Chapter Four

New Friends

"You'll have jerks everywhere, Tommy," said Andy when we were talking about my first night on the job while we were having breakfast the next morning. I'd told him about the three boys at the end of my shift and how one of them was just really rude. "You can always refuse him service."

"I don't want to do that on my second day," I replied. "Besides, he may not be a regular. Tyler said they were all here for their tour of the university, so that means that they don't live in Storyville."

"Well then maybe you won't see them often," he agreed. "The decision is yours. It sounded to me like you handled yourself professionally, and I'm sure that if you were out of line in what you said to them, Dean would have let you know."

"Yeah," I sighed. "It doesn't matter, though. Everything else about the job was great."

"That's good," he said with a smile. "I'm glad you like your new job."

"Well I have to get going," I said, getting up and grabbing my empty breakfast plate. "I have to get over to the housing office and get them paid."

"I still wish you'd just stay here in the house, Tommy," he said as I put my plate in the sink. "It's going to seem wrong to be here without you."

"It would have been the same if I had gone to school somewhere else," I pointed out. "This way I'll be here a lot. I'll always have laundry."

"Aren't you a funny guy this morning?" he said sarcastically. "Just don't be expecting me to wash your dirty underwear."

"Funny guy," I chuckled as I got up and put my dishes in the sink. "I have to go. I probably won't see you until tonight. I have to work again."

"Restaurant or coffee house?" he asked.

"Coffee house," I replied. "I'm not scheduled at the restaurant all week."

"Well have a good day, Tommy," he said, sitting back down at the table.

"You, too," I replied as I headed out the door with my backpack slung over my shoulder.

Driving through Washington Square, I thought about what it was going to be like to spend the majority of the next four years in this section of the city. I passed the Greek Houses along my way to the main campus and saw the sorority girls out doing this and that to get their houses ready for the upcoming semester. The frat boys were outside as well, but not much work was getting done at the fraternities. They seemed to be more interested in playing than working. I smiled as I thought about the crazy antics Vince and Andy had told me about in their own fraternities. Neither of them lived in a frat house, but they were both fraternity brothers. I had wondered if maybe a frat was the way to go for me, but I still hadn't made my decision.

I walked into the housing office with my form in one hand, checkbook in the other. I noticed right away that Tyler was in there as well. He was standing at the desk, talking to the secretary about getting into the dorms at the last minute. I took a seat and waited while she tried to figure out where to place him so close to the semester. I silently thanked God that I had gotten all of this stuff taken care of in the middle of the summer.

"It's Tommy, right?" he said when he turned around and saw me sitting there. The secretary had left the office to retrieve a packet of some sort.

"Sure is, and you're Tyler," I said with a smile. "Problems?"

"Well you could say that," he replied. "My roommates have become impossible to live with, so I came down here to see if I could move in to the dorms instead of living off campus."

"No luck?" I asked.

"Not so far," he sighed. "I have my scholarship information, and I can pay for the dorm for the whole semester. It's just finding a spot for me."

"I'm sure they'll find something," I said for lack of anything better to say.

"I'm sorry for the way that Loren acted last night," he said after a brief moment of silence.

"Loren?" I asked, though I was certain that he was talking about his rude friend from the coffee house.

"At DH3 last night," he said.

"You don't need to apologize," I said. "You weren't the rude one."

"Well I was the reason he was there," he said. "I wanted to check the place out really bad."

"Yeah, it's becoming one of the hot spots near the university," I replied. "I'm glad I got the job there. Yesterday was my first day."

"And Loren was an ass to you," he said.

"You can't win them all," I replied with a shrug as the secretary came back into the office with a packet in her hands.

I sat there and listened as she got him all signed up for his dorm room. He'd told her that a random roommate would be fine, so I guessed that Loren and the other friend either weren't going to be in the dorms or he didn't want to room with either of them. In a few minutes he had his dorm assignment, smiled at me and left the office. I was up and halfway to the desk when I noticed that I was still smiling.

I got my deposit paid and was given my keys. I already knew what my dorm assignment was. After the housing office, I was free for the next several hours. I didn't have to report to the coffee house until five, so I decided to go and bug Ben for a bit. I still hadn't seen or heard from Leo. My plans changed abruptly when I got out of the office and came face to face with Tyler again.

"Oh," he said as if he hadn't expected me to come out of the office. "Hello again."

"Hi there," I said with a chuckle.

"Listen, I was wondering if you'd like to go grab a drink," he looked at his watch and smiled. "Or maybe lunch."

"Sure," I said, deciding that new friends were important, too. "Where would you like to go?"

"Well I don't have the courage for the cafeteria here," he chuckled. "How about The York?"

"Sounds good," I replied. "I'll meet you over there."

"Right," he said, smiling.

The York was one of our newer restaurants. Storyville was filling up with new businesses, which was a good thing, but at the same time the old businesses were going under. Thankfully, I still had a job. I didn't actually have to work, but sitting around the house all summer wasn't something I was looking forward to.

