Northern Sunshine

Chapter 8


When Justin finished up his shift, he and his mother, and Molly who had returned from her shopping expedition, all walked back to Dee's apartment together. Justin had a funny feeling all the way there. It eerily reminded him of when he had been stalked by Darren. He kept looking around again and again, but he couldn't spot anything out of order.

Once they were inside the apartment Justin felt better. He sat down on the sofa and allowed himself to relax. It had to be his imagination. Darren was gone and there wasn't anybody else who had it in for him.

"I'm goen to order us pizza," Dee said.

"Oh, I'll be happy to cook us a meal," Jennifer said quickly. Cooking was the one thing she felt secure about doing.

"That's all right, Aunt Jenn. You had your first shift at the diner today, and I know from Justin how tiring that can be. I'm orderen pizza," Dee said.

"Sit down, Mom," Justin encouraged her. "Put your feet up here and I'll give you a foot massage," Justin smiled.

"Oh, honey, I couldn't," Jennifer blushed. They would have never done anything like that back home in Georgia. Except that this wasn't Georgia, but this was home … for now.

"Feet up," Justin ordered. He began massaging his mother's feet.

"That feels so good," Jennifer cooed lying back and closing her eyes.

Justin smiled, knowing this was the least he could do for the woman who loved him and helped him escape from his old life. Without her prompting he would never have come to Pittsburgh, would never have found Brian. What would his life be without Brian?

"So, how did it go at the diner, Aunt Jenn?" Dee asked as she sat down across from the foot massage sofa.

"Oh, um, it was okay," Jennifer said opening her eyes and coming back to reality. Justin kept working on her feet, and it felt so good.

"Just okay?"

"It's hard work, but all I really did was clear the tables."

"It's called bussen the tables, Mom," Justin told her.

"Right, bussen."

"Tell Dee about the bear," Justin laughed.

"What bear?" Jennifer asked not understanding what her son was talking about.

"The tattooed guy in leather who left you a very big tip," Justin encouraged her with a chuckle.

"He's a bear?" Jennifer asked. Justin nodded. There was a whole new language she was going to have to learn. "This … bear bought two lemon bars to go, and I served him. The lemon bars were $2.20. He gave me a ten and told me to keep the change."

"Wow!" Dee smiled.

"Do you get tips like that?" Jennifer asked Justin.

"Sometimes even bigger than that," Justin grinned.


"Yeah, Justin, tell your mother why," Dee laughed.

"It doesn't matter," Justin blushed. "You'll get used to the diner. The people are mostly great."

"Except for some of the young, snotty ones," Jennifer said.

"Did Debbie tell you how to handle them?" Dee asked.

"I think 'Fuck off' is going to get a lot of use in the next few days," Jennifer said with a frown.

"Just stand up to them, Mom, and they'll back right down."

"If you say so," Jennifer said skeptically.

"Look what I got, Justin," Molly said mischievously. She had been sitting in a chair opening all the purchases they had made. She put paper into the binders and organized everything as best she could. Now she was finished with that, and was holding up a bottle of something.

"What is it?" Justin asked. It looked like lotion or bath oil or something. It was kind of orange in color.

"Apricot body lotion. Dee gave me a bottle." Molly smiled evilly.

"Fuck!" Justin cursed.

"Justin," Jennifer admonished him. "Watch the language."

"Keep that away from Brian."

"I will," Molly responded. "Maybe."

Justin glared at her. He knew he shouldn't have told her anything about the apricots in the Jeep. She could be a mean little pisser when she wanted to be.

The buzzer sounded and Dee went to buzz the pizza man up.

They ate their pizza, laughing and kibitzing about the diner and Jennifer's new job. The apricot lotion and all its implications were forgotten for the moment.

By the time they had polished off the pizza Justin had to get ready for his night course. He grabbed the books he needed from his former bedroom. He was glad he had liked last week's assignment and had finished it before they headed off to Georgia.

