Jack Schaeffer

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  1. This version of the story (Awakening Forever) is organized more as a finished book, whereas when I wrote and posted on the other sites, I felt I had to write more with each post. I average 20K words to a posting there, but here, each chapter is approx 3K. So when I post a "chapter" to other sites, it's really like 6 or more at a time. That might explain the "weirdness" in this format.
  2. The danger of breaking a story into chapters - they can't all be a roller coaster ride. Two more chapters already scheduled - Wednesday and Friday morning at 6 am
  3. Chapter 19 I stood naked at the bathroom mirror, trying to scrape away the last bit of dark brown stubble from my neck, when there was a knock on the door. Crap! That would be my breakfast. I quickly rinsed and put on the plush, white robe hanging from the bathroom door and ran to answer it. I checked through the peephole and was pleasantly surprised to see Miguel, my original bellman, waiting. I opened the locks and greeted him with a friendly smile, cinching my bathrobe a little tighter as I held the door back while he wheeled in the cart holding my food. Miguel smiled at me and said, “Good morning, Mr. Schaeffer. I have your breakfast. Where would you like to set it up?” He looked very dapper in his uniform and his cologne was intoxicating. I smiled back, gesturing to the low table in front of the couch. He kept looking at me the whole time, his eyes taking in my semi-naked state. I would have had to be blind not to see he was interested in more than his tip. I felt my dick start to harden a little but I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it. He transferred plates of food and glasses of water and juice to the coffee table–there was even a small vase with real flowers in it. His expressions of lust grew more pronounced. He was clearly ripping my robe off with his eyes and planning what he wanted to do when he had me naked. When all was in place, he handed me the check to sign with a look on his face which chilled me to the bone. He licked his lips, now openly leering at me. I suddenly felt like a mouse being stared down by a snake. His mouth morphed into an evil grin. I stopped breathing. I suddenly felt naked and vulnerable—and not in a good way. Instead of turning me on, he was creeping me out. My skin crawled as I slashed through the tip line and quickly scribbled my signature and room number. I handed him the folio and said, “Thank you, Miguel. That’ll be all.” I pulled the belt of my robe even tighter. He frowned at my rebuff, the vaguest appearance of an angry sneer forming on his lips. He didn’t say another word, just turned and pushed the cart out into to the hall. I threw the locks, reattached the safety bar and leaned back against the door, trying to breathe normally again. This was the kind of attention I had always hoped to avoid. Flirting was sexy and fun—being stalked like prey was not. I mentally tried to shake it off, checked the peephole to make sure he wasn’t lingering, then stepped back into the bathroom to finish up. Grooming completed and work clothes donned, I forgot about Miguel and sat down with my breakfast. I was hungry. I lifted the gray metal plate covers and inhaled the amazing aromas. The omelet was perfection, the fruit fresh and flavorful and my toast was done just right–not too light, not too dark. I hated burnt toast. I indulged in a generous amount of whipped butter and jelly on a slice as I stared out the window towards the beautiful mountains in the distance. The sun reflecting off of the snow topped peaks had rays of light shooting everywhere. Truly a “mountain majesties” moment for me. I finished my toast, swallowed the last of the juice, then decided I needed to call Sharon to get the day started. I wasn’t sure what the next steps were, but I was determined to put Amanda’s advice to work. She had given me a tool in the form of a pile of money and I didn’t know the first thing about how to use the tool. I was hoping Clyde or Sharon could help. I didn’t know anybody else, really. Except Billy. I smiled, thinking the only tool he probably cared about today was the one between Jerome’s legs. Sharon answered on the first ring, and seemed surprised to hear from me so soon. “Good morning, Jack. Is everything alright?” “Morning, Sharon. I’m doing great. I was wondering what’s on the agenda for today. I don’t think we really set a plan yesterday before I kinda fell apart on you all.” “Jack, let it all go. You did nothing wrong.” She was back in mother mode. I loved it. “Let me chat with Clyde a minute, see what he has planned. You wanna hold?” “Sure, I’ll hold.” I paced around the living room as I waited, contemplating my precious cell minutes being swallowed up by the second. Then I realized I could probably get a bigger plan now, maybe even a smartphone with some data or something now that I had a bigger wallet. Well, in theory anyway. The wallet in my back pocket currently had twenty-seven dollars in it. Probably wouldn’t cover cab fare to the airport. Sharon came back on and said Clyde was thrilled I had recovered and was ready to re-engage. He was going to call Larry Weiss and set something up for the afternoon. She would call Billy to come get me right away. I thanked her for the help and hung up. I figured I had a few minutes to kill, so I checked my teeth, brushed my hair again and hung up the robe I had dropped on the bathroom floor. I noticed my nasty white shirt from yesterday laying on the floor as well, so I held it under some cold water to rinse out the mess on the sleeve and collar. Since it was soaking wet, I hung it on a hanger and used the hairdryer to get it in decent shape again. At least it wouldn’t mildew or stink up my duffel bag on the trip home tonight. I wasn’t sure if I should check out of my room or not, before heading over to Clyde’s office. I didn’t want to bother Sharon again–I’m sure she had other work to do besides attending to me all the time–so I decided to let it go for now. I could always come back later and get my things. The phone on the desk rang with an orange light blinking. I answered it and Billy let me know he would be downstairs in five minutes or so. Time to get moving. I saw Miguel standing by the front desk as I exited the elevator downstairs. I may have imagined it, but I swear I could feel his eyes following me, contemplating evil. I quick-stepped across the lobby to the exit. I was never so glad to see Billy pull up just as I exited the revolving door. He had my door open and was standing there with his signature smile, eyes dancing in the sunlight, long hair blowing in the gentle breeze. His black suit and matching turtleneck shirt fit him perfectly, stretched tightly over the black muscle god underneath it all. I slid in the back, he got behind the wheel and we were off. “How was dinner last night, Billy? Was it a happy anniversary?” I asked. I really wanted to know. “Fantastic, Jack. Jerome outdid himself. In more ways than one.” He chuckled and I smiled back in the mirror. I was glad he was being so open, which was extremely unusual for me. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I guess I was relaxing a bit with the knowledge Billy knew I was gay and didn’t care. I had never actually said I was gay. I never spoke the words. But I knew he knew and I was okay with it for some reason, even if I didn’t know how he knew. Maybe it was because Billy seemed to accept me for who I was. There was nothing to fear from him. We arrived at the law office building and parked in the garage. I followed Billy as usual, again, stealing glances at his ass as he walked. This time I kept imagining Jerome doing sexy things to Billy’s ass. I had no idea what Jerome looked like but I had a pretty good imagination when it came to gay sex. Years of practice. In the elevator, Billy pressed the button for seventeen and grinned at me. “Are you looking at my butt again, Jack? I told you, my ass belongs to Jerome forever.” I instantly blushed, feeling the heat on my face and neck. I was mortified I had been caught. My old fears came bounding back. “It’s cool, Jack. No worries. I think it’s great a cute guy like you is pervin’ on my ass. It’s a world class ass, don’t ya think?” He was smiling huge now as he patted his butt. I looked at it again, still struggling for a mental foothold. “Relax, Jack. You got nothin’ to be ashamed of. Straight guys lust after women all the time. Makes sense a gay guy would be looking at men’s asses and crotches every chance he gets. Besides, like I said, I like that you think I’m sexy. Not so’s we can do anything about it. I’m in love with Jerome–have been for twelve years now. He’s my rock, my lover, my best friend. And just between you and me, my man can fuck. My God, can that man fuck! Makes sittin’ down a challenge this morning though.” He was laughing again. The heat on my face and neck intensified. I was shocked to be having this conversation but I truthfully didn’t want it to end. This was the first time I had ever had a real life, sort of open conversation about two guys having sex together. Ever. And Billy was saying it all as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Oh how I envied his freedom. We arrived on the seventeenth floor and stepped alone into the foyer. Billy stopped me with a gentle hand on my shoulder, his look suddenly serious. “I hope I didn’t offend you, Jack. I didn’t mean to, I promise. Sometimes I get a little too free with my mouth. Jerome gets on my case about it all the time. Says I embarrass him somethin’ awful.” I thought about it and realized I was far from offended–I was grateful for it. “No problem, Billy. Really. Actually, I appreciate it. I really do. I...it’s just...well, I’ve never had someone I could talk to about...uh...you know...sex...sex with guys, that is. Thank you.” I was blushing again, but at least I wasn’t averting my eyes in abject mortification. “You know, Jack, you have to give yourself time. Don’t push yourself so hard. You need to be comfortable with who you are and it can be hard when you’re gay. I know. I’ve been there. Takes a while to figure stuff out. But you listen to me, Jack. Don’t go chasin’ after the first dick that gets waved in your face. And don’t you ever let a guy treat you with disrespect. I mean it, you need to find a man who will love you for the total you, not just your fun bits. Until then, you just wait it out. You feel me?” He wasn’t smiling now–he was all serious business. “I feel you, Billy. I just keep wondering, when is it going to happen? You are the only gay guy I’ve ever actually talked to, ya know? I’ve never actually said I was...gay...before. I just tried to ignore it but I don’t think it’s working anymore.” I hoped I didn’t sound pitiful. I couldn’t believe I had just said I was gay out loud. “I did the same thing, Jack. The same damn thing. And I had myself so twisted in knots I thought I’d die before I had my first kiss. But I don’t know, one day I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror and said, Billy Adams, you are gay. You’ve always been gay. You’re always gonna be gay. Might as well go ahead and be gay. I told mama and daddy the same night. I finally started being the real me. I was seventeen and still scared to death, but at least I could be honest with myself.” I looked at him with increased respect. I was in awe of this man–the stature of his body and the stature of his heart. This was a big, big man–inside and out. And I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be free to be me, just like Amanda said I should be. I suddenly had a horrifying thought. “Oh God, Billy. Does your mother know about me?” He laughed big and loud. “Jack, it’s okay. I don’t know if she knows or not. She might suspect. That woman has ways of knowin’ a person that are spooky sometimes. But even if she does know, you got nothin’ to be afraid of. I don’t know how you did it, but you wormed your way into her heart faster than anybody I’ve ever seen. She called me last night and went on for twenty minutes, worryin’ about if you were gonna be okay. Jerome had to get on the extension and tell her good night so our food didn’t get cold. No way she’d not be okay with whatever you are.” “Are you sure, Billy? I would hate to have her not like me. I think she’s a very special lady. I’d have been lost out here without her. And you.” “I’m sure, Jack. I’m sure. Come on, they’re gonna start wonderin’ what’s keepin’ us.” I was grinning as we entered the office and made our way around the maze of cubicles and desks. I sensed I had just made a small but significant step towards being the true me. It was as if I had lived my whole life behind a curtain of pretense, denying even to myself the truth of my sexuality. I may not be dancing out in front of the curtain just yet, but I was starting to peek out a little from behind it. It didn’t look so scary out there anymore.
