If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar,
it is purely coincidental.
Life at university has a few ups and downs, and then the best up possible.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long to figure out university wasn’t like high school. Our study schedule quickly became just a tad hectic, not overbearing, but hectic. And skipping classes … nope, not on the agenda, not even the 8:00AM ones. Of course Sundays would always be our days off, our time to hang out with the guys and relax or whatever.
Since Michael was also at the U of A, we got to see him quite often, usually for lunch in one café or another in Hub. Then one Sunday morning, he came over to our place looking like he’d been to hell and back. He’d obviously had no sleep and had been crying. He wanted to talk to Dad. Apparently he’d spent the night in the hospital with Robbie.
He told Dad that his dad had seen Jamie and Nick kissing at the park, and had forbidden Robbie to see that ‘disgusting pervert’ ever again because he wasn’t gonna stand for another son of his being turned into a goddamned faggot. Well that didn’t go over well with Robbie as he had no intention of dumping his best friend.
After their dad had seen him with Jamie, and had raised unholy hell a couple of times, the third time he grabbed Robbie by the throat as he came in the back door. In an unthinking self-defence move, Robbie yanked his dad’s hand away from his throat and pushed him. Their dad flew into a rage about how dare he challenge his authority and punched Robbie in the face. Then when it appeared he was going to grab Robbie by the throat again, Robbie instinctively tried to protect himself. Their dad totally lost it and beat the shit out of him, as all Robbie could do was to continue to try to protect himself. His mom called the police, and when they got there they called the EMT’s who took Robbie to the nearest hospital. Their dad was arrested and social services were called.
Obviously Michael was in a total panic because he didn’t know what to do. All he could think of was that he’d already lost JJ and now he was going to lose Robbie too, and he couldn’t deal with that. Dad and Mom talked to him for a good hour and then called social services, A social worker agreed to meet with them at the hospital, and within minutes we were on our way over there.
While Dad, Mom, and Michael met with the social worker, JJ and I went to see Robbie. He looked like he’d been hit by a truck. His eyes were both black and almost swollen shut, and almost every inch of his face was bruised. He didn’t even know we were in the room till JJ spoke to him. A few hugs and several tears later, we told him Dad and Mom and Michael were talking to a social worker, and we kinda hoped he might be able to come and live with us. That got even more tears.
To make a long story short though, by the end of the day, Dad and Mom had a new foster child. And since their dad was out on bail and would be home at least until his trial, Michael couldn’t, or I should say wouldn’t, go back home, so Mom and Dad invited him to stay with us too.
Robbie was in hospital for two more days before he was released. During that time social services moved all his stuff to our place, and Michael moved all his stuff in too. Also during those days Robbie spent a lot of time talking to a counsellor, as well as to us, to Michael, and of course to Amy. He did seem to be coming to terms with everything, or maybe as close to coming to terms with it as he would get. It took a lot of talking and time to make Jamie stop blaming himself for what happened too. He did finally seem to accept that it was because of one man’s unreasonable, hateful, bigotry, and in no way, shape, or form, his fault.
When Robbie was released, he was feeling much better, but still looked like a walking bruise. After a full week of rest, he was allowed to go back to school. It would be a few weeks before he almost looked like his old self again. He had loads of guys visiting every day after school, both before and after he got out of hospital, and before and after he went back to school. He especially saw a whole lot of Amy, and of course Jamie and Nick.
So anyway, I now had two new brothers. For JJ they weren’t particularly new, and despite the circumstances, he was thrilled to be living with his brothers once again. And the feeling was mutual. Since as I said before, we did have a three bedroom house, so they each got their own room. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, after a reasonably long glance at each other, and then at the two of us, Mom and Dad had decided okay, my room could be ‘our’ room. And being the hospitable couple we are, JJ and I did give them full access to ‘our’ basement rec room, TV, Xbox, Nintendo, and even ‘our’ pool table. We even shared our snacks too … well most of the time.
Of course university quickly became the controlling factor in our lives again. JJ and I now had a new travelling partner back and forth to the campus, Michael. I should also say he proved quite useful, to JJ at least. He was in his third year of the same program JJ was in, so when JJ had any questions, Michael was right there to answer them. I think Robbie quite appreciated having two more guys … that would be JJ and me … to bounce questions off concerning his high school courses too. And that didn’t seem to hurt his grade point average at all.
