It was snowing outside, as the church grew quiet after the last hymnal. It was unusual to sing 'Amazing Grace' before the preacher's sermon. Normally, it was one of the songs rotated through after the sermon, when the pastor would stand at the foot of the altar and people would come up to him for prayer, or to be 'saved', or any number of things. Then again, there was almost nothing normal about this church service at all.
'God's grace is truly amazing.' The Pastor, Daniel's father said as he stood at the pulpit, his bible open in front of him. On most Sundays, the church would have as few as fifty people in it, but usually averaged somewhere around eighty. Today there was well over a hundred, filling the room and keeping it warm despite the snow falling outside.
Dad sat at the end of the pew, with Mark and his wife next to him, while Mom sat next to me. My father and I still had not said a single word to each other, and that was fine by me. Grandma and Grandpa sat in the front row today, sandwiching Joel and Elijah between them and the Pastor's wife, while Daniel sat on the other side of her, minding his younger sister and brother. Many of the people in the church today were irregular members, and there was a surprising number from town who had never sat foot in the church before, including the Sheriff and two of his deputies.
'When our Lord returned to Jerusalem to face what he knew was to be his greatest tribulations, he spent the night with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.' The Pastor continued speaking in a low, quiet tone that had everyone sitting forward just a bit so they could hear him better. 'We know from the bible that the religious leaders of the Jewish people conspired to try him for his teachings, and that the Roman governor acceded to their wishes. His soldiers, Roman soldiers, came into the Garden with orders to arrest Jesus.
'One of our Lord's disciples tried to stop the soldiers, pulling out his sword and cutting off the ear of a soldier.' The Pastor's voice was rising slightly now, the cadence of each word beating quicker as he spoke. 'Jesus rebuked his disciple for the act of violence, and healed the wounded soldier.
'I want you to think about that for a moment.' The Pastor said after a long pause as he looked out over those gathered in the church. 'Here is the Son of God, about to be arrested wrongly by soldiers. His disciples are armed, and Jesus himself is armed with all the powers given to him as God's son. He could have resisted, he could have called hellfire and damnation not only on the soldiers, or their Roman governor, but on the priests who were conspiring against him. No one on earth could have stopped him, and he knew what awaited him.
'Jesus knew he would be beaten with a cat-o-nine tails.' Now the Pastor's voice was booming, and people were sitting back, almost flinching as he continued preaching. 'This whip had cords on it that had pieces of bone or metal tied to it. When it was used on a person, it would literally tear strips of skin off of the victim. Jesus knew this would be used on him, leaving him a bloody mess, with his skin half torn off of his body. Then he would be forced to walk through the streets of Jerusalem in front of all its people, with the beam of his cross tied to his flayed back. On his head would be a crown of thorns whose points would dig into skin, mixing blood and sweat together as it ran down his face and into his eyes.
'He knew all this waited for him if he went with these soldiers, and yet when the time came, he rebuked his disciple for attacking the soldiers, and he healed the damage his disciple had done.' Now his voice became softer.
'John 3:16 tells us that God so loved this world that he gave his only begotten son, to save us from our sins.' The pastor said in a soft voice that seemed almost ethereal after the booming echoes of a moment ago. 'The same God of Vengeance from the Old Testament transformed our world, and our hopes of salvation, through the sacrifice of his son. The earliest Christians followed the example of Christ, peacefully resisting the pressure of those in power who tried to force them to recant their beliefs.
'Since those early days, there has been much debate about whether Christians should participate in wars and other venues of violence, but only in our saddest of times has that debate extended to acts of violence against each other.' The Pastor's voice was louder, and firmer now as his gaze brushed Joe and Elijah before focusing on my father and a few other men from the church. 'The Catholics had their Inquisition where they tortured anyone they believed had committed heresy. Crusades were launched in the name of God, drenching the fields of Europe and the Middle East in blood, and even the first American Pilgrims had their hands stained with the blood of violence against their fellow colonists in Salem and other places.
