When we got to work next morning, Mike went out on the floor to get things started. I went to my office and was just settling in, when Mr. Wheeler stuck his head in the door. "Could you come out on the floor for a few minutes, Dave? We're going to have a short meeting with the men to tell them what's going on."
"I'll be right there!" I restacked the papers I had just started spreading out on the desk and followed him out to the production floor. Mike was waiting for us.
Mike had to raise his voice to get everyone's attention. He waved them together at the front of the line. When all the workers had gathered, Mr. Wheeler began. He told them about the new order and the plan to add another shift. He explained that we would be hiring new workers, and added that he hoped all of them would help in training them. He also mentioned that anyone currently working in the shop would have first choice, if they wanted to work second shift, rather than first. One of the guys in back called out, "Hey, is there a shift differential?" The others laughed. Mr. Wheeler grinned and said, "I'm glad you asked that. I don't think any of us have even thought about it. I'll talk to the owners and see what we can do for you. I'll let you all know, as soon as I find out."
Mike was chuckling. "Listen, Tony, you'll be getting a different shift. I think that's all the differential you can handle!" The whole group laughed at that, and Tony ducked down behind the men in front of him.
There were a few questions, and Mr. Wheeler answered the ones he could and promised to get answers for them by Friday morning, when there would be another meeting. With that, the group broke up, and everyone went back to work. I looked at Mike. "I wonder why he didn't mention that you are going to be the floor manager."
"I don't know; it probably slipped his mind. He's a great manager, but he gets flustered when he has to talk to the whole group together. I'm not worried about it." He grinned, looked around quickly, and blew me a kiss.
"I'll see you for coffee a little later, OK?"
"I suppose so, if you feel you have to." I couldn't resist an evil grin at the sudden look of dismay on his face. "Hey, silly, I've been counting the minutes since we walked in here, so don't be late, ya got it?"
"Yes, sir! I won't keep the tiger waiting, I promise!" He was smiling as he went back to work. I had just started getting into my paperwork, when Mr. Wheeler came into my office. "Uh, Dave, I thought I should warn you, the ad goes in the paper today. We'll probably be getting quite a few calls, and we'll have to set up interviews. Mike and I can handle the applicants for the line jobs, but I'd like you to talk to the people applying for the business office positions. Will that work for you?"
"Sure. I haven't got a big load of work this week, no reports due, so I think it will work fine." He smiled and nodded and went back to his office. Oh, boy, interviewing job applicants. Just what I wanted to do! Right! But Mr. Wheeler will be there with me—won't he? He didn't say; he said he'd be helping Mike interview line people. Oh, well, I can ask him the next time I see him. I got to work, and before I knew it, Mike was standing at the door with two cups of coffee in his hands.
"Your coffee is served, milord!" He set one cup on the corner of my desk and brought the other around to set in front of me. He straightened up, looked around, then bent and gave me a quick kiss. "Just wanted to make sure you don't forget me, when I'm gone."
I could feel the blush rising from his daring at kissing me in the shop, but I smiled at him. "Not much chance of that, fellah! I think you're stuck with me, like a burr in a hound's tail!"
"So, I'm a hound, am I?"
"Well, horn dog, hound dog, something like that!"
He strode back around the desk, giving a really good imitation of being insulted. He grabbed a chair and pulled it up, so he could reach his coffee on my desk. "Well, if that's what you think of me,…."
We just sat there and grinned at each other. The coffee break sped by, much faster than either of us wanted. We could have just sat there, looking at each other, completely satisfied with our love for one another. But, much too soon, he sighed and got up to go back to work. He replaced the chair he had moved, whispered, "I love you," and he was gone. I went back to work.
By the end of the day, I had cleared up a lot of the forms I needed to file with the IRS and the employment office. When Mike came into my office, I was ready to leave. We went out to the parking lot and got into his car. He reached over and took my hand. "I've been waiting all day to be able to just touch you. Do you have any idea how much I miss you when we're not together?" His smile was warm and tender.
Just then there was a loud wolf whistle outside the car, and Tony, the guy who had asked about a shift differential peered inside. "Oh, look at the lovebirds!"
Before he could get more than a couple of feet away, Mike was out of the car and had him by the shirtfront. He twisted it up until Tony's face was getting red. Mike was really choking him. Mike's face was a mask of fury. I could see the muscles in his cheeks knot as he clenched his teeth.
Tony was panicking now. He struggled unsuccessfully to get loose from Mike's grip on his shirt. He was obviously having a hard time breathing.
Mike's voice had a deadly calm. "If you ever say something like that again—to anyone—the least thing you're going to have to worry about is losing your job! You'll be losing something a lot more precious to you! And if I hear one whisper of this in the shop, I'll know where it came from, and you won't like what I do to you." He released his grip and shoved Tony away from him. "Do you understand me, Tony?"
