Thursday, November 4, 1999

Flowers in the Wind

This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden website and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.


 
There are two kinds of children: Dandelions and Orchids.
The Dandelions are just like the flowers they are named for; it matters little what the environment, they will flourish. Dandelions can fall into the cracks between the slabs of a concrete sidewalk and grow just as robustly as they do in the midst of a well-manicured lawn.
Orchids, on the other hand, really do need a hothouse.
I was lucky. I was born a Dandelion. Everyone who knows me says they've never seen anyone roll with the punches like I do. Maybe I do. I don't feel that way sometimes. Especially now. But I also had the good fortune to be born into a loving home that was a hothouse. I had more nurturing than I really wanted!
Steven was an Orchid. He was as beautiful a golden orchid as I have ever seen. Steven was one of those incredibly pretty children who, even in the third grade attracted attention! He attracted the attention of damned near everyone except the two people he really needed. Mr. and Mrs. Gwynne never seemed to quite have time for him. It's not that they were bad people. In their way, they were a kind pair. The problem was that he spent all of his time making money and she spent all of her time spending it. Steven got lost in the shuffle.
Steven also attracted the attention of the bullies at school. I suppose that's part of why as an eight-year-old he decided to hang with me. I was always a foot taller than everyone else and no one picked on me! Whatever the reason, there in the third grade with old Mrs. Bell droning on about addition and subtraction, Steven and I became best friends.
In retrospect, I guess I always knew that Steven was gay. I probably realized he was before I realized that I was that way myself. It took him until our sophomore year at Arizona State to come out.
**********

My eyes crawled open. The problem was not that I'd been drinking. It was simply that this was Saturday morning, and I had indulged in my predilection to sleep in when I could! The bright light of the mid-morning sky was unshielded by the open blinds of the dorm room window. Squinting into the super-luminescent glare I was able to make out Steven reclining on his own perfectly made bed, propped up on one arm grinning at me! "Good morning," he said, obviously amused over something.
"Yeah, well, 'mornin' to you too, asshole," I growled back. "What are you so fuckin' cheerful about this early?"
"It's past ten o'clock," he returned. "Those of us who got up early enough for breakfast have been awake quite a while now, Sleeping Beauty."
"Whatever."
"Besides, it appeared to me that you must have been having one hell of a dream!"
"How's that?" I asked, scratching my left eye and right butt cheek at the same time.
Steven's dark green eyes sparkled with mischief as he smoothed a strand of honey blond hair from his forehead. "I guess the major tip off was, you were moaning," he finally said casually, then added, "that, and the way you were playing with your tit!"
I looked down. The left nipple was erect and flushed crimson. "Yeah, I guess I did wake up a little horny," I finally told him. I thought a moment. "I guess it must have been something to do with the really weird dream I had last night."
Steven raised an eyebrow. "You had a dream?" he asked, then added to great comic effect in his best pseudo-therapist voice, "Would you like to talk about it?"
"Fuckin' psych majors!" I giggled, and threw a pillow at him. "Yeah, it was really strange." I sat back down on the side of my own twin bed. "It was the middle of the night, see? All of a sudden, I dreamed that the overhead light comes on! I turned over a little to see who it was. You know, I thought maybe it was you comin' in, and I was gonna chew your ass for wakin' me up!"
"And?"
"It wasn't you. I looked over there toward our desks, and so help me, I dreamed that there was this girl in a green prom dress walking across the room! She walked over to your desk and picked something up, then turned to me."
"What did she say?"
"She said, 'Go back to sleep, Bobby, you're dreaming!' and you know what else she did?"
"What?" I could tell Steven's amusement with this whole mess was about to erupt!
"She blew me a kiss! Then she walks out of the room and the lights go out!"
"Was that it?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "Okay, Dr. Freud, what does all of that mean?"
For a long moment, Steven said nothing. It was almost as though I were watching some sort of mental battle go on behind those delicate features. I couldn't help but marvel how smooth the boy's skin was, and how his features were exquisitely formed with all the sharp edges of my own face softened to an almost feminine beauty.
Finally, he took a deep breath and spoke. "This one's simple to figure out, Mr. Dean," he said addressing me with pseudo-formality. "What you had wasn't a dream." He said the last softly, flatly. He made another, longer pause. "It was me."
I leaned my head forward, dropping my chin about an inch. A huge smile was tugging at the corners of my mouth. "Right!" I finally managed, drawing it out in a long, long syllable.
Steven did nothing but get up and walk to the huge walk-in closet that we shared in the cheese box dormitory room. He returned a moment later with a girl's green dress. He held it up in front of him and inclined his head a bit both forward and toward the right side. He gave me a soft, closed mouth smile.
I dissolved in laughter. "Where the hell did you get that dress?" I finally asked. "It is just like the one that girl was wearing!" I laughed again. How the hell did he always have just the prop needed to pull a practical joke?
"Robert!" Steven said earnestly. "It wasn't a dream!" He held the dress against him again and purred breathily: "Go back to sleep Bobby, you're dreaming!" Then he puckered his lips and blew me a kiss.
My chin moved toward my chest again, but this time it was not sarcasm. My mouth had fallen open. He wasn't kidding! It had been Steven in that dress the night before! But why?
I watched as my room mate, my best friend of all these dozen years, carefully draped the feminine garment over the back of his chair and returned to his seat on his own bed. I kept looking back and forth from the dress to Steven. His expression was impossible to read. It was almost as though he were trying to decide what I was going to say next, except he kept changing his mind. I finally managed, "Holy Shit!"
"It was me, Bobby," he stated again.
"But why?" I finally got out. "Where the hell did you get that dress? And why?"
"Getting it was easy. It's one of my mother's. I grabbed it last weekend when I went home. She won't miss it if I never bring it back. It was from a long time ago when she was about four sizes smaller." He grinned weakly.
"But why?" I repeated.
"I got an invitation almost two weeks ago to go to a party with some of the theatre crowd," he said simply. "The dress for the party, if you'll pardon the pun, was 'drag.' Last night was my first try at it."
I finally shook my head to clear it. "Drag?" I was incredulous. "So... you're..."
Steven took another deep breath. "Yeah. I'm gay." He wasn't looking at me any more, rather his eyes seemed to have wandered out the window into that blue-white glow that was the spring sky. He finally pulled his eyes and his thoughts back into the room and turned to face me. "So, now you know," he said quite flatly. "Now you know why it's been that you've had to protect me from everything manly that's come our way ever since we've known each other." His brows furrowed. "Come on, Bobby," he said a bit louder, "surely you've suspected."
