Jordan held on tight for a few moments, then let go. Reluctantly, I let him go, too. It felt so good being able to hug him. He was fifteen now, not an age most boys like to be hugged. But I think I understood. His world was being torn up, just like mine, and it had been some time since we’d seen each other. He’d always been closer to me than his mom. I think boys often have more of a need for independence than girls do, and he often was peeved that she was so controlling. Too, boys at some point seem to want more time with their dads.
“Come on in,” he said. “Everyone’s waiting to meet you.”
“Okay.” I was happy that I felt no tension coming from Jordan. “You and I need to talk privately at some point, but I’m sure we’ll find time to do that.”
Just inside the door was a boy Jordan’s age who had to be Mike’s friend. He was cute in an off-beat, very individual sort of way with reddish-brown hair and a ready smile. Whereas Jordan always looked awkward and reserved when meeting people he didn’t know, this boy, David, shook my hand, met my eyes easily, stood straight and tall and made a very good first impression on me. He was a little taller than Jordan but had the same sort of gawkish, early-teen look to him. He wore it well.
We went in. David introduced me to his parents, Don and Vicky Pierce. They seemed young for what I expected. This house and its furnishings screamed money loudly and clearly, yet they were only slightly older than I was. As Jordan had said, they were very outgoing and friendly, and we were quickly on a first-name basis with each other.
We were in the family room, and Don asked me what I wanted to drink. “Vicky and I are having highballs, but we have a full bar and can probably do anything you might like. What’ll it be?”
I almost never drank anything alcoholic. The business I’d been building didn’t lend itself to its principal smelling of alcohol, and actually I just had never fallen into the habit of drinking, not even in college. But I had to be sociable. “Maybe a beer if you have that? I really don’t drink much.”
Vicky quickly said, “If you’d rather have water, a soft drink or nothing, that’s fine, too. Don’t let us twist your arm.” She smiled at me, and I instantly felt more comfortable.
“Okay, just a glass of water would be fine.”
We sat while we all sipped our drinks, getting to know each other just a little. The boys were sitting together on the couch. David had two sisters, twins; they came into the room while we were talking, and one asked when we’d be eating, claiming to be starving. The other nodded vigorously. Vicky laughed and told them it would be in about ten minutes and doubted they’d die from hunger before then. Little incidents like that are telling about a family. These parents weren’t strict and formal. They liked their kids and were entirely natural with them.
As a natural topic of conversation when meeting other adults, I asked what work they did.
Don answered for both of them. “I work at one of the banks in town and Vicky runs an employment agency out of the house. You?”
I grimaced. “I’m kind of between jobs right now. I was running my own business—taxes and investments—but with my pending divorce and the disparagement that accompanies that in the village where we live and where everyone knows everyone and their business, I think I’m going to have to give that up. I’m probably going to move up here as there’ll be more opportunities here than there. Maybe Vicky—” I turned to her and smiled. “Maybe we could talk later if you know of openings here in town.”
“Sure. After dinner if you’re in a hurry or tomorrow. Whenever you’d like.”
Whew! This was starting to look like I might be in less trouble than I thought if she could fix me up with something quickly.
We had a great dinner, and I complimented Vicky for it, apologizing again for being so late. Afterwards, I said I’d like to talk to Jordan, and Don suggested we go into the basement for privacy. That put me off a little, like we were being relegated to the doghouse, until we went down the steps and I found out what their basement consisted of. It was completely finished and a perfect haven for teenagers: a pool table; ping-pong table; stereo sound system; large screen TV; couches and upholstered chairs; a felt-covered, round card table with comfortable chairs around it. It was all beautiful and welcoming, and I was immediately jealous and a little depressed. Why hadn’t I been able to do for Jordan and Gail what Don and Vicky had done for David and their twins?
That was silly, I knew. We all did the best we could, and I wasn’t ashamed of how I’d provided for my family. The Pierces had two incomes, and it was possible Don had a high-paying position at his bank; I had no idea how successful Vicky was, but perhaps she did very well, too. In comparison, I had one income that I was building from scratch and had only been in my new job for less than a year.
It takes time to establish and grow a business. For where we were financially as a family, I thought I’d done pretty well and, in fact, better than could be expected. I’d branched out on my own from a job with a critical, demanding and unpleasant boss that had provided a decent salary—one that Cynthia managed to run through pretty thoroughly every month—but it had been a job that wasn’t really what I wanted. Then I’d started over with basically nothing but a dream. The divorce had awakened me and shattered the dream.
