Castle Roland

Feel, Don't Think

by Michael Kyle-Ducharme

In Progress

Chapter 26

Published: 12 Mar 15

Mom and Dad, Marcus and I loaded into his Lexus and headed for the first tasting. According to Marcus, we could expect a southwestern flare from the caterer. I wasn't really sure this was even close to the direction I wanted to go, but I was trying to keep an open mind.

We arrived at what was definitely a BBQ place. Lots of wood and the sounds of country music greeted us. This kind of food hadn't really entered my thoughts as wedding food, but I had to admit the smells were intoxicating. We met with Mindy, the owner, and her head chef, Paul. After we introduced my parents, Mindy had us sit at a large table.

"What can I get you folks to drink? Everything is on the house today. I know this is unusual food to think of for a wedding, but not all of our dishes are smothered in BBQ sauce. Some of Paul's creations are very sophisticated."

Everyone got a beer, except me, I was still avoiding alcohol. I settled on water. I wasn't much of a drinker before the accident, and I really didn't miss it.

Mindy and Paul brought out a few different items for us to try. Ribs, brisket, and chicken were very good, but exactly what you would expect. The first item that caught my attention was the loaded salt potatoes. Salt potatoes are a big deal in this part of the country. Little potatoes boiled in very salty water and then slathered in butter, they could be found at every picnic, clambake, or BBQ. The loaded part of the dish was the addition of cheddar cheese, pulled pork, bacon, chives, and sour cream to the salt potatoes. They were really delicious.

I could tell Dad loved them too. Mom, on the other hand, was chowing down on the corn bread. It had jalapenos baked into it. At that point, I was still waiting for the sophistication. I found it in the lobster bisque. Normally, I wasn't remotely a fan of soups or broths. The bisque, though, was luscious. The subtle lobster and butter flavors were wonderfully rich. In keeping with the Southwest theme, there was a little bite to it. I wasn't sure of the spice, but it gave the bisque a real depth of flavor and a serious edge.

And then Paul brought out his take on chicken cordon bleu or a form of stuffed chicken. He made two major changes to the usual recipe. First, instead of Swiss cheese he added a smoky pepper jack, and then replaced the ham with apple-wood smoked bacon. Unbelievably flavorful, it was such a surprise.

"I have to say I'm really enjoying the potatoes and the stuffed chicken. How do you set the potatoes up for a wedding?"

"It becomes a do it yourself choice. All the ingredients are available, but the guests can choose what to add to their potatoes. I have seen folks make an entire meal out of the potatoes and fixings." Paul explained. "I also do a stuffed haddock for folks that don't eat meat."

"Well, I can tell you when we started I couldn't really envision this as food for my wedding. But frankly I'm stunned. The food is delicious and would be really unusual. I know my father loved the potatoes too. Mom, I saw you with the cornbread. Marcus, what did you think?"

"I love the food. I also love the fact most of our guests would not have had this kind of food at a wedding."

Mom added, "I think this was amazing food. I really appreciate all your efforts here today. If the boys don't choose you to do their reception, we may decide to throw the rehearsal dinner here. What kind of seating do you have for that kind of event?"

"We have an upstairs room that seats fifty very comfortably. Let me get the price lists for you. Either way we would be thrilled to help you celebrate."

"Mom, we don't expect you to throw a rehearsal dinner. We will do that. But I think it's a great idea to pick one of the caterers we don't choose for the wedding itself."

"Anthony Michael Wallace, we have been putting money aside to do a rehearsal dinner for years now. Don't you dare take that away from us. We have been planning for it for a very long time now."

Marcus began to argue, "But Betty and Sam, there is no need for you to spend money like that?"

"Marcus, don't you start now. Betty is right. We have been planning this since Tony hit junior high. So, there will be no discussion about it."

"Okay, if that's what you want. I should know better that to argue with a Wallace."

All three of us shot him a look, and he burst out laughing. This was turning into such an awesome experience. We thanked Mindy and Paul and left with price lists and menus for both the wedding and the rehearsal dinner.

The next place was a restaurant owned by a lesbian couple. Marcus had known Fran and Amy for many years. The restaurant was well known in the city for its tapas, small snacks most often served as an appetizer. The women called it Amy's Small Plates. I had never been in a place like this before. The idea was to get a number of choices for the table and everyone tried a little of everything. Marcus and Jon had apparently gone here on one of their dates. Marcus said they tried about six different bites and both really enjoyed the food.

