Don Hanratty
My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
  Song of Songs 2:16


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving began for the boys when Kevin's phone alarm sounded at 7:30 a.m.  Kevin turned it off as groans from some of the guys in the master bedroom ensued.  Cam and Kevin climbed out of their bed over bedmates Dan Emrick and Mark Carson, and Cam headed for the bathroom.  In a good mood, Kevin strolled down the upstairs hall in his boxers, knocking on doors so the adults could get ready for the family's usual morning run on the beach.  Cam was still brushing his teeth when Kevin came back and entered the bathroom door, slapping Cam on his bare ass.

"Ow!" Cam protested.  "What the fuck?"

"Just making sure your cute little butt is wide awake and ready to roll."

"That hurt," Cam complained.

"I'll kiss it and make it well," Kevin responded, bending over and kissing each of his partner's butt cheeks just as William Carson came into the room to drain his bladder.

"Kinky!" William said with a raffish grin.

"Sorry," Kevin told William. 
"I didn't mean to get you turned on."

"Dream on," William said, sporting his usual early morning hard-on in his boxers as he walked over and straddled the urinal.  After he finished up and shook off, he stepped over to the sink which Cam had just vacated and, finding his toothbrush on the bathroom counter where he'd put it the night before, slathered it with toothpaste and started brushing.

The other guys began piling into the bathroom to take care of business, and in due time the whole family ended up on the front deck to do their warm-ups before running.  It was going to be another sunny, clement southern California day from the look of things.  Border collies Alice and Samantha milled about in their usual state of elation about the impending run with their humans.

"Everybody sleep well?" Father Mason inquired as he pulled first one leg and then the other up behind him in a stretch.

Most of the guys looked like they were still half-asleep, and just grunted in response to the priest.

Ian Carson laughed and shook his head.  "Sometimes you have to wait until after lunch before you get an articulate response from these guys," he said.

"I hear that!" the priest responded with a chuckle.

Warm-ups completed, the crowd was soon down on the hardpack by Santa Monica Bay and getting up to speed.  Kevin, Cam and William fell in together.

"So, what do you have planned to keep us entertained today?" William asked Kevin.

"It's 'Make Fun of William Carson Day,'" Kevin said.  "There's plenty of material to keep everybody laughing."

"No.  Seriously." William said.

"Cam and I have to run an errand this morning, so we're leaving you in charge of entertainment," Kevin responded.

"An 'errand?'" William said.  "What errand?"

"None of your business," Kevin said.  "If I told you, everybody would know within five minutes."

"No, they wouldn't," William protested.  "I can keep my mouth shut."

"Yeah, maybe when your lips are on some girl's nipple," Cam interjected.

"If we tell you, the rest of the guys will be pissed off that we didn't tell them," Kevin said.

"Well, fuck you both, then," William said quietly so nobody else could hear.  He was clearly a little miffed to be kept in the dark.

"You'll get the info in good time," Kevin said.

The subject Kevin and Cam were keeping quiet about was that they were going to visit some jewelry stores on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to look at wedding rings.  They had talked about it the previous night when they walked the dogs before bed.  They had concluded then that neither one of them knew exactly what he wanted in a ring, and were hoping that they would know the right one when they saw it.  They wanted to get a jump on making a selection.

It was a great morning run, as usual, and they turned around at the four-mile point and headed back toward the house.  William hadn't said a word to Cam or Kevin since they had refused to spill the beans about their "errand."

Arriving home, the guys all piled into the huge master bedroom shower as space allowed, and when they were cleaned up, hustled downstairs for breakfast.  Maria had made everybody poached eggs on cinnamon toast, with crisp bacon.  She pulled everything out of the oven where they had been kept warm, and served everybody.  Cam and Kevin and Berto stood at the kitchen counter to eat because it was a little crowded at the kitchen table. 
The food was delicious.  The guys at the table took turns feeding Casey, who was his normally happy self.

After breakfast, Cam had a quiet word with Catherine and Maria to let them know that he and Kevin were going out for a while.  The two of them kissed Casey on top of his head, and slipped out through the garage wearing their usual attire of T-shirts, Levis and sneakers.

"Let's take the Porche," Cam said.  "The battery needs charging.  It's been a couple of weeks since I drove it."

"OK," Kevin said, starting to pull the tarp off the car.  "Can I drive?"

"Of course.  You know the car is half yours."

"Cool," Kevin said.

Cam folded up the tarp and set it aside.  The top on the 911 was already down.

"Shit!  I forgot the keys," Cam said.

"I'll get 'em." Kevin ducked back into the house and took the Porche keys off the pegboard for keys in the back hall, and went back to the garage.

They got in the car, and Kevin put the key into the ignition and cranked the engine.  It fired up right away.

"Good battery," Kevin commented as he backed out of the garage, the mufflers burbling as he gunned the engine a little.  He reached the street, dropped it into first gear and headed for the service road to the Pacific Coast Highway.  Once there he headed south to Santa Monica Boulevard and then over to I-405 heading north.  Much to their surprise, the traffic on 405 toward the Beverly Hills area was actually moving, not the bumper to bumper hot mess it could often be on a weekday.

"Hmmm, I think a lot of people took the day before Thanksgiving off, wouldn't you say?" Cam observed.  "Not much traffic."

"Yep," Kevin agreed, resting his right hand on the gearshift knob as they tooled along.  "This may not take us all morning after all."  The traffic was moving at a steady fifty-five miles per hour.

Cam rested his left hand on top of Kevin's hand on the gearshift and squeezed it.  "I'm totally excited about looking at rings."

"Me, too, bud.  We've wanted to get married for a long time now, and I can't wait to start wearing a wedding ring.  Then the whole world will know you and I have tied the knot."  He paused and cleared his throat.  "You're a great partner and a great lover, and a wonderful father to Casey.  I'm so lucky to have you in my life."

