Chapter 1
Copyright ©2008 by Ronyx
All Rights Reserved
A Bridge to Yesterday
Chapter 13
“All right, Dr. Carpenter,” said Dr. Singh as he walked into my hospital room with a
smile on his face. “I’ve signed the release papers and you are free to go.”

“Finally,” I sighed. “It’s not like you haven’t been wonderful here, but like Dorothy said
in the Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home.’” Everyone laughed when I lifted my
feet off the bed and started clicking my heels.

I looked around the room at all the people who had gathered to be with me. After a
week in the hospital, I was finally going home. Nicky was standing by my bed, smiling
down at me. Gene was beside him, and Star and Ticker were behind them. My mother
was sitting in a chair, and beside her was Dr. Garvin. I was surprised when Mrs. Price
and Eddie showed up. It appeared they had been invited by Nicky. There were also a
number of nurses and orderlies present who had been taking care of me. Some of
them I didn’t know since they were the staff from the Intensive Care Unit.

A policeman named Officer Davis walked up to the bed. “Are you ready, Sir?” I smiled
and nodded my head.

“We are taking you out a side exit,” he informed us. “The media has found out that
you are being dismissed this morning, and they want to get a picture of you.”

“No,” I insisted. “Take me out the front.”

“We can’t do that,” gasped Star.

“If I don’t give them what they want,” I responded, “then they will keep harassing me.
We’ll never get any privacy.”

I looked at Dr. Singh. “Will you be with me to answer any medical questions they may
have?”

“I’ll have to clear it with the Hospital Administrator,” he replied. He then pulled out his
cell phone and left the room.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” My mother rose from her chair and walked over
to me.

“If it gets them off our back,” I replied, “then I’m willing to do it. I read the newspaper
this morning, and this story doesn’t seem to be going away. Maybe if I talk to them,
then they will just leave us alone.”

My mother shook her head. “I’m just worried that you’re still too weak to do this.”

“I’ll be fine,” I responded. Just then Dr. Singh returned to the room and said that the
hospital had approved him to talk to the media.

I looked over at Gene. “Take Nicky home,” I insisted. “I don’t want him involved in
this. Mrs. Albright, Star and Ticker, you go too.”

Star walked over and took my hand. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay with you.”

It surprised me when Gene approached the bed and said, “Me, too.”

After Nicky, Mrs. Albright and Ticker left, I was placed in a wheelchair and taken down
to the lobby. Gene pushed me while Star walked beside me. As soon as we exited the
elevator, I was immediately blinded by the flashing of cameras. I was also surprised
when I heard loud applause. When I looked around, there must have been over a
hundred people clapping and shouting.

“Dr. Carpenter!” The reporters started bombarding me with a barrage of questions.
The spokesperson for the hospital called for order, and Dr. Singh and I spent the
next fifteen minutes taking questions. The question that was constantly repeated
was, “How does it feel to be a hero?”

“I’m not a hero,” I replied. “I reacted as any of you in this room would have reacted
when the lives of three young people were threatened. Not one of you would have
done anything differently than what I did.”

“But Dr. Carpenter,” shouted a student from my school. “You did do it. And because
of you, Doug, Travis and Jason are all alive today.” The room burst into a loud
thunder of applause. “You are a hero!” he shouted. I could feel Gene squeezing my
shoulder.

After several more questions concerning my health, Dr. Singh announced that the
press conference was over.

“Before we go,” I said, “I want to ask the press for your cooperation. I agreed to do
this today so that my family and I could get some privacy. I ask that you respect my
wishes.” I noticed several reporters nod in agreement.

We were taken to a side door, and Gene helped me into the back seat of Star’s van.
He sat in the back with me while we drove home. As we approached my house, I was
surprised to see several news trucks pulling away. I guess they were respecting my
wishes.

However, the street was still lined with vehicles. Many of my neighbors had come
outside and were waving to me as we approached. I let down the rear window and
waved to them. A couple of children rode their bicycles behind the car. When Star’s
van entered the driveway, we were immediately surrounded by neighbors and friends.

Gene steadied me by wrapping his arm around my waist as I made the way up the
sidewalk. I had to stop frequently to shake a hand or let someone hug me. Gene
would always warn them to be careful before they leaned in to me.

