Collin Knudsen stood outside the guard shack, wondering what his employers were planning to do about security, now their friends had sold their home and moved to Canada. Rick and Glenn had assured him he would have a job, but it might be at a different location, as they were going to put their home on the market.
He glanced up as a black Humvee pulled up to the gate. He grinned and returned to the guard shack to open it for his lover, Clay Henderson. Clay pulled through the gate and parked his vehicle. He jumped out and walked toward the guard shack. As he approached, Collin stepped out of the shack to greet him with a warm hug and a kiss.
“I’ve missed you,” he said.
Clay laughed, ruffling his boyfriend’s long blond hair and gazing into his molten chocolate brown eyes. “It’s only been a few hours, since we had lunch together.”
Collin grinned, leering at Clay. “I wish I could be with you all of the time.”
“We’d never get anything done, because we’d be in bed all day,” Clay said, brushing his lips against Collin’s.
Collin pouted. “No, we wouldn’t.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that…we’d be having sex in every other room in the apartment,” Clay said, caressing Collin’s bubble butt.
Mark and Michaela joined their dad and Collin. Mark, seeing his dad feeling up his boyfriend, said, “Hey! There are teenagers present!”
Collin laughed and turned to Mark, “As if you and David don’t do the same thing.”
Mark grinned. “At least we wait until we’re indoors, before we start making out.”
Clay looked at his son, and said, “We weren’t making out. We were just giving each other a proper greeting.”
Grinning, Michaela said, “I think it’s cute.”
“It’s cute, but I have to give them hard time,” Mark said, meeting his dad’s gaze.
Clay said, “I’ll remember that the next time I see you and David…”
Mark interrupted his dad, “Okay, Okay! I won’t harass you and Collin, anymore!”
Clay laughed. “I’m going to hold you to that, buddy.” He released Collin from his embrace and they turned toward the house, while Collin returned to his post in the guard shack.
As they approached the door, it opened and David appeared in the doorway, sweeping Mark into his arms, kissing him soundly.
Clay caught Mark’s gaze, as David released him. He smirked, raising an eyebrow, and asked, “Do I get to…?”
Mark shook his head emphatically. “No, you don’t!”
David gave Mark a puzzled look. “What are you guys talking about?”
“Nothing,” Mark said, quickly grabbing David’s hand, leading him inside the house and down the hallway to the family room, leaving his father grinning after him.
Michaela said, reproachfully, “Dad, you shouldn’t tease Markley like that.”
He glanced down at his daughter. “I probably shouldn’t, but it’s so much fun!”
She laughed. “But don’t take it too far, Dad. It could rebound on you.”
His expression turned serious. “I know you’re right. I shouldn’t tease him so much, especially since I’ve got a boyfriend who likes to cuddle and make out, too.”
She smiled happily up at him. “I’m glad you do. Collin is good for you. He’s handsome and fun to be around.”
He put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m glad you approve.”
She nodded her head. “He’s great and, most importantly, he makes you happy.” She paused and thought for a moment, before she asked, “When are you going to ask Collin to marry you?”
The question didn’t surprise him. He had already asked his children about Collin becoming a part of their family, and both of them had given their approval. He smiled and said, “I don’t know when, but it will be soon, even though we can’t be married until the divorce is final.”
Michaela nodded her head in understanding. “I know Mom and Avery are planning to get married as soon as the divorce is final. Avery already gave Mom an engagement ring.”
Clay looked at her in surprise. “I didn’t know he’d given her a ring.”
Michaela smiled. “Mom showed me her ring, yesterday, when she picked me up from the dance studio.”
Ashley appeared in the foyer and said, “Hey, Michaela! Are you ready to work on our homework for tomorrow?”
Michaela smiled at her friend. “Yes, I’m ready.” She followed Ashley up the stairs to her room. “Ashley, my mom is getting married to Avery.”
Ashley looked at her friend and asked, “Are you okay with that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve always hoped my parents would get back together; but, now, they’ve both found someone new. So, it looks like I’ll have two new stepdads.”
Ashley said, “It will all work out in the end, Michaela. Daddy says everything happens for a reason. We just have to wait and see how things go.”
Michaela stepped over to Ashley’s desk and started flipping through the sketch pad she found there. “These are really good drawings, Ash.”
Ashley beamed and said, “Thank you. I’m going to take them to Mr. Crofton.” Mr. Crofton was her art teacher. “He wants me to enter them in the regional art competition.”
Michaela smiled at her friend. “He’s right, Ashley. Your art is very good and I’m sure you’ll win.”
The girls continued to chat as they worked on their homework assignments. Meanwhile, Clay made his way down the hallway toward the sound of piano music. As he passed the family room, he saw Mark and David were playing video games with the twins watching over their shoulders. He continued until he came to Rick and Glenn’s music room. He stopped in the archway and watched in amazement as Glenn’s slender fingers flew across the keys of one of the baby grand pianos standing in the center of the room. He glanced over to the other grand piano, and was surprised to see Purev seated there with a look of extreme concentration on his face, as he played in tandem with Glenn. He knew Purev sang in the school choir, but he didn’t know he could play the piano so well.
He stood mesmerized, watching the two of them until they finished the piece they were playing. He stepped into the room, clapping his hands in appreciation. “That sounded great!”
I smiled and looked over at Purev. “It was perfect, Purev.”
Purev positively glowed with my praise. “Thanks, Daddy.”
“I think you’re ready for tomorrow night,” I said.
Purev nodded his head. “I feel ready.”
Clay looked at them with a raised eyebrow. “Ready for what?”
Purev answered, “I’ve been asked to play the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 at the concert tomorrow night. Daddy’s youth orchestra likes to provide young artists opportunities to perform with them.”
Seeing Clay’s expression, I explained, “Purev sent in a CD with his music and was called for a live audition. He really wowed the selection committee!”
Clay’s expression cleared and he grinned at me. “So, there wasn’t any favoritism involved?”
Purev said, “Daddy excused himself from the auditions to make sure he didn’t influence the outcome.”
“I’ve always insisted the children earn their own way, instead of riding on someone else’s coattails, especially when it comes to musicianship. I worked hard to perfect my talent for music and firmly believe everyone else should be just as diligent in honing their musical abilities,” I said.
