Thomas and Jayson sat silently together for a few minutes in the airport waiting area. Both were worried about the people they were there to meet – the plane had been on the ground quite a while, but neither had made it through customs yet. A small commotion started in the customs area – a young man had appeared, assisting an elderly lady who was clearly a little more than just 'tipsy.' Despite the fact that she was clearly intoxicated, Thomas did sense a sort of a regal air about her. 'Clearly,' he thought, 'this must be Jayson's grandmother.'
Thomas smiled broadly when he saw how Tyler was helping the old woman. He had known for a long time that the boy had a good heart, and that was made all the more clear by the way he was assisting the lady, all the while dragging a luggage cart behind them as they approached the customs agents.
Tyler had to let go of the woman in order to place their bags onto the counter to be examined. She swayed back and forth a little while standing without his support. The agents examined the passports that Tyler and Abby offered them, and after a few routine questions allowed them to pass through. Tyler returned the luggage to the cart, offered his arm once again to Abby, and the two of them picked their way past the barricade and into the waiting area where Thomas and Jayson were ready to greet them.
While Abby hugged her grandson, leaning into him a little heavily, Thomas and Tyler also shared an embrace. They had waited a long time to finally meet in person. Once their greetings were complete, Abby introduced Tyler to her grandson. Then she leaned into Tyler, and meaning to whisper, but instead saying it loudly enough for anyone nearby to hear, said "See, he's very handsome. You two would make such a cute couple." This caused both Jayson and Tyler's faces to flush bright red and Thomas to grin, but he did agree with her – there was something about the contrasts in the two young men's physical features that caused them to complement each other. Abby did not seem to realize how loud her statement had been – she was by then more interested in getting home than standing around socializing in an airport.
Jayson took his grandmother's arm. Tyler pulled his bags from the cart and offered it to Jayson so it would be easier for him to assist her out. Jayson thanked him, then suddenly seemed embarrassed. "I'm not so sure how much help it's really going to be," he admitted. "I rode the train down here to meet her since the drive is so long. I was going to just call a cab to take us home from the subway station. Now I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I don't have enough money for a cab all the way home from here, and with Gram, um... sleepy like this, I don't think I'll be able to manage helping her and get the luggage too."
Thomas put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Don't worry about a thing," he said. "We have a car waiting; we'll get you home."
Jayson gratefully accepted the offer. Thomas made a quick call to the driver and told him they were ready to meet him outside the terminal. When they walked outside, Jayson and Tyler were both impressed by the large, black limousine that pulled up to the curb. They glanced at each other and Tyler shrugged, not having known what to expect anyway. To Abby, in the state she was, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The driver loaded the luggage into the trunk while Tyler and Jayson helped Abby into the back of the car. Thomas climbed in after them. He and Abby sat on the rearmost seat. Tyler and Jayson sat in a seat facing them. Thomas pressed a button to turn on the intercom and had Jayson give the driver the address, and they were off.
Abby eyed the well stocked bar in the back of the limo, but Jayson warned her off. "I think you probably had enough for now Gram, why don't you wait to have a nightcap until we get home?" Tyler smiled to himself at the way Jayson was looking out for his grandmother. A few minutes later Abby had nodded off to sleep. Tyler and Jayson sat quietly for the first few minutes of the ride, but finally started talking quietly, getting to know each other. Thomas could sense a mutual attraction between the two as well as see it in their eyes as they glanced back and forth at each other. It reminded him of two nervous 13 year olds on a first date rather than the 18 year olds they really were.
A little more than an hour later, the limousine pulled through a large wrought iron gate and into a long driveway that led to a stately old mansion on the north side of Atlanta. The house looked as if it may have once been a plantation home. The grounds were immaculate, the driveway lined with trees on both sides. The house was antebellum style, two stories tall, made of white marble, brick and wood with six large, white marble columns extending from the porch to a balcony above, then further up to support the roof over that. Motion sensors turned on floodlights that brightly illuminated the front of the house as the car approached. Thomas noted a large Masonic emblem carved into the marble corner stone at one end of the house.
When the car stopped, the driver took Abby's bags from the trunk and followed his charges up the stairs onto the porch. Once Jayson had opened the door and helped Abby inside, the driver deposited her luggage in the entry hall. Tyler and Thomas accompanied them up to the doorway. Tyler was amazed at how ornate the house was, furnished almost entirely from what he could see with antiques. "Almost everything is a family heirloom that dates back to before the Civil War," Jayson explained. "This is one of the few homes that wasn't burned during Sherman's march through Georgia."
Tyler – being Canadian – knew very little about the U.S. Civil War, so he asked why their home was spared.
Abby bridled up and replied to his question: "My great-grandfather was a Mason. He built this house. That Yankee bastard Sherman was also a Mason, so homes belonging to other Masons – and only homes belonging to other Masons – were spared as he raped and plundered his way through the South during the war of Northern Aggression."
