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Sometimes when you are really looking forward to something, time seems to slow down. Just the opposite happened with the wedding. Suddenly it was two weeks until the big day. I was trying to wrap up my summer work with the four students I was giving private lessons, check on construction at the house, finalize wedding plans, and write vows.
Each of my students had shown real progress during the summer. I continued to be most proud of Brett. Besides the fact he was the most fun for me, using Harry Potter as a vehicle, he was working really hard and lost most of the obvious stutter. He was becoming very adept at pacing his words to keep the stutter to a bare minimum. It was incredibly rewarding to see him come completely out of his shell.
"Mr. Wallace that was ... so much ... fun; I love the scene in the ... Shrieking S-Shack. It's almost as much ... fun as the graveyard s-scene."
"Brett, I think you're right. That scene is fun and sets up so much for later.
"We need to wrap things up for today. You are doing really well. Your stuttering has decreased immensely and the pauses you are using to help are getting smaller and much less noticeable. I am very proud of your progress this summer."
"T-thank you, sometimes when I get upset I s-stutter more. When I concentrate ... my speech is way better."
"You are doing amazing. I hope you don't forget all we've worked on this summer. I won't see you again until school starts."
"Don't worry ... Mr. Wallace. I will keep practicing until ... school starts."
At just that moment, Brett's beagle puppy rounded the corner and ran towards me. He leapt into my lap and began to lick my face.
"Fang, stop that right now. Get down."
That little bundle of fur was so cute; it had me thinking about adding to our family. Marcus and I had never discussed pets, but I missed Bailey, the cocker spaniel that was my sidekick growing up. He adopted us as a stray when I was eight years old and was my best buddy until he crossed the rainbow bridge when I was a senior in high school.
After my session with Brett, I drove to the new house. Our contractor, Ethan, wanted to show us the completed bathroom. Marcus pulled into the driveway just after me.
"Babe, are you excited about seeing the bathroom?"
"Absolutely, do you think Ethan would mind if we tried it out?" I wiggled my eyebrows at him.
He burst out laughing.
"I thought the first time in the new house was going to be special? Although, I'll admit christening the bathroom sounds awesome. Are you serious?"
"No... you know better. Let's go in and see what Ethan and his crew have done."
Marcus got a disappointed look on his face, but his eyes were smiling. After a moment, he burst out laughing as we entered the house.
We held hands as we climbed the stairs. Ethan met us outside the bathroom and had the door closed.
"Alright gentlemen, this is the moment of truth. Of all the changes you wanted made, the most dramatic change is this room. Honestly, I think you're going to either love it or absolutely hate it. I will say this was the most fun I've ever had remodeling a bathroom. However, the crew is split right down the middle. Half of them want to put this bathroom in their own homes, the other half not so much. I personally plan to use this room as the before and after pictures in my portfolio.
"Now that I've talked your ears off, and built the suspense... Take a look at your new bathroom."
He slowly opened the door. Marcus and I walked into the room together. Two steps in and we both came to a dead stop. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
I was at a complete loss for words. Flibbergusted... that adorable word coined by Josh, stuck in my head. Finding words was impossible. I began to smile. I turned and looked at Marcus.
We stood staring at each other: both of us grinning uncontrollably. Marcus was the first to speak.
"This is incredible. It's absolutely gorgeous. Don't you agree, Babe?"
I continued to stand there taking in the whole room. The red and black on the floor and in the shower looked sweet surrounded by white. The shower itself was huge and filled the back left corner of the room. Off to the right of the window sat the washer and dryer, both black. There was a double sink and a huge mirror on the opposite wall. Ethan and the crew had not just made stripes of the colored tiles we choose, but added a tile of color in random places on the walls of the shower and the vanity top. The overall effect was breath taking.
"It is everything we hoped for and more. I don't know whose idea it was to add the random colored tiles, but it's unreal. Ethan, this bathroom belongs in a magazine. Holy shit, it's flipping incredible."
"I'm so glad you like it. Like I said, this was the most fun I've had on a job in a long time."