Purev nodded his head, and said, “I’ve signed up for choir, band and drama next year. I love music and acting. I want to study music and acting when I graduate.”
“Purev is helping direct our church choir and he was in Edison’s musical this year,” I said.
Clay said, “I remember you played the prince in Beauty and the Beast.”
“Yes, I liked playing that part,” Purev said. “Kyle’s friend, Robert, played the part of LeFou.”
Clay laughed. “I can see that. He loves to goof around a lot.”
I looked over at Purev and asked, “Did you invite your parents to your concert? I know how much your dad pushed you to play the piano when you lived at home.”
Purev met my gaze, his eyes suddenly bright with unshed tears. “I sent my mom a text message, but she hasn’t responded to it.”
“I think your mother will be there, if she can find a way,” I said.
He nodded his head. “I know my mother still loves me. She’s not the one who kicked me out.”
“You’re right, Purev. You mother loves you very much. That’s why she agreed to let you live with us until your birth father comes around. I just hope he realizes what he’s missing and fixes things before it’s too late,” I said.
Seeing the tears begin to cascade down his cheeks, I stood up and walked over to Purev. I took his hand in mine and pulled him into my arms. “No matter what your father does, you’ll always have a place in our hearts.”
Purev clung to me like a life preserver. I felt him shudder as he tried to control his emotions. I tightened my embrace and said, “It’s okay to cry, Purev. I love you very much and will always be here for you.” Unlike the cretin who sired you, I thought to myself.
After a few moments, Purev pulled back and rubbed his hands over his eyes, scrubbing away his tears and smiled at me. “I love you, too, Daddy,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.
I hugged him again, then asked, “Did you remember to invite Mr. Eccles, as well as Scott and Alonzo to attend your concert?”
Purev nodded his head. “Yes, I invited them. They said they would be there.” Purev’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He fished it out and answered it. “Hey, Winston.” Purev face lit up with a bright smile as he walked out of the room, continuing his conversation as he went.
I glanced over at Clay and said, “Purev is a wonderful boy and I wish his father had enough sense to see the beautiful soul he has, instead of rejecting him for being gay.”
Clay nodded his agreement and said, “It never ceases to amaze me how much love you have for your children, Glenn.”
“They’re very special to me,” I responded. “Rick and I try to give each of them the love and attention they need.”
“Well, it seems to me you’re doing a great job,” Clay said.
“Thanks, Clay,” I said, changing the subject, I continued, “Has Mark shown an interest in taking piano lessons? He’s got a good ear for music.”
“No, he’s never expressed an interest in it. He can listen to a piece and sit down and play it, but whenever I ask him about taking piano lessons, Mark says he doesn’t want to be limited by reading notes on a page,” Clay said.
I nodded my head in agreement. “That’s how Kyle feels as well. He’ll read music to play his viola, but he won’t when it comes to playing the piano. He likes to compose his own music or make up his own arrangements of existing songs.”
Clay said, “Mark has commented on Kyle’s talent for taking two songs and merging them together.”
I smiled. “Yes, he does a good job of that.”
Kyle walked into the room, wearing white basketball shorts, and a tight white muscle shirt clinging to his chest like a second skin. He had a dark 5 o’clock shadow and his well-defined muscles made me think he could easily be a model for one of those muscle magazines. Our son had turned into quite a handsome young man. He looked from me to Clay. He ran a hand through his short, spikey brown hair as his brown eyes met my grey-blue ones. “What do I do a good job of?”
I smiled at him and answered, “Playing the piano.”
Clay added, “And taking two different songs and putting them together to make a new one, at least that’s what Mark tells me.”
Kyle grinned. “It’s easy.” He walked over and sat down at the piano recently vacated by Purev. He lovingly ran his fingers over the ivory keys, then launched into his most recent composition. As I listened, I marveled at the intricate harmonies Kyle added, that not only enhanced the main melody, but became separate melodies in their own right.
When he finished, Clay asked, “What do you call that one?”
Kyle grinned. “I don’t give my songs names. This one I just call my song for Rebecca. I was thinking about Rebecca’s hula dances when I wrote it.”
Clay said, “You must like Rebecca a lot to write a song for her.”
Kyle nodded his head. “I do.” Seeing my frown, he quickly added, “Don’t worry, Daddy, we aren’t getting married or anything like that. We aren’t even officially dating.”
Clay gave me a puzzled look. “Why are you worried about Kyle dating Rebecca?”
Before I could answer him, Kyle said, “He’s afraid I’ll marry into a family of gay haters.” He explained her family belonged to one of the most anti-gay churches around.
Clay nodded his head in understanding. “Now, I see why your Daddy’s concerned.”
“But, Rebecca doesn’t feel the same way as her parents,” Kyle added, looking over at me.
“That’s good, but it doesn’t change the facts. She belongs to a church where we’re not welcome and her family believes gays are abominations,” I said. I paused, before continuing, hearing Rick’s words of warning bouncing around my head - specifically telling me not to interfere, but choosing to ignore them, “You can’t tell me she’s ready to turn her back on her family and her church. I’ve found very few people have that kind of courage.”
“She hasn’t said anything about leaving her church to me,” Kyle said. “Besides, we aren’t dating, Daddy. I don’t know why you’re so uptight about it.” The expression on his face told me I had crossed over the line, causing him to get defensive.
“I’m just worried you’ll get hurt,” I said, trying smooth things over.
Hearing my words, his expression cleared. He stood up and walked over to me. “Daddy, it’s okay. We haven’t even talked about her religion.” He hugged me and said, “You don’t have to worry about me abandoning you or Dad. If some girl wants to separate me from my family because of her religious beliefs, she’s got the wrong guy.”
I met his gaze and smiled up at him. “Thank you for being so understanding, Kyle. I’m sorry I worry about things like this.” I paused to clear the lump from my throat. “I love you so much I never want to lose you to a religious zealot or her family.”
Kyle laughed and rubbed the top of my head. “You’re so goofy sometimes, Daddy. All of us kids know how you feel about Christian churches and their anti-gay teachings. What makes you think we would willingly join any of them?”
