Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On
Trent stared at Maddie for what felt like hours, trying to make sense of what she was suggesting. Had he ever considered being with a man? His answer would be a resounding no. He spent the last 13 years surrounded by gay men, but in all those years, he never found himself attracted to any of them. He never had a desire to do the things they did. He was never even curious as to what they did. Maddie finally spoke up, pulling him from his thoughts.
“I can see by the look on your face that you’ve never considered the possibility.”
“No, I’ve never considered it. I’m straight. Like 100% straight. I don’t even know if I would be able to…I don’t think anything would work if I…”
“I’m sorry to throw this at you. I really am. I’m just trying to fix things. I don’t want to lose you, but Dylan and I…we’re for life. I can’t imagine my life without him. But now there’s you…and I don’t know what else to do. To be honest, I haven’t even discussed this with Dylan yet. I know that he thinks you’re hot. He saw a picture of us on my phone and he was practically drooling. I just thought…if it could be the three of us, we could all get what we want.”
“And how exactly would this work? You and I would continue to date, and I would just randomly go over and fuck Dylan so he can get his needs met? Would Dylan and I be dating, too?” Trent jumped off the couch and started pacing. “What exactly would this look like?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t worked out all the details yet. I was thinking that the three of us could just start hanging out and see what happens. You and Dylan would have to like each other and get along before anything more could happen. Then we could sit down and talk about what each of us would want out of a relationship.”
“Please Trent, can you at least consider it? Maybe it won’t be so bad. And besides, I’m not asking you to just go over and have sex with Dylan. We could just start hanging out and then once you got to know him…we could just try it out. It would never be just you and Dylan. It would be you, me and Dylan. I would always be there with you.”
Trent stopped pacing and looked Maddie in the eye. “You’re really serious about this.”
“All I’m asking for right now is for you to consider it. I told Dylan I needed some time. But I don’t know what else to do. I really don’t want to lose you.”
Trent didn’t want to lose her either, but sleeping with a man…being in a relationship with a man? He didn’t know if he loved Maddie quite that much. “Let me go get our dinner on the table. I don’t know about you but I’m starving.”
He wasn’t really hungry. His appetite disappeared as soon as Maddie suggested he enter a three-way relationship with her and her boyfriend, but he needed to do something to change the subject and food was the only thing he could come up with. They ate in an almost uncomfortable silence, each one of them lost in thought, and Trent was surprised when he looked down and saw that his plate was empty. He didn’t remember actually eating anything. He stood up, grabbed the plates and headed into the kitchen to start washing them.
“Maybe it would be best if I left,” Maddie suggested as she walked into the kitchen. “You’re obviously upset right now and want to be alone. I don’t want to be in your way.”
Trent turned off the water, dried his hands on the nearest dishtowel and then took Maddie in his arms as he covered her mouth with his own. His brain was buzzing from their earlier conversation, but his body longed for the woman in his arms. She kissed him back with matching heat and allowed herself to be led out of the kitchen and down to the bedroom without ever breaking contact. Their future was up in the air, but for the time being, all that mattered was the two of them and their growing need for each other. There was no way Trent was going to let Maddie leave. Not when he wasn’t sure if she would be coming back.
Brian circled the dance floor once again, making sure to watch out for signs of trouble. He was still a little pissed off that he was roped into chaperoning a dance, but he had been approached by Dr. Steinman earlier that day, and when the Superintendent of the school asks for a favor, you don’t refuse. So there he was, surrounded by a bunch of teenagers, wishing he had grabbed a flask of Jack on his way out the door. Justin had teased him mercilessly while he was getting ready, but he promised to be lying in their bed naked when Brian walked back through the door, so at least he had something to look forward to.
Once he completed his circle, he walked over to the gymnasium entrance and leaned up against the wall, ready to step in if needed. The dance was about halfway over when Tony approached him, and Brian could see by the look on his face that something was wrong.
“Hi Mr. Kinney,” Tony yelled loudly so he could be heard over the music.
“Hey Tony, what’re you doing here? I thought you said you weren’t coming tonight.”
“I wasn’t planning on it, but then my dad came home drunk, and my mom made me leave, so here I am,” Tony replied.
“Is everything alright?” Brian asked as he took Tony by the shoulder and led him out to the hallway.
