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The Talon House

Staking My Claim


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Staking My Claim

Chapter Eleven

by Nick

“Hand me that spade, will you buddy?” my dad asked, reaching out for the shiny object with a wooden handle. It looked like a tiny shovel, which was the point, I guess. “Your mom’s not going to let me hear the end of it if I don’t get these hydrangeas planted today.”

He was right about that. As well as my mom and dad got along with each other, there was one area of friction in our home that existed between them. It was our patio, where my parent’s had different ideas about what looked good. In the end my mother won out, of course. My dad would do anything for her, I knew, and even though they disagreed, he would do whatever she said because he wanted her to be happy.

I always thought it was funny how they never fought. Most couples have at least some type of argument every now and then, but not them. Even when they did disagree, it was always in the form of a discussion that seemed productive from start to finish. Whether they were talking about the yard, furniture in the living room, what food to buy or something that had to do with me, they never disagreed so passionately with each other that they didn’t come to an agreement at the end of the discussion.

There were some things, though, that went without saying in our family. One of them was my mom’s plants and flowers. What she said went and that was that. If she wanted the plants hung, my dad hung them. If she wanted them watered, the only question was how much water to use.

My dad had his own ambitions when it came to our patio. It was certainly big enough that compromise was more than plausible, but it never came. My dad dreamt of having an extra large gas grill installed on the patio, right at the edge of the lawn. In addition to that, he wanted a bar on the back of the house, near our gazebo, and a place to hang his grilling utensils. It wasn’t unreasonable, really, considering that our yard was big enough to build three more houses on, and a third of our yard consisted of our patio.

All he wanted was a tiny section of that space. I could see it in his eyes when he talked about the grills his friends had. The hopeful look in his eyes was almost painful to see, because I knew that she’d never budge on this. The cruelest part, though, was when she’d commandeer more of the patio for her plants, which were everywhere. With each new potted plant, a little more of my dad’s dreams were crowded out.

I know it wasn’t the end of the world, but in its own way, it was sad. Here was my dad, a man who worked just as hard as my mother did, and who just wanted a little bit of control over his yard, but it wasn’t allowed. My mom was more strong willed than he was, and in the end, she had to have things her way.

“You can do whatever you want in the front yard,” she’d say if he dared to protest. “But I get to decide what we do in the backyard.”

And so it went.

I handed him the spade and watched with interest as he dug four holes, then planted the bulbs that would later flourish into the full, blue and red flowers that required water every day and extra attention. We had hydrangea’s along the edge of our property, and watering them was a pain in the butt. Still, it had to be done every day or they’d look like crap in no time.

It’s ironic to me the way a flower like the hydrangea mirrors a relationship. They have to be cared for and nurtured the same way. If you don’t take care of your relationship it starts to dry out and wither away, just like the thirsty flower. It’s definitely not something you can just neglect, because one day you can go to water it and find that it’s dead.

I’ll never know what the dynamic was for Jarred and Phillip’s relationship. I have a pretty good idea that it was one sided, with Phillip doing most of the footwork and Jarred basking in the glory of it all. But to say that I know for sure would be naive. Jarred has a lot of good qualities about him, and I’d be lying if I denied that he still had the ability to charm me.

The thing is, though, I’m not putty in his hands anymore. Phillip showed me that I could feel loved, and I could be appreciated for my own redeeming qualities, qualities that Jarred never acknowledged I had. With Phillip, we could have deep discussions about topics that didn’t involve sex, and he’d let me know how intelligent he thought I sounded when I articulated my thoughts on matters.

Anytime I tried to do the same with Jarred, he dominated the conversation, then thanked me for listening to him. I mean, it wasn’t the end of the world, but when I compared the difference between spending time with Jarred and spending time with Phillip, I could see that it was glaring. Phillip would pay me compliments on how thoughtful I was, and how he could sense the compassion I had for others in the world.