I reached up and grabbed his hand. “Hey, watch the hair! I spent a lot of time getting it just right!” Kyle grinned and pulled his hand free. He loved harassing me about my hair. I have to admit I’m a little vain when it comes to my looks, but I’ve got to keep on top of my game! My thoughts returned to the conversation at hand, and I said, “I worry because each of my children have minds of their own.”
Kyle’s expression became serious. “You know I would never intentionally hurt you or Dad by joining an organization which requires me to renounce my relationship to you or condemn you because of who you love.”
Reassured, I stood up and pulled him into my arms, hugging him tightly. “I love you, Kyle. I’m sorry for getting on your case about Rebecca. I’ll try to do better.”
“I love you, too, Daddy.” After a moment, he continued, “You can let me go now.” His expression reflected the typical teenage boy’s response to being hugged by a parent! I released him and he returned to the piano. He looked up at me and said, “Pastor Wilson asked me to play for services next Sunday. Do you want to hear what I’m going to play?”
“Sure. You know I always love to hear you play,” I replied, resuming my seat at the other piano.
Clay moved further into the room and took a seat in an armchair near the piano. “What are you going to play, Kyle?”
Kyle looked up from the piano keys, and said, “I’ve taken a gospel hymn and added a different accompaniment.”
He played it and when he finished, Clay said, “That’s beautiful.”
“Thanks,” Kyle said. His phone chirped in his pocket. He pulled it out and glanced at the screen.
“Let me guess….it’s Rebecca,” I said, grinning broadly.
Kyle nodded head and tapped out a text message, before asking, “Can I borrow the car for about an hour tonight? I want to take Rebecca out to get an ice cream cone at DQ (Dairy Queen).”
I looked over at Clay and asked, “Should I let him?”
Clay grinned and said, “I think you should. He’s done pretty well with the music for next Sunday, so I think he’s earned the right to take the car.”
Since Clay and Collin were now a couple, they had started attending church services with our family. Pastor Wilson had welcomed them with open arms, immediately making them feel like an integral part of our congregation.
I turned back to Kyle and said, “Okay, you can take the car; but don’t stay out past 10 PM. You know how your Dad gets if you’re out late on a school night.”
“I promise I’ll be back before 10,” Kyle said. He stood up from the piano and left the room, texting rapidly as he went.
I shook my head and looked over at Clay. “Sometimes, I hate cell phones. It seems like we can’t have a conversation without being interrupted by a text message or phone call.”
Clay agreed, “I know how you feel. The same thing happens to me with Mark and Michaela.”
I laughed. “I swear the kids would go into shock if they didn’t have a phone, tablet or computer at their fingertips.”
Clay said, “I think we’re showing our age, Glenn.”
“I take umbrage with that statement. I’m not old. I use technology, just like the kids…I send text messages and love my tablet.”
“Yes, but you use your laptop more than anything else,” Clay pointed out.
“Okay, I use my laptop, but so do my kids,” I responded, in protest.
Clay put up his hands up in surrender. “Alright, I take back my statement; however, you have to admit they’re more proficient at texting than you are.”
I shrugged. “Maybe, but I’m not budging on the age thing.”
Clay laughed. “Well, I guess you can get away with that, but I can’t since I’m older than you and my children are about ten years older than your twins.”
“You’re only six years older than me,” I said, grinning. “But if you want to be called an old man, who am I to argue? Does this mean you’re robbing the cradle, old man?”
Clay shrugged. “Maybe, but Collin is mature for his age.”
I laughed. “Somehow, I don’t think Collin would appreciate that comment!”
“Well, I love having sex with my cute, adorable boyfriend, so I guess you could call me a dirty old man,” Clay said, giving me a lecherous grin. His expression turned solemn as he asked, “Why are you so obsessed with religion?”
I gave him a serious look, before I answered his question. “Rick and I were attacked by his family because we’re gay. They would’ve murdered us, Clay, based on the teachings of their church. Many so called ‘Christian’ churches and their pastors continue to preach hatred from their pulpits and advocate violence to force their views on others. Their ‘Christian’ teachings are to blame for the damage it’s done to our family.”
“But Rebecca doesn’t belong to that same church,” Clay said, pointed out.
“No, she doesn’t, but she belongs to one of the most anti-gay ones in existence. They have funded major campaigns to take away our rights and to make sure we remain second class citizens. They have made it clear they will continue to do everything in their power to hurt gay people and their families,” I said. “I want to protect my family from those kinds of people and institutions, Clay. I can’t stop them from preaching their brand of Christianity, but I can do my best to warn my children so they don’t get involved with such hateful people.”
Clay said, “Don’t you risk becoming just as prejudiced as they are?”
I nodded my head. “I’m aware of that fact; but I try to keep an open mind about things. However, they keep providing me with evidence indicating their hatred of gays has not abated at all. In fact, it’s increased and become even more dangerous. Rebecca is a really nice girl and Kyle likes her a lot. So, I hope she can see the failings of her church and move away from their hatred of gays.”
Clay nodded his head in understanding. “You know, I felt just as strongly about protecting my children from gays as you do about protecting them from religious fanatics. Those feelings led to much of my homophobic behavior. Since I lost my job because of my bigoted behavior, I’ve gotten to know you and Rick and learned gays aren’t the evil monsters the religious wingnuts have portrayed you to be.” He laughed and said, “Not only have I learned that gays are great people, I’ve become one myself!”
I smiled at him. “I think you always were a closet case, Clay. I think your failure to acknowledge who you are drove your behavior more than your religious beliefs.”
“Maybe,” he said. “But, don’t you think you need to give Rebecca and her family a chance to show you they’re not the evil people you think they might be?”
“I guess so,” I paused for a moment. Then continued, “Okay, I’ll give it some thought. Rick’s been telling me to back off and let our kids make up their own minds about religion,” I said, with a sigh. “He’s told me not to interfere in Kyle’s relationship with Rebecca, because I could push him too far and he’d rebel against us.”
“He’s right, Glenn. You should listen to your husband. He has your best interests at heart,” he said. “Besides, Kyle told you he already knows your thoughts and feelings on the subject, so pushing him about his relationship with Rebecca will tell him you don’t trust him.”
