Marco in the Park

by Nick Brady

Part 7

Our life together was evolving into a steady routine. During the week Marco got up before me and fixed breakfast for us. When I got home from work at 5:30 I started supper and we ate when Marco came back from his runs as a bicycle courier. He was actually the better cook, but I was improving. Friday, Saturday and Sundays evenings he waited tables at Luigi's and I brought him home when he got off. We had Saturday and Sunday mornings to ourselves and tried to do something fun together. We were a little like friends and lovers, and frankly, a little like an old married couple. We found ourselves to be very compatible. At my friend Wayne's suggestion I checked with the YMCA and learned that they offered beginning swimming lessons on Friday mornings. To that end we both joined the Y and I worked out while he learned to swim, then both enjoyed a free swim session afterwards. It was very nice.

We both found ourselves happier than we had ever been. I had Marco's companionship and he had mine. He was like a younger brother, a best friend, and an incomparable lover. For him I was a friend, an older brother and a mentor of sorts. We both had our role, but in many ways were equals. I made suggestions, and he took them or not, depending on what seemed sensible to him. It was working. The only point on which we agreed to disagree what my habit of church on Sunday. He was reluctant to join me and I was reluctant to try and persuade him. That worked too.

By the first of July his bank account was adding up to a tidy sum. We shared the expense of groceries and miscellaneous, but the matter of rent had yet to be resolved. My expenses for housing had not changed by his living with me and I was reluctant to let him spend his earnings just to save me money. We sat on the sofa on Saturday morning and the subject came up again.

"I really want to share the rent with you Marty. I am making pretty good money and don't want to be a freeloader."

I had to laugh. "Don't worry about that Marco. You are anything but a freeloader. Certainly, I'm not worried about it."

"But I am," he said. "If I am going to be independent I want to pay my own way."

"I appreciate that. But you aren't costing me money by living with me, and I like having you here. What's the problem?"

He looked around at my little apartment. "What would you think about getting a bigger place? We could use a new sofa for that matter."

"What's the matter with my sofa? It was good enough for my mother and she wasn't using it anymore."

He smiled. "I think you made my point. What if we got a little nicer place and maybe a new sofa and chair? And maybe a new bed, like a bigger one. I could split the expense and we would have more room to play."

"Well...." I was trying to think of why that wouldn't be a good idea. "Maybe we should wait and see how this goes. I mean, you might not want to stay here after awhile."

Marco sat quietly. "So if we moved into a bigger place and then I pulled out, you would be stuck, right?"

"That is being kind of blunt about it, but I guess that might be a problem, right?" I admitted.

Marco looked down. "You don't trust me, do you? You think I am just a dumb kid and you can't depend on me."

"No, it's not that, it's just that I think maybe we need to give this some time to be sure things work out," I tried to explain.

Marco looked a little sad. "Maybe I am really am just a dumb kid. I know how I feel about you but I can't expect you to feel the same way about me."

I sat there asking myself why I was so afraid to make a commitment. "I'm sorry Marco. I guess that makes me sound like a real jerk. Let me think about this, OK?'

He nodded his head without looking up. "Hey, it's alright. I don't want to push you into anything. You're right. We don't know what's going to happen with either of us." He glanced up at me. "I will have to trust you."

I couldn't think of the right thing to say. "Give me a little time."

We sat there without saying anything for a long minute.

Finally I spoke. "I think we are having our first quarrel. Lovers do that."

He looked up at me. "I don't much like to quarrel with anybody, least of all you. Sorry Marty."

I sighed. "Maybe you have a right to be pissed off at me for being so reluctant to commit to anything."

"I guess you have good reason," he said.

"I suppose. Maybe I should just accept that we are going to be together for awhile and make the best of it. I think that I can do that emotionally, but I'm shy of making a financial commitments based on what might be a temporary situation," I reasoned.

"Really, it's OK," he said. "I am not being very patient, am I?"

I thought a minute. "When is your birthday, anyway?"

