Alex was driving and after we had driven less than halfway back, we approached a fork in the trail. One fork led to the house, the other to the beach. “How about a swim before we head for the house?” Alex asked.
“Sounds like a winner to me,” Justin said and Daniel and I agreed. Alex took the beach fork and after a short drive, we could see two figures strolling in the surf, holding hands. When they turned and started walking in our direction, Justin said, “It’s Michael and Sandy.” When they saw us, they started running, but quickly slowed to a fast walk. “I’m sure the two just realized why planning on biking the day after Sandy arrived was not a good idea,” Justin laughed.
When we reached them, Justin and I jumped from the Jeep and grabbed Sandy in a bearhug and both kissed him on the cheek. Michael then introduced him to Daniel and the two shook hands. Sandy, of course, knew Alex well and grabbed him, lifting him off the ground and greeting him with an exuberant, “Dr. Macon, my lifesaver!” He then turned to Daniel and said, “Dr. Macon really did save my life.”
“And that’s the main reason I think Dr. Macon is the greatest!” Michael said with a huge grin on his face as he hugged Sandy to himself and gave him a kiss.
"When did you get here, Sandy?" I asked.
"I landed at 9:00,” Sandy said.
"Why are you here, Michael?” Justin asked. “Hell, man, I know why you are here, but I thought you were snorkeling."
“Mrs. Crandall called before we got to the snorkel guy's place to tell me Sandy was landing at 9:00. The driver dropped off the others and we went to the airport to pick up Sandy. We got back here about quarter of ten."
“Delicate subject,” Justin grinned that evil grin of his and said, “but I noticed you two didn’t get far running. Guess someone finds a cowboy walk the order of the day.”
“Not that it’s any of your business,” Sandy stuck out his lower lip as he pretended to pout, "but there was no cowboy walking. Well, maybe a bit like a cowboy, and not just one,” he giggled. Michael blushed.
“A warm, salt-water soak is just what the doctor called for,” Alex laughed. “I'll join you.
La Casa estate fronts on over two miles of beach, and above and below it for some distance is wilderness. Knowing this, Alex immediately declared La Casa’s beach a nude beach, dropped his shorts and ran bareassed into the surf. We all joined him after Justin did the obligatory sunscreen ritual for me.
Half an hour or so later we had had enough swimming and general horsing around in the surf and headed for a thatched shelter on the beach. Alex grabbed the blankets from the Jeep and we spread them under the shelter. As we collapsed on them, Justin pulled me to himself, wrapped his arms around me and gave me a passionate kiss. We were not alone in exchanging kisses.
After making sure our lovers were well kissed, we lay in a circle, facing the center. Looking across at Sandy, I said, “Good to have you here, Sandy. I guess that means you took care of old Miss Stevens.”
“You know it! Well, actually Dad did. After old Miss Stevens kept telling him I failed, but would not show him my grades or my final, he called the chairman of the school board. That wimpy asshole refused to do anything, saying that was the principal’s responsibility. The principal was in Raleigh for a big school meeting of some kind and refused to do anything over the phone. Dad found out he was due back in town between 11:00 and midnight and was so mad he parked in the principal's driveway waiting for him. When he got home at quarter of midnight, Dad demanded he do something right then. He kept telling Dad it would all be straightened out as soon as he got back at the school and could speak with Miss Stevens.
“'Fine,' Dad said, ‘Let’s get Miss Stevens and go to school now.’ The principal argued, reminding Dad it was midnight, but Dad didn’t budge. He told him he, Miss Stevens and the school system were already facing a lawsuit. Dad says ‘lawsuit’ is a word school systems hate. Finally the principal called old Miss Stevens, got her out of bed and they went to the school. She tried to say I hadn't done the final and the principal said that was easy to check since finals had to be kept on file. She then said I had done it, but failed. ‘He only made a forty-eight,’ she smirked. When the principal got her folder, my final was there. She had changed some of the answers and written over a ninety-eight, changing it to forty-eight. Ended up the principal gave me a C. Dad also told old Miss Stevens she might give serious thought to retiring or spending next year in court. She wrote her letter of resignation right there! Made mostly Cs for the semester but, of course, A in art and B in English.”
“Since you were mostly starting from Fs, you done good, kid,” Justin said. I agreed.
“Yeah, because of all you guys mentoring and Michael kicking my butt.”
“But that’s not the reason for the cowboy walk,” Justin laughed.
Michael turned bright red and Sandy laughed and said, “Well, you two mentored us for that too!” Michael, though I thought it impossible, turned even brighter red.
“They were bedroom work mentors as well as schoolwork mentors?” Daniel laughed. “Man, does that ever conjure up a picture!”