When Star opened the door, I was meet with loud applause and cheering. I looked
around at all the smiling faces before me. The room was filled with staff and students
from my school. Again, Gene led me around the room to greet the people in the room.

“You look wonderful,” remarked Ms. Meadows as she stepped up and kissed me on
my cheek.

“You been holding down the fort?”

“Yes, Kimosabe,” she laughed. Once again she kissed me. “You’d better hurry back to
work, though. I think I’ve aged five years the past week.”

“Well, it certainly doesn’t show,” I replied. I reached down and grasped her hand and
squeezed it. “Thanks for everything. I knew I could depend on you.”

“Just hurry back,” she replied.

“Doc!” I turned as Travis and Jason walked up to me. They started to hug me, but
Gene warned them to be careful. They gave him a puzzled look.

“Your brother-in-law is now your bodyguard?” Travis joked.

“He’s just being a little protective,” I responded.

“Maybe just a little too much,” remarked Jason as he looked at Gene and raised an
eyebrow. He winced when Travis elbowed him in his side.

I was exhausted by the time Gene led me around the room. “Take me to my
bedroom,” I pleaded. “I don’t think I can go on much more.” Gene led me down the
hall and into my room. He placed me on the bed, and then he kneeled down and
removed my shoes. He carefully placed me on the bed and pulled a cover over me.

“Let me go get you a pain pill,” he said. He then disappeared from the room. When he
entered, Nicky was with him. Nicky came over and sat on the side of the bed while I
took the pill and lay my head back on the pillow.

“You all right, Dad?” he asked worriedly.

“I’m tired,” I replied. “I just need some rest.”

“Come on, Nicky,” said Gene as he extended his hand and pulled Nicky to his feet.
“Let’s let him get some rest.” He turned off the light as they left. It didn’t take long
for sleep to find me.

                                                 ********

“Mmmmm.” I looked across the table and watched as Nicky hungrily ate the blueberry
pancakes Gene had prepared for breakfast. Nicky had always been a rather picky
eater, but he seemed to eat anything Gene prepared. I thought a new kid was living in
our house when he ate squash that Gene had baked with pork chops a week ago.

Gene was cooking me a Western omelet. He had asked me a few days earlier what my
favorite breakfast dish was. Since then, he had been making me one in the morning.
Occasionally, he’d stop and talk to Nicky. I was amazed at the quick friendship they
had developed. Each night they’d go into the den and Gene would help Nicky with his
homework. Yesterday afternoon he came running into the house waving a paper in his
hands. He had made an ‘A’ on an algebra test he’d taken earlier in the day.

“That deserves a reward,” beamed Gene. “Let’s go out to Tom and Jerry’s for some
ice cream.” Nicky ran up and hugged him, and then he turned to me.

“Can we, Dad?” he asked.

“Do I have a choice?”

“No!” They shouted in unison.

Nicky looked over at me and stared. I knew that stare. He had something he wanted
to ask, but he was skeptical. “What?” He looked down and started blushing.

“Um,” he replied. “Can I have someone spend the weekend with me?”

“Who?” I asked. “Xavier?” I smiled as his face reddened.

“Um,” he hesitated. “No.”

“For God’s sake, Nicky” interrupted Gene. He walked over and sat down at the table
as he wiped his hands on the dish cloth.  “Just ask him. I told you he won’t object.”

Nicky took a deep breath and then said, “Eddie.” He looked at Gene and gave a sigh of
relief.

“Why would I mind if Eddie…” I suddenly stopped and looked at Nicky’s red face. I
then looked at Gene who was smiling broadly.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “What’s going on here?”

“He just wants a friend to spend the weekend with him,” Gene replied. “I don’t see
any harm in that.”

“Then why are you both acting so funny about it?” Again, Nicky’s face reddened
deeper.

“Oh my God,” I laughed as I pushed myself away from the table. I winced from the
pain that surged through my body. Even though I was healing, I still felt immense
pain from time to time.

“Is Eddie more than just a friend?” Nicky looked up and his eyes widened.

“Dad!” Nicky shouted. “It’s not like that. He’s just a friend.” He got up from the table
and headed for the door. He turned and asked Gene, “Can you take me to school?”

Gene shrugged his shoulders and looked at me. “We’ll talk when I get back.” He
grabbed his car keys and left.

I went into the den and turned on the television. After a week at home, I quickly
found out there was not much quality programming in the morning. Nicky had been
after me for a year to get cable television. If I was going to be home for several more
weeks, it was something I’d have to consider.

Gene returned about a half hour later and joined me in the den. He walked over and
sat down beside me, toeing off his shoes and putting his feet on the coffee table.

“Comfy?” I smiled.

“Very,” he replied. He laid his head back on the sofa and briefly closed his eyes. He
then turned his head and looked at me.

“Do you know that Nicky may be gay?” He stared at me for my reaction.

I sighed and responded, “Yes. We talked about it several weeks ago. He told me he
thought he might like boys. I told him he was too young to really know, and that
some day he’d know.

“I think that day is now,” Gene replied. Again, he waited for my reaction.

I sat up and looked at Gene’s concerned face. “What are you saying?”

“He’s been talking to Eddie on the phone for the past week,” Gene informed me.   
“I haven’t been eavesdropping, but I have picked up on some of their conversation.
I can tell they like each other.”

“He’s only thirteen,” I said as I placed my head in my hands. “He’s too young to know
what he wants right now.”

“Come on, Joey,” Gene responded. “Didn’t you know what direction you were going at
thirteen?” I could feel my face begin to redden.

“Well, yeah,” I said. “But I didn’t have much of a choice. It was kind of thrust upon
me.”

“But you still knew you were gay, right?” he asked.

“Well, yeah.” I thought back to Uncle Billy. He had molested me when I was young,
but I knew that I was going to be gay even if he hadn’t.

“Did you know?” I asked. A surprised expression appeared on his face. I could tell he
wasn’t prepared for the question.

“Um, well..” He stammered.

“Come on,” I laughed. “Confess up. If Nicky and I know we are gay at thirteen, then
you knew you surely knew.” His face began to redden. I laughed as I watched him
squirm beside me.

“Confess,” I laughed. “Who did you have a crush on at thirteen? I know, Cheryl
Talbott. She followed you everywhere you went.”

“You can remember back that far?” he asked surprisingly. “I’d forgotten all about her.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I can remember everything back then. It seems like only yesterday.”

Gene turned and stared into my eyes. A sad expression appeared on his face. “Then
you should know who I had a crush on.” He rose from the sofa and left the room.

                                                ********

“I can’t do this anymore, Star.” I had called her and asked her to meet me for coffee
after I’d dropped Nicky off at school.

“Do what?”

“Go on like this,” I replied. I looked at her, expecting her to know what I was talking
about.

“What do you mean, Gene?”

“I’ve been living with Joey and Gene for two weeks.” Again I paused, but she only
looked blankly at me.

“Okay.”

“It’s killing me,” I sighed. “I’m in love with Joey and he doesn’t even know I’m around.
Every time I see him, I just want to hold him. I can’t take it any more.”

Star frowned at me. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Of course you don’t,” I replied sadly. “What is there to say? Joey’s going to get
better, and I’ll have to leave. I don’t know what to do.”

She sat and looked at me. “And then there’s Nicky,” I continued. “He’s like a son to
me.” I was trying desperately to hold back the tears.

“Maybe he’ll want you to stay,” she offered.

“Why would he?” I replied. “He and Nicky were doing fine until I got here. Once  he’s
better, he’ll no longer need me around.” I could tell by the look on Star’s face that she
knew that what I was saying was probably true.

I had been on an emotional roller coaster for three weeks. First, Joey had been shot
and I had to face the fact that he might die. Then he recovered, and I had moved into
his house to take care of him while he got better.

Taking care of Joey and Nicky had become a wonderful experience. I loved cooking
meals and watching them sit back afterwards and praise me. I enjoyed pretending to
watch television, all the while peering out of the corner of my eye to watch Joey laugh
at some silly sitcom.

Then there was Nicky. We had bonded closely. I loved watching his face light up when
he successfully worked an algebra problem. I felt special when he came to me and told
me he liked Eddie. He said he knew I’d understand.

For the first time in my life, I was in love. And I knew it would be devastating to some
day have to walk away from it. I wasn’t sure I really could. My life had changed so
much, and I didn’t want to lose it.

Star reached out and touched my hand. “Have you considered talking to him about
how you feel?”

“I can’t do that,” I insisted. “He’d never have any feelings for me. Don’t forget, I am
Allen’s brother.”

“But Allen died five years ago,” she said. “It’s time for him to move on.”

