[Note: Please remember that Brad and Ford are the same person (Bradford). In this story, he is called Brad by his friends and Ford by his family.]
'You're a helluva man, Kyle, but everything's been moving way too fast for me. I don't think I'm ready to take it up the ass just yet.'
'OK, sport, but just remember where to come when you are ready.'
Jeremy smiled back at the hairy ape.
'We gotta be going anyway,' said Kenny. 'Brad's gonna be wondering why we aren't back with his things.'
As Kenny and Kyle got dressed, Jeremy called out, 'Hold on. I'm going with you.'
'I'm not so sure that's such a good idea, Jeremy,' said Kenny.
'I don't care. I've got to talk to Ford, and there's no time like the present.'
Reluctantly, Kenny and Kyle acquiesced.
When the three men got to Kenny and Kyle's apartment, they heard primal moans and screams emanating from the guest room. 'Sounds like Brad is entertaining right now. We'd better just wait until he comes out.'
Kyle mixed some drinks while Jeremy blazed a footpath in the living room carpet. Nearly an hour later, a very attractive young woman exited the back of the apartment, buttoning up her blouse as she headed for the door. A few minutes later, Red, the physical trainer Jeremy had met at the bar with Ford, emerged, zipping up his denim shorts. Directly behind him came Ford, clad in nothing but his police cap and gun belt. Daaammmnnn sexy, thought Jeremy.
'Jeremy, what the fuck are you doing here? Never mind. I don't need to know. Just close the door on your way out.'
'Wait, Brad,' said Kyle, blocking him from returning to the bedroom from which he had just come. 'Hear him out. I don't know what he intends to say, but I do know that the two of you have got to work this thing out.'
Reluctantly, Ford agreed.
'And put some damn clothes on!' Jeremy chided.
Hearing his own words thrown back at him brought a defenseless smile to Ford's lips. He went to the bedroom, put on a comfortable warm-up suit, and returned to the living room.
'We should leave the two of you alone,' said Red.
'Wait. Before you go, I want to ask a favor of you. I don't really know anybody else in New Orleans. I want the three of you and Brandon to be my groomsmen, and I want Ford to be my best man. Will you do that for me? Kenny, Kyle, and Red thanked Jeremy for the invitation and readily accepted. Ford held back.
'You don't have to answer me right now, Ford. Let's talk, and then you can decide.'
Ford didn't exactly accept the idea, but he didn't reject it either, so Jeremy took that as a positive sign.
'We'll be there for you, Jeremy, regardless of what Brad decides. Now, we'll leave you two to talk it out.'
Once Kenny, Kyle, and Red had left, Jeremy suggested that he and Ford sit down on the sofa, but Ford turned instead and walked over to the wet bar to mix himself a drink. Jeremy waited for him to return. When Ford walked back over to the sofa, Jeremy signaled toward the couch with his open hand and said, 'Please.' The two men sat at opposite ends of the sofa like two boxers in opposite corners of a ring.
'Look, Ford, please don't be mad at me....'
'Goddam it, Jeremy! I'm not mad at you! I'm mad at me! You didn't do anything wrong. I came on to you, and, God help me, I'd like nothing better right now than to rip your clothes off and fuck your brains out! But I can't, and it's tearing me apart.'
'Ford, Ford. It's not your fault. You had no idea who I was. I could have stopped you, but I didn't. I don't know why, but I just couldn't. I wanted you to take me. I still do...but I won't. Truth is, I really do love Amy, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and I'm not going to give her any reason to doubt my loyalty. Can you accept that?'
'What about that night?'
'Well, maybe it was a mistake; maybe it wasn't. We'll just chalk it up as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and let it go at that.'
'It's not that easy, Jeremy. I don't know if I can....'
'You don't seem to be having any trouble moving on,' said Jeremy, motioning toward the bedroom where Ford had apparently just enjoyed a three-way roll in the hay.
Ford let out an involuntary chuckle, which broke the ice and allowed the two men to relax a bit.
'So, Ford, will you?'
'Will I what?'
'Will you be my best man?'
'I guess I'll have to,' replied Ford. 'Somebody's gotta keep you outta trouble.'
