DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account of young gay couple, coping with love and marriage in the American Midwest. There are references to and descriptions of gay sex in this story, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. The author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities or attitudes of real individuals, establishments or religions. The opinions expressed by the characters in this story do not necessarily reflect those of the author or the hosting websites. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this is the twenty-fourth in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of some of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey's World. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.

A Blizzard in Iowa

A Naptown Tale by Altimexis

As my eyes fluttered open, I couldn't help it that a huge grin split my face when I spied the sleeping form of my boyfriend. Even after a month, he still looked like a perfect angel to me.

In the tumultuous days that followed my return from Washington, I never thought I'd find happiness. My life had been wrecked - totally wrecked. I'd gone to Washington a young gay man in hiding, my beautiful girlfriend at my side. I'd known from the moment I first met her that she was trouble, but she was from a good family and, as my parents had made clear, her family's political connections could take me far. 'Course we had some pretty powerful connections of our own, not the least of which was Rohm Emanuel, a longtime family friend and the President's chief of staff. It was Rohm who got me my summer internship at the White House. Yeah, I thought that internship was going to be my ticket to the future. Boy, was I wrong.

I knew Sherrie had a problem with drugs even before we became lovers, but at least in Chicago, with her having her own place, I could keep her cocaine habit at arm's length. When she moved into my apartment at the Watergate, there was no way to keep her behavior under control. The first time she OD'ed, I got lucky. I had a group of high school boys with me that I was mentoring. David Reynolds and Jeremy Kimball were in a special program interning at the White House, and their friends, Trevor Austin and Kurt DeWitt, were paging in the Senate. I hated to see them get dragged into the mess, but David's quick thinking likely saved me from a drug conviction - he made sure I got rid of Sherrie's stash before the police arrived -- and Jeremy likely saved her life by securing her airway and performing basic first aid.

It was just as well they weren't around the second time she OD'ed, as she was already brain dead by the time I found her. Sadly, she remains in a persistent vegetative state to this day. She can't breathe on her own, nor eat, nor speak, nor even control her most basic bodily functions. Of course her parents blame me for everything - never mind that I never touched cocaine myself - well, not since I first met their daughter at the University of Chicago and became involved in the party scene with her, and even then, it was only occasional use - it was her habit.

If it hadn't been for meeting those four boys - David, Jeremy, Trevor and Kurt - my life truly might have been over, but those boys taught me a lot about myself. Even though they were younger than I, they were much more comfortable with who they were. Being gay, David and Jeremy had been an out couple for two years. Surprisingly, David had been elected his class president two years in a row, the second time by acclamation. David was unlike any other gay person I'd ever met - all four of them were, but David was truly unique. He has a sparkling personality, a quick wit, and amazing skills as a debater - the quintessential politician. He will be president someday, in spite of his sexual orientation. I witnessed him go head-to-head with Obama, and it wasn't even close, even by Obama's admission.

His boyfriend, Jeremy, is no slouch, either. Jeremy is probably more knowledgeable, even if a bit on the shy side, but I saw him step to the forefront when the need arose and he can really throw verbal punches with the best of them, too. Both David and Jeremy are quite athletic, and tall. Trevor's a real computer geek, but with surprisingly good social skills, and Kurt's a gay evangelical Christian. I never knew there was such a thing before I met Kurt, but he has a photographic memory and knows the Bible and a host of other religious texts like the back of his hand. On top of that, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his bravery in saving some kids when he was only fourteen, and for going on to counsel kids about rape and abuse after he became a victim himself.

Yeah, those boys are something. Anyway, they taught me how to be comfortable being myself - in my own gay skin. It was also David's suggestion that there's more than one way to achieve political power. There's the direct way, and an indirect way.

I was always focused on the direct way - attending Pre-Law at the University of Chicago with an eye toward continuing my Law studies there or at Harvard or Yale, then clerking in the Supreme Court or maybe working as a public defender or assistant D.A. in a major city, and then working my way up the chain of political office from assemblyman to governor or senator and eventually to president. I thought that was the way it had to be done.

David showed me there's another way - a scholarly way. Instead of approaching politics directly, I could become a legal scholar, advancing through the halls of academia at the finest law schools in America. Instead of being a governor or a senator, I would teach the people who would become our nation's top political leaders - people who would one day be in a position to make appointments to the bench. As long as I published valuable, scholarly opinions in the top legal journals, the chances were good that I could one day be recognized for a top judicial appointment, perhaps even to the Supreme Court, perhaps even by President David Reynolds.

Yes, the direct approach might have been closed to me for the time being, but the indirect approach to political power was definitely wide open, and it was at least as promising as the one I'd been pursuing. Not only that, being a legal scholar, there was absolutely no reason I couldn't be myself and marry the man of my dreams - the man who was lying right next to me now.

Meeting Brian was a real turning point in my life - it was hard to believe it happened just three weeks ago. I'd been sitting in a coffee shop reading my Econ text when this boy I hardly knew asked if he could sit with me. I recognized him from class, but our class sizes were so humongous that there was no way I could have gotten to know him there. The moment our eyes locked, I knew he was the man I was going to marry. His face was the face of an angel - slightly round, but certainly not fat by any means. He has the most beautiful dark blond, curly hair, amazing deep blue eyes and he wears these round bronze-rimmed glasses that complement his face perfectly. He has a killer smile with dazzling, straight white teeth.

So there I was, still in the closet but ready to come out, and this amazingly beautiful guy asked to sit at my table. When we introduced ourselves and he mentioned that his name was Brian Philips, the same name as that of a well-known kid who had killed himself, he told me not to freak out - that the only thing he had in common with that other kid, besides the name, was that he's gay. Whoa! So I decided the time and place to come out was then and there, and I told him he was the man I was going to marry. We haven't spent a day apart ever since.

Talk about love at first sight - he felt the same way about me that I felt about him! We talked until the early morning hours, until they had to throw us out of that coffee shop because the place was closing! I don't think either of us wanted to part, but we were both too nervous to invite the other to spend the night, so I finally summoned all the courage I had and invited Brian back to my apartment.

Little did I realize what a hornet's nest I would open up with that invitation, as Brian lived with his 'rents in Oak Park. They knew he was gay and in principle knew he'd want to date other guys, but spending the night with some boy they didn't know was a big deal, and they'd certainly want to get to know their son's suitor. What a fiasco that turned out to be, however, now I remember it fondly. . . .

Meeting the In-Laws

"Just relax, Will," my boyfriend said to me as he planted a kiss on my lips, "my parents'll love you."

"Sure they will," I replied as I rolled my eyes. "You've spent every night for the past week at my place. Hell, you've only been home to pick up clean clothes. What are they supposed to think? Before last Friday, you didn't even know me, and now you're practically living with me."

"I am living with you, and I want to keep on living with you, and the problem with that is . . . ?" he countered.

"You're their youngest child," I reminded him, "the last one to leave the nest. Naturally, they're gonna be a bit overprotective, you know?

"You hardly dated in high school, did you?" I asked.

"Well, no," he admitted. "I, err, basically never dated. I wasn't out in high school."

"So now you're nineteen and a sophomore in college, still living at home, and here you are, suddenly falling head over heels for this guy they've never met," I said. "Naturally, they think you're off your rocker, and their natural instincts will be not to trust me."

"Oh come on, Will," Brian countered. "Two seconds with you is all it'll take for them to see in you what I see in you. You worry too much. They'll love you 'cause I love you. You'll love them, too," he tried to reassure me.

I wished I could feel as sure as we inched forward in Friday evening traffic, heading out of downtown Chicago toward the suburbs. Brian's parents lived in one of the oldest and closest-in suburbs, west of the city, in a lovely town called Oak Park, famous for having been home to Frank Lloyd Wright for a number of years. During his time in Oak Park, Wright left his indelible mark on the community, and I wondered if Brian's family lived in one of the several houses designed by the famed architect himself, but the chances of that, I realized, were pretty slim. Whenever I asked Brian about his house, he was very circumspect, telling me he wanted it to be a surprise. For all I knew, he lived in one of the many high rise condos in Oak Park - perhaps even in a penthouse apartment with a view of the Chicago skyline, which would be pretty cool, too.

I thought we'd left plenty of time to get there, even for a Friday at rush hour, but an accident on the Dan Ryan Expressway had things backed up on all routes out of the city. As it became clear we were going to be late, I became more and more frantic for an alternate route. Of course as any Chicago driver knows, or any big city driver for that matter, alternate routes are a myth designed to make the driver think they're making better time than they really are. My Porsche 911 S Cabriolet has a navigation system, so I had access to live traffic information, and no end of selections of alternate routes to choose from. No sooner would I become frustrated with one route than my nav system would plot a new one at my request - not that the new route would get us there any faster - it just looked like it was moving faster on the display. I even had Brian get out his iPhone - we both had iPhone 3G S's - and had him see if he could find a better route on his mobile phone. Pretty dumb, I know, but I was desperate. I was definitely not off to a good start.

Brian kept calling his parents with updates, but it was embarrassing as hell to be so late. We were forty minutes late. What a mess the whole thing was.

When we finally got to Oak Park, Brian directed me to the biggest, baddest Frank Lloyd Wright house I'd ever seen. At first I thought he was shitting me, but the enormous grin on his face told me he wasn't at all. This really was his house. Sweet!

Still, I couldn't help but ask him, "This is yours?"

"Yup," he replied. "I grew up in a national historic landmark, just like you."

