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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by spazmom on 1 March 2007 - 2:24pm. |

Sean didn’t wake me up.

I found myself pondering that as I gazed out the windows in the studio. I had woken up to discover the house surrounded by fog, the kind I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Salt Lake doesn’t get much fog, especially in the summer.

I had gone down the hall to the studio, thinking to enjoy the sight from the large windows, my robe wrapped around me and the window seat sighing beneath me. It was a whole different world. The fog drifting around the trees, and wrapping around buildings. It was as if someone had dumped gray cotton candy on top of us, and was slowly stirring it. I had always enjoyed cloudy or foggy days, I always felt the colors were deeper, more defined when there was not bright sunlight.

Sighing, I leaned my head back against the window. I was anxious about Sean. I guessed he was home, I could make out the outlines of his 4Runner in the driveway, but there were no sounds of life in the house. It amazed me that I was the first one awake, I never woke up early on my own.

Glancing down at my watch I chuckled as I read 7 a.m. Definitely earlier than I like to wake up, I thought, looking back out the window. But despite all the worries of the night before, I had slept better than I had in a long time. I felt very rested and relaxed, and decided a cup of hot chocolate would be the perfect companion.

I tried to be quiet as I went down stairs into the kitchen. I knew the hardest part would be the microwave beeping, but hopefully it wouldn’t be loud enough to wake anyone up. I found the hot chocolate mix and a large mug, stuck the combination into the microwave and set the time. I leaned against the counter as I waited for it to beep, thinking about Sean and the day before.

He had urgently wanted to talk to me. I'd thought since he was so determined, he would have woke me up, but I guess it wasn’t. Was I just imagining things? I don’t believe I was imagining the way he kissed me, or either of our responses to each other. I also didn’t think I was imagining the way he looked at me, the memory of which sent me into a daydream, quickly interrupted by the microwave beeping at me.

I sighed and retrieved my hot chocolate, glad that apparently I hadn’t disturbed anyone. I silently made my way back up the stairs into the studio, curling up on the window seat to gaze at the swirling masses outside. Now I was set for sometime, and I was going to enjoy every minute.

I sat there for a few minutes, enjoying the quiet and watching the movement of the fog, just letting my mind wander and not focusing on anything. Suddenly I heard a sound behind me, and I turned to see Sean standing in the doorway, looking every inch the GQ morning vision in his flannel bottoms and open flannel shirt, his chin dark with morning growth and eyes bleary with little sleep. I caught my breath and managed to sit up without spilling my hot chocolate.

“Sean,” I managed quietly. “Good morning.”

He smiled lazily at me, making my heart skip a beat before going on wildly. “Good morning, Angel.” He walked over to where I sat and leaned over to touch the window, gazing out at the fog. “What an amazing scene,” he commented, his voice husky. “Are you thinking of painting it?”

I shook my head with a weak smile. “No. I don’t do fog very well. I just like to watch it.”

He looked down at me with half-lidded eyes, and my breath caught in my throat, making me light headed. “I think I need a kiss first,” he muttered to himself, before bending down and kissing me thoroughly.

I sighed as he stood back up, my bones now melted into the window seat. “Well, that was quite the good morning kiss.” I commented, my voice somewhat unsteady as he lifted my feet and sat on the window seat beneath them. I tried to gather my thoughts which tended to scatter at his touch. “What did you mean by getting a kiss first?”

Sean rolled his head toward me, opening his eyes and looking at me so intently that I felt as if the room was fading away...

“I thought we would finish that talk we had started yesterday,” he said finally, his hands continuing to massage my feet.

“Oh.” The serious talk. The one that I'd thought he'd wake me for, but scared me at the same time. He wanted to talk now?

He chuckled at the wariness of my tone and lifted one of my feet to kiss a toe. “Don’t get all nervous, Angel,” he admonished softly. “I don’t want to scare you. We do need to talk, don’t you think?”

I nodded, making a face. “Yes, I think so too, but it’s just-”

“A little more serious than you are used to?” He interrupted my line of thought, his voice dry.

I gulped at his observation, and nodded, wondering why this whole thing had me more nervous than a cornered cat.

“Oh, Angel,” Sean pulled me gently but firmly toward him until I was settled on his lap. “What is there to be nervous about? We need to talk about us - what we are feeling, and where we want things to go. What our expectations are. I have some things I need to tell you, and now would be the best time. Ok?”

I nodded, rendered speechless at the tenderness in his voice. I gazed up at his strong tanned face, and was amazed again at the knowledge this man had feelings for me. I guess I was about to find out how strong they were.

