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Second Time Around

Chapter 1 - New Friends

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

Love is lovelier the second time around,
Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground.
It's the second time you hear your love song sung,
Makes you think that love, like youth is wasted on the young.
Love's more comfortable the second time you fall,
Like a friendly home the second time you call.
Who can say what led us to this miracle we've found?
There are those who'll bet love comes but once, and yet
I'm oh so glad we met the second time around.

(Words by Sammy Cahn and music by Jimmy Van Heusen)

Notes By The New Editor:

This story was written by Arli J.

For those of you who have no idea what this story is about, let me preface the story by saying that this story mostly concerns two people, Gregg Garrison and Harley Gordon. You may have met these gentlemen while reading a story by E Walk entitled 'Pinochle'.

Greg has lived in Fremont Nebraska for quite some time now, but his son, Grant and Grant's special person, Ben Benson, are about to begin attending school at Cornell University In Ithaca New York.

Gregg has decided, with a little help, that he will join the boys and move to Ithaca too. Fasten your seat belts; things are going to get very interesting, very soon. Now, let's Meet Harley.

This is a fine mess you've got us into, Ollie! What was I thinking? Did I really agree to be a babysitter for two teenage college students? How could I have agreed to get the father of one of the college boys set up in a home and a business? I must be losing my mind! And they'll be here next Sunday! I've got exactly one week to get everything ready!

I was just sitting here, minding my own business, when Beau Benson called me from Nebraska. His son, who is eighteen, and a friend, also eighteen, are arriving next week to enroll in Cornell. The friend's father is coming with them with the idea of staying in the area. I guess he has had enough of the Midwest and is looking for new horizons.

I really don't know Beau all that well. I met him and Becca, his wife, when they were here on business. I have to say that I was really impressed with both of them. She is brilliant and a sharp businesswoman, but Beau is a force of nature! They were here to check up on one of their offices, and by the time they left, the dust didn't settle for a week. Even when he's not upset, Beau is a very forceful person, and can come across as quite demanding. It's not easy to say "no" to Beau Benson. But I really like him; I like both of them very much. They are the most charming people to talk to, and one has the feeling that they would give you their last million dollars if you needed it.

And, I think I understand where he is coming from. I know how worried I was when my older son left home. I guess that's just the way parents are. You want to be sure that they are all right, that someone is watching out for them, so they don't get hurt.

Let's see now, Beau's son is Ben, and his friend is Grant. Grant's father, Gregg Garrison, wants to find a condominium in Ithaca, and he wants to open a toy store. The obvious place for a business is on the Commons, but the rents there are outrageous. New businesses don't usually last more than about six months. Those that survive a year or more have a good chance of being successful. But if you want a store in a high traffic area, the place to be is on the Commons. Looks like I'd better give Sally Lundgren a call. She's the best and most reliable real estate agent in the area. I hope she has some good ideas.

* * * * *

"Good morning, Lundgren Real Estate. This is Sally."

"Hey, Sally! It's Harley Gordon."

"Harley! How are you doing? I haven't heard from you in a while. Thinking of trading up? Aren't you satisfied with the house I found you?"

"Not at all, Sally. I love my little house. But I've just had a problem dumped in my lap that I can't handle, so I thought I'd turn it over to the one person I know,who can solve it."

"Oh, Harley! When you start being nice like that, and flattering me, I know I'm in real trouble. Out with it; what's going on?"

"I just got a call last evening from a man in Nebraska, who wants to relocate to Ithaca. Go figure! His son is coming here to attend Cornell, along with a friend, so the father decided this would be a good time to make some changes in his life."

"What is he looking for?"

"You're going to love it, Sally! He doesn't want to have to do a lot of outdoor work around the place, so he is looking to buy a condominium. Also, he wants to open a toy store."

"Wow! That's quite an order! Let me do some checking around to see what's available that might meet his needs. I'll call you back tomorrow morning."

"Could you make it in the afternoon, Sally? I work until 12:30, and then I have to catch a bus home. I'll be here after two."

"Great! I'll call you around 2:30 with whatever I can find. And, Harley, thanks for thinking of me."

"Sally, you know I wouldn't consider working with anyone else. I'll talk to you tomorrow afternoon."

True to her word, Sally called me on Tuesday, 2:30 on the dot. "Harley, I've got good news and I've got bad news. Which do you want first?"

"Oh, just get the bad news out of the way, and then hurry up with the good news!"

"Harley, I've checked all around the area, and there aren't any really good condos available. There are a couple that I heard about, but when I went to check them out, I really can't recommend them - certainly not to a friend."