'In these modern days, though, we might still debate the service in the armed forces, or when the use of force against criminals is justified, but we have long acknowledged that harming others for such petty reasons as their being different, or living their lives in a manner of which we don't approve is wrong.' The pastor's voice was barely above a whisper, but the look of distaste on his face was crystal clear, and somehow his voice still reached everyone in the chapel. 'A few days ago, a most unchristian act was performed against members of our community. Criminals broke into the home shared by Joe and Elijah, and these criminals set the house afire. It is apparent from the testimony given by Joe and Elijah that these criminals intended to do them physical harm as well as to destroy their property. I believe that those who committed this act of violence, this sin, also are guilty of the crime and sin of attempted murder.'
He stopped then as everyone in the church's chapel held their breath. For several long moments he remained silent while his eyes swept the room, meeting nearly everyone's eyes. When they touched mine, I felt very small, even though I knew the look in them was not directed at me, that I had nothing to do with putting that look there.
'I grieve to believe that anyone in our community could have committed such grave crimes, and such horrendous sins, against good people.' The Pastor continued, but he was interrupted by the first sound anyone had made since the Pastor had started his sermon. My father snorted. Next to me, Mom tensed at the sound, and all eyes in the chapel turned towards us, while the Pastor locked gazes with my father.
'Do you have something to say, Brother Hathaway?' Pastor Pemberle asked after they'd stared at each for at least a minute. My mother grasped my forearm and her nail dug through the long sleeves of my dress shirt hard enough that I wouldn't be surprised to find blood there later. Father snorted again and stood, leaning on his arms as they gripped the pew in front of him. We were in the second row, so he loomed over Daniel and the Pastor's two smaller children who arched their necks upward to stare at him.
'I had high hopes for you preacher, when we chose you to be our pastor.' Father's voice rumbled like gravel down the hillside as he spoke tersely, pausing after every word. 'You standing there preaching at us like we're criminals just isn't acceptable.'
'If, as you claim, you had nothing to do with the attack on the home of Joe Reynolds, you shouldn't hear my words as a reproach to you.' The Pastor said calmly, almost gently. 'Only those responsible, or who have knowledge of the attacks need worry about the judgment of God in this matter.'
'Then why are you preaching this crap in defense of sodomites?' Father roared angrily, glaring at the two men who were looking down at the floor while spittle flew from father's lips over the pastor's children.
'The bible tells us that we are all children of God.' The Pastor's voice was even calmer now as he faced my father directly, moving from behind the pulpit, down the two steps to the main floor of the church, and towards the front of the altar that stood in front of the pulpit. 'His words are not just for those of us that believe, or those who belong to this church, but for everyone. What happened was an affront to Him, and He calls us to denounce such vile acts wherever they occur and whoever they are committed against.'
'That's not what the Old Testament says!' Father roared. 'What about Leviticus? It calls for evil people like these two to be put to death, not brought here and coddled!'
'Brother, you should know better than to try that argument.' The Pastor said with a sad shake of his head. 'Jesus died on the cross so that the strictures of the Old Testament would no longer apply. When the priests brought the harlot before Jesus, in order to trick him into either having her stoned to death or to make him commit heresy, he set forth the principle we should follow today.'
'I'm not casting stones here!' Father shouted angrily.
'That is good, because as the bible teaches, none of us are without sin.' The Pastor said with a slight chuckle.
'Why are they here?' My father demanded as several other members of the church chuckled.
'They are here because I want them to know, to understand, that we, the members of this church abhor the actions of those who attacked them.' The Pastor said calmly. 'They, and all members of this community should know that even though we believe they are living in sin, that they are on the wrong path, that the love of God is with them, and that we value them as children of God. They are here to hear my apology for what has happened to them, and to hear our commitment as a church that we will not stand for such crimes to be committed against them or any other member of our community; that though we walk different paths of faith, we do not condone or suffer such violence against anyone. And, they are here so that they might see the love of Christ for all his children, which is our ultimate goal as a church, to bear true witness to his glory and his love.'
