Marco in the Park

by Nick Brady

Part 11

As usual Marco was up and dressed before me, "Let's go, Marty. If we hurry we can see another sunrise."

"I guess this will be our last chance to see the sun come up over the ocean," I agreed.

I dressed, grabbed a jacket and we jogged over to the gulf side on the island. The rain had stopped but there were still a lot of low hanging clouds overhead. I wasn't sure that we would see much of a sunrise, but we sat on a relatively dry patch of sand above the water and waited.

It was still twilight but there was a lighter area of pale blue near the horizon which began to grow pink in the distance. As the sky lightened the thin horizon turned to dull orange. The area under the clouds was open near the horizon and started to turn a brighter red at the point where the sun would soon appear. In a moment the bright white orange edge of the morning sun peeked up under the layer of clouds, illuminating the sky with streaks of red that touched the clouds and turned the sky into a rippling ceiling of color. We could see the disk rise and then tuck behind the clouds, the sun passing through the thin layer of open sky at the far horizon like a ball of white light until the sky grew much lighter before the rising sun passed behind the clouds and made a long shimmering path of reflected light extending to the water just beneath us. It was a very different sunrise than we had seen the previous morning, but very beautiful.

"Wow," Marco exclaimed. "I guess every day is different," he was holding my hand.

We kissed and tried to memorize the moment. After several minutes our empty stomachs made themselves known and we rose and walked slowly back to our hotel.

Breakfast was waiting and Marco enjoyed the waffle machine again, making himself two nice waffles which he slathered with butter and covered with sliced peaches from one of the containers. I declined a waffle, had cold cereal and made myself some wheat toast. Having satisfied our hunger we returned to our room.

After we packed our bags and filled our cooler with ice. It was a little after 8:00 and time to retrieve our fish from the day before. We slipped out of the hotel and loaded the car for the drive to San Antonio. As we pulled up to Bobby's boat slip he was sitting in his folding chair wearing a yellow rain slicker.

"There you boys are," he called to us. "I thought you might be donating these snapper to me."

"No sir," Marco replied. "Those fish we ate last night were too good to abandon the rest. We want to take them home with us."

Bobby laughed his hearty laugh. "Well here's your fish, filleted and frozen. You got an ice chest for them?"

"We filled it with ice at the hotel. I think they will make it OK." I told him.

We placed the treasure in the ice chest safely tucked into the trunk of my Camry and shook hands all around.

"Thank you again," Marco said sincerely. "I think that was the most fun I ever had."

"Bobby smiled at him. "I enjoyed it too. You boys was fun. I hope you'll come back and see me. Next time we'll find you some really big ones."

We promised to return and assured him that we would look him up. After a few minutes of conversation, mostly from Bobby, we got in the car and started our trip back north. I drove as far as Harlingen, turned north on Interstate 77 then let Marco drive again. He took the wheel with a big grin.

"You know, that's a good idea about saving up for a car. Mom had an old Chevrolet that I drove around but I never had a car of my own. I like your Camry, maybe I can find something like this for myself. A used one but maybe something decent." Marco was chattering along, obviously in a good mood.

"I bet you can. This one was a couple of years old when I got it. The important thing is to find one that has been well maintained, maybe a Toyota, Nissan, or Honda, they are pretty reliable."

We talked about cars, about fishing, and about the sunrises. We had enjoyed our brief stay in South Padre. I got on my cell phone, used Google to find some numbers and made reservations for a room and for dinner on one of the boats that plied the river. Marco was only half listening and I hoped the accommodations would be something of a surprise for him. We stopped once for gas and a soda and drove into San Antonio just after noon.

"Here we are," Marco grinned. "You are the tour guide, what do we do first?"

"Well, San Antonio has a really nice zoo. What would you think about that?"

"I love zoos. It would be nice to do some walking anyway," Marco agreed. "I'm good for the zoo."

"Your wish is my command. It's not all that far, just north of downtown on Broadway in Breckinridge Park. The park is nice too."

Marco gave me an evil grin. "I like parks."

"Ha, I know you do. But using a picnic table in the middle of the day might not work." I reminded him.

"That's what we have a hotel room for," he grinned.

We pulled into Breckenridge Park and followed the signs to the Zoo entrance. I bought a pair of tickets for us and we went inside. It was a big zoo with walkways going in all directions.

