Divorce can be nasty. Clement discovers how nasty gay divorce can be as he surveys the damage wreaked by his ex-partner in their soon-to-be-sold home.
After cleaning the mess, he goes for a late coffee and dinner snack. The lone barista, Troy, recounts his traumatic car accident drama as they close the shop and share coffee and leftovers. Troy also reveals the pain of rejection he's felt for being gay.
The two men share another connection: the next day, Troy starts a new position as a social worker, and Clement is a counselor, as well. So the next morning when Clement drives Troy to his new job, he knows they may cross paths again.
It comes sooner than expected, though, when Clement returns to Troy’s office with an abused gay teenager who has nowhere to go. Try as they might, Troy and his new coworkers can find no available foster family. Suddenly Clement finds himself with a potential new family. Can things work out for the three of them?
I was whistling happily as I went into my office. The phone was ringing, and I grabbed it up and said, “Yo!”
It was my realtor. “What is this, some kind of joke?”
I’d handed him the papers about an hour before, and the house had been in order.
“I don’t understand. What’s wrong?”
“Everything!” he said. “The basement is full of sewage. Your garage has homeless people in it who won’t leave, and they were smoking weed. When I turned the stove on to test it, the oven caught fire. Someone had stuffed it full of paper towels! This isn’t funny, Clement, or should I say Clem. I can’t work with you like this. The fire department was here. I had the prospective new owners coming in this morning and had to cancel. Then the police came, and I had to explain why I was even there and why the dopers were in the garage! Didn’t you fucking check anything? Burn in Hell, asshole! The sale is off,” And he slammed his phone down.
I had an image of Derrick, sneering and laughing with whatever friends he might still have. I sat at my desk, well, dropped half dead into the chair, put my hand over my eyes, and wondered what in hell I should do. Then the phone rang again, and it was a case I had to take. The police were bringing a fourteen-year-old boy in to be cleared for a safe house, or a foster family, or the hospital. God help me, I hoped he needed to go to the hospital. My first thought had been of Troy; that Troy would know what to do. Fourteen years old; no holiday for him; it was barely breakfast time. Luckily, my closet was full of snacks, more snacks, juice boxes, and stuffed animals. I’d make some decisions, sign a few papers, fill the kid up, and take him where he needed to go. Poor kid. I hoped he didn’t think he was too old for a teddy bear. Hell, I could have used one myself, right then.
When they brought him in, my heart melted. He was still in his pajamas, and one eye was black and swollen. Okay, hospital. He was biting his lip so hard, it had bled, but there were tear tracks down his face, anyhow. Well, he’d tried. The cops left, and I pointed to a chair.
“Have you eaten?” I asked.
Of course, he didn’t answer. Kids that age, not only did he feel he had to be all manly and strong, but, if he admitted any weakness, he’d probably act the way he felt, which was usually about six years old. So, I grabbed some cookies, gave him half, and opened the other half for myself. I grabbed two stuffed animals, one a dog, the other a cat. I raised one eyebrow. He took the cat, first, and then the dog, too.
I’m not a normal, well-trained therapist. I’m not just a misclassified combination of roles but also a renegade. I ate three cookies at once and said, “Cookies and pets are better than people because ...”
I expected silence, but you never know. The boy had dirty blond hair, longer than currently popular, bright blue eyes, and I suspected I knew something else about him, too. Call it a sixth sense.
“Pets and cookies don’t care if you’re gay."