Rupert’s Legacy 3
Philip must decide whether his memories of the past will keep him from love in the present.
Philip McBride is fresh out of the Army and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Before he can move on with his life, he needs to make peace with his past. Part of that past is his very first boyfriend who has died. Philip needs to talk to those were with him at the end, so he can ease his own guilt for not being there.
Carlos Mendoza meets Philip at Legacy House, where Carlos’s brother is a resident. While he’s dealing with the knowledge of his brother’s impending death, Carlos is also coming to love Philip.
Will he be able to accept Philip’s love without his brother there to support? Will Philip give up the past to make a new start with Carlos?
Doors slammed, and men shouted as the motel emptied. The men were soldiers, heading back to base after a three-day pass. They were going back to serve their country and maybe die for it.
Phillip lay on his bed, staring at the photo in his hand. At one time, he’d have been one of those soldiers. No more. He’d separated from the Army a month ago and had been getting his civilian life in order before making any other life-changing decisions. One thing he wanted to do was reconnect with the boy he’d left behind.
Joey Klein had been Phillip’s first love and his best friend. He always regretted leaving Joey, but as he’d tried to explain to Joey, there was nothing for him in the small town where they’d grown up.
He had listened to all of Joey’s suggestions on what they could do to stay together. Joey was on his way to NYU to study journalism, and Phillip had been so proud of him. One of Joey’s solutions was for Phillip to go with him, and they could be together as partners and lovers.
Unfortunately, there was nothing for Phillip in New York. He’d never liked school as much as Joey, and his family didn’t have the money to send him to college. The Army was the only option for him, and in many ways, it was the best thing he’d ever done. Yet it also turned out to be the worse choice he’d ever made as well.
Best, because Phillip had matured and grew into the man he’d always hoped he’d end up being, or at least, that was what his mother told him right before she died.
It’d been the worse decision as well, because he had to lie about who he was and whom he loved. Joey had written every month at the beginning, but his letters tapered off when Phillip rarely answered him. Finally, Joey stopped writing all together.
Phillip’d still been deployed when he decided to try to reconnect with Joey. It was time for Phillip to man up and admit to Joey he was wrong to cut him out of his life. Phillip wanted to see if they could at least be friends again. He’d called Joey’s parents back in Linwood to see if they could tell him where Joey was living.
He’d been shocked and saddened when Joey’s family told him he’d died at Christmas the year before. It hurt to know that Joey wasn’t in the world any more, even if they hadn’t been in touch for years. He’d offered them his condolences, but they told him Joey got what he deserved by dying of AIDS, and they had no idea where their son was buried.
If such hatred from a couple he’d always considered a second family hurt him, he could only imagine how Joey had felt. He’d managed to get information about where Joey had spent his last days. After calling the Legacy House, which was a hospice for AIDS patients, he’d ended up talking to both Tavis Komen and Hal Sims, the men who ran the hospice. Each one of them spoke of Joey fondly, and it gave Phillip a small measure of comfort to know his friend hadn’t been totally alone at the end of his life.
Their caring plus his need to know what Joey’s life had been like after they lost contact was what drove him to head up to New York and visit the hospice where Joey died.
A knock sounded on his door, drawing a frown from him. Phillip set the photo on the nightstand before going to see who knocked. He opened the door, and smiled at the thin red-haired woman standing there.
“Lisa, what the hell are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be headed back to base?” He leaned his shoulder against the doorframe, crossing his arms.
“Yes, Sarge, but I thought I’d come say good-bye. I heard you’re heading up north, now that you’re a civilian.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I have unfinished business up there. Need to take care of it before I can move on.”
“Does it have anything to do with the guy in that photo you carried in your pocket?” She motioned toward the picture lying on the table.
Phillip cleared his throat. Joey wasn’t someone he talked about with anyone, but it didn’t matter now. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell had been repealed, so if he admitted to being gay, he wouldn’t have to worry about getting discharged. Of course, it really didn’t matter since he was no longer in the military.
“It’s okay, you know.”
“What’s okay?” He frowned.
“Is he your boyfriend?” Lisa looked curious, but that was all.
“He used to be.” Phillip stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of his room.
Lisa moved to stand beside him, her hands in her pockets. “Are you going to see him? Maybe you can get back together.”
Sadness filled his head. “I wish we could, but Joey died last Christmas Eve.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Lisa reached out and laid her hand on his arm. “Is that why you decided not to reenlist?”
“It’s part of it. I’m tired, Lisa. I’m thirty years old, and while I’m proud of my service, I want something different. If I ever got lucky and found someone to love like Joey, I don’t want to put him through what military families deal with.” He patted her hand.
She frowned. “If he’s gone, why are you heading to New York? Aren’t you from Michigan?”
Maybe he should be annoyed by her personal questions, but it was the first time he’d ever felt safe discussing his past.
“I’m from Linwood. It’s a small town in Michigan. Joey and I grew up there, and he was my first and only boyfriend. When we graduated, I joined the Army, and Joey headed off to NYU. I’m going to there to talk to people who were with him when he died.”
He wasn’t going into detail about Joey. His friend’s life was no one else’s business.
A car pulled up in front of them, and a young soldier waved at Lisa.
“I see your ride’s here. Take care of yourself, and stay safe. It was good serving with you the last two years.”
She surprised him with a hug.
“I learned a lot from you, Sarge. I hope you find what you’re looking for up North.”
Phillip patted Lisa’s shoulder, and stepping back, he watched her climb in the car.
After they left, Phillip went back inside and sat on the edge of the bed. He was leaving in a little while to drive up to New York. He needed to call Tavis Komen at Legacy House and let him know when he’d be getting in.
Phillip picked up his phone and dialed the number Komen had given him. He stared at the wall across from him, waiting for someone to answer.
“Komen.” A deep drawling voice came over the phone.
“Hello, Mr. Komen, this Phillip McBride. I’m Joey’s friend.”
“I remember. How are you?” Tavis sounded glad to hear from him.
“I’m well. I wanted to let you know I’ll be arriving at Legacy House on Friday.” He cleared his throat. “I wondered if you could recommend a hotel close to your place.”
Tavis laughed. “Don’t worry about finding a place to stay. We have cabins on the property for visiting family and others. Hal’s having the cleaning crew set one up for you.”
Unexpected tears welled up in Phillip’s eyes at Tavis’s kindness. “I appreciate it.”
“No problem, man. You’re a veteran, and you deserve to be treated well for risking your life for us. Also, you were Joey’s friend and the only one who cared enough to come to see us.”
Emotion colored Tavis’s voice, and Phillip could tell how much Joey meant to the other man.
“Joey’s family never came to get his stuff?” He frowned.
“No. They never once came to visit him after he moved into Legacy.”
Disgust grew in Phillip’s stomach. God, what kind of family just abandoned a member when they got sick? His own family hadn’t been happy when he came out, but they didn’t turn their backs on him. His mother admitted to being disappointed and worried. Disappointed because she wanted grandchildren and a daughter-in-law. Worried because she understood that, while society was getting more accepting of people who were different in some way, there was still a certain amount of danger to being gay in America.
Phillip appreciated her concerns, and he understood how she felt, but he wasn’t going back into the closet just for her. He’d spent so much time hiding who he was, and he didn’t want to feel ashamed of who he was.
Tavis speaking his name brought him back to what he was doing.
“Oh sorry. Just got thinking about something else. I’ve been kicking myself about not coming to see Joey. We lost touch when I enlisted, and it was my fault. I couldn’t deal with all the secrecy.” He sighed. “That really isn’t an excuse. I accept my responsibility, and unfortunately, it’s too little too late, I’m afraid.”
“But you’re coming now, and I think Joey would have understood. He told me about you,” Tavis admitted.
Phillip tensed. “He did?”
“Yes.” Tavis laughed. “Don’t worry, he didn’t reveal any secrets or too many personal details. He just wanted to talk about the good memories he had of you and his life.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. He’d hoped Joey hadn’t hated him for what he’d done.
“I plan on staying for a while, Mr. Komen. I don’t really have anywhere to be. My family’s gone, except for a few distant relatives. I still have some decisions to make until I’m satisfied with my future.”
“It’ll be okay. In fact, we might have some work around the hospice, if you don’t mind doing some fixing up. Our handyman quit last week, and there are a few things around here that are could use some TLC.”
Phillip thought about it for a moment. “I guess I could give it a try. I’m pretty handy with tools, and maybe I could look into a college or something nearby. I only have a few more classes to take before I get my Master’s in Social Work.” He hadn’t been interested in going to college when he joined the Army, but after a year or two, he’d decided to take classes and found out that school wasn’t too bad after all.
“I’ll have my secretary look into that for you. I’m sure there’s something close by for you.”
“Thanks. I need to head out. I’ll be seeing you in five days. I’m taking my time getting up to you, seeing a bit of the country that I haven’t had a chance to see.”
“Sounds great. Just give me a call right before you arrive, and I’ll make sure someone’s around to show you to your cabin.”
They said good-bye, and Phillip hung up. He traded the phone for the photograph and stared at Joey’s image one last time before putting it away in his wallet.
After grabbing his helmet and duffle bag, Phillip left his off-base hotel room then attached the bag to his bike. He hung his helmet on the handlebars and went to check out. Once that was taken care of, he went to his bike and straddled it.
Helmet on, he started his bike before pulling out of the parking lot. He glanced once in direction of the base, and homesickness waved over him. For twelve years of his life, a military base had been his home, and the men and women living on them had been his family.
No more. From this moment on, he’d have to find a new family and a new home. As soon as he got on the road and headed north, he’d never be able to return to the easy camaraderie of his fellow soldiers. Phillip let the feelings flow over him until it disappeared.
None of it mattered any more. It was time to create a new reality for himself, one where he could be out and proud and not worry about losing his job or getting beat up by ignorant people who didn’t understand that being gay wasn’t something that could be caught like a cold or a virus.
Phillip revved his engine then took off in the direction of the highway. It would be fun to do as he please and not really have anywhere to be. Sure, he was due in New York by Friday, but he had five days to get there. It wouldn’t take him anywhere near that long, if he were to drive straight through.
He wasn’t planning on doing that. There were a few places he wanted to stop at on his trip. Phillip hit the highway and opened the motorcycle up. It was time to get on with his life.