I managed to convince my parents to drive to our place for Mother's Day. It gave me the perfect excuse to throw Marcus a birthday party, despite his protests. As soon as my parents arrived, we drove them to the farmhouse. Stephen had put a for sale sign on the lot to advertise his company, even though we were going to close later that week.
Marcus began, "Betty and Sam, we have started looking at houses. There is one we want to show you. You need to be completely honest with us. We want to know what you think."
I continued, "It's an old farmhouse with four bedrooms. It also has a huge detached garage with an in-law apartment above it. There is almost a full acre of land. As we get close, you'll see a park and a school right in the neighborhood."
We arrived at the house about two that afternoon. Marcus's party was at seven. I had everything already to go for the birthday bash, so we had plenty of time for my parents to look around. As we pulled into the driveway, the thought of my vision hit me hard again. I chided myself and pushed it out of my mind.
We started the tour the same way Marcus and I first looked at the house, with the upstairs. Marcus played it cool, but my only hope was to keep my mouth shut. My parents, especially my father, were very good at reading my expressions. I tried very hard to keep my face screwed up in a look of concentration. I failed miserably...
We were discussing the molding around the doors when my father gave me a look.
"So, when do you guys close on the place?" Dad grinned.
Marcus spun around and looked at him.
"Marcus, you were doing okay, but you should have left my son at home. Haven't you figured out by now you can read everything on his face? Let's start again, show us the house and tell us what you want to do to make it yours after the closing. I think you found a wonderful place."
Marcus burst out laughing. "I should have known. There was never any chance of this deception working. I told you, Babe, it's those gorgeous eyes of yours. They give away everything. Not that I'd change a thing about them... " He gave me a kiss.
"Okay, so now that you're on to us... let's start over."
We walked through each room telling my parents exactly what we had planned for the house. Marcus could barely contain his enthusiasm. He described our plans for the bathroom and his thoughts about keeping the molding around the doors stained with the white ash stain. He explained how we planned on keeping all the rooms upstairs as bedrooms. I barely got a word in edgewise. I loved watching his excitement.
Mom did a lot of smiling and nodding, but Dad was really enjoying every minute of the tour. He added various suggestions to remodeling the upstairs. He had ideas about changing closets, replacing windows, and creating storage space. The two of them bounced ideas back and forth, very much the way they did over Dad's photos. It was fun to watch.
"You know, it's a beautiful house and what a wonderful neighborhood. Can you guys afford it though? This place must cost a fortune."
"Sam, we got an unbelievable deal on the house. When your son and I sat down and crunched the numbers, we didn't even hesitate to immediately send in an offer."
I smiled, "Well it wasn't quite that easy, but we really got a great deal."
"Incredible deal," Marcus said. "But, let's keep looking at the house."
When we finally got to the kitchen downstairs, Dad and I stepped back and let Marcus lead Mom around. She ohh'ed and ahh'ed in all the same places Marcus had on our first look. The two of them compared notes and chatted away.
Dad turned to me and smiled.
"Son, the place really is incredible. I'm impressed."
"Thanks, it's a dream house. We got so lucky; Marcus is friends with the real estate agent. The house never even went on the market. I will admit I was freaking out about the price until we talked it out. Now we need to find a contractor to make the changes we want, although I want to do some of the painting myself."
"I understand that feeling, but let the pros do it. You guys are still planning the wedding and still working your regular jobs; you won't have time for everything. Maybe, after school is out, you can play with some decorating."
"You're probably right."
"What is Marcus doing with the condo? Is he putting it up for sale or renting it out?"
"We haven't decided yet. Last we talked, he said he had a feeling he should hold onto it for a while. Why don't you and I walk around outside while Mom and Marcus finish up in the kitchen. They can meet us at the garage."
After Marcus and Mom met us in the yard, we showed them the garage and in-law apartment. Marcus walked over to his car. He opened the trunk and dug out a couple of signs. He grinned as he placed a huge sold sticker on either side of the for sale sign. Mom and Dad actually applauded and gave us both hugs.
Soon enough we had spent almost three hours looking around, and it was time to head back to the condo to celebrate Marcus' birthday.
Amy and Fran were actually going to join us for the party. Amy promised to bring some new tastes to share with everyone. I was looking forward to her unleashing even more creativity, especially for the wedding.