It was my turn to let my eyes drift out into that formless brilliance. My first impression was to claim that I never had a clue, but as quickly as that thought came to me it was discarded. Of course I had known! I didn't know what to call it when we were kids, but I had noticed that when Steven and I would sleep over we would always awaken cuddled up to each other! You don't think of the significance of such things when you are ten or eleven. Now, in retrospect, I remember smiling when I would awaken and find him snuggled against my chest. It was the same way that I would sometimes find my mother snuggled against my dad's bare chest on those rare mornings when I would beat them up and come to their boudoir seeking someone to reach the cereal so I could have breakfast. It's funny. I actually remember thinking once that Steven was like mom was to dad. He was someone for me to hold and take care of.
"You're thinking about when we were kids and slept together, aren't you?" Steven said, reading my mind.
"Yeah." I didn't know what emotion I was feeling, therefore I didn't know which one to project in my voice. The result was that it sounded wooden.
Steven nodded and bit his lip. He smiled mischievously, sadly at me. "Do you remember your first kiss?" he asked.
I thought a moment, my mind doing a u-turn. What the hell did Elaine Krauss have to do with anything we were talking about. "Yeah, Elaine, in the back of the band room that day. Why?"
"Elaine wasn't your first kiss," he insisted. "Not by a year."
I raised an eyebrow. "Do I really want to know this?" I asked.
Steven shook his head. "Probably not." He shook his head, returning to the issue at hand. "I guess you probably feel like kicking my ass up and down the stairwell a few times," he said dropping his eyes. "I don't guess I blame you. I'll go over to the housing office Monday and get a new room assignment," he said, becoming more business-like. "I promise, I won't do anything to you in your sleep or anything."
"I'm not worried about that," I said neutrally. "You know as well as I do you'd never win any kind of wrestling match with me!"
"True," he gave back with a soft snicker.
"I need to think," I announced. I got up and headed for the door. As an after thought I threw over my shoulder, "Don't do anything stupid. I'll be back."
I debated between a drive and just walking around the campus. Finally, I opted for the latter. It took almost an hour for me to get there mentally, but in the end I decided I didn't care! It was like Steven had said, it wasn't like I hadn't suspected. The suspicions were in the back of my mind, but they were there.
Instead of horror and revulsion at my best friend's homosexuality, what filled my mind were memories. I thought back on my life since age eight and found that almost every important memory included him! He was there on vacations, he was there when I'd been disappointed, he'd been there for every football game where I'd won or been hurt. He was part of my past. Was I really ready to give that up over something that really had nothing to do with me? I mean, what the hell difference does it make who someone else wants to sleep with? It's no one else's business!
My mind settled almost immediately after all of that fell into place. I walked back to the room, opened the door and found Steven, more or less, where I'd left him.
"I don't want you to move out," I began without any other greeting. "I've been thinking about all of this and, well, Hell, it's only a month until school's out!" It was my turn to bite my lip. "Steven, you've been my best friend my whole life. I'm not ready to give that up. I think rather than us splitting up, we ought to use this time to think this out... you know... for me to get comfortable with this new idea."
Steven said nothing. He just gave me a soft smile and nodded.
Yes, Steven was still the same guy he had been yesterday. He was still the boy I had invited along as company on all our family outings, the one that I had puzzled over what naked girls looked like with, the one... Something he'd said an hour before suddenly tugged at my mind. "Did you really?" I asked, looking into those soft green eyes.
"Did I what?"
"Did you really kiss me?"
Steven giggled. "It didn't really count," he answered. "You were asleep."
**********
It should have told me something about myself that by nightfall I was good to go with the stunning revelation that Steven had made. Looking back, I realize that part of what was going on was 'hot housing.' My best friend needed someone to be accepting and supportive. More than anything, he needed someone to talk to, someone with whom to bounce those ideas that had seemed so utterly foreign.
"I tried asking a bunch of questions about being gay at that stupid party last night," he said, taking a pull at his long neck. We were playing Trivial Pursuit in the floor of our room. "I mean, like, you know, Bobby... I know what all the permutations of gay sex can be, but they don't tell you anything about the rules. You know, how do you get a partner!"
"Not much difference there between being gay and straight," I observed. "I've never figured that one out either."
"I suppose you're right," he nodded.
I almost burst out laughing at his seriousness.
"Wha?" he asked. "Wha'd I say?"
"Nothing," I returned, smirking. "You were just so serious. I mean, I always thought that sex was supposed to be about having fun!" I put down my cards and grinned at him slyly. "Did you get any last night?"
He looked around as though to be sure no one else was listening. "I got a blowjob," he said through a wicked grin.
"No shit? Really? Who?" I had to admit, I was jealous!
"I'm not gonna tell!" he told me as though I'd asked for the formula for Coca-Cola. Then he added with a laugh: "Besides, I don't want you going after the same guy!"
"Yeah, right," I returned sourly.
"Well, anyway, I don't think it's right to tell."
We talked into the night, not only that night but almost every night for the remaining three weeks of the spring semester. I suppose that was my express primer on gay life. We gathered around Steven's computer and cruised countless Internet sites, submitted questions without number to the 'coming out' sites, feasted on the muscular, trim, chiseled bodies that inhabited the hard core sites. The interesting part was, I was able to share Steven's joy of discovery. While I found it hard to visualize myself doing some of the things I was seeing and hearing about, I was having great fun being there for him, watching his voyage of self discovery. I've heard it said that 'coming out' is a beautiful thing. I couldn't agree more. Steven was becoming radiant.
**********
"I've got the idea of the summer!" Steven had barely let me get inside the front door of his parent's home and close the door before giving me a bear hug.
"I'm afraid to ask," I answered as he disengaged.
"I just talked to Mom on the phone," he enthused. "They're going to stay two more months in Switzerland! That means I have the house to myself virtually all summer! Why don't you move in with me!"
I had to admit the offer was tempting. Steven was offering me a summer vacation at Fantasyland. The Gwynne's were wealthy beyond any level I ever hoped to achieve. Their home was located at the outskirts of the city, if you can call a two story house with 4000 square feet on each level a 'home' and keep a straight face. It didn't end with the house. There was an Olympic size swimming pool and tennis courts out back. Inside, there was just about every accouterment of luxury I'd ever heard about. I mean, how many American homes have you been in that had bidets?
"And tell my parents what?" I finally answered.