"October 22, why"

"So you will be 17 in the fall, and a senior in high school. You do plan to go back to school, right?"

"Right, of course"

"What if we wait until your birthday to decide this kind of thing?" I asked.

"On my birthday, right?"

"Yes, what do you think?"

He gave me a trace of a smile. "I think that would make a nice birthday present. You are 25, right? When is your birthday?"

"Mine is March 1. I will be 26 in March. That makes me about eight and a half years older than you. Does that seem like a lot to you?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I guess."

"What I am trying to say is, eight and a half years ago I had no idea where I would be now. I thought I wanted to go to college but I didn't know what I would study, I didn't know where I would go. I hadn't even met Phillip yet. There has been so much that has happened to me in that time. I didn't know who I would be, does that make sense?"

He nodded. "I'm following you , I think."

"What I am saying is that I don't think you can know where you want to go from here. Where do you want to be eight, nine years from now?"

He gave me a very direct look. "With you. I want to be with you."

"Oh for Pete's sake Marco. In eight years I will be 33, 34, and you will be 25."

He frowned a little. "What's your point? By then we will be nearer the same age, really."

"But how can you know who you will be, what you will want by that time?"

Marco shook his head. "Do you suppose you are over-thinking this thing? I mean in eight or nine years one or both of us might be dead. In the meantime I want to be with you. Like you said, nothing is forever. But I want to be with you right now, and for as long as it lasts. Is that so dumb? What do you want right now and in the near future? If it's not with me, then I need to find somewhere else to go."

I sat and stared at him. "I don't know, Marco. Maybe I'm the one who is being dumb. I don't know."

"Well think about it," he said.

I sat and thought about it. It grew quiet for what seemed like a long time.

Marco asked me. "Did you think that night in the park that we would be here together a month later?"

"No," I admitted. "I wasn't thinking that far ahead."

"How far ahead do we need to be thinking?"

More silence.

"I'm having trouble thinking how to argue with that."

"OK, then let's wait until my birthday. Let's see where we are then. By then I should have some money saved up and we'll see where we are then. How does that sound?"

"It sounds pretty reasonable," I admitted. "But, it's not really about the money."

"I know."

I raised my hands and waved them in the air. "I think you need to study law."

This made him laugh. "Oh, really?"

I sat a minute then decided we needed to change the subject. "How about some lunch?"

Now he laughed out loud. "Case closed? Sure, lunch sounds good. Would you like for me to fix something?"

"We cook for each other every day. Let's go get something nice. How would you feel about Chinese?" I suggested.

"Yeah. There is a P. F. Chang's not far from here. Is that a good place?" He asked.

"I don't know, I have never been there. Are you treating?"

"You bet. Let's go," He agreed.

It wasn't that far, but it was hot, so I drove us over. It was a nice place, big stone horses in front and inside it was kind of dark. We were seated at a table and an attractive young man handed us some menus.

"Hello, my name is Jose and I will be your server today. What can I bring you to drink? We have a full bar and an excellent selection of beer," he said with a smile. The smile was largely directed at Marco. We ordered ice tea.

"They make more money on the booze than on the food," Marco observed. "It's nice to be the one being waited on though."

We looked the menu over and decided that we wanted an appetizer. We ordered lettuce wraps, not really sure what we were getting. I got shrimp with lobster sauce. Marco got Kung Pau chicken. We weren't sure what that was either, but we agreed to share. They both turned out to be quite tasty. We ate and chattered away, our serious discussion behind us. I was having a really good feeling about everything. Marco looked really happy. That made me happy.

We cleaned out plates and the server cleared the table. "Are we ready for desert?" He asked.

"And what would you recommend?" Marco asked in a sophisticated way.

"You should try the fried spring rolls with coconut ice cream," the waiter purred, looking at Marco.

"OK, that sounds nice." Marco said, giving the young man a smile that made his heart flutter.

The waiter scurried for the kitchen and I said quietly. "I think he is in love with you."

Marco made a little face. "Nah. He is a little too swishy for my taste."

