Good Neighbor Ch. 04

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Revised version copyright 2006 by the author.


Looking back, I only have myself to blame for how things turned out. I knew in my heart that those few days with Marsh were all I was going to get, but I couldn’t help hoping for more. He was so open, so uninhibited in his passion, so willing to share his life and his son with me, how could it all end so soon?

But it did, of course. If only it hadn’t ended so badly.

Friday we were on Marsh’s living room couch as the late evening light slowly faded. I was seated, Marsh’s head in my lap. We had stuck to our no-sex rule while Jonah was around all week. The other days it had been hard, but tonight, abstaining was easy. Gloom hung over us both, as heavy as the still air of the house.

Marsh, making an effort, broke the silence. “Thanks for reading him his story.”

I nodded. For our final night together I had been accorded the honor of helping put the little boy to bed.

We fell silent again, then I said, “When is Audrey getting in tomorrow?”

“Her plane comes in about three. I’ll drive out there with Jonah to get her, I guess.”

“Marsh, what are you going to say to her?”

He looked away, as if trying to evade my question. “About what?”

My jaw locked in anger, though I tried to control it. I knew I should have seen this coming. Many times I had sat at the bar and listened to a like tale of woe coming from one of my friends, smugly thinking I’d never let myself get into a situation like that. But I had, with hardly a struggle.

Marsh must have sensed what lay behind my silence. He lifted himself off my lap and swung his body around until he was sitting apart from me, looking downward. “Look, what do you want me to say?”

“So, your wife comes back and I’m supposed to be just your good neighbor again, is that it, Marsh?” I sounded like a bad soap opera. I hated myself, but couldn’t stop.

Marsh spread his hands in appeal. “Rob, I have a family, a job, a house, a mortgage. It’s not that simple. I can’t just throw it all away.”

“Jesus, I am such an idiot,” I said, my voice rising. “A fucking idiot.”

“Shh! You’ll wake Jonah. Please, Rob.” The look on his face succeeded in diffusing my anger, for the moment.

“You never were going to tell her, were you?” I asked, dully, after another minute.

Marsh shook his head slowly, looking down again.

“I should have known.”

He raised his head and met my gaze, his expression willing me to understand. “Rob, I’ve never met anyone like you. This week–has been fantastic. You’ve got to believe me, I thought about it, leaving Audrey, I mean. But–

His voice dropped and trembled slightly. “I’m a coward. I couldn’t help thinking about Jonah. Audrey, she’d survive, even if she hated me for the rest of her life. But what about him?”

The damndest thing was, I understood. I’d held that little boy in my lap, played with him at the pool, helped him eat his Jello cubes, read him a story. If I were Jonah’s father, could I face the prospect of seeing him rarely, or maybe not at all? Of wondering how his mother would turn him against me?

I felt like crying, but tears wouldn’t come. Instead, I just sat there, depression filling my chest like a lump of lead.

“Shit,” I said. How intelligent, how eloquent.

Marsh gripped my shoulder, the words flowing rapidly out of him. “Maybe there’s a way we could keep seeing each other, I don’t know exactly how. Maybe at the office, or something.”

I shook my head, repelled at the thought. “I don’t think so.” Another beat, then I stood. “Well, it was nice while it lasted. Bye, Marsh.” Funny, Stan had said almost the same thing to me, ages ago, it seemed.

I started to head for the door. “Rob,” Marsh said. I turned. He was sitting there, as handsome as ever. For the first time his physical beauty didn’t take my breath away.

“You–you’re not going to say anything to Audrey, are you?”

If he had said anything kind, or remorseful, I might have started to cry. As it was, I snorted with contempt. “Fuck off,” I said, and walked out the door.

I didn’t think Marsh was going to come running after me this time, and sure enough, he didn’t. I sat in the kitchen of my silent and empty house, and downed two or three Scotches, from a bottle that I hadn’t opened until now. I finally went to bed, and woke with a pounding headache.

I’d broken up with lovers before. I hadn’t ever broken up with one who happened to be my next-door neighbor, though. Nor had I ever terminated a relationship with someone who had a kid who liked me. So I wasn’t ready for some painful little incidents in the next couple of weeks after Marsh’s wife came home.

