Decisions To Juggle
"Come on in. I'd offer you coffee but the pantry isn't set up yet," Drew said to Bob. The movers had relocated all the files and equipment from the trailers to the resort tower over the weekend and this was Drew's first official day in the new executive office suite. "Go ahead and take a seat. I'm just trying to find some files for a meeting." He continued rummaging through a large cardboard box.
"This is going to be a great place once everything gets organized," Bob said as he came further into the office.
"I'm leaving the plastic covering on most of the furniture for a while until the construction dust settles." Drew frowned as he rapidly looked at each file tab. "And a temporary carpet runner."
"Good ideas. Sales and Marketing will be relocating this weekend and maybe I'll suggest the same thing to my boss. I've already been told not to make plans and to show up on Saturday morning with grunge work clothes."
"Me, too. I look at it as a teamwork thing...showing the flag and being one of the guys. This will be the big move with your office, Casino, Reservations, Security and the Accounting Departments coming in. Hotel Front Office, Food and Beverage, and Housekeeping will set up shop the following week. After Labor Day, we'll have all the office spaces functioning and can take a breath before training begins. Ah, Eureka." Drew pulled out a few files and laid them on his desk. "I've got to get my office organized so I can find things."
"Speaking of taking a breath, when's Mario bringing over Cray's transcripts and the other documents?" Bob pulled up a chair and sat down.
"Taking a breath or breathtaking? Are you thinking about Mario or the papers?" Drew replied with a wiggle of his eyebrows. "They arrived by messenger about an hour ago. I must say, however, that the messenger was really a hot guy. He said his name's Spike and he's definitely in the breathtaking category - though I doubt if it's his real, full-time job. Have a look - everything's in that big envelope." Drew pointed to a large manila envelope on the corner of the desk.
Bob took the envelope and pulled out the contents. He quickly flipped through the files and quietly nodded. "It appears Cray wasn't a troublemaker and his grades were pretty good. Hmmm, that's curious. The transfer form has an address on it that's just two numbers different from Mario's house."
"Guess Mario figured that if he wasn't too far from the truth it wouldn't hurt."
Bob's eyes got wider when he came to the legal document and digested the bullet points. "Wow, Mario has really done a good job. We should speak with him soon about our plan and get his input - without asking any questions about how he got these."
"I was thinking about inviting him over to our place tonight. He could join us after we return from the gym," Drew said as he flexed his muscles in an exaggerated gesture. He flopped into his desk chair and added, "Maybe 8:00 p.m.?"
"That's great for me but you're up to your ass in alligators with this opening and all. Are you sure that'll be okay?"
"The workout is good for stress management plus it keeps you looking hunky. And I also want to know what's up Mario's sleeve."
"Oh...is the appointment with our lawyer still on for this afternoon?" Bob asked.
"All set. Nick's coming over here for a walk-through with me this afternoon. He knows I'll be off property after we're finished. I made sure all the construction supervisors know that Mr. Maggiano will be checking the progress today. A little face-time with Nick always proves helpful. Then, I'll meet you over at Mitch's office." Drew had known Malcolm Mitchell since his school days at UNLV. Mrs. Mitchell was an associate professor in the hospitality school and Mitch practiced law privately. Occasionally, Drew would see them at a school event and gradually they had become friends.
"I guess we should take along the custody documents?"
"Already faxed them over to Mitch with a note asking how he suggests we proceed. You're still up for fostering Cray?" Drew was quite proud that Bob had suggested they consider this approach to help the lone teen. "I think we can do it. Even with the craziness of opening a new hotel, I'm ready to try being a dad."
"Hell, yes. If you and I can help the guy get through the next couple of years, I'm all for that. Except for possible issues from what he experienced with his stepdad, Cray seems like he wouldn't be a big burden for us. Although I must admit I never thought I'd be a father to a teenager...especially at the age of 25." Bob grinned and added, "I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions but I signed both of us up for an on-line foster parenting course that Clark County recognizes."
"Good thinking. Somehow I'll fit that in." Drew leaned forward and continued, "Opening a new hotel and getting up to speed on being a foster parent is going to be tough, but Cray seems worth the effort."
