The Burning of a Dream

Ben and I arrived at the shop. The whole place was engulfed in flames and the Mayor was standing next the Sheriff. A smug look decorated his features and at that point, I wanted nothing more than to break his nose. I’ve never broken anyone’s nose before. I stood there, shaking with anger at him when the Sheriff came up to me. I didn’t hear him talking to me until Ben pulled me around so I couldn’t see the Mayor anymore. It turns out I was making every car in the parking lot shake and the metal groan. If Ben hadn’t pulled me around, I might have totally lost my temper. I owe him for that.

“Marlowe, I’m sorry.” The Sheriff said.

I shook my head at him. “Not your fault.”

“It kind of is. We released Steve this morning on bail. His father put up the money.”

I sighed and leaned in to Ben, laying my head on his chest.

“Did he do this?”

The Sheriff nodded. “There was a note in spray paint in the office before it went up. The firefighters who went in saw it on the wall.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I was so upset, angry, distraught that I couldn’t find the words. So I nodded.

“Was he still here when you arrived?” Ben asked.

The Sheriff shook his head. “I’ve got patrol officers looking for him, but we haven’t found him yet.”

I finally spoke up and looked the Sheriff in the eye. “Eric, I want to take out a restraining order on him and his entire family. I don’t want them near my place of business, my home or within one hundred and fifty yards of me.”

The Sheriff sighed. “I thought that’s what you’d want. I’ll have the paperwork for you in the morning.”

I nodded at him. “That family picked  the wrong person to bully. I will not be cowed.”

Ben ran his hand over my back and I could feel it through my coat. I buried my face in to his chest to steady myself.

“I’m going to talk with the lawyers after the holiday about all of this, see what they have to say.” I said to Ben.

Ben sighed. “Okay. I’m with you, whatever comes our way.”

I nodded. “I want out of here. Eric, do you need us here?”

The Sheriff shook his head. “No. You can go. I’ll send the Mayor away, make sure that he doesn’t come near you or the house.”

“Miles, Mark, Miss Maggie and Murphy are on that list as well. They will not be harmed because they’re family.” Ben said before I could.

“You’re still coming for Thanksgiving, right?” I asked the Sheriff. He nodded. “Good. We’ll save you a place. The Twins and your sister-in-law too.”

“She’s going back home. The Twins are too much for her.” The Sheriff said with a small smile.

I smiled back at him. There were four of us in the house and they wore us all out. Ben tugged on my shoulders and we walked together back to his car. We got inside and with one last look at my shop, left the yard and headed home.

“Tell me what’s going on inside that head of yours.” Ben said as he picked up my hand.

I was embarrassed that it was shaking. “I wanted to kill him tonight. drive a hunk of metal straight through his black heart and leave him there.”

Ben jolted at my tone and sighed. “Vengeance gets you no where, habibi.”

“I know that. I didn’t do it, did I? But I wanted to.” I gripped his hand tight and looked up at him. “Will you marry me?”

Ben nearly ran off the road. He brought the car back under control and looked at me. “You couldn’t wait four more days?”

I laughed. “No.”

Ben huffed. “I had it all planned for Thursday and you go and do this while you’re all keyed up and angry.”

I smiled up at him. “I’m angry, yes. I no longer want to kill him though. I want to marry you and give him a the finger by living happily together.”

Ben tapped his fingers on the wheel as he looked at me. “No.”

My face fell and I looked down at my seat. “Oh. Okay.”

“You’re not understanding me. No, I’m not living happily with you just to give him the finger. I want to live happily with you because you want to live with me. You’re it, Marlowe. There’s been no one else I love as much as I love you.”

I was shocked. I looked up at him.

“So my answer is no. Not until its me you want. I won’t put up with being someone’s revenge goal.”

He started the car and we headed for home. I sat in the seat looking at him, heart hurting. I’d fucked up.

“I love you.” I said to him as we pulled in to the driveway.

“I love you, Marlowe. I always will.” Ben said as he pulled in to the garage and got out.

