Monday morning Sammie dragged himself into work feeling as through he had the word guilty written across his face. He had spent much of the night questioning himself for what he’d done. Why did he allow Steve to have such a hold on him? He wished he knew the answer.
“Morning, Sammie. You look like shit.”
Sammie slumped into his chair, “Yeah? Thanks, Jarred. I feel like shit too, funny how that works.”
“It’s not up for discussion,” Sammie said as he booted up his computer and pulled some files out to begin work.
Tyler came bustling in a few minutes later. “Sammie, are you okay?” His concern showed in his eyes.
“Yeah, just a little tired. Maybe I’m coming down with a bug or something,” Sammie tried to cover.
Tyler sat down in his cubicle and began settling in to start his day, all the while stealing glances at Sammie. “Maybe you should go home.”
“No, I’ll be fine, just need some coffee.” Sammie tried to act as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn’t slept with his ex last night, less than twenty-four hours after telling Tyler he didn’t want Steve back. Somehow Sammie didn’t think he was very successful in his act. Tyler’s glances of concern only added to his guilt.
Who am I kidding? Sammie thought to himself. Steve is only playing with me, only wanting me because he sees I’ve moved on. And now if Tyler finds out what I’ve done he’ll be hurt. How can I ask the kid to trust me when I tell him I want him over Steve, then turn around and sleep with my ex? God, I’m such a jerk.
“Sammie? Earth to Sammie?” Jarred’s voice brought him out of his thoughts.
“Milton’s talking to you.”
“Oh, Sorry, Matt. What were you saying?”
Matt went on to ask his thoughts on a project he was working on and the day began to move on, allowing Sammie to lose himself in his work. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“You seem preoccupied.” Tyler and Sammie were having lunch at a deli a few blocks from the office.
“Yeah? Sorry, don’t mean to be,” Sammie said. He seemed to be saying sorry a lot today, but that word seemed to fit him right now. Sorry.
“So, what’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” Sammie lied. “Just tired today.”
They went back to eating their lunch in silence.
“There’s a new Julia Roberts movie coming out. I though maybe you could take me to go see it,” Tyler tried again.
“Sammie? Hello? You hate Julia Roberts,” Tyler said.
“Hmm? Oh yeah, funny.” Sammie tried to smile. “I guess I’m not listening am I?”
“It’s okay, I know, you aren’t feeling well. So, why don’t you go home for the afternoon?”
“Too much work to do.”
Tyler furrowed his brow. “No, there’s not. We’re pretty much caught up with everything.”
“I’ll be okay. Really.” Shrugging, not pursuing the matter, Tyler returned to his meal. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie was at his desk later that afternoon when his phone rang.
“This is Sammie.”
“Hi, Frog. Did you sleep well last night?”
“Um, no, as a matter of fact, I laid awake thinking of what a mistake I made when I let you in the apartment,” Sammie said, keeping his voice low so Tyler and the rest of the office wouldn’t hear about his indiscretions.
“Oh, baby, don’t say that,” Steve said. “How was it a mistake?”
“Because, Steve, you only want me back now because I’m trying to get on with my life.”
“That’s not true, Sammie. I had plans to talk to you at Joel’s party before Troy told me you were bringing someone.”
“And last night? What was your plan then? To come over and seduce me, then leave?”
“Frog, that’s not what happened.”
Sammie looked up to see Tyler’s blue eyes brimming with tears as he stood, staring down at him.
“I have to go,” Sammie said into the receiver, hanging up before Steve had a chance to reply.
“Um, I just had a question on this,” Tyler started. “Oh shit… never mind,” he laid the file on Sammie’s desk and turned, hurrying off toward the restrooms.
Sammie sighed, closing his eyes. “Fuck,” he muttered. Standing, he went after Tyler to try to salvage what he could. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Tyler?” He could hear Tyler’s sobs coming from one of the stalls.
“Sammie, please go away.”
“Talk to me first.”
“It’s not what you think,” Sammie said.
“You slept with him.”
Sammie closed his eyes, rubbing his fingers over his brow. “Yeah, I did. But it was a mistake, Tyler. I screwed up.”