'They don't belong here.' Father retorted angrily. 'Those are fine words, but they just aren't right. The apostle Paul tells us to be wary of associating with heretics, with sinners, so that they might not corrupt us. What about that, preacher?'
'Are you here to sway us from God's word?' Pastor Pemberly asked Elijah who looked up from the floor and actually laughed softly when he met the preacher's gaze.
'No, Pastor, I have no desire to argue the word of God here during your service.' Elijah answered. 'We might disagree on a few things, and I'll be happy to discuss my opinions with you elsewhere, but this is your church.'
'This is wrong, preacher.' Father reiterated, although it was obvious he already understood that he had lost this argument. 'You should not allow these sinners amongst good, god-fearing folk. They need to leave town, go back where they came from and let decent people be!'
'You may believe that, brother.' Pastor Pemberly started to say, but stopped as Joe stood and turned to look at Father with a withering glare. I had never seen my father look so afraid at that moment, and I wondered what was about to happen.
'Be quiet, Mark.' Joe Reynolds in a soft voice that quivered slightly. My father flinched at hearing his name from those lips. 'It's been over twenty years, hasn't your hatred cooled off at all?'
'You don't know what you're talking about you sick pervert!' Father growled angrily, but his arms were shaking as he leaned on them. 'You should never have come back.'
'This was, no, is my home.' Joe said softly, but his voice was firmer now. His shoulders were squared back, and he looked dignified as he stared at my father while tears began to trickle down Joe's face. 'Don't I have a right to live in the place I grew up, the place I loved as a kid?'
'That place is burned to the ground and you're lucky to be alive.' My father sneered. 'You might have escaped those fires, but the fires of Hell are still waiting for you!'
'Stop it.' Mother said in a voice that was almost a shout as she jumped to her feet. Every eye was on us as she stood, and I could see Mark's wife shrinking down, but my brother was as caught up in the family drama playing out here in church as I was.
'Sit down, wife.' Father ordered and my mother shook her head.
'No, Mark.' She said firmly. 'I've kept my peace all this time, but I've had enough. This needs to stop before it destroys our marriage, before it destroys us.'
'Be quiet!' He snapped and she shook her head again.
'No.' She was quiet, but firm in her denial.
'Pastor, isn't it a wife's duty to obey her husband?' The appeal was weak, and the pastor nodded his head.
'Yes, but a Christian's first duty is to God and Christ.' The pastor said. 'I believe the sister is being called to speak. The wounds that are being brought to light have long festered in darkness.'
'You don't...' Father started to retort but Joe interrupted him.
'Don't.' Joe said softly, almost pleadingly, to my mother.
'Joe, I've lived with this for more than half my life.' Mom said softly and I noticed my father's arms were shaking harder now. 'I'm sick and tired with it clouding my life, my marriage, and the lives of my children. Soon I'm going to be a grandmother and I don't want it to taint the life of my grandchild.'
'Honey, don't...' Father started to plead softly, but Mom shook her head.
'Mark, just listen to me for once.' Her voice was clear and firm. 'You've hated for twenty years and it's got to stop. Your hatred has clouded our lives together, it has poisoned your relationship with your sons, it has poisoned the happiness of our marriage. I know you love me, and I know you've loved me since we married, but I know I have never been the only person to share the love of your heart.'
'Don't...' Father's voice was quivering now, and he looked genuinely afraid, but he couldn't look away from her face.
'Everyone in this town knows that Joe and you were best friends, until... until that day.' Mom said softly. 'I knew you loved him, though. You two may have been cousins and best friends, but you loved each other as closely as two brothers. When... well, when word spread about Joe's indiscretion, you were hurt and you let that hurt turn to hatred, but I know the truth of your hatred. I've heard you at night, talking in your dreams, and they haven't changed in twenty years.'