Michael, being basically a stable, serious guy, explained how he had come to us about his and Sandy’s relationship and how the two of them had decided to make the trip to La Casa their honeymoon. He was very serious when he said, “We worked hard preparing for it and we really appreciate Marc and Justin.”
“Hell yeah!” Sandy exclaimed, "and we passed love-making with flying colors too, but Michael said we could pretend we failed and keep practicing." Poor Michael. If blushing could kill, he would be a goner. It was clear they would be leaving their virginity at La Casa having lost it sometime after 10:45 am, probably about 10:46!
Somehow or other, we began to talk about hopes, dreams and fears for the future. Michael got very quiet and said, "The Clan knows something of my situation and why my dreams for the future are the reason I have fears of the future, but I suspect it’s worse than they know. First and most important, I love Sandy. I really, really, really love Sandy. I want to spend my future with him and as flighty as he seems and can be, I know he loves me. I want, I need to be with him, now and forever. Since I lost a year of school because of illness when I was younger, I need almost a year’s credit to graduate so I’ll be a continuing senior next fall. Sandy is a year younger, so he is a rising senior. On the surface, that looks good since it means we’ll be together our senior year and, all being equal, I guess that’s the way it would be. But things aren’t all rosy.
“My dad has been on my butt for a couple years about wasting time in school instead of getting a job and making money so I wasn’t sponging off of him. I’ve worked construction summers since I was fourteen, bought and paid for my truck. Since I became sixteen, I have worked at the builder’s supply place during the school year, paying my own expenses except for room and board, but the pressure is getting greater and greater. If I do summer school and joint enrollment fall semester, I can graduate in December and with my few AP course credits and joint enrollment, I can start college spring semester with almost a semester of college credit at no cost, putting me a small step toward being able to make a home for Sandy and me.
“And therein lies the problem. Joint enrollment is only possible for me at ESU, a historically black college. See, my parents are hardcore racist bigots. My father, in particular, is the kind of racial bigot who believes African-Americans are an inferior, subhuman race. He calls ESU ‘that nigger college.’ When I mentioned some of this year’s seniors were enrolling there, he said, ‘You go to that or any nigger college, you'll go on your own nickel.' Just to make sure I knew what he meant, he added, 'And I'll tell ya, boy, ain't nobody going to a nigger college livin' under my roof.' I guess I could just forget about finishing in December and having some free college hours, but there is another problem.
“My parents call themselves evangelical Christians. They are fundamentalists-literalists when the Bible suits them. In my dad’s bigoted mind, there is only one person lower than an African-American and that’s a homosexual. I am still surprised I got away with outing myself at the prom. I passed it off as a prank and so far that has saved my ass because Mom and Dad had gone head-to-head with Miss Stevens when they were in school, know her well and hated the bitch. Also, the more I have thought about it, the more I think Dad is terrified someone will find out he has a gay son and maybe is trying to save my soul before that happens. In any event, I'm sure they think something’s in the wind. I mean, I can't understand why the preacher spends so much time preaching against what he refers to as 'homo-sex-u-als' unless he thinks there's some around. My dad is on the Board of Deacons and they pretty much tell the preacher what he's going to preach.
“Dad and the preacher have also talked about a Brother Fitzsimmons who runs revivals around the south and, in fact, is holding one in Grandview this week before coming to our church Sunday. They both think this man has a direct line to God because he has a so-called clinic in Hooks Crossroads, Alabama, where he claims ‘queers are turned from their abomination back to being god-fearing, women-loving men.’ He’s spending at lot of time and effort in the area revving up people against ‘child molesters, perverts, queers and their anti-god agenda.' That’s what I’m facing.”
We were all very quiet, deep in thought about Michael's situation. I was very glad neither Alex nor Daniel played Pollyanna saying, "Everything will work out fine." Maybe things would work out, but none of us were unrealistic enough to think that things would work out without a lot of pain and heartache. So far Michael had gotten away with what he done at the prom, and being with Sandy all the time without being called a fag at school, and was sure things would change sooner or later even if he could keep his parents in the dark -- if they were.
After several minutes of silence, Sandy said, "But right now we're together and we're supposed to be having fun." Having said that, he grabbed Michael by the hand and pulled him to his feet. The two of them ran into the surf. I guess it seemed like a good idea, since we followed them. After fifteen minutes playing in the surf, we decided it was time to go and headed toward the house.
When we reached the house, we headed for the showers. Justin's and my playtime, which began in the shower, ended in bed where we made slow, tender love. Afterward, another shower was in order. After drying each other we dressed, ready to go downstairs. As we stepped into the suite's sitting room, Sandy and Michael emerged from their bedroom. "Ready to go downstairs?" Michael asked.