Jarred’s idea of a compliment went something along the lines of, “Your a** looks hot in those jeans.”

Taking all of that into consideration, it should have been easy for me to decide that I wanted to ditch Jarred and devote myself to Phillip all the time, but things hadn’t been that easy for me lately. I had talked myself into believing that I would never be happy with Jarred the way I could be with Phillip, and deep down, I knew it was true. I can even say that on the surface, it was true. The difference was night and day, and I knew it.

The problem was, I couldn’t just let go like that. I still loved Jarred. I tried to tell myself that I never loved him, and that I was just whipped on his dick. The last part had been true, and maybe it still was, but what wasn’t true was my denial of having ever loved Jarred Fedina. Not only had I loved him passionately the whole time, but also I could still feel my love for him growing by the day.

That realization was coming to me in the form of loneliness for him. I hadn’t felt his lips against mine in so long that I was beginning to forget how they felt, which was something I thought would never happen. Sometimes when I was with Phillip, I found myself thinking about Jarred and wondering what he was doing at that moment.

Maybe that was because we’d built more than just a relationship based on sex. In the beginning, we’d get together to make out, but we’d also do other things. He loved to watch Will and Grace with me, and we’d talk about who was going to the Redskins and who the Ravens were going to pick up and release. I found it sad that as football season was approaching, we weren’t on that level anymore.

As soon as we had sex, things changed. In fact, right from the get go, things got weird. I tried to initiate a conversation with him, but he wasn’t interested. I took that as a sign to keep my mouth shut and just be happy that he was willing to spend time with me. Then there was the space of time between our first time and our second time, which was when he told me about Phillip. By then I had already figured it all out, but I think I needed to hear it from him and then get the confirmation that we’d still see each other. I never had regrets about that moment, either. In fact, I’d do it all the same way if I had a chance to relive it, because if I didn’t, I’d have never had the chance to get close to Phillip.


I was sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my days in his sweet embrace. He treated me with reverence and respect that I didn’t know someone could treat me with. He was so dedicated to making me smile that he did little, symbolic things that I could never picture Jarred doing for me, or for him.

From the sweet love letters he would write for me, to the flowers he picked for me one day on the way to my house to come see me, to the way he made sure that he waited on me hand and foot when he and I were together. He was the perfect gentleman, and I think part of that came from the fact that he couldn’t get that from Jarred.

At least that’s what I think. I mean, why else would he be sleeping with me behind Jarred’s back? I knew they were still together because Jarred told me so, and I let him know that there was no way I could sleep with him as long as he was with Phillip because I wasn’t going to hurt the one person who cared about me the way he did.

“You know, I care about you too,” he argued with me when I said no.

“I know you do, Jarred,” I said quietly. “But Phillip’s my friend, and I don’t want to hurt him.”

“You never had a problem with it before,” he reminded me, and it felt like he was throwing it in my face.

“That was before I realized what a good person he is,” I countered. “I’m not hurting him like that.”

“What about me?” Jarred asked dejectedly, “You don’t seem to care if I’m hurting.”

“That’s not true,” I said. “You know I love you.”

“But you won’t prove it to me,” he prodded, and it almost worked. There was a part of me that wanted to let him have his way with me, but of course, there was another part of me that wanted to stay true to Phillip, so I held my ground.

That night, as I lay in my bed and thought about what transpired between Jarred and I, another reality hit me; I was being true to Phillip, but he was sleeping with Jarred. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to know that. If I told him I knew, he’d most likely put two and two together and figure out the rest. That would be too much for me to handle, I decided, because as it was, not giving into my desires and giving myself to Jarred Fedina was killing me.

Not on a sexual level, though. Instead, I was feeling it on an emotional level. It was that night that I realized how badly I still longed to tell Jarred that I loved him, and how much I wanted to feel him dominate my senses with his love. I drenched my pillow that night with my tears as thoughts of the love Jarred and Phillip were making ran through my mind. I missed feeling Jarred’s arms around me as I slept, and I missed his tender touch when he’d brush my bags out of my eyes right before he’d kiss me. I was being a fool, and I knew it. Only now I wasn’t just Jarred’s fool.