Actually, I spent most of my growing up in Cedar Rapids and Chicago, rather than in our ancestral home in Burlington, Iowa, which actually was on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, but my boyfriend knew that, and now he obviously couldn't resist having a chance to take a jab at me. And I didn't mind it one bit.

"This really is something, Brian," I said as we got out of my car and walked up the steps to the front porch.

"Just wait 'til you see it from the inside," he said as the beautiful leaded glass front door swung open without our even having to ring the bell. A rather commanding woman pulled Brian inside and gave him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek and then, before he could even have the chance to introduce me, reached out with her hand and said, "And you must be Will."

"Pleased to meet you Dr. Philips," I said as I extended both my hands to take hers firmly in my own.

"Actually, I use my own family name, which is Lariska, but please, just call me Jenny," she corrected me.

"Well, it's nice to meet you Jenny," I said as I handed her a bottle of wine.

A distinguished-looking tall and athletic gentleman came up behind Jenny and shook my hand firmly, introducing himself. "And you can call me Danny."

"It's nice to meet you, Danny," I replied.

Looking at the bottle and appraising it closely, Jenny turned back to me and seemed almost to bore into me with her eyes. "Will, I appreciate the gesture, but you don't need to drive here in your Porsche and bring us a fifty dollar bottle of wine to impress us. We're more interested in the kind of person you are than how much money you have."

My mouth must have dropped open when she said that without my even realizing it, because she laughed and said, "You can close your mouth, now, Will. We may live in a big Frank Lloyd Wright House in Oak Park, but I think you'll find that Danny and I are about the least pretentious people you could ever meet. If you wanted to impress us, you should have taken the `L' out here and been on time. One of the joys of living in Oak Park is that you can get here by public transportation, so why torture yourself by driving? Brian takes the `L' every day . . . at least he did up until a week ago."

"Yeah, well about that," Brian started in, "Mom, Dad . . . I want to move in with Will."

"Don't you think it's a bit soon?" Danny asked, "I mean the two of you have only known each other for a week."

"Dad, can we talk about it after dinner?" Brian asked. "Once you've had a chance to get to know Will, I'm sure you'll understand why I fell in love with him so quickly. I do love him, Dad, believe me, with all my heart and I just know he's the one I want to spend my life with."

"And you feel the same way, Will?" Jenny asked.

"You can't imagine how much I love your son," I answered. "The Porsche, the condo on Lakeshore Drive . . . I'd give up everything I own if that's what it takes to convince you of the sincerity of my love for your son. None of those things mean anything without him."

"It sounds like you're both pretty serious," Danny said.

"The reason I've spent the past week at Will's place is because I can't stand to be apart from him, Dad," Brian answered his father. "This isn't infatuation and it's not idolization. I know I don't have much experience with dating, but I've always known what I've been looking for. Please . . . you have to trust me on this. Will is the kindest, most wonderful guy I've ever known. He's truly the man of my dreams." As he finished saying that, he came up to me and wrapped his arms around me from behind. "I love this guy to pieces," he concluded.

Smiling, Jenny suggested, "Why don't we go sit in the solarium and have some appetizers?"

As we made our way through Brian's house to the solarium, I couldn't help but notice the expensive artwork -- most of it by well-known contemporary artists -- nearly all if it original oil and watercolor paintings from the likes of McKnight, Yamaguchi and Rizzi. It was an amazing collection, worthy of a museum, and knowing that Danny was the one of the curators at a major art museum himself, I said as much.

"Do you collect art, Will?" Danny asked when we sat down.

Laughing, I said, "That's a very good question. I certainly appreciate art, and I recognized all of the artists I've seen here, and that you have all originals, whereas most people have lithographs. Me as a collector . . . I hadn't really thought about collecting art at this stage in my life. My parents furnished my condo on Lakeshore Drive, including the art on the walls, although they did ask for my input. They also collect art, but their tastes are much more conservative, tending to favor a much narrower color palate."

"A blander color palate?" Jenny asked as she set out an appetizer consisting of baked brie with apple slices, and poured us each a glass of wine.

"Exactly," I answered.

"So you've seen our art, and you've seen your parent's art, and I assume you've been to museums," Danny started to ask.

"I have a student membership at the Chicago Art Institute," I replied, "and I've been to most all of the major art museums in the world, some of them several times."

"If you could choose among all of the artists that ever lived, what kind of art would you choose to furnish your home someday, Will?" Danny asked.

"Wow," I started to answer, "I hadn't given it much thought before. Definitely not what I have now in my condo . . . it's way too bland for my tastes. Also, I believe art has to express something. It has to send a message, like the Diego Rivera murals in Mexico. I may not agree with the message, but it has to say something.

"I really like the work of the original surrealists . . . maybe their work has become too much of a cliché at this point, but . . . Dali, Magritte, Ernst . . . they were brilliant. I could see having some of their works in my home."

Laughing, Danny said, "Will, we have a seven figure budget for art, but unless you're willing to spend well into the eight figures, you might want to set your sights just a bit lower. Contemporary artists may or may not become the classic artists of tomorrow, but they're a hell of a lot more affordable."

"What do you like, Brian?" I asked.

"Surrealism's cool, but are you familiar with the hyperrealists like Goings, Close, Eddy, Bechtle and McClean?"

"Of course," I answered. "Not much of a message, but their stuff is cool. Way cool."

"I think we can have a lot of fun deciding on those things together . . . things that will be uniquely ours. We'll make a lot of decisions on many things as a couple . . . color schemes, furnishings and artwork. Do you think we can make the condo a place that represents us rather than just you?" my boyfriend asked.

"Sweetheart, it never really represented my tastes in the first place," I answered. "Like I said, my parents furnished it. We don't have a huge amount of money to work with, but I'm sure my parents would be willing to exchange the artwork for something else as long as it's tasteful, and they'd probably be willing to swap some of the furnishings. Let's furnish it the way we want . . . with what we like . . . make the condo our place . . . a place where we can grow together."

"That's so sweet, Will," Brian said as he pulled me into his embrace and gave me a peck on the lips that became another peck and then more. The sound of Jenny clearing her throat brought us out of our passionate trance.

"Sorry about that, Mom," Brian said apologetically. "I really love Will so much, I sometimes forget other people are around us."

"We can see that, Brian," Jenny answered, "but we still want to make sure you aren't rushing into things. How can you know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone after just eight days?"

"I knew after just eight minutes, Mom," Brian answered. "There's just a connection between us that can't be denied. He's my soul mate and I knew it right away, from the moment our eyes met. We like the same things and share the same interests and beliefs. The day we met, we couldn't stop talking to each other. We talked for hours until the coffee shop closed. Other than to attend classes, we haven't been apart since then. We were made for each other, Mom.

"Sure, Will has his annoying habits . . ."

As I glared at him, he continued, "Well, you do . . ." he said to me, "I do, too, I'm sure." Turning back to his mother, he continued, "Everyone does, but he's a sweet, kind, gentle person who wouldn't hurt anyone . . ."

"What about that girl he left in a coma?" Danny chimed in. I knew that was bound to come up sooner or later.

"Danny, Jenny, I won't say I've never made any mistakes," I began, "because I have. I've certainly made my share of mistakes, and I'm willing to be brutally honest with you now so you'll know everything there is to know about me and what your son is getting into. I've already told Brian about my past.

"From the time I was twelve, my parents paraded suitable girls from good families in front of me, hoping I'd pair up with them and that our families could then take advantage of our mutual political connections. The possibility that I might not even be into girls was never discussed, but it was pretty clear that there was no other option. I learned to keep my sexuality under wraps.

"I knew Sherrie was bad news from the time we met, but she was from a good family and my parents heartily approved. She had a serious cocaine habit, but then I was just getting into college life myself and I was experimenting a little bit with the party scene and didn't realize just what I was getting into. As the school year progressed, however, I quickly tired of the whole thing, whereas Sherrie only became more and more enamored of it and tried to drag me along . . . well, down with her.

"When I was offered a summer internship at the White House and Sherrie told me she was going with me to Washington, I should have just told her `no' in no uncertain terms . . . but I couldn't. Her parents thought it would be a great idea for her to go along. By then, I'd decided I wanted nothing to do with drugs of any kind . . . not even pot, let alone coke. I never even used the stuff in high school . . . and I decided getting high wasn't really my thing. My head was pointed towards an ambitious career in politics. Sherrie, on the other hand, only got more and more heavily into cocaine use, in spite of my protests.

"The first time she overdosed, she was told she had to go into a rehab program or face serious jail time. I was all for that, but her parents managed to get her released to me instead. I was to be her rehab! What the hell was I supposed to do that I hadn't already tried? The second time, by the time I got to her, she'd overdosed and was already brain dead. Now, she's worse than in a coma. She's in a vegetative state. She opens her eyes, but there's nothing there, but her parents insist on keeping her on a ventilator . . ."

"It's hard letting go when it comes to a child, Will," Jenny said.

"Yes, but Sherrie's an organ donor. At least something good could come of an otherwise senseless life, but if they wait until she dies of natural causes, her life will have been a total waste."

Sighing, Jenny continued, "I hope someday you and Brian have children, and then maybe you'll understand. I actually agree with you, but it's very difficult when it comes to your own child to be objective and to look at the bigger picture. I bet they blame you for her drug habit, and for what happened to her, too, don't they?"

Nodding my head, I answered, "There's a reason I'm no longer considering a career in politics. They've made it clear they'll poison any attempt I might make to run for office. However, on the bright side of things, I no longer have to worry about coming out . . . but going back to what you said a minute ago . . . you said when Brian and I have children . . . did you mean that?"

