had dismissed the rest of the year except the AP classes which were really bearing down as the exams approached. When the bell rang ending next to last period, Matt and I headed to Ms. Jones' office. I realized when we reached her door, we had been holding hands, but since we had stayed behind to tell Greywolf we were going into town to rent tux, the halls were empty. At least I thought they were and when I dropped Matt's hand and we both looked around, there was no one in sight. "Guess we lucked out that time, Yonghon Tongmu," Matt said.
        Ms. Jones' door was open and when I knocked, she looked up from her desk, smiled, and motioned us in. "Matt, you sure look a lot better than the last time you were in here. Think you might even be presentable for the prom. You are coming to the prom, aren't you?"
        "Wouldn't miss it. Got a great date and renting tux today."
        When Matt said he had a great date, Ms. Jones looked at me with a somewhat worried look. "Not to worry, Ms. Jones, Paula Wright is my date. Matt's dating Linda Randolph. In fact, we just got dates for two other fellows at lunch. Eugene Joyce and Larry Watley are dating two of Linda's cousins from Lexington." Ms. Jones looked at me kinda funny I thought, but didn't think any more about it. "May we close the door, Ms. Jones, I asked.
        "Since you know about us...."
        "I must admit I have been remiss in not checking on how things are going for you. I have thought about it, but never when I could see you. To tell the truth, every night I have thought about you two when, I guess you'd call it saying my prayers, I think back over the day and give thanks for all the good that I have seen and ask forgiveness for any hurt I may have caused by acting and not acting--started that after the service at St. Mary's. Hadn't done anything like that in years, but I'll admit it helps--and you two have always been in my "didn't do column" and in my prayers for those I know are hurting."
        "Ms. Jones, you wouldn't believe what has happened since last Wednesday," I said. Then Matt and I gave an account of all that had taken place.
        "Thank goodness," she said. "And you can be sure what has happened to the family will be on the thanksgiving list tonight. But that's not why you are here, I suspect."
        "Well, it should have been on our "to do list" but, I'll admit, we have had our hands full this week and it's not over yet," Matt said. "Ms. Jones, Luke and I are scheduled to go to college in New York and Florida. That is not going to happen."
        "We are going to be separated this summer. Matt's going to a music conference at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and I'm going to an art program at Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, but we are not going to be separated next year. We have both said we would postpone college a year if we can't be together."
        "Postponing college a year would not be wise, Luke, Matt. You will, if you do well on the AP exams, be almost sophomores next fall and a year away from school is just not wise."
        "That's what the family feels as well. David said we could go to the community college in Lexington, but Margaret--Dr. Bailey--said the same thing you said. If we get all our AP credit, there just wouldn't be that much it had to offer."
        "Luke, she's right. Community college is great for those who are not academically ready for the real hard, disciplined work four years at a senior college or university demands, but you two are well-prepared."
        "David has also suggested we look into a joint enrollment program. Both Luke and I are good in science and math--he's better in math than I, but Mr. Mitchell thinks I can easily get a 4 on the AP and maybe a 5. David thinks we should consider combining our arts and engineering," Matt commented.
        "Artist-engineers, that should make anyone sit up and take notice."
        "The problem is, we were all accepted before--well, before I took a very dumb way to let Matt know I was in love with him, so here we are near the end of school and looking. We weren't sure about Ms. Norman, so we came to you."
        "Would you trust me if I told you you can trust Ms. Norman?"
        I didn't even look at Matt and don't think he looked at me. I could feel his presence again! He didn't have to say anything, I knew his answer without his saying a word. "Yes, Ms. Jones, we trust you and if you say we can trust Ms. Norman, we do."
        "I'm curious. How do you do that?"
        "Do what?"
        "There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that you checked with Matt and he said ok, but I saw nothing, absolutely nothing to indicate you got an answer from him."
        "It's kinda strange. It started when I was in the hospital, in a coma. I knew when Matt was coming before he reached the room. I could feel his presence as he walked down the hall. Lately I hadn't noticed it until this morning. I was still asleep when I felt his presence. I don't mean his touching me, but his presence. When I opened my eyes, I was looking into those beautiful black almond eyes of his." Matt blushed.
        "I started having the same experience while Luke was in the hospital. I could feel his presence as I drew near his room, but this morning was the first time I had noticed it for awhile. I just felt his presence and it woke me up.
        "Amazing. Well, let me get Ms. Norman in here." Ms. Jones buzzed Ms. Norman's office and asked if she could come in. She was at the door a few minutes later. After she explained some of the situation, Ms. Jones asked, "Is there anything we can do at this late date for these two guys?"
        "May I ask why it is so important that you drop your acceptance to two of the finest programs in the country? You were both, I know, very excited when you were accepted."
        "Ms. Norman, neither of the programs which accepted them offers the possibility of a dual degree in art and engineering," Ms. Jones said, buying time, I was sure.
        Again, I felt Matt's question, "Ok?" and even though I wasn't looking at him. I also knew he had felt mine. "Ms. Norman," Matt said, "Luke and I plan to spend the rest of our lives together. I don't know how long that may be, but I know I don't want to miss a minute of being with my soul companion unless I have to. Neither of us are willing to spend next year separated by the east coast. I know you are smart enough to know what I am saying, but in case you missed it, Luke and I are in love. He almost killed himself over his love for me. I almost lost the man I have loved as long as I can remember. To be frank, I want to fall asleep in Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen's arms and wake up with him beside me until the day I die. AND we want to pursue our arts and give serious thought to combining our arts with engineering."
        "Luke, I didn't know you had--what?--a Korean name."
        "I do now. Matt gave it to me."
        "I'm not sure it's good Korean, but when I asked Mom if it was correct, she asked what I thought it meant and I said 'Soul Companion' and she said if that's what I wanted it to mean, that's what it meant."
        "Fellows, I have a confession to make. You know I signed you up for your art and music AP exams before you asked. Well, one day in the teacher's lounge, a group of teachers were talking about some of our really good students. Someone, I don't remember who now, talked about you two being renaissance men--good in the arts and sciences. Another teacher said something about schools being so specialized that there was no way for someone to do science and art so I started checking. There aren't many, but I think I found one good situation. So many things started happening to seniors, I forgot about it. And of course, I had no idea you two would fall in love...."
        "Didn't happen, Ms. Norman. The only thing that has changed is that old Luke here took a dive off the falls and wrote me a love letter saying goodbye." Matt was handling this in a joking manner, but as soon as the word "goodbye" came out of his mouth, he crashed big time. His body shook with sobs. Both women looked shocked, but I knew what to do. I took him in my arms, held him tight and started singing that Korean lullaby softly. Both women sat back in their chairs, relaxed and watched. Matt tears stopped and his body relaxed. "What the hell," I thought. I lifted his chin and kissed him on the forehead. He angel kissed my lips and I went back to my chair.
        "Does this happen often?" Ms. Norman asked, on full counselor alert.
        "Not as often with Matt as with me, but we seem to be able to take care of it. We check on each other's--I guess you'd say mental health--and have promised that we'd get help if we needed it. It just has been a week from hell and now that things are ok, I guess we have time to relax and have a good cry."
        "Sometimes it happens that way, but don't go on suffering if you need help."
        "We won't." Matt was ok. I felt it. "So where's this magical place and how do we get there? Follow the yellow brick road?"
        "Well, this is more than a little complicated and difficult to explain--especially since part of it is just plain weird. But to start at a beginning, I am talking about Oberlin College in Ohio.  Matt, Oberlin is probably a better program for an organist than Julliard.  It has a degree in organ and the music program has a heavy concentraion in church music if you want to go that route. Luke, it is probably not as good for you as Ringling. Oberlin makes it clear that its fine arts program is basically academic--art history, art education, not studio art. Your interst is in studio art, isn't it?" Luke nodded, agreeing that it was. "Well, since you are interested in studio art, you will need to transfer to the Cleveland Art Institute after a year or two at Oberlin.
        "If you two are interested in joint enrollment in engineering, Case Western Reserve in Cleveland has a joint enrollment/dual degree program with Oberlin so that will be no trouble. Also, Luke, the Institute is located on the same campus as Case Western Reserve. Once you get a year at Oberlin and at Case Western Reserve, the Art Institute will have to look very seriously at you as a student and help you continue your engineering as well as art."
        "Now here's what's weird: I had never consciously thought about the two of you being more than just close friends, but I did have a feeling you would want to be together--woman's intuition I guess. I hadn't really thought about you two living together, but I must have given it some unconscious thought since when I noticed the Cleveland Art Institute required freshmen to live on campus, I said to myself, 'That will never do,' and looked into art program at Oberlin. Oberlin will be happy to have you live off campus and there are several small towns and villages between Oberlin and Cleveland where you can find a place to live."
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, it sounds as if Ms. Norman has found the pot of gold, but where's the rainbow to get us there?"
        "Who gave you your Korean name, Matt?--I assume it's Korean--Luke?"
        "Well, mine is part of my baptismal name. Greywolf gave it to me. He says it's probably bastard Korean, but Mom won't say," Matt said.
        "What does it mean?"
        "Beloved Treasure, and he is," I answered before Matt could.
        "Ms. Norman," Ms. Jones said, "we may just have a yellow brick road. Unless I am much mistaken, Millie Willingham met her husband while they were students at Oberlin. I'll check into that right away and you see what you can do."
        "Thanks a million, Ms. Norman," Matt said.
        "Glad I could help. Call on me if you need me. And while I don't think I've ever said this to two men, you two are a great looking couple, even if I don't understand all I know about being gay. Darkness and light."
        Matt and I both gave Ms. Norman a hug--man we are really into this hugging thing and I haven't noticed anyone who didn't like it, even old Hard-nose.
        "Fellows, I'll talk with Millie and see if she has any pull. You run and get those tux. I suspect Independence is in for a surprise with the Select Few running loose."
        "The Select Few?" I asked, innocently.
        "Cut the innocent act, Larsen. Little goes on around here I don't know about!" Ms Jones laughed. As we stood to leave the final bell rang. Matt and I gave Ms. Jones a hug and went to the Jeep.
        When we reached the Jeep, Michael, Larry and Eugene were there. "Where's your red hot mama, Michael?" I asked.
        "She's coming with Paula and Yong Jin since there are five of us and we're going to be in town for awhile. Besides, I think she and Yong Jin are plotting something with Paula."
        "Then it's outta here," Matt said as we all piled in the Jeep and left school. I noticed Michael was unusually quiet and seemed deep in thought, but he said nothing and neither did I.
        The place where we went to rent tux was one side of a dry cleaning establishment. Concord had lacked even that a few years ago and people had to drive to Lexington and then back to pick up and return tux. The owner showed us a few outfits--I think all he had to show, maybe four or five--all in Easter egg colors. "I don't know about you guys, but I think I would feel like an idiot in one of these," Matt said.
        "As dark as you are, you'd look really sharp in this," the owner said as he held up a lime green tux.
        All of us started laughing and Matt said, "I'd look like a lime popsicle with a butterscotch drop on top!" We were laughing so hard we started getting tears in our eyes. "Want something a little more conservative," he added. "Do you have a real, classic tux?"
        "Sure. High school kids just don't want those dull things any more."
        "Well, I do!" Matt said and was echoed four times by "I do too!"
        The owner took out a book and we all five picked classical--and I thought really classy--tux. After he had taken our measurements, he filled out the forms and asked for our deposits. I hadn't thought about money and I knew that Larry and Eugene hadn't since they didn't know they had dates until lunch. "Got a problem here," Matt said. "I don't have that much with me."  Four other voices said, "I don't either."
        "Hey, I can run over to the office and get the money from Mom," I said. Matt tossed me his keys--Yong Jin had been faithful to her word and I was covered when I drove Matt's Jeep. Since Concord is pretty small, I was back in less than fifteen minutes. "Mom gave me her credit card and said put all five deposits on it."
        The tux business taken care of, Eugene said, "Matt, since you're going to have to take me and Larry home, you'll know where we live when you come to pick me up tomorrow."
        I was a bit concerned about Michael because he was really deep in thought again, even to the point where he was biting his lower lip. I had known this kid since the day he was born and knew that when he started biting his lip something really serious was going on. He just wasn't with us. Matt was concerned too, I felt it. I wondered why we were, again, able to communicate without saying anything.  Suddenly, as though I had a TV in my head, I saw the falls. When I looked at Matt, he nodded. "Michael, the guys haven't seen the falls. You two free?"
        "Sure. I mean I guess I could do something if I were home, but there's nothing pressing," Eugene said.
        "Same here," Larry agreed.
        "Then you're in for a real surprise!" Matt exclaimed as he swung the Jeep into a U-turn and headed for the country.
        When we reached the river bridge, Matt parked the Jeep and he and Michael grabbed two blankets out of the back and we headed to the falls. I knew something more than show and tell was up when Michael crossed the canes as we started down the path. As soon as Larry and Eugene could see the falls they stopped, their mouths hanging open. "God, this is beautiful!" Larry said as he reached out and took Eugene's hand. I took Matt's--why not?--and we all five walked to the shade of the old oak.
        Matt and Michael spread the blankets and we five sat down, saying nothing, just enjoying the peace and beauty of this special place. Even the sound of the water pouring over the lip of the falls was peaceful. I noticed Michael was chewing his lower lip again. "Ok, Michael, out with it," I said. A pained look crossed his face, he looked down at the ground as four pairs of eyes focused on him.
        "Fellows, I really don't know where to begin. This is really kinda personal and very sensitive. I mean I don't want to hurt you guys and, Larry and Eugene, I am just beginning to really appreciate you two as friends and I don't know whether you trust me or not and...."
        "Try us," Eugene said.
        "Spit it out, Michael. You wanted to come here and it's something serious and important. Matt and I know that."
        "How? How do you know what's on my mind? Have you become mind readers?"
        "I guess you might call it that. Plus the fact that anytime you have something serious going on in your head, your lower lip takes a beating. Mary Kathryn is not going to appreciate that unless you get it out before you end up like Matt--unkissable." I noticed that Larry and Eugene raised their eyebrows and exchanged a glance.
