tagGay MaleTommy - A Life Pt. 10

Tommy - A Life Pt. 10

byRolandQ©

CHAPTER TWENTY: Ben

The phone rang, disturbing a quiet evening at home. Thor was working on plans for a new weight room at the gym. Tommy was grading papers. Even though together for over ten years, they were happiest in each other's presence. Tommy even enjoyed Thor's muttered oaths as he tore up, yet again, a trial floor plan.

The insistent ringing of the phone demanded answer. Thor grabbed the phone irritably. "Yeah?" Then softer, "May I ask who's calling? One moment please." Thor cupped the receiver in his large hand. "Tommy, a woman calling for you. She says it's important."

Tommy took the phone from Thor. "Hello?"

The voice on the other side was breathy, but composed. "I am dreadfully sorry to be calling you at this hour. It's just that it's so terribly important. I must speak to you as soon as possible."

"Can you tell me what this is about?" Tommy asked.

"I really must speak to you in person. I think when you hear what I have to say, you'll agree that it would be best face-to-face." Hearing Tommy's hesitation she continued, "I'm not selling anything, it's just that I have no where else to turn. You are the only hope I have, even if you don't know me. Please say you'll see me," the voice pleaded.

Tommy was struck by the emotion in the voice. "Of course I'll see you. When would be convenient?"

"I'll be in the city this Saturday. I won't have a place to meet. Would it be possible to meet you at your home or office?"

"I'll be at home on Saturday morning. Does that work for you?" The woman agreed. Tommy gave the address. The phone conversation ended.

"What does she want?" Thor asked.

"I don't know, but she sounded very near desperation. I can't imagine what I might be able to do for her. I guess we'll just have to wait until she shows up on Saturday.

***

When Saturday arrived, Thor went to check on the gym early and hurried back. Tommy was surprised to hear him come back in.

"Curious too?" Tommy asked.

"Sure am." Thor had barely hung up his coat when the bell rang at the outer door. Listening at the top of the stairs, they could hear Hopkins greet someone and direct them to the top floor. Two sets of feet came up the stairs, one quick and light, the other moving with difficulty, stopping often.

Tommy and Thor hurried back into the sitting room to wait for their unknown guests. A knock at the outer door told them they had reached the top of the stairs. Thor answered the door. "May I help you?"

"I need to talk to Thomas."

How could she know that Thor wasn't Tommy, she was a stranger or so she had said.

Thor led her into the sitting room. With her was a boy, clearly her son by his attachment to the woman. Tommy asked them to have a seat. The woman accepted gratefully being out of breath.

"I'm sorry about all the stairs, I didn't realize it would be difficult," Tommy apologized.

She waved off his apology as she caught her breath. "Thank you for seeing me. Now that I'm here, the situation seems all the more absurd. I do have to speak to you about the most personal of matters. If I could see you privately?"

"I should introduce, my partner, Thor. Ms..."

"I'm Elaine Parker and this is my son, Ben."

"Ms Parker-"

"Elaine, please, by the end of this, we must certainly be past any formalities."

"Elaine, I guess I need to make myself more clear. Thor is my partner. There is nothing I don't share with him. If you would tell me, then you can feel free to speak in front of him," Tommy explained.

"I would ask if there is somewhere my son might wait. I'm sorry I had nowhere to leave him, today. We're staying at a hotel and I was uncomfortable leaving him there."

Tommy looked at the boy closely for the first time. Since walking into the room he had sat at his mother's side silently looking at Thor. Thor stood up, offering, "Perhaps Mrs. Hopkins could find some cookies or something. He'll be perfectly at home with her. She's the housekeeper. Her apartment is on the ground floor." The boy looked at his mother, then rose to follow Thor when she nodded her assent. The boy looked up at Thor, his eyes fascinated.

After Thor and the boy had gone, Elaine began to explain. "He seems quite taken with your, eh, Thor. He's a very handsome man."

"I think so, too."

"I again apologize for coming to you, it's just that I have exhausted every other possibility. And I will certainly understand if you refuse my request, it's just that I have to try."

"I'll hear you out, you seem very much in need, though I can only wonder what it is you wish to ask of me." Thor returned. He stood in the doorway staring at Tommy. At last satisfied, he entered and sat next to him.

"Elaine, forgive me for interrupting, but how did you know that I wasn't Tommy," Thor asked.