I said, “You’re right.” I felt guilty for ignoring Rick’s warning. I decided to change the subject, having had enough discussion about my antipathy toward religion. “I hope Purev’s father will come to the concert tomorrow night.”
Clay said, “I hope he does, too. He’ll see what an accomplished young man Purev has become.”
We chatted about our families and eventually retired to the kitchen where I prepared a snack for the kids and served hot cocoa and coffee to go with it.
Later that evening, Rick held me in his arms and I gently kissed his lips, before meeting his gaze. “I have a confession to make.”
“Oh, what might that be?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I got on Kyle’s case about Rebecca,” I answered.
“I nearly blew it. He started to get defensive, but we talked about why I was worried and we worked through it,” I said. “But you’re right, I need to back off, let him decide who he is and who he wants as friends.”
Rick sighed, and said, “I’d hoped you wouldn’t push him.”
I rubbed his chest and kissed him. “You were right and I apologize for not heeding your counsel.”
Rick smiled at me, and said, “When are you going to learn I’m always right where you’re concerned?”
I laughed. “Probably never, but you love me anyway!”
“Yes, I do,” Rick said, capturing my lips, bringing all conversation to an abrupt halt!
Purev lay in his bed staring up at the ceiling, trying to sleep. He couldn’t help being a little anxious, despite his Daddy’s encouragement. He knew he should relax and get some sleep. It wouldn’t do him any good to be too tired to perform tomorrow night. His thoughts turned to Gabriel. He loved Gabriel, but he wanted to date other guys. He didn’t know how to tell Gabriel without getting into a fight with him. Lately, it seemed they argued a lot about stupid stuff. His phone buzzed and he reached for it, tapping the screen to read the text message.
“Hey! R U still awake?” It was his new friend, Winston Lundquist. He smiled, thinking of the handsome senior who had caught his fancy. Winston’s deep blue eyes and big smile came to mind. Earlier in the day, Winston had pulled him into the hallway to the band room and kissed him. He had freed Winston’s shoulder-length hair from its hair band and ran his hands through it. He loved the softness of his hair. His own jet black hair had a much thicker texture. Winston had finally broken the kiss, pulling back gasping for air.
“You’re so hot, Purev. Will you be my boyfriend?” Winston asked, his hands holding Purev’s face between them.
Purev smiled up at this Norse god who wanted him. They had studied about the Norse legends a few weeks ago and he imagined Winston looked like Thor because of his long blond hair, blue eyes and well-muscled body. “I would like to be boyfriends, but I have a boyfriend. He goes to Hayfield.” The look of disappointment on Winston’s face prompted him to continue, “But maybe we can be boyfriends here at school, until I talk to Gabriel about dating other people.”
“Is Gabriel going to be okay with that?” Winston asked.
Purev nodded his head, and replied, “I think he wants to date girls, because he keeps talking about some girl named Moriah at his school. It’s always Moriah said this and Moriah said this. It makes me sick to hear about her. We’ve been fighting a lot lately. He makes me so mad some times.”
“Then tell Gabriel to date her instead of you, so we can be boyfriends,” Winston said, kissing Purev’s forehead.
Purev grinned, and said, “Okay. Can we kiss again?”
Instead of answering him, Winston wrapped his arms around Purev’s waist, kissing him thoroughly.
The memory of that kiss still made his lips tingle, as Purev texted back, “Yes, I’m still awake. What’s up?”
“I’m bored,” Winston replied.
Purev quietly got out of bed and tiptoed out of the room he shared with David. He walked down the hall to the bathroom and closed the door, turning on the light. He pulled off his t-shirt and took a selfie in the mirror. He sent it to Winston, with the message, “Here’s some fantasy material!”
He put his t-shirt back on, and returned to his bed. His phone chirped. He tapped on the screen and a selfie of Winston’s broad chest appeared on the screen. He grinned, and sent back a smiley face. The two boys continued their conversation into the early hours of the morning.
The next morning Purev awoke to find Kyle shaking him. “Get up, sleepy head. It’s time to lift weights.”
Purev groaned. “Can’t we skip it today?”
“No, Dad says we have to be consistent to gain the most benefit from lifting weights,” Kyle said, pulling the sheet and comforter off the bed.
Purev opened his eyes and said, “You’re so mean, Kyle.”
Kyle grinned and said, “I know. Now, move it. I’ll see you downstairs.”
Kyle left the room, closing the door behind him.
Purev stretched and got out of bed. He quickly changed into his gym shorts and a t-shirt, pulling on his trainers before heeding the call of nature. By the time he reached the weight room in the basement, Kyle was spotting his dad on the bench press.
Purev joined me on the weights. Looking into his eyes, I said, “I can see you didn’t sleep last night. You should go back to bed.”
Purev tried to stifle a yawn and failed. “Okay, but if I go back to sleep, I won’t make it to school on time.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll take you to school when you wake up. If you want to stay home today, I’ll call the school.”
Purev shook his head. “I don’t want to miss class today.”
“Do you have tests today?” I asked.
“No, I just don’t want to miss seeing Winston,” he said.
I smiled at my son, and asked, “Is this the guy we talked about a few days ago?”
Purev said, “Yes, it is.”
“Well, send him a text message and have him meet us for lunch,” I said. “Then I’ll drop both of you off at the school. That way you can get a couple of hours of sleep.”
Purev said, “Okay. Thanks, Daddy.”
“No problem, son. Just don’t make a habit of staying up all night,” I said.
“I was too nervous to sleep,” he responded. “I kept worrying about my performance and whether or not my parents will be there. Plus, Gabriel doesn’t know about Winston and they’ll both be there tonight.”
“I know. I get it,” I said. “That’s why I’m willing to deal with the school and let you go late. You won’t be at your best tonight if you don’t get some rest. I suggest you sleep in my bed so David doesn’t wake you, when he gets ready for school. I’ll make sure your Dad doesn’t wake you, either.”
Purev nodded his head and gave me a hug, before making his way back upstairs. He walked into his dads’ room and stripped down to his boxers and climbed under the covers, quickly slipping into a deep slumber.
An hour later, Rick and I climbed the stairs, sweaty and pleasantly buzzed from our workout. Rick put his arm around my shoulder. “I can’t wait to get you in the shower, Babe.”
