|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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|Chapter 59: Camping|
The next morning, we were awakened by the smell of bacon and eggs. The four of us made our way to the kitchen. Aunt Hannah and Mom had the table set and the food was ready for us to dig in.
"Good morning, son," Mom said giving me a hug. "Did you sleep okay?"
"I slept really well last night," I replied.
Ben said, "Yes, you did. You snored all night long!"
"I don't snore, Ben," I said, giving him a "give me a break" look.
Ben laughed, "You're right. You didn't snore; but you sure slept soundly."
We sat down at the table and Ben asked, "Have we said grace?"
Aunt Hannah smiled at us and said, "Yes, we have. Go ahead and eat, boys. The rest of us have already eaten."
Randy said, "Thanks, Aunt Hannah. You always know how to cook a great breakfast."
Shawn nodded his head in agreement since his mouth was already full. It didn't take us long to finish off what was left of breakfast.
Mom said, "You boys need to get cleaned up so we can go. We let you sleep in, but now it's time for us to be out and about."
Randy grinned and said, in a mocking tone, "Yes, Mother."
Mom gave him a glare and said, "Don't "yes, mother," me." She moved forward to give him a smack, but he ducked behind Shawn for protection.
Shawn turned his head and said, "Don't drag me into this. You were the one who had to get smart with your mother."
Randy laughed and hugged his husband from behind. "Sorry Mom. Let's get showered."
They left the kitchen hand in hand. Mom looked at me and said, "You and Ben need to do the same."
I asked, "Aunt Hannah may we use the shower in you master bedroom?"
She answered, "Sure. There are clean towels already laid out for you."
Ben said, "I get to shower first."
I said, "Oh, no you don't!"
We raced out of the kitchen and down the hallway to my Aunt's bedroom. We reached the shower at the same time. Ben said, "We shower together, since we tied. But you have to remember that I'm not Rick. I know how you two like to shower together!"
I laughed and said, "You do?"
Ben grinned. "Yes, I do. It's not hard to imagine what you two were up to with all the noise you made when Rick fucked you the other day."
I blushed and asked, "I wasn't that loud was I?"
Ben laughed and said, "Yes, you were! I knew it was your last day with Rick so I didn't tease you about it then; but I sure can harass you now!"
We stripped off our clothes and quickly showered. I couldn't help but admire my well-built cousin. He was shorter than me; but he more than made up for in muscle mass!
Ben caught me looking him over. He grinned and asked, "Do you like what you see?"
I answered, licking my lips, "I have always loved your perfect body, Ben. I just wish you were gay!"
Ben said, "I'm glad I meet with your approval. If I hadn't promised Rick to look after you, I'd let you give me a blowjob!" He laughed when he saw my disappointed expression. "Come on, Glenn. You're practically a married man. What little time I've spent with you and Rick, I know you love each other very much. I can't have you going after every good looking guy that catches your eye; and that includes me!"
I pouted and then used my towel to give him a hard smack on his perfect bubble butt.
Ben howled, "This means war!"
I ran to the other side of the room, putting the bed between us. I laughed and said, "You have to admit that I got you fair and square."
Ben laughed and said, "But revenge will be sweet!" He leaped across the bed as I made to escape. The tip of his towel barely clipped me; but it sure stung!
I yelped and Ben scrambled to stand up and reposition himself to strike again. I moved to the far side of the room and got my towel ready. We kept at it until Mom knocked on the door, "Boys are you ready to go?"
I stopped and said, "Just about." Ben took advantage of my inattention and walloped me good. "Damn, Ben! That hurt!"
Ben laughed and said, "I said revenge would be sweet!"
I grabbed him in a headlock and gave him nuggie. He wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me off my feet. I released him and said, "Okay, you can put me down now."
Ben grinned and said, "I like having you at my mercy. It keeps you humble." He sat me on my feet. "It reminds me of our time together in high school."
"Only this time, I've been working out with Rick; so I don't look so scrawny standing next to you," I said, smiling.
