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Jack Schaeffer

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About Jack Schaeffer

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    50
  1. Chapter 39

    An extended ending is in the works....stay tuned...
  2. Chapter 39

    And I am very happy you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading
  3. Chapter 32

    My favorite chapter so far...by far...
  4. Chapter 3

    Ok, I'm totally hooked on this story.
  5. Chapter 2

    This line: He’s my favorite person in this world, and one of the most important people in my life. I refuse to fail him. That's brilliant stuff. I cried a lot in this chapter. The moments when Will is holding Liam and letting him cry or whatever - beautiful stuff.
  6. Awakening Forever

    What if you woke up and realized your whole life has been a lie? For Jack, hiding from the truth is a way of life. Ashamed of who he is, the fear of discovery keeps him locked in a dead-end life with little hope of finding the forever love and the family he longs for. Then the phone rings, and he is thrust into a world different from all he’s known. He discovers his true origins, and the roots of a new kind of family where he can finally belong. Now he must choose between staying on the safe path and hiding from who he is, or risking it all and fully embracing the man he was destined to be. Can he do it afraid?
  7. Chapter 39

    I haven't started the process of editing the next book. I am spending July writing more new content, then August will be editing the next book. I have learned I can't edit and write new stuff at the same time. Different sides of my brain are needed for each.
  8. Chapter 39

    It you've made it this far, thank you for reading my story. This is only the beginning of the Forever saga. So much more story to come. Thank you for all the wonderful comments, and if you are so inclined, leaving a review for the story would be awesome. Oh...and if you tried to signup for my newsletter on my website and it didn't work, I fixed it today Please try again, so you'll know my progress with new writing as well as future edits and publishing efforts. Look for "Awakening Forever" in eBook and print in October 2017 wherever fine books are sold.
  9. Chapter 39

    Chapter 39 The drive to the airport was quiet. I stared out the rear window of the cab as we buzzed past cars and buildings and people living their lives. I now knew I hadn’t been living mine. I had acquiesced to being who everyone else thought I should be, all the while wishing I could just be me, whoever that was. Maybe I would find myself in Hawaii. It certainly wasn’t happening back home with my family. I smiled. Everything changed with that one phone call. Amanda Franklin had left me millions, but all the money in the world was worthless compared to her priceless wisdom. Love fully and live for others. I was ready to love. First up — myself. It was slow going, stepping away from my self-imposed exile and venturing out into the world. And doing it as a gay man. Sort of. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had to try. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to do it alone. Sharon and Billy had accepted me for who I was. Maybe others would too. I wanted to love someone else, like Amanda had loved Patrick and Phillip. Billy convinced me a gay man could have a normal life with a forever love of his own. I needed to love and be loved like that. I wanted more than sex. I craved a real family, a place where I belonged, where I was wanted, with someone who needed me in his life. I was ready to live for others. I had tools, now. More than I could count. I also had people in my life who believed in me. I just needed to believe in myself. It was still a strange thought, that I could somehow do good things and change other people’s lives for the better. But this new purpose sparked a great hope in me - that I could make a difference, just like Amanda. My stomach churned and my hands trembled where they rested on the seat. Such lofty dreams scared me. What if I stepped out and failed? What if I never found a forever love? What if I couldn’t make a difference? I shook my head and gritted my teeth, my hands morphing into fists. Enough was enough. I had lived in fear of one kind or another all my life, but no more. It was time to channel those fears into forward progress. I was ready to do it afraid.
  10. Chapter 37