'No...' Dad's voice was tired and I was surprised to see the tears forming in his eyes. He closed his eyes then, and a single teardrop dripped down his rough cheek.
'Mark, you've got to stop the hatred.' Mom said softly. 'You've hated yourself for twenty years because you weren't strong enough to stand by Joe when he needed you. You've hated him because he got caught doing what he was doing and put you in the position of having to reject him or risk being rejected by our peers, but you hated yourself most all these years because you didn't stand by someone you loved so much. Stop hating, Mark, and apologize like you want to, like you've dreamed about doing so many times!'
'Shut up!' Dad shouted and turned to run out of the church. The room was silent for several long moments until the sound of footsteps filled the room as Joe followed after my father. That certainly hadn't been what I'd expected to hear. No stories of sordid affairs between Dad and Joe, but rather... in some ways, what I heard was sad and for the first time in a long time I felt something besides anger for my father.
I felt pity.
'Sister, it takes a brave woman to air such private issues in public, but I believe what we have seen here is a testament of faith.' Pastor Pemberly said softly as Mom grasped my arm after sitting back down. Her face was streaked with tears and her shoulders moved with her quiet sobbing. Mark's wife put an arm around Mom's shoulders in a comforting gesture. 'Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I urge you to think over what was said, and the message that God wanted you to hear today.
'Love one another even as I have loved you, our Lord commanded us.' The pastor continued softly. 'Hatred is a tool of the devil, a wedge between us and the love of Christ, and we should not let it fester in our hearts. Twenty years ago, a great wrong was done, just as another wrong was done scant days ago. We must let the love of Christ fill us so that we do not continue to repeat the sins of the past.'
I didn't hear much of what else the pastor had to say at that point, because everything came crashing down in my mind. In the eyes of the other people in the church I could see a change, and it was almost like I could feel our town shifting slightly while the pastor spoke. Deep down I knew that if people knew about Danny and I, they would still snicker, they would still look down on us, but we'd still be a part of the town, part of the community. Danny's father would try to talk us into acting straight, getting married, having a family and repenting of our sins, but we'd still be invited to dinner at his house even when we refused.
With the realization that maybe, just maybe, I could have Daniel and still not be driven out of town, another feeling came over me and I shuddered as I accepted I did want to leave. I wanted to go out from this place, my home I thought I would never leave, and I wanted to explore the great big world out there at Danny's side. The idea of seeing new things, of seeing his reaction to them, the smiles on his face appealed to me. Maybe, someday, we would come back and settle down here, maybe when we were old men like Joe and Elijah, and we'd be welcome here, I knew.
'Pastor.' Dad's voice was firm, and brought me back to the present. I turned, along with everyone else in the church to see my father standing beside Joe Reynolds in the entry to the chapel. Both men had snow melting on their shoulders, but not all the dampness on their faces came from that source. Somehow my father looked different, more relaxed than I'd ever seen him, and he stood with his shoulder touching Joe's. Mother's hand found mine at that moment, and she squeezed it tightly. For some reason, it felt like she was happy.
'Brother Hathaway.' The Pastor said softly, and when I looked back there was a smile on his face.
'May I have a moment to address the church?' Father asked quietly.
'Of course.' The pastor said, smiling as he took a step sideways and indicated the spot next to him with an arm. My father took a deep breath and walked down the aisle until he stood next to the pastor. Joe had stayed where he was, and my father met his gaze like it was a lifeline.
'I... I have so much to beg forgiveness for.' Father's shoulders shook with barely held sobs. Fresh tears tinkled down his rough cheeks, and I felt tears stinging my own eyes as mother squeezed my hand. 'Joe, I am so sorry I never stood by you so long ago. My wife was right, I was more ashamed that I was scared to stand by you than I was of you. I was angry that you'd gotten caught, but it was me who failed you by not sticking up for you. Instead of being at your side, I was the one who treated you the worst. There's more I need to apologize for, though. Honey, I need to apologize to you for letting my anger and shame poison our marriage. Mark, Eddie, oh Eddie, I owe both of you an apology too. Pastor, I owe you an apology for challenging your leadership today, you were right to do what you've done, but most of all I owe an apology to this entire town.