He said goodbye to everyone and headed out of the apartment. When he got to the street, the uneasy feeling he had had before returned. He stopped outside the building and looked up and down the street, trying to pick up on anything out of the ordinary, anything that might be causing this unease. He couldn't see anything untoward, so he set out for the school which was about three blocks away.

He couldn't help but remember all the things that had happened to him when Darren had been stalking him. He remembered the freezer and falling, or being shoved, into the construction site. He shivered and tried to block all that from his mind. That was all behind him. There hadn't been any kind of problem since Brian had orchestrated Darren's departure from Pittsburgh. Justin gave himself a shake and continued on towards the school.

It was fall and the air was fresh and cool. Justin walked along feeling better as he went. He must have been imagining things. There was no one after him. That was all in the past. He arrived at the school and headed to his class.

He quite enjoyed his English class, almost as much as his art class. The class that evening was on portraying feelings in one's writing. They were asked to write a paragraph conveying some particular feeling, using all the evocative words that they felt would get the emotion across. Justin decided to write about his feelings from earlier when he had been walking to the school. He used all his memories from his encounters with Darren, his unknown stalker back then, and his feeling of being watched earlier in the day, and finally his unease as he walked to school. The paragraph flowed easily onto the paper.

When Justin got up to read it to the class, there was silence as his voice conveyed the feeling of fear. The class was so quiet that the proverbial pin dropping would have easily been heard. When Justin finished, there were lots of comments about the scary mood he had created. Justin basked in the warm compliments. He was just glad that all those feelings were in the past.

Once class was over, Justin walked outside with his friend Sally. He heard his name being called and looked down the street to see Brian standing beside the Jeep. He quickly said goodbye to Sally and ran towards Brian, a big smile on his face.

"You came to get me," Justin cooed as Brian pulled him into a hug.

"I missed you," Brian grinned.

Justin's smile was as radiant as the glow from the full moon beaming down on them. Brian loved that look on Justin's face and he had even learned to say things like what he had just uttered in order to bring that look to the face he had come to … like so much. He hardly even winced when he said things like that anymore.

"Let's go home," Justin whispered feeling all warm inside.

"Sounds like a plan." They climbed in the Jeep and Brian headed for Tremont. "How was the class?" Brian asked as they drove along."

"Everyone liked what I wrote tonight."

"And what did you write?"

"I wrote about being stalked. It … it was well received. They said it was very scary."

"What made you write about that," Brian frowned. He had hoped that was all behind them. He didn't want Justin thinking about that anymore.

"We had to write about an emotion," Justin said being as non-committal as he could.

"But why that?"

"Um … I …"

"Spit it out," Brian ordered.

"When I walked home from work with Mom and Molly, I had this strange feeling like I was being watched. It reminded me of what happened with Darren. And then on the way to school…" Justin's voice trailed off.

"You felt like you were being followed?" Brian supplied.

"No, not exactly," Justin said slowly. "When I came out of the apartment, I thought someone was watching me again, but there was no one around."

"At least not that you could see."

"You think I didn't see someone?" Justin asked.

"I don't know, but something made you uneasy, and made you dredge up all that shit from the past. I don't like it, whatever's going on."

"But who could it be?" Brian raised an eyebrow and stared at Justin till he was forced to look back at the road or kill them both. It took Justin a minute before it dawned on him. "My father!"

"That would be my first guess."

"But why couldn't I spot him? I didn't see his truck or anyone walking along the street."

"If he doesn't want to be spotted, he probably won't be," Brian said reasonably.

"But … how could he find us so fast?"

"Justin, we don't know that it's him, but it could be."

"Mrs. Fent!" Justin suddenly uttered as a new thought struck him. "Remember the old busybody from across the street in Smithton?" Justin asked. Brian nodded remembering how the old woman had watched them go into Jennifer's house. "She must have told my father that I was there."

"That sounds reasonable," Brian said.

