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




Chapter 85: Together, Again!

The much anticipated day had finally arrived!   Rick thought, “I’m finally free to return to my normal life.”   He had fulfilled his 12-month deployment commitment.   He remembered thinking that it seemed like an eternity that he would be without his sweetheart; and, here he was, getting ready to meet Glenn in Minneapolis.   Rick had packed his things, and had them loaded in the Land Rover.  He was amazed that he had managed to accumulate enough stuff to fill the back of the Land Rover!   Satisfied that everything was properly stowed, he went back upstairs to his room to say, ‘good bye,’ to Sean.  

As he entered his room, Sean stood up from his bed, and said, “I’m going to miss you, Rick.   You made it possible for me to transition from my civilian life, to life in the military.   I can never thank you enough.”   Sean’s eyes were bright with tears; but, his voice was steady, and he smiled at his friend.

“I’m sure you would have made it just fine without me, Sean.   I’m the one who has to thank you for being my friend.   I’m glad I met you,” Rick said.   He pulled Sean into a tight embrace, then let him go.

Sean said, “I’ve told Barry that he needs to visit you and Glenn in Atlanta.  He is pretty lonely, living at home with his parents.   There aren’t many gays in our small town.”

Rick laughed.  “You mean there is only one, and that is Barry.”

Sean smiled, and nodded his head.  “Yes, that is what I meant.   Drive safely, and give Glenn an extra hug for me.”

Rick said, “I sure will.   Keep in touch, Sean.   You are a fantastic guy, and I’m sure you will do just fine here.”

Sean smiled, and shook Rick’s hand.   “Thanks, again, for everything, Rick.”

“Talk to you soon,” Rick said.   “I will call you, to let you know I made it to Minneapolis.”

With his farewells completed, Rick went down to the Land Rover, climbed in and started the engine.  He couldn’t help but feel elated at being able to begin the next stage of his life with Glenn.   Glenn had “finals” week next week, then a final concert, before they could leave for Swift Current.  

With Ben and Janice’s wedding coming up in a couple of weeks, they had decided to make a trip home, to stay with Glenn’s parents.   From there, they would drive to Toronto, for Ben and Janice’s wedding.   Rick looked forward to being with Glenn’s family.   From the moment they met him, Rick had become one of their own.   Rick was excited to see Ben and Janice get married; however, he knew how badly Glenn wanted to get married, and that seeing all of their friends getting married, including their gay friends reminded Glenn of what he couldn’t have.   He had told Rick last night that he didn’t want to go to anymore weddings, because they only made him depressed.  

Rick had tried to console him, but Glenn responded that his words didn’t change the facts – they couldn’t get married.   Over time, Rick had come to regret his decision to join the Marines, because “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) still had not been repealed.  They had no choice, but to wait until Rick could get out of the Marine Corps.

As Rick drove down the freeway toward Washington, DC, his thoughts went back over the events of the last 12 months.   First, there was his initial excitement of being in the war zone.   He was finally able to put to use the training he had received as a Marine.  He loved carrying a machine gun, and being in the heat of battle.   There was also a certain thrill he got out of matching his wits against the enemy.   The fact that his life was on the line made it that much more of a challenge.  

But, then, everything had changed, when one of his comrades was killed by a grenade, and several others were severely wounded.   He had been a few steps behind them, when he saw them go down.   The only reason he was still alive was because his friends had taken the hit.   That was when the reality of war hit him hard, and made him reevaluate what it meant to be a Marine.   It wasn’t a game, anymore.   It wasn’t a video game, where you came back to life after being killed.   His friend was gone, never to return.   In addition, his other comrades had lost their legs.   It was a very sobering moment, when he helped evacuate his fellow Marines from the battlefield; and held his friend’s hand for the last time, as he died in his arms.  That event, in itself, was a defining moment in Rick’s life.   He realized, then, how precious life is, and that he needed to make the most of the time he had been given.

A few months later, when Sam was murdered, Rick’s faith in mankind, and, more specifically, in the Marine Corps, was shaken to its core.   He had already lost his faith in religion, and those who professed to be practicing “Christians.”  Now, he learned not to trust anyone, not even his fellow Marines.   He had once believed in the essential goodness of people, and always thought positively of others.   Based on his experiences in life, he now believed that all people were inherently selfish, with the propensity for doing evil to others, just for the sake of doing harm.   They seemed to derive a twisted sense of satisfaction at seeing others suffer.  

For a brief moment, he relived the horror of seeing the photos of his friend’s brutal death; and the devastation he felt, when he found out that Sam was murdered by those should have protected him as one their own.   Then, he mind went to those harrowing moments, when he was being held with the other prisoners, hearing them say that gays weren’t people and deserved to die.   Later, at their courts martial, he had been called upon to testify against them.   Many of them denied they had said anything against gays, and had tried to discredit his testimony.   However, they had to recant their statements after hearing the recording of their conversation.   All of them were convicted of murder, as well as drug dealing.   It gave Rick a small measure of comfort to know that justice had been served, in this case.

He had thanked Lt. Col. Bachman and Sgt. Riehle for their support during those first few months after Sam’s death.  Sgt. Riehle reminded him that the Marines had a proud tradition of taking care of their own, despite what had happened to Sam.   Lt. Col. Bachman had said pretty much the same thing.   Lt. Col. Bachman thanked Rick for his good work as his assistant, and indicated that he would see Rick in Atlanta.    

More than anything else, he was very happy to be able to freely express himself.   Since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) was still the law, he had to be careful not to “out” himself.   It had been very difficult for him during the first nine months of his tour.   However, the last few months had been much better, since Sean had become his roommate.

After several hours on the road, he made a stop in Frederick, Maryland, to get gas, and to stretch his legs.   He wanted to drive straight through to Minneapolis, if possible.   He knew he should stop somewhere along the way and sleep, but he wanted to be with Glenn as soon as possible.   He was soon on the road again.

His thoughts turned to Greg and Cory.   He felt sorry for Greg.   His mother had forced him to move with her to Texas to finish high school.   They had moved in with Greg’s grandparents in Dallas.   Greg had confided in Rick that his grandparents were trying to convince his mother that he needed to be sent to a Christian Center for Ex-Gays.   They refused to believe that Greg was gay.   So far, she has resisted the pressure they were putting on her.   Greg had called him when they arrived at Greg’s grandparents’ home.   His thoughts went back to that conversation.

Rick had answered his cell, “Hello.”

“Hey, Rick.  We made it, but I just had a huge argument with my grandparents.   I told them, in no uncertain terms, that I was not attending their church, or the torture program for cleansing gays of their sins,” Greg said.

“Are you still going to stay with them?” Rick asked.

“No, I’m not.   I told them I wanted nothing to do with them, or their religious bigotry.   I’m staying at my cousin’s house, for now.   Mom is staying with her sister.   She told her parents that they were just as evil and prejudiced as my Dad, and that they deserved to be incarcerated with him for their hatred of other people,” Greg said.

“Since they are so homophobic, are the rest of your relatives that way, too?” Rick asked.

“Most of them are, but my cousin, Matthew, is not.   In fact, I think he may be gay, as well.   He hasn’t said anything to me, but my gaydar tells me that he is,” Greg said.

“Are you going to stay in Texas?” Rick asked.