Mom managed to bake Marcus a birthday cake. It was a lemon-raspberry-white-chocolate cake. She dug it out of a cooler in the trunk.
"Betty, that looks incredible. You shouldn't have. You realize this means I have to cook you brunch for Mother's Day tomorrow."
"Don't be silly. Just being with my two sons is more than I could want on Mother's Day."
Marcus grinned and then wrapped her in a hug. "Well, there is one problem, we didn't make reservations. So, I'm cooking anyway. I hope you aren't disappointed. I have a new dish I want to try. Plus I was thinking we could go to the chapel on campus for services in the morning. If you'd like... "
"Oh my, that sounds lovely."
"We were hoping you'd get the chance to meet the pastor. She has agreed to perform our ceremony." I added.
"Perfect, I can't wait. It will be very nice to talk to her." Mom beamed.
Just then the doorbell rang. The guests for the party started to arrive. We only invited a few people. Marcus didn't want the party at all since Scott had thrown a huge bash for his thirtieth, the year before. I finally convinced him to go along; I needed an excuse to get my parents in town and it was his first birthday since we became a couple.
Amy and Fran were setting up the food on the counter and chatting with Mom. Jen and Sarah arrived holding hands and smiling.
"Holding hands, a little PDA, what's gotten into you?" I asked grinning.
"Well, I decided I wasn't being fair to Sarah. I'm not ashamed of our relationship; I'm just not entirely sure about it. After more than five months, I'm beginning to relax a little. Sarah has been so patient with me." Jen replied.
"Small steps forward if that's what it takes. I just hope you are happy. You deserve happy."
"Thanks, I am. I'm very happy."
Sarah gave her a hug and added, "We actually went to New Hampshire last weekend. I was so nervous about getting all the parents together. My father and step-mother surprised me by embracing Jen. My mother on the other hand, stormed out of the restaurant. Exactly the opposite reaction than what I expected to happen. Hopefully, after she calms down, she will come around."
"That's tough. I'm sorry. How were your parents Jen?"
"They were good. Mom's only comment was 'You'd better still give me grandchildren, Missy.'"
I burst out laughing and pulled them both into a hug.
"My mother is already pushing for the same thing. Now that Marcus and I are buying a house, I think the pressure may ratchet up."
"Knowing your mother," Jen laughed. "There's no doubt she wants a grandchild... yesterday. By the way, Sarah and I have Wednesday night free. I still need to find a dress for August. Any chance you guys could join us?"
"Let me check with Marcus, but my Wednesday night is open. Sounds like a good plan. We could do dinner after shopping."
I glanced over at Marcus just as his phone rang. He talked for a few minutes and then walked over to my parents. After a quick discussion with them, he joined us.
"Babe, can I steal you for a minute? I'm sorry, you two, but I need my fianc for a moment."
"Before we go, Jen and Sarah want to go shopping and have dinner on Wednesday. Are you free?"
"I think so. I need to check my calendar, but I think it's a good night. I promise this will only take a minute."
He led me back to the bedroom. Mom and Dad followed us in.
"Okay, my family is not coming to the party tonight. Jess has been having some bleeding issues since Baby Lucas was born. I guess this afternoon she felt really dizzy on top of everything, so Nick brought her to urgent care. They are admitting her to the hospital. Nick is worried; they are talking about doing a complete hysterectomy if they can't control the bleeding. Right now all the kids are with Sarah and Jamie, and Dad is at the hospital with Nick."
I put my hand on Marcus's arm.
"What do you want to do? Do you want to go to the hospital? Does Sarah need help so Jamie can go up also? Tell me what you want; what you need."
"Babe, you are wonderful. But nothing is going to happen with Jess right now. She's resting. Dad and Nick are keeping her company. They are going to monitor her overnight and the surgeon is going to check her tomorrow morning. I told Nick we would stop on the way from the chapel in the morning.
"If you don't mind Betty, I thought I could make Mother's Day brunch at Jamie and Sarah's. After brunch, the family can figure out what needs to be done."
"Why would I mind? Your family is a delight. It's such a joy to be around those kids. It will be a pleasure."
"Thanks, I suppose we need to get back to our guests. Apparently, there is a birthday party going on. Against my wishes I might add."
"Oh well, I think you'll live." I grinned.
He kissed me and we returned to the party.