"Tony is right. The added colored tiles are stunning. Ethan, you and the crew have out done yourselves, this is unbelievable. The part of the crew that doesn't like it... did they say why?"
"Well for most of them it's the color. The red and black are unusual for a bathroom. A couple of them didn't get the huge shower. But mostly, it was the color."
I laughed, "The color is flipping amazing. I can't believe how incredible... I think I can say without a doubt, we couldn't be more thrilled."
Ethan dug for a second in his pocket.
"Well, I have more news for you. Here are your keys. We are done with all the renovations."
Marcus stuck his hand out for the keys.
"I can't believe it. You're two weeks ahead of schedule."
"Well, I had another job end early and could move a couple guys to this job. So, I have the punch list to do a walk through. We can do it today or tomorrow if you don't have time right now."
"Damn, I have to head back to the office. I have to prepare for court tomorrow and meet a potential client. Babe, can you do the walk through?"
"Yeah, I'm done for the day. What time do you expect to be home tonight?"
"About seven or so... You want take out?"
"No, let's go to Luigi's and just make sure everything is all set for the ninth."
"Babe, you need to relax... We've checked in with Chef Stefano twice this month. He is all set. But if it will make you feel better we can go to Luigi's."
"I know he's set. I'm just starting to get wicked nervous. Everything has come together so easily. I'm waiting for something to happen. I'm just being... "
"You. You're just being you."
He kissed me and then gave me a smile.
"We can go to Luigi's. I'll shoot you a text when I'm about to leave the office."
"No, just get take out. I'm being silly. You'd better get going or you'll be late. Love you."
"Love you more."
He gave me another kiss, handed me the keys to the house, and dashed off.
I turned to Ethan to find him grinning at me.
"I remember my wedding. The ex-wife turned into bridezilla leading up to the day... I should have walked away before the ceremony, because unfortunately, bridezilla remained after the wedding day. We divorced two years later."
"That's too bad. I hope that didn't sour you to the possibilities."
"No, but who has time to meet people. Besides I love what I do and for now it's enough.
"Time to walk through the house... Remember, anything you are not one hundred percent satisfied with... you need to speak up. I feel confident you'll be happy.
"Here is the list of everything you wanted done, and the awesome house picture you drew with the paint colors. Let's start in the master bedroom and go from there."
Ethan and I spent almost two hours walking through the house. Only once did I have even the slightest complaint, and even then it was a minor paint touch up, which Ethan fixed immediately. When we finished, I walked up and shook his hand.
"I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am with the work you and the crew did on our home. Everything is perfect."
"Not quite perfect. I'm a little disappointed we missed that spot in the office."
"Oh my God, I can't believe I even saw that little spot on the window frame. Actually, if I hadn't been looking to find anything to prove I was doing my due diligence... I would never have noticed it."
"I'm glad you're happy. I really enjoyed this job. Besides the bathroom, some of the little changes we did were interesting. An old farmhouse like this is a lot of fun to work on, especially if the owners understand the beauty of the original work. My only disappointment is I can't take any credit for that amazing kitchen. I wish I knew who did that work. It's really well done. Congratulations on the wedding and I hope you enjoy the house for years to come."
"Actually, I know it's late notice, but Marcus and I would love it if you would come to our wedding. Here's an official invite. I hope you don't have plans." I handed him an envelope.
"I'm honored. Actually, I'm free that day. I would love to help you celebrate. You have been really great to work for and I've gotten three jobs from this one. Plus, I have every intention of showing that bathroom to every potential client. Thank you."
"No, thank you. We meant to extend this invitation weeks ago. I can't believe you finished the house so quickly. I'm so glad you can join us on the ninth."
We shook hands again and Ethan walked to his truck. I waved as he drove away. I turned to look at the house.
I couldn't help but smile. For just a moment, everything in my world seemed perfect. I wish Marcus was standing next to me just then.
I'm not sure how long I stood there. My phone began to ring.
"Babe, how is the walk through going?"
"We are done. Ethan just left."
