**Oh this one was a challenge at first, but once I got the right combination, the words flowed freely. The Admiral’s challenge this week was a new place, a forgotten friend, and an old folk’s home. I hope you enjoy!**
I stood there in the barren living room, boxes at my feet and only one curtain on the window, trying my best not to let melancholy and ennui consume me. It was a nice house. Beautiful in fact. A little smaller than the one we had left, but not by much. It had an adorable breakfast nook and copper pipes, and real hardwood floors. There was a fireplace in the living room and another one in the master bedroom. It was a great house, and I knew I’d come to love it in time.
Problem was, I’d really, really loved our old house and I was still having trouble letting go.
Henry walked in, his steel toed work boots thumping on the floor, and he gave me a sad sort of smile as he came closer. I let him pull me into his arms. I love the way I fit underneath his chin, the way his big arms enveloped me and held me tight. I sighed and snuggled in. He kissed the top of my head.
“I know how hard this is for you,” he said softy, right in my ear. “Thank you for doing this.”
I squeezed him tightly. “You don’t have to thank me. I miss our house, but I’ll get used to the new place before you know it. This was the right thing to do. It’s a hell of a lot closer.”
Henry pulled back enough so that he could look me in the eye. “And that’s why I’m thanking you.” I saw the sincerity in his face. “I love you, Jack.”
I grinned. “As I love you. Now get out of the way of the movers, all right?”
Henry nodded and laughed, moving and taking me with him so we were clear of the two men carrying in our couch.
Yes it was a tough transition because I didn’t like change. But it was necessary, and I didn’t regret it in the least.
Early the next day, we both tumbled out of bed and showered, dressed and ate breakfast in relative silence. I knew where Henry’s head was and I didn’t want to break into his thoughts. This was the reason we had moved back to the city where he’d grown up instead of continuing to live more than two hours away. I was fortunate; I could do my job anywhere and I worked from home as an editor. Henry was less lucky, as he’d had to find a new job. But it was worth it, it was the right thing, and we both knew it. We were both willing to make concessions.
I was just shutting and locking the front door when a jovial shout caught my attention. I turned to find my boyfriend hugging a man wearing nothing but basketball shorts, sneakers, and sweat. They laughed, and Henry’s smile was huge as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and started typing things in. I walked slowly off the porch, trying to rein in my jealousy, but by the time I made it down the front walk, Sweaty Runner was running away and Henry was shaking his head and staring at his phone in disbelief.
He looked up when I approached.
“Who was that?” I asked as innocently as I was able.
Henry just laughed, not fooled by my tone in the least. “A friend. Tom. From high school actually.” He looked me in the eye. “He and his partners live around the corner. I haven’t seen him since we graduated. Christ, I’d forgotten he even existed until now.”
I relaxed and tried for a smile. “Partners?”
Henry nodded, took my head, and led me to the car. “Yep. Apparently the three of them are very happy together. Tom said they’d invite us over for a cookout once we got settled in. Maybe next weekend or something.”
“That’s nice,” I said, trying to mean it. Henry gave me a knowing grin and a light poke before he started the car and began driving.
What used to take us two and half hours, including a stop to pee, now took us fifteen minutes with red lights. When we pulled into the parking lot of the nursing home, I could tell how happy Henry was that we were now so close.
It was an amazing place, as far as nursing homes went, but I knew how much the decision had weighed on Henry to put his father here six months ago. And even though we made the journey once a week, that in and of itself was taxing. My man was a solid rock of awesome, but this was a terribly emotionally wearing thing. Henry loved his dad, and to watch the elderly gentleman wither had been hard. But Alzheimer’s was stealing his father, despite that the man was barely seventy, and Hal could no longer take care of himself.
We checked in without fuss. The staff knew us well by now from our Sunday pilgrimages, and it was a simple process of signing in and getting our visitor badges as they already had copies of our licenses on file. Joelle was working the front desk and she gave us a smile and a wave as we moved around the corner and down the hall to Hal’s room.
The man was sitting in his rocking chair by the window which had a great view of the courtyard. It was too chilly to take Hal outside today, but next week would probably be better. Hal looked up when we entered. He blinked his rheumy blue eyes, and then swiped a hand over his frizzy gray hair.
“You’re early today,” he said with a voice like shoes on gravel. But both Henry and I grinned widely. Apparently today was a good day, and Hal knew what was going on. There were times when we visited that he didn’t; when he couldn’t remember his son was gay let alone had been in a loving relationship with me for ten years. All three of us liked it much better when Hal had his wits about him.
“Yeah,” Henry said, smiling even wider and leaning down to kiss his father’s cheek. “We moved back to town, so I can come see you more often. And so we don’t have to drive as far every week.”
Hal’s brow creased. “Did I know that?”
Henry worked to keep his smile in place. “Yeah. But that’s okay, I forget shit all the time.”
His father scowled, because he hated it when Henry tried to blow things off like no big deal. I steeled myself for an explosion. Hal had always had a bit of a temper, and there were moments now when it was so much worse. But instead of getting angry, Hal turned his attention to me.
“Well then. Jack, show me the pictures I know you have on that gadget.”
I breathed out a sigh, pulled my phone out of my pocket, and perched on the arm of his chair so I could show him all the pictures of the new house. Henry took up position on Hal’s other side so that he could give a running commentary. Hal, for his part, was interested and asked questions. He even expressed an interest in seeing it. Since he was having such a good day, Henry went to sign Hal out for the day as I crossed to the closet to get Hal a sweater.
“You’re a good man, Jack,” Hal’s voice was soft and creaky and stopped me in my tracks. “You love my boy and you do what’s good for him.”
I turned around, sweater clutched in my hand, and tried not to cry. “Well, Henry makes it easy to love him. He had a good role model, growing up.”
Hal opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap. He averted his gaze “Gimme my sweater.”
I smiled as I helped him into it. This was absolutely the right decision to make, and it was turning into a wonderful day.