I didn't have anything else to say so I just ended the call. Pumbaa in his floppy way jumped in my lap like a baby and flipped over wanting belly rubs. I rubbed him absentmindedly and thought about Jo for the next couple of hours. Maybe I should have just told him what my plan was. Maybe I shouldn't have told him at all.
Either way I know Ivan, I know who we were dealing with. If I didn't get him to back off he would have tried to destroy Jo. So what if I had to give a little head trim to get him talking? Now he couldn't go to the police and lie even if he wanted to. It's a win-win.
Except I didn't win. I lost Jo.
Tears started falling out of my eyes before I could stop them. He's probably not coming back because he's waiting for me to go. So I figured I would just go and if he wanted to talk to me he knows where to find me. I wiped my eyes and went up to the bedroom to the walk in closet and pulled down my suitcase, the one I took to Curacao. I started slowly putting in my clothes feeling dead inside. The tears just kept falling no matter how much I wiped them away.
My phone buzzed and I grabbed it. The caller ID was a 717 area code and I know that to be the Lancaster area. I yelled, "Joseph!"
"No, not Jo," the voice said. "It's Jerry. I'm checking Randy's messages."
"Jerry! Is Jo there? Wait, is Randy okay!?" I asked panicky.
He sighed. "Randy caught a kidney infection and his body can't fight it. We brought him to the hospital about two days ago and... he's not going to last very long."
"Oh my God." Tears fell out of my eyes for a completely different reason. "Does Jo know? Is he there?"
"Yeah, he got here the day before Randy got admitted to the hospital. Good thing too, we didn't have to call him. He's staying at our house."
"Okay." I quickly forgave Jo for not returning any of my calls. Of course our fight will need to take a backseat. "I'm coming," I told Jerry.
"I knew you would once you knew. I knew the only reason you weren't here was because no one told you what was happening. But you should be here to say goodbye too. Do you need train fare? You can catch an Amtrak train from 30th street and Cassie will pick you up at the train station."
"It's fine, I'm going to drive." It's the quickest way to get to Randy. And Jo. "How are you holding up, Jerry? This can't be easy at all."
"It's not but I've been preparing myself for this since the day I met him vacationing in Denmark all those years ago. I just need to be strong for him. He needs us to be strong for him. All of us."
I nodded. "I'll be there in two hours or less." I hung up and looked at my suitcase. Guess I'll be going a little further than North Philly tonight.
I called Koya first to make sure she was able to house sit and look after Pumbaa for however long we were there. The sun was already setting but rush hour was over so I was hoping it would be light traffic on the PA turnpike. I grabbed the keys to the Lexus and headed out, hoping I made it in time to say goodbye to my friend.
I was doing great. I kept to the speed limit and stayed on the right side of the road. I used my turn signals. I had my GPS on and my music going as I got off exit 266 on the turnpike. I ended up missing a turn because I was singing loudly to Arianna Grande so I casually made a U-turn, not seeing the sign or the police car. But when I saw the flashing blue and red lights behind me I knew I was fucked.
"Is it easier to stay, is it easier to go? I don't wanna know. But I know that I'm never ever gonna change, and you know that you're always gonna stay the same... Is it easier to stay, is it easier to go? I don't wanna know. But I know that I'm never ever gonna change and you know you don't want it any other way..." I sang softly to myself.
After laying on the wooden bench for hours singing and contemplating my sad life, the guard finally came around. "Bermudez. You're out."
I sighed. That means he got my voice message to bail me out. Which means he's gotten all my messages for the last three days and has been ignoring me. I should be elated that he came to get me, he could have left me in jail to go before a judge for grand theft auto and driving without a license, but instead I was annoyed.
I followed guard out and walked over to him. He had on a pair of jeans and a plain black t-shirt, looking as sexy as ever, but had the most unreadable expression on his face. I put on a stoic expression myself and said quietly, "Thanks."
He took a moment, then asked, "Who called you?"
"Jerry. After I left Randy a message and he didn't call me back."
He nodded. "I should have told you about Randy. I'm sorry."
I nodded back and said calmly, "You should have."
