It was only just after dark when I arrived back at the guest house, so I decided I would check in with the outside world and see if I had any emails or messages on my phone, and then turn in early.
After switching on my laptop and while waiting for it to boot-up, I checked my phone. There were only two messages, being one from Harry and one from my brother; Michael, whom I hadn’t heard from in a few years.
Harry, I decided, I could deal with tomorrow, as I needed to talk to him anyhow, about when he might be coming down. When I tried to call Mike back, however, it just went straight to the message bank, so I left him a message saying I would try him again tomorrow.
We weren’t that close. For starters he was younger than me, he wasn’t yet twenty one, but I also suspected that he hasn’t ever quite gotten used to the whole gay thing. Still, we have kept in touch and he has even turned to me for some help or advice on a few occasions, as well as having come and stayed with me in Brisbane a couple of times; which is certainly more than I can say for my mother, and the relationship, or lack of one, that I have with her. She quite clearly finds having a gay son an embarrassment, even if he is successful at what he does.
I also have a sister, Jess, who is younger again, although while Mike is out from under our mother’s skirt, and is already trying to make his own way in life, Jess is still living with her, so as a result I’m not really in contact with her that often either, other than for birthdays and Christmas.
After leaving a message for Mike I turned my attention back to my laptop and logged into my internet account, then went straight to my mail.
As usual it was half filled with crap again, so after deleting all of that I was left with a few emails that were actually worth reading, including two from Harry explaining and discussing details of the new contract offer; which I assumed was why he wanted to talk to me.
There was also one there from Mike, saying that he needed to talk to me about something urgently, which I figured would probably end up costing me, knowing my kid brother as I did. Having already tried unsuccessfully to call him, whatever it was would just have to wait until I tried to call him again tomorrow.
With that out of the way I shut down my phone, logged off my computer, flicked off the light and then stripped off, before climbing once more onto the bed.
Sleep came easily, and this time there were no weird dreams or visions. This time it was nothing but bliss. Aaron and me. Me and Aaron. And a happily ever after fairy tale.
Damn. I wish it really was that easy.
After what was a peaceful nights sleep I was awake quite early the following morning, thanks to my having turned in quite early. Once I got up and had been to the bathroom I took a look outside, where I found daylight was just starting to seep into the clear grey morning.
I switched on my phone and checked the time, which read five fifty three. It was way too early to do anything yet, so I lay back down on the bed, with my arms folded behind my head, and stared up at the ceiling, while going over things in my head.
It was now Monday. Day three of this little trip down memory lane for me, and what a trip it has been so far. I wondered what the rest of the week might bring.
Now that Aaron and I were at least communicating again I had a feeling, deep down in my gut, that things were about to change. That also started me thinking about a few other things that had come to mind recently and I realised that a plan was needed. I had no idea of where to start with some of it, so when Harry arrived I fully intended to make him earn that hefty commission that I paid him.
Somehow I must have managed to doze off again, for a little while at least, before being woken again by the ringing of my phone. Rolling over I picked it up and looked at the screen, not immediately recognising the number being displayed.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘This better be good!’
‘Tony? Is that you?’ a voice said. It was Mike.
‘Yeah, Mike. What time is it?’
‘I guess that depends on what state you’re in. Are you in Brisbane still? They don’t have daylight savings up there, do they?’
‘I was going to tell you that I was in a state of undress, but seeing as you clarified your question, the answer is no; I’m at Thompsonville at the moment, and it’s almost seven here. Why, what’s wrong? What have you done this time?’
‘Oh great, you automatically think it’s something I’ve done,’ he spat.
‘C’mon Mike. Let’s get real here … it’s not often you ring up to just say hello, is it. And especially not at seven in the morning, so my guess is that you’ve either done something, or want something … so what is it this time?’ I said, probably a little more tersely than was warranted.
‘It’s … it’s not me,’ he replied quietly, sounding quite hurt.
‘Okay then. I’m sorry I jumped the gun,’ I said, suddenly feeling bad. ‘So what, or who, is it then?’
‘It’s Jess,’ he answered. ‘Mum’s thrown her out too.’
‘Oh, Sweet Jesus,’ I said. ‘What for?’
‘Same as you.’
‘Huh? Has she been chasing boys again?’
‘Errr … no,’ he chuckled. ‘Apparently she has a serious girlfriend. But that’s only the start of it.’
‘You mean there’s more than just the fact that my sister is a lesbian?’
‘Yeah. She’s also pregnant,’
‘She’s what? Oh, fuck! How old is she now?’
‘Just eighteen. Old enough to know better,’ he said.
‘And you never shagged about when you were that age? To quote a book more famous than any of mine; “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” remember that one?’