Cam's eyes misted up when he heard that.  Kevin had never had a problem being loving and physically demonstrative with Cam, but he was usually more restrained when it came to putting his feelings out there verbally than Cam was.

"Thanks for saying that," Cam said, swallowing hard.  "I think I'm the lucky one.   Especially when I look around at the people who haven't found themselves yet, let alone finding 'the one' to be in their lives."

They fell silent for a few miles listening to tunes on the radio, and then Kevin broke the silence.

"I had a good talk with Mark Carson yesterday afternoon on the beach.  I don't want to go into the particulars, 'cause I told him we were talking in confidence, but when you get a chance to talk to him, build him up a little bit.  I want him to feel good about himself.  And I want Dan Emrick to to feel good about himself, too.  Sometimes older brothers can overshadow the young guys.  Have you had a chance to talk to Dan at all about how he's doing?"

"No, but it's on my list of things to do while the family's down here," Cam said.  "Older brothers sometimes cast a big shadow, you're right about that.   I love Mark and Dan a lot, so I'm with you when it comes to encouraging them to have a good self-image."

"Yeah," Kevin said.  "Fortunately, Berto really does a good job mentoring Dan and Mark, too.  He's just an all round good guy, isn't he?"

"He really is.  I don't know whether I'd be the man he is today if my mother and father had been murdered the way his were.  When and if he gets into Stanford and then goes to law school, I think he's going to be one hell of a lawyer.   Ian and Mary have done a great job with him, and they don't hide the fact that they care about him and they're proud of him.  I also have to say that Berto has managed to stay in touch with his Hispanic culture without putting down Anglo culture in any way.  I really admire him."

Kevin looked over at his partner.  "You've got that shit right!  I hadn't really thought about the potential cultural conflicts in Berto's life.  He's struck a good balance."

"Yep," Cam agreed.

After looking around to see if people in surrounding cars were watching, Kevin reached down and cupped Cam's crotch with his right hand and gently squeezed his partner's package.  Cam spread his legs a little.

"Liking that!" Cam said approvingly, and started to harden up.

Neither of them moved until an eighteen wheeler pulled up next to them a few minutes later.  The driver looked down into the Porche and sounded his air horn when he saw where Kevin's hand was.  Kevin grinned and retrieved his hand as he gunned the Porche and quickly left the truck behind.

They neared Beverly Hills, and Cam reached into his pocket and pulled out a map of the city he'd printed from his computer.  Unfolding it, he had Kevin make a right turn on to Sunset Blvd. and began to help him find Rodeo Drive.  Once there, they located a parking spot near the first of many swanky jewelry shops.

"Y'know, I had an idea about our rings I want to run by you before we shop," Cam said before they got out of the car.  "It might be a little more expensive because it involves two rings for each of us instead of one, and would require some custom work by a jeweler.  But if you like my idea, I think we should consider it."

"Dazzle me," Kevin invited as they continued to sit in the car.

"Well, once a man and a woman get engaged, only the woman wears an engagement ring.  I was thinking that you and I might change that up a bit, and we should get each get a thin gold band with diamond chips all the way around the circumference to serve as an engagement ring.  That ring would interlock with a broader band for our actual wedding rings when we marry, and we'd wear both rings from then on.  Does that sound too over the top?"

"You little trendsetter, you," Kevin said, leaning over and kissing Cam on the cheek.  "I love that idea!"

"Me, too," Cam said as they released their seat belts, stepped out of the car and headed down the street toward an expensive, well-known jewelry store.

They entered a large, brightly lighted shop filled with showcases exhibiting expensive watches and jewelry, and were immediately met by a nattily dressed young man who greeted them coldly with no smile.  Cam and Kevin thought they picked up a somewhat unfriendly vibe from the guy.

"Help you?" the man asked as he looked askance at the Levis and the T-shirts the guys were wearing.

"Perhaps so," Kevin replied coolly, mirroring the man's attitude and determined not to ingratiate himself.  "We want to look at wedding rings, or possibly have some wedding rings made to order."

"I see," the man said.  "And what would your price range be?"

"We won't know that until we tell you what we want and perhaps look at some rings," Kevin responded.  "Why am I getting the idea you don't particularly want our business?"

"I just don't want to waste your time. . ." the young guy said when a beautifully dressed and coifed middle-aged woman walked over from a desk at the side of the large room where she had been seated, and intervened.

"Thank you, John.  I'll handle these customers."  She held out her hand to Kevin and then to Cam.  "My name is Cecile Nolan, gentlemen.  How may we be of service?"  She intuited that despite their casual dress, these young men were not poor.

"I'm Kevin Stoltz, and this is my partner, Cameron MacKenzie," Kevin said.  "We're interested in wedding and possibly engagement rings which will probably need to be custom made for us.  Our union will be blessed on a date yet to be set in our Spring vacation."

"Excellent," Cecile said, her eyes widening slightly when she heard the name MacKenzie.  She looked at Cam  "Are you related to the late movie director Alex MacKenzie?"

"Yes," Cam said.  "He was my dad."

"I see.  I loved his movies," she said.  "If you two will step over to my desk, and we'll talk more about your needs."  She led the way over to what appeared to be a genuine Louis Quatorze writing desk and chairs, and asked the guys to be seated.

"Now, tell me more of how we can specifically be of help," Cecile said.

"We have recently become engaged," Cam told her, "and as Kevin said, we are planning to be married on our Spring vacation at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Hollywood.  Kevin and I are aware that it's never been customary for men to wear engagement rings before marriage, but we may want to do so.  We're looking for thin gold bands encircled with diamond chips which we will wear to mark our engagement through February.  And secondly, we will require matching wedding bands which will interlock with the engagement rings that we'll continue to wear following the ceremony.  Is that something you can do for us?"

