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Chapter 4

The Saturday morning before Christmas Eve, I woke up in a very disappointed mood. Carl was supposed to come over on Friday night, but had to cancel at the last moment. There were reports of a possibility of a Nor’easter snow storm, and the emergency management team was put on standby alert. I got out of bed and walked over to the window. It had snowed some, but the sun was shining brightly and people were outside shoveling or cleaning off their cars. Not exactly the great snowstorm they expected, thanks for ruining my night Mother Nature. I decided to call Aunt Jamie to find out how much snow the Green Mountains of Vermont had received. Many times when we received only 2 or 3 inches here, they may have 6 inches or more there, afterwards, I spoke briefly with Carl. He was still on alert and didn’t know when it would be cancel. Since I would be spending Christmas Eve at my Aunt, we agreed to get together at Annie’s on Christmas. I quicken my pace around house and made it to the bar just as the staff meeting had begun.

“The New Year’s sign-up sheet will be kept at the bar, Steve barked. Tonight will be the last night people have to make their reservation at our low cost of $75.00, for individual, and $125.00, for couples. If they don’t sign up and make payment in full tonight, the cost will be $100.00/$150.00 and that won’t start until Wednesday when we’re open again, and that will only be if we are still taking reservations. Since Hector and Bobby will be busy holding down the bar, Fletch as the back-up bartender, I going to ask you to handle the customer’s reservations. Make sure before you list their names, you have their cash only payments in your hand, then hand them their tickets. And tell them if they lose the tickets, they won’t be able to enter, and also remind them there are no refunds. Make sure that is clear. We’re going to have extra security and wait staff working tonight in preparation of next weekend’s event. ”

“Hey, why’s Fletcher taking the reservation?” Bobby asked.

“Because you’ll be too busy making drinks, counting out change correctly and making sure our customer are happy to do all I just told Fletch to do.” Steve answered.

“Yeah, and I don’t want that responsibility of handling that money.” Hector chipped in.

Steve shook his head agreement. “Also before serving alcohol, card anyone you don’t feel right about. I know we check at the door and tried really hard to be careful, but if you have any doubt you better find out. Okay let’s make this a very enjoyable evening for all.”

Quite a few people stood in line at the bar waiting to make their reservations; one of them was Teak Edwards. He patiently waited his turn and smiled when it was his turn, “Steve didn’t tell you were working here.”

“I just started and only for the holidays.”

“Well I guess my Christmas wish just come true. I was hoping I would see you before we had dinner at Annie’s. You are going to Annie’s for her fabulous Christmas feasts aren’t you?”

I was about to answer Teak when this scrawny guy come up and stood alongside of him. The guy wasn’t as tall as me; he was about 5’5, 5’6 and so blond his body seemed to give off a yellow arura. To make his eyes stand out he worn on black eyeliner and mascara around them. He remained me of one of those lost boy characters. He looked at Teak, than cut his eyes to me.

“Hi, he said in a feminine sounding voice. I’m Jeremy, who are you.”

Teak let out a quick chuckled. “Fletch, this my date tonight Jeremy”

“Your date, your date, Fletch, we live together. And honey, he does me once in the morning, twice at night. And I will blow him anywhere, anytime, in fact.” He reached out to for the fly on Teak’s pants.

Teak backed up obviously a little embarrassed by Jeremy’s actions, “Babe why don’t you find us a table.”

Jeremy stepped in and ran his tongue down the side of Teak’s cheek, “Sure Teakwood baby, if that is what you want.” He shot me a dirty look at he turned to walk away.

Teak gave a nervous laugh, “what can I say, the guy is a little possessive about me, but that what it takes to hold a good man down. Wasn’t that what you were looking for a Fletch, good man?

Not wanting to give him any encouragement, I shrugged and said nothing.

“So, Teak continued, you never answered my question, are you going to be at Annie’s Christmas Day?”

“Yes.”

“Then I guess I’ll see you there.”

“I’ll be with someone.”

“Who, that geek you were talking to last week,” Teak asked lowering himself onto a bar stool.

“Why are you sitting up here if you told me to get a table?” Jeremy looked a little perturbed.

“I’m just waiting on our drinks, did you find us a table.” Teak replied.