"Yes, Will, I did. It's clear you've made some mistakes . . . errors in judgment that are common to kids when they first go out on their own, and errors that probably come largely from your background, but it also sounds like you've managed to get past your mistakes and you've grown from your experiences."

"I'm not the same person I was six months ago," I admitted. "I went to Washington to learn the ropes of politics, and instead I came away a changed man. I saw Sherrie for what she was, and I saw the way her family manipulated the house of cards to suit their ambitions.

"I came out to my parents, and found that they'd known all along, and were supportive once they understood that this is who I am. I also met a group of four absolutely amazing teenagers who showed me that it's possible to be true to one's self and still be out and proud. Because of those experiences, today I'm comfortable with who I am, and ready to love your son like no one else can."

"I know your are, Will, and I think the two of you are lucky to have found each other so young. Don't get me wrong . . . I still think moving in this soon is premature . . . but that is my son's decision to make and not mine," Jenny answered.

There was still a lot of nervous tension for me that evening, and I did break one of their Waterford glasses and spilled a glass of wine - things I hadn't done since I was a toddler - but Brian's parents took it all in their stride.

It was otherwise a very enjoyable evening and in the end, Jenny and Danny both hugged me and welcomed me to the family, and they cried when Brian grabbed as much clothing from his bedroom as we could fit into the Porsche to carry back to my Condo.

It was then that it hit them that their son really was moving out.

My Parents Meet my Fiancé

"What time are your parents arriving?" he asked.

"Brian, for the twelfth time, they're arriving at three o'clock," I answered. "Relax, love, we have plenty of time. It's not like we have to worry about schlepping all the way out to O'Hare," I reminded him.

"Yes, but even Midway can be fraught with delays. We need to leave extra early. I don't want to be late," he said. "Remember what happened with my parents?"

"How could I forget?" I agreed, "and we are leaving extra early, just in case. We won't be late."

Brian was being such a baby, but I could understand how he felt. I had felt the same way when I had been about to meet his parents just two weeks earlier, and now it was his turn to meet mine. The fact that my parents were flying in on their corporate jet wasn't helping matters any, either. Although it might be more convenient and saving them time compared to a commercial flight, it was costing them a fortune, and that itself was only fueling Brian's nervousness. I had to explain that my parents would combine their visit with company business and write the trip off as a business expense, but Brian was still hung up on the fact that my parents were spending so much money, just to meet him.

"My parents may fly around the country on their private jet, but they're still just farmers," I pointed out.

"Farmers with, what, six, houses and condominiums around the country?" Brian noted, "and that doesn't even take into account the time shares outside the U.S."

"OK, so they aren't your typical farmers," I admitted.

"Aren't your typical farmers," Brian mimicked me. "That's like saying Obama isn't your typical civil servant. I bet your parents haven't touched a handful of dirt in their entire lives."

"Brian, that's not true," I countered. "Yes, it's true they have Harvard MBAs, but my grandparents made sure my father had real world experience working on farms growing up, so he'd appreciate what was involved in growing crops when he took over the family business. My mother came from a farm family, too. My parents made sure I had experience working on a farm as a teenager, as well."

"Really!" Brian said with surprise. "Wow, I can just picture you working out in the sun, the sweat beading up and running down your shirtless chest. The mere thought of it is an incredible turn-on."

We were both dressed in only our boxers and the effect this vision of me as a teenager was having on Brian was immediately apparent. Seeing him tent up like that was turning me on, too.

"Much as I'd like to make mad, passionate love to you, Brian," I said, "we will be late picking up my parents if we don't finish getting ready."

"Dammit, Will. It's just that you're so sexy, but you're right," he said as he started to get dressed.

Yeah, Brian looked his finest by the time we were ready to go pick up my parents. Now we could have taken the `L' to the airport and procured a limo from there to take my parents to their own condo on Lakeshore Drive, but limos hired at the airport were always a hit or miss proposition, so I'd made arrangements through the corporation to hire a car. That way, I knew we would be getting reliable, luxury transportation with a trustworthy driver. It was, after all, my parents' dime, and we might as well take advantage of it.

True to their word, the limo arrived exactly at the time requested. Brian was clearly taken aback by the degree of luxury, however. He was clearly out of his element from the moment we stepped inside. The vehicle was a stretch Lincoln Continental with four over-stuffed leather-clad passenger seats - two of them facing forward and two of them facing rearward, so that the occupants could converse with each other while being whisked around the city in style. A personal entertainment system that was built into the armrest of each seat was more worthy of something that might be seen on the Starship Enterprise, allowing occupants to watch television or movies of their choice. A well-stocked mini-bar on the side opposite the entry door provided passengers with whatever they might wish in the way of refreshments.

Sensing my boyfriend's unease, I said, "Brian, my parent's have modest roots. They built an organic farming empire from a family farming operation, largely by luck, a bit of hard work, and frankly by cutting more than a few corners. I've told you that before. Some of the things they've done to get where they are today . . . the political favors . . . the political action committee money and worse . . . you don't want to know about.

"You, on the other hand, have every reason to be proud of your parents. They're professionals who got where they are by a lot of hard work and by being the best they could be in their fields of work. Your mother is one of the finest transplant surgeons in the world, and your father is a curator and art restorer at one of the greatest art museums in America. More importantly, they're great people. You're lucky to have them as your parents. They sure were around a hell of a lot more than mine were. As soon as I was old enough, I was sent to boarding school in Chicago, but even before then, I hardly ever saw my parents. I was raised by my nanny. You don't know how lucky you were."

"I'm sorry, Will," Brian said. "You're right. I'm acting like an ass. It's just that I'm nervous."

"Don't be, sweetheart," I said as I placed my hand on top of Brian's. "Everything's gonna be fine," I reassured him. "My parents'll love you, just like I love you. There's nothing to worry about. Just relax and enjoy the weekend."

I tried to make idle conversation with my boyfriend on the way to the airport, but he was just so nervous, so I suggested he try out the entertainment system. It was so funny, watching him flip through the channels. I think he managed to flip through some three hundred channels in under five minutes before he was once again just sitting there with nothing to do. I couldn't help it when I started laughing hysterically. Pretty soon, we were both laughing as if there were no tomorrow. It helped, and Brian did seem to unwind a bit after that.

Finally, we pulled up at the airport, but we still had more than an hour to spare before my parents were supposed to land. At least with private aircraft, rules for security were a bit less restrictive than for commercial aircraft, but we still couldn't wander around the terminal with abandon. There was a nicely appointed lounge available for our use, and I made sure to steer Brian to it and to take advantage of the computer facilities located there to keep him occupied. At least he was able to keep himself busy with some of his class assignments while waiting for my parents to arrive.

At about five minutes before three o'clock, Brian disappeared to make use of the restroom facilities. When he returned, I noticed that his pants were unzipped. The poor guy was so nervous, he'd obviously forgotten to zip himself back up. I discretely whispered in his ear to let him know, and he went back to the men's room to take care of the problem. When he didn't emerge right away, I went to see what the problem was. Inside, I found a very distraught Brian, practically in tears.

"The zipper's broken, Will," he cried. "That's why it was open. Your parents will be here any second! What are we going to do?"

"Ah, a zipper emergency," I said. "Murphy's Law at work, here," I lamented. "Don't worry about it, Brian. These lounges are usually well supplied. Let me see if I can scrounge up some safety pins," as I ran for the door. "I'll be right back."

It was touch and go, but we did manage to get Brian closed up just in time to be there to meet my parents as they disembarked their plane, but barely. As far as my parents could tell, we'd been standing there at the gate the whole time.

"Hello, Brian," my mother said as she drew him into a tight hug - something he clearly wasn't expecting. "You look just like the pictures Will sent us of you. Will has always been a good judge of character," she said, "so you must really be someone special to have swept him off his feet the way you did." Brian couldn't help but blush, and then get a huge grin on his face.

My father extended his hand to Brian and shook his hand firmly as he said, "It's so nice to meet you, Brian. I'm looking forward to getting to know you better over the next couple of days."

"It'll be my pleasure, Mr. Kramer," Brian replied.

As we made our way into the terminal, my father asked, "So, Brian, I understand you're interested in studying Art History."

Seemingly embarrassed, Brian answered, "Yeah, I'm kind of following in my father's footsteps."

I knew exactly what Brian's response would do to my father, and so I wasn't the least bit surprised by my father's reaction, but Brian was incredibly flustered when my father stopped dead in his tracks, grabbed hold of Brian's arm.

"Brian, why are you acting as if there's something wrong with that?" he exclaimed, "Your father is curator at a top art museum. He's very well respected in art circles throughout the world. There's nothing to be ashamed of. You should be proud of your father's accomplishments, and pleased to be following in his footsteps."

Regaining his composure, Brian finally said, "Believe me, Mr. Kramer, I am pleased. I think my father's awesome and I love my parents very much. It's just that I'll never make much money in Art History, either as a university professor or as a museum curator. Not that money's ever been that important to me, but compared to what you've accomplished, Mr. Kramer . . . well, how can I compare what I'm going to be doing with my life to what you've done?"

