Chapter 23


Marcus headed for the office at about ten. He made me promise I would spend the day relaxing. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas day, I had an intense headache each night. Last night, we were on the couch listening to music when the pain hit. It had been a long day, so the headache didn't surprise. Fortunately, the medicine worked quickly and the discomfort passed. My frustration was building, however, as was Marcus's concern level.

I packed our suitcases for the weekend and took an hour-long nap. I was afraid Marcus would try to limit our adventure if I didn't remain headache free for a couple of days. He texted about three and arrived home about four. We spent a quiet evening watching a random Christmas movie. I always loved evenings spent just being together. Even when we were just friends, Marcus and I could spend time together without the need for constant conversation. That connection was always amazing to me.

Our train was leaving about seven, and was expected to hit the Big Apple about one. We would need to take the subway from Penn Station. Danni was meeting us at Grand Central Station about two. Marcus found us a reasonable hotel in Manhattan. I was beyond excited; I had never spent time in New York City as an adult. We had once gone to a Broadway show as part of a high-school class trip. But that trip was a quick in and out of the City.

"Buttercup, I don't want to be a nag, but I bought a plastic pill case for you to keep in your pocket." I smiled; he hadn't called me that in a while. It meant he was really worried about me.

"Look, I was good and took a nap this afternoon. We are spending a relaxing night with each other. I expect us to go to bed early, so we can get up early. Please try not to hover. I'm sorry I lost it Christmas Eve, but I was beyond frustrated. I promise not to ignore headaches if they start. It's wonderful you care about me, but please don't smother."

"Okay, but I can't help being concerned; I love you and hate when you aren't doing well." Marcus took a deep breath and regrouped.

"What do you want to do Friday before supper? I thought it might be neat to do the Empire State Building and maybe a quick walk along the theatre district. Supper we can eat whatever strikes our fancy as we walk."

"Sounds good, but I have one question for you. Are we going dancing at all while we are in New York?"

"Maybe... Hunter thinks we should have time for a quick supper after their run-through on Saturday and then go out. I hope you don't mind if we don't stay out too late. Those two have a full day planned for Sunday."

"Hon, I will be happy dancing for just a little while. You know it's my favorite thing on the planet. Besides, I know you are going to have me sleep in on Saturday and take a nap if there is time. I should be fine."

"Well, I'm telling you now, I'm still not sure this whole trip is a good idea. But before you argue with me, we are still going to go. I'm going to worry, but I will try not to hover. You know I love dancing with you too, but the slightest headache and we call it a night. Are we clear?"

"Yes, we are clear."

"Okay then, I need a kiss before bed. I love you, buttercup."

"I love you, more."


The train ride was actually fun. Except for a slight delay in Albany, it was a relaxing and completely effortless way to get to the City. Now I understood why people rarely flew to New York City from Central New York, the train actually was quicker from start to finish and less expensive. We still managed to get to Grand Central on time, despite the delay.

Danni had a huge smile on his face when he saw us. After hugging Marcus, he put his hands on my shoulders and shook his head.

"Were you trying to avoid seeing me perform? Is that what this is all about?" He pointed at me and moved his finger in a circle.

"Are you serious? I would never miss one of Hunter's shows if I could help it. I heard he has to work with some hack for this one. I feel bad for him."

"Marcus, what did you do to this boy? You've turned him into a complete smart ass. Or was it the blow to the head? That's the reason... Tony would never diss me before that accident.

"Seriously, how are you doing? I'm really excited you guys are here."

"I wouldn't miss this for the world. But, we have news we have been dying to tell you... Where is that man of yours?"

"He's... " Danni looked around.

"Right behind you; hello gentlemen, how was the trip down?"

Marcus piped up. "It was excellent, except for a delay in Albany."

"Well don't keep me waiting what's the news?" Danni grinned. "I bet I can guess..."

"Do you remember the favor I asked you to do and you talked me out of it. Well now we need to know if you are free in August... There is a wedding we want you to sing." I smiled and showed off the ring on Marcus's hand.

