“There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
“Where are we?” I asked as Trent pulled up in front of small house. It was located in a neat residential area. It was an old neighborhood, and most of the homes looked to be built during the 1960’s or 70’s. I remembered visiting the home of one of my mother’s friends who lived a couple of blocks away. She had lost her father, and my mother thought it would be nice to take her a cake.
The house was white with blue shutters. There were cute flower boxes under the windows filled with petunias. The porch was small but with enough room for two rocking chairs. It didn’t look like a place where a young guy Trent’s age would live. I assumed he may be taking me to meet a relative.
We parked in the driveway, and he came around and opened the car door for me. I quickly looked around to see if any neighbors were watching. For some reason, I felt like a girl going home to meet her boyfriend’s parents. We walked onto the porch, and Trent reached into this pocket and pulled out a key.
“Is this your house?” I asked as he unlocked the door.
“Yeah,” he replied as he moved aside so I could enter. The living room was small, but nicely furnished. Because of the outside, I was expecting to see old furniture. However, it was decorated with modern furniture and paintings.
“This is nice,” I said as I wandered around and looked at the pictures on the wall. I don’t know a lot about art, but they seemed to be abstract paintings. They didn’t look expensive, but something you might buy at a Walmart or Target.
I stopped and looked over at him. “Do you live here alone?”
“Yeah,” he replied as he sat down on the white sectional sofa. “It used to belong to my grandparents. My grandfather died three years ago, and last year we had to put my grandmother in a nursing home. When she moved out, she gave me the house.”
“This is nice,” I said again as I sat down beside him.
He started laughing. “I had to get rid of everything she had in here. The place was filled with cabinets with her knick-knacks.” He laughed again. “I didn’t know you could have so many salt and pepper shakers.”
I smiled and said, “We had a neighbor whose house was filled with that kind of junk.”
“Anyway,” he replied, “I threw everything out, and I’ve tried to do some remodeling to the old place.” He looked at the hardwood floor. “I pulled up the ugly green carpet and replaced it with this.” He pointed to the kitchen. “I still have a lot to do in the kitchen. The blue cabinets have got to come out.”
I rose and peeked into the kitchen. It was small, but clean. And like Trent said, there were the ugliest cabinets I had ever seen. Even the kitchen in the hellhole Dexter and I lived had a nicer kitchen. I sat back down and said, “It could use some new cabinets.”
“I’ve saved up most of the money to do them,” he said. “I just have to find someone to do it who won’t charge me an arm and a leg.” He jumped up and headed for the kitchen. “Want a soda?”
I smiled and replied, “That would be great.” When he was gone, I looked around the room. The outside didn’t look like Trent, but the inside fit his personality. Even though it was small, it looked contemporary. If he took everything out and put them into a downtown apartment, they would go well.
He returned and handed me a glass with soda and ice. “Thanks,” I said as I took a sip. I was expecting it to be Coke, but it tasted more like Dr. Pepper. “Sorry, I can’t offer you anything stronger to drink,” he apologized, “but I don’t keep alcohol in the house.”
“No,” I responded as I took another sip. “This is fine.”
We sat nervously for a few minutes as we drank our soda. I could tell that Trent was nervous because he kept shaking his leg. Finally, he looked over and asked, “What did you want to do tonight?”
I shrugged my shoulders. When he asked me to leave with him, I thought he had plans for us. I had no money, so I was afraid to suggest going out to dinner or seeing a movie. “I dunno,” I said.
He looked over and asked, “Do you like Italian food? There’s this really nice restaurant not too far from here. They serve the best spaghetti.”
Again, I shrugged my shoulders. I had no money, and I was afraid I would be embarrassed if Trent expected me to pay half. My face reddened when I confessed, “I don’t have money to eat out.”
He patted my leg and smiled. “We don’t need any money. My aunt owns the place. She loves it when I stop in and eat.” He rose, grabbed my hand and pulled me from the sofa. “Come on, I’m starving.”