“I don’t know. My dad was really mad about something, but I don’t know what. He started yelling as soon as he walked in the door, but then he went into the bathroom and my mom forced me to leave,” Tony explained. “I’m really worried about her. He was so mad.”
Brian didn’t know what to do. He had kept his promise not to tell anyone about what was going on in Tony’s life even though he really didn’t want to. Tony had assured him that he was never in danger and Brian didn’t want to cause more trouble for Tony’s mother. According to Tony, things had been getting better, but from the look on the kid’s face, there was definitely trouble brewing at the Rossi house.
“Tony, I think that maybe it’s time to talk to…”
“No!” Tony exclaimed. “You can’t tell anyone! You promised!”
“I know I did, but I can’t just sit back and let your dad hurt you or your mom. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Please Mr. Kinney…just let it go,” Tony pleaded.
Brian only had one other option. “Tony, stay here. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Without waiting for a reply, Brian went into the gymnasium and found one of the other chaperones. After explaining that he had an emergency and had to leave, he went back into the hall and placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” Tony asked as he struggled to keep up with his teacher’s long strides.
“We’re going to your house. I think it’s time that I had a talk with your mom.”
“No buts,” Brian replied. “If you refuse to let me speak with Mrs. Spellman and get you some help, I want to at least talk to your mother. Something needs to be done.”
Tony didn’t argue. He just continued to follow Brian to his jeep and then quietly climbed inside. Once they were headed out of the parking lot, Brian asked for directions. It didn’t take long for them to pull up outside a small house in a not-so-nice neighborhood. Tony finally spoke when Brian turned off the engine.
“Can I at least go in first and see if I can get my mother to come outside? I’m afraid of what my dad will do if you go in there and he’s still awake.”
Brian sighed. He felt bad forcing his way into their private lives, but he couldn’t just sit back and do nothing when he knew that there was abuse going on in the home. He knew how it felt to be Tony. The only difference was that at 14 years old, Brian was lucky enough to have someone to turn to. Tony didn’t have that. “Okay, go ahead, but if you don’t come back out in five minutes, I’m coming in.”
“I’ll be back.”
Brian got out of the jeep and leaned against the door and waited. It was almost the full five minutes before Tony came back out, helping his mother who was limping and bleeding from numerous cuts and bruises. Brian immediately approached them and helped Tony to get her to the jeep. “Are you okay? Do you need me to call 911?”
“No…I’m alright. A little banged up, but there’s no need to call 911.”
“Mrs. Rossi, I’m Brian Kinney, Tony’s English teacher. He’s confided in me a few times about what’s going on and I’m sorry, but I can’t sit back and keep my mouth shut any longer. It’s not only unethical, but it goes against my human nature. You need help.”
“I know, Mr. Kinney. I was trying so hard to get us out of here. I’ve been cleaning houses on the side without my husband knowing and saving every penny for us to get away, but then this morning he found the money and confronted me about it. I lied and told him I wanted to surprise him with a family vacation, but he didn’t believe me. He left the house right after that, but I guess he called out of work and went to the bar and drank the money away. He was so mad when he came home that I barely got Tony out of the house before he started hitting me. Thank God he passed out, but now I don’t know what to do. I don’t even have enough money to get an apartment. If I leave him, where are we going to go? Cleaning houses doesn’t pay very well, and I only have a high school diploma. Who’s going to hire me and pay me enough to support us both? Maybe if I just send Tony away for now until…”
“No way!” Tony exclaimed. “There’s no way I’m leaving you here alone with him.”
“Look, I’m not leaving either one of you here alone with him,” Brian said. “You’re both coming home with me for now and tomorrow we can figure out what do to next, okay?”
“Oh Mr. Kinney, I can’t impose on you like that. I can just…”
“You’re not imposing, and this isn’t up for debate. Now, is there anything inside that you can’t live without for a day or two?”
“My purse,” she said softly. “I can’t leave that behind. I’ve been hoping to get out of here for weeks now, so all of our important papers and my medicine are in there.”
“Okay, let’s get you in the jeep before you fall over. Then Tony can go inside and grab whatever you need. I’ll go inside with him just in case the asshole wakes up and tries to stop him.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Thank you is enough, Mrs. Rossi,” Brian replied.
“Thank you. And please, call me Gina.”
