Chapter 1
Copyright ©2008 by Ronyx
All Rights Reserved
A Bridge to Yesterday
Chapter 4
“Ladies and Gentlemen. We are now descending and will arrive in less than five
minutes. Please fasten your seatbelts. Thank you for flying with us.”

It had been a long flight. I looked over at Tina and she was staring out the
window. She had said hardly a half dozen words to me during the four hour flight
home. She was still upset that I hadn’t answered my phone for hours when she
called to inform me of my father’s death.

He had suffered a massive heart attack while mowing the yard earlier in the day.
According to my mother, the medics said he was probably dead before he hit the
ground. He had suffered a couple of minor heart attacks over the past several
years, but his death was still unexpected.

I talked to him on the phone last week, and he sounded tired. He had retired a few
years earlier, and he had developed a passion for playing golf. Mother said he
spent more time at the country club than he did at home. When I talked to him, he
had just finished eighteen holes and was in the club house drinking a martini. Little
did I know it would be the last time I would speak with him.

My mother was waiting in the lobby of the airport when we arrived. I was also
surprised to see Star sitting beside her. I was astonished by my mother’s
appearance. She looked old; much older than I remembered her looking last
Christmas when Tina and I had last visited.

She stood and rushed into my arms when she saw us walking down the long
corridor as we disembarked. She buried her head into my chest and cried. “It’s
just me and you now, Gene,” she whispered softly. I held her as she sobbed. Star
came up and rubbed her gently on her back. Tina stood back, apparently unsure of
what to do.

Star looked amazing. She seemed so full of poise and grace. She had matured into
a beautiful woman. She was like a sister to me, and we had always welcomed her
into our home as if she was one of the family.

“Hello, Gene.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on the cheek. “I’m so
sorry.” She then turned and hugged Tina. I walked over to the turnstile and
retrieved our luggage. I was trying to balance four pieces when Star walked over
and took two of the lightest.

Tina put her arm around my mother and led the way out of the terminal. She and
my mother had always been very good friends. I think it was their desire for my
mother to have grandchildren that bonded their relationship. It was always after
our visits home that Tina would insist that we try and have children. Our
arguments would last for several months before she’d final relent and realize that I
would never want children.

“Is everything all right?” Star asked. She looked at Tina and then back at me.

“Same old, same old,” I laughed nervously. Star and I had had many long
conversations about my relationship with Tina. Since she was one of the few
people who knew what had happened in high school, I felt more comfortable
talking to her.

The ride home was surreal. I felt like a stranger in the car. Tina sat in the back seat
and tried to console my mother. Star sat in the passenger seat and stared at me
out of the corner of her eye. I glanced over a few times, but she’d look quickly
away.

Cars were parked up and down the street when we arrived. No one had parked in
the long drive, so we were able to drive up to the front of the house. As we got
out, several people came out and greeted us.

Most were unfamiliar to me. I found out later that they were dad’s golfing buddies
and members of the lodge he had attended for over forty years. Some I
remembered seeing when I was a teenager. However, since I had moved two
thousand miles away, I had lost contact with all my parents’ acquaintances. I was
glad, though, that my mother had a lot of support from friends. I was overcome
with guilt because I felt I had abandoned her over the years, and she and my
father lived a life unknown to me. Visiting for two weeks every couple of years at
Christmas now made me feel like a stranger in my former home.

I spent the next hour walking around the house and mingling with the mourners.
People told me how sorry they were for my loss, but it seemed like empty
sentiments. Most of them knew that I was estranged from my parents after I left
high school and attended college.

My mother had an understanding of why I left. She had forced me to seek
counseling after that incident in Billy Joe’s barn, and she was aware of my struggle
with my sexuality. My mother thought that having children might strengthen my
marriage to Tina and make me a better husband. I’d usually leave after our visits
and head for the nearest bar when I returned back home. It would take me
months to dissuade Tina from my mother’s influence.

I walked around the house trying to find some place to get away from the
strangers who kept approaching me and offering their condolences. Somehow I
found myself in my parents’ bedroom. I closed the door and plopped down
exhaustedly on the bed.

