The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 106: The Accident

Tyler had tried to hold onto his anger; but, when he heard the pain in Joey’s voice as he begged for a second chance, the wall he had been building around his heart crumbled.   He was mentally and emotionally exhausted, and Joey’s warm embrace was so comforting.   He realized, despite his deeply wounded heart, he still loved Joey and wanted to be with him.   Joey’s quiet strength made him think they could work out their issues.   Tyler relaxed in Joey’s embrace.

He wrapped his arms around Joey’s waist, and looked into his eyes.   “You came back.  Why?”

Tears were shining in Joey’s eyes, as he answered, “I couldn’t imagine my life without you, Tyler.   You ripped my heart out of my chest, when you told me ‘goodbye.’   I was so miserable.   Tyler, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.   Will you forgive me?”

Tyler said, “Yes, I forgive you; however, we still need to work on our relationship.   I’m not sure where I stand with you, anymore.”   Tyler released Joey, and walked over and sat down on his bed.   Now he had made his decision to stay with Joey, they needed to have a serious talk.

Joey followed him and sat down next to him.  He said, “You are the most important person in my world, Tyler.   I want to grow old with you.   I want you to be my husband, and I want to have you by my side as we raise our two daughters.   I want them to know you are as much a part of my life as they are.”

“If you really feel that way, why did you keep pushing me away?” Tyler asked.   The pain was evident in his voice.   “There were several times you snapped at me, when I was trying to help you with the girls.   It was like I was a stranger and you were trying to protect them from me.   I love your girls, Joey.   Your reaction to me around your girls really hurt.”

Joey said, “I’m sorry.  I was wrong to treat you the way I did.  I acted the way I did because I didn’t want the girls to carry tales to their mother about how close we are.   I was afraid Rachel would say something to her mother that would cause Kathy to suspect we’re lovers.”

“But, you should have talked to me about your concern,” Tyler said.   “We could have planned out our strategy and worked together to make sure we didn’t have any problems with the girls.   However, you treated me like I was your enemy, instead of your fiancé.  All I was doing was trying to be a support for you in your role as their father.   I didn’t expect to be pushed away and scolded for trying to help.   The first time it happened, I thought it was just my imagination; but, when you did it to me several more times that day, I knew you were consciously doing it.   That really hurt.”

“I’m sorry.   I didn’t do a very good job of communicating what I was trying to do,” Joey said.

“I disagree, Joey.   You communicated very well with me.   You made it very clear I wasn’t wanted,” Tyler said, anger coloring his voice.   “Your actions told me where I stood.   That’s why I’m still having a hard time reconciling your words with your actions, Joey.”

Joey hung his head.   He had tried to justify why he had treated Tyler so poorly; but, even as the words left his mouth, he knew his explanation was pretty lame.  Tyler was right.   He wasn’t handling this situation very well.   In fact, he was making things worse.

Tyler continued, “Joey, I need to know you really love me for who I am.   I need to know I’m not just your sex toy; to be used when you need a good fuck, but otherwise kept in the closet to protect you from the consequences of being gay.   I’m not going to hide every time someone comes to visit us, nor will I pretend we aren’t lovers.   Your girls need to know I am important to you, and you love me, unconditionally.   The way you treated me around your children sent a very clear message about your feelings toward me.   You need to decide who you are, Joey.   I know who I am.   Do you?”

Joey couldn’t look at Tyler.   He knew Tyler was right.   Every word Tyler said pierced his heart.   He didn’t really know who he was.   He thought he was gay, and he really did love Tyler; but, he wasn’t ready to come out of the closet completely and publicly own up to who he really was.   He finally looked up and met Tyler’s gaze.   “I don’t know who I really am, Tyler.   I love you and I believe I’m gay; but I’m not ready to publicly declare it to the entire world.”

Tyler said, “At least you admit you’re not sure.   That’s progress.   You need to finish your journey of self-discovery, Joey.   Until you do, things will not work well for us.”

Hearing Tyler’s response, Joey asked, “But will you stay with me, while I work through it?”

Tyler said, “Yes, I’ll stay with you; but, don’t you think, for a second, I’ll permit you to treat me like you did the last few days.   I promise you I’ll be gone the moment you do.   I won’t even argue, or discuss your behavior with you.   I’ll just disappear from your life.”

Joey’s face fell, as he heard the anger and the hurt in Tyler’s voice.   “I’m sorry I hurt you, Tyler.   How can I prove to you I really mean what I say?   Won’t you cut me some slack?   You know I’m not perfect.  I admit I messed up.   I promise to do my best not to ever hurt you again; but, can’t you be more patient with me?”   His voice cracked with emotion.  

“Joey, you destroyed the trust I had in you,” Tyler said.   “It won’t be easy for you to restore that trust, especially where your soon to be ex-wife and your girls are concerned.   I don’t know where I stand with you.   You say I’m the most important person in your life; but is that really true?”

Joey responded, earnestly, “What can I do to prove to you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, you are my one and only true love?”

Tyler didn’t respond.   He hadn’t really gotten this far in his thought processes.   His heart had been filled with so much anger and pain; he hadn’t really decided what proof he would need to know Joey was really sincere.

Joey could see the uncertainty on Tyler’s face.   He was more than a little worried Tyler would tell him to get lost.   He got on his knees in front of Tyler, taking his hands in his.   He looked up into Tyler’s face.   “Please, Tyler, I beg you to let me love you.   Don’t send me away.   I love you.”

Tyler gazed into Joey’s eyes and saw Joey’s love for him reflected there.    He pulled his hand free and raised it to Joey’s face.   He wiped away his tears and placed the palm of his hand on Joey’s cheek.   “Don’t cry, Babe.   I know you love me, and I love you.”   Tyler pulled Joey up and into bed with him.   Joey hid his face in Tyler’s chest and clung to him.   They fell asleep in each other’s arms.

Tyler awoke with a start.   He didn’t remember getting under the blankets.   He looked at the blanket and realized his mother must have covered them with it; because it was his favorite football blanket he kept in the top of his closet.   Joey was still sleeping with his head on his chest.   The memory of Joey’s sincere expression of his love for him and his promises to work to improve their relationship warmed Tyler’s heart; and he kissed the top of Joey’s head.   He felt so much better.  

The last few days had been a living hell for him, as he tried to decide how to handle Joey’s treatment of him.   All he knew was he couldn’t survive in a relationship where he was treated so poorly by his significant other.  He had tried to justify Joey’s actions; but, the more he had tried to excuse Joey’s behavior, the angrier he became.   It had culminated in Tyler’s attempt to end their relationship.   Those few hours between telling Joey “Good bye” and when Joey returned, had been some of the darkest hours of his life.  When he heard Joey’s voice on the other side of the door, he hadn’t believed Joey had the audacity to come back.   His misery had been pushed into the background, as his anger built up.   But, then he decided to let Joey in, and opened his door.

He was happy they were still together; despite his misgivings.   Joey stirred and opened his eyes.   He raised his head and met Tyler’s gaze.   He smiled and said, “Good morning, sunshine.”