        "Ok, here's the scoop. Larry, Eugene, Paula spoke to me today at lunch because she said she knew she could trust me and that I would do what was right. I hope I am. Larry, you walked Eugene to the music room yesterday and when you two got there, you looked around and then kissed Eugene." Both of the guys blushed, then got a stricken look on their faces; then started staring at the ground. "Right?" Both nodded yes. "Well, I guess you thought no one would see you and, so far as Paula knows, she was the only one. She asked me to speak to you because she knew I would defend your right to love each other, but she was afraid someone who would do you harm might see you next time."
        "There may be a new atmosphere at school--there is--but there's still plenty who would make life miserable for you if you were seen," Matt said.
        "After all, those idiots who beat Gregory are still around," I added.
        "Ok, I said this was sensitive and personal, guys. Today before last period I had to get permission to go to my locker after the tardy bell rang because I had picked up the wrong notebook. Matt, Luke, you didn't see me, I guess, as you walked down the hall to Ms. Jones' office, but I saw you walking down the hall holding hands."
        "You mean?" Eugene asked.
        "YES!" both Matt and I said emphatically.
        "I guess, Larry, Eugene, you may as well know...  I am the only straight one here!" Michael laughed, obviously relieved. "I have told Matt and Luke, my brothers, that I wish they could be as open with their love--as damn what they have gone through for their love--as I can with mine for Mary Kathryn, and I'm hell-bent and determined to see that they--and you--have as much freedom as possible, but I also know if either of you had grabbed the other and kissed him as Mary Kathryn did me in the auditorium, hell would be to pay. I hate that that's the way it is, but it is."
        "Yea. That's the way it is and I guess Eugene and I have gotten careless, but sometimes...."
        "I know," I said. "Matt and I have been so free at home and here that we just naturally hold hands a great deal of the time without thinking. I sure hope no one saw us who would made a problem. I think we have had about all we can handle right now."
        "Man, if someone saw and the word got back to my parents," Eugene said, looking helpless and frightened.
        Larry took him in his arms and kissed the top of his head gently.  As he continued to hold him, he looked up and asked, "Do your parents know?"
        Matt nodded and between the three of us, we told Eugene and Larry the whole story. Shortly after we started, Eugene sat up, turned and leaned against Larry whose arms encircled him.
        "You two aren't having sex?" Larry asked, incredulously. "You really aren't ?"
        "No, we're not," Matt said. "It's been hard," he said perfectly serious. He looked confused for a split second when the four of us cracked up and then started laughing wildly himself. "Well, it has," he said, "both of them actually!"
        "I know that's true," Eugene said, "but I wish we had waited until we were in love. We got that backwards and have suffered because of it."
         Larry said, "After Eugene had defended me from the attack at school, we started hanging out together as much as we could, but since I lived in the country and Eugene in town, we didn't get to spend as much time together as we wanted. One afternoon we were in the barn loft just playing around in the hay and I guess, as guys will, started playing, 'I'll show you mine if you will show me yours'. When Eugene took his out, I did mine. We started stroking our cocks and when they were hard, we compared them." Larry laughed, "Eugene may have stopped growing other places, but not everywhere! Anyway, first thing you know, we were jacking each other. And, I suspect you can imagine what happened when we got together from then on.
        Eugene took up the story of their relationship. "I realized one day as I was on my way to Larry's that I was looking forward to, not the sex, but being with Larry. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know why I hadn't realized it before, but I suddenly realized I was in love. I was in love with Larry. I could hardly wait to tell him. When we got to the loft, I reached out and put my arms around Larry and kissed him. He jerked away and said, in a very angry voice, 'What the fuck are you doing? You queer or something?' He might as well have slugged me in the face. I started crying and said, 'I guess I must be because I'm in love with you, Larry.' Larry looked disgusted and said, 'Shit, Man, I don't want to have anything to do with a queer. I just like a blowjob when I can get one. Right now I'm going to fuck you in the ass and see how you like that. Queers like being assfucked.' Well, I should have left, but I was in love with Larry and would do anything to have him love me back or anything he wanted, period. If he wanted to fuck my ass, then he could fuck my ass." Eugene looked at us and stopped talking. I guess he saw the look on our faces. I am sure my expression was the same as that on Michael's and Matt's. Both looked as if they had been hit in the face with a handful of dog shit and I was sure I did. "What's the problem?" Eugene asked.
        "Well, we have a thing about fucking," Michael said. "We don't intend to fuck, ever. Greywolf says people make love, dogs fuck."
        "Ok, that's what I meant, Larry made it very clear there was no love involved. If there was any love involved, he wasn't about to admit it. If you were in love with another guy, you were gay. He wasn't gay. In fact, from the very beginning we kept assuring each other of that; we just liked beating each other off and giving each other blowjobs. But I was in love now and my love wanted to fuck my ass. He wasn't about to make love to me, he was going to fuck me.
         Larry hung his head, looked at the ground and tears started flowing down his face. Soon he was sobbing out of control. Eugene pulled Larry's head to his shoulder as he stroked his hair. "Larry, it's ok, Babe. It's ok.  It was almost a year ago when that happened. We had not been together alone for a three weeks--maybe more--and I had just admitted to myself that I was in love with a man and would have done anything he asked. And, of course, I was as horny as he was. Anyway, we played around for a short time--really a very short time--and Larry was so hot that he just shoved me down, spit at my asshole and rammed his cock into me; it hurt like hell. It hurt so bad I screamed. He stopped for a moment and then shoved his cock in to the hilt. I screamed again as he started to pound away. When I screamed the second time, he pulled out of me. I was bleeding like mad. We were both scared to death. When I kept crying and crying, Larry finally went to his mom and told her I was bleeding from my ass. She, of course, had a good idea what had happened and made Larry go get me. When she saw the results of what had happened, she was furious. She told Larry to get the hell out of the house and stay in the barn. She called a nurse friend who told her what to do and said she should report the sexual assault on her son. Larry's mom didn't tell her it wasn't Larry who was bleeding. The nurse friend was a P. A. and told Mrs. Watley she would leave prescriptions at the drugstore.  Mrs. Watley went and got the medicine and came back and treated my ass. The nurse had sent painkillers which soon made me groggy, but had not stopped the pain completely. In spite of that I was amazingly clear about one thing; I didn't want anything to happen to Larry. 'Mrs. Watley,' I said, 'please don't do anything to Larry. I love Larry; I love him. He didn't mean to hurt me. Mrs. Watley, I love him more than anything. Please'."
        "'Does he love you? I don't think so. If he loved you, how he could have hurt you so? You may love him, but it seems to me my son just wanted to fuck an ass!' she said. 'Eugene, even if you agreed to having your butt fucked, so far as I am concerned, Larry raped you. Can't you understand that?' Mrs. Watley was crying; I was crying.  It was a mess. I asked her just to let me talk to Larry. At first she said I should never see him again and that she was giving serious thought to what the nurse had said. 'He's my son and I love him, but I get sick in my gut when I think about what he has done to you.' But after I begged and begged, she finally said, 'Ok. He's in the barn, but I want you to know that I am very, very angry with him. Frankly, I feel like just kicking him out and being rid of him at this point. I am holding open the option to report him. He was raised better than this. But I'll call him'."
        Larry was again shaking with sobs. Eugene stopped talking and just held him tightly, stroking his hair and kissing the top of his head. "It's ok, Babe, it's ok.  Anyway, when Larry came in he burst into tears and just cried and cried all the time saying 'Eugene, I love you, I love you, I do love you. I've tried not to love you. I didn't want to be gay. But I love you and now you must hate me for what I did. I hate me. I hate me! I hate me!' He fell on the floor. I started to go to him and was suddenly in such pain I almost passed out. I guess I should have hated him, but I didn't. I loved him. His mom finally finally grabbed Larry by the hair and pulled him to his feet. 'Larry, get on your feet and face what you have done like a man--if you are one!' Well, I won't go on. Larry and I told his mom the whole story and how we had started giving each other blowjobs while assuring each other that we were not gay and just liked sex anyway we could get it."
        Larry looked up and said, "When Eugene screamed the second time I felt as though a knife had been shoved through me. It was not from having tried to fuck Eugene without proper lube although, I tell you, I sure as hell hurt from that too, but not like my babe. I felt that way because I realized I had hurt the man I loved more than anything in the world. If that made me gay, I was 100% pure gay because I really loved the guy. I told my mom that I had realized earlier that I was falling in love with Eugene, but hated the idea of being gay so much and needed to find someone to blame for it so I started blaming Eugene. I thought if I just fucked Eugene's brains out, he'd tell me to go to hell and I could be normal. After I told my mom that, I collapsed to the floor again, clutching my head and crying as I had never cried before. Well, the three of us talked about Eugene and my relationship for a couple hours, I guess. I finally took Eugene in my arms and he kissed me as gently as he would have kissed a new-born baby. I told him I loved him more than anything in the world and I could understand why he must hate me."
        "Larry didn't get very far with that. I was hurting--physically--but I was happy to hear those words,'Eugene, I love you'."
         "Well, Mrs. Watley said she would not report Larry under certain conditions. 'You would actually report your son?' I asked."
        "Yes, I would if I thought for a moment that he would hurt you or anyone else again. There is never, never, ever any excuse for what he did to you. But if you think the two of you can handle this and find healing--and I don't mean just your ass, Eugene, then I'll let you handle it. Provided--and I mean every single word of what I am going to say--provided you agree to stop having sex--at least any form of intercourse--until you know it is love not lust. And both of you must promise that if, emotionally or physically, there are any--and I mean ANY--problems later you will get help. And, Eugene, you must tell your parents about Larry and Larry, you have to talk with your dad."
        "Until Mrs. Watley said that we were both nodding in agreement, but then we both started talking at once. Larry looked at me, his eyes telling me to go ahead."
        "Mrs. Watley, I can tell you straight out that I cannot tell my parents. If I did, I don't know how far they will go, especially my dad, no, either on eof them, but I know for sure I would be disowned and put out of the house after Dad beat hell out of me--if he didn't kill me. A few weeks ago he saw my sister kissing her boyfriend goodnight after a date. Dad had approved of Wallace or my sister would never have been allowed to date him. His family went to our church--that was a requirement--and he had been dating my sister for some time.  When Dad saw Janice kissing him, he knocked Wallace off the porch with his fists and kicked my sister in the behind leaving a foot-sized bruise which lasted for ages. For days afterward she was locked in her room at night. Now she stays home so far as Dad knows, but slips out and meets Wallace. If she gets caught doing that, she knows she will have to leave. See my mom and dad are both religious fanatics and bigots. They go to the Temple of Praise where every Sunday there is some damnation of loose sexual morals such as hugging and kissing--even dancing--which are supposed to get men and women all aroused...."
        "It does," Matt, Michael and I said at the same time and gave each other a high five.
        "Anyway, such loose sex leads to unwed mothers and all sorts of diseases. And homosexuals--well, they come in for special attention and damnation.  They are all perverts who are just waiting to seduce young, innocent boys and make then queers. Did you know that?"
        "That's why you looked familiar," Michael said. Eugene looked at him and got a sudden look of recognition on his face.
        "Yea. You used to go there. It was your dad who almost busted the preacher! I remember seeing you together. Man, you should have heard the Sunday dinner conversation that Sunday. 'I bet that girly faced son of his is as queer as a three dollar bill,' Dad kept saying."
        "Girly faced? Girly faced? I'm girly faced? Maybe, but he's sure wrong on the other count!" Michael stated emphatically. "Not that there's anything right or wrong one way or the other, it's just that I was put together differently from you four guys--different, not right or wrong."
        Eugene was smiling and Larry even had a faint smile on his face. I suddenly realized that telling their story as they held each other was a healing experience which both had needed for a long time.
        "Larry's mom said, 'Well, then you cannot tell, but that means doing nothing in your house that might give your secret away until you are ready to leave. I won't force you into doing something you are sure will get you hurt again,' she glared at Larry. 'Not even a hug. Larry, when you sleep over, you are to keep your ass in a sleeping bag on the floor. Agreed?'"
        "'Agreed,' Larry and I said. Then Larry had to argue his case."
         "Yea, well, I said, 'Mom, you know what Dad would do if I told him. You know how he hates gays. And it would all be your fault. Everything I do that he doesn't like is your fault.' Mom and Dad had been having problems for some time and everything that went wrong or Dad didn't like was Mom's fault. Dad had beaten her up a couple times and the last time I took a chair to his head and told him if he ever hit Mom again, I'd beat the shit out of him. He left and didn't come back for a couple days, but that happened all the time. Mom realized I was right and said that I didn't have to talk to Dad.  But Eugene and I were to be very careful what we did in front of Dad and no sex until she was convinced we weren't fucking."
        All three of us looked at Larry and Eugene and gave them the big "ok".
        Larry and Eugene smiled and Eugene said, "So we really do know about waiting. Believe me, it's easier to wait before you start than after."
        "And making love is a hell of a lot better than fucking!" Larry said. "Making love is wonderful--regardless of how you go about it. There must be a million ways to make love and only a couple ways to fuck. But even after we were very, very clear that fucking was out and love making was in, our problems were not over. We were both afraid of hurting the other. For months, after we had talked with Mom and she agreed that we were really in love, we would be making love and were ready to go all the way and then.... Well, you can guess what didn't happen!"
        Larry's head was hanging down and he had been staring at the ground for a long time. Without looking up he said, "You guys may think I am as rotten as the jerks who raped Gregory. Don't think I haven't compared myself to them over and over. I thought I had gotten over having taken Eugene and we were both looking forward to the time when we could go all the way again--it has been almost a year--but when Gregory was raped, it all come back, even worse than before. Sex, for me, was out of the question. I just couldn't touch Eugene in that way without getting sick--I mean really sick. I dreamed of making love to him and when the time came, I couldn't and more than once I would just throw up. It's really been hard getting to the place where we can make love--I started to say again, but it was not again. We were starting where we should have started in the first place. Even now we... we--I can't touch Eugene's butt with my cock. Never, ever, regret waiting. I wish we had and Eugene would never have been hurt the way he was. I certainly do not deserve someone loving me the way Eugene does. But he does love me and God, I love him so much I'd go the rest of my life loving him without sex if that was what he wanted."
        "No worry about that, Babe.