"Thomas, Tommy and I met once before, a long time ago and very briefly."

"I'm sorry, I don't remember meeting you."

"I'm not surprised, it was only for a few moments and the place was dark, an unlikely place to make an acquaintance. I think you'll recall as I tell my story."

Elaine paused, again breathless. Thor went into the kitchen to bring her a glass of water that she sipped gratefully.

"I am a widow, though my husband left me many years ago. He was killed in a car accident no doubt brought on by his own drunken recklessness. We were very happy when first married, but things fell apart when we tried to have a family. Both my husband and I are, were, only children. There was a lot of pressure on us to have a child. Both sets of our parents were older and they all wanted a grandchild. After several years of trying, we sought professional help. It turned out that Grant, my late husband, was infertile. He was humiliated and ashamed. Nothing I could say or do got through to him. I don't think he meant to be hateful, but he was in such pain. I heard from my doctor of a program being conducted here in the city where infertile couples could be helped. At a point of desperation, I applied to participate in some experiments they were doing. After several more months of these experiments it was determined that I was not a good candidate for the procedures they were using."

"I don't mean to be rude, but I don't see how any of this applies to me," said Tommy.

"There was another program, an offshoot of the first. You, Tommy, participated in that program."

Tommy's was thunderstruck. "Oh my god, you mean, can you be telling me?" Tommy ran out of words. Thor nodded knowingly.

"Yes, Tommy, you are the father of my child, Ben's father."

Tommy sat speechless. Thor put a hand on his shoulder. Tommy turned to Thor, concern on his face, "Thor, its true I did, just one time, but it couldn't be."

Thor looked at Tommy again. "It didn't hit me until Mrs. Hopkins said 'why it's Mr. Thomas as a boy, surely.' Then I could see it too, looking at Ben must be like seeing you, Tommy, as a boy."

"They talked me into participating, I had no idea this would happen. What is it you want? Money?" Tommy stammered defensively.

"I'm afraid there is more to tell, please bear with me." Elaine paused to collect her thoughts.

"I might as well get to the point," she said. "I am dying. I have several forms of cancer. The cancer has metastasized and I have only a short time to live. My husband is dead. My own parents and in-laws are also dead. I have no living relative but Ben and he has only one other living relative, you. The hospital fought against revealing your identity. It was only after I had proved that I had pursued every other course of action on behalf of my son that one doctor, a woman, agreed to tell me who you were."

Tommy's head was reeling. "What are you asking of me?"

"I am asking you to take in my son after I am dead. I have nowhere else to turn. He will become a ward of the state and I must try to do better by him, I must do anything possible to ensure that he is cared for, protected, and loved. I am asking you to give where you have no obligation, but I must ask, he's my son."

"Elaine, I'm not sure you realize my situation," Tommy explained. "Thor is my partner, I thought you understood. I am gay. Thor is my lover. We share this house and each other's lives."

"I see two men who obviously care for each other. I see a comfortable home. I am in no place to impose some supposed morality. I would only ask that you care for my son, your son, as you so clearly care for your partner. If I may be so bold?"

"I cannot agree to anything without talking it over with Thor," Tommy demurred.

"Tommy. I love you and will eagerly take on any burden in your life. I will stand by your decision."

"This is an incredible thing to drop into your lap, Tommy. I only ask that you think about it. I understand if it is something you cannot do. I had to try. I had to ask." She got up from the chair where she had been sitting and moved toward the door.

Thor opened the door and offered to help her down the stairs. She refused, saying that she was still able to walk down. Thor preceded her and got Ben from Mrs. Hopkins. The boy emerged from her apartment with cookies in each hand. He began telling his mother about the wonderful lady and her comfy kitchen and how nice she was. The closing door cut off his words.

Tommy waited for Thor in the sitting room. When Thor came in, he simply looked up at Thor. "I'm so sorry, Thor. I had no idea at the time what consequences might occur. I only did it once. They talked me into it. They told me I'd be helping someone. Afterwards, I was miserable, it didn't seem the wonderful helpful thing they described it as. And now this. What can I do? That poor woman. That poor little boy."

Thor sat beside him, wrapping him in a hug. "I am reminded of another boy who was orphaned. A boy who was cared for by relatives. A boy who grew up to be the man I love. Tommy, you could be a wonderful father, now you have the chance. Sure, it will change our lives, but I think you could do it. I think our life together has room for this boy. I don't see how you have any choice."