Tony was choking and gasping for breath, but he nodded. He stumbled away to his car, got in and just sat there. Mike got back into the car. His face was red, and his jaws were clamped. I didn't know if I should speak to him, touch him, so I just sat and waited. As his breathing returned to normal, his face regained its normal color. He turned to me.
"Babe, I'm so sorry! That was my fault. I've just missed being able to touch you, and I couldn't wait. But I don't think he's going to say anything. I put the fear of God into him."
Tony had apparently recovered enough to get his car started. His tires actually squealed as he took off out of the parking lot. Mike looked at me with that tender smile again, before he started the car, and we headed for home. He seemed to relax a little, as we drove down the familiar streets.
"We're going to have to hurry, when we get home. You heard Dad! We're supposed to be there by five o'clock, so we'll have to change our clothes fast and get moving. He wasn't kidding, you know. He really might hunt us down. He jokes a lot about it, but he really does hate leftovers. So, be prepared!" He chuckled.
When we got home, we changed our clothes quickly and jumped back into the car. We were at his family's house ten minutes early. While we hadn't talked about it, we seemed to have a mutual agreement to say nothing to anyone about the incident with Tony in the parking lot.
Mike's Mom greeted us at the kitchen door with hugs and kisses. I could really get to like this! As much as I tried not to think about it, I really missed my Mom, and it felt good, having a Mom greet me at the door with a hug.
Tom came out of the living room. "It's a good thing you guys are here. I was just oiling and loading my gun, in case I had to come looking for you." He was grinning. Mom gave him a smack on the arm.
"Now, quit that! I've just got Davie convinced that you're harmless. Don't go undoing all I've done!" She gave him a sideways glance, but she was smiling.
Tom was right, though; dinner was a replay of the big dinner yesterday at Grandfather's house. Tom kept passing dishes to us and urging us to eat. I looked at Mike, but he just shrugged and kept eating. When we just couldn't hold another bite, we sat back from the table, and Mom brought the coffee pot. We relaxed, and Tom and Mike were talking about the shop and the meeting this morning. Mike asked his Dad about the shift differential.
"Oh, gee! We never thought about that! I'm going to have to talk to Grandfather and get with Jim Wheeler. I think there should be at least a small differential, to encourage workers to accept the shift." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Thanks for reminding me about that!"
Mom poured another round of coffee. "So, Davie, did you survive your first encounter with the whole Dorczek clan? Mike said you were a little nervous about meeting us all together."
Mike grinned. "She's putting it a little nicer than I did. If I remember correctly, I told her you were scared shitless."
"Mike! That wasn't necessary!" She glared at him for a moment, then turned to me. "But, as a matter of fact, that's what he did say!" She giggled. "But was it really so bad for you? We're just ordinary folks, nothing to be scared of. Well, except Grandfather, maybe. I was terrified of him for years. But he really loves you! I've never seen him react that way to anyone, even family. So, for better or worse, it looks like you are officially a member of this clan!" She gave me a big smile, and Tom reached across the table to shake my hand.
"Welcome to the family, son!" If either one of them had said another word, I would have been crying. I couldn't believe how easily they had accepted me, just the way I am.
I started to get up to help Mom clear the table and put things away, but Mike shook his head. He mouthed the words, 'Women's work!' and got up with Tom to go in the living room. I felt guilty, but I followed them. I sat and listened, while Mike and his Dad discussed family issues. In a few minutes Mom joined us. We all chatted together for a while, and then Mike stood up.
"I think we'd better get going. It's been great, but we've got to start going to bed earlier, so we can get to work early. Our boss told us we have to set an example for the workers." He grinned at his Dad, who tried hard to look stern. Mom got up from her chair and headed for the kitchen. We followed her, with Tom bringing up the rear. She pointed to a big box on the kitchen table, filled with plastic containers.
"These are for you boys to take home with you."
Tom spoke up, in a rather threatening tone. "And, in case you need a little persuasion, I've got my gun here!" Mike threw his hands up in a classic gesture of surrender.
"Yessir, yessir! Please don't shoot, sir!" He gave his Mom a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, shook hands with his Dad, and picked up the box, with a huge sigh of resignation.
"Come on, Davie! Let's get out of here before the fireworks start!" I reached out to Mom, and she gathered me into a big hug. She whispered in my ear, "You can't know how happy we are for you and Mike." She kissed me on the cheek. I'm sure my face was bright red when I turned to shake hands with Tom, but he just ignored it. He smiled. "Welcome aboard, Dave!"
They walked out on the back porch with us and waved, as we got into the car. Then they went back in the house, and we set out for home. The sun had set, but the late summer dusk was still light enough to see outside. By the time we got home, the dusk had deepened enough that we needed the car's headlights.
I was surprised when we arrived at the house to see Annie's car parked in the driveway. Annie doesn't drive that much, but Paul insisted that she needed her own car. It was some sort of status symbol with him, I guess.