        "Larry, Eugene, I'd like to make a suggestion. Luke and I have accepted an invitation from Dr. Margaret Bailey to talk with her about gay sex before we engage in intercourse. She would, I know, be happy to talk with you. Since you are having problems, I'm sure she would be helpful.
        "Thanks. I think we need to do that. Especially since it is affecting us and because we promised Larry's mom we would seek help if there were problems; while we have pretended there are not, there are."
        "If you like, I'll speak to her Sunday. She's part of the family now and will be having Sunday dinner with the family."
        "The family?"
        "Yea. There are actually three families--ours, Matt's and Michael's, but we call ourselves the family and we really are one family."
        "Thanks. I, we, really appreciate that," Larry said.
        All five us became silent and just sat, letting the peace of this special place pour over us. Eugene broke the silence. "This has to be one of the most special places in the whole world. Gee, think of all the pain that has been washed away here and all the love that has soaked the very ground beneath us."
        "Well, one of these days you'll have to hear some more stories. Dad was proposed to here this week and will be married here Easter Day," Michael said.
        "Your Mom?" Larry asked.
        "She died of cancer several years ago now. Took Dad a while, with a lot of pushing, to get hooked up with a great lady, Dr. Margaret Bailey."
        "Larry, the day you and Eugene helped me in the physics lab, you said your dad had split. You started to say it was because of you, but then said it was another woman."
        "Yea, well... Eugene and I were very careful--most of the time--but like my kissing him yesterday at school, one morning Eugene was sleeping over and when I waked up, I was just watching him sleep. When I couldn't stand it any longer, I bent over and kissed him just as Dad passed the door on his way to the bathroom. There was a major scene in which he accused Mom and Eugene of making me queer and said he wouldn't live in the house with a queer son and a bitch who made him queer. He hit me a couple times before Eugene pinned him and shoved him out of my room. He stormed out of the house and moved in with a girlfriend he had had for a couple years. He thought Mom and I didn't know, but we did. I couldn't understand why Mom hadn't put his ass out before. And I guess he thought since Mom hadn't done anything before, she wouldn't do anything about it this time. He was wrong; she filed for divorce that day, charging adultery, and got everything he had. His girlfriend was no longer interested since he was broke and he left town. We haven't heard from him since."
        We were all silent again, each with his own thoughts, except--from time to time--I felt Matt's love flowing over me.
         This time Larry broke the silence. "Michael, thanks for being a friend and thanks for bringing us to this place. I feel like that river has washed a lot of shit out of my and Eugene's life today."
        "Yea. Thanks to all you guys. And the four gay blades have dates for the prom. Wow, life does get interesting," Eugene said as he stood up and pulled Larry to himself for a long, tender kiss.
        Matt's lip was better, but still not ready for more than an angel kiss, which I gave him, then kissed the top of his head and inhaled the fragrance of my beloved Matt which always sent me spinning.
        Eugene and Larry both gave me and Matt a hug and turned to leave when Michael said, "Hey, you jerks, why don't I get a hug?" Both guys gave Michael a real bear hug and Larry said, "Sorry, I just wasn't sure."
        "Man, I like to be hugged as well as anybody and we are friends, right?"
        "Right," Eugene and Larry said and hugged Michael again.
        After we took Eugene and Larry home, we came back and went our own ways. Matt and I planned to spend Saturday working--he was going to pick up Eugene and Paula and put the finishing touches on something they were working on together. I went to the studio and when I finally found a stopping place, was surprised that it was 4:00 in the morning. I just collapsed on a small sofa in the studio and hadn't really finished my daily thanksgiving when I was in dreamland.

Part Nineteen


        I felt so good about what had happened at the falls that when Luke left, I was high. I looked over the program for the recital/concert and decided it was probably close to what I wanted. I had some transposing to get done, but I didn't want to work on it. While it was easy enough for me, there wasn't a lot of creativity involved and I felt creative. I sat down at the keyboard and started working on a composition I had sketched out in a pretty complete form called "The Family." I had finished "Yonghon Tongmu" and, frankly, was very pleased with it. I had worried a bit about it revealing too much, but decided "what the hell". Those who knew Yonghon Tongmu knew everything anyway and those who didn't couldn't be sure of anything. Besides, I was about ready to stand on the rooftop and yell for all the world to hear, "I'm hopelessly in love with Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen!". Of course, I wasn't quite that foolish, but every time I thought about that man I got goose bumps. I loved him more and more every day.
        When I get on a roll composing, two things happen. First, I lose all track of time and, second, I never want to stop until the piece is finished. When I finally had the compositions completed--all I had to do was check the parts for the ensemble and chorus with Eugene and Paula--it was 3:30 in the morning. I undressed and tumbled into bed. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow.
        I had the greatest dream of Luke and me floating in the basin of the falls. We would drift together and hold each other for a breath-taking kiss, then slowly drift apart while we worshiped the other's body floating on top of the water. We had just drifted near each other and were reaching out our arms when I was rudely awakened. "Nice equipment you have there, Sir Matthew," Mary Kathryn's voice announced, and then she laughed. I sprang upright, grabbed the sheet to cover myself as she died laughing.
        "Mary Kathryn, what the hell are you doing here?" I asked, trying to cover my embarrassment.
        "I am here for our morning run, Lover Boy, so if you'll get that thing under control, we'll be off."
        "Well, how about you letting me go piss and get my sweats on?"
        "Go ahead, you don't have anything to hide that I haven't seen already."
        "Mary Kathryn, has anyone ever told you you can be a real pain in the ass?"
        "Not anyone who counts," she replied.
        I finally decided I would not be outdone so I threw the sheet back, hopped out of bed and did a leisurely stroll to the bathroom, my morning woodie at full mast. "Now you have something to compare Michael's to," I said.
        "Think it would probably be close, maybe even a tie. But get yourself ready, we have to run."
        "One of these days...."
        "Yea. yea. yea. I've heard that for years."
        "If you weren't a girl...."
        "You'd probably jump my body."
         I took care of my need to piss, brushed my teeth and strolled back to my room. As I passed Mary Kathryn I did a turn, my arms in the air, and said, "No way. All you see belongs to Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Larsen!"
        "Well, I'll have to admit my brother has the second best hunk of male flesh I know! Now get your pants on."
        We climbed down the trellis and jogged to Michael's place. When we arrived, Michael was waiting for us. "Where's Luke?" I asked.
        "Gee, I don't know. When I looked in the guest room the bed had not been slept in so I thought he must have decided to sleep in your bed last night."
        "No, I haven't seen him since we parted after the falls. I wonder...." About that time I caught a glimpse of Luke racing from the studio to the house.
        "Someone else with a morning woodie needing the bathroom," Mary Kathryn said.
        "What do you mean 'someone else'?" Michael asked, as he gave Mary Kathryn a hard look.
        "Let me tell you what this wild woman you have taken on did this morning," I said.
        "Matt, you wouldn't dare!" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.
        "Ha! Now I have you," I said and proceeded to tell Michael how Mary Kathryn had invaded my private space.
        "Well, am I going to have to get a penis transplant or do you think you can make do with what I have?" Michael laughed.
        "You two are terrible!"
        "Hey, it's you going around comparison shopping," Michael said.
        "Drop it, Killer, or you'll be on the same no-kiss diet as Luke."
        "Michael, have you noticed that Miss Larsen can dish it out, but can't take it?"
        "Can it, Matthew!" Mary Kathryn demanded. Michael and I were laughing our heads off.
        Michael was not wasting time.  His good morning kiss proved Mary Kathryn didn't have him on a no kissing diet. As he broke their kiss, he said, "Good morning, Dream Lady," to which Mary Kathryn replied, "Good morning, Shining Knight."
        "Sorry I'm late guys. I got so carried away last night that I worked until 4 this morning and just collapsed on the sofa in the studio. I don't know when I would have waked up had I not needed to piss so bad." Luke then walked over, took me into his arms, looked into my eyes and said, "Good morning, Dark Angel."
        I kissed him ever so lightly on his lips and said, "Good morning, Bright Angel".
        "Damn, we're a mushy bunch," Luke said, "and man, I like it! Let's run".
        When we got back to my place, Luke told Mary Kathryn to tell his Mom and Dad he would be home shortly. As Mary Kathryn jogged toward home, Luke and I walked up the front walk, arm in arm. He kept kissing the top of my head and my cheeks, making me want to forget about cut lips and really kiss him. When I turned my face toward him, he kissed me on the forehead and said, "Matt, that's going to have to do you. Babe, I want that lip healed and the sooner the better!".
        We undressed in my room and stood drinking in the beauty of the other's naked body. Luke's body had just about recovered from his time in the hospital and, while he had not had time to workout to recover the hardness and definition he had before his attempted suicide, he was getting there. When we got to the bathroom, I looked in the mirror as we stood side by side. I, too, had lost hardness and definition because of the time I had spent beside Luke's bed, but I saw reflected two beautiful men. Maybe that sounds conceited and egotistical but, being as honest and objective as I could be, we were a beautiful couple.
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I don't want to sound like a stuck on himself shithead, but we are a beautiful couple. Darkness and Light," Luke said, his lips brushing my hair. "But, God, you are beautiful, even with a cut lip and a black--actually its green and yellow now--eye, you're breath-takingly beautiful."
        "So are you, Yonghon Tongmu. How did I ever deserve someone as loving and as beautiful as you?"
        "I just got lucky and won the boyfriend lottery, that's how." We watched our reflections as Luke stood behind me and pressed his lips to my hair.  He placed his hands on my chest and started rubbing my nipples until they became hard. His eyes never left mine as we both looked into the mirror. One of his hands was moving over my chest, brushing my nipples with the softest touch, when the other one reached lower and gently touched Chili Pepper. Luke then pushed back my foreskin and lightly touched the head of my manhood. He continued touching me until I grasped his hand and placed it around Chili Pepper. Holding his hand, I moved it up and down my hard, hot steel rod. As Luke started an even stroking rhythm, I reached back and pulled his body to mine. Soon I was gasping for breath and, before I could warn him, my climax hit me and once again I would have fallen to the floor had Luke not held me tightly in his arms. While I could not see clearly when my climax hit, my glance never strayed from the eyes of my beloved, reflected in the mirror.
        When I had recovered, I stood behind Luke and made love to him as he had done to me. When his climax hit him, he exploded in great blasts of man's seed as he shouted between clinched teeth, "God, Angel!" and collapsed in my arms.
        When he had recovered, he turned to face me. Our eyes met and I saw reflected in his, as I'm sure he saw in mine, deep love and great caring. In the afterglow of our love making, Luke gently nuzzled me under the chin and nipped my ear as I did his.  We then got in the shower and had the great pleasure of washing the body of the one we loved. After we had dried each other, Luke found some of his clothes in my closet, got dressed and, too soon, we parted. "Remember lunch if you can turn loose", I reminded him as he kissed my forehead and left for home.
        I had breakfast with Mom and Dad. I told them what had happened at the falls--all of it. Dad said, "Matt, I once had a friend who got carried away and did the same kind of thing to the woman he loved. Unlike Larry, he wasn't trying to make her hate him. He just got so aroused that he was only thinking of himself. Fortunately, she forgave him as Eugene has Larry, but they too, had a difficult time getting to where he could make love to her sexually. I know that you and Luke sometimes have a difficult time waiting and I can understand that. While I appreciate your willingness to respect your commitment to wait, I don't want you to ever reach the point where you hurt each other because you can't stop."
        "Dad, that almost happened. I begged Luke to just take me and go all the way. He said that I knew that he could not refuse me anything and if that was what I really wanted, he would. Dad, it was so hard, so very hard not to just go ahead, but Luke made me stop and think. We both love each other so much it hurts at times, I mean it really hurts, but as Luke reminded me, we also love you and Mom--the whole family.  We can't just think of ourselves."
        "Matt, I want you and Luke to know that we all feel honored by the sacrifice you two are making. We really are--even Jens. I know of no parents who could be more honored than we are and we know and appreciate the respect you and Luke are showing for us."
        "Dad, I don't doubt for a moment that we will never regret what we have chosen to do, but I also know that I will probably never face anything more difficult. I want--and I know Luke does too--the family to be proud of us. That is very important, so important that only our love is more important."
        "Matt, we have always been proud of you, all four of you and the past few weeks have filled us with overflowing pride and thanksgiving for you all." With those words, both Mom and Dad got up, came to my place and gave me a hug and kiss. I must confess, I had tears in my eyes.
        As we finished breakfast, when Mom asked about lunch I said, "I know Eugene and Paula will be here. Luke will if he isn't too involved."
        "Where do you plan to work?" Mom asked.
        "Since we will need to spread out the scores, I thought we would work at the dining room table. I'll bring my keyboard down and we can all see and hear the music."
        "Why don't you see if Larry can come over, and ask Michael and Mary Kathryn to join you for lunch. I'll pack a picnic and you can all go to the falls. It is a beautiful and really warm day and after you reach a stopping place, that would be a time to enjoy yourselves."
        "That sounds good to me. I'll stop by the Larsens and tell Luke and Mary Kathryn. Luke can tell Michael."
        "I put a bowl of fruit on the table for you three to snack on while you work," Mom said.
        "Thanks, Mom. Sorry you're having to do my Saturday chores, Dad. I appreciate it."
        "Just get some good work done; that's all the appreciation I need," Dad replied.
        I finished breakfast and went to the Larsens and told Luke and Mary Kathryn Mom was fixing a picnic for us to take to the falls, and I was going to see if Larry would join us. I then went to pick up Paula. When she got in the Jeep, I told her about our going to the falls with Larry and Eugene. Of course I didn't tell her everything, just that we had all ended up going.
        "That Michael Andrews is something else," she said. "I have been thinking about what he has done for Independence and would like to check out something. I don't know how long it has gone on, but ever since I have been at Independence, the president of the student body has been a senior."
        "I think it has always been that way. It's a kind of senior privilege, I guess."
        "Well, they have also always been jocks--every year either a football or basketball jock. In fact, it seems that the whole thing is a popularity contest between football players and basketball players. And each year the candidates make impossible promises which they--and everyone--know are impossible to keep, and then do nothing. Michael has shown leadership, real leadership, and I think we should run him for student body president. What do you think?"