Again, I tried to leave my bias at the door. I was intrigued by the idea of small plates for a group of friends to enjoy a night out together or lunch, but wasn't sure how it would work for a wedding.

Before we entered the restaurant, Marcus warned us that Fran was an over the top person. She was a large woman with a matching personality. Amy, on the other hand, was a very talented artist. Together they were real leaders in the gay community. In fact, they held an annual anniversary party, which raised money for a different charity every year. The previous year ten thousand dollars had been given to the youth center.

"Marcus, darling, it has been far too long. Why haven't we seen you in forever? What have you been doing with yourself? And most importantly, why haven't we met this young man who has swept you off your feet?"

"Fran, this is Anthony Wallace and his parents Betty and Sam. Everyone, this is Fran. Where have you hidden your wife?"

"Amy is getting your plates together. It is a pleasure to meet all of you. I need hugs from everyone, especially you, Anthony. Aren't you just the cutest thing ever? Just what kind of voodoo did you use to get this man to fall in love with you? He was probably the most eligible bachelor in town. You must have some kind of magical powers."

"I don't know about magical powers. I do know the fates definitely smiled down on me." I reached for Marcus's hand.

"You have a really beautiful place here. And I've heard such great things about you and your wife."

"Well, we've heard some amazing things about you too. You are the Anthony that has the youth center all a buzz from your very generous gift. It was an incredible thing to do, and from someone so young. Your parents must be very proud."

Mom spoke up, "Well we are becoming very proud, indeed. The boys hadn't told us about the donation Anthony made to the youth center. We just found out this morning."

"Honestly, I'm glad to have done it. Right now however, I'm dying to see what you have to offer us. If the food matches the word of mouth, we are in for a treat."

"Modest and adorable too, Marcus I can see why you fell for this one. Why don't we set up at the twelve top over here. That way we have plenty of room for you all to try things. C'mon sugar, you are going to sit next to me. Mom and Dad sit right across from us so Anthony can gauge your reactions.

"While we wait on my sweetie, let me explain how we do a wedding. Basically, we usually have the couple choose eight to ten bites for their guests. We then add a couple complimentary bites and each table gets to try all the offerings. We find it really encourages your guests to get to know each other and spend more time conversing with the rest of the table."

"Mom and Dad have you ever been to a place like this?"

Dad spoke up, "No, I know there is a place near the University back home, but we never thought to try it."

Just then a petit blonde made her way to the table with a cart loaded with plates. These two ladies couldn't have been more different physically or personality wise. Amy was as demur as Fran was bold. Again, I was hit by smells that went straight to my salivary glands.

Marcus walked around the table, gave Amy a hug, and then introduced all of us.

"Amy Frazier, this is my fianc? Anthony Wallace and his parents Betty and Sam. This is Amy. She had the misfortune to go to high school with Danni and me. All the art on the walls is her work."

"It's very nice to meet you. Are you related to Marissa Frazier? We have a ton of her work in the condo?"

"The pleasure is mine. Marissa is my older sister. She showed me the piece she did for you for Christmas. It was brilliant work. I tend to lean toward oils and big bold pieces."

"Wait a minute; it's your work on the walls of the School of Education at the University. Holy cow, those murals are flipping amazing. Wow, if your food is as great as your art work this is going to be an incredible treat. Wait, you are the Amy that keeps begging off invitations."

"Yeah, between the restaurant and my work, I don't have much time to be social. It is a treat to finally meet the man who swept Marcus off his feet. You must be very special. But let's get tasting."

The tasting was fascinating. Nothing was what I expected. Some of the plates were really unique. I particularly liked the Greek pizza with feta cheese. Normally, feta cheese tasted off to me. But with the other flavors on the pizza, including pepperocini and olives, the cheese didn't overpower and added to the overall taste.

Mom seemed to be partial to the skewers of vegetables in a parmesan marinade. Dad, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the roasted artichoke salad or the lobster macaroni and cheese. Marcus just smiled through the whole thing. He nibbled at everything, but didn't seem to linger on any plate. My mother insisted on the women joining us in the tasting.

"Amy and Fran, you shouldn't just watch us eat. It would be helpful if you tasted with us and described the plates so we could really appreciate the flavors. I know this little phyllo dough has the most unique flavors, but I can't seem to place them all."

"That's a new dish. The dough is filled with pistachios, walnuts, cranberries, sharp cheddar cheese, and a little hazelnut-chocolate spread on the bottom."

