“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
– J. K. Rowling
Dean sweeps his hand in a grand gesture to welcome me as the door widens for my entrance. The first impression one gets upon entering the room is that every item in the room has its place. Not exactly over-orderly, but with careful consideration for balance, texture and color. It must be Marcus’ doing because Dean is generally indifferent to his immediate environment. I would always be wary of tripping over his running shoes.
“Fran, I would like to introduce you to Marcus.”
He startled me by materializing beside Dean. Taller than Dean, in crisply ironed shirt and denim jeans, darker hair, no-rim glasses, even features short of handsome, green eyes framed in thick eyebrows, a soul patch on his chin.
“So glad to meet you!” I offered my hand for him to shake. “You must be the wizard of the home. I don’t remember this place being so well-tended.” I flustered. “I didn’t mean that as a back-handed compliment. Really, your place is beautiful.”
“Thank you, m’lady. I rather like being thought of as wizard. It took some magic to tidy this up when,” he jerked his thumb, indicating Dean, “the master of clutter lived alone.”
“All right, now that you two have hit it off using me as a ping-pong ball, shall we make ourselves comfortable in the living room?”
“And not the rec-room?” I follow Marcus as Dean comes to my side.
“Thank you for coming. It means a lot to me.”
“The night’s not over. Marcus might not like me.”
But the night sped through the hours with small talk and catching up and knowing each others’ histories. Dean had decided on pediatrics and Marcus already had a job as an environmental engineer with the Office of Sustainability and Environment.
“So, Fran, what’s after Reed?” Dean gulped the last of his green tea.
“I’m graduating ahead of schedule and doing my graduate studies at the UW, starting in October.” I put down my tea cup, waving away the proffered refill. “No, thanks. No more tea for me, Marcus.”
“We’re all going to be Huskies! Woof!” Marcus put the teapot back in the exact spot it came from on the tea tray, then the tea cozy over the tea pot. “We’ll wear our Husky shirts under our wedding finery.”
“When’s the wedding?”
Dean had color in his cheeks and a grin I remembered so well. “Next March.”
“You know Annie’s getting married in January? I’ve spent hours, and I mean that literally, with the wedding plans. I will not be a bridesmaid ever again.”
“How about my best person at my wedding?”
Marcus picked up the tray. “If you will excuse me, I’ll just get these out of the way.”
As he left, I took the box with the flowers and dove necklace from my purse.
Dean sat back, stunned. “You’re giving it back to me? You came over tonight to give this back to me?” He tucked his hands beneath his legs, refusing to take the box I offered to him.
“Yes, on one condition. You have the chain fixed and give this back to me on my birthday. I am not going to wear a Husky shirt underneath a formal, but I will want to wear my necklace.”
He hovered for a moment then ever so gently, ever so Dean, he reached for and took the box. “Fran…of course I will.”
“I said something to Annie today as she was having a meltdown, that made me really stop and think about what’s important to me. I know this might seem counter-intuitive, but I told her that there is no forever, only the moment we live in, but it made me think of how much you mean to me and I want to be with you forever. If not as a lover, then as your friend. Life is so fragile, so unpredictable with our loves and friends and family. I cannot not have you in my life. You mean too much to me.”
“Then can we plan to be together on your birthday?”
I hadn’t thought about how that would work, introducing Scott to Dean. “You, me, Marcus and Scott. At least for an hour or so sometime during the day would work for me if that is good for you.”
“Why not here? Let me know what is a good time and we will make it happen.” He rose as I stood up to leave. “But we’ll get together before then. Maybe the three of us could meet for a late lunch or early dinner between our schedules.”
I detoured to the kitchen where I caught Marcus’ attention with a wave. “I’m glad we finally got to meet one another. It’s been a terrific evening. Thanks.”
He wiped his hands down his jeans, which surprised me; it seemed an uncharacteristic thing for him to do. “M’lady,” he took my hand to his lips, “it’s been a pleasure.”
When Dean and I got to my car, I stopped before getting in. “Have you ever heard from Dusty? I thought maybe if anyone would hear from her, it would be you.”
“No,” he shook his head, his face a map of sadness, “not a word. I miss her, too. Sometimes I think ‘I’ll give her a call and tell her something’. It hurts when the realization hits me she isn’t here.”
“Yes, it hurts.” We stood silently sharing our moment of grief. “Look at the beautiful night sky with all those stars. Do you think there are sentient beings out there?”
“Yes, I do. I think they are too intelligent to visit this world.”
“Maybe,” I said, leaning into him, “this is the sandbox where we, like toddlers, learn how to share, and learn social skills.”
“Look, Fran.” He pointed to the night sky at the constellations. “Lyra, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia. There! Hercules, the fifth largest of today’s constellations; though it was Ptolemy in the second century that found and named it.”
“Is there any subject you don’t know?”
“One or two.”
Then we hugged and I swear I felt a paradigm shift, that my world had righted itself.
I spent several more hours of the week which I dubbed Annie-Planning,with Annie. We also spent time with Dean and Marcus, and I spent time with Dean, and Dean and Marcus. In between, I visited my Grandma in the hospital for mercifully brief visits as she drifted off frequently and for longer periods of time. Although, by the time she was transferred to the rehab center for therapy, she had more lucid minutes each day. My mother finally admitted she felt comfortable going on her trip and leaving me with the responsibilities of tending the roses, yard and Grandma. I told her I would even fill in the holes that Grandma had dug.
During the evenings I had by myself, I thought a lot about my relationships. I asked myself why I felt hesitant to introduce Scott to Dean, to Dean and Marcus. I realized that I had lopped off a whole section of my life from Scott’s, keeping a lot of my past from him; not that I was ashamed of it, I just did not want to share it. I wanted it all to myself. I, in effect, was straddling between real commitment and dilettantism.
Scott and I never had had a fight. We simply discussed the issue and resolved it, until the subject of Dean and Marcus came up over the phone late one night.
“But Scott, one night this week isn’t too much to ask of your time. I want you to meet my friends, Dean and Marcus.”
“Your gay friends? Really?”
“Dean and I have been friends since grade school, Scott. Gay or not, we’re friends with a long history.”
“Well, you know how you don’t like hanging out with my friends? I don’t want you to hang out with your gay friends.”
“Unlike certain friends of yours, Scott, my friends will treat you with respect. I can guarantee that.”
“Geez, Fran, getting hit upon by a guy is a compliment for a woman. But getting hit on by another guy is not what I consider complimentary.”
“I seriously doubt that either Dean or Marcus would find you attractive. They are committed to each other. In fact, I will be standing up for Dean at their wedding.” I tried to relax the strangle hold I had on the phone.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Fran. I won’t be there.”
“Okay, I won’t insist if it makes you uncomfortable. I wish you would reconsider…”
“Fran, did you not hear me? I don’t like the idea you will be there. I don’t want you to be there either!”
“So, we’ll do a trade-off? Two of your objectionable friends for two of mine?” He’d better understand sarcasm.
“You know, it’s different, okay? My friends are normal, red-blooded men. Not…”
“Not what, Scott?” I could imagine what the fill-in-the-blank word would be.
“You know something, Fran? This explains a lot about you. I think maybe you don’t really like real men; you don’t want to be in a man-woman relationship. Maybe you should give some thought to your sexual orientation.”
I did not cut him off abruptly, but whispered, “Good-bye,” and hung up. Nor did I cry knowing it was over. I finally had the answer to the why I did not want to make a commitment to Scott; underneath the facade of his college education, he was a good-ole-boy.