"Do you remember to invite him to the wedding?"
"Yes, and he accepted."
"Awesome. Are you okay? You sound a little off. Was there a problem?"
"The only thing I found during the walk through was a tiny spot that needed to be touched up with paint. I was just standing here thinking about how perfect everything is and wishing you were standing next to me."
"Aww, Babe, I'm sorry."
"No, I didn't mean it like that. I was just relishing the moment."
"I wish I was there too. You know this means we need to go furniture shopping. Actually, all kinds of shopping... Except for the bed, I'm not sure there is anything I want to take from the condo."
"Yeah, the bed, all the stuff on the walls, the artwork, and the pictures on the stands, and the kitchen stuff and ..."
He laughed, "Of course, it goes without saying.
"Still good with take out tonight?"
"Yes, it sounds perfect. I'll see you about seven."
I paused looking at the house and then drove to the condo. As I walked in, Marcus's office phone began to ring. I hesitated before answering it.
"Hello Mrs. Taylor. What can I do for you tonight?"
"Is Marcus still at work? I was hoping to talk to him, he didn't answer his cell, and I hate calling the office directly..."
"He's meeting with a new client. I expect him home around seven or so. Would you like me to have him call you?"
"I left a message on his cell, but yes if you could make sure he calls that would be wonderful."
"Absolutely, I'd be happy to tell him. Have a good evening Mrs. Taylor."
"Yes? Did you need something else?"
"Actually, I was just going to tell you I've decided to accept your offer to live in the condo, at least temporarily."
"Oh, that's wonderful news. The contractor just finished the renovations on the house. How soon do you think you are going to move back?"
"I expect to remain after the wedding. But I will stay at Jamie's until you guys are out of the condo."
"Since Marcus and I are going to stay in the new house on our wedding night, you should be able to move in here later that week. Marcus intends to leave most of the furnishings in the condo, the only things we are taking to the house is the bedroom furniture, the artwork and picture frames, and most of Marcus's kitchen utensils and cookware and maybe the new desk in the office. But we have only briefly talked about it. How much are you bringing with you from Florida?"
"Not much initially... I will have a moving company bring a few of my things after I move in. Thank you again for the offer to use the condo. I think it will be an ideal place for me to start over."
"Great, I'm sure your son will be thrilled with the news. If he hasn't called by the time he gets home, I'll be sure to have him call you then. Good night, Mrs. Taylor."
"Thank you and good night, Anthony."
Marcus arrived shortly after seven, loaded down with takeout containers.
"Babe, Chef Stefano sent home a couple of new dishes for you to try. He said if you want to add either to the wedding just call and let him know by tomorrow. He needs to wrap up his order to the distributor by the afternoon."
"Seriously, the man is crazy. I can't imagine anything being good enough to get us to switch the menu." I laughed. "Although, I will say the stuff in those bags smells really good."
"Have you ever met an Italian dish you didn't like?"
"Probably not." I laughed again. "But, I don't want to think about changing the menu for the wedding again. By the way, have you called your mother back yet?"
"Yeah, she called about an hour ago on your office phone. She said she tried your cell and left a message. She wants you to call her back."
"Did she say what she wanted? I never checked my phone."
"Well, I think she wants to talk to you about moving into the condo after the wedding. She's decided to take us up on our offer."
"Oh, that's... "
Marcus got an odd look on his face. I wasn't sure what he was thinking.
"Hon, what's going on? I thought you wanted this?"
"I do. It's just a surprise. She actually decided she wanted the condo." He shook his head. "I expected I'd need to talk her into it. I'm really shocked it was this easy. Wow...
"Let's eat and then I can call her. I guess we need to figure out what we want for the new house and what stays here. But first let's see how Chef Stefano's new dishes taste."
I sighed and gave him a look.
"Babe, seriously, I'm shocked she accepted our offer. I'm happy, just really surprised."
"Imagine that... your mother actually agreeing with us. Should we write this moment down?"
"I think maybe we should because I doubt it will happen very often... Enough about her... I'll call after we try the new stuff from Luigi's."