It was a small party. Jon and James had begged off. Matthew was improving, but James didn't think he was ready for a room full of strangers. I suggested we should get Matthew together with Stephen and Josh, and Justin's Tommy for a game of baseball. We were hoping for Thursday night after school.
Keith and J arrived together with Scott and Justin. The last time we talked, Keith told me he and Justin had come to an understanding about J. Justin was trying to be a little less protective and give them space, and Keith was making sure he kept the lines of communication open. Keith was even joining J when he spent time with Justin and Scott and with his grandparents. The whole thing seemed to be working out very well.
Everyone was chatting around the table sampling Amy's tastes. One of the most interesting creations was a sundried tomato tapenade. Marcus told me usually a tapenade was made with olives. I was not a real fan of olives, but this was delicious.
Amy also made a zucchini stuffed biscuit that just melted in your mouth. The touch of cheddar cheese and shredded zucchini baked into the biscuits was unbelievable.
"Amy, every time you share a taste with us I think it's the best one I've ever had in my life. You can't imagine how excited I am about the wedding. You need to promise to make some extra for the grooms just in case we don't manage to eat at the reception. I've heard that happens."
"Thanks, Tony. Have you tried the lumpia yet?"
"You mean the spicy egg roll things? They are awesome. Incredible flavors in those little bites."
"It's a Filipino dish I read about on-line. I've been looking for the chance to try them on someone. You guys are my guinea pigs tonight." She burst out laughing.
"Well, you can try out new ideas with us anytime you want. These are wicked good."
After Amy's food was devoured, I was loading the dishwasher, while the rest of the guests continued to chat.
Surprisingly, J cornered me in the kitchen.
"Tony, I guess I owe you a big thank you. Keith told me he's been getting advice from you. Instead of encouraging him to play games, you've told him to be himself and communicate. I really appreciate it. It's been really hard trying to deal with school and coming out and everything, but having Keith in my life is great. Thanks."
"I'm glad things are going well between you. Honestly, I'd be giving you the same advice. Be yourself and make sure you let Keith know how you feel. Be sure it's a two way street." I lowered my voice to a whisper. "And make sure it's fun. It really needs to make you happy."
"I am and it does. Thanks. We are going to the mountains for a week before summer session starts. It should be a really good time."
"Sounds great; enjoy."
"Honestly it will be a welcome escape. School gets a little overwhelming sometimes."
"I remember that feeling, but it seems like you have a solid support system with Keith, Justin, and your grandparents."
"Yeah, it's great, but I do miss my Mom. I didn't expect my stepfather to be so rigid."
"You know, maybe someday, your stepfather might come around. Are you keeping in contact with your mother?"
"It's not easy for her. He is so difficult and she doesn't want to upset him.
"I do miss her and my step-brothers. If I hadn't... If I wasn't... "
Suddenly my mother put her arms around J.
"Don't young man. You did nothing wrong. You tried to be honest and live your life honorably. You should be proud of yourself."
J dissolved into tears. Mom held on and tried to calm him down. Keith dashed across the room, but stopped short when I got in front of him. I slowly led him away.
"I think he just needs a mom for a moment or two, and since mine is flipping amazing he's in good hands. When he's ready you can comfort him, but right now let him have a Mom moment."
Keith slumped against the wall. "I hate that we have this in common. At least my mother makes an effort to spend some time with me; his barely gives him the time of day. His grandparents are great, but it's not the same. I wish I could fix this."
"Just caring helps; and knowing how he really feels; that's more important than you can imagine."
"Thanks, Tony. I just want to help him. He's taking it hard. Losing your dad is a nightmare, but you still have your family. I got to say goodbye, he came home to two Marines in dress uniform. I can't imagine that pain.
"You pick up the pieces. The incredible hole becomes less and less a gaping maw. Then your mother finds someone that makes her happy, and at first you fight against it. You don't want anyone to take your father's place. You tell yourself it's just a fling. She gets serious. If he makes her happy, you finally are happy for her."
Tears began to roll down his cheeks.
"And then you come out, it's the most difficult thing you've ever done. You hope your Mom doesn't hate you. You can't bear to think you could lose your only parent. At first things are okay, she says she loves you no matter what. But the man she's in love with has a different idea. He thinks your 'choice' is an abomination, and you'll corrupt his precious sons, your brothers. He wants your mother to cut you out of her life.