He said, "You have a court hearing in six weeks. But they let you go because I showed them the title with your name on it and told them we had a family emergency. They will most likely drop the charges if you get your license before the hearing, and register the car in your name, like you were supposed to do months ago."
I bit my tongue so I wouldn't have a snappy comeback. "Okay, I can do that."
I wanted to touch him so badly but even more I wanted him to touch me. Instead he said, "Come on." He turned to walk out of the building and I had no choice but to follow him.
We went to his car and Francis was driving, which surprised me. No one ever drives his Benz but him. "Hey Micah, you doing alright there?" he greeted me.
"Yes, thank you," I answered politely as I got in the backseat.
Jo slid into the passenger side and gave him the address of the impound lot that the Lexus was in. "Just drop me off there and take Micah to the hospital to see Randy."
No fucking way. He's not getting rid of me that easily. But of course I didn't say anything. We drove about 15 minutes and I listened to him and his stepfather make small talk. When Francis pulled over in front of the wired gate, Jo got out and I quickly scrambled out of the back door.
He turned to look at me. "Go to the hospital, Micah. Randy is going to want to see you."
"Aren't you going to the hospital?"
"Yes, but I have to get the car first."
"Okay. So let's get the car and go to the hospital." Before he could say another word I closed the back door and said to Francis through the open window, "We'll see you later. Thanks for picking me up."
"Micah!" Francis half whispered frantically. I turned back to look at him. "Keep fighting for him," he said quietly. "He won't say it, but he needs you."
"I'm fighting, Francis. Thank you," I whispered back and he gave me a small smile.
Jo looked at me as I walked up to him defiantly. He took a deep breath and exhaled all through his nose. Then he turned to the lot attendant at the front of the gate. He gave them the paperwork and we were let in to retrieve the Lexus. I got in the passenger side and put the window down for air. He drove in silence and barely looked at me. It was breaking my heart.
"Jojo," I broke the silence. "Are we going to talk at all?"
He was quiet for a long time, so long I thought he was ignoring me, but it seems he was thinking of what to say. "Micah, I can't right now. Maybe... after it's all over. But until then I can't think about us right now."
"And I get that, one hundred percent. I just want to know that you are willing to have a conversation with me. That it's not...over. Not yet. Are you?"
He was silent for a long time again. Then said quietly, "I'm willing."
Be still my beating heart. It's not over. He still loves me.
"Mikey!" Randy croaked from the bed. "I knew you would come. I knew you would keep your promise to Jojo."
"And miss your grand finale? Never!" Randy chuckled as I went over to him and gave him a kiss on his forehead. "Are you comfortable at least?" I gently ran my fingers through his hair.
"Yup, they upped my morphine today so it's all good," he said with a smile. "You doing alright?"'
"You know me, I'm always going to be okay," I told him with a smile. I could tell he didn't buy it because he smiled right back but his was sarcastic. Tiffany came over to give me a hug. I looked around and asked, "Where's Jerry?"
"I made him go home and spend some time with his son. He hasn't left my side and it was getting a little suffocating," Randy said nonchalantly.
I shook my head and continued to stroke his hair. "Don't be an asshole to the person that loves you with his whole heart. He's going to be here until death do you part, remember? And isn't it a blessing to be loved like that."
He looked up and smiled at me. "Well aren't you an insightful little queer."
I giggled and sat in the chair next to him. I looked over and Jo was quietly watching me, his hard expression gone and with love in his eyes. I made the mistake of smiling at him and he immediately turned away.
We sat around the bed and Jo and Tiffany told childhood stories as he tried to convince us to take him home. Jerry and his sister Cassie showed up with Ollie in his onesie pajamas and they adjusted Randy's bed so that he could sit up and Ollie could sit with him. We continued to talk as he held his son and rocked him until he fell asleep on his chest. I found out that Cassie was staying at the house taking care of Ollie so that Jerry could focus on being there for Randy in his final days. Jerry stayed at the hospital with Randy day and night.
After Ollie fell asleep Cassie offered, "Micah, I can take you back with us if you want to rest."
I said very politely, "No thank you, I can wait." For Jo. Of course I didn't say it, nor did I have to. Jo, Jerry and Randy all looked at me. Even Tiffany felt the heat.