Our desert arrived and the guy was right. It was delicious. He hovered around a few times but Marco avoided eye contact. He paid the tab with his debit card and seemed surprised that it worked, even in a restaurant. I commented that he left a nice tip.

"Professional courtesy" he said. "Waiters don't make much."

By the time we got back home it was almost time for Marco to go to work. He changed and gave me a big hug.

"I'm sorry we quarreled," he said. "I will try to be patient."

"I'm sorry too. I will think about what you said. Really I will. We both need to be patient with each other." I kissed him goodbye and held him a little longer than usual.

I went back to the apartment and was annoyed by how empty is seemed. As I sat and looked around I had to think about what Marco had said. I had not cared that it was cramped and shabby, but now it began to bother me. I had never thought of this place as 'home' before. It was just my apartment. With Marco there it felt like home, as silly as that seemed. And he was right. The old hand me down furniture that my mother had given to me when I moved here was faded and shabby. It didn't matter when this was just my bachelor apartment, but somehow it wasn't suitable any more. Marco had made this a home for both of us. The two of us were beginning to feel like a little family unit. The idea was both pleasant and a little scary.

I knew that what I was feeling was what everyone must feel at the idea of terminating their status as a single person and engaging in a committed relationship. That it was between two males was little different than between a man and woman. What was different was our age gap, and my lingering fear that because of his youth he would grow away from me, or grow tired of me. But would that be so different if we were not of the same gender? No, probably not that different.

I had to realize that Marco was a remarkably mature young man, whether because of the challenges he had worked through, or because he was unusually bright. I had to admit to myself that I was probably letting my previous experience with Phillip serve as an excuse for closing myself off from what appeared to be a truly loving relationship. If I could not accept my feelings for Marco, I might be rejecting something very precious. What I had with Phillip felt like love at the time, but this was many times stronger. Perhaps what I was afraid of was that Marco wanted someone to love so much that he was a bit too anxious for me to be his prince charming. Perhaps later he would realize that he could do better.

The more I struggled with my feelings the clearer it became that Marco was probably right. I really was over-thinking all this. What we had was rare and precious. I should embrace it and hope for the best. What love affair is safe and certain? Probably not many. One thing that was almost certain was that I was underestimating Marco. He might well have a better head on his shoulders that I did. Was I sure that I loved him dearly? The answer was yes. Was I sure that this would last? Of course not. Did anyone ever enter into a love affair with that confidence? Probably not. Now the thing that troubled me was wondering if I could wait until his birthday to come to an agreement with him about all this. Many couples have started off with much less, regardless of ages and gender. Certainly my state of confusion required that I at least sleep on the matter before I was ready to discuss it again, but I had doubts that it could wait until October.

He called at a quarter of ten and I drove over to pick him up from Luigi's.

"How did it go?"

"Great! I had three couples ask for me, one a group of six." He was all smiles.

"You da man!" He was making me proud of him, just as he had promised. "How about an ice cream?"

"Sure, you treating?"

"You bought lunch," I reminded him. We drove through a Sonic and we ordered; a chocolate shake for me, a strawberry sundae for him. He shared the adventures of his evening while I listened with genuine interest. We ate in the car with the A/C running, then drove home. Not to my apartment, but to our home.

Once there we undressed, did our dance through the shower and crawled naked into bed. The bed did seem a little small now that I thought about it. We didn't talk much once snuggled up together but engaged in our other more satisfying dance – what I had learned as a youth to call the Horizontal Mambo. It was very nice, as it always was.

We were beginning to add a few more moves to the dance; different positions, a little more variety. We kissed, then did the inverted blow job known universally as a 69. I rimmed him, which he loved, then he insisted on returning the favor which I believed was a first for him I had forgotten how pleasant that was. When I was nicely slobbered upon, I asked him to fuck me while I was on my back, which he did with growing expertise. Before he came to climax I stopped him and we changed positions. I fucked him very sweetly, making him moan, first on his back, then from the side, then lastly, he lay on his stomach while I stretched out on top of him with his legs spread wide and pounded him from behind. In that position I was unable to delay my orgasm any longer and emptied myself inside him. Finally I rolled over and he sat astride me and masturbated himself on my chest. He shot like a canon. As a lover, he knew no equal, at least to my limited knowledge. It was glorious.

