Is Yet Chapter 3

“Well, there’s time to change your mind.” Tori said as they  pulled from the main road up the gravel lane to where the old brick house sat  in the middle of it’s green yard. They’d already stopped in the nearby city of York and finalized the  sale. It was there that Epi traded off cash for a set of keys.

“I’m not changing my mind.” In fact he’d arranged to take  possession of the house a week before he had to.

“Appliances will be here this morning, the movers arrive  this afternoon.” Tori had driven them up and loaded the back of his car with  cleaning supplies and overnight bags and the things Epi absolutely couldn’t  pack like his medication. He pulled the car around to the back of the house  where the long ramp had been built on and turned the engine off.

Over the garage on the small balcony a door opened and Nick  stepped out. He was dressed in casual shorts and another t-shirt but this time  he had flip flop sandals on his feet. He stood over them for a moment as Tori  got his door open. “Hey, you made it.”

“Like it or not.” Tori called back as he opened the back  door and started to pull out mops and scrub buckets and cleaners. “Your  background check cleared. I now trust you on a trial bases to take care of my  friend.”

Nick had stomped down the wood steps. “That’s good to know.  Here I thought being a drug lord in the 80’s would have caused trouble.”

“Ha ha, so funny.” Tori smirked and pushed the cleaning  supplies at Nick. “Just for that you can help carry.”

“Seriously, whatever I can do to help.”

“Really?” Tori raised an eyebrow. “Anything?”

“You have a boyfriend.” Epi reminded his friend. “Can you  stop messing with the mops and pop the trunk?”

“Sorry.” Tori moved around the back and got the crutches  out of the trunk. Epi needed to be able to stretch his leg out on car trips and  only could keep the crutches at the seat with him if they were going on a short  drive. He got the crutches out and left the trunk open, they’d packed it full  of things too not the least of which was Epi’s wheelchair.

Epi got to his feet and didn’t even try to manage the  steps. It took him longer to go up the ramp and by the time he reached the door  Tori and Nick had the car emptied. Boxes, suitcases and supplies soon lined the  porch and Nick hauled the wheelchair up as well as Tori placed his last armload  of things down.

Epi juggled the keys in his hands a moment.

“It’s not like you haven’t owned a house before.”

“Yeah but never alone and this is a real house, an honest  to God one you know? Not a condo or townhouse.”

“Is all the same, the square footage just changes.”

“Yeah.” He put the key in the lock and told himself that he  wasn’t nervous about the whole crazy idea. The key turned easily but the door  stuck a little in it’s frame, Epi had to really shove it to get it open.

“Sorry about that, it sticks after it rains.” Nick  apologized.

Epi went into his house, his new house, and sneezed. The  air was stuffy and dusty from being shut up and suddenly he saw all the things  that were wrong with the house. It seemed frumpy and old and run down. What had  seemed like aged charm now seemed like an impossible repair job.

Tori put a hand on his shoulder. A silent show of support  and acknowledgment that he wasn’t alone. “There are cobwebs everywhere.”

“It’s an old house. You’ll have spiders or thousand  leggers.”

“What?”

“Spiders will eat thousand leggers and vice versa so you’ll  have more of one than the other.”

“Thousand leggers? I don’t want to know. Well, nothing to  do until the furniture arrives but clean.”

“I told you I have someone coming in this week.”

“Yes, yes but until then I can get the sink clean and the  windows washed down and the bathroom cleaned. Shoo, go onto that porch swing  and get out of my way. Keep an eye out for all these people that are supposed  to be here. Phone and cable people are supposed to be here too sometime today.”

The morning passed quickly. Epi got to help as the  appliances were delivered which mostly meant holding doors open and getting out  of the way. Tori had insisted he get a new stove and fridge, something he’d  almost not done. Now looking at the house and seeing it’s age he was glad to  have something new that was his and his alone. Even if the modern appliances  looked a little odd in the obviously older kitchen he was still glad for them.

As he held the door open for the old stove to be carted  away he caught sight of Nick across the yard, working on an old lawn mower,  quietly watching. It wasn’t the first time it had occurred to Epi how odd it  would be to see someone else living in a relative’s house but it was the first  time it occurred to him with the man there watching. Worse, he’d moved in and  instantly changed things and it would only continue. Tori had someone coming in  later in the week to remove the old shag carpet from the one floor and in a few  weeks there would be painting and other cosmetic work. He stopped feeling badly  when he stepped into his small, outdated kitchen and was faced with really nice  appliances.