  4. FYI (for those interested in such things ) When I sat down to write this letter from Amanda to Jack, I had NO idea what she was going to say as I typed the first few words on the screen. I purposely did not plan the words or the emotions, but just let them happen. I wrote it in one sitting, and it is largely unchanged from the way I first wrote it. The backstory of Jack's birth father, Amanda's story, all of it came alive in my mind seconds before I typed it for the first time. When I was finished, I was sobbing. Like a blubbery mess kind of sobbing. I knew in that moment something wonderful had transpired, and the simple little story I had originally envisioned became something so much more. The ideal of loving someone else with totality - holding nothing back - is not something we see much anymore. Too many count the cost of loving this way and pull back in fear of being taken advantage of or of being hurt. In doing so, they miss out on one of the deepest, richest, most rewarding experiences life can give us. Sure, the pain of loss is much greater when you love so completely, but the joys are exponentially greater, too. "Do it afraid" is something I heard nearly twenty years ago that changed my life. Hearing it come out of Amanda's mouth to Jack's ears told me this story was not about riches and a fairy tale ending. It would be about struggles and challenges, too. Specifically her challenge to use the money as a tool to change people's lives - Jack was a young man in sore need of a purpose, and the encouragement to believe he could do good with his life. Amanda's letter came at the exact moment he needed it most. Turns out he wasn't the only one. I needed this letter from Amanda, and I think a great many readers of Forever would agree she was speaking to them as well. I think many of us would love the opportunity to change the world for the better. The thing is - we can. If we love fully, and we do it afraid when we have to. You don't even need need millions of dollars (though it can help )
  5. I agree with you that Amanda is, and will always be, a driving force for Jack's choices and how he lives his life. She represents such a rich dichotomy to the self-serving adoptive family in which he was raised.
  6. Yes! These are the central themes of the entire Forever Saga. Living life fully, authentically, and for other people more than one's self - that's the key to happiness for Jack. (for the rest of us, too).
  7. Chapter 18 I held Amanda’s letter in my hand, nervously flipping it back and forth. I held it under my nose, inhaling a faint fragrance—her perfume perhaps? The envelope itself was beautiful—elegant and restrained. I opened the seal as carefully as I could. Thankfully, I didn’t rip it. Inside were many pages folded together. Apparently she had much to tell me. I hoped I was ready to hear it. To my son, If you are reading this letter, then Clyde has found you and my hoped upon plan succeeded. You are a young man by now. I hope you look like your father. I am sure you have a million questions for me and I have some, but not all, of the answers. I thought long and hard about whether it was appropriate to prepare this letter but a friend of mine encouraged me that it was the right thing to do. As you probably now know, my name is Amanda Franklin and I am your birth mother. I gave you up for adoption on the day you were born. If I allow myself, I believe I can still remember your smell as I held you for a short while after the delivery. You were so cute, my beautiful baby boy. I don’t remember anything about my pregnancy or delivery. I guess I blocked all of it out of my mind. But you…you, I remember. I tried to forget for the last 24 years. I tried to forget everything about that time in my life. There was so much pain, so much hurt. But there was also you. Please forgive my ramblings. I’ll start at the beginning. I was born Amanda Wilding in San Diego, California, 53 years ago. I was the only child of a doctor and a school teacher. My childhood was unremarkable and completely normal. All the usual life events, nothing tragic or traumatic. I graduated high school and went to UCLA where I earned my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. I got my dream job with ACON Laboratories in San Diego, working in medical research. There I met my first love, Patrick. Patrick was two years older than me and so handsome. And smart. He had the darkest brown hair, almost black, with the deepest green eyes that held my heart from the moment I met him. We were inseparable. We were married quickly – I was 24, he was 26. We rented a small bungalow near the beach and did everything together. We worked in the same lab together, worked on the same research teams, everything. We didn’t have much money but we didn’t care. We were young and in love. Our research teams made big progress in diabetes medicine. We helped put together better instruments for measuring blood glucose for patients among other things. It was extremely rewarding work. I was so proud of what we were doing together, Patrick and I. I had just turned 29 when I got pregnant. At first I was not happy, as I had never wanted children. I guess I was one of those rare women whose work was her life and fulfillment. But Patrick was over the moon. He was so excited. He wanted to make a nursery out of our spare bedroom the first week. I made him wait. My pregnancy was uneventful, as it progressed normally. I went through all the usual stages, gained the right amount of weight, passed all the tests. Sometime in those first few months, as you grew inside of me, my thinking all changed and I wanted you more than I wanted anything else in life. I couldn’t stop thinking about holding you and feeding you and taking care of you. I fantasized about you and your father and me running our own research company and curing diseases together. That was our dream. But dreams don’t always come true. Patrick and I were driving in a rainstorm to my parents’ house for a dinner party. I didn’t want to go – I was getting tired easily in my sixth month. But Patrick said we should go, so we went. I don’t remember anything but what they told me afterwards. A semi truck driven by a drunk man crossed the center lane and hit our little pickup truck head on. Patrick was instantly killed and me nearly so. I was in the hospital for two weeks before they brought me out of a medically induced coma. I had a broken arm, broken leg, and broken ribs. I had various cuts and stitches on my head, neck, and torso from flying glass. I was lucky to be alive. So were you. My doctor in the hospital said he couldn’t understand how you didn’t die. All their tests showed you were fine despite all my injuries. They nursed my body back to health, but they couldn’t fix my mind or my