I was Phillip’s fool too.

Coming to that conclusion hurt me a lot, so I tried to put it out of my mind. Instead, I decided, I was going to concentrate on the sweet, thoughtful things that Phillip did to prove his feelings for me. I mean, yeah, he was with Jarred, and he lied to me about that, but I knew he was being sincere with me when he said that he cared about me. He proved it to me by giving me shelter when I was on the run, and he continued to prove it to me with his actions each and every day.

But then again, I reasoned, if he really cared, why would he cheat? I was being true to him, so what was wrong with me that he couldn’t do the same thing? Thinking about it caused me to break down again, and as I sobbed in the darkness, I found myself wishing I could go back in time and sleep with Jarred. If nothing else, I figured, it would be out of spite for the way Phillip was stabbing me in the heart by letting Jarred have his love. The other reason was a little more substantive than that.

I needed to prove to Jarred that I loved him.

I had a hard time falling asleep, and I eventually found myself in the dining room at the table with a cold glass of milk in front of me as I quietly wept and contemplated my next move. I brought my hands up to my face to wipe my tears away with a sniffle and a sob and when I pulled them away, I saw my mom standing on the other side of the table, looking at me with a worried expression.

“Sweetheart, are you okay?” she asked quietly, rounding the table until she was next to me. She pulled the chair next to me out and sat down, then she reached over and pulled me into her embrace.

“What’s wrong, honey?” she said in a soothing “mom” voice that only she could seem to muster.

“I’m stupid, aren’t I?” I wept.

“No baby,” she assured me, stroking the top of my head. “What makes you say that?”

“Because I like Phillip, and I like Jarred,” I said dejectedly. “But they’re together, and I know they won’t break up.”

“Honey, have you met anyone else?” she asked me, and I shook my head sadly. “Maybe that’s the problem. You’re a handsome young man, Andrew. You can find your own boyfriend.”

“But where?” I semi-demanded. “Jarred and Phillip are the only ones I know who are gay.”

“I think you’re selling yourself short, sweetie,” she told me. “I think if you look around, you’ll find someone to make you happy.”

“But I want to be with..” and then my voice trailed off, because I suddenly realized that I wasn’t sure anymore. Instead of answering me, my mom simply kissed my cheek and gave me another reassuring squeeze.

“Why don’t you get some sleep,” she suggested. “You’ll feel better tomorrow morning, okay?”

After our talk at the table, I was able to fall asleep rather effortlessly. The next day I was up with the sun, and after I got my bearings straight and made myself presentable, I found myself in the kitchen with my mom making breakfast before she had to leave for work. I made a plate for my dad and my mom covered it in tin foil and put it in the oven to keep it warm, then she kissed me and was out the door.

I was able to wait for about ten minutes before I got bored and decided to wake my dad up with a warm plate of eggs and pancakes. I took his food out of the oven and let it cool on the counter long enough to be able to carry the plate upstairs without burning myself. The door to their room was wide open, and he was sleeping soundly when I walked in, but as soon as I got in on my mom’s side of the bed and held the plate up to his face, he opened his eyes with a long yawn.

“Hey pal,” he said, stretching his arms out as he sat up. “What’s this?”

“Breakfast,” I said with a smile, holding the plate out for him. “Be careful, it’s still hot.”

“Did you make this?” he asked curiously as he set the plate down on top of the bedspread but in his lap.

“Mom did,” I said. “I was waiting for you to wake up but you never did, so I just brought it up here for you instead.”

“Thanks buddy,” he said happily right before he dug into his eggs. While he ate, I jumped up and ran back down to the kitchen, where I poured him a glass of milk and dutifully carried it back up to him so he could wash his breakfast down.