It wasn’t long until the phone guy and the cable guy got  there and while they were sitting at the picnic table eating the salad and  sandwiches Tori had packed the movers arrived. That made them busy again as  boxes and furniture had to be directed to the right rooms but Epi took up a  spot at the door and guided the movers to the right general area.

“It’s a good thing you’ve always had a taste for antiques,  Epi, I’d forgotten how old a lot of this stuff was.” Tori said as a hutch was  carefully placed in the dining room.

“I’m glad to have it out of storage.” All of his things had  been put into storage and most of it Epi hadn’t missed but he had missed his  books and box after box of books was carted into the house and back to the  library with it’s stained glass window. “I’ll have to go through it, sort out  what… well what shouldn’t be kept.”

“Don’t throw everything of his out, asshole or not he was a  big part of your life for  long time.”  Tori warned but Epi just nodded. “Come upstairs and tell me which bedroom you  want set up in.”

He’d been dreading those steps and he knew Tori was going  to make him go up and down them several times before he was satisfied and felt  he could leave. Epi drew a breath and made his slow way up the steps, one step  at a time. When he eached the top Tori stood smiling at him.

“You didn’t come up on your ass.”

“No, but I’ll sit down to go down them.”

“Good, know your limits but try to reach beyond them.”

Epi hadn’t ever actually been upstairs of the house he  owned. He’d made Tori take pictures but hadn’t wanted to try to climb the steps  on the day of the auction. There were four large rooms and one small room  upstairs. One of the large rooms had been converted into a bathroom and one of  the bedrooms had a sleeping porch off of it.

“This one..” He opened the door to the screened in second  story porch and walked out onto it, the green of the yard rolling out before  him and the branches of the nearest tree almost brushing against the screens.  This was going to be his bedroom even if the bed that would be set up had once  been shared happily in another bedroom.

“No closets, we’ll have to get you a wardrobe or two, the  rooms are big enough. For now we’ll set your clothes up in the other bedroom  here but you’d better set up a guest room soon. Dillon will get jealous if he  learns we’re sharing a bed all the time.”

“I don’t have near enough furniture.”

“The house is huge but you’ll have time.” Tori grinned as  he pried open a box of clothing, found it to be summer things and tucked the  flaps shut.

“Tori?”

“Hmmm?” He glanced over his shoulder to where his friend  stood.

“Thank you.”

“For what, sweetie?”

He waved with one crutch to the house around him. “For  backing me on this. I know you don’t like the idea…”

“Epi…” He sighed and stood up. “You’re my best friend,  you’re closer to me than my own sisters. If you need this, I don’t have to  understand it. I’ll be a phone call away and really I expect you to set up a  streaming video of mister beefcake there mowing the lawn with his shirt off.”  He tossed an arm over Epi’s shoulder and tried to see if the sleeping porch  gave a good view of where his friend’s new neighbor was working.

Tori straining to see made Epi chuckle a little. “You’re  rotten.”

“Indeed but he is all manly and sexy…”

“I’m scared, Tori.”

Tori squeezed his friend closer. “I know. If it’s too much  or you’re not happy we can have you back in my condo almost over night. Deal?”

He nodded. “Deal.” He’d never lived alone before and now  here he was, in a 10 room old farmhouse in a town where he didn’t know anyone.

“Good, now come tell me what clothes you want unpacked and  what you want left out. Because they’ll be up here soon to put the bed together  and I want to clear the off season clothing into the other room.”

It took the better part of the afternoon to have the movers  haul everything in and place it where it belonged. Even with furniture  assembled and in place and boxes stacked in the center of rooms, the house  seemed empty and unlived in. Epi stood at the front screen door and watched the  moving truck rumble down the gravel lane back out to the main road. With the  truck and the men gone he was now really doing it.

He glanced around the things that had once meant so much to  him. “None of this stuff feels like mine anymore.”

“Well.” Tori pulled the wrappings off of a framed, antique  US map from 1856. “Go through it as you unpack and what you don’t want anymore  you can pitch or ebay or have a yard sale. No one says you need to keep all  this.”