After Cassie left and Tiffany left with her, Randy asked casually, "Hey Jojo, where did you get that cranberry apple raspberry drink?"
"A vending machine on the 6th floor." Randy smiled at him. Jo smiled back. "You want me to go get you one?"
Don't forget to stop by the ice machine and grab a new straw too," Randy said. Jo chuckled and left. As soon as the door closed Randy said to me, "Okay Mikey, what's the plan?"
My eyes went to the top of my head and came back down. "The plan for what?"
Randy rolled his eyes. "To get him back. Because you didn't drive 100 miles and get arrested just to say goodbye to me."
"Actually I did. I came here for you."
"And to be here for Jo," said Jerry. "So, how are you going to make it happen?"
"And more importantly, how can we help?" Randy asked.
I could pretend like I didn't want or need their help but who am I kidding? "Unless you can go back in time and ensure that I do not date that asshole who has managed to destroy my life, I don't see how you can. Jo is so mad at me," I said sadly, looking down at my fingers in my lap.
"Well, you did suck another man's dick," Jerry gently scolded. "He has a right to be upset. There is no way you thought that would go over well, you already know Jo's a very principled man."
"Okay, but....ugh!" I looked up at them exasperated. "What was I supposed to do? Just let him ruin Jo's life? Jo has a business and a whole career that I needed to salvage. Even though the charges are dropped he still needs to get the arrest expunged from his record, so the damage is already done."
"You're supposed to trust your partner and trust the system," Jerry said.
"Jerry, you have no idea what it means to be a person of color in the system. So spare me the justice is blind thing, because we both know they would have put him under the jail," I said angrily. "He could have lost everything and it would have been all my fault. I had to do something!"
"Okay, fair enough. But did you have to do that? There was absolutely no way you couldn't have just talked to Ivan? And what about trusting your partner?" he asked. "You made a lot of mistakes here and you need to start owning it."
I opened my mouth, then closed it. Then I said, "There was no way I wasn't going to do everything possible to make sure that Jo doesn't go to prison for my mess that I didn't clean up before we got together."
Randy chimed in, "Good. Now use that same passion and do everything possible to make sure Jo doesn't walk away. Because he doesn't want to, I know him. It's tearing him up inside not being with you. So as of right now, just be there and remind him of what he's missing. And when he's ready to talk, he will."
Jerry said, "He wants you back in his life. He just doesn't know how to put his pride aside and say that."
I scoffed. "And maybe I don't want to do this shit anymore. Because I didn't do anything that wrong."
"And maybe you need to grow up a little," Randy said, almost angrily. "What you did hurt him, tremendously, and you had to know it would. You have to know who you're dealing with and respect how he feels about these things. Now you have to show him how important he is to you. And when he's ready to talk, talk to him, and come to an agreement about what is acceptable and not acceptable in your relationship. You guys love each other and can work it out. Love is the foundation, but it's not enough. You need trust, honesty and mutual respect."
Jerry looked at Randy amused. "Wow, that sounds familiar."
"Yeah? Must have been something I said before," he said back to his husband just as amusingly.
Jerry leaned over and kissed his head. Then he said to me, "Randy's right. Your actions pushed him away. Now your actions will draw him closer to you than your words will. So just be there for him until he's ready to talk. He'll come around."
"But what if it's really over?" I asked as my tears started stinging my eyes. "What if no matter what I say or do, he won't want what we had back? What do I do then?"
Randy held his arms out to me and I leaned over to hug him. He patted my back and said, "Don't worry, Jerry will be single soon, he'll take you."
I pulled from his arms and clutched my imaginary pearls as my mouth dropped and he laughed. I started laughing with Randy and then Jerry started laughing too. Jo walked in and I saw the corners of his mouth turn up slightly as he looked at me. "What are we laughing about?"
Randy answered, "How your face looks with Micah's dick in your mouth."
My jaw dropped and I swatted Randy's leg. "Stop that!" I scolded, making him laugh again then I started laughing. To my surprise Jo's face broke up in a smile and he shook his head.
Jerry also shook his head in disbelief saying, "God, even now, you're the worst."
