Our December, page 1
The Making of A Man
Copyright 2013 by Diane Adams
First eBook publication: 2010
Cover design by Meredith Russell
Edited by Chris Quinton
Sometimes two people fit together so well it seems their love was preordained, as if every step taken led inevitably to a happy ending. Deeply in love, Jared and Alex are such a couple, but the path to true and lasting love is rarely smooth. At fifteen, being gay isn't the best thing that ever happened to a guy. In fact, Alex Ross thinks it's down right scary. Then he meets twenty year old construction worker Jared Douglas, and Alex starts to think the gay thing might not be so bad after all.
The attraction between them is intense, but -- mindful of Alex's age -- Jared is determined to keep the sparks from igniting. The stress of controlling his feelings makes it almost a relief when Alex's father ships him off to prep school. Jared expects Alex to forget him and find a boy friend his own age; he doesn't anticipate how much it will hurt. When Alex comes home for Christmas, just turned 16, with his heart on his sleeve, Jared knows he can't continue to keep everything he feels a secret.
All Rights Reserved:
This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
To RJ Scott and her beautiful family and friends. Love and thanks to you all.
The authors acknowledge the trademarked status and owners of the following wordmarks used in this story:
Coke: The Coca-Cola Company
Frisbee: Wham-O Toy Corporation
iPod: Apple, Inc.
Levi's: Levi Strauss & Co.
Nikes: NIKE, Inc.
Toyota: Toyota Motor Corporation
Volkswagen: Volkswagen AG
Swiss Miss: ConAgra Foods RDM, Inc.
howstuffworks.com: HowStuffWorks, Inc.
Joe's Crab Shack: Ignite Restaurant Group, Inc.
Dollar K: Dollar K Variety Store
Queer as Folk
Chapter 1 - Tangled in Light
Chapter 2 - First Impressions
Chapter 3 - Second Impressions
Chapter 4 - Rainy Day Opportunity
Chapter 5 - Boundaries
Chapter 6 - Like a Rock
Chapter 7 - Decision
Chapter 8 - Introspection
Chapter 9 - Wisdom
Chapter 10 - The Inevitable
Chapter 11 - On a Jet Plane
Chapter 12 - Visitor
Chapter 13 - Snail Mail
Chapter 14 - Letters and Lessons
Chapter 15 - New Rules
Chapter 16 - Shadowed in Love
Tangled in Light
Jared slowed to look at the house. Along the edge of the roof lights glowed in bright Christmas colors, curled in colorful paths down the porch posts and along the railings. Candy canes lit in red and white marked the path to the front steps. He and Alex spent every Thanksgiving, and the day after, decorating. Worse than a kid, Alex wanted the maximum amount of time to enjoy the Christmas season. Jared pulled into the driveway and took a few minutes to bask in the warm feelings the Christmas season always gave him before climbing out of the truck and heading inside.
Unlike the brightly lit exterior, the inside of the house was dark. Jared flipped on the light and glanced around the empty kitchen with a frown. Alex usually didn't go off somewhere without letting him know where he'd be. Leaving work first meant Alex should have started dinner. Jared felt a little ashamed at his relief upon realizing nothing simmered on the stove or warmed in the oven. Alex had a few specialties, but overall laid claim to little talent in the kitchen. Jared tried to make sure Alex rarely left the office early unless they were together.
Jared left the kitchen, walked around the massive table dominating the dining area, and into the living room lit only by the Christmas tree. The huge tree spoke of Alex's influence as much as their light-trimmed roofline did. Most of their friends had pre-lit trees with beautiful coordinated decorations of silver and blue or red and gold that accentuated their professionally decorated homes. Jared wondered at their circle of friends sometimes, how they ended up there at all. No part of Alex and Jared's house had been professionally decorated. It was just home. They had a real tree, and not even a perfect example of a real tree. The branches weren't straight and it had a couple holes. Alex called it… personality.
"What's the point of having a real tree if people have to touch it to know it's real?" Alex once demanded. Unable to think of a reasonable argument Jared had given in, and over the years he had become very fond of their eccentric tree tradition.
While other, normal, people snoozed off Thanksgiving dinner, Alex and Jared had searched for a tree with the right personality. They never came home until they had one in the back of the truck, all wrapped up in a green and red net, looking like they’d landed an alien fish. Alex’s laugh, Jared’s favorite Christmas decoration, always rang out as they struggled to get the tree inside and upright in its stand. Finally in place, the tree dominated the front room, glittering with lights and tinsel and adorned with ornaments with more heart than beauty.
