If By Chance
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If I've ever talked to two people that I literally despised, it would have been Gerald's parent's. They were rude, short with me on the phone, combative and very accusatory about my motives. The only thing I wanted was for them to provide me with the details of the expenses they incurred while Gerald was in college, and the only thing they wanted to do was fight. Every time I asked them to either mail or fax over copies of his student bills and other statements they had, they would put up the same wall.
"It's a hundred thousand dollars," his dad said flatly.
"Mr. Ballard, I can appreciate the fact that you think you spent that amount," I said, holding my ground. "But I'd feel a lot better if you sent me statements."
"There aren't any statements," he snapped. "We're owed a hundred thousand dollars, and we'd better get it."
I knew he was spitting out an inflated number, and that he was being difficult on purpose. The fact that Gerald had hung the phone up on him just minutes before hand was probably part of the impetus behind his combative stance against me. The other part most likely had to do with the fact that the Ballard's hated my guts. In fact, just before he hung the phone up on his dad, I heard a very emotional Gerald say something along the lines of, "He's not sick, and neither am I. You're the ones with the sickness."
I wish I'd have been listening on the other end of the line, so I could hear the things his mom and dad were saying to him. It was obvious that they were attacking him for his sexuality, and for moving in with me. I had to wonder to myself how much of their desire to recoup the money they spent on Gerald's college education was linked to their obvious disapproval of our relationship.
Gerald's breaking point came not long after his previous rebuttal, when, with an emotional declaration of "I'll never forgive you for this!", he hung the phone up and gave in to his sobbing. I comforted him for as long as I could, but it was only moments before they were calling back. This time, determined to spare my boyfriend as much pain as I possibly could, I picked up the phone and dealt with the situation with as much patience and civility as I could. They were having none of it, though, and made the entire experience as uncomfortable and offensive as possible by being just plain mean.
"I don't know who you think you are," Mrs. Ballard snapped when I answered the phone. "But you have no business influencing our boy and sticking your nose in our family's business. Put Gerald on the phone!"
"Gerald's not interested in taking your call," I said smoothly. "Perhaps you can call back at a better time, when everyone's calmed down."
"Just what are you out to get?" she shot back, her tone dripping with suspicion and visceral. "You've already poisoned my son with your perverted lifestyle. Now you want to come between him and his parents. You're sick."
"Mrs. Ballard, I'm sorry you feel that way," I said calmly. "If you'd like to discuss Gerald's tuition costs, we can, but I think that the subject of our relationship is highly inappropriate at the moment. Perhaps we can revisit the topic when cooler heads prevail."
I've learned in my lifetime that words are the most powerful weapon a man can yield. Tone is important, too, but if a man can put a cognitive sentence together and use it to prove a point, he'll always prevail. If you get a negative reaction out of someone by using the words you choose, it's only because you've struck a chord that's most likely seeded in truth. And boy, did I ever get a negative reaction from Gerald's mother.
"You son of a fucking bitch!" she screamed into the phone. "How dare you? You're nothing more than a sick cradle robber, and if I could, I'd have you arrested for what you've done with my son!"
Before I could reply, a man got on the phone that I could only assume was Gerald's father before his words confirmed that fact for me.
"You have no right to upset my wife like this," he warned me.
"Sir, I only suggested that we move on to the topic of Gerald's tuition," I said, maintaining my composure. "I assume that you'd like to resolve that issue, and so would we."
That's when he rattled off the figure of a hundred thousand dollars, a figure I knew he'd manufactured. According to Gerald, he'd been awarded various scholarships and grants throughout his academic years, and that the most his mom and dad could possibly have parted with was around two thousand dollars. I knew that we could easily obtain the exact amounts of the grants and scholarships from the financial affairs office at Gerald's Alma Matter, but I wanted to at least try to extend an olive branch to his parents by suggesting that I trusted them to provide accurate and truthful information to us.
Personally, it was unconscionable to me that someone's parents would be trying to extort money from them, especially by using his emotional attachment to them as a weapon. The look of defeat on his face when he was on the phone with his parent's that day was something I'll never get over, because it was so obvious that Gerald longed for their acceptance. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't forthcoming.
"Let me make you a drink, babe," I offered him. "What do you want?"
"Will you make me a daiquiri?" he asked, and I nodded sympathetically. "Will you make it a strawberry?"
"Of course, sweetheart," I said, planting a light peck on his lips before walking around the bar to start mixing our drinks. It wasn't that odd for us to use the bar, but we rarely sat at the bar. Instead, we typically took our drinks into the living room and watched a movie or sat by the fireplace.
But on this afternoon, after the ordeal with Gerald's mom and dad, we silently agreed to sit at the bar and drink. Surprisingly enough, after a few drinks, my boyfriend's mood turned from solemn to playful and eventually, a little naughty.