"If you're lucky, she fights it, even just a little. You get to keep her in your life. You get moments every once in a while. When she doesn't... you lose your mother, too. Except you know she's still there, she's just 'chosen' someone else over you. It's more painful than losing your father.
"The fact its Mother's Day tomorrow; those feelings just slam into you again."
"I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine the pain."
He shook his head. "No, I'm sorry. It's a party. We should probably go."
"Don't you dare."
Suddenly, J was standing next to us. He gave Keith a kiss.
"Sorry, I guess I had a little meltdown." He turned towards me. "Thanks, for letting me borrow your mother. She's awesome."
"I know. I'm wicked lucky."
Mom was standing behind me, "So am I. But, I think it's time for cake and presents."
"Great idea, Mom."
"Hey, if you boys don't have plans tomorrow, why don't you join us for services at the chapel and then brunch at Marcus's brother's house?" She said.
Keith looked at J. He started to speak, "I'm not sure... "
"Please. We really don't have plans. Afterwards, we can go to my grandparents."
Keith smiled, "Sure, if that's what you want."
Mom clapped her hands together. "Wow, lucky me; I get to spend Mother's Day with all these wonderful young men. I can't wait."
She went over and gave Keith a hug and then brought J into the same hug.
"You two are amazing. You both should be very proud of yourselves. Don't ever think the choice your mothers made was because you did something wrong. If ever you need to talk to an old lady for advice or just a chat, don't hesitate to call me. I'd be proud if either of you were my sons."
"Thanks Mrs. Wallace... " J and Keith said in unison.
"Call me Betty, please."
They both gave her another hug.
The party wrapped up and plans were firmed up for the next day.
Marcus and I cleaned up the house and headed for the futon.
"Babe, thanks for the party. You know it was totally unnecessary. What's this I hear we are having two more for brunch tomorrow?"
"Well, my mother kicked into 'Super Mom' mode with Keith and J. They are both struggling with their relationships, or lack thereof, with their respective mothers; Keith said it's especially difficult around Mother's Day. He barely sees his, and J's isn't in his life at all. So mine decided to be a surrogate for both of them."
"Your mother is unbelievable. She really is one of a kind."
"Yeah, I'm wicked lucky. By the way, you should call Nick and check on Jess."
"I did and nothing has really changed. She was examined about two hours ago and there is still some bleeding, but the surgeon sounded hopeful."
"That's good, I guess. I hope Jess doesn't end up having to have surgery. I'm worried about her."
"Babe, you're sweet. Nick sounded more positive tonight. The only thing that's definite right now... Jess probably shouldn't have any more children. Nick sounded a little down about it, but I think he's just tired."
"He's probably exhausted and stressed completely about Jess. I hope she won't be disappointed by the news. I mean they have a nice little family now with Mallory and Lucas."
"I'm sure they'll be fine. The only thing is... Jess comes from a big family. I think she has her heart set on more than just two kids." Marcus added. "But you are right they have a nice little family. If they end up being unable to add to it, well, I think they will be okay. Time to call it a night; I have a small army to cook for in the morning."
I laughed and pulled him into an embrace. We were both asleep in minutes.
As usual, everyone was up before me the next morning. I threw on a robe and dug out Mom's gift before heading for the dining room.
"Happy Mother's Day, Mom. And good morning... "
"Thanks, Baby. You're up a bit early for you on a Sunday."
"Well, it's a special day. Besides, I think we need to head up to the chapel early if we hope to get seats. Mother's Day is also graduation weekend. The place will be mobbed. I do hope you get the chance to meet Reverend Jill. I think you'll love her.
"But, first you need to open your present."
When she finally tore off the paper and opened the box, she gasped. I'd found a simple silver heart-shaped locket. Inside there were pictures of her and Dad on one side and Marcus and me on the other side. She stared at it and started to tear up.
"It's so beautiful. I absolutely love it. Here help me put it on."
I moved behind her and clasped the chain behind her neck. I put my hands on her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek.
"I love you, Mom. You are simply amazing. Thank you."
"I love you, too. Now go get ready. I'm looking forward to a big family brunch after church."
She was staring at the pictures in the locket as I left to shower.
While I was in the shower, I heard Marcus's phone ring. After finishing up and getting dressed, I went back out to the table.
"Nick just called. Jess is going to be released this morning."
"That's flipping awesome. Did they stop all the bleeding?"
