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The Talon House

If By Chance


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If By Chance

Chapter Nineteen

By Nick

Unfinished business can be a hell of an obstacle. Sometimes it can stop your entire life in its tracks. An unpaid bill can prevent you from purchasing a house, a car, a boat, or something else you might have been planning on and budgeting for. An unresolved fight with your lover can disrupt your plans for a restful night of sleep, or a productive day at work. A job one might have started and didn't finish for any number of reasons can cost a person a lot of money, and earn them a reputation that can follow them around for the rest of their lives, hindering their ability to strum up more business and get more jobs.

At some point in my life, I've dealt either directly or indirectly with all three of those situations. I've been asked to co-sign for a car loan when one of my subordinates had a blemish on his credit report that was standing in the way of his getting financed. I've also seen many people in the workplace try to balance the stress of accomplishing their tasks at work and the stress of a fight they were having at home with a loved one, and it was never a cakewalk for them.

I've also been the victim of unfinished work. A carpenter I hired to install new cabinets for me quoted a price, and asked that I pay him up front to cover the cost of the materials. After I paid him, he discovered that he quoted me too low and couldn't afford to buy what he needed. Instead of telling me, though, he started to avoid me. When I finally caught up to him, the Better Business Bureau was involved, and his reputation suffered greatly.

Did I feel sorry for him? Of course, but I was also pretty hot about the eleven hundred dollars I gave him that was gone. He didn't have the resources to refund my money, and once I calmed down, I was able to chalk it up to a lesson learned and find another contractor to finish the job.

One of the things I've always prided myself on, though, was that I never left unfinished business behind. I settled all of my debts, took care of my obligations and was studious about not letting my personal woes interfere with my professional obligations. Even after I left the company, I made a point of being responsible for keeping my word. If I said I was going to do something, I did it. If I had an issue to address with Gerald, my parents, a friend or anyone else, I addressed it. It's never good to let things linger, especially when those things could become stumbling blocks somewhere down the road.

I was almost amused by Gerald's expression when I told him that I wanted to call Peter. I say almost because I could relate to his concerns. I mean, to be honest, I was nervous as hell about meeting the man that I blamed for almost ruining my professional career. Add to that the fact that I was certain that he blamed me for the tatters that the Justice Department investigation left his career in, and it was a potential powder keg.

Still, I knew what I had to do.

When I was a freshman in high school, one of the upper classmen that I was in a physical science class with, died of an asthma attack. As tragic as the situation was, it was compounded by the fact that he and his girlfriend had broken up a week before, and the last interaction that I remember the two of them having was a nasty exchange at the door before the start of the period. She told him to f**k off, and he called her a b****.

Two days later, he was gone and she was a mess. I saw her around for the rest of the school year, withdrawn and depressed. She always seemed on the verge of falling apart, like she was barely holding herself together as each minute passed by agonizingly. She was a junior that year, and the next year, she never showed up. I figured that she either moved or just dropped out, unable to deal with the grief that she was no doubt stricken with.

Years later, a coworker of mine passed away. There was no warning, no time. He just died at home, all by himself. He had a wife and two sons, and his mother was still living. His kids were grown, 20 and 26, but still too young to lose their father. They were still learning how to be young men, watching their dad in action and drawing on his 48 years of life experience, but that wasn't the greatest tragedy, in my opinion. At the funeral, his mom was distraught because they'd had an argument that ended with him storming out of her house the day before he was found.

As odd as it sounds, I couldn't help but liken my situation with Peter to those two experiences in my life. True, no one was dead, but who knows? I mean, really, how can we say for sure what might happen in the future? Anyone of us can walk out the door and be stricken dead by a bolt of lightning, a speeding car or a stray bullet. There are no guarantees in this life except for the ones that we create. Like the guarantee that I made when I promised Gerald that I'd always love him, and the guarantee that I made to myself never to leave unfinished business.

So I can admit that my motives behind wanting to at least talk to my former friend were a bit selfish. But at the same time, I wanted to forgive Peter, and in the process, give him a chance to forgive me. I was totally prepared for him to tell me to f**k off, though, and to be alright with that. Not totally alright, but at least I could say that I gave it an honest shot. I mean, what was the worst that could happen? The way I saw it, he already wasn't speaking to me, and if I didn't try, I'd never know.

And yet, dialing his number seemed to take an eternity. My hands were shaking, and I was fumbling with the handset. At one point, I had to start over again because it was taking me so long to hit the keys that time ran out, and I got a recording saying that my call could not be completed as dialed. Finally, I took a deep breath, let it go, and dialed the number. One ring went by and I started to question the wisdom of my choice. The second ring went by and I was tempted to hang up. By the time the third ring started, I was resigned to the fact that I had done something foolish. I was about to hit the end button when out of nowhere, I heard a familiar voice.


