There was this great spot up in the foothills on the western side of the valley that was just spectacular, and that was where I took Daniel that night after Thanksgiving. We'd ended up spending most of the day at Joe and Elijah's, and then we had dinner at his place. I'd gotten to meet his grandparents, who seemed like decent folk although they seemed unnerved by the remoteness of their daughter's new home.
They came from a town in California that they felt was fairly small, but when compared to this place, it was actually quite big. I could see it in their eyes; the same look as many people who came to town to visit their relatives here, that they just couldn't quite accept how different life here was than what they were used to back home. Seeing that look in their eyes made me re-think my earlier thoughts about actually leaving the valley with Daniel at the end of the year.
'It's beautiful up here.' Daniel said as we sat on the still-warm hood of my Jeep and looked out over the valley. The hill we were on had a wonderful view. Off to the far left, you could see the lights of town reflected off of the low-level clouds. Everywhere else you could see the blanket of snow on the ground reflecting the light of the full moon, broken here and there by the lights of a house. Many of those houses had a plume of smoke coming out of a chimney, and you could see a layer of the smoke floating above the valley, just below the layer of clouds. On cold winter nights like this, there wasn't even the sound of insects or birds to disturb the quiet night air.
'I love it here.' I admitted wistfully as he snuggled up closer to me. We were both wearing heavy winter jackets and jeans with long-johns under them, but we snuggled up to each other for more than warmth, our arms crossed behind each other's backs. It felt good to lean against him, and have him leaning against me.
'I can love a place that produced you.' Daniel gushed and I almost ruined the moment by laughing at his cheesiness. It was only the hint in his tone that told me he meant every word that kept me from actually laughing aloud. Every time we released a breath, a mist would form in front of us, momentarily obscuring our view of the valley below us.
'Just thinking about leaving it is hard.' I admitted with a little hitch in my throat. Daniel stiffened against me for a moment, but relaxed as he took a deep breath and looked at me with tear-filled eyes.
'You meant what you said earlier, about talking about college?' He asked me with a hitch in his own throat.
'I don't know.' I said softly, looking away from his eyes and back across the valley. 'This is my home, I never expected to think about leaving it like this.'
'You don't have to leave it forever.' Danny whispered, bringing his free arm around to grab the front of my coat and his words dragged my eyes back to his. There was a very small smile on his face and I wanted to kiss those lips.
'Do you think we'll be any better received than Joe and Elijah?' I asked him heavily and he leaned forward to kiss my lips before responding.
'Yeah, they had a rough night, but your grandfather and my father were there today, giving them a hand.' Daniel reminded me. 'Do you really think they'd do any less for us?'
'You saw how the Sheriff responded.' I pointed out sourly. 'And you know it was probably my own father who was one of the men who did that crap.'
'I know.' Daniel said with a shrug. 'Even if one of us was a girl, you know we'd still have problems, right? Someone in town would always dislike us. Hell you've beaten up enough people in school that half of them will carry a grudge against you for the rest of their lives.'
'How nice of you to say that.' I muttered with a hint of anger and his laughter died on his lips before I smiled.
'You bastard.' He growled, leaning in for another kiss. Once again I found myself wondering how I could ever kiss a woman again after this. Always before there'd been something missing when I kissed someone, even Jake, but this - this was what I wanted, what I craved for the rest of my life, but was too chicken-shit to just reach out and grab it despite my words from earlier today.
'My father may be an asshole, but Mom and Dad were very married when I was born, thank you very much.' I retorted and he laughed before he grew serious again.
'Sorry.' Danny giggled softly and I chuckled myself. My dad always said I sounded like a mule when I laughed, but it wasn't so bad when I just chuckled. The thought of my father was like a wet blanket over my mood, and I shifted slightly on the hood, and Daniel got a worried look on his face when he saw my expression. The moon was just too bright tonight to hide it from him.
'You're thinking about your father.' Daniel said softly, almost sadly.
'How can you tell?' I asked him.
