(Takes place from 18 December 1992-21 December 1992)
Jonathan shivered, hugging his arms. He glanced down at his watch, tears burning in his eyes, but he didn’t let them fall. A hand fell to his shoulder, and he jerked, sniffling. Chad wrapped around him, hugging him tightly, and as he pulled back, Bailey did the same, apologizing.
“Man, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose sight of him. I didn’t think—” He broke off, pushing his face against Jonathan’s shoulder in an uncharacteristic move. “God, I’m so, so sorry!”
“Not your fault, Bay,” Jonathan told him, his voice hoarse from their initial search for David. “We thought we were safe here, the whole big group of us.”
Travis jogged over to them. “Okay, just talked to Opie over at the popcorn stand. He said he saw David arguing with a guy in a green army jacket. The guy was older, Opie said, and grabbed David by the wrist and dragged him out towards the entrance.”
Jonathan let go of Bailey and ran over to the concession stand. The door was closed, but he could see the kid Travis had spoken to inside, wiping down the counter. He banged the flat of his hand against the window to get his attention, and when the red-headed pimply kid unlocked the door and opened it, Jonathan let out a breath he was unaware he’d been holding. “My boyfriend. You said you saw a guy in a green army jacket drag him away? What time was it then? Do you remember?”
The kid smiled softly, nodding. “It was right after I put the dogs on, so 9:40. The guy was older, kinda dad-like, it seemed. They began arguing loudly as the young man came from the direction of the bathroom. The young man was beautiful. Glowed, almost, like an angel. He reached up a hand to push his hair from his face and that’s when the older guy grabbed hold of him and dragged him towards the entrance, towards a white truck, I think it was.”
Jonathan nodded. “Thank you… Opie, Travis said your name was?”
“No, it’s Chris, but everyone calls me Opie. They say I look like the guy on The Andy Griffith Show.” Chris smiled. “I don’t mind. Hope you find your boyfriend.”
“Yeah, me, too. Thanks, Chris.” Jonathan turned away, rubbing his face with his hands, and welcoming the comfort Travis’ arm falling onto his shoulders brought. “When is this nightmare going to be over with?” he asked no-one.
“You have the power to change it, y’know.” Travis’ voice was low. “I’ve told you before you fellas could come stay with me.”
“I know.” Jonathan sniffled. “We may have to do that. I’ll let you know, man.”
Chad’s arm fell over Travis’ and he ruffled Jonathan’s hair. “Babe, why don’t I drive him home, and Bay can take you back to my house? I’ll meet you there, but I need to make sure Jonny gets home okay and I’ll be there to help him tell Abby what happened, too.”
“All right.” Travis pressed his forehead to Chad’s for a long minute before whirling to call out to Bailey, “Bay! Gimme a ride to Chad’s place?”
Jonathan watched his friend run over to Bailey’s truck and he asked Chad, “Do his or your parents know about you two yet?”
“Only people that know are you fellas, Amy and Bay.” Chad smiled tightly as they climbed into the truck. “And that’s ’cause you’re all the same as us.”
“Bay is gay?” Jonathan blinked. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yep. He’s got his eye on someone, but I ain’t got a clue who.” Chad turned over the engine, and paused to back safely out of the stall. “But he likes dudes.” Flashing a comforting smile at Jonathan, Chad murmured, “I think it’s normal for us all to be super-cautious about coming out. Watching what’s happened with you two, it’s taught us we ain’t always right about who to trust with our lovers’ identities.”
Who to trust indeed.
For most of the ride back from the drive-in, they listened to KSCS, a local country station, and most of what played was Garth Brooks and George Strait, with just a dash of Reba and Brooks & Dunn. Jonathan heard the music playing and his friend singing along, but other than the hand that moved between the gear shift and his own shoulder, Jonathan stayed lost in thought.
David, I hope you’re okay. God, please don’t have given him to me just to take him away. Please, please… I beg you. I beg you!
Before he knew it, they were walking up to his door, and Jonathan let himself inside, pulling the door shut after Chad. Turning the light on in the kitchen, he motioned for his friend to stay put and he let himself into his parents’ bedroom. Moving over to his mom’s side of the bed, he knelt down and lightly ran his fingers over her hand, whispering, “Mama?”
Lifting her head, she blinked sleepily. “Baby boy?”
“Mama, I gotta talk to you. It can’t wait.” Jonathan’s voice broke, though he tried hard to keep it steady.
“Okay, baby. Give me a minute to get my robe and I’ll come out to talk to you.” Abby reached back to pat Bill’s arm. “Billy, lemme up. Back in a minute, love.”
Jonathan hurried out of the room and whirled on his heel to lean against the kitchen counter. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he lifted a worried gaze to Chad. What if he kills him?
“Try calling him,” Chad suggested.
“At this hour? His phone ringing would cause a murder, and it’s likely been pulled from his room like mine was,” Jonathan answered, but he moved over to punch in the number. Putting the receiver to his ear, he sat down at the table and listened to it ring.
