tagFirst TimeA Misdirection of Affection Ch. 03

A Misdirection of Affection Ch. 03

bynageren©

The morning after her stroll down memory lane, Dessi got a text from Gina, suggesting they meet at The Noggin Shop after lunch. Before responding that it was OK, Dessi arranged for her oldest son, Alex, to drop her off there and pick her up later, since he wanted to use the car that day. Alex was a lifeguard at the YMCA that summer- a job that left his hours flexible to have a little fun before he left for college that fall. Dessi was going to miss him, and it was a bit uncomfortable to think of him doing the things Ian did at that age.

Alex had to drop her off a little early, so Dessi sipped a coffee and soaked in the memories of being in the place where she and Ian had had so many conversations. She was glad their corner table was open. The Noggin Shop hadn't changed much- perhaps the owners knew better than to change a good thing.

Gina arrived a little before 1, looking like she'd been crying. When Dessi looked at her questioningly, Gina waved her hand and said, "I just came from seeing my parents. This week in June is always a hard time for us."

At the mention of Ian's parents, Dessi got a little concerned and asked, "Did you tell them...?"

"Oh, no no no no. Nothing like that. They're not ready yet, and I don't think I've gotten all of the story yet, right?"

"Right...And I think I'll need to talk to them eventually, but I'm not ready for that yet. I'd like to talk with you first- you're a little less intimidating!"

Gina smiled and said, "I wasn't always. I went through quite a bitch phase a few years back, but a lot has happened since then..."

"Did your husband know you then?"

"Ohhh, honey. The stories I could tell...but not today. Tell me more about you and Ian. Did anyone else know he was gay?"

Dessi sat up straighter and put her drink down. "That's what I wanted to tell you about. Apparently, a few months before I met him, he was just starting to realize that he thought about sex in a different way than other guys talked about it. He had a few good friends back then. And I guess he gave them too much credit. He trusted them enough to try to process it a little with them. Nothing too serious- just asking if they'd ever thought about this, or wondered about that. And...it didn't go so well."

Dessi started tearing up, thinking of the hurt and loneliness Ian must have felt. Gina, who was still emotionally raw from the morning, wiped away a fresh tear from her own eyes.

"He wouldn't tell me who the guys were, and one of them had already moved away anyway, but they responded pretty bad. They called him some hurtful names, told some lies, and completely cut him off. They never talked to him again."

"Bastards."

"Yeah- but typical teenage boy stuff. I have a few of my own now, so I can imagine how they might respond if they were scared. You try to raise them right, but..."

"I know, I know. I forget that they're really just kids. But you'd hope they could be nicer...more understanding, maybe?"

"They get scared, Gina. Scared of being outcasts themselves. High school is so merciless, so cruel. It just eats up nice kids...like Ian."

"But he seemed to make it out OK, from what I remember," Gina said, thoughtfully.

"Oh, Gina, he held back so much. He didn't know how to talk to your parents about what he was going through, and he didn't want to put that burden on you, either. He said he turned to the stars at night to find consolation. He started talking about how the stars were there to fight off the darkness."

"I remember when he said something like that. It really stuck with me. I didn't think of it as...morose or sad or anything, not at the time."

"Well, it was. There were some days I was really worried about him. It's like he was carrying a big old weight around. I think that's what bonded us- once he told me, I could help carry that weight. It never occurred to me let him carry a little of my burden, too. I didn't want to scare him away."

Gina reached out and touched Dessi's hand- an instinctive move from her work at the shelter, something to encourage a person to open up. "Your burden?"

"Oh...nothing unusual. Just a bad home life. Abusive dad. Divorce. That sort of thing. But I felt embarrassed and stained, like no one would love me if they knew all about me. Turns out most people are thinking that about themselves anyway."

"I know, Dessi. I see it every day."

Waving her hands in front of her face to fan the tears, Dessi let out a big breath, picked up her coffee, and continued. "Anyway, it got better once he got to college. It was a fresh start with new friends. He was hopeful he could find more people who were gay or who at least were sympathetic. He was loving his science classes, and he was just starting to swim."

"I remember it was like he never wanted to come home- I felt abandoned," said Gina, looking away.

"Well, once he met Patrick he never wanted to leave."