Jordan took a seat on one of the leather couches, and I sat in an easy chair set at right angles next to it. I was nervous. I didn’t think I should be, but I was. I was going to tell Jordan why I was responsible for breaking up our home, our lives. I felt what I’d done was trivial, but it was still the cause of our disruption. It was why I’d be leaving our home for good. It was why his life wouldn’t be the same any longer, no matter what the court decided. What would he be thinking?
Jordan spoke before I had a chance to. “You look nervous, Dad. Unless you killed someone or did something like that, I’m on your side. I’ve always been on your side. I’m curious what happened, but more about Mom than you. I’d guess, after living with her all my life, this is more about her, more her fault than yours.”
I almost felt like tearing up. I didn’t, though. I felt I could get through this now. I had his support, the support I needed most of all.
“I don’t want to downplay what I did. But it wasn’t really awful. I didn’t sleep with anyone outside the marriage or do anything illegal. I was shocked when she said what I did was going to cost me our marriage. I guess instead of just pussyfooting around it, I need to go ahead and tell you. It’s a little embarrassing, but that’s all it is. Jordan, I looked at some gay porn.”
I stopped just to watch his face. I didn’t see any anger or disgust; I only saw confusion, so continued. “I’m bi-sexual. Have always been, but since I married your mom, I put that side of me away. But she and I haven’t been very intimate for some time now, and, well, men can have stronger needs in that area than women, and, while I haven’t done anything with a man in years, I do still have those feelings. So, not frequently, but sometimes, I’ll look at gay porn.”
Still no way to read his face, but it wasn’t showing anything bad, no disappointment or disgust, so I kept going with some hope I wasn’t losing him. “When I was your age, even when I was in college, I was quite active with boys my age and men. With women, too. But that stopped when I met your mom. I was entirely faithful to her before and after we were married.
“What happened was, your mom looked at my history on my computer. Usually, I wiped it but forgot that once. She checked the sites I’d been on. You know how homophobic she is. When she saw the kind of porn it was, she just hit the roof. Wouldn’t let me try to explain, to apologize or listen to me at all. She kicked me out of the house and got a lawyer. She’s suing me for a divorce. She also called some of the people who’d hired me to look after their accounts, my clients, and told them I was gay and watching gay porn and not to be trusted; they took their business away.
“Accordingly, with the divorce, without any chance of being successful with my business, I’ve had to make a decision. I’ve decided to shut the business down and come up here to find another job. That’ll mean living here if I get something. Even if the judge rules against her, our marriage is over. The findings about custody regarding you and Gail, about alimony, about shared assets, will all be determined then, and I can’t tell you what those decisions will be. I’m so sorry that what I did is tearing your life apart, too. But I can’t change the past.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect Jordan’s reaction to be. I’d thought he’d probably be pissed at me. He didn’t look like that. He almost looked excited. But mostly inquisitive. Those two can look very much alike on someone’s face.
“Dad, what do you think the judge will say about custody? I’m fifteen. Will I get a say in where I want to live? Which of you I can live with?”
“I really don’t know, but I think it’s possible and maybe even likely. It might depend on whether I have a job by then. Or maybe not. My lawyer thinks you’ll have a say. But you need to think about it carefully. It’s a big decision. If I got custody, you’d have to move here if I get a job here. That means giving up your school there and your friends. It means leaving the soccer team. You’d be starting on varsity this year there. All that would be too hard for you, wouldn’t it? Everyone you’d meet would be a new person, and you hate that.”
He shook his head. “I want to live with you, Dad. Period. And I made the judge aware of that big time when I talked to him at that hearing. Remember, they had you and Mom step out so the judge could speak with Gail and me privately? That was when I told him.
“But look, if we move here, it wouldn’t be all that bad. I’m friends with David and Mike, and they’re on the soccer team at their school. I’d have a chance to be on that team, too. I’ve been in games here with both of them and I did fine. No, I’d rather be here than back there. Here, I’d be with you, and, well, I told you there was something I needed to tell you.”
He stopped and now looked nervous himself. I reached out and put my hand on his arm. He smiled a bit tentatively.
“You’ve made this a little easier. I was afraid you wouldn’t like what I’m going to say. Now, after what you’ve told me, I think you’ll understand.”
“What is it, Jordan?”