"Hazelnut? that is the taste I couldn't figure out. Well, they are delicious. This whole idea is so creative. The next time we come to town I insist we come here for dinner one night. I never expected to enjoy these little bites so much. It's really amazing that the tastes are so different, but complimentary."

People started to enter the restaurant. We had gotten so involved in the tasting I forgot they still had a business to run.

Marcus called a timeout to our fun. "We really need to hit the last place. Ladies, it has been a pleasure as always. We are throwing a bon voyage party for Danni at the end of the month. I hope you can be there."

Amy suddenly burst, "Marcus, why don't you start the party here? We can head to your condo after we feed everyone. Seriously, I really want to do this for Danni. I know you and you want to throw the party yourself, but the three of us have been friends forever and I want to do this. What do you think?"

"I will agree on two conditions. First, you have to promise to let me pay for at least part of the party. Second you have to join us at the condo after we eat. You never make it to any celebrations. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the reasons why, but it would be great to have you there to send him off to live his dream."

Fran put her arm around Amy. "She will be there if I have to hog tie her to the roof of the car. Trust me. There are some things you just can't miss. Folks it has been a pleasure. Marcus, you need to give us the date for the party."

Dad spoke up before we left. "Ladies, this has been incredible. I will tell you Tony's mother and I have decided to throw the rehearsal dinner at one of the places they don't choose to cater the wedding. So please work up a price list for both the reception and a dinner."

We started to drive across town to Luigi's. I was slightly irritated with Marcus and let him know it.

"Marcus, I'm a little miffed at you right now. Why didn't you tell me you, Amy, and Danni went to school together? It makes a huge difference to me to give business to a friend. It makes this so hard not to choose Amy and Fran."

"And there you have your answer. I want us to choose the best caterer for us. I don't want to pick one based on friendship. Amy understands that at the end of the day its business. Plus, you and I were friends for over three years and now a couple for six months, and today was the first time you've met Amy. She is very private, very creative, and very focused. We will always be friends, but life has conspired to make us less close than we were in high school.

"I'm sorry I didn't mean to mislead you. I would love to pick Amy and Fran as our caterer, but only if they deserve it based on their food."

"I understand. I'm sorry. I should never have doubted your intentions. This is going to be such a difficult decision. I'm already torn and we haven't even tried Luigi's yet. This is going to be impossible."

"Babe, we might be blown away by Chef Stefano at Luigi's. You know how incredible the meal his cousin prepared for us, plus we already love the food at the restaurant. I know you have been looking forward to this tasting especially."

"Well don't forget boys, your father and I have every intention to pick one of the caterers for the rehearsal dinner. So far, I'd have to say you couldn't make a bad choice. Both places were exceptional, and knowing my son this place will be incredible too. I think there is no doubt which ever you choose will be exciting." Dad added.

Chef Stefano greeted us at the door. He escorted us back to a private table in the corner of the restaurant. One of the best waiters, Marco, brought us waters and took drink orders from Marcus and my parents. It was finally dinner time and the restaurant was buzzing.

"Marcus and Tony, let me start by saying my cousin couldn't stop talking about you when he called. I was instructed to pull out all the stops. So in addition to the special family lasagna recipe, I have prepared a few other treats for you. Some of the items were on the menu previously, and a couple dishes I hope to add in the near future.

"Marco will bring out a couple of dishes at a time. I'm hoping to be able to chat with you while you taste, but the restaurant is very busy for a Sunday evening. The first two offerings he will bring out are spinach and sausage stuffed manicotti and a zucchini pie. After that the chicken and spinach Alfredo lasagna and a meatball and tortellini bake will arrive. Finally, steak pizzaiola and my take on stuffed flounder will be the last items for you to try. I will be back after I make sure the kitchen is keeping up with the crowd."

Each of the dishes was small enough for us to get a couple of bites. We started with the zucchini pie. It must have been made with young squash as there were hardly any seeds at all. Between the buttery crust, the tender zucchini, and mozzarella I was amazed. Having had Marcus's macaroni and cheese, I knew the subtle edge in the flavor was mustard powder. The overall dish was out of this world. As a matter of fact, each and every dish was incredible.

Chef Stefano had very little opportunity to join us. The dining room was packed and apparently there was an issue with the staff in the kitchen. The regular patrons didn't have a clue. The wait staff seamlessly worked to keep the guests happy. If Marco hadn't apologized for his boss's absence we would never have known either. Marco also told us the lasagna was one of the specials for the night and had sold out in record time.