Brian and Tony helped Gina into the jeep and then quietly went inside. Mr. Rossi’s snores could be heard clearly from what Brian imagined was his bedroom.
“Okay, go grab your book bag and anything else that you need, and then grab your mother’s purse. I’ll stay over here and let you know if I hear any movement. I have no doubt that I can stop him from coming anywhere near you, but I’d rather get you both out of here without having to face him again,” Brian whispered.
Tony gave Brian a thumbs up and then disappeared into his room. He returned quickly with his book bag and a duffel bag, then made a quick stop at a closet, where he pulled out what looked to be a large purse. “Let’s go,” he said quietly.
They were in the Jeep and driving away from the house of horrors in under two minutes. Brian waited until they were several blocks away before he pulled over to the side of the road. “Have either one of you eaten tonight?”
“No,” Gina admitted. “I was getting ready to start cooking when Angelo came home.”
Brian figured as much and pulled out his phone to call Justin.
“Hey, is the dance over already? I’m still dressed,” Justin teased.
“Change of plans. I need you to make something for dinner. Nothing fancy and don’t worry about my no carbs after seven rule. Oh, and keep your clothes on.”
“Um…okay. Care to give me an explanation?”
“We’re having company. We’ll be there soon. Love you.” Brian heard Justin mutter his love you right before disconnecting his call.
“Mr. Kinney,” Gina began.
“I think it’s safe to call me Brian,” Brian replied. “But not you back there. I’m still your teacher,” he teased.
“Brian, you don’t have to make your wife cook for us. I have a couple dollars hidden away in my wallet. If you just stop at a mini mart, I can pick up something to hold us over.”
“Don’t worry about it. I can more than afford to feed you both. As for my wife, I’m not married, but I do live with someone, and he doesn’t mind cooking.”
“Oh…I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have just assumed…”
“No need to apologize. That’s not going to be a problem for you, is it?” Brian glanced over at the woman beside him and wondered what he was going to do with them if she was a homophobic bitch.
“Why would it be a problem for me? Who you choose to love is your business and nobody else’s,” Gina replied.
Brian chuckled. “I agree with you, but not everybody does. So, let me guess, brother? Uncle? Ex-boyfriend?”
“Best friend, all through high school,” Gina laughed. “I was the first person he came out to when he was twelve years old. I kept his secret until he was ready to share it. He came out right before he left for college. We don’t talk much these days. He went to school at UCLA and chose to stay in Sunny California. We mostly stay in touch through Facebook and the annual Christmas card. How did you know?”
“Lucky guess. Don’t get me wrong, I have come across a lot of gay friendly people in my life, but usually you’ll find that they were related to someone, or in love with someone, or were best friends with someone who was gay. The law of averages. A person is more likely to be homophobic if they never had a gay person in their life.”
“Hmm, I never really thought about that.”
“You wouldn’t,” Brian replied before focusing his attention on Tony, who had been unusually quiet since they left the house. “You alright back there, Tony?”
“Yeah, I’m just thinking,” Tony replied.
“Oh yeah, whatcha thinking about?”
“Nothing,” Tony said. “Are we almost there? I’m getting kind of hungry.”
“We have about another ten minutes to go. I live on the opposite side of town.”
The three of them seemed to settle down after that and Brian turned up the radio to drown out the silence. He didn’t want to think about the huge decision he just made and what the consequences of that decision were going to be.
Eric walked in the door at quarter to five to the sounds of life and was so happy to be home. He hung up his jacket on the coat rack by the door and then followed the sounds into the kitchen. There he found his fiancé and his daughters having fun while making dinner. They never heard him come in.
“Is this what I was missing all those nights while I was stuck at work?”
“Babe, what are you doing home so early?” Dane called out over the shrieks of the children. “I thought Daniel wasn’t starting until next week.”
Eric leaned down and accepted a hug from both girls before walking over and placing a quick kiss on Dane’s forehead. “So did I, but he showed up a little while ago, claiming to be bored and threw me out. I wasn’t going to argue with him.”
“I really love that man.”
“Don’t worry, not as much as I love you,” Dane replied.
Eric smiled at his fiancé. “You’d better not. Now what’s for dinner?”
“Daddy is teaching me how to make homemade pasta,” Julia explained. “I got flour all over me. See?”
“I see that,” Eric chuckled as he brushed flour off the little girl’s nose. “And what are you doing over there, Peanut?”