I got a phone call from Audrey a few days later, asking me out to dinner with the family. She wanted to follow through on the invitation she had extended before she left. There was no way to refuse without seeming rude, and obviously Marsh couldn’t nix the plan without arousing her curiosity. So the four of us, Yenibosna Escort Marsh, Audrey, Jonah and me, went out to a convivial, noisy hamburger joint downtown the next week. Only Jonah seemed unaffectedly glad to see me. Marsh hardly spoke a word or looked me in the eye the entire time, and Audrey chattered nervously about her father’s health and had one too many margaritas to drink. It was one of the most uncomfortable evenings of my life.

Mercifully, it was easier than I thought it would be to avoid seeing Marsh otherwise. I simply started leaving for work earlier and coming home a bit before he did. Of course it was impossible to avoid him, or his family, altogether, but I would simply wave or say a brief “hi” before disappearing into my house. Once I thought I saw a puzzled look on Audrey’s face as I walked away from her and her son, who still obviously looked up to me-why was I being so unfriendly? Another time I ran into Marsh and Audrey together. I saw the anxiety in his eyes, and remembered a joke I heard once about “the definition of being gay: somewhere there’s a married man who’s terrified of you.” Still, his discomfiture was hollow satisfaction.

I found myself getting irrationally upset about the state of my yard and grounds. I no longer felt like doing the work myself, but lacked the energy to go about looking for someone to do it. Things began to look overgrown and seedy and this lowered my spirits still further.

I buried myself in the business, and managed not to think too much about Marsh during the day. At night was another matter. I would lie awake, alone in my bed, staring at the ceiling as images of our lovemaking flashed through my mind, so real I could almost feel my arms around him again. The longing was a physical pain. I’d had him for so short a time–why couldn’t I forget him as quickly?

The summer dragged slowly on, hot and joyless now. One night, lying sleepless despite what had become my usual routine of two or three stiff drinks before turning in, I couldn’t stand tossing and turning any longer. I got up, padded downstairs and quietly opened the back door, stepping out onto the back steps dressed only in my boxers. It was very warm outside but still it felt better than being in the house, which too often these days was like a prison. I figured I’d stand here for a few minutes until the mosquitoes got too bad.

There were plenty of crickets and the noise they made was surprisingly loud. Dim light filtered in from the safety lamp shining on the driveway of the house behind mine, and from the half moon above, but most of the yard was shadowed in blackness. Suddenly I stiffened. I stood absolutely still, hardly breathing, listening alertly. There it was again–a soft, wordless sigh from an unmistakably female voice. It was coming from the next yard–Marsh’s yard.

My feet were bare and made no sound as I quietly walked diagonally across the grass until I could see the back deck of the Atkins residence. I crouched down in case I could be seen by anyone there–there was enough light so that an alert eye could have detected my movements.

I needn’t have worried about being noticed, though—they were totally engrossed in what they were doing. Audrey was standing with her back against the wall of the house, behind her husband, so I couldn’t see her very well. Marsh was facing her, crouching slightly, his broad shoulders and back unmistakable in a dark muscle shirt. His bare butt was clearly visible from where I stood–whatever he had been wearing on his lower body was in a heap around his ankles. As I watched, the rhythmic clenching and unclenching of his dimpled cheeks told me all I needed to know.

Another moan from Audrey wafted through the night air to my ears. I realized that my hands were balled up into fists and I was gritting my teeth so hard they could crack. Rage shot through me like a blue flame. I wanted to turn and run into the house, hide under the covers of my bed, stuff my fingers into my ears. But I couldn’t move, nor could I take my eyes off them.

Despite the turmoil that seethed in me, I must not have made any sound, for Marsh and Audrey continued their lovemaking with increasing frenzy. Her moans increased in frequency and volume. I saw her arms encircle his neck, and her feet rise off the ground as her slender, shapely legs wrapped themselves around his body. He began to thrust faster and I heard his voice join hers. Thank God I was too far away to understand words—the unmistakable, guttural quality of the sounds he was making was torture enough.

The sounds reached a crescendo of intensity, then began to diminish. Audrey’s feet descended to the floor of the deck again, and Marsh’s body became still. They turned to one side, embracing, their lips touching. I heard, or perhaps imagined, the distant clicking of wet kisses. I could stand no more. As quietly as I could, I backed away and re-entered my house, letting the door slam, no longer caring if they heard.