broken heart. Patrick had been my life, my everything, even more than my work. More than you. My parents took me home to live with them and I had to see a psychologist for depression. They couldn’t give me any drugs for it because they might harm you. As the days got closer to my due date, I knew I had to decide what to do. I could try to go on as a single mother without Patrick, but I had to be honest with myself. I wasn’t prepared to do that. Not in any way. I lost my job, our house by the beach. I lost everything. And I wasn’t sure I even wanted to live anymore. I couldn’t imagine bringing a baby into my nightmare. It wasn’t fair. I made some calls and found out I could have my baby adopted through the county social services department. I had no money and no means of support so they helped me with the last month’s doctor bills. On May 17th I started labor. My father got me to the county hospital and you were born the following morning. I don’t know what your name is now, but for the time I held you in my arms, you were Patrick John Watson, II. That’s what I told the nurse your name was. I think I signed a paper for your birth certificate but I’m sure it was changed later. I named you after your father, you see. Even then I had a glimmer of hope maybe you could carry on some part of him even if I knew I no longer could. Selfish of me, I can see that now. I came home from the hospital totally lost. I slid deeper into depression. This time they gave me drugs but they made me sick. Then came the news my mother was ill. She had breast cancer. I did my best to try to take care of her – it helped my depression but I couldn’t save her. She mercifully died six months later, her pain-ravaged body an empty shell. My father was beyond despair. Like me, he loved totally and completely. We didn’t know any other way. It leaves you utterly empty inside when the one you love is gone. My father committed suicide one month later. No one, least of all me, expected him to do that. I was devastated and now completely alone in the world. Everything I had ever known and loved was now a horrible reminder of the tragedies of that year. I needed to work – it was the one thing that always grounded me. I tried to find a job in California, but realized I needed to get away and start a new life away from all the memories. I landed a job at Franklin Pharmaceuticals in Denver doing what I loved – medical research. I moved into an apartment and threw myself into the work. I slowly came alive again. That’s when I met Phillip. Phillip was like no man I had ever known, even Patrick. Phillip was the company owner’s son, the heir apparent to the family business, but he wanted no part of running it. He wanted to do research, same as me. We met for the first time at a company holiday party. He worked on another research team in a different building so our paths had never crossed. We spent that evening comparing theories for splicing genes to introduce mutations into viruses. He was fascinating, a truly brilliant mind. I was hooked. We got married a few months later, and we had a wonderful life together. Thankfully Phillip’s father kept running the company so Phillip and I could continue doing research together. We were proud of our advancements in diabetes medicines and we were starting research into some promising new cancer treatments when his father died suddenly of a heart attack during a board meeting. Phillip really did not want to run the company. It just wasn’t his thing. But he wanted the research we were doing to continue. We tried to do both for a couple of years, but it became too much. Thankfully, another pharmaceutical company made an offer to purchase Franklin Pharma and Phillip got the board to cut a deal. After the transition was completed a year later, Phillip and I decided to retire from research work. It was better left to younger minds than ours. We now had money, more money than we could ever spend, and we started to travel and enjoy the fruits of our work. Phillip especially liked the ocean so we spent time in Florida and the Caribbean. Retirement was fine. I missed the work and the sense we were helping people, but I appreciated my time with Phillip. I fell in love with him more and more every day. He, more than anyone, had helped heal the loss of Patrick, you, and my parents. I never told Phillip about you. Or Patrick. I told him a little about my parents. About my childhood and that my parents were dead. At first I just didn’t know what to say. It was such a sad chapter of my life I couldn’t think about it without getting seriously depressed so I stayed away from it. I realize now it was unfair to the memory of the people I had loved so very much. But I can’t go back and fix it now. I kept a secret from the man I loved and I regret it so much now. Phillip died in a skiing accident almost three years ago. I miss him every day. After he died I got involved in charity work to keep myself from depression. It helped. I needed a sense I was helping people, making a difference in someone else’s life. It was always the driving force of my life, my purpose, my reason for being. When I got the diagnosis of cancer, I was prepared for it. I think I even half expected it. My mother’s cancer was the same kind, and it’s believed to be genetic. So I knew my odds straight away. But I’m a medical researcher at heart. I endured the chemotherapy and the radiation so they could run tests and do chemical comparisons. Anything to help find a way to ultimately beat the beast that is cancer. I am hopeful I helped in some way. My fight is nearly over. I suspect I have days at most, not the weeks my doctor keeps trying to encourage me with. And I’m ready. But there is the unfinished matter of you, my son. I feel the need to apologize to you. Not for giving you up – I still think that was the most loving thing I could have done at the time for you. But for denying your existence to my Phillip and my friends. Even to myself, really. For that I am truly sorry. It was never my intention to cause you harm. In the past few months I have been thinking about a way in which I can acknowledge you and maybe help you in some way. I know that I may appear to be selfish, waiting until I’m gone to do this but I feel it’s for the best. We have no chance for a relationship of any kind now and I would never want to burden you with such a thing at this point in our lives. But I do care about you in my own way and I have to do something. What I have is money. A lot of money. I don’t really know how much. I leave that to the bankers and lawyers. But Patrick and Phillip both taught me one important lesson about money – it’s a tool for either doing good or doing evil. I am choosing to believe you will be an agent for good. If there is any truth to genetic