Chapter 58

"Okay, Jay, ready to go make some candles?"

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Any ideas as to what type and color candles we're making?"

"I have a pretty good idea. We're going to start out making some basic pillar candles just to have around the house, since we'll be coming into hurricane season soon and it never hurts to have them on hand. I figure we'd make a couple for each bedroom, four each for the living room, dining room, kitchen and rec room. Once we get those done, we can make a few votives as gifts, unless you want to do tapers or pillars."

"That's a lot of candles. Wouldn't it be cheaper just to buy them from a store?"

"Probably, but it wouldn't be as much fun. Plus we could get the exact candle we want by making it ourselves. Personally, when I go into a store like Yankee Candle the scents are so overwhelming I get a headache. That's what I like about this place. They don't have open candles. They're all in glass jars so the scents don't mingle. You can get a true sense of what the candles smell like, rather than wondering if you're smelling the candle you picked up, or the ones around it."

"I know what you mean." Jay agreed wholeheartedly. "I'd rather go to a drug store or a supermarket and pick up something there."

"We can make the candles relatively cheaply by buying the wax in bulk. Where it becomes expensive is the hourly usage fee. Since we're making several candles at the same time, it won't cost as much as if we were only making one or two."

"So how do we get started, now that we're here?" Jay asked as they pulled into the parking lot and got out of Aaron's car.

"First we go inside and find out if they have any space available. They don't do the reservations thing, so hopefully they'll have some space available. Then we get the supplies we need and get to work making the candles."

"Okay, lead the way, baby."

As soon as they entered the store, Aaron was greeted warmly. "Aaron! How wonderful to see you again. It's been a long time. Thank God you weren't seriously injured in that fire rescuing that little girl." Aaron grimaced inwardly.

"Thanks, Grace. This is my boyfriend Jay. Jay, this is Grace. She owns the place."

"Nice to meet you, Jay."

"My pleasure, Grace."

"Do you have any open tables?"

She consulted a chart. "We're pretty full up. Let me look in the back just in case one of the girls forgot to mark a table as open or someone is getting ready to leave. Hold on a second." She came back a few minutes later. "There will be a couple of tables opening up shortly. Why don't you show Jay around and while you're at it go ahead and get whatever supplies you need?"

"Okay, thanks, Grace." The two men strolled around the shop, looking at and smelling various candles before entering the supplies area where Aaron began filling a shopping basket with various supplies, taking little slips of paper for each item they had selected.

"What are those for?"

"When we get our table, they'll give us a ticket. A duplicate of the ticket gets time stamped and put into a box along with these slips. There's a separate box for each table. When we're finished, the ticket gets entered into their computer and these slips get scanned into the computer as well, which generates a bill for the supplies and the amount of time we used. That way we're only paying once, instead of buying the supplies up front, then paying the usage fee separately.

"Cool."

After about a half hour they returned to the front counter. "I have two tables available, numbers two and thirteen. Which one would you like?" Grace asked as Aaron handed her the slips for the supplies.

"Two works for me."

Grace punched a ticket and handed him a copy. As she did so, an unknown woman approached them. "Excuse me, but you're the firefighter that rescued a little girl from a burning building aren't you?"

Aaron groaned to himself. "Yes ma'am. I was just doing my job."

"Well, that little girl is my niece and I will be forever grateful for your courage and bravery. I was going to bring this by the firehouse, but since you're here, I'll give it to you now. I made this for you as a small token of my husband's and my appreciation." She handed him a beautiful fire-engine red candle with his firefighter's badge number glued to the glass surrounded by the words "Thank you" above and below the number.

"It is truly beautiful. Thank you."

"Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. Please have a great day."

"Thank you. You too."

Soon they were hard at work making candles. Jay was surprised at how easily Aaron whipped out the candles. As hard as he tried, he just couldn't keep up with him. "Don't worry about it, baby. You'll get the hang of it. I've been doing this for over ten years. It just takes practice." He told him. "We'll come back again and next time I'll just sit back and let you do all of the work." He checked the thermometer sticking out of a pot of melting wax. "That wax is almost ready to pour. What color would you like to make it?"

"Fire-engine red" Jay answered with a shit-eating grin.

Aaron, calling his bluff, handed him the red color dye. "Here's the red. Pour it all in then add this cinnamon scent and mix it well." Jay looked at him sheepishly, realizing that his bluff had been called and did as he had been instructed. "Okay, pick out the mold you want to use and pour the wax in quickly. Good. That's the last one. Now we clean up while we wait for it to cool. These others are ready to be removed from their molds. Do it like this." He demonstrated the technique. Within minutes their table was covered with all sorts of candles. He then showed Jay how to clean the molds using the mold cleaner. When the last candle was finished and the final mold was cleaned, Jay started putting the candles carefully into the shopping basket while Aaron put the molds away and finished cleaning up the table.

"How much are we going to owe for this?" Jay asked.

Aaron glanced at his watch and thought for a few minutes. "Okay, we've been here for three hours, and we used twenty-five dollars worth of supplies, so it will be around eighty-five dollars."

"Ouch! No wonder why you don't come here very often. Sixty bucks to use the place for three hours is a lot of money." And it's the last time you'll pay that kind of money because you won't need to come here except to replenish supplies. Jay thought happily anticipating Christmas morning.

"How are we doing this? Do you want to split it right down the middle, or do you want to pay for the supplies and I'll cover the usage fees?"

"We'll split it right down the middle, now that I can afford it, thanks to you. It feels so good to be able to make candles again and not worry about how I'm going to be able to afford it." Aaron replied, a little misty-eyed. They returned to the front counter and gave the ticket to Grace who pulled the corresponding ticket and supplies slips and started scanning them.

"How'd everything go?"

"Fine. Jay got to make his very first candle ever."

"Really? How'd you like it?"

"It was a lot of fun. I look forward to doing more. I have a great teacher." He gave Aaron a quick peck on the cheek.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. Your total comes to twenty-five dollars, please."

"Twenty-five? What about the usage fee?"

"That's on me, hero. The child whose life you saved is my great-granddaughter, so this is the least I can do to thank you."

"You don't need to do that, Grace.

"Twenty-five dollars, or zero dollars, your choice." She replied, prepared to cancel the entire transaction.

"Okay, you win." Aaron got out his wallet and handed her his credit card. "Thank you, Grace. It felt good to be back here making candles. I've really missed it."

"It was good to see you again, Aaron and it was good to meet you, Jay." She said, handing him the credit slip to sign. "Guys don't be strangers."

"We won't." With a wave they left and returned home. The candles were distributed throughout the house with the exception of those that were meant for Christmas gifts, which were wrapped, tagged and placed under the tree.

"I really had fun today, baby. Thank you so much for taking me, and thanks for being so patient, especially when I screwed up the first two candles."

"You're welcome. We all had to learn sometime, and you caught on quickly. We can go back again after the holidays are over. From now until then, the place will be swamped."

"Sounds like a plan. Let's get something to eat then just relax. Tomorrow the kids will be arriving and I want to make sure everything is ready for them. We have to get a crib tomorrow for the baby. I'm not sure what else we'll need until they get here. We can pick up whatever else we need once we know what that is."

"Works for me. What are you in the mood for?"

"You."

"Besides me."

"How about pizza?"

"Homemade or do you want to order out?"

"I don't know how to make homemade pizza."

"Homemade it is then. Dinner will be ready in a couple of hours. Why don't I fix you something to snack on while I make the pizza?"

"Sounds good to me."

"Do you like thin, thick or Sicilian style crust?"

"Surprise me, baby."

Aaron went off into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a few cut up vegetables and some ranch dip, then returned to make some pizza dough. He whistled while he worked, very happy to be able to cook again, something he was passionate about, almost as passionate about his candle making. I'm going to make a pizza that will knock Jay's socks off! He thought as he measured out the ingredients to make enough dough for several crusts, not knowing if Tommy and Andy would be there for dinner. Two hours later he announced that dinner was ready by the pool.

"That smells heavenly." Jay commented as his nose registered the enticing aroma.

"Will Tommy and Andy be joining us?"

"No. They're both working this evening."

"They can have leftovers." Aaron said as he removed several different pizzas from the outdoor grill where he had been keeping them warm. "Dig in."

Jay stuffed himself, sampling each type of pizza. "I have to tell you, baby, this is undoubtedly the best pizza I've ever had in my life. Where did you get the crust and the sauce from?"

"I made everything from scratch."

"I'm going to have to do a triple workout tomorrow morning. I know I shouldn't do this, but I have to have one more slice of the Hawaiian style. Who knew pineapple would taste so good on a pizza?"

"I'm glad you enjoyed it." Aaron said with a satisfied smile. He loved cooking for Jay. He loved everything about Jay. He loved Jay, period. As he rose and started gathering up the dirty dishes, Jay pulled him down into his lap and gave him a kiss that left him weak in the knees.

"Oh, no you don't. You cooked. I'll clean. We have another busy day tomorrow. You go get that beautiful body of yours ready for bed and I'll be up shortly to tuck you in." He said with a crooked grin. "Go! You've done enough for one evening. I'll put the leftovers in containers and leave a note on the fridge for Tommy and Andy, finish cleaning up and be right up." Aaron, realizing that he was tired, didn't argue. He gave Jay a quick kiss and went upstairs. Jay put the rest of the pizza in containers in the fridge, put the rest of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, started it, cleaned off the counters and the patio table, left the note for Tommy and Andy and headed upstairs. He was not surprised to find Aaron already sound asleep. He gently slipped into bed so he wouldn't wake Aaron and kissed him goodnight. "Good night, Aalona." He whispered, addressing Aaron by the Hawaiian equivalent of his name. "I love you and thank God every day for bringing us together."