"What's that over there?" Marco pointed to what looked like a small train Depot.

"That's the Breckenridge Eagle. It's a replica of an old fashioned steam engine. Do you want to ride it? It will take us all around the zoo and sort of give us an overview of the place," I suggested.

"Great idea," Marco took out his wallet. "This is on me."

The train pulled a long string of open cars with a few young children and parents waiting expectantly for it to start moving. We jumped into one of the cars near the rear like we were a couple of kids ourselves. In a few minutes an older guy came out wearing striped overalls and a railroad cap. He started the engine which sounded like a big lawnmower, bellowed "All aboard", and we were off.

The little train wandered all around the zoo and we could see the various exhibits, all kinds of animals and birds. We got an idea of what we wanted to go back and visit. It was a long ride, I guessed maybe five miles in all and we pointed and giggled like the younger kids in front of us. It stopped at one point and we got off at another little depot where they had a concession selling food and grabbed a couple of hamburgers. Before long the train, or another just like it, stopped and we got back on to continue our tour back to where we started.

"That was cool," Marco said with a big grin. "I want to look at the elephant."

We hiked over to a big pen where a sign identified the old fellow as 'Lucky the elephant'.

Marco was very impressed with Lucky. "How did they get that thing all the way from Africa?" he wondered.

"I don't know," I said, "But he didn't come from Africa. That's an Asian elephant."

"How do you know?"

"Because he has little ears. African elephants have great big ears," I explained.

"That's right. I remember something in school about that," Marco agreed. We bought a little bag of peanuts and let the big fellow pluck them from our hands with his long trunk.

We wandered all around admiring the various exhibits. There was a great flock of pink flamencos with long curved necks. We saw lions and tigers, crazy looking monkeys, all kinds of animals and birds, even reptiles. They had almost everything and we were having a good time. It felt great to walk after being cooped up in the car all morning.

At five o'clock we started back for the entrance. By then we had walked enough.

"Let's go to our hotel," I suggested. "We need to check in, and we have dinner reservations for 6:30."

We got back in my car and drove downtown to the big Marriott on the river.

"Are we staying here?" Marco asked.

"Wait until you see our room," I told him.

It was a big hotel right on the river. We took the elevator about half way up and let ourselves inside. The first thing Marco spotted was the big kingsize bed. The next thing he did was to go over to the outside sliding glass door. We opened it and looked outside.

Marco looked down. "Wow, there is the Riverwalk. We can look right down on the river. How cool is that?"

I stood behind him with my arms around his waist. "Hey, it only costs a little more to go first class," I gave him a hug and kissed him on the neck." We leaned over the edge of our balcony and looked up and down the river.

We went into the bathroom and fenced with the yellow streams of urine as we relieved ourselves of the afternoon accumulation of water.

Marco looked with admiration at the walk in shower. "We can check that out later," he said with a grin.

"Right. We have dinner reservations," I told him. "It's just a short walk."

As we rode down in the elevator, he asked. "Where are we going to eat?"

"It' a surprise," I said mysteriously.

We walked down the river to Commerce street where the dinner barges were docked. His eyes lit up.

"Are we eating on one of those?"

"Yes sir. You said you would like to do that. We get to eat dinner while we enjoy a tour of the river."

"Way cool!" he grinned.

Promptly at 6:30 we were ushered onto a little barge which had a long table down the center, laid out with a nice table cloth and set with plates, s ilver and pretty glassware. It looked very elegant. There were maybe 8 other people there and we joined them to sit at the end of the table opposite each other. Marco's smile practically wrapped around his ears. Next to us was a family of four which included two excited children, a boy and a girl we guessed to be about 8 and 10 years old. I wasn't sure who was the most excited.

After a few minutes it appeared that all were aboard who were scheduled to be there, our captain clicked clicked shut the entrance and the boat started to move. As we chugged up the river the man operating the boat began to point out the various places of interest as we passed, and a young man in much the same outfit that Marco wore when he worked at Luigi's began to serve us.

"What's for dinner?" he asked.

"Everything is preordered," I explained. "I didn't want to spoil the surprise by asking in advance what you wanted, so I ordered a steak and a grilled salmon. You can take your pick."