‘Yeah, okay, okay, so I fucked up too when I was that young. But at least the two of us took responsibility for what had happened and realised that we weren’t capable of being able to deal with it …’ he said, in what sounded to me like a rather wistful tone.
He was of course referring to the time a few years previous when my sixteen year old brother and his fifteen year old girlfriend had found themselves in the exact same predicament. It wasn’t that long after I had left Thompsonville and he had come to me then and begged me to help him to put things right as he put it; but of course he didn’t want our mother to find out. Without even giving it a second thought I had helped the two of them, making sure that they spoke to professionals who would help them deal with the situation, and they had been grateful, but it also signalled the death knell for that relationship.
‘I’m sorry, mate. I didn’t mean for it to come out sounding like that.’
‘Don’t be. I appreciated your help … we both did … but …’
‘Yeah. I know,’ I replied, knowing all too well how hard it had been for him, having had him cry on my shoulder for much of the day when the procedure was taking place.
‘So, what are we going to do about sis?’ he asked.
‘Have you spoken to her? What does she want to do? Does she even know what she wants to do?’
‘She’s okay. She seems rational. I’m pretty sure she wants to keep it.’
‘And who is the father?’
‘She refuses to say.’
I thought for a moment and was fairly certain I didn’t have her number in this phone, so I asked if he had a telephone number for her. He read it out and I found a pen and scribbled it down.
‘And what about the old girl? Do you see much of her? How is she doing?’ I asked.
‘I call her every now and then, but that’s it. I can’t put up with her religious bullshit either,’ he said, referring to the fire and brimstone she tried to reign down on me when I came out to her.
It seems that no one could put up with it for very long. My father had lasted eight or nine years, or thereabouts, which was long enough to father three children; or should I say two, with one on the way, as I recall.
My last recollection of him was one day when I was eight years old. He and my mother had had yet another blazing row. He walked out, slamming the door behind him, and we never saw him again.
At the time I blamed myself, but as I grew older I eventually realized that it wasn’t all my fault and that there were other factors at play.
I have relived that day over and over in my mind so many times. For a long time I hated him for walking out and leaving us. I mean, what sort of parent just ups and leaves their kids like that, but as I grew older I started to feel some empathy for my father, knowing first hand just what he had endured.
I have also thought about my father often and wondered what he was doing, or if he thought about the kids he left behind. I also wished that I could one day see him again, and show him how I turned out. I had no idea what he would think about my lifestyle, but I still hoped that he would be proud of me and the man I had become.
‘She is going to end up a very lonely old woman,’ I said, with something of a sigh.
‘Yeah, she is. Anyhow, what are you doing in T’ville? You haven’t been back there in a while, have you?’
‘No, it’s been quite a while. About five years in fact. I’m here to speak to a writers group this week, and then the gang from the old house are going to have a reunion party next weekend. It should be fun. It has been just on ten years since they all moved here, so they’ve decided to celebrate the anniversary.’
‘Sounds cool. And have you seen Aaron?’
He knew of Aaron, although he hadn’t ever met him. He also knew of what had transpired between us … I guess that had been my day for crying on his shoulder. I had never made any secret of the fact that I had hoped Aaron and I would one day get back together, so it didn’t come as a surprise that he had asked about him.
‘Yeah, we’ve spoken,’ I replied.
‘We’ll just have to wait and see.’
‘You sly dog,’ he laughed.
‘Yeah, whatever!’ I replied.
‘So, are you going to try and talk to Jess?’
‘Yeah. I’ll try and call her today.’
‘Or what?’ I asked.
‘Or, you could maybe come down and see us?’ he half asked, half suggested, before then quickly adding, ‘I mean, just me and Jess. You wouldn’t have to go near the dragon lady! If you’re at T’ville then you could drive down and back in the one day … that’s if you wanted to.’
Fuck! That’s what I call getting put on the spot.
‘Mate, I’m not sure I can just at the moment,’ I answered. ‘I have my agent coming down to see me today or tomorrow, then I have the writers group thing on Wednesday …’
‘Nah, it’s okay. You don’t have to. It was just a thought,’ he replied, although I could sense the deep disappointment in his voice.
‘Look, I’ll see what I can do, all right. I can’t promise anything right now, but if I can work something out I’ll let you know. I really would like to see you guys again … and I think Luke would as well … so I’ll do my best to make it happen sometime soon, even if it’s just like you said, a trip down and back in the one day.’
‘Really? Mate, that would be so awesome!’
‘Yeah … I’m pretty sure it would be!’ I laughed. ‘Okay mate, I’m going to have to get going. I’ll call Jess today. Thanks for letting me know. It’s been really great to talk to you again.’
‘Yeah. It’s been great talking to you too,’ he replied.
‘I’ll be in touch again soon, okay?’