“I’m making meatballs. Dane doesn’t have to show me how though. I already know how. He already taught me how before.”
“Does this mean we have two aspiring chefs in the family?” Eric asked.
“Yes!” Julia exclaimed enthusiastically.
“Not me,” Gracie said. “I’m going to be a teacher just like Uncle Brian.”
“You are?” Dane asked. This was the first time he heard anything about being a teacher. The last time they spoke about the future, Gracie still wanted to be a ballerina. “Why do you want to be a teacher?”
“Because…Uncle Brian said that he’s lucky because he gets to shape the minds of our youth. I want to shape minds, too.”
Eric laughed. “Well, if that’s what you want, Peanut, I won’t object to having a teacher in the family.”
“Babe, why don’t you go get changed and relax for a bit? You look exhausted. Dinner should be ready by 6:00. It’ll be nice to have you at the table for a change.”
“I can’t wait,” Eric replied before kissing Dane softly on the lips and heading towards the door. “I’m going to go jump in the shower first. Then I’m going to plop down on the couch and veg out until you ring the dinner bell.”
By 6:00, the family of four was sitting around the table enjoying their meal. Listening to the girls talk about their day was heaven after not being around for so long. When his phone rang, he visibly cringed, fearing there was a problem at the restaurant. Dane stood up, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’ll get it and if it’s work, I’ll tell them that you are on a slow boat to China.”
“I’ll let you,” Eric laughed.
Dane grabbed the phone and saw the caller ID. “It’s your brother.”
“Let it go to voicemail. I’ll call him back after we’re done eating. Nothing short of a disaster is going to drag me away from my family right now,” Eric told him.
Once dinner was done, it was decided that the four of them were going to go into town and play some mini golf. It had been so long since they were all together beyond breakfast on Dane’s days off that they wanted to have some fun.
“You girls go get ready and give me a few minutes to call Uncle Steve and then we’ll head out,” Eric called out as everyone fled from the table. “Babe, if you give me a few minutes, I’ll help you with the dishes.”
“No, don’t worry about it,” Dane assured him as he went over and gave Eric a kiss. “You go call your brother. I know he’s been missing you, too. Tell him I said hello. I’ll keep the girls quiet until you’re done.”
“Thanks,” Eric replied as he grabbed his phone and went into the living room. He sat down in his favorite chair and called his brother.
“Hey Eric, what are you doing at home? I called the restaurant and was shocked to find out that you had left for the day. I didn’t think you did that since the opening,” Steve teased.
“I don’t do that, or I haven’t but that’s about to change.” Eric told Steve about Daniel and how he was too bored working in an office and signed on to work four nights a week for now. He also agreed to cover for Eric when it was time for the wedding and honeymoon. “He wasn’t supposed to start until next week, but he came in this afternoon, said he was bored and told me to leave. I didn’t wait around to see if he was teasing.”
Steve laughed. “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t either. If you remember, last fall I was working seven days a week at the store because I was short-staffed. It’s no fun.”
“No, it’s not,” Eric agreed. “So, what’s up? Were you calling for a reason or just to say hi?”
“I was calling for a reason,” Steve told him. “Mom called me yesterday.”
Eric was stunned. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Okay…what did she want?”
Steve spent the next ten minutes telling his brother all that he learned about his parents the day before. To Eric’s credit, he didn’t interrupt him. He stayed unusually quiet. Too quiet.
“So…thoughts?” Steve asked when Eric hadn’t reacted to the story.
“I…don’t think I know what to say,” Eric finally admitted. “Do you believe her?”
“I think I do. I mean, why would she lie? Besides, we could always ask Uncle Oliver. She said that he noticed problems long before he went to see them in Florida.”
“Yeah, I guess it would be stupid for
her to lie. So, what now?” Eric asked.
“Well, she’s living with Oliver in Tuscon. She wants to see us. I told her I would talk to you and then we could work something out. You want to see her, right?”
“I don’t know. Do you? They did more damage to you than to me. They turned into assholes, but I chose to leave on my own. You were the one that was thrown out and disowned,” Eric pointed out. “Can you forgive her?”
Steve hesitated before replying. “I think I can. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as close to her as I used to be, but she’s our mother…and if what she’s saying is true, it’s not all her fault. Besides, I want my kids to have a grandparent. Charlie talks to her family from time to time, but they live in South Carolina and don’t come to visit.”