We sat down at the dining room table and began to sample the dishes from Chef Stefano. Marcus explained the first dish was Manicotti Alla Romano. The manicotti was stuffed with ground beef and sausage, spinach, and ricotta cheese. While it was delicious, especially with both a marinara and garlic sauce, it didn't wow me enough to replace one of the dishes we'd already chosen.
"I can tell by your face you like the manicotti, but not quite enough."
"I think it's delicious. I would order it in the restaurant, but it doesn't surpass any of the dishes we already choose."
"I agree. On the other hand, give this Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Chive Butter sauce a try."
I took a drink of ice water and a deep breath. I was a sucker for almost any ravioli.
"Babe, I think this one might be right up your alley."
"Holy Shit, this is unreal. The mushrooms and spinach are awesome, but the cheese is so rich. What kind of cheese is this?"
"If I were to guess I'd say it's probably parmesan, mozzarella, and cream cheese. The cream cheese makes it rich. I take it you like it."
"Absolutely... You know we could ditch the flounder and serve this as the vegetarian option. I mean we already decided to do everything as a buffet. This would be awesome instead of the fish. Not that I didn't like the stuffed flounder, but this is incredible."
"I totally agree. You'll need to call the restaurant tomorrow to let Chef Stefano know our decision."
"I can't believe we are changing the menu two weeks before the wedding. This is nuts."
"Well, if you think about it. It's his own fault, making us try new dishes like this... I mean when I ordered take out these were not my choices. So I think Chef Stefano wanted us to choose at least one of these two dishes."
"Still, I will feel so much better if things stop changing... "
"I know... I need to relax. And you need to call your mother!"
"Okay, I can do that. You know if she's moving in here, I wonder how much of the furniture she's actually going to want to use."
"Well I told her we were taking the bedroom set, the artwork and pictures, your kitchen stuff and maybe the new office desk. I also let her know we really hadn't spent a lot of time talking about the move. You can feel her out. While you talk to her, I'm going to do a little reading. "
Marcus went into the office to talk to Marjorie. I settled on the couch with my laptop. I had every intention to find some quotes to help with my wedding vows. As soon as I got on-line, my phone rang.
"Hello, what's up Jon?"
"Are you guys busy? I need to talk."
"Marcus is talking to his mother. Do you want to meet some place or come over here?"
"Actually, I'm in the parking lot. Do you mind?"
"Why the heck didn't you just come up? Get up here now."
I walked into the office to see how things were going with Marcus and Marjorie.
"Whatever you want mother... We know an incredible contractor that will take care of anything you need. Okay, I'll talk to Tony about it. Okay, I'll call you tomorrow. Good night Mother.
"I knew it was too good to be true. She wants... "
Just then we heard knocking at the door. Marcus shot me a confused look.
"It's Jon. He needs to talk. I hope you don't mind, but I told him to come up."
"Of course not... We can talk about my mother later."
I opened the door to find Jon dressed for a run. It was a warm night. He was drenched in sweat.
"Holy Shit! Did you run all the way over here? Let me get you some water."
"Actually, I could use something a whole lot stronger. But water first would be great."
"Go sit on the balcony. I'll bring water; Marcus can whip up something stronger."
Jon had his head in his hands as he waited for the water. He looked up at me and gave a weak smile. I smiled back and sat down next to him. He took a few deep breaths.
"First, I know this isn't the end of the world. James and I are mostly fine. Honestly, I went for a run to clear my mind and ended up here. I need to maybe get some advice, maybe just talk about things. I don't know... Something needs to change and I'm not sure what it is... I know I'm not making much sense, but bear with me. I haven't thought this through yet."
I just sat there drinking the water I'd gotten myself. I leaned towards him.
"Take your time." I lowered my voice to a whisper, "Marcus and I need to discuss something about his mother. This delays that unwelcome conversation. You have all the time you need."
He laughed. Not a burst up guffawing laughter, but a smile and a chuckle that seemed to release some of his tension. Marcus set down a pitcher of margaritas between them.