"OK, and the good news is...?"

"I don't know if the man would be interested, but there is a building on the Commons which is for sale. The old lady who owns it wants out, but she has turned down offers from Giulio Petrillo; you know who he is. He owns almost every building on the Commons, and he's working to become the first multi-millionaire in Ithaca. The lady doesn't like him, and she doesn't trust him. Every time he approaches her about buying the building, she tells him, "It is not for sale at this time." But I think if we talk to her and make her a decent offer, she might consider selling. Her husband passed away last year, and it's just too much for her to handle alone. Also, she wants to move to Florida to be near her family."

"So, why does Mr. Garrison want to buy a building on the Commons?"

"Well, here's the deal. It already has a storefront on the ground floor, and there are two floors above, each with two apartments. You know how much apartments go for on the Commons. It is thechic place to live in Ithaca. So it's a money-maker. And it wouldn't be too difficult or expensive to tear out the apartments on one floor and turn it into a real luxury apartment. You have all the advantages of a condo, plus a store that you don't have to rent, and two money-making apartments on the other floor."

"That sounds like a great idea. I'll tell Gregg about it, as soon as he gets here. Could you set up an appointment for us to see the building and talk to the owner sometime on Monday?"

"No problem, Sweetie. I'll be talking to you, Harley."

The next week went by like a flash, it seemed. I had so much to do, cleaning house and getting ready for company. I put off shopping for groceries until they arrived, so I would have a better idea of what we needed and what everyone liked. By Saturday I was exhausted. I checked my e-mail and went to bed about 8:30.

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful, with the promise of becoming very warm later in the day. I spoke to one of my neighbors at church and asked him if he could give me a ride to the airport. Then I went home and took a nap. I figured that it might be a late night, so I wanted to be prepared. When I woke up, I fixed a light supper, then got ready to go. It's about a twenty-minute drive to the airport, so my friend was picking me up at 6:00.

When we got to the airport, I went in to the main terminal and checked on the flight. It was apparently on schedule, so I sat down to wait. At 7:00 on the dot, a small corporate jettouched down and taxied to the terminal. An attendant rolled the staircase up to the door of the plane. Then the door opened, and out stepped Beau. He was followed by Becca and the two teenagers. I was watching closely as another figure emerged from the plane. He came down the staircase and joined the rest of the group. Beau herded them all into the terminal and stood looking around.

"Over here, Beau!" I called. He turned and flashed that grin of his, that brightened the eyes of his friends and struck terror into the hearts of anyone who was in trouble with him.

"Harley! Good to see you. I'm so glad you could meet us. Come on over and meet the crew. You know Becca, but this is my son, Ben, and his friend, Grant. This tired looking gentleman behind Grant is his Dad, Gregg Garrison." We shook hands all around, and Becca kissed me on the cheek. "I'm glad to see you, Harley. It's been too long."

"Hey, you guys, let's get this show on the road. I've got to sign out the cars I ordered, and then I want food! I'm starving!" Beau took charge and led us all over to the car rental station. He signed the paperwork and presented his credit card. Then he sent Ben and Grant to pick up the luggage, so that we could stow it into the rented cars.

During all this activity I noticed that Mr. Garrison hung back, watching but not really contributing to the conversation. Beau was right, he did look tired, but there was something else, a shyness that bordered on fear. I wanted to make him feel at ease, but I wasn't feeling all that comfortable with the situation myself. But without appearing to stare (I hoped!), I looked him over. He was of medium build, about my height, but maybe an inch or so taller. His light brown hair was short and obviously recently cut. A neatly trimmed mustache covered his upper lip. I noticed that he had a small scar on his left cheekbone, just below the eye. He had beautiful, strong-looking hands with neatly manicured nails. From where I was standing, I couldn't see what color his eyes were; it would have been difficult to tell, standing directly in front of him, because he stared at the floor most of the time. Ben had told me in an e-mail that Mr. Garrison was 59, and would be celebrating his birthday while they were here. Hey, Harley, if this guy is 60, or thereabouts, that makes him eight years younger than you. He looks more like eighteen years younger! But, if I can just get through that wall of shyness, we might just turn out to be good friends.

After the boys had loaded the luggage into the two cars, we were ready to go. Beau told me to take the first car, since I was to be the guide, with Gregg and Grant. He would follow in the other car with Becca and Ben. "First stop, the Statler, so we can get signed into our rooms and get our luggage up to the rooms. Then, food! Where would you suggest we goto eat? I know the Statler is excellent, but it's a bit formal for right now. Gentlemen are not allowed into the dining room without a jacket, and I don't feel like getting all dressed up for dinner."