“So mom says you had a pretty rough night,” he told me between bites, giving me a sympathetic look.

“Yeah,” I said quietly. “I’m ok now.”

“Are you sure about that, Andrew?” he asked me, turning his head and looking at me as if he didn’t believe me and didn’t think I believed myself. I just shrugged and looked down at the bedspread, silently running my hand over the cool, stitched fabric. In reply, my dad patted the spot right next to him and said, “Scoot over, bud.”

I did what I was told, and as soon as we were side by side, he wrapped his arm protectively around my shoulders and gave them a firm squeeze that he didn’t let go of as he continued to dig in with his other hand. We didn’t say anything at all. Instead, he ate and I sat there with his arm around me, and that seemed to be enough.

‘Did you already eat, son?” he asked as he scooped a bite of eggs up and offered it to me.

“Yeah I already had some,” I said with a smile. With that, he went back to his plate and while he ate, I found myself snuggling closer to him and resting my head against his chest.

“What time do you have to leave?” I asked, not particularly anxious to give up my comfortable spot next to him or the closeness we were sharing.

“I think I’ll stay home today,” he said through a mouthful of pancakes. “What do you feel like doing today, kiddo?”

“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “We can go to the beach.”

There’s something to be said for a man who thinks nothing of taking his surf board out into the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean at eight in the morning, especially when there’s a cool breeze sweeping across the region. Exactly what one would say depends on your disposition, but I know that I thought he was crazy, especially when he beckoned me to follow right behind him.

“Come on, bud,” he called out. “It’s not cold at all.”

I should have known from the mischievous look on his face that the water was cold, but I didn’t have the slightest inclination that he was luring me in with a white lie. When I was hit with the first wave, though, the truth came crashing down on me in the form of sixty-degree salt water that drenched me from head to toe. At that point, I was too cold to come out of the water, so I reluctantly followed him out with my board and climbed on.

He caught a pretty good-sized wave, but I missed it. Instead, I was swept up in it, but I didn’t have time to stand up, so all it did was carry me back toward the beach. When I finally did catch a good wave, I was glad we had come. We wound up spending the better part of the morning on our boards, and by the time we called it quits, I was ravenous.

We walked down the beach and through the fence into our backyard, where we rinsed our boards and ourselves off with the hose and stripped out of our wetsuits before we went inside to look for a hot shower and some food. When I was finished in the shower, I came back downstairs to look for my dad in the kitchen, but he was nowhere to be found. I heard a noise out on the patio, so I pulled the curtain back and smiled to myself when I saw him rolling his gas grill out of the garage and onto the patio, right where he wanted to have a larger one permanently built in.

We spent the next two hours out on the patio soaking up the sun and cooking steak, chicken breasts and vegetable shish kabob’s on the grill as the late morning turned to afternoon. The sun was starting to beat down on us, so we wrapped up with the grill and hosed down the patio. I was about to head inside when my dad remembered one his chores.

As he worked on the hydrangeas, I stayed with him, anxious to offer him any help I could that would get him out of the heat any faster. He stopped for a break momentarily, but just long enough to wipe the beading sweat from his brow. After that, it was back to work. As he dug and planted, I looked around the patio and thought about how nice it would be to have the huge, permanent gas grill that he always wanted. We could cook out more often, and there would be a lot less work when we did.

“How come you don’t just tell mom you don’t want all of these plants?” I asked him, and he looked up at me introspectively.

“Well, kiddo,” he started. “Sometimes we make sacrifices for the people we love. It’s not always what we want, but it’s for the best.”

“She won’t budge, will she?” I said, already in the know, and my dad just smiled and shook his head.

“Believe me, son, it’s for the best,” he said. “I can get the grill, but I’d be sleeping on the couch for at least a week.”

Instead of a verbal answer, I simply nodded my head at my dad, and he smiled again before he picked the spade back up and stuck it into the ground to break the soil and dig one more hole for the last bulb.

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