“No, I told you, it’s okay, I understand. You want him back. Just be honest with me.”
“But, I don’t want him back.”
The door to the stall opened and Tyler stepped out. “Sammie, I don’t think you know what you want.”
“No, listen, you figure it out first, okay? ‘Cause I like you, but I’m not going to play games. So you go figure out what or who you want. Then we can talk.” Tyler left Sammie standing there, feeling lower than dirt. He had done the one thing he had promised himself he wouldn’t do- cause Tyler more grief. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Tyler? We’re still friends, right?” It was almost time to go home for the day. The afternoon had drug on for Sammie, wanting to try again to talk with Tyler, but not sure how to broach the subject.
“Yeah, Sammie. We’re still friends.”
“You want to go get something to eat tonight?” Sammie asked.
“No. Thank you, but, no.” Tyler was clearing off his desk, getting ready to leave.
“Tyler, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I screwed up. I didn’t mean to hurt you”
“I know. I’ll be okay. I’ve survived way worse than you. Just give me some time.”
Sammie frowned, Tyler’s words only making him feel worse. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie was sitting at home that evening, lying on the sofa, reading William J. Mann’s latest book when the phone rang.
“Sorry I called you at work. Did I get you in trouble,” Steve asked.
Sammie sighed, “Yeah, you could say that.”
“I’m sorry, I know they frown on personal calls.”
“Yeah.” Sammie let the silence hang in the air. He wasn’t going to make this easy for Steve.
“Can I come over? Or maybe take you out to dinner?” Steve finally asked.
"Why? Is he there?" Steve asked.
"Tyler? He is, isn't he?"
"No, Steve, thanks to you, he's not."
"What's that suppose to mean?"
“Like you don’t know. I'm going to hang up now, okay?" Sammie wasn’t up to having this conversation.
"Do you still love me?"
Sammie closed his eyes, rubbing his brow. "Yeah, I do Steve, but I’m not sure it’s enough anymore."
"No, see, I spent the last few months trying to get used to the fact that you didn't want me anymore. And now that I am starting to get my life back, starting to move on, now suddenly you want me again."
"Please, don't tell me it's too late."
"I don't know Steve, I honestly don't know."
"Then let me come over."
"No, not tonight. I need some time."
"Steve, I'm hanging up now. I'll talk to you later."
"Good bye Steve." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next two weeks continued much the same with Tyler shooting Sammie down at every turn, and Steve calling or stopping by most every night, begging for a second chance. The whole thing was driving Sammie to the brink of insanity.
Finally he asked Lisa to have lunch with him, hoping maybe she could tell him what to do.
“How are things going, Sammie? I haven't talked to you forever.”
“For shit. Things are for shit right now."
"How so?" Lisa asked.
"I slept with Steve.”
"Sammie? Oh no."
"Oh it gets better, or worse. Tyler found out."
Lisa frowned at her friend. "Sammie."
"So now Tyler won't have anything to do with me and Steve won't leave me alone."
"And you don't want Steve back anymore?" Lisa asked. "I'm sorry, I'm confused... I remember someone crying that all he wanted was for Steve to come home."
"Yeah, I know. I honestly don't know what I want now. I really care about Tyler, and I think I could love him, but I also care about Steve, and we have so much history together."
"Oh, baby," Lisa sympathized.
"I also wonder..."
"Does Steve only want me back because of Tyler? And am I chasing after Tyler only because he has rejected me? Do we only want what we can't have?"
"So, what do you propose?"
"Lunch with my best friend to see what she thinks I should do,” Sammie tried.
Lisa laughed. "Yeah, like I have the answers."
"If not you, than who?"
"I do have one idea."
"Get away for awhile. Take a vacation and get away from both Steve and Tyler."
"And go where?"
"You could go stay at my parent’s cabin. No one is using it." Lisa's parents had a cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks, about a three-hour drive from St. Louis.
"That's a thought. But what would I do there?"
"Think, without distractions. Maybe you can sort this all out."
"I don't know. Maybe. I'll give it some thought."
"Sammie, I always thought you and Steve were forever."
"I used to think that too, but now, I don't know. I guess I don't trust him. That's sad isn't it?"