Tyler smiled back, and said, “Good morning, sweetheart.”

Joey said, “It feels so good to wake up with your body next to mine.”

Tyler grinned, as he felt Joey’s hand on his rock hard member.   “I wonder what you have on your mind this morning.”

“I’m sure you don’t have to think too hard about that,” Joey said, kissing Tyler passionately.

When they surfaced for air, Tyler said, “Let’s take a shower together.”

Joey raised his eyebrows in surprise.   “Why?   I thought you wanted…”

Tyler put his finger to Joey’s lips, cutting off his protest.   “I do, but I want to do it in the shower.”

Comprehension crossed Joey’s face, and he grinned.   “Okay, let’s go.”

They were out of bed and across the landing to the bathroom in a flash!  They played in the shower, until it turned cold.   Then, they dried each other off and wrapped towels around their waists.   They crossed the landing back to Tyler’s room.   Tyler locked his door, then dropped his towel, causing Joey to become even more aroused than he already was.   Tyler gave him a lecherous grin.   “I’m ready when you are!”

“I’m ready now!”   Joey was, indeed, ready!

A while later, they heard a knock on the door.   “Boys, are you ready for breakfast?” Louise asked through the door.

Tyler shouted, “We’ll be right down, Mom.”

“Okay.   Don’t be too long,” she replied.

Tyler kissed Joey, and said, “I guess we should get dressed.”

Joey put his arms around Tyler, and pulled him close.   “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Tyler said.

Sniffing the air, Joey said, “Maybe we should have waited to shower until after we had sex.”

“We can take a quick shower to freshen up,” Tyler said, laughing.   He pulled his lover to his feet.   They wrapped themselves in their towels.   They dashed across the landing to the shower.   They kissed each other, as they entered the shower.   Joey started to deepen the kiss; but Tyler put his hands on either side of Joey’s face.   “We can’t make out in the shower, Joey, or we won’t make it down to breakfast!”

Joey grinned.   “I can have breakfast right here.”   He reached down to caress Tyler’s very erect steel pole.

Tyler kissed Joey and said, “Yes; but Mom is waiting for us.”

Joey sighed and said, “Okay, have it your way.”

Tyler laughed.   “Joey, don’t you ever get tired of having sex?”

“No, I don’t, especially when I know you enjoy it as much as I do!”

Tyler grabbed the soap and washed his lover’s body.   When he had finished, he handed the soap to Joey.   “It’s your turn to take care of me.”

Joey gave Tyler a huge grin, and Tyler added, “I mean it’s time to clean me up.”

Joey did as Tyler asked; however, he managed to get Tyler off in the process!

The guys stepped out of the shower.   They dried off and returned to Tyler’s room to get dressed.   When they finally appeared in the kitchen, Louise looked at them, noting the happy glow they had about them.   She also noted how they were holding hands and seemed to have grown closer, overnight.   She was particularly happy to see Tyler was in good spirits this morning.   It was such a contrast to last night.  

She said, “I’m glad to see that things are okay between you two.   You had me worried last night, Tyler.”

Tyler contritely said, “I’m sorry, Mom.   I just wasn’t ready to talk to you about what had happened between us.”

“Well, I’m glad Joey came through for you, and managed to set things right,” she said, motioning for them to sit down.   “Your father has already eaten.   I put everything in the warmer; since I wasn’t sure when you two would decide to make an appearance.”

The guys sat down and Louise served them a hearty breakfast.   She sat down across from them.   She could see they had moved their chairs close together, so they were still touching.   She smiled as Joey cut Tyler’s pancakes for him and fed him his breakfast.   She asked, “May I ask what caused the problem between you two?”

Tyler looked at Joey who said, “I’m the one who is to blame.”   He related what had happened.

Louise said, “I’m glad you two have reconciled.   It’s much better to get those kinds of issues dealt with, early on in a relationship.”

Joey took Tyler’s hand in his.   “I wish I hadn’t hurt Tyler in the process.”

Louise looked at her son and said, “I agree it was unfortunate Tyler’s heart was bruised by what happened; but, I think you’ll find he is pretty resilient.   More importantly, I think the lessons you both have learned from this experience will help you in the long run.”

Joey said, in a heartfelt voice, “I know I don’t want to ever go through anything like that again.”

They finished eating and helped Louise clear the table and wash up the dishes.   Joey looked at Tyler and asked, “What do you want to do today?”

“I want to just chill out for a while,” Tyler said.   “Let’s go downstairs.”

They walked hand in hand out of the kitchen and down the stairs to the family room.   They sat down on the couch.   Joey sat between Tyler’s legs and leaned back against his chest.   Tyler wrapped his arms around Joey’s waist and nibbled Joey’s ear.   He whispered, “I love you, Joey.”

Joey arched his back and whispered back, “I love you, too.”

Greg and Cory were sitting around the kitchen table with Ray and Darla when the doorbell rang.   Ray stood up and said, “I’ll get it.”   When he opened the door, he was shocked to see two police officers standing on his front step.

One of them said, “Are you Mr. Malone?”

“No, I’m not.   He’s not at home at the moment,” Ray responded.

“Do you have a number where we can reach him?” the officer asked.

“Sure,” Ray responded.   He pulled out his cell phone and read off Joey’s cell phone number.

“Thank you,” the officer said.

“May I ask what this is all about?” Ray said.

The officer looked at Ray and said, “We are looking for Mrs. Malone’s next of kin.”

Ray knew something must have happened from the officer’s tone of voice.   “Her brother, Greg, is in the kitchen.”

“May we come inside?” the officer asked.

“Sure,” Ray said, stepping aside to let them enter.

He directed them to the front room, then turned into the kitchen.   “Greg, come into the front room.   There are two police officers who want to speak to you.”

Greg looked at Cory in surprise, wondering what was going on.   He and Cory got up from the table, and followed Ray into the front room.   Darla joined them, as well.

The officers stood up and introduced themselves.   “I’m Officer Buckley and this is Officer Trainor.   Which of you is Mrs. Malone’s brother?”

Greg said, “I am.”

“Do you know where your brother-in-law is?” Officer Buckles said.

Before Greg could answer, Ray said, “Yes, I do.   He’s staying with a friend in Dumfries.”

Officer Buckley said, “We have some bad news to deliver to you and wanted to do it in person, rather than over the phone.   Your sister was involved in a car accident last night.   Both she and the driver of the vehicle were killed on impact.   A drunk driver crossed the median and hit their car head on.   The driver of the other vehicle is in critical condition.”

“What happened to my nieces?   Were they in the car at the time of the accident?” Greg asked.    His gut was clenched in fear.   He had grown close to them during their stay with them over the weekend.

“The two little girls are fine.   They are being kept at the hospital for observation just to make sure they hadn’t sustained any unseen injuries.   They will be held at the hospital, until we can contact their father,” Officer Buckles said. 

Ray said, “This is his friend’s address.”  He handed the officer a slip of paper, with the address.

Officer Buckley said, “Thank you.   We will drive over to talk to Mr. Malone.”