In the kitchen were the remnants of that evening’s Yenibosna Escort Bayan nightcap on the table–the half-filled bottle of Campari, the empty tumbler. I heard sobbing breaths cut through the silence of the house and realized they were coming from me. I sat down and got the bottle open with trembling hands. The neck of the bottle clinked violently against the rim of the glass as I poured myself another drink. I took a big gulp of the bitter stuff, neat, and choked on it. Coughing and sputtering, my windpipe burning, I shouted “Damn it!” and threw the glass at the wall. Glass shards flew and the pink liquid went spraying over the counter top and linoleum. I put my head down on the table. In all the time since I had walked out of Marsh’s house that Friday night I hadn’t shed a tear, but I began to cry now, heavy, broken sobs.

I could have stood anything but the sight that I saw, for I knew exactly what it was to be loved by Marsh Atkins, to be held naked and defenseless in his arms, to be possessed by his body and cock. The first time I had seen husband and wife together in their bedroom I had longed for what I thought could never be. Now, seeing them happily reunited, I grieved for what would never be again.


He was noticeably different on the phone this time. “Hey–how are you doing,” he asked, his tone guarded, neutral. I heard the TV going somewhere nearby, a sitcom perhaps, as there were frequent bursts of laughter.

“How are you, Stan?” I said, feeling pretty tongue-tied myself. I had half expected him to hang up when he heard my voice.

“Okay. So–what’s up?”

I decided to go for broke. “I’d like to take you out to dinner.”

He snorted then, taken by surprise. “Dinner? Why?”

Just then I heard another burst of laughter. This time a single male voice, much closer, joined in. Stan must have company.

“Oh God, this is a bad time, isn’t it,” I said, really abashed.

“Naw, that’s just my buddy Gary in from Florida. He’s crashing on my couch for a few days. You really want to buy me dinner?”

“Sure I do.”

“Just a sec, Gary’s yakking at me.” There were vague noises at the other end of the line, then Stan’s voice came on again, amused, less guarded. “Gary says never turn down a free meal. He says I’m lucky my yuppie boyfriend wants to give _me_ dinner.”

I smiled to myself. “So are we on?”

“Only if you’ll take me to Castle Hill,” which was a casual but topnotch, pricey downtown establishment.


“Wow, that was easy. When?”

On the appointed evening I got to the restaurant first, ordered a glass of wine and waited. Just as I began to worry that he was going to stand me up, Stan walked in. He was wearing dark blue slacks, a lighter blue, short-sleeved shirt and a necktie. I had never seen him before in good clothes. He saw me, waved tentatively and made his way across the dining room.

“Thanks for coming,” I said as he sat down.

“Thank you for buying me dinner,” he said. I could see he was curious about why I’d invited him, but he wasn’t about to ask.

After ordering a beer from the waiter–no wine for Stan–he said, without preamble, “So, I guess the married guy didn’t work out?”

I shook my head. “No, he didn’t.”

“Don’t be too hard on him, Rob,” he said, to my surprise. “They have a lot on their minds. Married guys, I mean.”

“And how would you know?”

“I was married.” I was taken aback. It must have showed on my face, because Stan grinned in the old way. “Heck, why not? Most guys get married, Rob.”

“I guess so. How long?”

“Six years.”

“How come you never told me before?”

“You never asked. Rob, when you’ve been over at my place, you haven’t wanted to talk much.”

The waiter arrived to take our order at that moment, and saved me from having to come up with an answer to that one. Stan sensed his advantage and started in on me again after he left.

“So why the invite, Rob?”

Of course we both knew why we were there, but I wasn’t about to let him win that easily. I had an ace up my sleeve. “Know anything about landscaping? Sprinkler systems?”

Stan blinked. “Huh?”

I smiled blandly. “I put in these flowerbeds earlier this summer and now I’ve gotten lazy. I have to figure out a way to keep them from dying. I need professional help. That’s why I called, Stan–I figured you might know some good people.”

Stan looked disappointed. “Well,” he said slowly, “I could come over and take a look.”

“Why? I didn’t know you did sprinklers,” I said, acting skeptical. Actually, of course, I was elated.

He got a bit huffy. “Well, no, I don’t exactly. But I know enough so I can tell you what you really need, so you won’t get taken for a ride.”

“Okay. How about Saturday morning?”

“Fine.” The meal came a few minutes later, and Stan ate his food with gusto. A few times during the rest of that evening I caught him eyeing me with a puzzled look, wondering why I had Escort Yenibosna gone to all this trouble to ask him to look at my yard. He didn’t know yet that this was just the first part of my little scheme.

