Justin walked down the lane towards Molly’s cottage. He knew his sister only had a day or two left of her mini holiday in the country. There was something he wanted to talk to her about. He walked through the flower gardens at the front of her cottage, smiling to himself at Brian’s genius of selecting plants that looked wonderful but needed little attention.
He tapped on the front door frame and waited. Molly came to the screen door and with a smile on her face opened it.
“What can I do for you, big brother?” she asked.
“I wondered if you had some coffee and a few minutes.”
“For you, always.” She shoved the door fully open so Justin could enter.
“Dust!” Taylor said from across the room. He was seated on a little stool in a corner.
“You stay put,” Molly ordered.
Taylor screwed up his face but he didn’t move.
“What’s he been up to now?” Justin whispered.
“It’s a long story. Let’s get a coffee first.”
Justin followed her to the small kitchen and sat down at the little table. She poured them each a mug of coffee.
“So what did Taylor get into?” Justin asked after he took a sip of his coffee.
“He’s got this friggin’ fascination with stones. He tried to throw some at Beau when he was doing his rounds this morning.”
Justin shook his head. “Taylor’s nothing if not fearless. Beau scares the shit out of most adults. They wouldn’t dream of throwing stones at that dog. He could rip them apart.”
“I know,” Molly said with a sigh. “But Taylor doesn’t seem to understand that. And I don’t think he realizes that stones hurt when you throw them at someone.”
“Maybe he’ll understand after he has some more time to think about it,” Justin said as he turned to look at the little boy sitting on the stool. Taylor certainly wasn’t a happy camper in his imposed exile on the stool.
“But you didn’t come here to talk about my contrary child,” Molly said. “What’s up?”
Justin hesitated for a moment. Now that he was there he wasn’t sure he wanted to bring up the whole mess with Molly. He took a sip of coffee to buy himself some more time.
“You can tell me anything,” Molly said reaching across the table to squeeze her brother’s hand.
“Ever since I started therapy on my arm…” Justin said slowly. He twirled his coffee mug around and around as he searched for the right words.
“Yes?” Molly said trying to encourage him.
“It’s brought back memories.”
“Bad memories … of when your hand wouldn’t work?” Justin nodded. “I remember that time.”
“I thought you would,” Justin replied. He couldn’t bring himself to look into her eyes. The inside of the coffee mug was much safer.
“Justin, look at me. You survived all that. We all survived, and … we came out better at the end of it.”
Justin looked up to see the sympathy and understanding in his sister’s eyes. He was thankful that was what he saw, instead of anger and fear and distrust.
“I did some things back then – awful things,” Justin whispered.
“You mean that day you tore your room apart and … pushed Mom.”
“You, you knew about that?”
“I heard it all. Mom wouldn’t tell me what was going on with you, but I came out of my room when I heard you shouting. I was in the hall when you shoved her.”
“Fuck!” Justin reacted.
“I was so scared. I didn’t know what else you were going to do.”
“I didn’t know either,” Justin admitted. “I was so full of rage and torment. I was totally out of control.”
“Is that where Rage the comic book came from?” Molly asked as the thought struck her.
“That was a part of where it came from. It was a release of some of that anger and hate. I do that every now and then with my paintings too.”
“I bet I could pick out the angry ones,” Molly said drinking some of her coffee.
“I bet you could too.”
“Justin, it’s okay. You’ve got past all that stuff.”
“That’s the problem,” Justin sighed, “I don’t think I have. I don’t think I ever will. I was scared I might hurt Bree when these feelings started resurfacing during therapy. She was trying to help me.” He admitted that reluctantly, but he thought Molly should know.
“But you didn’t hurt Bree. You wouldn’t. You deal with your demons, Justin. Remember that.”
Justin stared into his sister’s eyes drawing strength from her. “Thanks for saying that.”
“I know that Brian had a lot to do with your recovery. You were much better the next time I saw you back then, after you had been living with Brian.”
“After Mom gave me away,” Justin said sadly.
“She did what she thought was best. And look how it turned out!” Molly smiled trying to lighten Justin’s mood.
“Yeah, but the bad memories are still there.”
“They should be there, but you don’t have to bring them to the fore or act on them,” Molly advised.
“True,” Justin said thoughtfully. “I’m really sorry for how I acted then.” Molly merely nodded.
They sipped their coffees in silence until each cup was drained.
“I have an idea about what to do with Taylor and the stones,” Justin said as he stood up. “Can I give it a try?”
