Brad’s Search : Part 40


James and I take it easy Sunday, then head back to work as usual the next day.

The beginning of the week goes pretty smoothly. On Wednesday, Gary, Harry, and I head out to Cooters and catch up with each other. Gary and Gina are still going strong. Harry remains single, of course, but thanks to his work friends, he has a few dates with some women lined up.

I tell them about James’s brother, Paul, and how that whole situation over the years has become a burden between James and his father. Gary and Harry reassure me that I’m doing the right thing by being supportive and understanding.

* * * * *

I catch Eric near the end of work on Thursday. “Hey, got a moment?”

“Sure, Brad. What’s up?”

“Remember when I mentioned the wedding in Portland that James and I are going to this weekend?”

“Yeah.”

“Would it be all right if I leave early tomorrow, so it won’t be too dark by the time we get there?”

“Sure thing. From what I can tell, we’ve been making good time on the project lately. I don’t think missing an hour or two will hurt anything.”

“Thanks, Eric. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem; happy to help. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I leave work and start heading home. Traffic is absolutely nuts on the way. I just hope it’s not like this tomorrow. I park on the street and step inside.

I set my keys on the table beside the door. I look around - James is nowhere to be seen. I walk past the stairs to the office, but he’s not there, either. I walk back out to the main area. “James! Where are you?”

I hear his voice come from upstairs. “Up here, babe.”

I start climbing the stairs. When I reach the top, I see James on the bed, lying back against a pillow. A half-packed suitcase rests next to his feet. He’s holding a photo album open on his lap.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” He doesn’t look up.

I walk to the other side of the bed and sit down to untie my shoes. “I see you started packing.”

“Uh huh.”

I kick off my shoes, take off my socks, and lie back beside him. I kiss his cheek. He remains still, not turning his head to meet my lips. I rest my head on his shoulder and try to see what has him transfixed.

I point to a picture of a man, woman, toddler, and newborn baby. “Is that you and your family?”

He takes a deep breath, then barely mutters a “Yeah.”

He closes the album, sets it on the nightstand, and sits up. I scoot closer to him and wrap my arms around him. He does the same, and we hug tightly for a few seconds.

As we pull away, he says, “I don’t think I’ll be ready to talk to him tomorrow.”

I rest my hand on his leg and caress it, trying to comfort him.

“I can’t help but think about how happy all of us used to be, before Paul started getting into trouble, and before Mom began down her path of self-destruction, and before Paul went all bat shit fucking insane and abandoned all of us.”

What can you say to something like that? I think. I don’t know, so I just wait for him to go on.

“Do you think it’s possible for this to be fixed? For my family to be happy again?”

I think long and hard. “As an optimist, I believe anything’s possible. Now, is it more likely that you get struck by lightning?” He cracks a smile. I continue, “I can’t answer that question. It depends on how willing you two are to talk things out.”

“I just remember how horribly he treated me. How can I be sure he won’t do that again?”

“You can’t. We hurt people all the time without meaning to. And even if someone does mean to, if that person later apologizes and wants to make amends, I think we should give that person another chance.”

He breaks down in tears and pulls me close to him. “I don’t want to hurt any more, Brad.”

I hold him tight and rock him back and forth, much like I imagine his parents did during the time that picture was taken. I can only imagine the pain he’s gone through - and is going through now. As an only child, I never had to worry whether or not my siblings accepted me. I only had to worry about my parents, and their reaction was the best I could have ever hoped for. I couldn’t really sympathize with James, but I’m trying my damnedest to be there for him and comfort him.

After a while, we pull away, and I look into his eyes. “The pain won’t start to disappear until you’re ready to heal.”

He sighs. “So you think I should talk to him tomorrow, then?”

“You’ve already waited this long. If it were me, I’d want to take care of it tomorrow instead of waiting any longer.”

James turns and lies flat, his head resting on the pillow. He closes his eyes. I glance down at his torso. As he breathes, the bottom of his shirt moves up and down, revealing his belly button and treasure trail. I dig my hand underneath his shirt and rest it against his abs. He reaches for and holds my hand, and they both move up and down to the rhythm of his breathing.

After a few minutes of peaceful silence, he says, “I’m sorry for making you listen to all this.”

I squeeze his hand. “Don’t be. Every family goes through something like this. The important thing is that you’re on your way to making things better.”

“I hope so.”

“Anyway, we should probably finish packing. We’ve got a long day tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I guess we should.”

He hoists himself to his feet and walks over to the dresser to gather more clothes. I walk to the closet to get my suitcase and do the same. “You were adorable as a kid. Still are.”

He chuckles. “Thanks. I found that photo album lying around in the closet while I was looking for my good dress shoes. I just flipped it open and got lost in the memories.”

“You keep photo albums in the closet?”

“Well, I’d rather not have that one out in the open. It would keep the memories too fresh.”

“That makes sense. Did you ever go back and find your dress shoes?”

He looks up as he places some shirts in his suitcase. “Nope. Can you help me look?”

We both walk into the closet and rummage around for his shoes. He eventually finds them. He walks back to his suitcase and places them inside.

“Did you remember to pack your dress shoes?”

“I actually don’t have any. I don’t even have a suit.”

James stares at me like I just told him the world was flat.

“I take it by the look on your face that that’s a bad thing.”

“Well, considering you’d need to wear one at the wedding...” He taps his chin a few times, then eyes me up and down. “You know, you and Charles look very similar. I wouldn’t be surprised if you two had the exact same measurements. Do you know yours?”

I give him a blank stare.

“You’re kidding me, right?”

I shake my head.

He walks up to me and holds the back of my neck. “Don’t worry, cutie; I’ve got you covered.” He pulls me in and gives me a kiss. He then walks to the dresser, opens the top drawer, retrieves a roll of measuring tape, and walks back to me.

“Lift your arms.” I do as I am told. He wraps the tape around my chest, then around my waist. “Arms down.” He walks over to a pad of paper on the dresser and writes something down. He then measures along my arm and shoulder, then around my neck.

“You aren’t going to choke me with that, are you?”

“Nah. You haven’t pissed me off that much.”

He records those measurements and then kneels in front of me. He holds one end of the tape by my ankle and raises the other end up to my waist. He then does the same thing for my inner thigh. His hand barely makes contact through my pants with the underside of my balls. He pulls the tape away.

“Any other measurements you need to take?”

He stands up and gropes my cock. “Not unless you want me to.” He kisses me, then records those final measurements. “I’ll check with Charles in the morning to see if your measurements match up with his and if he has an extra suit on hand to bring with him. If not, the wedding’s not until Sunday, so we’ll have time to buy you a suit.”

We finish packing and plop down on the bed. Both of us are mentally and emotionally exhausted. But we’ve got one more day to get through before we leave.