The hardest thing we had to deal with was their dad’s court case. Actually the hardest thing Robbie had to deal with. I’m not sure why, but something that should have taken two hours took two weeks. I guess we don’t have to wonder why our court system is so bogged down, but then again lawyers need to make a living, right?
In the end, he was sentenced to two years, for aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, assaulting a minor, and child endangerment. Oh and three counts of contempt of court for going on a rant three times about how all fags and fag enablers are an abomination in god’s eyes and should be put to death. At one point the judge warned him that if he didn’t stop making death threats, he would up his charge from assault to attempted murder. He shut up.
Needless to say Robbie needed a lot of support during those days as no kid should ever have to go through something like that. Also needless to say, along with Amy, we were there for him every minute. Thankfully, although slowly, life did seem to be returning to normal after a while. Still, Robbie quite regularly needed a good cuddle and a shoulder to cry on.
Oh and if you’re wondering about their mother, she refused to have anything to do with them until they sought the prayer necessary to have Satan’s demons cast out. Since that was never gonna happen, they would no longer be her children since they were now condemned to an eternity in hell. As Michael put it to her, at least they’d be warm. I think people could have heard her screeching rebuke halfway across town, and needless to say, those were their last words to each other.
But moving right along, whether in good times or bad times, Sundays remained our day of rest. Even if we had to work half the night on Saturday to get our assignments finished, we were not about to give that up. Just having everyone together talking, laughing, enjoying some good old healthy burgers and fries, hitting the local pool or the waterpark, or the skateboard park, or now the local ski hill, or just enjoying whatever came to mind, kept us all going.
University and school and studying kept us seriously occupied. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t anywhere near as much fun. But there were those much loved holidays, and one of the big ones was Christmas. Oh yeah, and I guess Hanukkah for Cale. Hanukkah would be December 12th through December 20th, but he wasn’t proud and since we celebrate Christmas from October 25th through to December 26th, and were off from December 22nd through to January 8th, he figured it all worked out just fine.
Of course Christmas meant presents, and presents meant shopping, and shopping meant spending money, and none of us had much money, so names in a hat, pick a name, buy a, like as in one, present. I won’t give you the whole who got who list, just the important ones. I got Robbie and JJ got me. There, that’s it.
Now I know you’re all thinking, what would be a better gift for Robbie than a little white speedo, right? Okay, so if I was the only one thinking that, then that was it for swimming. Then there was skateboarding but a board was too expensive, and skiing, but skis were too expensive. Then there were clothes, but buying someone else clothes is nearly always a mistake. A video game? No we already had all the good ones. So what then?
Then it occurred to me. Although he’d never been allowed to wear any when he was with his folks, Robbie loved jewellery, especially pendants and bracelets. After he moved in with us, he generally had two or three pendants around his neck and two or three bracelets on each wrist, and let’s just say my jewellery case became our jewellery case.
So the search was on. I think I searched every jewellery store in the city. Then as I was walking past a mall kiosk, I saw it. It had the coolest linked chain with like triple black links alternating with a double silver links and an inch and a half plate you could have engraved. It was perfect. So I bought it and asked to have it engraved.
On Christmas eve the gang got together at Nick’s since it was his mom’s job to feed us this year. We were sitting in a circle on their basement floor with all our food in front of us when it came time to exchange gifts. Everyone handed the gift they bought to the person they bought it for … like obviously.
We started with Nick and worked our way around the circle. When it was Robbie’s turn, he looked at me kinda nervously before he tore open the box. And sure enough, there it was, a tiny white speedo. Everyone was still roaring with laughter when he realized there was something wrapped up in the speedo. He quickly dug it out and with tears in his eyes, gave me a hug and then held it up for everyone to see, cause there, in big bold letters, were the words “BROTHERS FOREVER.”