"Oh, I didn't mean move all your stuff over here," he enthused, then added, "Unless that's what you really want to do." He grinned at me. "I just mean I've missed you. Plan to stay over a few nights a week. It's been five days since your snoring kept me awake."
"Don't snore," I corrected. "I don't know..." I thought out loud. I had to admit that while it had been fun exploring gayness with Steven at school, the thought of us sleeping in the same bed (which was what we'd always done on sleepovers up to this time) was something I wasn't sure how I felt about.
"Bobby, please!" He looked around the baronial hall. "I've nearly gone nuts here by myself!"
"Okay," I agreed, submitting to the expected hugs. "But not every night."
"Let's celebrate with a swim," he enthused.
"Didn't bring my trunks."
"Screw it. The servants are on vacation, too. There's nobody to see. Skinny dip!"
"Not on your life!" I teased. "You'll attack me!"
Steven stuck his tongue out at me playfully, then answered, "Fine. Come with me. I'm sure a pair of my dad's trunks will fit you."
As it turned out, Henry Gwynne and I do have the same waist size. I cannot, however, suggest that I share his tastes in clothing. The trunks were shapeless things with three pockets, more like Bermuda shorts made of nylon than like a real bathing suit. Still, it was something to wear and save my going back over to the house after my speedos.
I'm not sure how long we spent in the pool, it was long enough for us to both get the beginnings of a sunburn. I called the halt when I noticed the pink glow on Steven's cheeks. While it made him even cuter than he already was, I knew we'd both had enough. He followed me back into the house like a child being dragged from a theme park by its mother. "Fine," he finally said. "But if we're not going back into the pool today, I've got to wash my hair."
"Why? We weren't in that long."
"Do you remember how when we were kids my hair used to get this green tint to it every summer?"
"Yeah," I answered, thinking back. I'd always thought that the hair thing was cool. Kinda punkin'.
"Well, it was the chlorine in the pool! If you've got blond hair and you don't wash all that shit out, you wind up with the slimy green look!"
I smelled my underarm. "I guess I could use a shower, too. I smell like that shit."
"Honey," he tossed off, "the chlorine's an improvement!"
With that, Steven dashed up the ten-foot wide hardwood staircase, just out of the grip of my fingers. When we reached the top floor he stopped, his back against the wall of the long white-painted hall that ran down the middle of the story. "Bobby?" he asked, almost coyly, "would you wash my hair?"
"Aren't you old enough to do that yourself?" I asked.
"Sure. But it feels better for someone else to do it. Come on! There's a whole hair sink and chair in my mother's bathroom! It'll be fun!"
To be more accurate, what I found in one end of Mrs. Gwynne's bathroom was a small beauty shop. It was clear that she didn't go in for a make-over; the make-over came to her. With all the hardware and bottles and jars assembled there, I idly wondered why she wasn't more of a looker than she was! Perhaps there's only so much that modern cosmetic science can accomplish.
I delighted in the expressions I saw play across my best friend's face as he lay back and let me work the shampoo into his blond locks. I tried to remember when I had seen Steven this happy. It'd been a long time.
When I had rinsed the last of the conditioning creme out and had toweled that golden mane dry Steven looked in the mirror, brushing everything into place. "I've decided!" he announced. "You are going to be my hairdresser for the rest of my life!"
I shook my head, about to tell him I wasn't part of the staff here, but he cut me off.
"Here, sit. Your turn."
"Go away! I can wash my own hair!" I complained.
"I know, but you're not. Not today. I'm going to show you what a treat you just gave me! Now sit down and shut up!"
I had to admit it. There was something luxurious about having someone else wash your hair. Perhaps the women did have something there in the idea of a trip to the beauty shop being an experience to look forward to as opposed to the male view that a haircut is just something to 'get' and get over with!
We ordered pizza for lunch and spent the afternoon watching the trash talk shows on the 52 inch TV in the Gwynne's family room. I loved watching the intent look Steven would get when a gay guest would flaunt this or that indiscretion in front of an audience almost as camp as the host.
"You ever wonder about those morons?" I asked.
"Wonder what?"
"I mean, where are their minds!" I mimicked the rural accent of the current idiot in the hotseat.
"Hey, Steven! Ah got this here great idea! Ah got us tickets to be on Jerry Springer! Wanta go?"
"Yeah, don't think I'd care to go!" He paused. "Unless it would be for Montel. He's nice to the people on his shows."
"Are you sorry you didn't come out to the world that way?" I asked, jabbing him in the ribs.
Steven giggled. "Not one bit." He reached out and took my hand. "I'm pleased I did it just the way I did."
I didn't pull my hand away. Somehow it would have seemed mean. I deflected the gesture by casually asking: "So, how many people do know yet?"
"Not counting the group at the Theatre department?"
"Naw, they don't count. They're not here in Phoenix."
"Just one."
"One? Who?"
He doubled up his fist and playfully chucked me on the shoulder. "You," he answered.
**********
It was along about suppertime when I called and told mom that I wouldn't be home that night. I don't even remember what I said we were going to do, but she thought nothing of it. She just said "You boys be careful," and that was the end of it.
We went out for Chinese, and when we came back watched a Cary Grant marathon on AMC. It was midnight before it was over.
"I'm about ready to sleep," Steven said.
"Yeah, me too," I agreed. The issue of bedding arrangements had been on my mind off and on. Rather than just following Steven into his room I asked: "Where you putting me up?"
The blond boy's face darkened and his features saddened. "Every time you've stayed over before you slept in my room," he said softly.
I don't know why the idea was suddenly unsettling to me. Hell, I'd slept with Steven dozens, no more like hundreds of times and now, suddenly, I wondered if that was what I really wanted to do. I looked at the hurt in his eyes and decided that if he was still the best friend I'd grown up with and spent those thousand nights watching Channel 13 Frights with, then by definition nothing else had changed. I smiled. I knew he wasn't going to do anything to me. We were best friends. "Sounds good to me," I finally told him. "Let's turn in."
It was our habit, both of us, to sleep in briefs and nothing else. I stripped off and got into bed while Steven was still in the bathroom. He came out and turned off the main lights and pulled back the covers on the right side. I watched as he almost shyly slipped under the covers, being careful not to touch me. It was very clear, the same issues playing through my mind were in his.
"Bobby?" a small voice asked.
"Yeah?"
"Thanks."
"For what?" I asked.
"For being here," he said simply. "For being my friend." He paused. "You're the best."
"Go to sleep," I growled.
Steven chuckled once. "Goodnight," he returned. "Sweet Dreams."