    Ummm...yes...yes, I do
  11. Chapter 38

    Chapter 38 I returned home a little after ten. I put the leftover casserole in the refrigerator and went looking for Alex. I found him sitting on the floor in the bedroom, listening to his iPod with headphones so he didn’t hear me come in. He jumped a foot when he looked up and saw me staring at him from the bedroom doorway. “Jack, you’re home!” he exclaimed, yanking the ear buds in a single pull. “How was your dinner?” “Fine. There’s some leftover Mexican casserole in the fridge for you. I see you got in okay. Find a place for your stuff?” “Yeah. I just have my suitcase here in the corner for now. I wasn’t sure what you still have to pack or whatever. I can do my unpacking tomorrow. I just needed a place to crash for tonight.” “Speaking of which, where are we going to put you tonight?” He was sitting on a pallet of sheets and blankets, which I knew were not mine. “I thought I’d just sleep in here on the floor. I have my own blankets and shit, so is it cool with you?” It was. “Sure, Alex, no problem. I’m gonna get ready for bed. I’m beat. I’ll be out of the bathroom in a few.” I went in and did my usual evening prep for bed. All my toiletries were packed in my Dopp kit so it felt like I lived in a hotel now, not really my apartment. I finished up and started to step out the door when I realized I was naked. Force of habit. I fished around on the floor where I had thrown my dirty clothes and put my underwear back on. I figured those would be okay. I didn’t have pajamas or sweats. And my two pair of gym shorts were packed. I needed to remember to pack the dirties in the morning. I got back into the bedroom just as Alex was undressing over by his suitcase. His shirt came off and I was struck by all the muscles in his back. They were rippling as he moved about. He shucked his jeans and his ass popped out, naked and hard. Obviously, Alex went commando. Interesting. And hot. My dick started to rise. This could go nowhere. Get a grip, Jack. Then he bent over to get his toothbrush and toothpaste and I had to put my hand over my mouth to stifle a squeal. I could see his puckered hole just winking at me while he rifled through his suitcase. I was starting to sweat and my dick was now rock hard. I sat down on the bed and tried to cover it up with the comforter. He found the missing toothpaste, grabbed a towel from another pile and then turned to head to the bathroom. As he walked in front of me past the foot of the bed, I saw his cock in full profile. Had to be six inches hanging soft, not too thick, but topped with a dense patch of dark black hair spreading out up his torso and then across his chest. This was a hairy guy. He had a swarthy, olive-skinned Mediterranean look about him. Sexy man. Rose was a foolish girl if she let him get away. I heard the shower start, so I did what I needed to do. I ripped my underwear down and started stroking hard and fast. With the visual I had just feasted on, it took less than two minutes before my cum was hitting me on the chin and spreading down my chest before finally spreading onto my pubes. I sat there, trying to catch my breath while enjoying the after effects of a great orgasm. I heard the water shut off so I quickly cleaned myself up with my dirty towel and hoped the room didn’t reek of cum. There was no way I could have slept if I hadn’t jerked off. Alex finally came out of the bathroom, still naked, still gorgeous, still making my dick swell. “Are you okay if I sleep naked, Jack? I don’t really have anything I wear to bed.” “Whatever floats your boat, Alex. Good night. I’ll try not to wake you in the morning.” “No worries, Jack. I’ll want to say goodbye anyway.” He settled face down on his pallet on the floor, and I reluctantly turned out the light. I couldn’t see him anymore but I knew there was an incredibly hot naked man a few feet away. I almost had to go into the bathroom and beat off again, but I finally managed to fall asleep. The next morning, I woke up with a raging hardon–nothing unusual. A roommate was lying