"I can always eat a steak," he said, "but I don't really care."

"Actually, I would rather have the salmon, so that works out fine," I said.

We asked for ice tea which came to us with a crisp salad and a basket of hot rolls wrapped in a cloth napkin with real butter on a plate. We helped ourselves and enjoyed looking at the sights as pointed out by our guide. On the sidewalk were people at tables in front of the many places to eat on the river. They were watching us go by, just as we had looked at the dinner barges going by earlier in the week when we first visited.

"This is really fun," Marco grinned.

"I knew you would like it. I have never done this before either. I was looking for an excuse," I admitted.

The salad dishes were removed by our server and replaced with the entrées, a nice strip steak for Marco and grilled salmon for me, both with a baked potato on the side. The food had all been prepared prior to boarding so was basically like airline food, but very tasty. We did justice to it and cleaned our plates. Our hike through the zoo had given us healthy appetites. We leaned back and watched as the Riverwalk rolled by, half listening to the tour guide as he pointed out the various features along the way.

We reached the end of the built up area and turned around, heading back on the other side. There was a clever amphitheater with a performing space on one side of the river and seating carved into the other. I thought that San Antonio might be a nice place to live if I ever left Tulsa for one reason or another. I looked over at Marco who had a very contented look on his face. We were having fun, enjoying ourselves. This was a good thing.

On the way back our plates were cleared and we were served a dessert, peanut butter pie with strawberry jam.

Marco took one look and laughed. "This is even better than pancakes with peanut butter and jam." He dug in and licked the residue from his fork, leaned back and drained the rest of his iced tea.

"I could do this all the time," he said with a contented smile. "Thanks, Marty. This was a real treat. Another memory with you."

I reached across the table and squeezed his hand. The kids seated next to us had maintained a constant chatter during the whole tour. They were nice kids, well behaved and obviously enjoying the experience. I thought maybe little kids might be OK if they were this pleasant. Obviously the work of good parenting. I smiled at their mom and dad.

"We have enjoyed your children," I said to them.

The father replied quietly. "We threatened them with death if they didn't behave," then he laughed. "They are good kids. We enjoy them – most of the time."

He looked at Marco and me, "You brothers?"

"Just good friends," I replied. He nodded and smiled. This was going well.

We walked back to our hotel, taking our time, stopping several times to listen to the music floating out from some of the night spots. It was growing late and we had to make an early start in the morning. We got back to the Marriott about 10:00 and went up to our room. Marco went out to our balcony and sat down on one of the chairs out there. I joined him in the other. We didn't say much, just held hands and looked at the panorama below us. The lights of the city spread out in a twinkling carpet of streetlights, moving automobiles and windows of tall buildings. We could see the Tower of the Americas above us, the restaurant on top slowly revolving.

Marco nodded towards it. "Maybe next time."

I nodded in return. "There will be lots of next times, Marco."

We sat until we began to get sleepy. First Marco then I moved inside and began to undress. The shower beckoned.

Marco stepped in and adjusted the water to a warm but not quite hot temperature. The shower dance was one of our favorite things. I washed his hair, then his slender body, he did the same to me. We dried each other off and slipped into the nice fresh bed, instinctively moving to the center to hold each other close. We enjoyed the touch of bare skin but were tired, and full of good food. We kissed and stroked the others back, but were not really in the mood for the strenuous activity that sex required. As if by unspoken mutual agreement, we fell asleep in each others arms. My last thought was how wonderful his long black hair felt on my face.

When I woke up the next morning I noticed that the bed was empty. I looked for Marco and saw him sitting out on the balcony, dressed and apparently ready for the days travel. I went into the bathroom for the morning ritual of emptying my bladder and brushing my teeth, dressed and went out to sit next to him.

He turned to me as I sat down. "This has been so great Marty. I love you very much. Thanks for everything."

"Tell me how great you feel when you get off work tonight."

He chuckled. "I can sleep late tomorrow. I'll be fine."

"You ready for breakfast? Maybe they have one of those waffle irons."

"How about we order a really nice breakfast. I've gotten off pretty light for meals."

"Sounds good to me. You ready?"

We packed away our things and went downstairs to the dining room. A cute girl brought us coffee and a pair of menus.