"I'm sure we can," Cecile said with a smile.  "Let me invite our chief designer and gemologist who crafts special orders for us to join us, if that meets with your approval."

Kevin and Cam nodded, and Cecile picked up an old fashioned, stylishly thin, white desk telephone and punched a button.  "George, this is Cecile.  Do you have time to join me and some customers for a few minutes about a special order?" she inquired.  Receiving a positive reply, she hung up the phone.

"George Abernathy is a prize winning designer of jewelry whom we recently hired away from a top Manhattan jewelry store to join our staff," Cecile explained.  "I'm confident he can develop a design for your rings which will please you.  Do you live in the L.A. area?"

"Yes," Kevin said.  "In Malibu."  Cecile smiled, her intuition that these young men had money confirmed yet again.

A gray-haired, patrician looking man with a gray goatee and wearing a beautifully tailored suit came out of a door at the rear of the store and walked over to them.  Cecile, Kevin and Cam stood up as the man approached them.

"George, may I introduce Kevin Stoltz and Cameron MacKenzie," Cecile said.  "Gentlemen, Mr. Abernathy."

"A pleasure," Abernathy said, shaking hands with them and then pulling a third chair over beside the two of them.  "I understand you may have a special order.  Tell me what you have in mind."

Cam went over the details of slim, bejeweled engagement rings and interlocking, broader, plain wedding rings with the designer.

"What an interesting idea," Abernathy said when Cam was finished.  "This is a new concept for me," he continued in a positive tone.  "I've never heard of this being done before by men."

"Nor have I," Cam said.  "It just popped into my head on the drive down here, and Kevin liked the idea."

"I like it, too," Abernathy said, nodding his head.  "How much time do we have before you're to be married?"

"We have until our Spring break, possibly in February," Kevin said.  "We haven't tied down an exact date yet."

Abernathy smiled.  "That gives us plenty of time, then.  Are you open to some additional possibilities for the rings?"

"Yes," Kevin said as Cam nodded his agreement.

"You might think about chips from other stones in addition to or instead of diamond chips for the engagement ring," Abernathy said.  "For example, you could have emerald and/or ruby chips alternating with diamond chips, or one or the other of the stones featured alone in preference to diamonds."

Cam and Kevin looked at each other.

"I guess we'd have to think about that," Kevin said after a short silence.  "But you don't foresee any problem in designing something for us?"

"Not at all," Abernathy said.  "I'd like to have no less than three weeks to actually craft the engagement rings for you once you make up your mind on the gems.  We'll have a little more time than that to complete the wedding rings."

Kevin and Cam looked at each other and nodded in agreement.

"Can you estimate the the price for each pair of rings for us?" Kevin asked.

Abernathy looked at Cecile Nolan and said,  "Depending on what chips you select and whether you want gold or platinum rings, I would estimate engagement rings which would interlock with the wedding rings at something in the range of $3,000 to $6,000 for each set.  They could be a little more or a little less than that, however, depending on the stones chosen and the base material of the rings themselves."

Cam blinked, but Kevin didn't react at all.  They looked at each other for a long minute, and then nodded.

"We can do that," Kevin said.

Cecile smiled, her intuition about these boys having money once again confirmed.  "George, let me draw up a contract, take finger measurements, and accept a down payment," she said.

"Excellent," Abernathy said, and looked at the boys.  "I look forward to working with you on what I can promise will be beautiful works of art that you will treasure.  You'll let me know about the ring composition and which stones you want for chips within a few days?"

"Yes," Kevin promised.  He looked at Cam.  "Although there's no reason why we can't choose the ring composition now, is there?"

"Fine with me," Cam said.  "I'll be very happy with gold rings."

"Me, too," Kevin agreed.  "Can we look at some wedding rings now?"

"Absolutely," Cecile Nolan said.  "Why don't we step over to the ring counter?"

The four of them walked over to a brightly lighted counter, and Cecile began pulling out displays of men's gold wedding rings.  Cam and Kevin studied them carefully and eventually chose a broad ring with a pronounced filigree around the circumference.

"That's a beautiful ring," George Abernathy said.  "And it's broad enough that crafting an interlock with the engagement ring won't be a problem.  When you let me know what chips you want, I can begin creating the engagements rings."

"We'll think about the chips over the weekend," Kevin promised.

Abernathy handed them each his card.  "Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure," he said, offering his hand to each of them.  "I look forward to hearing from you."

"Thank you for your help, sir," Cam said.  "We'll be in touch with you on Monday with our decision about the chips."

"Good," Abernathy said, and walked away toward the door to his workshop at the rear of the store.

Cecile then took their finger sizes, completed a standard contract with the particulars, and ran Kevin's credit card for a down payment of $5,000 for the rings.  After finishing up, she stood and shook hands with them warmly and thanked them for their business.

Really pumped, Cam and Kevin left the store and walked back toward the Porche.

"I'm glad we made a start on getting our rings," Cam said.  "And I think we stopped at the right store to get that done."

"Me, too," Kevin said.  "And the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of having engagement rings!  You're so creative sometimes you blow me away!"

"Well, thanks!"

Cam put his arm around Kevin as they walked along and gave him a little shake, and then let him go.

"How do you feel about things?" Cam asked.  "I don't mean just getting the rings ordered.  I mean about life in general.  With me."

"I feel good."

"You're gonna have to do better than that," Cam said.

Kevin stopped walking and turned to Cam, who also stopped walking and pivoted toward Kevin.  They looked each other in the eye.