"Fortunately we live in a state and county that recognizes gay foster parents. You think, if everything pulls together, that Nick will help us grease the rails for a speedy hearing?" Bob asked. "I understand that this can normally take months."
"That's one of the things I'm going to mention when he comes over this afternoon. If he's convinced that fostering won't interfere with opening the hotel, Nick should be able to pull the strings. Us being foster parents to Cray is also something Mario needs to be comfortable with. If you got a minute, let me call him now and find out if he can meet with us. It's almost noon so he should be up and running." Drew dialed Mario's cell number and let the speakerphone broadcast the rings.
"When we get done talking, I gotta get back to my office. I'm part of a working lunch with the department managers in a half hour," Bob replied as he looked at his watch.
"Morning, Drew. I guess you got the package I sent over?"
"Just a little while ago, Mario. By the way, you're on a speakerphone with Bob and me. Is that okay?"
"No problem. 'Hi', Bob."
"Mario, 'hi'. That package you sent over is very interesting. We were wondering if you might have time to come over to our place tonight around 8:00 to get into things more deeply?" Bob asked.
"That shouldn't be a problem. I'm not too rushed tonight and figuring out Cray's future is important."
"We're going to squeeze in a little time at the gym. I was thinking of ordering a couple of pizzas that we could chow down on when you get to our place? How does that sound?"
"As long as you don't order anchovies, I'm in. They remind me too much of my old girlfriend," Mario said with a chuckle.
"I wouldn't know...but I'll take your word for it," Drew replied with a little snicker. "We were also thinking about spending a little quality time with Cray. He's not working tomorrow night and we thought maybe he'd like to see the Blue Man show at the Venetian." Drew looked to Bob for agreement. Once Bob nodded, Drew added, "And maybe first having dinner at Tintoretto's at the hotel. It's pretty casual and wouldn't intimidate a young guy."
"That sounds like a super idea. I'd offer to help you get a reservation but you've probably already got that scoped out."
"One of the fringes. The old 'you comp me and I'll comp you' routine."
"Understand. I'm pretty sure he's not doing anything but you should call him. I set him up with a cell phone yesterday. We went on a shopping trip to the mall to get a few things he needed. Here's the number: 555-7125."
"Thanks, Mario. I'll call him right now. See ya tonight."
"Until then. Bye, guys."
"Guess our day is fully planned...and tomorrow, too. I like the idea of spending some quality time with Cray. Good idea. You want me to hang in while you call him?" Bob asked.
"Naw, I can handle it and you've got that appointment."
"Then I'm going to get back to my office and help figure out how we're going to finalize the grand opening plans so you operations geniuses can execute it. Nick signed off on a great budget and the stars will be blazing in less than three months."
"Come November 1st the only stars I want to see are Bette Midler and Michael Bubl headlining the Aragon showroom." Drew stood up, walked around to Bob and briefly squeezed his lover's shoulder. They had agreed a long time ago to save any other demonstrations of love for their home.
"The contracts are signed and that's a done deal, although I still think it would have been a hoot to have Rufus Wainright open for Bette."
"Yeah. But Nick thought that would be too gay for Vegas. I don't even think the Hard Rock would feature him."
"Too much of a challenge for the 'Rock's' macho image, I suppose," Bob replied.
"Any hotel that has a bar called The Pink Taco is definitely calling out for all red-blooded hetero males. Now, if they had a place called the 'Pink Enchilada'..."
"Oh, you're bad. I can just picture what the finger food would be. Seriously, I understand that Rufus is tentatively signed for EyePod next spring. Right after Satellite Party's gig."
"And we've got the Scissor Sisters coming in. EyePod is either going to be the hottest club on the Strip or a very expensive entertainment toy for us to fund," Drew replied. He initially had mixed feelings about the concept. But Nick arranged a cross-marketing deal with Apple to avoid any lawsuit and ended up with an eager corporate sponsor. Apple planned on featuring the Barcelona and EyePod in their winter and spring advertising campaign. "Guess the thinking is there's room to target the twenty-something crowd. Right now The Palms and 'Pure' are the only places successfully catering to the 'beautiful people' crowd. But all the other hotels are rolling out concepts."