“I’m gay. I didn’t want anyone to know because, yes, I did know how homophobic Mom was. I had to hide myself, and I started pulling away from people so they wouldn’t find out because that might lead to her finding out. That would have been horrible. I think that’s why I got so shy. Anyway, I was still that way when I got here. I didn’t want anyone to know I was gay, but then it turned out I had to tell David. The plan was for me to share a bed with his younger brother. There was no way I could do that without telling David I was gay before doing that. He’s straight, or at least he thought he was. Yesterday we ended up doing some stuff together. You said you did, too, way back when you were young, so I don’t need to go into any details, but now, I don’t see how you could mind. You have to know, being bi, that it’s just who you are. Same with me being gay. I just am. Anyway, David’s confused, but I’m going to be happy un-confusing him.”
He stopped and dropped his eyes a moment, a gesture I was very accustomed to, but then looked up with the softest glow in his eyes I’d ever seen.
“The fact is, I think I’m in love with him. I don’t want to go live where we used to live. I want to stay here. So, you looking for a job here is just perfect for me. I want to live with you, but I want to stay here, too, and be with David. I didn’t know how that could work, but now I can see it’s possible to do both. That’s something I can hope for that now might come true.”
I didn’t know what to do other than just look at him. It had never occurred to me he might be gay. I’d been worried about why such an outgoing kid would get so shy as he’d done and given it a lot of thought, but his being gay had never crossed my mind. Stupid of me.
I guess the fact that I wasn’t responding to what he’d just said, his outing himself to me, was worrying him. He was frowning when he said, “Dad?”
“Oh, sorry, Jordan. I was just thinking how dumb I was not to have at least considered that being gay could be a reason for your becoming so withdrawn, so shy. Hey, no one could understand more than me. That you’re gay doesn’t bother me at all, and in fact, might even make us closer. I’m happy for you that you’ve found someone. Now it’s doubly important I find a job—and soon. Do you know if David’s mother is taking on clients? You at least know her. She might be able to help.”
“Both David’s parents are super people. I’ll ask her, but she already offered, didn’t she? Anyway, I’m sure she’ll do what she can. She might have an extra incentive: it’ll get me out of her house.”
He grinned at me, then laughed. One thing about Jordan. He has about the greatest grin I’ve ever seen. I always want to hug him when he flashes it.
We were done. After hugging him, and me telling him I loved him, we were starting back upstairs when Jordan stopped me. “One thing. We can’t let anyone know you’re bi and I’m gay. David had never thought he was gay before and still is uncertain. He says maybe he just likes me and no other boys. I asked him about crushes, and he was evasive—not like him at all. I think he’s been in denial, and it’s hard for him to accept this. But he hasn’t said a word to his parents, they don’t know about me, and we need to keep it that way.”
They offered me a bed for the night, and I readily accepted. Jordan told me that the room they gave me was Jeff’s room, Jeff being David’s eleven-year-old brother who’d be coming home from camp in a short while. I looked at the bed; it was a twin bed, plenty big enough for one kid, even big enough for two small ones. I could guess it would fit but be a squeeze for a kid Jordan’s size with a smaller, pre-teen boy.
I could see why Jordan would feel the need to get permission from David before sleeping with David’s brother. It had to have been hard, though. Jordan hadn’t told anyone previously. Now, he’d have been laying it on the line to a boy he didn’t know very well. But he’d felt he had to do it because it was the right thing to do, and so he had. I’d always thought Jordan was a very moral boy of high character; he’d certainly displayed that then.
I slept well, better than I had since Cynthia kicked me out and my world was turned upside down. I knew Jordan still loved me, and I thought it likely he’d be with me when this was over. Even if the judge gave Cynthia custody and the house, she wouldn’t want him with her if she knew he was gay, and, while I wouldn’t tell her he was gay, I could well imagine Jordan doing that as a way to force her to allow him to live with me, custody or not. At that point, what would she do? Would she be vindictive enough to try to send him to someplace else to live? Well, if she did, I’d petition the court, and they’d almost certainly let me have him once he told them again that he wanted to live with me.
I had breakfast with the family in the morning. They were all so cheerful, and the shock was to see how open Jordan was with them, even though he hadn’t known them for long. I was accustomed to him being reserved. What I saw was a new Jordan—a much happier one.
After breakfast, and after Don had gone into work for a weekend meeting at his bank, Vicky invited me into her office.
“Tell me about yourself,” she said when we were both seated, “and what sort of a job you’d like.”