Then it was my turn, and judging from the grin on JJ’s face, it was either totally sweet, or totally a white speedo gift. Oh, and by the way, Robbie did give him his white speedo back. Upon careful observation I decided it wasn’t a speedo cause the box was too small, well maybe. I opened it, looked inside and yes there was a tear, maybe two. Inside were matching rings, each with a tiny rainbow heart on it. He immediately took the bigger one and slipped it on my finger. Then he held out his hand for me to put the smaller one on his finger. That was of course followed by a nice long kiss and some ewws and ahhs from the guys.
And I think that kiosk did fairly well as three of the guys, including Jamie and Nick, got pendants and both Michael and JJ got bracelets. Michaels was a totally cool linked chain similar to Robbie’s but with no engraving plate and JJ’s was a braided leather one that wrapped around his wrist about five times. There were thankyous, a couple of hugs, but no kisses. And I must say, as per usual, it was a pretty awesome night.
Then it was Christmas morning. Michael and Robbie were quick to mention they were quite pleased there would be no three hour long church service before breakfast. And yes, our parents actually bought us gifts. And yes, gift opening came before breakfast. So an hour around the tree, half an hour cleaning up wrapping paper that had somehow even made it into the kitchen, and everyone was playing with something or trying something on as Mom and Dad prepared breakfast … which as it turned out was coffee and a bowl of cereal.
Then of course, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins showed up as the house became full of the smell of turkey roasting in the oven … oh and one uncle’s god-awful cologne. Mom made him wash it off. And yes, it was a totally new experience for JJ, Matthew, and Robbie. We had people ranging in age from three to seventy three and it was loud, it was lively, and it was fun.
Of course we can’t leave out New Year’s Eve. And being the good quiet, well behaved boys we are, we made our way to the local sixteen-plus New Year’s party. Well actually we chose that one because Robbie and his friends would have been left out otherwise, and we couldn’t have that now could we?
There was another bonus to that choice too. It was three blocks from the downtown fireworks display, which other than nearly making us deaf and blind, was unbelievable.
Then classes started again and it turned out to be a great semester, and no it wasn’t because we enjoyed studying. It was because there was no unneeded excitement or trauma for the whole semester. It was four months of nice normal regular everyday living. And yes the snow eventually melted, the outdoor pools opened, the skateboard park dried off, and it was the start of summer break. Unfortunately, now that we, well Michael, JJ, and I, were responsible adults, that meant finding a summer job.
Since contributing to the North American obesity epidemic wasn’t on our list of things to do, fast food joints were out of the question. Michael was the first to find a job. He would be loading and unloading books as well as organizing and shelving books at the downtown library. Next was JJ. He’d be working at the seniors rec centre enjoying things like lawn bowling and croquet. Of course they instantly fell in love with him, and he was soon enjoying far too much grannies’ baking that would put any baker or pastry chef to shame. It took me a bit longer to find something. I guess maybe I just wasn’t cute enough. I mean I’m not exactly tiny, cute, and sexy and I’m not a hot studly ginger either, so you know how it is.
I did finally find something though. Thanks to my first aid certificate and athletic skills, I got a job as a supervisor at the skateboard park. I know life’s tough but you gotta do what you gotta do. Of course my first aid skill came in handy the second day when two kids decided to meet at full speed in mid-air coming off a jump. Thankfully we had no broken bones, no fractured skulls, just some gnarly scrapes and bruises. We also had two much wiser and more observant skaters.
And yes I mentioned fractured skulls because you do realize wearing a helmet when you’re flying through the air above a concrete surface just isn’t cool. That doesn’t mean parents didn’t buy their kids helmets. It just means there was a nice row of helmets along the edge of the park for people to trip over. And no there wasn’t any rule about wearing one. If there had been I would have spent my whole day chasing kids around with their helmets in my hand, instead of, you know, skating around the park making sure there were no dead bodies at the bottom of any of the jumps. Of course Robbie, Jamie, Nick, and yes Amy were there every other day, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but Amy could outskate most of the guys at the park.