"Brian," my father said as he put his hand on my boyfriend's shoulder, "we'll talk more in the car, but Will has more than enough money in trust to live well for the rest of his life. He didn't tell you about that, did he?" my father said as he saw the look of shock on Brian's face. I knew I'd be getting hell from Brian for keeping that little bit of information from him, but that was something I wanted to approach when the time was right, which wasn't yet. "Money should be the least of your worries in any case," my father continued. "Sometimes I think it was too much of a focus in our family. The main thing is that you pursue your dreams. I didn't build our family agribusiness into one of the world's largest purveyors of organic produce because I wanted to make a lot of money. Don't get me wrong . . . the money's nice, but I followed my dream. Thanks to that dream, more Americans have access to wholesome, organic products than ever before."

Once we were all seated comfortably in the limo - my parents sitting forward and Brian and I sitting backwards of course - I could tell that Brian had a lot on his mind that he wanted to say, but was just being too polite. Over the past few weeks I'd seen this behavior many times and if I didn't do something, he'd just simmer for hours until he suddenly blew up, wreaking all sorts of havoc. I couldn't let that happen with my parents in town for the weekend.

"Honey," I said, "there's a good reason why I didn't talk to you about the trust funds my parents set up for me. I didn't want you to think I was in any way trying to buy your love . . ."

"We'll talk about it later, Will," Brian said, "in private, when your parents aren't around. They shouldn't have to hear us air our `dirty laundry'," he suggested. "It has nothing to do with any of that, Will. I just think you shouldn't have tried to keep it from me at all, you know? After all, if we're gonna spend our lives together, that's something I should know about, but like I said, we'll talk about it later, in private. I really don't care how much, or how little money we have, as long as we have each other."

"I feel the same way, Brian," I agreed, "which is why I didn't feel it was important enough to bring up in the first place. After all, we've only known each other three weeks and there hasn't exactly been much time to discuss it yet."

"Later, Will," Brian said with a steely cold glare in his eyes.

Calming down a bit, but only a bit, Brian turned to my father and asked, "Mr. Kramer, I understand how proud you must be about the business you've built, but Will's told me about some of the `compromises' you've had to make along the way, including some things that had to be done for political expediency in the interests of the corporation. An `ends justifies the means' sort of thing, I guess. Doesn't that kind of taint your sense of accomplishment?"

Wow, I couldn't believe Brian actually asked that, and from my father's body language, it was evident that neither could he. Hopefully, he realized just as I did that Brian was scared out of his mind to ask such a loaded question.

"Brian," my father started to say, "I'm not suggesting your father would ever do anything illegal, but I know for a fact that museums often find themselves pitted against each other and against private collectors in bidding wars when it comes to obtaining famous works of art. I also know for a fact that many well-known pieces have been lost to unscrupulous collectors and outright art thieves and smugglers in recent years. Sometimes a little extra money in just the right places can make all the difference in making sure a particular piece ends up on one's own collection, or in procuring a blockbuster exhibit that can bring thousands of visitors and swell the ranks of the museum membership. The money spent in making sure it happens is just the cost of doing business, and museums are a business. These days, it's very much a matter of survival.

"Now Brian," my father continued, "if your father had an opportunity to procure, for example, the world's most extensive collection of Faberge eggs . . . a collection that heretofore was not even known to exist . . . of course he would do everything he could to do so. The collection could bring millions of visitors to the museum ultimately . . . they could redefine the museum and what it stands for, so naturally, he would want to add them to the museum's collection.

"But lets say the collection is in the hands of a private family in the city of St. Petersburg. Getting the collection for the museum would not only mean out-bidding other museums from around the world, but also getting the collection out of the Russian Federation and into the United States, and in this day and age, that usually involves bribing the right officials. Without those bribes, the proper exit permits cannot be obtained and the collection will remain in Russia. It's a small price to pay for procuring a world-class collection for the museum," my father said, "but bribes are bribes."

Taking a deep breath, my father looked my boyfriend right in the eyes and asked, "So tell me, Brian, do you think your father is above stooping to the practice of bribing public officials if necessary in a scenario such as this one, and if so, does it taint the sense of pride he has in the collection."

Looking at the floor, my boyfriend answered, "Dad has talked about this sort of thing happening on several occasions in the past. He doesn't like it . . . but sometimes it's the only way to get things done. There's a lot of corruption in the Art world, particularly in Third World countries and in the former Soviet Block. `That's just the way it is,' as he says."

Looking back up at my father, Brian continued, "I'm not sure if I'm cut out for that sort of thing, but I've heard the politics of academia can be pretty cutthroat, too . . ."

"Something you and Will would both be well-advised to keep in mind, I might add," my father interrupted.

"I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not going to be the one to judge people based on things I know nothing about," Brian looked down at the floor, and then back up into my father's eyes before continuing, "and I'm very sorry for asking you that in the first place. It really wasn't an appropriate question. I was displacing my anger at Will having kept knowledge of his trust funds from me . . . and although I still wish he'd have told me," he said as he glanced back at me, "I'm beginning to understand why he might have reasons for wanting to have waited until I'd had a chance to meet you first."

"Brian," I interrupted, "that's exactly the reason why I held off telling you. Trust me . . . it's the only reason I held off telling you. There's no way you could have ever understood the complexities involved without having met my parents, first."

"I think I can see that, now," Brian said. "No offense, Mr. Kramer, Ms. Kramer, but nothing Will told me about you could have ever prepared me for the reality of what you're like, and I truly mean that as a compliment."

"We take that as a compliment," my father answered. "We're not the cutthroat business tycoons you were expecting, are we?"

"Will told me what to expect," Brian answered, "but still, seeing is believing."

Finally, we reached my parents' condo building on Lakeshore Drive, which was at the north end of The Loop in a much more luxurious building than the one I lived in, but not nearly as convenient to the University as the one my condo occupied. The elevator opened directly to my parents' penthouse apartment, which occupied the entire top floor. The view as we stepped off the elevator was absolutely breathtaking, revealing an unobstructed panorama of the lakefront and the Chicago skyline to the south.

"Oh my GOD," were the first words out of Brian's mouth as we got off the elevator. He made a beeline for the living room windows and exclaimed, "I've been up in the Sears Tower, but it doesn't have anything over this view."

"Well, I wouldn't go quite that far, Brian," my mother said, "but with our corporate headquarters being here and with all the board meetings we attend, and with Will having gone to school here since he was ten, we've enjoyed having a place we can truly call home when we're in town. No matter how many times we visit, I never tire of this view. It's never the same, either," she continued. "It changes with the weather, and the seasons, and even in the most inclement weather, it's still beautiful.

"I could almost see us living here full-time," she added, getting a gasp from me. "The operative word being, `almost'." She looked at me and winked. "There's just something about the gently rolling hills and the wide open spaces of Iowa that's forever in our blood. Deep down, I'm still a farmer's daughter," she sighed. "Now when it came to Will's education, Iowa couldn't offer what Chicago could in terms of its private schools, which is why we chose a boarding school when he was old enough, and the University of Chicago is renowned."

"There are some things that were more important to me than a first-rate education, Mother," I countered. "I would have given anything for more time with my parents, but that wouldn't have happened, even if I'd stayed in Iowa," I sighed. "But if you really gave a shit about me, why didn't we just move to Chicago in the first place? That would have given us the best of both worlds . . . access to the best schools and time together as a family. There's no reason you couldn't have run the whole fucking company from here, either. The corporate headquarters are here, after all, and you long ago turned the day-to-day operations of the farm over to others to run. It's not like you actually had to be there.

"And as for juggling your busy careers with the responsibilities of family life," I continued my harangue, "Brian's mother's schedule as a famous transplant surgeon is busier than either of yours, and Brian's father is always jetting off to some distant corner of the world in search of a new acquisition, and yet they've always found a way to make time for their three children while you couldn't even find the time for me!"

"Enough, Will!" my father shouted back at me. "You're absolutely right. You were a trophy child . . . something to show off, like our latest toys. We should have probably never had children in the first place . . . and the fact that you turned out so well was no thanks to us. But know this, Will . . . We couldn't be more proud of you. You have turned out to be one hell of a young man, and we love you."

I was stunned. My father never said he loved me aloud.

Continuing, my father said, "It may be early too say this, but you seem to have found a fine young man with whom to share your life. I already like Brian . . . a lot, and I can see why you're so taken with him. Not only is he good looking," which caused Brian to turn a deep shade of red, "but he has an inner strength . . . he's a man of integrity and so are you. I can see that the two of you will stand by each other, come hell or high water."

"I love him, Dad. Yes, he means the world to me," I stated emphatically.

Turning to my lover, my father said, "Brian, if you hurt my son . . ."

"Not possible," Brian interrupted. "Will is the center of my universe. I'd go without food and water . . . even oxygen before I'd hurt him."

"I can see that," my father acknowledged. "But if the two of you have children, whatever you do, don't treat them the way we treated Will. Promise me that."

"We've barely begun to talk about children," Brian spoke with trepidation, wondering if the subject was something we should even be discussing in front of our parents. I had a sense that he wanted children very much, but was worried that I might not, given the terrible upbringing I'd had. Oh, how I wanted to assuage his fears!

"Right now," I said, "since we're both still in school and will be for a number of years, having children is the farthest thing from our minds, but once we're established in our careers, yes, I think adopting some kids and raising a family would be a wonderful thing to do, but I'd never take on that kind of responsibility unless I could give them the kind of love a child needs."

The look on Brian's face was priceless. He looked like he'd won the lottery. "You . . . you want kids?" he exclaimed. "Man, I've been so afraid to bring the subject up. Oh man, I want to raise a family in the worst way. In fact, the issue of possibly not having kids really bummed me out when I realized I was gay."