“My kids have grandparents, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to have one more.”
“Exactly. She has no idea that I’m married with kids or that you’re engaged…shit! She doesn’t know that you’re bi-sexual. How do you think she’ll take it?”
“I don’t know,” Eric replied. He often wondered what his parents would think if they knew. They were always accepting of gay people but sometimes people are only accepting if it’s someone else, not their own child. "If she takes it bad, then that will be that. I've lived without her this long. I can go on without her again.”
“Well, I have your back. If she doesn’t accept you, then she loses me too. We’re a package deal.”
“I’m serious.” Steve wouldn’t let him continue. “You’re my family. You, Dane, and the girls. If she doesn’t like it, then she doesn’t have to be a part of it. End of story.”
“Okay, well let’s wait and see what happens. How do you want to do this? Do you think the three of us should meet up first? See how things go?”
“Actually, I think we should just jump right in. We can just invite her over and have a big reunion. The kids will be good ice breakers,” Steve replied. “And truthfully, she told me what was going on and I’m choosing to forgive her for her part in what happened. I don’t want to spend our first meeting with her rehashing everything. It’s in the past.
“If that’s how you want to do it, that’s fine by me. Thanks to Daniel, Dane and I are both off on Sunday. Do you want to do it then? Get it over with?”
“That works for us. I don’t work Sundays either, now that I hired Trevor.”
“Oh yeah, how’s he doing? He seems like a good kid.”
“He is,” Steve said. “And he’s a great employee. I’m going to miss him when he leaves for college in August.”
“I bet. Okay, buddy…you set things up and just let me know when we need to be there. I’m taking my family out for some mini golf.”
“Good for you. Go enjoy your family. I’ll text you after I talk to her. Love you, bro.”
“Love you too.”
Eric put his phone in his pocket and went in search of Dane. He found him in the foyer, grabbing the girls’ jackets out of the closet. He smiled when he saw Eric walk in.
“How’s Steve doing?”
“You are not going to believe this…” Eric shared his conversation with Dane, all the while still unsure of what to think. He had just finished when the girls came flying in, bubbling with excitement. “We can finish talking about this later.”
“Okay, but…are you okay?”
Eric looked down at the girls and then back up to Dane and winked. “I’m wonderful.” And he was. No matter what happened with his mother, he had his family and his friends. His life was better than he ever imagined. He wouldn’t let anyone change that.
Justin tiptoed quietly down the stairs, hoping not to wake up their houseguests. To say he was surprised when Brian brought home Gina and Tony Rossi is an understatement. That had not been who he was expecting when Brian said they were going to have company. But after hearing all the sordid details, he was glad that Brian’s conscience forced him to take action. No one should have to live with someone like Anthony Rossi. He made it down the stairs and into the kitchen to find Gina standing at the stove in the sweats Justin had loaned her the night before, cooking what looked to be pancakes.
“Good morning,” Justin said softly, trying not to startle the woman. Gina turned around and smiled, giving Justin a better look at her battered face.
“Good morning. I didn’t wake you, did I? I was trying to be quiet.”
“No, not at all. This is my normal wake up time. What are you cooking?”
“I found pancake mix in the pantry closet. I hope you don’t mind. I figured after the night we all had, a nice home cooked breakfast is just what everyone needs,” Gina said with a smile.
“I will never object to a home cooked meal, but you don’t have to cook for us. You’re a guest in our home,” Justin explained.
“An uninvited guest,” she laughed. “Let’s face it, Justin. I’m not a friend or relative that came into town for a visit. What you and Brian did for me…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay you. Making you a meal or two is the least I can do.”
“You don’t have to repay us. Brian and I are very lucky to be in a place where we can offer help to someone who needs it. I’m just glad that we were able to help.”
“I appreciate that. Thanks. The coffee just finished brewing if you want to pour yourself a cup.”
“Thanks. There’s a lot we’re going to have to figure out, but I need coffee first.”
“I don’t know where to start. I know I’m going to have to go home and get some of my things. I don’t have anything to wear to work if I do find a job. I’m thinking the sweats don’t make the right statement.”
“No, probably not. A friend of ours is a cop. I figured I’d ask him to go with you to pack up your things. That way if Angelo tries anything, he can be arrested.”
