January first fell on a Wednesday in the year 1964, and as it was Milo's eighteenth birthday. His parents needed to recover from the New Year's celebrations so his party was held the following weekend.
Mrs. Jablonski didn't cut any corners for her son's birthday and had rented one of the smaller rooms at the Elks Hall to accommodate not only his fourteen closest friends, but various neighbors, aunts, uncles and cousins as well.
She had put up streamers and balloons, much to his chagrin. However, his party guests were delighted and immediately started batting loose balloons around, giggling and completely comfortable being kids for the day.
At first it was a little snug in the room, but outside the temperature was in the high 70's that day, so many of the young children were outside enjoying the sunshine under the supervision of some of their older brothers or sisters who had been bribed or coerced (threatened was such an ugly word) into watching their younger siblings.
Most of them, the ones who had been bribed, decided that being outside in the fresh air was more fun than being cooped up with the adults anyway and smiled at their good fortune.
The latter group soon forgot their gripes as they became involved in the younger children's games and were running and laughing, playing freeze tag or jump rope along with them.
As 'Man Of The Day', Milo had to remain inside and greet and entertain his guests which he did flawlessly.
Dennis, who had been watching nearby, admired his friend's skill. Even with his own family he always felt awkward and uncomfortable and preferred to speak only if he had something to say. In point of fact, given his druthers he'd be left alone completely to read or write, or even watch TV.
Amadeo and Angelo were under no such restrictions and came and went as they pleased. Earlier, Bruce and Ethel had showed them a clearing behind the building, but when they arrived the brother and sister were already there.
"Oh, sorry." 'Deo said, "We'll find somewhere else to talk."
"Hey, no! Actually, I can use your advice. Bruce just keeps saying 'Do whatever feels right.' but I don't know what feels right which is why I asked him in the first place." she said, emphasizing the word by backhanding him on the bicep.
Bruce winced and grinned but didn't say anything else.
"All right, what's the problem?" 'Deo asked.
"Did he hurt you? Offend you?" Amadeo asked, becoming worried.
"No! Nothing like that, it's just... for a long time I was mostly only ever attracted to other girls and now... after meeting Jim and spending time with him... I think I like him, and I'm confused. I mean, I've seen men I thought were attractive too...but... I never really thought about any kind of relationship with one before. What do you think I should do?"
He thought for a while and then said, "I agree with Bruce. If it feels right then try it. I mean, when you knew you were attracted to a girl, what did you do?"
"I shut my mouth," she said as though the answer should have been obvious. "I look but I don't touch, and I certainly never ask. I'm already an outsider but at least I'm the kind they leave alone rather than pick on 'cause they know I'd deck 'em. If they found out about me..." she let the thought trail.
"Do you want me to ask Jim for you?" 'Deo asked.
"No. He already asked me, that's why I'm out here asking you numb skulls your opinions." she said, a little acid tinging her voice.
"The worst that can happen is that you and Jim don't hit it off. Go out with him a few times and see how it goes." Angelo said reasonably.
"But what if he decides he doesn't like me? What if I decide I don't like him that way? It'll be uncomfortable when we all hang around together. It means either him or me would have to stop hanging with the group."
Amadeo mentally patted himself on the back when he succeeded in not correcting her grammar.
"I can't guarantee what'll happen, Eth." Amadeo said. "All I can ask is how do you feel right now? I know you've been attracted to other people. Do you feel toward Jim, the way you felt when you were attracted to them? It could just be affection, one friend for another."
Ethel sighed. "It's more than affection, I think. Sometimes I think about him and I can't wait to see him. I haven't really loved anyone like that to know what it feels like. I just get this weird... feeling in my stomach when I'm around him. Sort of like what I feel when I know I'm going to ace an exam. Oh!" she sighed in exasperation, "That's not it exactly either but it's the closest I can come to explaining it."
"Do you feel like you're on a roller coaster on the downward drop?" Angelo asked quietly.
"Yeah! That's it!" Ethel said excitedly, brown eyes flashing.
"Give it a shot," he said just as quietly with a shy smile as he looked at Amadeo.