I grinned up at him, “Same here.” Then I remembered Purev was asleep in our room. “We’ll have to use the shower in the hall bathroom, because Purev is sleeping in our room.” Rick gave me a look of surprise, and I explained, “He couldn’t sleep last night, so I told him to go to our room and sleep. I didn’t’ want David to wake him up when he gets up to get ready for school. I told him I’d take him to school at lunchtime so he doesn’t miss the entire day.”
We showered and got ready for the rest of the day. We managed to slip out of the room without waking Purev. We joined the rest of the family in the kitchen where Kyle and David had breakfast on the table. When David saw us, he asked, “Where’s Purev?”
“He’s in our room asleep,” I responded. “I’ll be taking him to school around noon.” Seeing Kyle’s raised eyebrows. “He’s okay, Kyle; but he didn’t sleep very well last night and I want him to rest up, so he won’t be a total wreck by the time the concert starts tonight.”
Kyle nodded his head in understanding. “I think he’s more worried about Gabriel getting pissed off than about the concert. I saw him with Winston yesterday. They were holding hands and Purev looked like he’d just been kissed.”
“Purev told me about Winston,” I said.
Ashley said, “Gabriel really likes my friend Moriah. He’s been meeting her after school almost every day for a few weeks now. She really likes him, too, and can’t stop talking about him.”
“Did you tell Purev?” Kyle asked.
“Of course, I told Purev,” Ashley said, indignantly. “His boyfriend is chasing after my friend. He should know better than to fool around with Moriah when he’s still dating Purev. I told him he needed to break up with Purev or stop seeing Moriah.” Her face mirrored the disgust she felt for the young man. “It’s just wrong for him to claim he’s Purev’s boyfriend while he’s going out with Moriah behind his back.”
“Does Moriah know Gabriel has a boyfriend?” Rick asked.
“Yes, she does, because I told her,” Ashley said. “I’m just as upset with her as I am with Gabriel.”
Kyle asked, “Isn’t she the one who got caught making out with her girlfriend in girls’ restroom at school just before Thanksgiving last year?”
Ashley answered, “Yes, she is. She says she’s bi-sexual because she likes both boys and girls.”
David said, “She’s kind of crazy.”
Ashley glared at David. “Don’t talk about my friends that way, David. She’s a good friend.”
“But she tried to commit suicide a couple of months ago,” David said.
“Yes, she did, but that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. She needed help and didn’t know what to do to get it,” she said.
“It was a good thing she called you when she did,” Rick said.
Ashley nodded her head. “Yes, it was. She wanted to tell me, ‘goodbye.’ When I asked her why, she told me about taking too many pills.”
“I’m glad you thought to tell us what was going on so we could get someone there to help her before it was too late,” Rick said.
Kyle nodded his head. “I remember that night. Dad took you over to the hospital to see her after they pumped her stomach.”
“She came back to school three weeks ago. She had to spend some time at a special school where they monitored her condition. She seems to be doing okay, now. My friends and I send text messages to her mother every day to let her know how Moriah’s doing,” Ashley said.
“Does Moriah know you’re doing that?” I asked.
“Yes, she’s the one who asked us to do it. She said it was one of the conditions she had to agree to before she could come back to school,” Ashley said.
“Does Gabriel know she tried to commit suicide?” I asked.
“I don’t know. We haven’t told him. I think Moriah should be the one to tell him if she wants him to know,” Ashley said.
Rick said, “You need to watch her closely, because things could get really bad if Gabriel dumps her.”
Ashley nodded her head in agreement. “I know. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so angry with Gabriel. He’s so immature.” She looked over at her father. “Dad why are boys such idiots? It seems all they can do is goof around and act stupid.”
Kyle and David protested. “Hey!”
Ashley fixed them with a hard stare. “You two are just as immature as the rest of the boys I know at school.”
Kyle grinned, and said, “We’re not immature, Ashley. We just like to have fun.”
“My point exactly. None of you know how to treat a girl! All you guys can do is tell crass jokes about bodily functions and laugh at each other’s antics,” she said.
David said, “I don’t do those things.”
Ashley smiled at her older sibling. “You’re right, you don’t. I’m sorry I included you in the same category as all the rest.” She turned to Kyle and said, pointing her finger at his chest, “You, however, are just like all of your football buddies.”
Kyle’s smiled widened. “Why thank you, sister dear. I’m glad you noticed I’m a football jock just like all of my friends. You love us, anyway!”
Ashley rolled her eyes. “Okay, I love you, because you’re my brother. I don’t love the rest of your friends and their dumb jock behavior.”
I laughed and said, “Ouch! She’s got your number, Kyle!”
Kyle shrugged, but the smile never left his face. “Ashley’s just upset because Gabriel is messing around with her friend while he’s still pretending to be Purev’s boyfriend.”
At that moment, the twins joined us. Josh and JJ climbed up on the chairs on the other side of Ashley. Josh looked up at his sister and asked, “Will you help me cut my pancakes?”
“Yes, I’ll help you,” she said, smiling him. She helped serve the twins their breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs with a glass of milk. She then proceeded to help Josh cut up his pancakes. She looked over at JJ and asked, “Do you need me to help you?”
JJ shook his head. “No, thanks. I can cut my own pancakes.” He struggled a little, but managed to cut his pancakes into bite-sized pieces.
There was a knock on the door and I glanced at the clock on the microwave. “Time to go! Grab your backpacks and don’t forget your lunches.”
The teens grabbed their lunch boxes off of the kitchen counter, where Kyle had placed them after pulling them out of the fridge, and headed for the door with their backpacks hanging from their shoulders.
Rick walked over and pulled me into his arms, kissing me thoroughly. “I love you, babe.”
“I love you, too,” I breathed against his lips, kissing him again. He released me, and I handed him his lunch.
He took it from me and grinned. “Did you pack my favorite pasta?”
“Yes, and I included an apple and a salad to go with it,” I said, smiling up at him. “I also added your water bottle.”
“You got the one out of the freezer?” he asked.
“Yes, I got the one out of the freezer. I know how you like to have ice cold water,” I said, laughing.
He leaned down and kissed me, then left me with the twins. I heard the front door open and close. I turned to the twins and asked, “What should we do today?”