We lay in each others arms and tried to catch our breath. I remember thinking that we should shower again. I don't remember that we did.

I do remember waking to the smell of bacon frying. When I stretched I could feel the pull of dried semen on my belly. I was a mess. I got up and looked into the kitchen to see Marco, naked except for a towel around his waist doing business in front of the stove.

"Good morning." I called to him.

"Good morning Marty," he replied without pausing from his work. "I already showered." Then he grinned. "I think we need to change the sheets again."

I peeled a little dried goo from my stomach then went into the bathroom and also showered. When I returned to the kitchen he was putting breakfast on the table.

"Scrambled OK?" he asked with a smile. There were biscuits and a freshly opened jar of strawberry jam.

"Sounds good to me." I replied. What a way to greet the day.

I sat down to join him at the table. The smile was glued to his face. 'I thought maybe you were going to sleep in this morning."

"I smelled breakfast."

"Yeah, that usually does it," he said. "Chow down." I was very hungry.

"You going to church this morning?" He asked.

"I suppose so," I replied. "I usually do."

"Mind if I go with you?" He asked shyly.

I was surprised but replied. "Not at all. I thought you were off religion."

He shrugged. "I can't knock it if I haven't tried it."

The breakfast was tasty. "What made you change your mind?"

"I don't know. I guess if it's important to you then maybe I should give it another chance."

"Nice. I'm afraid we've missed the early service.' I said. "We'll have to go to the eleven o'clock."

"OK. Want some milk?"

"Yes, please." Will wonders never cease.

We polished off our breakfast then I helped him wash and dry the dishes. I went back to the bedroom to dress for church. I felt that a damp towel would not be appropriate.

"What should I wear?" he asked.

"Jeans and a knit shirt is fine. Church is pretty casual." I told him.

"Do people wave their hands around?" he wondered.

I laughed. "Not usually. Anything can happen I suppose. Nothing scary though."

He followed me down to the car and we drove to St. Jerome's. We went inside and I led us over to sit behind Wayne who was there with a friend that I had seen him with before. He looked back as we sat down and recognized Marco. He looked a little surprised but smiled and introduced us to his friend.

"Nice to see you guys. This is David; David, this is Marco and Marty." We shook hands all around. The service started.

Marco sat throughout while the rest of us did the Episcopal aerobics; standing, sitting, and kneeling at various times. After the service we went into the Parish hall for coffee and some light refreshments.

"How is the courier service working out?" Wayne asked Marco.

"Good. The bike is a bomb." Marco told him.

"You got a good one. The Contender is a great ride," Wayne remarked. We chatted a little and his friend David seemed interested but didn't say much.

On the way back home Marco asked. "David seemed nice. Is Wayne gay or something?"

"I don't know. I never asked him," I said. "He usually sits with David though."

Marco looked thoughtful. "That service was kind of weird, but it was nice."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it," I said but made no further comment.

We stopped at the Sonic again and had chili cheese dogs. "Sundays are the cook's day of rest," I explained.

We spent the rest of our Sunday doing the usual house cleaning and laundry, including the sheets. At 3:30 Marco changed into his black jeans and white shirt and started to leave for work.

"Your church was pretty nice," he acknowledged. "Nobody did anything crazy."

"Thanks for coming. It was nice having you there."

He nodded and trudged off to Luigi's.

It was our usual Sunday night. I picked him up and once back at home he counted up his earnings and after some chit-chat, we went to bed. I figured he did church with me just to be nice but didn't expect it to be anything regular. We went through the next week doing what had become our regular routine, and the next Sunday he joined me for church again. He sat while the rest of us did the liturgical dance. We chatted with Wayne and David after the service. Marco met a few more people and seemed to be comfortable with being there but we didn't have any great discussion about it. I figured he would do what he decided to do. I wasn't sure why he decided to include this into our routine, but it felt nice to have him join me for this part of my life. Maybe it would become a habit for him as it was for me.