Promptly at ten o’clock on Saturday morning I heard the doorbell ring. Carefully I walked over to answer it. I grasped the doorknob, turned it, and pulled the door slowly open, making sure I stayed behind it, invisible from the outside.

“Rob, you there? What’s going on? Where–” Stan’s voice asked as he stepped into the hall. His head turned toward me and he stopped in mid-sentence. A smile spread across his face and he shook his head. “Aw, you.”

I was naked, of course. I leaned back against the wall in what I hoped was a seductive pose. To my embarrassment I realized I was trembling, a little bit from excitement, but mostly from fear that Stan would laugh in my face and walk out.

There was a moment of suspense, then he extended one of his big hands and pushed the front door shut with a bang. He stepped forward and put his arms around me, but as I prepared to receive what I thought was going to be an affectionate hug, his grip tightened, he crouched down and suddenly my feet were in the air as he hoisted me bodily onto one broad shoulder. “Stan, what the hell are you doing?” I shouted, and his laugh rang out.

“Upstairs, yuppie scum,” he said, giving my butt a vigorous swat.

He didn’t make it to the bedroom with me, but he did manage to get all the way up the stairs. At the top he put me down, puffing from his exertions. “I’m not that young any more,” he said, before I kissed him.

Later, I turned to him as we both lay on my bed. My ass was pleasantly sore from the attentions Stan had paid to it with his mouth and cock.

“Why don’t we go out and look at the yard, as long as you’re here.”

Stan laughed. “How long are you going to keep this up?”

“I wasn’t kidding,” I protested. “I really do need help with the grounds.”

“Why do you keep saying that, Rob?” he said, suddenly serious. “Fuck, you could have just told me to get my ass over here the night you called.”

“And you’d have come?”

Stan clicked his tongue and rolled his eyes. “You are so full of shit, you know that? Haven’t I come panting every time, from the first time you saw me through your kitchen window?”

I dropped my eyes, ashamed. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if you hadn’t, this time.”

“Yeah, well, I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.” I looked up at him. He was still trying to look reproachful, but the twinkle in his eyes was definitely there.

“So–speaking of punishment, my company’s having a Fourth of July picnic out at the club. Want to go with me?”

Stan stared, then threw his head back and guffawed. “You’re something else. You mean I have to wear my good clothes again?”

I shook my head. “You look like a gas station attendant in those things. Wear your jeans and boots. Believe me, you’ll be a hit. C’mon, Stan, say you will.”

Stan was grinning broadly. His eyes had fully regained the challenging sparkle I knew so well, and had missed so much. “Let me think about it while you fuck my butt.”

“Whatever you say,” I laughed as I pulled him to me.


It took me a while to persuade Stan to move in with me, but he finally did. He eventually installed the sprinkler system himself, and the yard always looks great now. Adjusting to my office social life turned out to be a snap–he quickly figured out that a lot of the people who worked for me hadn’t gone to college either, and even the ones who had didn’t like to do their own landscaping. He’s worked up quite a nice business–the fact that he looks like a cross between Tom Selleck and the guy on the Brawny paper towel rolls doesn’t hurt, of course.

I saw less and less of the Atkinses as time went on. Occasionally I still ran into Audrey at the coffee shop or supermarket. She was still pleasant but noticeably less friendly—she never talked about getting together any more. I wondered how much, if anything, she knew or figured out about what happened while she was away that week visiting her father. One day I saw her going into the local post office with a dark-haired, gravely handsome boy. I realized with a start that it was Jonah, now about eight or nine years old. After marveling how much he was growing up to look like his dad, sadness pierced through me. The lively toddler whom I had held in my lap and comforted, whose hand I had held while we window-shopped at the mall, was gone forever.

Soon after that a “For Sale” sign appeared in the yard of the house next door. I thought about going over and saying good-bye but decided against it. The thing with Marsh was ancient history. I hadn’t had any real contact with him in a long time, and I was sure that suited him just fine. It was summer again and Stan and I were about to go on vacation. When we came back, the house was empty and deserted–the occupants had moved while were gone.

So Marsh Atkins made his final exit from the stage of my life. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite so simple–life is never that neat.

It was sometime that fall that I booted up my home computer one evening in my upstairs office to check my e-mail before turning in. Stan was in the shower, I remember hearing the water going.

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