Jayson shook his head. "Gram's a little opinionated about some things," he said quietly to Tyler.
Abby tottered off into what was probably once the master of the home's den. There was a bar set up against one wall with several large crystal decanters on a large silver tray. Crystal glasses of various shapes and sizes were lined up on either side of it. Abby selected a short glass, opened a low cabinet to reveal an ice maker and dropped a few cubes into it. Then she poured three fingers of Scotch whiskey. She turned to Thomas – "Would you care for anything?" she asked. "It's the least I can do to thank you for giving us a ride home."
"No thank you, ma'am, it was our pleasure," Thomas replied. "We really have to get going. It's quite a way back to the hotel tonight and we have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow."
Abby recalled Tyler telling her that Thomas lived in Savannah and asked, "Are you going back to Savannah in the morning? My son, Jayson's father and his family live there too."
"No," he answered. "We're spending a long weekend in the mountains first. I've rented a cabin up in Dillard. It's supposed to have a lovely view."
"Well, you boys enjoy your weekend," Abby responded as she eased down into a large leather armchair. After taking a sip of the Scotch she continued, "Be sure to get in touch the next time you're up this way. We'll have a dinner party or something to thank you properly for your kindness this evening. Jayson, be sure to write the number down for them before they go."
"Yes Gram," the boy replied. He went over to a large, old roll-top desk and scribbled a quick note. He stripped it from the pad, came back across the room and handed it to Tyler.
Jayson walked them out onto the porch as Thomas and Tyler went to leave. Tyler took a quick look at the note Jayson had handed him a moment before, smiled broadly, then folded it and slipped it into his pocket. Then to Thomas' surprise he leaned in to give Jayson a quick kiss on his cheek and whispered something into his ear. There was a goofy grin on his face when he turned and ran down to join Thomas at the door of the car. They got in and the driver closed the door behind them.
As they pulled out of the driveway, Thomas pushed the intercom button and requested that they be taken back to the hotel. After he disconnected the intercom to the driver he looked at Tyler who still had an impish grin on his face. "Want to tell me what that was all about?" he asked, smiling.
Tyler dug the note out of his pocket and handed it to Thomas. The penmanship impeccable, not at all what Thomas expected from a teen boy. What it said came as little surprise to him.
Thomas read the note, refolded it and handed it back to Tyler. "She was right you know," he stated matter-of-factly.
"Who was right, about what?" Tyler asked.
"Abby," Thomas replied, a big smile on his face. "You two would make a very cute couple. Looks like Jayson thinks so too…"
"Jesus! I just got here and I already have two people trying to set me up with a new boyfriend!" Tyler heaved out in mock exasperation.
"Three," Thomas corrected. "Don't forget Jayson's note."
Tyler rolled his eyes but said nothing as he settled back into the plush seat.
At that time of night there was little traffic on the highway so they made very good time back to the hotel. Thomas tipped the limousine driver generously and asked that he have Tyler's bags sent to their room. The driver was only too happy to oblige. Tyler looked quirkily at Thomas. He'd expected to have to carry his bags to the room. He wasn't used to staying in hotels, let alone one of this caliber, but thought he could quickly learn to enjoy it.
"They have people here who are paid to do that," Thomas explained with a laugh. "It wouldn't be right to do them out of a job by carrying them yourself."
Tyler didn't really get it, but he shrugged and went along with it. Moments later, they stepped off the elevator onto one of the VIP floors at the top of the hotel. Tyler was again stunned by the size of the room when they went inside. There was a small kitchenette and a large sitting room. From this height the view of the city lights was spectacular. Tyler slid open the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony. Thomas followed him outside. He stood behind Tyler placed his hands on his shoulders. "Beautiful, isn't it?" Thomas asked.
"Yes, it is," Tyler agreed. "Thanks for bringing me here; I can't tell you how much I appreciate it."
Tyler turned to him and they briefly hugged once more. When they broke, Thomas asked, "Have you called your mother to let her know you arrived safely?"
"Shit!" Tyler exclaimed. "I forgot all about that. I was sort of distracted helping Abby."
"Perfectly understandable," Thomas replied. "Are you hungry? The restaurant is closed, but I'm sure I can get us a tray of cheese and Anti-Pasto if you like."
Tyler agreed that he could use a snack before bed, so Thomas told him to call and check in with his mother while he arranged the food. Then he turned and went back into the room, leaving Tyler on the balcony for some privacy while he called home.
Claire Johnston sounded sleepy when she answered the phone. "Hey Mom," Tyler started. "Sorry it's so late."
"What happened?" she asked. "You should have called hours ago. I've been very worried. It's nearly four in the morning."