I have no idea what awakened me the next morning, but it was, indeed, me who awakened first. In one way there was no surprise in that awakening; the tableau had been repeated countless times before. This time, there seemed to be an extra layer of meaning. Steven was turned toward me, his right leg drawn up across my thigh, his cheek on my right shoulder and his right arm snaking across my chest. A small smile seemed to play on his lips even in sleep.
My own smile returned his. The words came unbidden to my mind: "God! How beautiful he is!"
The thoughts brought me up short, mentally. What the hell was I thinking? Was that thought the result of all that had happened in the last month. I had to admit that it was taking some getting used to; it was as though my best friend had suddenly become my best girlfriend! Part of me, that part being driven by the raging hard-on with which I had awakened wanted to reach over and caress the smooth skin of his chest. Every curve of his body seemed sensuous at that moment! God! I wanted to reach over and grab him and...
I couldn't let this go on! Gently I slipped out from under the sleeping boy and sneaked into the bathroom. There, in the solitude of the morning, I began to relieve the pressures that were driving me crazy; putting insane ideas in my mind. It didn't take long. When I finally came, shooting at least a dozen times, it was the vision of Steven in the bed that filled my thoughts.
When it was over, I looked into the mirror. I hardly knew the face that stared back at me. Yes, it was the same brown hair and eyes that had greeted me the morning before. It was the same six-foot three body with it's coating of jet black hair contoured around the pecs and pointing down my washboard tummy to the pubic hair where my cock nestled, even yet not quite at resolution. But there was something in my eyes, something in my expression that I hardly recognized. Somewhere behind those eyes there were a myriad of thoughts fighting for recognition and control. It was a helpless feeling, and I didn't like it!
I walked back into the bedroom and dressed before gently touching Steven on the shoulder. "I gotta go home and do the yard work today," I told him. "The old man'll be on my ass if I don't."
"Okay," Steven yawned. "When can you come over again?"
"I dunno," I said. "Let me see how today plays out."
*********
I was running. I knew that's what I was doing. I was scared to death by the feelings awash inside me! I did the front and back yards and even did the edging without the old man telling me to. The exercise was just what I needed, something to take my mind off that golden crown of hair and velvety pale skin that filled my every waking thought!
On the second day, I decided to clean out my closet and even the rest of my room! Mom worried that I was sick! I never did that. I sorted, I threw away, I straightened, I cleaned! Anything except to think!
It was the morning of the third day that Steven finally called me.
"Bobby?"
"Hi Steven. What's up?"
"I was just going to ask you the same thing," he answered. "Can you come over today?"
"I dunno," I said, thinking fast, looking for an excuse not to go.
There was a long pause. He finally spoke. "Don't do this, Bobby. Don't just never come back. There's been something go down. I really need you." I could hear the edge of desperation in the soft voice.
I closed my eyes. How could I say no? I couldn't. "Okay, I'll be over in fifteen," I said and put the phone back in its cradle.
All the way over I wondered what had happened. Steven hadn't sounded panicked exactly, more just disturbed and unhappy. My assessment was borne out when he met me at the front door. It opened before I could knock. I stepped in and he put his arms around me, hugging me tight. "Thank you," he breathed. "Thank you for coming!"
"What the hell's gotten into you?" I asked, concerned.
"Funny you should put it quite that way," he said, almost bitterly. "Come into the den. I've got beers opened for us."
I glanced at my watch. "It's a little early in the day for that, isn't it?"
He looked back at me darkly. "I need it. Please, sit."
I took the offered chair.
"Do you know what The Blue Trough is?" he asked without further small talk.
"Bar down on the south end, right?"
"Yeah."
"And?"
"Do you know what kind of bar it is?"
"No clue," I answered. "Never been there."
"Well, it's a gay bar," Steven announced. "I was chatting on the Internet with another guy here in Phoenix last night, and we agreed to meet there."
Suddenly, for some reason, I didn't like a damned thing about where this was heading.
"I went there and met him. He seemed nice enough. Twenty-five maybe. It wound up with me going back to his apartment."
"I'm not sure I want to hear this, Steven."
"Please. I've got to talk this out."
I reluctantly nodded for him to continue.
"Bobby, we had sex."
"Dear God! I don't want to hear about this!" Part of the reason was the hard-on that had suddenly formed between my legs.
"Please! Listen!" Tears began to roll down his cheeks. "We did it, and Bobby, it was terrible!"
I got up and crossed to the couch. I put my arm around my buddy. "What happened? Did he force you?"
"No," Steven said tearfully. "He was quite nice really, and I have to admit that the orgasm felt good. It's just that..." he paused, looking for the right words. "It's that it felt so empty."
"Empty?"
"Yeah. When it was over, he got up and got dressed and asked where he could drop me!"
"Jesus!"
"He took me back to the club and I got my car and came home. I showered for an hour! I still didn't feel clean. I don't know." He shook his head. "I guess I sound like some little ruined virgin girl when I say that I feel... used!"
"No shit. I'd feel that same way!" I agreed, pulling him closer.
Steven turned to my shoulder and buried his face. I let him cry for a few seconds, then he pulled back and looked into my eyes. "I'm so sorry, Bobby!" he almost wailed. "Can you forgive me?"
"Why do I need to forgive you," I asked, already knowing the answer.
Steven looked deeply into my eyes. "Because I fucked without loving last night. It was just that: fucking." He bit his lip. "I cheated on you!"
I returned his gaze. Yes, that was indeed what I was feeling! I had not wanted to know about his adventure because I couldn't bear thinking of Steven in someone else's arms! In that moment, my heart melted. "No you didn't, Baby," I whispered as I hugged him back. "You didn't cheat."
"But I did!"
"No. You didn't. You just went after what I couldn't give you. That's all." I licked my lips just once. The tortured face before me was beautiful even in its agony. I leaned forward and pressed my lips against Steven's. He eagerly responded.
We were, quite simply, insatiable. I could not get enough of kissing and touching him and he returned every caress in kind! I don't know how long we petted there in the den or just when we undressed, but I clearly remember picking him up and carrying him up the stairs to his room.
In the bedroom, I gently placed the quite naked boy on the bed. I bent down to kiss him again. As I slipped on top of him, I saw his right arm snake over to the drawer of his bedside table. It returned with a sealed condom. "Want me to put it on you?" he whispered in my ear.
I smiled. "Please. I'd love for you to do the honors." I had to laugh. Steven had a little trouble getting it on. I normally use a Magnum, the regulars he had being just tight enough to not really feel good.
He finally got it on me. "You're going to have to guide," I whispered. "I've never done this before."