"Over the summer," I related, "the four gay teens who got caught up in that scandal in Washington told me a story about a couple they know who got married over the Fourth of July weekend. Their names are Randy and Altaf. Randy is a Jewish American boy and Altaf escaped from Pakistan with his mother when he was caught in bed with his best friend. Technically, he still has a fatwa hanging over his head. His best friend, former lover, was stoned to death." Everyone in the room gasped when they heard that.

"Altaf mourned the loss of his friend, whom he truly loved," I continued, "but eventually he fell in love with Randy, and after dating for two years, they married after they graduated high school as co-valedictorians. They both just started their Pre-Med studies at Yale this year."

"That's quite a story," my mother acknowledged. "Imagine, a Muslim and a Jew. It's as if it were meant to be."

"They really are the sweetest people you could ever meet, from what I'm told, but that's not the end of the story," I added. "As part of their wedding vows, they vowed to help gay kids who've been rejected by their own parents. They're going to take as many of these kids as they can into their own home, once they have the means to do so. Can you imagine that?"

"That's . . . that's beautiful," Brian said. "What an incredible thing to do. Dealing with teenagers can be difficult enough, and gay teenagers who are going through the trauma of rejection by their own family can be a real handful. I can't imagine anything more noble. Helping kids in need in general is a real calling.

"Is that what you want to do, Will?" my boyfriend asked.

"Kind of . . . yeah," I answered. "There are far too many people who spend tens of thousands of dollars in fertility clinics, bringing children into this overpopulated world when there are thousands upon thousands of unwanted, older children begging for a little affection. Why not give them a home . . . especially the gay ones? Who better to pull them out of their sorrow than a couple of guys who understand a little of what they're going through?"

Brian was up and out of his chair in a flash. He pulled me up into his arms and hugged the living daylights out of me. "I love you so much, Will. I can't believe a man like you even exists. When we met in that coffee shop and you said I was the man you were going to marry, somehow I knew it to be the truth, but with each passing day, I can feel it more and more. We're just made for each other. We may not have known each other long, but I know, deep in my heart, that you're the one for me. I can't wait for the day we're married, and joined together in an unbreakable bond of love."

I couldn't help but cry. What Brian said was so beautiful. I felt the same way about him. As we continued to hold each other in our arms and cry on each other's shoulders, I replied, "Brian, if that was a proposal, you don't need to propose. I think I already proposed the day I met you. The only question is not if, but when we should get married, and as far as I'm concerned, the sooner we do it, the better."

"Well, Thanksgiving might be a nice time. Our families will be gathering anyway, and it's a family time to get together in general, and it's a time when we have a break from school . . ." Brian suggested.

"Thanksgiving!" I shouted. "Are you out of your mind? That's only three weeks away!"

Brian started laughing hysterically and then said, "I meant Thanksgiving a year from now, honey. Man, you should have seen the look on your face. That was priceless. As much as I'd love to just elope and get it over and done with, there's no way we could pull a wedding off in only three weeks. Weddings take at least a year to plan."

We both started laughing and I looked at my mother and said, "I bet Brian just about gave you heart failure."

My mother had a very serious look on her face. She wasn't laughing at all. "HA," she exclaimed, "and what makes you think I can't pull a wedding off in three weeks?"

"Mom," I said, "get serious. No one can pull a wedding off in three weeks. You have to reserve the church, and there's the reception hall, and the minister, and the band, and the caterer, and the invitations, the formalwear . . . should I go on?"

"Will, don't be silly, you know I've arranged much more lavish affairs than a simple wedding in much less time than three weeks," she challenged me, and on serious thought, I had to admit to myself that she had, sometimes at the drop of a hat. "But tell me," she continued, is there any reason the two of you would want to wait until next year to marry, rather than getting married this Thanksgiving? As Brian said, it really is the perfect time for a wedding. You have the time off, and our families already have plans to get together . . . we just have to divert those plans to Iowa, where gay marriage is legal. So tell me, Will . . . Brian . . . are you ready to get married?"

It was funny, but we both said at the exact same time, "Absolutely," and then giggled when we realized we had. We followed that with a kiss.

"I'll tell you what," my father started to suggest. "We have dinner reservations at Soiree at seven for the four of us. Why don't I see if we can extend the reservation to six people, and we can invite your parents, Brian? Then we can celebrate your formal engagement and discuss plans for your wedding. I can tell from the look on your face you're still in a state of shock, but when my Ellie gets something in her mind, there's no stopping her. You might as well get used to it. The two of you are getting married this Thanksgiving holiday."

Dad did manage to change the dinner reservation to include Brian's parents and his parents were delighted to attend. It was very fortunate indeed that they were both in town, and that Jenny was off duty. We all agreed to wait until dinner to explain why they were being invited at the last minute. Little did they know that in three weeks, there would be a blizzard in Iowa. My mother was a force of nature to be reckoned with, but if she couldn't pull it all together, no one could.

I'm sure they must have wondered about being invited to Soiree, a very high-priced French bar and bistro, in the first place. It's quite delightful, actually, but perhaps a bit pretentious for my in-laws' taste. It's also a popular high-end dance club after ten o'clock, and I had little doubt that we'd be there long enough to witness the arrival of the dance scene. Although the clubbing would be in the back of the establishment, the music would likely infuse the entire place, making conversation difficult. Perhaps that might be a good thing, however.

My parents arranged for a limo to take us to Brian's parents' house to pick them up there, although it was way out of the way to the restaurant. It was, however, the polite thing to do. Jenny and Danny insisted on inviting us all in and showing off their Frank Lloyd Wright House to my parents, who were very impressed.

"I've always been a fan of the more classic painters, but I must say, your selection of artwork is absolutely breathtaking," my father said in admiration as he studied the oil and watercolor paintings on their walls. "We never gave Will much of a choice in decorating his condo, and something tells me with Brian living there now, they're going to want to make changes, especially in the art we selected for the place."

"Actually, Dad, Brian and I have decided we pretty much want to redecorate the place from scratch," I piped up.

"Why am I not surprised?" he asked. "We'll talk later, but I'm sure we can arrange for something after the wedding."

Jenny, who'd been talking it up with my mother from the moment we arrived, perked right up on hearing my father's comment.

"Ah, so that's what this is all about!" Jenny exclaimed. "I had a feeling these two would want to tie the knot sooner rather than later. Although we haven't known him long, we adore Will as much as Brian does."

Wow! Did she really say that?

"So when's the wedding going to be?" she asked. "Most people would take their time and spend a good year planning a wedding, but something tells me this dinner tonight is to drop a bombshell on us, am I right?" Getting nothing more than stunned silence from any of us, Jenny continued, "Ellie, I've worked with many high-powered career women in my day, and I've a lot of experience with people at the University who are used to planning events for tens of thousands of people at the drop of a hat. For them, planning a last-minute wedding would be a piece of cake, no pun intended.

"I'm tempted to think you'd plan the wedding around the Winter Holiday, but a lot of people have major plans around that time . . . ski vacations out West, trips to Hawaii, or cruises in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean . . . and not everybody has the whole week off. No, the Winter break would not be the best time for a wedding. It would be a great time for your honeymoon, however," she said as she winked at me.

"I think the best time for a wedding might be Thanksgiving. Am I right? Most people are getting together with their families for Thanksgiving anyway, but their plans are usually flexible. Given enough money, it would be a simple matter to divert entire families to Iowa, where gay marriage just happens to be legal."

"I'm glad you see it the way I do, Jenny," my mother said as she grabbed Brian's mother's arm. "It really is the perfect time for a wedding, and I know just the man to officiate, too. He's a family friend who has absolutely no problem with marrying two men. A Lutheran minister . . . I hope you don't mind, but we can discuss all the details at dinner. We really need to get going . . ."

It was really scary, the way my mother and Brian's mother hit it off so well, but they acted like old friends from the moment they were introduced to each other. Perhaps it was because of all the years Brian's mom had spent as a faculty member at the University of Chicago, dealing with rich snobs, but they genuinely seemed to like each other.

Dinner was a very enjoyable affair after all. The food of course was superb as I expected it to be, but it was actually fun planning our wedding. At first, Mom thought it might be nice to hold the ceremony and reception on an authentic Mississippi riverboat, but that could have been problematic for two major reasons. For one thing, the way the river has shifted course over the centuries, the state line actually meanders quite a bit relative to the channel, and one could never be sure of it's precise location without paying close attention to the charts. Unless we dropped anchor, we couldn't guarantee we'd be in Iowa and not Illinois when we took our vows. Secondly, the weather can be quite treacherous that time of year, and the last thing we needed was to be caught on the river in the midst of a blizzard.

We decided that we'd hold the wedding and reception at our ancestral home in Burlington, Iowa, a quaint town on the banks of the Mississippi. With that decided, we got down to planning the specifics of how big the wedding would be and whom to invite as guests. It was a tough choice, but I decided that Jeremy Kimball would be my best man. Jeremy was like a twin brother to me. Truthfully, however, all three of the other boys I'd met over the summer - David Reynolds, Trevor Austin and Kurt DeWitt - had played equally important roles in redefining who I was today, but in different ways. I'd have to find some way to work each of them into the wedding ceremony in a meaningful way.

At one point, Brian and my father got up at the same time to go to the restroom, and when they returned, they were both laughing hysterically. When I asked Brian what was so funny, he explained that he was still wearing the same pants that he had worn to the airport - the pants with the broken zipper that had to be repaired with safety pins. In going to the restroom with my father, Brian accidentally stabbed his thumb with one of the safety pins, causing him to bleed all over the place. When my dad asked what was going on, Brian ended up confessing to what had happened earlier in the day. They both ended up getting a good laugh out of it, and it had turned into a father/son-in-law bonding moment.