“Sure,” Molly said. “Taylor, Uncle Justin wants to talk to you. You can get off the timeout stool.”
Taylor stood up immediately and ran to his uncle. “I love you,” he said, like that made everything better, and to some extent it did. He hugged Justin’s legs.
“Come outside,” Justin said taking Taylor’s hand.
Molly watched them go out the door as she cleaned off the table. She wondered what Justin had in mind.
“Taylor,” Justin said to his nephew, “you know when you throw stones?”
Taylor nodded. “Bad!” he said.
“Yes, very bad when you throw them at people or animals.”
Taylor stared up at his uncle. He wasn’t sure what he was being told. It sounded like he could throw stones at other things. “Twee?” he asked. Taylor really loved to throw stones.
“Exactly,” Justin said with a smile. “Watch.” Justin picked up a few stones from the gravel path and tossed one at the big tree in the yard. It pinged off the trunk. “See, that didn’t hurt the tree, but stones hurt people.” Justin gently tossed a stone that hit Taylor’s arm.
“Ow! Bad, Unca Dust!”
“That’s why you shouldn’t throw them at Bree or Beau.”
“Oh,” Taylor said with a frown. “Twee?”
“Yes, try to hit the tree.” Justin picked up a few more stones and took Taylor’s hand walking him closer to the big tree. “See if you can do it.” He handed Taylor a stone.
Taylor threw the stone and it bounced off the trunk. “Did it!” Taylor said happily.
“Yes, you did,” Justin said with a smile. He handed Taylor the stones he had picked up. “Throw them one at a time, and only at the tree.”
Taylor proceeded to do just that. He smiled every time the stone hit the trunk.
“That’s genius,” Molly said as she came out of the house. She had been watching at the door.
“That’s me, genius personified.”
Molly punched him in his good arm. “I hope that solves the stones problem.”
“Me too, but there are no guarantees,” Justin cautioned.
“You know,” Molly said with a smirk. “You should stop throwing stones at yourself. Leave the past in the past. What happened then is done, and will not come back to the present.”
“And you know this how?”
“I know everything,” Molly laughed.
“Sometimes I think you do,” Justin agreed giving his sister a big hug.
They both stood, arms wrapped around each other’s waist, watching Taylor try to master throwing his stones at the big tree.
Brian watched Gerry ease Michael onto a chaise in the backyard of the large cottage. Brian and his band of landscapers had created a tropical grotto effect similar to what he saw at the poolside on the estate in Hawaii. The large potted palms added shade and could withstand the heat of the summer. Since the pots were on wheeled stands, they could be moved back into the greenhouse for the winter. The rustling of their leaves had a relaxing effect to the ear.
“Have you finished torturing my friend?” Brian snarked.
“For now,” Gerry answered with a grin. He retreated back into the house then brought out a large pitcher of lemonade with some glasses on a tray. “Behave yourselves,” Gerry teased. “You’re next, Kinney,” he said seriously. “But later, after your visit.”
“Promises, promises,” Brian replied as Gerry went back into the house. “You need anything?” Brian asked Michael.
“A glass of that?” Michael pointed to the lemonade.
“Anytime, Mikey. I live to serve,” Brian smirked as he poured a glass of the cold beverage then handed it to his friend. After pouring a glass for himself, Brian sat back on his own chaise conserving his strength for his own workout.
“I’m sorry, Brian,” Michael said after a while of silence.
“I accept your apology,” Brian said graciously. “For what?” he added.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about things.”
“Me, you, us.”
“That’s a lot of thinking.”
“Come to any conclusions?”
“Yeah. I’ve been a prick.”
“Well, that’s a revelation,” Brian said as he slowly sipped his lemonade waiting for Michael to elaborate. Michael softly chuckled.
“I’ve watched you for years. You wanna know what I’ve learned about you?”
“That I’m the sexiest fag on the face of the planet.”
Brian made a royal wave with his hand.
“That I was wrong about you and the Boy Wonder.”
“In what way?”
“For years I kept saying that what me and Ben have is the real thing. That you couldn’t possibly know what true love is. That my marriage was the only real one in the family. I was wrong. What you and Justin have is just as real. Same goes for Emm and Drew and Ted and Allen. They’re all just as real even though they’re all different. Even Riley and Danny have something real, except that men that old shouldn’t be...doing it.” Michael wrinkled his nose in disgust at the thought.
Brian laughed. “You know your mom and Carl...”