on his pallet beside my bed, also with a raging hardon–very unusual. It was beautiful. Not much bigger than it was soft, slightly longer and a little thicker. But a whole lot harder. His foreskin had pulled off the head, leaving it more than half exposed. He may have sensed me staring at him because just then, he woke up. At first he was a little disoriented, waking up in a strange place. But then he looked down at his hard cock and it seemed to center him somehow. I understood the feeling. He then looked up at me. “Morning, Jack. I see we both have the same problem this morning.” He was smiling and pointing at my crotch. I hadn’t noticed the comforter was no longer covering me and my hard cock was clearly evident in my underwear. I blushed all over. He got up and headed right past me, his hard cock leading the way straight into the bathroom. I heard him pissing in the toilet and then he popped right back into the room, now somewhat less hard, scratching his belly and chest absentmindedly. “I didn’t flush since I figured you needed to do the same thing. Saves water.” He smiled and bent over to find some clothes to put on. There was his asshole, pink and shiny, staring at me. This guy was totally not self-conscious at all. I had to get out of there quickly before I made a total fool of myself with him. I hobbled to the bathroom and shut the door. It took a while, but I was finally able to get my dick down enough to pee. I flushed, then started the shower. I jacked off again under the hot water hoping it would help keep my mind off of Alex’s body long enough to get dressed and get out of there without causing real trouble. Now back in some semblance of self-control, I completed my morning grooming and repacked all my toiletries into my travel Dopp kit. I put on a clean pair of underwear and hung up the dirty towels–I was leaving those for Alex. I went back out into the bedroom where Alex was now sitting on the floor, fully dressed in jeans and a dark t-shirt, listening to his music. He looked up at me and smiled, then went back to listening. Trying to not be self-conscious of myself, I got dressed and repacked my dirty clothes from yesterday. I was all set. When he saw me start to drag the suitcases down the hallway towards the front door, Alex got up and grabbed the last one and brought it to me. I had the large bag, the medium bag and my briefcase. The Dopp kit I put in the large bag. There was nothing left to do but say goodbye. “Well, Alex, this is it. The apartment is all yours now. I hope everything goes well for you here and you work things out with Rose.” “Already working on it. Oh, Jack. Wait one sec. I almost forgot.” He trotted back to the bedroom and came back a few seconds later, carrying a personal check. “Here, Jack. I figured I’d just give you this now so you didn’t have to be worried about whether I was gonna pay up or not.” He handed it to me with a proud smile. It was a check for the full amount of his three month sublease. “I had four really good sales this week, so between the commissions off of those and some savings, I had the full nut.” “Alex, this wasn’t necessary, but thank you. I appreciate it.” I didn’t tell him I had prepaid the remainder of the lease already myself, so there would be no issues with him having the apartment for the next three months. After the current lease ran out, he could start his own if he wanted to stay. I folded Alex’s check and put it in my wallet. I’d decide what to do with it later. He helped me get the bags to my car, we shook hands and I drove over to the office. I grabbed an envelope containing the title to the car, a bill of sale for a dollar and the keys. I ran all of it inside and put it in Mary’s top desk drawer. Mission accomplished. Back outside, I pulled my luggage from the car, locked it up manually and waited for my taxi. When it arrived just a couple of minutes later, I took one good look around the lot and at the building where I had toiled for over two years. I had enjoyed my time there, but it was time to move on.
  12. Chapter 37

    Chapter 37 Friday morning came. It was my last full day in Chicago and I was a mixture of happy and sad all day. One minute, I was near tears thinking about the people I worked with whom I wouldn’t see anymore and, the next minute, I was antsy to get going with my new life. I had spent the last two nights packing and repacking everything I was keeping which was really only my new clothes, some papers and my iPad. Oh, and my supply of shampoos and conditioners. Can’t forget those, Saint Nick would kill me. Which set off another round of sadness as I realized I would likely never see him again either. Finally found somebody to cut my hair and make me look good, and I was leaving. I hoped I could find someone equally as talented in Denver. I feared I would end up looking like some wild mountain man. Around four, I was summoned to the break room where everyone was assembled. They had gotten me a white frosted cake and decorated it with “Good Luck, Jack!” emblazoned in purple piping. It was the gayest looking cake but I loved it anyway. There was some good natured back slapping and thank yous all around and then, after everyone had a piece of cake and some coffee, Marcus called it a day and sent everybody home. He didn’t say much then–I was going to dinner at his house later. I hugged Mary at the door and she held on for a few seconds as if she was trying to absorb the memory of me or something. When she let go and stepped back, her eyes were glistening. “Now Mary, remember. I will put the title and the bill of sale and the keys to the car in your desk tomorrow morning and leave the car in the lot here. You let Stewart know so he can come pick it up.” “I got it, Jack. I’ll meet him here tomorrow afternoon, then he’s taking me to dinner. Just him and me. I can hardly wait, Jack. It’s been years. I hope I don’t screw it up.” “You won’t, Mary. You’ll do fine. Just remember you love him. I’m so happy for you guys. Take care, Mary.” “You, too, Jack. Bye.” And then she was gone. I gave Alex my spare apartment key as he was walking out a couple of minutes later. He was all giddy with excitement at being in his new place. I was starting to feel like a squatter in my own apartment. Oh well, it was only for one more night, then I was off to sunshine and paradise. Dinner that night was to be a family affair–just the Thompsons and me. Marcus had said Laura was fixing my favorite recipe of hers–a Mexican inspired casserole of meats, cheeses and peppers which was out of this world. I had no idea what she called it, but I called it delicious. I got there about six and Fred greeted me at the door. I hadn’t seen him since I got back from Denver, so he did a double take when he saw me. “Damn, dude! What did you do to your hair?” “What? Does it look bad?” I immediately started flailing at it with my hands. “No, no, dude. It looks great. It’s just a shock. I mean, you took the time to get it done right. Looks amazing on you. Should’ve done it a lot sooner. You look almost human, man. Well come on in. The rents are waitin’ dinner on us.” He led me to the kitchen table. The aromas in there were divine. In addition to the casserole, Laura had spread the table with fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, jalapeno peppers, cheeses, guacamole, three kinds of salsa and several bowls of chips. It was a feast! We gorged ourselves on great food and lasting memories. Laura told the story of how she helped set up my apartment way back at the beginning and I nearly cried when she looked at me across the table. I think she nearly did too because she jumped up and said, “Damn onions. Excuse me.” She went running off to the bathroom dabbing her eyes with her napkin. Over the years I had been in Chicago, I had shared many meals with the Thompson family around their table. They had remained true to their word that I would always be welcome in their home. They really were my Chicago family. I wished I had appreciated them even more than I did. It was bittersweet to be leaving them now. After dinner, Fred and I cleaned up the kitchen so Marcus and Laura could relax a little. She had worked hard to put the meal together. As we did the dishes, Fred was goofing off, snapping his dish towel at my ass and I was laughing hysterically trying to dodge his attempts. He got me once on the thigh and it stung like fire. “Ow, you jerk. That hurt. You wait, I’ll get you back for that.” He took off running and I ran after him, swinging my own wet dishrag, whooping and hollering like we were six years old. It was a riot. I cornered him in the hallway and popped him a good one before we