Ben gave an appraising look. "I guess you have filled out a bit. We will have to keep working on you. I want your body to be so buff that Rick won't recognize you when he sees you naked when he gets back."
We grabbed our towels and wrapped them around our waists and made our way back to our bedroom to get our clothes. When we finished dressing, we joined the rest of the family in the kitchen.
Dad said, "Let's go."
Ben and I rode with Randy and Shawn down to Fort George followed by the rest of the family. We toured the old fort and spent some time talking with the staff dressed in period costumes. By the time we finished, it was nearly noon. Uncle Carl and Uncle Dave unloaded a pretty nice picnic, and we ate next to the lake. It was a beautiful spring day, and I enjoyed being outside. After lunch, we drove down to Niagara Falls and took the boat ride up under the falls. It was amazing to be that close to all that water coming over the falls! The best part of all was riding the Niagara SkyWheel! We went to the top of the Skylon Tower and ate dinner in the revolving restaurant. We headed home after that.
"When are we leaving for Algonquin Provincial Park?" I asked Randy.
"Tomorrow morning," Randy replied.
Shawn looked back at us and smiled, "Yeah, if any of us get any sleep tonight. Didn't you hear Randy snoring in his sleep last night?"
Randy immediately responded by slapping Shawn on the back of the head, "That's for being unkind to your husband. I don't snore!"
"Yeah, you practically brought the house down it got so loud last night!" I exclaimed.
Randy looked at me in the rearview mirror, "Just for that, I will have to get even with you tonight!" Randy gave his most wicked laugh.
Ben laughed at Randy's dramatic response just as did I. "I'll have to make sure Ben protects me from the Big, Bad Randy!" I responded.
Ben put on his tough guy look, "Yeah, Big, Bad Randy. You had better watch out! You don't know what will happen once you're asleep!"
Randy and Shawn laughed, "We'll both be on the lookout," Shawn responded grinning from ear to ear.
We continued our bantering as we completed our trip back to our uncle's house. As we got out of the car, Dad joined us, "Remember to set your alarms, boys. We need to be on the road early tomorrow. Make sure you say your good-byes tonight just in case Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah aren't up when we leave."
With that advice, Dad went inside the house and we followed him. We did as he directed and thanked Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah for their hospitality; then retired for the night.
After everyone was settled for the night, I sent a text message to Rick, "Can you talk now?"
I soon received a response, "Yes!"
So I went outside on the patio and hit the speed dial. I heard it ring once; then my lover boy was on the line, "Hi, sweetheart!" You don't know how much good that did to hear Rick call me his sweetheart from half a world away.
"I love you," I said.
"I love you, too," Rick replied.
"I just wanted to hear your voice before I went to bed," I said, letting my voice communicate how much I missed him.
"What did you do today?" Rick asked, trying to keep things light.
"We spent the day playing tourist," I replied and gave Rick a quick rundown of our day.
"Sounds like you had a nice day with your family," Rick said.
"Yeah, it was nice to be with my family doing things we used to do when we were kids," I said. "We are going camping tomorrow and won't be in range of a cell phone tower most of the time."
"I'm glad you told me or I would've been worried that something had happened to you," Rick said.
"I'll text you when we leave for Regina so you can call me if you can," I said.
"Okay, how long will you be camping?" Rick asked.
"I think Dad reserved a campsite for a week; so I'll talk to you, again, in about seven days," I said.
"You know we've never gone that long without talking to each other or at least sending a text message," Rick said, his concern for me showing in his voice.
"Don't worry, Rick. I'll be okay. Remember, I'm with my family. I will still miss you terribly; but Ben has already promised to help keep me occupied," I said, smiling at the memory of Rick giving Ben instructions about what to do to help me.
I jumped about a foot in the air when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see Ben standing behind me. Ben said, "Glenn, please don't scare me like that when you leave without letting me know where you're going."
"Rick, Ben just scared the living daylights out of me, doing what you told him to do," I said, laughing.
"Good, I'm glad to hear Ben is keeping tabs on you," Rick said.
Ben asked, "Are you talking to Rick?"