        "I don't know. It would make some students really mad to have a rising junior even run. I know Michael would not get into the bullshit business and I don't know how students would react to a serious student body president. But you know, it would be nice to know that we left the school with the best student leadership it has ever had. Let's check that out with the others today--and with Michael."
        Just before I got to Eugene's Paula said, "Oh, I was supposed to tell you if you picked me up first, Eugene is at Larry's." I swung around and went to Larry's. When I pulled up, Eugene came running to the Jeep, followed by Larry. "Larry, Mom is fixing a picnic for us to take to the falls and we'd like for you to join us. Can you make it?"
        "I'm not sure. Mom's not here and I'm not sure when she will get back with the car or whether I could use it if she gets back."
        "Give us a call sometime after noon if you can't come and we'll come get you."
        "Great. I'd like that, provided I get my chores done. I promised Eugene's dad I'd mow their lawn so Eugene could work this morning.  I have to mow ours and Mom wants the gutters cleaned. I'll see and give you a call."
        "Fantastical. Gotta jet!"
        As I started the Jeep, Larry leaned in and kissed Eugene a good one. As he broke the kiss, he looked at Paula and said, "Paula, you are a true friend indeed. Eugene and I can never thank you enough. You may never know how much you mean to us and our love for each other." He then leaned in and kissed Paula on the cheek. "Thanks, True Friend."
        As we drove away, Eugene said, "Paula, he meant every word he said and that goes for me. You may never know how very, very much your speaking to Michael means to us."
        "Friends care about friends, it's as simple as that. No thanks necessary."
        When we got home, I got the music and the program I had planned and spread it on the table except for my compositions. Then Eugene and I brought down the keyboard and set it up.
         "Let's look at the program first and see what you think of it," I suggested. After the two had looked it over, Paula said, "Well, there are some changes I'd make, but what about the two holes here? Do you have these two compositions?"
        "Yea, but I want to hold off on them. Do you think their placement on the program is ok?"
        "I see nothing wrong with that, but there are some other things I'd shift around," Eugene said.
        "Same here," Paula agreed. "I'd cluster the hymns into a group."
        "Same with the liturgical selections," Eugene said.
        We took maybe fifteen minutes to rearrange the pieces on the program and we all three agreed the new arrangement was much better. We then got really involved in the arrangements and orchestration of the pieces. Man, Paula and Eugene knew their stuff.  They were really on top of the choral and ensemble arrangements and orchestrations.  "Let's take a break and then we'll get to the really hard part--the two original compositions," I suggested.
        "Do you realize we have eaten a whole bowl of fruit and spent over two hours here without a break?" Eugene asked.
        "I realize it now! Which way?" Paula asked.  I pointed her to the downstairs bathroom and Eugene and I went upstairs.
        I guess it was because Michael, Luke and I had never been shy about pissing in front of each other that I said to Eugene, "Come on in. I know there's room for three." He hesitated, then I guess my stream got the better of him and he was in a sudden rush to get to the pot. I hadn't noticed at first, but then saw he was checking out my equipment. When I looked at him, he blushed and looked away. "No need to be embarrassed," I said, "I think all guys, gay or straight, check each other out."
        "I was just checking and when I saw you were uncut I had to get a better look. I've never seen an uncut cock up close."
        "Well, you have now. Greywolf is to be thanked for that. He wouldn't permit me to be circumcised." We finished our business and went downstairs where Paula was waiting. "Well, I guess the time has come. I have two pieces. I have written the choral parts and done the orchestration, but I really want you two to give them the critical eye. I am a composer and organist so I am sure there are some really rough spots. The first is called "The Family" and here's the program notes I have written for it if you want to see them first."
        "Let's look at the music first," Paula said. "If the music is good, the notes may add to it; if the music is bad, Matt my boy, notes aren't going to rescue it." I had scanned the music and made three copies so, as they each looked over a copy, I looked at it again. I thought it was pretty good, but then I knew the music and the story behind it, so I wasn't too objective.  From time to time, Paula or Eugene asked me to play a section, then they'd go back to looking at the music, sometimes humming, other times tapping out a rhythm on the table. They both finished about the same time, laid the music on the table and looked at each other.
        "Well, does it suck or does it suck?" I asked. I could tell nothing from their expressions. Just as Paula started to open her mouth, I heard the lawn mower start. We had almost an acre of lawn and keeping it in shape was one of my chores, and now Dad was doing it. I felt pretty guilty. I really wanted to say that to someone so I said, "Man, I feel guilty sitting here.  My Dad and Mom have been doing my chores so I could concentrate on my AP exams and this concert. I should be out there mowing the lawn."
        "Matt, they wouldn't do it unless they chose to do it," Paula said. "They have decided what is important."
        "But I know how you feel, Matt. I felt the same way when Larry took on my Saturday chores so I could be here."
        "Well, if they are willing to give us the time to work, then I guess we better get to work. What do you think?"
        "Matt, this is the work of a sheer genius. I wouldn't touch a note of it," Eugene said.
        "Nor I," Paula agreed.
        "But what about the orchestration? The choral parts. You had changes--great changes--to the pieces which were already written."
        "That's part of it," Eugene said, "they had already been written and we had heard them. We had an idea of what they had sounded like in other situations. Your work may have been great on those, but it was not what we had expected. Here it is all new and I just hear it in my head and it sounds right."
        "And let's face it. When you were working on the other stuff, you said to yourself, 'Eugene and Paula will help me out here,' so you didn't worry if something needed work.  Now can we see the program notes?" Paula asked.
        When he had finished reading the program notes, Eugene said, "Wow and double wow. Man, this is great.
         "I agree," Paula said. "Your second composition better be really good since it follows 'The Family'."
        "Well, I don't know. I'm not very objective about either. By the way, do you think it would be remotely possible to keep the two pieces under wraps until the performance? I really want to, but there are so many people involved...."
        "Well, we could try. I guess if we asked the two groups not to discuss or play any of the pieces for other people, they probably would do that," Paula said.
        "Yea, and we don't need to unveil the program notes unless it gets to the point where they would help. And we would practise in sections anyway until it is put together. So I guess it could be pretty much a secret. We can try anyway," Eugene added.
        "I'd really appreciate that. Well, I guess it's time to look at the other one. It's called 'Yonghon Tongmu'."
        "That's...." Eugene started, then stopped, looked at me, then finished, "Korean, right?"
        "Yea. At least I hope so!"
        "It means...?" Paula started to ask when Mom called from the kitchen, "Matt, there's a long distance call for you."
        "Coming," I called back, escaping for a moment the question I didn't want to face. When I finished on the phone, I came back and said, "I wish people wouldn't do that: pretend something is serious and all they want is to sell you something or get you to do something. I hate that." I knew Paula was going to ask her question again and I still didn't know what I would say. Just before I sat down, the front door burst open and Luke came running in, grabbed me as if I was a rag doll, swung me around and when he stood me on the floor, kissed me on the forehead and said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, your Yonghon Tongmu is on top of the world! Not only is he in love with the most beautiful man in the world, but he is a kick ass artist!" Luke kissed my forehead again then looked around and said, "Hi Eugene, Paula," as if he hadn't just blown his cover.
        "Well, I should have known who Yonghon Tongmu was even if I didn't know what it meant," Paula said.
        "It means Soul Companion--Soul Mate--and it's the name Matt, my Sarang Hanun Pomul, gave me. He was named Sarang Hanun Pomul--Beloved Treasure--by his father and he is." Luke again picked me up, swung me around, and this time gave me a butterfly kiss on the lips.
        "Luke," Paula asked, "when is your birthday?"
        "May 31. Why?"
        "Yours Matt?"
         "May 31, but I'm the oldest. I was born twenty minutes before Luke."
        Paula was laughing so hard she couldn't talk. She just sat there laughing and pointing at me and Luke. When she finally got some control she said, "There is an age problem between you and your love, Luke? Like he's twenty minutes older? And Matt, there is a race problem with yours because you're Asian and Indian--mixed blood! And you discovered this at a special swim meet, like when? Matt, you are the biggest liar in the world while telling the truth." Paula was still laughing.
        "Well, you can add another to the long list of those who are in on the secret life of Luke and Matt," I said. I was relieved, but was still a little upset that Luke had just announced our relationship without asking.
        Luke turned me to face him, put his arms around me and gently, ever so gently, touched my lips with his. "Oh, Babe, I'm sorry. I was so excited that I got a part of my project done while thinking about you and how much I loved you.  I just couldn't hold it back. I'm sorry, Babe. I'm really sorry. Forgive me?"
        "Matt, you have nothing to worry about because of me. I have suspected for awhile, but your secret is safe with me," Paula said.
        "Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, I forgive you. Paula, Eugene knew and I had no reason to doubt how you would take it since you asked Michael to speak to Eugene and Larry. I guess I'm still a little on edge from all that has happened in the last week or so. Plus I am getting real cranky because my damn busted lip is still not completely healed!"
        "And I can't imagine why," Paula said. "Or maybe I can. I seem to remember, what was it called? Kissing?"
        "How do things stand between you and Sheldon?" I asked.
        "I think that's not quite the way you should phrase the question, Matt," Luke laughed.
        "Luke, you're a dirty old man," Paula laughed, then immediately grew serious. "Guys, I still love him, I think more than when he left. Since Mom is so pushed for money, I don't call him but once a week and then only for a short call. When I can sneak it in, I e-mail him from school, but you know how difficult doing that is. I generally just write him a long letter every night. That's cheap.  His family is not having it easy either. After they moved and his dad took the new job, his mom couldn't find a job and then got sick. So he's pinching pennies--saving for college. He works in the mall there and you know that pays little. He thought he just might get to come to the prom, but his boss told him if he didn't close that Saturday, he needn't come back so he can't leave until 9:00. His parents have only one car so he can't drive. The only way he can get here is by bus. He could leave there at 9:30 and get here at 1:00, but the prom would be over. So Luke, I am going to try to be a good date, but you gotta know you're not my first choice."
        "Well, I guess that makes us even since there can be little doubt you're not my first choice, but we'll have fun, Paula, promise."
        The front door again opened and a very sweaty Larry came in. "Babe, do you have a kiss for your hard working, sweaty man?" he asked as he bent over and kissed Eugene.
        "Where have you been?" Eugene asked.
        "I have been mowing the whole damn county. I mowed our lawn, your lawn and the Greywolf's, along with cleaning our gutters, I might add."
        "Damn, I think I'll keep you since you are so useful around the house," Eugene said.
        "Need to be of use somewhere...." his voice trailed off as Eugene stood up and embraced him and gave him a hot kiss.
        "You love me and that's enough for me," Eugene said and kissed him again.
        "If I can break up this little kissy kissy, why were you mowing our lawn?"
        "I know what you guys are doing is real important and I didn't have anything I really needed to do after my chores were done so I decided to help out in any way I could. So how did the work go?"
        "Amazing. We got more done than I thought we'd get done in a week. In fact, unless Matt really screwed up, we could be ready to start serious practice Monday in half to three quarters of an hour," Eugene said.
        "And yours Luke?"
        "Same story. I have a project which requires getting part done here and part in Lexington, and I just had to get the part here done before Wednesday. I began to think I couldn't make it, but I got so much done today, it will be ready by Wednesday. Matt, think I can have the Jeep to drive to Lexington Wednesday if Mr. Stephenson can make the arrangements? I also have to see if I can find some equipment I need which I can afford."
        "Sure. It will only take one day?"
        "I'll have to go back, maybe several times. I'll know more after I skip school and go Wednesday, and probably go back Saturday."
        "Aren't you forgetting a wedding rehearsal Saturday?"
        "Damn, I sure am. Well, I'll just have to see what I can do. If I leave early Saturday morning, I can be there when the shop opens and get back by noon--maybe. Right now I have to get ready for the first trip and that's looking good."
        "Luke, why don't you show Larry the shower and see if we have anything big enough for him--no, that's definitely not going to work. Call Michael and tell him we'll be ready to go to the falls in half an hour or so, but Larry needs clothes now so Eugene can keep his mind on music."
        When Luke and Larry left, the three of us buried ourselves in the music for "Yonghon Tongmu". Both Paula and Eugene kept telling me it was as great as "The Family", but both offered several suggestions for improvement and all were excellent. Thirty minutes later, "Yonghon Tongmu" was a much better composition that it had been before. "I wonder why this piece needed all that work when 'The Family' didn't?" I asked.
        "From my point of view, it has to do with the fact that you used tons of sources for 'The Family', but you were restricted to one, actually very simple, theme for 'Yonghon Tongmu'; you had more raw material to start with for 'The Family'."
        "And now that I know what it is all about, I suspect your emotions were a bit more involved in 'Yonghon Tongmu'--maybe not a whole lot more because I know how you feel about this extended family--but this is the love of your life you're writing about.  And I am willing to bet that at times you held back because the event--real or imaginary--you envisioned when you were writing was so personal and private," Paula added. "I noticed that when we were working on the straight choral arrangement of the simple love/dance song.  It was romantic, but so restrained it felt cramped, but with a few simple changes, it sounds like--when I hear the chorus in my head--a song for lovers to dance the night away, drifting, floating in each other's arms."
        "You know, you're both right. Paula, one night Michael and Mary Kathryn, Luke and I danced to that tune and how you describe it is how I thought I saw it in my musical mind's eye. But you're right, I was trying to keep those moments to myself. I guess when you have something beautiful, it becomes more beautiful when you let others enjoy its beauty."
        "Let's all three remember that and get that idea across when we start working with the whole ensemble and chorus--what we have becomes more beautiful when we share it with the world," Paula said.
        "And that these two pieces are secret until they're...."
        "My God, Paula, do you realize we are conducting an ensemble and chorus for two--not one, but two--world premieres? Holy polyphonics! And we're just a little podunk high school. 'Independence High School students produce world premiere of two major compositions by Independence High School senior and composer, Matthew....'" Eugene stopped to read the top of the sheet music to get my name. "'Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf'. I can see the headlines now."
         I was laughing with Eugene and Paula. "Our on-the-spot live reporter will have interviews with choral director, Paula Wright, and ensemble conductor, Eugene Joyce, of the world premiere. Film at eleven." We were all laughing so hard tears were flowing.
