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Chapter 03: Homecoming
I dropped my boss’s dry cleaning off and hopped on the ‘L’. God, I was so happy to be getting off work early, and on a Monday at that. When my boss told me to take off early, I was shocked. I was not so shocked when he told me to drop his dry cleaning off on the way.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been working for him for two years. I still hadn’t gotten my CPA. I don’t know where the time went. I took the job for experience and to bring money in, but two years later, I was still there doing menial grunt work and going nowhere. Sometimes I felt like such a failure, but Bart would tell me that it was okay. I didn’t need a stressful job like he had and he made plenty of money to take care of us.
In contrast, Bart was very successful at his job. In the two years he’s been with the company, he’s been promoted twice. He makes nearly four times the amount of money I do.
I sighed and got off the train and walked down the steps. It was cold and windy and I shivered and zipped my jacket up.
As I walked the two blocks home, I hoped that Bart could get off early or at least on time. I tried to call him, but got voice mail. I was tired of cooking… Maybe I could get him to take me out to dinner tonight. I looked at my watch and smiled. Bart got it for me a couple of years ago for my birthday. It was early enough that I could probably get a load or two of laundry done and put away before Bart got home. That will put him in a good mood.
I unlocked the door to the condo. I could hear music playing upstairs. I smiled. Bart was home early. I set my bag down and hurried upstairs. As I neared the bedroom, I froze in my tracks. The bed was thumping in a fast rhythm. Then Bart was grunting, “Take that cock, boy!”
He had promised me.
“Oh, yes, daddy!” an unknown voice cried out.
Oh, god, I might be sick right here in the hallway.
My chest felt constricted and I forced myself to move forward. I stepped into the bedroom and my boyfriend of four years was ramming his cock into a blond haired twink on his hands and knees doggy-style, his head thrashing back and forth in pleasure.
I was so angry and hurt I was shaking. “Bart.”
They turned and looked at me. The twink gasped and pulled away from Bart and tried to cover up. “What the hell!”
“You’re home early, baby,” Bart said. He knelt there on the bed with his hands on his hips. His condom covered cock angled towards the ceiling. “Come join us.”
I shook my head. I looked at the twink and said, “Get out.”
The twink scrambled out of the bed and pulled his clothes on. “Look, I’m sorry,” he apologized to me. “His profile said he was single.”
The twink ran down the stairs and out the front door.
“Since you interrupted me,” he said with a smirk. “I guess you’ll have to finish the job. Come here.”
“I hope you’re kidding,” I said. “You promised me, Bart. You said you’d never cheat on me again.”
I caught him about a year ago… last September, I guess. I had cried and sobbed and told him how much he hurt me. He got pissed. God, he hates when I cry. But he had promised me then that it was the only time and that he’d never cheat on me again.
Bart pulled the condom off and tossed it onto the floor. He got up and walked over to me. “I’m sorry, baby. He hit on me and I wasn’t able to resist.”
“He said your profile said you were single. Stop lying. Be a man and admit it. How many others have there been?”
Bart got in my face. “You think I’m lying, boy? You calling me a liar?”
“I know you’re lying. You say you love me, but you don’t give a shit about me.”
Bart’s face got red and he raised his hand.
“Go ahead. You promised you’d never do that again either. But we both know what kind of man you are.”
He had hit me once before. This past Super Bowl weekend. He and his buddy were watching the game drinking. Bart was bragging about my abilities in the bedroom and his buddy made a bet. If Bart’s team lost, he’d get to have me. When Bart shook on it, I hit the roof. “No way!” I had said and stormed into the bedroom. He followed me and told me I’d keep my mouth shut and do whatever he told me. I told him to “fuck off” and he backhanded me across the face.
I was brought out of my memory as his right fist connected with my face and I slammed back against the wall. I covered my left eye with my hand and tears finally fell from my eyes as I stared at him in shock. I pushed away from the wall and ran down the stairs.
“Come back here, boy! Don’t you fucking walk away from me!”
“I’m leaving, Bart!”
I grabbed my keys and walked to the front door.
“Where’re you gonna go, Clark? Huh? You don’t have jack shit. You can’t live off of that fucking dead end job of yours.”
Bart scoffed. “Ha. You can’t even fucking take care of yourself. I’m all you got. So, you better buck up and get your ass up those god damned stairs. Don’t make me tell you again, boy!”
