"So what do you think?" asked Brett, looking at CJ across the table.
"Huh? Sorry, I didn't hear what you said."
César reached over and plucked the phone sitting by their son's plate. "You know the rule about phone use during meals. What the hell's so important you keep staring at yours?"
"Ummm, shit!" replied the boy. "Okay, I'm waiting for a message from Liz―Owen's sister. It's already Wednesday morning in Australia and it's his birthday."
"I knew I liked that boy," said César. "He's a fellow Taurus. Honest, loyal, and smart."
"Don't forget, stubborn, pig-headed, and obstinate," added Brett, chuckling.
"Fuck you, Jarhead. I ain't all that bad. And all those words mean the same thing. You're repeating yourself."
"Yes you are, Dad," said CJ, joining in the chuckling.
"Screw you too, sonny. Now why are you waiting for this girl to get in touch with you? Wouldn't it be easier to just call Owen and wish him a happy birthday?"
"Yeah, but I had Uncle JP send him something for me. I wanted him to get it on his birthday, so I asked for it to go to Liz, and she promised to deliver it to him at breakfast today. I mean tomorrow. Shit! This time difference's such a pain."
Elizabeth Liston was stealthy as she moved towards her brother. Owen sat at the wooden table in the kitchen, a cup of tea in his hand, engrossed in whatever he was reading on his laptop. The girl smiled to herself, sure her older sibling had no idea what she was about to do. She crept up behind him unnoticed and caused him to jump in surprise when she wrapped her arms around him.
"Happy birthday, big brother." The girl squeezed Owen as hard as she could and planted a kiss on his cheek.
"Thanks, Liz. What's this?" He reached for and tugged at the soft envelope she held in one of her hands.
"It's a birthday present, silly." Elizabeth unwrapped herself from her brother, placed the package in front of him, and walked towards the kettle on the stove. "It's from your boyfriend."
"Boyfriend? I can't believe he sent me a present. And he's definitely not my boyfriend. Hasn't been for quite a long time. All he did was bring me agro and I'm so done with that."
"Owen Zachary Liston, don't be dense. I never liked that boy. I'd never be part to anything involving him. This came from America. It's from CJ."
"You sound like Mum using my full name." Owen murmured, turning the package over several times as a smile crept along his face.
"Are you going to open it?" asked Elizabeth.
"Yeah. I guess. I just wasn't expecting anything from him."
"Go on, then. I wanna see. I wanna to see what my future brother-in-law took so much care to send and make sure you received on your day."
"I don't think that's gonna happen, sis." Owen's grin faded somewhat as his sight unfocused while he stared at nothing. "Before CJ returned to the USA, I asked him to be my boyfriend. He said he wasn't ready and we would see what happened over time. But since then it's almost like he's been avoiding me. I mean, he answers most of my messages and e-mails, but his replies are short. Maybe he's met somebody else?"
"You can be such a bloody idiot. You and guys in general. Maybe you scared him off? He was on holiday, having a good time, and you got all serious?"
"I couldn't help it. I fell in love." Owen pulled the red tab on the soft plastic envelope and ripped it open. He turned it upside down, spilling its contents on the table. The fading smile returned to his face when he saw a George Mason University Rugby ball cap fall out followed by two envelopes. He bent the hat's brim into a curve and placed it on his head.
"Nice," said Elizabeth. "Open the envelopes."
"Sorry, sis. I'm doing it in private." Rising from his chair, the man leaned towards his sister and kissed her forehead. "I'm going to my room. I'll see you in a bit."
• • •
Owen was still smiling, gently rubbing his thumb over the velvety smooth, cream colored envelope in his hand. He appreciated it was high quality stationery while the other plain white one he surmised contained a card. Once he'd closed the door to the bedroom, Owen sprawled out on his bed and opened the one he was certain contained a card first. It was, as he suspected, a standard store bought card which CJ had signed and dated. The other one he opened carefully, not wanting to damage the beautiful envelope. Once again his guess was correct. It contained several handwritten pages on matching stationery. He adjusted his new hat and unfolded the sheets of paper, his heart beating a bit faster than it had before.