         Again the front door opened and Michael came in with Mary Kathryn. He was carrying some clothes and said, as he walked past the dining room table, "I thought there was some serious work to be done here today."
        Eugene and I put away the keyboard, while Paula scanned the sheets where changes had been made. "Matt, I think the changes are clear enough that you can just get copies made without making fresh master copies. If you want to do that later, you can when you have time, but these are certainly good enough for us to start work Monday. What about rehearsals at St. Mary's?"
        "When do you think we need to start, and how often? I asked.
        "We need to start as soon as possible. I think maybe next week. How about Wednesday after school if we can get the buses. Then Mondays and Wednesdays unless we see we need more practice. That's in addition to the practice at school which will have to be separate for the chorus and ensemble, and without the organ."
        "Sounds good. I'll have all the copies you and Eugene need for the whole thing Monday. And try to keep the cover on." We had just finished those details when Larry, Luke, Michael and Mary Kathryn came from the kitchen loaded for the picnic. As we left the house, I grabbed the blankets from the Jeep and we started walking to the falls.


        As soon as we had crawled through the fence, Michael and Mary Kathryn, Matt and I joined hands and started singing "More." Paula joined hands with Michael, then Eugene and Larry joined the group. Soon Paula and Eugene were singing along with the Gang of Four. "I guess I'm just the odd man out," Larry said.
        "Actually, I think I am the odd ball in this group," Paula said, only half joking.
        "Ok, no odd men or odd balls.  Paula is without Sheldon and we'll just have to keep it cool. I know how I'd feel if Michael wasn't here," Mary Kathryn said. "Larry, we learned 'More' one night when David--Michael's dad--and Margaret Bailey--his bride-to-be--came to the falls with the Gang of Four. You can do the same. Paula, sing a line and we'll follow." Larry was no dummy and soon all seven of us were singing at the top of our lungs. When we entered the path to the falls, Matt crossed the canes--I wasn't sure why, but then we really didn't want to be disturbed.
        When Paula saw the falls, she came to a sudden stop and just stood looking, then turned slowly to face Matt. "Matt, I wondered where the falls theme in your compositions came from, now I know. This is such a beautiful place!"
        "It is a very special place for us--for the whole family," Matt said. When we had spread the blankets and the food, we all started eating like pigs. We were all very hungry and Yong Jin was no slouch at preparing food--especially a picnic.
        When we had finished eating and were just kinda flaked out, Paula said, "I'd really like to know more about why the falls are special--I mean other than their beauty. They really are beautiful."
        Before we had finished talking, Paula had a good idea of why the falls were a special place for all of us. Not all the details, of course, but from Larry's and Eugene's recent healing time at the falls to my attempted suicide and the results of that foolish action to Margaret's and David's coming wedding.
        "Enough of this serious stuff!" I said as I leaped up and started undressing. Michael and Matt followed suit. Larry, Eugene and Paula looked at us as if we had gone mad. They stared with their mouths open when Mary Kathryn jumped up and started undressing as well. When we were down to our boxers and briefs and Mary Kathryn had only bra and panties, we all four raced to the top of the falls and dived in.
        When we swam to the shore, Larry and Eugene had stripped to their boxers. Paula was still just sitting there.  "Hey, Paula, come on in. The water's almost fine!" Mary Kathryn called out. Paula finally laughed, stripped and dived into the basin from the shore.
        It was still a bit early for the water to really be comfortable, but the day was hot and the sun was pouring down. Soon all seven of us were splashing and horseplaying in the basin. However, the water finally got the better of us, and one by one, we got out. Yong Jin had a good idea how our time at the falls would end because she had included a number of towels in one of the picnic baskets we had brought. After drying ourselves, we lay on the blankets, warming ourselves in the sun.
        "Michael, I have been doing some thinking...." Paula started saying, when she was interrupted by Michael.
        "You better watch that or you'll become known as a nerd--or is it nerdess?"
        "Mary Kathryn, how do you keep this man in check?" Paula asked, and Matt and I started laughing.
        "The truth of the matter is that the family had three sons in order to keep Mary Kathryn under control," Matt said. "You know what she did this morning?"
        "Matt, I'm going to kill you," Mary Kathryn shouted. Michael and I joined in as Matt started laughing while trying to avoid being pounded by Mary Kathryn.
        "This wild woman climbed into my room this morning and caught me with my sheet down," Matt finally got it out.
        "Matt, you are in big trouble," Michael laughed. "But what have you been thinking about, Paula?"
        Paula told Michael she wanted him to run for student body president. Michael raised several objections, all of which were disposed of quickly. Luke finally said, "Look, Michael, you have a chance to continue what you started with the service and you know none of the others who might run are interested in anything except something to put on their college application".
        "You also know they all spend a pile of money on their campaign. I don't have that kind of money and I'm not sure I'd spend it if I did."
        "Do you really think passing out suckers and Tootsie rolls really wins votes?" Larry asked. "I think we might run a real campaign with the talent we have here. I suspect we also have a pretty hard core ready to help as a result of the service. Look, I'm kinda outside the excitement of the moment as are you and Mary Kathryn. The other three are going to be so wrapped up in the concert and exhibition we need something wothwhile to do besides mow lawns! For example, if we could get Matt to write a campaign song and the ensemble and chorus to perform it, I could record it and mix it. That's where my talent and expertise lie."
        "I didn't know that," Paula said.
        "Audio and video expert right here. The school has great equipment that is almost never used except when I use it. I could get permission to use excerpts from the telecast of the service and put together some great video spots; you know each candidate gets a minute for a spot during homeroom while the campaign is on."
        "Ok, Larry, if you'll work with me, I'll do it, but you gotta know there are going to be some pissed-off jocks."
        "So? Turn Mary Kathryn loose on them," Matt laughed.
        After we had lain in the sun for awhile longer, Paula said, "I guess I better be getting home."
        "We need to go too, as much as I hate to," Larry said. "This is such a special place."
        "We're going to have a party at my place after the prom--at least we're coming back to my place. Larry, Eugene and I will have to leave shortly after we get here to get the Randolph clan home by their curfew," Matt said. "I hope you all can stay. Why don't you plan to spend the night? We can come back to the falls, then spend the rest of the night--if there is any left--and have breakfast Sunday morning before I have to go to St. Mary's."
        "By the way, Matt," Mary Kathryn said, "I had a long talk with Mom and Dad, and they understand why I want to go to St. Mary's with Luke--and Michael. I can't sit still for anyone saying your and Luke's love is sinful. While it saddens Dad that Luke and I are leaving Immaculate Conception, he said he understood."
        "Matt, Larry and I are going to discuss doing the same thing, but I suspect my dad won't be willing to let me go and I sure can't tell him why I want to, at least not yet. I don't know when I will feel like coming out to my family because I know the least that will happen is I will be disowned. I'm not really ready for that yet," Eugene said.
        "I can understand that," I said. "I am on a no-kiss diet and Matt still has the remains of a black eye as as result of my coming out. I do want you to know that you should never come out when you are angry."
        "Well, we'll just have to wait until we are ready, Babe," Larry said to Eugene, and gave him a kiss.
        "I wish you two would stop that," Paula said. "I haven't been kissed by my love since forever and you're rubbing it in!"
        "Yea. Stop that!" Matt echoed.
        "Ok, jokers, backs turned," Mary Kathryn said. We turned our backs and stripped off our boxers and briefs. Even though we had been lying in the sun, they were still damp enough to be uncomfortable and the Gang of Four had learned long ago that walking home in damp underwear was not advisable. When we had all dressed, sans underwear, we left the falls and went back to Matt's house.
        When we arrived, Matt collected our damp underwear and put it in the dryer. When Yong Jin saw him doing that she said, "I see the lure of the falls proved irresistible again," and laughed.
        When the dryer finished its work, we all seven got dressed and piled in the Jeep, and I do mean piled. As we drove toward town, we were all singing "More" again.
        We took Paula home first, then dropped off Larry and Eugene when we came back through town. When we reached Larry's house, Eugene said he would stay with Larry awhile. As they alighted from the Jeep, Larry said, "Luke, Eugene and I have talked and we would like to talk with Dr. Bailey."
        "Matt and I need to take care of that ourselves this week. Do you want me to make an appointment for you two when we see her?"
        "Sure. Please do," Larry responded.
        When we got back home, Michael and Mary Kathryn walked to our house and I went to Matt's place with him. As we walked, arm in arm, to his house, I said, "We had some real play time today, Sarang Hanun Pomul, and I loved every minute of it." As soon as we were inside, I took my dark beauty into my arms and kissed his forehead.
        Matt brushed my lips with his--they were healing, but he was still not ready for a real kiss--and said, "Luke, I got a phone call today which may put a bit of a crimp in your prom date." His eyes were laughing big time.
        "Nothing can put a bigger crimp in my prom date since I can't date you," I replied. "But what was the phone call?"
        "Ok, it's top secret, but Sheldon called me while we were working. He had called Paula's mom and was told she was here, but when he called here, he asked for me. Paula is going to have a prom night she'll never forget!" Matt told me about his talk with Sheldon and concluded with, "I don't know what Yong Jin and Mary Kathryn have cooked up, but Paula is going to be a knockout. Somehow or other, Mary Kathryn will have to keep her in her formal until I get back."
        "Sure sounds like a winner to me, Babe."
        "Guys, have you forgotten you have a date tonight?" Greywolf asked when he heard us.
        "I sure did," Matt said. I looked at him, puzzled. "We are going to Millie's for a little celebration. You had forgotten as well. Think we better call Michael and Mary Kathryn?"
        "Mom will probably remember, but a call wouldn't hurt," I said as I picked up the phone. Michael was still at Mary Kathryn's, but had been reminded. "Mary Kathryn, tell him to remember to show some ass," I laughed and hung up.
        "A little celebration" turned out to be a great dinner party with just the family and Millie--fantastic food and a lot of great talk about everthing under the sun. Millie managed to embarass the Gang of Four with her constant bragging on us. Jens finally said, "Millie, you would think you were these kids' grandmother!"
        "I am and you damn well better remember that!" Millie said, and there was not a smile on her face when she said it. "I'll never have any of my own so I claim these. Kids, these parents give you any trouble, you come running to Grandma Millie."
        "Millie, if I have a problem with Greywolf or Yong Jin, I may come running to you, but I can't bring myself to call you Grandma Millie. You just don't fit the image," Matt laughed.
        When coffee and dessert were served, we were all in the living room just enjoying being together when Millie suddenly said, "Oh. I almost forgot. Ms. Jones called me last night to see if I had any influence at Oberlin. I don't know why I hadn't pushed you in that direction to start with, Matt. But I've been in touch with some old friends connected to Oberlin. I'd like for you two guys and Eugene to come for a light supper tomorrow night so we can discuss some things."
        I looked at Matt and he sensed my question. "Millie, would you invite someone else?"
        "Sure, who?"
         "Larry Watley."
         "Who's he?"
         "He's Eugene's friend."
         "His friend? A special friend?"
         "They are best friends," Matt said.
         Shortly after coffee and dessert, we all left for home. Tomorrow was a big day for Matt--it was Palm Sunday with all the extras that entailed.
         Nonetheless, I spent Saturday night in Matt's arms, in his bed. We had decided that, in spite of what Dad had said, we just wouldn't feel comfortable sleeping together in my bed although we had done so for years, but things were different now. We were lovers.
        When we went up, Matt closed his door--almost--and we undressed each other.  It was strange. We had seen each other naked all of our lives, and even this afternoon we had undressed in front of each other without so much as getting aroused, but now, in the dim light of Matt's bedside lamp, we were both as hard as rocks when we got undressed. "Luke, I want to kiss you, really kiss you sooo bad," Matt said when I embraced him.
        "I know, Dark Angel. I want to kiss you, really kiss you too, but I also want your lips healed. It'll only be a few more days."
        "Wait, wait, wait. Damn, Yonghon Tongmu, I am tired and fed up with waiting!"
        "I know, Sarang Hanun Pomul, so am I, but if I kissed you now, really kissed you...."
        "Yea, I know too. Hold me and love me, Luke."
        I picked Matt up and cradled him in my arms, kissing that black hair which drove me wild with passion and love for my man.  I placed him gently on his bed and covered his body with mine. As I pressed my body to his, the hardness of our manhood met. I began to grind my hardness into his as he pressed against my grinding hips. As we continued grinding into each other, I kissed his beautiful face, his eyes and his neck. Matt wrapped his arms around me and pulled my chest against his. Our hard nipples rubbed together and our grinding became more and more intense. I kissed his neck then started sucking a spot just below his ear as we both began to move our hips faster, rubbing Chili Pepper and Little Luke between us. Matt was brushing my neck with his lips, then started nipping a spot below my ear.  As our grinding continued, I realized I was near the point of no return.  Suddenly Matt cried out softly, "God knows, Luke, Babe, I love you!" and with those words, he bit into my neck, and shuddered as a powerful climax hit him. As I felt his hot seed on my body, I blacked out for a moment as my climax took total control of me. I collapsed on his body and he held me close as we both relaxed in the warmth of our love making.
        I finally rolled off of Matt and we lay side-by-side, gazing into each other's eyes. "Matt, how can I love you more every day I am alive?  I keep thinking, 'My love for Sarang Hanun Pomul is total; there can be no greater love than this,' only to discover the next day, the next moment, that I love you more than the moment before. Promise me you will always accept my love, imperfect as it may be, and I will promise you that it will be more perfect tomorrow."
        "Luke, I promise. And I have told you nothing will ever stop my loving you. Nothing."  Matt again brushed my lips with his. We continued looking into the other's eyes, saying nothing, letting our eyes speak of our love. When Matt reached for the tissues on the bedside table, I stopped him, got up and swept him into my arms and carried him to the shower. As the warm water poured over our bodies, we held each other close, then lovingly bathed each other. Our shower finished, we carefully dried each other and this time, Matt picked me up and carried me to his bed, the place I wanted to be every night until I die. Safe in each other's arms, we gazed into each other's eyes.
        "I want to say something while you listen, then we'll talk."
        "Ok, Matt."