I got in the car with Jo and we silently drove over to Randy's house. Cassie was sleeping in their bedroom, which left Ollie's room that only had a toddler bed and the third bedroom. Before I could ask, Jo said, "Take the bedroom. The couch is a pullout and I'll sleep out here. I'll move my things to the basement later."
"That doesn't make sense," I told him. "Your stuff are already in the room so just lay in the bed and I'll take the couch. Or just lay with me. I'm not going to touch you, obviously you don't want me to."
I saw a flash of pain in his eyes but then he pushed it back down. "Just take the fucking room," he said almost angrily and went to the half bath on the first floor and closed the door.
I sighed and dragged my suitcase upstairs. I changed my clothes and got in the bed pulling the covers up to my chin. The one solace I had as I closed my eyes was how much the pillow and bed sheets smelled like him. I turned onto the pillow and inhaled deeply, praying for a better day tomorrow.
In the morning I had my plan in place. I got up early and sent Fen a message asking for a 30 day leave of absence, just so I won't lose my job and she happily gave it to me. I crept downstairs and Jo was still asleep in the living room. I went into the kitchen and started making breakfast: scrambled eggs, three slices of bacon, and sliced tomatoes since there were no avocados in the house. I made coffee, medium roast, and put his cup together with one cream with two sugars. Jo came into the kitchen yawning and looked at me.
"Good morning Jo," I said and handed him a cup of coffee. Then went back to preparing his plate.
His face was completely stone but he took a sip of his coffee and sat down. I put the paper that came in that morning and his plate in front of him, and began making other plates as Cassie and Ollie came in.
"Hey guys. Micah, who knew you were so domesticated?" she teased me.
"Honey I can do it all," I said smugly, making her laugh. They sat at the table with Jo and I served them both. Then I casually made my plate and sashayed my round bottom to sit next to him. He glanced at me, then turned back to his paper. Internally I smiled. I wore him down before and I can do it again, just watch me.
For the next couple of weeks we had the same routine. I would get up early and make breakfast for everyone, then he would drive us to the hospital where we would pretty much spend the day. I managed to buy some avocados from a store near the hospital so I was able to make his full breakfast. Randy's mother would be there in the morning, his father in the afternoon and his sister in the evenings.
Tiffany took pictures of us with Randall, capturing his last moments, especially with Ollie. Every night Cassie would come by with Ollie, fully bathed and in pajamas ready for bed, and Randy would sit up enough to hold his son against his chest and rock him to sleep. Jerry didn't leave Randy's side unless he absolutely had to.
Jo and I didn't talk much but that didn't matter to me. I made sure to paint my eyes the way he likes it, put the Jo Malone fragrance he likes, wear my skinny jeans with tank tops just the way he likes, put my hair in two french braids the way he likes. He barely spoke to me but I would sit close to him anyway and I would watch him when he wasn't looking in my direction. At night we would get back to the house so late that we would just crash in our separate spaces, still not really talking.
But on the morning of week three, I said my regular, "Good morning, Jo."
And he did the unthinkable. He sat down and said casually, "Good morning, Micah."
I gasped internally and paused a bit, but then I walked around the kitchen island and set his coffee down. "Thank you," he mumbled and picked up his paper.
"You're welcome, sweetie," I mumbled back, touched his shoulder gently and went to fix his plate. I wanted to say more but Cassie and Ollie came in just then.
I put his plate in front of him and served the other two, then set my plate next to him and sat down. He looked over at me and this time I looked back at him. His eyes were soft unlike the last couple of days and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly.
I pulled my bottom lip in to moisten it and then released it slowly, and his eyes immediately went down to watch my lips. He looked me in the eyes again and we stared at each other. He turned away first, lifting up his fork and began to eat. I exhaled very slowly, only now realizing I had been holding my breath the whole time, and picked up my fork as well.
The next few days were more of the same, but at least he was speaking to me. One morning when we got to the hospital Randy was in all sorts. He had taken off all his monitoring patches and was attempting to pull out his IV. Jerry, his mother and two nurses were trying to calm him down and stop him but he was yelling back at them, "No! Fuck no! I'm not going!"