"Merry Christmas sweetie," I said from under the blanket as Gerald stirred, a sure sign that he was waking up to my Yule Tide morning special. It was still dark outside when I woke up, so I carefully extracted myself from his warm embrace and crept down the stairs, where I built a fire and plugged the tree in. I knew that at some point, he woke up and placed a few more gifts under the tree that he labeled from Santa, a gesture I found charming. Of course, I had a few presents of my own that I hadn't put under the tree, so I quickly retrieved them from my locked safe in the garage and played along. Then I stuffed our stockings with more candy canes and Hershey's Kisses than they could hold before I snuck back up to the room.

My original plan was to play a Christmas themed CD and give him some of his wrapped gifts in bed, but he looked so hot laying there that my mind started racing and I decided to unwrap a gift of my own. I crawled back in from the foot of the bed and settled between his legs, my head resting just below his crotch. Very delicately, I eased his love out of the opening at the front of his boxers, then I very slowly lapped away, causing a torrent of blood to fill it to capacity.

From there, I gently consumed the generous offering of manhood that he gave me that morning, and it wasn't long at all before I felt the blankets shift.

"Mmmm, Merry Christmas lover," he said in a sensual voice as he reached down and rested his hands on top of my head as I bobbed up and down, anxious to give him the release I knew he needed. I let my gaze travel up to his face, and I saw a huge grin that told me he definitely liked what I was doing for him. He ran his hands down from the top of my head to my cheeks, where he guided me off of his throbbing member long enough to flick his tongue at me, my cue to come up and give him a morning kiss.

As our tongues dueled for an advantage, it was obvious that he was letting me dominate him and why. I felt his legs open wide, as his hands lovingly probed my back, my thighs, my rump and finally, my crotch. Of course, he didn't have to check, because we both knew that my own member had filled with blood, and that I was ready for whatever he wanted that morning.

And boy, he wanted a lot.

It was obvious by looking through the blinds when we first became one that it was still dark outside. But at some point, a moment in time that I can't pinpoint, the sun came out unbeknownst to either of us. Because we were wrapped up in each other, giving into our needs as sexual beings, and at the same time, a need that was far more primal than I have the depth to put into words. It was animalistic, and at the same time, it was beautiful. It was kinky, and at the same time, it was perfectly natural. It was violent, and at the same time, it was poetic.

With every thrust, Gerald cried out in pleasure and pain, his moans serving as a plea for me to stop, and at the same time, to thrust harder, to drive deeper. A call for mercy, and a call for reckless abandon. There was a drive that we both shared on that morning, the day of Saint Nicholas, the holiest of holidays, that we couldn't control. That we didn't want to control, but at the same time, that was almost scary.

An eerie silence filled the room when we were both spent, and we shared mutual understanding of what we had just shared. It was nothing bad, but at the same time, it was something more powerful than we could handle. We boarded the train of pleasure and pain, and we continued adding coal to the engine, gaining momentum and speed until it became a runaway train that couldn't be stopped until it crashed. Metal on metal, mangled and burning.

And yet, out of that carnage, there was a beauty that stood out. Like a piece of fine art that no one but the artist and that one, rare collector understand. To everyone else, it's trash, but to them, it's priceless. It's solid gold, a breath of fresh air in a city polluted by smog and sulfur. I could feel Gerald's palm slowly running over my heaving chest as I held him close, and I knew that he and I were bound by the heaviest chains we could find, the chains of love and that nothing was going to tear us apart.

"Mom, this is Gerald's department," I griped, but she was having none of it.

"Dennis, it's going to take you less than a minute if you pay attention," she admonished me. "I want everything to be perfect."

"Fine," I said with a long eye roll as I looked at the three fabric patterns she laid out in front of me. Believe it or not, the patterns we were choosing were for the chairs that the guests would be sitting on at the ceremony. I sloppily did an eanie meanie miney moe and pointed to a pattern, causing her to impatiently cut her eyes at me, her silent warning to make a real decision or suffer her wrath.

"This is serious, Dennis," she said, obviously frustrated. "Will you pick a pattern?"

"Fine, I like this one," I said, pointing to a velvety looking off white solid that seemed to satisfy her, because she smiled and nodded before she folded it carefully.

"Now was that so hard?" she asked, and I just shook my head no.

I should have known that something was up when my mom asked me to meet her for lunch without my dad, but I didn't really give it a second thought. She was just back from Florida, and I thought maybe she wanted to see me one more time before the start of the new year, when I was slated to start my new job and Gerald and I were going to be starting our classes.

I've honestly never seen my mom as involved in anything that was important to me as she was with planning my wedding. Gerald and I wanted to do it in January, but unless you want to stand in front of a Justice Of The Peace at a courthouse, you had to get on a waiting list. Luckily, my mom and dad were insistent that we get the earliest possible date, and I later found out that they forked over a lot of extra money to get the date pushed up.

Had we stuck to my original plan, Gerald and I would have already been married. The plan was to drive up to Massachusetts, have a simple ceremony at a small church, and get on with the rest of our lives. In time, I hoped, Virginia would come around to recognizing marriage between two people of the same sex, but in the eyes of the law in Massachusetts, we would be joined in Holy Matrimony. It would also be valid in the eyes of our friends and family, and most importantly, it would be official for Gerald and I.