Tommy kissed him. "I was about to apologize for doing this to you, but you seem to have it all clear. I guess we'll wait for her call."

On Monday, two days later, the phone rang early in the morning. Tommy answered the bedside receiver. At first there was no one on the line. Then Tommy heard someone crying. "Who is this?" he asked gently. "Tell me who is on the line."

Through the sobs Tommy heard, "I'm Ben."

"Where are you, Ben? Is your mother there?"

"She's in with the doctors. We're at the hospital. My mom, she gave me this number to call if something should happen. I don't know what to do." The small voice dissolved into crying.

Another voice came on the line, "I'm Joan Burch, a nurse at University Hospital. This young man's mother was admitted a short while ago. Are you a relative?"

Tommy replied, "sort of."

"You'd better come down straight away. This boy needs looking after. You can get details on his mother when you arrive."

In answer to Thor's questioning look, Tommy replied, "Elaine is in the hospital. Ben is there alone."

"Here's your coat," Thor grabbed Tommy's coat and his own. They hurried the several blocks to the hospital in silence, each wondering what the situation would be upon their arrival. The reception desk directed them to an upper floor. Once off the elevator, they approached the nurses' station. On seeing them, one of the nurses approached them.

"Are you with Elaine Parker?" she asked.

"Yes, we came as soon as we got the call," Tommy replied.

"She's in Room 515. The boy is with her now, but he cannot stay."

Tommy and Thor walked down the corridor with growing unease. Through the door of the room they saw a distressing scene. A woman, Elaine, was lying in the midst of machines, their blinking monitors being fed by wires and hoses like a steel and plastic octopus embracing her. The boy stood at her side, in among the machines, one human connection, holding her hand. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he gazed at his mother's face. She appeared to be unconscious, but roused when Tommy called her name. On seeing Tommy and Thor, she smiled. Tommy pulled a chair next to the bed to be able to talk to Elaine without standing over her. Thor called for Ben, took his hand and led him from the room.

"He'll be alright with Thor," Tommy assured her.

Only able to mouth the words, she said, "I know."

"I, we, will take care of him."

She struggled to speak, "I knew that by your coming. Thank you."

"Thank you for trusting me."

"When I came to see you, I felt I had no choice. On meeting you, seeing you now, I know I made the best choice. I'm sorry to be doing this to you, to your lover. I don't want to leave my son. In my bag, there is information from my attorney. Call him, please." She lapsed from consciousness.

Tommy took the papers and went out of the room, looking for Thor. He spotted him in a lounge area, holding Ben in his arms like a baby. The boy was asleep against the broad chest. "I have to make some calls. Will you be alright for a little while?"

"We'll be fine."

Tommy found a pay phone and called the attorney. When Tommy explained the situation, the attorney agreed to come later the same day.

They took the boy to a nearby restaurant for a late breakfast. He warmed in their attention. He insisted on sitting next to Thor in the booth.

Afterwards they went to a nearby park with a playground, setting Ben free to run. They sat on a bench where they could watch Ben, Thor putting his arm around Tommy's shoulders. Tommy looked at Thor's face and smiled. Thor returned the smile. They sat silently together, taking in the change that had come to their lives.

Thor called Ben when it was time to return to the hospital to meet with the attorney. He was already in the room, speaking quietly to Elaine when they arrived. "Are you sure this is what you want? I must say it is very irregular and I would advise against it." Elaine affirmed her decision.

"Here they are," said Elaine, forcing cheerfulness when she saw them. Ben dashed over and wound his way among the wires and hoses to hug his mother.

The attorney was clearly irritated that his advice was not being heeded. He pulled a stack of documents from his briefcase and began to review them with Tommy and Thor. They were papers assigning legal guardianship, he explained. Elaine had already approved and signed them. They stated that upon her death, Ben would be under the guardianship of Tommy. Thor was listed as a secondary guardian. What property she had would be turned over to their disposal for the care of Ben.

Tommy turned to Elaine. "If this is what you truly want, then I am honored by your trust." Thor stood at his side.

"It is," she replied.

Tommy took the pen offered by the attorney and signed all the many places he indicated. Thor took the pen from Tommy and did the same.

