A Life Discovered

Chapter 9

By Bensiamin


They were up early for some breakfast so Bailey could drive to his shift at the shelter. He thought back to the night before. After Eric had given him another fabulous blow job, he’d tried again to reciprocate, but still couldn’t do it. He’d settled for a hand job, and later when both had recovered, they retreated to Eric’s bed and had gotten out the oil and slowly made love to each other. He smiled with glee when he thought about how proficient they had become at frottage. Who knew sliding around with just some oil could feel so wonderful.

He also reflected about what Elliott had confronted him with, and after a good night’s sleep, now in the morning light, it made more and more sense. He just had a hard time accepting that he could be depressed, but he was bothered by the other assertion, too. That he’d blocked out everything that had happened to him before he’d run away and been found by Colin.

He’d admitted to Elliott that he hadn’t grieved. When he was forced to think about it, he felt sorry for the kid he had been at twelve and what had happened to him, but he’d never wanted to go back there and be in that stew of fear and pain. Like he’d said, he’d moved on. Colin had made it possible, so that’s what he’d done. Even now, beyond remembering the night in the snowstorm when he’d stumbled into Colin’s backyard, and the last event of being bound and punished, he remembered virtually nothing of his childhood. He probably only remembered the details of that last event because he’d had to tell the Deputy who responded to the 911 call, and then the welfare lady and then the counselor. All that telling and retelling had probably locked it into his memory. Before that, he could hardly remember anything of his life.

As he pulled into town he shook his head to try and clear his thoughts and get his mind ready for his shift. He thought of some of the cats and dogs from the previous weekend and wondered how many might have been placed, or if they’d still be there. As he cleaned the cages and kennels he saw that some had been placed, but not all. As Leslie had predicted, the intake of new animals exceeded the adoption rate and there were still some animals doubled up in cages and crates. It was a typical day at the shelter except for learning that they were short a volunteer for the upcoming Monday, Labor Day itself. He thought about it and with Eric being gone and his Sunday already committed, he might as well work and help the animals instead of sitting around missing being with Eric.

He was exercising the two terriers when the thought surfaced: missing being with Eric. That realization hit him hard as he walked the two dogs. For the last half of the school year, he hadn’t missed Morgana. Rather, he’d been hurt, angry and down that she’d broken up with him and moved out. Here he was already, after just a few weeks, missing this new guy he was seeing. A realization started to break through that the most important part of what was now going on in his life wasn’t that he was dating a guy. Instead that he was dating a person that made him feel happy and one whom he missed when they weren’t together.

He remembered something he’d read somewhere about joy as a blossoming in the heart. That’s what he’d begun to feel a few weeks ago and now was feeling more and more strongly. Joy! It was a wondrous thing. Elliott would probably tell him that’s he’d been too traumatized after Colin found him to understand at the time, but joy was what he’d lost and then slowly began to rediscover as Colin demonstrated he was loved unconditionally and then helped him get his life on track. That joy had taken a hit after Colin had suddenly died, and maybe it never fully came back. But clearly it hadn’t died completely. He smiled at himself again, feeling hopeful.

Leslie had introduced him to the Rottweiler the previous weekend, and asked him to take good care of him when he was on shift this weekend. It was ironic. She’d warned him about getting attached, but clearly, she had a fondness for the dog named Major. He’d found, just like she said, that with clear direction and solid commands, he was well-behaved. She’d said that a lot of behavioral problems are created by the owners, when instead of giving a command they ask a question, as if they’re pleading with the animal. Later that night when he and Eric talked, he shared what he’d been thinking about all day as he worked. When he tried to describe this new feeling of joy and how it was seeming to emerge again, Eric asked if he could share something.

“Of course. I want to hear what you think. You’re the biggest part of making this happen.”

“A few years ago, I read a book by a motivational speaker named Jim Rohm. One of the things he said fits right in with what you’re trying to sort through. He said, ‘The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keep out the joy.’ I think that says it all. You didn’t have any choice. You were trying to survive so you had to build some walls.”

Bailey finished the thought for him, “But it came at the cost of losing the joy, right?”