“Angel, I haven’t been entirely honest with you, since you’ve been here,” he began, looking away from me, and I felt my heart stop with panic before beating again slowly. He smiled weakly at my expression and ran a finger along my cheek. “Nothing that awful!” he insisted, and I rolled my eyes and tried to pay attention.

“When I came home from back east,” he began quietly, almost as if he was afraid for me to hear him, “I was a very bitter person, and I wasn’t ready to forgive myself for my mistakes, or the pain I had brought to my family. I felt that I had been a fool to have been so naive and fall for my ex, and then to have everything be such a disaster.” He sighed and shook his head, looking away from me again.

“Oh, Sean,” I said, sorrow for all he had suffered filling my heart to bursting with it’s pain. “You don’t have to do tell me-”

“No, you have to know,” he insisted, his voice firm. He picked up my hand and brought it to his mouth, the kiss to my wrist one of delicate salute. “I had been home maybe a day, when I was looking around the front room and saw the photo of you with your parents. I was astounded! I felt like someone had knocked me over the head with a mallet. There you were smiling at me, surrounded by the love of your parents, the loveliest thing I had ever seen...”

The wonder in his voice sent chills down my spine, and I shook my head in amazement. “You felt something for me that long ago?” I whispered, awed by the feeling I heard in his voice.

He looked down at me, his eyes so full of love that I caught my breath and could only stare back at him. “I did. I knew I had to meet you. I had to find out about you. You had been apart of my parents life, and I hadn’t known you because of my pigheadedness.” He sighed again, holding me close. “I pestered my parents about you for weeks. I wanted to know everything about you. Everything you had done, what you liked to do, music you liked, where you lived. Everything I could get them to remember. It drove Leslie nuts, but she was involved too. I questioned her about everything she could tell me, which made me feel a little less upset when I discovered she didn’t know you very well either.”

I smiled, caressing his shirt with my fingers. “Leslie was so busy with her friends and her life. I was always painting. I really didn’t interact much with anyone else.”

Sean was silent for a moment, and then he spoke so softly I almost didn’t hear him. “I felt you were very lonely,” he said finally, his voice holding a question in it.

I sat up and turned on his lap, totally amazed. “You what? Oh Sean,” I shook my head and smiled up at him. “No, no, no! I was never lonely! I always had my parents and your parents and my painting! I lived in m own little world, and I liked it very much.”

He looked at me closely searching, I guess, for any clue that I wasn’t being completely truthful those visits. “Oh.” He looked a little relieved. “Well, I figured you were. And then my mom told me about the accident, and Dad showed me the reports, and they both were so broken up that you hadn’t been back here since.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I decided there was some reason you weren’t coming back. You were still hurting, or feeling alone, or something, and maybe you needed an outstretched hand.”

I closed my eyes at the tenderness of his words, his deep voice going deep inside to my heart, where it seemed to reverberate. What kind of man was this I had found? When had I done something so right to deserve him?

“So you talked your parents into building the studio,” I said softly, remembering what Mari had told me.

He nodded above me. “Yeah, I figured Mom would tell you. Well, it seemed to be something Dad and I could do together, that would get us past the ‘I care but don’t know how to show it’ phase.” He pulled me forward to kiss the top of my head, and I curled my hands into his shirt, wishing this moment could go on forever. “It went well. It worked. We were able to start talking about what we wanted out of life. I was finally able to talk to him about the mistakes I had made. I was also able to learn some things from him that I had been too self absorbed to learn before.”

He tilted my head up so he could see my eyes. “One of those things was to cherish what I felt for you, even if you never came to feel the same in return.”

“Oh,” The depth of emotion in his voice wrapped around my insides like a soft ribbon.

He caressed my face with his strong warm hand, and I leaned into it, to let him know I treasured his touch.
“So,” he continued after a moment, his voice husky, but obviously determined to finish this part of the story. “I told Mom that she needed to write you and tell you it was time to come back. I figured we were going to have to be the one’s reaching out to you. I never dreamed you’d call the night you got the letter!”

I grinned at the astonishment in his voice. “You were right,” I told him, reflecting the way I'd been living. “I was alone. I didn’t have a soul, or so I thought. I was wasting my life, and wishing there were more.” I looked up at him, touching his face softly. “I had no idea you were waiting for me.”

We gazed at each other for a moment, filled with such peace and happiness that we were together, then Sean bent down and kissed me - so softly it might have been a whisper and then stronger, letting me know how he truly felt.

“Angel,” he said unsteadily after a few minutes, “you know I love you?”