"Ready," Justin said. "Wonder if the snorkelers are back yet? I haven't heard them."
"I guess we'll find out shortly," Michael said. "Let's go down."
Before we went into the sunroom, Justin went to the bar, found some fruit punch and poured all of us a glass. He was pouring the last one when Alex and Daniel came in. Justin asked if they would like a glass of punch and Daniel responded, "Can you make that a gin and tonic with a slice of lime?"
"Same for me," Alex said.
"No problem," Justin said. "Short or tall glass?"
"Tall glass," Alex answered for both.
The six of us were just settled in the sunroom, when the snorkelers arrived. It was obvious that they were a tired crew. "In this doctor's opinion," Alex said, "you are a bushed bunch."
"Dr. Macon, your diagnosis is entirely correct," John said. "We had a grand time, but don't let anyone tell you that snorkeling isn’t tiring, especially when you make a day of it as we did.”
I guess they were all so used to seeing Sandy and Michael together that it took a minute before it sank in, then Susan shouted "Sandy!" and grabbed him. A hugfest followed and, of course, Sandy had to tell them about Miss Stevens. "Damn!" Adam said, "I would be finished high school before the bitch retired." We all agreed with the sentiment.
"So snorkeling was great?" Sandy asked.
"Sure was," John replied. "We were given underwater digital cameras and have some great photographs. Sharky told us he’d get the digital projector set up in the ballroom this evening so we can see them. So what did you guys do today?"
I wondered how Justin would respond to that, since the day was really about him, at least until we met Sandy and Michael this afternoon. "Well, we drove up the river to a delightful place that Daniel knew, sat and talked about my Lakota blood, had a great picnic, then came back here and played in the surf with Sandy and Michael. Kind of a quiet, but exciting, day."
Shortly after the snorkelers were settled with drinks, Mrs. Crandall, Mrs. Metzer, Jess and Dakota arrived. Mrs. Crandall asked, "Everyone have a good day?" There all sorts of nods and signs of agreement. "So have we," Mrs. Crandall said. "Everything is ready for tomorrow and your private tour of the exhibition and the Saturday opening. In spite of all that we have had to do with the change of venue, I am positive this is the best exhibition Jess has mounted so far. Furthermore, the response to the invitations has been great. Having to phone everyone to tell of the venue change has proven a blessing in disguise. So much for that. I suppose all of you are more than ready for dinner, and dinner is ready for you. Tonight we're eating in the small dining room." I extended my arm to Mrs. Crandall and Justin his to Mrs. Metzer. John extended his to Susan and Adam took the hint just before Bobby took action.
After dinner we all went to the ballroom where a digital projector had been set up and the photographs the snorkelers made were projected on a huge screen. All were interesting, some stunningly beautiful. Since Sharky and Antwon were in charge, it was not surprising that the theme from ‘Jaws’ started playing during photographs of obviously tiny fish definitely not sharks.
Alex and Daniel were staying over and at 10:00, Alex said, "Think we all have had a full day. Guess the four of us upriver exerted less energy than you snorkelers and the honeymooners, but Daniel and I are ready to go up." Sandy laughed and Michael turned red as we all started toward our rooms. Sandy had Michael by the hand pulling him along when Antwon and Sharky asked them to wait up, as Justin and I had asked them to do. We missed preparing for the honeymoon Tuesday night when Sandy didn't get to come, but we weren't missing out tonight.
We rushed up to our suite, grabbed two bags we had packed especially for the occasion and went into their bedroom. We lit candles all around the room, changed the sheets for fresh ones scented with herbs and placed a bottle of lube and three condoms on each nightstand. As we finished, Justin said, "If they use all the condoms, there will be a very sore ass or two in the morning." I just grinned.
With the honeymoon room set, Justin and I went to our bedroom and watched through the barely open door as Michael and Sandy arrived. They stopped in the middle of the sitting room and embraced. Sandy hopped up, wrapped his legs around Michael's waist and kissed him with so much passion I expected them both to collapse in an orgasm. Sandy, his legs still wrapped around Michael's body, kept kissing Michael passionately as Michael, without breaking the kiss, walked to their bedroom. Sandy squealed as soon as he opened the door, then they disappeared inside.
"After spending half a day today in bed and with all that activity on the beach, they won't have time for a lot of good stuff before they fall asleep," I grinned.
"Not on your life, Mr. All-night-long."
"Wanna try for an all-nighter?” Justin grinned one of his, 'I want your body' grins, raising an eyebrow and licking his lips.
"Yeah,' I responded as I jumped into his arms.