"Do you remember the first time I came into your bedroom in San Rafael to get in bed with you, back when we were in high school?" Kevin asked.  "When I was getting in bed with you for first-time sex, I mean?  Or more precisely, to make love to you, as clumsy as I was back then?"

"Yes.  I was so excited I could hardly breathe."

"Me, too," Kevin admitted. "Well, that's the way I feel right this minute.  Except that now I'm more deeply in love with you than I was back then.  Now I've learned what loving another person, namely you, really means.  And I hope I'm more ready and skillful and determined about showing you that love when we're in bed."  He smiled.  "Or even at times like this in public, standing on the street in downtown L.A."  And Kevin put his arms around Cam and drew him in and kissed him on the mouth right there on Rodeo Drive.  And didn't let go of him for a long minute.

When he did let go, Kevin added with a grin, "Just to keep things in perspective, you always make me hard.  And Casey always helps me remember that real love also has a pure and innocent component to it.  That's a royal flush in the card game of life if I ever saw one."

"Yeah.  I agree," Cam said.  He looked tenderly into Kevin's face, and was stunned to see tears in his partner's eyes.  "Kev, what's the matter?"

"Nothing's the matter.  I just have never been sure that you were absolutely, completely healed from what those assholes did to you down the beach--until we sat down in the jewelry store to order our rings.  Now I know for sure.  So I'm totally happy and in love with you and confident about our future."

"Kevin, I am totally healed.  I didn't know you were still worried about me."

"I didn't want you to know.  It's really behind us now, and once the upcoming trial is over, the thought of what you went through is never going to enter my head again.  Or yours, I hope.  You're so strong, you amaze me."

They embraced and kissed again, and the two of them resumed walking back toward the Porche hand in hand in silence.  Cam felt weak in the knees that Kevin had confirmed his love for him and his confidence in their future the way he had.

*  *  *

After Cam and Kevin had left the jewelry store, Cecile Nolan walked over to John, the young man who had first greeted Kevin and Cam so coldly when they came into the store.  She gave him hell for being so judgmental and unpleasant.

"This is the twenty-first century, young man!  You can't tell from the way people are dressed when they come in here how much they may spend.  You'd better change your attitude and sharpen up your instincts about people if you want to continue working here!" Cecile told him. "You could have had a commission on seven to twelve thousand dollars worth of jewelry, and now you get no commission at all."

 John grimaced and started to walk away.

"Oh, and by the way, when you see gay couples come in here, you'd best give them a warm welcome!" Cecile had continued.  "If you can't do that out of plain decency, just remember that their money is as green as anybody else's!"

John slunk away, hanging his head.

*  *  *

The ride back toward Malibu was uneventful.  Cam found a pop station on the radio, and the two of them sang along to some of the songs they knew.  Cam reached over when they re-entered the I-405 and held Kevin's hand, relinquishing it only when Kevin needed it to shift gears and maneuver around other cars.

Cam called Maria to check on whether they needed to stop at a grocery for any last minute items for the Thanksgiving meal.  Maria said they were in good shape and didn't need anything.  Cam glanced at his phone, and saw that it was almost 11:30 by the time they were back on surface streets in Santa Monica.

"You hungry?" he asked Kevin.

"I could eat something."

"There a Mickey D's up ahead on the right.  Let's stop there."

"You're a good co-pilot, dude," Kevin said, downshifting as he slipped into the right lane so he could enter the parking lot.

"You're too kind," Cam said.  "Let's go inside to eat.  I don't want food spilled on the seats."

Kevin pulled into the parking lot, and found a space.  He locked the glove box and made sure he and Cam had their sunglasses, and the two of them walked through the drive-in line of cars and into the building.  They each ordered quarter-pounders with fries and cokes, and soon were sitting in a booth and chowing down.

"I hope this meal doesn't make you fat," Cam kidded his partner.

Kevin laughed.  "Not when we're running eight miles a day, it won't."

"Speaking of eight miles, I read an interesting article about exercise the other day online."


Cam drank some coke.

"Are you going to enlighten me?" Kevin asked.

"Well, some researchers are saying that extreme exercise may let loose some harmful free radicals in the body, and that's not good."

"Motherfucker!" Kevin said quietly.  "Isn't there anything in life that doesn't have a down-side to it?" he demanded.

"I don't know," Cam said.  "But maybe we should cut our usual eight miles down to six.  And make sure we don't overdo it in the gym."

"Can you find the article again?  I'd like to check out the info before we make a decision about that."

"I can find it."

"Good deal," Kevin said.  "I'll read it tonight."

They finished up their meal and Cam belched quietly but unmistakably into his fist as they threw out their trash and stacked their trays.

"That was good," Cam said.

"Tasty!" Kevin agreed.  "Bad for us, but tasty."

When they went out into the parking lot, they found a small group of boys standing around the red Porche, admiring it.

"Sup?" Kevin asked the guys as he and Cam approached.

"This yours?" a tall, athletic-looking black kid wearing Adidas running shorts and shoes asked him.

"Yeah," Kevin said.  "You like?"

"Fucking beautiful," the kid said.  "How fast will it go?"

"I don't know," Kevin said.  "Cam?"

"I don't know either," Cam said.  "It was my dad's before he died, and I've never had the pedal to the metal."

"What's the top speed on the speedometer?" the kid asked.

"250 kilometers/hour and some change, and the speedometer says in smaller numbers that's about 160 mph."

"Holy shit!" the kid said.

"Fer sure!" Cam said.

Kevin went around the guys and got into the driver's seat, and Cam in the passenger seat.

"Have a good day," Cam told the boys as Kevin started the engine, which burbled and then growled as Kevin backed up and pulled away to get back on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Fifteen minutes later they were parking the Porche back in the garage.  Kevin killed the engine, and he and Cam re-covered the car with the tarp and went into the kitchen.  Maria, Catherine and Mary Carson were sitting in the breakfast nook having a cup of coffee and talking.