"Holy fuck, this is awesome! I am beyond stoked for you guys."

Danni grabbed us both and hugged us together. Hunter pulled out his phone and I could see him intently staring at the screen. Suddenly he dialed a number and walked away.

"Tell me what you did? When? And why have you kept this from me?"

"Okay, it won't even be a week until tomorrow. We were at my parents for Christmas..." I proceeded to tell the story. Marcus added a few comments as I unfolded the tale. Finally, I finished. Danni grinned at me.

"Much better than the Noah's plan, that was really perfect for you guys. What a fabulous story... Don't you think so Hunter? Hunter? Where the hell did my man go?"

Suddenly, a fifty-something man wearing jeans and a greasy white T-shirt sneered at us. "Why don't you faggots stay in the Village or the Theatre District? Jesus, do you need to shove this shit in our faces?"

"We are too fabulous to be kept in one part of the city. Why don't you crawl back under your rock? Your kind of hate doesn't fly anymore."

"God damned faggots. I'll show you hate..."

He started to move towards me. Almost instantly, Marcus was between me and the idiot. And just as quickly Hunter was standing behind the guy spewing. "Is there a problem? Do we need to have that cop over there get involved?"

The asshole sulked away and muttered under his breath, "You are all going to hell anyway."

Hunter smiled, "Welcome to New York City. And you thought idiots only lived down south."

"Where did you go?"

"I was checking our schedule. The bad news is in August we are in California; the good news is we have a week break. Now I just need to know when this wedding is going to be so I can rearrange things a little bit. The ninth of August would be perfect, but I made sure I could swing the sixteenth or twenty-third. Those two dates are possible but I need to rearrange things quickly because of advance sales and advertising."

Marcus piped in, "Well, we think the ninth is our first choice. So, we will try to pull everything together for that day. We would love for you both to sing at the ceremony and then celebrate the day with us. Thanks for checking. You guys are the only people we thought we might need to work around.

"Isn't he incredible? What would I do without you?" Danni beamed.

"You'd be late for everything, at the very least. And speaking of being late, we need to have a quick lunch and head for today's run through. I think I'll be glad when we actually hit the road. Hopefully an audience will help some of these guys get focused. Let's get you two to the hotel and grab a bite to eat."


That evening Marcus and I strolled through the Theatre District. Hunter warned us not to venture too far from the center of the district. We found an Italian restaurant tucked in an alley next to one of the biggest theatres. The place was tiny and intimate. We were shown to a table in the front corner. The view of the street afforded us with some choice people watching initially, but as soon as food was delivered we stopped watching people and savored every bite.

We started with an antipasto, the meats were spiced wonderfully and the subtle and not so subtle flavors of the peppers and cheeses on top of greens were unbelievable. The next course was a minestrone soup that was full of fresh vegetables with a rich tomato and beef broth. It was served with a bruschetta so delicious I could have just eaten that all night. Frankly, I was amazed at the freshness of all the vegetables for the time of year.

Marcus ordered chicken and spinach Alfredo lasagna. The sauce had a nice hint of parmesan and the noodles were perfectly cooked. The chicken and spinach filling in alternate layers was touched with just enough garlic to make it sing on your tongue. It was a really unique take on lasagna.

I choose beef braciole. The thin beef was filled with vegetables and bread crumbs and rolled. It was lightly covered with a red sauce. Honestly, the two of us couldn't decide which dish was better. We continued to share our plates back and forth, and before long we had eaten every last morsel.

The restaurant was quiet enough that the chef/owner came out with each course to explain his food. He was quick witted, and he and Marcus had so much fun chatting about the preparation of the food. I had never in my life experienced a meal like this. I was pretty sure we were in the lull between the usual dinner crowd and the after theatre patrons. When we finished with a few cookies and my coffee, I vowed we would come back whenever we managed to come to New York.

Marcus snatched the tab before I could see it, but to me it was a priceless evening. We caught a cab back to the hotel and fired up the Jacuzzi. I'm not sure it took fifteen minutes before I was dozing off. Marcus led me to bed after we dried off, and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next morning, I found myself alone in the hotel room. Marcus returned moments later with a large coffee for me.