I sat in my seat a while longer, thinking. Ben opened up my door for me and grabbed my hand, pulling me out of the car. I made frustrated noises because I’d forgotten to take the seat belt off. While I fiddled with getting the belt off, Ben knelt next to the car. When I’d gotten it undone and swung my legs out of the car, Ben moved between them and cupped my face in his hands.

“I need to know, right now, why you’re in this relationship, because if it’s just for giving that man the finger, I want out.”

It hurt to hear him say it, but I understood why. I’d been so infuriated by that man I’d made a stupid mistake. I looked him in the eye and there were tears in my eyes. My own soon filled. I leaned forward and laid my forehead against his.

“I love you.” My voice was raw and heavy with the tears that I wanted to let out, but I couldn’t just yet. “Just you. No one else. I was angry earlier and I let it fuel my words. I’m sorry.”

Ben kissed me, but stayed silent.

“There won’t be anyone but you. I can’t promise eternity, but I can promise my life. As long as I’m with you, there will be no one else.” I opened my eyes and looked in to his again.

Ben’s eyes were closed. The tears I didn’t want to let come were over flowing and I couldn’t stop them. When he finally opened his eyes and then spoke, his voice was very raw and he croaked out the words to me.

“I’m not going to ask you yet. We need to put some time in between tonight and what happened, but I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me.” With that Ben kissed me and dragged me up and out of the car. He closed and locked it, reached for my hand and linked my fingers with his. Together we walked in to the house to face the questions that would be coming from all members of the house. Even the dogs.

It didn’t really matter if their question was “Hey, you gonna feed me?”

-Marlowe.

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The Second Week Begins

So Friday night was great. Everyone went to bed happy. The weekend was even better. There was laughter and happiness all around.

It wouldn’t last. Ben’s father showed up on Monday. I guess we were all expecting it because no one was really surprised when he showed up at dawn. The castle wasn’t too happy about the interloper though, so Ben’s father had his first experience with being hated by what he thought was an inanimate object.

The castle caged him, quite literally, in the front hall. We got up to the shouting of Miles telling us to get our butts downstairs that we had company. Ben and I dragged ourselves out of bed and didn’t bother getting dressed, just tossed on robes and slippers. Bleary-eyed, we stumbled in to the front hall only to be greeted by a rush of expletives in Arabic. I flinched and made the bars rattle. He went silent.

“Dad, what are you doing here?” Ben asked softly.

“What do you mean? I’m here because my ex-wife invited me for Thanksgiving.” He said as he pointed at Jude.

I sighed. Here we go. I turned on my heel and went to make coffee and find the aspirin. I wasn’t facing that mess until I’d had both. It was a little selfish to bail on Ben and Jude, but the longer I was around that man, the stronger the urge to slap him. I came back in to the hallway with mugs of coffee in both hands and the aspirin bottle in my pocket. I passed out the coffee as they were arguing in Arabic and leaned against the wall.

I waited for the right time. Just as Ben’s father was getting puffed up to continue yelling at his son, I put my coffee down on the side table and allowed my eyes to turn silver. I stepped up to the bars and placed my hand on them. They vibrated under my control and the shouting stopped.

“You are a guest in our home. Ben and I will not tolerate your disrespectful behavior. He was a good man and beside him, you’re very small.” I said, lowering my voice and staring directly in to his eyes. He backed away from the bars.

“You’re another freak like my son.”

“And happy to be one. I’ve made my peace with who I am. I’m sorry that you haven’t.” I replied. “You’re welcome to stay, but you will be respectful in this house or you can leave.”

I turned my eyes back to their natural shade as Ben’s father stared in to them. I smiled up at him, slowly and with all the coldness I could muster. Ben placed his hand on my shoulder and I stepped back from the bars. Wrapping his arm around my waist, Ben stood next to me.

“You’ll do as she says. She speaks for us both on this matter.” He said and he pulled his mother in on the other side. “I do still care about what happens to you, Dad. You don’t have to leave, but you will not bully anyone inside of this house. We’re a family, all of us.”

Mark and Miles stepped up on either side of the trio we had going and I watched Ben’s fathers eyes dart back and forth between us all.

“In spite of everything that happened Mo, I do still love you and I’d like you to be a part of Thanksgiving. But what happened is in the past. If you can’t let go of it, please go.”