        "Today when you came in and grabbed me and kissed me in front of Paula, I got upset. I have been thinking about that ever since. You were excited and full of joy and you just had to share your joy with me and I got upset. Luke, I got upset because you just couldn't not share your joy with me because you loved me. And I got upset. When you get right down to it, I got upset because you loved me, you know that? I hated myself because, without thinking, I had rejected you. And the other day when Michael saw us holding hands at school, we did that because we love each other so much. Things like that are going to happen. There are going to be times when we forget or just can't hide our love. I don't ever want to get upset because you love me. Luke, let's just know it's going to happen and that sometimes it really won't matter. Paula already knew more or less and it didn't change how she felt about us. Michael knew, so he didn't care, but others will.  When something happens, because we love each other, we'll just deal with it and never, ever, blame the other. I'm sorry for what I did today and I don't want to have to be sorry again."
        "Matt, I didn't give it another thought because I knew I should have thought before I acted, but you're right. Things like that are bound to happen. And when they do, we'll deal with the consequences. And we won't blame the other. Dark Angel, I know we'll forget because the only thing we will be thinking about is our love and, God knows, I love you!"
        "Bright Angel, I love you with my whole heart." We snuggled closer, gazed into the eyes of the one we loved more than anything in the world and drifted off to sleep--happy, content, in love.

Part Twenty

        Once again I sensed Matt's presence before I awoke.  It was a feeling of security, of being loved and cared for. It was a feeling that said, "Matt's here; all is well." As I gradually emerged from the land of dreams, I opened my eyes to a real dream: Matt's sleeping body beside me, his long, long black lashes resting on his smooth, dark cheeks. My heart was so full of love for this man I felt it would burst. I leaned on an elbow and just looked at him sleeping, thanking God Almighty for giving me the love of this man. As I looked upon his sleeping face, his eyes slowly opened and a smile spread across his face as his eyes sparkled. "Good morning, love of my life."
        "Good morning, my life," Matt replied.
        I leaned over my love and gently kissed his eyes. There was little evidence remaining of his black eye. I knew his lip was also healing, but I still was not willing to risk a real kiss.
        "Today's a big day at St. Mary's. It's Palm Sunday. I guess I need to get up and get ready because I need to be there a bit early. Are you going with me or do you want to wait and come with the family?"
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I will always be with you whenever possible. That's forever." Matt looked up at me, smiled, brushed my lips with his and then bounded out of bed. I followed him into the bathroom. After the obligatory morning piss, Matt turned on the shower and we washed each other, with butterfly touches. As I washed his hair, I couldn't help stopping from time to time to nip an ear or kiss a nipple. Finally we realized that we needed to get moving. We dried each other, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.
        Palm Sunday at St. Mary's was not significantly different from what I had known all my life except for the fact that I knew I was surrounded by people who loved me and loved Matt, people who respected our love for each other.
        At the coffee hour following the service, Millie called across the parish hall, "Matt, I need to see you and Luke." We walked across the room and when we reached Millie she said, "I have some forms for you two, Eugene and Paula. Ms. Norman called me about Oberlin. I have some influence there and I'm calling in some chips. You two and those other kids involved in the concert are coming by this evening around 7? We'll have something to eat and talk about college a bit."
        "Could Larry, Eugene's best friend, come? He's kinda being left out."
        "Sure. I'd like to meet him. So, how's things going with the concert and exhibition? Are you making progress?" Millie asked.
         "We both got tons of work accomplished yesterday. Matt's ready to start practice with the chorus and ensemble. I have to go to Lexington to get some tools and to take part of my project to be completed there. At least I hope I can afford to do both. I have a really great project going, but I may have to cut back because of costs. I'll know after Wednesday. I'm skipping school and going over if Mr. Stephenson has made all the arrangements."
        "How much money are we talking about here?"
        "I'm not sure. It may well be more than I can swing and I don't want to ask Dad for more since I know college is coming up."
        "Think a thousand would cover what you need?"
        "I'm hoping it will be a lot less. Maybe I can find some used equipment which would take care of this project."
        "Consider your budget a thousand and buy the best equipment you can find so it will last. You aren't planning on giving up on art are you? You will use it again, right?"
        "Of course I'm not giving up my art and would use the equipment again."
        "I can't get that much cash today, but I'll have it tomorrow. Matt, are you practising at St. Mary's tomorrow?"
        "Drop by the house and pick up money for Luke's stuff before you go home. And how is your work going?"
        "I think it's in good shape. Paula, Eugene and I worked yesterday until after lunch and think we have the music completed. We also set the program. I had most of the program notes ready so they just need polishing.
        "When can I get them? I need to get them to the printer as soon as possible so it won't be a rush job. If the printer has time, the program should be a work of art."
        "I can get them to you by Wednesday. But you have to promise to keep it under wraps. I want the two original compositions to be a secret--if that's possible--until the performance."
        "I can certainly keep them secret, but I wonder if you can since the members of the chorus and ensemble will have to know them."
        "Well, Paula, Eugene and I are going to try."
        "Luke, when can I have the notes for your exhibition and photographs of your work for the catalog?"
        "That could pose a problem. Everything has to be ready before May 12 since I have to have photographs for my AP exam in art. That's only nine days before the exhibition. Of course, I could get you most of the photographs and text before then. I guess if all goes well, everything could be in your hands by May 5. And I, also, have two things which will not be unveiled until the exhibition."
        "Get what you can to me as early as possible. We'll make the two special works the center of the catalog if necessary so everything can be printed except the catalog entries for those pieces. Gotta run. See you kids at 7." And, with those words, Millie was off and running.
        I caught Margaret and David just before they left. The family Sunday dinner was at David's--something which hadn't happened in ages, but Margaret had insisted on being a "real" part of the family. "Margaret, do you think you have enough food for three more hungry teenagers?" I asked.
        David laughed and said, "I think Margaret is trying to make up for several years Michael and I have been sponging off the family. There's enough food for a tribe of teenagers. Why?"
        "I'd like for Paula, Eugene and Larry to join us if that's all right."
        "Of course it's all right."
        Before we left, Matt went to the church office and called Paula and Larry. Both were excited about Sunday dinner. Larry told Matt he guessed Eugene was still at church, but he knew he would be pleased to come to Michael's for dinner. Matt told Paula and Larry he thought we might go to the falls after Sunday dinner.
        When Margaret heard that she said, "Sounds like fun to me. Think you might let the old folks join you at the falls?"
        "Sure. Guess I need to tell the guys and Paula to bring something to swim in."
        "Is the water that warm?" David asked.
        "If you're hot stuff it is," I laughed.
        "How do you know?" Margaret asked.
        "We all went in yesterday after we finished working."
        "Can't Paula and the guys wear what they wore yesterday?"
        "Not with the old folks around," David smiled. "We finally got the Gang of Four to stop skinny dipping when Gabrielle found out Mary Kathryn was still skinny dipping with the boys when she was almost eleven, but that didn't mean they did anything other than strip to underwear."
        "Mary Kathryn too?"
        "If the mood hits and that's all she has. Think her bra gives her fits, but it's not worth going home and coming back to get a swim suit," I said.
        Margaret shook her head and said, "I sometimes wonder what I've gotten myself into."
        "Admit it. You love it," David said and kissed her right there in front of God and everybody.
        "Know you don't have your appointment book with you, Margaret, but Matt and I need to see you soon."
        "Oh, I meant to tell you earlier. I made a time for you tomorrow at 2:30 if that's ok."
        "Should be. I'll check with Matt. Later," I said as I saw Matt headed my way. "Matt, I think the whole family is going to the falls after Sunday dinner."
        As we were leaving the office, Fr. Tom was headed for his study. "Hi, Luke. Haven't seen you in awhile. How's it going?"
        "Pretty good actually. I guess you know Dad's reaction to learning I was gay."
        "Yea. Couldn't help noticing the new look the organist was sporting. But things have worked themselves out?"
        "Better than I expected. By the way, what do I need to do to become an official part of St. Mary's?"
        "You just did. All you have to do right now is tell me and I'll enroll you as a communicant. When the bishop comes, he'll officially receive you, but that's just a formality. Do you want me to write Immaculate Conception and notify them? It won't make any difference since they don't officially recognize us, but I generally do as a courtesy."
        "Sure, but just send it to Fr. O'Brian. He understands."
        "Fine. See you guys next Saturday and Sunday and Sunday afternoon, right?"
        "Right. I could ask at dinner today, but when is the Saturday afternoon event scheduled?"
        "I had some things I had to do so it will be at 2. Maybe a little late for lunch, but that's the best I could do."
        "That really suits my plans. I need to get to Lexington for a short while and if I leave early and get there when the doors open, I can be back by then. I was afraid I'd have to postpone that trip and it would really push me if it had to wait since I don't want to miss any more school than I have to."
        "See you then if not before, or did you need something else?"
        "No, Matt was just using the phone." As Matt walked up I asked, "Matt, did you tell the guys and Paula to bring swimsuits?"
        "I forgot, but we can tell then when we get there. Let's jet."
        We went to Paula's first. When we got inside, Paula introduced us to Mrs. Wright. She was a really nice looking lady. Like Paula, she was dark and had long black hair, not as long as Paula's, but longer than most women wear. 'Course, I am more than a little partial to dark skin and long black hair, so sue me!
        "I'm really glad to meet you two guys. Paula has told me so much about you and what you are doing. I'm very pleased she has you as friends. Since Sheldon moved she had been pretty down until things started happening. I know she still misses him, but she has things which interest her to do and that sure makes it better for her."
        I told Paula we were going to the falls after dinner and the whole family would be there so she'd need a swimsuit.
        "Paula, I thought you went swimming yesterday."
        All three of us blushed big time and Paula started stuttering as Matt and I started laughing. "I hope you don't mind, Mrs. Wright," Matt said, "but since we were allowed to go swimming by ourselves, we skinny dipped until Gabrielle--Mary Kathryn's mother--found out we were still doing it and Mary Kathryn was about ten or eleven. She laid down the law, now if we go to the falls by ourselves and decide to swim, it's just underwear."
        "Matt! You need to learn to keep quiet sometimes," Paula said with a fresh blush.
        "Sounds like fun, Paula, but a wet bra!!"
        "Oh, when we finish, we strip and go home sans underwear," I said.
        "Luke, you're making it worse!" Paula chided me.
        "We turn our backs when we change, Mrs. Wright. I have seen nothing Paula didn't want to display," I added. Mrs. Wright laughed--I liked this woman--as Paula dashed out of the room, I supposed to get a swimsuit.
        "Could I speak to you privately, Mrs. Wright?" Matt asked.
        "Sure. Excuse us, Luke. Come in the kitchen Matt." I wondered what was going on, then remembered what Matt had up his sleeve and I was sure he was telling Mrs. Wright about Sheldon and making sure it was ok with her.
        When she and Matt came back, both gave me the ok sign and smiled. I was very happy for Paula and was sure her mother was as well. "Paula, you're taking all day. Dinner is waiting."
        Paula came back with a small bag and had changed into fresh shirt and shorts. "You're not wearing that outfit to Millie Willingham's, are you?" her mom asked.
        "No, I have a dress in my bag. Didn't have room for a swimsuit so I guess I'll just have to go skinny dipping!"
        "I suspect you could put your swimsuit in my shirt pocket," Matt kidded.
        "Yea. Yea. Yea." Paula responded.
        "Now children." Mrs. Wright laughed.
        "We'll have her back before too late, unless she gets arrested for indecent exposure," Matt said.
        When we got to Larry's, Eugene was not there. "Eugene usually gets home from church long before now. I'll call again."  We went inside, spoke to Mrs. Watley and waited while Larry called. "Eugene's dad said Eugene wasn't available and I shouldn't call back. I'm afraid something is wrong. I have no idea what's going on. Well, I'm scared I might. Can we just wait awhile for him?" We all sat down on the front steps and were talking about nothing serious when we saw Eugene slouching down the street.
        "You can just look at him and know he's not a happy camper," Paula said.
        "Probably means another fight with his parents. Luke, at least your parents didn't make your life hell before they knew you were gay and only your dad did after--then for only a short time. Eugene lives in hell all the time he is home and his parents don't know. I finally decided a week ago I couldn't take it any more so I got my things and brought them home. I no longer stay over at Eugene's because I'm sure one day I would have had it and bust his dad one. And his mother is as bad--maybe worse. They keep telling him he is going to hell because he won't 'get right with God.' I don't even know what they mean. I do know that just about everything he does is wicked and evil in their eyes--the way he dresses, the music he enjoys, even the music he plays. He's only supposed to play gospel music at church. I know his dad mistreats him; I've seen bruises. He denies it or says, 'I don't want to talk about it.' Luke, I really worry at times about his trying to take your way out... suicide I mean. He can really be depressed."
        When Eugene started up the walk, Matt called out "'sup Eugene?" Eugene immediately burst into great, body-shaking sobs, ran to Larry and grabbed him. When Larry embraced him, Eugene winced and Larry just held him loosely as Eugene continued to cry great sobs. When he was finally able to control his tears, he kissed Larry passionately, almost brutally, then put his head on Larry's shoulder. We all just sat there, not knowing what to do.
        "Ok, Babe, what's the problem?" Larry asked as he lifted Eugene's head and looked into his eyes.
        When Larry lifted his hand from Eugene's back, there was a bloody hand print on Eugene's shirt. "Eugene's back is bleeding, Larry!" I said, not believing what I saw. "Eugene, what happened?"
        "We aren't allowed to watch TV in our house except for religious programs so Dad didn't know about the service for Gregory. This morning, the preacher had a TV and vcr set up for the adult class and showed part of the service. He made sure Dad saw me directing the ensemble and Michael's speech since Michael and his dad used to go to our church. When Dad saw that he blew up and then, when he saw Larry, he got livid. I didn't know all that until we got home and he called me into his room. 'I see you let that girly faced Andrews kid get you involved in Satan's work protecting homosexuals,' he said. When I started to answer him, he grabbed me, stripped off my shirt and started beating me with his belt. I started to tell him he was wrong about Michael and he hit harder. I almost told him I was gay, but remembered what you had said, Luke, and just took my beating. Otherwise, I think he might have literally beat me to death. He kept on and on saying he was going to beat the devil out of me so I would know that God hated queers and pansies. I yelled for Mama to help me and she said it was for my own good otherwise I might be tricked into becoming gay myself. 'The good book says spare the rod and spoil the child,' she said and stood and watched Dad beat me until he got tired and quit. When he quit, he dragged me to my room and locked me in. My sister slid a note under my door and told me she would keep Mom and Dad busy so I could climb out the window. What am I going to do?" Eugene started sobbing again and buried his face in Larry's shoulder. Larry started to put his arms around him and stopped.