"Hello, ladies," Kevin said, bending down to kiss Catherine's cheek.  "Everything under control?"

"Yes," Catherine said.  "Hear the silence?"

"Yep, you're right," Cam said.  "It's quiet.  Where are Casey and the savages?"

"Casey and all the guys are over at the Miller's pool, with Ian and Father Mason," Mary said.  "What have you two been up to?"

Cam and Kevin looked at each other, and Cam nodded affirmatively at Kevin.

"We were shopping for our wedding rings on Rodeo Drive," Kevin said.  "They're going to be specially made for us."

"Specially made wedding rings?" Catherine questioned.  "I figured you'd be getting married at some point, but I didn't know it would be soon."

"Yes," Cam said.  "We're aiming for sometime during Spring break next year.  And we're kind of blazing a new trail," he added, chuckling.  "We're going to have engagement rings made for each of us--very slim, with chips of diamonds, or rubies, or emeralds, set around the circumference.  They'll interlock with broad gold wedding rings when we marry.  We have to call the designer by next Monday to confirm what gems we want.  We can't wait to see the finished product!"

"You're engaged?" Mary asked, her eyes wide.  "When did this happen?"

"A few days ago, just before you came down here," Kevin said, smiling.  "We were going to tell everyone at Thanksgiving dinner, but what the heck..."

The three ladies stood up from the table, and Cam and Kevin were enveloped in hugs in short order.

"I'm so happy for you two," Mary Carson said, kissing each of them on the cheek.  "But you haven't set a firm date yet?"

"Not yet," Kevin said.  "As Cam said, it will be sometime in over Spring break.  We'll want to work with everybody's calendar so there are no conflicts for the family, and we'll have to clear the date with Father Ryan so St. Dunstan's can be reserved for the ceremony."

"Father Ryan will probably want to have some counseling sessions with you before the ceremony," Mary predicted.

"You're probably right," Kevin agreed.

"Oh, this is so wonderful!" Maria exclaimed, hugging the two of them again and kissing them.  "I hope my family will be invited.  My boys just think the world of you two, I hope you know that!"

"Of course your family will be invited," Cam said.  "You know how we operate here.  We're all part of one family, and the guys will all be in the wedding party."

Cam looked over at his mother, who stood there with tears were running down her cheeks.  He stepped over to her and put his arms around her.  "Please don't cry, Mom," he said, feeling as if he might tear up himself.

"It's just that all my prayers for you two have been answered," Catherine said.  "I'm so proud of you both, and I know you're going to have wonderful lives with each other and with Casey."  She embraced Kevin then, and kissed him soundly on the cheek.

"Do you want to keep this quiet, or can we blab it to everybody we know?" Mary asked with a smile.

"It's in the public domain now," Kevin said.  "Just let us go over the pool first and tell the rest of the family.  The guys will be mad if we aren't the ones to tell them directly, and I don't want to find ourselves mano a mano with William and Andy Helder."

"Of course," Mary said.  "Shall we change and go over for a swim, ladies?" she asked.

"I need to get busy making beds," Maria said.  "Do you know what you want for supper?"

"If we have shrimp in the house, let's barbecue those with some potatoes au gratin and have them with succotash," Kevin suggested.

Cam shook his head and laughed.  "Succotash!  You're weird," he said.

"That sounds good to me," Mary said, and she and Catherine and Kevin and Cam went upstairs to put on swim suits as Maria headed for the freezers in the garage to bring large bags of shrimp and succotash into the house to thaw in the kitchen sink.

Kevin and Cam petted and talked to the dogs while they waited on the deck for Catherine and Mary.  Cam noticed that Sean Miller's deep frier for cooking the turducken along with a third grill had joined their own two grills on the deck.

Mary and Catherine soon came out of the house.

"You ladies look good in your swim suits," Kevin said as he and Cam stood up.  And he was right.

"You sure know how to talk to the ladies, Kevin," Catherine said.

"Well, Cam and I are gay, not blind," Kevin responded.

They all laughed and headed next door to the Millers' pool.  They went in through the gate to find Father Mason, Ian Carson and Sean Miller and all their buddies all laid out in chaises or on the pool deck, soaking up the sunshine.

"Hey, look who have finally graced us with their presence," William said, looking up when he heard the gate open.

"The party can start now," Cam said as they entered the pool enclosure.

Cam and Kevin laid out their towels on the warm cement.

"Hey, Cam and I need to tell you all something," Kevin said after getting a nod from Cam.

Everybody looked Kevin curiously, and he didn't keep them waiting.

"Cam and I are engaged to be married, and we'll be asking for the church's blessing some time over Spring break next year."

The young guys all jumped up and mobbed the two guys, giving them hugs and congratulations.  Ian and Father Mason and Sean Miller followed the pack, offering handshakes, hugs and congratulations.

"Father Jim, we'd like to ask you to hear our vows and bless our union at St. Dunstan's, if you'd be so kind," Cam said.  "And we'll be asking Father Ryan to offer the Mass."

"I'll most likely have moved down here to L.A. by then,  and I will be honored to do that," Father Mason said.  "And I'm sure you can count on Father Ryan to celebrate the Mass."

Kevin looked at the boys.  "You guys will all be part of the wedding party.  We just have to figure out a date that's good for everybody, and work out how everybody will fit in."

"It'll be a party to end all parties," Berto said.  "I can't wait.  And it won't hurt my feelings to be coming down here to L.A. in the middle of winter instead of toughing it out in San Rafael."

"I know what you mean," Cam told Berto.  "Kevin and I really like the weather down here."

"Do you have your rings yet?" William asked.

