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Chapter 1: New Beginnings
Heaven is an interesting place to be. It’s never the stereotypical image of clouds and angels that some people have. Although I do think that Heaven is a different place and a different experience for different people. For me it’s been reliving every single moment of my life, cherishing the happy times, and being grateful that the tough times have passed. If you can imagine it, it’s like spending the days watching reruns of your own life over and over again. There were so many great happy times in my life that overshadowed the darkness; I never get tired of going through it time after time. Of course, a lot of that happiness had to do with love. No, not any kind of love. I mean the soulful merging and partnership of two people joined into one. That’s what I had.
I was 21 the year that my soul started singing. It was the year in my life that everything started changing. On a surprisingly cool May morning, I was ready to graduate and receive my bachelor’s degree. Alright, alright, it was a degree in Biochemistry, which was more important to me than anything at the time since I had been accepted to Columbia Medical School in New York. How was I supposed to know what I would end up doing in life? Things never work out the way you plan them.
The dean called out, “Evan Thomas Alexander,” and I strode proudly across the stage, shook his hand, and flashed my best smile for the numerous cameras in the crowd that I knew my mother and my entire extended family had ready to capture this moment on film.
The rest of that day was simply a blur of family members smothering me in hugs and congratulations, endless amounts of food being shoveled into everyone’s mouth, and back at the hotel room that my Uncle James had rented, a lot of drinks for the adults. My older sister Maria flew in all the way from California. I knew she cared about me a lot, but sometimes she got to be a little bit of a pest.
“Evan, don’t you think you’ve had enough?”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head from side to side. Even in my drunken state, Maria found ways to piss me off.
“Look, Maria,” I slurred, “maybe YOU have had enough to drink, but I graduated today, my party is just getting started.” I poured myself another shot of vodka from my own 375mL bottle. The “Evan Special” is what I always called it.
“You know that’s ridiculous! I don’t drink! I know Mom and Uncle James went through a lot of trouble to have this party for you, but that doesn’t mean you should go around acting like a drunken ass.”
I started laughing uncontrollably at her. “Mare,” my insulting nickname for her, “you can do whatever you like. This is my party and I’m gonna get drunk if I want to.” Uncle James chose this exact moment to walk by. He clapped me on the back, ruffled my hair and said, “Good boy.”
Maria whirled on the ball of her foot and stomped off to her room in disgust. I assumed that she was going to take care of her three kids. That’s where her nickname came from. She was only 2 years older than me, but she had somehow managed to finish college and pump out three little monsters, all a testament to the good looks of their mother and father.
I must have passed out after a while of joking and laughing with my relatives because the next thing I knew, the party had died down and someone’s weight was lightly balanced on my legs.
Through my drunken haze, I titled my head forward and looked up at my girlfriend. I always wondered how I was lucky enough to get a girl like Jane. Calling her gorgeous didn’t do her justice. She had long auburn hair that she always wore straight down to the middle of her back. Her hazel eyes sparkled with warmth and compassion, the kind of eyes that your grandmother has that always send warm shivers up and down your back. That girl had a smile ready whenever you needed. And she was mine. I cooed and nuzzled my head into her lap as she softly stroked my curly black hair.
She rolled my head back a little so that she could look into my eyes. “Sweetie, you’re drunk, let’s get you to bed.”
She lifted herself off of me and helped me to my feet. I staggered and swayed to the hotel bedroom on the far side of the suite. Jane looped her arm around my waist and swung my left arm over her shoulders. She was a respectable height of 5’7”, but it must have been tough for her to guide my 6’2” frame to the room. Somehow she managed to do it though. She always did anything when she put her mind to it. I loved this girl. I fell into the bed, or maybe it was that she pushed me, and tried to undo the buckle on my belt. When I couldn’t do it after three tries or so, I fell back into a giggling heap on the bed. Jane calmly and patiently helped me get out of my pants and button down shirt. She pulled off my socks and boxers and slid my body under the covers.
I didn’t remember anything else until the next morning when the sun came in through the window and called me out of my sleep. I stirred, casino şirketleri turned over on my side, and opened my eyes to find two burning amber eyes staring at me.
“Hi.” I murmured.
“Hi, yourself,” she replied, smiling warmly at me.
“What time did you get in last night?” I adjusted myself so that I was more comfortable with my head propped up on my right hand.
She reached out and stroked my face as she talked. “Oh, around 12:15 or so. I kept trying to get here earlier, but every time I thought it was safe to leave, my mom would break down again. Laura and I had to try to calm her down until we finally resolved to give her a sedative that put her to bed. As soon as I could, I rushed up here to be with you. I’m only sorry that I couldn’t be at the graduation.”
I looked at her in disbelief. “Jane, baby, I understand why you couldn’t be there. Your dad just—”
“Fine. Your stepdad just died. It was important for you to be there for your mom and your family.”
She sighed deeply. “I know, but it’s not as if we were ever very close. You know how this feels, Evan. The same thing happened with you. Your mom drove your dad away when you were 5 years old, she got remarried twice and divorced twice, and you know that neither of those stepdads ever really cared anyway. You haven’t even talked to them since the divorces. Jim and I were never really close anyway. He married my mom while I was in college, so I only saw him for a few days at a time during the holidays, and we never developed any sort of bond other than the fact that we acknowledged that the other existed. So I hope you know that my boyfriend’s graduation is more important to me than the funeral of a man I hardly knew. I love you, Evan.”
I leaned over and kissed her softly on the lips. “I know you do.” However, in the back of my mind I always worried about Jane’s bitterness towards her family. She and her twin sister Laura had lost their father to a shooting that occurred when he tried unsuccessfully to break up a drug deal in Philadelphia, the city we all grew up in. After that, her mom went from guy to guy trying to replace Jane’s father, but neither Jane nor Laura ever let anyone else step in to take the place of their dad. Not even the slightest bit. I had a tough time with my family’s drama as well, but it never really got to me. Like Jane said, my mom drove my dad away and tried to substitute a father and husband in as quickly as possible. The sad part is that Maria and I knew we would never have to put up with her boyfriends and husbands for long. Deep down, we both knew that my mom still loved our dads and that no other men could fill those places in her heart. It’s just that my mother always had a way of driving away the ones she loved. Her boyfriends simply left after trying to measure up to her expectations; none of them could match our dads. In fact, my mother had a way of doing that with her whole family. Out of her 5 brothers and sisters, both of her parents, and her numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles, only Uncle James, Maria, and myself found a way to put up with her theatrics. The only reason that the rest of her family even showed up for my graduation was for me. They most certainly didn’t want to have to deal with my mother for longer than was necessary.
Jane stretched and yawned like a sleepy puppy. She sat up straight and smelled the air. “Smells like someone’s made breakfast. Want to see what’s cookin’?” She grinned.
“Uh huh. As soon as I get another one of these.” I sat up and kissed her again. I put a lot into that kiss, trying to let her know how much I loved her and how much I knew she was hurting even if she didn’t admit it. I broke away from her as I realized something. “You know, this is the first time we’ve slept in the same bed since we were kids.”
She rolled her eyes and groaned. “I know, I know. My mother would kill me if she saw me now. But you were so far gone last night that I was afraid to leave you. You were practically shivering when you went to bed. I wanted to warm you up if I could.”
Jane’s mom was devoutly Catholic, and even though Laura and Jane were not as into it as their mother, they still respected her wish that neither of them have sex or even sleep with a man until they were married. It didn’t matter when we were young and growing up and one of us would have to sleep in the other’s bed due to our refusal to have the other sleep on the floor, but as soon as Jane hit puberty, her mother put a stop to it. Of course, Jane had seen me naked before because we had been dating for 18 months. It was only natural that we had fooled around in that time, but we didn’t dare tell that to her mother. She was still a virgin, but I wasn’t, so certain pleasures couldn’t go unfulfilled. I never pushed her into it, but Jane loved me enough to know what I needed.
I hopped out of bed and fished out a fresh pair of boxers from my suitcase. I always had to sleep naked. Always. It was more comfortable casino firmaları that way and I certainly didn’t have anything to be ashamed of. Not to sound vain, but I was a good-looking man, and I knew it. I was bi-racial since my mother was white and from what I remember, my father was a black businessman that had moved to Philadelphia about nine months before I was born. I was 6’2”, 185lbs with short black curly hair, brown eyes, full lips, and a complexion that allowed me to look black, but I was light enough with primarily European features that allowed me to be able to convince some people that I was white with a heavy summer tan. Not that I needed to deny who I was anyway. I was proud of both of my parents’ heritage.
Jane climbed out of bed and slipped on a cotton robe over her nightgown. I have to admit that I was disappointed. It was my favorite nightgown for her to wear. It moved and hugged every single curve on her beautiful body, and she knew it. My God, that woman was a beauty.
It never bothered me that Jane and I didn’t have sex, but it did bother me that I wasn’t bothered by the fact that we weren’t having sex. I always brushed the thought away by telling myself that this was Jane and that we had been friends for so long and loved each other so much that sex wasn’t important. All the other girls that I had slept with in college were simply girls that I didn’t care about as much. Denial is an ugly thing.
I followed Jane into the kitchen where Maria was finishing off a room service breakfast. Four other plates of food were on a cart with fresh fruit and coffee. Jane helped herself to one of the plates, but I went over and hugged Maria.
“I’m sorry about last night,” I said as I kissed her cheek and pouted.
“You’re not getting out of this that easily, Buster. Go on.”
I took in a deep breath. “I’m sorry that I got drunk last night and set a bad example for your children. I was very excited about graduating from college and becoming ready to handle a lot of new responsibility in my life even though I didn’t behave responsibly. I didn’t mean to call you a mare because you have produced three wonderful children, not horses. And you are the most wonderful and fantastic sister in the world that anyone could ask for. How was that?” My chest heaved as I tried to take in a breath after saying all of that in one breath.
Maria stood up with her plate and returned the kiss I gave her. “That’s better,” she said, patting my cheek like a little boy. Her devilish side kicked in and she squeezed my cheeks together and in her best baby-talk said, “My little Evan is just growing up too fast. I have to make sure that he stays in line.”
I rubbed my cheeks and stuck my tongue out at her. As I walked over to get a plate for myself, Maria settled herself on one of the living room couches. I stuffed my face full of eggs and bacon as I talked to Maria between mouthfuls.
“So how is Mark doing?”
“He’s doing fine. He said that learning Japanese from a book and some audio tapes is completely different from being put in the middle of Tokyo and finding your way around. He seems to be enjoying himself in the time that the has between meetings.” She paused for a moment as she flipped through channels on TV. “The kids and I really miss him though.”
“He’ll be back in a week or so won’t he?” Jane asked.
Maria sighed. “Yes, if everything with the merger goes according to plan. He should be back around May 29th or so. It’s just that he’s already been gone for a week and a half. I miss him.”
Maria and Mark had gotten married right when she graduated from Brown University. They had their first baby, Joseph, five months after her graduation, and the twins, Daniel and Sara, eleven months after that. Now they all lived in L.A. where Mark’s company had moved him and Maria took care of the kids before she launched her own career. I really missed my sister. I secretly wished that Mark would have to move to New York so that I would get to see them whenever I wanted.
Maria noticed the thoughtful expression on my face. “Penny for your thoughts?”
“Hmm? Oh, it’s nothing.” I decided to change the subject rather than make her feel guilty about moving so far away from us. “Are Mom and Uncle James still asleep?”
“No. Uncle James wanted to give Mom something special, so he took her to Tiffany’s.”
“Isn’t she spoiled enough?” I groaned as Jane kicked my leg under the table and Maria gave me a disapproving glare.
“I think that it’s sweet that James still takes care of his little sister,” said Maria. “I know that when I’m older I expect you to buy me presents and take care of me.” She flashed me a smile and batted her blue eyes.
“You’re my older sister. You should be the one buying me gifts.”
“I’m sure we can overlook that minor detail when you’re rich and successful. It would be nice to have both my husband and my brother tending to my every need. Mark is going to buy me a Mercedes, güvenilir casino and I want you to buy me a Jaguar.”
“Keep dreaming,” I said. I cleared my plate and Jane’s from the table and put them back on the cart. Jane headed off to the bathroom and I plopped down on the couch next to my sister. I snuggled up next to her and put my head on her lap as she changed the channel to A Wedding Story.
“Oh, no!” I complained.
“Oh, yes! I got to the remote first. You just get to watch whatever I put on.”
At that moment, I heard crying sounds from Maria’s bedroom and the sound quickly doubled in volume. The twins were awake.
“Looks like the remote is mine. You’ve got baby duty.” I grinned and reached for the remote.
Nothing ever seemed to go my way though. Jane came out of the bathroom and said that she would be more than happy to handle the twins. She must have heard the argument Maria and I had because she smiled brilliantly at me as she walked into the bedroom.
“Ha!” Maria exclaimed. “I win!”
After a minute or so, little Joseph came out of the bedroom sleepily rubbing his eyes. He was always a quiet kid for his age. His mother called to him and he came to stand in front of the sofa. She carefully lifted him, and he cuddled against her side and fell fast asleep.
As the crying continued and Jane was occupied, Maria took the opportunity to interrogate me about our relationship.
“So, while we’re watching A Wedding Story,” she began, trying her best to be subtle, “when are you going to ask Jane to marry you?”
I knew this was coming. There was no way that it wasn’t coming. I had spent the better part of my weekend avoiding this question. Now I had to think of an excuse that would be good enough to satisfy Maria.
“Well, we’re awfully young. I thought that we should wait a little longer.” Yup. That was the best answer I could come up with. Pitiful isn’t it?
Maria shifted her legs so that I was looking right into her face. “Is that the best you can come up with? You are talking to the wrong person about getting married young. You’ll be 22 in three months. That’s how old I was when I got married, and Mark and I are doing just fine. Try again.”
I crinkled my face and frowned in an attempt to think of something else. “We haven’t had a chance to live together yet?”
Maria shook her head. “That’s never going to happen anyway. You know her mom won’t allow that until you’re married. That’s strike two.”
The crying from the bedroom began to die down, but that didn’t distract Maria. She kept her eyes locked on me the whole time.
“We haven’t established our careers and ourselves as individuals?” I suggested, knowing that I had lost.
To humor me, Maria actually pretended to turn this over in her head for awhile. “Well,” she said thoughtfully, “you’ve been friends since you were 9 years old, you went to separate colleges and only started dating each other a couple of years ago, and now you’re starting medical school here in New York while she continues to study architecture here in New York. I’d say that you’ve established yourselves separately and are pretty well-grounded for marriage. That’s strike three, Evan, so why don’t you tell me the real reason?”
I lifted my head and sighed. I had to tell someone, and it was going to be Maria one way or another. “I just don’t think that it’s going to work. I love Jane. I really do. But there just feels like there’s something missing from our relationship. It’s not sex or anything, but I don’t feel connected to her like I think I should be. She’s my best friend, but lately it feels like that’s been it. Our relationship isn’t really passionate, not that it was ever wild in the first place. I see the way that you and Mark still look at each other after being together for years, and I’m jealous. It doesn’t feel like the passion should have died already.”
I looked at her with a strange look on my face. She must have sensed my confusion because she continued.
“Well, I’ve been watching you two and talking to Jane, and it seems like the two of you are continuing this relationship out of duty. Her duty to her mother to be a good, Catholic wife, and your duty to be the sweetheart we all know you are and marry your best friend.”
“I hate it when you’re right,” I groaned as I collapsed back into her lap. “What am I going to do about this?”
The conversation was cut short as Jane came back into the living room cradling Sara in her arms.
“I’m sorry to break this up. I fed both of them and got Daniel back to sleep, but Sara keeps whimpering.”
I sat up as Maria stood up and took Sara from Jane. This meant that Joseph was without a pillow. He woke up and looked around to check where he was. After seeing his mother leave to take care of his sister, he moaned and whined and crawled into my lap to go back to sleep.
Jane sat down in one of the chairs opposite from the couch. She looked over at my little nephew coiled and lightly snoring in my lap and smiled. I smiled back and we sat in silence for about ten minutes. I guess Jane didn’t know how much of a sound sleeper Joseph was because the next time she spoke, she whispered.
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