'You always get this look on your face when you think about him, as if you're thinking you're not good enough or something.' He answered softly and I felt tears starting to form in my eyes.
'Yeah, well it's how I feel when I think of him.' I said quietly, looking away from the sympathy in his eyes. 'I've always known I could never measure up to what he wanted me to be, so I just did whatever.'
'I know.' Daniel said quietly, putting a hand on mine and squeezing it gently. 'I think you've always tried to make him happy but nothing seemed to work, did it?'
'Have you been talking to my mother?' I asked him sharply and he shook his head gently.
'No, but I was the same way with my father for a long time.' He answered. 'One day, my mom sat me down and we talked. She told me I had to learn to be my own man, to grow into the person I want to be instead of the person he wanted me to become.'
'I think my mom tried to have that talk with me last night.' I said with a sigh.
'Really?' He asked with a tilt of his head.
'Yeah.' I said and began to tell him about my conversation with my mother.
'She's a smart woman.' Daniel said softly.
'Yeah, she is, and I don't think I ever realized just how smart she is.' I told him.
'Have you ever asked your parents how they met?' Daniel asked softly after we'd been silent for a while. It was getting cold, even the engine below us was cold now since I'd turned it off, but I didn't want to be anywhere else at that moment.
'No.' I answered after thinking about his question for a long time. 'I've heard about it from them talking at times, and from my grandparents, and from people around town.'
'I asked my parents how they met.' Daniel said. 'I don't know, maybe it's how everyone in this place seems to know everyone else's family history, but I realized I really didn't know much about my parents before I was born. You know, it's kind of like it was hard imagining they had a life before I came along.'
'Yeah, I know what you mean.' I answered with a gruff chuckle.
'Hearing about Joe and how he got ran out of town really made me start thinking about that.' Daniel said softly. 'I didn't know my dad was ever in the circus.'
'He was what?' I exclaimed in surprise.
'He was in the circus when they met, traveling from town to town.' Daniel said with a little laugh and a smile on his face. His eyes twinkled in the moonlight. 'He met my mother when she came to the circus with this guy she was dating from high school. A week later the circus moved on and he stayed behind. It was funny, he stayed behind and he'd never even talked to her, only saw her at the circus.'
'That's kind of creepy when you think about it.' I said in shock.
'Yeah, my dad the stalker.' Daniel laughed. 'He found out that she went to a church in the area and started going to services. He'd gotten a job in town working at a cannery. Time went by, weeks and then months, and he says that was when he found out he wanted to be a preacher. Mom's parents weren't too keen on him when he first asked her out. That was after she'd graduated, the summer before she went to college.'
'That's weird.' I said softly and he chuckled again.
'What's really weird is that when he decided he wanted to be a preacher, he stopped asking her out for a while.' Daniel continued. 'She went off to college and he eventually went to seminary school. They met again when they both came back to town for summer break, and it was mom who asked him out this time. They got married a year later.'
'Wow.' I said softly.
'Yeah, big wow.' Danny said with a shake of his head. 'You know, I never knew anything about that, and if we'd never moved here I don't know if I would have ever wondered about it until it was too late. It's funny, but this place just seems to make me want to know more about my family, where I came from and all that. I grew up in places that I didn't think were all that big at first, but now they seem like big cities. Eddie, I do like it here, but the best think about it is that you're here.'
'I...it's a better place now that you're here.' I stammered, trying to find the right words. He hugged me closer and I knew it was the right thing to say.
'I could spend the rest of my life here if it's what you want.' Danny said quietly, and there were tears in his eyes again. 'I love you Eddie Hathaway.'
'I love you too.' I said after taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. 'Until I met you, I never thought I'd be interested in seeing the world outside this valley. It's been my home all my life and I couldn't imagine anyplace better to live. Now though, I don't think I could be happy if you weren't here with me.'