We parked on the street in front of the house and got out of the car. I looked at Mike. "This is odd. I wonder what's going on." He just shrugged and opened the back door to get out the care package from his Mom. As I approached the house, I noticed that there were lights on inside. I pulled out my keys to open the front door.
When I walked inside, I was greeted by the sight of Annie sitting in a heap on the couch, crying. I rushed over to her. "Annie, what's wrong?" I knelt down beside her and pulled her into a hug. She clung to me, sobbing. Mike stood there, stunned. Then, recovering, he went out to the kitchen. I could hear him drawing water to make a pot of coffee.
I just stayed there, rocking Annie gently, while she cried out whatever was hurting her. When she calmed down, I reached over and grabbed the box of tissues from the end table. I offered it to Annie and she took it in her lap. She wiped her eyes, blew her nose and, finally, looked over at me.
"It's over, Davie. It's all over." She sniffed and grabbed another tissue. I just waited. I had no idea what she was talking about, and I didn't dare ask. I could only wait for her to tell me.
She sniffed and blew her nose again. Then she sat up and looked me straight in the eye. "I love you, Davie. I never realized how much I love you, until that bastard started in."
Mike appeared at the door and asked softly, "Does anyone want a cup of coffee?" Annie sat up straighter.
"Yes, Mike, thank you. I think I really need a cup of coffee right now." She started to stand up, but I was in her way. I scrambled up from the floor and helped her to her feet. We followed Mike into the kitchen. He went to the cupboard and got down three coffee cups. He waited until Annie had seated herself at the table, then brought the cups over and set them in our places. He went to the counter and brought the pot over. He filled our cups and set the pot back on the burner. Then he joined us at the table.
Annie looked from one of us to the other. "I'm sorry, guys. I shouldn't have brought my problems to dump them on you. But I didn't know where else to go. Davie, do you remember when we were kids, if we got in trouble or got hurt, the first place we headed was home. Mom was always there to make things better. I guess part of what was hurting me tonight was that, when I got here, Mom wasn't here to make it all right." Her eyes started to fill with tears again. I reached over and rubbed her back.
"I know, Sis! I've had the same feeling a lot, 'specially, after you left."
"It still hurts, doesn't it?'
"Yeah, it does. I guess that's why I was such a baby, when you told me you and Paul were getting married. It seemed like I was completely alone, then."
"Davie, if I had had any idea! He wasn't like that, at first. I mean, you know me, I go for a good-looking guy." She looked at Mike and grinned. "And I gotta tell ya, little brother, you did all right for yourself!" Mike blushed and grinned.
She paused for a few seconds, as if collecting her thoughts. "He was so kind, and so thoughtful. He made me feel like a princess. Nothing was too good for me. Then, when he got a ring on my finger, he started changing. He acted as if he was the only one who knew anything. He's always right, and everyone else is wrong. He's the one who has a right to an opinion. No one else's opinion is worth a damn. But tonight he went way over the edge!
"You really hit him, Davie! He couldn't believe that you, the shy one, the mouse, would stand up and rip into him the way you did! Of course he didn't hear a word of what you said about Mike. The only thing he heard was the word "apologize," and that's a word that just isn't in his vocabulary.
"We had talked about having children in a few years. I can't wait too long; I'm in my mid-thirties now, and I don't want to take a chance on waiting. There are a lot of cases of birth defects in first children born to women over forty. I mentioned that tonight, while we were talking, and he got on his high horse. He'd been talking to a friend of his at work, and the guy told him that homosexuality is genetic; it tends to appear in families. He had decided that he doesn't want children with me. He doesn't want to take the chance of having a gay son. In his words, "I don't want a fuckin' faggot for a son!" I was shocked. Of course, he knows that you're gay, but we've never talked about it, and it was never an issue.
"Then, when we came over for dinner Saturday evening and met Mike, he lost it. He could ignore the idea, as long as you were alone, but with this hunk shoved in his face, he had to face the fact. I never knew it, but he's so homophobic, it almost eats him up. He had to put Mike down, just to prove that he was a better man. Then, when you stood up to him, he really went over the edge. He was muttering all the way home. He slammed doors, he threw things around. When it was bedtime, he grabbed up his pillow and a blanket and announced that he was going to sleep on the couch. He's been there ever since. He doesn't want to get near me, just in case I'm a carrier of those gay genes, I guess. But tonight, when he made that crack about not wanting a faggot for a son, I knew. I just knew. He went stomping out of the house, and drove off. I grabbed a few things and came here. It was the only place I could think of to go, and I had to get out of there.
"Davie, Mike, would it be all right with you guys if I stay here with you, at least until I can find a place of my own?" She looked up at us, fearfully, as if she expected a negative reaction.