I ordered a Denver omelet and Marco asked me, "What's eggs Benedict?"

"It's like poached eggs on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce on top."

"Is it good?"

I looked at the menu. "It must be, it costs $14.95."

"Works for me. I'll take that," he told the waitress. She smiled and took away the menus.

It was a nice breakfast. Marco paid the tab and we went out to the car and started home.

It was a long drive. We left San Antonio just after 6:30 and Marco drove. We rode in silence for a little while then I brought up something that was bothering me.

I was thinking about your mother," I said.

"What about her?"

"Well, you met my Mom. She is really a neat lady, and it bother me that you and your mother are hardly speaking."

"Yeah?"

"Did you ever wonder why she is the way she is? I mean, what do you know about her life, the way she grew up? Something had to make her the way she is. People aren't born mean and bitter."

Marco was quiet for a few minutes. I guessed that he was either thinking about the question or else he just didn't want to talk about it. At any rate, it was his turn either to respond or to let it pass.

"She didn't talk about that much. I think she had a shitty deal. She never talked about her parents and I never met them. I just don't know."

Marco drove in silence for awhile, then he said. "Actually, that's not completely true, I guess it is just hard to talk about."

"When I was younger, before she got to where she was drunk all the time, I remember her telling me that she, well...., I guess she was abused you might say. She told me one time that she was living with her grandmother and her father came to see her. I guess she was in her early teens. He brought her some kind of a present and was trying to make nice with her, you know? And then in the night he came to her and lay down with her and started kissing her and feeling her up. That's what she said.

"Then she kind of laughed and told me that lucky for her, she was having her period and when he put his hand on her, down there, he got mad and left her alone. She was lucky, see? I don't know Marty, that's what she told me. I think she was kind of drunk at the time and never said anything else about it."

He looked over at me with a very sad expression. "Really, that's all I can remember. She hardly ever talked about that kind of thing. As far back as I remember she just drank all the time and I had to be real careful or she would go off on me." Marco looked ahead at the road and grew silent.

I nodded my head. "It sounds like she had a hard time. I think maybe what we know about being a parent is what we learned from our parents when we grow up. I guess she didn't have much to go on."

Marco kept his eyes on the road, but nodded his head.

I thought about the thing I had trouble understanding. "Marco, with so little to go on, how did you turn out to be such a good kid? A lot of guys in your situation would be in jail or strung out on drugs or something. Where do you come from? I can't imagine how you can function with that kind of relationship with your mother. How were you able to survive that?"

He laughed in an ironic way, "Well shit, somebody had to be the parent. I guess I tried to look after her."

"But it didn't turn you into a bad person."

He looked over at me with a hint of a smile. "I guess I just didn't want to be like that. You remember my telling you about Grant? The guy who had the scout troop?"

"I remember."

"When I knew Grant, I was really struggling with some stuff. I was sneaking beer, smoking pot and stuff like that. I mean it was easy to do, Mama had a big Tupperware container of marijuana in her bedroom closet, and a bag of crystal meth in her dresser drawer, it was easy to get to. He knew all this stuff because, well, I had to talk to somebody. Grant kept telling me I didn't have to live like that. I could be different. Just because Mama was all fucked up didn't mean that I had to be. He kept telling me that I had choices."

Marco was beginning to get emotional. I said, "hey, let's take a break, why don't you pull over for a minute and let's just talk."

He started looking for a place to stop and found a turnaround up ahead for him to pull into. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get so worked up."

"For Christ's sake Marco. I'm surprised that didn't make you completely crazy. Please go on. You need to get that story out of you, and I want to hear it."

He switched off the engine and took a deep breath. "Well this shit is really hard to talk about, but if I can't trust you, I can't trust anybody. I guess I got to trust somebody."

I looked him in the eyes, "You know you can trust me, Marco. You were telling me about your friend Grant."

"Right, Grant. He kept telling me over and over that just because my mother and her family were so fucked up that I didn't have to live that way, didn't have to be like that. He told me over and over that I was a good person, that I was smart and could be anything I wanted to if I just worked at it. He encouraged me to stay in school. I was about ready to just drop out, Marty. But he told me I had to stay with it, that a good education was my ticket to the future." Marco looked at me with tears in his eyes.

