Latest gay erotic stories: Safe Deposit – Chapter 8
There was something in his tone that set Sam on edge. He stayed quiet, though, listening. It was the least he could do.
“Small stuff would upset him for days.” There was no more grin left on his face. “I just…learned to be careful. To pay attention. To listen better.”
He picked up the first bell he’d painted and handed it to Sam. He waited, and Sam realized he was supposed to eat the thing. Shrugging, he took a bite. It was something lemony, and he could taste the vodka that hadn’t dried as well. It was incredibly rich, a much fuller taste than he was expecting.
Thomas smirked briefly, so Sam supposed he didn’t need to say anything.
“Anyway, my sister died, and I went to the funeral and stuff. But the whole time, he just kept telling me I wasn’t being supportive enough. Kept asking me if I really loved him. Why I was ignoring him.”
The bell in his hand was already covered, but Thomas kept painting it. “I realized how tired I was. How he was never there for me ever, et cetera. So on our last day before we went home, I tried to break it off. So he hit me.”
He mumbled the last part, and Sam could tell he was ashamed.
“I blew it off, at first.” He snorted. “As you do. When we got back and he saw that I meant it, he really went nuts. Broke my arm. Broke my house.”
Silver paint was dripping off the bell now, covering his palm with gray strings. He didn’t seem to notice. “Tried to calm him down and stuff. Didn’t work. I tried to stay in town for a while, but…”
He shook his head and shrugged.
“He would have killed me.” It’s matter-of-factly said, but Sam could feel how hard it was for him to get the words out. “So I ran away. Here. He loves the city; he’d never come here.”
Thomas set the bell down slowly. He’d noticed the leaking paint and licked it off his hand. He dropped the brush and picked up the bottle, talking a long swig.
“Anyway, it wasn’t a total waste.” He shrugged a little too nonchalantly. “I learned how to actually listen to people, to pay attention. Most people don’t, you know. But you can see a lot. When you’re actually looking for it, I mean.”
He handed the bottle to Sam, who took it drank a few swallows and sat, not knowing what to say.
“There’s more.” Thomas seemed to be in a strange mood; Sam was almost sorry he’d brought it up. But he couldn’t deny that he liked knowing a secret of Thomas’s. Made him feel safer, less vulnerable. Or at least less alone in his vulnerability. “Whole collection.”
He got up and went to open a second closet Sam hadn’t noticed. Inside was an impressive array of bottles.
He came back to the table with the Maker’s Mark.
“It’s not mine,” He said. He wasn’t looking at Sam; the bottle was giving him trouble as he tried to open it. “Well, I guess it is mine, now. But it was Harold’s.”
It made sense. Harold had a record — he’d done time in the late eighties for driving under the influence. He’d been charged with manslaughter, but not convicted.
“Yeah, he was a drunk. At least for a while.”
“Hmm.” Thomas finally got the bottle opened. “Well, he had good taste.”
He poured a few fingers into two of the plastic cups stacked on the table behind the fondant. Sam had always thought that stuff had to be refrigerated, but what the fuck did he know. “What else did you find out about ol’ Harry? I mean, he left some stuff here, but nothing too illuminating. I assume you ran some kind of background check on him?”
“Yeah, he has a record. Drunk driving. He got two years, served one. He was in his seventies, so I guess they thought he couldn’t do any more harm since his license was suspended. Forever.”
“A drunk with his first arrest in his seventies?”
“Probably not.” Sam shoved an unpainted bell into his mouth. “But it was in Pittsburgh that he got arrested — someone died an accident he caused. If he lived in smaller towns for most of his life, he might never have been officially arrested. You know how it is — old timer, friends with the cops, yadda yadda.”
“The cops.” Thomas cocked his head. He sounded more normal, and Sam was glad he hadn’t caused him too much pain. “Did you talk to them? The ones here, I mean?”