'I told my dad I wasn't going to the Naval Academy yesterday.' Danny said softly. 'I think he's figured out why, too. That's kind of why he made the point of going to Joe's place when he heard about what happened. He was making a point to me.'
'What's that?' I asked with a little confusion.
'He was trying to let me know that no matter what course I take in life he'll always love me.' Danny said softly. 'Dad doesn't approve. You heard what he told Elijah. He thinks I'll burn in hell for loving you.'
'Don't you think that too?' I asked him.
'I don't know what to think.' Danny said softly. 'What I feel for you, I have a hard time believing that Jesus would throw me in the pit of fire for feeling. At least I don't have to worry about dad throwing me out of the house or cutting me off from the rest of the family.'
'What are you going to do about college?' I asked him. 'Isn't it kind of late to apply at another college?'
'I applied to more than the Naval Academy.' Danny snorted. 'I'm accepted at three schools, including UNLV.'
'Las Vegas?' I snorted. 'Your father probably isn't happy about you being in the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.'
'He'll live.' Danny snorted. 'At least it's closer to home so he can see more of me.'
'What about flying?' I asked. 'Hasn't that always been a dream of yours?'
'I'm not willing to deny what I feel for you in order to fly.' Danny said quickly and in a voice full of contempt. I realized the contempt was directed at the military, not me. 'There's a great flight school in Vegas. Your grandfather mentioned one time that there was once a crop-duster in the area but ever since he retired they have to hire guys from Tonopah to do the dusting. I figured maybe I'd go to college, get a degree, and learn to fly at the same time. During the year I could dust the fields here and maybe get a job as a teacher or something like that if you wanted to stay here.'
'Everyone will know about us, you know.' I said softly. 'Do you think they'll hire a gay guy as a teacher here?'
'We'll never know if we don't try.' Danny said softly. 'I just know I want to live my life with you, whether it's here or elsewhere.'
'I want to go with you, to school.' I said after a long moment of silence and his hand squeezed mine gently.
'Are you sure about this?' Danny asked. 'There are several community colleges in Las Vegas.'
'Yeah, I'm sure.' I said with a heavy sigh. 'I'm scared, though.'
'So am I.' Danny said softly and we settled against each other to look out over the valley. It was so peaceful, so lovely. How could I ever leave this place? Despite Danny's words, I knew deep down that if I ever left here, I'd leave and never really come back except to visit my grandparents, my mother, and maybe my brother. No matter what he said, I doubted we could ever live here together, openly, as a couple.
'What's that?' Danny asked, pointing to a bright light in the valley below us.
'Oh God no!' I exclaimed jumping off the hood of the jeep.
'What is it?' Danny asked. 'It looks like a fire.'
'That's Joe's place, and it is on fire.' I said in horror and he froze, looking at me as he realized what I was saying.
'How can you be sure?' Danny asked.
'Look at those lights.' I said pointing down at the valley. 'That's the Grumman place. The ones to the north and east of them are from the Stenton-Johnson houses. That little cluster just east of them are the mobile homes for the ranch hands. I know every house down there and I know that's Joe's place.'
'We better get down there.' Danny said softly
'It'll all be over by the time we arrive.' I said. 'If we can see it that bright from here, it's totally engulfed by now.'
'Are those fire trucks?' Danny asked as he pointed at flashing red and blue lights heading towards the blaze that was feeding on Joe's family home.
'Yes.' I said through gritted teeth.
'Let's get down there.' Danny said. 'Maybe they made it out.'
'I hope so.' I said as I fumbled for the keys to the Jeep. Less than a minute later, the jeep was roaring down the gravel road back towards the valley at the fastest speed I felt was safe.
By the time we made it down the hill, the fire had shrunk to about half the size it had been when we first saw it while sitting on the hood of the Jeep. We had to park where the driveway met the public road, about a quarter mile from the house itself. The driveway was packed with cars as well as both of the fire trucks from the volunteer fire crew. The volunteer fire department was made up mostly of younger farmers in the area and had two trucks kept in the valley itself. Most of the extra cars were firefighters that had gotten the call too late to make it to the ��station' and had joined the trucks here.