“Ewww! Don’t say it out loud. I walked in on them once fooling around on the couch. Carl had his hand down Ma’s shirt and her hand was...” Michael shuddered, throwing Brian into a fit of giggles.
Brian poured them more lemonade.
“I guess we have something to look forward to in our old age,” Brian said.
“I can't believe you said the word old.”
“Yeah, well, I think I’ve given up on my French anti-aging shit.”
Michael gave Brian an incredulous look.
“Not,” Brian smirked and Michael laughed. “I’m not going down without a fight.”
“Scratching and fighting all the way,” Michael said as Brian nodded. “You do throw a mean punch for a fag. I should know.”
“I deserved it. I jumped to all the wrong conclusions, again. I always seem to do that when it concerns you. I can admit that now.”
“Michael...” Brian suddenly was not liking the direction their conversation was going.
“I’m fine, feeling stronger. I even called Bobby’s father. He and his wife are coming for dinner later. I had my doctor brief him and he agreed to check me out while I’m out here, so I wouldn’t have to drive back to the Pitts.”
“That’s nice. Ummm, you’re not letting the professor cook any of his tofu shit, are you?” Brian made a yuck face. Michael smiled, seeing a Bree expression on Brian’s face.
“Emm’s cooking. You guys are all invited. You know Emm likes to cook for a crowd. Of course Rachel and George will be here. The girls are visiting.”
“Wow, you’re a regular hostess.”
“Yeah, I’ll be hosting from the sofa.”
“Hey, it’s a nice sofa.”
“Yeah, it is. Emm did a great job on this place. You all did,” Michael said wistfully.
“You guys did this for me, didn’t you?”
“Sort of. I’ve been thinking about it since Lindz had to give up the toll house cottage. She was so disappointed but it couldn’t be helped. That place held all the wrong memories.”
“They tried. You tried,” Michael added. Brian nodded. “Bri, you and Justin...”
“He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be that over the hill club boy. And have the plastic surgeon on my speed dial. Now, I don’t fight the grey hairs. Not that I have any,” Brian said gratefully as he looked up at his hair line which hadn’t moved either.
“I don’t think a grey hair would have the guts to dare be on your head. Brian, I mean it. I was wrong. Can you ever forgive me?”
“I love you, Mikey. Always have, always will.”
Michael smiled sleepily at his friend as Brian took the glass from his hand.
“‘Kay,” Michael mumbled as Brian watched his friend snuggle into the chaise then fall asleep.
Brian watched Michael for a few more minutes then stood up. He gathered up the glasses and pitcher and carefully made his way back into the cottage. Ben greeted him and took the tray, leading Brian to the large kitchen.
“He’s asleep,” Brian said.
“I saw. Can I ask what you guys were talking about?” Ben poured himself some lemonade before he put the pitcher into the refrigerator.
“He apologized to me.”
“For being an ass about me and Justin.”
“Ah. Maybe I should apologize too.”
“Please don’t. One heart to heart talk is all I can stand for the day. If you start too, it’ll make my dick soft.”
“We wouldn’t want that, now would we?”
“Nope,” Brian smirked at the big man. “He told me we’re all invited to dinner. Are you sure about that? Will it be too much for him?”
“I thought so but he insists on it. He wants to prove to himself that he’s normal.”
“Mikey has never been normal. And why does he have to prove it to anyone?”
“What about her? She’s three thousand miles away.”
“But that hasn’t stopped her from trying to make our lives miserable.”
“What has the bitch done now?” Brian asked looking around for JR.
“They’re out driving around, antiquing I think Lindsay called it.”
“Means she’s gonna come back with junk.” Brian made a face. “Answer the question.”
“She’s been pumping JR with questions. Some about Michael and how he’s feeling. I think Mel’s planning to make trouble and push for full custody.”
“She can’t; she and Lindz have an agreement. Besides, JR’s old enough to know where she wants to be. An argument could be made that she has a stable life here. Mel’s fucking some bitch. Just because they live together doesn’t mean it’s all wine and roses.”
“You know something we don’t?” Ben asked.
“Just a hunch. Lorna didn’t seem to be the mother type and Bree doesn’t like her. What are you doing about it?”
“I have Bobby going through all the paperwork.”
“Good. Red is one smart lawyer. He’ll find something.”
“I hope so. It’ll kill Michael if he loses JR; he loves her so much.”
“I know, Professor. The bitch won’t get her claws on your daughter,” Brian declared.
“From your lips...”