“Seems like it. But this is all progress. You’re working on it and able to talk about it. Good for you and good for me, because I like my Bailey happy and joyful.”

Bailey giggled, and replied, “No one ever told me anything like that before.”

“Then you haven’t been around the right people. You’re attractive and cute. You’re intelligent and funny. You’re sweet and caring. And now we’ve established you’re becoming happy and joyful. I’d say that’s a win.”

“Stop! You’re embarrassing me.”

“Not what I’m trying to do, but it’s all true.”

They talked a little longer and when they ended the call, Eric said, “Goodnight, sweetheart.”

Bailey fell asleep with a smile on his face thinking about that.


There was a panic Monday morning at the manufacturing staff meeting. Everett was in Chicago for some corporate meetings, so Bailey took precise notes to send along. One of the new pieces of manufacturing equipment was made in Germany and had already shipped. It was halfway across the Atlantic, and all the shipping and installation documents had been delivered on the previous Friday. Due to supply chain problems during the pandemic some components had changed and that had altered the dimensions, and the result was that it now appeared the two main pieces were too wide to get through the bay doors on the receiving dock. They were scheduled to ship by truck from the dock in New York City and be delivered mid-September.

Bailey could see the concern on everyone’s faces and walked the production people through the details. The doors had been designed to accept the width of the two pieces of equipment which would be joined together during assembly on the production floor. At first, he wondered if the problem was that European equipment was measured in metric and American construction worked on the Imperial system of feet and inches. He was assured that wasn’t the problem. Rather, the doorways were built eight inches wider than the large skids the two pieces were shipped on. Now the new width of the equipment six inches wider than the original the skids were six inches wider than the doorways.

Bailey texted Eric.

He listened to the manufacturing group discuss options for ten minutes and then got a reply from Eric that said he’d checked the engineering plans, and there were steel I-beams on either side of the doorway. He went on to say that it wouldn’t be impossible to move them but difficult at this stage and expensive.

Bailey added that to the discussion and asked for a set of the schematics of the two machine components and the shipping skids, wondering to himself if there was some way to cut down the palettes to make them fit. When the meeting ended, he told the group he was going to scan the schematics and email them to the architects and construction managers so hopefully they could have a solution by Friday’s meeting.

At lunch he called Eric, who answered on the first ring. “Well, we’ve got our first major construction problem, right?”

“Looks like it,” Bailey replied, “but it has nothing to do with us on this side.”

Eric laughed, “Well, actually, it does, because regardless of the cause, we have to come up with a solution. Thanks for the schematics and especially the shipping documents that show the skids and overall dimensions. My first pass assessment is that we’re down to less than four inches of tolerance to get these things in.”

“Fuck. What a headache. Why did they have to change the dimension?”

“Who knows. The manufacturer will have a good reason, whether it makes sense to us or not. What would have been nice would have been to find out three months ago. Anyway, we’ve got our construction guys on it. They’ll be talking to your production people, and hopefully also to the equipment manufacturer’s representatives. They’re supposed to have technicians on site to do the final assembly. Maybe we can find the inches we need.”

“Or what?”

“Or we have to remove the door and the door frames, and then figure out how to temporarily relocate one of the vertical I-beams. That’s a major problem because they don’t just hold the door frames, they are on the side of the building, so they’re load carrying uprights that hold up the roof. They’re rated for snow load, so they’re not small.” He paused, and then continued, “Other than that, sweetheart, how’s your day going?”

“Ha ha. I spent the weekend thinking about us and about me and my stuff, and now with this little shit show all I’ve been doing is trying to facilitate getting to a solution. Can you believe manufacturing didn’t even have digital images of the schematics? I had to get the printed sheets and scan them so I could send them to you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Problem Solver.”

“Now I have to figure out how to fill Everett in on this little nightmare, so he doesn’t take it like someone dropped a turd in his lunchbox.”

Eric laughed. “That’s funny. I haven’t heard that one.”

“I heard it from my dad. I guess he learned it in the military. He said you’ve always gotta be on point or some ass hole will drop a turd in your lunchbox.”

“Wise man. You’ll sort out the messaging for Everett. I may be overly optimistic since we haven’t talked to the assembly techs yet, but my gut tells me we can figure out a solution without having to open up the side of the building.

“God, I hope so. That’ll be expensive, won’t it?”

“Yes, it will, but if we can get all the data and everyone we need in on the conversation, the goal is to have a solution on the table by Friday’s meeting. Tell Everett that. It should help him chill.”

“He’ll be back and here for the meeting, so plan on him bringing a ruler with him.”

“I’m planning on a caliper. Now, I’ve got to go. Other projects are calling.”

They rang off and Bailey felt the queasy stomach he’d had all morning begin to fade. He also thought to himself, ‘that’s the second time he’s called me sweetheart, isn’t it?’

He had a meeting with the Director of IT on Wednesday to understand the latest updates on the business dashboard so he could report to Everett the next day. It was coming together well, and he’d realized the solution to making the Director the hero was simple: he’d have him come to the meeting with Everett and explain how the interface would work and describe the consultant to do the work. That way the head of IT would be explaining the dashboard interface instead of a young upstart. Bailey wouldn’t give up control of the design or the form and function of the actual interface, but he’d hand off the mechanics and step back and let the Director appear to be the lead.

Thursday night Eric told him that it looked like they were close and that the outcome for a workable solution at tomorrow’s meeting was promising. Eric went on to explain that in the afternoon he’d be presenting the final architectural drawings for the SPCA shelter expansion to the Director and a special meeting of the Board.

“Are you going to get home in time to drive up to the cabin with your parents?”

“Probably not. We’ll take two cars. They understand this is important. This way they can go up in the afternoon and if I’m there in time for dinner they’ll be happy. I wish you could be coming with me.”

“So, do I, but I’m on the hook, you know. At least I’ll keep busy working Sunday and Monday, so I won’t spend all my time thinking about missing you. Will you have cell phone coverage up there?”

“Yes, but not at the cabin itself. It’s below a ridge near a small lake, so you have to do a little climb to get high enough to get coverage. But, most important, we’ll be in touch. No worry there.”

Bailey had sent Everett a succinct email about the problem they’d run into with the installation of the equipment, and had had to walk through all the details with him on Thursday morning, discussing the details right down to the inches. Everett just shook his head, but he was loaded for bear Friday morning.

The meeting began with the usual pleasantries, then Everett took charge. The manufacturer’s service technicians were on a conference phone. “Let’s get to this problem we’ve got and what the solutions are. I understand from Bailey that you’ve now had a week since the arrival of the new specifications.” He directed himself to the techs on the phone, “I want you gentlemen to understand in no uncertain terms that being informed about a change of this magnitude after the equipment has shipped is unacceptable. The fact that it’s en route means we have to accept it and figure out how to get it in place, but I want to be very clear that we’ve having to solve this problem because your company failed to communicate critical changes in advance. Are we clear on that?”

Both men mumbled agreement, but wisely chose not to try and make excuses.

“Good, then since we’re all agreed, let’s get to discussing the solutions.” He turned to Reed and said, “I guess it’s your meeting?”

Reed smoothly said, “It will be a team solution. Eric and one of our engineers have been on the fine details from our side this week. We’ve spoken to the service techs about all the dimensional details and can tell you that one of our first hopes, which was removing some of the outer parts of the manufacturing equipment isn’t possible.”

The techs explained that on the sides which created the problem width, the frame of the machine was covered with sheet metal, so there was nothing to remove to make it narrower. Reed turned to Eric and asked him to explain the door frames relative to the I-beams. He put up a cross-sectional slide on the screen showing that there was a three-inch frame on either side of the door, and that frame attached to the I-beam. “We can remove the door and then take out the door frame and that will buy us six inches. I can’t guarantee that the frame will be reusable, but we’ll try. The problem is that we need at least two additional inches of free space on either side to make sure we can get them through the openings.”

Everett wanted to know how the equipment would be moved and learned that two heavy duty construction forklifts would be used to lift each piece off the semi delivering them, and then with one in front and one in back, inch the equipment through the opening into the building.

Eric went on, “When you see an operation like this from a distance it looks like a perfectly smooth and easy move. The fact is though, that with two forklifts there will be side to side movement of some sort, even with the best drivers in the world. That’s where the problem comes. Some clearance is a critical requirement.” The discussion seemed to go round and round from there for a few minutes before Bailey raised his hand. Eric looked at him and smiled, saying, “Yes, Bailey, do you have a suggestion?”

“Actually, I have a question. The same one I wondered about at the manufacturing staff meeting on Monday. The equipment sits on oversized skids that are larger than the equipment. Why can’t we cut down the skids to make them narrower? I mean, right down to the width of the equipment.”

“How would we do that,” one of the manufacturing people asked?

“I don’t know,” Bailey replied, “maybe with a chain saw. We’ve got to find two or three inches on each side, don’t we?’

They all heard the sharp intake of breath from the service techs on the phone. “You can’t cut down the skids, it could put unnecessary strain on them. It could damage their structural integrity.”

Bailey watched Everett look at Eric, his eyebrows raised and his hands moving in a palms up position as if asking ‘can we do this?’ Eric smiled, mainly at the tension that the two service techs were interjecting into the meeting but nodded in agreement. Everett turned to the manufacturing people, two of whom were clearly concerned, but the other two nodding in agreement. He then looked at Bailey who shrugged his shoulders and whispered, “What else can we do? It’s the simplest solution.”

They watched Everett turn to the conference phone and say, “Gentlemen, here’s what we’re going to do. You two will arrange to be here a day early. We will remove the door and door frame. Then we will be cutting down the width of the skids, whether it’s with a chain saw or some other cutting device. If the paint on the machines gets scratched, so be it. It’s either that or you both can come up here next week and arrange to move one of the I-beams holding up that exterior wall at your expense. Which will it be?”

Both technicians made an attempt at alternatives, but there were none left. The decision was made, and the meeting closed. Everett turned to Reed and asked how much time was needed to remove the door and the frames? He was told it could be done in a day. He then smiled at everyone in the meeting and said, “Then I leave it with you gentlemen to identify the best chain saw operator in the county.” With that he turned and left the meeting.

Reed assured the remaining people that he was sure they could pull it off, and everyone left with a level of satisfaction. At lunch Eric gave Bailey a high five. “Great job of getting us all back to the basic question of how we cut down those fucking skids!”

“Really! Listening to those guys on the phone, you’d think we were talking about cutting into their fucking machines. What is it with them?”

“They work for the manufacturer, so part of their job is protecting the equipment while it’s being delivered and until it’s installed and tested. Then they hand it off and their job’s done.”

“You think we can pull this off?”

“With maybe an inch or two to spare, yes!”


Eric called Bailey on his drive back to Syracuse from the SPCA. He was elated that there had been minor discussion, some very minor changes and then full acceptance of the proposed plan.

“Wow! That’s great. You got it, you closed the deal! I bet you feel as good as when I sold my first car.”

Eric chuckled, but then said, “You were ahead of me by about thirteen years on that, but yeah. I’m the junior architect at the firm so I’m usually part of the team and not making the proposal and closing the deal, so this feels great. It’s not a big project, but still, like you said, it’s me selling my first car.”

“You’re the man.”

“Am I?”

“Well, you’re my man.”

“That’s the way I like to hear it. God, I wish you were coming with me this weekend.”

“Me too, but we know I can’t. You go and be with your parents and have a good time, and we’ll talk and then be back to our regular routine on Tuesday.”

“Cool. We’ll all be driving back late Monday, so I’ll call you when I get home.”

“Sounds like a plan”

“I’ll be thinking about you a lot.”

“Me too.”

They rang off and Bailey packed up his things to head home and make dinner. He spent Saturday doing laundry and going shopping, then taking a run.

Sunday was a busy day because the animal intake had exceeded the adoption rate and they had even more cats and dogs doubled up in cages and crates. He spent some time with the other volunteer moving a few around to what they hoped were more hospitable mates and then fell into the cleaning and exercising routine. She told him that the Rottweiler Leslie so liked had been placed with an older couple who lived on a few acres outside of town and who had recently lost a Doberman Pinscher to cancer. “All the signs were that it’ll be a good home, and that they understand how to care for and handle that type of dog. Leslie felt good about it.” Everything quieted down when they fed mid-day, and that let them take their own lunch together.

As they ate, Bailey said he’d heard the meeting with the architect on Friday had gone really well. “Yeah, I guess they signed off on the plans for the expansion. That’s good. I want to know when it’ll be finished. The animals need it.”

“No doubt there,” he replied. “I’m guessing it’ll take till at least his time next year with permits and construction and all. And it has to be paid for. There’s still some more fundraising to do, isn’t there?”

“That’s what I hear, but that’s not our department. It’s the Finance Director and the fundraising committee on the Board. Still, they’ve got almost all the money now.” She paused, then went on, “but that Director, he’s a piece of work.”

“What do you mean? Isn’t he honest?”

“I guess he’s honest. He runs the accounting and financial side and has been part of raising the money. But he’s gay, not that that’s a problem, but I worked on Friday, and when that architect was here with the plans and the proposal, he was all over the guy.”

Bailey wasn’t quite understanding what she was saying. “What do you mean? He’s one of the architects on a project at work, so he’s a friend of mine.”

“I mean,” she replied, “I told you before the architect is one good looking guy, and probably gay. Seems like most of the really good-looking ones are. Anyways, our director is gay, and he was all over the architect guy. Trying to pick him up. It looked like a cat trying to eat the cream. Kinda slutty, if you ask me.”


“Yeah, it was a little too obvious, but I guess that’s the guy’s style.”

Bailey was looking at her, wondering why Eric hadn’t said anything about it when they talked the evening before. Maybe he was too excited about having his proposal accepted. Still, he had to wonder.

“What was Eric doing? I mean, was he involved, you know…into it?”

She raised an eyebrow. “My, aren’t you curious. No, he wasn’t involved, I don’t think he was into it.”

“So, he wasn’t responding and leading the guy on?”

“Why are you so interested?” A look of understanding came on her face. “Oh, you two are more than just ‘friends,’ is that it?”

Bailey realized he may have given himself away. Now what? “Well, yes, Eric’s gay. I’m not, but…but, I’ve gone out with him a couple of times. I like him a lot.”

“Okay. I don’t know that I understand that, but it’s fine. You’re a good guy and entitled to choose your own friends, whatever that means. But if you’re feeling a little jealous, your friend Eric wasn’t into it at all. In fact, he was acting embarrassed, trying to end it graciously and get away.”

Bailey smiled ruefully, and said, “That’s good to hear. Thanks for telling me.” She changed the subject back to work. “Time to get moving. There’s supposed to be a few adoption pickups this afternoon, including the two terriers, but we need to finish the exercise routines and after the adoptions we’ll have more space and have to move some animals around.”

On the drive home Bailey thought more about what he’d learned. Had the other volunteer been right, was he jealous? He thought about it, and he was. Eric was attractive and he was jealous that some slutty guy tried to pick him up. It would be bad enough anywhere, but at one of the places he worked! That brought it closer to home. Then he realized he shouldn’t be surprised. It had probably happened other times in the last couple of months even if Eric didn’t go to gay bars alone anymore. He was attractive and gay, and certain to catch the eyes of other guys looking for some action.

What did that mean? This was new territory for Bailey, but he certainly realized that if he appreciated the joy he was feeling and liked the way he felt when Eric called him sweetheart, he better not take any of it for granted. Maybe that was some of what had been going on last year. Had he slipped into auto pilot and begun taking his relationship with Morgana for granted? As he parked his car in front of the apartment building, he told himself it wasn’t going to happen again. He wasn’t just going to assume nothing could go wrong. He wasn’t going to take Eric for granted.

Monday was a quiet day because it was a holiday. There weren’t any adoptions, but there also weren’t any animals dropped off, so no moving animals to different cages and kennels. Just the regular routine, and Bailey had enough time to start thinking again about what Elliott had said to him about grieving for the twelve-year-old boy he was at the time of his last abuse before Colin had found him. Pieces of those conversations with Elliott came and went through his mind as he worked, and while he wasn’t able to achieve any resolution, he was consciously aware of what Elliott had been telling him and about the suggestions he’d made. He was able to get home early enough to take a run, and when he got back to his apartment, he dropped onto the couch to finish cooling down.

It had been a long weekend, and he fell into something like a half-sleep. His mind went to Colin and his house way back then. His recalled the snowstorm and stumbling though the fence into Colin’s backyard. Then his mind went back further to how he’d been able to finally bite through the duct tape around his wrists and then free the tape from around his ankles. He was embarrassed that it was obvious he’d peed his pants but at least he hadn’t shit himself. There was nothing to do about that. It was like the thoughts in his mind were those of the twelve-year old boy assessing what to do next. What he needed to do now was get out, run, leave before either of his parents found him. He both watched from afar, and felt like he was right there, as his twelve-year-old self began to sneak out of the house dressed in shorts and a tank top and head into the snowstorm.

Then his mind went back further, to when the punishment began that day. How his birth father had hauled him into the cellar by the scruff of his neck, tossing him into a small room where he’d hit him. Hit him and called him a dirty, little cocksucker that needed discipline. Then he’d slapped him again, taunting him about why he couldn’t do what he was told, didn’t understand what was expected of him. Then he called him a dirty, little cocksucker again, like he always did when he was punishing Bailey, and said that maybe this time he’d learn his lesson. He’d lain there as his wrists were bound with the duct tape, trying to ignore his father’s rant, and struggling not to cry. But as his ankles were being bound, he’d sobbed and been slapped again and told to take his punishment like a man. Then his father had called him a dirty, little cocksucker again, adding that he needed to learn respect for his parents.

It was as if he was watching an old, black-and-white show on a small-screen TV, and he could see himself, just twelve years old and being taped up and yelled at and then tossed into the corner of that room as his birth father told him everything that was wrong with him. And kept on calling him a dirty, little cocksucker.

Bailey jolted awake, no longer seeing the images on the small-screen TV, but seeing the wall across the room from the couch in his apartment. Could that have been real? Could that have been how it happened? He’d always remembered some of it. The duct tape, no food, the running. But now he’d seen the abuse. And the accusation that he was a dirty, little cocksucker.

Suddenly, as if for the first time, he was able to feel what twelve-year-old Bailey went through. The humiliation. The pain. The fear. The sexual innuendo. The abuse.

It was as if he’d been taken back there, and then he realized he was crying. Deep wrenching sobs bubbled up from his gut. They were so strong he could hardly catch his breath. He tried to quell them, but they wouldn’t stop. They just kept coming. He couldn’t tear his mind away from what that boy went through, and the sobs kept coming, running down his face. He wiped his face with his forearm and realized he had snot running out of his nose.

What to do? Elliott said he could call him anytime, but he knew Elliott was still at the cabin with Meredith. Eric? He could call Eric. He said there was poor cell coverage, but maybe he’d be lucky.

He grabbed his phone and punched Eric’s number. There was an answer on the first ring. “Bailey, you must really miss me.”

“Eric…I, I…I don’t know what…”

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong? Where are you?”

“I’m at home. I went for a run and fell asleep and had a kind of dream about what happened back then before dad found me. It was horrible, and…and now I don’t know what to do, and I…I…I need you.”

“What happened?

Bailey tried to formulate an answer, but the words wouldn’t come, instead he started sobbing. “Eric…I’m…I’m sorry…I can’t…I…”

“Bailey! Listen to me. I left early and I’m about ten minutes outside of Syracuse. I’ll be at your place within forty-five minutes. Promise me you’ll stay right where you are. Don’t leave. Don’t do anything. Promise?”

“Yeah, I promise. I’ll stay here.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.”

The traffic must have been light because Eric was there in under forty minutes. He ran up the stairs and found the front door unlocked and Bailey on the couch. Bailey looked over his shoulder at the noise of the door closing, and his eyes were red and swollen. His face was tear-streaked and snotty. Eric strode around the couch and Bailey reached up for him. Eric dropped down beside him and pulled him close, arms going around him as Bailey hid his face against Eric’s neck. The arms were warm and strong. He heard Eric softly whispering, “It’s okay, sweetheart, I’m here. Everything will be okay.” He stroked Bailey’s head, running his fingers through the brown hair and added, “Tell me what happened.”

Bailey slowly related what he’d experienced and seen in his mind. “It was like I was there, and I saw things that happened to me for the first time. Your dad told me I needed to grieve, so I’d been thinking hard about what happened, and then I was there. It was horrible.”

The hugging and stroking continued, and Eric said, “What was new? What did you remember or see this time that you didn’t know about?”

“He hit me. Over and over, he hit me and slapped me. He told me I needed to take my punishment like a man and needed to respect them. He…he…he kept calling me a dirty, little cocksucker.”

Bailey started sobbing again, and Eric kissed the top of Bailey’s head, hugging him tight. “Oh, Bailey. I’m so sorry. So sorry you had to remember that. That you had to be there and hear it.” He paused and then added softly, “But if that’s what happened, then you needed to remember it. It is horrible and painful, but you need to know if you’re going to get past it.”

“I…I guess I blocked it all out. Your dad says that happens with trauma.”

“I guess it does. But now you know more, and it’ll get better. Trust me.” He held Bailey in his arms, gently rocking him back and forth. The sobbing was slowing, and Bailey had put his arms around Eric’s waist and was kissing his neck. It seemed like he was getting back to normal.

After a few minutes Eric said softly, “You stay right here. I’m going to go get a warm washcloth and a towel so you can clean up.” When he came back, he softly wiped Bailey’s face to start with, then handed him the washcloth so he could give it a more rigorous wipe down. Then Bailey took the towel and dried his face, looking at Eric. “Thanks.”

“No thanks required. Happy to help. Can I tell you that you look a lot better, meaning a lot cuter, without the snot running out of your nose?”

“Ha ha, wise ass.” Bailey held out his arms. “Come here, please. I need more of your arms and maybe this time of your lips. You know, like kisses.”

Eric kissed him thoroughly, then said, “I’m guessing you haven’t eaten. You must be starved if you went for a run. What’s in the fridge?”

Bailey said he was going to make spaghetti with meat sauce, and Eric replied, “Want some help? We can do it together.”

After they’d eaten and cleaned up the kitchen, they sat back down in the living room, and Eric turned to Bailey and said, “Unless you tell me not to, I’m going to call dad and ask if he can see you for a little while sometime tomorrow. I think it’s important or I wouldn’t suggest it.”

“But I’ve got to work tomorrow.”

“We all have work tomorrow, but some things are more important. Haven’t you ever heard of a sick day?”

“But I can’t do that. I’ve only been there a couple of months.”

“And if you got the flu, what would you do? Go to work and spread it to everyone you work with??

“Well, no, but…”

“But nothing. You can call Everett in the morning and tell him whatever you need to. I’ll do the same thing. We’re both taking a sick day because I think it’s important that you work through what happened today.”

Bailey nodded agreement, and Eric said, “Good. I’m going to call dad.” He pulled out his phone and tapped a number. When his dad came on, after saying hello, he said, “No, I’m at Bailey’s in Auburn. Something happened today that begins with the talks you two had and goes back to when his dad found him. He’s remembered a lot of the bad stuff.”

Bailey watched Eric listen to his dad and then heard him say, “No, no. He’s fine now. I’m here and we’ve talked. We just cooked and ate dinner. I’m staying here tonight. He needs to have someone with him, and I’m just the right person to hold him. I’ve convinced him to take a sick day tomorrow and told him I’d try to get you to make some time to talk to him.”

Eric paused again, then went on. “Sure, we can be there by eleven o’clock.” He paused again and looked at Bailey. “Do you want to say hi to my dad?”

Bailey felt a flash of embarrassment but then nodded and reached for the phone. Eric said, “Thanks, Dad,” and passed it over.

Bailey heard Elliott say hello and ask how he was feeling.

“I’m good now. Eric took care of me. I remembered a whole lot of stuff from back then that I guess I’d been blocking…just like you said happens.”

Eric watched as Bailey listened to his dad, loving the look of concentration on his face.

“Thanks, Elliott. Eric will take care of me tonight and thanks for making time for me tomorrow.”

Next Chapter Previous Chapter