“It’s right over the table right over there, the one with the reserve signs on it. In fact, I gave the bouncer $20 buck to stand next to it so no one would take it. Now what was your excuse? Oh yeah waiting for our drinks. Jeremy looked over at me before slamming his hand down on the bar. “Hey barboy, get us a couple bahis firmaları of glasses of champagne and I don’t want any of that carbonated swine water.”

Everyone at the bar jumped and looked down in our direction. This was Hector’s portion of the bar, so I nodded letting him know it was okay, it also signaled the security everything was alright.

“Well I’m waiting.” Jeremy said.

I pulled out a couple of mini bottles of champagne from the refrigerator. But before opening them, I asked him to show proof of his age.

“They have already checked my id at the door.”

“Well I need to make sure also.”

He sucked his tongue and pulled it out of his wallet and took out his license. The age on it did show 23.

“See I’m legal, now give me my drink.”

Teak just looked away.

I poured the champagne into two goblets, and push them toward him.

“I would like to some strawberries place in there.”

“We don’t have any,” I answered.

Jeremy looked over the counter into the condiment container, “well then give me some of those cherries, and in fact give a few in one of these little plastic containers.”

I filled the little plastic cup up with the cherries placing it next to the drinks.

“I think this should cover everything. He let a fifty dollar bill float down onto the bar. “Babe you carry the drinks, I be over with the cherries once I get my change. Teak smile at as he picked up the flutes of champagne, “I’ll talk to you later Fletch.”

I smiled back at Teak as I walked over to the register with the $50.00 bill. As I returned with his change, I watched as Jeremy placed a cherry in his mouth than throw the stem on the bar.

“Here’s your change.”

He took the pennies and threw the rest of the money on the bar, “keep the rest barboy, because Teak ain’t coming back.”

The bar wasn’t too crowded, and before long, the number of people signing up started slowing down. There was still room for more names, suddenly I had an idea. I asked Rick if I could add a friend’s name to the list. He didn’t see a problem, so I wrote Carl’s name down. I wasn’t worry about cost, let just say it would be my way of welcoming him to the Capital District’s Gay Scene. As I place the money for his reservation in the drawer, I heard someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Jeremy standing there holding the empty container.

“May I have some more cherries please?”

I pulled out a fresh container and filled with cherries.

“So you know Teak through Annie, huh?”

“Yeah,” I answered.

“I’ve guess I’ll finally be meeting this Annie on Christmas Day. Will you be there?”

I nodded my head and smiled at the thought of their meeting. Annie would turn him into mincemeat and that would be after she had ripped him limb from limb.

“What are you looking at?” Jeremy asked looking at me suspiciously.

I guess I had subconsciously looked over in the direction of Teak. “Do you know how they know each other?” I asked.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Teak’s older brother and Annie’s husband were best friends. Both were killed in Afghanistan within a week of each other, and Annie has tried to maintain their memory by getting their families together. That’s all sound very sweet, but sooner or later she is going to have to let go of those memories, don’t you agree?”

“How do you let go of the memories of the people you love?”

“By cutting them out of your life before they can hurt you,” Jeremey said; putting a couple cherries in of his mouth, than throwing the stems on the bar. He looked over at me and gave a sly smile. “In this life, its better to kill than be killed, especially when it comes to being in love, don’t you agree barboy.” He threw a five dollar bill on the bar picked up the container of cherries and then walked back over to his table. Once seated, he turned and gave Teak a big kiss. Teak just looked over at me questionably.

Rick and Steve closed the bar down earlier than the normal to allow the staff time for our own holiday get together. Rick’s wife Jennifer brought in breakfast treats and boxes of hot coffee along with handmade Christmas stockings she had made for the staff, she had even taken the time to embroider a staff member’s names each one. Steve and Rick handed out envelopes containing crisp $100.00 bills to and a $25.00 Macy’s gift cards to each staff member. I understood why mine only contained a Macy’s gift card. But the money I had earned in the two nights I worked more than made up for not receiving the cash. Rick pulled me aside and asked me how much of a tip had Jeremy given me. I started to ask him how he know then remember that in the control room everything could be watched. I told him nearly $40.00. He shook his head.

“Too much,” I asked.

Again he shook his head, “no he gave it to you. If that what he thinks your service was worth it, who am I to argue with a customer?”

We all sat around eating laughing, talking and just looking forward to having 3 days off.