Steven rolled me over. "Pull your knees up," he said. "They'll give me something to lean against."
Carefully, slowly, without seeming effort, he swung a leg over me and was perched above my pelvis, facing me. He reached down and gently took my cock, rubbing some KY jelly on the condom. Then he began to rub it back and forth against his own flesh. He seemed so tight going in. The two girls that I'd had sex with had been far looser. I was beginning to wonder if it would be comfortable or not! Then, suddenly, I was in, and a whole range of feelings that I had never felt before came flooding to me!
I watched as Steven began to ride me, his hand stroking his own cock for every stroke he was giving me. I got the idea and took the rigid member from him. Not since I was a kid had I touched another male that way. It was an odd feeling. The texture and firmness were totally familiar, mimicking my own to the letter, but the nuance of shape and size differences made it all the more exciting. Steven leaned back against my knees for leverage and threw his head back, his passions building.
When it was over, he lay on top of me, his arms around me, his face on my shoulder. I lay there, the warm afterglow floating me from pink cloud to pink cloud. He finally drew me back down to earth.
"Bobby? Are you okay?" he asked softly.
"I'm fine," I whispered back. "You?"
"Wonderful." He paused. "You're not freaked, are you?"
I hadn't been. I hadn't been freaked at all until he asked the question. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks what I had just done. "Holy shit!" I said softly.
"Oops." Steven rolled off me. "Sorry."
I sat there in silence for at least a minute. My mind was racing. I'd done it! I'd just fucked another guy! Did that mean...
"I know," Steven whispered, putting his hand to my shoulder. "It's the scariest feeling in the world."
"What is?" I answered dumbly.
"Coming to grips with it." He reached over and kissed me full on the lips. "I'll go down and fix some lunch. I think you need a little time to think."
Think was the last thing I wanted to do! I was going crazy thinking! It had really been no trick for me to accept Steven's homosexuality. He was my best friend, and while I was a little sad for him, it had been easy to be there for him. I'd actually had fun watching him go through the phases of self-discovery that had unfolded in those weeks! Now I had to take a second look at all of those activities. Had I been doing it for myself as well? Had I known even then that I was gay, too?
That I was gay, too! Goddamn! How easily that thought slipped off the edge of my mind! Was I really? Like, I'd banged girls before! I'd enjoyed it, too! Still, there had been something in the love that I'd just made that was far more deep and satisfying than any of the fumbled couplings I had made with females. I hadn't fucked Steven. We had made love.
It had seemed so right.
**********
In the end, I would think about what had happened for three more days. To his credit, Steven left me alone with my thoughts. He didn't call asking when I would be back over. He didn't inquire what was going on. I suppose he knew. He knew I had tons of processing to do. He also knew that when the time was right, I'd be back.
I didn't call. I just drove over there the evening of the third day. When Steven answered the door he was wearing a tee shirt and shorts. He showed no embarrassment or concern. It was as though nothing had happened. "Hi, Bobby," he smiled. "Come on in! I've got a great movie going," he said as we walked back to the den. "Ever see Princes in Exile?"
"No," I answered, pleased that he wasn't acting funny. I wondered if I could pull off the same trick.
"It's about these kids at a summer camp for cancer victims," he said. "Really good story. Here... let me rack the tape back so you can see if from the beginning." He grinned. "I want you to see how the friendship develops between two of the guys."
We sat and watched the film. I wasn't as fascinated by the male leads as I was by the supporting cast. There were several of the kids who were amputees, and I've always had a thing for that. A missing leg lights my fire about as quickly as anything. I'd wondered for years if I was the only guy who felt that way until I got on the Internet. That had illuminated a lot of issues for a lot of people.
"What ya think?" Steven asked as the final credits were spooling up the screen.
"It's a good story," I answered. "Although, I wish the one-legged chick had been a guy!"
"Oh?"
"Yeah. That would have made for an even better scene, if the two guys who were best friends.. you know... if one of them had been missing the leg!"
I looked to see any signs of interest. There were none, so I decided to let it lie. "I've been thinking a lot since the last time I was here," I began, moving to the more pressing subject.
"I know," Steven answered gently. "Have you come up with any answers?"
"A few," I nodded. "First, tell me this. Did you know I was gay, too?"
"I suspected."
"How come?"
"Well, for one thing you didn't bat an eye when I told you that I was. For another, all those years we've slept together, you've never failed to cuddle and hug me in your sleep."
"Really?"
"Really. Like I told you back at school, you don't remember it, but it was during one of those cuddling sessions that you got your first kiss!"
"I wish I'd waked up."
"Me too. Maybe then we wouldn't have wasted as much time as we have." He paused. "Bobby?"
"Yes?"
"I do love you. You know that, don't you?"
I swallowed a couple of times before I could answer. "I know," I finally got out. My eyes met his. "I love you, too!"
He crossed to where I was sitting and pulled me to my feet. "Then come on," he whispered in my ear. "I've missed you! I need you!" He began to lead me toward the stairs.
We were both naked on the bed again when Steven reached for another rubber.
"We've got to make some other arrangements about this," I told him. "These damned things are not quite big enough to be comfortable."
Steven got a thoughtful look then asked. "Have you ever screwed anyone without a condom?"
"No."
"Me neither. You know what that means?"
I smiled. "It means that neither of us could have anything."
"Exactly."
He tossed the prophylactic aside and opened his arms. I willingly came to him.
**********
Thus began our summer of love. As the weeks slipped past, I began to resent more and more the nights when decorum forced me to sleep at home in my own bed. I missed having Steven nuzzle against my shoulder as I was falling asleep; missed his unconscious caresses across my chest that awoke me in the mornings. When we were apart, I missed him!
August was looming large on the calendar. The first week in that month would mark the return of his parents from Europe and a curtailment of our (for all intents and purposes) living together. The break would be short, however. The sixteenth of the month would signal the beginning of school. We would move back into the dorm and become 'roomies' again. I couldn't wait!
Sometimes, regardless of how well you build a hothouse there are leaks. There are places where the cold north wind can find an opening and force its way in despite all you do. The north wind in our case took the form of a top line SUV that came tearing through a stop light as Steven was running an errand for his parents the day after they got back to Phoenix. The huge machine plowed into the left side of Steven's Mazda convertible. The SUV driver walked away without a scratch. Steven lost his left leg half way up from the knee.
No one would let me see him for the first five days after the accident. The nurses kept telling me I was not on the family list, and the Gwynne's were impossible to contact. I finally resorted to camping out at the parking loft entrance and flagging them down as they were coming in.