Greg asked, “Do you want us to wait until you get there to tell him what has happened?”

“That depends on you.   I think it would be easier for me to tell him, when we get there; but, you’re free to call him, if you wish,” Officer Buckles replied.   “If you decide to call him, his daughters are at Potomac Hospital.”

Ray said, “Greg, I think I would wait.   It won’t hurt Joey to wait a few more minutes to find out what has happened.”

Officer Buckles said, “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

Greg said, “Thank you for telling us.”

The officers left and Greg turned to Cory.  “I had better call Mom.”

He pulled out his cell phone and dialed his mother’s number.   She answered her phone after several rings.   She sounded sleepy.   “Hello.”

“Mom, it’s Greg,” he said.

“Greg, what’s wrong.   It’s still early in the morning here,” she said.

“Kathy was killed in a car accident, last night,” he said.

He heard his mother’s cry of anguish and started crying himself.   Through her tears, she asked, “What happened?”

He recounted what the officer had told him about the accident.   “They have gone to tell Joey.”

“I’ll call your grandparents to let them know,” she said.   “I’ll call you with the flight information when I get my reservations made.”

“Okay,” Greg said.

“Give Joey a hug for me.   I know he still loves Kathy despite, how horrible she has been to him,” she said.

“I will.   I’ll talk to you in a bit,” he said, and broke the connection.

Cory put his arm around Greg’s shoulders and Greg clung to his husband, as he let his grief find release in his tears.

Tyler and Joey heard the doorbell ring; but didn’t stir from their position on the couch.   Tyler said, “I wonder who would be calling at this time of the morning.”

They could hear Louise at the front door, then they heard her coming down the stairs.   They could tell someone was following her down.   Joey stood up and pulled Tyler to his feet as they waited.   Louise looked worried as she appeared in the family room.   Both Joey and Tyler were shocked to see two police officers following her into the room.

One of them asked, “Which of you is Mr. Malone?”

“I am,” Joey said, looking from one officer to the other.

“I’m Officer Buckley and this is Officer Trainor.   We have come to inform you your wife was killed in a car accident, last night,” Officer Buckles said.  All of the color left Joey’s face.   Officer Buckley started forward to catch Joey.   “Are you alright?”

Joey waved him away.   “I’m okay.   Are my girls okay?”

“Yes, they were uninjured.  They were kept overnight at the hospital for observation.   They are at the Potomac Hospital,” Officer Buckley said.

“What happened?” Joey asked.

Officer Buckley related the facts about the accident.   “I’m sorry to bring you such bad news.”

Joey nodded, and said, “Thank you for coming to tell me personally what happened.   We’ll head over to the hospital immediately.”

“We have already informed your brother-in-law; since we went to your home address, first,” Officer Buckles said.

Joey nodded his head.   “Greg will call the rest of the family.”

Officer Buckley said, “We must be going.”

Joey said, “Thank you, again, for coming.”

They went upstairs, followed by Louise, who saw them out.   Tyler pulled Joey to him and held him tight.   “I’m sorry, Joey.”

Joey hid his face in his lover’s chest and let his tears fall.   He had loved Kathy very much at one time; and he still had feelings for her.   She was, after all, the mother of his children.

Louise returned to the front room to find Tyler comforting Joey.   Tyler caught her eye and said, “Can you give us a few moments alone, Mom?”

Louise understood her son’s desire to allow his fiancé to talk openly about his grief.   She turned and climbed the stairs to her bedroom.   She was saddened by the tragic loss of someone so young; but, at the same time, she was relieved.   She had feared for her son, and the possibility Joey would hurt him by returning to his ex-wife, at some point in the future.   She knew of friends whose marriages were destroyed by the ex-wife seeking vengeance.  She also knew many times a former spouse still had feelings for their ex-wife, or ex-husband.   Those feelings often could wreak havoc in any future relationship.   Kathy’s untimely passing removed the possibility Joey would decide to return to his wife; leaving Tyler wounded and hurt.

Meanwhile, Tyler had guided Joey to the couch and pulled him onto his lap.   Joey curled up against Tyler’s chest and hugged his fiancé.   His tears had stopped flowing; but, he felt an immense sadness come over him.   Tyler’s quiet strength comforted him.   Tyler stroked his hair, and smoothed it away from his face.

Now, more than ever before, Tyler was grateful they had reconciled their differences, last night.   The thought of Joey facing Kathy’s death alone sent shivers down his spine.   Joey was strong; but Tyler knew how emotionally vulnerable Joey was at the moment.  In part, it was Joey’s vulnerability that attracted Tyler.

After a while, Tyler said, “Joey, we need to go to the hospital.   The girls are waiting for us.”

Joey nodded his head and said, “You’re right.   We should go soon.”   He slid off of Tyler’s lap and leaned over to give him a tender kiss.

Tyler put his hand to Joey’s cheek and said, “I love you.”

Joey reached up and covered Tyler’s hand with his own.   “I love you, too.”

Tyler said, “We will need to get new car seats for the girls.   I doubt we will be able to get the ones the girls were in, when the car crashed.”

Joey agreed. “Let’s stop by WalMart on our way to the hospital.”

They climbed the stairs and met Louise near the front door.   Louise asked, “Do you need me to go with you?”

“Thank you, Mom; but I think we’ll be okay.   We’ll be back with the girls as soon as we can,” Joey said.

They walked out to Joey’s car and climbed in.   Joey drove the short distance to WalMart and they went inside the store to purchase two new car seats.   They returned to the car with the two boxes containing the car seats.   They took the car seats out of their boxes and installed them in the back seat of the car.   While Joey drove to the hospital, Tyler read the instructions for the car seats to make sure they had installed them properly.   They arrived at the hospital.   They entered the foyer and approached the information desk.  

Joey asked, “I’m looking for Rachel and Sarah Malone.”

The receptionist tapped their names into her computer, then looked up at Joey.   She gave him directions to the room where the girls were being held for him.   Tyler and Joey navigated the hallways of the hospital and arrived at the appropriate room.

There was a nurse inside the room with the girls.   She looked up and saw Joey and Tyler.   She smiled at them.   “One of you must be the girls’ father.”

Joey nodded and said, “Yes, I’m their father.”

Hearing Joey’s voice, Rachel raced over to her Dad and hugged his knees.   “Daddy!”

He leaned down and picked her up.   “Hello, Rachel.”

Rachel wrapped her tiny arms around his neck and said, “Daddy, I’m scared.”

“I’m scared, too, Rachel,” he replied.

Sarah was in a baby crib and was standing up, holding onto the railing.   He walked over to the crib.   He turned to Tyler and handed Rachel to him.   He reached into the crib and took Sarah into his arms.   The little girl looked trustingly into her father’s eyes.   He kissed the top of her head and said, “Sarah, Daddy’s here, now.   Everything will be okay.”

Sarah smiled and said, in her own private language, “I love you.” 

Joey understood her and said, “I love you too, baby.”

