- The Sixteenth Encounter -
Thanksgiving. What a holiday, don’t you think?
Supposedly, I’m supposed to give thanks for all I have
gotten in the year, grateful for all I have. However,
what am I supposed to be thankful for this year? The
strange heartache that is eating away at me or the
romance that I did not think was possible?
I am in the middle of my four hour drive to my
parent’s place out in the nice suburbia of the good
old U.S. of A., bitterly thinking about my past week
without Heero. As dictated, he had not called, sent
me e-mails or done anything to keep me in contact. I
had requested it from him, but the fact that he really
didn’t call rested unhappily with me. I sigh as I put
a little more pressure on my accelerator, making my
lovely car go five miles faster. I am a damned
contradiction, telling him not to call and still
expecting it from him.
I should put it aside, damn it. I am going home to
spend time with family and I should not be bringing
all this gloom with me. I should be happy with my
days off from work, overjoyed at the prospect of
eating a dead bird cooked to perfection and ecstatic
at the chance to catch up with my only brother.
I should not be lingering with my thoughts on Heero.
I smile my first real smile since the day Heero told
me of her when I spot my mother coming out of the
front door to greet me as I get my stuff out of the
trunk. She looks wonderful with her brown hair done
up in a tiny bun, her blue eyes sparkling with
“Duo, my baby, you made it! How was the drive? Much
traffic? Did you bring that girl with you? Need help
carrying your things in?”
I cannot help the laughter that bubbles out from my
throat. It is good to be home, I guess.
“Mom,” I say between my chuckles, “give me a chance to
reply. In that order, it was fine, not so bad, what
girl and no.”
My mother processes my answers as we walk up to the
house. It is the house I grew up in, all mellow
bricks and shingles, with vast amount of windows and a
wrap around porch that did not go with the rest of the
house. It was an unconventional house, but my parents
had unconventional tastes.
As soon as I step into the house, my father greets me
with a hug and a pat on my back hard enough to send me
pitching forward. He looks a bit older and I wonder
how long it has been since I’ve seen him last. His
beard has more white in it, his brown hair is streaked
with grays, but his eyes are still the same. My
purple eyes with more life experience and scattered
humor smile at me as I return the hard hit to the
“Hey, old man, you look good.”
That is how I have always greeted my father since I
went away to college and the comfort of tradition sits
well with me.
“Young man, have some respect for your aging father
and get to your room.”
I run up the familiar stairs to my room. Yeah, my
room. It is still decorated like it had been when I
was living here, with outdated rock group posters,
comic books and random junk. It is a piece of my
history that I often neglect.
“Duo,” my mother’s voice floats up the stairs, “when
you’re done unpacking, come down for some snacks,
“Sure thing, Mom.”
I am pretty sure that so far, all my depressed
thoughts about Heero have not presented themselves
plainly on my face. I just needed to spend four days
with my family as if everything in life was grand and
wonderful. I hate worrying them with my personal life
especially when I could not give them details about my
I was in the middle of putting away my clothes when I
was jumped from behind by a pair of strong arms.
“Little man, you’re home! Did you bring me anything
Ah, yes, the joys of an older brother. Even at my
age, the older brother can definitely make you feel as
if you are still six. And more than that, he is still
the coolest person you know.
“Solo, do you mind? You’re wrinkling me.”
My brother laughs, but he does unlatch from me to come
around to face me. His blue eyes take me in from head
to toe as if checking for injuries and then I’m
surrounded in a bear hug.
“Duo, man, I haven’t seen you in ages! Shit, you
can’t be that busy right?”
“Sorry, Solo,” I reply, meaning every word, “but it
has been murder lately.”
“That better not be a pun..”
Solo mutters and then helps me unpack, making comments
about my choice of attire as he does so. He makes fun
of my sweaters, saying how one of them probably cost
as much as his rent and then he eyes my pants like he
could make off with them some time during the night.
Then his eyes land on my brand new coat that I pull
out of the bottom of my suitcase.
“Damn it, Duo,” he exclaims, “that coat is awesome!
Tell me you bought me one.”
“Christmas is only a month away, Solo. Don’t get all
greedy on me now.”
It is an old running joke between my brother and me,
the issue of clothes and other assorted things. I am
much better off than he is, being a successful
attorney and all. I rake in the money and I do have
plenty of it. He, on the other hand, had some issues
early in life which made him drop out of high school
and go off on a ‘search-for-self’ mission for a while.
That is a nice way of saying that he drifted from
town to town until he finally couldn’t do it anymore.
Yeah, he and I are totally different in our outlook of
life. I am driven, he is not. I tore through college
and law school with top grades, he just barely got his
GED when he felt like it. I have a job with a large
law firm, he is a mechanic in the same town we grew up
in. Despite all the financial differences, though, at
least we don’t resent each other for any of it.
“How much does a coat like this cost, Duo?”
Well, I don’t think he resents me, I hope.
“That’s a Burberry. It’s about three grand.”
“Three..” Solo trails off, a bit stunned, “three
fucking thousand for a coat? Shit! What’s up with
I shrug as I take the coat from him to hang in the
“Really rare breed of cashmere?”
We both laugh at my joke and then he ribs me about my
education level, saying how all those years of
schooling has not even taught me that cashmere was not
an animal. Brotherly banter, nice and easy, right?
But the situation with Heero must be making me a bit
edgy because I swear, I sense a bit of something..
off with Solo. As if he was angry with me.
We go downstairs after our unpacking and he pulls my
braid like always. Then we race to the kitchen just
like when we were both teenagers, our feet stomping
loudly through the house.
Our mother yelled at us just like back then when we
got there, too. God, I’m getting all nostalgic.