I closed my eyes for a minute. When I opened them, I noticed a familiar picture on
the wall. I walked over, took it down and clutched it to my chest. It was a picture
of Allen and me. He was seventeen, and I was eleven. My father had taken it just
as we had sledded down a large embankment behind our house. We had toppled
over, and I was pinned under Allen. His face was full of laughter, while mine
contained a painful grimace. Tears welled up in my eyes as I remembered that
cold, December afternoon. I think it was one of the last times I ever saw Allen
laugh, at least until Joey came into his life.

I was still staring at the picture when Star tiptoed into the room and sat quietly
beside me. She took the picture from my hands and held it. She laid her head on
my shoulder and muttered softly, “I miss him so much.”

“He loved you like a sister,” I remarked. “When the world turned away from him,
you remained right by his side.” When she began to cry, I put my hand around her
and pulled her nearer to me. It was several minutes before either of us said
anything.

Star wiped the tears from her eyes, and then looked at me and laughed. She
reached up and wiped my eyes dry. “We look like two big babies,” she smiled.

“I guess some things never change, do they?” I laughed.

Just then there was a soft knock on the door. Ticker poked his head in and saw us
sitting beside each other. He walked over and I stood. He embraced me tightly, as
only he could do.

“I’m really sorry, Gene,” he said sympathetically. “If there’s anything I can do.” I
nodded and he hugged me again.

“I guess we should go back downstairs,” I suggested to Star. I took her hand and
led her from the bedroom with Ticker trailing behind us.

As I descended the stairs and entered the living room, I stopped suddenly. On the
other side of the room Joey was talking to my mother. There was a young boy
standing beside him, and Joey had his arm protectively around his shoulder.

                                                ********

“I’m really happy, Allen.”  It was Sunday afternoon. For the past five years I have
come to Allen’s graveside and placed fresh flowers in a vase beside his tombstone.
Today they were red and white carnations.

“He’s a great kid,” I choke back the words. “You’d love him. And now he’s my son,
our son. Can you believe it? We’re dads.”

I know it sounds funny, but I want Allen to share my excitement. I want my
happiness to be his happiness. When I sit in front of his grave, I always feel he is
with me. I can feel his love surging inside me. For several years it was the only
thing that sustained me.

“I wish you were here with us,” I say tearfully. “He’d love you. You’re both so much
alike, so full of life. But I guess you already know that.”

I carefully rearrange the carnations, making sure that they are perfectly set
according to color- red, white, red, white. Actually, it is more because of nerves.
Something has been troubling me for the past year.

“Listen, Allen.” I begin. “I don’t want you to think that just because Nicky has
come into my life that I love you any less. I know that since  he’s been with me
that I don’t think about you as often. But my love for you has never diminished.”

I sit quietly and listen to the gentle wind blowing through the trees just behind
me. Then I know. “You wanted to see me happy. You always told me you didn’t
care that I love someone else, as long as I love.” I start to smile. “Just how much
did you have a hand in bringing Nicky to me?”

A chill goes up my spine as I close my eyes and hear Allen laugh. I arise, kiss the
marble headstone and walk cheerfully to my car. Allen’s love will forever be with
me. I know that in my heart.

                                             ********

“I need to talk to you, Doc.” Douglas Campbell paced nervously around my office.
He walked over and closed the door. “This is important.”

Douglas, the senior class president, had stopped me in the hallway the day before
and asked if he could schedule an appointment with me. I assumed he had
something he wanted to discuss about graduation at the end of May, but his
nervousness indicated that it was something unrelated to a class activity.

“Would you sit down and stop pacing around the room,” I laughed. “I’m getting
dizzy watching you.” He stopped in the center of the room, and for a moment I felt
he was going to burst into tears. He walked over, pulled a chair up to my desk and
leaned forward.

“Can we talk, like private? Man to man?” He was whispering, afraid that someone
in the outer office might hear.

