Gom Marsh liked knowing that the work he did as an undercover cop, enrolling into high schools to assist the staff in cases of extreme bullying, made a difference. It was rewarding, but often heartbreaking, work. When a new man, Casey Tanner, comes into his life, his heart is immediately engaged. Is he about to find the happiness he's always longed for? He's excited by the possibilities, but Casey doesn't like to be touched. That could be a problem. These two young men's lives become as intricately entwined as the cases that Gom finds himself involved in throughout the story.
Gom answered Casey’s question, saying, “Yeah, man, Trick’s doing great. He’s going to school and the new start is helping. He’s safe here, Casey, thanks to you. Would you like to join us for supper, maybe see how well Trick has settled in here? We’d love to have you, huh, Soldier?” Gom turned to his dad, who was moving about the kitchen setting things out for one of their favorite meals. “It smells great in here. I love when you make tacos. There’s always plenty,” he said, looking back toward Casey, who looked like he was ready to book.
“Nah. I gotta go. Things to do, you know?” Casey started to leave.
“Casey,” Gom said, stepping closer and touching Casey’s arm near his shoulder, “please stay and eat with us. We’d love to have you. We never know who’s going to show up. It’s not really formal here and everyone’s welcome.”
Casey didn’t jerk away from Gom’s touch. It was more that he slid out from under it in a smooth gesture. “I don’t need anybody takin’ care of me. I just wanted to make sure Trick was doing better is all.” He seemed firm in his refusal. Just as he started to reach for the door, Trick came in from the hall and saw them.
“Casey, hey! Are you here for supper with us? Look, we’re having tacos. Soldier makes the best ones ever. I’m glad to see you.” Trick came over and in a surprising move, put his arms up and went to hug Casey, who stepped back quickly, leaving Trick with his arms up in an embarrassing gesture. The rejection showed clearly on Trick’s face and Gom was upset. That was the first time he’d ever seen Trick even act like he was going to hug someone and it had been instinctive.
“Sorry. I’m sorry,” Trick turned away. Gom was at a loss. He looked from an embarrassed and harried-looking Casey to a sad Trick to a pissed-off Soldier. Damn it! Casey’s gesture had probably set Trick back considerably. Being able to make a spontaneous move like Trick had came hard for the young man and it had been met with what Gom considered callous disregard, not something he found to be a good or caring thing, especially from a man that Gom was finding interesting. He was very disappointed.
Gom looked at Casey and tried not to let his feelings show as Soldier set about trying to get them all past the small scene that had taken a toll on Trick. Gom turned from Casey, afraid his face would show how disheartened he was by Casey’s move.
“Trick, help me chop the lettuce. I’ll do the onions. No crying in my kitchen, huh? Gom, you’re on dicing the tomatoes, and Casey, if you’re staying, you can get a bowl for the shredded cheese and open the black olives. Oh, and get out the sour cream and the guacamole. Let’s hop to, boys. This meat and the refried beans are almost ready. We’ve got tortillas, regular taco shells, and those bowl-shaped ones you like, Gom. They’re ready to come out of the oven, by the way. Here, Casey, take this and grab them before they burn.” Soldier handed Casey a potholder and pointed to the oven where there was a large tray of the bowl-shaped taco shells just getting brown.
Gom didn’t look to see if Casey did as requested. He got his tomatoes and started dicing. It took a lot. He was a little ticked at Casey for the way he’d hurt Trick. Would it have hurt him to accept the gesture from the younger boy, especially since it wasn’t something Trick did easily? Trick was seeing Tommy and making some headway in losing some of his isolationist behaviors and fears. Gom could see him really making an effort to fit in with the others at the place. There was no doubt in his mind that Soldier and Dillon, with Tommy and Daniel’s help, could help Trick become another success story. He kept working with his head down.
They had big bowls of each item that went into the delicious tacos. He heard the oven door open and out of the corner of his eye he saw Casey’s arm setting the shells and bowl-shaped tacos down on the trivets on the counter. He refused to smile at Soldier’s clever mind. Maybe Casey had realized what a mistake he’d made and the hurt he’d caused and was trying to make up for it, even though Gom knew he wouldn’t be comfortable working with them all in the kitchen. He got the impression that Casey didn’t play well with others.
***love is love***