I turned around and gaziantep escort left, closing the door behind me. I walked around the back to the parking area and climbed into my truck. Bart was right. I let him take care of me for the past four years. All I had to my name was this truck, a dark red Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Bart hated this truck. “Get a real pickup truck if that’s what you want, not this faggy piece of shit” he had said. I started to laugh to myself, which then turned to sobs.
After I was able to compose myself, I started the truck and pulled out of the parking lot. I drove to the bank and took out a few hundred dollars. I had just over ten thousand dollars in my savings account. I guess that was one benefit of Bart taking care of me. My pittance of a salary didn’t amount to anything to him and I was able to save a bit.
I pulled into a cheap motel and checked in at the desk. The old woman at the counter looked at me with concern. “Are you okay?” she asked. I nodded and took the key card and headed to my room.
I laid on the bed and wondered what to do next. I couldn’t go back to Bart. I wouldn’t. I can take a lot, but not cheating. And not hitting. I would blow through the money I had saved up in no time living on my own. I didn’t know anyone else here. The only way I heard from my friend Ben was Facebook status updates and I don’t blame him. I hadn’t talked to my parents since Christmas, 6 months ago. They came down to Chicago to visit a couple of months after we moved here. Dad and Bart struggled to get along for my sake, but it was so awful they never came back and that was the last time I saw them in person, just about two years ago.
I curled up in the fetal position and sobbed uncontrollably. After I calmed myself down, I pulled my cell phone out of my bag. I had a voice mail from Bart: Come home now, Clark. We’ll put all this behind us. We’ll work it out.
I deleted the message and sat down on the bed. I took a deep breath. I scrolled through my contacts, then hit the call button.
“Hello?” her voice was soft and melodic.
“Mom?” I said, my voice quivering.
“Clark? Honey, is that you?”
“Mom…,” I started bawling. I told her I walked in on Bart cheating on me and I left him. “I don’t have anywhere to go. I don’t know what to do. What do I do?” I wailed.
I could hear Mom crying. “Just come home, honey.”
I heard Mom whispering to someone. Dad, I assume.
“Clark?” Dad came on the line.
“Hi, Dad,” I sniffled.
“Pack your things and come home, son.”
“Check into a hotel and get some sleep tonight. In the morning, call work and turn in your notice, get what you can from the house, and then come home.”
“Okay,” I sniffled and wiped my nose on my sleeve.
“I love you, Clark. Your mother loves you. You’re not alone. Everything will be okay.”
“I love you, too. I’m sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry for–” my voice cracked and I couldn’t continue.
“Don’t worry about that. It’s not important. Get some rest. We’ll see you tomorrow night, okay?”
“Okay. Bye, Dad.”
“Bye, son. See you tomorrow.”
I hung up the phone and crawled under the blankets fully dressed. I curled up in a ball and fell asleep from exhaustion.
The next morning, I got up and went to the bathroom and I gasped when I saw myself in the mirror. My left eye was bruised and blackened.
I called my boss and resigned. He was pissed that I didn’t give notice, but I told him it was a family emergency and I was leaving town. I called Bart’s office to make sure he was at work. His secretary said he was in a meeting. I told her not to take a message or bother him with my call. I got in my truck and drove to the condo.
I passed a medical clinic and turned around and went in. I quietly said I wanted to get tested for STDs and HIV. The doctor asked me a bunch of really personal questions about my sex life, then took my blood. He also looked at my eye. He asked me if I needed to talk about anything and I shook my head no. I told him I was leaving town and he gave me a card with a phone number and an ID number and said I could call for the results in one week. As he walked me to the door, he gave me a card for a domestic abuse hotline.
When I got to the condo, the first thing I did was go upstairs to the master bathroom and take out my contact lenses. I put some drops into my tired and dry eyes and put on my glasses. I quickly packed up my toiletries, clothes, my laptop, and any other personal things I could find. I logged into Bart’s computer and deleted some pictures he took of us that I didn’t want anyone to see.
It took me a bunch of trips back and forth, but I got everything loaded into my truck.
I left the keys on the table with a note: Bart, I’m sorry things didn’t work out between us. I wish you all the best. Clark.
I locked the door from the inside and left. I got in my truck and headed out on East 94. Soon I was in Michigan. North on 131 at Kalamazoo. I stopped in Grand Rapids to grab a bite to eat. I pulled into my parents driveway just after 6:00.