"Babe, I'm still full from last night's incredible meal. Do you want something more than coffee for breakfast?"

"Not a chance, I feel the same way. That had to be the best food ever. Wasn't that chef a complete riot? I don't think I've ever seen you spar verbally with someone like that before. Did you have as much fun as you seemed to be having?

"Absolutely Babe, plus the food was un-fucking believable! I really wish he could cater our wedding... That would be so cool, impossible, but so cool."

"You know we could ask... he could just say no... I'm sure there is no chance, but we could try."

"Why the hell not? Let's find a way to get there at some point and just ask. You are right he could just say no and it's no big deal."

"Well before we ask we need to know how many people we think and how much we are willing to spend."

"Honestly, I think one hundred people are about what I figured. I have some family out of town, but not many and your parents are going to want to invite a few people. I really think we could do one hundred and if it ends up a few more that's okay."

"I was thinking about the same number. But I think the total amount we want to spend is very different for the two of us. I've barely been working for four months. I don't want you to pay for this yourself. But how much will I be able to contribute in the next eight months? I don't want to argue about this, but I wish I could be an equal partner here."

"Babe, I understand. I don't want this to be uncomfortable for you. But... I don't want us to cut corners for our wedding." Marcus grabbed my hand. "This is the only wedding we will have. I won't pressure you into anything you don't feel right about. I just want our day to be everything it can be. I honestly felt the moment you moved in... everything became 'our'. Our condo, our money, and our life together, I told you money would never get between us. If you really feel uncomfortable with anything you need to tell me; Deal?"

"You are incredible. You make it sound so easy. I don't want to cut corners either, but I don't want to feel kept, for lack of a better term. When we combined into one account, I basically stopped thinking about money. You handle all the bills. I don't even know how much is in the account. At least I feel as though on a day to day basis I contribute. But with the wedding and then when we buy a house, it's all about what you had before me. It's difficult.

"I grew up humbly, but incredibly happy. I honestly never thought about all this until just now. I don't want to make a federal case out of things. I just don't want you to think less of me. I don't want to feel like you think I ever cared about how much you earn or how much money you have. Do you understand?"

"I could never think that. I remember our fight over the desk for the office. You kept trying to talk me into a less expensive desk and I kept arguing about going cheap. I know we came into this relationship at different places financially. But now it's us, together."

"Okay, together. I'm not sure this discussion is over, however." I gave him a kiss. "But, we need to get this day started. What time are we supposed to be there for the run through?"

"Hunter said to meet them outside the building at three. The Broadway cast is doing their run through at noon and again at eight. The road show gets to use the same theatre to practice, but they must work around the other rehearsals. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but Hunter thinks it makes the road troupe work a little harder just in case the Broadway people are still in the building and watching.

"I thought since we didn't do the Empire State Building yesterday we could visit today. Then a light lunch, a nap, and off to rehearsal. Then like I told you before, the plan is a quick dinner and some dancing. What do you think?"

"I like the plan; A lot!" I gave Marcus a kiss.

We actually went to the Empire State Building and then over to the World Trade Center area. As a child I visited the Twin Towers and looked out at the city from the top. Now as an adult I was tremendously moved by the memorial and the construction going on. I could remember the incredible loss of that day looking at the site twelve years later.

Marcus and I finally pulled ourselves away and grabbed a quick lunch. A cab back to the hotel, followed by a quick nap, and I was ready to watch Danni perform.

We met Hunter at the artists' entrance to the theatre and he led us to our seats. There were a few other people watching in the audience, the family of a couple cast members. Hunter actually had us sitting right in front of him, while he worked. Normally on the road, Hunter explained, he would be in the pit conducting the orchestra. Because they were still in rehearsal, he had someone else conducting while he directed rehearsals. Hunter told us to enjoy, he was hoping to let the cast run a complete uninterrupted performance. He put his headset on and got to work.

We found out afterwards, it was the first time the cast was all in full makeup.

I wish I could do justice to the description of Danni's performance. He was unbelievable. The incredible emotional range of the character, the hard rock anthems, the emotionally raw songs, and the physical demands of the performance, I can't begin to explain how overwhelmed I was. Honestly, I couldn't imagine anyone who could match Danni's performance. It was as though the role was written for him.

During intermission, I just sat in my seat still trying to process what I was witnessing. I did however have to take some meds, between the lighting and the shear energy of the songs, my head was starting to pound a little. Marcus and I took a moment in the lobby, we didn't speak. We were both overwhelmed.

By the time the rehearsal was over, I had tears rolling down my face. I didn't even think as the lights went up; I leapt to my feet and started clapping. Hunter put his hand on my shoulder.

"I promise to tell the Diva he caused a spontaneous standing ovation from you. Honestly, that was the best run-through we have had. You guys apparently bring out the best in my cast. But they are all off stage and can't hear you. Give me about an hour to give notes, and I'll send Danni out to the lobby. He's been a little nervous about your reactions. I may have to hire you two to be in the audience for the entire tour. He was on fire today."

Marcus went out and got us both some water. My headache had been nipped in the bud, but I lay my head on Marcus's shoulder and closed my eyes while we waited.

A half an hour later, Danni poked his head out. He was still in full makeup.

"Hunter is wrapping things up with the stage crew. I still need to get cleaned up, but I wanted to let you guys know we would be ready in about an hour. So... tell me what you thought."

Marcus looked at me and shook his head. "I was going to try and spare your feelings but Tony convinced me we should be honest. I was disappointed... That it ended. Danni, you were unbelievable. That was the best performance I have ever seen from you. I was blown away."

"I second the blown away part. I got so lost in the moment; I actually gave you a standing ovation. Hunter had to stop me."

"Yeah, he told me." Danni grinned. "Thanks guys. It is the role of a lifetime for me. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. The whole cast had a good show today. Let me get out of this make-up and we can grab an early supper. We will be out in a few."

"We are going to run a quick errand. We will be right back." Marcus said.

Danni gave us both quick hugs. After he left, Marcus found a napkin to wipe off my face. The Diva left some of his glitter on my cheek.

Marcus grabbed my hand and led me to the restaurant. We explained to the person who greeted us we had been in the restaurant for dinner the previous evening and we wanted to thank the chef again for a wonderful meal. When Chef Roberto saw us, he greeted us with a warm smile.

"Gentlemen, it's great to see you again. Are you back for more?"

"Actually, we have a question for you. We both know it's an incredible long shot, but we figured we wanted to take a chance. Last night's meal was absolutely the best either of us has ever had." Marcus said.

"You are too kind."

I added, "No, it's true. Plus my fiancÚ here had way to much fun bantering back and forth with you.

"So, we talked this morning and wanted to see if there was any chance you could cater a wedding in Syracuse on August ninth of this coming year. We know it's impossible, but we really wanted to tell you just how much we enjoyed last night. We both decided if there was any chance we needed to ask."

"I am very flattered. I catered for years before opening my little place here. I know Central New York; my cousin owns a place there. Perhaps, you have heard of Luigi's?"

I grinned. "Oh, we've heard of it. We have been eating there for years and love the place. Until last night's meal, that was my favorite restaurant. They are on my short list of places to approach about our wedding, but we felt we had nothing to lose by asking you. We couldn't decide which of the entrees was our favorite last night. That chicken and spinach Alfredo lasagna was unique and so delicious. Marcus will be trying to replicate it, guaranteed."

"That's a family recipe. You could get my cousin to make it for you, I'm sure. I will call him to gloat about how you enjoyed the meal. It's been a pleasure gentlemen, but I must get back to work. The dinner crowd can be demanding. Thank you both for thinking of me for your special day. It's a real compliment. I hope you visit us again the next time you are in town. Good luck."

Marcus and I made our way back to the theatre to meet Danni and Hunter. They were waiting for us. Marcus explained our errand and the slight disappointment.

"We both knew it was an impossible long shot, but I'm glad we made an attempt. Have you guys tried that place yet?"

"Not yet. Where is it? We will definitely give it a shot." Hunter said. "What are you in the mood for tonight? I thought we'd head for the Village. The possibilities are endless."

"I have heard such good things about Thai food in the Village. I have never tried Thai." I said.

Hunter smiled. "I know just the place. Let's find a cab."

We had a nice meal. I guess I wasn't a huge fan of Thai food. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals. The club Hunter and Danni planned for our night out was just around the corner from the restaurant.

We were very early and the place was very quiet. Marcus got the four of us drinks and we found a table near the dance floor. It took less than one song to figure out dancing anything with a quick beat wasn't happening for me. My coordination was completely screwed up. The cast was only part of the problem. My equilibrium was totally thrown askew. It was if my feet had moved too far away from my brain.

Finally a slow song, Marcus and I danced together. I was thrilled. When the DJ kicked up the tempo again, I reluctantly sat back down. I got so upset we couldn't keep dancing, I came close to crying. My emotions were bouncing all over the place. I knew I was getting tired. I whispered in Marcus's ear that I wanted to go back to the hotel.

Marcus looked concerned. "Are you getting a headache? Did you try some meds?"

"I'm tired and frustrated and before I have another meltdown, I want to call it a night. I'm sorry."

"Buttercup, stop this minute. It's been a long day and tomorrow will be more of the same. I'm getting tired too. Let's go." He turned to Hunter and Danni and continued, " Good night you two. Thanks for a great night and we will see you about noon tomorrow."

"Is everything okay? I know we wanted to have an early night, but this is really early." Danni said.

"It's me. I get tired really easy since the accident and this cast makes dancing damn near impossible. I'm sorry. Don't let me spoil your night out."

I almost started to cry again. My emotions were so close to the edge all the time. I started to get even more upset with myself. Marcus grabbed my hand and kissed me. Some of the frustration eased, but I knew if I didn't relax some, I would have another meltdown.

"Let's go Babe. We will see you guys at noon tomorrow."

We took a cab back to our hotel. I got in the room and burst into tears on Marcus's shoulder. He let me cry for a few minutes. He started the music on his phone and pulled me into his arms. We danced for a while. I began to calm down, and then he moved me to the bed.

"You are expecting too much of yourself. I know you want to do everything you did before the accident, but it's barely been five weeks. You are pushing yourself hard and when you get tired your emotions go into overdrive. I'm afraid you are going to start facing some serious depression if you don't ease up some. Right now I think you need to get undressed and let me take care of you for a little while."

I took my clothes off and went to put a t-shirt on. Marcus grabbed the t-shirt from me and threw it on a chair.

"Right now Babe, we need skin..."

Marcus was loving, gentle, sweet, passionate, and finally amazing. As he spooned me, I started to cry a little.

"You are too good to me. Here I was on the verge of another meltdown and you make me feel so incredibly loved. I don't deserve you."

"You're right Buttercup. And I don't deserve you. But somehow here we are and we will just have to make the best of things. Life is funny that way."

I slowly spun around in bed so I wouldn't hit Marcus with my cast. He was grinning from ear to ear. I couldn't help but smile at him.

"Babe, what do you say we talk a little about the wedding?"

"Okay, whose wedding?"

"Oh, some dancing and a little sex and we come back from the edge of meltdown city and visit the smart ass zone. I see how it goes."

"I love you, Marcus Lucas Taylor. What do you want to talk about?" I chuckled.

"Are you thinking about getting married in a church? Or just at the venue for the reception? And when we were talking to Chef Ricardo, you said Luigi's was on your short list of caterers. Who else is on the list?"

"For the actual ceremony... I thought maybe the chapel on campus. It's non-denominational. When 'what's his face' and I went to a wedding there, I marveled at how elegant but simple the space was. We really could add our own touches very easily.

"As far as the reception venue, I really hadn't put much thought into that part yet. The caterer list is wicked short... just Luigi's. And now that we talked to Chef Ricardo, I think we need to set up an appointment with his cousin right away. I also think we need to ask around for other ideas. I want people to have different choices for the meal not the usual wedding favorites."

Marcus started to chuckle. "Babe that is the shortest short list ever. We have used a couple of really good caterers at the firm. I will try to get appointments for a tasting with them. I do love the idea of the campus chapel. I've been to weddings there before too. The AIDS Task Force does their World AIDS Day service at the chapel. And by the way you can say the asshole's name, Jared. Or as I affectionately refer to him 'Dickhead' or DH for short, because sadly enough that is the head he thinks with."

I burst out laughing. "DH is perfect."

I started laughing so hard I was crying. At one point, I could barely catch my breath.

"Let's continue this chat tomorrow. I think you need to try to sleep. Good night, Buttercup."

"Good night. I love you."


The next morning I was still sleeping when there was a knock on the door. Marcus had ordered room service, so we ate breakfast in bed together.

"What time are we meeting those guys?"

"I need to call them at eleven. The plan was to meet at noon or so. Take your time eating. Then you and I are taking a soak in the Jacuzzi. We are taking it slow and easy today. If we miss seeing something so be it. After dinner tonight, I want to come back here and chill. Remember today is about what we want to do. Danni and Hunter have seen most of the sites. I want you to save some energy for dinner. I'm trying not to smother or hover, but I really want you to enjoy the day."

"I know. I will try to take things slow and easy today. I'm looking forward to dinner tonight. I guess you can cross Thai off my list. I feel bad because you all seemed to enjoy it."

"Actually, I think you need to try it again. Last night's food was good, but I've had better Thai. The chef was a little heavy handed with some of his spices. There is a really good place back home we should try. I don't think it will ever surpass Italian for you, but it's really good every now and then."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Okay, the Jacuzzi is fired up; Time to chill for a few minutes. I'll check in with Hunter and make some plans. I'll join you in a minute or two, Babe."

Hunter and Marcus planned the day out for us. The only place I really had my heart set on seeing was the Museum of Modern Art. It would only be open until five thirty, so since our dinner reservations were at seven. There was time to check out Rockefeller Center and the Christmas tree.

Marcus wanted to investigate the photography section, but I had my heart set on the painting and sculptures. We met the guys at noon at the museum. We started looking at the photographs. There were some incredible images. I was truly astounded at some of the images. I remembered some of the photographs from seeing them in publications over the years. There even was a section devoted to Pulitzer Prize winners.

Suddenly Marcus paused at a section of cityscapes. He seemed lost in the pictures. Danni walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

The work was mesmerizing. Judging Marcus and Danni's reactions, I was sure he had stumbled on to some of Adrian's work. I wasn't exactly sure how to react. There was a part of me that wanted to just get Marcus to move on. Finally, I decided to approach Marcus and see how he reacted to me.

"The work is amazing. I assume you know the photographer, Hon."

Marcus looked at me like he had forgotten I was even there. He got a panicked look on his face. I smiled at him, trying desperately not to show any stress.

"Were you involved in any of these photographs? Are they from your time together or after?"

Marcus seemed to return from where ever his thoughts had taken him. He took a deep breath.

"Only a few look familiar. The rest seem to be after our time together. I'm sorry I lost myself for a minute. It was just so unexpected to see his work here."

"Don't apologize. He had a huge affect on your life. I'm sure it's surreal to see his work. Are you doing okay?"

"I'm fine. Just surprised, that's all. It's been a while since I've seen his photos in person. I'd forgotten just how talented he was. He is I mean. Anyway let's move on to the paintings and sculptures, we only have a couple of hours left."

"There is no need to rush. Take your time. Please, it's important to you. I get it. I'll head over to the sculptures; meet me when you're ready."

I started to walk away. There was a little voice telling me there was nothing to worry about. Another voice saying I didn't need to be concerned about a memory, but honestly I felt uneasy.

Before I managed to get out of the room, Marcus grabbed my hand and we walked to the next room. I looked at him and smiled. Fighting a memory created by photos was easy; I wondered what it would be like to go up against flesh and blood. Fortunately, that wasn't going to happen today.