        "That's it! You are not going back there--ever!" Larry said. "Mom, come here, please." When Ms. Watley came, Larry gently took Eugene's shirt off and we all saw his back. His dad had beaten him so hard he had lacerations all over his back and they were still bleeding.
        "That man ought to be jailed. Eugene, you need to go to the emergency room," Ms. Watley said.
        "No, I can't do that," Eugene said, terrified.
        "Larry, doesn't Eugene have clothes here," I asked and when Larry nodded, said, "Get him some for this afternoon and for dinner tonight, if he's able to go. We'll take him straight to David and Dr. Bailey."
         Minutes later Larry can back with a bag. "I have clothes for both of us. Let's go. Call you later, Mom."
        It was only a short trip to David's but it seemed to take forever because I knew Eugene was in pain. He tried to hold back the tears, but at times it was just too much. Matt skidded into David's drive and we all piled out. Larry was carrying Eugene who was in such pain he hardly stand. Matt ran ahead and yelled, "David, Margaret, we need you!" The whole family came running out of the house with David and Margaret in the lead.
        As soon as David saw Eugene, he helped Larry get him inside. Margaret got her bag and David his. When they saw Eugene's back, David said though clinched teeth, "Who did this?"
        Before anyone could answer, Margaret said, "Eugene, I'm going to give you a shot to ease the pain. I don't think it will be enough to put you out, but there is no need for you hurting any more than you have to." As soon as she had given him the shot, Margaret started stroking his hair. "Just relax all you can, Eugene, the shot will take a few minutes to take effect and then David and I will care for your back. Who did this?"
        Eugene started to answer and started sobbing great sobs again. "His dad beat him," Larry said, "because of something that happened at church."
        "Damn! Why did I stay in that place of hate," David asked himself. "Why didn't I take that preacher out? Is Eugene gay, Larry? Is that what caused this?"
         All the kids kinda looked at each other, wondering what to say. Eugene finally solved the problem when he said, "Yes, I am and no, it's not the reason." The shot must have kicked in because he grinned and said, "It was your girly faced son's fault." David looked puzzled to say the least.  Eugene started to talk, but was so groggy Larry finally told David what had happened.
        "How old is Eugene, Larry?" Margaret asked as she started dressing his back.
        "He's eighteen. Why?"
        "If he was younger I would have to report this as child abuse. Since he's technically an adult, I don't have to report it. If I did it would be for assault. What do you think we ought to do, David?"
        "I'm going to call Eugene's dad and tell him Eugene is here and is going to stay here. Luke can share Michael's room...."
        "I'll go back to my own room. If I'm working late, I can sack out in the studio as I did Friday night."
        "Ok, Eugene gets the guest room. I'll tell Joyce that Greywolf, Jens and I will be by this afternoon to pick up Eugene's things. I will also tell him that I am filing a report on this incident and if he causes any trouble or even contacts Eugene, I'll file assault charges against him. Larry, are you afraid to go with us so we can be sure we get everything?"
        "With Greywolf, Jens and you? Hardly!"
        "I've finished dressing his back and it looks as if Eugene has gone to sleep. I guess he was just exhausted and, when the shot relaxed him, he drifted off. He shouldn't sleep long and I don't think his back will be so painful he will need anything as heavy as the shot again."
        "He almost told his dad he was gay. He would have killed him," Larry said as the whole situation finally hit him. He broke down in great wails and sobs. Yong Jin took him in her arms and gently rocked him. Since he towered over her, it was a kinda funny sight, but no one was laughing.
        "I take it Eugene is more than just a good friend?" Greywolf asked.
        "He's my very life," Larry replied.
        Suddenly I realized that Dad was standing apart from the rest of the family and when I looked at him, he was crying. I walked over to him, put my arms around him and hugged him. "My God, what did I do? Luke, that could be you or Matt lying there bleeding. I am no better than Eugene's dad."
        "Don't even think it! You acted in the heat of a moment's anger. You would never have beaten me or Matt the way Eugene has been beaten. His dad was cool and calculating to beat him that hard and long."
        Matt came over and hugged Dad as well. "Jens, it's past. You're forgiven, but never, ever think you would have done what Eugene's dad did to him. Never."
        Dad hugged us both and said, "I'm sorry. I am so sorry, Matt, Luke."
        "We know that, Dad."
        "I think Eugene will probably sleep for awhile now," David said. "I guess we really don't feel much like eating."
        "I feel like celebrating," Larry said, as a huge smile brightened his face. He hugged Yong Jin and said, "The love of my life is out of the hellhole he's been living in ever since I've known him. He's among people who obviously will love and care for him and, in spite of his pain, I know he would want us to enjoy being here. Let's eat!"
        The mood of the whole room immediately changed from one of gloom to one of happiness. Sure, we were all sorry for what Eugene had suffered, but we also realized it was worth it for him to have a chance at life in a loving family.
        When we had finished eating--and it was a festive meal after all, and Margaret had demonstrated that she could keep up with Gabrielle and Yomg Jin in the cooking arena--we were still sitting at the table and talking about having planned to go to the falls, but Eugene was sleeping. Just when we had decided not to go, Eugene came staggering into the dining room. Larry ran to him and asked, "How are you, Babe?"
        "I'm ok. Sorry I messed up your Sunday dinner."
        "Think again, Mr. Joyce. We just finished."
        "Eugene, would you like something to eat?"
        "Eugene is always ready to eat," Larry said as he walked Eugene to the table. Margaret fixed him a plate of food and the adults went into the living room and we all stayed with Eugene. Larry told him his new living arrangements and Eugene started protesting that he was afraid of what his dad would do if he even knew he had left the house.
        David overheard the conversation and came into the dining room. "He'll do absolutely nothing, Eugene. I called him and told him we would come for your things this afternoon and that if he did anything at all--even tried to contact you--I would have him arrested for assault. I will file a medical report and if he so much as says a word to you, he'll go to jail. I promise you that."
        "But I'm afraid to even go back for my things."
        "You won't. Greywolf, Jens and I will go for them and Larry will go with us to make sure we get everything. From the moment you walked in, this became your home.
        Tears formed in Eugene's eyes and he said, "I don't know what I did to deserve being treated like a real human being."
        "You're a real human being, that's all that is required or should be required to be treated as one," Michael said.
        "Well," Eugene smiled, "are we real human beings going to the falls or not?"
        "We decided not to since you were sleeping and you can't get in the water with your back in the shape it's in," I said.
        "I don't have to get in the water to enjoy that place," Eugene replied. "Let's go, please."
        "Then let's jet," Matt said. Soon the whole bunch was enjoying a place special for all of us.
        When we did not go in the water, Eugene said, "Look, guys, just because I can't go in doesn't mean you have to stay out. Besides, I want to see Larry dive from the top." It didn't take any more encouragement, and soon everyone except Eugene and Margaret were in the water. It was still cold, of course, so it wasn't long before there were bodies all over the place soaking up sun. We stayed at the river until David reminded us we had to go to the Joyces' to get Eugene's things. I think we were all dreading that, not knowing what might happen.
        David, Greywolf and Dad rode in David's van; Michael, Larry and I went with Matt in his Jeep. David reminded us to stay back until the three men had reached the Joyces'. We had just pulled up as the three men knocked on the front door. Mrs. Joyce came out and told them to get off their property before she called the police. In an icy voice I had never heard David use, he said, "Would you please do that, Mrs. Joyce. They are going to have to come anyway to haul your husband's ass off to jail."
        "For what?" she argued. "Since when can't a parent discipline a child?"
        "A parent always has the right to discipline a child but no one has the right to assault anybody, and that includes his children. Right now your son is under medical care as a result of your husband's assault, not discipline. As I told him, I am filing a medical report and if there is any interference with our getting his things or if Joyce even tries to contact him, I will turn it over to the law and he will be jailed for assault. Now if you will just stand aside and let us get Eugene's things, we will go."
        "David Andrews, it's that girly faced faggot son of yours who led Eugene astray! I will see that he gets right with God so just get off my property and get Eugene back here or you'll regret it," old man Joyce shouted from inside the house. David blanched snow white and clinched his fists. Greywolf put his hand on David's shoulder and held him back. Suddenly Michael rushed past me, headed for the door. Matt and I both went from a standing stop to supersonic speed and caught him just before he pushed past Mrs. Joyce.
        Jens and Greywolf both had their hands on David's shoulders and Matt and I had been joined by Larry and all three were struggling to hold Michael back. It wasn't easy and, frankly, I think all three of us would have enjoyed seeing Michael take old man Joyce out.  "Ok, David, Michael, just calm down. You're not going to do Eugene any good if you lose your cool," Greywolf said. It was clear he was the only one who had any cool left, but I remembered his outburst and didn't want to see what would happen if he were pushed another inch. "Mr. and Mrs. Joyce, it was clear to me that you didn't want Eugene when I saw what had been done to him. Mr. Joyce, you beat him until his back is a bloody pulp. Mrs. Joyce, you stood by and encouraged your husband to beat him. Eugene has a home now where he will be loved and cared for. He's not coming back here."
        "He's not welcome here. He's not our son any more since he's given his soul to the devil," Mrs. Joyce said, bitterly.
        "He's a disowned faggot-lover. The devil has used that faggot Michael to steal his soul," old man Joyce again shouted from inside the house. Matt and I had loosened our grip on Michael and just managed to tightened our grip on him as we felt him tighten up to spring.
        Jens did David one better in the icy, cold voice department because he was so calm you knew that he would have cheerfully strangled both Joyces. "Joyce, you have lost a beautiful, talented and loving son. How you two managed to produce such a child given your hatred and bitterness, I will never understand. But you did. Now you are throwing him away like garbage. Well, he's not garbage. He's a great human being. Now we have simply come to get his things...."
        "There's nothing here that is his. Everything he claims was paid for with my money," Joyce shouted--still hiding inside.
        "Probably true, but it was given to him and it was his. Now we have come for it. Get out of our way and we'll get what is his and be on our way. You'll never have to think or worry about him again," Greywolf said.
        "He'll always have something that is mine. He will drag the good name of Joyce through the mud--him and his faggot, queer-loving ways."
        Almost in a single voice, David, Greywolf and Dad said, in one way or another, "He can have mine."
        Jens surprised all of us when he said, "And I would be deeply honored if he chose to accept mine." When there was no answer, he continued, "Now get the hell out of our way so we can get away from this hellhole!"
        Old man Joyce finally came out of the house, holding a gun. "I told you to get off my property and I meant it. Now git before I have to hurt somebody." Eugene's sister, Janice, appeared in the door behind him, moving quietly. She had a ball bat in her hand and used it well, dropping old man Joyce to his knees. When he fell, he dropped the gun. Janice grabbed the gun as her mother made a dive for it.
        "Back off, Mama. Fellows, come on in and get Eugene's stuff. I have called the police already." Old man Joyce was struggling to his feet, holding his head.
        "Just you wait, young lady. When your father gets hold of you, you'll wish he would stop with a beating like he gave Eugene."
        "I won't be here. I've already called protective services as well as the police. They will see that I have a safe place away from this hellhole."
        "Get Eugene what's his name's stuff and get out of here," Joyce said, "You, young lady, get back in the house."
        "Janice, get your things together too. We'll stay here until protective services arrive," David said. "I've seen your handiwork on Eugene's back, Joyce. We're not going to leave Janice here for that or worse. Now if you'll get out of the way, we'll do what we came to do. Janice, get in the Jeep." Everyone who had ever known David knew he was kindness and gentleness itself, but there was no question he meant business and was not to be crossed right now.
        Janice went to the Jeep and Larry, Matt, Michael and I went to Eugene's room and got his stuff together and started carrying it to the van. Dad, David and Greywolf all stood guard while the Joyces looked on, obviously very angry, but not attempting to stop us. We had just stowed the first load of stuff in the van when the police arrived. They, of course, knew David and asked him what was going on. He explained the situation and one of them asked if David was going to swear out a warrant against Joyce. David told him he just as soon not, but that he would file a medical report on Eugene signed by himself and Dr. Bailey. "If Joyce makes any attempt to harm Eugene--no, if he even attempts to contact him--I'll swear out a warrant. He absolutely brutalized his son. Now he is threatening to do worse to his daughter. She has called protective services and I think you guys need to stay here until they come and can assure her of a safe place. I don't know what Joyce might do after I saw what he did to Eugene."
        A social worker showed up just as we put the last of Eugene's things in the van and had started getting Janice's ready. The social worker talked to Jens, Greywolf and David--she knew David from seeing him with the EMS team and Greywolf from school-- while we loaded the van. After hearing the whole story, she said, "I can take her into protective custody and put her in a shelter if there is nowhere else she can go."
        "She can go with any of us," David said.
        "I'm afraid she can't go with you David, since there's no woman in your house."
        "She could stay with Dr. Bailey couldn't she?" David asked.
        "Sure. That would be ideal, at least until we can find a place to get her settled. Would Dr. Bailey be willing to take on the responsibility?"
        "Sure she would. I'll call and tell her." David used his cell phone and called Margaret. When he explained the situation, she talked with the social worker and she approved Margaret keeping Janice until some permanent solution could be found. By the time the arrangements had been made, we had all of Janice's things in the van. The police and social worker talked with the Joyces and explained that since Eugene was eighteen, he was free to make any decision he wanted about where he lived. Janice, on the other hand, was only seventeen, but was now in custody of the state. "If either of you attempt to harm or contact her before a court hearing can be held, you will be subject to jail. While Eugene lies outside the jurisdiction of protective services, I am suggesting he find a judge today to place a restraining order against you two. Should he do so, you will be restrained from contacting him or coming with five hundred yards of him. Additionally, David has the authority, as a medical officer, to report a case of assault against you. You might eventually beat the charge, but you will go to jail until bailed out or taken to court. Mrs. Joyce, you need to be aware you have made threats against your daughter which could also land you in jail. Since you obviously don't deserve to have control of your children, the best thing you can do is just to leave them alone."