Lost in thought Jared gazed fondly at the tree. He touched one of the decorations he and Alex had bought together after their first Christmas as a couple. Fourteen years ago. Jared found it hard to believe his boy would turn thirty on Christmas day. His memory of Alex, just turned sixteen, with snow in his hair, lips swollen with kisses, remained as fresh as the day it happened. With a start Jared realized he knew where Alex had gone. His smile fond, Jared went to look out the sliding glass door. There, up in the huge old oak that dominated the back yard, Jared found his partner. Alex was twining white lights in the lower branches of the tree. Jared watched him for a while, eyes soft with love, before he went to start dinner.
* * * *
Leftover lights slung over his shoulder, Alex struggled down the ladder. He could have used them higher in the tree, but tradition demanded lighting only the bottom branches. Alex didn’t know why Jared hung lights on the tree behind his old house, tucked away in the backyard where not even the neighbors could see, but they held Christmas magic for Alex. On his way to the shed he glanced back at the house, a different home than where they’d shared their first holiday together. Jared's cozy little bachelor home had become a thing of their past. This house, the one Alex had designed and Jared built, was theirs. Born first in their hearts as a fragile dream, they’d made it real with the sweat of hard work.
Alex smiled as he recalled how young he’d been when they first met. That first year had been filled with moments he’d never forgotten. So many memories, over so much time, but even now one stood out from the rest. In it there was a tree, and snow, and glittering lights, but best of all there was Jared.
Jared watched the other guys on the work crew enjoying their lunch. Perched on sawhorses, they talked and laughed, comparing their sandwiches and trading back and forth. Jared’s stomach rumbled, reminding him breakfast had come early, but he didn’t have time to break. Their current job should have been straightforward, but the measurements were off by enoug
The company had a solid reputation in the community, one built on his father's strong work ethic and honest nature. Despite that strong foundation Jared struggled to establish a name of his own. At just turned twenty, it didn't make any practical difference that Jared’s dad had apprenticed him when Jared first showed interest in building things by the time he was eight. There were certificates he didn't have, and couldn't obtain because of his age. The awareness of how important the results of the current project would be to the future kept Jared from focusing on anything else.
Jared blamed his inexperience for not recognizing the problems with the measurements before he bid. So far the error hadn’t resulted in higher costs, but he went home every night with a headache. The threat of going over budget was an added stress to working on campus. Jared hadn’t anticipated returning to the school he’d been forced to drop out of being a difficulty. Every day at work reminded Jared but his father's dream had been for him to finish college and return home to work as his partner. Unlike some parent-child dreams, Jared was completely onboard. The fact things hadn't worked out that way was just a part of life. Still, it was difficult to face his loss every day when he came on site. Jared was determined to one day go back to college and fulfill both their dreams. However, finishing this job came first and that meant figuring out how to make everything fit…
"That's just cool."
Jared looked up at the sound of a voice to what had become a familiar sight. A couple of teenage boys stared at the framework. They didn’t look old enough to be in college, but they had stopped by to watch the last couple afternoons. Jared didn’t mind having them hang around, he remembered being a kid watching construction work. The way everything fit together seemed like such a mystery. In spite of his aggravation with the blueprints, Jared grinned at their obvious interest and waved them over.
"I'm Jared." He offered his hand and the taller boy shook it confidently.
“Hey, I’m Clark, the dean’s son, and this is Alex.” Clark hooked a thumb at the smaller dark-haired teen with him. He barely spared Jared a glance his attention fixed on the semi-finished construction.
Jared’s nod included them both. “It's lunch time, so it's okay if you want to look around. Just don't touch anything." Clark grinned and headed over to explore the skeleton maze. Jared chuckled, caught the eye of one of his guys, and pointed from his hard hat to Clark’s bare head. Lee caught the hint. He jumped up and set his hard hat on the teen’s blond head. With a thumbs up Jared turned back to his work before he registered that Alex stood beside him. He studied Jared with a serious expression. Feeling a little uncomfortable being under the boy’s perusal, Jared gave him a half smile and attempted to dismiss him by leaning over the drawings. Seemingly undisturbed by Jared’s lack of response, Alex stepped over to stand beside him. He stared at the papers for a few minutes before looking back towards the unfinished project.
"It doesn't make much sense." Alex’s quiet voice broke the silence between them. Brow furrowed, he took a second look at the plans. "How can you even tell what you’re doing?"
Jared flipped to a picture of the completed project. "It's not hard once you get used to it," he said. "Look, that is what we are doing now," he pointed to a segment of unfinished wall, "and it's this." Jared indicated a place on the plans, "which is going to be this." He turned back to the finished picture.
Alex chewed his lip while staring at the pictures. Jared wondered what the kid found so fascinating. If it wasn’t for the carpentry involved Jared would be bored to tears. He doubted any of that interested someone as young as Alex appeared.
"Are you gay?" Alex asked without warning, catching Jared off guard. Trying to think of something to say he kept his gaze fixed on the plans.
When Jared didn’t answer Alex’s shoulders tensed and he pointed to a random spot on the design in front of them. "What are those numbers?" The weak attempt to abort the barely begun subject curved Jared’s mouth into a slight smile.
