We awoke in the
middle of the night to a magnificent
Could see the lightning
through our bedroom window, but I wanted to see
it Over the water. The ballroom offered an
excellent vantage point through its Wide French
doors or, if we were brave enough, the balcony
terrace. I Hopped out of bed, grabbed a pair of
shorts, and said to Justin, "Come on! Let's go
to the ballroom."
Justin was not as wide awake
as I was, but managed to get out of bed and Into
shorts. Before we left, I tapped on John's door
and called. John Answered and I told him Justin
and I were going to the ballroom to watch the
storm. "See you in a couple," he responded.
When we reached the ballroom,
I couldn't resist going out on the terrace. We
were soon joined by John and Susan. "I got Susan
up, after I realized What was going on."
I was standing in front of
Justin who had his arms around me and I was a
bit surprised when I noticed John and Susan were
also standing that way.
"I phoned Bobbie and Adam,
but don't know whether they will..." Susan
didn't finish the sentence as Bobbie and Adam
appeared at the other end of the terrace and
Bobbie waved at us.
We all stood in awe of the
lightning display and the crashing thunder. The
wind was up and getting stronger when, suddenly,
it was as if someone had upended a bucket over
our heads as the rains came in torrents. We all
rushed back inside and the guys headed to our
room for towels, Susan and Bobby to John's.
We were, of course, all wide
awake and a bit chilled from the drenching we
had received. "Now would be a good time for hot
chocolate," John said as we stood in the
bathroom, drying ourselves.
"Agreed, but not enough to
have someone crawl out of bed and make it for
us," Justin said.
"Not necessary," I said. "I
know where the kitchen is and think we can find
hot chocolate if we work at it."
I led the crew down the
servants' stairs to the kitchen where we started
looking through cabinets for hot chocolate,
which we found after a five-minute search. While
we had been searching, Bobbie found cups and
heated some milk in the microwave. Soon we were
all sitting around the kitchen table drinking
hot chocolate. It was like it would have been
before Justin and I came out to ourselves, each
other, and our friends.
We had had a pretty busy day
and it was the middle of the night, so it was
not surprising that as soon as the hot chocolate
had warmed us up from our encounter with the
cold rain, we all went back upstairs and to bed.
I guess I expected the
Florida Keys to be like Camelot where it only
rains at night, but it turned out to be just
like everywhere else and sometimes you have a
rainy day. Monday was one. With the help of Mrs.
Metzer, we found plenty to do. There was a pool
table which Adam and Susan dominated. They were
about an even match and far better than any of
the rest of us.
Bobbie, Justin, John, and I
played several hands of cut-throat poker before
Justin and John decided they'd play chess. Susan
and I found the library and some fairly recent
bestsellers, and curled up with books.
The rain stopped for a while
after lunch, but it soon started again. We all
went to our rooms and I suspect the others did
as Justin and I, and had a nice nap.
Justin and I had a nap after
a bit. We made slow, gentle love, starting with
butterfly kisses. I was not quite as sore as I
had been the day before, but appreciated the
gentleness of Justin's lovemaking as well as a
fantastic climax. After the necessary cleanup,
we lay nestled in each other's arms, gazing into
the eyes of our lover as we slowly drifted off
After our naps, we went for a
swim since there was no thunder or lightning,
just rain. Adam and Bobbie had joined John in
the suite's living room and were, again, engaged
in a tight game of Monopoly. Justin invoked the
rule and we had just distributed the money to
start over when Susan arrived. Justin won this
time and got to count the win.
The rain stopped and the sky
was clearing when we went down for supper. Susan
had asked Mrs. Metzer to join us and she did. It
was nice to have her as a part of our group
rather than an outside servant.
As we waited for desert to be
served, Mavis was on duty again, Susan asked
Mrs. Metzer how she came to be at La Casa.
