At somewhere around 35,000 feet over the United States, Tyler and Abby were still enjoying each other's company. Abby pulled a small photo album from her purse and was showing him pictures of her children and grandchildren. Finally she came to one of her with a blonde boy who looked about his age. "That's Jayson and me," she told him.
"Wow! He's cute!" Tyler exclaimed. He couldn't help himself " the alcohol in the beverages he'd had before taking off had lowered his inhibitions considerably. The boy in the picture was in fact quite handsome " there was no denying that. Abby and her grandson were standing on a wide grass lawn, beneath a large, very old oak tree. Abby was in a white dress that came down to just below her knees. She had a single string of pearls about her neck and a white hat with a wide brim to keep the sun off her face. She exuded a regal air, even in what was obviously meant to be a casual setting.
The boy with her had his hair cut fairly short. He was wearing blue jeans and a casual, white button up shirt. The top three buttons were open, and the way he was standing with his grandmother caused the top of the shirt to push open a bit, displaying just enough of his chest to make Tyler wish he could see more.
"Why thank you," Abby responded. "I do think he's rather handsome. But I have to admit that I am probably a little biased."
Tyler felt his face flush. He hadn't realized at first exactly what he'd said, but there was certainly no taking it back now. Of course, Abby knew he was gay, still, Tyler just felt a little apprehensive having told the lady that he thought her grandson was cute. But it was true, he did.
Abby could tell that Tyler was embarrassed by the comment he had let slip. She didn't let on to him that she realized this. Once again, she placed her hand on top of his and gave a gentle squeeze. Tyler found the touch quite comforting.
They sat in silence for a while. This gave Tyler a chance to think. His thoughts drifted to something Abby had said earlier. "In the south old prejudices can often run very deep..." This got him wondering if he might have a hard time because of this. Thomas hadn't given him any indication that there was substantial bigotry toward homosexuals where he lived, but still, Abby's parents had thrown one of their own kids, this same cute Jayson, out of the house just because he was gay. And they did after all live in the same city Thomas did.
Abby sensed that Tyler was becoming a bit agitated, or perhaps just a little nervous. "Is everything alright dear?" she asked. She was thinking Tyler might be uneasy because he wasn't used to flying.
"I was just wondering about what you said... About the prejudices and all," Tyler told her. "I mean, the place where I'm going, I mean, well... Am I going to be accepted there?"
Abby put her hand onto his once more, patting it a few times, then she gently squeezed it again. "I'm sure you won't have anything to worry about honey. Not everyone in Savannah is like my son."
Tyler looked over at the old lady and smiled. She smiled back at him. "Don't worry honey, you'll be alright, I'm sure of it." She gave his hand another gentle squeeze. "My Jayson didn't have any problems in Savannah save for his parents. I'm sure you'll be just fine."
"Will you tell me about him?" Tyler asked. "I mean, what's he like? I'd really like to know."
Abby gave Tyler a demure smile. "Of course I'll tell you darling," she said as she patted the back of his hand yet again. It had been obvious to her that the boy had at least some sort of passing interest in her grandson.
"He's actually a pretty smart young man, when he chooses to apply himself..." she began.
When Claire Johnston finished listening to the messages on the answering machine she had to wipe her eyes. She was glad that her baby was safe, and now he wanted to come home. She wished now she had listened to the messages on the machine as soon as she and her husband had arrived home. She was already dressed and about to leave the house when her husband came out of the bathroom.
"You going somewhere?" Mark Johnston asked his wife as he scratched himself coming out of the bathroom and into the bedroom.
"Tyler is at Corey's house, and he wants us to come get him. He wants to come home!" She was excited, and it showed.
Tyler's father wasn't quite as enthusiastic. "He'd better be ready to live by the rules of this house then," he commented abruptly.
"Now you be nice!" she snapped. "I won't have you doing anything that will drive him away again. I want him home!"
The look he was given by his wife was enough to make any man back down. He knew when it was pointless to argue with his wife, and this was definitely one of those times. He glanced at her just briefly " only enough to confirm the conviction in her expression. "Just give me a moment, let me get dressed. We should go together," he told her. He did notice that this did make her smile, even if he wasn't so sure he had meant what he'd said " or that he'd convinced her when he said it.
"But we can't let him run all over us," he added after a moment. "Seriously honey, we've got to lay down the rules and make him stick by them."
"We'll deal with that later," she said, "right now we're just going to bring him home. I'm sure he needs a good meal. He's probably half starved."
The boys never heard the phone ring. But that's because it hadn't. They were still cuddled together on the couch in Corey's basement when Tyler's parents arrived at Corey's home. In all her excitement, Tyler's mother didn't even think about calling Corey's parent's first. She just got her husband into the car and had him drive her to pick up their son. Corey's mother was at the kitchen sink when they arrived, and she saw their car pulling into the driveway through the window above it. She went to the side door and greeted them as they got out of the car. It was for this reason that the boys were unaware that Tyler's parents were there.
Corey's mother offered coffee. Tyler's father accepted, and joined Corey's father in their family room. Tyler's mother however wanted to see her son. "They're downstairs," Mrs. Erickson told her. "I think they were going to play some video games in the recreation room while Tyler was waiting for your call. I'm sure they'll be surprised you're here."
"Thanks," Tyler's mother responded. "Can I go down to see them?"
"Of course, the stairs are right over here."
The boys were still cuddling when Tyler's mother came downstairs into the recreation room. Corey had his arms around Tyler, hugging him. Tyler's head was on Corey's shoulder, and he was sniffling as if he had been crying.