The summer rolled by and it got closer to time for school to start. "Where will you go for your senior year of high school?" I asked him., assuming that he would go back to where he went before he moved in with me.

"I'm not sure," he told me. "I don't think we are in the same district as I was before."

"I didn't think about that," I admitted. " There is a high school a few blocks west of Luigi's. Do we need to get your mother to transfer you?"

"I think I can take care of that. I will just show up and tell them I moved."

That reminded me. "Have you even talked to your mother over the summer?"

"Nope. And I bet she never called you, did she?"

"She never called me," I admitted. "She has your cell number, did she call you?"

"Nope, and I didn't call her."

"Don't you think you should? I mean just to check on her?"

"Nope. I guess she doesn't miss me, and I sure don't miss her."

The last week of August there was an article in the paper about school starting with the date and all. Marco went by on a Friday morning and came home telling me that he had enrolled. No fuss, no muss. I was a little surprised but then nothing Marco did really surprised me. He told Mercer he would have to quit because school was starting, and was was told he would be welcome back any time. He kept his job with Luigi. When school began, he rode his bike off to school each weekday morning and life went on as usual. Things were working out.

Now he came home with a lot of school work to do. He had enrolled in Senior English, World History, Chemistry, Calculus, Orchestra, and some sort of a computer class. It was a full load, plus he came home packing a school violin. After he did his homework, he started practicing his fiddle. He wasn't bad, a little rusty but not bad at all.

"Don't expect much," he warned me. "This isn't a Stradivarius."

"I may have to work on my keyboard." I suggested. "Do you suppose we could play something together?"

"Sure," he grinned. "I like to play with you."

"Practice makes perfect." I grinned back at him.

I was a little concerned about his school work. "You have a pretty tough schedule. Can you keep up with all that? Those are all advanced classes."

"I can do it if I keep up with it. The trick is not to get behind."

"So how is it going so far?" I asked.

"Fine," he shrugged. "I can do this, it's just high school." I had no doubt that he was right.

I had enjoyed playing on my little keyboard from time to time, mostly when Marco was working and I had the place to myself. Now I decided I might actually try to improve my skills. The idea of playing something with him appealed to me. I stopped by a music store one day during my lunch break to pick up some simple piano violin duets. I found a paperback publication: "Easy Classical Violin & Piano Duets", interestingly edited by Javier Marco. It seemed appropriate.

I showed it to Marco when he got back from school. "What do you think?"

He looked it over. "This looks pretty simple. Some of them look familiar; Ode to Joy, Blue Danube, A Little Night Music. This might be fun."

"They are very simple arrangements," I pointed out. "Maybe a little too simple for you."

"No, this is just for fun. Want to try one?"

We propped the music up on the back of the keyboard and he got out his school violin. The first attempt at Ode to Joy was halting, but promising.

"Not bad," he chuckled. "Maybe you will need to practice a little."

"It has been a long time since I tried to read music," I admitted. "But these are really beginner level. I think this might be fun."

"Let's try this again." he suggested with a smile.

And we did, and we got better. This began to be our entertainment on week nights, after he finished his school work and before we went to bed to practice our other skills. By now I insisted that I clean the kitchen after dinner so that he had more time for lessons. His discipline amazed me. Where the hell did this kid come from? He certainly didn't get this from his mother.

We seldom went out in the evening, but enjoyed our own company. Weekends we tried to find something fun to do, somewhere interesting to go. We went to the zoo, we visited some museums. We did things that no normal sixteen year old would find interesting. Marco was obviously not the norm.

"You know, I'm surprised that you enjoy some of these things. I love this stuff, but most guys your age wouldn't." I told him.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I just find it interesting to see this stuff. This is all new to me; I never went to places like this before." He looked at me very affectionately. "Besides, I like to do things with you. I never get tired of that."