Gina put her mug down on the table a little harder and faster than she had intended to. "Patrick? Ian had a boyfriend?"

"Ohhhh no. Not a boyfriend. A crush. Poor Ian- he was pretty sure Patrick wasn't gay. Almost 100% sure. But they were friends and Patrick was a sophomore on the swim team. They spent a lot of time together and Ian was crushing hard. I couldn't blame him. I eventually went to visit Ian the month before...before his accident, and I met Patrick. He was a fine piece of man meat. He's probably pot-bellied and bald by now, but 19 years ago...wowwie! Blond hair, blue eyes, sculpted body, tight ass...the whole package.

"Dessi- you're a married woman!" Gina teased.

"Hey, my husband doesn't mind what gets me in the mood, as long as he's the one that gets in me when I am in the mood."

Gina didn't know what to say- she just laughed and glanced around to make sure no children were listening. But she was getting to the age when even college students were starting to look much younger than she remembered being in college.

"Anyway," Dessi continued, "you weren't the only one that felt abandoned. Ian was my best friend and the love of my life, remember? When your family traveled south for Christmas that year..."

"Oh yeah, to Grandma Jean's place," Gina smiled.

"I was bouncing off the walls. I had counted on making my big move on him over Christmas. I had to settle for New Year's. I came over your house for New Year's Eve."

Gina looked puzzled and squinted her eyes at Dessi. "New...Year's...Eve..." she said softly, trying to remember. Then suddenly her eyes went wide. "OH! Oh my God! You...you were the girl that...you were so tiny, then. You had such long, straight hair. And you...you spent the night, didn't you? And you were the reason Ian locked me out of his room!"

Dessi's mouth opened wide in shock. "How did you know I...you remember?"

"I was 11, Dessi, not 4. I remember meeting you, though I had forgotten it until you mentioned it. And yes, I knew you spent the night. I was up in the middle of the night to go sit on Ian's recliner. I sometimes did that if I woke up at night. It was...is...a very comfortable recliner. I saw you walking from the bathroom to his room and then when I got there, the door was locked. I was so mad at you." Then Gina's eyes opened wider in sudden realization, "You were walking back from the bathroom- had you and Ian just...?"

"No. Well...no. Ian was asleep- he didn't know I had snuck into his room instead of leaving to go home that night. After I got back to his room, I locked the door. I tried to have sex with him, but...I don't think you want the details..."

"Did you or didn't you?" Gina blurted.

"Yes, but he wasn't...he never..." Dessi glanced around and lowered her voice. "He didn't get inside me that time."

"That time?"

Dessi closed her eyes and smiled, thinking back to the summer after her graduation.

"Yeah, I finally bedded him a few weeks before he died." She opened her eyes. "But that was it."

Gina looked down at her drink, then off to the side. "OK, this is weird. Like, I feel like I should be able to be a grown-up about this, but it's just weird to be talking about him like this. What sister knows the details of her brother's sex life?"

Dessi looked away and said jokingly, "Well, you don't know the details, really."

Gina grabbed a napkin and threw it at Dessi, it made it halfway across the table and then floated down. The two women laughed.

They talked for another hour, filling in some details of Ian's story for each other. Then Dessi asked about Gina and her life.

"I've been married 6 years and we have 4 kids- 1 biological and 3 adopted. I work at a women's shelter which also has a crisis pregnancy center. My husband and I have adopted some of the kids that girls there aren't ready to keep." Then she patted her stomach and smiled, "Plus we've got another baby on the way, but I haven't told Andrew yet."

She spoke of Andrew's body shop and her own work managing the shelter. She didn't mention the arrangement that first got her and Andrew together- that was a private story reserved for only a few. But she did say they were roommates before they began dating. Dessi thought that was romantic. "It probably wasn't like what you think," Gina said cryptically.

"After Ian died, my parents kind of shut everything out- they just didn't know how to handle it. As a 12 year old girl, my world was falling apart and mom and dad weren't responding to me. I got rebellious and ran with a wild crowd. I still did fine in school, but I just did everything I could to avoid being at home. It was like a cemetery there all the time."

Dessi reached out to hold Gina's hand and said, "I'm so sorry- I wish I had talked to you then. I wish we could have been there for each other."