Elaine sighed deeply. Her expression lightened, she looked younger, almost well. "Ben, Tommy and Thor will care for you now. They'll need your help to be good parents. I know you'll be a good boy." A nurse appeared and indicated that they should all leave.

"We'll stop back this evening," Tommy promised.

Tommy, Thor, and Ben walked back to their house. Hopkins and Mrs. Hopkins were waiting at the door as they arrived. "Thor, why don't you take Ben up to the flat, I'll be up in a minute." To the Hopkinses, he said, "Can we talk for a minute?"

"Of course," said Mrs. Hopkins, who led them into her kitchen. Mrs. Hopkins made tea that she served at her kitchen table.

Tommy relayed all that had happened over the past few days, from the phone call to the interview with Elaine, to the scene in the hospital to bringing Ben into their home. The older couple listened, Mrs. Hopkins shedding tears

"Of course we'll help with the child," she volunteered, before Tommy could begin to ask.

"And to imagine that he's your own son, there's an aspect of fate to all this."

Hopkins suggested that the again vacant studio apartment could be set up for Ben's room. It was just on the floor below Tommy's flat, close but Tommy and Thor would still have some privacy. This would be a big change for all of them.

Tommy went up to his flat to find Thor and Ben watching television in the sitting room. They sat on the floor, side-by-side, their heads leaning at the same angle, both laughing at a silly cartoon. Thor roughhoused with Ben during a commercial, getting the boy to laugh. When the program began again, he snuggled against Thor, pulling Thor's arm around him. Tommy smiled at the scene. He had never seen Thor around a child before. Thor's natural ease and affection was evident. He hoped he could be as comfortable but felt all the responsibility and dreaded the coming death of the boy's mother. 'Each of us has a roll in this,' he concluded.

Mrs. Hopkins prepared a picnic meal and invited them all to her kitchen. If her thought was to step into the role of grandmother, she succeeded admirably. Ben was already very much at home in her kitchen. Even the usually formal Hopkins softened when with the boy.

Tommy and Thor took Ben back to the hospital for evening visiting hours. Elaine was barely conscious while they were there. The nurse explained to Tommy that they had increased the dosage of narcotics. Elaine had entered into a phase of decline marked by intense pain.

Over the next few days, afternoons were the best time to visit Elaine. Thor and Tommy took turns making sure Ben spent as much time as possible with his mother while they juggled their professional lives.

On the tenth day of Elaine's hospitalization, a secretary from the department interrupted a seminar being conducted by Tommy. Thor had called, Elaine was failing. Tommy turned over the class to the students to run themselves and dashed out the door. Thor was waiting outside Elaine's hospital room. By a glance at his face, Tommy knew the end was near. Ben sat on a chair in the room staring with unseeing eyes. Most of the machines had been removed, only a few monitors remained connected to Elaine.

Tommy approached the bed, again sitting close to Elaine's face to talk. She responded to hearing her name. "Elaine. It's me, Tommy. I'm here with Ben and Thor. Ben will be all right with us. He even has some adoptive grandparents, you met them when you visited me that first time." Elaine nodded, indicating that she understood. Tommy took her hand. Ben came over and took her other hand. "Talk to her Ben."

"I really like living with Tommy and Thor. They have such a neat house, it's on a bunch of floors. And Mrs. Hopkins always has good stuff to eat in her kitchen She says I'm sweet. Can you come see us? I've got my own room and it's got its own bathroom. They don't even make me make my bed. You should see Thor's gym. He lets me sit at the desk sometimes. Everybody says hi to me. It's really neat." Despite his eager chatter, Ben had begun to cry.

"Ben, I love you," murmured Elaine. She turned toward Tommy. Thor stood at his shoulder. "I can go now, he has you."

An alarm on the machine began to make noise. Tommy stepped around the bed and scooped up Ben and handed him to Thor. Nurses and a doctor appeared in the room. Thor went out of the room, carrying Ben. Tommy stood by, again holding Elaine's hand, feeling the life leave. The medical staff checked for signs of life. Finding none, the doctor met Tommy's eyes, and shook his head. It was over.

***

Thor carried the emotionless Ben out of the hospital. When Tommy offered to take a turn, Thor replied, "Tommy. I love you and will eagerly take on any burden in your life. I meant that. I want to do this. But he's not a burden."

Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins met them at the door and knew from their expressions that Elaine had died. Sadness swept over the house.

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