Eventually, we had tried all the offerings. I was completely stuffed. I was also getting a slight headache. I didn't want to spoil the day, so I excused myself to go to the bathroom and take meds. When I returned, Marcus and my parents were laughing with Chef Stefano.

"Babe, Chef Stefano was just telling us about the fun he's been having in the kitchen. Apparently, the wife of one of the sous chefs almost had her baby in a car behind the restaurant. She went into labor, drove to get her husband to go to hospital, and her water broke in the car. By the time the ambulance got here, she had gone into heavy labor. But, mother, child, and frazzled husband are all doing well."

"Wow, that's crazy."

"I do apologize for not being here for your tasting. I hope you found the dishes to your liking. I have a catering menu here with some other choices you might find enjoyable too."

At that point, Mom explained her rehearsal dinner idea and asked about space for a party of that kind.

"We can easily separate a section of the restaurant to accommodate your needs. It would be a pleasure to help you celebrate in any way. Thank you for considering us for your event. I hope to see you two in here again soon, and Betty and Sam it has been a pleasure but I must get back to the kitchen. Have a great night folks."

I stood up and shook his hand. "Thank you for your hospitality. Your food is amazing. My fianc? and I will be sure to ask after you the next time we come for a meal."

"Please do. Good night."

We loaded back up into Marcus's car and headed back to the condo. We were all quiet. I was thinking about how great each of the tasting had been and how difficult a decision we had. My headache hadn't gone away yet either, so I closed my eyes as we headed home.

"Are you okay, Babe?"

"I'm good, just completely stuffed. I'm glad there isn't another caterer today because I couldn't eat another thing."

Dad chuckled from the back seat. "I totally agree. I was just thinking about what a tough choice you boys have. Any one of those would be an unusual pick for your wedding. I'm not sure how I would decide."

Marcus said, "I was thinking? We should all go back to the condo, right down our order of preference for the caterers, and then talk it out. Almost like a jury deliberates at a trial. Each of us would have the chance to sway the others with our choices and then we could vote again."

"You are too cute, always the lawyer. I think it's a great idea. What do you guys think?"

"Well boys, it's your wedding. I'm not sure we should be part of the jury."

"Mom, we really want to know what you both think. We wouldn't have asked you to be a part of this if we didn't."

"Betty, he's absolutely right. We want to know your thoughts. Please it's important to both of us."

"Okay, sounds like a great plan. That is if I don't fall asleep from having eaten so much." Mom sighed.

I simply added, "Me too, but I really want to talk about it tonight so we don't over think it. Just consider what you think would be the best choice."

We arrived back at the condo at about eight. I still had a slight headache, but it was easing. I grabbed four small pads and pens and we all got busy making notes.

"The first vote should be just initial reactions. I want to see where we all stand."

Marcus collected all our "votes" and proceeded to read through each one. When he got done he burst out laughing and laid them out on the table. Each one of us had exactly the same thought.

We had all chosen Chef Stefano and Luigi's as the main caterer, Amy's Small Plates to do hors d'oerves for cocktail hour, and Mindy's for the rehearsal dinner. It was completely unanimous.

"That was way easier than I expected. I can't believe every one of us picked all three places. Here I was thinking I was being brilliant choosing Amy and Fran to do cocktail hour as a way to work them in. I'm not feeling so smart anymore." Marcus continued to chuckle.

Mom jumped in. "I think it is the perfect choice. The only concern I had was the cost of using two different caterers for the reception. That's going to throw an extra added expense to the celebration."

"Betty, I already told your son I'm not cutting corners for our wedding. Even if between the two caterers it comes to thirty dollars a person, we still figure on only a hundred people anyway. If I match the twenty thousand Tony wanted put in the wedding pot, we still have over ten grand for everything else. I think that's very easily done.

"I really love the plan. I think it's the absolute perfect idea. What do you think Babe?"

I slumped into the chair.

"I didn't think about how much it would cost when I made my choice. In fact I didn't think about the price when I thought about this at all. Are you sure we can afford this? I mean maybe we need to get the guest list settled before we decide on the caterers."

"Babe," Marcus got down and put his arms around me. "We made a promise to each other. No cutting corners, but nothing that makes you uncomfortable. It's your call. I think the plan we all came up with is perfect, but I need you to be one hundred percent on board. No second guessing. Do you want to sleep on it? Do you need time to think about it?"

I looked at Marcus. I wanted our wedding day to be perfect. I looked at my parents; they were staring at the two of us. Mom nodded her head slightly. I took a deep breath and smiled, then I gave Marcus a kiss and left our foreheads touching.