Mrs. Gwynne was something of a basket case, not being able to give much more than a yes or no answer to my questions. Mr. Gwynne at least made me think he realized who I was. He spoke with the nurse and had me put on the 'official visitor' list. I thanked him, but didn't go in just then. I wanted my time with Steven to be private. I didn't want any perfunctory social bullshit to stand between us, not at a time like this!
I got in about 8:30 that evening. At first I knocked on the door, expecting to hear Steven's voice bid me entry. I heard nothing. Tentatively, I eased the door open and slipped through the narrow opening I had formed.
Steven lay on the huge hospital bed, his body raised to about 45 degrees on the adjustable mattress. I could tell by the way that the covers fell away on the left side that his leg had, indeed, been removed and fairly high up. I felt an instant erection form. Part of me was totally excited and consumed, wanting to pull the covers back and get a look at the new, more exciting version of my lover who lay there before me. The other part of me was full of anguish and sympathy at the tragedy that had befallen the boy I loved, mixed with self-loathing for having had the first set of feelings.
"I see the prison guards finally let you in," He said flatly, almost without emotion. It was the straightest I'd heard him sound in months.
"Your dad told them," I said softly.
"Yeah, well, whatever."
I stood next to the bed, looking at the lithe body before me. I was trying to think of something, anything to say. Steven took care of that for me.
"Okay, Dean, you've had a look at the freak. You can leave now. Have a good life." He looked back at the TV and added, "Mine's sure as hell fucked up."
"Where the hell does that come from?" I asked, my cheeks flushing.
Without any build up or warning, Steven flipped the left side of the bedcovers back and pulled up the hem of the hospital gown he was wearing. There, cushioned on a pillow, was a mass of bandages that swathed what was left of his leg. "That comes from this!" he hissed. "Take a good look at it! It's called a stump! It's all that's left of my fuckin' leg! They cut my leg off, Bobby, and it ain't gonna grow back! I'm screwed! Totally screwed! Forever!"
Had the situation not been so profound I would have accused Steven of being a Drama Princess to the end, but I said nothing about it. Instead I tore my eyes from the white wrapped shape and looked him in the eyes. "Look," I began, "I can't even begin to say that I know how you're feeling. It's got to be scary as hell. But Steven, I still love you! Please, don't shut me out."
He turned from the TV back to me. "Please, Bobby, don't do this. All my life you've tried to protect me. You think I didn't know it? I knew. But you can't fix this!" He turned away again. "Leave. Go. Find somebody you can be happy with."
"I've got someone I can be happy with," I said softly. "He's right here."
"No..."
Steven had started to protest when I decided to do something that cut him short. I leaned over the bed and began to kiss his most personal area.
"Are you crazy?" Steven whispered loudly. "That door's not locked! A nurse could come in here any minute!"
"I love you," I told him. "When you love someone you show them!"
Steven quickly pulled the bottom of the hospital gown down and reached for the covers. "And you say I'm the gayest gay boy you ever saw! God!" He gave a little laugh at the end.
I smiled back. "Gotcha!"
The transformation was almost amazing. I watched the wheels turn in his mind for a couple of seconds and he finally broke into a grin. "I guess you did, at that."
I looked down at the void under the sheets. "I'm really sorry about the accident, man. Does it hurt a lot?"
Steven shrugged at the tubes he was still hooked up to. "It did the first couple of days after I woke up. They've got this machine hooked up to the iv. When it starts to hurt bad I just push this button and it shoots some medication in. I haven't used it much the last day or two." He paused. "The thing that really hurts is feeling like I feel." He paused again. "I mean, the last thing I remembered was driving down the street and the next thing I know I wake up and they tell me this nightmare has happened! No one told me anything or asked me anything, they just did it to me!"
"Maybe when you get outa this hospital some of that won't seem as bad," I offered. "Do you know when you're getting out?"
"They're talking about the middle of next week. There was talk about sending me directly to some rehab center, but the old man decided that he wanted to bring me home and have those guys come to me." He looked at the place where the leg should have been. "Like they're gonna be able to do much to help."
"Maybe they can."
"By doing what? Sticking a wooden leg on me? That's going to be fetching!"
"You never know," I answered, trying to sound non-committal."I can tell you one thing that'll be better when you can get home."
"What's that?"
"I can come see you again," I said with a smile. "I've missed you."
**********
I laid out of college the fall semester to hang around and be with Steven. My parents didn't think much of the idea, but when I said they could either get with the program or I'd get a job and move out they shut up. I spent a lot of days just hanging out over at the Gwynne's. Typical to their pattern, Steven's parents quickly became absorbed in their own lives again. Once they had their son home and all of the rehab issues addressed, their parental love and compassion was pretty much spent. The fact that I was around so much actually seemed to encourage Mrs. Gwynne to take a week-long jaunt to Vail in Early October.
With Mr. Gwynne at his office all day, it was the first time that Steven and I had been truly alone since the accident.
The rehab guy came to the house twice a week at this point. He'd just laid the news on Steven that morning that he was about ready for his new leg. That hadn't gone over as well as he'd hoped.
"I don't see the point in it, Bobby," he'd argued after the dude had left. "It's not going to fool anyone."
"Fooling people is not the point. The point is you being able to walk without crutches," I added.
Steven looked down at the sock clad stump that just peeked out of his shorts. "Well, maybe."
I came and sat on the edge of his bed next to him. "You know what?" I asked.
"What?"
"This is the first time we've been alone in three months!"
Steven nodded. "It's been a long time."
"Well," I began, stroking the side of his neck, "are you interested in us being together?"
Steven licked his lips and swallowed hard. "Are you sure you want to?"
"Are you nuts? I've been in heat forever!"
His eyes cut back to the stump. "I mean, you sure you'll be able to keep it hard with this ugly monster hangin' around?"
"Let's see what happens," I grinned. Then I added seriously, "I'm not going to hurt you if we get active will I?"
Steven shook his head. "Nope. It's not all that tender any more. Hell, if Don thinks I can walk on it, how sore can it be?"
That was all I needed to hear! I attacked! Steven was visibly surprised by how hot the sex was. We each came three times that afternoon as we enjoyed the intimate contact we'd been denied by the events of the past months.
When it was over and Steven lay in my arms, I felt a tear fall on my shoulder. "What's the matter, Baby," I asked him. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"You didn't hurt me at all," he said, sniffing.
"Then what's wrong?"
"Just shut up, you big lug."
"Steven, what's wrong? You're scarring me!"
