Foster and I had become much closer. I’d had flings in college. When I’d first had the freedom to be gay without parental disapproval or even stiffness to hold me in check, I’d done what many men in my situation had done. I’d spread my wings and joined the flock of young gay men ready to find out who they were. By the time I’d graduated, I’d learned who that was. I liked gay sex, but by then I’d had enough casual one-nighters, or even one-weekers, to know that wasn’t what I really wanted. I was now out of college, in the working world, and I was selective now about partners. Finding the right person was more important than finding the available person.
I didn’t like youngsters—twinks; I didn’t like bears; I didn’t like older men; I didn’t like rough or kinky; I had no objection to effeminate men, but they weren’t what I was looking for, either. It seemed there were more types I didn’t like than I did. What I did want was someone like me: serious, career-oriented, intelligent, sensitive, a real human being with human qualities. That was what was important. An ordinary man much like myself who happened to be gay and also who happened to love me, too.
What that meant, in practical terms, was it had been quite some time since I’d had sex.
The man I was looking for who had the traits I wanted? Foster filled that bill in spades. We could have long conversations just sitting and talking, and we did, sometimes late into the night when he was staying over. We were simpatico on most things like politics and immigration and abortion and race—all the things people these days seemed to be ready to go to war over. He had a lively sense of humor and liked to laugh as much as I did.
The fact he was so handsome didn’t detract, either. Neither did the fact he was quiet and thoughtful. And kind and gentle. And liked Robin almost as much as I did.
His staying over was becoming more and more frequent. It helped that Robin liked him, too. There was still the distraction that was caused by Foster having Robin in one of his classes. Because of that, Robin refused to call him anything but Mr. Lees, saying it would be disrespectful. Terry called him Foster all the time after being asked to do so, but not Robin. But that name also kept an emotional distance between the two of them. It was a very minor one and might have been there with whomever I dated, but it was there and didn’t seem improper to me at all. They did like each other; that, too, was apparent.
I finally asked Foster to move in. He said he’d think about it. I didn’t think that would take him long. He’d told me he was lonely now in his apartment by himself. Lonely because he knew I had a place for him in my home, in my bed.
And then, two weeks before Christmas, a week before Christmas break at school would begin, he said okay. He had a lease on his apartment until the first of the new year and had paid his December rent in advance, but he told his landlord that the apartment could be listed as available right away—that he’d be moving out before Christmas.
This presented a problem for me: Robin. Terry was still spending one night a week with us, usually a weekend night. I wasn’t comfortable with him being there overnight while Foster was there. Maybe I was just old-fashioned, but Terry being there and knowing we’d be having sex in the room down the hall—it just made me uncomfortable.
So I decided to talk about it with the four of us. Terry would eat with us a few times each week and always on the night he’d be staying over. Foster never had stayed that night. But he had been eating with us. The four of us ate meals together often.
After a meal on Friday night when Terry would be staying and Foster would be leaving, I got us all together on the patio.
“I have a situation we need to talk about as a group. Rob and Terry, Foster has agreed to move in with me. We already have had a committed relationship, and this is taking it a step farther. I’m in love with him and he with me. But this presents a problem that needs discussion.
“Terry, I know you like to be here Fridays or Saturdays. That’s important to you and to Rob. I’m all for that. I don’t know if you two fool around together, but I’d guess you do, and I have no problem with that. My problem is, should Terry be in the house when Foster and I will be having sex? It somehow seems wrong to me. What do you guys think? You too, Foster.”
They all looked at each other, and then Foster spoke. “I understand your concern, Daniel, but let’s look at it from another direction. What if you weren’t gay, were a single mother raising a teenage son, and you fell in love with a decent, hardworking, good young man. Would it be wrong for that woman-you-to have the man spend the night with your son in the house? If you’d spoken to him about it first so he wasn’t taken by surprise?
“Here we are, twenty years into the 21st century. About one-fifth of the way through it. We’re not in Victorian England. We’ve gotten past many of our hang-ups as a country. We’re not yet where France is, where sex is recognized as a part of life everyone should be enjoying to the fullest. We still have moral values that we hold dear. But we also have matured in our recognition that sex isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s a healthy part of a happy life.
“My feeling is, if sons know their parents are having sex, it prepares them better for a fulfilling life of their own. It’s better than if they get the message from their parents that sex is basically a little dirty and a little nasty, not just a little embarrassing, and that it should be hidden away from their children. That’s a message that used to be dumped on our kids. Finally, finally, and way too long in coming, this is now changing. Sex ed is one of the reasons. Society maturing is another. My hope is it’s disappearing in the majority of this country.