“Yes.   We went to the school today, and registered.   It appears that I have enough credits to graduate already, so I will go to school for English, then I can have work release time, if I can find a job,” Greg said.

“That’s sound so much better than what you had going for you here,” Rick said.

“I guess.   The only problem is that I can’t be with Cory,” Greg said.   “We had just got things back on track between us, and Mom had to up and drag me here!”

“Think of the positive side of things, Greg.   Now you only have to attend school for one class a day,” Rick said.    “Plus, Cory is being home schooled now, and he won’t have to worry about those creeps at school bothering him, anymore.”

Greg said, “I guess you are right that there are some positives to moving here.   Cory and I are still planning to come to Atlanta, at the end of June,” Greg said.

“We look forward to seeing you guys.   Keep your chin up, and don’t let things get to you.   You know you can call me anytime you need to talk,” Rick said.

“Thanks, Rick.   I will call you, if anything changes,” Greg said.   “Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Greg,” Rick said.

I was so burned out from studying that I decided that today I would spend my time rehearsing for the big concert.   I was beginning to regret accepting the invitation to play with the Minnesota Orchestra.   They were doing a benefit concert for the local children’s hospital, and had invited several of the top musicians from the university to solo with them.   They were doing an all Brahms concert; and, as a result, I was playing the Brahms violin concerto.   I knew the Brahms very well, since my mother had made me learn it when I was still in grade school.   The memory of my mother’s stern countenance still makes me cringe, as she insisted that I play certain passages over, and over, and over again, until she was satisfied that I was playing them correctly.

Her voice still echoes in my head, “Glenn, you attack the strings as if you think they will break.   How many times do I need to remind you to bite into the string properly to get the most sound out of it?   You can’t play Brahms timidly.   It just doesn’t work!   Let’s try it again.”

I grimaced, as I picked up my violin, and started to tune the strings.   I plucked the “E” string and felt it give too much.  The quality of the sound grated on my nerves.   It was obvious that it needed to be replaced.   I silently swore to myself.   Now was not the time to break in a set of new strings.   I pulled out a set of new strings from my violin case, and proceeded to change out all of the strings.   I knew that if one string was ready to break, the rest weren’t far behind.   I adjusted the strings, and began the process of tuning the instrument again.  

Once I felt comfortable that the strings weren’t go slip anymore, I raised the violin, and placed it under my chin and tightened my bow.   I attacked the strings, as I remembered being instructed by my mother all those years ago.   Things went well for the first few lines of music; but, then a couple of the strings stretched and slipped out of tune. 

I swore under my breath, and started the tuning process over again.   I was standing in the family room in front of the windows, when Adam came into the room.

“Can I listen to you practice?” he asked.

I grinned at the handsome young man.  “Yes, I always welcome an audience.   It makes me practice harder, when I know someone is listening.”

Adam walked over, and sat down on the couch.   “I love hearing you play, Glenn.   I wish I could play as well as you do.”

“Thank you, Adam.   I needed to hear that right now.   I am very nervous about playing the Brahms violin concerto.   It is a piece that I struggled with for a couple of years, until my mother was satisfied I was playing it correctly.   I remember feeling like I was being tortured, when she made me play it so much.   I grew to hate the piece.   I know I shouldn’t feel that way about it, but I can’t help it,” I said.

Adam smiled.  “Glenn, you need to stop worrying so much.   You play it so beautifully.   I heard Patty and Irene commenting about how well you played it, yesterday.”

I grinned, and said, “They are my friends, and always say good things about me.   I only hope that they are right.”

I started from the beginning of the piece, for the second time.   Thankfully, the new strings didn’t stretch anymore, and I was able to complete the first movement without mishap.   I started the next movement, and another one of the strings went out of tune.   I let out a curse, and stopped playing.

Adam asked, “What’s wrong with your violin?”

“Nothing is wrong with the violin, Adam.   What is wrong is that I just replaced the strings, and they haven’t finished stretching yet.   It will take them a few days before they stop, and stay in tune.   Until then, I will have to suffer with it.   It is so frustrating to me, right now,” I said, trying to push away my anger and frustration.   I wanted to make it through the entire piece without making mistakes, and it seemed that everything was working against me, today.   I knew that part of the reason I was having difficulty concentrating was because I knew that Rick would be here late tonight, or early tomorrow morning; and my excitement about being reunited with my lover boy was keeping me from focusing on the music.    “Let’s try this again,” I said, looking over at Adam, who grinned and nodded his head at me.

I started from the beginning again.   This time I felt myself relax, as the beautiful melody took on a life of its own.   I let go of my frustration, and lost myself in the music.   When I finished, there was total silence for the space of a few minutes, then I heard furious clapping, and opened my eyes to see the rest of my roommates had joined Adam.   I had been so oblivious of my surroundings that I didn’t notice them enter the room.

My look of surprise made Zach laugh. “Didn’t you know we were here?”

I shook my head, and said, “No, I didn’t hear you come into the room.”

Todd said, “I think that is the best performance you have given of that concerto, since you started practicing it.”

I grinned.  “Thank you, Todd.   I just hope that I can do as well on the night of the concert.”

“You will do just fine,” Mark said.   “We have faith in you.”

Brandon said, “You know that I hate classical music, Glenn, but that time you had my complete attention.   I couldn’t help being pulled into the music.”

“Thanks, guys,” I said.   “Everyone should have roommates like you guys.”

Justin asked, “Is anyone up for working out?”

“Yes.   That may be just the thing I need,” I said.

“Good.   Anyone else care to join us?” Justin asked, looking around the room.   The rest of the guys looked at each, then Robbie grinned, and said, “I want to go see the cute guys.”

Adam grinned at his boyfriend.  “You can look, but no touching!”

Zach asked, “Do you mean to say we aren’t good looking?”

“No, you guys are the best looking guys around, but you’re married,” Robbie said.  

The rest of the guys agreed to go.   We made a mass exodus to our rooms, to put on our workout clothes.   We met outside, and decided to run over to the gym, instead of driving.   We started out at a nice pace.   I hung back a little from the pack.   I love the sight of gorgeous guys running ahead of me, especially when each and every one of them is in perfect shape!   Just watching them was giving me a hard on!

Robbie turned, and saw me running behind him.   He grinned, and asked, “Do you like what you see?”

I returned his grin, and replied, “Absolutely!”

Robbie looked over at Adam, and said, “Adam, Glenn is looking us over.”

Adam laughed, and said, “Rick tells him the same thing I tell you:   just looking, no touching.”

Robbie laughed, then he yelled to the rest of the guys, “How about a foot race across the park?”

Zach nodded his head, and turned towards the park.   We lined up, and we had an elderly lady, who was taking a walk in the park, say, “go,” for us.   Despite my best efforts, I ended up coming in last place.

Todd laughed.  “Glenn, you need to stop dreaming about Rick, and pay attention to what you are doing.”

“I can’t stop thinking of him!” I exclaimed.   “He will be here soon, and I can’t wait.”

The guys kept teasing me the entire time we were at the gym.   Devon and Jimmy came over, and joined us on the weights.   Devon grinned at me. “So….when does lover boy arrive?”

“He should be here late tonight, or tomorrow morning,” I replied.

“I’m glad he is coming soon, or I am afraid I would have to offer my services to help give you some relief,” Devon said, with a broad grin, pointing at the tent in my gym shorts.