'The night before the fire, I got together with a couple of old friends, and we egged the Reynolds place like we were still teenagers, and we vandalized the place.' Dad continued quickly, before anyone could say anything. 'The next night, Mike Thompson, Reggy Harmand, and Leon Malk came up with the idea of torching the place. I couldn't do it, and went home instead while they went and did their deed.
'Joe, I'm sorry.' Dad said softly. 'I could have stopped it from happening, I could have stopped them from starting the fire, from almost killing you. I didn't though. Instead I went home and let them do it. I am sorry to everyone here, because the pastor was right, this wasn't just a crime against Joe and his... friend, it was a crime against all of us. What was more wrong was that after it happened, I kept my silence. Please, forgive me.'
'Brother Hathaway, true repentance is a blessing to God, and to those that witness it.' Pastor Pemberly said. 'Let us pray.'
I was numb with surprise after all the things that had happened, but I felt something inside of me healing a bit, something I'd lived with so long that I never realized it was there. As my dad left with the Sheriff, to give them a sworn statement, I caught just an inkling of what he must have been feeling all those years. Despite everything he'd ever said or done, I still loved him. Even when I was angry as hell, even when I was so mad I could hit him, a part of me loved him and was hurt by our not getting along. How much worse must it have been like for him all these years?
'When we are little kids, we don't bother trying to understand our parents.' The Pastor's voice was soft in my ear as the congregation broke into small groups to 'discuss' the events of the day. 'They are both known to us and a mystery. We don't need to try to understand them, because we believe in them, we believe in their love. As we grow older though, as we become more capable of understanding, and reasoning, if we're smart we begin to understand them, why they do certain things, why they behave the way they do. If we're lucky, we will learn to understand them as we get married and have children of our own, so that we're better parents. But no matter what, as we grow older our relationship with our parents changes. As we become no longer dependent on them, we can choose to reject them, or to learn about them to understand them, so that they can become more than just our parents. I hope you've seen that today.'
'Thank you, pastor.' I said softly and he nodded before moving off.
'You okay?' Daniel asked softly as he appeared at my side.
'Yeah.' I said with a heavy breath. 'Do you... do you think you could go for a ride with me?'
'I think so.' He said with a smile that made my legs weak. While he waited to talk to his father, I went outside just in time to see my father leave with the Sheriff. I didn't have to wait long in my Jeep before Danny was in the passenger seat, grinning.
'Thanks.' I said softly as I started up the engine and pulled out of the parking lot.
'Where we going?' Danny asked softly, inching his hand closer to mine near the gear shift. I wrapped my pinkie finger around his in a way that wouldn't be obvious to anyone back at the church.
'I'm hungry.' I said softly. 'How about the Ramada in Tonopah for a steak dinner?'
'Isn't that a bit far away?' Danny asked softly.
'Yeah, but I like going places with you.' I answered and he sucked in a deep breath while his eyes widened.
'Oh, Eddie.' He said softly and I smiled.
'Besides, we have a lot of plans to make if we're both going to go to college together.' I continued and he smiled even deeper. We'd talked about it already, but now it was different, because I was ready to leave, without any need to look back.
That Sunday brought a lot of change to Silver Valley, although much of it wasn't easily seen for a while. The men my father had identified as being responsible at first pleaded their innocence, vouching for each other's whereabouts. When holes were poked in that story, they turned on my father, fingering him as the ringleader, egging them on to actually get rid of Joel and Elijah. That didn't work either, and in the end, they pled guilty to lesser charges of attempted manslaughter (two counts each) and were shipped off to state prison.