"Yes, the only thing is she's not allowed to lift for a couple of weeks until she fully heals. Baby Lucas is small enough that he's ok, but Mallory is too big. Absolutely no housework and she must rest for the next two weeks. But as you can imagine, Nick is relieved. They are going to stop at Jamie's on the way home from the hospital."
Mom piped up, "That's wonderful news. Is there anything we can do to help them? Maybe after we eat brunch, we could have a cooking party and throw together some meals for them. Or a cleaning party, and take care of the house."
"Betty, that's sweet, but don't you guys need to head back home after brunch?"
Dad spoke up, "Actually, Marcus, we were hoping to impose on your hospitality for a couple more days. I took Monday and Tuesday off so we could spend some time with you guys. So, I'm not due back until Wednesday."
"What do you mean impose? We absolutely love having you here. Stay the whole week if you can." Marcus exclaimed.
"Well, I think you'll get sick of us if we stayed the week. Besides, we are all going to Boston in three weeks for my show. I think a couple extra days are plenty."
"Okay, do what you like, but you are always more than welcome here."
Marcus's cell phone started ringing.
"Happy Mother's Day, Mother. I was going to call you when the family got together for brunch at Jamie's. What's up?
"Oh, I see. When do you get in? Very good, I'll pick you up at the airport. What are your plans for this afternoon? Okay, I'll call you from Jamie's so you can talk to everyone. I love you, too. Talk to you in a couple of hours. Good bye, Mother."
I gave Marcus a questioning look. He shrugged his shoulders.
"Mother is coming back to town on Thursday. My grandparents will be buried on Saturday morning. I need to throw together another reception at the church. She sounded very down again. I'm not sure what's going on with her."
Mom piped up, "I'll bet she's very lonely down in Florida. She's been caring for your grandparents for years now. Suddenly, her whole life has changed."
"Hmm, you might be right. I didn't really think about it. I will talk to her about it when I see her. But, we better get moving if we want to have a seat at services this morning."
Services were packed as expected. Keith and J arrived a couple minutes later than we did and ended up standing in the back of the chapel. After services, they each gave my mother a hug and together gave her a small bouquet of flowers.
"Thank you boys, they are beautiful."
J smiled, "Thank you for inviting us to share your day."
"Yes, thank you." Keith added.
"Well, we will head out in just a minute. Sam and I want to meet the reverend. She is the one marrying Tony and Marcus."
Mom and Dad introduced themselves to Reverend Jill, and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. Reverend Jill explained she interviewed every perspective couple before agreeing to perform the ceremony. She told Mom she was surprised to learn Marcus and I had only been a couple for nine months.
The questions she always asked forced the couple to really examine their relationship. I remember reacting strongly to the way she asked a question. I instantly jumped to defend our relationship; she smiled at me and explained her intention was to gauge my reaction and not my answer.
Reverend Jill told my mother she was shocked at how well we seemed to be in sync with each other after such a short time.
Mom smiled, "When they told you their history, did that help to clear things up?"
"In a way, I still found their dynamic very unusual."
"How so? They were best friends for three years before things changed. I think that made a huge difference in their feelings."
"I agree. Still, they seem like two individuals that became more in the relationship. They are both much better men for being together. I don't have the privilege of seeing that very often. I am very honored to be the one performing the ceremony."
"Thank you. It's been a pleasure talking to you, but we need to get to Marcus's brother's house. We are having a big Mother's Day brunch today."
"Enjoy. It's been very nice meeting you as well."
The two women hugged and Reverend Jill turned to begin talking to another family.
We loaded into Marcus's Lexus and arrived at Jamie's house fifteen minutes later. Stephen and Josh slammed full bore into us as we entered the house and then dashed over to see my parents.
"Grandpa Wallace you gots to see our tree house in the back yard; Daddy added a new lookout post. It's really cool." Josh started pulling Dad out to the back yard.
Stephen yelled almost at the same time. "Grandma Wallace you can come too. Uncle T you hasn't seen the new lookout neither."
Jamie scolded the twins, "Boys, let everyone catch a breath first. I think Grandma and Grandpa Wallace can look at the tree house after we eat."
"Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't you guys show Keith and J the new lookout? I'm going to check on your brothers and then we can play a game of catch while Uncle Marcus cooks brunch. How does that sound?" I grinned at the look on J's face.
"C'mon yous guys, you aren't going to believe how cool this is." "Yeah, it's wicked cool, right Uncle T..."