called for a truce. We were both breathing hard. Kitchen cleaned, Fred and I headed to the basement, our usual hangout. We fired up the Playstation and started a game of Call of Duty. I am not good at video games, which is why Fred always wants to play them with me. He knows he has a better than ninety percent chance of annihilating me in the early rounds. Tonight was no exception. I didn’t care. I liked hanging out with Fred, doing nothing. He made it easy. No pressure. “So you’re really gonna do this? Move to Denver?” he said as he sat back and threw his controller on the couch next to him. “Yep. All packed and ready to go. Leaving tomorrow morning.” “I’m gonna miss you, Jack. You know that don’t you?” He looked a little sad. “Yeah, I do, Fred. I feel the same way. It’s been great to be here and hang out with you and the other guys on occasion. I’m gonna miss it. I have to start all over out there.” Now I was getting a little sad. Crap! Goodbyes were hard. Fred leaned forward and looked hard at me sitting in my chair across from him. “Jack, I need to say something to you. Please don’t be mad at me, but I want you to know I hope you find a great guy in Denver who makes you the happiest man on the planet.” I dropped my controller on the floor and sat there with my mouth hanging open. Anxiety and fear rose up along with a flood of bile and Mexican food. I don’t know how I willed myself not to throw up but I managed it. I was shaking in near panic mode. “Fred...I don’t know...I mean how did...you know? About me?” I was in shock. My big secret was lying there out in the open. He just said it like we were talking about the weather or something. He sat up on the edge of his seat. “Relax, Jack. Take it easy. And breathe, man. You’re kinda freaking me out now.” I did as he said and worked really hard to control my breathing. I was getting better at recovery at least. I didn’t know what to say, how to respond. I was floundering mentally and emotionally. How could he know? “Jack, listen. I’ve known for a long time. Probably while we were still in college, but definitely since you moved to Chicago. It’s no big deal, not to me anyway. It never changed anything.” “But how...I mean...I was so careful. I never wanted you to know or make you uncomfortable. I mean, geez, Fred, why didn’t you ever say something sooner?” “It wasn’t my place, Jack. It’s really none of my business. Except I wanted you to be happy and I knew you really weren’t. We’d go out with the guys and they’d be cuttin’ up, talking trash about the ladies, just bein’ guys, and you’d be sittin’ there like you were lost in the woods. To your credit, you hid it really, really well, Jack. Nobody else caught on, not that I know of. Which is surprising, seein’ as how you have never once dated anyone or ever even talked about a girl.” Or a guy, either. My head was still reeling and I sat there rubbing my hands over and over through my hair. What do I do now? What do I say to him? “Jack...dude, relax. It’s okay. I didn’t say it to upset you. I’m sorry if it did. Really. I just wanted you to know I get it. I know what it’s like to want to have somebody for yourself and watch everybody around you get it and you’re left out in the cold. I want you to have what you want, Jack. If it’s a hot dude, then go for it, man.” “Fred, I really don’t know what to say. I’m sorry, I guess. I didn’t mean to deceive you. I was just scared, ya know? I had no idea how anybody would react if they knew. I just expected the worst. And I had no other friends, Fred. Not after college. You and your family are all I have here. I couldn’t take a chance on losing you. And here you knew all the time. Crap, I’m such an idiot.” “Jack, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yeah, you should have told me. I could have fixed you up with at least three different guys I know from work. One of them is this creative type in the marketing department. Jack, I’m tellin’ ya, if I swung for your side I’d make a run at this guy. He intimidates all the other straight guys at the office. And the ladies flock to him, even though they know he’s gay. It’s like he’s a magnet or something. Lucky fucker.” “Well, it’s just as well, I guess, since I’m leaving tomorrow.” Another missed opportunity. They were piling up in my wake. “Tell me something, Jack. I’m curious. But only if you want to, okay?” He was being careful of my feelings now. I think I freaked him out a bit. “Okay, Fred. What do you want to know?” I was scared to ask, but I felt like I owed him for covering for me all this time. “What’s it like to be with a guy? I mean, I don’t get it. I