My face turned red from embarrassment.   Todd laughed, and said, “He has been this way all afternoon.   I can tell you exactly when Glenn’s thoughts turn to Rick’s imminent arrival by his state of arousal!”

“I can’t help it that just the thought of Rick’s body being near me gets me excited!” I protested.

Jimmy cracked, “We will have to get you a restraint for that thing in your pants, so you won’t keep embarrassing yourself and everyone around you!”

Devon smirked and said, “Yeah, Glenn, I think maybe a male chastity device would keep you contained just fine.    I think I’ll suggest it to Rick.   May I suggest that Rick get you a CB-3000?   It would be a perfect fit, or maybe even better yet, he could get you one with a wand, and nice Prince Albert piercing to go with it.”

I should have been prepared to hear Devon talk about male chastity devices, since he had sent me a link to several web sites last week.   I had never heard of anything like it before in my life.   Just the thought of Rick locking me up like that sent shivers of horror down my spine.   The very thought of anyone torturing anyone that way made my stomach churn.

Seeing my reaction, Devon laughed.  “You should try something different to keep your sex life from becoming boring!”

I looked Devon straight in the eyes, and said coldly, “Rick and I don’t need anything of the sort to keep the fires going.   Instead of fucking every living thing in sight, you should try finding someone who loves you, first.   Then, you will find that the excitement and the passion keep getting bigger and better every time you’re with that person.”

Devon gave me a stunned look, as the guys guffawed.   Devon recovered, and gave me a grin, “Wow!   I must have hit a nerve!”

I gave him a glare that would have turned him to stone, if I had that power.   Devon took a step back, then he said, “I’m sorry, Glenn.   I didn’t mean to make you angry.   I was just having a little fun.   That’s all.”

He gave me such a little puppy dog look that I had to laugh.  “Okay, apology accepted.   Just don’t push that kinky stuff at me, anymore.   I don’t like it.”

Robbie said, “Hey, Devon.   What’s all that stuff about?”

“What?   You claim to be gay, and don’t know anything about BSDM!   I thought all gay guys surfed the internet, and checked out all the kinky sex stuff that’s out there,” Devon said.

“Well, you thought wrong,” Adam said.   “I don’t know anything about it, either.”

Zach, overhearing them, said, “Guys, I think we should take this conversation off-line.”   He nodded towards a couple of guys across the room who were giving us the evil eye.   “I think we may have some troublemakers who are looking to start something.”

Brandon looked the two guys over and said, “Let them start it, because I will finish it.”

“I know those two,” Mark said.   “They are always making homophobic remarks in one of my classes.   They are on the football team.”

Brandon said, “I think we need to deliver a message of our own.”

Justin asked, “How do you plan to do that?”

“I want all of you to come with me, and don’t say anything,” Brandon said.  We all looked at each other, then looked at Brandon.   “What?” he asked, in protest.   “Can’t we be proactive, and make a statement that we won’t tolerate their bigotry, or their homophobia?”

Zach said, “I will agree, as long as it remains peaceful.   I value my scholarship, and my place on the hockey team, too much to do something stupid and lose both of them.”

Brandon frowned, “Okay.   I promise it won’t be anything violent.   I was thinking we could scare them a bit, by surrounding them and confronting them about their homophobia.   We could invite them to hang out with us, since this is the last weekend before finals.”

Zach looked intensely at Brandon.  “I’m in as long as you don’t lose your temper, if they say some ugly things about gays.”

“I promise I won’t do them any bodily harm, at least, not now,” Brandon replied.

“Alright, Brandon, let’s go,” Zach said.

We all got up, and walked across the room.   We surrounded the two football players.   Seeing that they were completely surrounded, they stopped lifting weights, and stood up.   Both of them were totally buff, and looked like the musclemen you see in the magazines.   They looked around the circle of guys.   They were both blond, blue-eyed, and had brilliant smiles.   As I looked closer at them, they appeared to be twins.   Before anyone said a word, I asked, “Hey, are you guys twins?”

They looked at each other, then smiled and spoke in unison, “Yes, we are.”   Then one of them said, “I am Connor Twitchell, and this is Matt Twitchell.”

It was like hearing stereo, because their voices were so much alike.   Of course, I couldn’t help giving them the once over.   “You guys are totally awesome,” I said.

Connor laughed, “We were thinking the same about you and your friends.”   He paused, and looked closely at Zach, “Aren’t you Zach Anderson-Ingram?”

Zach replied, “Yes, I am.”

Matt said, “We are big hockey fans, and we were surprised to see our top four hockey players hanging out at the gym.   We thought you would be out on the ice, instead of working the weights.”   He looked around the group of us, and pointed to each of Zach’s teammates, “You are Ben Nielsen, Todd Anderson-Ingram, and Devon Steinbrenner.”

Connor looked from Zach to Todd, and asked Todd, “Why did you decide to play for Duluth, when your brother came here?  I would have thought you would have chosen to play on the same team, instead for an in-state rival.”

Todd smiled, and said, “Well, it’s a long story Connor.   It took Zach a while to come to his senses.”

Zach punched Todd in the shoulder.  “It wasn’t my fault you chose to go to Duluth.”

Todd smiled, “You are right about that.   You should have proposed to me sooner.”

Connor and Matt’s faces showed their confusion.   Matt asked, “Did you say, propose to you?”

Todd nodded his head.  “You heard me correctly.   Zach is my husband, not my brother.   We got married in Thunder Bay, Ontario, just before school started in January.”

Connor and Matt looked shell shocked.   Their jaws dropped, in pure astonishment.   Before they could say anything, Brandon said, “Let me introduce the rest of us.   I am Brandon Mattison, and this is my husband, Mark Mattison.   We were married at the same time as Zach and Todd.   It was so awesome to have a double wedding with such wonderful friends.”

Next, Justin spoke up, “I am Justin Cardin and this is my husband, Brian Cardin.   We were married a few days before these guys.”

Robbie said, “I’m Zach’s brother, Robbie, and this is Todd’s brother, Adam, and we’re life partners.”

Connor and Matt looked even more nonplussed.   Ben spoke up, “I am Ben Nielsen, and this is my cousin, Glenn Nielsen, and no we aren’t married.”

Ben’s statement caused us all to burst out laughing.   Zach asked, “Ben, do you always have to be the class clown?”

Ben laughed, and said, “Somebody has to do it.”

Connor looked at his brother, then said, “We, um, didn’t know you guys are gay.”

I responded, “We are, and we’re very much out and proud.   The only straight guy around here is Ben and, of course, you two unless you have something you want to tell us.”   I looked at them, and waited for an answer.

When one wasn’t forthcoming, Brandon spoke up, “We heard you two were making some pretty homophobic statements in class the other day.   My husband, Mark, is in one of your classes, and overheard you two.   We wanted to invite you to come hang with us this weekend, so you can see what married gay people do.   That way, when you make statements about gay people, you can make them from first-hand observation, instead of repeating the brainless sop that bigots, religious, or otherwise, spread about us.”

The two guys still didn’t say anything.   Mark asked, “Are you afraid that we will try to turn you into gays, if you come to a party at our home?”

Connor finally answered, “No, we aren’t afraid to come to your home.   I know that you can’t make us gay, but we don’t want to associate with anyone who is gay.”

I said, with a hard edge to my voice, “We don’t have a problem with you NOT associating with us, but we DO have a problem with you spreading lies and falsehoods about us, when you haven’t bothered to check your facts.”