"It was hard, Marty. It was really hard. I tried to just run away and live on the street, but I got afraid. There are crazy people out there. It is really not safe for a 14 year old kid to live on the street."

He leaned his head back and took a deep breath. "So I lived with my Mama, and tried to just look the other way. Grant helped me with my school work until I got caught up and my grades improved. I'm smart, Marty, I know I'm smart and when I tried to learn the school stuff it was really pretty easy. And when my grades got better, the teachers at school started to take me seriously. It got better, it really did."

He started sniffing and slapping at his pockets and I handed him my handkerchief. He blew his nose and looked over at me.

"So I got this job at Luigi's, OK? I started out by washing dishes and busing tables. I tried hard to make him like me and finally he said he would let me try waiting tables. The first night that I got to be a server was when you came in."

He drew a long breath. "What I wanted more than anything was a safe place to stay. To tell you the honest truth, you seemed like such a nice person that I thought maybe I could stay with you for awhile. Just for a little while until I could save up some money and find a little place of my own. That is really all I wanted."

He took another breath and blew his nose. "I'm sorry, don't be mad, but I saw the way you looked at me and I guessed that maybe you were gay, and I thought if I could make you like me that maybe you would let me stay with you for awhile. So when you offered to take me home I told you to go to the park, and well..., you know what happened there. But honest to God, Marty, when I started to know who you really are, I mean, I really liked you. I really liked you. You were so nice.... I got kind of confused. I really kind of felt guilty because I guess I seduced you. You could have said no, but I leaned on you pretty hard, I know that. But in just a little while I started to really care about you. I wanted to be with you all the time, and not just because I needed a place to stay. I'm probably making enough money to get by on my own now, but I don't want to do that. I want to be with you. And after this fantastic week.... You have been so wonderful to me. I guess you enjoyed the stuff we did too, but you were doing a lot of it just for me. Nobody ever did stuff just to make me happy...."

Marco put his face in his hands and began to sob. Not really from joy, or sorrow, but from the relief at getting this off his chest. All I could do was to look at him and let him vent to me. I wanted to hold him, to comfort him, but I waited, waited until he had purged himself of his anger and frustration. Finally he seemed to breath a little easier.

"Grant was a good friend for you." I said.

Marco nodded his head, looking out into the distance. "Yeah, he was. He tried to help me, I think he really cared about me. I guess I needed that." He grew quiet.

"What did you do with Grant?"

He cut his eyes at me. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you told me one time that he was doing sex with some boy and it ended his marriage, he moved away. Did I get that right?"

Marco looked down. "Yeah, Austin. He was screwing around with Austin."

He looked at me and I shrugged. "What did he do with you?"

He looked out the window again. "Oh, not much really. We liked to hug me and sometimes he would, you know, touch me."

Marco looked at me with a sad face. "He would suck my dick and wanted me to cum in his mouth. He wanted me to suck him, but I wouldn't do it. I didn't want to do that stuff with him. I didn't feel that way about him, you know? I guess Austin did that stuff with him, then Austin told some other kids about it and Grant got burned really bad. His wife found out and they had this big scene, and...."

"How did you feel about Grant?"

"Well, I felt confused. I mean, he had been nice to me, had encouraged me, let me go on trips with his scout troop. I let him do some stuff with me because I liked him and I didn't want to make him mad, didn't want to hurt him."

"But there are things you wouldn't do."

"No, there are things I didn't want to do with him. It wasn't right with him." He looked at me with anguish on his face.

"Jesus, Marty, you must think I am a total whore. But I do things with you because at first I really liked you and I thought you were hot, and now I love you Marty, I really love you. It's different with you, and besides, sex with you is so, – so good." He broke down and sobbed inconsolably.

"I'm sorry Marty. This is really confusing. I can't imagine what you must think of me."

I looked at him and my heart felt like it was breaking. He had struggled with so much – his mother, his addiction, his contorted relationship with grant who was both friend, mentor, and abuser. I certainly understood the struggle with his sexuality. The example set by his mother, the only family he knew, was to use sexual favors as a way of surviving. How could he have any sense of morality at all? But here he was, as good a person as I had ever known, struggling, struggling to achieve some kind of balance in his chaotic life. What could I say to him?