The main house itself was totally consumed by the fire and had already partially collapsed. One look was all that was needed to know it was a total loss. The firefighters had focused on keeping the fire from the house's nearby propane tank, and from the barn and two small sheds that were on the property. Grandpa's truck was parked in the driveway, I noticed as Daniel and I passed it on the way towards the house.
'They're both okay.' Daniel breathed a sigh of relief as we got closer to the fire trucks and saw Joe and Elijah, wrapped in blankets and being comforted by Grandma and Grandpa. Elijah was openly crying while Joe had tears in his eyes and a look of anger on his face as we approached them.
'I was hoping you'd get here soon.' Grandpa said gruffly as we stopped in front of the four adults.
'We came as soon as we saw the flames.' Daniel said softly. 'I'm glad to see that you're both alright.'
'We're alive, not alright.' Joe said through gritted teeth. 'Those bastards parked down the road and snuck up on the house. We didn't even hear them until the flames started. They waited at least an hour from when we turned the lights off to go to bed.
'Did you see who it was?' I asked softly and Joe gave me a very direct look.
'We were more interested in trying to get out alive than seeing who did it.' He snapped angrily, but then took a deep breath. 'Stupid me didn't lock the door and they came inside and lit the fire both inside and out. We couldn't get down the stairs.'
'We had to climb out the window and drop down.' Elijah said with a sob. That was when I noticed he was clutching a photo album. 'I don't know why I brought this to the room tonight, but if I hadn't, we'd have lost every last picture we have of our boy. Those bastards!'
'We could smell the gasoline they used to make sure it burned.' Joe said in a calmer voice as he looked at the still burning house with the flames reflecting ruddy light off his face and making the tears in his eyes gleam.
'Joe, the two of you need to get some rest.' Grandpa said sternly, overriding their startled protests with a shake of his head. 'There's nothing you can do here right now except be reminded of what you lost. Eddie, you take them home, along with your grandmother. Help her get them set up in the guest bedroom. They're going to stay with us until we get this mess all sorted out. My trucks blocked in by some of the firefighters and they've got more important things on their minds than moving their vehicles for me.'
'Yes, sir.' I said with a look at Daniel.
'Don't worry, the preacher's probably on his way.' Grandpa said as he saw my look. 'He can take his son home later.'
'Don, we can't...' Joe started to protest.
'Joe, you should know better than to argue with him, especially when he's right.' Grandma said with a smile as she helped Elijah stand up. I noticed she was dressed in her nightgown with a robe thrown on hastily and was still wearing her slippers. Both men had hastily donned tennis shoes before they jumped out, but were dressed in what looked like pajama bottoms and sweaters - Joe's was inside out, even. They smelled like smoke, I noticed as we moved down the driveway, and had soot stains on their clothes. Thinking of how they could have been killed made me shudder in the crisp night air.
'I told you this was a bad idea, moving out here.' Elijah murmured to Joe as they climbed into my Jeep, with both of them insisting Grandma sit in front.
'Not now, love.' Joe said softly, and both men looked back at the house as I pulled away, heading to Grandma's. Nothing else was said as I drove carefully back home, shaking my head as the Sheriff drove past with just his regular night-time lights illuminating his way. A bitter voice in my head expressed surprise that he'd even bothered to show up before tomorrow.
'Don't Eddie.' Grandma said as I pulled into the driveway and saw my mother's car in the driveway and the house lights already turned on. She must have seen the look of anger on my face and she obviously knew the direction my head had jerked, pointing towards the home I'd grown up in with my parents. It was very obvious who had a hand in all this.
'You don't have to do this.' Joe said as we got out of the Jeep. 'We could get a room in town. I'm sure that...'
'Don't argue, Joe.' Grandma said as Mom opened the front door. 'I won't have you in a motel room when there's a perfectly good room right here.'