"Tyler!" she exclaimed. It had been more than six months and she was overjoyed to see her son again.
Tyler leapt up from the sofa and ran the few steps to meet his mother. They embraced each other tightly. Sobbing into his mother's hug, Tyler told her he had been afraid he wouldn't hear from her and his father, and that he might not be able to come home.
She broke the hug and stepped back for a moment to look Tyler directly in the eye. "No baby, you have always been welcome to come home at any time," she told him. As she moved back in to hug Tyler again, a tear formed at the corner of his eye.
During the drive home, Tyler's father started to have the talk he'd briefly discussed with his wife about Tyler's obeying the rules of the house. She shushed him, saying, "Not now. I told you that can wait."
"It's alright Mom," Tyler interjected. "I know what he's going to say, he wants me to abide by your rules like I wasn't ever willing to do before. It's okay, I know that."
As she turned in her seat to look at him she gave a questioning look.
"Mom, it's true and I know it. I should have listened to you both a lot more than I did, and I'm really sorry I didn't see that before."
This act of contrition on Tyler's part was not something either of his parents had expected in the least. But it was certainly welcome. 'I just hope he means that,' his father thought skeptically. His mother however was convinced of his sincerity.
They were almost home when Tyler realized that he hadn't taken any more of his things from Drake's apartment than just the clothes he had been wearing at the time. Since he had gone home a few times to collect the choicest of his belongings and sneak them back out of the house, he was going to need to return to Drake's apartment at least one more time to get them. Not only that, there were a few things there which had significant sentimental value to him " things that had been Ollie's which Frank had given to him. "Hey Dad, I need you to make a detour before we get home please." He thought he might as well go ahead and get this over with while he knew Drake was going to be at work. Tyler didn't relish the idea of a confrontation with Drake as he tried to move his things out of the apartment. Having a ride to carry his things instead of having to drag them on one of the city busses, and making multiple trips to do so would be nicer too.
Tyler had his father stop the car around the corner from the complex where Drake's apartment was. He didn't want his parents to know exactly where it was that he had been staying. In fact he was rather ashamed of the life he had been leading and the way he was living while he had been gone from their home.
In the car after Tyler had gotten out and jogged up the alley between a tire outlet and a veterinary clinic toward the back of the complex closest to Drake's apartment, his mother turned to his father and asked, "Why do you think he wanted us to stop here " and where do you think he's going?" Tyler's father started to answer, but his mother wasn't finished yet. "You don't suppose he's been living out on the street, homeless do you?"
Tyler's father waited before trying to speak this time, not wanting to waste to effort of trying to speak if his wife was just going to cut him off again. When he hadn't responded after a few seconds, she asked, "Well, don't you have anything to say?"
He sighed. But then after twenty years of marriage, he was used to this sort of conversation with his wife. "No dear, I don't think he's been homeless. He's clean enough and..." but she cut him off again.
"Of course he's clean! You don't think Stuart and Sharon Erickson would have allowed him to stay there without him having a shower do you?" She paused, but only for a moment. "They certainly would have made him bathe. And you saw that he's wearing clothes that belong to Corey... His must have been simply awful. I should have asked about that."
Seeing his chance to cut into the conversation again, even if only for a moment, Tyler's father stated, "Well, he's certainly not been going hungry, and he doesn't seem all the worse for wear if you ask me. I'd guess he found someone to stay with." If he had been able to see the bruises Drake had left on his son, he certainly would have had a different opinion.
"Sometimes I think you just don't care!" she huffed, not really having paid attention to anything he had said, then she slouched down in the seat and crossed her arms over her chest, fuming. 'Men!' she thought, 'they just don't understand anything!'
Tyler was glad he had figured out that he was in a downward spiral and needed to get control of his life back " he knew he still had a long way to go, but he'd made the first and biggest step, admitting to his parents that he had been wrong and asking to come home. He had opened up some to Corey about what had been going on " but he had elaborated very little beyond the rape a couple nights before. He wasn't sure he could talk about the rest with Corey just yet, maybe not ever.
There was someone he knew he could talk to " someone who he had already opened up to for the most part about what had been going on " Thomas. He needed to get home and get to his computer to do that, so steeling his nerves, he set out to get this last part of his ordeal over with. He checked the parking lot and saw that Drake's car was nowhere to be seen. 'Good,' he thought, 'I can get this over with quick and get the hell out of here.'
Tyler entered the apartment, quickly gathered his belongings and packed what he could into his duffel bag. The rest he stuffed into large plastic garbage bags. He had to make three trips to get everything to his father's car. He was huffing and puffing, quite out of breath by the time he was finished. "You should have let me park closer," his father admonished. "You wouldn't have had to wear yourself out like that."
"It's okay Dad," Tyler breathed out heavily, still trying to catch his breath as the car pulled back into traffic, once again headed for home. "I just needed to do this one last thing by myself as part of my coming home."
'Home,' Tyler thought. 'I'm finally going home!' That thought ended with a sigh of relief. He was indeed happy to be going home finally. He knew he was going to have to make some rather substantial concessions to his parents. Perhaps there would be even stricter rules he would have to abide by for a while. Tyler was determined to make the best of things, no matter what. There was no way he was going to screw his home life and the newly reforming relationship with his parents with his parents up again.
His mother and father were sure of one thing, whatever his living arrangements had been and whatever he had been doing while he had been gone; he was ashamed of these things and didn't want his parents to know about them. And they were quite right.
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