Matt looked me in the eyes, and said, “I’m sorry, Glenn.   My brother didn’t mean to offend you.   Our father is a Baptist minister, and we have been taught that homosexuality is a great sin, and that homosexuals have caused our country’s moral values to decline.”

Zach said, “I understand why you believe what you do, but that still does NOT excuse the derogatory statements you two made in class the other day.   You may not agree with us, but that does not give you license to treat us with disrespect, or subject us to harassment.”

Brandon said, “Maybe we should parade around advertising the rates of pedophilia among heterosexual males, or the high rate of spouse abuse among heterosexual couples.   And lest I forget, the large number of unwed heterosexual couples who are living in what is termed a domestic partnership.   Maybe we should be looking at the number of religious leaders who have molested children.   It seems to me that those who are pointing the finger at gays, and shouting, ‘burn them at the stake,’ should be the ones we put in prison, or execute them for the many great sins they have committed against humanity.”

Connor said, “I don’t think religious people are the problem.”

Ben asked, “Then, why is religion being used by religious people as an excuse to commit murder and annihilate entire societies because they aren’t of the same religious beliefs as their neighbors?”

Connor thought for a moment.   “I can’t answer that question.”   He turned, and looked at Mark.  “I’m sorry we offended you in class.   We will watch what we say in public.”

“We still disagree with you, but you are right in that we should be more respectful and considerate of others,” Matt said.

“That is all we ask,” Brandon said.

“Our invitation to come to our home is still valid.   I think it would be a good thing for you, and for us,” Zach said.

Connor and Matt just looked at us, and didn’t respond.   We broke our circle, and returned to what we were doing.   The rest of our workout was uneventful.   We passed the twins as we exited the gym.   I stopped, and said, “You two should come over tomorrow.   My boyfriend is coming into town, and I would like you to meet him.   Here is my cell number.   Just give me a quick call, so we can make sure we are home when you come.”   I handed Matt a small slip of paper with my cell number.   I didn’t wait for a reply, since my friends had kept on walking.   I hurried to catch up with them.  

Brandon asked, “Why did you give them your cell phone number?”

“Because I think that they may eventually change their minds; and I wanted to make sure they could call and talk to someone, who is gay, to find out the truth from one of us, instead of the getting their information from people who don’t know anything about what it’s like to be gay,” I said.

“You are a better man than I am, Glenn.   I can’t stand people who suffer from compound ignorance.   Their arrogance is intolerable,” Brandon said, with distain.

We walked home in companionable silence; each of us lost in his own thoughts.   We hit the showers, and changed into clean clothes.   We spent a nice evening with our friends.   I finally decided I needed to hit the books again.   I went to my room, and started studying.   I must have fallen asleep at my desk, because I woke up with my head resting on the textbook.   I looked over to see what time it was.   The clock read 3:00 AM.   My body was complaining loudly at its mistreatment.  I got up and grabbed my toiletries, and headed to the bathroom.   I returned to my room, and was putting my toiletries back in their drawer, when someone came up behind me and put their arms around my waist.  

A voice whispered in my ear, “I’m home, Babe.”

I woke up, with the afternoon sun shining in my face.   I rolled over, and came nose to nose with Rick, whose eyes held my gaze.   We looked at each other for a moment, before Rick kissed me, and said, “I was wondering when you would wake up.   Robbie and Adam have been in twice to see if we were awake.”

“They are almost as excited to see you as I am, sweetheart,” I said, smiling.   “Robbie and Adam are only a small part of your fan club.   I know all of the guys missed you.”   I raised my hand to his face, and lovingly ran my fingers over his face.   I ended my tactile exploration of my beloved’s countenance by bringing my other hand up and cupping his face between my hands.   I said, “I love you.”   I kissed him tenderly.  

“I hope you aren’t angry with me for driving through the night to get here,” Rick said.   “I know it was reckless of me, but I couldn’t stand another night without you near me.”

“I am glad you did, Babe.   I thought about scolding you for endangering yourself, but I wanted you here so badly that I thought better of it,” I said.

Rick ran his hands through my hair, pushing it back from my face.   I had let it grow out, so it was now shoulder length.   Rick asked, “Are you going to let your hair grow longer?”

I looked at him, and said, “I will, if you want me to.   I was thinking of cutting it short for the summer.”

“At a minimum, you should get it trimmed, so the ends are even,” Rick said.   “I’m fine with its length.   I was just surprised you let it get so long, because you have always kept it short, until now.”

“I was thinking of cutting before the concert, so I can have a crisp, clean-cut look when I am up on stage,” I said.

Rick smiled, “I think that is what you should do.   You are so handsome that I am afraid that someone will try to steal you away from me.”

I grinned, and said, “That’s my line!”

Rick grinned back at me.  “We are good for each other, and that is why no one will ever be able to tear us apart.”

Our little peaceful interlude was abruptly brought to an end.   There was a knock on our bedroom door, and my cell phone started ringing, at the same time.   I reached over to grab the phone, while Rick yelled, “Come in!”

Robbie and Adam bounced, excitedly, into our room, and sat at the foot of our bed.   Robbie said, “I was beginning to think you two were going to sleep FOREVER!”      

“You don’t know how many times I have dragged Robbie away from your door, Rick.   He is so excited that you are home that he is driving us all crazy,” Adam said, laughing at his boyfriend’s indignant face.

Robbie protested, loudly, “I am not driving everyone crazy!”

I put my finger to my lips, and shushed Robbie, as I answered the phone.

“Hello,” I said.

“Glenn, this is Matt,” the voice on the other end of the line said.

“Hello, Matt,” I said.   “Are you guys coming over today?”

Matt answered, “Yes, I am coming over.   My brother is being stubborn, and won’t admit that there is some truth to what you said, yesterday.”

I said, “Tell him we will make sure he is well fed, and we will invite some of the girls over from the dorms, if he is willing to come over,” I said.

I heard him talking to Connor, then he said, “Connor said he will come, as long as there are girls there, too.”

“Good.   Come over in about an hour,” I said.

“Okay,” Matt said.

I gave him our address, and ended the call.

I looked at Robbie and Adam, and said, “The twins are coming over in an hour.   Will you let the other guys know?”

Robbie nodded his head vigorously.  “Sure.   I will be right back.”  The two boisterous teens bolted from the room, and we heard them shouting down the hall, “The twins are coming, the twins are coming!”

I shook my head at their exuberance.  Trust Robbie and Adam to be as dramatic as possible!

Rick looked quizzically at me.  “Who are the twins?”

I related the events of the previous day to him.   He said, “I hope I don’t disappoint them.”

I laughed.  “There is no way anyone would ever be disappointed with someone as drop dead gorgeous as you, sweetheart.”

Rick grinned, and said, “We need to get up and get dressed, if we are going to entertain company.”

I gave Rick my most evil grin.  “Unless we decide to give them a thrill, by wandering around the house naked!”

“Mr. Nielsen, you are incorrigible!   Let’s get into the shower,” Rick said, standing up, then pulled me into his arms.   I automatically put my arms around his neck, as his arms held me tight against his wonderfully sculpted body.   He leaned down, and kissed me so passionately I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

Rick released me from his embrace and took my hand, leading me down the hall to the shower.   A while later, we emerged from the shower completely clean with our desires for each other momentarily fulfilled.   We quickly dressed in matching golf tees, khaki shorts, and sandals.   When we entered the kitchen, Donica and Jimmy whistled at us.

