During the next few weeks Steve's health continued to fail. He spent most of his days in bed, too weak to sit up for more than an hour or so.
Sammie was still working mornings but he knew he would need to be home fulltime soon. He had spoken with his boss, Tom, asking if he could take a leave of absence. Tom had assured him that when the time came he would be able to take off as needed.
Tyler and Sammie had yet to take their relationship to the next level, although their friendship was stronger than ever. Sammie depended on Tyler to be the voice of reason and keep him grounded while dealing with Steve's impending death.
That was probably why Sammie went over the edge the first time Steve took a dramatic turn for the worse.
Sammie had been at work less than an hour when Troy called. "Sammie, I think you need to come home."
"What's going on, Troy?"
"I don't know, he's worse, just come home, okay?"
"Yeah, I'm on my way. Is Jeanette there yet?"
"No, I have a page into her, and I paged Kathy too. Just hurry, okay?"
"I'm leaving now."
Sammie glanced over at Tyler's empty desk. It was Tuesday and Tyler was at his mystery appointment, which he still refused to discuss with Sammie.
"Jarred, something's up with Steve, I've got to go. Tell Tom will you?"
Jarred looked at him wide eyed. "Okay, I'll tell him. I hope everything's okay."
Sammie nodded as he left.
He pulled out his cell phone as he exited the building and dialed Tyler's number.
"This is Tyler, leave me a message."
"Fuck, Tyler, call me as soon as you get this." He ended the call, praying that Steve wouldn't die before he could get home. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
"Troy?" Sammie called as he entered the apartment. He ran to Steve's room to find Steve sitting up in bed. Jeanette was sitting on the side of the bed helping Steve with a glass of orange juice.
"Is he okay?" Sammie asked.
"Just had a little scare with his sugar level. We'll wait for Kathy to check his blood, but I imagine he needs his insulin dosage adjusted. It's fairly common with this type of cancer," Jeanette answered. She turned to Sammie and smiled, "I think he is feeling better now, aren't you Steve?"
"Yeah," Steve said.
"I'm sorry, Sammie, I didn't mean to scare you," Troy said from where he sat on the sofa.
"No, it's okay, Troy. I'm glad you called," Sammie said as he walked over to the other side of Steve's bed. "How are you doing?" he asked Steve as he sat down on the bed.
"Better," Steve answered. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
"I though he was having a stroke," Troy explained as he and Sammie sat at the dinning room table. Kathy was in with Steve. She had arrived shortly after Sammie had gotten home, and confirmed Jeanette's findings. She had called Dr. Ross and got the dosage of insulin adjusted.
Sammie sighed, running his hand through his hair. "Maybe it's time for me to start staying home fulltime."
"I can handle it, Sammie. I'm not bailing on you or on Steve."
"I appreciate that, Troy, but I want to be here when..." he paused. "Well, you know. It's my fear that you'll call and I'll be stuck in traffic and not get here in time to say goodbye."
Troy nodded. "Yeah, I want to be here, too. Steve and I have gotten really close these last few weeks."
"You’re welcome to be here as much as you want, Troy." Sammie reached over and placed his hand on Troy's arm. "You know that, right? God, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
He smiled, embarrassed. "Thanks." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
It was shortly before noon when Tyler finally called. "Is he okay? I'm sorry, Sammie I forgot to turn my cell back on."
"Yeah, well it's too late."
Tyler froze. "What?"
"This is bullshit, Tyler; this sneaking off every Tuesday and not telling anyone where you are. I needed you this morning."
"Knowing where I was wouldn't have helped, you still couldn't have gotten a hold of me. Jesus, is Steve....?" He couldn't bring himself to ask the question.
"It was his blood sugar, he's okay for now, but shit, Tyler, I needed you. I can't do this. I have enough to worry about and I need to be able to find you." All of Sammie's fear for Steve had now turned to anger and Tyler was the easiest to lash out at.
"I won't turn my phone off any more. I'll switch it over to vibrate, okay?"
"No, Tyler, I need you to be honest with me. I'm tired of playing games."
"Okay, okay... We'll talk tonight. Okay?"
"You're damn right we will." Sammie hung up the phone, then realized Troy was still in the room. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"S'okay, but weren't you a little hard on him?"
Sammie shrugged, "You don't know the whole story." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie was in the kitchen that evening when he heard Tyler come in the door. Jeanette, Kathy, and Troy had all left for the day and Steve was sleeping peacefully in his bed. Sammie didn't turn around when he heard Tyler enter the kitchen and walk over to where Sammie stood.
"I'm really sorry, Sammie."
Sammie turned and looked into Tyler's blue eyes. By now all his anger had drained away; he felt like a schmuck for being so mad.
"It’s okay, I overreacted."
"You want to go in the other room? It will take me a while to tell you the whole story."
Sammie shook his head. "No, I told you I would wait until you were ready. It's wrong of me to push." He had spent the rest of the day regretting his words with Tyler earlier, he had been scared over Steve and took it out on Tyler.