'Aren't you worried that whoever did this will focus on you next?' Elijah asked quietly.
'They'll die if they try.' I fumed as I flexed my hands. Joe looked at me with a weird look before shaking his head.
'Violence isn't the answer, Eddie.' He said softly.
'Oh thank the Lord you both are okay!' Mom said as she opened the door for us. She gave Joe a hard, quick hug before doing the same to Elijah. 'I figured Dad would send you two over here as soon as he could, so I came over as soon as I heard and started a pot of hot chocolate and got some clothes out for you.'
'Thank you, dear.' Grandma said with a slight smile. 'Joe, you get those things off and use the shower in our room. Elijah, you can use the main bathroom. If you want, I'll take that album and put it in a safe place.'
'I...thank you.' Elijah started to protest, holding the book tight to his chest before relaxing a bit and handing it over.
'Here, let me show you where everything is located.' Grandma said as she took his arm while also taking the album from him. Mom followed them leaving the entryway with sad eyes that got slightly afraid when she saw the look on my face.
'Where is he, Mother.' I growled with my fists balled up tight.
'He...he was at home all night, Eddie.' She stammered slightly with a look of fear. 'I know what you're thinking, but he was at home.'
'Are you sure about that?' I asked with a tight feeling in my chest and narrowed eyes.
'Don't you think I'd know if he wasn't, Eddie?' She asked me sharply.
'Sorry, it's just...' I said but lost track of what I was going to say as she hugged me closely.
'I know.' She said softly. 'You don't know how it makes me feel, for this to have happened. Is the house gone?'
'Pretty much.' I answered.
'What a shame.' Mom said softly. 'I'll get their drinks ready.' as I turned toward the hallway.
'Yeah.' I said. 'I'll make the bed in the guest room.'
'That's a good idea, dear.' Mom said as I left the room.
So, Dad had been home and not involved? Then who had done it?
By the time I was done fixing up the guest bed, both Joe and Elijah were in the living room, sipping on hot chocolate and talking quietly to Mom. Both men were still in shock, and I was not surprised to see Mom handing them each a sleeping pill. Mom gave me a mug of hot chocolate as well when I sat down, and I listened to them as they continued to talk.
'I should have never come back here.' Joe said softly.
'You couldn't have known this would happen, Joe.' Mom said softly. There were tears in her eyes too.
'No, I knew deep down something like this would happen.' Joe contradicted her as he took another sip of hot chocolate. 'I just thought...'
'You wanted me to see the place you grew up.' Elijah said softly. 'It really is as beautiful as you always described. It's just some of the people aren't much different than you knew as a teenager. There's others though that aren't all that bad.'
'I can't believe you're defending them!' Joe muttered and Elijah shook his head.
'I'm not, it's just that some folk, like the preacher aren't bad at all.' Elijah countered as the sound of several vehicles pulling into the driveway came from outside.
'Eddie, go see who that is.' Mom directed and I nodded before standing up and heading to the front door. When I opened it, I saw Grandpa getting out of his truck, as well as the Sheriff getting out of his car. The Sheriff was doing his best to not look at Grandpa as he walked up towards the door. Grandpa just nodded at me and put a hand on my shoulder before walking by me and heading into the house without saying a word. I wasn't sure what to do as the Sheriff stopped in front of the doorway and gave me an appraising look.
'I need to speak to Reynolds and his...uh...friend.' The Sheriff said in a gruff voice as his eyes met mine. I couldn't tell what was going on behind them, but wondered why Grandpa hadn't already invited him.
'Grandpa...' I started to say but he shook his head and I fell silent.
'Your grandfather and I are having a bit of a disagreement at the moment.' The Sheriff said in that same gruff voice. 'I'd appreciate it if you'd ask the two...men to come out here.'
'It's cold out here.' I said quietly. There were footsteps behind me and I turned to see my mother coming towards the door.
'Eddie, Dad is in his office.' Mom said softly. 'Why don't you invite the Sheriff inside where it's warm.'