Tyler explained that the plane was late, then all the trouble he had helping Abby through customs and needing to give her and her grandson a ride to their house. Tyler told her excitedly about the limousine ride, the huge house that Abby and her grandson lived in and finally the hotel suite where he and Thomas were spending the night before heading to the cabin in the mountains the next day.
Claire was relieved that the man Tyler had flown all that way to meet seemed to be all of what Tyler hoped, but she still worried about her only child. She made him promise to call and check in once they'd arrived at the cabin the next day to let her know they had made it safely. Tyler assured her that he wouldn't forget and would call her as soon as they arrived.
When Tyler came back in from the balcony, there was a room service cart with a tray of assorted meats, cheeses, fruit and two glasses of red wine. There was no sign of his luggage, and that concerned Tyler. "Where's my stuff?" he asked. "Shouldn't it be here by now?"
"I had the bellman put your bags in the bedroom," Thomas said, nodding to indicate a door on the other side of the room. "By the way, I do apologize about there being only one bedroom, but this hotel doesn't have any two bedroom suites. Don't worry though, there are two beds."
"I'm not worried," Tyler replied decidedly. "I think I actually trust you more than most of the guys I've slept with."
Thomas motioned toward the cart. "I didn't know if you would want to join me having a glass of wine or not, so I ordered you one just in case. If you don't want it, there are sodas in the mini-bar, just help yourself."
"No," Tyler told him. "I should be tired after the long day today, but honestly, I'm pretty wired. It will probably help me sleep."
Thomas handed Tyler one of the glasses and took the other for himself. He raised his glass to offer a toast. "Welcome to Georgia. I'm really happy we're finally able to meet," Thomas saluted.
Tyler raised his glass in return, replying "And thank you for bringing me here; to a better life."
"I'll drink to that," Thomas replied, touching his glass against Tyler's. They both took a sip then set their glasses down on a low table in front of the sofa. Thomas moved the tray of food to the table and excused himself. "Got to hit the head."
Tyler looked confused.
Thomas explained; "Sorry, old Navy term from my misspent youth. I gotta pee. I really need to lose these shoes too, they're killing my feet, so I'm just going to slip on a pair of shorts and relax, okay?"
Tyler just shrugged as he popped a strawberry into his mouth. "Whatever," he mumbled.
By the time Thomas got back, Tyler had put a pretty good dent in both the food on the tray and his glass of wine. Thomas was now wearing a thin white t-shirt with the logo of a radio station on the front and a pair of dark blue, mesh nylon running shorts. He sat on the sofa, leaving a couple feet between him and Tyler. He took a couple pieces each of meat and cheese, then washed them down with a sip of wine.
Thomas took note that in addition to the fruit and cheeses, there was a good bit of the meat missing from the tray now as well. "Give up on the vegetarian idea?" he asked.
Tyler shrugged. "Yeah," he answered. "I decided it was limiting my options too much. I thought I had mentioned that…"
"Not that I recall, but personally I think it's healthier to eat what nature intended for us, so I am actually glad to hear it."
"So is it always this hot here?" Tyler asked, changing the subject.
"Actually, for June it was fairly cool today," Thomas answered. "It only got up to about 98. It's the humidity here that really kills you."
'Shit,' Tyler thought. 'This is gonna suck.'
"Don't worry too much about that," Thomas continued. "Tomorrow up in the mountains it will be a lot cooler. Then when we get home, we'll be close enough to the ocean that there's almost always a cool breeze."
"That sounds nice," Tyler said as he sank back into the sofa, cradling the nearly empty glass of wine in both hands between his outstretched legs.
"What sounds nice?"
"'When we get home;' I just kinda like the sound of that," Tyler said before he drained the last of his wine. "I think I'm ready for bed now, so if you don't mind..." He got up from the sofa and headed toward the bedroom.
"Not a problem. I'll be right behind you in a couple minutes. We have a long drive tomorrow, so I need to get some rest too." Thomas was glad he'd taken a nap that afternoon; even with that, he was very tired and knew he would definitely sleep well that night.
When Thomas turned out the lamps in the sitting room and went into the bedroom a few minutes later, Tyler was already asleep. He was lying, splayed out on his back in his underwear and hadn't even bothered to pull the covers over himself. Thomas smiled and shook his head before pulling the sheet up to cover Tyler as he slept.
The light in the bathroom was still burning. Thomas went to brush his teeth before bed and surveyed the mess Tyler had left. His toiletry kit was left open on the counter, Tyler's toothbrush and toothpaste lying next to it. A hand towel had been dropped carelessly on the floor. After brushing his teeth, Thomas picked up the towel, wiped the water droplets left on the countertop, then hung the towel on the rack where it had come from to begin with. When Thomas climbed into his own bed and turned out the lamp. He too fell asleep almost immediately.
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