"I was 12, I probably would've ignored you. But thank you. And all that you're sharing now is so meaningful, so thank you for that, too. But anyway, I went to college, made dumb mistakes and still graduated. I had a huge argument with my parents, blamed them for a lot of things and said some hurtful things before moving away. I finally ended up working at the shelter, and around the time Andrew and I got engaged, I got back in touch with my parents. We've been repairing that relationship, and a lot of that has to do with finally getting them to deal with their grief over Ian in a healthy way."

"Wow, Gina. I just...wish we could have connected sooner."

"Me too, Dessi. And I have something to ask of you, if you don't mind."

"What is it?"

"Ian was pretty distant after he left for college. We thought it was just normal 'leaving the nest' type of behavior, but now it sounds like there was more to it than that. But you were still a part of his life then. Do you have any pictures you wouldn't mind giving up- pictures of you and Ian or of just him- from that year? We didn't really know my brother during the last year of his life."

Dessi sighed, "I do have pictures- not a lot- but let me see what I can bear to part with. Or maybe you could scan a bunch of them...?"

"That would be so awesome, Dessi, thank you! Maybe the next time I'm in town...?"

"Or if you want to stop by my place on your way out of town, I could pass them off to you, as long as you swear to bring them back."

"Or I might see crazy Dessi?"

"She's been in her cage a long time, but she'd get angry over Ian."

Gina could tell there was some truth to the humor. They got up to leave together and went out to the street. Alex was just arriving to take Dessi home, and Gina had some other errands to run in town. They made plans for Gina to stop by that evening, then said good-bye.

 

*******

 

Alex dropped his mom off at home and then drove to work. Dessi prepared some food to cook for dinner later, started some laundry, then went to see what pictures she could give to Gina. It scared her to think of someone else taking the photos, and she wished she had scanned them and backed them up a long time ago.

Flipping through the dozens of prints, she smiled at the memories of those two short years. She had really changed herself- reinvented her personality and lifestyle. Ian was such a big part of that. She had wanted to be the kind of girl that deserved such a kind and caring man. He had given her a picture of what a person could be like without needing to put others down or use people

He had also redeemed her view of sex. It had always been something others used to hurt her or else something she used to manipulate others. Without even talking about it, Ian had helped sex to become an expression of love and closeness and trust. She had had far less sex with Ian than with any of her past boyfriends, but the special nature of those times marked her indelibly.

Dessi's ears began searching the house. She was pretty sure she was alone. Alex was at work, Nathan at his friend's pool, Sammy with Rick at soccer practice... She moved the box over to the bed. She had reached a group of pictures from Ian's last month. She knew where those memories would lead, even without pictures of the best part of that night. She looked at a photo of her wearing a shiny blue strapless dress, sitting at a candle-lit table with Ian. She remembered the waitress complimenting them as she snapped the picture...

 

*******

 

It was late May. Dessi had just graduated high school...finally. Telling her mom she was going to visit some old friends for a weekend, she drove up to Ian's university to surprise him. He hadn't come back at the end of the semester, citing the chance to take some summer courses on astronomy and the need to practice with the swim team.

Dessi had his address, so she drove up there on Friday morning and wandered around campus. She would probably never end up going to college, she thought. She had graduated, yes, but not with high marks. It was always so hard for her to concentrate, and so the tests never reflected her grasp of the material. Her mom would probably be happy to have her at home for a while as she figured out her next steps in life. Dessi wanted for Ian to be as much a part of that plan as possible. She had a surprise for him that she hoped would help.

In the days before cell phones were in everyone's pocket, it was hard to show up unannounced and find someone. The weather was nice, though, so once Dessi had stretched her legs and gotten some food, she settled onto a bench outside Ian's dorm. The breeze on her neck was a strange feeling, and Dessi rubber the back of her head nervously.

In the mid-afternoon, after Dessi had been waiting for over an hour, she saw a group of 4 guys walking up to the dorm. Ian was among them. Dessi stood up and quietly joined the back of the group. They were talking about relays and yards and strokes- must be the swim team, she thought. They paid her no mind as one of them swiped an ID card to open the dorm. She walked in with them, then held back.