"Hon, when do you want to call them?"

Marcus wrapped his arms around me and kissed me with such fervor I almost fell over.

"I'm so happy. This is flipping amazing." He winked at me. "We can call everyone tomorrow and firm up the date with them. We are going to need to pick out menus now. I'm sure we have time to think about those. Betty and Sam, thank you so much for helping us. I can't believe how excited I am about the whole thing."

The four of us chatted about some of our favorites we wanted each caterer to use. I felt my headache returning about eleven but it was too soon for more meds. So I excused myself and went to lay down on the futon. Marcus joined me after a few minutes.

"Babe, are you okay? Did you take some meds?"

"It's too soon. I need to wait another hour or so. I think if I close my eyes for a few minutes it will help, I hope."

"Did you take meds at the restaurant? Why didn't you let me know? I wouldn't have kept going on and on tonight."

"Stop, I will be fine. It's just been a long day. I think I just need to be quiet for a few minutes."

"Let's get ready for bed. We can talk in the morning. You are sleeping in tomorrow before brunch with the 'rents."

We moved into my favorite position. My headache wasn't progressing, but it wasn't easing either. Marcus started rubbing my back. He whispered softly in my ear.

"I love you more than words. You are so wonderful. Never ever doubt you are my whole life. Good night, Babe."

He kissed me on the top of my head. I sighed, and snuggled in closer. I drifted off to sleep.

The next morning we checked the weather report before heading to brunch. A nor'easter was flying up the coast. We were barely going to be on the edge of the storm here. Unfortunately, there was no way my parents were driving to New Hampshire. The forecast called for as much as two feet of snow in parts of New England.

"Dad, you need to call school and let them know there is no possibility you'll be at work until at least Thursday. It will be until Wednesday before you can even think about driving home. I'm sorry. I can't believe how quickly this storm blew up. On the other hand, I'm very excited you get to hang out for a couple more days."

"Actually, I bet there won't be any school. It looks like home is going to get the brunt of this one. I'm going to call Stan, the neighbor who plows our driveway, to let him know we won't be around so the rest of the neighbors don't worry. I'll also call school and tell them if they open I won't be there. Hey, it's the first snow day of the year, no big deal."

"Wow, what has gotten into you? You were never this cavalier before? Again I need to ask? Who are you and what have you done with my father?"

Dad looked at my mother. She nodded her head and smiled.

"Well now is as good a time as any. Tony and Marcus, It's our turn to have news. I have decided to retire at the end of the school year. I have thirty years in so my pension is pretty much maxed out. It's a really good time for me to make a change. I will be honest; your accident shook both of us right to the core. Life is too short. Your mother and I have discussed it and now is the perfect time."

I was stunned. I couldn't imagine my father walking away from teaching. I just stood there trying to process the announcement. Marcus, however, had no problem with the idea. He walked up to my father and grabbed Dad's hand with both of his own.

"Congratulations Sam. This is incredible news. I'm so happy for you." He gave my mother a hug and continued. "Betty, what are you going to do with him under your feet all the time?"

Dad spoke up, "I think we are going to do some traveling. Little trips here and there... Really just enjoy life."

Mom grinned, "Nothing too exciting, you know me? I'd just as soon stay at home most days. But it might be nice to make a trip out here every now and then? "

My brain had stopped working. I just stood there unable to believe what I just heard. My father retiring?

"Tony, you need to pick your chin up off the floor."

"I'm sorry. I just never thought I'd see the day." Finally, I walked over and gave my Dad a hug. "I'm thrilled for you. Frankly, I think it's about time. This is just such a surprise though, but a really great one. Congrats, this is amazing news."

I let go of my father and gave my mother a hug. She whispered in my ear, "Now you need to figure out a way to make me a grandma soon." I looked at her and she was beaming. I just smiled, shook my head, and gave her another hug.

Marcus had grabbed our coats. "Let's go to brunch and celebrate.

"Gee Sam; think of the photos you might take now that you'll have extra time on your hands. New places, new camera lens? man, you are going to be hooked up."

Dad grinned. "Maybe the road to New York will be a well-traveled one so you can help me sort them out? "

"That sounds perfect."

We chatted during brunch. I was still just a little shocked at the notion of my father retiring. Marcus decided to order mimosas to toast my parents. As we were drinking to the news, I paused for a second. My parents looked so happy. Dad was very animated telling Marcus about the places he wanted to visit, and Mom was beaming. Occasionally, they would rest a hand on each others' arm. Every now and then a quick kiss was exchanged. Honestly, they looked incredibly happy and so much in love with each other. I couldn't help but smile.