The nurse said, “You will need to fill out the paperwork at the administration office, while I get them ready to go.   The doctor released them this morning.   We have kept them under observation all night to make sure they weren’t injured.   You should still keep an eye on them for any signs of head injury, or other kind of internal injury.”

Joey said, “Thank you for caring for my girls.”

She smiled, and said, “They are such sweet children.   You are very lucky.”

Joey said, “I know.   It was very fortunate they weren’t hurt in the accident.   How do I get to the administration offices?”

She told him, and left them with the girls.   Joey said, “Rachel, Daddy has to go downstairs for a few minutes.   I’ll be right back.   Okay?”

Rachel said, “Okay.”

The guys headed downstairs and found the offices.   They entered and the receptionist asked, “How may I help you?”

“I’m here to complete the paperwork for Rachel and Sarah Malone,” Joey said.

She pulled out two folders and passed a couple of insurance forms across the desk for him to sign along with several other papers.   “Please fill these out.   Don’t forget to sign and date them.”

He completed the paperwork, and handed it back to the receptionist.   She keyed some information into the computer and said, “It looks like you are all set.   I will call the nurse to bring the children down to you.”

She made the phone call.   She turned back to Joey and asked, “Do you have car seats for the children?”

“Yes, we do,” Joey answered.

“You will need to show them to us, before we can release the children to you,” she said.

Tyler said, “I’ll go get the car while you wait for the girls.”

Joey handed Tyler his keys and said, “Thank you.”

Tyler left the office and walked out to the parking lot.   He retrieved the vehicle and drove to the patient pick up.   As he pulled up to the curb, Joey came out with the nurse and the girls.   Tyler stopped the car and turned off the engine.   He got out of the car to help with the girls.   The nurse looked inside the car.   Satisfied that each child had a car seat, she turned the children over to their father.   As soon as they were safely secured in their car seats, Joey and Tyler got into the front seat.   Tyler drove them to his parents’ home.

They took the girls inside, where they found Louise and Harry waiting for them.   Joey introduced his girls.   “Rachel and Sarah, this is your new Grandpa and Grandma.   Harry and Louise, I’d like you to meet Rachel and Sarah.”

Harry smiled and said, “Your girls are very precious.”

“Yes, they are,” Joey said.  

Rachel clung to her Dad, but eventually warmed up to Harry and Louise.   After a few hours, she was talking to both of them.   Even Sarah had gotten over her initial shyness and held her arms up to be held.   Harry picked her up and placed her on his lap.   It touched Joey’s heart to see how quickly the girls had accepted Louise and Harry.   It was a bright ray of hope, in an otherwise bleak day for him.   Tyler took his hand in his and gave it gentle squeeze.

“Everything will be alright,” Tyler said.

Joey nodded his head and leaned over to give Tyler a kiss.   “I love you.”

Louise smiled as she gazed across the room at Tyler and Joey.   She could see that there was a lot of love between them.   So far she was very impressed with Joey and how he treated her son.

Greg’s cell phone rang.   “Hello Mom.   Did you find a flight?”

“Yes, the plane arrives at 8:05 PM,” Mrs. Hurst said.

“We’ll be there to pick you up,” Greg said.

“Grandpa and Grandma are coming out with me,” Mrs. Hurst said.

“I hope they plan to stay at a hotel; because I don’t want to see them,” Greg said.

“They are staying at a hotel.   They want me to stay at the hotel with them,” Mrs. Hurst said.

“That’s alright, if that’s what you want.   Just don’t ask me to join you.   I have no desire to hear their derogatory remarks about gays, or listen to their religious bigotry,” Greg said.   “As far as I’m concerned, they are no longer my grandparents.”

“I understand, Greg.  Grandpa is renting a car, so I won’t need you to pick me up from the airport,” Mrs. Hurst said.  “Has anyone contacted you about making funeral arrangements?”

“No.   I would think they would call Joey, before they would contact me,” Greg said.

“You should call Joey to see if he has begun making the funeral arrangements,” Mrs. Hurst said.

“I’ll call him,” Greg said.

“Good bye,” she said.

“Bye, Mom,” Greg said, and broke the connection.

He pushed the speed dial for Joey.   Joey answered, “Hey, Greg.   How are you holding up?”

“I’m okay; and you?”

“I’ve made it past the initial shock.   Tyler has been a great comfort to me.   He’s been a real saint these last few days.   The girls are here with me at Tyler’s place.  The girls seem to be okay; but the nurse gave me instructions regarding what to watch for, just in case they have an injury they couldn’t find,” Joey said.

“Mom wanted to know if you’ve been contacted about making funeral arrangements,” Greg said.

“No one has called me.   I guess they will call me when the body is ready to be transported to a funeral home.   Do Cory’s parents know of a good funeral home?” Joey asked.

He heard Greg ask Ray.   Greg came back on the line.   “He says he’s been to a funeral at Miller’s Funeral Home.   He said the place was nice and they seemed to do a good job.   Ray wants to talk to you.”

Ray asked, “Do you have an insurance policy on Kathy?”

“I used to cover her; but I haven’t carried her on my insurance since we separated,” Joey responded.

“Have you thought about how you will pay for the funeral service?” Ray asked.

“No, I haven’t really had time to think about anything except getting my girls home from the hospital,” Joey replied.

“You will need to figure out the finances, before you talk to the funeral home.   They won’t do anything for you, unless they know where the money is going to come from,” Ray said.

“I’ll talk it over with Tyler, and let you know what we decide to do,” Joey said.

Ray handed the cell phone back to Greg.   Greg said, “If you need help with the funeral expenses, please let me know.   I think Mom may have some ideas about what we can do for Kathy.   Mom and my grandparents are flying into town tonight.”

“Thanks for your help, Greg,” Joey said.   “I’ll give you a call later.”

“Bye,” Greg said, and cut the connection.   He turned to Cory.   “I’m going to call Grandpa.   He needs to know we might not be going to the wedding.”

He dialed the number and it rang a couple of times, before Grandpa answered it.

“Hello, Greg,” Grandpa said.

“Hello, Grandpa.   My sister was killed in a car accident, last night,” Greg said.   He went on to explain everything that had happened.

“I’ll change your plane reservations for you and Cory.   I think we can arrange for you to be at the wedding, and at your sister’s funeral, if we can time things right,” Grandpa said.

“Thanks, Grandpa.   Joey doesn’t have an insurance policy on Kathy; so he may have some difficulty with meeting the funeral expenses,” Greg said.

“And you want to help him,” Grandpa said.

“Yes, I’d like to help, if I can,” Greg responded.

“Let’s wait and see what Joey’s needs are.   I think we can assist him, if he needs our help,” Grandpa said.

“Thanks, Grandpa,” Greg said.   “I knew you would know what to do.”

Grandpa laughed.   “It’s only because I’m older and more experienced.   It doesn’t mean I am any smarter than you.   You will eventually gain both age and experience.”

“I’ll call you when Joey lets us know what his plans are,” Greg said.

“Okay,” Grandpa said.