And yes Sundays were still ours. Our days for the crew to get together and just be us, and since it was turning out to be a hot dry summer, we spent a lot of hours at the pool. We also all made sure the last week before classes started was ours too. It was going to be a camping trip to Jasper, and yes there would be hiking and climbing … uphill. Jasper has amazing backcountry trails, plus Malign Lake, Malign canyon, Athabasca Falls, the Jasper Sky Tram, Miette hot springs, and you name it. We’d be camping at the far end of Snaring Campsite and it would be just us, ten guys, five tents, and five spots, oh and a few mosquitos. Did I say ten guys, well it was nine guys and one girl. Yes, Amy’s folks actually let her come with us. And just so you know, she kept up with us every step of the way. Of course we needed another two weeks off to recover from our week off, but that wasn’t happening. Monday morning were back in class.
Classes and studies carried on day after day. Not to say it wasn’t interesting, or that nothing interesting or fun happened, but every day was, you know, just a normal day. Then about towards the end of November, when JJ and I were just relaxing after a hard couple of hours of studying I noticed he was unusually quiet.
“You okay?” I finally asked after about a half hour.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied.
I didn’t really believe him but I wasn’t going to push it. Then after almost another half hour he turned to me and there was a tear in his eye. I immediately pulled him into me and hugged him close.
He wiggled in nice and tight and in a very quiet little voice he asked, “Jax, will you marry me?”
Now I thought there was something wrong or something bothering him. This was not on my list of things to expect.
“What?” I asked.
With that he pulled back and literally bounced into the air landing on top of me. He wiggled around till he was sitting on my chest, locked eyes with me and repeated his question.
“Jax, will you marry me?”
I just stared into his eyes for a few seconds before answering, “Yes! Of course I’ll marry you.”
Big grin, more tears, and I was wrapped in the tightest hug I’ve ever experienced. Even though it was hard to breathe, I don’t think we moved for like ten minutes. He only moved then so he could give me probably the best kiss I’ve ever received.
When we finally recovered and he cuddled up beside me again I had to give him a nudge and ask, “What the hell took you so long?”
“Well after looking around I saw that all the cute guys were taken, so I figured what the hell.”
That got a bit of a wrestling match going and with the grunts and groans we attracted Robbie’s attention.
“What the hell’s going on in there,” he yelled.
I simply yelled back, “JJ just asked me to marry him.”
With that my door opened and we were facing a rather excited airborne ginger. I did get my arms and legs up enough to catch him and keep him from squashing JJ.
“So what, you’re beating the crap out of him for asking?” he asked as he wiggled his way in between us.
Of course that got Michael’s attention and he peaked in the door.
“JJ and Jax are getting married,” Robbie all but shouted as he wrapped JJ up into a big hug.
“Seriously?” Michael asked.
“Seriously,” Robbie replied.
“Uh, that question was directed at JJ and Jax dipshit,” Michael said laughing.
“Yeah, seriously,” I replied, “JJ finally asked me to marry him.”
“Took you long enough,” he said looking at JJ and grinning.
“Maybe I should of asked Robbie,” JJ said laughing, “he’s the only one being nice to me.”
“Yeah you guys are both assholes,” Robbie stated laughing, “I wouldn’t marry either one of you.”
“Amy’ll be glad to hear that,” Michael responded, “I think.”
Our antics somehow or other attracted Mom’s attention and after Robbie’s reannouncement, we were all upstairs having tea and biscuits, getting hugs, and chatting with Mom and Dad. It took Mom about five minutes to get into the planning stage and we had to remind her we hadn’t set a date or even thought about a date yet. Of course that didn’t slow her down much. Like, roses or carnations, rainbow colours or just plain white … It had been little more than half an hour since I’d said yes and I was already getting into the god please help us stage, like … now.
We did finally set a date and over the next six months I learned one thing. If you’re getting married, don’t tell your mom until the day before. That way she doesn’t have time to plan shit and everyone, especially you, maintains their sanity. In our case however, the community hall rented, caterers hired, a local band hired, a million white carnations, a limo, a ten foot long rainbow flag, and 175 guests later, we were ready to go.
It was quite the experience. Everyone was wonderful, but let’s just say that after the tenth time JJ and I got cheers and applause for even a quick little kiss, I think I’d have felt more comfortable locked in the polar bear exhibit at the zoo.
But still. “Thanks Mom.”
The next morning though, when I woke up, looked at JJ’s sleeping face, gave him that little hiss on the forehead and watched him smile, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could be so fortunate and I couldn’t have been happier.
Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.
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