“Of course, Douglas,” I assured him. “Anything you tell me will be confidential.
That is, unless you confess to murder or something.” I laughed and tried to make
the situation lighter, but he merely frowned and rolled his eyes.

“You know that Jason and Travis are trying to form this gay group here at
school?” He waited for my response.

“Yes,” I replied. “I was the one who suggested it. I’ve wanted a gay-straight
student alliance here for quite some time.”

He stared me in the eyes. I could tell he was struggling to say something. Finally,
he sighed and said, “I want to join it.” Tears welled up in his eyes as he again
awaited my response.

“That’s great, Douglas,” I said excitedly. “Jason and Travis will be thrilled. Your
leadership skills will be invaluable.” He slumped down in his chair and let out
another sigh.

“There’s a problem with that.” He fidgeted in his seat, again carefully measuring his
words. “I don’t think you understand.” He paused before continuing, “I’m gay.”

“I see.” I sat back in my chair and studied him for a minute. “You’re not out?”
Tears fell from down his cheeks as he shook his head.

“They’re so excited about this,” he replied. “They’re going all around the school
trying to get other kids involved. I’ve been in the closet since I was thirteen. But
just watching them being proud of who they are... I don’t know...it makes me
want to... I don’t know... maybe come out or something.”

He put his head in his hands and wept quietly. I got up, walked around the desk
and placed my hand on his shoulder. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” I
assured him.

“I know that.” He turned and looked up at me. “But I’m the class president. What
would people say?”

“Even class presidents can be gay,” I smiled. He seemed to relax a little. “Do your
parents know?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I think they may suspect. I’m eighteen and  I’ve never
really had a girlfriend. My mom has thrown out a couple of hints the past couple of
months. I think she wants me to tell her.”

I gently squeezed his shoulder. “Douglas, I’ve met your parents. They are
wonderful individuals. I don’t think they’ll think any less of you if you are gay.”

“But I’m an only son,” he replied sadly.

“So was I,” I responded before I realized what I had said. He swirled around in his
chair and stared at me.

“Doc,” he said disbelievingly. “You mean?” I pulled up a chair and sat beside him.

“I told you that anything you said would be confidential,” I said. “I expect the same
respect from you.”

“You have my word on that,” he kissed his finger and crossed his heart. He leaned
toward me and asked seriously, “Tell me how you handled it.” I gave him a very
condensed version of my high school experience, leaving out the sordid details. I
trusted him, but I didn’t think it was important that he know all the depressing
aspects of my teenage years. Besides, I was trying to get him to feel comfortable
about accepting himself. My life experience would have depressed him.

“But you said your parents kicked you out of the house,” he said worriedly. “What
if my parents do that to me?”

“The point I was trying to make, is that my parents weren’t good parents,” I
replied. “Your parents are caring and supportive. They love you deeply. I’ve seen
the pride in their faces when you are involved in some school activity.”

“I still don’t know.” He sat back with a worried look. “What if they’re not proud of
me anymore once I tell them?”

“I’ve been around a long time,” I assured him. “I’ve become a pretty good judge of
people. I think you being gay won’t affect your parents love for you.”

He sat back and shook his head. I could tell he was really struggling with his
emotions.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Are you willing to take a chance and come out to Jason
and Travis?” I watched as his mind began to comprehend my suggestion.

“I think so,” he replied apprehensively. “Are they out to their parents?”

“Yes,” I replied. “They told me they were. Maybe talking to them about it will help
you make a decision.” He nodded his approval.

“When should I talk to them?” he asked.

“How about now?” He thought for a minute and nodded his head.

I got on the phone and called my secretary. “Delores. Would you check and see
what classes Jason Thompson and Travis Armstrong are in right now. Then
contact their teachers and ask them to report to my office.”

Ten minutes later, Jason and Travis peeked their head in my office. Their eyes
widened when they saw Douglas sitting in the room.

“Gentlemen, come in.” I cheerfully waved them into the room. “I think you know
Douglas Campbell.” Both boys walked over and shook Douglas’s hand. “He has
some things he’d like to discuss with you.”