inheritance, I have to believe your father’s passion for doing good for others will have crossed over to you. I sincerely hope so. He believed the best life was one lived helping his fellow man. Do that, young man. Live your life to help others. The rewards are beyond your imagination. The other thing I want to leave to you is two pieces of advice. These come from lessons I have learned the hard way. The first is this – when you love someone, love them with all your heart. With everything that you are. Totally and completely. Hold nothing back. Yes, you may get hurt. You probably will in some way. I lost two men who were the great loves of my life but I don’t regret for a second loving them with everything I had in me. I promise you that a life lived fully loving is a life well lived. The other is this – do not let fear rule your life. There is much to be afraid of in this world. Circumstances, people, things beyond our control. I let fear rule me after Patrick died and it led to deep depression and difficult, regretful decisions. Do not be afraid of life. Do not be afraid of others. Be who you are and who you believe you were called to be and forget the rest. If someone doesn’t agree or doesn’t like you for it, then they don’t appreciate you for who you are. So move on. Get on with your life and don’t hold back. If you have to, do it afraid. But do it. In my heart I know you are alive. I can feel it. Patrick and I did some great work in the lab together but you are the best thing to ever come from us. Please take the gift that I am giving you as just that, a gift to do something great for others. I pray it is not a burden but a blessing to you. With a hopeful heart, Amanda As the last page floated out of my hand onto the bed beside me, I realized I was holding the edge of a bedsheet in my fist—and it was soaking wet from my tears. I didn’t remember doing it, but I must have grabbed it so my crying would not ruin the beautiful paper. I was a mess. My heart broke for Amanda. So much tragedy, so much pain. The loss of two husbands—and a baby. I was grateful she no longer suffered and grateful she had answered the question about my birth father. He too was dead. I had lost both my birth father and birth mother in one day. More tears fell for my own pain. For the lost opportunities to know them as they were. I only had brief glimpses of their lives. Nothing of the true substance of them. Where did it all leave me? Amanda Franklin spent the last hours of her life thinking about me and what she could do for me. Her words, so tragically written, proved she cared. Her explanation for giving me up–I could totally understand her state of mind and agreed she did the right thing at that point in her life. Besides, my adoption had worked out okay for me for the most part. She had given me a chance for a happy life at my birth. Now she had given me something more. A lot more. The money was on a shelf in my mind for now. The numbers were still incomprehensible. But at least I knew why she did it, why she left it all to me. But as I reread her last words I saw that she had given me some guidance on how to handle her gift. Love fully, do it afraid, do good for other people. She seemed to think I could carry on a legacy of sorts–the legacy of Patrick, Amanda, and Phillip. To help people have better lives. It sounded wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. I was a bookkeeper working in a small company. I lived in a tiny apartment and drove an old used car. I had one hundred seventy dollars in my checking account. I wasn’t a medical researcher discovering new cures for diseases. How could I change the world and make it better for other people? I wanted to. I was on board with her vision. I felt energized by just the thought of it. I wanted that to be me. Making a difference. Be like Amanda and Patrick. But how to do it? I figured the money was supposed to be part of it. She had called money a tool. I never thought about money that way before. A tool, like a shovel for digging a hole or a hammer for a nail. A way to get something done, something necessary accomplished. A way to right a wrong maybe, or change a life for the better. Sitting there on my luxurious hotel bed, ideas started percolating. I felt like I instantly had some secret insight into who I was and who I was supposed to be. I was Jack Schaeffer, not Patrick John Watson, but I had parts of Patrick and Amanda in me. I came from good people, people who made a difference. People who changed things for the better. I wanted to be like that. For them. I wanted to be the legacy they never knew they had. But I also knew I had a lot to learn. A lot was going to have to change. My thinking needed to expand. I needed to get outside myself more, think beyond the horizon I could see. Live for something more than the moment now. I knew one other thing with an absolute certainty–I could no longer be afraid of life. I was going to be me. No matter what. It was time to do it, even if I had to do it afraid.
  8. Chapter 17 Billy got me back to the hotel in record time. He was clearly intent on getting home to Jerome. He opened my door and helped me out. “You gonna be okay tonight, Jack?” “Yep, I am, Billy. Have a great dinner with Jerome.” I smiled as I said it, hoping he knew I was sincere and not making fun of him. “Guaranteed, Jack. And hey, I just want to tell you, you are one of the cutest guys I’ve ever met. It’s been great getting to spend some time with you today. I hope you find the man of your dreams someday. I know my ass belongs to Jerome forever.” He smiled and surprised me with a big hug, then went back around the car to the driver’s door. He winked at me with a grin, then drove away, leaving me standing there paralyzed, jaw hanging to my knees, wondering what just happened. He knew? Billy knew I was gay? How? And he didn’t kill me. He didn’t even hurt me. He had spent his whole day helping me, taking care of me. But that meant he knew I was gay when he carried me to the couch after I fainted. He didn’t tell his mama, “I don’t touch fags. Let him rot on the floor where he is.” No, he picked me up and laid me gently down on the couch. Now that I thought about it, he had been watching out for me all day, noticing when I wasn’t feeling good or needed some rest. I was so confused. Maybe he was nice to me because he was gay too, so he understood. I wasn’t a freak to him–I was just like him. Well, I could never be just like him. The man was huge, built like a tank and gentle as a feather. But I was gay like him. And I had a heart that wanted true love, like he and Jerome seemed to share. Billy somehow knew this about me. I suddenly felt all warm and mushy inside. It was the strangest, best feeling I had had all day. I saw myself smiling in the reflection of the shiny elevator walls heading up to my room. I felt much better now and looked forward to an evening by myself. I liked being alone. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Alone could be a good thing–tonight it was definitely a good thing for me. No more people telling me stories, freaking me out with huge numbers and generally rearranging my life. Tonight, I was going to relax, maybe take a walk, watch some TV, even get some dinner, if I thought my stomach could handle it. So far, things were quiet down there since I gave up my lunch. Maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate right now. I keyed into my room and the first thing I did was put Amanda’s letter on the desk in the living room. I still wasn’t sure when I was going to be ready to read her words. Definitely not this minute. I still wanted some mental and emotional distance from the whole saga. I hung up my suit, threw my shirt on the floor in the bathroom–it needed some washing out from the vomit experience–and finished getting naked. I turned on the hot water in the shower to warm up, then went over to the sink and looked at the man in the mirror. My physical appearance was unchanged from what I was used to seeing: dark brown hair—a little too long and needing a trim—slight five o’clock shadow popping through, green eyes, which sometimes changed to a rusty brown color and a nose and mouth both unremarkable in their normality. My teeth were fairly straight–I had been spared the teenage horror of braces–and I had no piercings or tattoos altering my body. The rest of me was hopelessly average, I thought. Not fat, not skinny. Not tall, not short. Feet, size eleven. Just . . . average. Even my dick was average, I think. I had never compared myself to anyone in real life and I was pretty sure porn star guys were off the scale so, yeah...average. For the most part, I was okay with how I looked. As I said before, I tried not to make a bad impression. And there was nothing about me that screamed “freak” from a physical perspective. I suspected I pretty much blended into the crowd, which was fine with me. I had no desire to stick out and invite unwanted attention, which from my experience was a negative more than a positive. Even in school, when you might win a scholastic award or a medal in a band or choral competition, other students could always find a way to make your success seem like the worst thing you could have done socially. Unless you excelled at sports–then you were golden. No one would accuse me of being good at sports nor did I have a body which could be described as athletic. I had the normal muscles of any guy, they just weren’t toned and defined. I had a flat stomach, but I couldn’t discern any ab muscles–no six pack here. Standing there, looking in the mirror, physically I looked the same as always, but I knew underneath the skin and muscles and sinew I was a changed man. Emotionally and mentally. And these were things I couldn’t really roll back. I was going to have to find a way to move forward with the changes, whether I liked them or not. How to do it was the 580 million dollar question. I broke my narcissistic reverie and stepped into the steaming shower. The heat on my skin was wonderful. Bvlgari shampoo was a wonder all in itself. I followed the instructions on the bottle and shampooed, rinsed and repeated, just to experience it all twice. One of the best things about hotels is they never run out of hot water. You can stay in there as long as you want. I soaped myself thoroughly, hoping to rid myself of remnants of vomit and regrets from the day’s troubles. It was working. I thought about jacking off there in the shower–it was a great place to indulge in my favorite pastime–but I wasn’t really in the mood. So I reluctantly turned the water off before I pruned up too much and dried off with a bath towel twice the size and thickness of mine at home. For a second, I thought about trying to fit a couple of those in my duffel bag for keepsakes but then thought better of it. I would enjoy the Ritz life while I was here, then leave it behind. Not my reality. Back at the sink, I brushed my hair out of my eyes, did a quick teeth brushing as well, then got dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. Just getting clean and putting on comfortable clothes went a long way in helping me relax. I flopped on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV, flipping channels. I watched a weather forecast for Denver on a local news program–thankfully, it forecast tomorrow to be sunny and warmer. I might even skip the jacket. The rest of the news was boring as always, and I tuned it out. I kept seeing Amanda’s letter sitting on the desk across the room. I tried to ignore it but, after a while, it was like it had a voice of its own calling me. I still wasn’t ready to read it. I needed a distraction. I decided on food. When in doubt, eat something—a growing boy’s mantra for life and happiness. I assumed I was dressed appropriately for the restaurant. I had called the front desk and asked about the dress code. I was assured casual was fine. I rode the elevator to the lobby and walked into Elway’s, their signature restaurant. It smelled of spices and wood burning fires. I was seated in a curved booth along the side wall, which I liked because there was nothing behind me and I could look out at the entire room. There was a bar at the front near the entrance with several patrons. The shelving behind the bar was well stocked with alcohol bottles glowing in multi-colored lights. It was pretty in an artsy kind of way but it masked the dangerous power of the liquid inside those bottles in the hands of alcoholics like my brother or father. I shook my head to banish such thoughts. My waiter was a black-haired hunk. Trevor was about my age, and eager to please. He was a true natural at serving. Calm, humor and real skill flowed from his every description, from the specials to the desserts. I was so busy listening and watching him, I lost my concentration and had to ask him to repeat part of it. He didn’t seem to mind. Thankfully the restaurant was not yet crowded, as it was a Thursday night and maybe a tad early for dinner for most. But I was hungry. Trevor brought me a glass of water and some bread and butter served with a smile and twinkling eyes. In the darker mood lighting of the restaurant, his blue eyes radiated amusement and his grin told me he was enjoying himself. Ah, to have a job you love. When he returned for my order, I asked a couple more questions just to listen to the sound of his deep voice, more melodious than Sinatra’s crooning. I hoped he didn’t notice I ordered something completely different from what I had asked about. My Caesar salad, bone-in ribeye steak and Elway’s fried rice were superb. I ate a few of the green beans, but I am not a vegetable guy so I didn’t finish them. When Trevor came back to clear my table, he asked me if there was anything else I would like this evening. I thought about saying, yes, I would like him for the evening, but chickened out. It was never going to happen anyway. As he went to place my order for Crème Brulee for dessert, I watched his retreating ass and thought about what Billy had said to me earlier. Would I find my true love soon? Would my ass ever belong to someone forever? I sure hoped so. I finished my dessert–it reminded me of a vanilla version of chocolate mousse–and waited for the check. Trevor had gotten a little busier. The bar area was filled with people waiting to be seated. He finally brought me my check in a fancy leather folio. When he tried to hand it to me, I miscalculated–I swear it was an accident, really!