When 10:00 rolled around and the club scene started showing up as a hard-hitting mix of current top forty and 80's rock started to pump its way through the place, I noticed that both sets of parents were starting to sway to the beat of the music. What the fuck?

When the Bee Gees' More Than a Woman played, Dad led Mom to the back, to the Dance Club, and Danny did the same with Jenny. Sitting there in the restaurant with Brian, I was left dumbfounded.

"Don't look so shocked, Will," my boyfriend said. "This music was all the rage when our parents were dating back in their college days."

"Of course I know that," I agreed. "On an intellectual level, it makes perfect sense, but somehow, I just never pictured my parents being into the disco scene. The thought of them `clubbing' is just too much."

"So what do you say we join them?" Brian asked.

"What? Are you crazy?" I shouted above the music.

"You're too uptight, Will," Brian said as he practically dragged me out of my chair. "We just got formally engaged. We're getting married. We have reason to celebrate! Do you think anyone here cares that we're gay? We're not the only ones, you know." My eyes practically bugged out when he said that, but a quick scan of the restaurant, much to my surprise, told me he was right. And there were even more like us in back. . . .

Wedding Preparations

Although my parents' corporate headquarters were located in Chicago and they spent most of their time in Cedar Rapids where they'd built a huge mansion that I thought was garish by even their standards, their weekends were spent at our ancestral home in Burlington, Iowa, the one place that held the fondest memories for me. Located, literally, in the middle of nowhere, nestled on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, it was at best a two-hour drive from Cedar Rapids, and could take twice that long when the frequent winter storms hit. In good weather, it was a four-hour drive from Chicago, a four-hour drive from Saint Louis and a five-hour drive from Indianapolis. Even the river towns of Davenport and Rock Island were more than 2½ hours away by car. Yes, the middle of nowhere was an apt description for the town where my ancestors planted their roots, but that was one of the things that made them so self-sufficient.

The house was a huge, sprawling structure that had a colonnaded front porch with a balcony, three stories, a grand entryway with a sweeping stairway to the second floor, a ballroom, and a solarium. There were sixteen bedrooms, eighteen bathrooms, a library, a game room, and even a bowling alley. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, and for good reason - riverboat excursions had been pointing it out to tourists for years. My parents planned to retire there one day, and I fully expected I'd donate it to the public after they passed away, with a hefty endowment so that the house and gardens could be maintained for all to enjoy.

This ancestral home had served as the backdrop for a number of our family's weddings, including that of my parents. It was an idyllic setting for a wedding, although perhaps a better setting for a spring or early fall wedding than a late fall wedding. Now, the leaves were already gone from the trees and dire warnings of a major snowstorm had kept us all on the edge of our seats, worrying that people might have to cancel their travel plans. Out West, Denver had been hit with nearly two feet of snow, closing the airport and causing flight delays throughout the country. Fortunately, because my parents had arranged for most of our guests to fly into the regional airport via private jet service, commercial flight delays and cancellations were not a concern.

Nearly everyone was already here, comfortably set up at bed and breakfasts and guesthouses in town and at the local hotels, such as they were. Unfortunately, we didn't have much to choose from, particularly on short notice, and so except for the closest family members, who stayed with us, and VIP guests, who stayed in four- and five-star bed and breakfasts and guesthouses, everyone else had to stay at the local Quality Inn, Comfort Suites, Fairfield Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Burlington just didn't rate a Hilton, nor did nearby Mount Pleasant, Keokuk, or Fort Madison. Such was the plight - and the charm - of small town Iowa.

"I still can't believe you invited me to be your best man," I heard someone call out from behind me as I looked out from the sunroom toward the Mississippi River.

I turned around to see Jeremy Kimball approaching me, with David Reynolds at his side, followed closely by Trevor Austin and Kurt DeWitt. Seeing them, a huge grin took over my face. I hadn't realized just how much I'd missed them. In the short time I'd gotten to know them over the summer, they really had become my best friends. No one understood me better than they did, particularly Jeremy.

"You guys just get in?" I asked.

"Yeah, but I'll tell you, the drive here was bor-ring." David proclaimed.

"I offered to fly you guys in on a private, chartered jet," I reminded them.

"Yeah, we know," Jer acknowledged, "but we wanted to have our own wheels. My Dad was nice enough to let me borrow his Navigator so we could all ride in comfort. My Boxter only seats two, and I don't think we'd have survived the trip with four of us crammed into Trevor's Jetta. But man, the Navigator eats gas like crazy. I'm just glad my dad doesn't have a Hummer."

"I wouldn't have let us come in a hummer," David challenged his boyfriend with all seriousness. "No way, no how."

"I suppose not," Jer, countered, "but think of it this way . . . we still saved a ton of fuel compared to what a private jet would have used."

"Which is one of the reasons I'm glad we drove." Putting up his hands defensively, David continued, "I know, I can be a bit stubborn sometimes." Turning to me, he said, "Jeremy's the practical one, which is one of the reasons I love him so much."

Putting my hands on both their shoulders, I said, "You two have something special, just like Brian and I do, but I know I don't need to tell you that." Looking beyond them, I added, "Trevor . . . Kurt, you two do also. I can never repay all of you for what you've done for me. Were it not for you, I'd have never had the courage to come out, and I'd have never met Brian, the love of my life. Saying thank you just doesn't seem to go far enough.

"Anyway, welcome to bustling Burlington," I said.

"With all your friends from your childhood, I still can't believe you want me to be your best man," Jeremy reiterated.

"None of those friends are real, Jer," I said as I gave his shoulder an extra squeeze. "You guys are all real. In the short time I've known all of you, you've shown me what true friendship really means. I think you understand me better than anyone, Jer, and we're closest of all, which is why I asked you to be my best man. We share very similar backgrounds, but that doesn't mean my friendship is any less with the rest of you," I said as I gave David's shoulder an extra squeeze. "And thanks for the role your gonna play in the wedding, David. It takes a big man to do what you're gonna do."

"When you asked me," David responded, "I thought it was a big joke, but then you explained you were quite serious, 'cause Brian was the youngest in his family and you didn't have any younger brothers or sisters either, and you already had something else planned for Kurt. Being that I'm just about the tallest person here, it should inject a bit of humor into the service."

"And Trevor and Kurt," I added, "thanks for accepting your part, too."

"You can't imagine how honored I am that you asked me to co-officiate with your family minister, Will," Kurt answered. "It's such an incredible fucking honor, I can't believe it. And wait 'til you hear my baby sing. It was hearing him sing in the choir at church every week that gave me a crush on him in the first place, and his voice has only gotten better since. He plays a mean guitar, too . . ."

"Yeah, well," Trevor interrupted his fiancé as he blushed. I do OK, but next to computers and science, music is a passion of mine. As promised, I brought my Les Paul guitar with me, so I'll be rocking down the house with your band, if they can keep up with me," he laughed.

"You only need to sing the Wedding Song, unless you want to sing more," I explained. "Perhaps that's all we'll want you to sing," I teased poor Trevor, but Kurt wasn't having any of it.

"Believe me, after you hear Trev sing, you won't want him to stop," he said in all earnestness. He certainly idolized his guy, just as I did my Brian.

"By the way, congratulations, guys," I added as I drew David and Jeremy both into a tight hug.

"Thanks, man," Jeremy said and David chimed in with, "We really appreciate you remembering."

"Hey, winning the state championship is a big deal."

"First time for our school, too," Trevor said, "and it's all because of David and Jeremy."

"Yeah, yeah," David tried to laugh it off, but his boyfriend wasn't having any of that. "It is a big deal, honey. You were the team captain. You led us there. It was all you!"

"Bullshit, Jer," David said as he wiggled his way out from under my arm and confronted his boyfriend. "I may have been the team captain, but I was just the defensive midfielder. You were the offensive midfielder. You were the one responsible for setting up plays . . . for scoring. You got us the goals."

"And you kept the other teams from scoring, and got us the ball in the first place," Jeremy pointed out. "Soccer is every bit as much about defense as offense, if not more so. That's why the defensive midfielder is usually the captain. Regardless, honey, we're a team, you and I. We took our school all the way to the state championship, and backed up by some terrific players, we made it all the way, and we won."

"It's too bad you guys couldn't at least get athletic scholarships out of it," Trevor lamented.

"Yeah, what's with that?" I asked.

"Well, it's complicated," David started to explain. "We're pretty sure we'll be accepted to Harvard."

"You guys'll be accepted to Harvard," Kurt stated as if it were a known fact.

"Yeah, well we'd like to think so," David continued, "but the rules are different for early graduation, because we won't get our high school diplomas until after we start college. Sure, we'll have all the necessary credits for admission. Our grades are nearly all A's and our SATs are in the 99th percentile, so it should be a non-issue."

"You also have letters of recommendation from Obama, right?" I asked.

"Well, there is that, too," Jeremy noted, "and you'd think that would cinch it, but a lot of potential incoming freshmen have letters of support from prominent politicians."

"But Obama? The President?" I again asked.

"Because they're Harvard," David explained, "they'll let us know in the spring. It's a non-standard admission and that's the best they're willing to give us. In the meantime, we already have acceptance letters from several other schools, including yours. I have to say, we're tempted, but we really have our hearts set on Harvard, 'cause we really want to go to school with our friends, and we want to go to school in a place were our marriage is legal."