Donica grinned, and said, “Welcome home, Rick.   I had forgotten what a looker you are!”

Jimmy stood up, and gave Rick a quick hug and a slap on the back.   He said, “We missed you.”  He nodded in my direction.  “Mind you, we didn’t miss you as much as Glenn did, but we did miss you.”

I asked, “Are Patty and Irene coming over?”

Donica laughed.  “Yes, they are coming over.   When I told them that the Twitchell twins were coming over, they went absolutely berserk.   The twins are in one of their classes.   I guess the two of them have been trying to work up the courage to speak to them, since the beginning of the semester.”

“Do I need to warn the twins about them, or should I let Patty and Irene work their wicked ways with them first,” I asked, with an evil grin.

Jimmy laughed, “I think we should let the twins fend for themselves!   I don’t think we should spoil Patty and Irene’s plans.”

Rick asked, “What are our plans for dinner?   I’m starving!”   His stomach rumbled, causing all of us to burst out laughing.

“I guess I need to fix you a sandwich, or something to tide you over until dinnertime,” I said.   I walked over to the fridge, and pulled out the lunchmeat, sliced cheese, lettuce, tomato and condiments.   I put together a couple of club sandwiches.  

I looked at Jimmy and Donica.  “Do you guys want one as well?”

Donica declined, but Jimmy said, patting his six-pack abs, “Sure.   You know I have to maintain my statuesque figure!”

Donica laughed.  “You don’t have to worry about keeping your figure.”   She leaned over, and kissed him lightly on the lips.

Rick raised his eyebrows in surprise, and looked at the couple.   Seeing Rick’s look, Jimmy said, “Donica and I are engaged to be married.”

Donica nodded her head in agreement.  “We haven’t set a date yet.   My parents want us to wait, until after we graduate from college to get married.   The problem is I don’t want to wait.”

Jimmy said, “I have tried to stay out that argument.   I don’t want to create any ill will between us and Donica’s parents, if we can help it.   We have already decided to live together in the fall, even if we aren’t married yet.”

Rick asked, “Donica, do your parents know of your plans?”

“Yes.   They want us to wait until we get married to have sex,” Donica said.   She looked at Jimmy, as if asking his permission.    When he nodded his head in the affirmative, Donica continued, “Part of the reason we want to be married this summer is that I’m pregnant.”

“Congratulations!” Rick and I exclaimed, at the same time.  

“That is so awesome,” I said.  

Jimmy looked at us, and asked, “We want you two to be our child’s godparents.”

Rick looked surprised at the request.   I looked at them, and asked, “What are godparents?   I have never heard of them.”

Before they could answer, Rick said, “They are the people who promise to watch over and guide the child, specifically in regards to the church.”

“We think that you guys would be the perfect people to watch over and guide our child.   You are both gentle and kind.   You exemplify the kind of people we all should be,” Donica said.   “You show us every day how we should treat each other.”

Jimmy agreed, “We couldn’t think of anyone better to help us keep our child on the right path.”

I looked at Rick, who returned my gaze.   I could tell from his expression that he was evaluating their request, and weighing it against his distrust of all religious groups.   I took his hand, and said, “I will abide by whatever decision you make with regards to their request, Babe.”

He turned to Donica and Jimmy, and said, “We will do it, but not as part of a church ceremony.   Usually, the godparents make promises during the christening ceremony at the church.”

Jimmy nodded his head in understanding.  “I thought that might be your answer.”

“We discussed this, already, and we are okay with that arrangement,” Donica said.

I finished making a sandwich for Jimmy, and handed it to him.   I joined them at the kitchen table, and wolfed down my sandwich.   I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I took the first bite of my sandwich.   I got up and walked over to the fridge, and grabbed the water pitcher from the top shelf.  I brought it to the table, along with glasses for everyone.

We talked about Jimmy and Donica’s wedding plans.   Donica and I cleaned up the kitchen, while the guys retired to the family room.   Donica finished wiping down the table, then asked, “When are you and Rick getting married?”

I thought for a moment, then sighed.  “I don’t know.   We can’t get married until Rick gets out of the military.   I’m not sure how many years he has left, but I think it’s about four more years.”

“Do you think you will still be together in four years?” Donica asked, concernedly.

I replied, “I think so.   We love each other very much, and we have already been through so much together.   I like to think that we can make it through almost anything.”

“If it’s any comfort, I think you guys will make it, because of the great support network you have.   Between your family and friends, you have every reason in the world to achieve your goals.   I am very happy to count myself among your friends, Glenn.   I know that all of us feel the same way.”

Donica’s words brought tears to my eyes, as I thought about the magnificent group of people who were constituents of our support network.   “You are right, Donica.   We have everything we need for success.   We just have to put in the hard work to make it happen,” I said.

Donica came around the table, and gave me a hug, “Everything will work out for the best, Glenn.   Have faith!”

We made our preparations for the evening.   Rick and I ran out to the store for supplies.   When we returned, we found that almost everyone had arrived, except for the twins.   Donica and Patty had taken charge of the food, and had it all arranged on the kitchen table.   They kept chasing Robbie and Adam away from the food.

Robbie protested, “I’m wasting away to nothing!”

Patty gave him a withering look, and said, “I seriously doubt that you will pass out from the lack of nourishment.”   She looked over at Adam.  “Will you please take your boyfriend into the family room?”

Adam grinned.  “Sure, Patty.”

He put his arm around Robbie.  “Come with me, Robbie.”

Robbie leaned his head on Adam’s shoulder.  He sniffed, and asked, in a voice full of emotion, “Adam, how can Patty be so heartless?   How can she turn me away?”

Patty laughed.  “Oh, alright!   Stop being a Drama King!   You can have some chips and salsa to hold you over, until the pizza and hot wings are delivered.”

Robbie immediately perked up.   He grinned, and threw his arms around Patty.   “Oh, thank you, thank you!   You saved my life!”

Patty laughed, and kissed the starving teenager on the cheek.   “Enough!   You had better get your snack, before I change my mind!”

Robbie and Adam both took a plate, and loaded it up with snacks.   Gloating over their treasures, they headed back into the family room, where we heard exclamations from the rest of the guys.   We soon heard footsteps in the hallway, and Robbie reappeared in the kitchen.

He gave us a pathetic look, and said, “I was ambushed and robbed of my treasure by a band of ugly, filthy rotten scoundrels.   I need an escort of armed guards to accompany me back to the family room, before they demolish my stash.”

Rick and I laughed.   Rick said, “Robbie, come with us.”

We led the way into the family room.   Robbie stepped in front of us, and said, pointing his finger at the bandits who had stolen his snacks, “There are the dastardly felons who absconded with my precious viands.”

The accused broke out in peals of laughter.   Zach said, “My Lords, there must needs be evidence of such nefarious activity.   I and my companions have not seen this nave’s provisions.   I beg of you that due consideration be given to the lack of proof that such an event occurred as alleges this miscreant.”

Rick and I tried to hold a straight face, but we failed miserably.   We both burst out laughing.   Rick said, “Me thinks that this fine gentleman has laid before us the facts.   What think ye?”