Once they entered the stairwell, Dessi followed, staying a floor below. She heard them saying good-byes and planning to meet later for dinner. Dessi found Ian's floor and walked up to his door. She rubbed the back of her neck, then knocked on the door. A few seconds later, a shirtless Ian pulled open the door.

He stared at her briefly, then squinted his eyes for a few seconds, looking confused. Dessi held out her arms for a hug and said a nervous, "Surprise!"

Shaking his head to clear it, Ian stepped forward and pulled Dessi into an embrace. Then he glanced up and down the hallway and pulled her into the room. Shutting the door, he said softly with surprise, "Oh my God, Dessi! What happened to you hair? What are you doing here? How did you get in? Girls aren't allowed in this dorm...you need a school I.D. to..."

"Are you happy to see me?" Dessi interrupted him. Worried that she had made a few bad decisions.

"Well...YES!" Ian said, a little flustered. "Hold on a second," he said, reaching for his room phone. "Are you here for the day?"

"And the night, too, and tomorrow, if that's OK."

"Yeah...sure...hold on." He punched a few numbers into the phone and held the receiver to his ear. Dessi sat down on the bed and wondered why he hadn't moved his recliner into his dorm.

"Patrick? Hey it's Ian...Yeah, I'm gonna bail on dinner tonight. And probably stuff tomorrow, too...No, it's fine, my, uh...my cousin surprised me with a visit." Dessi pouted at that cover story. "No, he's too young...he just got his license and everything...No, we will definitely not do that...No, I'm gonna hang with him tonight and tomorrow, I'll have him crash in my room...Meet him?...Uh, sure, maybe for lunch tomorrow...we can figure it out later...OK, I'll see you around, bye."

Dessi was a little offended. "Your cousin? He? Ian!"

"Hey, gimme a break. No girls allowed; if the Resident Adviser gets word, you need to get a hotel, and I get in trouble. And people are going to see us together at some point, and with your hair...gone...you can pass for a teenage boy. It was the best I could think of on the spur of the moment- except I didn't expect they'd want to meet you."

Pacified, Dessi got up and walked toward Ian, "Well, I guess that's plausible enough. Do you like my hair?"

"Why did you cut it so short? I thought you loved your hair?"

"I do...did. But I thought this way I look a little more like a guy, and maybe...you know...maybe you would like that...Maybe it would be easier to...try to have sex, if you can imagine you're with a guy...And besides, I was able to slip in the dorm by walking right behind you and your friends, and no one noticed- camouflage!"

"Oh, Dessi, that's...I don't know what to say. That's so thoughtful...and creepy...and sad...and...and I feel bad that you feel like you need to do that."

It wasn't going the way Dessi had hoped. But what did she expect? For Ian to throw her on the bed and ravish her right away?

"Ian, you forget how happy I am to do things for you...you forget how much I love you. But don't worry about it...let's go out!"

 

*******

 

Ian got dressed and they moved Dessi's bag into Ian's room. With her hair so short, wearing boy's clothes made her appear to be a teenage boy, so no one stopped them as they came and went. Ian even registered her as an official guest, "Dezi." They went into town and visited a coffee shop that was less popular with college students so they could have more privacy as they talked. They spent a few hours catching up, then planned to head to dinner. But as they walked out of the coffee shop, Ian stopped short.

"Dessi, did you bring any nice clothes...like, girl clothes?"

"No, I didn't think I'd need anything. I just brought a few changes of clothes- most of them like this." She wondered where this was heading.

"I'd like to take you to a nice place- as a graduation present. Let's get you something nice."

"Ian, we can't just..."

"We can and we will," Ian insisted. He drove them to the mall and they found a store with nice women's apparel. Ian helped her find a beautiful outfit and then paid for it. They packed it up, went back to the dorm, and Ian changed into something more formal. They walked out to the car and drove to the coffee shop. It had a clean, private bathroom where Dessi could put her dress back on. She felt a little giddy at the thought of a real date with Ian.

They ate at an expensive Italian restaurant and talked like the close friends they were. Dessi asked about Patrick, and though Ian was reluctant to talk about him on their 'date,' Dessi pushed and prodded until Ian shared about his crush on his swim team partner. After they had eaten their fill and the sky was getting dark, they returned to the car. When they pulled into the coffee shop again, Dessi asked Ian, "Why...?"

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