The large white stucco building was only a few blocks from the university, so I was sitting under the huge neon sign that said, "The York" in just a few minutes. Tyler pulled in and parked next to me in a matter of seconds. I smiled again when I saw him, and that was when I realized I wasn't nervous around him at all. I had been a wreck with Steve when I first met him. Tyler was even more attractive than Steve, and I thought it was strange that I wasn't nervous.

"Ready?" he asked as I climbed out of the car.

"Sure," I replied, keying the alarm on my car and following him into the restaurant.

I'd never been inside the restaurant before. It had been open only a month or so. My first impression was a good one, though. There was no pretence of ritz or glamour. The carpet that covered the floor was a rust color, and the tablecloths matched. The napkins were white, and there were pictures of Lake Storyville on the walls. It seemed that fitting into the city was more important than a big time image, and I liked that.

There were only about five other diners in the dining room, so we were seated quickly. I noticed that our waiter was dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a rust colored polo shirt with the name of the restaurant sewed into the left breast. I didn't know him, but he smiled at me when he seated us and handed us our menus. After taking our drink orders, he was off for a bit.

"So you said that you've not been here long," I said, starting conversation. "Where are you from?"

"We came down from Canada," he replied. "Well, TK is actually an American, but Loren and I are Canadian. We're both here for school. I'm hoping to make my stay here a bit more permanent than that, though."

"What brought you to Storyville University?" I asked, thinking that our school was big, but it wasn't that well known.

"We applied to a lot of schools," he replied. "Storyville had the best of what we all wanted, though. That and it didn't kill our parents to send us here."

"You said you had a scholarship?" I inquired, remembering what he'd said in the housing office.

"Right," he replied. "It isn't major or anything. It's paying for my tuition, but the extras will cost me."

"I know all about that," I replied with a smile. "I'm on scholarship as well, but mine doesn't pay for anything other than tuition and books."

"You're lucky," he chuckled. "Mine doesn't pay for books. That's tomorrow's headache."

Our waiter came back just then with out drinks. He asked if we were ready to order, so I took a quick glance at the menu and ordered the Italian seasoned roast beef sandwich with steak fries. Tyler ordered a steak sandwich with steak fries, and the waiter, who we now knew was Chet, took off to the kitchen.

Tyler and I talked until the food came. He told me about life in Canada, and I gave him a brief overview of what Storyville was like. Of course, I left out the court drama, locker bombings and that stuff. No need to scare him, right? With that thought in mind, I also failed to mention my sexuality. So much for being out and proud.

"So Loren told me that someone he talks to said something about you being all over the papers last year," he said after our waiter returned to take our orders. I nearly choked on my soda. So much for not being out and proud.

"Well I had a little problem with a local church," I replied slowly.

"A church?" he asked with raised eyebrows. "What kind of trouble?"

"The stoning kind," I replied uncomfortably. "The reverend of the church had a slight problem with me and a few of my friends." For some reason I didn't want to tell him that I was gay and that the Reverend Hartman had seen fit to stone me for it.

"That's intense," he gasped. "I hope they locked him up."

"They did," I assured him. "Along with quite a few members of his congregation. Look, can we not talk about this right now?"

"Of course," he said quickly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"Don't worry about it," I replied. "It just isn't one of my fondest memories."

"I can imagine," he said. "If you ever need to talk..."

"Thanks, but I already have a therapist," I said with a smile. He was silent for a moment as he watched me, but then he started to laugh, and I laughed with him.

We were both quiet for a while after that. Our food was eaten by the time we started talking again. Then we only discussed our majors and dorm assignment horror stories. His far outweighed mine. Mine only consisted of Andy begging me not to move out of the house every other day. We paid the check and then exchanged cell phone numbers with promises to "do this again sometime."

I was in a good mood when I reached the coffee house. Tyler seemed like a great guy, and I was happy to at least be his friend. Sure I wanted more, but I knew I'd have to settle for whatever type of relationship I could have with him. It wasn't exactly as if I was ready for another relationship at that point in time anyway. At least, I told myself, the next one would start slower than the last and I would make sure that certain mistakes weren't made again.

"Hey, Tommy," said Dean as I walked up to the counter. "You're a bit early. Care for a cup?" He held up his own cup of coffee and smiled.

"Sure," I replied, sitting down. "How'd I do last night?"

"You did just fine," he replied. "So good, in fact, I've decided you can handle things pretty much yourself. My cell number is by the register. If you need me for anything just call. Otherwise I'll come back in at closing time to help you get the paperwork in order."

"Sounds like a plan," I said happily. If he was already that confident that I could run his business without supervision that was a good thing.

"Oh, and if anything happens like last night's childish customer, just ask them to leave," he said. "You have the right, Tommy. Don't let any of them talk down to you."

I digested what he'd said as I sipped the coffee he'd put in front of me. I didn't intend to let anyone talk down to me ever again. In fact, telling customers like Loren to leave wouldn't bother me a bit. If they decided they didn't want to go, well I could handle that, too.

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