Happy 22nd birthday, bud! If things worked out the way I intended them to, it's the morning of your special day and your sister handed you a big envelope I sent. Give Liz a hug and kiss for me and tell her I say thanks. Hope you like your hat. I drove Defiant to the university during one of my practice sessions after I returned from New York and got it for you. I thought you'd like the Rugby one better than any of the other sports.
New York was an interesting trip. I came back thinking about what happened there and a lot of the nasty things I've gone through this past year. I guess I've been acting a bit weird since returning, and the dads got worried so they had me hang out and talk to one of their friends. He made me look at my experiences as a whole. Pretty sure I've been focusing just on the bad.
He helped me realize I've been unfair to you and needed to share some more details about me than what we talked about when I was in Australia.
You already know how it was I ended up living in DC with my dads. The part I haven't really shared with anyone before is that when my step-father found out I was gay, banished me from his house, and my mom did nothing to stop him, I thought my world was coming to an end. I tried real hard to put a brave front, especially for my father, but inside I felt like crawling into a closet and hiding away for the rest of my life. HA! I was thinking of crawling into a closet and I'd just been dragged out of mine.
Anyway, dad was awesome and so was Papa Brett. They held me whenever I cried, did everything they could to cheer me up when I was sad, and encouraged me to be myself whenever I expressed doubts. I really got lucky. I have the best two fathers in the world. Those two are my rocks.
They, and their friends, took such great care of me, it gave me confidence. Just because one dickhead didn't want me around, it wasn't the end of the world. All these other men were there to support me. You should have seen the way Dragon and King bragged about me when I stood up to the homophobic biker at the motorcycle rally. Remember I told you the guy tried to take a swing at me and I ended up decking him? They told the story to anyone who would listen at Rogo's (that's the place I mentioned to you where we kinda hang out all the time).
Because of the fight, because I faced off against a hater, Ben Cohen made a big deal out of meeting me and it led to us becoming friendly and him coming to my school to lead an anti-bullying seminar. The night I met Ben, I was also introduced to a guy who made it possible for me to interview for the internship with the US Senator I mentioned. I did what I thought was right by standing up to a bully. I never imagined how far-ranging the repercussions would be.
The rest of the summer was fantastic. I hung out mostly with the older guys, but they rarely treated me like a kid. I was more like the junior member of their group. I learned how to sail, spent lots of time sightseeing and strolling around some of the museums. I can't wait `til you get here so I can play tour guide!
The summer ended with a high note followed by a couple of shitty ones. The dads decided to marry, as did JP and Tom. Being the best man for all of them was insane. But just two weeks later it all came crashing down again. I was arrested, Uncle Tom was shot, and the wife of a family friend died in a car crash. It'd all turned to shit.
To top it all off, Tom's father showed up at the hospital and I almost went crazy when he and the priest he was with started talking trash about Uncle Tom. It took a lot for me not to punch the old man. Or the creepy priest who kept calling me "son". Reminded me of the type who drives a panel truck and parks it by the playground. But in the end, good came out of that crap too. I'm sure you'll hear the details from them when you meet them, but Bradley and Patrick ended up reconnecting with their dad while he was recovering from his gunshot wound. That was pretty nice. I'd heard from Uncle Tom often enough how he wished he could spend time with his kids like my dads did with me. Now it's a regular thing and I think he's happier than he's been in a long time. And Bradley and Patrick are always happy when they visit.
Then school started and I met two guys who'll be my friends for life. I think you'll like Harley and Thiago when you finally meet them in person. You may have to tell Harley to shut up a few times before you get used to him. That boy can talk like no one else I know.