"Funny you should mention that," Cam said.  "That's where Kevin and I went this morning--to make arrangements for our rings."

"What will the rings look like?" Dan Emrick asked.

"We'll each have two rings," Kevin responded.

"Two rings?" Ian asked.  "What's the deal with that."

"Well, we decided that we're going to get engagement rings that we'll wear 'til we're married, and then add the usual wedding rings to them.  The engagement rings will be thin gold, with diamond or ruby or emerald chips around the circumference.  We have to let the designer know by Monday which gems we want," Kevin said.  "The wedding rings will be gold as well, but broad with a filigree.  They'll interlock with the engagement rings."

"That's new," William said.

"Cam's idea, and we really like it," Kevin said.

"That's so cool!" Art Smith told them.

"The jewelry stores will love you guys if the idea of men wearing engagement rings catches on," Berto said.

Everybody laughed, and then headed for their sunbathing spots.   Cam and Kevin picked a spot, laid their towels side by side on the warm concrete.  They slathered sun block on each other and lay down.  Kevin reached over and took Cam's hand and held it.  "Love ya, bud," he told Cam quietly.

Cam's response was to pull Kevin's hand over to him and kiss it, saying nothing.  They lay there about forty-five minutes, and then Cam got up went over to Dan Emrick, bending down and waking the boy up from a nap.

"Hey," Dan said.

"Let's take a walk on the beach," Cam told him.

"OK," Dan said, yawning.  He got to his feet and stepped into his flip-flops.

The two guys walked down to the hardpack next to the water, and started walking in the same direction the gang ran every morning.  Cam put an arm around his friend just to make contact, and then released him.

"How are things going for you?" Cam asked after a few minutes on the beach.

Dan looked at him, and smiled.  "Good, I think.  No problems."

"How are your grades?"

"I'm doing all right.  I got all A's except for one B+.  I'm on the Dean's list, but in our house, that's no big thing.  Everybody's on the Dean's list, or else they face the wrath of Catherine.  She keeps pretty close tabs on all us guys on school issues.  She always makes herself available if one of us is having any problem with one of our classes."

Cam chuckled.  "That's my mom.  She was on my ass and Kevin's ass all the time when it came to our studies.  Are your mom and dad OK with it when Catherine gets involved with you guys like that?"

"Mom and Dad love it!" Dan said.  "To tell you the truth, Mom and Dad and your mom are a troika when it comes to parenting.  None of us guys gets away with anything, not even William.  And you know how he likes to test limits."

"Yeah, for sure.  So you're feeling pretty positive about things, huh?"

"Pretty much."

"Well, what aren't you feeling positive about?" Cam asked.

"You won't say anything to anybody if I tell you?"

"I hope you know by now you can trust me to keep my mouth shut," Cam said.

"Yeah.  Well..."

Cam didn't say anything, walking along and waiting for Dan to feel comfortable enough to say what was on his mind.

"I still don't know whether I'm gay or straight," Dan said.  "And that bothers me.  A lot."

"Are you dating anybody?"

"Yes.  I'm dating a girl named Sandy Monahan.  I don't know whether you remember her or not..."

"I think I do," Cam said.  "Cute girl.  Blonde, about 5'7".  Good personality, if I'm thinking of the right person."

"That's Sandy.  She's cool."

"Sounds good.  So what's the problem?"

"She wants to fuck, and I'm scared to go there."

"Well, I think you're right to be a little cautious," Cam said.  "I don't want to sound parental, but I hope you'll always use protection when you're gettin' it on with somebody new.  And don't go crazy with multiple partners.  Remember how much trouble William got into when he was fucking anything in a skirt?"

"I do.  But I'm kind of avoiding the issue with Sandy.  And to be honest, I still like looking at guys in the locker room," Dan said.

"Who do you think about when you jack off?"

Dan's face turned red, but he didn't hold back.  "Sometimes I think about Sandy, and sometimes I think about the last guy I saw in the locker room."

Cam put his arm around Dan again and gave him a little shake.  "Listen, dude, I honestly don't think you need to be worried.  Plenty of guys your age haven't settled for themselves just where they fall on the orientation spectrum.  But either way you go, no matter whether you fall in love with a boy or a girl, any relationship needs a lot of work.  Sexual compatibility and the attraction you have for your partner's body is important, but there are so many other factors involved that bring us happiness or misery in any relationship."

"Your relationship with Kevin doesn't seem to take a lot of work.  It looks like smooth sailing to me."

Cam laughed.  "We make it look good, I'll admit, but sometimes we could kill each other.  But we make sure we get over it fast.  We do that for ourselves, but we also do it for Casey.  It's not good for kids to experience a lot of tension in the relationship between mom and dad, or in our case, dad and dad.  Good sex helps keep things positive, but if that's all a relatlionship has going for it, it's not enough."

They walked along as Dan thought over what Cam had said.

"One more thing," Cam continued.  "I don't want to play the religion card, but you need to have a little confidence that whatever your orientation is going to be, you still belong to God, and He loves you and wants the best for you.  Along with that, remember that if you're gay, you're fortunate to have a family and a church family that will support you and love you no matter what.  Take that to the bank."

Dan gulped and lowered his head.  "I love ya, man," he said.  "You don't know how much it means to me to be able to talk to you about all my shit.  If I do turn out to be gay, I'll be wishing you weren't already taken.  I love ya to death, Cameron."

The boy stopped walking, and pulled Cam into an embrace and kissed him on his cheek.

"I love ya back, Dan.  You're my bro and I'll always have your back, no matter what."

At that point they turned around and walked back toward the house, and Dan was feeling good about things.

"Now it's my turn," Dan said.  "How are you really doing?"

"I'm good."

