The two boys stood looking at each other for what seemed like for ever, but was probably only a few seconds, before realization dawned on Tony and he ran towards Dave, hugging him close, tears beginning to fall down his cheeks.
The greeting overwhelmed Dave and tears had begun to fall down his cheeks, too, washing away the dirt as he hugged Tony tightly.
"I don't believe that you're here," said Tony.
"I was in the arches when John turned up, said he was looking for someone called Dave for a friend of his. I knew instantly that it was me he was searching for, but I guess I was too afraid to own up. I pretended to be someone else, said I'd keep a look out for him and he gave me his name and 'phone number. I thought about nothing else all day and looked him up in the 'phone book, I guess I owed you an explanation as to why I disappeared."
"You don't owe me anything. If you hadn't gone, I would never have come to John."
The two boys stood looking at each other, smiling.
"You okay, then? How are your cheek and your eye?" asked Tony.
"I'm okay," Dave raised a hand to his cheek, rubbing a finger on the small scar. "The cheek's fine and I can see okay, so no problems. I'm confused as to what happens next, but yeah - I'm okay."
Tony looked towards me and then back to his mother, who had risen from her seated position, watching these events unfold and deliberately her son took Dave's hand and walked with him to where his mother stood.
"Mom, this is Dave - my boyfriend."
I stood in silence, watching, waiting for a reaction. Tony's mother extended her hand and Dave took it.
"I'm happy to meet you," she said. "I don't know anything about you, but I can see that you bring a smile to the face of my son, which is more that I have done of late."
Dave smiled and looked at Tony and then towards me.
"Look, I know this is all becoming rather bewildering. I'm not even sure what's going on myself, anymore, but I've made a start of dinner, so who's hungry?"
Tony and Dave both said that they were, but Tony's Mom said she really ought to be leaving, as she wanted to be home when her husband returned.
"Tony, will you get your mother's coat and show her to the door?"
"Sure. I will see you again, won't I?" he asked his mother.
"Of course you will. I may need a day or so to get my head around everything that has happened this evening, but I will come again, I promise. If you can give me some time, I will also speak to your father. I don't quite know what to say, but I will try."
I asked Dave to go into the kitchen and he said a polite goodbye to Tony's mother and left the room.
"I don't know if I can really understand this," she said when we were alone.
"May I ask you a question?"
"Do you love your son?"
"Of course, I love him."
"Then that's all you need to understand. Tony is still the same boy - perhaps a little wiser after the last couple of weeks, it's not been easy for him. I know that, because he's explained it all to me. Told me of his life on the streets, his fears and anxieties and of the friendship he formed with Dave. If it hadn't been for that friendship, Tony may not have survived quite as well as he did."
"He called him his boyfriend."
"Does that disturb you?"
"I don't know. I'm not sure I fully understand."
"Tony has taken a big step in telling you he is gay - he has suffered the consequences of that action in a way I would not wish upon anyone. Those consequences led him to find someone he loves and isn't that what we wish for our children? That they find someone to love, to be happy with?"
"I know what you are saying, but I will still need some time."
"I know and I appreciate that, but you took a big step yourself coming here this evening, don't let it be in vain."
"I won't, I promise. Will you do something for me?"
"If I can."
"Will you take care of my son?"
"Until you feel ready to do it again, I will be happy to do so."
"I know it's asking a lot, but you have to know my husband to appreciate my position."
"I don't have a lot of money, but..."
"I'm happy to help. Please, don't feel you owe me anything."
"Oh, but I do."
Tony returned with his mother's coat and she took it from him. She shook my hand as she left the room and smiled. Tong followed and I heard the front door open and close and she was gone.
"Do you think it went well?" asked Tony, returning to the living room.
"I think it is a promising start," I said. "Now, neither you or I have eaten since breakfast, how about helping me in the kitchen?"
Tony smiled and as I walked towards the door he stopped me from leaving by outstretching his arms and hugging me tightly.