It only took a few minutes to get there. When we entered the restaurant, the place was packed. It was filled with loud noise and laughter. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. A large woman wearing a green apron approached with a smile on her face. “It’s my handsome nephew,” she said as she pulled Trent into a hug. She looked over at me, and then she looked back at Trent and winked. “And who is this handsome gentleman?” she smiled as she looked at me. “He’s a keeper.”
“Marie!” shouted Trent. “Enough. You’re embarrassing me.” He introduced me to his aunt. “This is Matt.” She eyed me, and then she looked back at Trent and winked again. “No, Marie! He’s just a friend.”
She laughed, grabbed our arms and led us to a table. “Whatever you say, Baby Boy.”
We sat, and she rushed away. “Sorry about my aunt, Matt,” he apologized. “She thinks every guy I bring in here I’m going to marry.”
“She knows you’re gay?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure,” he replied. “All my family knows.” Again, a wave of sadness swept over me. He made it sound so normal.
Marie returned with two glasses of wine and a tray of bread and butter. “This will get you started,” she smiled. “I’m guessing you’re wanting spaghetti?” Trent nodded his head and looked at me. Marie laughed, rubbed my check with her hand and said, “We’re going to fatten this one up. He’s too thin.”
“Marie!” shouted Trent as she giggled and hurried away.
“Matt,” apologized Trent, “I’m sorry. That’s just my aunt. She loves embarrassing me.”
I laughed and replied, “Don’t worry. I think she’s adorable.” Watching Trent and his aunt, I realized what I had missed by not having family. My parents pushed out all of our relatives with their rigid religious virtues. Whenever any visited, they usually left angry and never returned. I wasn’t the only one they thought was destined to go to hell.
We spent several minutes sipping wine and nervously looking at each other. I was feeling very uncomfortable. I had never eaten in a nice restaurant. I was more used to greasy spoons filled with unsavory characters. Marie’s restaurant was filled with tables of happy family and friends. Everyone was nicely dressed and having a happy time. Again, I was beginning to realize just how much I had missed.
Trent looked worriedly at me and asked, “Are you okay, Matt?”
“Yeah,” I replied as I looked around. “This is a nice place.” I looked at a table next to us filled with a family of six. Two boys who looked like identical twins were fighting for the last slice of homemade bread in the tray. The father stopped the dispute by grabbing it and shoving it into his mouth. Everyone at the table broke into laughter. Instead of laughing, I felt tears well up in my eyes.
‘If only,’ I thought. The longer I sat watching people, the more depressed I was becoming.
Trent seemed to sense my mood change. He reached over and gripped my hand. “Would you like to leave?”
“No,” I replied as I tried to smile. “I’m dying to try your aunt’s spaghetti.”
Just then, she came down the aisle carrying two large plates. Customers applauded as she sang what sounded like an Italian love song. When she put the plates before us, she sang out, “l'amore è nell'aria per questi due piccioncini.”
“Marie!” shouted Trent as his face reddened. She laughed as he tried to shoo her away with his hands. Everyone around us starting applauding.
Trent buried his head in his hands. I started laughing. I had no idea what was going on. “What did she say?” I asked.
Trent looked at me and replied, “I can’t tell you.”
The man at the table beside us tapped me on my shoulder. He leaned over and said, “She said love is in the air for you two lovebirds.” He patted my shoulder and said, “Congratulations.”
“Oh, God,” I moaned as I looked over at Trent’s red face. “I’m sorry, Trent. Do you want to leave?”
He smiled, raised a fork and scooped up a large amount of spaghetti. “No way. I’m hungry.” I returned his smile and began eating the most delicious spaghetti I had ever tasted.
When we finished, Marie came over to the table and sat with us. “Don’t start,” warned Trent.
She batted her eyes and replied, “Who me?” She gripped my arm and smiled. “You be sure to bring back this charmer again real soon.” She looked back and forth at us. “You too make a beautiful couple.”
“Marie!” shouted Trent. “I told you it’s not like that.”
“Sciocchezza,” she laughed. She took my hand and held it. “I’ll attend your wedding someday.”
Trent rose and threw his napkin on the table. “I’ve had it,” he said angrily. He then pulled Marie into a tight hug. “Thanks for dinner, Aunt Marie.” He looked over at me and whispered in her ear, “He is a keeper.” She patted Trent on his butt, and he left the restaurant laughing.