"Well, I've been talking to you and feeling good about it," Dan said.  "Who do you talk to?"

"Kevin, mostly."

"And what if the problem is with Kevin?"

"To tell you the truth, we don't have a lot of problems, but sometimes I use your brother Carl as a sounding board.  He has a good head on his shoulders, and I can trust him not to blab anything I say to him."

"Wow," Dan said.  "I didn't know that, so I guess that confirms what you said about Carl being trustworthy.  He's never told me anything about you and Kevin and your relationship."

"Yeah, it does confirm that," Cam said.

 "So you don't have anything you're worried about these days?"

"The only thing I'm worried about is the court trial for the guys who fucked me up down the beach.  It's coming up in a week or so.  The DA's office is telling me that I probably won't have to testify because one of the assholes who fucked me up is turning state's evidence, but we'll have to see whether that holds true or not."  He gestured at one of the houses they were passing.  "There's the house where it all happened."

Dan studied the house before turning back to Cam.  "As far as the trial is concerned, you'll do all right, no matter what," Dan insisted.  He looked at Cam.  "We were so worried about you after what those guys did to you.  When your mom got home to San Rafael after she came down here to see you, she'd cry every night when she thought no one could hear her.  And my mom would cry right along with her.  We were all praying for you, even William.  I'd hear him say your name in the Prayers of the People at Mass."

"I'm grateful for the prayers, Dan.  Thanks to those prayers, and to Kevin, and to a great doctor, I made it.  But I was pretty messed up for awhile."

Dan looked at him.  "You're back to being the same Cam I knew when we were all living together in San Rafael.  Thank goodness for that!"

"Damn straight!"

Pleased with their conversation, the two guys continued to walk back toward the Millers' pool.  When they got there, they turned to each other before they rejoined the family.

"Thanks for talking to me," Dan said.  "You give good advice, and I appreciate it.  I hope I can call you when I want to run something by you."

"You know you can.  And you don't have to have a problem to call me.  Just call to say, 'hey!'"

Cam pulled the boy into an embrace and held him and kissed him on the cheek.  "Love ya, dude."

"Back atcha!"  Dan was all smiles when they walked back through the gate.

*  *  *

During the early afternoon, Susan and Sean Miller and their maid Juanita Fuentes brought out platters of cold cuts and rolls and condiments, along with fruit juice for the guys and beers and wine for the adults, and everybody chowed down.  After letting the food digest a little, Ian, Fr. Mason, Sean and the young guys took a net out to the beach and set up to play volleyball.  Berto and William chose up sides, and the games commenced.

Berto's team edged William's team for two victories, and the third and final game was won by William's team.  William was his usual competitive self, but he didn't seem too bothered that his team had lost two games.

They took down the net, and headed back toward the Millers' swimming pool.  After putting the net away in the pool house, they guys all dived into the water to cool down.  Kevin and William ended up near each other, and William swam over beside Kevin.  Uncharacteristically, he put an arm around Kevin.

"Dude!" William said, "I'm really happy for you and Cam, and I'm really looking forward to the wedding."  He cleared his throat.  "There's no doubt in my mind that you two and Casey are going to be a very happy family."

"Thanks, William.  I feel the same way.  I appreciate the good thought."  Kevin gave William a hug.  "What about you?  Are things going all right?"

"Yes and no."

"Are you and Alicia still tight?"

"Yes.  I'm enjoying the relationship while I can."

"Whaddaya mean?"

"Well, we have one more year to enjoy high school together, but her parents are pretty much set on having her go to Wellesley in Massachusetts for college.  That's where her mother went.  And I really want to go to Stanford.  And to Stanford Law for graduate school.  So if we eventually end up together, it would be a miracle."

"Oh man!  How do you feel about that?" Kevin asked.

"Kind of down, to tell you the truth."

"Hey, a year is a long time.  But things could turn around.  The unexpected can happen.  That Cam and I are on the brink of being married is kind of a miracle.  That we get to raise Casey together is a miracle.  Conventional wisdom says that people our age sometimes aren't able to form relationships that last.  But that's not always true.  So..."

"We couldn't be that lucky," William said.

"Yes, you could," Kevin contradicted. 

"I guess we can always hope."

"It'll take more than hope, I can tell you that.  It will take a lot of perseverance, but if you two really love each other, it could happen!" Kevin insisted.

"Well, thanks for the vote of confidence," William said, hugging his friend and kissing his cheek.

As the sun began to set, Catherine looked over at Sean and Susan Miller.  "Why don't you come over for supper tonight?  Kevin decided we're going to have barbecued shrimp, potatoes au gratin, and succotash.  And ice cream for desert, if I know the guys."

"Well..." Susan said, looking at her husband.

"That sounds really good," Sean said.  "I haven't had succotash in a while.  What time?"

"Come over at about six o'clock," Catherine said.  "That will give us time for a drink before we eat.  And bring Juanita with you."

"All right.  You're speaking my language," Sean said.  "Ian and I will have a chance to set up our schedule for cooking tomorrow."

"Good call," Ian said.

Ian, Mary, Catherine and Father Mason headed for home to get dressed as the boys all jumped into the pool for one last swim before supper.

*  *  *

Supper was a big success.  Kevin took over barbecuing, using three grills to cook the large and juicy shrimp.  Maria set the huge dining room table, fixed the succotash and the potatoes, and at the last minute created a huge green salad with tomatoes and green peppers before she left for home to feed her own family.

They all gathered around the table, and Father Mason offered thanks.

"The Lord be with you." he said.

"And also with you," the family responded.