I walked over to the door. “I’ll leave you boys alone for a while. Ask my secretary
for a pass back to class when you finish.” I then closed the door and walked away.
I strolled the hall whistling a tune I’d heard earlier on the car radio.

I returned to my office about a half hour later. The three young men were leaving
and talking animatedly as they walked down the hall. Douglas turned and saw me
approaching. He gave me a wide grin and a thumbs up as Travis put his arm
around his shoulder and led him away.

                                              ********

When I arrived home, I immediately sensed that something was wrong. Star was
sitting alone in the family room. She was holding a tissue in her hand and wiping
tears from her eyes. My heart started pounding. Since I didn’t see Nicky anywhere,
I was afraid something had happened to him.

“What’s wrong?” I asked nervously. “What’s happened?”

She stood up and walked over to me. “Mr. Albright is dead.” I felt immediately
relieved that is wasn’t Nicky, but it didn’t minimize the sorrow I felt.

Mr. Albright had become an extremely good friend over the years. When I met
Allen, I instantly hated him for how he had treated him. His stepfather’s
homophobia had caused Allen to leave home, leaving him virtually alone in the
world. If it hadn’t been for his mother, Allen would not have survived those earlier
years.

His bitterness had also turned Gene against him. Gene lived in constant fear that
his father would find out that he too was gay. It took several years of counseling
for him to deal with his father’s influence.

But when Allen became sick, and we decided that he would return home to die, it
was his stepfather who provided strength to all of us. He never left his beside, and
he was with us both when Allen took his final breath. Mr. Albright took care of all
the final arrangements that Allen and I had planned in advance. Not once did he
question any decision we made. He even had his personal lawyer check over our
joint banking account to prevent anyone from challenging my legal status.

Mr. and Mrs. Albright were frequent dinner guests, and Nicky and I were often
asked over to dinner at their home. They adored Nicky, and they treated him as if
he was their own son. On several occasions we argued over them buying him
things that I had told him he couldn’t have. It wasn’t because he couldn’t have
them, but I expected him to earn them. They, however, would merely appear one
night and secretly give them to him when I wasn’t watching.

I sat down, numb from the news of his passing. It took me several minutes before
I could respond. Star had sat beside me, holding my hand and gently rubbing it.

“Does Nicky know?” I asked. I knew Mr. Albright’s passing would be very difficult
for him. He was extremely close to him and thought of him as a grandfather.

Star shook her head. “No,” she said. “I thought it was best that you tell him.”

“What happened?” All she had told me was that he had died. She explained how
Mrs. Albright had gone out into the yard and found him lying dead with the lawn
mower still idling.

“How is she?”

“She’s holding up,” Star replied. “This was so unexpected. They were drinking
coffee together in the kitchen just a half hour earlier. She said he was cheerful,
and there was no indication that anything was wrong. Gene and Tina are flying in
from California.” She looked at her watch. “They will be arriving soon. She asked
me to drive to the airport with her to pick them up.”

Star and I stood. She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “You’d better go
tell Nicky. Come by the Albright house later. Ticker and I will be there, and I’m
sure Gene and Tina would like to see you again.” I walked her to the door and
watched as she got in her car and drove away.

I let out a deep sigh. I then turned and headed up the stairs to Nicky’s room.
What do you say to a kid whose life had undergone so many changes over the
past two years? He had formed bonds and placed unconditional trust in his new
family. Now one of those bonds was broken. How does a thirteen year old boy deal
with such a loss?

Even though I knew Nicky was mature beyond his young years, he never ceased to
amaze me. I guess loosing his mother at eleven had strengthened his character.
He cried when I told him of Mr. Albright’s death. However, his main concern was
for me.

He was worried how the death of Allen’s father would affect me. Like him, he knew
that I had no family, or at least one that I could claim. The Albright’s had become
my surrogate family. I had told him about Allen’s death and how Mr. Albright had
been a source of strength and comfort to me following his loss.