The comfortable feeling lasts until the dinner on
Thanksgiving night, the turkey massacred at my
father’s incapable hands sitting on the table long
after we were done eating. But after the food always
comes the talk and that’s when I feel decidedly
“So, Duo,” my mother rambles, “when are we going to
hear about this new woman in your life?”
If it was not so damned telling, I would have bitten
into my nails. Thankfully, my father speaks in my
“Helen, don’t go pestering the boy. He’ll tell us
when he’s good and ready.”
“As his mother, I have a right to know,” my mother
sniffs with a superior air, “and he won’t tell us
squat until we drag it out of him.”
I hear Solo laughing at my side and I know I’m
blushing a shade of red that shames the cranberry
“Mom,” I grind out, hoping to forestall questioning,
“we had a really big fight not too long ago. We
aren’t speaking. Can we not talk about this?”
Immediately, I get sympathy eyes from my parents who
nod knowingly. Solo, on the other hand, opens his
“Duo, you actually have a female who does not cater to
your every whim? You’re losing your touch, little
Ha. He has no earthly idea.
“Stop picking on your little brother, Solo.”
My mom must still think we’re little children,
admonishing Solo like that. But that is the wonder of
parents, is it not? They never believe that you are
as grown up as they were when they were your age. To
them, Solo and I will be eternally ten and eight,
squabbling over who got to play with the G.I.Joes on a
The grilling of my love life does stop after I
announce my depressing news, but it weighs on me for
the rest of the weekend. Watching football with my
father and my brother, I get flashes of brilliant
cobalt colored eyes in my visual range. I hear a deep
yet slightly nasal voice teasing me when I’m talking
to my mother about my job. I feel hands encircling my
waist when Solo and I rake the leaves in the backyard.
I must be losing it.
When Sunday finally comes, I’m almost too relieved to
leave the presence of my family. It was not that I
did not enjoy my time with them, but I suddenly felt
as if I should talk to Heero. I could not do that
with my family hovering around since they would have
See, I realize that even though I may not have
forgiven Heero for keeping his secret from me, I want
to forgive him somehow. I miss him, didn’t my flashes
of Heero all through the weekend say something about
My parents hugged me goodbye and I agreed to give Solo
a ride back to his apartment. The ride back had some
inane babble between us about sports and other
masculine topics, but then it had to turn itself
“Little man,” Solo begins, “you really like this girl,
I wonder if I should pretend as if I didn’t
understand, but I decide against it. It is my
“Yeah,” I reply, “but the fight was really bad.”
He shrugs his shoulders like he expected me to say
“All fights are pretty bad when you really like the
person. I’m thinking you are going back and working
I nod in affirmative, but refuse to answer verbally.
“Duo,” Solo says, his voice more serious than I have
heard in a while, “you work it out if she means so
much to you that she could make you zone out for four
damned days without even being here.”
I chuckle in embarrassment. I had no idea that I had
been so obvious.
“And bring her home to meet mom and dad. They just
want to know the people in your life. Don’t..”
Solo pauses and I tense up.
“Don’t what, Solo?”
“Don’t disappoint them. God knows I do that enough.
You.. you are the apple in their eyes, you know? You
can do no wrong. You, little man, are the perfect
My throat constricts and my hands grip the wheel
tighter. Oh god, only if they knew..
My voice is raspy and my stomach is clenching tight
enough to produce diamonds out of coal. Why did Solo
have to say all that, lay all that shit on me?
“Later, little man. Invite me down to your fancy digs
“Sure thing, Solo. See you.”
With the farewells said, my brother gets out of my car
and I see him enter the door to his apartment
building. Then I drive out of my home town as fast as
I can, the demons spawned from Solo’s words haunting
me all the way back home.
“Solo,” I say to the emptiness of my car, “I’m not
perfect. And the rate the shit is going, I’m going to
end up killing them.”
The rest of the drive is a hazy thing, my thoughts
jumbling in a tangle of confusion as Solo’s words and
thoughts of Heero intertwine. What am I supposed to
do now, I wonder. Should I do as Solo says and not
disappoint my parents? I mean, if I were to break it
off with Heero, won’t this be the time?
I am still pondering that question when I walk into my
apartment holding my cell in my hand with Heero’s
number on the screen. I should push send, either to
end it or fix it. Whichever I choose, I need to talk
It isn’t until I have been home for a good hour that I
push send and check the impulse to hang up before he
picks up. For better or for worse, Heero picks up
after the first ring like he has been waiting for me.
Funny how my heart lurches at that.
He breathed out my name like a prayer, almost as if he
didn’t believe that I was calling. The mixture of
relief and nervous tension hits me through the
electronic space, telling me that Heero had been
waiting by the phone for my voice for nearly two
“Hey,” I say, noting that my voice is shakier than I
wanted it, “how was your holiday?”
Okay, I admit that that was a lame beginning, but I
don’t know what to say. I still haven’t decided on
the fate of us yet.
So we do small talk for a while, each of us feeling
out the other’s emotional space with empty words and
pregnant pauses. Neither of us can say what is really
on our minds, not yet, but at least we’re talking.
However, it is during this useless small talk that I
receive an epiphany of sorts. Some time during
Heero’s explanation of the bad weather conditions near
Oregon, I realize why it was that I stuck with Heero
even after all my doubts and mistakes. It was the
same reason that Heero stuck with me after everything
I had done wrong.
Special. Remember that, Duo Maxwell you ninny? I
wanted it so badly and I found it in him. He saw it
in me from the first moment. That was why I could not
let him go, why he waited for me to call.
That is why I must forgive him.
“Look, Heero,” I say as soon as the epiphany passes,
“come over now. We are going to work this out.”
I hang up without waiting for him to answer because I
know for a fact that he’s coming.
He is coming to reclaim what is special.
And I’m going to do the same.