“Oh…wow. That would be wonderful. I’m afraid to try and sneak in when he’s at work. I never know if he’s going to take the afternoon off and if he finds me…well, it wouldn’t be good.”
“He’s not going to touch you,” Brian stated as he walked into the kitchen. “I’ll kill him with my bare hands if he tries.”
“Which is why,” Justin jumped in, “I’m going to ask Matt to go with her.”
“I like my way better,” Brian mumbled. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Gina’s making pancakes,” Justin told him. “How about if I fry up some eggs. And I think we have turkey bacon in the fridge.”
“Turkey bacon?” Gina asked, her face radiating disgust. “That’s not bacon.”
“Sorry Gina, Brian has a strict policy on what he keeps in the house. The only reason there’s pancake mix is because I bought it before he moved in,” Just explained.
“Hey, a man has to watch his figure. If it were up to blondie over there, I’d weigh 300 pounds.”
Gina chuckled. “Somehow, I doubt that. Now the comment about the no carbs after seven rule makes more sense. Then I guess you’re not Italian.”
“No, non sono Italiano,” Brian replied with a smile.
“Show off,” Justin chuckled. “He took Italian in college because he thought the language was sexy and he wanted to impress hot Italian men.”
“Well, I’m not a hot Italian man, but I’m impressed. Non male per un Irelandese.”
“Okay, enough of…whatever you just said. Let’s get back to English,” Justin laughed.
After that, the three of them worked together to put breakfast on the table. Gina excused herself to run upstairs and wake Tony up and then the four of them sat down and had a nice breakfast. Gina watched how interactive Tony was with both Brian and Justin and it made her see how awful living with Angelo had been. Tony was never that animated at home unless his father was out of the house.
Once everyone was done eating, Justin excused himself and left the other three at the table talking while he headed into his studio. He wanted privacy so he could call Matt and David. They were going to need some help. Matt answered on the second ring.
“Hey, we were just talking about you.”
“You were?” Just replied. “Were you discussing how hot I am?”
“Of course,” Matt teased. “We talk about that constantly around here.”
“Liar,” Just laughed. “Listen, I need some help, from both you and David. Are you guys busy?”
“No, not at all. Hang on, I’ll put you on speaker. Okay, go ahead.”
“Hi, David. Listen guys, Brian did something last night and we need help,” Justin began. Then he spent the next few minutes telling his friends all about the Rossi family and how they ended up at the Kinney/Taylor residence. After he was done, he was met with silence. He waited patiently to allow David and Matt time to think about their options.
“Okay, first of all,” Matt began. “I’m working 3-11 tonight. Once my partner and I leave the station, I will text you and let you know. You and Gina can meet us over at her house so she can get in and get her belongings. There’s no way she can go in there by herself. I hope the douche bag is there and gives me a reason to slap cuffs on him.”
“Thanks, Matt. I was hoping you would do that. Otherwise, Brian was going to go with her and that would probably make things worse. It’s just not safe for her to be there,” Justin replied. “So David, I was wondering if you knew of any organizations out there that would help her. I don’t have a problem with them staying here for a while, but she doesn’t have an education beyond a high school diploma. She’s been cleaning houses on the side while her husband was at work, but that’s not going to pay enough for her to get a place to live or a car. She has nothing”
“Well, she’s in luck,” David replied. “I’ve had Daniel working for me the last couple of months and he just left to go work for Eric, so I’m suddenly stuck without an assistant, and I’m lost. The job pays well and I’m offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus for anyone willing to start immediately. Bring her by Monday morning for an interview and if I like what I hear, the job is hers.”
“Really? That would be awesome. What perfect timing. Thank you both so much. I’d better go talk to Gina. Matt, just text me and we’ll make sure to get Gina over there. I’ll send you her address. David, thank you so much. Seriously, you’re an angel.”
“No need to thank me. You’re doing me a favor. Now I won’t have to run an ad and interview a ton of people.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you guys later. Love you!” Justin quickly disconnected the call and headed back to the kitchen so he could share his news.
A few miles away David took a sip of his coffee before looking over at his partner. “What?”
“He’s doing you a favor?” Matt asked knowingly.
“He is. If Gina is any good, it will definitely save me from having to find the right person for the position,” David explained.