That was all that mattered to me, but my mom managed to hijack the entire process. Not that I minded that much, because it gave my fiancé and I the time we needed to explore our relationship. All of its strengths, all of its weaknesses and everything else that made us whole. We were able to see what we needed to work on, what we absolutely couldn't ignore, and even more significantly than that, the "it" factor that drew us together and the "x" factor that could drive us apart.

So it was official. We would be married the Saturday of President's day weekend and take the entire week off for our honeymoon. We decided that the two of us would stay in Provincetown while everyone else went home, and we'd return the following Sunday. I arranged the time off in advance when I agreed to take the controller's position at the television station, and since Gerald and I only had classes two days a week anyway, we could afford to miss the time at school.

I might not have been as involved as my mom would've liked for me to be, but I was getting excited. It was almost surreal to me that I would become a married man, that Gerald Ballard agreed to give me his hand in marriage. That my life had come full circle in such an incidental way, and now I was able to put all of my doubts and fears about commitment behind me. And now here I was, about to take the biggest, most important step of my life.

The one thing I did take control over was planning our honeymoon. My mom wanted to have some input into it, but I managed to keep her at bay by laying out a detailed itinerary for her in advance. Even after I told her that the honeymoon was bought and paid for, she insisted on giving me my money back.

"Your father and I want to pay for everything," she insisted. "You just tell us what you want, and let us worry about the getting it for you."

And that was that.


Sitting alone on the park bench watching the clouds roll across the overcast sky was almost relaxing as I pensively waited for Peter to pull in. It was a moment I never thought I'd be sitting in, a situation that could go either way. It was almost totally out of my control. And I had to wonder why. Why did I want to meet him? What was I going to accomplish? What did I expect? An apology?

From where I was sitting, I was able to spot his car as it pulled into the park and he parallel parked behind me. I took a deep breath as he opened his car door and got out. He had a wool gray over coat on and a thick scarf around his neck. I could tell he was wearing one of his finest Italian suits, and I almost felt underdressed for the occasion.

Then again, that was just Peter. He was always dressed to kill, even at home. His hair was always perfectly styled, his nails cut and filed neatly and his teeth pearly white. He carried floss in his car, and after a business lunch or dinner, he would carefully examine his teeth in his rearview mirror, armed with the right amount of dental floss to remove any pesky particles left behind from his meal.

As he made his approach, I carefully studied his face. He looked peculiar. Not mad or sad or even happy. Just peculiar. It was as if he were waiting for me to register an emotion before he did the same. I stood up when he was within five feet of me, and much to my surprise, he extended his hand silently. I gave it a firm shake as I looked deep into his eyes, and that was when it hit me.

The reason I couldn't read him was because I'd never seen him with a look of regret before, and yet, that was exactly what was going on in his eyes. It was obvious that he was trying to hide it from me, but it was clawing its way through the façade that he was trying to put on, and he knew it.

"It's good to see you, Dennis," he said, clearing his throat.

"How are you?" I asked, now feeling genuinely concerned for the man standing in my wake. He gave me a halfhearted shrug before he answered.

"I've been better, but I could be a lot worse," he said with a long sigh. "I wasn't expecting to ever hear from you again."

"That's ironic, since I wasn't expecting it either," I said ruefully.

"So what's up?" he said as we released our long handshake and both sat down.

"I honestly don't know," I told him, and he smiled at me before he shook his head and looked down.

"Dennis, Dennis, Dennis," he said knowingly. "Sure you do. Why don't you just come out with it?"

Of course, he was right. I did know why, but I was having a hard time articulating what was going through my head when I made the call. The funny thing was, the same thing that was going through my head when I called him was weighing heavily on my heart as I sat side by side with my old friend, my long time mentor and colleague. He always seemed to be so wise, wise beyond his years. And yet, somehow, he got himself caught up in something that he should have known better than.

"What happened, Peter?" I asked somewhat timidly, and yet once I got the words out, emboldened.

"I really don't know what to say for myself, Dennis," he admitted. "It happened, it was tragic, and now it's over. I'll never work in our industry again."

"You could have blown the whistle," I told him, and he acknowledged my point with a nod.

"I could've done a lot of things differently," he said. "The hardest part of it all was losing the trust I built. With the office, with the board and with you, too. It's something I can never regain."

"We're all works in progress, Peter," I told him, and he smiled warmly. "It's never too late to start over."

"I want to believe that," he said. "I honestly don't know how I could have gotten through these last few months without my wife and kids. I guess sometimes it takes a catastrophe to put things into perspective."

"Tell me about it," I said with a tinge of sarcasm in my voice, then I said the one thing that seemed right. "So what about those Giants? It looks like they're going all the way."

There was nothing else to talk about. Dwelling on the issue wasn't going to change anything. Did I get an apology? Not flat out, but I got an acknowledgment from him, and I got something even more gratifying, something that I didn't think was possible when I climbed in my car and made the short drive to the public park where Peter agreed to meet with me. It was a Christmas gift par excel lance. A chance to rebuild a shattered friendship with someone whose wisdom and guidance helped shape the man I had become.

What more could I have asked for?

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