"Like Brittany or Paris flashing their shaved crotches is considered 'beautiful.' But if we could get Wentworth Miller and Orlando Bloom to show up in kilts with no underwear...well," Bob said with an exaggerated lick of his lips.
'In your dreams, buddy...but I appreciate your fantasy. Maybe we can explore that dream of yours tonight?" Drew grinned and added, "We'll find out how popular EyePod is going to be soon enough. If the 'Chili Peppers' draw the right crowd when we open, the club and Barcelona will get great word of mouth with the L.A. crowd."
"Gotta go - See ya at Mitch's office." Bob winked and walked out the door.
As always was the case after being near his partner, Drew felt content and deemed himself the luckiest man on the planet. The simple 'what if' Bob had poised about fostering had germinated and anchored roots in his heart over the past weekend. Last night, after they made love, he had agreed this idea was right for them.
Before calling, Drew put Cray's new number in his cell. Hopefully, he reasoned, there would be a special reason to have the young guy in his priority telephone list. He next dialed Cray on his cell.
"Hello?" Cray answered tentatively.
"Cray...this is Drew. Mario told me you now officially have a way of being reached. I wanted to say 'hi' and welcome you to the cellular world."
"Would you believe this is the first call I've had...ever...on a cell? I'm in my room reading all the instructions to this thing. I can't believe I can even take pictures with it."
"Have you figured out how to save telephone numbers? The reason I ask is that the number displaying on your phone is my personal cell number. I want you to keep it in case you ever need to contact me. Okay?"
"Oh, cool. I will do that as soon as we're finished."
"The reason I called is to invite you to join Bob and me for dinner and a show tomorrow night - if you're free, that is. I understand that you're off work and thought you might enjoy it. I was thinking of the Blue Man Group. Maybe some Italian food beforehand."
"Wow. That's definitely cooler than cool," Cray replied with an excited pitch to his voice. "I was going to a movie with a friend but he has to work."
"We could stop by for you around 6:00 p.m. and drive over to the Venetian. The restaurant I have in mind is in that hotel, as is the show. I imagine we'll get you back to your place not later than midnight."
"If you could come a little earlier, I'd like to show you around where I'm staying and introduce you to Mr. Ed. He's very anxious to meet you two."
"That's probably doable. And if Mario is there, maybe we can all sit down for a drink before leaving. Just so you know, Mario's coming over to our apartment tonight. We need to work out a plan so you can start school in a couple of weeks."
"Do ya think there will be any problems?"
"You're in good hands, buddy. There are just some details to go over. Maybe we can talk about that tomorrow night?" Drew could tell that Cray was worried about the next step or whether there would be any difficulties. "Bob and I look forward to spending the evening with you."
"Same goes for me. Um, what should I wear?"
"Those khakis you have and a polo would be just fine. Vegas is not a dress-up town unless you go to a really fancy place."
"I can do that. See you guys tomorrow, then. Bye."
"Bye." Drew ended the call and stared at the blank wall opposite his desk. He knew that the decisions about to be made by Bob and him could not be altered once they were in place.
"No shit. You're serious? Mutha...man, that's really good. Maybe I can be a foster uncle?" Mario said as he set down the slice of pizza and grinned.
"Mitch, our lawyer, is cautiously optimistic. You're okay with what we're proposing?" Drew and Bob had just finished telling Mario of their plan to become Cray's foster parents.
"More than okay. It'll be great for Cray, and I can gracefully slide out of something it's best I'm not officially involved with. I was hooked on helping the kid out after I heard his tale of abuse. Probably gave me a chance to turn a good deed. But it's unrealistic to think him living at my place is a permanent solution," Mario replied.
"Mitch said that somehow a series of events must happen almost seamlessly. First, Drew and I must pass the foster parenting test for certification after the Internet program and eight hours of instruction. Concurrently, both of us will be checked for any criminal offenses in our backgrounds. Mitch is going to fill out the forms and submit our names for background checks tomorrow morning." Bob paused and took a sip of beer. "That'll probably take a couple of weeks...at least."
"That's a lot of red tape." Mario drank from his beer bottle and joined Bob.