“I think, and this is just me, that Terry being here knowing we’re having sex is nothing for you and me, Daniel, to be ashamed of or uncomfortable about as long as we’re discreet. We shouldn’t be walking around naked, we shouldn’t be making a lot of noise, but we should be doing what we want to do behind a closed door, and if they know we’re doing it, let them be as jealous as they want.” He grinned when he said it, showing that last part was meant humorously.
I hadn’t known he felt that way. But he made some good points. I turned in my seat and looked at Rob and Terry. “Either of you have a comment?”
Rob spoke up. He was usually a little quieter than Terry, but he didn’t hesitate about this. “I’m really happy Foster is moving in. But this does change things here. One rule, the no-bathing-suit rule, now needs to be discussed. My feeling is, we’re all males. We all know what naked males look like. I plan to keep obeying our rule. Terry can do what he likes. I love swimming naked and am going to continue doing that. I’m also not going to talk about it with anyone else. If it becomes an issue for any reason in the future, we can discuss it then.
“I don’t care if you, Daniel, or you, Mr. Lees, join me in the pool, naked or otherwise. If you want to wear a suit, fine. That’s your hang-up, not mine. I won’t care either way.
“As for sex, of course you can have sex, and Terry being here shouldn’t affect that at all. Terry, will you be offended or uncomfortable if they have sex, private sex, behind a closed door while you’re here?”
Terry smiled. Well, that was par for the course for him. He almost always wore a smile. “I like to think we’re all adults here, even if Rob and I aren’t. But we both have mature attitudes about most things. As you said, Foster, sex is simply a part of life, a healthy part. Yeah, Rob and I have fooled around before. I don’t mind you knowing it. We don’t do so nearly as much any longer. You probably know that Rob is kinda obsessing about a possible boyfriend, and he thinks as long as there’s a possibility there, he’s cheating on him when fooling around with me. So sex is part of life, and it’s also complicated when you’re a teenager.
“But no, I have no problem at all with you two going at it like bunnies and would be upset if you were holding back because I was sleeping down the hall—sleeping and a little frustrated because Rob won’t put out.” He laughed, and then flinched when Robin hit him on the shoulder.
“TMI, Terry, TMI!” Robin was looking, well, sort of embarrassed and sort of like he wanted to laugh.
Terry kept laughing, but then said, “Oh, and swimming? I’m with Rob. You guys want to ogle my manliness, go right ahead. No false modesty here. You got it, flaunt it; that’s my motto. Anyway, how does swimming au naturel have anything to do with sex? It doesn’t, and if anyone thinks that, they’ve got a dirty mind.”
Foster turned to me and grinned. “Well, old man?”
I nodded. “I know when I’m outnumbered,” I said, capitulating with grace. “I will say I agree with Rob: none of this needs to be brought to the attention of anyone else. I guess there’s nothing wrong with any of it, but some people would find it so, and to preclude problems, we should keep it quiet. Agreed?”
I turned to Foster. “So, stay the night?”
He looked at me with those deep eyes of his and said in a confidently certain voice, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Life was good. I had both Robin and Foster staying with me. We did have one little thing to work out, but we did it without resorting to fisticuffs or slamming doors. All it took was everyone being reasonable.
It started the next day after breakfast when Terry had left.
“Mr. Lees, I’ll load the dishwasher if you clear the table. Sound okay to you?”
Foster looked at him and sighed. “I’m going to be living here now, and ‘Mr. Lees’ is way, way too formal. I don’t much like some of the alternatives, like Uncle Lees. That would be dreadful. And Mr. F wouldn’t be any better than Mr. Lees. Why don’t you just loosen up a bit and call me Foster? I’d like that a lot.”
Robin gave him a look. I watched both of them. Would this be a battle of wills, or would it be a good compromise situation? Then I thought this was a great opportunity for solving another potential problem.
At home, just the two of us alone, I always used Robin’s full first name; in the presence of anyone else, he was Rob. But I very much liked calling him Robin. I liked the name, and it was a reminder of who he was when I met him. Then, the name fit him like a glove, and I thought it still did, but too, it emphasized how much he’d grown. I didn’t want to give up using Robin, but without some discussion I had no choice with Foster here.
This was a good time for that discussion.
Before Robin could answer him, I stepped into the breach. “Foster, could you leave us alone for a couple of minutes. I need to discuss something privately with Rob, something that just affects us, not you. Okay?”
“Sure,” he said. “I can tell when I’m in the way!” He laughed and took the newspaper outside with him.
“Robin, we’ve got a problem. Not really a problem but, well, a problem.” I chuckled. He just looked at me. So I explained what was bothering me, and asked if he could allow Foster in on our secret. Robin thought about it for a moment, then said, “Yeah. No problem at all. If I can’t trust him, I can’t trust anyone. Of course I trust him. So, sure.”
I called Foster back in and told him that Rob’s name was really Robin, but he’d wanted only the two of us to know. Not even Terry. Foster looked at Robin and said, “I’ll keep calling you Rob. I won’t slip up that way.”