"To be totally honest, I don't know what to suggest. There are a number of fine restaurants in Ithaca, but my budget only stretches to places like the State Diner or Taco Bell." Beau laughed. "You know what? The State Diner sounds like the place to go! How is the food there?"

"Well, it's not gourmet, but it's good, the prices are decent, and you get a lot of local color, particularly if you go in there for coffee about the time the bars are closing."

"Well, how does that sound to everyone?" Beau looked around the group. Becca just smiled. "All I want to do is get something to eat, and then get back to our hotel room, so that I can take my shoes off!" We got into our cars and headed off down the hill toward Cornell and the Statler Hotel, the hub of the hotel school.

Gregg was sitting beside me in the front seat of the car, with Grant leaning over his shoulder watching the sights as we drove. I tried to think of something to say, to put him at ease. "So, how was your trip?" He glanced toward me. "It was OK. I mean, I've never been away from Fremont, since I moved there almost forty years ago, so this is all new to me, and I guess, if I'm honest, it's a little bit scary. Here I am, turning sixty, and starting a brand new life in a new town halfway across the country from everything I know."

"Well, I think you're going to find it quite different here. Even for people in central New York, Ithaca is 'different.' With Cornell and Ithaca College, we are a college town. And the fact that we have students and faculty at Cornell from almost every country in the world gives the town a cosmopolitan air that you don't find in most small towns, even college towns."

We cut down through the campus and pulled into the parking lot behind the Statler. Beau parked next to us, and we all got out. The boys started unloading the cars, leaving Gregg's luggage in the trunk of my car. Beau and Becca went inside, and soon a bellhop came out with a cart and took the luggage inside. The boys followed, but Gregg held back. "It's really kind of you to offer to put me up and to help me get established here. But there are a couple of things you need to know. Beau told me that you have two sons, and you need to know that I am gay. If that is a problem for you, I can get a motel room while I'm looking for a place of my own."

"Whoa! What makes you think I'd be upset? Didn't Beau tell you? Yes, I was married, for almost eighteen years, and yes, I have two grown sons, and grandchildren. But the real reason my marriage ended was the fact that I couldn't pretend any longer to be something I'm not. I'm gay. I've known it since I was a very little kid. You are old enough to remember the way 'queers' were treated when we were young. It was just something you couldn't be. And God knows, I tried hard not to be! But I am, I'm gay; I've spent the last twenty-eight years learning to live on my own terms. So, no, Gregg, there is no problem. In fact, I'm glad to hear it, because now I don't have to keep up a pretense in front of you. You're free to be you, and I'm free to be me."

For the first time he looked me directly in the eye. Oh, my God, those blue eyes! Not the pale blue you see so often, but a deep, Mediterranean blue. I almost gasped aloud. "Thanks, Harley, you've taken a huge load off me. I've really been a little afraid to meet you, because I thought you might not be comfortable with gay men."

The boys came bouncing out the door of the hotel, and ran over to us. "Dad," Grant said, "You've got to see this place. It's so big and so beautiful!" Then he took off in pursuit of Ben, who was just disappearing around the corner.

"Did Beau tell you anything about Grant?" Gregg was beginning to look worried again.

"No. He said there was an interesting story there, but he said you would tell me about it."

"Maybe later, when we have more time. It's a bit unusual." (I was to learn the hard way that Gregg is a master of understatement!)

Just then Beau and Becca appeared. "Where are the boys? I told them we'd be right out."

"They just took off, around the corner. I imagine they are checking out what they can see of the campus from here."

Beau put two fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly. In seconds the boys reappeared, we got in our cars and headed on down the hill into the city.

We parked on the street in front of the State Diner and went in. It is nothing pretentious, just a "50's diner," updated and enlarged to meet the increased business over the years.

We found two booths across from each other; Ben and Grant sat in one, and Beau and Becca, Gregg and I sat opposite them. The waitress was there quickly with glasses of water and menus. "I'll be right back to take your orders."

Beau studied his menu. "So what's good here? Are their steaks any good?"

"I wouldn't know about that. For one thing, I'm not much of a beef eater, and for another, I can't usually afford steak, even if I wanted it. But they do have a gas barbecue grill that they use for steaks and chops, and they certainly smell good when they come off the grill."

Becca looked thoughtful for a minute, then smiled. "I think I'll have the grilled pork chops. If they taste as good as they smell, then they'll be good."

Gregg was frowning at the menu. "I don't know what to order. There are a number of things that look good." He turned to me.

"What would you recommend?"