Once in bed, passion, love and lust took over as we made love. Finally sated, we exchanged a soft kiss and lay side-by-side, my head on Justin's chest. "Soulmate," I said, "I have been thinking about this afternoon, about dreams and fears, about the future, about our future, well, about my future. I mean, you have an idea about what you want to do, I have none. I have always assumed I would go to college and then law school. That's what my family seems to do. They and I just assumed that was the way it would be, but I've never really wanted to. Yet there was never much question about the matter, either from my family or myself. I'd just do it. Now?
"Unlike Michael, I don't have to worry about money. There is plenty in my college fund to take me as far as I want to go regardless of what I decide to study. My trust fund would keep me going even if I wasn’t in school and wanted to so something else. Problem is, I'm not sure I know what I want to do. Well, beyond knowing I want to spend my life with you."
"Well, then, the important thing’s decided: you want to spend your life with me. That's important, very important, really, really important because that's what I want as well. Look, if we do summer school, we’ll have an opportunity to get a glimpse of what college, living at home and working will be like. We'll have a fairly good idea of what next year will be like.
"And even being at home, working at the same job, going to school and studying as we have been doing, we’re bound gain some new perspectives, maybe new ideas about what we want to do with our lives. That’s in favor of our going to summer school. At the same time, with our AP, we have a year or almost a year of college credit now. Since we were in a ‘get-college-over-with' mode at the time, summer school made sense. Now I'm not too sure it's a good idea, especially after talking with Dakota today. Not only is there the question of learning about my Lakota side, but also the question of whether or not I'm interested in making a search for my father. That's not just my decision either. We are together, Lord of my Heart, and it'll have to be a decision the two of us make. I don’t know if any serious work in regard to learning about the Lakota and/or my father is possible if we do summer school."
"I've been having second thoughts myself, Tehila. We have been in school for twelve years -- more if you count nursery school. We have almost a year of college credit right now. Now we're thinking about tying ourselves down with the same jobs and more school. College will be different from high school, of course, but let's face it, for us, life won't change all that much. We'll be living and working, studying, going to classes and doing homework as we have been. I've been thinking we might do something else for a year then head off to college."
"Wow! That is a surprise. Why am I just now learning about it? How long have you been thinking about that?"
"Not long, I guess for the last week or so."
"And just what would you be doing during that year? Where would I fit into the picture?"
"Babe, we settled that months ago and talked about it a few minutes ago. You'll be right by my side."
"I guess other than our relationship, things are not as settled as we thought, huh?"
We just lay side-by-side, silent for several minutes as Justin’s fingertips barely touched me as he started moving them over my chest, circling my nipples and my belly button. "Marc, I love you so much it hurts sometimes. When I look back to the first time we were in this room, I remember two young kids who had just revealed they were hopelessly in love, explored their sexuality and knew they could never love each other more. Now? I looked at Michael and Sandy today, and thought, 'You think it's good now, and you bet it is, but you can't imagine how great it will become. The sex is good and your love is good, but it will grow, it will change as you share not just your bodies, but all of you: heart, mind, body and soul.’ For them, I sincerely wish and I know for us, as good as it is, the best is yet to come. I don't see how, but I'm sure of it."
"If better does come, and I am sure it will, I'll welcome it, damn sure I will, but if this is the best, it's enough to make me beyond happy and I'll take it." The kiss we exchanged wasn't burning with passion -- at first.
The next day started with a beach vacation as we all headed for the surf. We swam, played in the surf, flew kites, tossed balls and played a wild game of Frisbee keep-away. Since we were in and out of the water, it seemed as though most of Justin's and my time was spent with Justin reapplying sunscreen, but he didn't complain and when I said something about it, he asked why I though his having his hands on my body was a chore.
At lunch, Mrs. Metzer suggested we dress 'nice casual' for the afternoon and evening. “I thought you might like to have a couple hours for sightseeing and shopping before the exhibition and dinner. I've got a map for each of you with all the expected sights and a couple I have added. There is also a list of shops where you'll find some nice things at reasonable prices -- well," she smiled, "reasonable for the area. I scheduled a 2:00 departure to give you a little over two hours before tea. You all have phones?" We all did. “Phone in at 5:00 with your location for pick-up or to let me know you'd like to skip tea. If you skip tea, grab a snack as we are having a late dinner at 9:00. Call in your location for pick-up at 6:30. We'll go to the gallery for your private showing followed by dinner. Questions?”
“Will this be on the test?” Adam piped up.
“You can bet your dinner on it,” Mrs. Metzer laughed. “Gather here at quarter of two,” she said. “See you then.”
When we all gathered at 1:45, Adam took a look around and said, “We do clean up good.” I had to agree.