“Bye,” Greg said and ended the call.   He turned to Cory and said, “Grandpa is the best!”

Ray looked over from where he had been reading the newspaper.   He asked, “Did you see the paper this morning?”

“No.   Why?” Greg asked.

Ray handed him the newspaper and pointed to a small article at the bottom of the page.   It read, “A trial date set has been set for Steve Hurst.   The accused is going to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of attempted capital murder and aggravated battery and assault.”   The article went on to relate what had happened to Greg and Cory, and the reason for the attack on the two boys.

Greg looked up at Ray.   “Does this mean Dad will get off with a visit to the mental ward, then let free?”

“No, it doesn’t; but if it is determined he was momentarily insane, then he won’t do any jail time,” Ray said.

Greg’s face showed his anger.   “Is there anything we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen?   How can they even consider letting him get away with attempted murder?”

“His defense team is doing their best to get him off completely; or at least with the minimum sentence possible,” Ray said.

“But how is that justice?   Doesn’t it mean anything that he nearly killed us?” Greg asked.   His voice was full of the anger, and hurt he felt at what he saw as a betrayal of his trust in the justice system.

Ray said, “Please calm down, Greg.   Just because they are planning to use an insanity defense, doesn’t mean it will be successful.”

Cory asked, “Dad, why isn’t Mr. Hurst being charged with a hate crime; since he attacked us because we’re gay?”

“Virginia doesn’t consider attacks against gays a hate crime.   They only consider it a hate crime if the attack was based on race, religion, or national origin,” Ray responded.

“So religious fanatics can harass gays all they want and get away with it,” Cory said.

“Yes, because the state believes that other statutes will provide protection against harassment,” Ray said.

“But they don’t,” Greg said.   “There are too many people who think it’s okay to harass gays.   They don’t take us seriously, when we complain about the bullying, or other forms of harassment.”

Cory said, “You are right, Greg.   Thankfully, we don’t live in Virginia.   Minnesota doesn’t’ have a hate crimes law; but, there are bias crimes that have longer jail sentences for whatever crime was committed.   I researched Minnesota law, when we first arrived in Minneapolis.”

Greg said, “I remember you said something about it to me a few months back.   I knew there was a reason I like living in Minneapolis.”

“That’s not the only reason,” Cory said, smiling.   “It’s pretty awesome to share a house with a bunch of gay guys.   We don’t have to worry about being harassed about kissing our husbands, or making out with them on the couch!”

Greg said, “Every gay guy should have the experience of living in a houseful of horny gay guys!”

Ray laughed.   “We gathered you two were enjoying yourselves at school, last semester.   Cory’s descriptions of your activities were pretty amazing.”

Greg looked at his husband.   “Cory, I hope you didn’t tell him everything.”

Cory blushed and shook his head.   “No, I didn’t tell Mom and Dad everything we did.”

Ray laughed, again, and said, “But he told us enough to let us know you two are very happy and doing well.”

Greg smiled at Cory.   “Of course, we’re happy.   We are a happily married couple in a house full of gay married couples; except, of course, Adam and Robbie, and they are engaged to be married.”

Cory asked, “Did you hear when Adam and Robbie are getting married?”

“No, I didn’t.   Last time we talked about it, Robbie said they were thinking about getting married during spring break,” Greg replied.

Darla said, “Robbie and Adam seem like nice kids, from what you’ve told us about them.”

Cory said, “They are really cool.   They have to be the luckiest gay kids in the entire country.”

“Why?” Darla asked.

“Well, for starters, they each have an older brother who is gay, and those brothers happen to be married to each other,” Cory said.

“Their parents are supportive of them, and allow them to live together.   Admittedly, they have their older brothers to watch over them; but, they’re gay, too, and understand them and can relate to them,” Greg said.

“And they are able to be open about being gay at school.   They have each other to lean on at school; just in case anyone would dare harass either of them,” Cory said.

Darla said, “I have to agree with you they are pretty lucky; but, you have to admit your father and I have been there for you and Greg.”

“Yes, you have, Mom,” Cory said.   He glanced at Greg, before he continued, “However, we weren’t so lucky when it came to Greg’s parents, or our classmates at school.”

Ray said, “Your Dad’s defense attorneys met with us last month.”

“I know,” Greg said.   “They told us they were meeting with you and Mom, when they set up a time for us to meet with them.   We are supposed to meet with them right after school starts.   I talked with Grandpa about it, and he has hired an attorney to work with me and Cory.   It doesn’t matter what happens with the criminal case, we plan to file a civil suit.”

“Do you really want to do that?” Ray asked.

“Why?   Do you think we shouldn’t pursue monetary damages for the harm my father has caused us?” Greg asked, a hard edge made his voice sound harsh.

 Ray raised his hand to forestall any further comment.   “I’m not saying that at all.   It’s just he’s still your father.”

“No, that is not true.   He forfeited his title of ‘father’ when he tried to kill me and Cory.   I have changed my last name, and I’ve been adopted by someone who is more of a father to me than he is, or ever will be,” Greg said.   “You don’t know what it’s like to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, because you have just relived the moment your father smashed your head in with a baseball bat.”

Ray cringed at the reminder of what had happened to Greg and Cory.   “I don’t mean to minimize what happened to you, or to Cory.   I’m still just as angry at your father for what he did to my son.”

“Then what was your point?” Greg asked.

“I was just asking if getting monetary damages from your father would accomplish anything,” Ray said.

“I want to make sure my father pays for what he did to me.   Even if he gets off completely from the criminal charges, I want him to pay.   We don’t need the money, but I want him to know he messed up,” Greg said.

Darla said, “Do you know your Dad’s church is raising funds to pay for his lawyers?”

“No; but it doesn’t surprise me,” Greg said.   “That church advocates murdering gays, and they continue to preach it from the pulpit every Sunday.   They claim gays are the cause of all the ills in this world.”

“If you win your civil suit, your father won’t pay a dime, because his church will take care if it for him,” Ray said.

“All the more reason to seek the maximum amount we can,” Greg said.

Cory said, “We plan to use the money to set up a foundation to work with homeless gay teens.   We want to help teenagers whose parents have thrown them out of the house.   We thought about setting up a homeless shelter; but, doing so would limit us to a specific geographical location.   We want to help as many gay teens as we can.   The foundation would be free to work in whatever city, or state where there is a need.”

Greg’s cell phone rang.   He pulled it out of his pocket and said, “Hello, Joey.”

“Hey!   The police have released the bodies of Kathy and Andrew.   The hospital called, and I told them I would make arrangements with the Miller Funeral Home to pick up the body.   Do you want to meet me at Miller’s to discuss the funeral arrangements?”

Greg said, “Sure.   What time are you going?”

“I called them, and they can meet with us at 2 PM,” Joey answered.

“Okay, Cory and I will be there,” Greg said.

“Thanks, Greg.   I appreciate your willingness to go with me.   Tyler will be there, as well,” Joey said.

“Who will watch the girls?” Greg asked.

“Tyler’s Mom and Dad have volunteered to babysit for me,” Joey said.