don’t see the attraction. I see a naked guy at the gym, I hardly notice.” He really wanted to know. Problem is, so did I. “Fred, I would tell you, honestly, but the truth is, I don’t know yet. I’ve never actually...had sex...with a guy.” I can’t believe I told him I was a virgin. But what did I have to lose now? “Seriously? You’re like twenty-four and you’ve never gotten laid? Not even with a girl?” “Ewwww. No. Never. I feel about girls the same way you feel about guys. A naked woman does nothing for me. Not interested. Now, I see a naked guy in a locker room and I’m gonna be trying desperately not to pop a boner. High school gym class was a nightmare.” He was smiling at me. “Really? I bet that would be tough. Plus I’m sure there were plenty of assholes ready to pound you if it happened, right?” “Probably. Which is why I made sure it never happened. I took multiple music classes so I could get out of gym class to avoid it altogether.” He laughed. “So, if you aren’t having sex with anybody, how do you...uh...well, you know...get relief?” He was serious. I laughed. “The same way you do, dickhead. I jack off. A lot!” We both burst out laughing. “Yeah, I hear ya, Jack. Some nights my hand aches a little. The thing is, I don’t just want to get laid anymore for the sake of it. I want the real deal. Would it shock you if I told you I’m thinkin’ of calling Allison to see if she’ll go out with me again? I heard she was back in the area.” I sat up straighter. “Fred, are you kidding me? That would be awesome. I never understood why you two didn’t get married right after college. You obviously loved her.” “Yeah, I did. But I screwed it up. I started pressuring her for sex. And she really wanted to wait. I got so frustrated I gave up on her. Really, really stupid. I hurt her pretty bad. I only hope I can somehow convince her I’ve changed and I’m willing to wait as long as it takes.” “Wow, Fred. That’s a big step. I hope it works out for you. You two would be great together.” “So Jack, last question,” he said with a mischievous grin. “How come you never made a pass at me? Am I not sexy enough for you?” Crap! I knew this question was coming. It’s just how he is. “Fred, you are plenty hot for a guy, I promise. And if I didn’t know you and I wasn’t scared of my own shadow and I met you somewhere, I would at least try to flirt with you. If you were open to it, maybe–and it’s a big maybe–then I might be willing to explore further. I never have yet, but yeah, Fred, you’re hot enough. The thing is, Fred, once I know a guy, and I know he’s straight, he ceases to be an option for me. I’m not interested in making them uncomfortable. You are as straight as they come and I’ve known it since I met you. So it was never an issue between us. We’re friends. Period.” “Okay, that’s cool. I get it. And we are friends, Jack. I hope forever. Of all the guys I met in college and even at work, I trust you the most. You’re the guy I know I can talk to about anything. And I may be wrong, but I think you’d be there for me if I needed you. I know I would do the same for you.” “Fred, thank you. And yes, I’ve got your back. No matter where I am. So let’s try real hard to keep in touch, okay? I know we might not, but I hope we do.” We stood up. Everything needing to be said had been said. We hugged it out like brothers and then I went upstairs to say goodbye to his parents. Marcus and Laura walked me to the foyer. She handed me a container of leftover Mexican casserole, and ordinarily I would have jumped at it. But I had no place to put it now. I couldn’t take it on the plane with me. Then I remembered Alex. He would probably appreciate it, so I took the dish from her outstretched hand. We hugged one another and there were a few tears, even from Marcus. These were such special people to me. I may have been leaving Chicago, but I was determined to not leave their lives for good. They were too important to throw away. I got out of there feeling emotionally wrung out and exhausted. Fred’s revelation that he had known for some time I was gay had rocked me. I was filled with regret for having hidden behind the mask for so long. What had I missed out on? Would I be leaving Chicago if I had instead chosen to live as the gay man I am out in the open? No way to know, but I decided right then and there, no matter how hard it might’ve been, I was not going to make the same mistake in Denver. I probably wouldn’t be dancing on table tops, belting out show tunes in a feather boa, but I was going to be me–my version of a gay man. I hoped I could pull it off. Do it afraid, Jack. Do it afraid.
  13. Chapter 36