And Robin said, “Thanks, Foster.” Then grinned.
It was exciting having a young kid around during the Christmas season. Kids love Christmas. Robin wasn’t that young, but he’d never had much of a Christmas because his mother had treated it like just another day. However, he knew this year would be different, and the way he was showing the eagerness of an 8-year-old seemed to me to be making up for all the years he’d missed.
We’d be doing Christmas Eve dinner and gifts at my parents’ house. Then the three of us would have another, smaller celebration at home with more gifts. We got a good-sized tree, a seven-foot Noble fur, decorations and lights. Foster and Robin were in charge of decorating the tree, and they spent as much time arguing over what decorations went where and moving ones the other had put up with remarks like, “See how much better it looks here?” They even argued about what kind of Christmas music we listened to while they were doing the tree-trimming. Foster favored religious and classical music while Robin liked modern, funny stuff like Santa Got Run Over by a Reindeer and the one about missing front teeth. All the fighting was in fun, of course. They really did like each other. I was so happy about that.
I stayed out of the fray. They were having fun with each other. Robin had never done any of this before, and I had decorated my parents’ trees for years. It was more fun watching than doing.
My parents welcomed Foster with no reservations at all. They’d accepted me for who I was completely by now. Anyone would have liked Foster, though. He was charming, and he had my mom eating out of his hand.
Lucy made immediate friends with Nosy. Lucy was getting older and not as lively now, but she was very patient with the puppy’s frivolity, and when Nosy tired herself out and lay down for a nap, she did so right up beside and against Lucy.
Robin got so much stuff I was a little embarrassed. Foster and I got things, too. Sweaters, cooking things, things for the house. But most of the loot was for Robin. He was so happy he was glowing. I’m not sure it was because of the loot, either. It was because of the love my parents had shown in buying the things. He’d never had that before, older adults adoring him. He had it now.
The next day, the three of us had our private gift-giving. Nosy was right in there with us and got a present herself: a chew toy. She loved it when we crumpled up the wrapping paper into balls and threw them. A retriever she definitely was and would always be.
Later, Terry came over, and he and Robin exchanged gifts. He also received presents from Foster and me. Then Terry stayed for dinner, which all four of us chipped in making. We had a standing rib roast, and it drove us crazy smelling it as it cooked. Robin made an apple pie for the first time and kept checking with me, but he had a recipe to follow so didn’t need all that much help. Still, he wanted to know what they meant by dotting the apple mixture with butter; just how big were the dots meant to be? And when they said slice the apples, how thick would the slices need to be? And why weren’t they more specific?! As always, I was delighted showing him these things, and he was grateful and happy. At times like this, I felt really close to him, like a father. Is there anything that feels better than that?
I overheard Robin asking Terry what he’d received for Christmas from his parents, and he said his family had skipped gifts this year. With a divorce upcoming, no one was in a festive mood at his house, and in fact they were barely talking to each other. I was so happy that I’d thought to get a couple of things for Terry. I was very fond of him and wanted him to know he was a kind of an adjunct son at our house. Now I wished I’d gotten him more, but there had been gifts from me, Foster and Robin. He hadn’t been neglected.
Foster and I exchanged nice gifts but nothing too special. I was thinking if this next year worked out as I was pretty confident it would, next Christmas I might very well be giving him an engagement ring. Not this year. It was way too soon. But next year. Next Christmas seemed like a sure bet to me.
Next year started out fine. There was only one small detail. One nagging thing that kept it all from being perfect.
Robin was lovesick. That’s what Foster diagnosed it as. He said he recognized the signs because he’d felt that way growing up a couple of times.
For the first time, Robin wasn’t conversant about it. My guess was he was embarrassed. I talked to Terry, and Terry told me Robin hadn’t been able to find out if the boy he liked, Daryl, was gay, and Robin insisted he wasn’t going to do anything more about it until he knew. It would be too embarrassing otherwise, and he’d had enough embarrassment in his life.
I didn’t know how to help him, so I just kept my mouth shut. I figured this was just something he had to live through, and he’d get over it. No one ever died of love sickness. It was a disease that time would cure. Eventually. I just wished that ‘eventually’ would come sooner than it seemed to be doing because I hated seeing my boy suffer.
Foster didn’t like it any more than I did. We talked about it. He thought it would be a bad idea to stick our noses into it. It could make Robin think we didn’t have faith in him that he could handle his own problems. Plus, there would be a good chance we’d make things worse rather than better. In love and war, that was always a fear.
But Foster came home smiling one day, and when I asked him why, he laughed. “I might have figured something out for Robin. We won’t be interfering, it’ll be all up to him, but I might have thought of a way to set the stage to get this resolved.”
I wanted to ask him his plan, but Robin came in right then, and I never got around to doing it.