My father was different, but that didn't mean I was in any rush to move back home. The truth was, I was far more comfortable with my grandparents. Mom was saddened by that, but accepted it by the time Christmas was over and the new year was beginning.
My father and I did manage to get along when I would visit, usually on Sundays. He was a slightly different man, but you don't just put away decades of thoughts and behaviors, something I learned by watching him in those weeks. He would be fine most of the time, but then he'd go into these fits of anger that made him impossible to be around.
My grandparents took my announcement of wanting to leave and go to college with a lot more happiness than I expected, even after all their hints. Grandpa flat out refused to hear anything other than that he'd pay for my schooling, and he'd pay for me to have an apartment since the community colleges in Vegas really didn't have any dorms. Daniel was accepted to UNLV, and as winter turned into spring, we began looking for a place to live in that far-away place.
By planting season, it was an unspoken fact that Daniel and I were a couple in the eyes of most of the town. His father wasn't happy at first, and he threw up several little roadblocks along the way. Watching Daniel step around them without even acknowledging they existed was hilarious.
What surprised me the most was the way I calmed down at school that last semester. Bullying the younger kids became more of a friendly game, leaving them with smiles on their faces instead of abject terror. Somehow it felt good to see those smiles, better than the terror had ever looked.
As Spring began, Daniel joined me out in Grandpa's fields, working as hard as anyone else to get the ground ready for the first planting. It made for some long days, and short nights, but he earned the respect of the field hands we worked with, and my grandfather's constant approval. To my surprise, my father joined us early one morning after the first week's worth of work.
'What are you doing here?' I asked in a sharp tone I rarely used anymore as Daniel and I pulled up in my jeep to the knot of workers waiting for the day to start. The horizon towards the east was just starting to lighten with dawn still more than an hour away. Dad was wearing rough work clothes like the other men around him.
'I'm here to work.' My father answered gruffly, and I found the words leaving me.
'Then let's get to work, right, Eddie?' Daniel said in a neutral voice with a significant look at me. He was always pushing me to get along better with my father, to meet him halfway on things. After several hours, we left for school with the sun now up over the mountains, and my father bent over the engine case of a tractor that had broken down. I'd almost forgotten those early years of him teaching me how to work on engines, but part of me was happy that I wouldn't have to miss school to get the machine working again.
'How was the morning work?' Grandpa asked me as I pulled up to the house after school. I always checked in with him before beginning the afternoon work.
'Old Bettie broke down again.' I grumbled. 'We should think about replacing her next year.'
'I will.' Grandpa chuckled. 'You'll be off at college. You get her fixed before you went to school?'
'No, Dad was working on her.' I said and he smiled.
'So you didn't run him off after all.' Grandpa seemed pleased. 'I didn't tell you I'd hired him because I wanted to see how you'd handle things.'
'Why is he working on the farm?' I asked as I gave in to my curiosity.
'He quit his job at the mine.' Grandpa said with a slight grimace. 'It seems a few of his coworkers there felt he was a snitch.'
'He...' I started to protest that he'd done the right thing, but that was useless. If Dad was tagged as a 'snitch', the work in the mines would be hell for him.
'There's always a price to pay for everything we do, Eddie.' Grandpa said slowly as he looked anywhere but at me. 'Sometimes even when we do the right thing we still have to pay.'
'It's not fair.' I said softly.
'No it's not.' He agreed, not needing to say the next part, that life rarely was ever fair. It just was. That was something I'd known since I could understand the concept of fairness.
'Well, you've got work to do.' Grandpa said as a dismissal and I nodded before Daniel and I headed off to the western field. Dad was supervising a bunch of the migrant workers as they prepped the machinery for the fertilizing. He nodded at me as Daniel and I got out of the jeep, and Daniel called two of the workers over to help unload the bags in the back.
'How's it going?' I asked my father in as neutral a tone as I could.