"You two are starting off in trouble already. I will make you pay."
The boys grabbed Keith and J by the hand and practically yanked them out into the back yard. Before either one could argue, the boys had them climbing the rope ladder into the tree house.
On the other hand, I made a beeline for my godsons' room. Tommy and Ben were jabbering away in their cribs as their Mom was changing Baby Lucas with Mallory's help. I walked over and gave Mallory a big raspberry on her cheek and Lucas one on his stomach, eliciting a big giggle from Mallory.
"Unka T, you are silly. Did you see I'm helping Aunt Sarah with my baby brother? I'm a great big sister."
"I see. You are an awesome big sister. Give me a high five."
"I can't right now. I have to sprinkle the powder."
"Okay, I guess I'll just have to check on the other two."
I scooped one twin into each arm and started talking to them. As I walked around the room, I saw Sarah wiping off some of the powder Mallory dumped on her brother. I just smiled and shook my head. I continued to chat away to the babies, when I saw my mother out of the corner of my eye.
"Tony, your fianc needs your help. He said he's sorry to take you away from the twins, but he won't let me do anything. I'd love to hold those godsons of yours though."
"Sure, I think I can arrange that."
Mom sat down in the rocking chair and I handed off both boys to her. She had a huge smile on her face as I left the room. I could hear her start to sing to the twins.
"Hon, I hear you need a hand out here."
"Babe, can you get the coffee cake out of the oven and carefully put the quiches in. But be sure to raise the temp of the oven twenty-five degrees. After that can you pan the bacon, and then crack about a dozen eggs into that glass bowl?
"I'm going to make scrambled eggs as soon as the quiches are cooked. Right now, I'm cutting up the fruit. Thanks for helping Babe."
"Well most of this is because of my mother, so it's the least I can do. When do you expect Jess and Nick to arrive? Is your Dad coming too?"
"Nick and Jess are still waiting to be released. I hope I have the quiches timed right. Dad is with Carolyn at her son's place. He promised to be back on Tuesday to go over the closing paperwork on the house for us. Can you believe we close on Wednesday? I can't flipping believe it."
"I know I'm wicked excited. The only thing; we haven't found a contractor yet. We need to do it soon. I was thinking it would be awesome to move in right after the wedding."
"Oh my God, I was thinking the same thing. But right now I need to keep working on this brunch, please get those quiches baking right now."
"Oh no, I believe I need a kiss before I get to work."
Brunch was a major success. My mother ate up the attention. Keith and J had a great time playing with the twins. Even a call to Marcus's mother went well; she was still a little down but carried on a conversation with everyone including me and my mother. It was surprising to say the least.
My parents finally decided to spend the week so they could be here for Marcus's grandparents burial. It meant they were there to help us celebrate closing on the house.
After finishing all the paperwork in Marcus's office with his father, the four of us drove out to the house. Marcus grinned as he took the `For Sale' sign down; Dad snapping pictures the whole time. Mom and Dad applauded as we unlocked the front door for the first time. We held hands as we walked into our house.
"Babe, can you believe this is our house."
"No... yes... I can't believe any of it actually...
"We keep having these moments, one right after another... and soon another huge one... "
"Are you okay? Shit, I'm pushing... "
I pulled Marcus into me and kissed him with everything I could muster. I held tight.
"Every hope, every dream... everything coming true with you... Please don't ever let it end."
He looked at me. I stared into those amazing blue eyes.
"Never, Buttercup, I promise it will never end."
"I'm going to hold you to that."
Marjorie flew in and out of town so quickly we barely noticed. She buried her parents and went back to Florida. It didn't seem like there was time for a conversation. Even Marcus felt like her visit was nothing short of a whirlwind. At one point Mom and Marjorie had their heads together during the reception, but it was a fleeting moment.
The month seemed to fly by and before we knew it was time to head for Boston and Dad's big exhibition. My parents insisted on meeting us at the hotel so we wouldn't need to drive them back to New Hampshire. We arrived at the hotel moments before they did and we all checked into our rooms.
After changing into our gallery clothes, we headed out. (Mom always had a name for clothes for whatever occasion. She insisted I change my 'school' clothes when I got home before going out in my 'play' ones. We had 'church' clothes, of course, just for Sundays. No matter the event, there was a specific outfit or set of clothes to be worn.)