"Father, we are grateful for this repast, thanking you for your bounty and praying that your generosity will also find those who who have not been as blessed as we are.  We are grateful for one another, and especially grateful this evening for the news that Cameron and Kevin are engaged to be wed.  We ask for your continued blessings upon us all and upon this food which we are about to eat.  We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The family said "Amen," and made the sign of the cross as the men seated the women first before sitting down themselves.  Kevin had moved the highchair between his own seat and Cam's so they could take turns feeding Casey.  After feeding the little guy some baby food, Kevin began to give him little bites of shrimp, making sure that there wasn't too much barbecue sauce on them.  Casey liked the shrimp, and eagerly accepted what his dad gave him along with small pieces of potato and some kernels of succotash.  The little guy banged his fists on the tray when the food didn't appear in front of his mouth fast enough to suit him.

Meanwhile, Cam continued to fill his and Kevin's plates with more food as it was passed around the table.  He had eaten a large first helping of everything without delay so he could take over the responsibility for feeding Casey.  After Kevin finished his own first helping, Cam had restocked his and Kevin's plates, and they ate a healthy sized second helping.

In the midst of free-flowing conversation around the table, Sean Miller offered to start cooking the turducken in his special cooker on Thanksgiving Day.

"Are the turkeys and the turducken thawed out?" Sean asked.

"They will be by morning," Catherine said.  "Maria took everything out of the freezer this morning, so they've been thawing all day, a few hours on the kitchen counter alternating with a few hours in the refrigerator.  They're back in the refrigerator right now, but they'll be ready to cook by tomorrow morning."

"I love it when a plan comes together," Sean said.  "I'll start the turducken cooking about 5 a.m."

"You don't have to," Ian said.  "I can do it."

"I'm used to getting up early from working on movies that need morning light," Sean said, "so I'll do the turducken.  I'll leave it to you to put the turkeys on the grills at some point before we go to church  They probably won't have to cook as long."

"Getting up that early is the price of fame, I guess," Ian laughed.  "Anyway, you've got yourself a deal for tomorrow morning," Ian said.  "We'll leave the sliding doors to the deck unlocked, and the turducken will be in the kitchen fridge."

Sean looked at Ian across the table.  "Speaking of plans coming together, did you and George Eisner at Magnum Studios ever get together when it comes to your firm doing some legal work for them?"

"Not yet.  We're going to meet at church after Mass tomorrow.  If we can make a deal, I'll have a lady staff member coming down here from San Francisco two or three days a week, depending on the workload, to consult with Magnum's in-house counsel.  I think George will like her, and things should go well."

The conversation turned to other subjects, and eventually the topic moved around to football.  William talked about San Rafael High School's team for the following Fall and their chances for glory, and then the discussion moved to the NFL and the possibility various teams would have a winning season in their various conferences.  Kevin didn't add anything to the discussion, and Mark Carson waited to see if Kevin would eventually share his poor opinion of the NFL football under its current rules.  But Kevin didn't say anything.

After supper, all the boys cleared the table, scraped the plates, and put everything in the dishwasher.

"Let's play some cards," Berto suggested after the kitchen was shipshape.

"Oh, man!" William complained.  "If you're the big winner again tonight, the rest of us are going to kick your ass."

"Promises, promises," Berto said.   "Here's my message to you, dude..."  Berto formed his thumb and index finger in a big 'L' for 'loser,' and held it up to his forehead.  The guys all laughed at William as they headed back to the dining room table.  The adults had all left for the living room by then.

Cam and Kevin took some leaves out of the table to make it smaller, and the boys pulled chairs up to the table.  Cam took cards and a caddy full of poker chips out of the sideboard and put them in the center of the table.

"You should ask the grownups if any of them want to play," Berto suggested.  "I don't mind taking their money.  In fact, I kind of like it."

"You're so freaking greedy I can't believe it!" Andy Helder said with a chuckle.  "No offense, but that's a fact."  The boys all laughed and nodded in agreement.  Cam went into the living room and issued an invitation, and Sean Miller, Father Mason and Ian Carson took them up on it.

Kevin put a leaf back in the table to enlarge it for the newcomers, and it was game-on.

By 11 o'clock, the time agreed upon for shutting down the game, Berto, yet again, was the big winner.  This time, Carl Emrick was the big loser, with William Carson not far behind him.

"Hey, feel free to give me a call if you need money," Dan Emrick told his brother.  "At a low interest rate, of course.  We're family!"  Dan had done better than break even.

The boys did a quick clean-up of the room, and then most of the guys headed upstairs for bed.  But Cam and Kevin put leashes on the dogs and went out on the beach.

"Berto's smarts at poker is fucking amazing," Kevin said as they walking toward the water.  "Do you think he's counting cards?  I think that's what they call it."

"I don't know whether you can count cards in poker," Cam said.  "But if he's not, he's one lucky SOB.  At this rate, he'll die a rich man based on cards alone, that's for sure."

The dogs both stopped to pee, and when they stopped walking, Cam reached over in the dark and felt up Kevin between his legs.  "I'm so fucking horny for you, I can't stand it," Cam said.

"Ditto," Kevin said.  "It's great having the guys down here, but it's frustrating not to be able to have sex with you whenever we're in the mood."

"When the dogs have done their thing, let's use the downstairs bathroom again and do our thing," Cam suggested.

"I love the way your mind works," Kevin told Cam, and leaned over, putting a hand behind his partner's head, and gave him a long, juicy kiss.

Their bladders empty, the dogs tried to get the guys to continue down the beach, but to no avail.

Five minutes later, Cam and Kevin were in the downstairs bathroom, naked, Cam on his back with his legs in the air, and Kevin's big, hard dick was moving slowly up into his partner's body.  When he was in, Kevin lay down on Cam and looked into his eyes.

"I can't even begin to tell you how much I love you," Cam said.  Then Kevin began to pump, and the ecstasy began building for them both.

© 2015 Don Hanratty

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