I closed my eyes and treasured the moment, letting go of my fears. “I hoped so,” my addition came out shakily, but I was relieved to know I'd been right. “You know I think I love you?”

I guess the “think” was a bit poor on my part, but then, I had never really known love before and I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. I was pretty sure, but he might as well know where I stood.

He held me tightly, hardly breathing, and I snuggled deeper. Suddenly it felt like he was shaking, and I reached up to feel moisture on his cheeks. “Oh, Sean!” I whispered, worried more than ever, “What are you feeling?”

He took a deep shuddering breath and held tighter to me. “I’m afraid,” he admitted, his voice husky. “I love you so much, and I never thought I would feel this way for anyone after Suzette crushed me. I guess I'm terrified I'll scare you off." He chuckled low in his chest, brushing at his face and then holding me again.

"I was half-afraid that I'd fallen in love with a photo, and that when you came, I'd see that you are a totally different person than I thought. But you're not. You're exactly as I thought you'd be, and it makes me happy that you can express feelings for me - but I'm scared to death I'm going to loose you.” He looked down at me and smiled weakly. “I sound like a girl.”

I giggled at his words. “Yeah, the nineties man and all, that’s you.” I shook my head and raised a hand to caress his face. “Sean, please don’t be afraid, I don’t think I could bear to be apart from you. I’m not going anywhere yet.”

He looked down at me, a bleak expression on his face. “I hate the idea of you going back to Utah,” he admitted, pulling me close again and holding me so tight I almost couldn’t breath. There was no way I was going to say a thing though. “I’m afraid if you go, I’ll never get out there to see you and you’ll forget what we have. I’ve been thinking I might have to try and transfer to Utah, so I could be close to you.”

I was silent for a moment, and he fidgeted a little, letting me know my silence worried him. I licked my dry lips and could not believe what I was about to say. I was really surprised at myself, but the idea felt so right...

“Sean,” I ventured finally, pulling my courage around me. “What if I were to quit my job in Utah and come live here?”

He went still at my words, and I could tell he was stunned. He pulled back slowly, having to see the expression on my face, I guess to make sure I was serious.

“Move to Astoria?” he repeated, his voice cracking in his amazement. “You would do that?”

I nodded, my heart beating so hard I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. I had never been so brazen in my life. I was offering a lot here, and I had the feeling he knew exactly what I was doing.

“Angel,” he said, cupping my face in his hands, his eyes caressing every inch of it, the warmth in them heating my skin. “Angel, would you-”

“Sean!” Bill’s voice boomed through the house suddenly, causing us both to jump and shattering the moment totally.

I felt like I was in shock, and I looked at Sean, knowing my eyes were wide with emotion. Sean looked just as startled as I did and frowned as he looked down at me.

“Sean!” Bill yelled again, his voice sounding a little cross.

I bit my lip as Sean groaned, gently putting me off his lap so he could move. “Coming, Dad,” he called as he stood up. He turned and looked at me with such longing I almost melted. “We are going to finish this!” he said fiercely. “If it means we have to go somewhere entirely away from this city to do it!”

I smiled weakly at his frustration, and he bent down to kiss me hard before turning and leaving the room. I sat back against the windows, closing my eyes to revel in the last few minutes. Sean loved me! I was thinking of moving to Oregon! Whew, I didn’t seem to be able to anything in half measures today!

I thought about my reply to his feelings. I thought I loved him? What did love mean anyway? I knew I didn’t want to spend any time apart from him, I knew I melted at his touch and my pulse raced when he was near. I knew the sound of his voice, and the richness of those eyes...

“Angie?” Mari’s voice carried to me from the hallway, seeming to come from very far away. “Angie, are you going to come down for breakfast?”

I sighed, opening my eyes to look out again at the fog which was a little lighter, the sun coming up to filter through. I didn’t feel like facing anyone, much less eating. I just wanted to be by myself for awhile and enjoy the feelings that were cursing through me.

“I’ll be down later,” I called, hoping it was loud enough for her to hear me. With a lifetime of listening to her husband bellow, someone else’s yell might not even seem like a raising of the voice.

“Okay, dear.”

She didn’t come in, which was a little unusual, but I was glad. I really didn’t want to share this with anyone yet. It was so wonderful, so new, and too special to be tarnished with anyone’s opinions or suggestions yet.

I sat and looked out the window for a while, enjoying the silence, the moving fog, and the feelings I was experiencing. Suddenly I heard the front door slam, and I saw Sean and his father come out of the house. Sean was now fully dressed and obviously on his way to work. Both of them looked upset about something, and yet, it almost looked as if Sean’s father was pleading with him.