'We'll be ready in time.' He said with a grunt and I looked at him for a long moment. His lined face was just the same as ever, but there was a look in his eyes like he was hungry for something.
'Thanks to you getting Old Bettie up and running.' I said gruffly and he stared at me with slightly wide eyes before nodding as a very small grin came to his face.
'Not nearly as quickly or efficiently as you could have fixed her, I'm sure.' My father told me in a voice that held a hint of warmness. We stood there, silently while we watched Daniel and the other two finish unloading the jeep. 'He works hard.'
'Yes, he does.' I said with a hint of defensiveness.
'He's no weakling.' Dad said with a slight bit of approval showing. 'If you're going to be leaving here with him, it'll be good knowing you've got someone to watch your back.'
'We'll always watch each other's back.' I said in a tone that brooked no argument.
'Your mother is always wanting to see more of you.' Father said softly after a moment of silence. 'Why don't the two of you come over for dinner?'
'I don't...' I started to protest and he put a hand on my shoulder, forcing me to half-turn and look him in the face.
'I've damn well pushed you away for the last dozen years, Eddie.' His voice almost shook and there were tears in his eyes. 'I don't expect you to come running back to me now that I've woken up and smelled the coffee. Just give me a chance, please?'
'Why?' I asked him in a voice that was almost a whine.
'Why should you give me a chance?' He asked and I shook my head.
'No.' I said firmly. 'Why did you... do the things you did? You know, I used to think I was the bully of Silver Springs, but I'm not, am I? I've never been. It was you all along. You bullied Joel Reynolds. You bullied mom, you bullied Mark, and you bullied me, almost turning me into another copy of you. Why?'
'I saw a show one time about bullies.' My father said in a quiet, introspective tone that I'd never really heard from him before. 'They said that bullies were basically afraid. They did the things they did because they were scared. I laughed at it at the time, but now I think they were right. I've been scared, son. Scared of everything.'
'Like what?' I asked him softly.
'Scared of life.' He said with a shake of his head. 'I... well I guess this won't come as a surprise to you now. I loved Joe, the way he loves Elijah, or the way I think you love that boy over there. I was scared to ever let him know that, though.'
'What about mom?' I asked him.
'Oh, I loved her too, but not nearly as much as I loved Joe.' Dad said with a rueful chuckle. 'I was scared though. I was scared what people would think, and then when Joe got caught, I was scared he didn't even care for me the way I cared for him. We'd never done anything because I was so scared. Then, after your mother and I got married, I was scared she'd figure out I loved Joe more than I loved her. What a waste. She told me the other night she always knew.'
'Are you going to...' I started to ask but my courage failed me at that point.
'Am I going to go after him now?' Dad asked my question for me. 'No, son, that ship has long since sailed. I'm happy with your mom. I do love her, and I've got two good, strong sons and a life with her. Besides, Joe has Elijah and loves him as much as I love your mother. We... if he'll let it happen, we might be friends again some day.'
'I see.' I said quietly, even though I really didn't understand fully what he was saying.
'So, you're leaving town to go to college?' He asked, changing the topic.
'Yes.' I answered simply.
'What are you going to study?' He asked, obviously trying to change the topic of the conversation. It was the longest conversation, and the least adversarial I could remember having with him in years.
'Psychology.' I answered and could see the surprise in his face. Everyone was expecting me to study mechanics or something like that.
'Why?' He asked as Daniel started to head over to us.
'I like fixing things, and I like understanding why people do the things they do.' I said with a shrug. 'As a psychologist I can do both.'
'Son, you amaze me.' He said with a laugh as Daniel reached us.
Suddenly the world didn't seem so small as the guy I loved smiled at me. We had our whole lives ahead of us and I would not make the mistakes of my father. Instead I would chart a new course, and find my own things to mess up, but at least I'd be doing them with Daniel there.
'I love you.' I told Daniel, and enjoyed the surprise on his face and the slight choking sound my father made.
Yep, life was good.