–and I grabbed his hand instead of the folio. Instead of pulling back annoyed, he held it there, smiling at me. I let my hand linger for two seconds, then let go. “Sorry about that. You’d think I’d been drinking, wouldn’t you?” I tried to make light of it, but I think we both felt the electricity in our touch. “No problem. It was a pleasure serving you this evening, Mr. Schaeffer. I hope to see you in Elway’s again sometime soon.” He smiled again and left me to attend to a nearby patron who had some issue with his steak being not done enough or too done or something. I wanted to go over there and tell the guy to leave Trevor alone. He didn’t cook the damn food–he just served it. But Trevor was a pro, and the offending meat was swiftly dispatched to the kitchen for correction. I signed my name and room number and surrendered my booth to the next happy customers in line. I passed Trevor as I made my way towards the exit, and he winked at me. I was pretty sure it was all just flirting between us–neither expected it to go anywhere. But I decided flirting with a guy wasn’t as dangerous as I had once feared. Besides, if the other guy gets offended, I could always say he must have mistaken my intentions. I was going to go for a walk but it was now dark outside and I didn’t really know the area at all. I would hate to get lost in a dangerous part of town, so I opted to return to my room. I was getting tired anyway and my heavy meal was pulling on my energy reserves as well. I grabbed two water bottles from the Club lounge–I skipped any more chocolate mousse–and headed back to my room. I kicked off my shoes and tried the TV again. I watched some mindless sitcom which helped clear my head nicely. I laughed out loud a couple of times and it felt good. But then another news program came on and I couldn’t find anything else of interest. Amanda’s letter called to me from the desk. I got up and carried the thick envelope to the nightstand. I used the bathroom, undressed, turned out all but the nightstand lights and slipped into bed. Propped up against the headboard surrounded by all the pillows, I reached for Amanda’s letter. It was time to hear the only words my birth mother would ever say to me.
  9. I think you will find that Jack most definitely wears his heart on his sleeve and reacts emotionally to many things - often over the top, as you say. Fainting and vomiting - par for the course with him.
  10. LOL. It's a lot for one day...no wonder he fainted.
  11. My birth certificate (after my adoption) only shows my adoptive parents, as if they actually gave birth to me. There is a judge's signature on it, and the name of the doctor who delivered me (that name is real. When I googled it, I found thousands of records of people searching for their birth parents. When I later found out he worked at the main doctor for the Salvation Army home for unwed mothers, it all made sense).
  12. Chapter 16 I could hear voices shouting around me but couldn’t make out what they were saying. It hurt to concentrate so I let the darkness take me. It was a comfort. My next moment of awareness was of being carried, bouncing a little in someone’s very strong arms. I think I heard someone say, “Lay him down there on the couch,” but I couldn’t be sure. Then I was falling, and a soft leather surface caught me. I heard no more for a while. Sometime later I heard voices again. I felt the heat of the sun beating down on my face. It felt good. Really good. I tried to move a little, but everything hurt, especially my left shoulder. I kept my eyes closed. Maybe if I didn’t look, no one would see me and I could just disappear from the nightmare my life had suddenly become. I lay there and listened to the voices, this time recognizing Sharon’s determined tone. “I’m telling you both, that’s enough for today. No more. The boy’s had more than he can handle and I won’t have you two overwhelming him with any more money talk or anything else for that matter. Larry, go home. Clyde, go home. You won’t get any more work done today anyway and you know it. I’ll call Shirley and tell her you’ll be home a little early and for her to fix you a nice drink and your favorite dinner. You both can try again tomorrow. That is, if he’s up to it.” Apparently they knew better than to argue with her, as I heard a couple of grumbled comments and the sound of receding feet from the room. I could feel Sharon’s eyes on me. “Alright, you can open your eyes now, Jack. Everyone’s gone.” How did she know I was awake and listening? I didn’t want to wake up. I wanted to die–of embarrassment, if nothing else. Sharon paced and muttered to herself. “Two grown men don’t have the sense God gave a buzzard. Useless...utterly useless in a crisis.” I assumed she was talking about Larry and Clyde. I wanted to defend them, to say I was the one causing all the trouble, not them. But to do so, I would have to acknowledge I heard her, and I was afraid. She sounded mad and I was afraid she was mad at me too. Sensing my reluctance to come out of it, she walked over and touched my arm gently. “Jack, baby...it’s okay. Everything’s gonna be alright. You can wake up now. It’s just me here. Don’t be afraid, Jack. It’s alright, baby.” She used her kind voice again, and it gave me the courage to crack open my eyes and look up at her. The sunlight was shining behind her head, and I swear she looked just like an angel. My angel. “There you are. You gave us a bit of a scare there, Jack. Are you alright?” I tried to sit up and got some shooting pains in my left shoulder for my trouble. I pushed up with my other arm and got myself upright, rubbing my sore arm. “I guess so. What happened? Is everybody mad at me? I screwed up, didn’t I?” I stared at my shoes, embarrassed to look up at her. She sat next to me on the leather sofa. “No, no, no, Jack. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’ve just had way too much thrown at you for one day and you fainted. It happens. I had no idea Clyde and Larry were gonna get into the money with you today, or I would have stopped them. Any fool could see you wouldn’t be able to handle that, on top of everything else you’ve had thrown at you today. There’s plenty of time to figure it all out later.” I looked at her. “Why’d she do it, Sharon? Why would Amanda leave me all her money? What am I supposed to do with it? I don’t know the first thing about high finance. I mean, I do basic accounting and bookkeeping, so if you need an invoice typed or a bill paid, I’m your man. But millions of dollars? I don’t have a clue about what to do.” I was getting myself worked up again, and Sharon patted my hands in hers, trying to keep me calm. “Jack, baby, don’t you worry about any of that right now. Larry and his folks over at the bank have it all well under control. Amanda never did anything with it directly, either, as far as I know. She and Phillip left it up to Larry and the team to handle it and you can, too.” I sighed, thinking about what she said. It did take some of the pressure off. I’d never had five hundred dollars to my name at one time, let alone 500 million. It was incomprehensible. It wasn’t real. Sharon was right—let Clyde and Larry deal with it. “Looks like you’re gettin’ your color back, Jack. Feel like standing up?” Sharon stood up and held out a helping hand. I held on to it and managed to pull myself to my feet, although still a little shaky. But I didn’t think I would fall down again. My arm hurt but other than that I was in one piece. I took a couple of steps and realized I didn’t recognize the room we were in. “Where are we?” “Oh, I had Billy move you into this empty office next to Clyde’s. Since the founding partner retired a few years ago, we’ve never used it for anything but storage. I knew we had this nice couch in here and I thought this was better than the conference room floor. After all, what would people say if they saw a young man passed out under my conference room table?” She winked at me with a big smile. We both chuckled. So Billy was the one who picked me up and carried me. I could still feel his big strong arms holding me firmly. It was a comforting thought. Sexy too. Maybe I would be alright after all. We stepped out of the unused office and stood right behind Sharon’s work area. Clyde’s office door was to my right, so now I had it worked out as to where I was. Then I saw the conference room on my left and my previous embarrassment and emotional horror returned. “Oh, Sharon. I’m so sorry. I ruined your trash can. I’m so, so sorry. I’ll replace it, I promise. You’ll have to let me know how much and I’ll figure something out.” I could feel the heat of my blood rushing to my face in a flush. I was mortified as I relived the worst moment of my life. Sharon laughed. “Jack, it’s already been taken care of. Someone from building maintenance came up and took care of it straight away. Don’t give it another thought. They’ve had to clean up a lot worse than a dirty trash can after the annual Christmas parties around here, I can tell you. And Jack, I don’t think after today finding a way to pay for things is going to be difficult for you.” She was smiling, trying to make light of it, but my anxiety started to rise up again. She must have seen signs of it on my face–she was starting to read me well–because she grabbed my hand. “Jack, never mind about all that. Leave it to tomorrow, or whenever. Whadda ya say we get you back to your hotel, you can get some dinner if you want, and have the rest of the evening to yourself with no more lawyers and bankers messin’ with that cute head of yours?” I nodded. Her idea sounded wonderful and I rolled my shoulders to relax. Did she just say I was cute? I grinned. I came to Denver with one mother I had known all my life. In Amanda Franklin, I found, and promptly lost, the mother who had given me life. And now in Sharon I was fast gaining yet another mother who felt like she was saving my life. I’m not sure I could have put into words at that moment how special Sharon Adams had become to me in one short day. Billy better be careful–I think I wanted his mama for my own. Sharon gave me a great big hug, then said she was going to call Billy to come get me. I sat down in one of the chairs in front of her desk–I didn’t want to go back into the conference room–and waited for him. I was strangely excited about seeing Billy again. Sure, he had his magnificent ass and he had carried me confidently in his big, strong arms. That was hot. But, I decided it was his presence I enjoyed the most. His relaxed, happy demeanor was a needed respite from the tensions of the day and I was looking forward to the ride back to the hotel with him smiling at the wheel. Billy arrived just a few minutes later. He greeted me with a blazing smile. “Feeling better, Jack?” he asked. I grinned and stood up. “Yes, much. Thank you for your help. Your mother told me what you did. I appreciate it.” “No biggie, Jack. You don’t weigh very much.” I thought I weighed plenty but, looking at his arms again, I doubt it took much effort for him to move me. He kissed his mama’s cheek again, they exchanged two fabulous Adams’ smiles and we were off. “Let’s roll, Jack. I gotta get home. Jerome is cookin’ us up a special dinner tonight for our anniversary.” He started walking toward the office entrance. I turned for a second to look at Sharon’s face. I can’t imagine the look on mine. Did Billy just say he and his business partner Jerome were a couple? Sharon looked at me and chuckled, shaking her head. “Good night, Jack. Call me in the morning when you want to come back in. Get some sleep.” I turned back around and trotted to catch up with the fast-moving Billy. I followed him out the door, down the elevator and back to the car, the whole time looking at his ass and thinking about anniversaries and a whole lot of other jumbled thoughts. I wondered if I would ever have an anniversary with a guy who made me dinner. It sounded wonderful.
  13. I love them all, but Sharon is one of my favorites, too. She came alive so unexpectedly, and her heart of gold is priceless.
  14. I forget, too...grin. I've been writing the Forever Saga for nearly three years, but I think we've only covered 3 1/2 months of the characters' lives. Time flies when you're having fun!
  15. Totally agree with your assessment about struggling with connection to family. Family is a much more fluid concept to someone who was adopted, even if they were adopted in a totally loving and supportive home. The rules are different - the game is changed for us, in a way. It's a challenge to trust and make "permanent" connections, because people can always choose to reject us and walk away.