"I'm just thinking how lucky I am," he whispered, then cuddled closer. "Now please, shut up and just hold me. Would you do that Bobby? Just hold me?"
I was more than pleased to comply.
**********
Two weeks later to the day, Steven took his first steps on his new leg. The rehab guy always ran me off when he came to work with his charge, saying that I took Steven's mind off his work with my constant needling. I looked at it more as encouragement, but what can I say.
I was surprised after he left when I went back up to the bedroom and found Steven standing at the window. He was wearing both his sneakers for the first time in five months.
"What do you think of this thing?" he asked. I don't think he was convinced that it was a great idea.
I looked at the figure standing before me. To all the world, it was Steven; Steven as he had been before the accident. Where I had grown used to seeing his stump-sock clad nub sticking out of the leg of his shorts, the prosthesis he now wore seemed to perfectly mimic its flesh and blood companion. He'd obviously chosen to have his new leg covered with a life-like skin covering, wanting it to be as realistic as possible.
"Wow!" I said. "It looks terrific!" I cocked my head to one side and adopted a puzzled look. "Now, which leg is it that's new?"
"Very funny."
He took a somewhat unsteady step toward me. He'd stepped off with the artificial leg, lifting his hip slightly and swinging it forward before leaning against the device and pushing off with his sound leg. He took the step and then another.
"There's no way I'm ever going to look anything close to normal on this, Bobby!" he almost wailed. "God! Look at how I gimp!"
"What did Don say?"
"Oh, Mr. Smiles? He says it's all a matter of practice! All I have to do is 'work with the leg and it'll work for me.' What shit!" He took another step, the limp obviously driving him crazy.
"Give it a try, Baby," I told him. "Come on out in the hall. Try walking the length of it a time or two. I bet if you take a bunch of steps at once you'll start to get the hang of it!"
Steven hobbled to the doorway and looked down the hall that ran the width of the top floor. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and pushed off to give it a try. To his credit, he only fell twice in the next half hour and he got right up after both. I was there cheering him on, telling him he was looking smoother on the leg all the time. I'm not sure it wasn't a lie. Frankly, I didn't see how he was ever going to have anything approaching a natural walking gait again, but I didn't want him to know that.
Finally, Steven called a halt. "This is all I can do right now, Bobby," he finally panted. "I'm tired as I can be, and Don said for me to only wear the leg a couple of hours at a time until I start to get used to it. I need to slip it off for a while."
I just nodded and gave him my arm to help him back into his bedroom.
The entire operation of removing the limb fascinated me. Frankly, I didn't have any idea that it took that much time to wash and dry everything that needs to be dealt with after you took one of those monsters off. I did find it interesting that the 'skin' of the leg just sort of rolled down to reveal the skeletal inner workings. "Do you mind if I have a look at that thing?" I finally asked when Steven was finally seated, his crutches at his side.
"Knock yourself out," he told me.
We spent the next twenty or so minutes with him telling me all about the different parts of the limb, and how it worked. It took me a while to understand what he was talking about when he came to the part about having to pull your leg back slightly to lock the knee, but it finally made sense after I held it up and free-swung the knee a couple of times.
I looked at the bare stump peeking back at me. He'd obviously forgotten, or decided not to put a sock over it. The scarring was already fading, taking on the paler skin color as opposed to the crimson slash that had adorned the end of the rounded flesh the first time I'd seen it. I'd tried to play with it a couple of times when we'd been making love over the past few days, but Steven had always stiffened when I had touched him there. He swore I wasn't hurting him, so it must simply have been that he didn't want it touched. As always, part of me understood; part of me was intensely disappointed.
After the cook brought us lunch, and we'd eaten, Steven got a hang-dog look and sighed, "Well, hand me my leg. It's time for my afternoon two hours on it." There was disgust in his voice.
As he was getting everything installed an idea hit me. "I've got the best way in the world for you to get your two hours in," I said cheerfully. "Let's go hit the mall! You haven't been there in months!"
"No way!" he complained. "I'm not going there where everyone can look at me!"
"They won't look at you, asshole! As good as that leg looks, they'll never know. But if it'll make you feel any better, put on some slacks."
He thought about it a minute. "It would be nice to get out of the house."
"I'll drive! Come on!"
It took us about 20 minutes to get to Caravan Mall. That was the one Steven wanted to go to because it had the men's shop that catered to his somewhat flamboyant tastes in clothing. I parked as near to the building as I could find a place, and went around to offer him my arm to go in.
He refused. "Look, Bobby, we're queer and all that, but I'm not sure we need to broadcast it here!"
"I was just going to help a friend with a sprained ankle," I returned sourly.
"Well, the friend is going to have to make it on his own. Let him try."
I bowed and gestured ceremoniously toward the front entrance.
Things went well until about an hour into the jaunt. I never was sure quite what happened, whether Steven had lost his gait and not let the knee lock completely, or if he had simply tripped on one of the stones that stuck up slightly in the washed concrete floor. At any rate, he and the package he insisted he could carry wound up in a heap.
I knelt down. "You okay?" I asked with concern.
"I'm fine... fine... fucking fine," he swore.
A small crowd was gathering. "Is this young man all right?" the blue uniformed security guard asked.
"He's fine," I assured the man.
"Here, son," the burly guard said offering his hand, "let me help you up."
"I can get up fine by myself," Steven snapped. He began to struggle to get his artificial leg into position and arrange leverage from his sound leg.
"I think he's hurt," an attractive young woman to the left offered.
"He's fine," I said again, this time to the girl.
"I better call a doctor," the guard decided.
"No!" Steven snapped. "Leave me alone!" It was almost a scream. The guard looked unsure as to what to do. "I've got a goddam wooden leg, you idiot!" Steven hissed. "Now go the fuck away and leave me alone!"
The crowd self-consciously dispersed. I debated on offering my hand to him and didn't until he'd tried to get up twice and failed. Once back on his feet, Steven dusted himself off. "Let's get the hell out of here," he whispered, almost in tears.
Neither of us said much on the way home. We were half way there when Steven broke the silence. "Turn in here," he said, indicating the Super-D drug store in his neighborhood.
I did as he asked and pulled up near the door. "What ya' need?" I asked. "I'll go in and get it."
"I can do it," he said quietly. "I'll have to sign for it."
He was back in about ten minutes.
"What's ya got?" I asked.
"Just a refill on my sleeping pills," he said. "I still have trouble getting to sleep sometimes. All I do is think about this shit."