We got in Trent’s car, and he pulled away. Trent looked at the time on the car’s dash and asked, “It’s only a little after nine. Would you like to do anything else?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t have much experience in this sort of thing.”
Trent gave me a puzzled look. “What sort of thing?”
I shrugged my shoulder. “I don’t know,” I replied. “I guess dating.”
“Dating?” Trent laughed. “You think we’re on a date?”
Suddenly, I felt like a fool. Since leaving the center, I did feel like we were on a date. He took me to his home, and I felt comfortable there. We then went to dinner, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Even his aunt, I think, felt it. I was beginning to feel like I belonged somewhere. But now, Trent, made me seem foolish to be thinking such thoughts.
I replied sadly, “Can you take me back to the center, please?”
Trent sighed and said, “I did it again, didn’t I?”
“Upset you,” he said. “I’m always messing things up.”
“You’ve done nothing wrong,” I responded sadly. “It’s me.” I don’t why I was so foolish to think that Trent would ever like a guy like me. Can you imagine him taking me home to meet his parents? “Hey, Mom and Dad. Look what I found on the streets.” He even denied that I was anything more than someone he knew to his aunt earlier.
I stared blankly out the window as we drove away. I assumed he was taking me back to the center, and our evening would be over. It surprised me when he pulled into his driveway and got out. I nervously followed him into his house.
He closed the door and turned to me. “Matt, I’m sorry…” Before I knew what was happening, he pulled me into a hug and kissed me passionately. I felt my knees begin to buckle. When he pulled away, his eyes were teary.
I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and stared at him. I didn’t know how to react. No one had ever shown me so much love. Even though the kiss was strong and passionate, it also felt loving and gentle. I didn’t know how to react. Trent sighed and sat down on the sofa. I reluctantly sat down beside him.
“What just happened?” I asked. I looked into his eyes begging for an answer.
“I’m sorry, Matt,” responded Trent sadly. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
“No, it’s okay,” I assured him. “I wasn’t expecting it, is all. I didn’t think you liked me.”
He took my hand and held it. “I’ve liked you since I laid eyes on you in that lawyer’s office the other day. It’s just…” He stopped and sighed deeply.
“It’s just what?”
He ran his hands over his head, and then he looked deeply into my eyes. “It’s just that I’ve been hurt before.” He laughed slightly. “I’m not the best judge in men. It seems like I’m always falling for the wrong guy.”
“I would never hurt you,” I assured him.
He smiled and replied, “I’d like to believe that, but…”
“You’re this really terrific guy,” he replied, “And I know someday you’ll get back on your feet and…” He stopped again and ran his hair again and sighed.
“And walk out on me like all the others.”
“I’d never do that,” I replied as I leaned in and kissed him. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling that was soaring through me. After five years of hell, I felt that I had finally found a piece of heaven. None of the other stuff in my life meant anything. Wrapped in Trent’s arms, I felt safe…and loved. It was a feeling I never wanted to forget.
I don’t know how long we made out on the sofa. It was as if we couldn’t break away from each other. Somehow, we managed to remove our clothes, and we ended up in his bedroom. He lit a candle and turned out the lights. We made love for hours. He took me to a place I never thought was possible.
That night, I found love.
I awoke in the morning spooned against Trent’s body. I looked at the clock and it was after ten. Trent stirred beside me, turned and smiled. “Good morning,” I smiled as I kissed him softly.
“Good morning,” he responded as he returned my kiss. “Last night was wonderful.”
“Yes, it was,” I said as I kissed him again. “Thank you.” Tears filled my eyes, and I began to cry.
“What’s wrong, Matt,” asked Trent worriedly as he sat up and held me.
“I could never explain to you what I’m feeling right now,” I said.
“I understand,” he said. “Last night was special for both of us.” He smiled, placed his hands on my cheeks and kissed me again. “I love you, Matt.” I pulled him into a tight hug and cried uncontrollably. He said the words I thought I would never hear anyone say to me.
After a few minutes, I pulled away and said the words I thought I would never hear myself say, “I love you, too.” He lay me on my back, straddled me, and we spent the next hour making love.