JJ said, “Read stories, color some pictures, then watch Thomas the Tank Engine.”
I looked over at Josh. “Is that what you want to do?”
He nodded his head as he finished stuffing his mouth full of pancake. After they finished eating, I herded them upstairs to the bathtub. I filled it with warm water and bubble bath. We played with their boats and other toys until their skin wrinkled and their hands and feet looked like prunes! I helped them get dressed and we returned to the kitchen.
“JJ and Josh, please help me load the dishwasher,” I said.
JJ said, “Okay, Daddy.”
I rinsed the dishes and handed them to the twins to load into the machine. It didn’t take the twins long to load the dishes. I pulled out the dishwasher detergent and handed it to Josh. “Do you know how to fill the soap dispenser?”
Josh nodded his head, and proceeded to fill it with the liquid soap, pushing the lid closed when he was finished. He handed the bottle back to me and I stowed it under the sink.
“Let’s go read those stories you mentioned earlier,” I said.
JJ took one hand and Josh the other and led me into the family room. We spent the next few hours reading stories, coloring, and watching the television. I glanced up at the clock and decided I needed to wake Purev. I got as far as the top of the stairs when Purev opened the door to our bedroom and stepped into the hallway.
Seeing his sleep tousled hair, I smiled and asked, “Do you feel any better?”
He nodded his head. “Yes, much better. Thanks, Daddy.”
I walked over to him and pulled him into my arms for a hug. “You need to shower and get ready for school, son.”
I felt him nod his head through the fabric of my shirt and heard him take a deep breath. “Okay.”
I released him and he turned toward the bathroom, shuffling his feet and yawning widely. I smiled to myself, thinking, “Some things never change! Teenagers!”
I returned to the family room and waited for Purev to come down. When he did, he sat down on the couch next to me. Seeing his worried expression, I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I need to break up with Gabriel, and I don’t know how to do it without getting into a big fight with him,” Purev said.
“Is this because of Winston?” I asked.
“Yes, and no.” Purev said. “I know he’s seeing Moriah. Ashley told me about her and I’ve seen some her text messages on Gabriel’s phone.”
“So, tell him you want to date Winston and he’ll be free to date Moriah,” I said. “It shouldn’t be difficult to end things amicably so you can both date the person who interests you.”
“It’s not that simple,” Purev lamented.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Gabriel shouldn’t have cheated on me,” he answered.
“What does it matter now? What can you say that will change what happened? Just let him go and don’t sweat it,” I said.
“That not the point, Daddy. Gabriel still wants to go out with me, even though he’s seeing Moriah,” Purev said. “I can’t do that.”
I met Purev’s gaze. “I couldn’t do it, either. I don’t share well, when it comes to my man.”
Purev grinned. “I know. So, you understand why I can’t do it?”
“Yes, I get it,” I said. Glancing at the clock on the wall, I continued, “It’s time to take you to school. Did you text Winston?”
“Yes, I did. He’ll be waiting in front of the school,” Purev said, standing and leaving the room. He returned a few minutes later with his backpack slung over his shoulder.
I stood up and said, “Okay, boys, it’s time to go.”
JJ turned off the television and said, “I’ll race you!” He turned and ran for the front door.
Josh jumped up and raced after his brother. “You cheated! We didn’t start at the same time!”
JJ stopped and turned around, facing his twin. “Okay, let’s start in the family room by the couch.” They retraced their steps and returned to where we were standing.
Purev said, “I’ll start the race for you. Get ready. Get set. Go!”
They took off like a shot out of a cannon! I looked at Purev and grinned. “I wish I had their energy.”
Purev laughed and said, “Dad says you do.”
I gave him a curious look. “Is that right?”
“Yeah, he says you like to fuck all night long – non-stop,” he said, moving beyond my reach as I tried to ruffle his hair.
“Well, your Dad is right there with me, so I don’t think he’s got any room to talk,” I said, defensively. I met his gaze and asked, “So when did you and your Dad talk about our sex life?”
“When he drove me over to Gabriel’s house a few weeks ago. I asked him if it was normal to have sex more than once a day,” Purev said, blushing.
I raised my eyebrows and asked, “Did you guys talk about anything else?”
“Yes, Dad told me he used to jerk off two or three times a day until he met you,” Purev said, grinning broadly. “How many times a day did you jerk off when you were a teenager?”
“At least once a day,” I admitted. “I was never as horny as your Dad. He couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.”
“I remember. You guys told us about his sexual exploits before he met you,” Purev said.
I patted him on the shoulder. “Well, your Dad has always had a heavy libido.” We followed the twins outside. I locked the door and climbed into the driver’s seat of the mini-van, after belting the twins into their car seats. I started the engine and pulled up to the gate to wait for it to open. I rolled down the window and waved to Tamid, our new guard.
Tamid was 5’11” (180 cm.) tall, well-muscled, jet black wavy hair, coal black eyes, and mocha colored skin. He wore a thin mustache on his upper lip and a neatly trimmed goatee. The gate opened and Tamid left the guard shack and walked over to the van.
“Good morning, Mr. Lernier,” he said, his brilliant smile lighting up his face.
I heard Purev gasp and I glanced over to see Purev practically drooling all over himself, eyes wide and staring at Tamid. I laughed and placed my hand under Purev’s chin, gently closing his mouth.
I turned back to Tamid. “It seems you have a fan, Tamid.”
He laughed and grinned at Purev. “That’s okay. I think Purev is quite handsome, too. It’s a shame he’s not over 18, so I could ask him out.”
Purev blushed and managed to recover. “I wish I was old enough to date you as well. You’re so hot!”
“Thank you,” Tamid said. “I spend a lot of time in the gym, plus I work out three days a week teaching karate.”
Purev met Tamid’s gaze. “Will you teach me karate?”
“I’d love to, but you have to become a student where I teach because I really don’t have time to give private lessons,” Tamid said. “I’m still going to school and I’m working two jobs.”
I said, “We’re going to lunch at Chipotle’s in Kingstowne. Do you want us to bring you something back?”
Tamid shook his head. “No, thank you. I brought my lunch.”
I smiled at him and said, “Then, we’ll see you after lunch.”