I bought a used 10-speed bicycle from Wayne and we went riding in the evenings and on weekends. He had to wait on me quite a bit of the time, but it was fun and good exercise, especially for me.

Marco brought home grade slips at the six week point in school. He was carrying very high marks, straight A's in fact. My concern that he was over scheduled was addressed. Clearly he was doing just fine, thank you. Could I have done as well with work and school combined? I doubted it. We were approaching his birthday.

It was a Saturday morning in early October and we were in the living room. I sat on a kitchen chair and he was on the sofa.

"You know that my birthday is coming up in a week," he reminded me.

"That's right. What do you want for your birthday?"

He just looked at me. "You know what I want."

"I guess we need to talk about that, don't we," I admitted.

"Why are you so reluctant to get a bigger place?" he asked. "I am still working for Luigi. I have money in the bank. I'm still here – I don't plan on going anywhere else. What's your problem?"

I sighed. "I have given this a lot of thought Marco, and I'll be honest with you. It really has nothing to do with you, it is my problem. You have done great, far better than I could have expected. You have been wonderful and I am very, very proud of you. More than just proud, actually," I hesitated. "You're right, it is my problem."

Marco sat and listened without comment. The ball was in my court.

"I called Wayne last Friday night while you were at work, and we had a long talk. To answer your question, it turns out that yes, he is gay and he and David are living together. I hope you don't mind, but I was very candid about our relationship." I stopped and looked at Marco for his reaction.

He nodded. "Go on."

"I told him that you wanted us to rent a larger place together and that I had problems with that. We talked for a long time. He shared some about his situation and actually, he helped me see some things," I admitted. "As long as you are living in my apartment, this is just temporary, even if you are here for a long time. Once we rent an apartment together, we are a couple. It is as simple as that. It is like we are getting married or something. This is about commitment, Marco, and that's hard for me." I felt myself tearing up.

I looked at Marco again and his face was compassionate, but he was still waiting for me to continue.

"The difference in our ages is a genuine factor, not for me so much as for others. It doesn't look right. Maybe it is a legal concern, maybe not, but it is a concern." I paused and cleared my throat. "And there is my mother to consider. I think she knows I am gay although we have never had a big coming out conversation, but she keeps hoping, you know? She would like to have grand children."

Marco was listening.

"I told her not long ago that I had a friend who was staying with me, but was not honest about our relationship. This is also about coming out to my mother. About coming out to the world. That is scary for me. You have been through so much Marco. I imagine that sounds petty to you, but it scares me."

I looked at him again. He had love in his eyes, but he was letting me talk.

"Anyway, we talked for a long time. You are right about one thing. Wayne is a good guy, a better friend than I realized.. He listened, he understood, and he helped me see some things."

Marco nodded and asked simply. "So what do you see?"

I pulled out a handkerchief, wiped my eyes and blew my nose. "The fact is Marco. That I love you. I love you very much. I think I am a very lucky man if you love me too. I have no clue what will happen tomorrow, next week, next year, but I want to be with you for as long as you are willing to put up with me. If it looks bad, if my mother is disappointed, I really don't care. I mean, I care, but it doesn't really matter." I blew my nose again and tried to smile. "I think we need to get a bigger bed."

During my monologue I had found it uncomfortable to look Marco in the eye. When I looked up at him now, I saw that he had tears running down his cheeks.

"What do you say, Marco? Do we shop for a nicer apartment? Maybe some new furniture?"

He rushed over to me and knelt on the floor in front of my chair, wrapping his arms around me and putting his face in my lap. "Yes, oh yes! Thank you so much." He turned his face up to me. "Do you love me Marty?" He asked through his tears.

"God yes. I love you with all my heart, and I want you to be with me forever Marco. Please forgive me for being so pigheaded. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I do love you very much."

