“Thomas? Is there something wrong? I mean… Well, besides your dad?” Lisa asked.
It was the next morning at the house. Thomas had come in to shower and grab a change of clothes. He was helping the kids make a breakfast of cereal and toast. He stopped what he was doing at Lisa’s question, butter knife still in his hand. Now was not the best time… but then again, when would be a ‘good’ time?
“What do you mean?” he asked. He wasn’t going to make this easy for her.
“I don’t know, you seem distant… angry.”
He stared at her, weighing his options; finally he nodded. He sat the toast down on the table and picked up his jacket from the back of the chair. “Yeah, I suppose I am angry,” he said walking over to where she stood. He pulled out the photo he had been carrying in his pocket for the last few days and laid it on the counter in front of her. “But I really don’t have the time to deal with it right now.” He turned and walked back to the table, placing a kiss on Ella’s head and reaching over to tussle TJ’s hair. Then he grabbed his keys from the counter and walked out the door.
Lisa stood staring at the faces of her lover and herself. It had to have been taken last week. They were at the little café on the west side of town; the one she thought would be safe. It wasn’t the type of place her husband or any of his hotshot lawyer friends would ever frequent. So who took this picture? Was he having her followed? “Fuck,” she whispered.
Sara came padding through the room rubbing her eyes and yawning, “Is there any coffee left?” As she walked by Lisa she saw the photo. “Who’s that? Oh… Oh my…” she said as the realization hit her.
Lisa snatched the picture from the counter then turned and hurried off down the hallway. Sara heard the bedroom door close. “So that’s what Jamie was talking about,” she mumbled to herself.
“Sara, can we watch TV now?” TJ asked from the table.
”Um, well, are you finished with breakfast?”
They both nodded.
“Okay then, I don’t see why not.”
Robbie awoke with a start. Looking around the room, he tried to figure out where he was. Then he remembered, in his father’s hospital room, waiting for the old man to wake up. Robbie checked his watch; he still had almost an hour before he had to be at the airport to pick up Koi.
He looked over to see Jamie sitting in the other chair.
“Morning Sunshine,” Jamie said.
“Hey,” Robbie mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “How long have you been here?”
“An hour or so. What are you doing here? I thought you were only here for Mom.”
Robbie shrugged. They were both silent for a while then Robbie turned to Jamie and asked, “Do you think Dad knows I’m gay?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never said anything to him about it. Why?”
“Mom told me yesterday that she had always known.”
Jamie frowned. “What do you mean, she’d always known?”
“She asked me if I had a boyfriend. She said she’d always just assumed that I knew she knew. She told me she figured Dad knew too.”
“Really?” Jamie was genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, it kinda freaked me out. I mean, why didn’t she say anything all these years?”
“Did you ask her that?”
“Yeah. It was like it never occurred to her that I might be afraid of what she would think of my being gay. She thought I was just upset over Dad pushing me to do something besides photography.”
“She told you that?”
“In so many words, yeah.”
“Yeah. So, do you think Dad knows? Or it would make a difference to him?”
“I don’t know, Robbie. I always figured Mom would be able to handle it, but I quit trying to figure out Dad years ago.”
“Yeah, me too.”
A short time later Susan came in the room. “You boys should go lay down and get some rest. You both look beat.”
“We’re fine, Mother. Just need some coffee.”
“Have you been here with him all night?” she asked.
“Um, I came in around three or so,” Robbie answered.
“I think I’ll go get some breakfast,” Jamie said, standing to give his mother his chair. “Would you like something, Mom?”
“No dear, I’m fine.”
Not long after Jamie left the room, Thomas came in looking fresh. Robbie wondered how he did it; he knew Thomas had been getting less sleep than the rest of them, yet he never showed any signs of being tired. “Good morning, Mother. Have you had breakfast yet?”
“Morning, Thomas. No, I’m fine. I’ll get something to eat later on.”
“I thought you might let me take you to breakfast and then over to the house to see the kids. They would love to see Grandma.”
“Oh Thomas, I can’t leave your father. You understand that don’t you? Maybe you could bring the children here to the hospital and I could go down to the lobby and see them there?”
Thomas nodded. “Yeah, I just thought it might do you good to get away for a little bit. You know, get some fresh air.”