"I love you Marco. Honestly, everything you have shared with me just makes me love you more. You are so strong to have survived all this, and still be an honest decent person. I have nothing but the greatest respect for you. I love you very much."

Marco looked at me with so much pain on his face. He cried out so loud it startled me, then fell in my arms and sobbed with what seemed like profound relief. I held him and rocked him back and forth like a little child.

"It's OK Marco. I know so much more about you now, and it's alright, I still love you."

I spoke into his ear, "I saw a little card one time, one of those things that people give you to carry around in your wallet. It said, 'A friend is someone who knows all about you, and loves you anyway.' Marco, I know all about you and I still love you, I love you even more."

Marco sobbed like a little child in my arms. I wept for him, wept with him – wanted to make all his pain and anger go away, but all I could do was to hold him. I held him for a long time, until he stopped crying.

Finally he looked up at me with a sense of wonder. "I think I believe in God."

"What?"

"I think there is a God, and I think he sent you to me, to save me, to save my life. Honestly, it feels like that."

"Whoa, Marco. That's pretty heavy. I don't think I can live up to that."

"Well, I don't think you have to believe that. Maybe it's enough that I do." He looked very serious. "Yeah, I really believe that."

I didn't know how to respond. I just held him, and looked at him, and knew with no shred of doubt that this was the person who meant more to me than anyone else in the world. I only wished that I was half as strong as he was.

"Look, I guess we better get moving if we are to get you back in time for work," I said. "I think maybe we should talk about this more at a later time."

He sat up. "No, I'm OK now. I think I see it. I figured if you knew that stuff it would be different for you. If you still can love me, if you really mean that, then I think I'm alright. I'm ready to go home now."

He went to start the car. "Hang on. We are almost to Dallas. Why don't you let me drive the rest of the way. You have been driving since we left San Antonio."

He handed me the keys. "OK, you drive us on home. I am alright now, but I got to admit I'm kind of tired. Maybe I'll take a little nap."

I pulled back on the road and he slumped over against the door and almost immediately fell asleep. He looked totally exhausted.

We stopped just south of Dallas about 11:30 to gas up and eat a sandwich from a vending machine. I drove us through Dallas then north to Tulsa while Marco slept. We pulled into the apartment just at 3:30 in the afternoon. We carried our bags inside where Marco took a quick shower and dressed for work. It was cold in Tulsa so I drove him over to Luigi's.

"Long day," I said as he got out of the car.

Marco smiled at me. "Not for me. I slept all the way from Dallas. I feel fine. See you later," and he was gone.

I went back to our apartment, sorted out the dirty clothes, threw them into the laundry basket to be washed, then lay down and slept until Marco called me at 10:00. When I picked him up he was all smiles.

"$285.00 in cash tonight. We had a big group for a birthday party. They loved me."

"How could they not." I said. "Are you tired?"

"Kind of," he shrugged. "I'm OK – hungry. I didn't have time to eat. Maybe I'll fix us some pancakes."

I wasn't all that sleepy after my nap, so I watched as he mixed the batter and cooked up a stack of cakes. He set them on the table, pulled out peanut butter and strawberry jam and poured two glasses of milk.

"Just like peanut butter pie," he grinned. "I sure had fun this week."

"That's what vacations are for. I did too."

"I did a lot of things for the first time," he chewed his pancakes. "Do you suppose we will ever go back to South Padre again?"

"I don't see why not."

"I would like to go fishing with Bobby again. That was great."

"I think Bobby was taken with you. He liked your enthusiasm."

Marco laughed. "I almost puked in his boat."

"That was just part of the experience, I guess. I have to tell you that I had a great time. It was fun for me, and I had fun watching you have fun."

"The boat tour in San Antonio was neat. I never expected to do that."

"The food was pretty good too. They did a good job with that."

Marco leaned back and smiled. "Yep. It was all good. I liked the company too. You make everything fun."

"The feeling is mutual."

After a moment he looked down suddenly serious. "Hey, I'm sorry about all that drama today. That stuff is hard to talk about but I think I really needed for you to know about it."

"Why do you think I needed to know?"

"Well, because.... I figured if you knew a lot of that stuff it would change the way you felt about me. I guess I didn't really trust you, trust that you actually loved me."