“Okay, Steve began, have kaçak iddaa a nice holiday, see you all on Wednesday, and be prepared to do some heavy holiday cleaning.”

Everyone first groaned, and then returned his greeting back to him.

“Hey Fletch, I’m picking up Evan, then we’re going down to the hotel where his parents are staying for breakfast, you want to meet us there?”

I mulled the idea over, but in the end decided not to. “Thanks Steve, but I’m going to head on home and try to get a couple hours of sleep before heading over to Aunt Jamie’s,”

“Okay,” Steve answered sounding a little disappointed. “Well if you can, try and make it up Christmas night, but if you can’t, I’ll see you here next weekend.”

“Yeah catch you when I can,” I answered.

We both got into our cars and drove off in different directions; him toward the hospital, me for home. Then I remembered, I better make my stop at the garden center to before I went home and pick out a nice little Christmas tree to put on my mother’s grave.

Chapter 5

Even before I was in the front door good, Annie grabbed my arm and pulled me toward her bedroom. She quickly closed the door, and then spun around to face me.

“Okay, what’s going on?”

I looked at her a little confused. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“What’s going between you and Carl, five minutes after I received the stand by call last Friday night, Carl was called asking, correction begging me for your phone number.”

I looked at her and smiled, “Nothing, it just that he was supposed to come over and wanted to let me know why he wouldn’t be able to make it, that’s all.”

Annie studied me like I was some type of scientific experiment. “You’re poking your lips out. When you’re mad, you press them tightly together but when you excited or happy, you poke them out. If you stuck them out much further you’d knock the lamp off of my nightstand. There is more to this relationship than you just helping him become acquainted with Albany’s gay community. You’re really into him.”

I turned my head away from her, “Stop it Annie.”

“Are you blushing? Ooo, Annie started laughing and clapping her hands. This is so great I’m so happy. You know I would never try and set you set you two up with, but I could not have made a better choice if I had.”

“Before you start patting yourself on the back, we are becoming nothing more than just friends and I don’t there will ever be any more, he still cares about his former partner.”

“Oh, I know how that feels,” Annie said softly. She turned and looked at the framed photograph sitting on her night stand. I watched her eyes began filling with tears.

“Oh honey, don’t cry, I said taking her into my arms.”

“You would think after 3 years, I would have been able to move on by now.”

“When you lose your true love, there is no limited on the amount of time it takes to stop grieving that loss, and if there were ever two people more in love than you and Bruce, I have yet to see them.”

Annie gave a little laugh, “you know that’s right and oh how I loved my Huggybear.”

“And he loved you back. Remember after our all-night study sessions, he’d be in the kitchen fixing us pancakes?”

“And then serving them with that fresh Maple Syrup Aunt Jamie would give us.”

“Yes,” I answered.

“You know Fletch, you’ve been a very special friend, now I don’t know how many shirts of yours I ruined by sobbing all over them. Not to mention the number of times I’ve called you in the middle of the night asking you to come get me because I was too drunk to drive, than you holding my head while I puked my brains out in the toilet. After all that, you would still stay with me and hold my hand while I sobbed myself to sleep.”

“You know you’ve have given me back so much more.”

Annie wiped her eyes as I fought back a sniffle.

“Oh by the way, Annie began, Teak begged off today.”

I guess my facial expression must have shown my surprised as I thought about his and my conversation Saturday night.

“I think it had something to do with his boyfriend. Annie continued. Not sure if was Teak ashamed to introduce him to all us black folk, or if his boyfriend had some hang-up about being around us. I told Teak there would be other white people here, as well as you, Carl, but that info only seems to make Teak even more hesitant.

“I’ve met Teaks boyfriend and believe you’re better off without having him here. He nasty and defiantly has an attitude problem.”

“Do you think he’s dangerous?”

“No, he a small slight built fellow in fact a good wind could probably blow him down.

“That doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous Fletch.”

“Did Teak ever tell you how they met?”

“At the gym where Teak does Physical Therapy for the military clients, I guess this guy approached him and the both realized they had something in common. Mama Edwards feels Teak having a hard time with dealing with Gregg’s death and thinks that the reason he goes from man to man to man kaçak bahis so he won’t become attached and have to leave anyone the way Gregg and Bruce left Lani and I.”

“Have you heard from Lani lately? I asked.

Annie shook her head. “She out there somewhere, Teak found her once in a crack house and brought her to his mama’s, but after she started stealing from them they had to let her go her own way.”