I could see the man in the cage seething. He clearly wanted to be in control of the whole thing. I felt sorry for him because it just wasn’t going to happen.

“Okay. I’ll do my best.”

I looked up at Ben. “It’s up to you, if that’s good enough.”

Ben nodded. “I believe he’ll try. Let him out.”

I nodded and held up a hand, the bars rattled and shook, then vanished back in to the floor. His father’s eyes widened as he saw what happened.

“What are you?”

“No one to be messed with.” I said as I picked up my coffee and took a sip. “I’m going to go get dressed. I still think I have some of the sausage from the other day. Does anyone want eggs with it?”

I didn’t bother sticking around, I walked back upstairs and got ready for the day. I had no doubts that this week was going to be a week of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I could feel it in the air. Ben could too because when he came in to the bathroom while I was pulling on a sweater, he scooped me up and carried me to a chair. Flopping down with me in the chair, he kissed me and then cuddled me close.

“Can we just run away? I hear the Bahamas are great this time of year.” He said.

I smiled and kissed him. “Nope. We’re stuck. The best we can do is make sure your Mom and Dad don’t kill each other.”

“I think he’s already afraid of you. I’ve never seen your eyes turn that color unless we’re in bed together.”

“It’s my natural eye color and I can’t control it when I’m with you in bed.” I murmured and kissed him again.

“This pleases me.” He said and I laughed, punched his shoulder.

We cuddled in the chair until the light from the sunrise let us know that the day would start whether we’d like it  to or not. With a sigh I reluctantly got up.

“Who’s turn is it for dinner?”

“Mine. I started it last night, in the slow cooker. We’re having pot roast.”

“Your pot roast is better than mine, which isn’t fair.” I said.

Ben laughed. “I had to keep myself from starving when I got here and Murphy taught me to cook.”

That was new. I didn’t know that. “Interesting. I wonder if she’d part with her recipe for her sugar cookies.”

“You don’t have to ask. I already have it.” Ben said as he got up and started stripping for the shower. I stared at his behind and sighed. I really liked that man’s ass. Ben heard my sigh and shook his butt at me. I laughed and threw a used towel at him and he started laughing.

“You’re lucky I’m already dressed.” I said.

“Letch. Come scandalize me.” He replied.

“I wish, but there’s breakfast to be made and it’s my turn.”

“Miles and Mark took it. Gonna join me now?”

I didn’t have to think about it long. I shucked my sweater. “Yep.”

An hour later we were downstairs and laughing like a couple of teenagers as we walked in to the kitchen. There were four people in the room and the silence was deafening. Ben and I shrugged and made enough noise for those four people until they joined in. We talked about when to get the tree for our first Christmas together and what time we all wanted to eat on Thanksgiving. Only Jude and Ben’s father remained silent. When breakfast was done, Ben and I stood at the sink doing the dishes while Mark sat at the kitchen table making notes about Thanksgiving dinner. We were going to go get everything that day. Jude came in and took a look at the list.

“I’d like to add a couple of things, if I may?”

“Go for it, that’s not a complete list anyway. Most likely when we get to the store it’ll be bigger. There’s about,” I paused because I didn’t know how many people were coming. “Well I don’t know how many people are coming, so we’re planning on turkey and trimmings for at least twenty people.”

Ben snorted. “You seriously under-estimate our friends. We should plan on at least thirty.”

I thought about it and decided he was right. “Thirty then.”

Ben’s mother looked at us and shook her head. “You two have built something I’d call amazing. What time are we leaving for the store?”

“As soon as Mark says ‘Enough! That’s enough food!’ but it hasn’t happened yet.”

“It’s bigger than the cookout we threw back in the summer. Even I’m not sure there will be enough food.”

I paused for a second then turned to Mark. “Who exactly volunteered us for this year?”

Ben snorted. “Grandma Murphy. She opened her mouth and pretty soon my phone was bombed with acceptances.”

I groaned. That woman was going to be the death of me. Ben and I finished the dishes just as Miles came back in, followed by Ben’s father.

“So when are we leaving?” Miles said as he rubbed a towel over his hair.

“Leaving? You’re all leaving?”

“Yep and so are you. If you’re going to be here, you participate.” I said as I dried off my hands and handed the towel to Ben so he could do the same.

“We leave as soon as Mark has finished getting ready to go.” Ben said. “We won’t be back for at least three or four hours. There’s a lot of errands to run and since Marlowe has the only 4 wheel drive car, everyone goes.”

“Ben there’s six of us now. We’re going to have to split up.”

“I rented a Land Rover, yesterday. We can take the rental.” Jude said.

I nodded. “I like that idea. We’ll drive, everyone else rides. Ben go with your mother and Mark. Miles and Me with your father in my car. Everyone happy?” There was a round of nods. “Good. Mark, go shower, we’ll finish up the list while you’re gone.”

Mark got up and left and I sat down and took over. His neat and precise handwriting stared back at me. “This list is.. extensive. We’re going to have to start the night before if we’re going to make all of this.”

I looked up at Ben and passed him the list. We bickered back and forth, good-natured name-calling with Miles about whose best at making what. When Mark walked in, he joined in and took over the list again. Soon he said enough and we all got ready for the trip outside. This included letting the dogs out so they could go to the bathroom. When they came back in, we left.

Getting in to our separate cars, Ben’s father sat up front with me and Miles got in to the backseat. As I started the car I hear him clear his throat.

“Yes?” I said.

“Why’d you see to it that I was in the car with you?”

“I’ll not have Ben upset. Thursday is important to him and you will not upset him.” I said looking over at him.

“What makes your think I’m going to upset him?”

“Your very presence upsets him. The two of you didn’t part kindly. I mean it when I say I won’t have him upset. You upset him and I’ll make you bleed.”

Ben’s father went quiet as we drove in to town. “You love him.”

“More than I ever imagined I would love anyone. Do not upset him.” I said as I parked the car at the grocery store and hopped out. I waited for Ben to get out of the car and arm in arm, we walked in to get the things needed for Thursday.

We walked out again an hour later after bickering over nearly everything on the list. What to get, how much to get and how much we were paying were the biggest ones. When Ben scooped up a lamb shank and other items for his father that was halal, I said nothing. I figured if doing that meant there was no arguments on Thursday or getting to Thanksgiving, we’d be okay.

We were on our way home when I got the phone call that my shop had been broken in to. I dropped everyone off at the castle and sped back over with Ben. We got there just in time to see the whole shop go up in flames.

-Marlowe

End of the First Week With the Parents, Part 3

I slept in the dungeon with Ben and my boys that night and woke up surrounded by naked men. I started laughing, that’s what woke up the others.

“Why’s she laughing?” Mark asked Miles.

I was in tears from laughing so hard. Ben just looked at me like I was insane.

I hiccupped my way through an explanation: “Bad porn movie.”

That set the rest of them off. We sat there for what must have been twenty minutes just laughing.

“Come on, the lot of you. Get up. I don’t want Ben’s mother coming down here and finding you all naked. Not good for first meetings.” I said as I stood up and reached over to the stack over towels that we kept down there for full moon nights. I passed them out and watched Miles and Mark leave.

“Oh, Marlowe?” Miles said.

“Yes, Miles?”

He threw the vest and bow tie at me. “You ever pull that crap again I’ll shred you. You should know pink isn’t my color.”

I watched him sail out of the room as only a miffed gay man could. I dissolved in to laughter again and Ben followed me.

“You didn’t really put that on him, did you?”

I nodded. “Yes and your mother helped.” I started laughing again.

Ben gaped at me. “Oh that’s brilliant.”

“I know.” I said as I calmed down and wiped the tears from my eyes.

Ben grabbed my hand and pulled me close. I stood up on my tiptoes and kissed him. “Shower?” I murmured.

“Shower. Then greetings to my mother. I need you first though.” He said as he secured the towel around his waist and hauled me up.

“You have this need to carry me, don’t you?” I asked him as we made our way out of the door and up the stairs.

“You’re not getting away from me, Oberly. I carry you so you can’t run.”

I kissed him again. “I’m not going anywhere.”

We were up the stairs without seeing anyone and back downstairs for breakfast in less than 90 minutes. The scene in the kitchen when his mother walked in was priceless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man that large, cry that hard. It was something I’ll never forget. I might have started crying and been hugged by Miles when he walked in and saw what was going on. There might have been enough tears in the room to make Alice jealous.

I couldn’t sit there and cry any longer, so I got up and started making breakfast while they were catching up. I had beef sausage frying when Ben finally pulled himself away from his mother. He came over and kissed my neck. I laughed and pushed him off.

“Sausage thief.”

He laughed and his mother joined him.

“You are so my child.”

Ben grinned at her and stole another piece of sausage patty when I wasn’t looking.

“You’re going to be dead if you steal another one.” I slapped his hand when he tried again and he looked offended.

Miles and his mom just laughed at him.

“She warned you.” Miles said as he sipped his coffee.

I took a good look at his outfit today and laughed. “I thought you said pink wasn’t your color, Miles.”

Jude caught on and started laughing. His shirt was pink and he was wearing a light blue tie. Miles just winked at us both. Mark walked in and Jude went over to hug him. What ever was said, I couldn’t hear, but Mark smiled and kissed her cheek.

I slid Ben’s plate in front of him when the eggs were done and murmured in to his ear that we needed to talk later. Ben nodded and tucked in to his breakfast. Soon the whole kitchen was in want for a lack of noise as it was filled with the goings on of a reunited family breakfast. We got the whole story of the time Ben went spying on their Jewish neighbor because he was convinced she was a witch who could talk to animals. She couldn’t, but Ben could. So when he tripped over a brick and landed face first in her garden, it was an interesting when he was able to tell her dog not to kill him. That lead to a lot of teasing at the table and a red face for Ben. It was adorable.

Ben had taken the day off so he was in charge of dishes while I went upstairs to change for work. I had a 1968 Impala coming in to the garage that I was itching to get my hands on. I was out the door in less than an hour and at the shop to open for the day. When I got there though, the Sheriff was waiting for me with Steve’s father. That pissed me off. He was supposed to be staying away from me and my place of business. I was finally getting the chance to reopen since his idiot son’s plan to kill me. I pulled the car in to the lot and parked it, got out and walked over to the Sheriff, completely ignoring the pompous ass.

“Good morning, Sheriff. Any news on my shop?”

Sheriff Stiers smiled at me. “As a matter of fact, I do.” He tossed the keys to me. “You’re all set to open up this morning and I need my cruiser’s break pads changed. They’re starting to squeal.”

“Happy to help the BPD, Sheriff.” I  smiled as I tucked the keys into my pocket.

I could see the Mayor out of the corner of my eye getting even more pissed off the longer I talked to just the Sheriff. Good. I was still supremely pissed and I wanted him to suffer. However, the Sheriff changed things when he spoke to the Mayor.

“You had a few words to say to the victim, Mayor.”

“Hello, Mayor Miller. I trust you’re well?” I said as politely as I could. I couldn’t help the tone of ‘fuck you, old man’ that managed to sneak in to my tone.

“Very well, thank you. I’m sorry to hear about your shop and the troubles you experienced here last week.”

“Thank you for your kind thoughts, Mayor. I’m sure my attacker will get justice done to him.” I immensely enjoyed the bright shade of purple that came over the man’s face.

“I’m sure it will be fair.”

“Oh, I hardly think it will be fair in this town. That’s why I had my lawyer issue papers last Friday to move the arraignment and trial down to Goose Creek.” I said.

When the Mayor’s mouth started moving like a guppy and no words came out, I enjoyed the fight that took place on his face. Whether to respond to me as the Mayor, or as the father of my assailant. The Mayor side won, which was a pity because I would have enjoyed the shouting match that would have happened.

“I’m sure you’ll get fair and swift justice, then.” He said. “I must be going. I hope you have a good day.”

“and to you as well, Mayor Miller.” I replied.

I watched the man get in to his car and drive off. Then I lost it and the Sheriff joined in with me.

“Oh, I don’t ever think I’ve seen that man, that pissed off.”

“I have and the show that’s going to happen down at the court house is going to be something I’m sorry I’m going to miss.”

“It’s a good thing I didn’t file the  papers there, but in the federal court down in Goose Neck.” I said as I tried to regain my composure.

“You did what? I thought you were joking.”

“I’m not. I’m going to put that man in his place. It’s long past time someone did and I’ve had enough of him. He may be a damn good Mayor, but he’s shit with everything else.”

“Be careful, Marlowe. He’s not know to be forgiving.”

“Neither am I, Eric. That man is going down.” I pulled the keys back out of my pocket and jingled them. “Now, about your cruiser,”

“All right, all right. It’s all yours.” He said.

Three hours later the Sheriff was on his way with a full set of brake pads, new spark plugs, new oil filter, oil change and his tires changed over from summer to winter radials. I was just starting to think about the Impala that would be coming in when the Mayor charged back in to the yard. I immediately picked up the phone and told the Sheriff, then stepped out to greet the Mayor. I was thankful I had the common sense to have a video surveillance system installed after the incident with Steve. I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.

“You bitch!” He shouted as soon as he stepped out of the car.

I stayed where I knew the cameras would pick up everything. I’m not stupid and he knew it, which is why he surprised me when he slapped me.

“You filed them in FEDERAL COURT?” Mayor Miller shouted. “Are you insane?”

“Not insane, Mayor. Pissed off. Your son assaulted me. I wasn’t going to make it easy on you to get him pleaded out to a lesser charge. Your son committed a feral crime.” I said back, biting off my words because I was trying my hardest not to hit him back.

When the Sheriff pulled back into the yard, I stepped back from him and behind the door to my shop. I locked the door before he could follow me inside and busied myself with the tape of what just happened. I watched the Sheriff through the glass door as he argued with the Mayor. I wiggled the DVD case at him when he looked at me. He nodded and motioned for me to wait. I waited until the Mayor was done shouting at him and then pulled the recording of the last hour, burning it to a DVD. I let the Sheriff take photos of my face, which was still red from where he slapped me.

“That’s going to bruise, Marlowe.”

“I hope it does. More evidence.”

“You’re falling in to their trouble.”

“All I did was move here, Eric. They started it, I’m just going to finish it.” I said firmly.

The Sheriff stepped close and dropped his voice. “Do us all a favor and don’t get killed in the process. You’re not the only one in this town that has power.”

I dropped mine and let my eyes go silver as I stared at him. “No one knows just how much power I have, Eric. Not even you or Ben.”

I forced my eyes to go back to normal as he stared.

“You,” He paused. “are trouble.”

I laughed. “Possibly.”

He stepped back with DVD case I handed him.

“I’ll be down after work to sign the papers, Sheriff.”

The Sheriff nodded at me as he strode off and put the Mayor in his car. Front seat, of course. I shook my head and went back to work. Today had given me a headache and it wasn’t over yet. I waved at Miles as he drove by, his eyes were huge. Well that takes care of one problem, I thought.

I worked straight through the day, went and signed the papers and made my way home. Ben met me at the door and got a look at my face.

“Miles called. He was driving by when it happened. Why didn’t you call me?!”

“I called the Sheriff. He wasn’t that far away and was there in five minutes. I signed the papers, he’s got an assault charge on him now.” I pushed my way in to Ben’s arms and sighed.

Ben kissed my hair and held me close. “I was worried.”

“I know. I saw Miles drive by and knew he’d tell you. That’s why I didn’t bother to call, Miles is a one man gossip network.”

Ben kissed my hair again. “He is, but you still should have called me.”

I didn’t want to fight about something this dumb. I knew where he was coming from. “All right, so long as your promise that the next time George sends your for stitches, you’re calling me and not James to come get you.”

I felt Ben flinch at that one and I smiled. “Two can play the ‘you need to call me’ card, Ben.”

I pulled back and looked up. He smiled and bent to kiss me.

“All right. No more calling anyone else. We call each other first.”

“Deal.” I said and I kissed him again. “I made breakfast, who’d got dinner? I’m starving.”

“My mother cooked.”

“Oh did she now? I said as I shed my coat. It was cold as hell outside. “Lets go eat. I can’t wait to try what she’s made.”

I hooked my arm in his and we walked in to the kitchen.

-Marlowe.