He smiled though his tears. "You already know I love you, but I will say it again. I love you very much and I want to be with you forever," he sniffed. "However long that is."

We held each other for a long time in that rather awkward position. We were both very emotional, but Marco was sobbing.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't want to hurt you."

"No, I am just happy Marty. This is what I wanted almost since I first met you. I was afraid it wouldn't work out but this is what I wanted," he cried. "I promise I will make you happy. I will really try."

I pulled him to his feet and led him over to the sofa. "Let's talk about this, OK? You have already made me happy. Now that we have gotten past my stubbornness, my fear of commitment, let's make some plans, OK?"

We flopped down on the old sofa with our arms around each others shoulders. "First of all, are you absolutely sure this is what you want to do?"

He looked at me and shook his head. "I think I've made that pretty clear." He sniffed.

"OK, dumb question. Let's see, first we need to find another place. It needs to be near here so you can get to work and to school. Any ideas?"

He paused for a moment. "Actually, I checked with the landlady and there is another place on the ground floor that looks pretty good," he told me shyly.

"Jesus, you have already checked this out?"

He shrugged. "Well, you know, just in case. It is still a one bedroom but it's bigger, and has just been remodeled. It is only a hundred dollars more, and we can transfer our utilities to it without a penalty." He smiled and looked hopeful.

I was slightly amazed. "And have you picked out the new furniture?"

"Well, no," he frowned. "But there is a sale at the Furniture Barn if you want to look there."

I shook my head in disbelief. "What did you tell the landlady?"

"Well," he smiled. "I sort of referred to you as my brother, if that's OK."

I sat back and stared at him. "Look, tell me the honest truth. The interest in music, the trips to the museums, church; was that just to please me?"

"No!" He looked slightly indignant. "I really like that stuff, even your church is cool." He spread out his arms. "What you see is what you get, OK?"

The next day was Sunday As usual we sat behind Wayne and David. After church we asked if they wanted to go somewhere for lunch. They accepted. We went to a barbecue place near St Jerome's and shared a booth. An older lady came and took our orders and we had time to talk while we waited.

Wayne made some small talk then said to Marco. "I understand you will be staying with Marty for awhile."

"Yes." Marco said. "For as long as he will have me."

Wayne shot me a look. I told him. "We are talking about getting a better apartment. This might be a long term thing."

Wayne smiled. "That's great, that's really great. I hope that works out for you guys."

"Actually, I told Marco about our conversation and we have cleared a lot of air. There may be things that come up, but we have more or less committed to living together indefinitely." I acknowledged.

"Mostly more. Like, we're gay and we love each other." Marco said directly.

"I would say that is pretty plain." David laughed.

Marco smiled. "Well, since we are clearing the air...."

"OK, now that we have gotten past that, what can we do for you?" Wayne asked.

"How long have you guys been together" I asked him.

It was David's turn to speak. "I hope you don't mind, but Wayne shared a lot of your conversation with me and I think we understand your situation. I am 32 and Wayne is 25, our age difference is almost the same as yours. We have been together for seven years now, and we're very happy. Actually, the age difference has not made that much difference. Wayne had just finished high school, I was out of college, but other than that our situation is very similar. We had some concerns that the age difference would be a problem, but it really has not."

"You guys look about the same age." Marco observed.

We didn't when we first got together," Wayne admitted. "But as we both get older, the practical difference in our age seems less and less."

"Did you go on to college?" Marco asked Wayne.

"Yes, I did. We talked about that and agreed on it from the start. I had a part time job, but David paid most of the bills while I was in school." Wayne said.

"Not all, you worked hard and helped as much as you could." David pointed out.

Marco was nodding his head. "So you guys made it work."

"Yes we did," Wayne said. "It was so important to us that we stay together that we felt we had to do whatever it took."

Marco looked at me and nodded his head again. "See? It can be done."

Wayne smiled. "You told me that Marco was a very determined young man."

"Yes he is," I said proudly. "From the looks of his school work I think his grades will entitle him to some sort of an academic scholarship. And I will help if need be. We want this to work, and it is very important to both of us that he complete college."