“Alright, we’ll see you at 2,” Greg said.   He ended the call and turned to Cory.   “We will meet Tyler and Joey at the funeral home at 2 PM.”

Harry looked up, as Joey came into the kitchen.   He could hear peals of laughter coming up the stairs from the family room where Tyler was playing with the children.   Joey looked shell shocked.   His face was pale and he looked like he was going to pass out at any moment.   Harry said, “Joey, sit down before you fall down.   Let me get you a strong cup of coffee.”

Joey nodded, and complied with Harry’s directive.   He slid into a chair at the kitchen table, and buried his face in his hands.   He was so overwhelmed with everything that had happened over the last 24 hours.   Between Tyler’s rejection of him, their reconciliation, and Kathy’s car accident, leaving him a widower with two children; he was completely drained.   He felt like he was on never ending emotional roller coaster ride.

He felt Harry’s hand on his shoulder.   He sat up and took the cup of coffee Harry offered him.   Harry said, “I think you could do with a strong dose of Irish Crème, given how you look; but, I’ll let you be the judge about that."   He sat the bottle of Irish Crème next to Joey and returned to his seat.

Joey took a sip, and said, “Thanks, Dad.”

Harry smiled.   He liked what he saw in this young man.   Joey was gentle and kind with Tyler; and, more importantly, he was a steadying influence on his son.   “You’re welcome, son.”   He waited, until Joey had taken another sip or two of the coffee, before he asked, “Do you have a life insurance policy on Kathy?”

Joey shook his head.   “We talked about it when we first got married; but we never purchased life insurance for either of us.   My work doesn’t offer life insurance.   I have limited health insurance.   I’m not sure how I’m going to cover the girl’s hospital stay, since my insurance won’t cover hospitalization.”

“Are you responsible for Kathy’s medical bills?” Harry asked.

Joey shook his head.   “No, that was part of the mediation agreement.   I had to carry the girls on my health insurance, but not Kathy.   I paid her child support every month to cover the expenses for the children.   Kathy was pushing for an alimony payment; but we hadn’t agreed to anything.”

Harry said, “Then, how are you planning to cover the funeral expenses?”

“I don’t know,” Joey said.   “I guess I’ll have to take out a loan to pay for it.”

Harry said, “I would keep the funeral expenses to a minimum, given you don’t have the resources for an elaborate service.   Have you decided whether or not to cremate her or to have her buried?”

“I don’t know,” Joey said.   “We never talked about it.   Death was the furthest thing from our minds.”

Harry said, “Cremation is the least expensive.   You will have to pay for the casket, the memorial service, if you have one, and for the cremation.   Otherwise, you will need to purchase a burial plot at a cemetery.   That can run into some money, since you will also need to pay for the upkeep on the plot and for a headstone.”

Joey shook his head.   “My mind just can’t handle thinking about it.”

Harry reached over and patted Joey’s arm.   “I’m sorry, Joey.   I know you are feeling a little overwhelmed, right now.   However, the funeral home is going to ask you some of these same questions.”

Joey finished his coffee and said, “Thank you for warning me.   I don’t have answers to those questions; but, I can think about it between now and our meeting with the funeral home.”

Joey wished he had someone he could call and talk to about his financial situation; but he didn’t want to talk to his parents.   They had already expressed their displeasure over his divorce from Kathy.   He didn’t feel like he knew his future in-laws well enough to talk to them.   Tyler knew everything there was to know about him and his financial situation; but Tyler didn’t have answers for him, either.   He thought about talking to the Stetsons.   Ray seemed to have a pretty good sense of how things should be.   He stood up and walked into the front room and placed the call.

Ray answered the phone.   “Hello.”

“Ray, this is Joey,” he said.

“How are you holding up?” Ray asked.

“Not too well, right now,” Joey said.

“What can we do to help you?” Ray asked.

“I need some financial advice,” Joey said.

“Okay, I’m listening,” Ray said.

Joey outlined his situation and his thoughts about how to move ahead.   “What do you think?”

Ray thought for a moment and said, “I would go ahead with your plans.   I think doing the right thing by your wife will help your family heal its wounds; even if it costs a little more than you can afford.   I know for a fact there are people in the community who are willing to help you defray the costs.”

Joey asked, “Who would do that?”

“Your father’s church.   She still attended there and, if you approached the pastor, I’m sure he would be willing to ask the congregation to help with the funeral,” Ray said.

Joey said, with much disgust, “After what that man’s preaching did to our family, I would never approach him.   I wouldn’t want him anywhere near Kathy’s funeral.”

“If you have an open service, he will come,” Ray said.

“Then we won’t have an open service.   I want to limit it to just family members and very close friends,” Joey said.

“Then, you need to make sure you’re specific about what you want, when you talk to the funeral home.   I would recommend you keep the funeral notice out of the papers, and don’t broadcast the information on the internet, if you’re really serious about having a private funeral,” Ray said.   “Do you want to invite Pastor Wilson to conduct a memorial service for your wife?”

“I think that would be nice.   I know Kathy wouldn’t like it because he is gay; but I think it would the best thing for the rest of us,” Joey said.   “I know how much Greg dislikes Christian churches; but I think he would welcome Pastor Wilson.”

“Greg and Cory attended services at his church in Fredericksburg, before Greg moved to Texas with his mother,” Ray said.   “We used to go there, as well; but it’s quite a drive and the traffic has gotten really terrible on Sunday’s.   We haven’t found a church nearby we like; so we haven’t been attending services anywhere, as of late.”

“You’d better not tell Greg,” Joey said.   “I remember you got after them for not attending church.”

“Yes, I did; because they need God in their lives, as do I,” Ray said.   “Greg says to tell you he’s leaving for the funeral home, and will meet you there.”

“Okay,” Joey said.   “Thanks for talking to me.”  Joey ended the call, and returned to the kitchen.

Harry was still sitting at the kitchen table.   He was clipping coupons out to the newspaper.   Joey sat down across from him.   Harry asked, “Who did you call?”

“Ray Stetson.   I’m living with the Stetsons.   Their son is married to my brother-in-law,” Joey said.  Harry raised his eyebrows; but didn’t say anything.   Joey noted the expression on Harry’s face and said, “Kathy’s brother, Greg, is gay.”

Harry smiled.   “I gathered that, from what you said.”

“Has Tyler told you about Greg and Cory?” Joey asked.

“No, he hasn’t really said very much about your wife’s family,” Harry said.

Joey said, “I think you need to know what happened to them; because it had a huge impact on me and Kathy.”   Joey related the events that led up to his father-in-law’s attack on his own son and his lover.   He, then, told Harry about Kathy’s homophobia, and how he had discovered he was attracted to men, and to one man in particular.

Harry smiled and said, “Thank you for telling me.   Tyler has told us some of what you related to me; but it’s good to know the whole story.   I promise you Louise and I are fully supportive of you and Tyler.   As soon as you can arrange to be married, the better, is our position; since you’re already lovers.   You might as well make it official.   It will provide stability for your daughters to have two parents who love them, especially now.”