I said nothing the rest of the way home and neither did he. When we were finally back in his room, Steven lost no time removing the leg. I noticed that this time he didn't do any of the cleanup he'd done before, either to the device or to his stump. He sat down heavily in his chair.
"So much for a fucking high tech leg prosthesis!" he snapped. "They can call 'em whatever they want. They're still fuckin' wooden legs! They don't work worth a shit!" He leaned his head back. "God! I am so fucked!"
"Baby," I started, "give it some time..."
"Fuck time!" he yelled, cutting me off. "It's been five months! It's never going to get better. He raised and lowered the remnant a couple of times. Finally he spoke again. "Bobby, look... I appreciate the fact that you've... you know, stayed by me through all of this, but, like... we need to get real here."
"What in the world are you talking about?" I asked.
"Bobby, you've got to stop being noble. I'm never going to be the same. I'm always going to have one leg when the day's over and we go to bed. After all you've been to me, you deserve a lot better." Tears were forming in his eyes. "I want you to stop coming over here and wasting your time on a cripple. You need to be getting on with your life, even if I can't."
Again, I repeated: "What in the world are you talking about?"
"Stop being noble!" he finally blurted out. "Kiss me goodbye and move on!"
"Is that what you think I want to do?" I asked, taking his hand.
"Isn't it?" he almost wailed. "You were there this afternoon! I couldn't stand the way I must have embarrassed you! God! I was embarrassed!"
"Then you were the only one," I assured him. "Steven, I don't want anyone else! I want you!"
"I'm a one-legged freak!"
"And you're hot as hell!" I shot back at him.
"How can you say that?" He looked down at the naked stump with disgust.
"Because I think you're sexy as hell!" I repeated. "You've been driving me up the walls all these months! I couldn't wait to get my hands on you! Haven't you been noticing that I've wanted to make love to you?"
Steven was still unconvinced. "I think you've been very kind to me, and tried to make me feel better about myself," he said softly.
"Bullshit!" I replied. "I've been after you because you were the boy I loved before the accident, and now, after it, you're even more of what I want!"
We both sat there for a moment. I hadn't exactly planned for that last sentence to slip out. Steven looked at me dumbly for a few beats.
"Do what?" he finally asked slowly.
"I love you," I told him.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "The business about now I'm even more of what you want."
I licked my lips and swallowed. "I, uh..." I stammered. "Umm... I, uh... I think that people who are missing legs are very attractive."
"That's sick."
My mind was racing. "No, it's not, Steven. There are a lot of us..." I began.
Realization swept over him. "You're a fucking devotee!" he spat out. His eyes got wild. "You're one of those people the shrinks warned me about! Damn! I should have put two and two together a long time ago. What was it you said when we were watching Princes in Exile? Something about it would have been better if the guy's best friend had been an amputee instead of the girl? You fucker!"
"Wait, Steven..."
"Oh yeah! Wait so you can look at my stump some more and drool! You sorry cocksucker! I wish you had this goddamned amputated leg! I wish you had that wooden leg of mine jammed up your ass! You get the hell out of here!" he screamed, "Now!"
I realized that there was nothing more I could say, at least not right then that was going to make any difference. I decided to give him a little time to cool off and process. When we could talk again, I'd give him some URLs that might explain a little. He didn't realize it, but the slip had been like everything else I'd ever done in trying to protect him. I wanted him to understand that he was even more precious to me than he had been; that his disability was not something for me to overlook, but another reason for me to protect and nurture and cherish him.
I never got the chance.
The next morning my mother awakened me with tears in her eyes.
"What's wrong?" I asked, wiping the sleep from my own.
"Something terrible has happened, Bobby," she said. "I just got a call from the Gwynnes."
My heart sank.
"Bobby, Steven is dead."
It's amazing how your entire universe can pivot on four words. My mouth dropped open.
"They found him this morning. There were two bottles of sleeping pills empty at his bedside."
"Two?" I asked dumbly.
"Yes, dear, two," she repeated. "That was odd, his mother said, that he would have two bottles. She said she refilled his prescription just last week."
"I've got to go over there," I started.
"No, honey, you can't," she told me. "They've already taken the... they've taken Steven to the funeral home. You won't be able to see him until all of the arrangements are made."
Finally, she got up from the side of my bed and left.
I lay there for a long time. I had finally done it! I'd pushed Steven over the edge! My obsession with amputees had backfired in the most serious possible way! Instead of comforting my lover I'd driven him to suicide! I wished I could die as well, right then and there.
I dressed and went for a long drive on my own. Several times, in that hour of transit time, I looked at the target pistol laying on the seat beside me. I didn't give a damn if a cop stopped me. I could claim I had forgotten it was loaded. Outside of town, out where the desert has not been beaten back with irrigation and nurtured sod, I stopped. I picked up the weapon, got out of my car, and walked a few hundred yards out into the sandy wilderness.
I am always surprised by the abundance of life one finds in the desert. Who knows how many kinds of cactus and flowers live there? I thought about my own flower, my orchid. I had failed. I hadn't been able to give enough protection. In the end I had actually caused him to die.
I sat there in the blazing sun and cried for at least five minutes. When the tears would no longer come, I placed the barrel of the weapon in my mouth and closed my eyes. I sat there for a moment, searching for the courage to do what I knew I must do; for the will power to end the agony that I was feeling!
Before I found it, a blazing flash of insight dawned in my mind. What was it mother had said? Two bottles of sleeping pills? Two? Why two? Why had Steven had two bottles of pills?
The answer was crystal clear and heartbreaking. At the same time, a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. Steven had stopped at the drug store to get the additional pills on the way home from the mall. He had already decided to end his life at that point, before my revelation about being a devotee! I smiled a bitter smile. It hadn't been me.
I walked back to the car and headed back toward town. I knew that the next several days were going to be hard. I'd lost a lover; a very special lover: my first. I'd lost my best friend. I'd lost the most perfect mate I could ever hope to find. But at least I had not caused it. For all of our lives I had tried to shield a tender flower from the elements. The fact that I hadn't always succeeded, and that he hadn't realized that I'd done all I could do made that sad, but that doesn't mean it was in vain. I had been a ray of sunshine for someone who needed one. I had made Steven's life as good as I had been able. I just wish he'd realized I was about to make it better. Therein was the tragedy.
I sighed. I was about to find out if I was as tough as Steven and everyone else thought I was. The next few days would take their toll.
As I drove back into town I stopped at a service station for a cold drink. The Coke tasted good, there in the heat. I enjoyed the sensations. They showed me I was alive.
Even a dandelion has to have a little water.

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