I also met a bunch of other good people in the fall. Had to deal with two jerks but one ended up becoming a buddy afterwards. Poor guy was confused. He kept calling me "fag boy" but not cause he knew I was gay, but because he thought I'd been hitting on his girlfriend. Can you believe that shit? I did learn to be careful when insulting somebody, the words we choose can make us sound real stupid. He sure did.
When I lived with my Mom and her dickhead husband I never traveled much. Sure, we went up to Orlando to visit the theme parks every summer and to the Florida Keys in his boat, but other than a couple of trips to visit Dad in Washington, I'd never been outside Florida after we returned from Germany. That changed over the first long weekend during the school year. (You're gonna love three-day weekends, they're a great time to take short trips anywhere.)
My first one was to Chicago to visit family. My dad's brother, his wife and their two sons. Did I tell you they're twins your same age? And that one of them's gay and has a really nice boyfriend? Anyway, I couldn't believe the dads trusted me enough to let me fly by myself! Damn did that feel good. Even the flight attendants making a fuss over me because I was a minor was nice.
I had a blast in Chicago. I told you I met a drag queen, went to a bar to watch her perform, and ended up getting laid. I know I didn't tell you the last part before but it was because I got in trouble about it with my dads and I don't like to think about it. Papa and I didn't speak for like a week! Afterwards, we made up and Dad set some rules for me and what I could do with other guys. They don't mind the sex part so much, it's the who, when, and where they make a big deal out of.
Another incredible thing happening in the fall was meeting Jennifer López. Dancing with her in front of all the people at the banquet was real weird, but man, I'd do it again any day. Unfortunately, the event will now always have a nasty side to it. My date/non-date was José-María, who recently turned out to be a disgusting scumbag.
In the fall I also got to meet Bradley, Patrick and Chipper during my first trip ever to New York. I love the City and hopefully I'll be visiting on a regular basis. You'll have to come with sometime. It's real cool since the dads own an apartment so it doesn't take that much planning. We can catch a train to New York and then a taxi from the station to the apartment. There's always something new to do and I have to catch up. And I'll introduce you to Sean when we go. He's the coolest guy ever!
Thanksgiving is an American holiday you'll have to get used to. It's all about eating too much and watching football games. Our football not soccer. Last year, the dads and I went to Miami and it was great to see my grandparents and my brother. Of course, this being my life, not everything could go perfectly.
Ritchie, that's my little brother, was dropped off at the hotel we were staying on Friday so we could spend the day together. Problem was I had to deal with my mother and talk to her. The CUNT had the nerve to tell me she thought I had changed for the worst and suggested it was my dads' fault. You have no idea how hard it was for me not to slap her on the spot. I controlled myself and ripped her a new asshole with words instead. I swear, if it wasn't for my brother, the bitch would be so much history.
Her royal cuntness proved once again what a shitty mother she was over Christmas. With my birthday being so close to the 25th, I'm used to getting twofer presents, you know two celebrations, one present. She kept that up last year by sending me a lousy, unsigned holiday card with THE PETERSONS printed on it. That's her husband's last name. Same shit they send out to everybody else. She did include an iTunes gift card inside. I didn't care about the present, hell I have enough money to buy any damn music I want myself, but an unsigned card? Fuck her! She can drop dead tomorrow for all I care.
Of course the dads went at it the complete opposite way. A car for my birthday and a trip to Australia for Christmas. Have I told you my dads rock often enough yet? And yes, I realize they can afford things my mother can't, but it wasn't so much the size of the presents as the fact they thought enough about me to make sure my day didn't get lost in the madness of the holidays. Okay, the size of the presents was pretty fucking sick!
Australia was insane and I hope you realize one of the main reasons was you. I may not have made my appreciation clear to you when I left, but trust me, you made the trip so much more memorable than it would have been without you involved.