Dad was almost as anxious as the first show. He insisted on getting to the gallery two hours before the show started. Mom was a bundle of nerves as she and I walked around the exhibition, while Marcus and Dad talked to the gallery owner. The gallery itself was much larger than Crystal's in Hampton Beach. There had to be close to forty different shots enlarged to various sizes hanging on the walls.
Soon the doors were opened. The weather outside was miserable; the gallery was packed. After a few minutes, I began to walk around by myself. The day seemed to fly by in a flash. Just before closing, Marcus caught up with me and we walked around together.
"How's Dad doing? It seems like it's been crazy all afternoon."
"He loves every minute of it. He has really gotten quite good at talking about his work with people. I think some of the stuff is breathtaking. I have no idea how sales are, but I'm guessing pretty amazing."
"That's so awesome. Marcus, I love that Dad's talent is being recognized. It's so incredible. Thanks for everything you do to help him with this."
"Believe me, I love it too. He deserves all of it."
Suddenly, Dad was walking quickly towards us.
"Tony and Marcus, I want you to meet someone. It's incredible he came to my show. I mean his stuff hangs in museums all over the world. I'm sure you've never heard of him Tony, but maybe you have Marcus."
He dragged us over to one of his larger works. It was an amazing shot of the pond in winter. The water was frozen over, but with so little snow cover, you could see the branches of the trees and the stalks of the weeds. It was eerily haunting, but beautiful.
"Marcus and Tony, I'd like for you to meet... "
Marcus gasped, "Adrian."
I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. Before me stood a man that could only be described as stunning. He had shoulder length dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He stood the same height as me and appeared to glow from being sun-kissed. Golden-brown skin and broad shoulders, he looked every bit the surfer dude Marcus described.
Marcus's whole body went rigid and he let go of my hand. Adrian came over and shook my hand as Dad continued to introduce us.
"This is my son, Anthony and his fianc... "
"Hello, Marcus. You look incredible as always."
Marcus continued to stand there with his mouth gapping.
"You know each other?" Dad asked.
"Marcus and I were in college together. You could say he helped me discover my love for photography. In many ways, I owe my entire career to Marcus."
"You never told me that Marcus. He's been nothing short of amazing in helping me."
"I can well imagine. He has an incredible eye for the finished product. Always has... "
Honestly, I'm not sure I was breathing during that entire conversation. Marcus seemed frozen, unable to think or move. Finally, I put my arm around him. He shook his head and looked at me. In that moment, his expression went from stunned to horrified. I didn't know quite what to do.
"Anthony, is it? I was just telling Sam, your father, how talented I think he is. Some of the work on these walls is nothing short of astounding. The mood created in this piece alone is incredible. When my friend Jasper, the owner, told me I should come down and see your father's work, I never expected to be so impressed."
"Thank you. I'm very proud of my father." I answered without thinking. I seemed to be on autopilot.
"You should be."
Dad piped up, "That's very kind of you. Coming from someone with your talent, that means so much to me. Could you join us for dinner tonight? I'd love to hear about some of your methods."
"Actually that would be nice, but forgive me if I beg off. I think I need to take advantage of this opportunity.
"Anthony, would you mind if I stole your fianc for a few minutes. I think we have a lot of catching up to do. It's been over ten years. I would ask him for coffee, but I'm guessing he still doesn't drink it. Do you mind if I take him for a quick drink?"
Marcus still hadn't spoken. He couldn't seem to recover from the surprise.
"If that's what Marcus wants, I suppose. We were all headed for a celebration dinner."
"I hate to intrude, but I think we have some unfinished business."
I spoke without thinking, "I'm sure you do. I'm just not sure now is the best time."
Suddenly, Marcus jumped in, "Actually, Tony, I think I need to do this. I'll meet you back at the hotel in a couple of hours."
He kissed me on the cheek and started to walk away.
Tony... not Babe, not Buttercup... He called me Tony. It was like a knife stabbing me in the stomach. I stood there not believing what had just happened.
My father put his arm around me and led me over to Mom.
"I think it's time for a celebration dinner. This day has been nothing short of incredible."
"Incredible... " I mumbled.
"Baby, are you okay? You look as though you just lost your best friend."
"God, I hope that's not true... "
Thanks to the men without whom this would never happen:
My hubby, Ray
The amazing David, 'Super Editor'
And Fitz, who helped me find my voice...