Brad’s Search : Part 42


We wake up and go through our usual morning routine - well, as routine as possible before one speaks to an estranged family member for the first time after many years.

I let James know that Eric has allowed me to leave work early.

“Can you leave your car parked at work over the weekend?”

“Yeah. That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Perfect. I can leave from the law firm and pick you up. That should give us a bit of a head start.”

* * * * *

I pull into work. We now have under two full months to get this project done and out the door. Eric and I meet with each team individually to get an idea of how far along we are. We then all gather around the table. Eric starts off. “Good morning, everyone. We’re making great progress so far. If we push a bit harder, we can get this finished by mid-March.”

Eric gives me the floor. “As far as our client is concerned, they will be flying here in a couple weeks to see what we’ve come up with so far. We’ve spoken to them over the phone, and they are pretty excited. We have to make sure everything works flawlessly so that they come away from that meeting impressed.”

We end the meeting, and each team goes off to work separately. When the time arrives, Eric and I head off to lunch together. We arrive at the spot we’ve chosen, grab food, and find a table.

“So how do you like the new place, Brad?”

“It is absolutely wonderful. I was worried that it would take a lot longer to get to work, but it hasn’t been an issue so far.”

“You and James still doing OK?”

“Mostly. That family drama I was telling you about before - it’s just getting a bit too intense for him. But other than that, we’re doing OK. He’s a really great guy.”

“He certainly seems that way. I’d love to get the chance to meet him.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Maybe you both can come visit Lorna and me. She can whip up dinner for all of us. She’s a really talented cook.”

“Interesting. James knows his way around the kitchen pretty well, too.”

“Well, those two should have no problem getting along right off the bat.”

“On the contrary - we could be creating our own version of Hell’s Kitchen without even knowing it.”

Eric chuckles. “Good thing she’s not pregnant, or else Hell’s Kitchen would be exactly what would happen.”

We wrap up lunch and head back to the office.

* * * * *

My phone vibrates near the end of the workday. I check it; it’s a text from James: I’m just getting finished up here. Are you almost ready to head out?

Give me another 15 minutes.

Perfect. I’ll text you when I get there.

I quickly pack my things and pop into the doorway of Eric’s office. “Hey, I’m getting ready to leave. Do you need anything from me?”

“Actually, yeah. Step inside for a second if you don’t mind.”

I walk in and sit down. “What’s up?”

“I’m just about to schedule our client’s meeting. They’re able to meet with us one day during the week of the eighteenth, but they’re leaving the specific day up to us. What day do you think would be best?”

“How about Wednesday? That way we won’t be rushing to finish things in the beginning of the week, and we’ll have a couple days after to go over their thoughts and suggestions.”

Eric thinks for a few seconds. “I like your reasoning, Brad. I agree - the middle of the week does seem like the best choice here. I’ll let the client know what we’ve chosen.”

“Cool. Anything else?”

“Nope, that’s it. Have a great weekend. See you Monday. Let me know how it goes.”

“Thanks, Eric. I sure will. You have a great weekend, too.”

Right on cue, James texts me and says he’s waiting for me out front. I grab my laptop bag and take the elevator. I step outside, sight his car, and walk towards it. He gets out while the engine is still running and motions for me to sit in the driver’s seat.

“What are you doing?”

“I cannot handle talking to my brother and driving in heavy traffic. So, if you don’t mind...”

“Of course.”

He walks around to the passenger side and gets in, while I sit in the driver’s seat and adjust the seat and mirrors to my liking. “Ready?”

“Yeah.”

With that, I step my foot on the gas and we peel away, the tires screeching louder than I’ve ever heard before. My head slams into the headrest. I ease off and slow down for a bit as James laughs uncontrollably. “Sorry! I forgot to mention she’s a little bit sensitive.”

“Did you also happen to forget to mention the reason I’m driving is really because you’re a little bit inebriated?” I wink at him.

We hop onto the freeway, heading for Portland. After a few minutes of just listening to the radio, James speaks up. “So how’d your day go?”

“Pretty good. We’ll probably finish this project early.”

“Early when?”

“Around the middle of March.”

“Not bad. You guys must be doing a good job.”

“Apparently. And our client will be flying up here soon to see what we have done so far.”

“Wow. You nervous?”

“A little. I’m just hoping they walk away really impressed. I want Eric and everyone there to know how capable I am of being a good project manager.”

“I bet they already think that, Brad. You’re fantastic at what you do. They know that.”

I rest my hand on his thigh. “Thanks. Speaking of Eric, he mentioned you at lunch today. He’s thinking of inviting us to his house so he and his wife can meet you.”

“Yeah?”

“That’s right. We’ve become really good friends. In fact, if it weren’t for him, we probably wouldn’t be together right now.”

“Well then, count me in! As soon as I meet him, I’ll have to get on my knees and thank him.”

I glance at James with a weird look. He quickly says, “No, not like that.”

We continue driving and listening to the radio. We eventually get outside the city limits, and traffic thins out.

I squeeze his knee. “Ready to talk to your brother?”

He hesitates for a few seconds, then sighs. “May as well not delay it any more.”

He pulls out his phone and taps on the screen a few times. Soon, the radio volume drops, and the sound of the phone ringing comes through the car’s speakers. James rests his head back and closes his eyes. I sense he’s been preparing for this very moment - one which he had probably thought before would never come.

The ringing stops, and a timid voice comes through from the other end. “Hello?”

“Hello, Paul. It’s James.”

There is silence on the line for a few seconds. Paul’s voice comes back. “James, it’s so good to hear your voice.”

James doesn’t respond. Paul continues, “What’s going on in your life?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m actually on my way to Portland, Oregon with my new boyfriend to watch two of my male friends marry each other. I imagine such a thing makes you sick to your stomach, so feel free to call me back after you’re done throwing up.”

“What’s your boyfriend’s name?”

James looks puzzled. “Why do you even care?”

“I want to hear about him.”

“You’re not making sense, Paul. What happened to all the fire-and-brimstone talk from before?”

“People change, James.”

“What? You expect me to believe you’ve changed your whole opinion of homosexuality overnight?”

“Overnight? No, it hasn’t been quite that fast, but I’ve realized I was wrong about it. Way wrong.”

“Has your church suddenly had some kind of revelation? Do they know that gay people aren’t these big child molesters out to get everyone?”

Paul’s voice begins to sound more confident. “Oh, no, they still think you’re horrible, vile creatures who are not fit to walk the earth. But that’s why I don’t go there anymore. It took me much longer than it needed to, but I’ve finally realized the truth - there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay or a man loving another man.”

James has trouble coming up with his next response. Eventually, he asks, “What does Patricia think about all this?”

“About me realizing the truth? I don’t know. She ran away with the kids.”

“Why? Because you stopped going to church?”

“No, because she caught me in bed cheating on her...”

“Oh, that makes more sense.”

“...with a man.”

It’s a good thing I’m the one driving, because James probably would have torn off the road and smashed into some poor guy’s house in Tacoma.