Marco nodded his agreement. "I will do it. You guys can make book on that."

We all laughed at his determination. No bets were made against his success. The food came and we enjoyed the barbecue and our mutual experiences. Wayne and David shared some of their struggles and funny moments. There were a lot of funny moments, and we had some laughs. We had made some mutual friends.

Monday after work I went down to see our landlady before Marco know I was home. She was a reasonable person. I told her that I understood that my 'brother' had talked to her about changing apartments. She never batted an eye, but showed the place to me and answered my questions. She told me that I had been a good renter, she understood my wanting a nicer place and she wanted to keep me. The new place had been thoroughly remodeled only a year earlier for an older couple who had developed health problems and had to move out. The only problem might be that they had installed a walk in shower instead of a tub. I assured her that would not be a problem. She offered to transfer my utilities and would charge me an extra hundred dollars a month. She reminded me that even though it was still only a one bedroom, it was a little larger and had been remodeled. I said it was fine. She wanted me to sign a new contract and that was no problem. We shook hands and agreed that I could move the first of November.

I went upstairs to find Marco putting the finishing touches on our dinner. He was a better cook than I was.

"You are a little later than usual." He observed.

"I had to make a stop on the way home." I explained.

"Oh yeah? Where did you go?"

"I had to talk to the landlady." I said casually.

"Oh really?" He thought for a moment and turned to look at me.

"Happy birthday, Marco."

"Really? You did it?"

"We move the first of November." I grinned.

He did his happy dance. The same one he did when he decided to buy the new bicycle. He jumped up and down, spun around and hugged me so violently that he knocked me off my feet, landing halfway on the sofa.

"Easy! Don't kill me," I laughed. "We still have to buy some new furniture. We can't put this old junk in a nice new apartment." More dancing.

When he settled down a little we ate our dinner and talked about our new situation.

"I have about $2,200 in my bank account. I can help with the furniture, I want to pay half actually, and I want to pay half the rent too." He was excited and running at top speed.

"Hang on, not so fast. We need to talk about that."

"Now, I told you I wanted to pay my own way." He insisted.

I grinned at him. "I know, but I want you to think about something. How are you going to pay for college next year?"

Silence. "Um, I'm hoping for a scholarship of some kind."

"OK, how much will that pay? How much will school cost you? What if you don't get a scholarship or it doesn't pay enough?"

He made a face. "Damn, you can be a real party pooper."

"Let's be realistic." I told him. "It takes a lot of money to go to college, even a community college. If you really want to help with expenses, you could save your money for school. If you don't have it, I will help you pay for school, just like David did for Wayne, but if you really want to stand on your own feet, start putting your money in a college fund."

Marco looked like he was thinking about that. "Well, I don't want you to have to support me. I mean not now, I am not going to start college until next year."

I gave him a serious look. "You will start having some expenses as early as next August. That's ten months from now. You will have to prepay at least part of your tuition, and you might be amazed how much that can cost."

He looked a little downcast. "I guess I really don't have a clue." He admitted.

"If you are serious about college, then lets do this," I suggested. "You can pay for your half of the groceries and I will split the utilities with you. You do take a lot of showers, you know." That made him smile. "Pull out what you think you need for walking around money, and put the rest in a college fund. We can go by the bank and get them to help you set that up."

He stood up, picked up the dishes and put them in the sink. Then he sat back down again. "You're right. I guess that's what I should do. I really want to go to college or I will be working at Luigi's forever."

"That's a good plan." I smiled at him.

"But what if I manage to get a good scholarship?" He wondered.

"Then the money is still yours. You eventually might want to trade that bike in on a car of your own," I reminded him.

His face brightened. "Yeah, that's right. I just might."

We washed the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen and got ready for bed. "We need to turn in. Tomorrow is a school day," I told him.

"Right," he agreed. "Want to take a shower first? " He smiled and ran his hand up under his shirt, rubbing his nice brown belly.

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