When Keith turned his attention back to him, Tanner just naturally smiled; it wasn’t something he could even control…the smile just spread, when Keith’s beautiful blue eyes locked on his own blue eyes. The big man’s voice seemed to resonate right through to Tanner’s bones and cause the slender boy’s breath to quicken just a bit. “Yep, Pre-Med, and I think we are both pretty lucky. Who knows, maybe Dean Alden roomed us together as another favor to me!”, he smiled, and then realized how that sounded. “I meant…ummm…you know, to have a smart pre-med guy to study with and all…you know, cause he’s been so kind to sponsor me and…well, yeah, that’s what I meant”. Tanner’s fair skin was rose red, as he reached for his water to take a drink.
Easing Tanner’s embarrassment, Keith admitted to being glad he had Tanner as a roommate; the slender blond was eternally grateful. Running his long, slender fingers through his golden hair, Tanner laughed softly, “So, you want the life story of Tanner Koskinen, huh?”, he winked, “Nothing real exciting and tickets are non-refundable, so don’t say I didn’t warn you”. He took a good healthy drink of his milk and wiped his mouth off with his napkin, “Well, I’m the oldest of six kids and grew up in Boonsboro, Maryland”, he smiled and explained, “…that’s western Maryland at the foot of South Mountain, which is the northern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m 2 years older than my sister, Emily, 3 years older than my sister, Ashley, 6 years older than my brother, Tyler, and like 8 1/2 years older than my twin sisters, Megan and Kayla”. With a sigh, Tanner picked up his spoon and just twirled it back and forth, between his thumb and forefinger. “We have always been what most people consider poor…”he shrugged, “…that’s no big deal, kids don’t usually realize they’re poor. My ma always made sure that us kids had enough to eat, even when she had to do without…”, he gave Keith a sad smile”, “…she would tell us that she had already eaten or that she had a tummy ache and then portion her food out amongst us kids”. Tanner stopped to take a deep breath, “See, my father, after he got paid, would go out and spend his paycheck on booze. Then he would come home and tear up the house and smack us around…well, mostly ma, because she would get between him and us kids and she would take an awful beating from that bastard”, tears formed in Tanner’s eyes, but he brushed them away, “Sorry, ghosts of the past”, he tried to smile and laugh it off.
Tanner excused himself to go to the men’s room and came back refreshed, after throwing cold water on his face. “Sorry, Keith, so where were we? Oh yes…My old man, what a piece of work! He not only drank away our grocery money and beat us, he also cheated on my mom. The whole town knew it. Poor mom, but she held her head high and she took us to church every Sunday and she sat with us and made sure our homework was done”, overcome with emotion, he reached out and took Keith’s hand, “Oh, Keith, I wish you could have seen her. My mom was so beautiful!”, his face turned pink when he realized he’d taken Keith’s hand and he slowly let go, “Ummm, she still is, just older, that’s all. Well, anyway, Dad finally did us all a favor and left when I was nine years old. I felt like I was head of the house and I did my best to help mom with everything; that included the younger kids when they were sick. I became a real expert at minor injuries and viruses”, he chuckled. Sitting his spoon down, Tanner rubbed the back of his neck and continued, “When I got old enough for a paper route, I took that on and gave mom the money and then a dishwasher and then a waiter, plus I kept a promise to her to keep my grades up”.
Feeling a bit shy now, Tanner wondered if he should bring up relationships. He looked up at Keith from beneath his blond lashes and couldn’t resist; he had to find out about Keith’s relationships. “Soooo, with all of that studying and all of that work, I really never had the time to date anyone. I guess that’s pretty embarrassing for a guy my age, huh?”, he looked into Keith’s alluring eyes, “Bet you had girls all over you, right?”. Tanner shrugged, “Sure you’ll have them chasing you here too”.