I rolled up the window, and drove through the gate, as Tamid returned to the guard shack to close the gate behind us. As I drove toward the school, Purev asked, “How old is Tamid?”
“He’s 19,” I answered. “He’s been working for us for about a week now.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” Purev said.
I chuckled, “I’m sure he is.”
About 20 minutes later, we pulled into parking lot at Edison High School. I pulled up to the curb where Winston was waiting for us. He climbed into the back with the twins.
Winston greeted us. “I’m Winston. Thanks for taking me to lunch.”
JJ reached over to pat his shoulder. “I’m JJ and this is my twin brother, Josh.”
Winston smiled and said, “Nice to meet you.”
I reached back to shake his hand. “I’m Glenn Lernier.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Lernier,” he said.
“Please call me Glenn or Daddy,” I said. “Calling me Mr. Lernier makes me sound so old!”
Winston laughed. “I wouldn’t dream of trying to make you feel old, Glenn.”
Purev asked, “Is Chipotle’s okay?”
“Yes, I love their burrito bowl,” Winston said.
“Good,” I said, putting the van into gear and pulling out of the parking lot. So far, I liked what I saw of Winston. His Nordic looks reminded of my first boyfriend, Ian Waakter, except Winston’s eyes were a deep sapphire color instead of hazel. I was shocked I remembered the color of Ian’s eyes. I looked into the rearview mirror and met Winston’s gaze. I smiled and winked at him, causing him to blush. I returned my attention to the road. We arrived at the restaurant.
Winston asked, “Is it okay to help get the twins out of their car seats?”
I looked over my shoulder and nodded my head. “Sure,” I responded. I got out and opened the door to unbuckle Josh, while Winston helped JJ.
JJ looked up at him and said, “Thank you, Winston. You’re so much nicer than Gabriel. He never helps me.”
I buried my face in Josh’s hair to hide my smile, as I took him in my arms and closed the door.
Josh squirmed in my arms. “Daddy, let me down. I’m a big boy.”
I said, “Yes, you’re a big boy.” I put him down and took his hand in mine. Purev, Winston and JJ met us at the front door. We entered and got in line to order our food. I looked around the restaurant and someone waved to me from one of the tables. I grinned as I recognized my oldest son.
Kyle stood up and walked over to us. The twins mobbed him! He hugged them. “Hey, guys!”
JJ said, “We’re having lunch here.”
Kyle smiled and said, “That’s great! I’m here with my friend, Robert.”
“I can see that. I take it he drove Y’all over from the school,” I said.
Kyle laughed. “Daddy, you just don’t have the right accent to use ‘Y’all.’ You still sound like the Canadian you are.”
I smiled broadly. “And I’m mighty proud of it!”
Kyle said, “Yes, Robert drove me over.”
I waved to Robert and said, “Make sure you’re not late getting back to school.”
“We’ll make it back on time,” Kyle said, confidently. “I’ll see you guys at home.” He rejoined Robert and picked up his giant-sized burrito.
We reached the front of the line and we ordered our food. I paid for it and made our way over to Kyle’s table. He and Robert had finished their meal and were holding the table for us.
“Thanks for saving the table for us,” I said. “Hey, Robert! How are you?”
“I’m good Mr. Lernier,” Robert replied.
JJ looked up at Robert. “When are you coming to our house? I want to play videos games with you, like last time.”
Robert smiled at him, and said, “I’ll see if I can come over tomorrow night.” He ruffled JJ’s hair.
Kyle said, “We need to get moving.”
Robert agreed. “Yes, we do. It’s nice to see you guys.” The two teens left us to enjoy our meal.
Purev and Winston sat across from me and the twins. I helped JJ and Josh with their cheese quesadillas, then turned to my own meal. I looked over at Winston and said, “Winston, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself.”
Winston met my gaze and smiled. “Sure, Glenn. I’m an army brat. My dad has moved us around the country from one army base to another. He’s working at the Pentagon and plans to retire here. Mom’s a nurse and works at the Mount Vernon Hospital. I’m an only child.”
“Well, that told me about your family, but what about you?” I asked, smiling at him.
Before he could respond, Purev spoke up. “His favorite color is blue. He likes Mexican food. He likes swimming and soccer.”
Winston put his arm around Purev’s shoulders. “And I like cute Mongolian guys.” He leaned over and kissed Purev.
Josh looked at Purev and asked, “Is Winston your boyfriend, now?”
Purev nodded his head. “Yes, Josh, he is.”
Hearing Purev’s response, Winston’s face lit up and his eyes sparkled with happiness. “So, we’re officially boyfriends?” he asked Purev.
“Yes, we are,” he responded.
“What about Gabriel?” I asked.
“I sent him a text message this morning telling him I had a new boyfriend,” Purev said.
I shook my head in disbelief. It seems all of my children would rather send text messages instead of calling or talking face to face! “Why didn’t you call him?”
“I didn’t want to argue with him,” Purev said.
“Okay, I get that,” I said. “Did he respond?”
“No, because he’s still in class,” Purev said.
We moved on to other topics, as we ate our lunch. Afterward, I dropped them off at the school. I returned home with the twins and we spent the afternoon playing games and drawing.
We entered the auditorium and found our seats. We left the twins with a babysitter (our neighbor’s daughter). Mr. Eccles, Alonzo, Scott, Clay and Collin joined us. I kept an eye out for Purev’s parents, but didn’t see them. Just before the concert started, Winston joined Mark, David, Kyle, Michaela and Ashley who were seated in the row in front of us. The lights dimmed in the Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center and the concert master walked on stage. The orchestra tuned to the oboe, then the conductor walked out with Purev.
Purev looked very striking in his tuxedo. I was glad we had taken the time to purchase him a tuxedo tailored to fit him perfectly. Walking with obvious confidence to the piano, he took his seat and watched the conductor. From our seats we could watch Purev’s long delicate fingers flow over the keyboard. Rick held my hand, as we listened to our son’s performance.
As the last notes of the concerto died away, the audience was on its feet. Purev’s performance was flawless! The conductor shook his hand and they both took a bow and exited the stage, only to return to more thunderous applause. Taking a second bow and acknowledging the orchestra, they again left the stage.