"Yes, I am," I responded.
"I'll talk to you later," Rick said. "I've got to go now."
"I love you," I said.
"Back at you," Rick responded and ended the call. It was apparent to me that someone had come up to Rick; so I didn't feel bad that he'd terminated the call so abruptly.
Ben said, "Let's go back inside and get to bed. We have to be up early, you know!"
"I know, Ben. But I had to talk to Rick before we go camping; so he wouldn't worry about me," I said trying to explain.
"I'm glad you called; now you can relax and enjoy camping," Ben said.
We turned in for the night. I slept better knowing that Rick was okay, and that he knew I wouldn't be calling or texting him for a few days.
Dad woke us up early; so we could get on the road. We had a quick breakfast before hitting the road. Ben and I followed Randy and Shawn in the Land Rover. It was an uneventful drive. It brought back a lot of good memories of the many camping trips we had taken over the years. Ben and I had a good time talking about those camping trips as we drove.
When we arrived, we pulled into the Achray Campground and checked into our site. We started to unload our gear; as we planned to use Achray as our base camp and do some hiking, canoeing and fishing at different points in the park.
As soon as we had camp set up, we launched the boats on Grand Lake. Dad and Uncle Dave love being on the water, and we spent most of the day on the lake. Dad had the helm of one boat and Uncle Dave the other one. Of course, they brought the fishing gear; so we all had a fishing pole. We managed to catch enough fish for dinner.
We pulled the boats out of the water, and brought the fish back to camp after cleaning them near the water's edge. Dad and Uncle Dave pulled out the Dutch ovens, and got the fire going to cook dinner. First, they sliced some potatoes really thin and layered them in one of the Dutch ovens with butter, garlic and pepper. Next, they whipped up a cake mix and poured the batter in another Dutch oven, and added drained, canned peaches. Mom had made up some dough for rolls which Dad put in a third Dutch oven to bake. Of course, the fish were the last thing to be cooked. Dad stuffed each one with garlic, pepper and slices of lemon and double wrapped them in foil and put them on some coals to cook next to the fire. Ben and I got the job of turning the fish to make sure they didn't burn.
I love eating Dutch oven cooking. My Dad and Uncle Dave really know how to do things up right. We have never gone hungry when we've been out camping! After eating, we all gathered around the campfire to listen to Uncle Dave. He pulled out his guitar and he led us in singing campfire songs. This is what I need to bring me back from my fit of depression because Rick's not with me.
Later, as we settled in our tent, Randy spoke up, "Let's talk about some of our experiences camping; like the time Glenn insisted on running around the campground without any clothes on!"
"Randy! I was only two at the time!" I exclaimed, feigning embarrassment. "I remember the time you came running out of your tent screaming that there were snakes in your sleeping bag!"
"Yeah, that was because you and Eric put a rubber snake in there," Randy responded.
Ben laughed, "I remember that one. It was here in this very campground when that happened. Glenn and I had our own tent that year."
We continued to talk late into the night; regaling Shawn with our tales of fishing, canoeing, hiking, etc., until Shawn said, "It's time to sleep my friends."
We said our good nights and were soon asleep.
After breakfast the next morning, Dad put his arm around my shoulders, "I'm glad we came camping, son. It's good for all of us." He paused before continuing, "You know that Rick is very lonely without his family, Glenn. We saw that when you brought him home to meet us. Rick and I had some nice long talks during that time. Rick was hurting really badly from being disowned by his family. I know that you've tried to make up for his loss. You're going to have to be the strong one for him. I want you to know that we are here for both of you." Dad said.
I looked at Dad in surprise. I wasn't sure he really meant what he said about being there for us. But, I decided that I needed to give him a chance to show he really did accept us as a couple. I said, "Thanks, Dad. I know that I can count on you. As for Rick, I know what you're saying is true. Rick and I have spoken of his family often. I hope that our love will be strong enough to see us through the rough times ahead."