"There's more if we need it... Tony will give you a ride home later, or you are welcome to crash on the futon."
"Thanks, you guys are great. It's really not that serious. Well maybe a little serious... James is wonderful. He's loving and caring and even though the 'my boyfriend is a cop' fear still exists... We are good, very good."
He took a deep breath. "And Matthew is getting better. He still has screaming nightmares that wake us up in the middle of the night. But mostly he's getting better... "
"It's just when James is working late, or he's on a difficult case and he isn't home at night; Matthew can be a handful. He lashes out; he gets moody and sullen. I can't tell you how many times I've had a bedroom or bathroom door slammed in my face.
"And then just when I think my patience is completely gone, he starts crying and telling me how sorry he is and much he loves me... How thankful he is I'm in his life. It's like living with a time bomb. You never know when it's going to explode, but when it does, its hell, and then he breaks your heart apologizing."
He took a quick drink of water, and then drained his margarita glass.
"I've talked to James about it. He doesn't see it very often. I mean Matthew has his moods when James is home, but not to the extent... Anyway, James was late tonight and after dinner, Matthew was playing video games. I was in our room working. We changed the office into Matthew's room and moved my desk into our bedroom.
"So, I finished the first draft on a chapter and went to check on Matthew. The house was too quiet. I found him staring blankly at the wall. I stood there for a few seconds and then cleared my throat, and asked him if everything was okay. Matthew looked over at me, burst into tears and ran past me into his room. He slammed the door and wouldn't talk to me. James got home a few minutes later. I told him what happened. He tried to talk to Matthew. Matthew wouldn't answer... So I got changed, and went for a run to clear my head.
"I didn't plan on coming here, but I'm not sure what to do. The thing is when I get back Matthew will be apologetic and loving. But, I can't take much more of this." He shook his head and drained another margarita.
"I know the kid has been through hell. I can't even imagine." A tear leaked from his eye. "I know he is going to need counseling for years, but sometimes I just want my old life back."
I put my hand on his shoulder. He shrugged.
Marcus spoke up first, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can't get your old life back. It's gone."
Jon smiled and nodded his head.
"But, you knew that already. The good news is it will eventually get better; you know that too. Unfortunately, there is no telling when... I think you and James need to have a heart to heart without Matthew or any other distractions. But, you know that as well."
"Yeah, I just don't know where to start. The hardest part is I don't know what sets him off... "
Just then Marcus's phone began to ring. He showed the caller ID to Jon and me. It was James. Jon nodded.
"Hello, James. Yes, He's here... Actually just a little while ago. He ran over... No, I think just a little frustrated... He thought that would be Matthew's reaction... Honestly, it will help, but I think you two need to talk. Matthew's apology will help, but I'm not sure... Actually, here talk to him yourself."
Jon grabbed the phone and walked into the office. Marcus smiled at me.
"Matthew is frantic according to James. He thinks Jon is going to leave and that it's all his fault."
I sighed. "They knew this would be difficult."
"I'm not sure either of them really knew what they were in for with Matthew."
"The thing is... I've seen Jon with students. He is incredibly patient. For him to need to escape... I can't imagine. I suppose living every day is different than working with students. It's just, I don't know. It must be wicked bad for him to need to escape. I hope they can figure this out."
"They need to talk. Jon needs to make sure James really hears him. And every now and then they will need to escape briefly."
"I hope they both know they can always crash at our place."
"They do, Babe. You are an amazing friend.
"So, while they are talking... Guess what my mother wants."
"Let's see. She wants us to take all the furniture... She wants the place repainted... And somehow she wants the bathroom changed."
"Fucking A, did you hear her through the walls?"
"No. The furniture and the paint a given, I expected her to want to change the place to fit her tastes. The bathroom, a guess... well I tried to think of the most expensive change she could make... The kitchen made no sense but... I guess you'd better give Ethan a call in the morning. Changing that bathroom is going to break my heart, and his too." I laughed.
"You seem totally non-pulsed by this... I'm surprised."
"Honestly, Hon, there is too much other stuff to think about... Your mother's needs are way down on my list. Don't get me wrong; I love this place and hate to leave it. In a year, the condo has become our home, my first real home since leaving New Hampshire. But honestly, I can't wait to start our lives in our dream house.
"Frankly, your mother moving back scares me sometimes, but her wanting to make this place her own makes perfect sense."
Jon made his way back out on the balcony. He handed Marcus his phone, and then poured himself another margarita.
"James and Matthew are on the way to get me. Thanks for the cold drinks and the ear to bend. I guess I just needed to catch my breath. Thanks."
"Anytime... Are you okay?" I asked.
"Of course, I just needed to clear my head."
"You know anytime you need... Anytime... "
"You guys are the best. Thank you."
James and Matthew arrived five minutes later. Matthew looked like he'd been crying. The minute he saw Jon, he bolted towards him. Jon moved Matthew to the balcony.
James put a hand on each of our shoulders.
"Thanks. I should just take the two of them home, but Jon wants to talk to Matthew away from the house. I think he wants to be sure Matthew can't storm into his room and hide. I'm sorry to drag you guys into this... "
"Nonsense, whatever you guys need. That goes without saying. Seriously, if some time on our balcony helps... Perfect." Marcus said.
"Can I get you anything; coffee, water, soda, anything?"
"Coffee would be amazing, actually. It's been a long day.
"Between us, I get a little worried about how much Jon can stomach. We really weren't a couple for very long before I threw Matthew into the mix. He's gone above and beyond. He's been so patient. How much more can I hope he'll take?"
"Honestly, I think you need to ask him that question. Do you guys get time alone?"
"Not really... "
Marcus spoke up, "How about this? Tony and I will hang out with Matthew next Friday night. You guys can have a date night."
"That sounds great, but next Friday won't work. We have other plans."
"Plans just the two of you? I hope... " I asked.
"Not exactly... "
I looked at James. He looked guilty.
"Why do you have that look on your face? You look like you have a secret."
"Well I shouldn't be the one to spill the beans."
"Just tell us."
"Well actually... We all have plans."
"What plans? We don't have any plans. Do we, Hon?"
Marcus looked confused. "Not that I know of... "
James laughed. "Well, my understanding is the bachelor parties are happening that night."
"What?" I laughed.
""Well, Jen and my boyfriend have a party planned for you, and Scott and your brothers have one planned for you." He pointed at Marcus.
"That's crazy. Why are there separate parties? Actually, I'm not sure about any bachelor party..." I continued to laugh.
"Plans are in motion and can't be stopped. I know my boyfriend has been spending a ton of time chatting with Jen. I don't know about the other party, but the one being planned for Tony should be some serious fun.
"I can't believe they didn't tell you guys about the plans yet."
Marcus picked up his phone and began to walk towards the kitchen.
"Bro, what the hell is this I hear? You and Nick and Scott are planning a party? And you were going to tell me when? No, I'm not angry," He laughed. "Just confused. When were you going to tell me? Kidnap me? What if Tony and I made other plans?
"I see. Okay, what time is this thing going to start? I'll talk to you later in the week. No, I'm on board... if you guys went to all this trouble the least we can do is play along.
"Babe, I guess it's true. We have parties next Friday. Apparently, I was going to be kidnapped. Jamie doesn't know what's in store for you."
I stood there a little confused. Marcus was smiling with a silly grin on his face.
"Oh well, I guess we need to be a good sports." I laughed. "Okay, I'm game. But, why are there two separate parties?"
"Well the bachelors can't be at the same party that defeats the whole purpose, don't you think?" James said.
"Maybe, but... "
"Just go along with it Babe, it will be fun."
"I think it will be fun too, just weird going out separately."
My phone began to ring. I looked at the caller ID and saw it was Danni.
"Hey Danni, what's up?"
"It's Hunter... " He said through tears. "He's in the hospital."
Thanks to my husband Ray,
my wonderful editor, David, who makes me look smarter than I am, but if you find errors there are all mine!