"Wanna play STD guy?" he asked, wagging his eyebrows at me playfully. I wagged mine back his way, then I broke out the old pamphlet I kept behind the bar for an occasion such as this.
"Excuse me sir, but do you have any pamphlets on how to tell someone you gave them hepatitis?" I asked him, and he produced the card.
"Sorry, I accidentally gave you hepatitis," he read off the card before offering it to me.
"Oh, you only have accidentally?" I asked, reluctantly taking the card from him.
As silly as they seem, these games have added a dimension to our sex life that I don't think I'd want to do without. I mean, yeah, sex with Gerald is always good, but it's so much better when we can act out our dirtiest fantasies with a little bit of humor right before we get it on. On this evening, Gerald was more than just a little frisky, and I knew that it was up to me to make sure that his itch was scratched, so to speak.
"Wow, you're so nice, strange man I've never met before," I said with a drunken slur as Gerald guided me from the bar, up the stairs and to the bedroom.
"Dennis, it's me," he tried to explain, but I let it go in one ear and out the other.
"You know what, you're so much nicer than that pain in the ass Gerald," I declared. "Screw it, let's have sex. I'm so going to cheat on Gerald tonight."
"Dennis, it's Gerald," he halfway pleaded, but I just kept going.
I guess I didn't realize what a huge undertaking that planning a wedding would turn out to be. Gerald and I agreed that we wanted a simple, legal ceremony in Massachusetts where we'd be declared a married couple, but my mom insisted on a huge wedding.
"Honey, I never thought this day would come," she told me when Gerald and I gave her and dad the news that we were getting married. "Your father and I want to give you two the wedding you deserve. Please let us do this for you."
"Mom, we just want this to be simple," I argued. "We want you and dad to be there, and a few of Gerald's relatives. But we don't want this to be a huge wedding."
"Gerald, you want a nice wedding, don't you?" my mom asked him, essentially pulling out the one card that I knew I couldn't trump. Suddenly, all eyes were on my fiancÚ, who looked so uncomfortable that I was about to give in. But then, like the ray of sunshine that he is, Gerald came up with something that we could all live with.
"Well, I suppose we could do something," he said. "Maybe not something elaborate, but I don't see how having something on a small scale would hurt."
I thought for sure that my mom was going to stick her tongue out at me in triumph. She looked so vindicated, and yet at the same time, I felt like I'd won a small victory of my own. My dad, who was unusually silent throughout the entire exchange, simply stood up and used the fingers on both of his hands to motion Gerald and I to our feet, then he gave each of us a long hug.
"Welcome to the family, Gerald," he said as he wrapped his arms around my boyfriend. "You know, Judy and I already consider you a member, and we love you like a son, but this makes it official. I'm so proud of both of you."
When he let go of Gerald, he held his arms out for me, and I felt a lump form in my throat as we hugged. I don't really know why, because my dad and I hug all the time, but this was different. In a strange way, this felt like the last step in my coming out process. I was sure that I'd been all the way through it when I was younger, but unbeknownst to me, I needed the affirmation that he was giving me at that moment. Before he let me go, I felt him kiss my cheek, then he told me that he loved me, and I almost fell apart.
"I love you too, dad," I said, my voice cracking with emotion. As soon as we broke our hug, my mom was there, giving me a hug and a kiss and telling me how proud she was of me. Again, I felt so emotional about what we were doing that I literally had to wipe a tear that escaped my moist eyes.
"All rise," the bailiff called out. We all stood as he announced the name of the judge. When the judge took her seat, we were told that we could take our seats, and the proceedings started. Looking around the courtroom, I spotted Peter, looking confident and sure of himself. There were quite a few board members present, but conspicuous by her absence was Robin.
Alana was seated behind Gerald and I, and Donald Fasola was seated next to me. I knew that most of what we were doing there was a formality, a time for filed motions to be heard and granted or denied. I wanted to skip the hearing, but Donald said that it would be best if I were there, just as a precaution.
As it turns out, the list of motions filed were long and boring. The court was inundated with long, drawn out arguments by both sides, and the judge wound up ruling on only a portion of them. She declared that she would issue her rulings on the other motions within thirty days, then she asked each side if they had anything else they wanted to add.
What a mistake.
Both sides seemed to go on and on about statutes of limitations, federal codes, state regulations and other various technicalities. Now, I've sat through some long, tedious board meetings in the past, but I have to say that I've never been so bored in my life. The monotony was actually draining the energy from my body, and when I glanced over at Gerald, he appeared to be nodding off.
I gave him a gentle nudge with my elbow, effectively rousing him, then I took his right hand into my left hand and gave it a firm squeeze. About forty-five minutes later, the judge adjourned and we were dismissed. When I stood up, I couldn't help but stretch out and let out a long yawn. As we filed out of the courtroom, I noticed Peter giving my boyfriend a knowing look, causing Gerald to look away.
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