"It gets more involved because Cray will be enrolling at Green Valley High School as a transfer student. The address that was used on the transfer document is in the district for the high school. However, we need a copy of a utility bill and a rent contract with the mother's name on them to prove it's their residence. That's on top of everything else we have." Drew bit into his pizza slice and studied Mario. 'If there was sound coming from Mario's mind,' he thought, 'I'd be hearing the grinding of many gears.'
"That's not a problem. First of all, the garage structure at my home actually does have that address on record with the county and the ownership is under a legit real estate company. Mr. Ed has some of his mail going to his suite and the utilities are already billed to that address. I can take care of the documents you need." Mario smiled with an air of confidence and sipped more beer before attacking the pizza.
"Then I think that the first challenges are covered. We need someone to accompany Cray the day he needs to register. Neither Bob nor I should be that person."
"Ditto, here," Mario said with a chuckle. "Why don't I have Mr. Ed, 'their' neighbor, do that. Mr. Ed - Edward Humphrey Wallace - can charm anyone. And everything is almost legit - except for there being no Mrs. Gamble living next to him."
"The big question is with Cray. Will he understand and accept that we want to be only his foster parents...with no squirrely motives on our part? And will he be okay moving in with us?" Bob asked. "He's got a great deal the way it stands at your home."
"He knows that living at my place is temporary. I just discussed the next step with him because I didn't have a plan. The way I see it, we'll get him into school and you two need to get your fostering certificate. Then we work closely with your lawyer. I think I've got a little juice down at the Child and Family Services department. There are also a couple of county judges I know who would be helpful. They might be able to shave a couple months off the process."
"We've got a plan. Bob and I will become certified as foster parents and you can get the proof that they are residing at the address. By the way, Cray mentioned that he'd like us to come a little early tomorrow evening so he could show us around and meet Mr. Ed. Is that alright?" Drew decided to make sure his and Bob's presence at Mario's house was welcome.
"Look forward to it. I'll be there and Mr. Ed is usually preparing dinner. Cray's family is really continuing to grow." Mario hoisted his bottle in a mock toast and took a long pull.
Drew looked at Bob and smiled, as they raised their bottles in unison.
Cray had not felt this confident about life and things in general for a long time. He quietly sat in the back seat of the BMW while Drew drove back from the hotel. Except for adding to an occasional comment or answering a question from Bob or Drew the silence in the sedan was more a condition of the midnight hour than anything else. Cray reflected on the entire evening, starting with the guys meeting Mr. Ed. While the English housekeeper was his usual, unflappable, charming self, Cray was impressed by the way Drew led the conversation. Over a glass of wine for the adults and one Diet Sprite, discussion bounced effortlessly between Drew and Mr. Ed. Cray noticed that Bob would occasionally add to the discussion but was more generally comfortable in letting Drew take the lead. Mario seemed content to play the role of a passive, interested host.
Later, at dinner, Bob opened up as a strong equal in the partnership. 'I think he just likes Drew to be the point man in a new group,' Cray thought. 'Kinda like a Second Lieutenant in one of those war movies.' He was also aware that the two men always asked his opinion and were intent on drawing him out to talk freely and openly. 'They were really trying hard to make me feel part of the group. And, it worked.' As they talked about themselves and living together, Cray slowly began to figure out that this was all coming to some sort of revelation that would include him.
His mouth dropped open when Bob casually mentioned that they both were going to take courses to be foster parents and planned on passing their certification in the next two weeks. As he listened further, an earlier conversation with Mario came to mind. Cray remembered how Mario said that the living situation at his house - however comfortable - could only be temporary.
He replayed some of Drew's words in his mind: "I guess there's one thing that needs to be answered, more than anything else. Would you, buddy, be comfortable living with Bob and me? Legally, we'd be your foster parents until you reach 18 and you'd be our son. Probably more as friends and brothers, though."
The friendly but hopefully determined looks from both men communicated more than the words did. Cray recalled his meek response in the form of a reassurance-seeking question: "Do you guys really mean that you want me?" And then the feeling that started in his stomach welled up to release a flood of tears. At that point, the two men each took one of Cray's hands and held them until the moment had passed. They also asserted that Mario was very supportive of the plan and would be a part of the expanded family.
"So, you have no problem living with a committed gay couple; I guess the final question is this. Have you figured out where you're at in the sexual orientation area?" That question, posed by Drew, started several emotional reflexes that awakened this gnawing uncertainty in Cray's young life.