"Life goes on."
"Yes it does." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
That night Steve stopped by with pizza and yellow roses.
"Oh Steve, how sweet." Sammie took the flowers putting them to his nose to smell. He had to admit he was starting to soften toward Steve. "You picked these yourself, didn't you?"
"Yeah, Teresa grows them, and she let me pick some for you."
Steve followed him into the kitchen, watching as Sammie got a vase to put the flowers in. "Remember when we took that trip to Niagara?"
"Yeah, I remember. Why?" Sammie asked.
"I've just been thinking about it lately. We had such a great time."
"Yeah, it was so beautiful there."
"And we went to that winery.” “Yeah, oh God, they had the best wine there. And the quaint little towns; they were so picture book."
"We should go there again. We always say we will, but we should go, really," Steve said.
“Sammie, please give me another chance.”
“I’m not sure, Steve. I need more time.”
“Time for what? Are you trying to punish me?” Steve’s frustration rose in his voice.
“No, I’m not trying to punish you. And just what, exactly, was it you needed time for when you left? To find yourself?”
“I said I was sorry, that I was wrong. How many time do I have to say it?”
Sammie sighed, “I don’t want to fight Steve, but things are different now.”
“They don’t have to be.”
“I need more time.”
“Do you? Or are you just stringing me along? Maybe I’m your backup plan when things don’t work out with that kid.”
“Steve, please. If we’re just going to snipe at each other maybe you should leave.”
“No, I’m sorry. Let’s go eat the pizza and maybe watch a DVD? I brought along a comedy.”
“Yeah, okay, but only if you promise to be good, no more guilting me, or sniping at me. ”
When the movie ended Sammie found himself resting comfortably, leaning back into Steve’s arms as they laid curled up together on the sofa.
“This is nice, isn’t it? I miss laying beside you,” Steve whispered into Sammie’s ear. He moved on down to Sammie’s neck, kissing that special sensitive area he had right below his ear.
“Steve, no, Please. I’ve asked you not to push me.”
Steve mumbled an apology as Sammie rose from the sofa. “It’s late and we both have to work tomorrow.”
Steve sat up. “It feels as though I’m being dismissed.”
Sammie shrugged, not able to meet Steve’s eyes.
“Okay, well, I’ll head on home then. Even if this feels more like my home then where I’m living now.”
“Steve, please, enough with the guilt trip.”
“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, I’m trying to get you to see how much I want us to get back together.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m going.” Steve grumbled as he grabbed his jacket and strode out the door.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
A few days later Sammie decided to try again to get Tyler to go out with him, or something.
"Good morning, Tyler."
"Hi Sammie." Tyler was friendly, as usual, but that meant nothing. Tyler insisted they were friends, but he still refused to spend any time with Sammie.
"Hey, I figure it's about time for some new books. Maybe we can swing by my place for lunch some time and you can pick some more out." Sammie thought maybe a lunch would be less threatening.
"Oh, I keep forgetting to bring your books back. I’ve finished them. I'll bring them tomorrow."
"Okay, no hurry, so do you want to pick out some more?"
"No, that's okay."
"Tyler," said Sammie, frustration showing in his voice.
"The library has plenty, I've been checking them out there."
Sammie sighed. "Are you ever going to spend time with me again?"
"Can you look me in the eye and tell me one hundred percent that you and Steve are through?"
Sammie didn't answer.
"I refuse to set myself up to be hurt. I knew better than to get involved with you, when I found out you had just broken up with your boyfriend. But, no, I didn't listen to that voice in my head, and look where it got me. I'll be your friend, but that's all for now. You and Steve have a lot to work out. When you guys are done, if you’re still single, then we'll talk." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
"Tom, I know its rather late notice, but I was wondering if I could have next Monday and Tuesday off. My friend’s cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks was offered to me, and I'd like to go."
"Hmm, I don't see why not. We’re caught up with the workload for the most part. Sure, go ahead and take them off."
Sammie went back to his desk and picked up his phone, dialing Lisa’s number.
"Lisa, is the cabin still available this weekend?"
"Yeah, it’s all yours."
"Want to come with me?"