I walked up to the door and opened the screen door. I reached for the doorknob and then changed my mind and rang the doorbell. Mom opened the door.
“Oh, my god! Clark!” she exclaimed as she pulled me inside into a hug.
I grabbed onto her and held her tight. “I missed you so much,” I cried. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”
“Why are you ringing the bell?” Dad asked as he walked up and shut the door behind me.
Mom let go of me and wiped her face. Dad came to hug me and his smile disappeared when he saw my face.
“What did that bastard do to you?!”
He pulled me to him and I bawled on his shoulder. After I settled down, he patted my back.
“I’m glad you’re home, son,” he said as he wiped his eyes.
Dad helped me bring my things inside and we brought them up to my bedroom. I looked around my room. They hadn’t changed anything since I left for college six years ago. I laid down and took a nap.
Mom made baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans for dinner. It was really good and I ate like I was starving. They were both smiling really big at me. They were so happy I was home. I realized how much I missed them and I vowed never to let anyone come between us ever again.
“Tomorrow morning, you’ll come with me to work. It just so happens I need an office manager,” Dad said between bites.
“You don’t need an office manager, Dad.”
“Don’t tell me what I don’t need,” he said with a smile.
That next morning I threw on a white dress shirt and a pair of jeans. I found my old work boots in the closet and put those on as well. I put on a tie and looked at myself in the mirror. I loosened the tie and undid the top button and smiled at myself. I looked like my dad. A shorter, skinnier, boy version of him.
I went downstairs to the kitchen. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a mug of coffee and reading the newspaper.
I poured myself a mug and sat down. There was a box of donuts on the table, and I grabbed one and ate it with my coffee.
Dad put down the paper. “Ready to go?”
I stood up and he put his arms on my shoulders and looked at me.
“Look at you,” he said with pride. “You look like my little man.”
He brushed my hair out of my face. His eyes got teary and he hugged me. “I’m so happy you’re home, son.”
“Me too, Dad.”
That first day at work, Dad called a meeting and everyone gathered around him in the middle of the sales floor. He introduced me to everyone and they welcomed me, but I could tell they were staring at me when I wasn’t looking, wondering what happened to me. I already knew some of them, like the service manager and parts manager. Dad introduced me to the equipment salesman, the service manager’s crew, the inventory guy and the retail store employees.
Dad had me work in his office and got me started on the payroll for the week. He said he’d get me an office for myself the next couple of days. Before he left me to work, he told me again how happy he was I was here and how proud of me he was. I smiled and tried not to cry as I started my work. I thought I would feel like a loser coming home and working for Dad, but I knew that I could be happy here.
Dad had apologized for not being able to pay me what I deserved. What I didn’t have the heart to tell him was that $35,000 a year was $3,000 more than I made at my crappy job in Chicago. I didn’t want him to know what a total failure I was.
There was a small storage room next to the Service Manager’s office. Dad had a couple of guys move the stuff out of there. He bought a desk, a large file cabinet and a cork board and set up a little office in there for me. By Thursday, I had moved into my new office. Dad was so proud I thought he was going to burst. When he slid the CLARK JOHNSON name plaque on the door, he was grinning like the Cheshire cat and I shook my head and laughed at him.
Dad’s business wasn’t very complicated and I got up and running pretty quickly. Dad said he was glad to not have to do all that stuff anymore and he spent a lot more time walking around talking to the customers and employees.
I got a couple of angry voice mails from Bart on Wednesday and Thursday, which I promptly deleted.
On Friday I was sitting at my desk with my laptop thinking I was going to need a bigger screen, a keyboard and a mouse if I was going to work all day on this computer. I put together a shopping list of things I needed to pick up over the weekend.
As I thought about my shopping list, I quietly whistled a tune and tapped my pen to the beat on my notepad. When I realized what I was doing, I chuckled to myself. I sat back in my chair and looked around my little office. In just a week my life had changed so dramatically. I had quickly grown to love my new job. I made a difference here. My parents loved me. Every time they saw me, they had grins on their faces. I was happy. I thought I was happy with Bart, but didn’t realize how unhappy I truly was until now. I deserved to be happy. I deserved better than Bart.