"Speaking of your marriage, have you guys set a date, yet?" I asked.

"We've decided to do what our friends, Randy and Altaf did and hold our wedding next summer over the Fourth of July weekend," Trevor explained. "It turns out the Fourth is on a weekend again next year, so it works out well for everyone concerned. We're looking right now at places in the Boston area in which to hold it."

Looking extra hard at David and Jeremy, I asked, "Are you guys gonna make it a double wedding?"

"Nah," David answered, "We'll still be only seventeen, so we're gonna wait another year."

"Yeah, but Kurt'll only be sixteen," I pointed out, "and you guys will have been together for three years. I mean, if you don't know by know that you're right for each other, how's another year gonna make a difference?"

"But . . . but Trevor will be eighteen, and shouldn't at least one of us be a legal adult?" Jeremy asked.

"If you're old enough to go away to school, I would think you're old enough to get married. Besides, you've known since you were fourteen that you intended to spend your lives together. Your parents are all supportive of your relationship, aren't they? Why wouldn't you get married?"

"Ooooh Kaaaay," Jeremy acknowledged. It's a lot to think about. Anyway, the reason we can't get an athletic scholarship is that Harvard never gives out athletic scholarships to kids taking early graduation. I can't even get one for swimming; even if I manage to make the Olympic swimming team, which I doubt I will, I won't get a scholarship. It kinda sucks. Not that we need one by any means, but we're being penalized for being smart."

"Talk about changing the subject!" I exclaimed with a laugh.

I showed my friends around my ancestral home. The views of the river weren't much to look at this time of year, and the gardens that surrounded the house were barren, but everyone was impressed, nonetheless. After our impromptu tour, I helped the guys get settled in to their lodging, which was a bed and breakfast located adjacent to our property.

After making sure all of our guests had arrived and were settled in, Brian and I retired to our room in the main house, which was my boyhood bedroom. There was little point to our sleeping separately, tradition be damned. We'd been sleeping together since the day we met, and I saw little reason to change that now, just because we'd be getting married in a couple of days. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving, and we'd be enjoying a feast with all of our wedding guests. Thanksgiving dinner would double as our rehearsal dinner.

As I snuggled up with my fiancé, Brian asked me, "You nervous?"

"Nah," I said at first, but then I admitted, "well, maybe a little bit."

"Me too, but I think everything will be fine. It's just us and our families and friends, after all."

"And my parents' business associates, and your parents' colleagues . . ." I pointed out.

"Yeah, well there is that," Brian agreed. "Just us and some three hundred of our closest friends," he laughed. "I'm amazed this house is gonna be big enough to accommodate them all.

"My ancestors were very inventive, and they had a lot of foresight when they built the place," I assured my honey. "Even the kitchen is sizable, and well laid out. The caterers were amazed it has the facilities to handle such a large crowd. Everything will be fine."

As Brian was lovingly stroking my chest, he got a mischievous look on his face and his stroking reached lower and lower until he grabbed hold of my cock.

"I just can't help myself, Will, you're so damn sexy." He leaned forward and we kissed passionately as he continued to stroke me below. Finally letting go so that he could caress me, our kiss turned into a full-blown make-out session as we ground our pelvises into each other. Soon our kisses became licks, nips and sucks. Before long, Brian was buried deep inside of me, right where he belonged. Everything was perfect in our lives, and we couldn't have been more content when we finally drifted off to sleep a long while later.

We awoke late the next morning to the most incredible combination of aromas. We were absolutely starved, but our guests kept arriving and, being the gracious hosts we were, we never did get a chance to grab a bite until it was time for dinner, and what a Thanksgiving dinner it was!

The caterers we hired put together an absolute feast. It was as close to an authentic, traditional, home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner as one could have for some three hundred guests crammed into our modest ballroom. I was impressed. Of course, there were the usual speeches, and I was so embarrassed. I also got to meet Brian's older brother and sister for the first time. They were really nice, just like Brian. They made me feel so welcome, but they embarrassed the hell out of Brian when they roasted him at dinner. It was great!

None of us could move by the end of the day. I wasn't sure how we'd have room for dinner after the wedding on Friday, but I guess somehow we'd manage. Brian and I could barely mange to lie next to each other in bed, let alone make love to each other that night. We were stuffed to the gills!

The Wedding Day

Friday, the day of our wedding, dawned bright and sunny. I'd been so worried about the weather, and was glad to see that my worries had been baseless. I thanked God that the bad weather had stayed out West. Everything was perfect.

We started the day with a light brunch for the immediate family and close friends, including those who would be involved in the wedding ceremony.

Before long, it was time for us all to get dressed. Brian and I were both wearing pure white tuxedos with contrasting midnight blue shirts and cummerbunds that I thought brought out Brian's eye color beautifully. Our best men - Brian's brother and Jeremy - as well as the other `men of honor' - meaning David, Trevor, and Kurt, as well as both our fathers - were dressed in the reverse color scheme. Brian's sister and both our mothers were dressed in matching dark blue dresses. We looked good, if I did say so myself.

It's funny, but I never pictured geeky Trevor as a musician. My friends were full of surprises. Besides Trevor, we'd hired a full six-piece band that included a violin, a cello, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, a keyboardist and a drummer. The ensemble played a very nice progression of soft music as the guests were seated for the ceremony. I was surprised, however, when Trevor joined them well ahead of the ceremony. I had expected him to sing only one song - Noel Paul Stookey's version of the Wedding Song, for Brian's and my march down the aisle. Instead, he joined the band and sang an entire repertoire of soft love songs. Obviously I knew he must love music from the way he'd nearly gone to jail for having thousands of music downloads on his computer, but I had no idea he could play the guitar as well as he did, nor that he owned a classic guitar. The real surprise, however, was his voice - it was beautiful. Man, could Trevor sing. He sounded so much like Coldplay's Chris Martin, it sent chills down my spine.

Just before the wedding was to start, Trevor sang Mellencamp's rendition of Brian Philips' words set to music - the other Brian Philips, that is, the wonderful song, Why Do I Feel This Way? It brought me to tears. It brought everyone to tears, I think. God, to think it could have been my Brian that had taken his own life . . . I shuddered at the thought.

Finally, Trevor started to sing The Wedding Song, which was my cue. I walked down the aisle on my mother's arm. My father and Jeremy waited for me at the front of the Ballroom, as did our longtime family minister, the Reverend Jenkins, and Kurt. I was so nervous, I nearly tripped on the red carpeting several times, although it was smooth and flat as could be. Brian followed behind me on Jenny's arm, and joined Danny and his brother, Tom on the other side of the aisle.

Once everyone was in place, the Reverend Jenkins began.

"I could begin this ceremony with `Dearly Beloved' and all that sanctimonious crap, but that really belies the importance of the event we are all here to bear witness unto this day. The joining of two souls is always a special event, but the wedding ceremony is just that . . . a ceremony that makes official in the eyes of the law what we hope God has already recognized as the union between compatible human beings. Many here already know this, and I'm sure many more will be surprised to discover that this is not the first time I have officiated at a ceremony marking the joining of a same-sex union. This is just the first time the State of Iowa has seen fit to afford legal recognition to this type of union and to grant it the same status as that between a man and a woman, and to that, I say it's about damn time!

I couldn't believe it when the whole crowd broke out in spontaneous applause. It felt like we had been vindicated.

Continuing, the reverend said, "Love knows no bounds, and when love occurs between two members of the same sex, it is no less natural than between a man and a woman. It is no less God's plan. Love is always part of God's plan.

"Will, Brian, I understand you knew you would marry from the moment your eyes fell on each other," he continued and we both nodded in the affirmative. "How much more obvious can it be that this love is God's love . . . that this love is God's will . . . a love that was meant to be for all eternity?"

At this point, Kurt took over and said, "Will, when we first met, you were a lost soul. We met in Washington during your White House internship. You picked us up at the airport, and although you were trying to play the role of a straight man, it was obvious to all of us from the start that you were in the closet, and miserable."

I was shocked at hearing these words. Was it really that obvious?

"Yes, it was that obvious," Kurt added with a laugh, which made everyone else laugh. "When Trevor and I joined hands, I could see the look of longing in your eyes as if to ask, `Why can't I have that?'

"It didn't take long for us to confirm what we knew to be the case . . . not that you were obvious or anything, and not that we possess gaydar, but you were miserable. You were so stubborn, however, and even when we tried to show you there was a way to be what you wanted to be and to be out and proud, you still couldn't see past the way you'd always believed you had to live your life.

"Sadly, life has a way of evening the score, and while we can never feel happy about the tragedy of the life of Sherrie Williams, know this . . . the outcome of her life is not in any way your fault. You cannot undo what she did to herself, but if there is a silver lining, it's that you learned an important lesson . . . that living a lie isn't worth it. You also learned, I hope, that you have friends who will stand by you, no matter what. We love you, Will, and will always be there for you, and for the one you love."

Turning to my fiancé, Kurt continued, "Brian, when Will texted us to say he'd met the man he was going to marry, at first we thought he was pulling our legs, but then he e-mailed us photos of the two of you, and we could see from the looks in your eyes just how much in love you were, and we knew that you had both found true love. I know all about love at first sight. I had it with Trevor, and Trevor had it with me. My good friends David and Jeremy had it with each other. They've been together for nearly two and a half years, now. Anyone who says it doesn't last has no idea what they're talking about.