"Ah, I'd love to, but I can't. Terri has a thing this weekend I have to attend."
"But come by and get the keys. Go and have a great time."
"Yeah, thanks." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Friday afternoon Sammie was at his desk, when his phone rang. "Will you let me take you to dinner tonight?"
"No, I can’t. I'm leaving town as soon as I get off work."
"Leaving town? Where are you going?" Steve asked.
"It’s a secret," Sammie whispered playfully. He was looking forward to spending some time at the lake.
"Yeah, I’m getting away for a few days."
"Is Tyler coming along?"
"Nope, just me." Sammie hadn't told Steve that Tyler was refusing to see him.
"So what's the deal then?"
"I’m going away to get my head straight. And don't try calling me on my cell. I’m turning it off until I get back to town."
"Is this just a weekend trip?" Steve was fishing now.
"No, I'm taking a few days off work next week."
"So, when will you be home."
"I'll call you when I get back, don’t worry about it."
"I feel like you’re doing this to get away from me."
"Yeah, well, I keep telling you I need some time, and you just keep calling and stopping by. So I’m going away to be alone, and think things through," Sammie said.
"And decide if you still love me?"
"Steve, I will always love you. Okay, I'm just not sure that’s enough anymore."
"Okay, but promise me one thing."
"That no matter what you decide, that we can always be friends."
"Oh, Steve, of course we’ll be friends." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie felt lighter at he drove across the countryside, heading to the Lake of the Ozarks. He took the scenic route along the lesser-traveled highways.
Arriving at the cabin just before sundown, Sammie carried in his luggage, unpacked, and spent the evening unwinding with a book and listening to the calming splash of the water slapping the shore.
He awoke Saturday morning feeling rested. Something about being here was soothing to his soul. He felt relaxed and at peace. He spent the morning sitting on the porch, watching the boaters and water-skiers out on the lake, reading and lying in the sunshine.
By noon he was starting to feel guilty. He had come up here to sort things out, not hide his nose in a book. A walk would give him a chance to do some serious thinking.
As he walked around the area of cabins, his mind wandered over the last few weeks, then over the last few years. He had so many good memories of his time with Steve. He also felt a real kinship with Tyler. To choose between the two men wasn’t easy.
That evening he made up his mind. While he loved Steve, just the fact that he was so hesitant to take him back spoke volumes as to where his heart truly lay. If he didn't see this thing with Tyler through he would always wonder ‘what if’. That wouldn't be fair to Steve and it wasn't the way Sammie wanted to live his life. He would tell Steve that they could be friends, but that was all for now. He would insist that Steve honor his wishes just as Sammie had done for Steve a few months back. Then he would sit Tyler down and explain that he had reached a decision. Hopefully Tyler would believe him and give him a chance.
Now that the big decision was made, Sammie could chill out and enjoy his time here alone.
Sunday afternoon Sammie was growing bored and restless. He considered going back to St. Louis and talking to Steve and Tyler, but in the end he decided on a different destination.
When Sammie had driven down on Friday, he saw a of couple road signs pointing to Jefferson City. He hadn't given it much thought at the time, but now he got to thinking that maybe a trip to Jeff City might enlighten him about Tyler's past. Maybe he could dig up some information on the man.
Sunday evening he loaded up his car and locked the cabin. He made the hour drive to Jefferson City, and got a room at the local Super 8. He figured his best bet was to look through old phone books and city directories at the local library. Another place he thought might hold some clues were utility companies and the city offices. If he could find an address for Tyler, and then find a neighbor who remembered him, maybe he could learn what Tyler was hiding. He didn’t really like his chances, but he felt if he knew something about Tyler's ghosts it might help him reach out to the man.
With nothing to do on a Sunday night, Sammie drove around, trying to get a feel for the city. Wondering what it would be like to be a young gay man in this town.
Finally, Sammie went back to his motel room and flipped through the channels on the TV until he fell asleep. ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Monday morning Sammie was up and at the library when it opened at nine. He went to the reference section and began combing through old phone books, city directories and censuses, looking for ‘Tyler Williams’. The name was not listed.
After a few hours Sammie was starting feel dejected. Apparently when Tyler lived here, he lived with someone and the phone and property were listed in their name.