"But how did he follow us to Pittsburgh?" Justin mused trying to think of what could have tipped off his father.

"I don't know," Brian admitted.

"Can we call the police or something?" Justin asked.

"Craig hasn't done anything yet."

"But he's here!"

"Maybe he's here. We don't know that for sure."

"But … we have to do something."

"I guess we could apply for a restraining order."

"Do those things actually work?"

Brian pulled up in front of the loft and they got out. Justin grabbed his books and latest assignment.

"I don't think they actually prevent someone from coming near, but if you call the cops and say they are violating it, the police will arrest them."

"Really?" Justin asked. "Maybe Mom should get one."

"I thought you were talking about yourself," Brian said as they got on the elevator.

"Me? No, I was thinking about Mom."

"But you thought you were being watched," Brian said with a frown.

"It was just a feeling," Justin said trying to minimize the importance of what had happened. "But I think Mom should think about that restraining order idea," Justin said as they entered the loft and Brian closed the door behind them.


Dee finished loading the meager dishes into the dishwasher. Pizza was great for not creating a mess, and Dee really wasn't big on housework. She looked over to where Molly was reading a book and Jennifer had dozed off on the sofa.

Dee realized it had been a hard day for her aunt. Jennifer had never really held a job. She had gone from her parents' house to her husband's. She had never had to make a living for herself. Not that Jennifer's life had been a cakewalk. Craig had refused to have his wife work. He had managed to keep Jennifer from pursuing any kind of a career. Now Jennifer was going to have to work and earn a living for the first time in her life. She also wasn't fully recovered from the slamming around that Craig had given her. Dee knew Jennifer's first shift at the diner had worn her out. Being a waitress wasn't for the faint of heart or the faint of foot.

"Molly," Dee said quietly. Molly looked up and Dee motioned her to come to the kitchen. "I think you should wake your mother. She has to get up early for the breakfast shift at the diner."

"Okay," Molly said, but she didn't go back to her mother.

"Is something wrong?" Dee asked.

"Do you think she can do it?" Molly asked worry written across her young face.

"Do what?"

"Earn enough money to look after us. What if she can't handle the diner? What will we do?"

"Honey, your mother's strong. She'll be just fine … and so will you." Dee pulled Molly into a hug.

"Dee's right," Jennifer said sitting up. "We're going to be just fine."

"I hope so, Mom. I just got a little scared," Molly said as her mother replaced Dee's hug with one of her own.

"I better get to bed. I think I'd like a nice hot bath first though," Jennifer said with a yawn.

"Go for it," Dee said, as she watched Jennifer walk down the hall. Dee hoped they all would be all right.


Just down the street Craig Taylor stared at the front door of the apartment building into which he had seen his family enter earlier in the day. He couldn't believe his good fortune when he had boldly asked someone on the street where he could find the gay area of Pittsburgh. The man he had asked was nicely dressed, and just a little bit flamboyant. Craig had decided that he would take the chance that the man might be gay. The man had given him a funny look, but had answered, "Liberty Avenue." The look on the man's face clearly showed that he was assessing if Craig was gay or not. Craig had managed not to wince at the implications of that look on the man's face.

He had wanted to shove his fist into the guy's abdomen and make him double over with pain for even thinking such a thing. But it wouldn't do to get himself arrested when he was so close to finding his bitch of a wife and making her pay for thinking she could walk out on him. He would fix her good, and then take her back to Smithton humiliated and contrite. Or maybe better, he would leave her here to fend for herself with her fag son. He'd take Molly with him and go back home. That would teach her a lesson she wouldn't soon forget.

Once he had the name of a street, Craig had bought a map of Pittsburgh and had located the infamous Liberty Avenue. He drove slowly the length of the street, noting the rainbow flags and the same sex couples hugging and holding hands. A few of them kissed openly. Craig shuddered at the brazen evilness of it. His son could be one of those filthy fags. No, that wasn't correct. Jennifer's fag son could be one of them. He no longer had a son.