I was amazed, and leaned forward to see if I could tell what they were saying. The timbre of their voices came to me through the windowpanes, but I couldn’t hear the words. Sean shook his head, his face stormy, and his father held out his hands, palms up, almost in supplication.

I watched as Sean went still, looking at those callused large hands - open to him, and he put a hand to his face before going forward and putting his arms around his father. It was touching. So much so, that I felt I shouldn’t be watching.

I turned away, getting up from my perch on the window seat to go to my room. I was terribly curious about what had just occurred between Sean and his father, but I didn’t feel I could ask about it just now. Perhaps Sean would tell me about it later, at least I hoped so.

It also appeared something important was going on, and I was afraid to guess what. There were too many things going on as it was.

I sighed as I reached my bedroom and faced the bed that was unmade and the room that hadn’t been tidied in a while. It was time to do a little housework, and get myself going.

As I straightened things up, I found myself looking forward to that evening. It was the 'date’ with Sean that he'd planned. Just because his parents were going to be there, didn’t mean it wasn’t a date...

I had to smile at myself as I got dressed. Yeah, sure, and who was I kidding! Talk about built in chaperones! Oh well, I sighed, as I straightened out my bed and got it made. It wasn’t like I hated his parents or anything. I couldn’t wish for a better set of - I stopped myself and stood up straight.

What was I thinking? In-laws? Where did that thought come from? Although it had seemed like Sean had something important to say, it might not have been a proposal! I couldn’t assume anything here, we were just beginning to work out our feelings. It was way to soon to be thinking about proposals! I shook my head, irritated with my speculations and tossed my pillow back in its place with some force. I wished sometimes my mind would behave itself and not get these crazy ideas. It was going to drive me insane!

It took me about a half-hour to finish putting my room back in order, and about that time I had developed a better appetite, so I decided to venture down stairs. I half expected Mari and Bill to be in the kitchen - Mari baking something, or the two of them talking, but I couldn’t find sign of either of them as I wandered about, and I was a little concerned. Entering the kitchen I found a note taped to the fridge informing me they had gone to run an errand, and would be back about lunchtime.

“Oh,” I stared at it blankly, suddenly feeling the quiet of the house settling in around me. I glanced at my watch, and realized it was almost lunchtime now. They should be home.

I sighed and rubbed my arms, nervousness setting in. Its amazing how your fears build up when you're alone in a house. I seen my share of scary babysitter movies, but this wasn’t the same. I wasn’t babysitting, and no one was going to be coming after me.

I'm perfectly safe, I told myself firmly, and turned to the fridge to see what I could scare up for a light lunch. I figured I could surprise them and have lunch ready when they got in.

After settling on tuna salad on wheat bread, I quickly made it up, putting in my favorite additions, chopped apples, onions and boiled eggs; something the Palmer’s had shown me. While I was waiting for the eggs to cook, I glanced over and saw the paper sitting on the counter.

The Astoria newspaper wasn’t usually my bag of reading, but I was bored and I guess my worst habit is reading at the table. When you live by yourself, it’s an easy thing to do when there’s no one there to keep you company.

I unfolded the paper and there, staring up at me from the front page, big as life, was Dave! I couldn’t believe it! The headlines read “Rampant Violence Uncontrolled in Private Boy’s Academy”. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. There was this picture of Dave, bruised and beaten, the photo stating it had been taken a couple weeks before, obviously the beating they had given him before I had showed up.

““This is an example of what happens to our youth when we take them out of the fore front of common society and put them in cloistered, militaristic schools, where there is no guidance or supervision!” I read out loud in astonishment. What? “This is what is turning our strong men into gays and our vulnerable women into lesbians!”

The article quoted a woman activist who was apparently known and barely tolerated in Astoria’s community as one who was religiously conservative with no tolerance for anything new or threatening to her views. “Why is she bringing gays and lesbians into this?” I asked myself out loud, totally confused. Maybe it just fit in with everything else she was thinking.

I shook my head at the absurdity of it all, and then at the bottom of the article spotted a blurb which said “Mr. Newell had admitted to being gay to this papers interviewer, but requested this information be kept out, due to his living circumstances. We had planned on following his request, but then learned the information had already been leaked to Ms. Follywell. Ms. Follywell has already informed the school officials, afraid Mr. Newell might pose a social threat to the other boys. The school authorities have been unavailable for comment, although the school receptionist told us "it’s policy was not to question personal preferences in accepting applicants to the program, and that the violence experienced by Mr. Newell was entirely unrelated to his sexual preferences.”"