Eventually we finished up and returned to the condo.

"Betty and Sam, now that you are stuck here for a couple extra days, would you like to join my family for dinner this afternoon? It will be at Jamie and Sarah's. I'm sure there is plenty of food."

Mom shook her head no. "Thank you, but we wouldn't want to intrude."

"Please, I'm sure everyone would be thrilled to see you again."

I chuckled for a second. "Plus, it might help me avoid getting cornered by Marcus's mother. Marjorie still has something to talk to me about."

"Marcus, your mother doesn't get to see her family all that often. We definitely don't want to interfere with her time." Dad added.

"Well you are my family now too, but, if you're sure about it? I think the twins will be a little disappointed to have missed Grandma and Grandpa Wallace."

"Well, maybe the boys could come over after school tomorrow. I'll make meatloaf. You can get them right after school, and then their parents can come for dinner and take them home after we eat."

"I'll check with Jamie, but it sounds like a fun plan. Babe, we need to get to Jamie's in a few minutes. Let me pack up the crock pot of chili and we need to book."

A few minutes later we were at Jamie and Sarah's cape. The boys and Mallory gave us their usual greetings, practically knocking us over in the process. The adults were all in the living room chatting away. Marjorie was sitting on the love seat alone. My first thought when I looked at her, the queen was on her throne. I chided myself instantly.

"Hello everyone, sorry we are a little late. My parents are staying for a few extra days; the nor'easter has made travel back home impossible. Betty and Sam told us to say hello to everyone."

George spoke up, "You should have brought them along. There's always plenty of food."

"We invited them." Marcus explained. "But they didn't want to intrude. They figured since Mom was here; they didn't want to take away from her family time."

"How very thoughtful of them, please thank them for me." Marjorie sighed. "Your parents seem like very down to earth people. It was a pleasure to meet them, Anthony."

"Thank you, Mrs. Taylor. I'm sure they would say the same to you." I took a deep breath. The syrupy tone in her voice made me feel like "down to earth" was a little dig at them. I tried to convince myself to stop reading into Marjorie's attitude, but it wasn't working.

"Anthony, why don't you sit here on the love seat with me?"

"Certainly, but first I need to use the facilities. Excuse me."

I went into the bathroom and closed the door. I looked into the mirror and took a deep breath. I decided I was over reacting to Marjorie. She really wasn't an evil queen looking to rip my heart out. She loved her son, but she needed to know I did too. I steeled myself and went back out to the living room. I sat down next to her. The rest of the family was busy chatting away.

I spoke softly, "Mrs. Taylor, I know you wanted to have a chat with me, but if you don't mind I have a few things to say first. I love Marcus. He is the most amazing person I have ever met. For three years, he was my best friend, the best friend I have ever had. Frankly, I'm not sure I could have gotten through the events of the first year without him. He is incredible. Even when it was ripping his heart out, he helped me navigate the ups and downs of my life. I will never forget it.

"Now that I finally figured out the depth of my feelings for him, I have never known such joy. I never expected to be so blessed. I'm sorry I don't fit into the vision you had for him. But I can promise you I will spend my whole life loving him with every fiber of my being."

She stared at me. I took a deep breath and continued.

"I understand your beliefs condemn our relationship. That must be difficult for you. I believe God is love. When you find love, you are fortunate. When you find the kind of love your son and I have for each other, you are truly blessed. I hope you will see your way clear to embrace us. Your son loves you very much and it hurts him to think you are disappointed in him. I truly hope you will be a part of our lives, a part of our celebration. It's important to both of us."

She looked at me very intently. I smiled at her.

"Tony, I had a long conversation with my parish priest in Florida. He told me our new Pope has different ideas than his predecessors about homosexuality. He doesn't condemn it as strenuously. Father Tom suggested I make my own decision about you and Marcus. He even thought I should attend the wedding if I wanted. I can't say I agree with what's going on. I won't tell you I approve. But I intend to get to know the two of you better. I still think it's a mistake, but I'm going to try to understand.

"You are thoughtful and well-spoken young man. Marcus could do much worse. I'll say it again; Marcus could have an incredible future with the right woman. I really just want the best for him."

"I understand, Mrs. Taylor. I assure you, I will spend every moment trying to make Marcus's life incredible. He already makes mine that way."

Huge thank you to the following:

My Husband Ray,

The Awesomest Editor David,

And to Fitz, who helped me start this incredible adventure

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