One last hope was with the city offices or utility companies. He knew that the information he was seeking was not something the offices were supposed to let out. But he also knew that you could convince people to tell you just about anything if you appealed to their heart. If you had a sad enough story, most people's desire to help would win out over company policies.
He found the city office easily enough, hoping that maybe Tyler had held the water and sewage account in his name. He walked in and saw a petite young blonde sitting at a desk behind the counter. He smiled his best smile and began his rehearsed story. "Hi, um, ma'am. I'm hoping you can help me."
She smiled at him and walked up to the counter. "What can I do for ya?"
"Well, see I'm looking for my brother. He left home a few years back and there was a big argument between him and our mother, and now she's sick and well, I'm hoping to find him and bring him home before she passes on."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, but what can I do to help?"
"Well, see last we knew he lived here in Jeff City somewhere. I think he has moved on, but if I could find out where he used to live... Well, maybe a neighbor or landlord or someone might be able to point me in the right direction."
"And you want me to see if he had an account while he lived here?"
"Yes ma'am. If you could, it would mean so much. I mean, Mama just wants to patch things up before she goes."
"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt anything if I just look. What is his name?"
"Do you know when he lived here?"
"Not for sure, but I think about a year ago."
"Okay, give me a minute and I'll see what I can dig up." She took the information and went back to her desk and began typing at her computer.
She came back after about five minutes. "I'm sorry sir, I can't find your brother's name listed as ever having service with us. I went back three years and he's not there."
Sammie frowned. "Okay, well, thank you for looking."
"I hope you find him."
"Me too. Thanks." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie considered trying another utility company, but decided to accept the obvious; Tyler hadn’t had anything listed in his name. Without that, it would be very hard to find any information on him. With nothing left to do Sammie pointed his car to St. Louis and headed home.
As soon as he got on the highway he pulled his cell phone out and turned it on. He wasn't surprised to see he had voice mail, but decided he wasn't ready to deal with Steve yet, so he didn't bother to listen to them. Instead he dialed Lisa.
"Hey, you sound happy. How are things at the lake?"
"I don't know. I left last night."
"Why? Where are you?"
"Driving on Hwy 40. I just left Jeff City."
"Trying to find out a little about Tyler's past."
"And did you?"
"Nope, hit a total brick wall. Couldn't find his name listed anywhere."
"So, now you are coming home?"
"Yep," Sammie said.
"Does that mean you've made a decision?"
"I have to see things through with Tyler. I still love Steve, but I'm not in love with him anymore. Going back with him seems like a step backward. I want to move forward."
"Have you told Steve this yet?"
"Nope, just you."
Sammie laughed. "Cause you’re the easiest one to tell. Have lunch with me tomorrow?"
"Sure, I'll be at work, pick me up at noon?"
"I'll see you then."
"Okay. Have a safe trip." ëëëëëëëëëëëëëë
It was late afternoon when Sammie pulled into his parking space and shut off his car. He felt like a different person than the one that left here last Friday. He felt in control for the first time in ages.
He unloaded his car and unpacked his bags. He was just getting out of the shower when there was a knock at the door. He opened it to see Steve standing in the hallway, looking distraught.
"Steve? What's wrong?" He pulled Steve into the apartment and walked him over to the sofa. Sitting down beside him. "Steve?"
"I... Um... I didn't know if you were home yet. I didn't know where else to go."
"I'm here, what's wrong Steve, tell me."
Two tears spilled out of Steve's eyes and ran slowly down his cheeks.
"Um... I um... I’ve been going to the doctor and they’ve been running all these tests." At this point Steve started to sob. "Oh, Sammie."
"Steve, what is it?"
"They won't know until they do a biopsy but the doctor did an ultra sound and he thinks it’s cancer, maybe in my pancreas."
"Oh Steve." Sammie reached up, wiping Steve's tears from his face.
"And he thinks it's advanced too."
"Oh, Steve," Sammie repeated.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know where else to go. I 'm so scared, Frog."
"Shh, no, you did the right thing to come here." Sammie pulled Steve into his arms and held him as they both cried.
© Melina Catts 2005