I was stunned. I stared at the photo of poor battered Dave, seeing only the boy who had helped me change my tire. The public knew now, and so would the entire school, stuff like this always got around. His life would be hell! And what about Sean’s parents? Had they already read the article? I shook my head and took a deep breath. This was crazy! Who would have leaked that private information? Someone who wanted to hurt Dave. Someone who wanted him out of the way?

I bit my lip and glanced over at the phone, wondering if I could call Sean, and if he would be able to talk. I didn’t even know the number to the school, for goodness sakes, but I knew I could look it up. I jumped up from the chair and quickly found the phone book and the number for the Monticello Academy.

I stood chewing on a thumbnail as I waited for the phone to be answered.

“Hello, Monticello Young Men Academy. How may I direct your call?”

“Hello!” I said breathlessly. “I was trying to reach Sean Palmer.”

“Okay. Let me see if he’s in.”

I waited while I heard the clicks of connections, and then Sean’s deep voice washed over me. “Hello, you have reached the desk of Sean Palmer. I am unable to answer the phone right now, so please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible.”

I groaned and hung up the phone. His voice mail! Where was he? Glancing at the clock I realized he was probably gone for lunch. Lunch! I glanced over at the boiling eggs, realizing their time was up. But where were Mari and Bill?

They must be running late, I thought with a nervous sigh. What was I going to do about the article? I was desperate to talk to someone!

I took the eggs off the burner and put them in cold water before starting to pace back and forth in the kitchen. Dave was someone’s scapegoat. His sexuality was a side issue that was inflammatory at this time, in this city. I remember Bill mentioning something about it during our trip to Multnomah, how there was some woman activist that was trying to get people all worked up about the queers of society. (His choice of words, not mine).

It made me cringe, just thinking of it. Not that I approved of that lifestyle, I thought they were personally missing a brain cell somewhere, but I’d had enough people tell me I was close minded that I didn’t express that thought anymore. Still, thinking of Dave, and what he had done to help me, I had a hard time associating that opinion with him. I guess I hadn’t known anyone like him before.

I went into the front room and looked out the big picture window, anxiously seeing if anyone was coming down the road. Who was I kidding? I didn’t know Dave at all. I just had a few meetings with him. He could be a drug addict associated with this whole mess, as far I knew.

I shook my head and pressed cold fingers to my forehead. This wasn’t getting me anywhere. I glanced at my watch again, deciding to try the school and see if Sean was back from lunch yet.

I got the same receptionist.

“Hello,” I said quickly, before she could start her spiel, “I called earlier for Sean Palmer and you put me to his voice mail. Is he in today?”

“Oh,” she said hesitantly. “Let me see.”

There was silence as she put me on hold and I chewed on my lip. This was crazy. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get a hold of a teacher!

“Actually, he isn't in today,” the receptionist said, coming back on the phone, her voice sounding guarded. “He’s asked that I forward any callers to his voice mail. Did you want to leave a message?”

“No thank you.” I hung up, trying not to be upset with the poor woman, it wasn’t her fault. What was going on at the school? Sean hadn’t said anything about not going in, in fact I had watched him leave, hadn’t I?

The phone rang right then, and I jumped with nerves before picking up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Angie?” It was Mari’s reassuring voice and I sighed with relief.

“Mari!” I said, feeling really silly at my fears and very relieved to hear her voice. “Where are you? I have lunch all ready and-”

“Angie,” She briskly interrupted me. “I’m afraid we're running later than we thought. We’ll just meet you at the School Auditorium, okay? Weren’t you and Sean going to have dinner together?”

I chewed on my lip. Mari was sounding a little - stiff. “I - yes,” I finally answered. “I think so. I just haven’t been able to get a hold of him to find out when. What time does the show start?”

“Oh, I think it starts at six, dear. I’ve got to go now, but we’ll see you there!”

I stared at the buzzing receiver in my hand, my heart sinking. Was it me, or was everyone acting strange today? I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on, only vague suspicions, and I was feeling more and more alone and lost. I really needed to talk to Sean!

I hung up the phone and looked at my watch. It was still only 1 p.m., still hours to go before it was time for Sean to come get me. What was I going to do with myself for that length of time? I was going to be a basket case by the time it was ready to go.

I suddenly had a horrible feeling he wasn’t going to show up, and I was going to have to drive to the Center by myself. I felt like I was on a double blind date, where no one else had showed up!

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