I put on a sober face, and replied solemnly, “I opine that the gentleman in question has made his case that he and his companions have been falsely accused.   Is there any evidence present to suggest that the missing victuals actually existed, other than in the imagination of this troubled youth?”

We looked around the room at the innocent faces of the crowd.   There was a silence; before Brandon raised his hand, and held out the plates.  “Here sirs are two empty plates.”

I walked over, and took the plates.  I handed them to Robbie.  “What say ye about these empty plates?”

Robbie gave the plates a horrified look.  “How can this be?   They have been wiped clean!   Someone has tampered with the evidence!”   He turned to me and Rick.  “Your most honorable eminences, I demand an immediate investigation to determine the fate of the tasty morsels that, as of their latest sighting, inhabited these plates.”

Robbie looked so outraged, and full of righteous indignation, that we all started laughing.   Robbie gave us a look full of pity.  “Only the vilest of creatures would laugh at the demise of such esteemed provender.”   He sniffed, and stuck his nose in the air, pivoted on one foot, and exited the room, followed by more laughter.

Robbie re-entered the room, and took a bow, as we applauded his performance.   “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said, and threw kisses to all of us.

Janice said, “Robbie, you are the best!”  She stood up, and gave Robbie a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Robbie declared, “FINALLY, someone who appreciates my finer qualities!”

Adam spoke up, “But she doesn’t have any idea how talented you are in the sack!”

“Nor do I want to know,” Janice said, laughing.   Looking pointedly at Adam, she said, “Keep that information to yourself, thank you.”

Adam smiled, broadly.   “Most certainly.   However, I will say that he is the finest guy I know!”

Robbie put his arms around Adam’s waist, and planted a kiss on his lips.   He said, “Thank you, Adam.   I love you.”

We heard a knock on the door, and Patty made a beeline for the door.   Fast on her heels was Irene.   Patty threw open the door, to find the twins standing there.

“Well, don’t just stand there!   Come inside,” Patty said, smiling at them.

The twins looked at each other, then back to Patty.   Irene pushed past Patty, and said, “What Patty means to say is, welcome to the party, and please come in.”

Connor responded, “Thank you.   I’m Connor Twitchell and this is my twin brother, Matt.”

Patty said, “We know.   You guys are on the football team.   We watched every game, so we could watch you guys play.   I’m Patty, and this is Irene.”

Matt smiled. “Nice to meet you.”

Patty took Connor by the hand, and led him to the family room.   Irene followed with Matt.   The twins looked around the room.   Patty said, “Let me introduce everyone.   Gang, this is Connor and Matt Twitchell.”   They both nodded their greetings to us.  Patty went around the room, naming each of us.

I said, “The pizza and wings will be here shortly.   In the mean time, you’re welcome to play billiards, watch DVDs, play video games and board games, or just chill with the rest of us.”

Everyone welcomed the guys with open arms.   The food soon arrived, and everyone descended on the kitchen, like a swarm of bees to honey.   We spent the rest of the evening playing games, etc.

It was late, when Connor and Matt got up to leave.   Patty and Irene had pretty much monopolized them the entire evening.   Connor grinned.  “Thanks for inviting us to the party.”

I said, “Thank you for coming.”

Matt said, “I am glad we came.   I, for one, can see that you guys really do love each other.   From now on, I will stop denigrating gays and their relationships.   I may not agree with you, based on my religious background, but I can’t deny that you have the right to love and to marry and to have a family.”

Matt looked at Connor, who held Matt’s gaze for a moment, then he said, “Okay, Matt, you win.”   He turned to us and said, “I have to admit to you that I wasn’t sure what to expect, when we agreed to come here tonight.   I have been raised to hate gays, and to do everything in my power to stamp out homosexual behavior.   What I have seen tonight is that I have let my own personal prejudices blind me to the facts.   I acknowledge that you guys love each other, and that you have made it work for you.   While I can’t say that I have had a change of heart regarding gays, I can say that my perspective has changed.   I promise that I will no longer denigrate, or harass gays, out of respect for you.”

Patty looked at Connor, and said, “I am sorry you still harbor ill will towards gays.   I had hoped that we could have dated, but I can’t countenance anyone who wants to deny gays equal rights with everyone else in this country.”   She paused, and pointed at the married couples in the room, and continued, “These guys are very happily married couples, like any other pair of newlyweds.   They aren’t wandering around campus, preying on innocent children, trying to molest them.   They aren’t running around having sex with everyone in sight, just to satisfy their lusts.   They aren’t demons, or devils, or spawn of Satan.   They aren’t the cause of the decline of ‘civilized’ society.   They aren’t out recruiting other men, and turning them into gays.  

“They are normal human beings, who happen to love each other very much.   They want to be left in peace, to live their lives in the pursuit of happiness, as is stated in our Declaration of Independence.   That means they don’t deserve to be denigrated, or belittled, by ignorant individuals who haven’t taken the time to investigate for themselves whether or not the vile filth and nastiness spoken by others is true or not.”

Connor looked at her in shock.  “I never said I would oppose giving gays equal rights.”

“No, but you still don’t believe gays should be married.   Isn’t that correct?” Patty asked, pointedly fixing Connor with a fiery look.

Connor nodded his head. “That is so.”

“Then you still don’t get it, Connor.  These guys,” Patty said, again pointing at the married gay couples, “love each other, and are just as committed to each other as heterosexual couples are.   Their marriage isn’t recognized here because of people like you, who don’t believe that all people should be treated equally under the law.   They should not be treated as second class citizens by our government, based on who they love.”

The room had grown very still during Patty’s speech.   She looked around, and saw that all eyes were on her.   She asked, “What?   Did I say something I shouldn’t have said?”

Donica said, “No, Patty, what you said needed to be said.   I hope Connor and Matt can reconsider their opinions about gays, and adjust their thinking on the subject.   I know I did, and I think they can, too.”

Jimmy said, “We all have come a long way, since we first met these guys.   Zach and Todd have shown me that two guys can love each other, just like heterosexual people do.”

Matt said, “Connor and I will definitely think over what we have heard and seen, tonight.   Thank you for inviting us.”

The twins left.   The rest of our guests soon followed them out the door.   Rick and I helped the others clean up the mess from the party.   We had the place straightened and presentable in no time.

We bid everyone “good night,” and made our way upstairs to our room.   Rick took me in his arms, and kissed me.   “Mr. Nielsen, may I have the pleasure of your company?”

I answered his question with kiss, as I pulled off his clothes.   Rick picked me up, and gently laid me on the bed.   I looked up into his eyes, as he joined me.   The look in his eyes sent a shiver of anticipation down my spine.

Rick lay exhausted next to me, as he softly stroked my hair.   Every once in a while he would twirl it around his fingers, then weave it between them.   His fascination with my hair is one of the little endearing things that I miss so much when he is not with me.  

After a while, he trailed his fingers down my spine just, lightly caressing me.   I looked into his eyes, as he continued his gentle caresses.   His eyes communicated his deep love for me, at the same time his touch on my skin made me so aware of how intimately connected we are.   It wasn’t so much a sensual experience, as it was a confirmation of our love for each other.

Rick rubbed noses with me, then lightly kissed my lips.   He nibbled on my ear, and whispered, “I want you to leave your hair long.”

I whispered back, “I’m glad you like it.   I grew it out for you, but I wasn’t sure you would like it.”