“You gonna be okay, Dad?” He asked worriedly as he put his head on my shoulder.
Tearfully, I leaned over and kissed him on his forehead.

“You know I love you, don’t you?” He smiled widely.

“Yeah,” he giggled. “I kinda figured that out.” I pulled him into another hug.

“Why don’t we go out to dinner,” I suggested, “and then we’ll stop by the Albright
home. Aunt Star and Uncle Ticker will be there. You can also meet your Uncle
Gene. He’s Allen’s younger brother. You haven’t met him yet.”

He asked, “Isn’t he that blonde guy in the football jersey?”  I had forgotten that I
had shown him the picture of Gene when he played on the high school football
team. Mrs. Albright had given it to Allen when he once asked for a picture of Gene.
It became one of Allen’s favorite pictures.

“Yep,” I said. “However, I’m sure he doesn’t look like that today.” I hadn’t seen
Gene in a couple of years, but the last time he visited he still looked remarkably
handsome. The years had been kind him. While I seemed to always grow older,
Star and Gene were like Peter Pan. They never seemed to age.

                                            ********

After I saw Joey talking to my mother, I retreated without them seeing me and
headed out onto the back deck. I sat by the pool and listened as the water
bubbled gently along the sides. A few minutes later, the door open and Star
walked out and approached me. She handed me an iced tea, and then she took
the seat beside me.

“You all right?” she asked softly. “I know how hard this must be for you.”

“Yeah, right,” I answered sarcastically. Star gave me a quizzical look.

To be honest, I really didn’t care that my father was dead. I had spent years in
therapy trying to undo the psychological damage he did to me. Parents can go to
jail for physically abusing their children, but no one says a damn word when a
parent destroys a young child’s mind.

I had grown to hate him since I was a teenager. I had struggled with my sexuality
at an early age. Then I saw how he treated Allen. He destroyed him. I knew that if
he ever found out that I shared the same traits, he’d disown and destroy me also.

So I spent years in therapy, and I eventually denied that I was gay. I was gay,
however, but I hid it so deeply and placed it in a box- never to be opened. But
then Joey came into my life. I was immediately attracted to him, but I could never
confess it to him or myself. It killed me when he met my brother and they became
lovers. They were so happy. So damned happy. I was almost destroyed again.

So I ran. About as far away as I could go. Two thousand miles on the other coast.
I married and lived a life I grew to hate. All because of him.

If only I had Allen’s strength. Most people found him weak, but to me he was like a
god. He stood up to that beast- my father. When Dad called him a fag, he said,
“Fuck you!” Fuck you. He actually said that to my father. Of course, Dad put him
out of the house, but he stood his ground. I was so proud of him.

Years later, when Allen lay dying, Dad tried to make amends. Allen was too sick to
care, and Joey found it admirable. But to me, it was the old man trying to find
absolution. He needed to seek forgiveness before it was too late. Allen gave it to
him.

But what about me? Did he one time try to make amends with me? He didn’t even
care. The times Tina and I returned home to visit during holidays, he hardly said
anything to me. In his eyes, I had become the prodigal son.

But when I saw Joey tonight, all the old hurt resurfaced. Joey could have been
mine if Dad had been more tolerant and understanding. If only he hadn’t hated so
much, then I could have told Joey how I felt about him.

I did once; one dark night and with too much to drink. I kissed him on that porch.
That kiss that almost destroyed my life. That kiss, if Dad had discovered, would
have destined me to a life of loneliness like it did Allen.

Ironically though, Dad’s actions were the beginning of a chain of events that
eventually brought Allen and Joey together. Allen once told me how he and Joey
met- two lost guys on a bridge with nothing but despair. Two guys on a mission
to end their lives, only to be brought closer together. A mission that ruined my
only chance at love.

“Gene?” Star’s voice shook me from my somber thoughts.

“Who was that boy with Joey tonight?” Star was watching me thoughtfully. After
an awkward minute, she spoke.

“I guess you haven’t heard yet,” she responded. “That’s Nicky, Joey’s son.”

I looked over at Star in disbelief. “His son?”


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