“I don’t think he can fall in love again,” I replied sadly. “Do you know that every
Sunday he still visits Allen’s grave. I’ve driven him there. He’ll sit for an hour talking to
Allen. It’s really strange.”

“They were deeply in love,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “That’s why I don’t have a chance.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I responded. “I’m leaving tomorrow for California. I’m meeting with my
attorney. Tina is still going forward with the divorce. I may just stay there. It hurts
too much to be here.”

Star shook her head sadly and took a drink of her coffee. I wasn’t sure what I was
going to do, but I knew that staying here would only hurt more each day.

                                                  ********

Nicky sat sullenly across from me at the kitchen table. He had his head down and was
stirring his cereal with his spoon.

“What’s the matter, Nicky?” He didn’t look up as he continued to play with the
contents of his bowl.

“Nothing,” he muttered. He remained quiet for a few minutes before looking over at
me. “Don’t you miss him?”

“Who?”

“Godzilla,” he said sarcastically. “Come on, Dad. Don’t you miss Gene? He’s been gone
a week.”

To be honest, I did miss him. The house didn’t seem the same since he had left for
California. Nicky and I moved around the house, saying very little to each other. He
stayed in his room most of the time.

I had grown used to Gene keeping me company during the day. We often spent the
afternoon sitting together on the sofa watching television. Many times I had fallen
asleep with my head on his shoulder.

Something was beginning to happen to me, and it scared the hell out of me. I was
becoming ‘comfortable’ with him being around. It reminded me of the times I had
spent with Allen.

Gene would often just sit and look at me out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t know
I was watching, but I had a feeling he wanted to say something to me. Just before he
left, he was beginning to touch me. It was nothing sexual; just a hand on my
shoulder, or a touch on my waist as he moved around the kitchen.

He would come into my room before retiring for the evening, and he’d sit on the side
of my bed and give me my medication. He never failed to ask me how I felt, and then
he’d gently pat my hand before getting up.

I missed that. I was becoming accustomed to the gentle displays of affection. I had at
first objected to the idea of him moving in with us. Now, I felt that he would never
return. Looking at Nicky’s sad face, I knew he felt the same way.

“When’s he coming back home?” Nicky asked.

Home. It sounded strange when Nicky used it in that context. I guess in some weird
way, Gene had become a part of our family.

“I don’t know,” I replied. I hated to tell him that Star had confided in me that Gene
might remain in California. She didn’t go into detail, but she merely stated that he
didn’t feel there was any reason to stay here anymore.

“Don’t you miss him?” Nicky looked over at me. Tears were beginning to form.   
He looked down and idly stirred his cereal with his spoon.

“Of course,” I said.

“Then call him and ask him to come back home.” He was trying hard to blink away the
tears in his eyes.

“This isn’t his home,” I replied. “He has no reason to return.”

“Yes he does, Dad,” Nicky insisted. “He told me he loves it here.” He pushed himself
away from the table when he heard Star honk her horn outside. She’d been taking
him to school since Gene had left.

“Bye, Son!” I shouted out as he headed out the door. He turned and looked sadly at
me as he walked out.

I had been sleeping about an hour when I heard a key in the back door. At first, I
thought it was Gene returning from taking Nicky to school, but then it hit me that he
was no longer around.

Star walked into the den and sat down, placing my feet in her lap. She sat quietly
rubbing my feet for several minutes before saying anything.

“Nicky says he misses Gene.” She looked at me and awaited a reply.

When I didn’t say anything, she looked at me and shouted, “Dammit, Joey! You’re so
blind.”

I looked over and saw the anger in her face. “What are you talking about?”

“Look at you,” she continued. “All you and Nicky have done for the past week is mope
around the house. When you went with me and Ticker to the movie on Saturday
night, I could hardly get either of you to say a word. And just a few minutes ago,
Nicky broke down and cried all the way to school.”

“He’s missing Gene,” I said.

“And so are you!” she shouted. “Admit it.” She stared at me for a minute and then
shook her head.

For some reason, I felt a tightening in my chest. A lump grew in my throat and tears
formed in the corner of my eyes. Reality hit me, and I felt an overwhelming feeling
that had been missing from my life for five years.

I rested my head back on the pillow and sighed. Then the word, “Yes,” slipped from
my mouth.


Chapter 14                                   Return to TMJ