    Chapter 36 Friday morning, I arrived at work early so I could get a jump on the day. I was in the kitchenette getting some water when Alex Newton, our newest junior salesman, walked in, visibly upset. He had been crying, I was sure, but I wasn’t going to say anything. He got some coffee and was stirring his cream into the cup with a ferocious circular motion through the brown liquid. “Can I ask you something, Jack?” he asked. “Uh, sure, Alex, what’s up?” I replied. “How is it one minute a woman can tell you she wants to be with you for the rest of her life, and then, like only a week later, tells you she thinks she’s made a mistake? I don’t get it.” Oh crap, girl trouble. I’m so not the right guy for this. Help! “Ummm, Alex, what’s going on?” I figured I could stall by asking for more information and then hopefully one of the other sales guys could rescue me with some real advice for him. “My girlfriend, Rose, and I just moved in together a few weeks ago. Actually I moved into her place. My lease was up at the beginning of this month so it made the most sense. And I was great with it. Really looking forward to living with her. I mean, I’m thinking this is the girl I’m gonna be marrying soon. It was serious. “Then I get home last night and she’s sitting on the couch with this upset look on her face and I can tell something’s up. So I ask and she tells me she’s really, really sorry...she doesn’t want to hurt me, but she just isn’t comfortable with us living together unmarried. I mean like, you didn’t know this before I gave up my apartment? Now I have nowhere to live. Fuck!” His coffee splashed a little as he smashed the cup down on the counter. He was getting seriously upset. I needed to get him calmed down. I kept looking, but no cavalry on the horizon to rescue me. “Alex, calm down and come sit over here.” We moved to one of the two tables in the kitchen. “So what happened next? I assume you moved out?” “Yeah, I packed up my clothes and shit and split. I was too mad to talk so thankfully she got out of there while I gathered my things. I’m sleeping on a buddy’s couch until I can find a place to stay. All my stuff’s in my car. Damn it, man. I love her. Why did she have to flake on me like this?” “Did she say she wanted to break off the relationship?” I asked. Scary question, but it popped out. But it stopped him and he sat there and thought about it. “You know, she never said that. She just said she didn’t want to live together until she was married. When she told me she needed me to move out, I freaked a little and she took off so, no, we never discussed it.” “So Alex, what you’re saying is, Rose may still want to be with you, just not live with you. So you have some choices to make. If it’s not a deal breaker, find a place to live in the short term, ask her to marry you and start making wedding plans. The faster you get her down the aisle, the faster you get to live with her again.” “Damn, Jack. How’d you get to be so smart about women? You give good advice.” Oh, Alex, you have no idea how little I understand women. Men, either. “I’m gonna call her right now, see if she’ll talk to me. Thanks, Jack. Hey, you don’t have any other miracles up your sleeves, like an apartment I can rent quick, do ya?” And that’s how my apartment was sublet in record time. My Tumi luggage was delivered to my apartment on Saturday morning right after I finished laundry and cleaning, and I spent half the day admiring it, playing with the zippers and loading and unloading my toiletries in the Dopp kit. I liked my new toys and I was looking forward to using them for real in a week’s time. I had decided to leave everything in the apartment but my clothes for Alex. He had nothing and there was no telling how long he might be there. I had no use for any of it and it made me feel good someone would be able to use it. I was giving back, like Laura Thompson, Marcus’ wife, had encouraged me to do. I was sure she would approve. I still had to figure out my car, but I had an idea. I needed to speak to Mary on Monday to see if it would work. My final week in Chicago flew by. Marcus hired Andrea Paulson, an extremely intelligent woman in her forties with a knack for accounting systems. She was professional, diligent, and best of all, she didn’t require nor really want any training from me. In fact, I learned a thing or two from her about managing accounts payable which might have saved me many hours every month doing the books. Marcus loved her. The other person who loved her was Mary. She and Andrea got along from day one like they were best friends. They were roughly the same age and apparently they had a lot in common in terms of personality, family issues, and other things which I didn’t pay much attention to. I just knew the two of them would be cracking up at some joke or another many times a day. I think everyone in the office was relieved Mary had someone to talk to to keep her occupied and not nosing into anyone else’s business. I showed Andrea how we did payroll–how the calculations were done and how we uploaded the data to the payroll service. I showed her how to add herself as a new employee and how to figure the payroll tax settings and other admin things. We got the file sent off on schedule and Marcus breathed a noticeable sigh of relief. I think at that point I could have quietly slipped out the door and he would have hardly noticed. On Wednesday, I approached Mary with my idea for my car. I hoped she didn’t think I was meddling in her family squabbles. “Mary, I have a question,” I said. “Sure, Jack. What is it?” she replied. “Your son, Stewart, runs an auto mechanics school in Addison, correct?” She did not speak to her son often. He was apparently still angry with her for something she did many years ago which she had never divulged. “Yes, I’m sure he still does. It’s a decent size school too. It’s my understanding nearly all the students are sought after by the better car dealerships in the area.” Still a proud mama even if the relationship was on the rocks. “Well, Mary, I have my car which I still need to get rid of. I was thinking of donating it to Stewart for use in his school.” “Jack, you can’t do that! You need the money, I’m sure. Can’t you just sell it outright?” “The thing is, it’s a used car and it’s not worth much. I’m leaving in three days and I really just want to settle it now. It seemed like a good idea, but if you think he wouldn’t want it, I’ll have to think of something else.” What I was really