His parents’ bedroom door opened, and both his parents came out in their robes. Abby reached for Jonathan as he tried to call David a second time, and when he hung up after the fifth ring, he pushed his face into her shoulder and shook for a moment. Calm would not come, and when Jonathan lifted his face it was wet, his eyes glittering as he took them to his father’s worried set.
“I figured you already knew, ’cause you always do, but in the slim chance you don’t—” Sniffle. “—I went out with the team tonight and David went with us.” Sniffle. Bill blanched, shock clear in his features. Jonathan continued. “Jonah showed up. He grabbed Dave and they fought. No-one saw them leave and no-one can find Dave.”
“Perhaps the reason you can’t raise him on the phone is because Jonah did the same thing I did to affect the same conclusion—” Bill took a step towards Jonathan, who stepped back, steadied by Chad.
“Or perhaps the bruises he’s sported, sir, for the last six weeks, are soon to be worse. It ain’t fair or right, the way you two fathers are treatin’ your sons. Jesus always preached love and tolerance, not fear and anger. Even His rage in the temple was righteous, and he loved everyone, even the thief on the cross at the end.” Chad wrapped an arm around Jonathan’s shoulder. “But you know that, I know, because you’re a student of The Word. So check it out, and love your son, and when you get the chance to earn his forgiveness, I’d take it, were I you.” Pressing a kiss to Jonathan’s temple, he cupped his face, taking his gaze captive. “I’ma call you in the morning, and we’ll start looking at David’s house. Maybe your dad’s right and he’s just had his phone privileges revoked. Okay? Nothing else we can do tonight.”
“What if—?“ Jonathan started, his hands hooking on Chad’s forearms.
“Don’t bend your mind on it. You have to focus on the positive, Shea. Got it?” Chad smiled. “The other’ll drive you mad.”
Jonathan did not find an easy sleep. He dreamt the same dream sleep had given him for the last forty-one nights. He woke with the sharp lurch of his belly and he ran to the bathroom, losing the few contents he’d put in there the night before. He gave himself sixty seconds to lose his mind before he forcibly took hold of his emotions and shoved them down.
Tonight, in my mind, I became your husband and you became mine.
Amor meus in aeternum.
Babe, I’m going to marry you someday. I promise you. One day, I’m going to give you Shea.
Amor meus in aeternum.
I love you.
Jonathan washed his face and shaved, brushed his teeth and straightened the rat’s nest a disturbed sleep had made of his hair. Putting on clothes, he made his way out to the kitchen to find his father cooking breakfast. Jonathan glanced over at Cody, who gave a one-shouldered shrug in reply. Jonathan smiled at his little brother before turning to their dad and asking, “Would it be all right if I called David?”
“I still think you’ll meet the same—”
The phone rang, and Jonathan ran to it, checking the Caller ID to see Jonah Wolff above the Wolff home number. Grabbing it up, he answered breathlessly, “Hello?”
“Jonny?” Claire, David’s mother, and their champion, sounded worried. “Is he with you?”
Jonathan hit his knees. “No. I was just about—” He broke off, his heart pounding so hard in his chest, it hurt. “I was just about to call his phone, but when I did last night, it just rang off the hook.”
“That’s odd.” He heard Claire moving around, heard a door open, and then the sound of her forehead hitting the doorjamb. Her sigh had a hitch in it, and then she spoke again. “Jonny, his phone is gone. That’s why he didn’t answer, apart from never coming home last night.”
“He left during the movie to go to the restroom and the popcorn stand. He never came back and all of us looked everywhere.” His voice broke. “The guy at the concession stand said he argued and left with a guy in an army jacket, so I assumed Jonah came to get him when Eli told on us.”
“Eli?” Claire echoed. “That little shit!”
“Eli’s been keeping my dad informed, so I assumed he was telling Jonah, too,” Jonathan divulged. He didn’t come home. He didn’t come home! God, please, please let him be okay!
“All right. I’m grabbing my jacket and heading over to you—”
“And I’ll call the guys and get them here, too. We’ll start a search party,” Jonathan finished. “See you soon.”
Jonathan didn’t unleash his panic until the calls to their friends had been made. As soon as he hung up the phone, he ran to the bathroom and splashed water on his face. His insides roiled, but he kept himself in check, allowing himself only the time it took to slide down the door to the tile floor to freak out. Lifting his eyes to the sky he could see out the high window, he murmured, “All he’s ever done is love, Father. He loves and he sparkles and he holds to hope even when everything seems so hopeless! He’s a star in the night sky and the sun during the day. He’s warm and loving and, God, he’s wonderful! Please, please, send someone to keep him safe! Please, please, I beg of you!”
Knock on the door.
Getting to his feet, he shut off the light as he left the room, nodding as his mother told him Claire had arrived. Crossing the living room carpet, he threw himself bodily into her hug. Pulling back just as quickly, he nodded curtly. “We got work to do.”