“Well, let’s wait until the doctor comes in, then we’ll see. Okay?”
Robbie stood. “I need to be going,” he said.
“Where to, sweetie?” Susan asked.
“Um, the airport.”
She smiled. “Good. I’m so glad to hear that. I’ll see you back here soon then.”
Robbie nodded and left his father’s room, careful not to look at Thomas. He didn’t care to see the scorn he knew would be in his brother’s eyes.
“You look beat, Jamie. Why don’t you go lay down for a while?” Sara asked when Jamie came walking in the house later that morning.
“I just want to grab a shower and a change of clothes.”
“Jamie, will you play my game with me?” TJ asked from the sofa.
“Not right now, TJ. Jamie needs to go take a nap first,” Sara answered.
“I’ll play with you later, okay squirt?” Jamie said and headed to the bedroom for some fresh clothes.
“Where’s Lisa?” he asked Sara when they were alone.
“In the other bedroom. I think she and Thomas had a fight this morning?”
Jamie raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“She seemed upset and had some picture she was looking at. It looked like her and another guy.”
“Hmmm. Was Thomas still here?”
“No, he was already gone when I got up, but she was just standing there, staring at the picture.”
“Is that what you were talking about when you said they were having problems?”
“How long have you known?”
“Yesterday? The day before? I’m not sure… since I got here.” Jamie sighed then sat down on the bed, his change of clothes still in his hands. “Sara, do you still want to marry me?” Jamie asked.
Sara sat down next to him. They had been down this road before. “Jamie, yes, I still want to marry you.”
“So why won’t you set a date?”
“We’ve talked about this before…”
“Yes, and I’ve been patient, like you asked,” Jamie interrupted. “But you still haven’t explained to me why we’re waiting. I want to be with you, Sara, I don’t understand why you’re putting me off.”
Sara knew he was right; she was being unreasonable. “Jamie, let’s wait until we’re back home to talk about it.”
Jamie shook his head. “No, you always do this. You duck and dodge my questions, you ask me to be patient with you, and you never give me a straight answer. I think I at least deserve to know the truth. Just tell me, Sara. Please?”
Sara looked at Jamie; he was right. He had been patient and he deserved an answer. But putting it into words wasn’t that easy and when she did try to articulate her fears, they sounded trite, trivial. Maybe they were, but they were real. She sighed, slumping down in the chair. “What if once you were married to me, you found out something about me, you found out that something was wrong?”
Jamie frowned. “Like what? I think I know you pretty well.”
“What if there was something…. What if we couldn’t… I know you want to have a family, Jamie. What if I couldn’t give you one?”
“Then we’d look at other options. Why?”
“Being reproductively challenged seems to run in my family and all these years I’ve never gotten pregnant. All my girlfriends have gotten pregnant either on purpose or by mistake, and I haven’t. What if I can’t?”
“That’s what all this is about? You think that would matter to me? Do you really think that would change anything?” Jamie was trying to understand, but how could she think he was that shallow?
“No, I know you. You would shrug it off without batting an eye. But I’m not sure I could handle it. I want to be a mother, I want to give you babies, I’m afraid to find out that I can’t,” she was fighting back tears now.
“Sticking your head in the sand isn’t the answer,” Jamie said softly, brushing the hair back from her face.
“Yeah, I know.”
“So why are we just now talking about this? Why haven’t you told me this before? We’re a couple; we’re suppose to share our problems, our worries.”
“To say it out loud, it makes it too real. Besides, it sounds so lame; so pathetic.”
“Sara, I want you as my wife and I want to have a family with you. If we can’t do that by the conventional method then we’ll explore other options; but even if it doesn’t happen for us and we never have kids, it will not change how I feel about you.”
“I know, but what if it changes how I feel about me? That I’m damaged…” She was still holding her tears at bay, but he could see them welling up in her eyes, threatening to spill over.
“Shhh, Sara. Now you’re just borrowing trouble. We don’t even know if there is anything wrong yet, now do we?”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. And here you are with you father so sick, and I’m carrying on about something that might not be.”
“Hey, I’m the one that brought it up, and I’m glad you finally told me. But let’s take this thing one step at a time. Let’s get married first, then we’ll tackle all the world’s problems, okay?” He gave her a shy grin.
