Foundations of LoveBy: Walter H. Hopgood & Lisa D. Witte
A Harts Square Prequel
Keelan looked over the parcel of land stretching out before him, predominantly green with splotches of yellow and pinks from the sunrise spilling across the horizon. He smiled, seeing beyond overgrown weeds studded with jagged pieces of concrete and broken beer bottles to how he would build his part of the American dream, just like his adopted parents had. He saw his future.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Layte, his best friend and business partner, leaned into him and laughed with delight. He turned to see her shaking her head with a gently mocking expression.
“While this will indeed be a great future for us both,” she said, maintaining her majestic demeanor even as a raccoon scurried into a nearby storm drain, “it is currently very much not beautiful.” She released his arm as he looked back out over the field. “But you have always been a dreamer. It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about you.”
Love. That four-letter word that people used so easily. He and Layte had once been lovers, but that felt like two lifetimes ago. They’d known each other since childhood, but only started dating senior year of high school. And before graduation, their time as a couple stumbled to an end when Layte helped him accept the truth about himself.
She had cupped his cheek and fixed her rich brown eyes on him with a knowing smile. “You need to look into your heart, and honor your true nature.”
Keelan had blustered, blushing from the knowledge that she must have figured out the secret he’d never even admitted to himself, much less spoken of to anyone. The secret that he’d planned to keep forever, because his Dad always said ‘tradition is the foundation of every part of your life’, and how could he follow family traditions when he’s anything but traditional?
But, eventually, with his best friend’s support and encouragement, he accepted his sexuality and came out. He’d never figured out how Layte knew he was gay before he’d even come to grips with it himself, but whenever he asked, she just smiled and shook her head fondly.
During their college years, Layte and Keelan grew to be closer as friends than they had been as lovers.
Forgoing the usual college path, Layte refused to declare a major. Instead, she took any and every class that interested her, from engine repair to business management to psychology. After graduation, she used her enormous variety of skills to start her own business as a ‘Jill of All Trades’. She also spent hours as a ride-share driver whenever her schedule permitted, because she ‘wanted to meet people from all walks of life’.
Keelan took a more traditional path, and followed his father, Arthur Greene, into architecture. He interned at the family firm all through college, and was hired upon getting his degree. He started off doing ‘entry-level’ projects like courtyards and office buildings, but after several years his soul longed to do more creatively fulfilling designs. Watching Layte succeed at challenge after opportunity lit a fire in him to take a risk and spread his wings, and now it seemed like he was about to get his chance.
One lazy Portland afternoon a few weeks back, Keelan and Layte headed out to run errands and have dinner. Driving down Southeast Stark Street with the setting sun at their backs, they passed a parcel of land that featured in Keelan’s fondest childhood memories. Before those memories could distract him, he saw an elderly man tamping a sign into a bit of dirt. The car slowed, and he turned to see that Layte had noticed him, too.
Layte was already pulling over onto the gravel verge, and they watched the old man turn, his shoulders stooped, and slowly walk past a gas station that had closed and crumbled decades before.
“Is it really finally for sale?” Keelan kept his eyes on the retreating figure. “I used to play in that lot when I was a kid.”
“As did I,” Layte replied. “I believe this is one of the places where our paths crossed before we really got to know each other.” Sometimes Keelan forgot they had lived so near to each other, and even spent time in the same circles, because they hadn’t gotten close until high school.
Keelan smiled at memories of his friends, carefree as a group of six year olds could be, until the old man turning down a gravel driveway caught his eye. He glanced at Layte, his thoughts racing. “Then that… No, it couldn’t be! You don’t suppose that’s Old Man Hart, do you?”