"It's long story," she
replied, then laughed, "I guess all of my
stories are. Anyway, it was a very round-about
path. After college, I was at a loss as to what
I wanted to do. I had majored in nursing, done a
year of advanced clinical training and earned my
RN, but the thought of working in a hospital
just didn't feel right. I was working in a large
metropolitan hospital and it all seemed so
impersonal. One day I was working in the
emergency room when a young man who had been
beaten nearly to death was brought in by another
"After we got the patient
stabilized, I went out to tell his friend the
prognosis, which was actually pretty good. He
had no broken bones," well, not serious ones. He
had a couple broken ribs and they could have
punctured a lung, but all was
well. I then asked him what had happened. Seems
the two had been out clubbing and when they
walked out of a gay club, they were jumped. 'The
attackers left this, if you can believe it.' He
showed me a crude, vulgar drawing with 'God
Hates Fags' written across it.
"Turns out his friend,"
actually I learned later, his partner, his
lover, was injured much worse than first thought
and was in the hospital for over a week. I got
to know them very well during that time and
learned they had met while they were Peace Corps
volunteers in Guatemala. We talked a lot about
the Peace Corps and, a month later, I signed up.
After my training, I went to El Salvador and
helped establish and run a clinic for mothers
and children. When my first tour was complete, I
signed up for another one.
"It was not the success the
first one was. I was kidnapped by a group of
revolutionaries and held captive for six months.
At the end of the time, I was a mental,
emotional, and physical wreck. I had contracted
a tropical disease which did a real job on my
body. Unlike many hostages, I had never come to
side with my captors, but suffered from all
sorts of trauma as a result of the period in
captivity. After a long hospital stay and mental
and emotional therapy, I was released from the
long-term treatment center where I had been, and
needed a job. For some reason, I found myself
taking a job in a very posh rehab center and
there I met Mrs. Crandall. She decided I needed
fresh air and sunshine and she needed a nurse
for a while. That
was fifteen years ago and I'm
still here. Those two young men, by the way, are
the reason I have little patience with
Tuesday we decided to go in
to Key West again, this time with Adam along. We
had a grand time exploring and were pretty tired
when we got back to La Casa. The plan called for
an early supper followed by bed as soon as we
thought we could get to sleep, because
Wednesday, early, we would begin our trip to Dry
We got back to the manor
mid-afternoon and Mrs. Metzer was waiting for us
when we came from parking the van. "We need to
have a confab before dinner," she said. "Seems
Antwon is in favor of a new plan for our Dry
Tortugas trip, if you are interested. I'll have
tea waiting on the terrace in fifteen minutes."
We went upstairs. Justin and
I took care of the call of nature, put away the
gifts we had purchased in Key West and were
standing in the living room, engaging in a
passionate kiss when there was a timid knock.
John was standing in the door from Justin's --
now his -- room. As we broke the kiss, he said,
"You know, I'm positive you two are in for some
rough weather in the days ahead and I don't envy
you that. I guess I do envy your love -- whoa,
don't get me wrong, I'm at least as straight as
Adam thinks he is -- I'm just envious of you
loving someone and being loved in return. I hope
you know what I mean."
"I do," I answered, "but
remember how long we didn't know we loved each
other. I hope you are as loved and love as much
as I do, but I sure hope that you don't have to
love and not be loved in return or not know you
are loved in return."
"Yeah, I second that," Justin
added, "I think."
"I look at Adam and Bobbie
and I'm surprised I am not at all envious of
them and their relationship. You two seem so
happy with each other and they... I'm not sure,
but something's wrong there."
"Agreed," I said, "but
there's nothing we can do about it."
"Guess not. Well, tea time."
When we stepped out of the
room, John tapped on Susan's door and she joined
us. When we got to the terrace room, Bobbie and
Adam hadn't shown up. Susan suggested calling
them but, as she got up to do so, they appeared.
While there was a formality
about tea with Mrs. Metzer pouring, it wasn't
stuffy, and definitely had later teens in mind
when it came to food -- and drink for that
matter. As soon as we were seated at the laden
table, Antwon said, "As you know, our original
plan was to leave here very early tomorrow
morning and that is still possible should you
decide so. However, I got to thinking and this
being the spring of the year, tourists to the
Islands are increasing. We'll likely spend a
great deal of time on the boat, but it's nice to
be able to spend time on land as well. There are
a very limited number of camp sites on Garden
Island and they are available on a first come,
first served basis. We can claim one and put
three tents -- that is the limit
allowed by the park service.
Since there are only six of you, that works out
fine, two to a tent, I mean." He laughed and
added, "How you split up the three tents is your
business." Mrs. Metzer, underscoring what I had
suspected, that she knew about our sleeping
"What about you, Sharky and
Mrs. Metzer?" Susan asked.
"As I said, the park service
only allows three tents, so we will stay on the
"That's an option?" Susan
asked. "Staying on the boat, I mean."
"Well, sure that's an
Susan said, "I have been a
Girl Scout. Sleeping in a tent, on the ground?
Been there. Done that. Option, please."
"Well, what I was going to
propose is that we spend tonight aboard and we
could all do so tomorrow night as well. My only
worry is that may mean two nights of being
seasick for someone," Antwon responded.
"We live in a waterfront
town, remember? We have been on water
practically since we were born," Susan laughed,
"and I'm sure Bobbie has a patch in her
"How'd you guess?" Bobbie
Bobbie was the only one of us
who was ever plagued by motion sickness, and it
seemed it sometimes struck and sometimes did
not, but anytime we were going on the water,
she'd slap on a motion sickness patch to take
care of it. I had noticed she was wearing one
when we flew down and suspected Susan had
noticed as well.
"Well, that takes care of
securing a camp site and it's not like we'll be
afloat all the time. I'm sure you'll spend a lot
of time exploring Garden Key and Fort Jefferson.
We'll also have time on Loggerhead Key. You'll
miss cooking on charcoal grills..."
"Been there, done that, too,
"As have we all," Adam added.
"So we can forget camping on the island.
Besides, we can do that at home. Spending the
night on a boat -- well, we've all done it on
boats with sleeping accommodation for four -- if
you can call the arrangements accommodations,
but not on an excursion boat." I wondered what
Adam was talking about, but said nothing.
"Makes my life easier,"
Antwon said, "but I still suggest we leave
tonight to give you as much time in the park as
"I agree," John said as we
all nodded agreement.
"What I want to offer as a
possibility is for you to get your things
together, have dinner, and all of us spend the
night on the boat. That way you can get your
beauty sleep and we can be at the park for
sunrise. You'll want to see sunrise on the open
sea anyway and we can anchor near Garden Key --
actually we have to be within a nautical mile of
the harbor light. Thoughts?"
"We can sleep on the boat?"
John asked, "I mean really sleep and not just
find a softer place on the deck?" He was
vocalizing my thoughts.
"Sure," Antwon said. "No
My mental image of Antwon and
Sharky's boat underwent a significant change, to
say the least, and I got a hint at what Adam
meant when he said something about an excursion
"Hey, you're the captain,"
John said. "Whatever you say goes."
"If that's agreeable. You
won't need to bring much. You'll be in and out
of the water, so you'll probably need two or
three sets of dry underwear and a couple swim
suits so you'll always have a dry outfit,
toothpaste and toothbrush is about it. Anything
else you might need, we have on board, I
"I have bags for all of you
-- well, I have three bags and hope you will
share one with your roommate," Mrs. Metzer said,
handing John and me each a small gym bag. "That
large enough?" she asked and we nodded. "Ladies,
a slightly larger bag for you, but I do hope
you'll still keep it light. The less we carry,
the better off we will be. Antwon, food will be
ready in the kitchen in half an hour. Cases of
bottled water as well."
"We're taking water?" Bobbie
asked. "We need water?"
"'Water, water everywhere,
but not a drop to drink,' remember?" Mrs. Metzer
asked. "The boat carries fresh water aboard, of
course, but when we are on land, we'll need to
carry our own water. Why do you think they are
called the Dry Tortugas?"
"Well, so what's Tortugas?"
"Turtles, Spanish," John
"We are going to be sharing
space with turtles!" Bobbie exclaimed. "I am not
sure I go for that."
"Small turtles, actually, I
have only seen a dozen or so large enough to
capsize the boat, but all have been so slow we
have always escaped... knock on wood. You'll
Antwon had discovered what
all of us knew, you could pull Bobbie's leg into
next week before she realized it. We were all
about to pop laughing and finally John managed
to say, "I understand they taste exactly like
the Colonel's KFC," and we all burst out
Bobbie bopped Adam on the arm
and said, "You will pay for this, Mister."
"It's 4:30," Mrs. Metzer
said. "Can you be ready for dinner in an hour?"
"Seems awfully early for
dinner," Adam said. "We had lunch about 1:30."
"Why not have the kitchen
pack a picnic?" Antwon asked. "You could have a
picnic on the pier or even on the boat."
"Fine. Excellent, in fact,"
Mrs. Metzer agreed. "It'll take the kitchen a
while to get the picnic ready and everyone will
need to pack their things. We should be ready to
leave in an hour and be at the pier by 6:30 at
Minutes later, the four guys
were in our suite, bags packed. "As Antwon said,
we will be gone for only two days and I agree
there's no reason to take more than a few
changes of underwear, swimming gear and a
toothbrush. We'll be in and out of the water, so
wearing a shirt and shorts two days shouldn't
raise too big a stink," John said.
"Agreed," I said. "Justin,
wisely, I guess, suggested I put in a pair of
long pants and a long-sleeve shirt. I'll
probably need them because of the sun. I put in
two bottles of sunscreen and a tube of sunblock
as well. Justin said the moonlight this far
south would cook my pale ass! No doubt, he's
The other three guys wore
baseball caps and generally they bucked the
trend and wore them right, but when we were in
the sun, all three turned them backwards,
protecting their necks. They depended on
sunscreen to protect their faces. Me? I had a
leather hat I had picked up a couple years ago
when a store in the mall had an 'Aussie' week.
The hat was one of the few articles on sale
which were actually from Oz. It shaded neck and
face very well and, I think, looked great.
We had heard nothing from the
two women and when John mentioned it, Adam
laughed and said, "Wouldn't you like to be a fly
on the wall in the girls' room? Mrs. Metzer came
up as John and I came here, I bet to supervise
their packing. I guess she saw what they had
when we arrived and knew they'd need
supervision. You just know they are torn between
taking a steamer trunk and living with Mrs.
Metzer. Kinda think this time the girls have met
Ten minutes later, Mrs.
Metzer came by the suite with the two. "The
kitchen hasn't quite finished with the food for
tonight, so let's plan on leaving in half an
hour. That will still get us to the pier by the
time the fellows are expecting us. Oh, I almost
forgot, Marc, I have a couple letters for you.
As she handed me two letters, both from Mother,
she said, "Although the postmarks are several
days apart, they only arrived today."
I thanked Mrs. Metzer and
laid the letters beside the gym bag, intending
to read them after supper. "Aren't you going to
open them?" Bobby asked. "I could never wait to
open a letter."
"I'll wait," I answered.
"Antwon and Sharky have some
last-minute things do, so they went on," Mrs.
Metzer said as she was leaving. I'll give you a
call when the picnic is ready."
I walked into our bedroom and
opened the letters. The first was like all the
other letters I had from Mother -- a description
of where they had been and what they had seen --
for about a page and a half of the three-page
letter. The second page was dated five days
later and was what I been dreading:
"My Dearest Son,
I hope you are not too
disappointed and disgusted with me. I know I
told you I was taking it one day at a time and
might fall off the wagon, but I never believed
it myself. Regardless of the number of times I
heard others talk about it in AA meetings. Well,
I didn't fall off. I jumped off with both feet.
At dinner over a week ago, I
assured Betsy I was never an alcoholic and only
drank because of boredom, being rejected by your
father, etc., etc., etc. She listened, then told
me what a fool I was. 'You are a new recovering
alcoholic,' she said and tried to make me see I
was doing some 'stinkin' thinkin',' but I knew
better. I was a new woman, a strong woman and,
to prove it, I had a glass of red wine and
stopped -- until I got to my room. As soon as
the door closed, I called room service and had a
bottle sent up, then another one.
When Betsy found me the next
morning, I was a stinking mess -- literally.
Fortunately, after so much alcohol, I got sick
and threw up. I made a major mess, but
fortunately I fell so I didn't strangle on my
own vomit. I know that is not pretty and in
fact, gross, but it happens. The only damage --
even though that was major -- was to my pride,
and my sobriety. Most of all, it was my
disappointing you. I hope you will forgive me.
She had written Mom, not
Mother as she had always done before. I hope she
did that for me and not as a way of putting
The second letter was written
a week after the first one.
"My Beloved Son,
When I finished my last
letter to you, I was ending my first week in a
spa, drying out. It is a wonderful place and I
feel like a new person -- new, but one who can
never drink again. Betsy has been a godsend.