“Umm, babe? Daniel wasn’t your assistant. All he really did there was hang out and spend some time with his brother. There is no assistant position.”
David downed the last of his coffee, put his cup in the sink and walked over to Matt, giving him a quick kiss on the forehead before replying. “Then I better get to work creating one.”
Matt watched his partner walk out of the kitchen beaming with pride. He could never figure out how he got so lucky to be loved by David Jackson, but he was still so thankful every day that he was.
“Okay, just let me know when your flight lands, and I’ll make sure one of us is there to pick you up. Love you.”
Aiden walked into the room for the tail end of Derek’s conversation and smiled to himself. He was so happy that Derek and Deanna were able to reconnect. Derek was a much happier man because of it. Of course, Aiden was also happy that Deanna got pregnant. He couldn’t believe they were less than two months away from becoming parents. So far, Deanna’s pregnancy had been going well. She was feeling great, taking good care of herself, and never missed a doctor’s appointment. Back in January, when it was decided that they were going to take the baby, Deanna found an obstetrician that was only a few blocks away from the new house and who completely understood their situation. Dr. Tucker had been wonderful from day one. He willingly scheduled her monthly appointments for late in the afternoon on Fridays so Deanna could fly in for the weekend. He was on board with her traveling as long as she stayed in Arizona for the last 6-8 weeks of the pregnancy, which was why Derek had been on the phone with her. She was coming back to Arizona the following week and would be staying until after the baby was born.
“De sends her love,” Derek said, pulling Aiden from his thoughts. “Since I have off a rare Saturday night, how about if we go out for a nice dinner, maybe have a couple drinks? In another week we’re going to be having a house guest around, and from there, a baby. Nice, quiet nights for just the two of us are going to be a thing of the past.”
“Sounds good to me. Let me just jump in the shower. I was playing hoops with some of the kids in the shelter and I’m all sweaty,” Aiden replied. “Any chance you want to come in and wash my back?”
“You never have to ask,” Derek assured him as he grabbed him by the hand, pulled him in for a passionate kiss and then led them towards the bathroom.
An hour later, Derek and Aiden were sitting at a table in Eric’s restaurant. Not only did they like to support their friend’s business, but they both agreed that it was one of the best restaurants in Arizona. They each ordered a steak and a cocktail and then blocked out the rest of the world. Aiden took Derek’s hand. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too,” Derek replied. “Sometimes I still can’t believe we’re here, you know? When I think back to before we got together…there were nights when you would come in the bar, and I still have no idea how I managed to make it through my shift. I used to get so nervous when you were sitting at the bar that I would drop things or make drinks wrong. It was terrible. Greg used to tease me endlessly.”
“Really?” Aiden asked. “Well, if it makes you feel better, I never noticed.”
Derek laughed. “That’s probably because you never noticed me.”
“That’s not true,” Aiden replied. “I was just…in a bad place back then.”
“I know, babe. It’s okay. You noticed me eventually. Of course, first I had to get you drunk…twice.”
“So, was that how you found all your boyfriends or was I special?” Aiden asked teasingly.
“Oh no, you were special,” Derek assured him as he turned serious. “You were definitely special. You were the only man that ever caused me to screw up a drink. I knew then that I had to find a way to make you fall in love with me.”
“Well, it worked. I am sorry about the way I treated you after the first night though. That wasn’t me. I was never the guy who would get black-out drunk and end up in bed with someone. I was just dealing with some stuff, and I thought that alcohol would make it better. It didn’t, but I thought it would.”
“Was that stuff Jason?” Derek saw the way Aiden stiffened at the mention of Jason and had his answer. “I’m sorry, I know it’s none of my business. I just remember your reaction to him at Chris and Zander’s barbeque and you said we’d talk about it, but we never did. I put two and two together.”
“It’s okay. I wasn’t really ready to talk about it back then, and then, as time passed, it seemed pointless to bring it up, but yeah it was Jason. It was stupid of me to ever think I’d have a chance with him anyway. He was so young back then, and completely in love with Zac. I never should have gotten involved with him in the first place.”
“Well, I’m sorry you were hurt in the end, but I refuse to be sorry things didn’t work out between you two, otherwise there would be no us and I love us.”
Aiden reached across the table and took Derek’s hand. “I love us, too.”