Joey looked at the kitchen clock and said, “We need to hurry, or we’ll be late for our appointment at the mortuary.”

He rushed out of the kitchen and down the stairs.   Harry smiled to himself and shook his head.   Boys!   They were all alike; even as adults!   Waiting until the last minute to get to where they needed to be!

Tyler heard Joey coming down the stairs and looked up at his mother from his position on the floor, where he had been playing games with Rachel.   “Mom, will you watch the girls, while we go to the mortuary?”

Louise smiled and said, “Yes, of course.”   Sarah was wrapped in a blanket and was cradled in her arms, as she gently rocked back and forth.   She loved her rocking chair.   It was the same one she had used to rock Tyler to sleep, when he was a baby.   She was very happy to have a little one in her arms again.

Tyler said, “Rachel can Daddy come back and play a game with you in a little while?”   Tyler was still getting used to being called Dad or Daddy.

Rachel smiled, “Yes, Daddy.”  She saw Joey, and ran over to him, raising her arms to be picked up.

Joey bent down and swung her into his arms.   She hugged Joey and said, “I like my new Daddy.   He plays games with me.”

Joey kissed her on the cheek and said, “I like him, too.   Will you stay with Grandma, while I go with Daddy for a little while?”

Rachel nodded her head.   “Grandma is really nice.   She gives me cookies.”

Joey laughed and said, “I’m sure Grandma will give you more cookies, if you ask her.”

Rachel said, “Okay.”

He put her down and she ran over and climbed up on Louise’s lap, snuggling close to her.   Louise lifted the blanket and covered her with it.   Rachel peered out from under the blanket, and said, “I’m staying with Grandma.”

Louise smiled, and said, “Run along, boys.   I’ll see to these little ones.”

Tyler took Joey by the hand, and led him upstairs.   They grabbed their coats and gloves and walked out to Joey’s car.   They drove to the funeral home and parked next to Greg’s red Ferrari.  

Greg and Cory got out and joined Tyler and Joey, as they walked towards the front door.   Greg put his arm around Joey and asked, “How are you holding up?”

Joey replied, “I’m doing okay.”

As they entered the funeral home, a receptionist came forward to greet them.   She smiled and introduced herself.   “Hi!   I’m Martha Connor.”   She was a tall, slender woman with long dark, brown hair that hung down her back.  She had dark brown eyes and a tight-lipped smile; if it could be called a smile.   She wore black, horn-rimmed glasses attached to a beaded chain around her neck.   She wore a charcoal gray dress suit and black pumps.  

Joey shook her hand.   “I’m Joey Malone, and this is my partner, Tyler.   This is my brother-in-law, Greg and his husband, Cory.”

Ms. Connor did a double take, when she heard him say that Cory was Greg’s husband.   “It’s nice to meet you all.   Please follow me,” she said.

The guys followed her into an office just off of the main foyer.   She said, “Please sit down.”   Once everyone was seated, she asked, “Mr. Malone, have you thought about what kind of service you want for your wife?”

Before Joey could answer, Greg said, “Yes, we have,” he responded.   “We want to have a small, private service for family and close friends.   We don’t want it announced in the papers, or on the internet.   We will provide a list of family and friends who will attend.   We don’t require a visitation or viewing.”   He looked over at Joey, who looked at him in surprise. 

Tyler squeezed Joey’s hand to reassure him.   Joey looked back at Ms. Connor.   “That sounds good to me.”

Greg continued, “My mother and grandparents will arrive from Texas tonight.   That will be all of the family who will be attending the service from our side of the family.”   Greg looked over at Joey and asked, “Do you know how many of your family will be coming?”

“Just me, Tyler and the girls,” Joey said.  

“My parents will come,” Cory said.

“And mine,” Tyler said.

Ms. Connor said, “That sounds like we need to plan for about 15 people.   What kind of service do you want?”

Joey said, “We’ll call the pastor from our church to officiate.   We want him to conduct the service here, then dedicate the grave.”

Tyler looked at Joey and asked, “You’ve decided against cremation?”

Joey nodded his head, “I want to be able to bring the children to see their mother’s grave, when they’re older.”

“Do you have a burial plot?” Ms. Connor asked.

“No, we don’t,” Joey replied.

Ms. Connor pulled out a brochure and handed it to Joey.   “Here are the different plots that are available, and their prices.   On the back, you will find information about headstones.”   She handed him another brochure and said, “This one shows you the different caskets we sell.   We also have an arrangement with a local florist to provide flowers for the service.”   She handed him a third brochure.

Joey passed the brochures around to let the guys look at them.   Greg handed them back to Joey, when they were done, and asked, “What do you want to do?”

“I think I like this casket and we’ll order the flowers to cover the casket,” Joey responded.   He pointed to the items he liked, as he spoke.

“And the burial plot?” Ms. Connor asked.   “Do you want to purchase two of them; so you can be buried side by side?”

Joey’s expression communicated his disgust at the thought of being buried next to his wife.   “No, we were in the middle of a nasty divorce, when she died.”

“I’m sorry,” Ms. Connor said.   “I hope I didn’t offend you.”

Joey said, “It’s okay; you wouldn’t have known.   We need a single plot.”   He showed her what he wanted.

She said, “Okay.   I will have the paperwork drawn up for the purchase of the casket, the burial plot, flowers and the rental of the chapel for the funeral service.   Do you wish to purchase a headstone at this time?”

Joey said, “Yes, I like this one.   I think Kathy would have liked it, as well.”   He turned over the brochure and pointed to the one he thought Kathy would like.

“When do you want to hold the service?” Ms. Connor asked.

“As soon as possible,” Joey said.

Ms. Connor opened an appointment book that lay on her desk.   She scanned the page, then said, “We could hold the service tomorrow afternoon at 2 PM.   That will give us time to prepare the burial plot.   We will need your wife’s clothing to dress the body.”

Joey looked at Ms. Connor in shock.   “What do you mean?”

“We will need to dress your wife.   Our mortician does a wonderful job.   Of course, if you would rather dress the body yourself; you are most certainly welcome to do so,” Ms. Connor said.

The thought of dressing his wife’s body for burial sent chills down his spine.   He shook his head vigorously.   “No, thank you.   I think your mortician will do just fine.   I will see if I can find some of her clothes.   If I can’t, we’ll go buy her a new dress.   When do you need us to bring the clothing?”

“If you can bring it to us in the next couple of hours, it will give us time to dress the body and have everything ready for the service tomorrow afternoon,” she said.  She looked at Joey over the top of her glasses and asked, “How do you intend to pay for the funeral?”

Joey said, “I guess we’ll have to work that out between us.   Can you tell me how much it will cost?”

She wrote down a few things on a notepad.   She used a calculator to add up the costs, then wrote the sum on the note pad.   She handed it to Joey.

His eyes about popped out of his head, when he saw how much it would cost.   He passed the note over to Greg, who gave a low whistle.   “Joey, I think we need to call Grandpa.”