‘I’m looking forward to it,’ he replied, then we disconnected.
I sat there for a few minutes just thinking about his news and about what had been happening. I hadn’t expected my mother to change at all, and I had no regrets about not wanting to go near her again, but for all that, I did still feel that I was missing out on something by not knowing my brother and sister any better than I did.
Mike was about six years younger than me, and Jess about eight or nine years younger, so when I was thrown out at sixteen, Mike would have been around ten and Jess about eight. The image of their scared young faces looking out through the front window of the house as my own mother threw clothes and some of belongings in my direction, while I stood on the front lawn crying, would stay with me forever.
What must have they thought of their brother? And what poison must she have fed their growing minds after I had left? There had been so much that I must have missed out on seeing as they grew up, so much that we could have, or should have, shared, but were never given the opportunity.
I was certain of one thing now, though, I wasn’t going to let any niece or nephew of mine be poisoned in the same way my siblings were. If I was going to be an uncle, then I was going to be the best uncle I could be and make sure that any children of my sister or brother would have every opportunity to grow up free of bigotry and hate.
* * *
All the guys were up and about by the time I had pulled on some shorts and a t-shirt and made it up to the house. They were busily readying themselves for work. Matt must have been right about Luke; the novelty of spoiling the guest with breakfast must have worn off already, not that I really minded.
I could hear Tim and Guy getting themselves ready elsewhere in the house, so over coffee and toast I told Luke and Matt about my phone call with Mike.
‘Bloody hell! Uncle Tony, eh? That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?’ Luke teased.
‘I don’t know about that,’ I replied. ‘But I do know that if Jess does go ahead and does have the baby, I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that it isn’t raised having to listen to the same bullshit that I was brought up with!’
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ Luke said.
‘Mike suggested I go down there for a day and see them. I told them their cousin Luke might like to meet them again as well. When was the last time you saw them?’
‘It was during dad’s court case,’ he answered, after thinking for a moment. ‘Mike couldn’t have been any more than, what, eight or nine?’
‘Yeah, about that I reckon.’
‘How time flies, eh?’
‘Hmmm … so what do you think about taking a trip down to the Big Smoke?’
‘Yeah, I’m in. I’d love to see them again,’ Luke replied.
‘I’ll come too, if I’m invited. And what about your mother?’ Matt asked. ‘Will you go see her as well?’
‘Of course you’re invited … you’re a part of this family too! But as for seeing my mother again — that’ll only be when hell freezes over!’
‘Aaaahhh … so not this year then!’ he joked.
Luke laughed, then looked at his watch, before quickly swallowed the last of his coffee.
‘I’ve got to get going,’ he said. ‘Just make yourself at home here while we’re all gone.’
‘You know me … don’t I always?’
‘Yeah, I had noticed that,’ he laughed, before giving Matt a long kiss goodbye, as well as planting one on my forehead as he passed me, then he was out the door and gone.
‘If you need anything you can give me a call anytime,’ Matt added. ‘I can slip out and pick you up if you want to get into town at all.’
‘Actually, that would be good. How about picking me up when you take your lunch break? Is that okay?’
‘Not a problem. What are you going to do this morning?’
‘First up I’m going to head up the road for a walk. There are a few things I want to have a think about, then afterwards I need to check in with Harry, and I’ll also try and do some work, I hope.’
‘You going to see Aaron today?’
* * *
After the guys had all left I went back to the guest house and pulled on some joggers, before then heading back out onto the road.
It was a glorious clear morning and with the warm sun on my skin, contrasting with the cool sea breeze that was blowing in off the water, I felt truly alive. I think also that everything that had gone on in the past few days was contributing to that, as for the first time in quite a while I was feeling positive, buzzed even, about what might lie ahead.
Despite the cool breeze it wasn’t long before I found myself breaking out into a light sweat as I powered along the road. At one stage a car came careering around a corner ahead of me, with someone obviously running late for work, I figured, so I had to step off to the side of the road. As they swept past me I immediately found myself choking on a cloud of powdery white dust that was being thrown up; however, this was soon carried away on the light breeze and I was soon able to continue on my way.
After a while I found myself arriving at the white post and rail fence of the house on the hill and when I reached the stone gateway, with its fancy wrought iron gates, I stopped and gazed up along the roadway toward the house.
For some reason I found myself being drawn to the place, for reasons I couldn’t really explain, and while standing there and looking up at the house I decided I needed to take a look around; even if to just check out the view from on top of the hill.
I walked over to the gate to try the latch, but soon found that there was a chain and padlock on it, which I thought was interesting.
Undeterred I sought another way in and in the end I decided to climb over the fence, before then setting off up the road toward the house.
I hoped to god that there was no one home.