trying to do was to get her to call him on the pretext of me gifting the car and maybe it would spark a conversation which could lead to some healing of the rift. I really did care for Mary despite how hard she made it at times. And I suspected her stubbornness and pride was the real roadblock to Stewart relating to her again. “No, no, Jack. Don’t do that. If you really want to donate it, I suppose I can call him and see if he wants it. When do you need to know?” Yes! She had taken the bait. “The sooner the better, Mary. It’s the last big thing I have left to cross off my ‘Leaving Chicago’ list.” “Fine, I’ll call him at lunch time.” Then the phone rang and she was on task again. I really hoped he said yes. My plan was to leave the car there at work and she would have to give him the paperwork personally. It was all I could do. I hoped it worked. Alex came up to me as I was putting on my jacket to go to lunch. “Hey, Jack. Wait up a minute.” “What’s up, Alex?” I asked. “Listen, I was wondering. I know you’re leaving Saturday morning and you said I could move in later the same day. Would it be possible to move my stuff in on Friday after work instead? My buddy is having a big blow out party on Friday and I really have nowhere to go. I’m sorry to ask. I really appreciate all you’ve already done for me.” He was looking like a lost puppy—pathetic, cute and cuddly. “Well, Alex, it’s only one bedroom and I only have the one bed. You’ll have to sleep on the floor for one night. Are you cool with that?” “Sure, sure. No problem, Jack. I got the floor. No big deal. Thanks man, I owe you one.” “Oh, Alex, I almost forgot. I have to go to a farewell dinner at some friends’ house on Friday, so I won’t be home until afterwards. I can give you a key on Friday and you can let yourself in. You know where everything is, right?” He had come over on Monday after work to check it out and sign the sublease agreement with the management company running the place. He was thrilled with the apartment, especially when I told him I was leaving all my leftover things for him. He nearly cried but saved himself at the last second. It was touching. After I got back from lunch, the phones went a little crazy. We had introduced an improved version of one of our systems a few weeks ago and suddenly we had orders coming in at a fast clip. Marcus kept walking around, his smile beaming from ear to ear like his prized heifer won the blue ribbon at the state fair. I was happy for him. He worked hard to make the company a success, as did everybody else. Mary fielded the phones and transferred calls to various sales guys and I typed up orders as fast as they could write them. Even Alex, who had only been with the company a short time, had two sales in one afternoon. He was on cloud nine. His commission on those two units would pay the rent for a month on the apartment. I was happy too. When things finally died down around four-thirty, I asked Mary if she had had a chance to call Stewart at lunch. She had. “Well, did he go for it? Can he use the car?” I asked. “Yes. He wants it. Said it would be a big help. He’s been looking to expand his schedule of class offerings, but hasn’t been able to for lack of resources for equipment and cars to work on. He’s actually excited about it, Jack. Told me to tell you thank you very much.” It sounded like it went well, but she had a funny look on her face. I frowned. “Mary, are you alright? You don’t look happy. I thought you would feel good about helping Stewart with his business.” “Oh I do, Jack. I do. It was a really thoughtful thing for you to do and I appreciate it too. It’s just that...he said something to me...on the phone today. It kind of upset me.” She looked like she could cry any second. Oh boy, now I’d stepped in it. “What’d he say, Mary? Are you gonna be okay?” She reached for a tissue just as the first tears fell. “Damn it, Jack. He told me he missed me. He has so much he wishes he could tell me about his life, his school. He’s met someone he thinks is the one. Oh, Jack...I’ve been such a fool. I don’t even remember why I’ve been so mad at him. Do you think he could ever forgive me and give me another chance? I do miss him. So much. I didn’t realize how much until I heard his voice.” Now the tears were free flowing with frequent nose blowing as well. I exhaled, relieved. “Mary, I think this is great. Yes, he’ll forgive you. Sounds like he already has. He made the first invitation. Go see him. Let him tell you everything and let him be excited like a little kid. And whatever you do, Mary Ricketts, don’t go judging his decisions and questioning his plans. He’s doing fine without any judgment from you. Oh, Mary, this turned out better than I ever hoped.” “What? What do you mean, Jack? What did you hope?” Oops! My big mouth strikes again. I started pushing things around on my desk to avoid her eyes. “Oh...you know...nothing really. I just knew you really missed him. I can tell every time he comes up in conversation, you get this far away look in your eye like you’re remembering some good time with him and wishing it could be the same again. I hoped calling him about my car would maybe spark a conversation and you guys could move past whatever pain there was from the past. And it looks like it worked.” I looked up with an apologetic smile. “Oh my...You did this on purpose? It wasn’t just about the car? Damn it, Jack, now you’ve got me crying again.” She was smiling through happy tears now, looking at me like I was someone special or something. I wasn’t. I just can’t stand it when people refuse to get along, especially when they don’t even know why any more. Mary blew her nose and got herself in reasonable order. We decided to call it a night. As we were walking out to our cars, she stopped me with a hand on my arm. “Jack, I’m really gonna miss you, you know that, right? You are a really special guy, and it’s been a privilege to work alongside you these past two years. I hope you get everything you ever wanted out of life. You deserve it.” She turned quickly and walked to her car. I think she was trying not to cry again. I didn’t even try to fight my own tears. I just let them fall as I started my car to head home. I was going to miss her too.
  14. Chapter 35

    I agree. I will likely reorganize it a bit for the final publication
  15. Chapter 34

    I have so many story ideas bouncing around in my head they pop out without warning sometimes.
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