'Do I have the balls to say how I feel?' Cray asked himself. He looked at each man, sat up straight and answered himself with a resounding, "Yes". It was such a relief, being with two guys so very close, to be honest about his feelings. He proceeded to say he was 100% sure he was gay, and added that, whatever the case, he would be honored to have two dads. This affirmation triggered a series of backslaps and 'hi-fives' around the table. After they finished dinner, he stood with the two men and briefly engaged in a brotherly three-way hug before continuing on to the showroom.
The Blue Man show, with all its goofiness, comedy and physical agility was a terrific way to dismount the emotional sled ride. Cray felt completely at ease while the show proceeded. They all knew that several discussions lay ahead before the fostering would be a done deal but this was a celebratory moment for all of them. As they walked to the car afterwards, joking and recalling highlights of the show, Cray knew this was a significant bonding moment.
"This has been quite a night," Drew said as the car slowed down and pulled into Mario's driveway. "I'm sure I speak for Bob as well when I say it's been fun, informative and very rewarding. We all know where we want to have this end...it's just a matter of how we get there."
"I know it's not possible...but I don't want this evening to end. You guys have really given me something to shoot for." Cray opened the door once the car stopped and he slid off the soft, leather seats and stepped onto the concrete. He watched as Bob got out of the passenger side of the car as Drew got out of the driver's side.
"There's going to be a lot of things to accomplish over the next month," Bob said as he closed the door. "First, is getting you into high school. Since you need to enroll in two weeks, there's a whole series of little stories we need to be comfortable with so you can get in school. Mario can explain it further."
"It's a necessary bit of B.S. we've got to say so you can enroll. We also need to buy time until we're ready to go before the Child Services department and the courts." Drew walked around and joined the other two. "I never advise anyone to lie...but it just seems the only way in this case. You understand what I'm saying?"
"I understand that I don't want to go back to Provo and that crap I ran from. That bridge is pretty well burned. The best thing for me is to be a 16-year old guy ready to start my junior year of high school in Vegas." Cray smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"Your first challenge will be getting into Green Valley High School and, second, staying there. The school is at the top of the scholastic ratings in the West and your studies will be very important. Getting good grades is a very serious subject with me." Drew pulled Cray into a hug and added, "But I know you can do it. Your two dads will be with you all the way."
"Oh, oh...group hug time, again." Bob worked his way closely to Drew and Cray. "We've got a lot of work ahead but you're worth it." He leaned in and kissed Cray on the cheek.
"Hey, I like that action," Cray replied. "Two cool dudes and one plants a kiss on me."
"Here's your other kiss." Drew kissed the other cheek and added, "Better get used to a little fatherly affection from both of us. But we've got to git. The rest of the week and weekend is already booked with work. As Bob said, work with Mario on the way we're going to approach getting you into school. We'll probably see each other at work, Cray. If you ever have any questions, please call my cell. I check for messages frequently if I can't answer it. Take care, son. It's been a great evening." Drew patted Cray's shoulder and stepped back.
"And take this business card. Among other things, it has my cell number. Like with Drew, you're always welcome to call whatever the reason. We're not sure how much time this is going to take so you need to be patient. See ya next week."
Cray watched the two men get in the Bimmer and back out of the driveway. He probably had not been this happy...for several years. His pride swelled when he thought about being called 'son' and all the ramifications in that one word. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Spike's Honda come up the driveway. The car stopped and the window on the driver's side rolled down.
"Hey, stud. Just getting in, too?" Spike asked.
"Ready to hit the sack. But I could use a cookie if you want to join me." Cray wanted to share his good news with his friend.
"Go on and pour the milk. I'll park the car and be with ya in a sec." Spike winked and pulled forward to the parking area.
By the time Cray had assembled a plate of cookies and poured milk, Spike entered the kitchen. From Spike's slacks and silk shirt, Cray knew his friend had probably been to one of the top hotels that night for 'work'.
"Man, this has been a ball-buster of an evening, in more ways than one. I'm tired. How are you doing?" Spike grabbed a chocolate chip cookie and took a large bite.