After the concert, Rick and I, along with Winston, made our way backstage where the conductor, Dr. Thompson, and Purev were talking. As we approached, Dr. Thompson turned to me and said, “Purev did an excellent job. I’m very proud of him and the orchestra’s performance tonight.”
Rick said, “Thank you. We’re very proud of him as well.”
Winston pulled him into his arms and kissed him. “You’re so awesome!”
Purev grinned and said, “Thanks.” He looked over at me and asked, “Did you see my parents?”
I shook my head, sorry to be the cause of the look of sadness that crossed his face. “Thank you for working with Purev,” I told Dr. Thompson.
Dr. Thompson smiled, and clapped Purev on the back. “It was a pleasure. Keep up the good work.” They shook hands.
Purev took Winston’s hand in his and they moved down the hallway toward the exit. We followed the boys out to the entrance. I nearly ran into Purev, when he stopped suddenly. I put a hand on his arm and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Purev said, “They came.”
I looked across the foyer to see Purev’s parents standing near one of the doors to the auditorium. “Do you want to talk to them?” I asked.
“Yes,” Purev said, pulling on Winston’s hand as he started to move toward them.
I took Rick’s hand in mine as we followed the boys. Halfway across the foyer, our teens and their friends intercepted Purev and Winston, congratulating him on his performance. After a few moments, he and Winston continued toward his parents. Rick and I, again, followed them. I saw the moment Purev’s mother saw him.
A bright smile lit her face and she moved forward to meet him with open arms. He hugged her and she said, “I love you, son. I’m proud of you.”
She released him and looked over her shoulder at her husband. He stared back at her with a very closed expression on his face. When he didn’t come forward to greet Purev. She turned back to him and said, “I’m sorry about your father.”
Purev said, “I’m sorry, too, mom. At least he came to hear me play.”
“Yes,” she said. “Please be patient with him, Purev. I know it hurts you and it makes me very sad to see him treat you so poorly; but I’m working on him.”
Purev nodded his head, tears blurring his vision. He hugged her and said, “Thanks, Mom.”
She turned to me and Rick. “Thank you for providing Purev a safe place to be. It’s obvious you love him.” Tears were flowing down her cheeks, causing her eyeliner to run. “I just wish my husband could see past his prejudices and his pride.” Turning to her son, she continued, “Don’t ever let your pride rule you, Purev. It destroys everything and leaves behind emptiness and despair. Promise me you’ll never become so stubborn and filled with arrogance as your father.”
Purev nodded his head, unable to speak because of the knot in his throat. He hugged her tight, and managed to say, “I promise.”
After a few long moments, he released her and she said, “I look forward to your next performance. Please remember to send me an invitation. I love you, son.”
She turned from him and returned to her husband, who hadn’t moved a muscle nor had his expression changed. She glared at him and asked, with a hard edge to her voice, “Are you going to acknowledge the fine performance of your son?”
He returned her baleful stare, and didn’t move a muscle nor did he say a word. She turned from him, saying, “I will take a cab home. Do not try to talk to me or touch me when you decide to come home.” She walked toward the entrance, her back ramrod straight.
I turned to Purev and pulled him into my arms, hugging him tight. “Let’s go celebrate.” Purev nodded his head and pulled back from my embrace. I wiped the tears from his cheeks. “No more tears, tonight.” He again nodded his head.
He turned and took Winston’s hand in his, following in his mother’s footsteps as he headed toward the exit. Rick and I gathered up our family and friends and followed them outside to find our vehicles. We met everyone at Purev’s favorite restaurant, Genghis Grill, to celebrate his hugely successful debut as a concert pianist!
After everyone was settled for the night, Rick held me in his arms, lightly caressing my skin. Knowing I was stewing about something, he asked, “What’s been eating at you?”
I lifted my head from his chest and looked into his eyes. “I wish I could shake some sense into Purev’s father.”
“Nothing would make me happier than to see Purev reunited with his family,” he said. “But there’s nothing you or I can do to make that happen. So, there no use worrying about it or getting upset over someone else’s poor behavior.”
I nodded my head. “I know, Babe. What makes me mad is the bastard is hurting Purev. I love Purev very much and hate to see him suffer. You would think his biological father would love him even more than we do.”
Rick said, “All we can do is make sure Purev knows we love him.”
“Purev knows that,” I said.
“Then, let go of your worry,” Rick said. “It will all work out in the end, Babe.”
He kissed me and I laid my head down on his chest, letting out a deep sigh. “I love you.”
“I love you more,” he said. I relaxed, as the steady rhythm of his heart lulled me to sleep.
Laying in his bed, Purev couldn’t sleep, hoping Winston would text him. When his phone chirped, he grabbed it from off of the nightstand and tapped the screen. He quickly read Winston’s text message. “I love you! Wish I could be in your bed tonight!”
Purev grinned and replied, “Me, too. I can’t wait until tomorrow night.”
“My mom and dad will be gone most of the night,” Winston wrote back.
“Good….we’ll have plenty of time to ourselves…”
“C U 2morrow.”
Purev returned his phone to the table next to his bed and sighed contentedly. It had been a busy day and he felt exhausted. He felt good about his performance, especially since his parents had been there to witness his success. His father’s reaction to him made him sad, but, at the same time, it wasn’t unexpected. However, the most important thing in his life, at this moment in time, was knowing Winston wanted him. Gabriel’s betrayal had hurt a lot; but now, Winston’s interest in him took some of the sting away. The fact Winston was a 100 times hotter than Gabriel certainly helped matters. He drifted off with the memory of Winston’s hands roaming his body and his lips on his.
Music for this chapter:
Kyle’s Version of Let the Lower Lights Be Burning - https://soundcloud.com/rgnl/kyles-song-4
Sofia Reyes w/Prince Royce – Solo Yo - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYcKYaKFL_8
Adele – Hello - https://www.youtube.com/user/AdeleVEVO
Carlos Baute – Perdimos El Control - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN6ewj3-1iY
Rachel Platten – Stand by You - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwB9EMpW8eY
Carlos Baute – Quien Te Quire Como Yo - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mME-URRbak8
Steve Grand – Time - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhXGelIWzrc
Northern Virginia Community College Concert Hall - http://www.nvcc.edu/alexandria/schlesingercenter/index.html