The rest of our camping trip went very well. I love Algonquin Provincial Park! There is so much to do and lots of space to do it in! Unfortunately, the time arrived for us to break camp and head west. We followed Randy and Shawn as we caravanned along some of the most scenic stretches of highway in the world! You haven't seen real beauty until you've driven across Canada! (No offense to the rest of the world!)
When we reached Regina, we stopped at Randy and Shawn's place to stay the night. Randy and Shawn cooked for all of us. They sure know how to cook! It was a little crowded in their apartment but we had a great time! After helping them clean up, the adults left for their hotels to relax and get ready to make the sprint home in the morning.
Randy came into the kitchen after seeing Mom and Dad off, "Glenn, have you decided what you're going to do with the rest of the summer?"
"Yes, Ben and I are going to take a driving tour of the United States and Canada," I replied.
Ben spoke up, "Yeah, we've already drawn up our itinerary. I'll get our map out so we can get your ideas about places we should visit."
Ben went back into the bedroom we would be sharing, and rummaged through his stuff until he found what he was looking for. He returned with his map and spread it out on the kitchen table for all of us to see.
Ben said, pointing to Atlanta, Georgia, "See, this is where we started." He moved his finger along the route we had followed to Regina. "I've marked with a highlighter the highways we're going to be travelling."
We spent the next hour or so talking about our plans and listening to Randy and Shawn's suggestions. We liked most of them and made the appropriate adjustments to our schedule.
After putting the map away, Shawn asked me, "Can we talk for a little bit?"
"Sure, Shawn," I responded looking at him curiously, wondering what exactly he wanted.
"Glenn, there are some things I need to talk to you about; since it looks like you and Rick have decided that your relationship will be a long-term one. You will need to help Rick learn to accept who he is; and, even more importantly, that he has to learn to love himself," Shawn said looking me in the eye. "Do you think you're up to the task?"
"I think so. I know that Rick struggles with the fact that he's fallen in love with a guy; and that he's lost his family because of it. We've talked about it often, and I think that Rick is okay with loving me; or he would've broken off our relationship when he went on active duty," I said.
"I agree with you, Glenn. I think that Rick is in this for the long haul. You are very fortunate to have found someone who deeply cares for you and will stand by your side; no matter what happens," Shawn paused. He took a deep breath before he continued, "Glenn, I'm going to say some things that will make you very angry with me; however, I feel very strongly that you need to hear it. I promise you that if you listen to me carefully that you will become a better you, and will be better able to love your partner. Okay?"
I nodded my head in the affirmative, not sure what to expect.
Shawn didn't keep me in suspense for very long, "Glenn, you're extremely self-centered, and have to learn that being in a relationship requires you to become completely selfless. Instead of doing everything for the sole purpose of satisfying your own wants and desires; you need to do things for the only reason that it makes someone else happy, even if that means you have to sacrifice something that is important to you. I can tell you that the biggest single point of failure on your part is your all-consuming desire to be safe and comfortable regardless of the impact on others."
I was taken aback by Shawn's assessment of my behavior towards Rick; but as I thought about my relationship with him I could see that Shawn was right. "I guess you're right, Shawn. Rick's love represents safety and comfort to me," I said, stopping; as I suddenly realized my overriding need for security was caused by what my cousin, John, did to me.
As I sat pondering Shawn's words, Randy said, "Glenn, I remember that you used to be the happiest and most easy going of all of us; but something happened when you were around 11 or 12 years old. You all of a sudden became extremely withdrawn from all of us, and you seemed depressed all of the time. I remember Mom and Dad talking about it. We were all trying to figure out what was going on with you."
I looked across the table at Randy, "Didn't Mom and Dad tell you what happened?"
Randy looked confused, "They haven't said anything to me. Does this have something to do with what happened at Thanksgiving?"
"Yes, it does," I responded, as I continued to relate to them why Rick had decked John, and what John had done to me.
Randy eyes filled with tears. "I had no idea John had done that to you. That explains a lot of things. I was surprised when Rick decked John that day. I didn't hear what John said; so I was just a little upset with Rick for coming to our family get together, and disrupting it that way. I understand now why Rick was so upset with him."