Tyler started to say something else, but Sammie silenced him with a kiss.
The kissing became more intense as all of Sammie's built up emotions began to come to the surface. He began unbuttoning Tyler's shirt, needing to feel his skin. In no time they had shed their clothes and Sammie had Tyler up on the kitchen counter. making love to him with everything he had.
When both men had found their release, Sammie collapsed against Tyler, their foreheads touching, breathing each other's air.
"I love you, Sammie."
Sammie opened his eyes, looking into Tyler's baby blues. "I love you, too." ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
After the scare with Steve, Sammie began staying home longer each day. Some days he was only at the office a couple of hours.
Jeanette also was spending more time at their apartment. She came early in the morning and, depending on the day and how Steve was feeling, sometimes stayed into the evening or even the night. She mentioned that if Steve began to need around the clock care they would add another Aide, each taking a twelve-hour shift so that he would have the full care he needed.
Sammie had overheard Jeanette and Steve talking more that once about reconciling with friends and family, or making sure Sammie knew of his final wishes; who to give his belongings to, what type of funeral he wanted, even his wishes on burial or cremation. So far Steve had not brought up the subject with Sammie; but it was only a matter of time before they would have to discuss it.
Troy also spent more time with Steve although Joel would seldom visit. Lisa and Terri stopped by every couple of days but never stayed long.
Tyler had to carry more of Sammie's projects at work, so he was leaving earlier in the mornings and staying later in the evening. This caused even more guilt for Sammie, but Tyler insisted it was his way of helping. Sammie thought of trying to get Tom to hire another software engineer, but was worried that if Tom did, it would mean Sammie would have no job to go back to.
Even though Tyler and Sammie had finally admitted their love to one another, they simple had no time to spend together. As it was, their relationship remained in a holding pattern. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Jeanette really wants you to contact your parents,” Tyler said as he helped Steve back into bed.
“Oh fuck, did she put you up to this?” Steve grumbled.
“Well, yeah. Sammie keeps saying he promised you, so she asked me to talk to you.”
Steve eyed Tyler. “I will if you will.”
“Contact your parents. I will if you will.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Why, because you’re not dying? You don’t know that. You could have a time bomb ticking off in your body, or be in a car wreck tomorrow, or maybe even get taken out by a sniper at the post office. We all think we have tomorrow, but none of us really knows for sure, now do we?”
“No really, it’s perfect, let the old bitty find out when she reads my obit in the paper. Let her find out then that it’s too late to make up with me… if she even wants to.”
“So you’re not going to contact her out of spite? That seems rather lame.”
Steve pondered the idea for a moment. “No, I don’t think I’m up for the rejection. The woman that raised me, that woman I miss. The woman she turned into when she found out I was gay, that women I have no desire to see again. If I thought that I could see the woman that raised me… I’d make the call right now. But the fear of facing the woman she turned into keeps me away.”
“But maybe she is sorry now, maybe she regrets what happened. You haven’t spoken to her in how long? She may have changed. It’s possible.”
“And maybe pigs will fly out my butt. No, Tyler, leave it alone. Tell Jeanette that we discussed it, and I don’t wish to have any contact with my parents… then leave it.”
“You need to rest,” Tyler said, getting up to leave the room.
“I mean it, Tyler. Drop it.”
Tyler nodded and walked out the door. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
The next evening Sammie and Tyler were cleaning up the kitchen.
“Sammie, I want to try to contact Steve’s parents.”
“No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“But, what if they really do want to reconcile with their son. If someone doesn’t intervene it will be too late soon.”
“Tyler, Steve has said ‘no’. He doesn’t want anyone to contact them. He doesn’t want them coming out of pity.”
“Okay, so I won’t tell them he’s sick. I’ll just ask if they would like to see him. If they say they don’t then I’ll drop it. I promise.”
Sammie shook his head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Do you have their number?”
“Their phone number? Heavens no, and even if I did, I promised Steve that I wouldn’t contact his parents.”
“Where do they live?”
“Do you know his dad’s name?”
Sammie stopped putting the dishes away and looked at Tyler. “I know Steve is a junior, and that he was born and raised in Hillsdale. I don’t know anymore, and I want nothing else to do with your little scheme. I think you are treading on dangerous ground.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
It was late afternoon and Sammie was sitting with Steve watching him sleep. Dr. Ross had recently changed his pain medication to a morphine drip. While it controlled the pain, and enabled Steve to rest more comfortably, it also caused him to sleep excessively, something Jeanette had explained was just the way it was. Steve would grumble that he didn't want to sleep what was left of his life away, and Jeanette would dial back the drip until it was obvious that Steve was uncomfortable. Finding the happy medium was the trick.
Sammie was flipping through a magazine. He had given up on trying to read a book, but today even the mindless entertainment of People Magazine couldn't hold his attention. He flopped it down on the sofa and looked over to see Steve watching him. "How long have you been awake?"
Steve licked his chapped lips, "I don't know."
Sammie moved over to sit on the side of Steve's bed, picking up the small jar of Carmex and applying it to Steve's parched lips. "How are you feeling?"
Sammie brushed Steve's hair back off his face. "You need a trim."
"Sammie, can you talk to me?"
"Sure, sweetie, what do you want to hear?"
"I want you to listen."
Steve pointed over to his nightstand. "Open the top drawer and pull out the booklet there on top."
Sammie did as requested. He handed the thin light blue booklet to Steve.
"No, you take it, it’s for you," Steve said.
Sammie turned it over, the title read, "Your Final Arrangements."
"What is this?" he asked.
"Oh," Sammie said as he opened up the book. "When did you do this?"
"Last few weeks. Troy helped me," Steve paused, "I didn't want to put you through having to plan it, so... It's all done and paid for, all you have to do is place the call for them to come get me."
"I see." Sammie was at a loss as to how to respond.
"Can we talk?"
"Of course, Steve."
"I have some stuff I want you to give the gang for me. Just some little things for them to remember me by."
"Okay, but why don't you give the gifts to them now? I think it would be nice, and give everyone a chance to say goodbye."
Steve nodded. "Yeah? I thought maybe it would be better to avoid the drama."
"You? Avoid drama?" Sammie teased.
Steve managed a tired smile, "Yeah, you're right. Okay, invite everyone over tomorrow. I'll have Jeanette lay off the morphine so I can function."
"Okay, I'll call them later."
Steve's eyes closed for a moment, then opened back up. "My will. Everything is yours. The life insurance and everything else," he was starting to slur.
"You should sleep now, Steve."
"No, we need to talk."
"I want a third of the money to go to Tyler. I want to give some to Troy, but I think he would be insulted. Give a third of it to Tyler. Tell him to get a decent car and then put the rest somewhere safe for a rainy day."
"The rest is yours. I won't tell you what to do with it, but I am hoping you will finally quit your job and start your own business in web design, like you used to talk about."
"Oh, Steve, I gave up on that years ago."
"Well, maybe you should reconsider."
Sammie nodded. "Steve..." he rolled his lips, then started again. "Our years together..." he voice broke.
"Shhh... No tears," Steve said. "Our time together was the best, Frog."
Sammie nodded, his eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"I'm not going anywhere. I will always be right here," Steve placed his hand over Sammie's heart. "Forever."
"Yeah," Sammie's vision clouded over until finally the tears ran down his cheeks. He watched as Steve's eyes drifted closed. Sammie sat there watching him sleep until Tyler finally coaxed him out to eat a bit of dinner. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Later that night Tyler reported some news to Sammie. They were spending some time in the living room watching television. “I found Steve’s parents and phoned them today.”
“Okay, do I want to hear this?”
“You were right.”
“Right about what?”
“They didn’t want to see him.”
“I never said that. I don’t know them, or anything about them,” Sammie corrected.
“Yeah, but you said not to call.”
“Only because Steve didn’t want us to.”
“Well, at least I tried. I don’t feel bad for that, but it is really sad that he won’t get to patch things up with them.”
“What did they say?”
“I only talked to his mom, do you want to hear this? Really?” Tyler asked.
“Yeah, I do. Do you want to tell me?”
“Yeah. It was just really sad, that’s all. I called her and said I was a friend of her son, Steve. I said that I knew they were estranged and I was wondering if maybe she would want to see him. She asked why. Why did I think she would want to see him?”
“You didn’t tell her he was sick, did you?”
“No, I said, ‘because he is your son.’ She asked if I was his boyfriend. I told her I was only a friend. Then she asked if I was gay too. I told her yes, and she went off on this tirade about how it was evil and wrong. She asked if Steve was the one that ‘got me into it.’ She said it was no different than ‘doing drugs, or worshiping the devil or any of the other vile things teenagers think are fun nowadays’. She is really out there, Sammie. I mean it was scary all the hateful, ugly things this women said to me.”
“Well, all the more reason that Steve doesn’t need to see her then.”
“Yeah, but I’m still glad I tried, even if it was just for my own peace of mind. I just can’t shake it though. How hateful she was. I wonder if that is how my mother feels?”
“You don’t have any contact with your parents?
“No, not in years,” Tyler looked down at his lap
“Because you’re gay?”
“That and other reasons. I think I want to go for a walk and do some thinking. Thanks for listening to me, Sammie.”
“You don’t want to talk to me about your parents, do you?”
“I don’t want to talk about them with anyone.”
“But that’s why you were hoping to get Steve fixed back up with his.”
“Maybe, I don’t know.”
Sammie nodded. “Well, if you ever do want to talk…”
“I know, Sammie, and I do appreciate it. I’m going to go get some air. I’ll be back in a while.”
“Okay, sweetie. Don’t be gone too long, it’s getting late.”
© Melina Catts 2005