        "Come on, Ma," Joyce said, "I can't stand this wickedness any more. Our children have sold themselves to the devil. The best thing we could have done would have been to beat the devil out of them earlier. Now they're in the devil's camp. They are no longer our children--they belong to the devil and he is welcome to them, we don't want them!" With those words, both went into the house and closed the door.
        As we drove back to David's, I noticed a puzzled look on Matt's face. Something was troubling him, but he was saying nothing. Finally I had had it. "Ok, Matt, spit it out."
        "What are you talking about? I don't know what you are talking about."
        "Yes you do. You've got something stuck in your craw. I know it and you know it."
        "I know it too, Matt," Michael said. "So out with it."
        "Well, I'm not sure I should. I mean...."
         "Yea, Matt," Michael added.
        "Michael, I guess I'm just thin-skinned, but why did you get so upset when old man Joyce called you a faggot?"
        "Did you think that meant I had a problem with you or Luke or Eugene or Larry? Was that what got you upset?"
        "I guess it was. I guess I am a little thin-skinned. I don't really know. I just know when it took three of us to hold you down because someone called you a faggot, I thought you must have...."
        "Matt, I think I would have been just as angry had old man Joyce called any of you a faggot. What really made me mad was the idea that his son was so weak anyone could have have made him into something he wasn't. And I know what name calling can do and here was a man talking about his own son. To tell you the truth, I don't think I even thought about what he was saying about me. That wouldn't have made that much difference. He's just a bigot, but he was Eugene's father, for God's sake, and he was...." Michael is not one given to tears, but he broke down and started weeping. "God, Matt, I'm sorry if you thought... Man, I don't care about who you love--yes, I do too. I care a whole hell of a lot and I would die if I wasn't someone you loved."
         Matt pulled off to the side of the road and crawled into the back and hugged Michael. "I'm even more sorry, Michael, for ever doubting you. Man, there's enough real shit around without me creating imaginary shit."
        Well, that sure broke the mood. When Matt tries to get foul-mouthed, it's always funny. Michael finally dried his tears and laughed, "Matt, when you need to get foul-mouthed, you need to call on an expert--Luke or I will do. You just can't be foul-mouthed worth dog shit." Matt and Michael hugged each other again and Matt climbed back into the driver's seat.
        As soon as we arrived at David's, we took Eugene's things into the guest room and loaded mine and took them back to my home. Since it was time for us to get ready to go to Millie's, Greywolf, David and Dad said they would get Janice settled at Margaret's. We forgot what the social worker said about getting a restraining order against the Joyces.
        Michael, Matt and I all needed a shower, so Matt and I decided to go to his place and shower. As we left, Yong Jin called after us, "Show some ass, guys!" Both Matt and I blushed and Michael and Mary Kathryn just cracked up. Paula looked puzzled as we headed to the Jeep.
        With all that had gone on, there was little time before we were due at Millie's, so Matt and I just lovingly washed each other's body with time out for a nip here and there--we couldn't be expected to do less could we?


        When Luke and I had finished with our shower and got dressed, we checked each other out and Luke said, "Great ass there, Lover."
        I laughed, patted his butt and said, "No better than this one."
        We went to David's to pick up Paula and Eugene. Paula looked stunning in a simple spring dress which accented her dark hair and skin. Eugene smiled as he turned around and said, "How's that for showing some ass?"
        "I think it's hot stuff, myself," Larry said. "Unfortunately, there's not much I can do to help you with Millie," as he laughed and turned his rather flat behind to us. "I guess she'll just have to be charmed by my winning personality."
        "Well, Gang, I guess we need to be on our way. Eugene, how are you doing?"
        "I've been better, but I'm ok. Dr. Bailey gave me some pain medicine if I need it, but I don't want to take it until I have to." On the way to Millie's, Eugene asked that we not tell Millie about what had happened. "I'm too embarrassed. I mean I'd pretty much have to tell her what happened and why. I'm not ashamed of being gay and loving Larry, but it's not something you just announce. Besides, I have been disowned and that's not something I'm proud of."
         "Eugene, I assure you none of that would make Millie dislike you, but if you don't want us to mention it, we won't."
         When we reached Millie's, Larry said, "Damn, I never knew this place existed! This is some house. Millie Willingham I have heard of, but I didn't think anybody had enough money for a place like this!"
         Luke laughed, "Millie Willingham could buy all of Concord if she wanted to. She's got so much money she doesn't know what to do with it. Actually, that's not true, she knows exactly what to do with it."
        "Yea, like I'm to come by tomorrow and pick up a thousand dollars for Luke to buy stuff he needs for his exhibition. She and her husband gave the organ at St. Mary's and then she added the state trumpets."
         "I remember you mentioning that the night of the service," Eugene said. "And she gave them in honor of her son and his lover, right?"
         "Right. So being gay is not something she has trouble with."
         When we went inside, Millie gave each of us a hug--and she is not a weak old lady. When you have been hugged by Millie, you know it. I guess that was the reason Eugene hung back, but there was no escaping Millie. When she grabbed Eugene, he tried to be brave, but finally cried out and started crying. "What's wrong, Eugene? you didn't get a sunburn today did you?"
         Eugene actually had a way out if he wanted to lie and he knew we wouldn't say a word. Instead he looked at Millie and said, "Mrs. Willingham...."
        "It's Millie, Eugene or it's Mr. Joyce."
         "Eugene started laughing a bitter laugh, "I don't think so, Millie. I had my name taken away today. I guess I'm just Eugene Noname."
         "Ok, the whole story. Does it have anything to do with Larry being your special friend as Luke is Matt's?"
          Both Eugene and Larry blushed and stammered a bit.
         "The woman's psychic, Eugene. She just out and asked us when I didn't think there was a hint."
         "Well, then, it does, and it doesn't. I mean Dad calls Michael a girly faced faggot and thinks he has made me a faggot lover, but what's funny is that he's wrong about Michael, of course, and doesn't know about me and Larry. But how did you know?"
         "There's not an awful lot which escapes Millie Willingham. When you cried out, I saw the look on Larry's face. It wasn't just the look of a good friend. So what's the story? Take off your shirt and let me see your back." When Eugene took off his shirt, all that could really be seen were bandages except where the skin was just badly bruised and not broken. "What Son of a Bitch did that to you? The bastard ought to be horsewhipped!" Millie was pissed and when Millie was pissed, angels ran for cover.
         Nothing would do except for the whole story to be told. When we had all told what we knew, Millie had steam coming out of her ears. "Eugene, tomorrow we'll go to my lawyer--actually I pay several and they do very little for what they get paid. I hate wasting money on lawyers, but sometimes you need them. Anyway, tomorrow we'll go to see one of my lawyers and get a restraining order. But right now, let's eat. I know you all are starved. Teenagers are always starved.
         Millie said grace when we got to a beautifully set table. She thanked God for all of us, for the pleasure we had given an old woman and asked God to comfort Eugene.
         I had been to Millie's house for meals many times and I knew Luke had as well. She always had a beautifully set table. I guess if you have servants it's easy, but I never remember anything quite as beautifully done as tonight's table. "Ok, Millie," I said, "Luke and I have been here a lot of times in our 'most eighteen years. I have been here when the bishop was here. I was here for dinner when I was confirmed. I have been here on all sorts of occasions and you've outdone yourself for a bunch ot teens. What gives?"
         "Well, for one thing, this is the first time you have been here when I did the table. I'll admit I didn't prepare the food--I was afraid one of you would be poisoned--but I did the table because this is a very special occasion. Paula, Eugene, Larry, you all know, I'm sure, that I have only one son. I love him to death and the only thing I regret about his being gay--you also knew that didn't you?--is that I don't have grandchildren. I long ago adopted Matt as a grandson, then after that service, there was a bit of a problem with Jens Larsen which made me realize I needed to adopt the other three of the kids out there on the farms. Today I got to thinking how it would be if I had a bunch of grandchildren and decided I'd have dinner at grandma's tonight and got a bit carried away. I loved every minute of it--What do you mean, Eugene, that you have no name? Guess I missed something." This was typical Millie. She not only changed horses in midstream, but was also well known for changing streams as well.
         "Dad told the people who went to get my things that he didn't want his name dragged through the mud so he disowned me and told them he was taking his name back."
         I could see wheels turning in Millie's head, but she simply said, "Well, we don't need last names here. So let's talk about something more pleasant. Larry, I don't know you at all and not much about you, Eugene and Paula, except you're damn good musicians. So tell me about yourselves." One at a time the three told Millie about their family--of course she knew all she wanted to know about Eugene's--what they wanted to do in the future, and a lot of other stuff. We all talked about school and how essentially it was over for seniors except for the AP exams and the concert and exhibition. "Larry, you seem pretty much let out of all the excitement. But you're interested in the technical side of audio and video, are you?"
           "Yes, Ma'am, I am. We're trying to get Michael to run for student body president and, if he will, I plan to do a lot helping him win."
         "Would you like to work on taping the concert and Luke's exhibition?"
         "Man, would I ever!"
         "I'll be in touch soon. I have some half-baked thoughts about that, but haven't done anything yet. And maybe you need to be included in tonight's discussion. Let's go to the library." When we were settled, Millie dropped a real bombshell. "I have some good friends at Oberlin College in Ohio--they ought to be good friends, my husband and I have poured enough money in there to buy a lot of friends," she laughed. "The deadline for applications is long past, but I'm working on something. Make no promises, but you four will need to complete applications. I want you to make sure Yong Jin goes over your application essays with a fine-tooth comb and I don't want you writing horse sh... manure. I want the very best you can do. Larry, I'm not sure whether Oberlin can offer what you want, but get Ms. Norman to copy an application and complete it. It won't hurt." Then it was horse changing time again.
         "Do you have a special someone, Paula?" Millie asked.
         Paula said "Yes, Ma'am."
         "Tell me all about it--him."
         Paula told Millie about Sheldon and how he had to move away. "His family's really struggling so he plans to go to the community college in his town next year. He wants to be an English teacher so the first year really doesn't matter."
         "What do you fellows think of this Sheldon character? Sure glad you don't call him Shelley, Paula."
         Eugene said he didn't know Sheldon beyond knowing who he was when he saw him, but Luke and I both assured Millie that Sheldon was a great guy. Then it was back to business for Millie.
        "I'll get the Oberlin application forms and Larry, you'll just have to get Ms. Norman to make a copy for you. Get to work on them pronto. Matt, you're coming by tomorrow for Luke's money. Larry, I'll call you tomorrow night. Give me your number. Eugene, I'll pick you up at David's around 8:30. We have a lot of running around to do. Well, that takes care of business, I guess."
         After Larry had given Millie his number, she hugged us all--being careful with Eugene's back. As she hugged him gently she muttered, "That Son of a Bitch!" then said, "Goodnight all" as we started out the door.
         We drove Paula home then dropped Larry off at his place. He and Eugene were into kissing as Luke and I HAD been. Finally Luke said, "Ok, you two, break it up. We can't stay here all night." After one last long, passionate--I was ready to hit them I was so jealous!--kiss, Larry and Eugene said goodnight and we were on our way.
         When we took Eugene to David's, I noticed Margaret's car was still there. I wondered if she was spending the night then remembered that she would probably take Janice to her place for the night. After dropping Eugene off, Luke and I drove to my place. When I stopped, he said, "Matt, I would love to spend the night in your bed in your arms; you know that, don't you?" I nodded. "And I know you'd like me there but, after today, I think I need to be at home with my family tonight. They may not think so, but I do. As bad as it was with Jens, I realized today it could have been much worse. I am really glad to learn that, even though I sure wish Eugene didn't have to pay the cost of my lesson."
         "I had similar thoughts, Yonghon Tongmu. I want to spend every moment of my life in your arms, but there other things which are just as important; I know, even when I don't want to admit it." I backed out of the drive and drove to Luke's place. When we got there, we both walked to his front door. Even though the porch light was on, he took me in his arms and gave me a real kiss--even if a gentle one. His tongue found its way into my mouth and I tasted my Luke without blood for what seemed like ages. We held each other and stood looking into the eyes of the one we loved. "Yonghon Tongmu, why do you think love is so costly? Look at the price Eugene paid, simply because he loved enough to care about what had happened to Gregory. What would he have paid had his father known the whole truth?"
         "I shudder to even think about it. And even his mom, who carried him for nine months, was just as bad-- maybe worse. She didn't defend him and even urged his dad on, letting him do her dirty work as well as his. And it was all out of hate for what? Eugene? Gregory? Us? Actually, it was just hate wearing the mask of religion. And it's almost funny. Michael, and you couldn't find anyone straighter, gets labeled as a girly faced boy faggot--definitely in old man Joyce's mind, he's gay.  "Matt, Babe, I get scared when I realize just how much hate there is in this world against us and our love. It frightens me when I think about it and when I realize we could give ourselves away at any time.
         "I know. So am I frightened at times. But that's the way it is and I would never give up loving you. And if we give ourselves away...."
        "Then we'll just deal with the consequences without blaming ourselves or each other. Right?"
        "Right," I said, and I pressed my lips to Luke's--taking care not to do them harm since they were nearly ready for the big time--snaked my tongue into his wonderful mouth and drank in the taste of my Luke. "God, Luke, I love you. I love you so much. I love you more and more and more."
         "You know I love you, you know that, Sarang Hanun Pomul. I love you so much I want to cry with joy just thinking about it." Luke kissed me again, pressing his body to mine and I felt his hardness against mine. "Matt, Babe, I've got to go or we'll be here all night."
         "I know that's right," I laughed, stole another kiss and said, "Goodnight, my light. Dream of me. I will of you."
         "Goodnight my joyful darkness. I'll see you in my dreams."
         When I got home, Mom and Dad were huddled on the love seat in the den. They wanted to know how things had gone at Millie's and then I just poured out all the feelings and emotions I had experienced during the day, trying to tell them how much they and their love meant to me. Not only did they make sure I understood that they knew that and appreciated my telling them, but also their own feeling for me and Luke and the other kids in the family. We talked for almost two hours and then I went upstairs to bed. And I did dream of my Luke. 1