Just then the waiter came with their dinner and the conversation steered more towards happy times. They ate, they talked, and they drank, and by the time they left the restaurant neither one of them was feeling any pain. They called for an Uber and were so happy once they walked through their front door.
“So…this is one of the last times we’re going to be alone in the house for a very long time. Do you want to light the fireplace and fuck on the living room floor?” Derek asked as he grabbed Aiden’s arm and pulled the man towards him.
“That sounds wonderful. You start the fireplace; I’ll go grab some pillows and a blanket and I’ll meet you in the living room.” Aiden kissed Derek softly, lingering for just a moment before pulling away and going in search of pillows.
The two men spent the next hour taking each other to new heights before they finally settled down in each other’s arms. Despite being on a blanket on the floor, Aiden found himself comfortable, and started to drift off to sleep when he heard Derek softly call his name.
“I’m scared,” Derek said softly.
Aiden turned his body so that he could see Derek’s face. “What are you scared of?”
“Screwing up. Losing you. Being a lousy father. You name it, I’m afraid of it,” Derek laughed humorlessly, fighting back the tears that were threatening to fall.
“Aww babe, you have nothing to be afraid of,” Aiden assured him. “You could never be a lousy father, and chances are you will screw up. It’s human nature. We all screw up now and then. But no matter what you do, I will be right by your side to help you fix it because I love you.”
“How can you be so sure I won’t be a
lousy father? I don’t know the first thing about kids. That’s one of the reasons
I never wanted any.”
“Babe, did you only agree to take the baby because of me?” Aiden asked as a feeling of dread washed over him.
“Yeah, maybe. I mean, I wanted to help De too, but mostly I did it because I knew it was important to you to be a father and I didn’t want to be the reason you weren’t.”
“Oh Derek, I wish you had said something sooner. You may not have wanted to be the reason I wasn’t a father, but I don’t want to be the reason you’re stuck with being one when you don’t want to be. This is a huge, life-altering decision and we both need to be happy with it or it’s a no-go. Maybe we can come up with another arrangement. We don’t have a lot of time, but if we…”
“Shhhh,” Derek said as he placed a hand gently over Aiden’s mouth to stop him from continuing. “It’s fine, Aid. We don’t need to come up with another arrangement. We promised De that we would take the baby and raise it as our own, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
“No buts. I may have never wanted children, but I would do anything to see the sheer joy in your eyes that’s been there since we agreed to do this. That definitely outweighs my fears. Well, most of the time. I want to do this…I want to do this with you. I’m just terrified.”
“Okay, then let’s talk about your fears,” Aiden said.
“Ugh…why did I have to fall in love with a psychologist?” Derek moaned.
“Shut up and talk,” Aiden chuckled.
“I don’t know. It’s a huge commitment. Like, we’re going to be raising this kid for at least 18 years, probably much longer. And babies cry a lot. What happens if I can’t get it to stop crying. And puberty…what if it’s one of those kids who goes out banging anything that moves? Or worse…what if we have a girl? Are you going to explain the birds and the bees to it? Explain about periods? Buy tampons? Oh God, what if it comes home pregnant?”
Aiden had a hard time holding back his laughter. “Okay, first of all maybe not refer to our child as it.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Listen babe, just relax. Yes it’s a huge commitment. At least 18 years, but trust me, by the time our child is ready to leave the nest, we’re not going to want him or her to leave. And I know things aren’t always going to be smooth sailing, but it’s not like we’re going to have to deal with it all at one time. In the beginning, all we need to worry about is making sure they are clean, fed and happy. As for the birds and bees, I promise to field that one, okay?”
“I’m just scared.”
“I know,” Aiden replied. “I’m a little scared, too but I’m also so excited to be having a child with you. I promise, once he or she is here, you’ll realize how wonderful it is to be a parent.”
“I hope you’re right,” Derek.
“Trust me, I’m always right,” Aiden teased. “Now, do you want to go get comfortable in our bed? Or would you rather stay here?”
“Here is good,” Derek replied. “As long as you’re in my arms, I’m happy. I love you, Aiden.”
“I love you, too.”
Aiden smiled to himself as he listened to the man he loved drifting off to sleep. He didn’t know that Derek had so many doubts about being a parent, but he knew deep down that once their son or daughter was born, they would both fall in love, and everything would be right in their world. Six more weeks. He couldn’t wait.
End of chapter 10
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