After he had passed out of the area where the rainbow flags hung, Craig had turned his brother's truck around. He smiled to himself as he thought about how clever he had been. As soon as he had come back from the golf course last Sunday, old Mrs. Fent had come running across the street to tell him what she had seen. Thank God, the old bat still had good eyesight. Not only had she seen Justin and some other man arrive, but she had noted that the license plate on the Jeep said Pennsylvania. She had even snuck up close enough to see that the dealership was in Pittsburgh. That's how Craig had arrived so quickly in this burg. He prayed Mrs. Fent had been correct in her observations and that he had drawn the right conclusions.

Before he had left Smithton, Craig had asked his brother to switch trucks with him so that Jennifer and Justin wouldn't be tipped off if they saw his truck. That's how he came to be driving down Liberty Avenue for the second time, in his brother's pickup. And that was when he saw his whole family come out of some diner and start walking along the street. He had followed them staying well back until they had turned a corner. He had debated turning the corner and possibly drawing their attention to him, but finally decided he had to know where they were going. He couldn't make a move when there were three of them all together, and he needed to know where they were going.

Finally he had turned the corner, and pulled into the first parking space he had seen. The small group didn't pay any attention to the pickup. He could see his family walking along the street, and he watched in silence as they came to an apartment building where they all went inside. Craig memorized the building and waited until he was sure no one was coming out again. He started the truck and drove down the street. He made note of the façade of the building and the number, before passing by and driving farther down the street. He turned around and drove back finding a parking space on the other side of the road only a few buildings down from the one that held his family.

He had been sitting there waiting for quite a long time when he saw Justin come out. He was carrying a backpack like he used to take to school every day. Craig had slumped down in the seat so that his head wouldn't be visible, as Justin had scanned the street in both directions. Craig wondered what he was looking for and chuckled to himself that it might be him. Then Justin had turned and started walking the other way down the street.

Craig had been torn. He wanted to know where Justin was going, but it wasn't really Justin that he was after. Jennifer and his daughter were still inside the building, and that was the goal that he wanted. He decided to stay put. He sat up when Justin had walked about halfway down the block. The little fag could do whatever disgusting things he wanted. He was no longer of any importance.

The evening had worn on and people had come and gone from the apartment building. There had been a pizza delivery which Craig would have given his eyeteeth for. He was hungry. He pulled out the soda and bag of chips that he had in the truck. That would have to tide him over. He couldn't take the chance of missing his wife coming out of the building, and he didn't want to give up the parking space that gave him such a good view of the comings and goings. He could survive on the snack food until the morning.

That had been several hours ago. It was now after midnight and Craig let out a loud yawn. Most of the apartments in the building had gone dark, as more and more people had gone to bed. Craig couldn't see the timid Jennifer leaving the building at this late hour. That meant he had found the place where she and Molly were living. That was a huge step. He knew he had been lucky to spot them so quickly on Liberty Avenue. It was worth being thought of as a fag to have stumbled on them so easily in the gay district of Pittsburgh.

Craig had a little smirk on his face as he pulled a blanket from his supplies. He would spend the night in his truck, and wake up with the birds in time to see where his wife and daughter went when they left in the morning.

He managed to get kind of stretched out on the seat of the pickup. It wasn't very comfortable, and his back would scream at him in the morning, but it was the best he could do for now.

Sleep did not come easily in the cramped quarters of the cab of the truck. Craig tried to stay calm, but he was close to getting his daughter back and making his wife pay for walking out on him. He could put up with some discomfort. It would all be worth it in the long run.

Just before he fell asleep, Craig wondered where Justin was. Craig glanced at his watch. It was after one a.m. and there had been no sign of the little fag returning. Craig wondered if he was at a club or out fucking some guy. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought. Maybe he should catch Justin alone before he left Pittsburgh, and teach his wayward son a few lessons.

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