Rick smiled, and said, “Thank you for thinking of me.   I love you, Babe.”

He pulled me closer to him, and wrapped his arms around me.   It wasn’t long before I was happily dreaming of the wonderful man who held me in his arms.

I spent the next week completely stressed out.   I have to say I don’t know how I would have survived without Rick.   He is such a calming influence in my life.   He forced me to study, and when I wanted to quit, he would study with me.   He even insisted that I take time to rehearse for the concert.   I hired a pianist to accompany me, during my rehearsal time in the practice rooms.   Rick came with me, and listened intently.   Sometimes he would stop us, and make a comment about what he heard.  

At one point, Rick looked at me, and said, “Russell Glenn Nielsen you are not doing your best.   If you aren’t going to put forth an honest effort, just say it, so we can stop wasting our time here.”

I was so surprised by his comment I didn’t know what to say.   Rick continued, “You know what I am talking about.   I have heard you play this piece many times in the past, and you are just going through the motions.”

Hearing my boyfriend’s comments, my pianist, Andy, said, “Rick is right.   I couldn’t put my finger on what was different about your playing today, as opposed to our other practice sessions.”

I looked at the two of them, and I slowly nodded my head.   “You guys are right.  My heart isn’t in it, today.   Part of me keeps hearing my mother’s voice, as she scolded me for not paying attention to her directions, as I tried to master this piece.   It has me really nervous to perform it.   I feel like I am a little kid again, trying to please my mother.   I remember complaining to her about the length of the first movement, and its level of difficulty.   Mom would look me in the eyes, and tell me, ‘I don’t believe a word of what you are saying, Glenn.’   Then, she would have me start all over again.”

Rick smiled. “Andy, would you mind taking a little break.   I need to talk to Glenn a moment.”

Andy grinned, and said, “I will be right back.”   He got up, and left us alone.  

Rick stood up, and took the violin out of my hands, placing it in its case.   He walked back over to me, and pulled me into his arms.   I simply melted into him.   How he knew I needed him to hold me is beyond my comprehension.   He didn’t say a word, until I stirred.

Rick said, “Babe, I know you can do this.   I have heard you play this piece perfectly many times.   Don’t work yourself into a frenzy over this.   Relax, and let the music sing through you.”

Rick put his hand under my chin, and gently raised it, until he could gaze into my eyes.   He gently kissed me, then released me, just as Andy returned.   I blinked back the tears that had suddenly found themselves shimmering in my eyes.   Rick saw them, and put his hand to my face.  He tenderly rubbed my cheek with his thumb.   He leaned close to my ear, and whispered, “I love you.”

He returned to his seat, as Andy took his place at the piano.   I retrieved my violin from its case, and plucked the strings.   I tweaked the pegs to bring the strings back to their proper pitch.   I nodded at Andy, who started from the beginning.   This time I stared at my lover boy, as I played, willing myself to play my best for him.   I soon lost myself in the music, and, when I finished, Rick stood up and clapped vigorously.  

“That is how it should be played,” Rick said, smiling at me.

Andy agreed, “That was magnificent.”

Rick said, “The night of the concert I will be in the front row, where you can see me.   Just concentrate on playing for me; and block everybody and everything else out.”

I turned to Andy, and said, “Thank you for playing for me.”

Andy replied with a smile.  “It’s been a pleasure.   I look forward to seeing you on the stage tomorrow night.”

We left the practice room hand in hand.   As we walked home, we got a few disapproving stares from people, but I didn’t care.   They were the ones who carried so much weight on their shoulders, because of their own prejudices and religious bigotry.   I briefly reflected on some of the Sunday School lessons I had been taught as a young boy about Jesus and his kindness to everyone.   One thing that stood out among others was that Jesus never condemned anyone.   It was always those who felt superior to others, because of their “righteousness” that tried to exclude people from hearing his teachings, as if he and his teachings belonged solely to them.   They tried to “protect” Jesus from the sinners who would soil him and make him unclean.   I was struck by the fact that some things never change.   The religionists of today still act just like those of nearly two thousand years ago.   

Rick had walked in silence for a few moments, when he said, “A penny for your thoughts.”

“Do you really want to know?” I asked.

He squeezed my hand, and said, “Yes, I really want to know.”

“I was just thinking about the stares we have gotten from some people, as we have passed them.   Some have been friendly, and when I have caught their eye, they have smiled and given me a thumbs-up sign.   Others have been full of hatred and disgust, and when I met their eyes, they quickly looked away and tried to pretend that they weren’t staring,” I said.

“And what about them has you so quiet today?” Rick asked.

I verbalized my thoughts to him, and added, “I just don’t get how people think I would choose to be gay, given all of the hideous things straight people do and say to us.   Why would I want to be denigrated, denounced and harassed every day of my life?   I just don’t get the logic behind their statements.”

Rick said, “Stop right there, Glenn.   There is no logic, when it comes to religion.   People’s emotions get so tied up with their religious beliefs that they can’t think straight.   That is why you can never reason with a religious fanatic.   It doesn’t matter which religion you choose, it is always the same.”

“Do you think that is why Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses?” I asked.

Rick thought for a moment, before answering, “No, I think he was commenting more on the fact that religion dulls people’s minds, and renders them incapable of thinking for themselves.  They become susceptible to being deceived, and led by their religious leaders into false paths.”

“But I think Karl Marx must have thought that religion had its uses,” I said.

Rick answered, “Maybe, but that isn’t why you were thinking about those people and their hatred.”

“No, it’s not.   I was thinking that they could take their hatred and their self-righteous hypocrisy, and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine,” I replied.

Rick laughed.  “That’s more what I expected to hear, instead of the philosophical meanderings of a lost soul.”

I glared at him.  “I am not a lost soul!”

“No, you’re not.   I’m only teasing you, sweetheart.   Don’t get so upset,” Rick said.   He stopped, and pulled me into his arms, giving me a kiss.   Pretty soon I heard someone wolf whistle.  Rick released me, and I turned to see who had whistled at us.

 Robbie and Adam were hanging out the windows of Zach’s car.   Zach pulled over to the curb, and stopped.   Zach opened his window, and shouted, “Do you want a ride home?”

Rick laughed, and yelled back, “Yes we do.”

We trotted across the street, and climbed into Zach’s car.   Robbie smirked, and said, “I hope we didn’t interrupt anything important.”

I punched him in the shoulder.  “Jerk!   We were just getting into it, when you whistled at us.”

Adam laughed.  “Don’t get sore at us, Glenn.   We probably saved you from embarrassing yourselves.”

Rick said, “I think you’re right about that, Adam.”

We arrived at our place, and piled out of the car.   I turned to Zach, and asked, “Where is Todd?”

“We left him home.   He didn’t want to go shopping with these two,” Zach replied, pointing at Robbie and Adam.

Robbie said, “We needed some new clothes to wear to the concert tomorrow night.”

“You don’t need any new clothes, Robbie.   You have plenty of nice clothes,” I said.

“That’s what Todd said.   However, I think that seeing our very own Glenn Nielsen perform on stage merits a special outfit to celebrate the occasion.”

I looked at Adam, who said, “I agree with Robbie.   We wanted to make sure you knew that seeing you play with the Minnesota Orchestra means a lot to us.”

Rick put his arm around my shoulders.  “I think it is very sweet of you two to help us celebrate with Glenn.”