Trent was sleeping soundly when I crawled out of bed. I was careful not to disturb him. He looked angelic lying in the bed. I stood for a moment just looking down at his nude body. I still couldn’t believe what had happened the past twelve hours. I went from a lonely, unloved person, to someone in love with the most wonderful man in the world.
Me. Matt Stevens. Has fallen in love!
After putting on my boxers, I crept into the kitchen. I wanted to fix Trent a special breakfast. The time said it was almost 12:30, but I knew he would be hungry when he awoke. Neither of us had eaten since dinner in his aunt’s restaurant.
I found coffee in a cabinet and began to brew it in the coffeemaker on the counter. The refrigerator contained everything I would need. I was surprised that a single guy like Trent knew how to shop. I discovered a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs. There was also onions and cheese. Omelets! I had learned to cook them for the old man I stayed with. He loved my omelets, and I would prepare them almost every morning for him. I had also learned to become quite a good cook. He would give me his credit card, and I would go to the local market to shop. Over time, I had become almost like a gourmet cook, or at least that is what he called me.
I had just finished making omelets and placing them on a plate when Trent entered the kitchen naked. He was wiping his eyes, and he looked so handsome. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him. I had never seen anything more beautiful.
“Hey, Handsome,” I cooed as I pulled him into a hug and kissed him.
“Mmm,” he moaned into my mouth. “When did you get up?”
“A little while ago,” I replied as I pointed to the plates on the table. “I made you breakfast.”
He kissed me again, smiled and said, “You know I love you? Don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I returned his smile with a kiss. “I love you, too.” I pointed to the chair and told him to have a seat. He laughed when I pulled out his chair for him.
“Don’t you want me to put on some clothes first?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I replied with a laugh. “You’ll only be coming out of them after we eat.”
“You’re a perv,” he giggled as he picked up a fork and ate a piece of the omelet. “Oh, my god, Matt,” he said. “This is delicious.”
I laughed and replied, “I made it with love. Of course, it’s good.”
We continued to eat and just smile at each other. I couldn’t believe the wonderful man next to me said he was in love with me. And it happened so fast, almost too fast. What if he just enjoyed the sex? What if I was nothing more to him than a cheap trick that he would later regret sleeping with? Suddenly, my mood changed to sadness and doubt.
Sensing how I was feeling, Trent reached down and grabbed my hand. “What’s wrong, Baby?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t understand what is happening.”
“Us,” I replied. “What is going on?”
He squeezed my hand tightly. “Matt, I love you. You’re perfect.”
“Me?” I asked skeptically. “What is so perfect about me?”
“I’m not going to argue with you,” he replied. “I understand your background, and I realize it is going to take a while for you to build trust in me.” He gripped my hand tighter. “Just believe, okay?”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I nodded my head. I had never experienced love before. Everything was new to me. However, I did trust Trent. If he believed enough in us, then I wasn’t going to resist. I wasn’t the man I was last week. My life was undergoing a transformation, and it seemed to be going in the right direction. I didn’t want to spoil it by overthinking things too much.
I leaned forward and kissed him. “I trust you.”
“Good,” he said as he wiped his mouth off with a napkin. He stood, grabbed my hand and pulled me into the bedroom.
We spent the rest of the day just ‘getting to know you,’ Trent has a big screen television, and we sat cuddling and watching movies. It was a new experience for me. I loved sci-fi and action movies when I was younger, but I hadn’t seen a movie in over six years. Trent loved to watch how I reacted to various scenes. I would pretend to be nervous just so he would pull me into his arms and comfort me.
At night, we watched an NFL football game. I had never been interested in sports, but Trent made the game exciting. He would sit on the edge of the sofa and shout at the television. By the 3rd quarter, I was yelling along with him. I had no idea why I was shouting, but I was enjoying it because Trent did.
When we finally went to bed, we kissed and held each other tightly. Neither of us was in the mood for sex, so we cuddled until he finally fell asleep. I lay there for a long time as the candle flickered looking at his beautiful face.
I silently gave thanks to whatever forces had brought us together.