“Hey, Mim, look over there!” Candy pointed to a lonely table sitting a little in from the road in front of an old house. Lindsay had taken the girls and Richie for a drive up and down all the back roads between the lane and Bridgeton. They had found a lot of little shops that had interesting knickknacks, some genuine antiques and filthy paintings that could actually be worth something once they were cleaned up.
Lindsay pulled over. The table was covered with old jewelry, most of it costume, but a few pieces were from the Art Deco period. Richie jumped out of the car spying all the glittering beads.
“Oooo!” he exclaimed making the girls laugh and giggle. “What?” He looked at the ladies all smiling at him.
“You sound like Auntie Emm,” JR explained.
“Oh, okay,” Richie replied with a smile. He didn’t mind and took it as a compliment.
“They are pretty,” Lindsay agreed as she picked up a bejeweled brooch. “I wish I had a jeweler’s loop.”
“You know about jewelry, Mommy?” JR asked.
“A little. Some of the best art isn’t always in paint and canvas. Did you know that Tiffany made jewelry a long time ago?” The girls shook their heads but Richie nodded. The girls looked at him.
“Antiques Roadshow,” he confided. The girls understood. “I could use some of these beads in my designs,” he said wistfully, his mind running at one hundred miles per hour with new patterns for his clothes.
An elderly woman came out of the house with a bang of the screen door. “Let’s see what she wants for the whole lot. We can clean them up when we get back and see what we really have,” Lindsay whispered to the kids.
The kids nodded.
“Can I help you folks?” the woman asked.
“We were just admiring your beads,” Lindsay said nonchalantly.
“Just cleaning out my closets and drawers. Got too much junk hanging around, I can’t keep up with the dusting,” the woman said.
“I know what you mean,” Lindsay replied with a disinterested tone. “My girls were admiring some of the necklaces. Girls today are always into weird stuff,” Lindsay whispered as she picked up a necklace made of black beads. Lindsay suspected they were crystal not just glass but she wasn’t going to admit it. She made a glance at Candy in her Goth attire then winked at the woman.
“I know what you mean. My granddaughter scared the heck out of me one day when she visited me with her mother. She had gone and dyed her hair purple. Now why would she do a foolish thing like that? She has such pretty blond hair. You remind me a little of my daughter.”
Lindsay smiled coyly.
“I’ve been trying to educate my girls about the finer things instead of all that string and plastic stuff kids today have around their wrists.” JR twirled the colorful string friendship bracelet tied on her wrist. It was the one Curtis had given her.
Lindsay sighed. The woman sighed in sympathy.
“Tell you what, you seem like a nice woman and your children are very polite. Most kids today wouldn’t be caught dead with their mothers driving around looking for bargains. I know my granddaughter never would. Give me fifty dollars and the whole lot is yours.”
“Fifty? I don’t know, that’s a lot for costume stuff.” Lindsay picked up an obviously fake pearl necklace. The clasp was turning green and the paint on the ‘pearls’ was chipping off.
“Forty, but that’s my final offer.”
“Done!” Lindsay said as she dug into her purse. Candy found an empty plastic bag in the car from when they had bought some bottles of water at the general store. After Lindsay paid the woman, JR and Candy started filling the bag with their treasures.
“Thank you,” Lindsay said with a wave to the woman who was smiling thinking she got the better end of the deal.
“Come back next week, maybe I’ll have more things you might like.”
“We might do that. Come along, children,” Lindsay said sweetly. The teens followed her obediently like ducklings back to the car. Once Lindsay was on the road they all broke out into giggles.
“Mom, some of this stuff is crap,” JR said wrinkling her nose like Michael did.
“I know but some of it is genuine. And I want a better look at that brooch.”
“I like the black beads,” Candy said as she held them up to the light. They sparkled even though they were dark. No one was too surprised.
“They could be crystals or obsidian. Either way, they’re yours,” Lindsay proclaimed.
“Thank you!” Candy gasped.
“Could I have the green ones?” Richie asked shyly. Lindsay could tell he was in ‘Nina’ mode.
“Yes, you may. JR, do you see anything in there that you like?”
“Not really, but there’s some pink and purple beads that maybe Bree would like. She can re-string them.”
“Sweetheart! That’s so nice of you. We’ll be home in about forty-five minutes. I’ll clean them up and then you can take them to her. Maybe you can help her make something nice for her and Ashley,” Lindsay suggested.
“Oooo!” JR exclaimed and then they all laughed.
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