'Please come in, Sheriff.' I said as I stood aside and the man walked past me, following Mom into the living room.
'Where's Mark?' The Sheriff asked Mom as we entered the living room. Mom stiffened at the question and turned to face the Sheriff.
'He's at home, drunk, where he's been all night.' Mom said sourly and the Sheriff grunted. When we entered the living room, Joe and Elijah both gave the Sheriff a hard look, and he shuffled his feet nervously as he held his hat in his hand and looked at the two men.
'I'm sorry for what you've been through tonight.' The Sheriff said weakly. 'I...I won't lie to you. I don't like you. I think your lifestyle is perverted, sick. That doesn't mean anyone has the right to burn down your home like that. You could have been killed.'
'They made a damn good effort of trying to make sure we couldn't get out.' Joe growled.
'What do you mean?' The Sheriff asked as he set his hat down on a side table and pulled out a notebook. Joe gave him a stony gaze before telling of how whoever had done this had set a fire inside to trap them. The Sheriff grunted as he listened and scribbled notes. When Joe was done, he shook his head slightly. 'We don't have the resources to do an investigation like this needs.'
'What do you mean?' Joe asked sharply.
'This looks like attempted murder.' The Sheriff said. 'We occasionally have a bar fight or domestic dispute that comes close to murder, but never something like this. I don't have anyone trained in investigating this the way it should be done. In the morning, I'll call the State Police; they can send someone out, and a real fire investigator to look at your place. I've told the local fire guys to not disturb anything already and I'll have a deputy at the house until the state guys arrive.'
'You're serious?' Elijah said with a raised eyebrow. 'Yesterday you weren't...'
'I was wrong.' The Sheriff snapped quickly through gritted teeth. 'What happened the first time looked like a harmless prank, like when Eddie here and a few of his buddies put toothpaste under the door handles of my deputy's car last Halloween. We just had them wash all the squad cars as punishment. We didn't even arrest them or anything like that. I thought this was just another event like that, or like when the kids egg the High School Coach's house every damn year. I never imagined they'd do something like this and I can't trust that I or my deputies can fairly investigate this, so I'm going to get outside help.'
'Why?' Joe asked. 'You just said you don't like us.'
'I don't have to like you.' The Sheriff responded angrily. 'What I do have to do is uphold the law, and that includes protecting you from attacks like this. It ain't right what happened to your house, or to you and I want whoever is responsible to be punished. That's my job.'
'Why are you and grandpa arguing then?' I asked softly and got an exasperated sigh from the man.
'He wants me to go arrest your father, or at least bring him in for questioning.' The Sheriff said with a sideways glance at Mom who had a worried look on her face. 'He believes your father had something to do with it, even if he was at home.'
'Oh.' I said with a look of sympathy at my mother. She was nearly shaking.
'Eddie, why don't you head to bed?' Mom said softly. 'I think the Sheriff needs to talk to Joe and Elijah without extra eyes and ears around.'
'That would be a good idea.' The Sheriff agreed and I knew better than to protest. It made me mad that I was being dismissed like a little child, but I also knew it would be pointless to argue. Instead of going to bed, though, I went to grandpa's office. After knocking, I entered to find him with a bottle of whiskey on his cluttered desk and a sour look on his face.
'They finally kick you out?' He grunted and I nodded. 'Well, sit down then. You want a drink?'
'Yeah.' I said with a little surprise as he pulled out a second tumbler and poured a healthy amount of whiskey for me.
'You're all but an adult now.' Grandpa grunted as he poured some more into a glass for himself. He raised the glass to me before tossing it back. When I did the same, it was a struggle not to cough as the whiskey burned down my throat.
'Why do you think dad had anything to do with this?' I asked my grandfather who looked at me with sad eyes before shaking his head.
'Do you doubt he was involved in some way?' Grandpa asked me and I sat back in my chair as the whiskey in my stomach roiled slightly. He poured me another shot and I gulped it down quickly, gladly feeling the rush of numbness as it hit my brain.