I’d come here to find a job, and accordingly I’d typed up and brought a resume with me. I handed it to her and waited for her to read it before answering. She finally looked up, and I said, “The resume covers my education and job history and shows I’ve been running my own business for the last several months. As you’ve read, my longest-running and highest-level job was as financial analyst for a chain of grocery stores that had started in our village and expanded. Their home offices never moved. I enjoyed the work but not my boss, and I had always wanted to be on my own, and so I had good reason to leave.
“I guess at some point I’d like have my own business again, but for right now, I need a job so the court will see I’m employed and able to provide for Jordan. I want custody of him. So I’d take any job that I’m qualified for. Long term, if I found I liked the job and the people I’d be reporting to, if the working atmosphere was good, I might well want to stay with it. As for my job preference, I’d like a job in finance, corporate taxes, budget analysis, or accountancy. In a pinch, I could do bookkeeping, credit analysis—that sort of thing.”
Vicky was the sort of woman who just made you comfortable in her presence. Some women have that way about them. She had that twice over. Now, she smiled at me and said, “I’m sure with your qualifications I can get you something more than just enough to get you by. Actually, I have something in mind that might be right up your alley, something you’re perfectly qualified for. And I have an in with the company, so that might help. It’s Saturday, so I couldn’t set up an interview today, but could you go for one on Monday?”
“Sure! That would be great. What sort of job is it?”
“I’d rather keep details to myself till I make sure the job is still open and they’d like to talk to you. They tend to keep things close to the chest there. Why don’t you go see what Jordan and David are up to, give me fifteen minutes or so, and then I’ll know if they can see you on Monday? Okay?”
“This is more than okay, Vicky. You’ve got my hopes up!”
I got up and left her office. The house seemed quiet, too quiet for four kids. I walked through the house out onto the back patio. I hadn’t been back there before and was surprised to see a beautiful, landscaped lawn; a large swimming pool with sparkling blue water; furniture and a grill on the patio for outside cooking and dining, and even a hot tub. It seemed to have everything except kids. They weren’t anywhere in sight.
I went back inside and thought of the basement. I went down and found David and Jordan there. They both had cue sticks in their hands, and David was telling Jordan, “Reverse English is easy to learn. You use it when you want the cue ball to either stop or come back toward you after hitting the object ball. Side English is much harder to learn and takes lots of practice. Here, I’ll show you how reverse English works.”
Jordan was watching and listening and was completely absorbed in what David was saying. Or, looking more closely, perhaps he was just completely absorbed in David. David set some balls up and showed Jordan how to make the cue ball do what he said it would do. Then he told Jordan to try. Jordan hadn’t ever played pool as far as I knew. Our village didn’t have a pool hall or a bowling alley. Alleys sometimes had pool tables. But pool was a game totally unfamiliar to Jordan, and it looked like it.
After a couple of tries, David smiled and told him, “No, more like this.” Then he stood behind Jordan, had him lean over the table and leaned over it with him. He was up against Jordan’s back, making contact with him from about his knees all the way up to his shoulders. They were leaning across the table and David was showing Jordan how to hold the cue, how his fingers should be placed, but I was watching Jordan’s butt. He was moving it, just slightly, but he was moving it, and I figured his objective wasn’t so much learning finger placement on the cue as it was getting a rise out of David. Sly dog! I decided this was a perfect time to head back upstairs.
Vicky was waiting for me. “It’s all set for Monday,” she said. “It’ll be a two-prong attack, but actually that’s in your favor. You need to be at Don’s bank at eleven-thirty. Don’s the first prong. He’ll take you to lunch, and you two can get to know each other better. He’ll tell you a little about what to expect when you have your interview at two-thirty with the CFO. He’s prong two.
“Just so you know a bit more going in, the bank has an opening for a financial analyst. The position is a high-level one reporting directly to the Chief Financial Officer with a staff of one working for it. Their current financial analyst has been with the bank forever and is retiring. They want someone with analyst experience to replace him, someone who can be up and running on his own pretty quickly. This means they need someone like you; your work history is perfect for them.
“The plan is for the current man to work with their new hire for only a month, less if possible, showing him how they do things, what systems they use and what their expectations are. Don went in today because there was an admin-level meeting to discuss what could be done to fill the job quickly. I sent them a copy of your resume. After they read it, Don told me they were eager to talk to you. It sounds to me like a perfect job match, Matthew.”
From what I’d heard, even though the information had been scant, it sounded perfect to me, too.