"Annie, what do you mean, 'find a place of your own'? Have you forgotten that this is your home, as much as mine? The house is in both our names, so you have just as much right to be here as we do."
"You'd let me stay, after the way Paul treated you?"
"Sis, listen to yourself. 'The way Paul treated us'! You had nothing to do with his stupidity! I was feeling awful, because you and Mike got caught in the crossfire. You were both innocent, and that idiot will never learn to keep his mouth shut!"
I moved my chair around, until I was sitting next to her. Mike did the same from the other side. Both of us slipped our arms around her, and we just held her for a few minutes. Then Mike reached over for his coffee cup. "Damn! My coffee's cold. Let me get some fresh for everyone." He got up from the table, emptied our cups and refilled them with hot coffee. He moved his chair back and sat sipping his coffee, but watchful, like a mother lion watching her cubs.
Annie sat quiet for a few minutes. Then she looked up. There was a firm resolve in her face now.
"I'm going to call in sick tomorrow morning, and after he leaves, I'll go over there and get what I want. I really don't want a lot of things, just my clothes and a few little things I really love. He can have the rest of it! And, if you guys can put up with me, I'd like to stay with you, at least until I figure out what I'm going to do. Right at this moment, I don't want to be married to him any more. I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow, or next week, but that's how I feel right now."
Mike stood up, walked behind her and began to massage her shoulders gently. I knew what she was feeling. He could almost put me to sleep, doing that. She had tensed up a little when he first touched her, but I watched her gradually relax and let go of the tension she had been holding. When she began to sag a little in her chair, he stopped, grinning at me over her head. "Feeling a little better now, Sis?" Her voice was almost dreamy.
"Oh, yes, and thank you so much! You can do that any time you want to."
He chuckled. "You react the same way Davie does. I've had to carry him to bed a couple of times. He gets so relaxed, he can't move. He's like a rag doll."
She was chuckling now, too. "Well, I can understand that. Another minute and I'd have slid right out of my chair onto the floor. You could make money, doing that, Mike. You're a natural."
"Nope. Not interested. I do it for friends who need to relax. It seems to do the trick."
"I'll say! I haven't felt this relaxed in … I don't know when. It's really great. But are you serious? You'd do it again?"
"Sure. Just say when! Mike's massage parlor is always open—although, if you wake me up in the middle of the night for a massage, it might not be such a gentle one!" They were both laughing now. I looked up at the kitchen clock.
"Hey, guys, sorry to break up the party, but we have to be at work early. Orders from the boss!" We got up and Mike went to the counter to turn off the coffee pot. I thought I heard him mutter, "Screw the boss!" under his breath, but I decided not to ask about it.
We went into the living room. Annie hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Davie! You're a life saver!" Then she turned to Mike and hugged him. She had to stand on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "And thanks to you, Mike. You're just what Davie needed, and you're working miracles with him!" She started up the stairs, then turned. "Good night, guys." She went on up the stairs, as Mike and I were turning off the lights in the living room.
We went into our bedroom and stripped. Even in the semi-darkness, I still caught my breath when I saw Mike's body. He is the most beautiful, the most perfect, the most wonderful guy in the world. And the way he took Annie in. I would have, just because she's my sister, but he has that special caring and concern that just wraps around people. I knew that Annie felt it; I could see it in her face, in the way she relaxed with him and regained some of her old sparkle. I realized at that moment that it had been ages since I had seen that sparkle in her. How could I have been so self-absorbed that I never noticed? But Mike noticed her depressed state, and he did something about it. Just another reason why I love this guy.
We slipped into bed, and Mike drew me close and kissed me. There was no passion in that kiss, just love that flowed out from him and wrapped us both in its warmth. I snuggled close to him and he held me in his arms, as I relaxed and surrendered to sleep. The last thing I heard was his soft whisper, almost a purr, "I love you, Davie."
You know, it's funny, but I had a feeling that Paul was that kind of person and that he would step over the line somehow sooner or later, and that Annie wouldn't put up with it. I think that she and Mike are a lot alike in that they both give of themselves to those they love. It is also interesting to know that people who are that way are often hurt by people that only show their true colours after the relationship has been going for some time, and in the case of marriage, once they get that piece of paper that says it is final. Then they simply stop acting like they care. After all, that is what they were doing, acting.
I for one am glad that she didn't have any kids with that monster. Now they can divorce or get the marriage annulled, depending on what church they belong to. Paul is not the kind of person to be a father. I would feel very sorry for any child he might be involved in bringing into the world.
I know there are a lot of things going on for Mike and Davie, including that Jackass at work, but I am sure they will do all they can to help Annie get through this thing. I am going to guess that Mom and Dad will help too, taking Annie under their wing and being the parents she no longer has. She said she misses her mom, well, I think I know a certain Mom who will be glad to help in any way she can.
I'm ready for another chapter Yesterday or sooner if possible.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher