Marcus and I planned to head home after breakfast with my parents. Marcus promised Mom we would be back on Friday before Dad's retirement party. While Mom and Marcus were talking, Dad took me aside to check on how we were doing.
"Are you guys okay? You seem quiet today, Son."
"We are great, just a bit tired. We were up talking late again last night. He explained about Adrian. It was intense, but Marcus told me what happened when they left. Things are perfect between us."
"Excellent, I told you not to worry."
"You were right. Now, I intend to leave the whole thing here in Boston; I won't bring it up again unless Marcus needs to talk about it. I'm sorry I overreacted."
"Hey, you come by it naturally. Don't worry about it. I guess we will see you guys in three weeks."
"Absolutely. Congratulations on the show, you deserve all the attention. I'm sorry your moment with the world-famous photographer didn't go as planned." I smiled.
Dad laughed, "That's the thing about famous people... you forget they are human too. But, it was a very cool moment when he and I were discussing my work."
"Awesome, you deserve the attention. I'm very proud of you. I love you."
"I love you too."
We hugged. He gave me a good squeeze and then walked us back to Mom and Marcus.
Marcus put his arm around me and started, "We will see you two in three weeks. I hope we get the chance to pick some more shots out of the old albums for your next show."
Mom spoke up, "Maybe you can have a few minutes doing that, but I was hoping for a little 'Mother of one of the grooms dress shopping' on Saturday before Dad's party."
I burst out laughing, "Absolutely, we wouldn't miss it. We still need to go with Jen to help pick out her dress. We keep scheduling it and plans fall through. Hopefully when we get back, we will get the time. But, you'd better get going if you want to make it back for ceremonies in the cemetery."
I gave Mom a hug and she whispered in my ear, "I'm glad you guys worked things out. I told you everything would be fine. I understand why you got upset, but that man has loved you for the longest time. Never doubt it."
"I know. Honestly, now that we got past this ghost... I have no doubts. See you soon. Love you Mom."
"Love you too, Baby. Have a safe trip back."
We finally managed to get on the road. We were tired, but I was content. It was one of those moments where just being together was everything to me. We didn't need to speak. Holding hands for most of the trip, we made it home early in the afternoon.
We spent a quiet afternoon and evening, until Marcus's mother called about eight.
"Hello, Mother, how are you tonight? We just got back from Boston. Tony's father had an exhibition of his photographs. Really? That's wonderful. How long are you staying? Okay, we will see you then. Have a good night, Mother."
I shook my head and smiled, "When is she coming back, and why?"
"She's flying in a week from Friday. She said she had an announcement for the whole family. I wonder what that's all about? I guess Taylor family dinner will be interesting."
"I, for one, have no energy to worry about it. Hon, I'm exhausted. I'm going to send Danni a quick text to let him know things are great, and then I'm crashing for the night."
"Sounds like a good plan. We are great, right?"
"Here are my last words on the subject. If you want to talk about the ghost, I'm willing to listen. Otherwise, he's buried in the past. I should never have doubted..." I choked up for a second. "Let's just leave it in Boston. If you need to talk more about Adrian, I will be happy to listen, always. On the other hand, I'm great... We are great. Incredible, actually... "
"Perfect. I can't imagine ever needing to bring up Adrian. Hurry with your texting or I may already be asleep when you get to bed."
Danni and I sent a few texts.
"I told you so."
"Drama Queen, LMAO"
"TY, you helped like always."
"Need ZZZ. Later."
"Soon, I hope."
"Tell M I said to get in touch... I want to hear."
I put down my phone and got ready for bed. I crawled in and cuddled up against Marcus. He put his arm around me and I drifted off to sleep.
The last three weeks of the school year is serious wind down and wrap it up for most teachers. My father always complained his students seemed to check out after Memorial Day. This was definitely not the case for me this year.
The college students were all gone for the summer, so the curriculum committee was working to wrap things up. I was going to meetings two nights a week. I was also fielding offers from parents to do some private work with some of my speech students. I knew it would be difficult for me to say no to parents, but between the wedding plans and the construction on the house I made a decision to limit myself to four students. My hope was to spend at least two days each week working on my dissertation. It was going to be a crazy busy summer.
The contractor we hired to work on the house had done much of the work at Jamie and Sarah's place. Marcus and I met with him Thursday after school.
He appeared to be about thirty years old. With sandy blonde hair and hazel eyes, he stood about two inches shorter than Marcus's six feet. He looked every bit a contractor with broad shoulders and strong arms. He had a warm smile and stuck out his hand to greet us.
"Mr. Taylor and Mr. Wallace, it's a pleasure to meet you both."
"Mr. Kendricks, it's a pleasure to meet you too. But please, it's Tony and Marcus."
"Okay, but Mr. Kendricks is my father, I'm Ethan."
I laughed, "Ethan it is. We have some definite ideas about what we want done in the house. How do you want to do this? Every time we are here we start at the top."
"Then let's start at the top. What I like to do... is let you do the talking; I'll do the writing and ask questions as we go along. I'm only concerned about actual structural changes at this point. We can talk about colors another day. Today is all about the changes you want to make including walls, floors, windows, wiring, and plumbing. You need to help me see your vision."
Marcus piped up, "In that case, I hope you have a big notepad. We really only have a few major changes we like to see, but a ton of minor ones. The most important thing to us is being able to move into the house after our wedding in August. If that means some of the minor changes don't get done, we will still be happy."
"I think I understand. My goal is to make you more than happy. Let's talk about what you want done and if I don't think I can promise everything we can prioritize. I have an amazing crew so I hope we can make all your wishes come true."
Marcus did most of the talking. Ethan was very attentive and jotted notes constantly. After Marcus finished describing our plans for the bathroom, Ethan paused for a moment.
"Excuse me gentlemen, I need to verify something downstairs."
A couple of minutes later, he reappeared.
"I'm sorry. I needed to check out some structural things. The good news is there is enough support to do everything you want in the bathroom without the need to add anything. Sometimes these old farmhouses don't have solid support for the upstairs, but the location of the bathroom in the house is perfect for everything you want to do. Let's continue."
I thought to myself, just then, we had definitely chosen well. Ethan listened attentively and constantly wrote notes. If he was unsure about what we wanted, he asked questions and made suggestions. I was very pleased with his professionalism.
After touring the entire house, we ended up back at the front door. Marcus and Ethan were talking about a couple of small changes to the apartment over the garage. My stomach started to rumble.
"Gentlemen, I hate to break up this meeting of the minds, but I believe if I don't get sustenance soon you won't be able to hear each other over the roar of my stomach."
They both laughed.
I continued, "Ethan, if you don't have plans, why don't you join us for a bite to eat. You and my fianc can continue to chat. There is a nice little diner around the corner."
"Thank you for the offer, but I need to check on my roofing crew. They should be wrapping up a job tonight. I want to make sure they finished the clean-up properly. It's been a real treat to learn about your vision for the house. I'm going to make some lists and verify a couple of things. I will be able to price this out and give you an idea of the timeline for the work. I should be able to plan this out over the weekend. May I give you a call on Monday?"
Marcus said, "Monday would be perfect. You can call me at the office. Here is my card. Thanks again for meeting us tonight."
"It's been my pleasure. A job like this is such a treat. You guys have a definite vision. You also appreciate the beauty of the original structure and wood work. I'm looking forward to helping you turn this wonderful farmhouse into your home. I will talk to you on Monday."
He shook both of our hands and drove away in his truck. A wave and a smile and Marcus turned to me.
"Babe, I think Ethan is going to be ideal for the job. I was very impressed with his suggestions. He didn't try to change what we wanted to do. I wasn't sure what he was up to when he dashed away while we were talking about the bathroom, but he seems to be very professional and knowledgeable. I'm excited."
"It was fun to watch you two bounce ideas back and forth. I totally agree; I think Ethan will be perfect for the job. But I was serious about food, I need to eat soon."
Marcus burst out laughing.
"Okay, let's go to the diner. I wouldn't want you to pass out from hunger."
Ethan called Marcus on Monday, as promised. When Marcus got home from work that night he was very excited to fill me in on the call.
"Babe, Ethan thinks he should have no problem banging out our entire list. In fact he suggested we should get our tile for the bathroom picked out and paint colors for the rest of the house. Let's go out to the tile store tonight and over to the paint place to get started on the colors."
"Sounds like a great plan... Did he give you an estimate of the work?"
"No, he did however speak to my father. You heard Dad say he would pay for the work as a wedding gift. Actually, compared to the work Jamie had done... he's getting off cheap. Please don't worry about it."
"I know, but he shouldn't foot the whole bill. That's too much."
"I advise you not to argue with my father. It's what he wants to do. I'll talk to Ethan to get an idea of the cost of the work. Will that make you feel better?"
"I can live with that. I'm trying to let go. It's difficult. I hope you understand.
"On the other hand, I'm going to need three more contracts like the one you drew up for Brett's parents. I think I've figured out which students I'm taking on over the summer."
"I hope you're doing this because you want to help the kids and not because you think you need to earn extra money."
"I am. I narrowed it down to four students, if you include Brett. I think sessions during the summer will help each of them tremendously. It still gives me time to work on my dissertation a couple of days a week and wrap up the final arrangements for the wedding."
"Babe, we have everything set for the wedding except the seating chart and the favors. Oh, and the gifts for those standing up for us. That's everything right?"
"Well I still have vows to write... and you make the seating chart sound so easy. We still don't have all the responses back and already it's more people than planned. Has anyone actually said no yet?"
"Of course," He laughed. "You need to stop worrying. We are still less than one hundred and twenty-five. The room can seat up to two hundred. Plus, we don't need a count for the caterers until near the end of July. Now that the DJ is signed and the flowers are ordered, we can manage the seating chart together."
"Actually, at this moment I'm more worried about your mother coming to town and her big announcement. At least dinner is at our place, so we have home field advantage."
"Is that a baseball thing again? Remember I was a band geek... "
I started to grin, "Yeah, it's a sports thing. Before it gets much later we need to pick out tile and get some color ideas. We can grab some takeout Chinese for dinner."
We drove to the tile store. Marcus grabbed my hand and gave me a huge smile.
"I hope we can agree on this easily. This place has hundreds of tiles. Every color and design you can imagine."
"Hon, if you see something you really like, let me know. I promise to do the same."
We walked around for about fifteen minutes together. I suggested splitting up to allow us to see more tiles. There were six huge rooms with tile choices. After another five minutes, I saw a pattern out of the corner of my eye. Just as I got to the display, I saw a hand pick up one of the tiles. As I rounded the corner, Marcus was looking at the design that caught my eye.
"Babe, what do you think of this here? I was looking at these red and black tiles, when this pattern caught my eye."
"That's too scary. I saw the design from across the room and thought it was wicked cool. The reds and blacks in this pattern are really wild. I love the straight lines and overlapping squares." I smiled.
"Look at this red and black. They match perfectly. Do you think it would be too dark?"
"Not if we do mostly white or grey tiles, we can add a row of black, a row of red, and a row of this design. I think we might even be able to get away with two rows of the design. If the main color is light, I think these colors would really pop in the bathroom."
"I think we might be able to find floor tiles to match the accent tiles, and then we could put in a white, red, or black washer and dryer. You know I prefer white towels. This could really be amazing."
"Before we get our hopes up, let's check for floor tiles. Bring one of each along so we can match things up."
As we walked from one room to another, a salesperson walked up to us.
"Hello. May I help you find something? You two seem like you're on a mission. My name is David."
"Hi. I'm Tony and this is my fianc Marcus. We are having some work done on our house and need to find floor tile to match the tile we hope to use in the shower. We want to find something that won't overpower."
"I know we can match both the red and the black. I suggest the floor be mostly white with a few tiles of red and black to be an accent."
"That was our thought exactly. You say you have the red and black to match these?" Marcus looked excited.
"I'm sure we do; Right over here... May I ask the name of your contractor? Or are you planning on installing the tile yourself?"
"Our contractor is Ethan Kendricks."
David smiled, "I hear great things about Ethan. Let me write down the numbers of these tiles and I can give him a call. I'm sure he took measurements of the room and will know exactly how much tile you'll need. I can have it all ordered for you and he can pick it up when he's ready for it."
Marcus shook David's hand.
"Thank you. You have been incredibly helpful."
"What do you say, Babe? Are you happy with these choices?"
"I'm flipping ecstatic. This is going to look so cool."
"David, thank you. Is your supervisor available? I want to tell him or her what great customer service you've given us."
"Thank you, but that's not necessary. I'm just doing my job."
"I disagree. You have been exceptionally helpful."
We finally found one of the owners. Marcus heaped a ton of praise on David and his helpfulness. The owner thanked us for our business and for taking the time to compliment one of his employees. We left the tile store and headed for the paint store. We picked up a boatload of books with various color swatches inside. I loved that the swatches could be stuck to the wall. This could be either a lot of fun, or incredibly difficult. I didn't know where to start with all these colors.
We stopped for Chinese takeout on the way home. After eating, we sat down in the living room. I was beginning to flip through some of the books when Marcus pulled one out of my hands.
"Enough for one night, we have plenty of time to pick out colors. I need my client to meet his retainer if I am required to draw up three more contracts."
"As I recall, I've built up a major stash of credit. I don't believe your client owes you anything."
"Objection, I thought my client agreed it was always a good thing to build up extra credit."
"Objection overruled... I believe your client was hoping to spend time with his fianc, and not his lawyer, this evening."
"Oh I think that can be arranged... "
We walked back into the bedroom holding hands. Marcus pulled me into him and started to kiss me. Slowly we undressed each other, reveling in simple touches. Eventually, we climaxed together. I lay my head on Marcus's chest and drifted off to sleep.
The week flew by, and suddenly it was Friday and Marjorie's return. She chose to stay in a hotel again. We offered to have her stay with us, but she begged off; she had plans with friends on Saturday and didn't want to disturb us. I think she had come to accept our relationship, but wasn't ready to deal with it full-on in person.
Sunday family dinner was at our place, so Marcus spent time on Saturday cooking. I took a few minutes and drew a mock-up of the house. I wanted to see the colors for each room as a whole as we picked them. Saturday was a rainy, cool day, but Sunday was going to be beautiful. I was hoping for a little baseball practice with the older twins.
Every now and then I checked to see if Marcus needed any help with dinner, he just smiled at me and shook his head. I took the time to play with the paint swatches. I had no desire to work on anything to do with school or the wedding. I was actually having a great time playing with combinations. Of course, just when I thought I had managed to pick all the colors I wanted, I would flip the page and find another color I loved.
While I was playing with the colors and combinations, I had a thought.
"Hon, I have a question for you. What do you think about ceilings?"
"I think every room needs one. What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm sitting here playing with colors, smart ass. My father was always very adamant about painting the ceiling white. I also noticed all the ceilings here in the condo are white. Is that important to you, too?"
"Huh, I never gave it much thought. I think white ceilings look cleaner. I also think they make a room feel bigger, but if you feel strongly about putting color on the ceiling I would be open to the idea."
"Okay, what about wall paper? I've been concentrating on paint colors but we haven't talked about wall paper."
"No and no."
"What does that mean?" I laughed.
"That means no wallpaper ever; and no we don't need to discuss it."
"Really? That's a pretty firm stance. No wiggle room at all?"
"None; I like to change colors every few years. I repainted most of the condo right before we met and if we weren't moving into the house I'd be ready to repaint very soon. Wall paper seems so permanent, mostly because it can be a royal pain in the ass to get off a wall."
"So, basically if I really like a color... it's only temporary anyway." I smiled. "Maybe I'm putting too much effort into this. So you're saying three or four years from now, I should plan on doing this again?"
"Well, not exactly. Babe, if we end up really loving a color we could always keep it, but it's fun to think about new combos or variations of colors."
"I suppose I can live with that."
"Are you ready for something to eat? I'm curious to see what you've been working on, so feverishly."
We sat at the dining room table and shared a plate of nachos with chicken. Marcus looked over my choices. As he glanced through the books, he pulled a couple of swatches and attached them to the edge of the paper. After about fifteen minutes, I gave him a nudge.
"Put the paint books down and eat. You haven't touched a thing, and the nachos are really good."
"First, I'm not very hungry. I've been testing tomorrow's dinner all day. Second, I'm just about done with this. Third, I can't believe this drawing. What a wicked cool idea." He grinned at me. "And last, you've been playing all afternoon. I get to have a little of the fun, too."
"Oh, you can have all the fun you want. It's not like we need to decide this instant. I was just playing around avoiding school work and the dreaded seating chart."
Marcus laughed at me.
"Babe, you are funny. You need to relax about the seating chart. We'll figure it out. We need to figure out the rehearsal dinner list for your parents. I think we need to let Mindy know a count, and I'm sure your parents want an idea of how many guests. We also need to firm up the rooms for out of town guests. And don't flip out, but if we get many more yeses we should order another cake or two."
"Yeah, I was thinking along those lines the other day. I meant to put a note in my phone to remind me to talk to you about it. I think we need to get a couple more already."
"We can call this week. Can you believe in two months we are getting married? There are still a couple things we need to talk about... Like what we are doing about our last names... "
"Oh... I hadn't thought about that."
"Well, as soon as we hit sixty days before the wedding we can get our license. That's the time to decide what we are doing; it saves a ton of paperwork down the road. But, so long as we get the license at least twenty-four hours before the ceremony we are good. We don't have to do it any sooner than we are ready."
"Have you already thought about it?"
"A little... but it's one of those rare things where I am afraid to talk about it. I don't want one of us to be unhappy with the choice. I mean I figure there are three real options. One, we stay the way we are... Two, we hyphenate, but we'd have to pick an order for the names... Three, one of us takes the other's last name...
"Honestly, I thought the third choice would be the least likely, but I want you to really think about what you want. I don't want either of us to settle or not be happy."
I felt like I looked like a deer lost in the headlights of an oncoming car. I'd given it no thought at all. In a way, I felt horrible. I played each of the options in my head.
In typical Marcus fashion, he seemed to read my thoughts.
"You don't have to decide this instant. I really want you to give it some consideration. It's forever so you need to be sure."
I shook my head and went back to thinking. Finally, I spoke up.
"How are we going to decide if we don't agree?"
"We just have to find a way to agree. No matter what it takes; we'll figure it out."
"Okay, no problem."
The twins and I were playing in the park next to the condo. Both boys were getting really good at the game of baseball. The coolest part was their love for different positions. Stephen loved to pitch and Josh was a pure hitter. After a couple of hours of coaching Stephen and shagging balls for Josh, I was worn out.
"Boys, let's go inside. I know I saw Grandma Taylor arrive. I'm sure Grandpa will be here any second. Plus I think Uncle M probably needs help with dinner."
"Okay Uncle T, thanks for playing with us. Are you coming to our game?" Stephen asked.
"When is your game? I wouldn't miss it."
"Our games are on Saturdays. I think our first game is next week." Josh said.
"I'll check with your Mom and Dad. I can't wait to see you guys play."
"Awesome. You are a really good coach Uncle T."
"Thanks guys, I'll grab the bounceback. You guys get the balls and gloves."
The entire Taylor family had arrived. I put the bounceback away and grabbed my godsons from their mother. I walked into the kitchen to check on Marcus.
"Do you need any help?"
"No, I'm good. I wouldn't want to make you put down your godsons any way." He laughed. "Can you just have everyone get ready? Get the twins cleaned up. I'm just about to put everything out."
"Boys, let's get cleaned up. Uncle M says dinner is ready."
"We already did, Uncle T." Stephen gave me his usual look with his hands on his hips.
"Well then get in the kitchen and help your uncle while I change your brothers."
The twins 'helped' Marcus get dinner on the table and the family began to eat. The usual conversations were going on. The boys checked with Sarah to make sure their first game was in two weeks. Marcus and I promised to be there to see them play.
Dinner was winding down when Marjorie cleared her throat.
"I suppose it's as good a time as any to let you all in on my plans."
There was a collective intake of breath around the table. The entire family froze in place. Even the kids were quiet.
"I've decided to move back to New York."
Still complete silence...
"Now that my parents are gone, there is really nothing left keeping me in Florida. I have friends here and all of you. It's going to take me a couple of months to get my things together and get the house ready for sale. I expect to move just after the wedding. Now I just need to figure out where I'm going to live when I move back."
After a couple of minutes there was continued stunned silence. Finally, Marcus got up and hugged his mother.
"This is incredible news. I think you have us all completely flabbergasted."
"Uncle M, what does flibbergusted mean?" Josh asked.
"Buddy, it's flabbergasted. And it means everyone is so excited they don't know what to say."
"Oh, I've never been flabbergasted before... "
The entire family burst out laughing. Nick and Jamie gave their mother a hug and everyone started chatting again. Marcus gave me a nod towards the kitchen.
"Babe, what do you think about... "
My brain shut down. The world stopped. I panicked. He was going to ask if his mother could move into the in-law apartment. I couldn't say no to Marcus, but seriously there was no way I could see that woman living across the driveway. What the hell was I going to say?
" ... my mother using the condo after we move out?"
Did he say condo? I went from distraught to ecstatic instantly. I grinned.
"That's a brilliant idea. I think it would be perfect for her."
"Okay, that was too easy. What's up? You had a look on your face like I was going to ask for the heart out of your chest."
I looked at my feet and smiled.
"I thought you were going to ask to move her into the in-law apartment. I was trying to figure out how to say yes and actually mean it."
Marcus burst out laughing and pulled me in for a hug.
"You are amazing. But seriously, there is no way that woman could live that close without making us both insane. I'm a good son, but I'm not crazy. Thanks Babe, you really are wonderful. You would have said yes even though your brain was screaming no. But I think the condo is a good plan."
"Honestly, I feel pretty stupid to not have thought of the condo. Are you going to offer it now or when you two are alone?"
"Actually, we are going to offer it to her now."
"Oh, you don't need me."
"It's our place. We need to do this together."
Marcus led me back to his mother. We waited for a pause in the conversations.
"Mother, Tony and I have a suggestion for you. Go ahead, Babe."
"I'd love to take credit for the idea, but I do think it's a great one. What do you think of moving in here when you come back? Marcus and I expect to move into the house after the wedding. We weren't sure what to do with the condo, but I think it would be perfect for you."
Marjorie looked surprised and then deep in thought. She looked over at Marcus.
He spoke up, "Also, I think you should hold onto the house. You haven't spent a winter up here in years. You might decide you hate the cold and snow. If you need to bail and escape back to Florida, even for just a few months, you'd still have a place. If not then honestly, that house might be a nice vacation spot in the future. You might need to hire someone to look after the place, but I'd consider holding on to the house."
"Well, I need to think this over. It's very generous to offer the condo. How much would you want for it?"
I jumped in, "We wouldn't want anything. You could try it out for a while and if you decide to stay we could talk about it then. Seriously, we weren't sure what we wanted to do. This answers that question."
Marjorie gave me an odd look. Marcus smiled and put his arm around me.
"Tony is right. You can give it a try and see how it goes."
"Thank you. I'll have to think about it, but thank you."
"Well everyone, Uncle M made pie for dessert. Who wants some?"
The boys and Mallory all yelled 'Me.' I glanced around the room. Marjorie was surrounded by her sons, talking about her plans. The only person in the room, besides me, who seemed less than enthusiastic about the news of Marjorie's return, was George, Marcus's dad. He saw me staring at him and smiled. I had a feeling he and I would be commiserating together in the not so distant future.
Thank you for continuing to follow Tony and Marcus. I love to hear from readers, so don't hesitate to drop me a note firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to my amazing support... Ray, my hubby; David, my wonderful editor; and Fitz