'Probably he was.' I admitted after several long minutes of silence.
'When those two were boys, if you'd told me this was how they'd be as adults, I'd have laughed in your face.' Grandpa grunted sourly, staring off at something on the wall behind me. 'They were two peas in a pod growing up. There was a time I thought neither boy would wind up with a girl because a girl would have come between them. When your mom set her sights on your father, I tried to get her to look somewhere else. I didn't want her caught between them.'
'Is that why Dad reacted so bad when Joe got caught with that field hand?' I asked him bluntly, far more bluntly than I would have if I hadn't had two shots of whiskey. He didn't answer right away, but instead poured another shot for both of us. At this rate, the bottle would be empty soon.
'I think that's part of it.' Grandpa said as he gulped down the shot. I followed his example and this time the whiskey barely burned as it went down. I was feeling warmer now. 'For a long time, I guessed what those two boys might be up to with each other. It's not unheard of you know, as much as we might like to pretend it doesn't happen. Boys will be boys and they'll mess around with each other until a girl comes along, most of the time. You could see it was different for Joe though, whenever he looked at your father. There were times I thought I saw a return of that look in Mark's eyes too. Turns out though, there was nothing physical going on between them.'
'How do you know that?' I asked in surprise.
'Joe told me.' Grandpa said softly. 'We had a talk about a week ago and he told me everything.'
'What happened?' I asked softly, praying he wouldn't clam up. He was silent for a long time, but he finally shook his head, poured a shot just for himself and gulped it down before answering.
'It won't surprise you to hear that Joe was in love with your father.' Grandpa said softly and I nodded.
'We figured that.' I stated and he frowned at me.
'You and Daniel?' He asked and I nodded while he grunted again.
'After Joe got caught, your father and he had a talk.' Grandpa said. 'It started out bad and ended worse. Your father was upset, and asked Joe why he did it. That's when Joe told him he was a homosexual. According to Joe, your father snorted and said something about ��big surprise there'. Then your father asked Joe why he'd done it with a field hand when your father wouldn't have said no. Joe says your father admitted to loving Joe, and wanted the two of them to carry on an affair with each other while they got married. ��Best of both worlds', your father called it, but he blamed Joe for ruining it. After getting caught, no one would believe that Joe was straight anymore. That's what got your father all upset. He'd had plans for the two of them and Joe ruined it.'
'How could Joe have known if Dad didn't tell him?' I snorted in disbelief at what I was hearing.
'Joe said the same thing to him back then and got slugged for his trouble.' Grandpa snorted again and looked at the bottle with bleary eyes. 'Aw, no more of that. I shouldn't have told you all this anyway. One more thing though: what really pissed your father off is that Joe told him that he'd have never gone along with it even if he'd known Mark's plans. Joe wouldn't live a lie, he said to your father, but if your father wanted to live one for the rest of his life, Joe wouldn't stop him.'
'Oh.' I said as the implications of that swam through me. Part of me felt lost at those words, wondering if my whole life had been a lie, but I knew better in the end. My father's lies had nothing to do with me. He'd already done enough damage to my life, I wouldn't let him do more now.
'Eddie, you need to hear this again from me, I think.' Grandpa said as his eyes lost a little of their blurriness and meet mine. It was like he was boring into my soul. 'Don't ruin your life trying to live a lie like your father did. I'm sure in some way he loves my daughter, your mother, and yes, he loves you kids too, but he's been living a lie all these years. You're smart enough, you know how much of how he is now is because of this lie. Don't fall into the same trap.'
'I won't.' I assured him softly as tears filled my eyes. He grunted one last time.
'Good, now get to bed and don't you dare let your grandmother or mother smell alcohol on your breath.'
'I won't and thanks.' I said before getting up and heading out of the room. My head swam with everything I'd just heard as well as the alcohol I'd consumed. It was a surprise that when my head hit the pillow, I fell right to sleep.