On the drive into Key West, we discussed what we wanted to do, more or less as couples. Since this was Sandy's and Michael's first trip, Michael asked us what the 'have to see' list included. In response, of course, he got a list which would take two weeks to cover. “You've eliminated nothing, and expanded Mrs. Metzer's list!” Michael cried.
When we arrived, we started scattering. As Justin and I were walking away from the minibus, Sandy called out, “Hey, Marc, wait up.” Justin and I stopped and waited for Michael and Sandy. When they reached us, Sandy said, "Look, guys, you have been here before and, to be honest, neither Michael nor I have been very far from Elizabethton except for school trips. Then we were with a group and had teachers herding us. I know we could use the map and find our way around a bit, but if it's OK with you, we'd like to hang with you."
"No problem," Justin said.
"You might miss something you'd like to see," I added, "but we'd be glad to have you along."
"Anything you'd especially like to see?" Justin asked them.
"Only thing I saw I had even heard of was the Hemingway place," Sandy said, but quickly added, "I just know who he was, not especially interested in seeing his place and I don’t care how many toes a cat has."
"I saw a shop called the Silver Shack on Mrs. Metzer's list and asked her about it. Sounded like a place I might pick up something for my mama," Michael said.
"We were planning on going there as well," Justin said. "Last time we were here, we missed Nancy's Secret Garden and it is definitely on our 'to do' list this time," I said, "as well as the Audubon House and Garden. Want to make a garden tour then hit the Silver Shack? They are all within walking distance."
Sandy looked a bit pained and asked, in a passable John Wayne voice, "Just what's walking distance, cowboy?" and started walking slowly and bowlegged down the street.
"Not too much for you to handle, cowboy," Justin laughed. "If after we hit the two gardens and the Silver Shack, we have time and like, we can do some running around shopping," Justin said.
"Sounds like a plan, but no running!” Michael laughed.
We decided we'd see the Audubon House and Garden first and set out. As we walked, we did take it easy as I was sure both honeymooners were a bit sore. Even though they had, as Sandy said, been preparing themselves for their honeymoon for some time, I doubt any of it had been preparation for a day-and-night marathon as I was positive their love-making had been since Sandy arrived. "By the way," Michael said, "thanks for last night. It meant a whole lot to both of us."
"It sure did," Sandy said.
"What do you mean?" Justin asked.
"You know what we mean," Sandy said. "You two are the romantics in the Clan." Justin and I just smiled.
I think we four were all were surprised at how much we enjoyed the two gardens, especially Nancy's Secret Garden. Sandy was absolutely fascinated by the parrots there. In fact, we spent so much time in the two that we figured we'd have less than half a hour to shop when we reached the Silver Shack.
As we approached the shop, we saw John and Adam outside, looking very bored. "You guys been here long?" I asked with a grin.
"Yeah, like 'most an hour," Adam said, "Women!"
"Guess you guys would have liked it," John laughed, "I understand those of your persuasion like to shop."
I was shocked when Michael did a great imitation of Sissy/Wolf at his most flaming and said, "Why, Sugar Buns, you just come with me and I'll soon have you lovin’ shoppin’!" John jumped then when Michael reached over and groped him.
All of us, except John, completely cracked up while John turned red, then he also cracked up. When we got control of ourselves, John said, "Michael, you do a better Sissy than Sissy who, by the way, doesn't do Sissy very well now that he's become Wolf."
"You noticed too," I said. John and Adam both nodded.
The four of us walked into the shop, leaving John and Adam outside. “I’m so surprised John and Adam are so pussy-whipped they didn’t let Susan and Bobbie shop while they did something else,” Michael said.
“Yeah, couples need to realize they also need time apart,” I said.
“Maybe they are realizing they are going to be separated soon,” Sandy said. “I’ve been thinking about Michael and me not seeing each other for six weeks and that’s a long time.” Again the reality struck that our time as a group was rapidly coming to an end.
We didn’t have long to shop, but didn’t really need a lot of time. Justin and I quickly found lovely gifts for Mom and Clarisa, and Michael and Sandy found something for their moms as well. As their gifts were being wrapped, Sandy spied a necklace in the showcase where the woman was wrapping them: a black neoprene necklace with silver and designer beads holding a Guy Harvey swordfish medallion. While I was calling in for pick-up, he managed to get the swordfish medallion changed for parrot ones on two necklaces and has his and Michael’s initials engraved on the back of each of them. He had wanted 'Sandy & Michael Love 4ever,’ but Michael pointed out that could mean real trouble if somehow or other one of his parents found out. As each fastened the necklace round their lover's neck, the minibus arrived.