Ring of Remembrance

I am woken by a voice snarling, “That’s the last time I take care of him!” I open my eyes to see Fernando angrily throwing a blanket at Santiago and Nick before stalking out.

“What was that about?” I ask sleepily.

“Nothing,” Nick mutters. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I yawn and stand up. “Suit yourself. I’m gonna get dressed and head over to breakfast before all the coffee is gone.”

When I arrive at the main cabin, Morgan is snapping pictures. People keep calling her name and posing. They are smiling, but there is a sense of urgency about it. “It’s the last big party for a while,” she explains. “And some of us might not be here for the next one.”

“That’s a great idea,” I say. “Would you actually mind getting a few with me and Santiago? Like… engagement photos?”

“Sure!” she says.

I grab Santiago and pull her over. She rolls her eyes, but agrees to pose for  a few pictures. I also get a few with Artie, Charlotte, and Sinclair.

“Thanks, Morgan!” She gives me a thumbs up and walks off, her camera still making popping sounds.

I start heading back inside to get a plate but pause when I see Terrence sitting on the steps. I sit down next to him. “Hey,” I say.

“Hey,” he says back. He’s twisting one of his rings again. We sit together in silence for a few moments.

“Nice ring,” I say nodding towards it.

He hesitates, then takes it off and hands it to me. “Take it,” he says. “I can’t bring it with me where I’m going, anyway.”

“Terrence–”

“What’s for breakfast?” he interrupts me.

“Terrence. Stop it. You are going to survive this,” I say fiercely.

“No, I’m not, and we both know it. So let’s just stop pretending. I’ve got my affairs in order; I’ve made sure that Morgan and some of the Saratogans are on the lease. I’m making sure that things continue once I’m gone. And besides,” he says, gesturing toward the ring in the palm of my hand, “let’s face it – that’s gonna look a lot better on you.”

I stop arguing – everyone knows that there is no arguing with Mr T. “Fine,” I say. I slip the ring on my middle finger and flip him the bird with it. “Now let’s go get some food.”

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T and Me

Once Sinclair has headed back to his cabin, I peek into the Pillow Room. Fernando is there, but it is otherwise empty. “Quiet in here,” I remark.

“Yeah,” he says. “I think everyone else has headed off to bed.”

“Hmm. I’m not ready for bed yet. I’m gonna take a stroll around and see if I can find anyone.”

“I just did that a little while ago. I guess it’s possible, but seems unlikely,” he says.

“Couldn’t hurt,” I say.

I stop in the Darkroom first. The lurid gay porn is still playing, but the cabin is otherwise empty. I’ve never seen it so quiet; it’s almost creepy. I walk back out and head over to the main lodge. The grounds are quiet. I’ve resigned myself to heading back to the Pillow Room and sleeping alone, but stop in the main lodge anyway, just to make sure. I am surprised when I hear voices talking quietly.

“Hello?” I call out.

“Hey, babe,” I hear Santiago’s voice from one of the tables in the back. She is sitting and chatting with Sorrento. I sit down next to her and lay my head on her shoulder as she and Sorrento chat. A few moments later, Nick and Terrence walk in.

“Hey guys,” says Terrence. “What are you doing up?”

“I’m just waiting for my fiance to come to bed,” I answer. “What have you two been up to?” Nick flushes, and I laugh. I stand up. “I’m going to sleep,” I say, kissing Santiago’s forehead. “I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ll be in the Pillow Room, if you want to join me.”

“Is that invitation open to the public?” Terrence teases.

“Sure,” I say, “The Pillow Room is public domain. There’s plenty of room!”

“That sounds like it could be fun,” says Santiago, looking around. “Let’s all go!”

“Yeah, why not?” says Terrence. Nick shrugs.

I raise an eyebrow. “You fags wanna come cuddle with the lesbians tonight?”

“Not me,” says Sorrento. “You guys have fun!”

The four of us traipse off to the Pillow Room, which is empty. I guess Fernando found something else to do after all, I think to myself. I lay down with the pillow and blanket that I’d dropped off earlier. Santiago lays on one side of me, Terrence on the other. Nick lays on the other side of Santiago.