Now he looked straight at me. "Everybody I ever thought I loved has hurt me, betrayed me in some way. I guess I have trust issues," he tried to smile.

"I can't say I blame you. I don't know how I would have handled your situation. I don't think I am as strong as you are."

Now he did smile. "I think you are a gift. I told you how I see that."

"I don't know about that Marco. I just know I do love you and I hope you can learn to trust me." I exhaled. "I think I'm tired. You ready for bed?"

"Yep," he looked over at me. "You ready for a shower?"

"Yep," I replied. "Sure am."

Marco went into the bedroom and began to undress. I followed him. He turned on the water and adjusted the temperature to suit himself. It was fine with me. We got in the shower and began our usual dance.

While he was washing me I told him, "I have to say that our mambo in that kingsize bed was inspired."

"Yeah, it was, wasn't it," he chuckled. "I like it when we flip flop like that."

"Me too. You know, I like it both ways."

"I do too. When we first started I guess I thought I liked it better being the bottom, but I could used to banging you."

"It's nice to take turns isn't it? More like we are equal partners in this."

Marco washed my butt thoughtfully. "I like it when you say partners."

'You think? I kind of like that too. I guess Mom figures we are already some kind of partners."

"Well we are, aren't we? I mean, I'm not looking at this as a short term thing, unless you are. Are you?" He stopped scrubbing and let me rinse.

I turned around and looked at him. He wasn't smiling. "No, actually. I'm thinking that this might last a long time."

He handed me the soap and tipped his head forward to let me wash his hair. "How does that work anyway? I guess I kind of look at those matching bracelets like they were engagement rings or something."

I scrubbed his long hair. "I do too actually. I was thinking the same thing. I haven't ever taken mine off."

He tipped his head back, squeezing his eyes shut to keep out the soap. "Me neither. Don't plan to lose mine unless you tell me to."

I scooped up some lather and began to wash his body. "I wasn't planning to do that."

He opened one eye a little. "Does that mean we are engaged?"

I knelt down to wash his legs. "I don't know, how do you feel about that?"

He put his hands on my shoulders to steady himself as he raised first one leg and then the other. "I think I'm here until you run me off." He turned around to give me his backside.

I hesitated a moment, then said. "Really, I can't imagine living without you."

He turned around suddenly and let the water run over his face so he could open his eyes. "Can I take that as a proposal?"

I stopped and looked back at him. "Yeah, I guess you can."

He made a funny face and said. "If so, then I accept." Then he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a very wet kiss. "I love you Marty. I really do."

I stood back and looked at him. "You know, this is a hell of a way to propose to somebody."

He just gave me a twisted smile.

I dropped to one knee and took his hands. "Marco, I love you. Will you marry me?"

"Oh hell yes!" he dropped down with me and held me close. "I will marry you, I will live with you in sin, I will do anything as long as we can be together forever and ever."

We held that awkward pose until the water started to run cold. I stood up and turned off the tap.

I pulled a towel off the rack and started to dry him off, considering what we were saying. "To tell you the truth, I really don't know how this works. Times have changed, but this is Oklahoma, you know, and you are still just seventeen."

He took the towel and started to dry me. "We could go somewhere else."

I raised my arms and turned my back to him as he continued to rub the towel over me. "We need to think about this Marco. I mean, this is serious stuff."

He stopped rubbing. "Have we just been kidding around all this time? I spilled my guts to you. You know all the bad things about me yet you say you still love me. Do you really mean that"

I turned around and hung up the towel. "Yes, I do. I mean I still love you, sure. Well maybe we should be engaged a little while before we start planning the wedding."

He laughed. "I guess I am getting in kind of a hurry. Maybe I think you are going to get away, I don't know. But think about it, for real, OK? When I am sure about something I kind of want to go ahead and jump on it. Thats the way I feel about you, about us."

We walked into the bedroom. I got in bed and smiled at him. "You believe in sex before marriage?"

"Oh yeah," he climbed in after me. "You know I do." He gave me a big sloppy kiss. "Let's do some of that flip flop stuff again, OK?"

And so we did. Our double bed in the apartment wasn't nearly as big as the kingsize in the hotel, but it didn't really matter, We pretty much just used the part in the middle, and it worked fine. It was great. The mambo was inspired.

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