"Well, the diner is owned by a Greek family, and they make certain things in a very special way. Their meatloaf is excellent. And I am really partial to their macaroni and cheese. And, by the way, be sure to leave room for dessert. They have home-made baklava that is out of this world. And their rice pudding is the smoothest, creamiest you have ever had."

The waitress came to take our orders. Beau ordered a sirloin steak, medium rare. Becca ordered pork chops. Gregg went for the meat loaf, and I ordered macaroni and cheese. The boys, typically, went for burgers; Ben had a Tullyburger, an Ithaca specialty named for a Cornell student who made it popular about fifty years ago, and Grant ordered a Boburger, another Cornell specialty.

The food arrived quickly, and we settled down to eat, with very little conversation. When the waitress came back to refill our coffee cups and take dessert orders, there were three requests for baklava from our table. Becca decided to try the rice pudding.

Grant leaned out across the aisle and asked, "What is baklava?"

"It's a Greek pastry, made with layers of paper-thin phyllo pastry and filled with ground walnuts. It's very good," I informed him.

"I think I'd like to try that." Grant smiled at Ben, who replied, "Me, too."

Dessert was a great success with everyone. Beau insisted on paying for dinner and left a very good tip for the waitress. Then we went back to our cars.

"I think I'd like to go back to the hotel and just veg out for the evening," Becca announced. "I've been dying to get my shoes off."

"Sounds like a plan," Beau agreed. "Hey, Harley, I'd like you and Gregg to go with us to the meeting with the President tomorrow, if that will work for you."

"I don't see why not. I've got a tentative appointment set up for Gregg to see a building on the Commons that I think might serve all his needs. I've talked with my favorite real estate agent, and she seems to think he can get a decent deal on it."

"Well, our meeting is at 9:00 in the morning, and it shouldn't take more than an hour. So you should be able to do both."

"OK. I'll give Sally a call at home this evening to see when the appointment with the building owner is scheduled."

"Great. So, if you'll just guide us back to the Statler, we'll see you about 8:00 for breakfast."

Beau and Becca and the boys got into Beau's car, and Gregg and I got into the other. I led them through downtown Ithaca and up the hill to the campus. When we got to the Statler, I stopped. "See you tomorrow, Beau."

"Good night." He pulled into the Statler parking lot, and we drove around the block and back down into town to my little house on the Northside. I parked on the street in front of the house, got out and opened the trunk. Gregg came and picked up two of his bags; I grabbed the other two and led the way to the front door.

"Well, here it is; home, sweet home, for a little while, at least."

He smiled. He had that shy look on his face again. What was I going to say to him? I wanted him to feel at home. Actually, I really thought I wanted him to like me - a lot.

I opened the door, and we went in.

Editor's Notes:

Very nice beginning. Harley and Gregg are off to a fine start. It will be interesting to watch this since both of them seem to be pretty shy. At least they are being honest and upfront with each other, anything else could doom their friendship (or more?).

As an editor this chapter was a dream. Arli you are a very good writer and it looks like you are going to be an outstanding author too. Keep up the good work.


Second Editor's notes:

Str8mayb is correct, I don't think I had to use a single comma.

I only made one tentative change, and that was only minor and not something that was absolutely necessary. It was something that I thought might sound just a little better. I added two words. (Is that a record?) We will wait and see if Arlie agrees that they should stay.

I am honoured that Arlie wanted me to help edit this story. I have been editing Str8mayb's stories from the beginning, and I always enjoy hearing what Arlie has to say about those stories. He is very insightful and has a sense of humour very similar to mine and Str8mayb's. I have been known to laugh my you know what off over some of Arlie's comments.

Having read another story, which was written by a different author, which involves some of the people in this story, I have a distinct advantage. You are going to love everyone in this charming story. The author of the other story is E Walk, and the story is called Pinochle. It is a very nice whimsical tale, which I will not describe here as to do so might be considered a spoiler. I do, however, suggest that you read it, along with the other stories that could be considered prequels. Thanks to Uncle Ed Walk, I have known Beau since he was a young teenager. After all, I have edited most of Ed's stories too. Don't get me wrong; this story can be read on its own and will, I am certain, be a wonderful story to read.

As I have said before, many times, when reading a new chapter of earlier stories, I can hardly wait for the next chapter,

P.S. I am leaving the original editor's notes in place, and I will only add new ones if there is some reason to point out something that has changed since the original notes were written.

Arli has given me permission to make any necessary changes in the story to fit the situation of its being presented here along with Pinochle. Thank you for reading the stories, and please let the authors know what you thought of them.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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