I turn onto my side and snuggle into Santiago, facing Terrence. Nick and Santiago are deep in conversation. I’m tired, but content to stay awake and chat now that I’m finally horizontal.

“So, you and Nick, huh?” I grin.

“Yeah, well. You know me…” he says.

“I sure do!” I answer. “You are the founder of these parties, after all.”

He is quiet for a moment. “Sometimes I wonder if they were a mistake. With all of the sex and everything…” his voice trail off.

No,” I say emphatically. “Terrance, these parties are where so many people have met and developed friendships and relationships. Hell, it’s where Santiago and I finally got together, and it’s where I proposed to her. Did you think that was spur of the moment?”

He smiles. “No, I guess not. Charlotte would never let you do something so big without planning every moment of it.”

“So true!” I pause, then reach out and take his hand. “It’s not your fault, you know, I say softly. “The disease? It would have spread regardless. But your parties brought people together.”

He squeezes my hand briefly. “They brought Kimberly and I together,” he says.

“I know,” I say. “She told me.”

He is twisting one of the rings he always wears, and I am suddenly nervous. Terrence never fidgets. “Terrance?”

“I’m positive,” he blurts out.

I freeze in shock. “What?”

“Yeah. I found out earlier today. I don’t expect to be around much longer, honestly.”

I feel as though the wind has been knocked out of me. Terrance? He’s one of my oldest friends. He’s a condescending know-it-all pain in my ass, but he’s my friend, and I can’t imagine the world without him.

“Don’t cry,” he says. “It will be okay.”

“I’m not–” I blink. Shit. I am. I wipe my eyes furiously. “This sucks.”

“It does,” he agrees.

“We’re gonna find a cure, though. We’re gonna get this place opened up and then–”

“Let’s not worry about the future,” he interrupts me. “Let’s enjoy the here and now.” He leans forward and kisses me.

I’m overwhelmed at the sudden surge of passion and tenderness that flows through my body. I kiss him back, wrapping my arms around him tightly.

“I don’t want to– can we just–” I struggle to find the right words.

“Of course,” he says. Changing the subject, he says, “Hey, did you see the shirt Eli was wearing earlier?”

We talk all night. It starts getting light out before my eyelids become too heavy to keep open anymore, and I succumb to a restless sleep.

Sleeping Alone, Again

I head back to my cabin, finally ready for sleep. I’ve just finished changing into my pajamas and brushing my teeth and arranging my blankets when Kimberly comes in. She gathers up her blankets and pillow.

“Where are you going?” I whisper curiously.

“To sleep in the Pillow Room,” she answers. “It’s more comfortable sleeping on the floor than on these horrible bed frames. Besides,” she flashes me a grin, “there are people to snuggle. You should come!”

I pause. “That’s… tempting.” I glance from Kimberly, to my cot, and back to Kimberly again. I yawn and take another step toward my cot.

“Seriously, you should come,” she says again.

“That is very tempting…” I say again. I take one more glance at her, then say, “Okay, fuck it. Wait for me.”

I gather up my blankets and pillow and follow Kimberly across the lawn, barefoot in the darkness. When I arrive, Santiago is there, gathering her things and putting on her shoes. Fernando lay in a corner, Nick massaging his back. Kimberly disappears into the private room.

“Hey, babe.” I greet her with a kiss. “I decided to sleep here. It will be more comfortable than the cots, and there’s so much room to snuggle! You should stay here with me.”

“Hmm, that sounds nice… but I promised Sorrento a quick chat before bed,” she says. Seeing my face fall in disappointment, she quickly says, “but I’ll come back. When I’m done.”

“Okay.” I kiss her again. “Goodnight.” I lay down and close my eyes, knowing full well that Santiago won’t be back tonight. My mind whirls, replaying the events of tonight over and over again in my head. I fall asleep to the sounds of Fernando and Nick whispering in the corner, feeling lonely and wishing that my girlfriend was there with me.