Zach laughed.  “Okay, I see your point, Rick.   Let’s go inside.”

The next day, Rick kept me very occupied to prevent me from getting nervous.   In fact, he did such a good job that I was surprised, when he led me upstairs to the shower, and said, “It’s time for us to get ready.”

Rick joined me in the shower.   When we were finished, he helped me get dressed.   I returned the favor.  We stood looking at each other in the mirror.   I grinned, and said, “I think we make a very striking couple.   Don’t you?”

Rick answered me with a very passionate kiss.   He pulled back, and said, “That one is to carry you through, until we get home tonight.”

I grinned.  “I’m going to have a hard time concentrating, if all I think about is stripping your clothes off, and ravaging your body!”

Rick laughed.  “I think you will manage somehow, Babe.”

We went downstairs, and were soon joined by the rest of the guys.   Ben left first, since he had to pick up Janice and her roommates.   The rest of us went directly to the orchestra hall.   I made my way backstage, while the others picked up their tickets, and found their seats.

I listened to the orchestra’s other pieces, while I waited for my turn on stage.   An elderly gentleman came to fetch me.   He had pure white hair, brilliant hazel eyes and a kindly smile.

He said, “Mr. Nielsen, we are ready for you.   Please follow me.”

I picked up my violin, and followed him onto the stage, where the conductor was waiting for me.   We walked out on stage together, and the audience started clapping.   We took our places, and the conductor raised his baton, looking over at me.   I nodded that I was ready, and he began.   I was starting to get a little jittery, when I looked down, and saw Rick sitting exactly in the center of the front row.   He gave me a big smile of reassurance.   I heard the orchestra nearing the point where I was to come in, so I raised my violin to my shoulder and was poised to make my entrance.   As I played my first notes, I felt the music take over, and I was soon completely in its thrall.   I barely remembered playing all three movements, when I saw the audience come to its feet in wild applause.

The conductor shook my hand, and we bowed to the audience.   We left the stage, and returned several times, before the audience took their seats and the intermission began.

I quickly found my way into the foyer, looking for Rick.   He spotted me, and came to my side.   He took my hand, and raised it to his lips, his eyes shining with pride.   “You were fantastic.   I have never heard you play so well.”

Rick’s praise brought color to my cheeks.   He gave me a quick kiss, before taking my hand, and leading me over to the rest of our friends.   I was walking on air.   The rest the evening my feet barely touched the ground.

The next morning, we were up early.  We packed up all of my stuff.   I put some of my things in boxes for shipping to Atlanta.   The rest we managed to put into the Land Rover.   It was a good thing Rick didn’t have much; because there wasn’t much space left over, when we finished loading it into the car.   We bid our friends farewell, telling them we would see them at Ben’s wedding.   Ben offered to take my boxes to UPS for me.   I thanked him and Janice, for helping me.   Ben wasn’t scheduled to leave for home for another week; since he was helping Janice mover her stuff out of her dorm room, and into their new house.

With Rick doing the driving, we covered the 1495 km. (873 miles) between Minneapolis and Swift Current in record time.   We pulled into Uncle Dave’s driveway, to find the lights still on in the kitchen.   We knocked on the door.   The door opened, and I was enveloped in my mother’s arms.  She let me go, then did the same to Rick.  

She said, “I’m so glad you made it home safely.”

Dad came outside, and gave us a quick hug.   “Let me help you get your things.”

Rick said, “I have it right here.   We packed a few things into one suitcase for both of us, so we wouldn’t have to unload anything before we get home.”

Dad smiled, “That is a great idea.”

Mom and Dad followed us inside, where we were greeted by Uncle Dave, Aunt Mary, Nancy and Cynthia.  

Aunt Mary asked, “Are you hungry?”

“No, we’re just tired from sitting the car all day,” Rick said, smiling.   “I’m so glad to be out that car!”

We went into the front room, and sat down.   Rick and I sat on the couch, and I snuggled up next to Rick, who put his arm around me and pulled me close.   Cynthia and Nancy sat on either side of us.

Cynthia asked, “How are Ben and Janice?”

“They are getting excited for their big day.   Ben spent all day, yesterday, moving Janice’s stuff out of her dorm room, and into their new house,” I said.

Mom asked, “How are you getting your stuff home, Glenn?   I know you had more things than what I saw in the Land Rover.”

“I boxed up a lot of it, and Ben will be sending it back to Atlanta via UPS for me,” I said.

Rick laughed.  “I never thought one person could collect so much stuff in such a short period of time.”

I elbowed Rick in the ribs.  “I only shipped four boxes home, and most of that was clothing.”

Rick rolled his eyes.  “And he says he only shipped ‘four boxes’ of stuff!   They were giant sized boxes!”

Nancy laughed.  “I’m sure Glenn managed to pick up quite a few new clothes over the last six months, or so, since he moved in with Ben.   He has always been the best dressed kid of all of us.”

Mom said, “Yes, Glenn, you were always a fastidious dresser.   Everything had to match, and you couldn’t stand getting dirty.   Some days, you would change your clothes two and three times, because you got dirty, or sweaty.”

Rick laughed, and said, “Now you tell me.   Glenn, you should have warned me that being your boyfriend meant that I would have to give you all of my closet space!”

“I only use half of the space in our closet!” I protested.

Rick grinned, and asked, “What about the other two closets in our extra bedrooms?”

I replied, “Those don’t count!   Besides, you have your stuff in those closets, as well!   Anyway, most of our stuff is still in storage.   We will have to sort through it, and get rid of the things we don’t need.”

Rick sighed, and said, “We have a lot of work to do, when we get back to Atlanta.   I am so NOT looking forward to cleaning out the storage unit.”

“If Greg and Cory come to stay with us, we can get them to help us,” I said.

Rick smiled. “I like the sounds of that.   They can earn their keep by working for us.   Remind me to call them tomorrow.”

Uncle Dave said, “I can see you are both exhausted from the long drive from Minneapolis.   Go on down to your room, and we will talk with you tomorrow.”

We said “good night” to everyone, and gratefully made our way downstairs to Ben’s old room, where I had spent my senior year as his roommate.   As we stripped down, and climbed into my old bed, my mind was filled with the many memories I had of living there with Ben.   Rick pulled me close, and kissed me.

“I was just thinking of all the fun things Ben and I did together in high school.   This room is so full of good memories, Rick.   It is hard to believe that Ben will be married soon.   It seems like yesterday that he and I were getting into trouble together in our French class.    I’m going to miss being his roommate, Rick.   Ben is my best friend,” I said.

Rick nipped my ear, and said, “I thought I was your best friend.”

“You are, sweetheart, but you are so much more than that to me.   You are my soul mate,” I said.   “I am only complete when I am with you, Babe.   It is like we are two halves of one person,” I said.

Rick smiled, as he held my gaze. “Yes, it’s true that you make me feel like that, as well.   I am glad you found me, Glenn.”

“I love you,” I whispered.

“I love you, too,” Rick whispered back. 

Rick and I soon fell asleep, in the comfort of each other’s arms.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Here are the links to the Brahms Violin Concerto:

1st Movement Part 1 -    (This movement has a long introduction.   If you wish to skip to where the solo violin begins start at 2:30.

Part 2 -

Part 3 -

2nd Movement -

3rd Movement -

(Different artist but same concerto)