Epi wanted to push it all out into the yard and throw it  all away. It was an itchy desire to toss everything away and start over. He  doubted his shrink would find that amusing. Deciding on a whim to buy a house  and move away could be seen as a bold step toward taking an active look at his  life as it was today or it could be seen as a slip into crazy insanity. If he  added in throwing everything he owned out, he knew which side of the fence his  therapist would land on.

“I’m not going to be able to get near enough of this  unpacked for you so let’s go to the store, get groceries, pick up take out and  get the kitchen unpacked tonight. Kitchen and clothes and towels and the bed  made. Sound good?”

Epi nodded. “Yeah. You know you don’t have to unpack any of  this. I’ll manage.”

“I know I don’t but I’m going to anyway. Besides, you’re  stuck with me until tomorrow afternoon anyway. Let’s go pester Mr. Hot Stuff  about where the nearest store is.”

“You know this is why straight men hate us.”

“Oh pish they ogle women all the time and sexualize them.  It’s about time they grow up and deal with the shoe being on the other foot.”

“There’s more to a man then sex.”

“Maybe, but it’s the best part of him.” Tori laughed and  scooped up his car keys and totally missed the pained, unhappy look that  flitted across Epi’s face. When he turned back Epi’s normal closed off look of  frustration was back in place and Tori smiled brightly. “Let’s go get you pop  tarts and microwave meals and all the other junk you claim is cooking.”

“Don’t forget fruit loops.”

“God you and your fruit loops.” Tori teased and hid his own  worry behind a smile.

 

 

It was dark by the time they got home, got the groceries  unloaded and the kitchen put together. They’d eaten while out and that had been  a smart idea because Epi was exhausted and worn out and not in the mood for  food by the time the task was done.

“Go see what the local cable is like, I’m going to run over  and speak with Mr. Kern about coming by for lunch tomorrow and give him all my  instructions.”

“The book.” Epi grumbled. “The care and feeding of the  captive pain in the ass.”

“Something like that. I’ll be right back down.” Tori picked  up the canvas tote bag he’d left by the door and let the screen door squeak and  slam behind him. The lights were on over the garage and he climbed the steps to  the second story balcony and knocked on the wood door. It took a moment but the  door opened. “Hello, Mr. Kern.”

“Nick, my father is Mr. Kern.”

“Fair enough. Can I bug you for a moment?”

Nick glanced over his shoulder into the apartment and  shrugged. “Sure, come in.”

Tori had been expecting the place to be the typical  bachelor pad with tacky mismatched furniture and clutter everywhere. Instead,  the decent sized open space had storage bins and shelves, a decent if not fancy  coffee table and a nice, high quality futon sofa bed. The kitchen was small but  clean and the coffee in the maker smelled fresh.

“I don’t get much company up here.” He apologized and moved  to gather a few scattered books from the only side chair in the apartment.

The cover of the book caught his eye and Tori raised an  eyebrow. “The Long Fall by S. Epitome Whitmore.”

Nick shrugged. “I googled his name, saw the books and  ordered them. Town hasn’t caught on that a famous writer has moved in yet.”

“Well, Epi isn’t quite famous but he sells well enough. Do  you like it?”

“It’s okay.” He shrugged and moved out of the way so Tori  could sit down.

“I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon.”

“Okay.” Nick sat down on the edge of the futon.

“I printed out information for you.” He pulled the folder  out and it really was almost thick enough to be a book. “It’s indexed for easy  reference.”

Nick took it and opened it. “I see that.” He tried not to  snicker because it was obvious the other man’s intentions were good.

“Contact information is there by order of importance. Call  me before you even try to reach his parents and if you can’t reach me or them  call his lawyer, he’ll know who to get in touch with. But really, try to find  me as I have his power of attorney. There’s his list of current and past  medications, what he needs to take when. He’s still on blood thinners and it’s  important you understand what that means.”

“Aunt Minnie was on them. Is he bruising like she was?”

“You look at him funny and he’ll bruise.” Tori nodded.  “Flash drive with his entire medical history on it, don’t let a hospital or  doctor keep this, make them make a copy or you make one and take along. Hard  copies have all been sent to his new doctors but it’s good to have a digital  one for emergencies.”

“You trust me with this?”

“I’m trusting you with my best friend, his medical files  are the least of my worries. Your background check came up clean as a boy  scout’s and I’ll be back up here at least for an over night visit in two weeks.  He won’t eat when he’s upset, we bought enough groceries for a week so if at  the end of the week he’s still got plenty you need to call me so I can chew him  out.”

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