A brotherly handshake sealed the deal.
'Can I ask you a personal question, Ford?'
'Sure. Might as well.'
'Who knows that you're bisexual? Besides Red, Kenny, and Kyle, I mean.'
'Well, just about everybody in the gay and bisexual community here. The ones who go to the clubs anyway. And most of the guys on the force. I don't make an issue of it, and they don't either.'
'What about your family? Does Amy know?'
'Nah, I don't think Amy has any idea. Now, don't get me wrong. She's my sister, and I love her dearly, but she's always been too wrapped up in her own relationships to pay any attention to mine.'
'And your folks?'
'Dad has never said anything, but for some reason I think he suspects. I don't think it would really make any difference to him, though. He's been all over the world and seen just about everything there is to see. I don't think anything would shock him. Mom? Now, that's another story. Even if she walked into the room and caught me in an orgy with 20 other men, she'd turn around and pretend that it never happened. She really does love Amy and me, but she's also extremely protective of the family reputation, and being gay or bisexual just doesn't fit into her grand design.'
Jeremy and Ford sipped their drinks and chatted for several more hours before Kenny and Kyle returned to reclaim their apartment. 'How 'bout we all go down to the Hellhole?' suggested Kyle. 'It's Full Moon Night.'
'Full Moon Night? What's that?' asked Jeremy.
'Everybody who strips down to his underwear gets drinks for Happy Hour prices.'
'Sounds interesting,' confessed Jeremy, 'but I think I've had enough to drink. Besides, I haven't had much sleep the past few days, so I think I'd better get back to Ford's apartment and hit the couch.'
'Take the bed,' said Ford.
'Are you still planning to stay here for the rest of the weekend?' asked Jeremy, with a touch of disappointment in his voice.
'No, I'll come home later, but you can take the bed, and I'll sleep on the couch.'
Jeremy objected, but Ford retorted, 'Age before beauty.'
Sunday. The wedding rehearsal went off without a hitch. Mrs. Leveque made sure of that. All the principals attended except Brandon, who had not yet returned from Texas, but Jeremy spoke to him on the phone, and he, too, happily accepted Jeremy's invitation to be a groomsman. At the rehearsal dinner, Ford made a gracious toast to the bride and groom, and everyone commented on how well he and Jeremy had seemed to hit it off. The guys wanted to give Jeremy a wild bachelor party after the dinner, but in deference to Ford, they kept it relatively tame: just a few drinks (well, maybe more than just a few), some porn flicks (gay, straight, and bi), and a circle jerk to top off the evening.
Monday (Labor Day). The wedding was held in the palatial ballroom at Whispering Pines. Yes, the Leveque estate actually had a name, and the antebellum mansion actually had a ballroom that was used for Mardi Gras balls, debutante cotillions, music recitals, and a host of fundraisers for political and charitable causes. Marie Bouvier Leveque came from 'old money,' and the estate had been passed down from generation to generation of Bouviers. Pete Leveque, on the other hand, had risen from almost nothing to make a killing in the export-import business. He was now one of New Orleans' richest and most highly respected citizens. Neither Amy nor Ford had to work, and Mrs. Leveque disapproved of their career choices, but their father encouraged them to 'follow their bliss,' as the anthropologist Joseph Campbell used to say.
The ceremony was conducted by no less than the Archbishop of New Orleans. The bride wore a Valentino Garavani original. Standing up with her were two cousins and three of her closest friends from college. Ford, of course, served as Jeremy's best man, and Brandon, Red, Kenny, and Kyle served as groomsmen. Music was provided by a select group of musicians from the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and the Loyola University Choir. The reception was catered by Emeril Legasse. The entire affair was more than Amy had wanted and certainly more than Jeremy would have planned, but Mrs. Leveque insisted that the Bouviers had a reputation to uphold.
Everything went smoothly at first. And then the archbishop came to that standard line, 'If anyone knows why this man and this woman should not be joined together in holy matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.'
'I do! I can't let you marry this man, Amy!' The shout from the back of the ballroom stunned everyone.
'Paul?' Amy gasped, before she collapsed in Jeremy's arms.
(To be continued)