“So, you’ll pick a date?”
Robbie watched as Koi came through the gate at the airport. “Hey baby,” Koi said as he walked up to Robbie. “How’s your father?”
“He’s the same. How was your flight?” Robbie said as he took a step back, avoiding Koi’s embrace. “Not here,” he whispered.
“Sorry,” Koi said, trying not to be irritated. This was why he hated small towns. In Chelsea they never gave displays of affection a second thought.
“Let’s get your luggage and get out of here.”
“Lead the way.”
“So where am I staying?” Koi asked once they were in the car.
“Where do you want to stay?”
“Robbie, don’t do this. I’ll stay where ever you want me.”
“Would you be comfortable staying at my folks?”
“Is that where everyone else is?”
“Yeah,” Robbie said.
“Are you okay with me staying there?”
“You’re not my dirty little secret,” Robbie barked.
Koi sighed. “Robbie, I know this isn’t easy for you. I’ll stay where ever you want me to.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be grumpy. It’s just…”
“It’s okay, Robbie. I understand.”
“Okay, so let’s just go back to the hospital. We can figure out where you’re staying later. Okay?”
When they got to the hospital, Robbie took Koi up to the waiting area. “I was hoping maybe Jamie or Sara would be here. Um, why don’t you have a seat, I’ll go get Mom. She wants to meet you.”
“Really? Here? Now?”
Robbie rolled his eyes. “I thought you’d want to meet her too.”
“I do, it’s just… No, it’s fine. I’ll just wait here.”
“There’re some magazines over there.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I brought a book.”
Out of habit, Robbie leaned in and kissed Koi, then realizing where he was he quickly looked around, mentally kicking himself.
“It’s okay, no one’s here,” Koi whispered.
Robbie nodded then turned and exited the room.
Koi took a seat and pulled out his book. He hadn’t gotten very far into it when Sara’s voice brought him back.
“Koi? Hey. I didn’t know you were here?”
“Hi, Sara.” He stood and they embraced. “Is Jamie here with you?”
“No, he’s back at the house taking a much needed nap.”
“Yeah? I can imagine. I know Robbie looks exhausted.”
“Where is he?”
“Well, he said he was going to go get his mother...”
“He’s in with our mother at our father’s bedside. Who the fuck are you?” Thomas said. Neither Sara nor Koi had seen him enter.
Koi rose to his feet. “I’m Koi. You must be Thomas. I can see the family resemblance.” He extended his hand, refusing to be intimidated by Robbie’s brother and determined to kill him with kindness.
Thomas, obviously surprised by Koi’s straight up answer, shook the offered hand.
“I’m glad to finally meet you, sorry it’s under such circumstances,” Koi continued.
“Yeah, well, I’m not sure it’s right that you’re here.” Thomas had obviously rebounded.
“Why’s that?” Sara asked, never one to back down to Thomas’s bullshit.
“Why’s what?” Robbie asked, as he and Susan entered the room. Seeing his lover and his older brother standing face to face he could only imagine what words were being exchanged.
Thomas looked over his shoulder to see his youngest brother and his mother standing there. “Nothing,” he muttered, stepping back.
“Mom,” Robbie said, leading Susan over to his lover. “This is Koi, Koi this is my mother.”
“Please, call me Susan,” she said extending her hand.
“So very nice to finally meet you, Susan. I’m so sorry it had to be under such distressing circumstances.”
Susan nodded. She looked to Robbie and then to Thomas as though she were considering something, then turning back to Koi she said, “Koi, have you had anything to eat yet? I was wondering if you would be so kind as to escort me to the cafeteria. I know Robbie wants to stay with his father.”
“I’d love to.”
Koi smiled at his lover’s surprised face as he walked by escorting Susan out the door. Robbie rolled his eyes, then caught Thomas’s glare. He waited until Koi and his mother were out of earshot. “Listen Thomas,” Robbie hissed. “I don’t care what problems you have with me, but what ever they may be, they are with me, Koi has nothing to do with us. You leave him alone.”
“What the fuck were you thinking? Bringing him here, now.”