Having dealt with her own addiction to alcohol,
she understands. She is kind and loving, but
that doesn't mean she's a push-over. The woman
can be a real tiger.
Anyway, we will be leaving
the spa -- Betsy has been with me, staying on
the holiday side of the place being pampered
while I endure getting sober again -- next week.
It is good for me and I know I needed this time
to not only get sober, but also straighten out
my thinking. But Betsy is tired of being
pampered and so am I, even though it's a very
different kind of pampering.
Also, we both are getting
homesick and Betsy hinted about our coming home
as soon as I finish here and I jumped at the
idea. So it's a few more days here, then home.
We should arrive in the States Wednesday week
and I'll be home Thursday.
I miss you very much.
Mom -- isn't that nicer than
P.S. I can hardly wait to
hear about your time in Florida."
She could hardly wait to hear
about my time in Florida. Now if you don't think
that gave me pause, think again. I'm here to
tell you, I felt my heart sink. She had fallen
off the wagon, but crawled back on. I had been
having sex with my best friend and I didn't
intend to stop. There was no doubt in my mind
that my father would blow a gasket when he found
out but, hell, who cares? But Mom -- I hoped
she'd stay mom -- was an open question. How
would she deal with a gay son? I mean, I know I
am luckier than a lot of
gay men. I am eighteen and
have a very nice trust fund, a college fund and
spending money which I never spend. Well, that
last may be a thing of the past since Father
would likely cut it off the first whiff he had
of my "sexual orientation." I'd come to hate
I was just standing and
staring when Justin walked up behind me, put his
arms around me and whispered in my ear, asking
if everything was alright. I handed him the
letters without comment.
After he had read them, he
said, "Babe, I don't see anything here to get
upset about. You told me you expected your mom
would fall off the wagon and she said so
herself. She did but, rather than wallowing in
it, she took very positive action to get herself
straightened out. I think that's great."
"I couldn't agree more," I
said. "That's not the problem. The P.S. is the
"I don't see why. She's just
like any good mother. She wants to share in your
good... Uh, oh!"
"Yeah, uh oh big time."
"Look, we don't have to say
anything and we can be careful and she will
"In your dreams," I replied.
"There is no way I can keep how I feel about you
a secret for very long around her. I just wish I
knew how she'll take it."
"She'll take it fine. You
know she will. And she sure won't like you
ruining your time here by worrying about it.
That much we do know."
When we went back to join
Adam and John, Susan had joined John who said
Adam and Bobbie had gone to his room. As soon as
we were settled down, Susan asked, "Good news
from your mother?"
"Yes and no," I replied.
Since the Clan all knew of Mom's struggle with
alcohol, I felt free to talk about the latest.
"So you see," I said when I had finished, "she's
in good shape again."
"Then all is well," John
"Not really," Justin said.
"Marc's afraid of her reaction to finding out he
"Bet she knows already,"
Susan said. "I think mothers generally do.
Anyway, everything will be all right."
"That's what I told him,"
Justin said. "I'm not at all worried about her.
Not about his father either, since I think he
has given up his right to even think about
"Whoa ho!" John exclaimed,
"I'd love to see his face when he finds out one
of his campaign issues lives in his house. You
know he panders to an electorate who is
convinced gays are out to take over the world
and turn it into a gay orgy. Bogyman Gay
"Want to hear something real
funny," I sniggered. "It's not his house. When
he divorced Mom, he lost all claims on it. In
fact, it is MY house now. Mom has a lifetime
right to it, but it is actually mine."
"Well, no-one's going to put
you on the street then, so relax and enjoy the
rest of our time here," John said as he looked
at his watch.
"Ok. By the way, I hope Adam
will do the same -- relax and enjoy the rest of
our time here, I mean. Seems to me he is having
periods when he seems very unhappy and
definitely wants to be away from Justin and me.
When I said something to Justin, he thought it
was my imagination, but I don't think so."
"After we all talked to him,
he came around," Justin said.
John said, "I'm not so sure,
Justin. I'm with Marc on this one."
"Well, there's no need to
become paranoid enough to ruin the week," Justin
said and we all agreed.
We might have talked more,
but Mrs. Metzer called, and Justin called
to tell him we'd meet the two of them on the