He shrugged. “Not yet. I didn’t actually do much investigating until a few months ago. I found this address of his almost by accident — I had only check Pennsylvania before. I didn’t find the Ohio stuff until I checked for old car registrations of his. He hadn’t used this address on any of the Penn stuff he had in his name.”
“His niece said he only came a few times a year when she was selling me the place.” He looked pensive. “She said it had hardly been touched since the seventies, but he didn’t sell it.”
“Sentimental value, I guess.” Sam thought the secret locked door probably also had something to do with it, but he didn’t want to go into that just yet. “What made you buy this place, anyway? Doesn’t exactly have a lot of curb appeal.”
“Thanks,” he said with a smirk. “I really needed a place to go to. Couldn’t stay there. Home, I mean.”
Sam knew he was taking a risk, being selfish, but he hadn’t felt close to someone in so long. He just didn’t want it to end yet.
“You miss him.”
“Yeah.” Thomas rolled his eyes as if he expected to be chastised. “He wasn’t bad all the time. And I know that doesn’t matter. But we had fun a lot. He could be really sweet, and he looked damn good on a bike.”
“His loss.” It was fiercely said, and Sam could hardly believe it had come out of his own mouth. Thomas’s gaze snapped to his, and for a long moment they just stared at each other.
Eventually, Thomas went back to painting his silver bells and Sam went back to watching him. He was so calm, so studied, that it was impossible to be anxious around him for long. Sam hadn’t felt so comfortable around someone since he’d left home for college, and he felt stupid.
Why would you avoid what you want?
“I think it’s time.” Sam had been staring into space, and now Thomas was speaking carefully again. All the bells that they hadn’t eaten were silver, sitting in their little tray.
Sam was pretty sure he knew, though.
Dozens of them.
The locked door opened up into a small storage area where they sat in old shoe boxes from Stride Rite. They were sorted by date; each box held a different year.
Harold had known her.
The letters didn’t say where they’d met — people never really wrote those things down — but he knew when. In 1980, they’d been in a group together — probably Alcoholics Anonymous. They must have been separated for most of the time they’d known each other, since Harold’s letters all came from different cities. They were boring and self-pitying a lot of the time, but occasionally some were engaging and happy. Sam didn’t know what his mother’s letters were like.
He wasn’t ready.
When even Harold’s letters got to be too much, Thomas would read them aloud to him. Harold had gone to Switzerland in 1983; he’d brought back a snow globe for Sam’s mother as well as himself. They were a set.
Thomas had to stop reading and hold him when he realized the other one was long gone.
His mother had apparently sent him the stationery; he thanked her for it in some of the letters. Sam used to draw on it when he was small. He remembered that he’d once scribbled a letter so Santa one of the pages. He’d gotten a response, and his mother had taped it to the wall in the kitchen.
It had come from St. Paul, Minnesota, where Sam now knew Harold had been.
Harold had seen the pot holders at a drug store in 1985; he’d decided to take up knitting and used them as patterns. He was apparently sending some of them to his mom.
In 1986, he’d sent her a baby blanket. She tried to pay him, but he wouldn’t have it.
The last letters Harold had sent — in 1989 — were all stamped RETURN TO SENDER. By the fourth one, Harold was begging her to tell him what he’d done to make her stop writing. He promised he’d come back to Pittsburgh and apologize in person. I know I’m a fuck-up, he wrote. But you could at least say goodbye.
They ate a lot of bell-cakes and drank a lot of whiskey and Sam’s knees were a little worse for the wear. But it was too late to back out now. He was falling in love.
Though Sam knew it was possibly the most dysfunctional relationship ever formed in the whole history of earth, he found he didn’t mind that. And when the sun rose on the fourth day and Thomas insisted that yes, they really did need to go out for toilet paper (and also to get the human ashes out of Sam’s car), Sam didn’t fight him.
As he watched Thomas descended the stairs into Harold’s basement, déjà vu tried to engulf him. It was hard — impossible –but he sat there on the sofa, hugged a pillow, and trusted Thomas to come back.