Jared remembered his own difficult struggle with sexuality, and couldn’t find it in his heart to ignore the honest question. "I am. Are you?"
Looking a little surprised to have been answered, Alex glanced sideways at Jared. "Yeah." The admission was pitched so low Jared almost didn't hear him.
"It’s okay. I figured you were, unless that’s something you ask everyone.” Jared was careful to keep his teasing light. He didn’t want Alex to think he’d been offended by the abrupt question. Though if Jared knew the young man better he might suggest a more subtle approach in the future.
Alex blushed. "God, no. It's Clark, he's nosy, and he's trying to figure out how being gay works. He found some crap online about Gay Facial Recognition and called bullshit. So I told him you were gay, and he didn’t believe me." Clearly uncomfortable over his blurted confession, Alex dropped his gaze and shifted his feet.
"Still, pretty brave to just ask." Jared’s lips twitched with amusement and he made a mental note to look up Gay Facial Recognition when he got home.
"Hedaredme." Alex rushed the words out in a single squeaked confession and when Jared laughed he finally relaxed.
Alex turned back to the drawings. "So, are those the measurements?" He pointed the some numbers.
"Yeah, they're supposed to tell us what we're doing." Jared frowned at the once pristine drawings now covered with his notations and corrections. Alex nodded in response to Jared’s answer but it was obvious that wasn't what held his interest. Alex glanced at Jared from the corner of his eye and Jared subtly increased the distance between them. Alex didn’t look more than fifteen. Dangerous territory considering the direction their conversation seemed headed. Cognizant of the risk, Jared couldn’t make himself act like there was something wrong with talking about being gay.
Alex took a deep breath. "It's… scary." His dead on analysis didn’t surprise Jared, but the confession did. The subject didn’t seem like the kind of conversation someone would have with a stranger, unless the anonymity of the situation made talking about it easier for Alex.
Jared considered how to answer and decided on the simple truth. "Yeah, it is. Very scary."
Looking surprised, Alex met his eyes. "You know what I mean?" The gaze locked with Jared's held a familiar desperation he found unsettling. He didn’t think there was anything worse at fifteen then realizing you were different from everyone you knew.
"I know exactly what you mean. It’s going to be okay." Jared glanced at his watch before calling over his shoulder, "Back to work." His two-man crew acknowledged Jared with waves and went to put away their lunch coolers.
Alex studied Jared, watching avidly as he commanded his small work force. "You don't seem scared."
Jared shrugged. "Well, I'm not anymore."
Alex seemed to think about that, but instead of answering he looked back at the plans. "I didn't know construction workers had to be so smart. That's a lot of math."
"You aren't kidding. It gives me a headache."
"I like math. I'm really good at it." Alex considered the unfinished project. "The measurements are wrong. It won't fit that way."
The young man’s swift analysis of the problem surprised Jared. "Yeah, that's right, any idea what we should do?" His grin wry, Jared picked up his pencil from the table in preparation of tackling the issue.
Alex pointed to Jared’s scribbles. “It looks like you’ve got it. You know, I could learn to do that, except mine would be right. I don’t make mistakes with numbers."
Before Jared could investigate Alex’s uncanny spatial ability further, he noticed Clark headed in their direction. “Here comes your friend.”
Alex didn’t turn, his gaze remained fixed on Jared’s face. "Really, o
Jared realized Alex still needed reassurance and smiled with a confidence he didn’t always feel. “Really. It gets better.”
Alex didn't look convinced, but Clark clearly wanted to leave.
“Come on, lover boy.” He slapped at the back of Alex's head on his way by. His face turned beet red, and Alex swatted back at his friend as he followed him to the door. He paused in the doorway and glanced back at Jared with a grin before hurrying after Clark. Jared's heart stuttered and his mouth went dry.
My God, a man could lose his mind to a smile like that. For half a second, Jared allowed himself to indulge a hopeless wish to be fifteen again. Alex’s smile turned his pleasant but average face into something of remarkable beauty. Jared sighed. For the first time twenty felt old. The thought was fleeting, barely surfacing before Jared’s practical nature reasserted itself. He put Alex firmly out of his mind and went back to work.
On his way home from school, Alex noticed the family across the street was having some construction done on their house. He stopped for a few minutes to watch. It looked like they were building an addition, and he wondered how hard it was to draw plans for something like that. The construction in the library and meeting Jared had aroused Alex’s curiosity. He’d never been interested in building, that was Clark’s thing. Alex’s best friend dragged him all over town to watch construction projects, the bigger the better.
Alex’s passion was math and he had an uncanny knack for spatial relations. Architect was a possible career path he hadn’t considered, but hadn’t been able to get out of his mind. As curious as he’d become about the construction industry as a whole, it was the magnetic sign on the tailgate of the pickup sitting at the curb that currently held his interest.