The loud knock on the door startled North. No one here knew them, so he couldn't figure out who would be on the porch knocking. Opening the door, he saw a kid about his age with sandy blonde hair. The boy was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and wore work or hiking boots. This kid was strikingly handsome, taller than North and solid. The visitor looked back at North and after a few moments spoke.
"Hey. I'm Jason. We live one place over. I thought I'd introduce myself and offer to help with unpacking or anything."
When they thumped downstairs, North's father looked at Jason with a little surprise. "New friend already?"
"Yeah. Dad, this is Jason. Jason, my dad, Tom."
"Nice to meet you, Dr. Underhill."
"Oh, I'm not the Doc; I'm the writer, Jason."
Jason looked at North, trying to unravel the knot. "I thought you said your dad was an oncologist."
North tried to figure a way out. Tom answered, "That's Jim, the other dad, Jason."
"Get it, will you, Jason?"
He opened the door to find a boy and a girl looking at him in surprise. She was tall for a girl, almost as tall as North, and just as blonde… [Jonathan] was in close-fitting jeans with a long sleeve shirt over a T-shirt. She was cute. He was … well, breathtaking — slender, but with well muscled forearms. His eyes had at first seemed brown to Jason, but as he looked closer, he realized they were a gold-flecked hazel. He realized he was staring, and so did Jonathan and Annie.
"You must be the famous Jason. I'm Annie and this stud is Jonathan."
North hadn't told him that his new friend was gay. He'd sort North out about that one later.
Just as in the movies, the crowd faded from Jason's eyes and he saw only Jonathan — his athletic grace, his smile, and those gold-flecked eyes. His anxiety dropped away, and he felt safe and normal. He began to enjoy himself as he had never before. He wasn't hiding his sexuality, and no one around him cared that he was with another boy. After the song ended, he was about to suggest heading over to the table when a slower song began. Jonathan reached for his arm and pulled him closer, placing his hands on Jason's flanks. The music and voices quieted. "Is this okay?"
Jason smiled warmly. "Oh, yeah."
Five minutes later, the door opened and a rangy guy a little younger than Fred [Jason's father] came in extending his hand. … Fred rose from his chair and shook the doctor's hand. "Mr. Johnson, I'm Jim Underhill…."
"I take it the tests revealed cancer?"
… Jim saw the address on Fred's forms. "I think we're neighbors," Jim said.
"You're that boy North's father," he said. Jim noted a slight note of disapproval in Fred's voice.
Finally, Jim tried to clear the air. "I know you're not thrilled to have gay neighbors, and I imagine you're not thrilled to consider being treated by a gay physician. Unfortunately for you, I'm probably the one with the most experience out here in dealing with the disease you almost certainly have…"
"Papa, I guess you know I'm going to be taking you tomorrow." Jason waited for the complaining and argument.
"You up to it?"
Jason was shocked. "Yes, Papa."
"You have something else you need to say?"
Jason looked at the floor. His mouth was dry, and he felt sick to his stomach. "Yes, sir."
"Look at me when we're talking, Jason. I need to see your eyes."
The boy looked into his father's eyes. "I'm gay, Papa. Please don't hate me."
Fred sat up on the bed, fixing Jason with the paternal gaze Jason had come to know…
"I can't find my way clear of thinking that God doesn't countenance what you're talking about."
Jason suddenly felt anger well up alongside the fear. "Well, He'll have to get used…"
"Jason! Let me finish. Your mother is the most spiritual human I know. The [native-American] Spirits reach out of her people's deep past to speak through her. I'll deny it if you tell anyone, but between God and your mother, I might just have to choose your mother."
The warm east breeze blew through downtown Goldendale, where Jeremy was gathered with three friends for two on two basketball games… . [Jeremy] was sharing his insight into Jason's character.
When he finished his story about seeing Jason and Jon together and shared his interpretation of the facts, the others stood or sat in stunned silence. Finally the other boy who had met the clan, Steve, spoke.
"That's bullshit, Jer. I've known Jason my whole life. He's a good guy. In fact, he's the only reason I haven't flunked out of school. He's never refused me help. My dad says his father's real sick. Cut him some slack."
Over the next half-hour, Fred's breathing became shallower and more erratic, finally stopping. Vi looked over to Jim who felt for a carotid pulse, and finding none, looked at Fred's fixed and dilated pupils. He looked at Vi, Jason, and Jon and nodded.
Jason began to sob, and Jon held him tightly, crying a bit himself for the man who had tolerated his presence in his son's life.
You know, Jason, Jeremy is telling everyone that you're qu … gay and that you guys are a couple. I told him that kind of talk wasn't fair until someone talked to you."
Jon spoke for the first time since sitting with Jason, "So talk to us."
Steve looked nervously from Jason to Jon. "Well, I guess it's true."… Steve stood and made his way to the door. As he was leaving, he looked back at the couple. "You're going to have rough time when school starts."