Shawn said, "I'm glad you finally told us what happened between you and John. You've kept that bottled up inside for too long. Who else knows?"
"Mom and Dad know. I told them at Thanksgiving when they came back from Uncle Gordon and Aunt Sylvia's. They were pretty upset with Rick for what happened. I decided I had to tell them; so they wouldn't think badly of my partner," I said.
"Does anyone else in the family know?" Randy asked.
"I think Dad told Aunt Sylvia; because she was the most upset that Rick had desecrated her home by attacking her son. I don't know who else knows. I know I haven't told anyone else in the family," I replied. "Now that I think about it, I remember Mom saying that they met with Uncle Gordon and Aunt Sylvia to try and iron out their differences. Aunt Sylvia thinks I'm lying and that I've made it all up."
Shawn said, "I can understand her wanting to defend her child; but why would she think that you have made up such a horrific thing? Doesn't she understand that no one can fake the pain and suffering that comes from being raped? Rape victims seldom fully recover from the trauma."
I nodded my head, "I know, believe me. I've tried to put the whole thing behind me. I don't want it to define who I am; but it's so difficult to forget. It's like I've got "Rape Victim" written on my forehead. I feel like I'm wearing a scarlet letter around my neck some days. I know that people don't know what happened to me; but I can't help but think they are judging me and saying to themselves, "He could've avoided it. He deserved what happened. He brought it on himself." Intellectually, I know it isn't true; but those thoughts still cross my mind every time I meet someone new."
Randy asked, "What did Mom and Dad say when you told them?"
I wasn't really ready to answer Randy's question because of how emotional I was feeling, but I tried anyway. "They kept asking me to forgive them for not seeing that I needed help. Both Mom and Dad were pretty upset."
Randy said, "I'm so sorry, Glenn. We all should have seen that you needed our help."
"What's important is that we're talking about it now," Shawn said. "We are here to help you, Glenn. There are many people who love you and want you to be happy. Obviously, you've told Rick."
I nodded my head, "Yes, I told Rick. In part, that is why Rick decked John. When John made his obnoxious remarks, Rick let him have it, as you remember."
My face must have shown just how close to falling apart I was; because Shawn stood up and came around the table and pulled me into an embrace. He held me close for a long time as I buried my face in his chest and took comfort from him. Ben and Randy both joined us in a group hug.
I pulled back from Shawn, "Thanks guys. I needed that. Can we watch a movie or something? I need something to distract me right now."
Randy said, "Sure, let's go in the front room, and we can see what's available."
We followed Randy out of the kitchen. Randy chose a movie and invited us to get comfortable. We spent the rest of the evening unwinding from our long trip in the car.
As we were getting ready for bed, Ben asked, "Why didn't you tell me about what happened with John?"
"I was so ashamed that I couldn't even think about it, let alone tell anyone," I tried to explain to Ben.
"You and I have always been very close. I would've thought you would have confided in me," Ben said, just a little hurt.
"Ben, please try to understand what I was going through. I was so traumatized by the whole thing, I couldn't think straight. Besides that, John threatened to beat me up if I ever told anyone what he and his friends had done to me. I don't want you to think that I intentionally kept a secret from you, Ben. You are my best friend in the whole world. Please don't forget that," I said hoping my words would erase the hurt feelings Ben was projecting.
"I can't say I understand, because I don't. Just don't ever keep something like that from me again. I'm here for you, and it hurts when you don't trust me enough to tell me what's going on with you," Ben said.
"I promise. Are we okay?" I asked, looking Ben in the eyes.
"Yeah, we're good," Ben responded. "Come here." Ben pulled me into a bear hug. "You're a great guy, Glenn. Don't beat yourself up because of what John did. You're not to blame; and you shouldn't ever feel that you're inferior to anyone. Do you understand me?"
I was pretty choked up by what Ben said; so I nodded my head to let him know I understood.
"Let's get some sleep," Ben said.
"Good night, cousin," I said as Ben turned out the lights.
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