Joey nodded his head and said, “We’ll let you know what payment arrangements we’ve made, when we return with Kathy’s clothes.”

Ms. Connor smiled and said, “We’ll see you back here in a short while.”

The boys stood and left her office.   They stood together outside the funeral home.   Greg said, “I can’t believe how much money it costs for the casket.”

“I didn’t even pick the most expensive one,” Joey said, defensively.

Cory said, “It’s okay, Joey.   Greg isn’t complaining about what you chose for Kathy.”

Tyler said, “You did well by Kathy, sweetheart.   You have nothing to be ashamed of, and we will figure out a way to pay for it.   I have some money saved up, and we can use that to pay for the funeral.”

Joey looked at Tyler, with tears in his eyes, “You shouldn’t have to pay for my wife’s funeral, Tyler.   We aren’t even married yet!   I don’t want you to drain your savings account.”   Tyler’s offer to pay for Kathy’s funeral really touched Joey’s heart.   It made him realize just how fortunate he was to have Tyler in his life.  

Tyler took Joey’s hand in his and said, “Let’s not argue, Joey.   We need to get Kathy’s clothes.”

Greg said, “I think we should buy her a new dress to be buried in; unless you think you can get into her place to get her clothes.”

Joey shook his head.   “I’ve never been to her apartment.   We always met on neutral ground to pick up the girls.”

Cory asked, “Do you know what size dress she wears?”

Joey said, “She used to wear a size 6; but we’ve been separated nearly a year now.”

“Then get a size 6.   If it doesn’t fit, you can get a bigger one,” Cory said.

“Where should we go to buy a dress?” Greg asked.

“Kathy liked to shop at Kohl’s; so I think we should go there, first,” Joey suggested.

“Okay, let’s go,” Tyler said.

They climbed into their cars, and caravanned to the department store.   Once inside, they found the women’s section and started looking through the dresses.   A female associate approached them, and asked, “May I help you guys?”

Joey sighed in relief.   He smiled and replied, “Yes.   We’re looking for a dress for my wife.   She wears a size 6.”

“What style of dress are you looking for?” she asked.  Joey explained the situation and she said, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  Joey nodded his head in acknowledgement of her sympathy.   “I think I know just the dress.”   She walked along the row for dresses and stopped and pulled one off the rack.   She held it up for Joey’s approval.

“That looks like something Kathy would wear,” Joey said.

Greg nodded his head in agreement.   “Yeah, that says, ‘Kathy,’ all over it.”

She handed the dress to Joey, and she said, “I hope things get better for you.”

“Thanks,” Joey said.   They went up front to the cashier and paid for the dress.

“We’ll drop this off at the funeral home, and I’ll write a check for the funeral expenses,” Tyler said.   “Then, we’ll pick up the girls and meet you at your parents’ home.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Cory said.   Greg and Cory climbed into the red Ferrari and drove off.

Tyler turned to Joey.   “Let’s go sweetheart.”

Joey nodded his head, and they walked over to Joey’s car.   They drove back to the mortuary, and delivered the dress.   When Joey tried to stop Tyler from writing the check out; Tyler said, “Please let me do this for you.”

The look in Tyler’s eyes stopped Joey’s protests.   He pulled Tyler into his arms and kissed him, not caring that Ms. Connor was staring at them in shocked silence.   “I love you.”

Tyler reached up and brushed away Joey’s tears from his cheeks.   He said, “Don’t cry, babe.   There will be plenty of time for tears, tomorrow.”   Joey released him and he turned to Ms. Connor.

Ms. Connor had managed to recover from her surprise.   She smiled at Tyler, as he wrote out the check and handed it to her.   “Thank you,” she said.   She wrote out a receipt.   As she gave it to Tyler, she said, “I’ve never seen so much love between two people, as I’ve seen demonstrated between you two.   You are very fortunate.”

Tyler smiled and said, “Yes, we are very fortunate.   I found my soul mate and we intend to be married, as soon as we can get Kathy’s affairs settled.”

Joey said, “Kathy and I were separated.   Our divorce would have been final in a few months.”

Ms. Connor said, “If that is true, then you are a truly an amazing man, Mr. Malone.   There aren’t many men who would take responsibility for their estranged wife’s funeral.”

Tyler said, “He won’t admit it; but he is, indeed, a wonderful person.”

Ms. Connor said, “We will have everything ready for you, tomorrow afternoon.”

Joey said, “Thank you.”

They left the mortuary and drove to Tyler’s house.   They retrieved the girls and drove to the Stetsons.   As they entered the house, Darla pulled Joey into her embrace.   “I’m so sorry, Joey.”

Tyler took the girls into the family room, and helped them out of their jackets.   Rachel said, “Daddy, will you read to me?”

“Sure.   Which book do you want me to read?” Tyler asked.

Rachel walked over to the bookshelf, and pulled out several Dr. Seuss books.   She carried them over to Tyler.   He took them from her and she climbed up on his lap.   Sarah made her way over to him.   She joined her sister on Tyler’s lap.   He began reading, as they listened attentively.

Joey stopped in the doorway to the family room.   His gaze took in his lover reading to his two precious little girls.   His heart warmed, and was filled with happiness.   Tyler would make a good Daddy for his girls.   They already trusted him completely.   He found it amazing how the girls instinctively knew Tyler loved them.   Tyler finished reading the first book, and glanced up at Joey.   Their eyes met, and their love for each other shone in their faces.   Joey said, “I love you.”

Tyler replied, “I love you, too.”

Joey walked over and sat down next to Tyler.   He leaned over and kissed Tyler.   Rachel watched her dads very closely as they kissed.   She said, “Dad loves Daddy.”

“Yes, I do,” Joey said.   “We’re going to be married soon.   Then, we will live with Daddy at his house.   Is that okay?”

Rachel thought for a moment.   “Will Daddy always read to me?”

“Yes, Rachel, I’ll always read to you,” Tyler said.

Hearing his reply, Rachel said, “Okay.   We can live with Daddy.”

Tyler laughed, “I’m glad you approve, little Rachel.”

Rachel wrinkled her nose, then said, “Daddy, you said you would read to me.”   She pointed the next book in her stack.  Tyler obediently picked up the next book, and started reading.

Greg and Cory joined them in the family room.   They had gone upstairs to their room, and it was obvious they had spent some quality time together.  

Joey smiled and said, “I think I can guess what you two love birds have been up to.”

Greg laughed.   “I’ve no doubt you could figure it out, Joey.   It’s legal for us, since we’re married to each other.”

Joey said, “Tyler and I are engaged to be married.   Does that count?”

“I think it does,” Cory said.

Greg looked at Tyler and said, “Rachel sure has you wrapped around her little finger.”

Tyler paused and grinned.   “If she were your daughter, you would be, too.”

Rachel pulled on Tyler’s shirt.   “Read, please.”

Tyler returned to the story.   Joey said, “It’s okay, Greg.   The girls need a lot of extra loving care, right now.”

Greg nodded his head in agreement.   “Yes, they do, and they have the perfect dads who will give them that love.”

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

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