"Thank you, John. Thank you for giving me a place to stay, for the courage to 'phone my Mom and for finding Dave."
"You're welcome," it was all I could say as tears began to fall from my eyes and as we pulled apart, I quickly wiped them away and headed to the kitchen, followed by Tony.
Dave was sitting in silence at the kitchen table and stood as we walked through the door, a big grin appearing across his face.
"Everything okay with your Mom?" he asked.
"I think it will be," was Tony's reply, returning the grin and then, once more, taking the boy into his arms and holding him close.
"Did you mean what you said back there?" asked Dave.
"What did I say?"
"About me being your boyfriend. Do you really want me to be your boyfriend?"
"I love you, of course I do. Why? Don't you want to be mine?"
"Of course I do, but I never thought anyone could love me. That's why I disappeared, I was falling in love with you and I didn't know what to do about it, I never really thought about how you felt. I guess I didn't want to hurt you, I had nothing to offer you and I just decided it was best to go, before we got in too deep."
"I loved you the moment I met you," said Tony. "That's why I searched for you, I was sacred. At first I thought Charlie had come back and I didn't know what to think after that."
"I never saw Charlie again - I moved further down the beach, then hitched into Marin County for a few days. I came back to the beach two days ago, I was hoping you might still be around, but you weren't. When John turned up, said he was looking for a Dave, the friend of a friend of his, I knew it had to be you he was talking about. I was so happy just to hear that you were okay, that's all I needed." He turned to face me, "I'm sorry I lied to you this morning."
"That's okay, I know why and the fact that you're here cleans the slate."
Dave dug a hand into his pocket and then held it out to me.
"This is yours," he said.
"What is it?"
"What's left of the twenty-five dollars you gave me this morning. I used some to get here and grab a sandwich."
"Keep it - please."
Tony smiled; Dave shrugged and put the money back into his pocket.
"Can Dave stay?" asked Tony.
I nodded. One more around the place wasn't going to make a difference.
"Are you sure?" asked Dave.
"I wouldn't have said it otherwise. Now, it looks to me like you could do with a shower and a change of clothes, too."
"Another oversized t-shirt?"
"Just until his own stuff is washed and dried. What do you say, Dave?"
"Yeah, whatever. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all this, to tell the truth and I don't want to be in the way."
"In the way?" cried Tony. "Jesus, Dave, you're being here is the best thing that could have happened."
"I think we've all established we're happy, now how about that shower. Leave those things outside the door and I'll stick them in the washing machine. I'll dig out some shorts and t-shirt, okay?"
"Actually, John, I think one of my new shirts would fit him better."
"Right, then," I sighed, "upstairs, both of you. Tony show him where the bathroom is and then find something for him to wear, bring his clothes down and I'll put them in the washing machine, then you can help me with dinner.
The two boys left the room and headed upstairs. It had been quite an evening and it was a cleaner, fresher Dave who sat down with Tony and I at the dinner table some time later and the kitchen was filled with laughter and chatter as the two boys ate their meals.
Following dinner, two very tired boys retired to the living room. I heard voices, strange voices, neither Tony's nor Dave's and I realized that they were coming from the television set.
Half an hour later, I found them curled up together on the sofa fast asleep and looked at them, as they lay there together, peaceful and happy. It had been a long day for everyone and I didn't want to wake them, but I had to.
"We must have dozed off," said Tony, rubbing his eyes.
"Perhaps you two ought to head off to bed. I've made a bed up for Dave on the floor of your room."
I saw the quick glance that passed between the two boys.
"Legally, he uses it," I added.
"Thanks, John," said Tony, a large grin spreading across his face.
"Yeah, thanks, John," echoed Dave.
The two boys headed upstairs. I was feeling tired myself and a when there was a silence from the "getting ready for bed" activities upstairs, I made my own way to bed. I felt envious that I had no one to share mine with, but happy in the knowledge that two lost souls had found each other and had been reunited.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead