A New Normal
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by William Neale
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: Former Marine Corps Major Jake Vincenzo had a plan.He was convinced that his son Mark and his long-time best friend Cade were in love but just didn't know it. Forced for years to hide his own gayness, Jake had kept a secret getaway -- a remote mountain cabin -- where he now intended to play matchmaker for the two nineteen year-olds. What he didn't count on was falling in love with Cade. How will the three navigate the minefields of potential hurt, jealousy and even betrayal? How will father and son maintain their close relationship without viewing each other as rivals? And how will Cade reconcile falling in love with the two most important men in his life against the backdrop of a disapproving family? For each, it means redefining normal. It means finding a new normal.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: June 2011
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [313 KB]
Reading time: 204-285 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Major Jake Vincenzo honked his truck's horn at eight a.m. on Friday. Up since five in anticipation, Cade was ready and out the door.
He felt terrible that Mark, his best friend and Jake's son, wasn't going with them. Months ago the Major had promised both guys this adventure as a high school graduation present. That had been the plan. But after Mark's major screw-up, his dad prohibited him from joining them -- both as punishment and life lesson. Despite this, Mark's father insisted on keeping his word to Cade.
"Mornin', Major," Cade offered a perfect-form Marine salute and grinned, tossing his duffel bag in the back of the truck and hopping into the passenger side. "Sir -- Private Cayden Harris reporting for duty, Sir!"
"At ease, grunt, and good morning," he smiled, reaching to shake Cade's hand. "Looks like somebody's a bit gung ho to go this morning."
"Yeah, Major, I am a little stoked."
"Then that's good. I like gung ho and stoked. And about this major and sir stuff. We might as well get this trip started off on the right foot. I'm no longer a major and you and I are going to be spending the next two weeks together, so let's just drop the formalities, okay? You're nineteen now and too old to be calling me that. From here on out, it's just Jake. Just two buddies who are gonna have a good time fishing and hiking and swimming, and maybe even drinking a few beers. Okay?
"Yes sir -- I mean -- sure, Jake. But it's gonna take some getting used to. I've always called you Major."
Jake shifted into first gear and released the clutch. "Well, get used to it. Wednesday was my last official day as a United States Marine."
"So that makes you officially retired."
"Yeah, technically speaking. But 'retired' makes me sound really old, don't you think? Hell, I'm only thirty-six. I'd like to think of it as just a change of jobs."
"Well for what it's worth, you sure don't look old, Jake. You're in as good a shape as Mark."
"Thanks. I'll take any compliment I can get."
"You're serious about letting me drink beer?"
"Sure, as long as it stays between us and you do it responsibly and pace yourself. I'm not gonna play beer cop on this trip, but if you abuse the privilege and get drunk on me, you're cut off. Got that?
"I'm down with that. Thanks, Jake."
"You ever been drunk before?"
"No, just a little tipsy a few times. Mark and I could never snitch enough of your beers to get drunk and get away with it."
"And you two thought I didn't know you were snitching my beer? Listen, you know I'm a big stickler for following the rules but I figure if you're old enough to be a Marine, then there's no harm in having a couple of beers with me or Mark, as long as nobody is driving. But like I said, I wouldn't want you going home and telling Tom and Joyce that Major Vincenzo corrupted you."
Cade gave him an incredulous look. "Are you kidding? Shit, no. My mother would be on her knees begging God to forgive my sin."
Jake smiled at Cade and winked. "Then we got no problems, my friend. We're gonna have us a real good time."
They had about a four-hour drive towards the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in Jake's beloved old pick-up. While he kept it in tiptop shape -- he called it his "baby" -- it was still an old truck with no air conditioning on what promised to be a very hot and humid day. Even though the windows were rolled down, Cade could feel his t-shirt becoming soaked and decided to take it off. After all, Jake had seen him without a shirt on hundreds of times over the years.
"That's a good idea," Jake said, wiping sweat off his brow. "Man, can you believe it's this hot on only June second? Here, hold the steering wheel steady while I take off mine."
Jake peeled off his faded olive Marine-issue t-shirt and Cade realized that contrary to Jake seeing him bare-chested, he'd never seen Jake up close like this without a shirt. Of course, he'd seen him coming out of the bathroom after shaving or showering sometimes when Cade had slept over, but only for moments until Jake entered his bedroom.
Cade eyed Jake's body through his peripheral vision but often pretended to see something of interest outside Jake's window that would allow him to stare overtly. Jake epitomized the image of a proud Marine officer who had kept his body in combat-ready shape his entire military career. His chest pectorals were mounded and defined. Thick arm and shoulder muscles were pumped with protruding veins leading to thick forearms and the large hands of a former star high school quarterback. Cade also knew first-hand how hard "Major V" worked to stay in shape. He had just never had the chance to inspect the impressive results so closely.
Cade also realized he had never gotten a close look at Jake's tattoos because the Major had always kept his shirt on when playing sports with Cade and Mark. Cade had seen glimpses of the tattoos when Jake's t-shirt sleeves would lift up but that was all he'd seen. He looked closely now for the first time. There was a large Marine Corp emblem tattooed on his right upper arm, and he could see part of another mark tattooed on his left.
"Cool tat, Jake," he said, referring to the Corps emblem closest to him. "I never really saw the whole thing up close like this before." He reached out and touched it, not really knowing why. He just liked the feel of Jake's warm, slightly damp skin on his index finger.
"You remember Mark's mom,' Jake said referring to his now ex-wife. "Mary didn't want to ever see 'em. Always wanted me to keep 'em covered up, even inside the house. She'd even yell at me if I mowed the grass or washed the car or truck with no shirt on because she didn't want the neighbors to know I had them. She thought it was really sort of trashy to have tattoos."
"I think tattoos are really awesome," Cade said, again rubbing his finger again across the nearest one, again, "but my dad refuses to let me get one. Can I see the other one?"
Jake shifted in his seat enough to show that it was an intricately detailed map of Italy starting at the top of his shoulder and extending down to the middle of his left bicep.
"Sweet. I thought it was Italy but all I could ever see was the tip of the boot and Sicily coming out of your shirt sleeve. What's the big star down in southern Italy?"
"That's Campobasso where both my parents came from. I'm one hundred percent southern Italian Dago."
"I knew that. I also learned the hard way a few years ago that only you and Mark are allowed to call yourselves that. But anyhow, seeing your tattoos up close like this makes me think I'm gonna go get one when we get back -- no matter what my dad says."
"Well I was about your age when I got my first but I was already a grunt Marine. You, my man, are still living under your dad's roof, so you might want to think twice about that."
"You said Mrs. V hated yours. Did you ever regret getting them after you became an officer?"
"Heck no. I'm proud of my tats. I even have another one that I can't show you just now."
"Come on. Show me."
"I'd have to take off my shorts first and right now that's kind of dangerous at sixty miles an hour."
"No shit! Really? You mean it's down below?"
"Yep. I'm surprised Mark never told you about that one."
"Damn, you have three tattoos including one where the sun doesn't shine. That is so cool. I'd be happy with just one."
"There's an old saying that says you can't just get one tattoo so you should be careful what you wish for. My advice to you is to be patient and you'll eventually be able to make that kind of decision without asking for your dad's or anyone's approval. And by then, you'll know for sure if it's the right thing for you. You're talking about something you're gonna wear for the rest of your life, buddy."
Cade looked even more closely at the whole of this man he'd known and practically worshipped since the age of twelve. He had an incalculable level of respect for Jake. He could never have had this kind of conversation with his father. Tom Harris would have simply said, "No son of mine will ever have a tattoo. End of discussion." Jake, however, had given him fatherly advice without acting like a father.
But at this moment Cade didn't see a surrogate father. He saw his ideal of what a man should be. Strong, confident -- even assertive -- yet kind and considerate and sensitive to any issue Cade might bring up. Cade knew he could take any situation or problem to Jake and he would understand and not judge.
Cade gazed yet again at Jake's chest and arms now beading with sweat. He noticed how the stubble from not having shaved that morning accentuated the sharp profile of his square jaw and his dark brown, almost black military-short haircut. What Cade saw awakened a closely guarded demon; one he had suppressed and hidden for a long time. One that, prior to now, had never shown the audacity to reveal itself beyond the private four walls of Cade's bedroom late at night.
Now free, it stood literally front and center in his lap. Cade realized with a sudden panic that it was prominently tenting his shorts. How long had he been staring at Jake in this condition? And -- oh crap -- had Jake noticed?
He quickly covered his lap with his hands, closed his eyes, and rested his head back, pretending to take a nap while he commanded the hardness to subside. But despite not seeing Jake, he could still smell him. It wasn't a rank, unwashed scent; just that of a man who had been sweating all morning inside a hot truck. Despite how frightened such feelings made him, Cade found it wildly arousing. It was the same reaction he got from smelling Mark. He remained hard despite the near panic coursing through his brain.
Cade had to get this under control right now. Still feigning sleep, he willed his thoughts to images and memories of the very beginning of his times with Jake and Mark. Innocent times when an erection was something he found curious but didn't understand. And long before Cade's late night secret compelled him to grip his cock while fantasizing about needs, attractions, and urges he knew he shouldn't have. The truth, however -- as witnessed by his current state -- suggested otherwise.
"Friends?" asked the tall, lanky boy standing in Cade's driveway. He extended his hand, sweat dripping down his face onto his neck, further soaking the khaki tan tank top he wore with the single word "Marines" stamped in red letters across its front.
Cade could not hide his pleasure that this dark-haired boy with the funny crooked smile had, in only two or three hours, become just that: new friend. "Sure, Mark. Good friends -- as long as you don't keep kicking my ass every time we play." Instead of shaking Mark's hand, though, he shoved the basketball held in his hands into a quick and hard pass aimed at the center of Mark's chest. Mark reflexively withdrew his hand and deftly caught the ball before its impact.
"Asshole," Mark grinned.
"But I almost gotcha, didn't I?" Cade retorted with a broad smile in return. "And don't be calling me an asshole, asshole. Do all you Yankees have trash mouths?"
"No more than you bubba Georgia rednecks do."
"This is North Carolina, duh-for-brains. And besides, you sure do talk like a Yankee."
"I've lived in so many places, I ain't anything but a Marine brat. And you're the one that talks funny."
"That's how everybody talks here. So get used to it and don't be making fun of us if you want to live to be thirteen."
"I like the way you talk, bubba. You sound like that boy on those old black and white TV shows my dad watches. I forget what it's called. Mayfield? No, Mayberry."
"It's called "The Andy Griffith Show" and 'round here he's next to God. And first time you call me Opie, I'm gonna make you a new nose."
"Okay, I sure wouldn't ever do that, Opie. Whoops! Don't know what made me do that," a laughing Mark baited.
"Okay, Yankee, I warned you."
Cade charged Mark the way a linebacker sacks a quarterback and tackled him in the grass next to the driveway. It began as a wrestling match but quickly turned into a tangled heap of giggles as the two similarly sized twelve-year-olds grappled to a sweaty draw.
They released their respective grips at the same time and rested side by side on their backs.
"That was fun, Opie," Mark said, at the same time knocking his shoulder against Cade's. "Too bad I had to kick your ass twice in the same day."
"Bullshit, Yankee brat," Cade replied, bumping his shoulder back. "I believe I clearly kicked yours."
"You know what?" Mark asked, wiping sweat from his brow. He turned on his side and propped himself up with an elbow to face Cade.
"I figured when my Dad said we were transferring to some Podunk place in the South called Camp Lejeune that it would suck pretty bad here."
"And your point is?"
Mark gave Cade a soft punch on his upper arm and smiled. "I was wrong."
Cade opened his eyes, surprised he had actually fallen asleep. Hands still covering his crotch, he could feel that his earlier problem had subsided. Closing his eyes again, he couldn't help a small smile as he tried rekindling his pleasant dream. Thinking back over the past seven years with Mark always made him smile.
Mark could not have been closer than a blood brother. Their bond may have been even stronger because there was never a sibling rivalry. From almost the beginning of their friendship they had practically been inseparable. Their respective parents effectively gained an additional son as homes, family outings, mealtimes, bedrooms, and even parental discipline all became interchangeable.
And yet, their respective households had little in common. Cade's parents were now in their late fifties. He was fairly sure his birth had been an accident but never felt he had been treated as one. On the other hand, while Tom and Joyce Harris made sure he had all the necessities, they also were quite vocal and firm in not wanting Cade to become a spoiled only child.
They also were not the kind of doting mom and dad who played games or ball with him in the backyard or who became president of the PTA or who even attended a lot of his frequent sports events as he grew up. Tom Harris was an admitted workaholic running his own accounting firm. During tax season, Cade rarely saw him. He arrived home after Cade was asleep at night and was gone before he got up the next morning. And when he was home, he was still not around much, spending most evenings working on his prized stamp collection or preparing his next lesson as a Sunday school teacher at their church.
Joyce was a practicing workaholic without a paying job. She volunteered three days a week as the church secretary, sang in the choir, and belonged to several clubs, including presiding over her women's Bible study group. She was also a blue-ribbon-winning quilter and spent most evenings after dinner sewing in her basement quilting room. And, she was never far from reach of her Bible. It was a daily source of inspiration and direction which she frequently sought.
Still, they were Cade's parents and he loved them. But as he grew toward adolescence, both parents' frequent absences made Cade their de-facto latchkey kid, causing him to need them less and less. Besides making him more self-reliant and self-confident, he also wasn't particularly bothered by this emotional distance between them because he secretly imagined that his real family lived across the street at the Vincenzo's.
Major Vincenzo was an ex-jock himself whom Cade thought looked more like Mark's big brother than his father. He often played basketball or tossed around a football with Mark and Cade. He had also set up a gym-quality weight room in his basement and the three spent many evening and weekend hours over the years working out together.
To Cade, the Major seemed the antithesis of his own overweight, out-of-shape, and always-working father. Jake was a lot younger than Cade's dad. And he had a great sense of fun, told really bad corny jokes, liked getting goofy and horsing around with Mark and Cade, and often initiated free-for-alls after a pickup game that would find Mark and Cade unsuccessfully trying to pin him down on the grass of the Vincenzos' back yard.
While Cade loved his dad, Tom was rarely affectionate in a physical way. But Major Vincenzo often hugged Mark and Cade and wrapped his big arms around both their shoulders at the same time.
Mark's mother moved out when he was sixteen and his parents had gotten a divorce. It had come as a complete shock to Mark because neither he nor Cade had ever heard them argue or fight. It had been a tough time for Mark, yet in retrospect, Cade thought it had brought them even closer together.
By the time they were seniors, Mark and Cade had become serious athletes, playing football, wrestling, baseball, and any other pick-up game they could find. When they weren't in class or at a team practice, they were running or lifting weights together so there wasn't a lot of time for much else besides eating both sets of parents out of house and home and horsing around in Mark's backyard.
The first potential crisis of their friendship occurred as high school graduation neared. While Mark was the better athlete, Cade was the better scholar. Mark could have gone to almost any university on full scholarship for either football or wrestling but his ACT and SAT scores were so low that no school would touch him. He'd just barely stayed academically eligible while in high school -- and that was entirely because of many nights spent with Cade patiently helping Mark retain enough to manage passing grades.
Cade's grades, on the other hand, were almost all straight A's. But he had received no scholarship offers because while he was a good athlete, he wasn't an extraordinary one like Mark. As a fullback, his designated role was to block for the featured running back -- Mark -- who, as a result, scored most of the team's touchdowns. They complemented each other's strengths and, Cade thought, their roles on the field were a pretty accurate metaphor for their lives off the field.
Mark had pretty much decided he would join the Marines like his Dad had at that age. Cade, on the other hand, was resigned to going to the state college in Jacksonville since that was all his parents would agree to pay for. "You don't need an Ivy League education to become an accountant," his dad had said more than once.
And, there was a good chance the third member of their triumvirate, Major Vincenzo, would be going in a new direction as well. He was contemplating a job offer in Raleigh that would require him to move there once discharged from the Corps.
So as high school graduation loomed nearer, it appeared the three might soon head in completely different directions. Cade knew they'd always stay in touch, but he was really going to miss both his best friends. For these reasons, he had really been looking forward to spending two weeks with them at the remote mountain cabin Jake was borrowing from a friend of his. This might be the last time the three of them would ever have the chance to be together like this. And then Mark had to go screw up everything by blowing his final exam in American History and failing to graduate.
Mark and Cade sat together on the steps of Mark's home's back deck, not saying much, both silently aware of how badly Mark had messed up what could have been two really great weeks of fun with his dad
Major Vincenzo walked out of the patio door carrying a bottle of beer. Cade was thirsty and it looked really good. He wished he had the nerve to ask him for one
"I've been thinking about how royally you've messed up, Mark," his dad said. "And I think I've figured out what the consequences should be. I could just ground you for the summer but all you'd do is lift weights in the basement and be like a rabbit in a briar patch. No, I want this punishment to be something you'll remember for a long time because you have some real important lessons to learn about self-discipline and accomplishments in something besides sports. All those touchdowns and all those trophies you've won mean nothing now but some very good memories, son. They will not get you a job nor will they earn you a paycheck. So to drive home that point, I've decided that Cade and I are still gonna go up to the cabin without you while you attend your summer school class. He and I are going to do all the fun things you could've been doing if only you had applied yourself enough to pass that history class.
Mark looked shocked. Cade could see tears forming in his eyes. Feeling Mark's sadness, Cade was about to cry himself while at the same time silently and guiltily shouting Yahoo! at the fact that he was still going to the cabin after all.
"Dad, that's so not fair," Mark pleaded. "It's bad enough that I gotta go to summer school but you and Cade going on the trip without me -- it's just not fair."
"There's nothing unfair about me keeping my word to Cade. I promised him this trip months ago as a graduation present and I'm keeping my promise. That's what a man with integrity does. You're the one who screwed up, Mark, so I suggest you use the time we're gone to man up and do what's gotta be done. I'm not going to reward failure, I'm not having a son who can't get his high school diploma, and I sure as hell am not letting you join the Marines until you get it."
"I'm nineteen now. You can't fucking stop me!"
"Cade, how about you heading home now, buddy," Major Vincenzo said calmly. "I need to have a one-on-one with my son. You be ready to go a week from today, okay?"
"Yes sir," Cade replied. "I'll be ready."
"It's a small cabin so don't pack a lot of crap either; just a toothbrush and a few t-shirts and shorts for when we go into town. We'll be in our swimsuits most of the time," he said, looking directly at Mark as he said it. "But that's about all you'll need. You don't even have to shave up there if you don't want to. I don't intend to."
Cade silently squeezed Mark's shoulder for moral support as he left the deck and walked around the house toward his own home. As he cut through the privacy screen of tall shrubs, he heard the distinct sound of a whack and a responding grunt.
Cade stopped, thinking he should go back. The Major had never struck Mark to his knowledge. In fact, from his own personal experience, he knew Mark's father was especially creative at finding punishments that were decidedly non-violent. But, he had never seen Mark cuss at his father like that before either. Maybe a good whack was what the big guy deserved. Cade shook his head at the impetuous temper that had gotten Mark in trouble more than once and continued on across the street. This was between father and son and he had been politely asked to leave.
"My trip's back on, Mom" Cade said as he came through the door leading from the side yard to the kitchen of his house. "We leave next Friday morning."
"Oh really? I thought it was cancelled when Mark didn't graduate."
"Well, Major Vincenzo said that he made a promise to take me to the lake cabin and that men of integrity keep their promises."
"And what about Mark? Is he going now too?"
"No, he starts a two-week test prep class a week from Monday. I think his dad is trying to teach him a lesson about responsibility and applying himself more. Not getting to go while the Major and I have all the fun is meant to drive home an important point."
"Well, I think it'll do both of you boys good to be away from each other for a couple of weeks. And I think the Major's influence on you without Mark around will be good for teaching you some lessons."
"What's that supposed to mean? What lessons? You know I was the class salutatorian and it's not like I've ever gotten into trouble or anything."
"Well, he's a very manly man. Maybe his Marine Corps training will rub off on you a little. I worry about you. I don't understand why you spend every waking moment with that boy. Shouldn't you be doing things with other people? Maybe even finding yourself a nice girl and dating? Maybe Major Vincenzo will teach you about being a man."
"Being a man? What's not manly about me? I played football, baseball, and I wrestled. I'm six-foot-four and weigh two hundred twenty pounds of muscle. And you've always said I act more like an adult than most adults. Just in what way am I not a man?"
"Don't talk to me in that tone of voice, Cayden Harris. I have worried for a long time that you're not developing normally. It's not natural for you to want to spend all your time with another boy."
"Listen, Mom. You know I love and honor you like the Bible says. But you're way off the mark on this. There's nothing abnormal about my relationship with Mark. He's the brother you and Dad never gave me. And if you have a problem with that, I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned he is my brother and I love him like one. I have always done and respected everything you and Dad have taught me. But now -- now, please return just a little respect to me."
"That kind of backtalk to your mother certainly isn't going to earn you respect, Cayden."
"Did you hear a single word I just said?" He threw his hands in the air. "Okay, this is pointless. Just deal with it, Mother. If you're that insensitive to my feelings then maybe it's a good thing I'll be somewhere else for two weeks."
"I think that's the first thing we've agreed upon in this conversation, young man. I also think that while you're away, you need to pray for guidance and direction for your life -- and for dropping the silly notion that this boy is your brother. If you're really a man the way you say you are, you'll realize it's time to act like one and move on with your life. Remember that First Corinthians says 'When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.'"
" Mom, please, just for once listen to me. The Bible isn't gonna make me a better son than I've already been to you and Dad. I'm very sorry you can't or won't see that. And as for forsaking Mark, Proverbs 18:24 says 'A man of many companions may come to ruin, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.' See, Mom, for every verse you throw at me I can volley one right back. I'm not the Bible Olympics champion at church for nothing so maybe you taught me too well.
He looked at her body language -- hands on hips, anger unfurling in her eyes -- and decided he should quickly diffuse the situation. "Okay, Mom, I'm sorry. I think I'll take a long walk to pray about what you said so don't set a place for me at dinner, okay? I'll just grab a burger somewhere."
As he walked out the same kitchen door he had entered Cade chuckled to himself. "Yeah, hear me, oh Lord. Should I get a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder? Both, you say? Well thank you, Jesus.
Cade opened his eyes long enough to look again at the man he now realized he wanted in ways that his parents would definitely condemn as unnatural and sinful. But he reverted back to his pretend nap when his seemingly out-of-control dick reacted again.
He remembered how after the argument with his mother, he had left the house feeling especially frustrated. There was never any logic in his mother's arguments. Quoting Bible verses and telling Cade to pray was her solution to everything. And his dad -- if and when he was around -- could only do accountant speak.
"Here's the bottom line, Cade ... Clean up your balance sheet, Cade ... Payables will not exceed receivables in this house, Cade."
It was a pleasantly warm early summer evening as Cade walked to the McDonald's a couple of miles away. True to his divinely inspired hunger, he ate both a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder -- plus an order of super-sized fries and a chocolate milk shake. He was still hungry afterwards but resisted the temptation to order another burger. He knew eating like this wasn't healthy but he also knew his body required a lot of calories. As much as he and Mark ran and lifted weights, he actually had to eat like this to keep from losing weight.
He walked along the streets of Jacksonville with really no destination in mind. Images and messages streamed through his mind like a series of endless and intrusive pop-up ads on an Internet site. What if his mother was right about Mark? What if their relationship really was more than just best friends or "bro's" as they liked to call each other? Should he confront his deepest secret and acknowledge how sometimes when he jacked-off at night he thought about Mark? Or even more alarming, how sometimes the image morphed into Jake?
Cade finally routed himself back to his street and saw that blessedly, all the lights in the house were out except for the side porch light and the kitchen. He took out the same house key he'd used since the age of ten and quietly let himself in the back door. He slipped off his shoes so his large frame would not make unnecessary noise on the hardwood floors.
Finally shutting his bedroom door, Cade removed all his clothes and slipped into bed. His erection was almost instant as he let his thoughts drift yet again to Mark and Jake.