Life in Washington was pretty good after we returned home. I can't decide which one of two weekends I enjoyed most. In January, my cousin Randy and his boyfriend Tyler flew in from Chicago, and Tom's sons, Bradley and Patrick, came down from Boston. The four of them, myself, and my friends Harley, Thiago and Chipper spent a night aboard the PP―JP and Tom's catamaran. And even though it was docked at the marina and almost entirely surrounded by ice, boy did we have a great time. I had a blast that night and the next day when we all went ice skating.
Then, in February, my little brother Ritchie came up from Miami. I hadn't seen him since Thanksgiving, but my grandmother convinced my mother and her husband to let him come visit me while they took the boat to the Bahamas for the weekend. I had such a great time showing him around and just hanging out. I'm telling you, if college doesn't work out, I'm becoming a tour guide.
The third and last trip before summer vacation should have been the best one. Instead it was one of the worst times ever. The guy I invited to go to the black-tie event where I met JLo, José-Maria, is the son of a Venezuelan diplomat and his cousin, a guy a bit older than us also works for their government. The cousin was going to New York for meetings and they invited me to go to a breakfast with them at the United Nations. I convinced my dads to let me go, it was a chance to meet the Secretary General, and I was going to be alone only one night since the next morning Doc and Chipper were headed up to New York City too.
Long story short: the fuckers tried to drug me so I would have sex with them but our friend Sean surprised them while they were trying to put crushed pills in my drink. All hell broke loose. I almost killed the cousin. Nothing will happen to them because of diplomatic immunity and I swore I wasn't going to let them get me to stop living. The next few days were actually fun and I figured I just had a bad memory which I planned on treating as a learning experience.
Guess I wasn't doing as well as I thought. When I came home, I was angry a lot and was almost getting into fights every day. The dads couldn't get through to me, so they asked their friend Devon (that's Dragon's real name) to talk to me. We spent most of a day together chatting, he's the one who went with me to buy your hat, and he's called me every day since.
I realize now I wasn't being honest with myself about my feelings and I definitely was a dick to you. I'm sorry. I'd like to start again by being friends and hanging out. I promise not to ignore your messages.
Let me know if the invitation to come visit this summer is still open and if it is, I'll talk to the dads. If not, I'll see you soon enough, August's not too far away.
Happy birthday again, bud.
• • •
After a long Skype session with Owen on Tuesday night, CJ spent another large chunk of time chatting with the Aussie on Wednesday morning before leaving for school. Owen told him his family had a dinner party for him at the restaurant and was waiting for his friends to stop by; they were going out drinking to celebrate.
CJ spent most of the day in a good mood. He didn't even react when somebody at school mentioned his Property of Tilted Kilt black t-shirt was the ultimate in breeder apparel. He gave them a good natured finger and laughed with them. That evening, during dinner, he brought up the idea of a trip to Australia during the summer vacation.
• • •
"I'm impressed, Jarhead."
"Because when CJ asked us permission to go to Australia this summer, you said nothing stupid. I still can't believe you told him we would talk about it and let him know soon. Who are you and what have you done with my husband?"
"Asshole! Honestly? I have no problems with it. This is so different from New York. After having spent so much time with Owen during our trip, I think we know that boy better than we know any of CJ's friends. Maybe not as well as Harley and Thiago when I think about it, but well enough. Hell, Owen and CJ already played hide the salami. Dragon must have done a good job talking to our boy. He sent Owen a present and now he wants to go visit the kid."
"You're right. I'm not sure Owen will end up being our son-in-law, but if he's able to get CJ over his fear of getting too close to someone..."
"Dragon did mention he thought CJ's outlook on relationships was being framed by the actions of his mom, Chip and Doc, and himself and King. And us. The kid's scared he'll get involved with somebody, it'll go wrong, and we'll be disappointed."
"Who would have thought having us as an example would be a bad thing?"
"I don't think we're a bad influence."
"I didn't say we were, Jarhead. I think he's got a bit more hero worship for us than we've realized. It's the first time I've seen our boy be scared of failing. All his denials of liking the damn blond guy down under make sense now."
CJ Abello 2016
Edited by Mann Ramblings
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