I was getting ready to print the week’s invoices, so I got up and loaded the printer with the invoice paper. I heard Dad laughing, and I peeked out of my office door onto the sales floor and saw him talking to a huge mountain of a man. The guy had his back to me. He was tall and wide, built like a tank. He had a hunter’s camouflage baseball cap on and a shaved head — no, it was cut really, really short. He had on a light Carhartt jacket and brown cowboy boots and blue jeans that fit nice and snug over his butt. I wondered what it would be like to hold onto that butt while… I shook my head and banished those indecent thoughts. He said something to dad and they were both laughing. I returned to my desk and started printing the invoices.
I heard Dad laugh again, just outside my door. “Hey. Guess who’s home,” I heard him say.
“Who?” a deep voice grumbled.
I looked up as Dad stepped into my office and cocked his thumb at the name plaque on the door. The big guy walked in and looked at the name plaque, then turned and looked at me in shock.
I stood up and held out my hand. “Hi, I’m Cl–“
My mouth fell open as I looked into his green eyes. Gordie Thomas.
“Clark!” He grabbed me in a big hug and lifted me off the ground. “Look at you! You haven’t change a…” his voice trailed off. He lifted my glasses and thumbed under my left eye. “What happened?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” I shrugged.
Dad scoffed. “Nothing my ass! That ex-bastard of his used him as a punching bag.”
Gordie’s back stiffened and his jaw tightened. I thought I heard a low growl in his throat. He let out a breath and tried to smile.
Dad clapped Gordie on the back and said, “I’ll get the guys to load up your new toy on your trailer.”
Gordie nodded and Dad left the office.
“New toy?” I asked.
“We bought a new Massey mower. I’ve been working with my Dad since I graduated… supervising the landscaping crews mostly. You look really good, Clark. You haven’t changed a bit.”
“You look good too, Gordie.”
“Eh. 5 years and 50 pounds since I last saw you.”
Gordie had put on some weight and sure, he had a little bit of a gut, but he still looked fantastic. His brown beard was more filled in, but cut short and trimmed nicely. His face was even more handsome than I remember. His green eyes and deep voice with that Georgia accent still sent shivers down my spine.
“I think you look great. You were always too critical of yourself.”
“It’s good to see you, Clark. Are you busy tonight? You wanna grab dinner and catch up? Maybe grab a beer?”
“I can’t. Mom said she was cooking a pot roast for dinner… special for me, so…”
Dad had walked in and interrupted, “Why don’t you come on over join us, Gordon. It’s been a really long time since we’ve had you over. There’ll be plenty to eat. Then you boys can go out and get that beer.”
Gordie came over for dinner around 6:30. I thought it would be really awkward, but it wasn’t. I immediately felt comfortable with Gordie. It was just like in high school when we first met and became best friends.
When he took off his hat, I couldn’t help but notice the bald spot on the crown of his head when he sat down. He kept his hair cut pretty short, almost like a crew cut. I resisted the urge to run my fingers across it.
After dinner, he asked me out to grab a beer and I said yes. We thanked Mom for dinner and said goodnight. I followed him out to the driveway.
“Is that your truck? It’s nice,” he asked, pointing to my Explorer.
“Yup, that’s mine. I love your truck.”
Gordie had a new model black Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck. It was huge and intimidating next to my little truck.
“Thanks,” he said as he lit up a smoke. He took a drag and looked a little guilty as he commented, “I tried, but I could never quit smoking.”
“It doesn’t bother me. It never did, Gord. You know, I loved everything about you, Gordie. You smoked. It was just something else about you to love.”
I blushed at my stupid and embarrassing confession and he just smiled at me. I quickly looked away and climbed into the truck.
Gordie took me to a local pub and we ordered a couple of beers and found an empty booth. We talked and caught up. He told me about working with his Dad’s landscape company. They did commercial and residential landscaping, complete landscape designs as well as maintenance like mowing. I told him about my crappy job and all about Bart and what happened. He listened and sympathized with me, but I could tell he was beyond pissed at Bart. I didn’t tell him about the sexual stuff, but simply said that Bart would sometimes get too rough with me.
I asked him if he had a girlfriend and he looked at me funny. “I’m gay, Clark.”
“Oh. I guess it’s been a long time since we talked. Do you have a boyfriend then?”
“Nope. The pickin’s are kinda slim around these parts,” he joked. “And the available ones aren’t interested.”
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