“That’s too bad.”

“I remember how hard Greg worked to get her off of drugs and how they were able to turn their lives around. She swore she could have never succeeded if it had not been for Gregg’s love and guidance, especially since most of her family either sells drugs or addicts themselves. You know Fletch, I could have been out there with her, and probably would have if it hadn’t been for you, Thank you.”

“Gosh, Brown and Round, I bet you say that to all the guys.”

“No just you. You’re not my best gay friend, you’re my best friend.”

Annie gave me a big smiled as she opened the door. There standing with Annie assistant Teresa was Carl. He looked over at us, and smiled. The sight of him took with his tousled black hair, the tan corduroy sports jacket over the body hugging blue shirt, tucked nicely into the form flattering designer jeans he wore, made him look delicious from top to bottom.

“Are you going stay in my bedroom and just stare at him, or are you going out there, Poker Lips.” Annie asked.

Carl started walking toward Annie and me.

There was something else I noticed; he wasn’t wearing his glasses.

“You know Carl it’s not nice to keep secrets from your boss.”

“What secrets have I tried to keep from you Annie?”

“Well as the James Taylor’s sang in his song; ‘You’ve got a friend,’ she cut her eyes to me. “I leave you two alone.”

Although Annie house was huge, but with the amount of people she had, finding a place to sit was difficult. Carl and I found finally found room in the den with all of many books Annie had. I sat in one of the window seats, while Carl moved of one of the matching wingback chairs to sit next to me. Since dinner, our constant companion had been Annie’s cousin’s three year old daughter, Olivia. She had become quite taken by Carl and judging by the smile on Carl’s face, the feeling was mutual. While he and I sat talking, they enjoyed a tea party pretending to drink tea from her little pink tea cups. Finally after twenty minutes or so, she climbed up in Carl’s lap and went to sleep. Her mother offered to take her, but he wouldn’t let her. I watched him as he took pains to make sure of the child’s comfort.

“You’re going to make a great father someday.”

Carl’s eye lit up, “you think so?” He asked looking down at the sleeping child. “I hope I had a little girl who looks just like her.”

“So you want to adopt a black child?”

He shrugged, “black, white, oriental, Latino, it does matter. I’ll take any or all.

“Now how many kids do you want?” I asked.

“How many kids would you want?”

“I haven’t thought about it.”

Carl was quiet for a moment before saying, “well maybe you should. In fact maybe it something we should talk about it.”

“When,” I asked.

“There no time is better than now.”

“You mean here and now?”

“Well I would hope for some place a little more private, maybe like your place.”

“Why not yours, it’s a lot closer, I said slyly.

“I like a man who thinks logically. Carl said with a big grin. Let me take her to mom then get my coat.

“Why don’t I’ll get our coat, find our hostess and give her our goodbye.”

“Sound like a mighty good plan,” Carl said.

“Thank you,” I replied heading for one room I knew I’d find. Sure enough I found Annie in the kitchen portioning out food into plastic containers.

“You and Carl better not be coming to tell me you and Carl are getting ready to leave, Don’t you two dare try to leave until I’ve had a chance to tell both of you goodbye.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, but you better hurry,” I answered back heading got the hall closet to get our coats. By the time I got back to Carl, people had gathered around him telling him they were glad to have met him and thanking him for coming. Once they saw me they gave a knowing pat on my back.

“Annie asked us to wait because she wants to tell us good bye,” I told him.

“Okay, Carl looked at me a little suspicious, what’s Annie up to.”

“Probably has some food she wants to give us some food, knowing Annie.”

Sure enough Annie and Uncle Jake came out of the kitchen; carrying two shopping bags a piece fill to the top with containers. Annie handed her bags to me and Uncle Jake handed his to Carl.

“Now I think I’ve packed enough food to last you guys all week. Fletch you have some turkey, stuffing and gravy along some collard greens, sweet potatoes and squash and Carl I gave you the same, but instead of squash, I gave you succotash, because Fletch doesn’t like lima beans. For dessert, each of you a have a slice of my Red velvet cake, Banana cream pie, sweet potato pie. And Fletch, I gave you a slice of my Carrot cake and pecan pie, but gave you Carl got a slice of my lemon cake along with my key lime pie, because of your allergies to nuts.”

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