"Probably experienced one of the most important evenings of my life." Cray joined him with a cookie before washing it down with milk. "For openers, I told two new friends I was sure I'm gay."
"Wow. Congratulations...that's another big step. And what's the rest of the deal?" Spike asked with a frown. "This sounds like it's going to be pretty earthshaking if announcing you're gay is only the opener."
"Tonight, the guys offered to become my foster parents." Cray stopped before saying anything else to consider what he had just said. 'Holy crap,' he thought. 'I never let Spike know my real age.'
"Foster parents? What's a stud like you need...?"
"Spike, I'm sorry but I kinda misled you. For various reasons, I decided I couldn't tell anyone - well, except for Mario - about my real age being 16. It's very complicated but Drew and Bob found out and are going to help me get my life back on track."
"Drew? He's the guy I delivered a package to over at the new hotel. So he's going to be your foster dad? Hot man," Spike said with a wink.
"Yeah, and Bob. They're both pretty hot - but for each other. I hope you're not mad about me not telling you that I am still a minor. I guess that part of me wanted to get some lessons on...you know. But I really didn't want to do anything that would get you in trouble." Cray studied his friend's face and took another bite of the cookie.
"Mad? Naw. It's really best this way. So when are you leaving?"
"The whole thing is very complicated. You've got to keep this between us...okay?"
"Hey, who am I going to tell...Dr. Laura? My lips are sealed." Spike lifted himself up to sit on the counter and drank some milk.
"The problem is for me to be able to register at Green Valley High School. I've got some documents that are a little fudged so it'll be touch and go until the school buys off on my story. Then I have to wait until the guys are certified to be foster parents. Finally, I will become a known minor in the eyes of Child Services...at some point in this process. This is a shit load of details. Have I been reasonably clear?"
"Clear as Cream of Wheat. So you're going to still be here until all this gets straightened out...no pun intended?"
"I dunno how long but I'll probably be here for another three or four weeks...at the least...maybe longer. First thing is to get into school."
"Cool. Then you'll be here for the Labor Day weekend?"
"Oh, sure. Why?" Cray asked.
"If you've forgotten, let me remind you that my brother, Henry, is visiting me for that weekend. I was hoping that you wouldn't mind if he bunked with you?" Spike asked with a smile. "He really can't stay in my room because of my roomie."
"Would he be put off by sharing a bed with another guy?"
"Hello. Earth to Cray. Remember I told you that I thought he wanted to come over and talk to me about his sexual orientation?"
"Man, I'm getting spacey. I remember now...he's your younger brother about..."
"16 and cute as they come. Probably it's the genes," Spike said as he rolled his eyes. "Henry's pretty bright and a nice guy, too, on top of everything else. Anyway, he called me earlier tonight to confirm he's coming over by bus. He also confirmed what I had guessed was the reason. I think you two would be good for each other."
"Meaning, what?" Cray asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I don't think Henry has had much experience being around a guy his age who's also gay or doing much, you know, in the way of figuring things out, sex-wise."
"And you think I'd be someone...easy?" Cray spat out.
"Whoa, buddy. I didn't mean that at all. This is my brother and you're my friend. I'm not suggesting that anything should or would happen. It just seems that you two are both 16 and wrestling with where you're heading in life. Speaking of which, Henry is a crack wrestler in school." Spike slid off the counter and put his arm around Cray. "Please understand that I love my brother and would never set him up for anything that was wrong. I feel pretty protective of you, also."
"I'm sorry...I just get a little defensive once in a while." Cray slumped into Spike's shoulder and continued, "Why don't you tell Henry that he'll be sharing a bed with a horny, 16-year old gay stud and see if he accepts the offer." Cray snickered and backed away. "Just joking. But I do think you should tell him about the bunking arrangements and let him know I'm gay. I really don't object. The bed's big enough for two people without touching."
"I'll do that tomorrow. In the meantime, let me assure you that everything else you told me will be kept in confidence." Spike leaned in and kissed Cray lightly on the lips. "And if you need any help...with anything, let me know."
"Um, maybe sometime over the next week you could spend a little time to tell me about how two guys 'do it'," Cray said with a cocked head and a wink.
"Just let me know when, sport. Professor Spike has much information to share."