“For your information, Mom requested I invite him. Besides, why shouldn’t he be here? It’s no different then Sara or Lisa being here.”
“Oh no, don’t you even try to compare your depraved relationship with my marriage.”
“Yeah, ‘cause your marriage is so perfect. Fuck off, Thomas.” Robbie stormed out of the room and walked back down the hall to his father’s room.
“Go Robbie,” Sara giggled from where she was sitting watching the scene play out before her.
Thomas glowered at her then left the room going in the opposite direction as Robbie.
“How long have you and my son been together?” Susan asked as they sat down with their lunch. She seemed so warm, so open. Koi saw nothing of the docile women Robbie had described.
“Just over two years.”
“And what is it you do, dear?”
“I’m a chef. I have a restaurant not far from our apartment.”
She nodded. “Tell me something, Koi. How is my Robbie? Is he happy? I’m afraid we’ve grown distant over the years. Oh, he still calls me like a good son, but he doesn’t tell me things anymore, not like he used to. And I suppose I have myself to blame for that. Fred and Thomas were always so hard on him, especially as he got older. I know Robbie thinks I didn’t notice, but I did. Fred and I would have terrible fights over it. Robbie finally just gave up and stayed away, or so I thought. He told me yesterday that he had been afraid to tell me he was gay. That just breaks my heart. I mean, he’s my son. Does you mother know, Koi?”
Koi smiled. “Yeah, she does and she’s pretty good about it. She tries to understand and accept it anyway. And Susan, yes, your Robbie is a good man, a great photographer and he is very happy. And now that you and he have had this chance to reconnect, I’m sure it will only get better.”
“Hey, there you are,” Jamie said as he walked in to Fred’s room to find Sara and Robbie talking softly. “I woke up all alone.”
“Didn’t Lisa tell you I was here?” Sara asked.
“Lisa and the kids were gone too. I was alone.”
“Sorry. I should have left you a note.”
“No worry, it’s not like I had many places to look. Any change?” He directed the last question to Robbie.
“No,” Robbie answered with a frown.
Jamie smiled. “See, nothing to worry about.
“Yeah,” Robbie said as he rolled his eyes. “Easy for you to say.”
“You should have heard Robbie tell Thomas to fuck off,” Sara said.
“He was insinuating to Koi that he wasn’t welcome,” Robbie answered.
“Good for you, bro.”
Robbie’s gaze turned back to their father. “Do you think he’s going to wake up?”
“We have to hope,” Jamie said.
“What is he doesn’t? What if he dies without knowing we’re all here?”
“Did you have a nice chat with my mother?” Robbie asked Koi later that evening as he drove him to the house. They had decided he would stay there although at first Robbie wanted to protect him from Thomas. Koi insisted he could hold his own, besides, it would send more of a message for Koi to be there than hiding away in a hotel room.
“Your mother is a lovely lady,” Koi said. “I can see so much of you in her.”
“You sure you want to do this? A hotel room would be less hassle; you may even see a hot guy you’d want.”
“Robbie. I would never.” Koi was a little insulted. “Not in your home town, not at a time like this. How can you even say that?”
“We’re gay, Koi, that’s how,” Robbie chuckled.
“I’m not like you in that way.”
“In what way? You’re going to try telling me you don’t like dick? Honey, I won’t believe you.” Robbie joked.
“No, in your need for sexual conquest.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Robbie, I know who you are and I accept it, but I don’t necessarily understand it and I don’t share your desire.”
“We’ve beaten this horse to death, Koi. I don’t know what more I can say.”
“But will I ever be enough? Will you ever be happy with only me?”
“It’s not like that, it’s not about being enough, Koi. You know that it’s different with the others. They’re just nameless sex. You’re the one I love.”
Koi nodded. “I know.”
“But you’d like me to be monogamous.”
“I won’t ask that. I would never chain you down.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m the untamable beast, I know,” Robbie said with an eye roll.
“Robbie, I’m sorry. This isn’t the time for this conversation,” Koi said.
Robbie was silent as he drove on for a few blocks. “I haven’t tricked in a couple of months.”
“I don’t know what that means and I’m not ready to promise you I’ll never trick again. But, well…” Robbie shrugged.
Koi smiled to himself as he watched out the window at the houses going by.