"But know this, Brian. We love Will in our own way, too, and if you do anything to hurt Will, there's no place far enough away for you to hide. You got that?" Kurt asked as he winked. "Seriously, guys, I love you both, and I wish you the best of luck, and all the love in the world.

"Now since I'm only sixteen, and barely at that, and just about to enter college, let alone seminary, I'm going to hand the ceremony back to Reverend Jenkins to officiate, so that your marriage will be legal."

"Thank you, Kurt," the Reverend said. "You're wise beyond your years."

Turning to the crowd at large, he asked of no one in particular, "Can you believe he's only sixteen?

"Actually, I had to ask him to restrain himself from his original plans to extensively quote the Bible to `prove' that gay marriage is valid. I told him that would actually be counterproductive, as our Savior, Jesus Christ, himself has already weighed in on the subject as far as I'm concerned, and besides, the Iowa Supreme Court has settled the matter from a legal standpoint, so why belabor the issue? However, I'll tell you, I've never found anyone who can quote chapter and verse like Kurt Dewitt can. Also, please note that he and Trevor Austin, the young man who sang for us today, will be getting married this summer. I think you'll agree, they make quite a couple." The reverend started clapping and pretty soon, everyone was following suit.

"Will and Brian, you asked to keep things simple, so without further delays, we'll have the recital of your vows," the reverend stated. "May we have the rings, please?" he asked.

In a moment meant to inject some levity into the service, rather than having a little boy or girl bring the rings out on a small pillow, David, probably the tallest person present, brought the rings out on what had to be largest satin-clad pillow I'd ever seen. Each ring was on its own stand - otherwise they might have become lost in proportion. Not many people could have pulled it off, but David just smiled his crooked, killer smile as we took the rings from him, and he then gave his boyfriend a quick peck on the cheek as he passed by before returning to take a seat back among the guests.

Reverend Jenkins nodded to me, and I then looked at Brian and nearly became lost in those deep pools of blue behind his bronze-rimmed glasses that complemented his face so well.

Grabbing hold of his left hand, I said, "Brian, as you've heard today, I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, but one thing that has never been an issue is my judgment of character. From the moment I set eyes on you, I knew you were someone special. I knew you were a man of integrity . . . an honest man capable of bestowing infinite love, boundless compassion and who would never, ever do anything other than the right thing. How I wish I could say I'd always been the same way, but I can honestly say that I will always do the right thing from this day forward, forever more.

"Brian, with this ring, I promise to love, honor and cherish you every day that I draw breath, in sickness and in health, no matter whether we have plenty, or fall on ill fortune, and even should we make mistakes. No matter what happens in life, I will be by your side, for such is the power of the bond we share.

"We both have our careers, you in Art History and me in The Law, and both of us in Academia, but even if our career interests change, I will respect your career goals and will be supportive of your growth and development, as I hope you will be of mine. We will work together to be supportive of one another, complementing each other's career development even as we recognize the importance of setting aside time for ourselves as a couple, without which, our love cannot flourish. Above all else, I pledge myself to maintain open communication, which is the cornerstone of any relationship. I love you, Brian Philips, and dedicate myself to loving you for the rest of my days.

"With this ring, I dedicate myself to building a family with you, taking in others in need. There are many children in need of our love, and we have much love to give. It won't be easy, but true love never is. Along with you, I dedicate myself to taking in the unwanted children, particularly gay children, whose parents have discarded them simply because they are gay.

"With this ring, I take you, Brian Philips, to be my lawful wedded husband, 'til death do us part and perhaps beyond," I concluded as I slipped the ring onto Brian's ring finger.

"Dearest Will," Brian started, "when I first saw you, I knew you were a man of integrity and beauty. Yes, you had made some mistakes along the way, whereas I had lived a sheltered life and was naïve, but in spite of my lack of experience, I knew that you and I were meant to be together for all eternity.

"With this ring, I promise to love, honor and cherish you every day that I draw breath, in sickness and in health, no matter whether we have plenty, or fall on ill fortune, even should we make mistakes that we will continue to learn from. No matter what happens in life, I will be by your side, and perhaps even beyond, for such is the power of the bond we share.

"Yes, we both have careers, you in The Law and me in Art History, and both of us in Academia, but even if our career interests change, I will respect your career goals and will be supportive of your growth and development, as I hope you will be of mine. We will work together to be supportive of one another, complementing each other's career development even as we recognize the importance of setting aside time for ourselves as a couple, without which our love cannot flourish. Will, I pledge to maintain open communication, as this is the cornerstone of any relationship. I love you, and throughout the rest our lives, I will be in love with you.

"With this ring, I dedicate myself to building a family with you, taking in others in need. True love is never easy, but there are many children in need of our love, and we have so much love to give. Along with you, I dedicate myself to taking in the unwanted children, particularly gay children whose parents have discarded them simply because they are gay.

"With this ring, I take you, Will Kramer, to be my lawful wedded husband, 'til death do us part, and perhaps beyond," Brian concluded as he slipped the ring onto my ring finger.

"By the power vested in me by the State of Iowa," the reverend stated, "I hereby pronounce you husbands in holy matrimony."

With those simple words, we were married! Leaning forward, we wrapped each other in our arms and kissed each other - not passionately, but warmly and lovingly - for the first time as a married couple. I was ecstatic. Brian was my husband! Wow! Everyone cheered as we made our exit while Trevor sang We've Only Just Begun, an old Carpenters song that's been a staple of weddings since before I was born.

The Blizzard

Because the reception was being held in the ballroom, with dancing in the atrium, we needed to clear both areas of guests in order for the caterers to have time to set up for the evening festivities. The original plan had been for guests to return to their hotels and guesthouses between the ceremony and the reception to freshen up, but a quick look out the windows revealed that the weather had deteriorated rapidly during the wedding ceremony and we couldn't exactly send our guests into what appeared to be a rapidly developing snowstorm. In fact, a quick check of my iPhone indicated that there had been a major revision in the weather forecast, and we were now under a winter storm warning and were expecting two to three feet of snow and wind gusts of up to one hundred miles an hour. In other words, while Brian and I had taken our vows, a blizzard had moved in.

"Do you think maybe we should cancel the reception and try to get everyone back to their hotels before it gets any worse?" Brian suggested.

"Nonsense," my father said, interjecting some common sense into the conversation, and he was right, too, "it'd be foolhardy to try going out in this shit." God love him for telling it like it was. "The snow could bury folks alive, even trying to go the few miles into town. We've got diesel generators - the hotels do too, but I guarantee you, we're much better equipped in terms of fuel, food and water to deal with a lengthy power outage than they are. Putting up with three hundred guests could be a bit of `fun', but we Kramers have never failed to rise to the occasion," he said with a chuckle.

"So we hold the reception as if nothing's happened?" Brian asked.

"Son," my father said as he clasped his new son-in-law on the shoulder, "can you think of a better way to take people's minds off what's going on outside than to party it on up, inside?"

"Well when you put it that way, Dad, I guess not," Brian replied.

My father smiled warmly at Brian, the way he called him `Dad'. I think he really appreciated it.

Still, we needed to find a way to clear the ballroom and atrium, then set things up for the reception while the guests were still in the house, which presented a new challenge we hadn't been expecting. That meant taking full advantage of every other space available, from the living room, to the dining room, to the game room and the library, but damned if we didn't manage to find a way of dispersing our guests throughout the house without it looking like we were doing so. For one thing, people wanted to see the place, and people had their interests, be it playing games with friends, or exploring our book collection, or just engaging others in friendly conversation.

As we made our preparations for the reception, the weather outside continued to worsen and before long, it became impossible to see anything but white. I remembered toughing out some pretty bad blizzards in my youth, and was glad we'd asked everyone to stay put. Going out in a total whiteout could be suicide - literally.

After a while, the lights flickered, and then they went out completely. Within seconds, the generators kicked in and the lights came back on. Our landline phone and Internet service went out as well, but at least our cellular service held for the time being. Dad made some calls to ascertain how everyone was, and found that virtually the entire town was without power. Of course around these parts, as isolated as we were, anyone that didn't have an emergency backup generator had to have at least some source of heat that wasn't dependent on electricity, be it a wood-burning fireplace, or a kerosene heater. Storms like these always caught some elderly widows by surprise, however, often with tragic results. I cringed thinking of that.

"How much diesel oil do we have?" I asked my father.

"More than enough for your reception and to keep everyone comfortable for a week if we have to," he answered.

"From the looks of that storm," I said, "we may have to."

"It wouldn't be the first time, Will," my father said.

"Talk about unusual honeymoons," Brian chimed in.

"Aw come on . . . it'll be just like camping in, babe," I chided my . . . husband . . . wow; it was still taking some time to wrap my brain around the concept that Brian and I were married.

"Yeah, with three hundred of our closest friends," he chided me back.

"Oh shit, what are we gonna do for sleeping arrangements for our guests?" I wondered aloud. "There's no way we can accommodate three hundred people at once. Even with two people to a bed, making use of every bed, hide-away and air mattress I know of in the house, you could sleep at most around sixty or seventy people, tops."

"It may not be elegant, Will," my father said, "but some folks will just have to sleep on the floor."

"What if people slept in shifts?" Brian suggested. "It might not be the most aesthetic solution, for people to share bed sheets, but it sure would beat sleeping on the floor. Seriously, however, if we split the day into four six-hour shifts, we could give everyone a reasonably comfortable place to sleep for a solid six hours. We could start the first shift early . . . during the reception even. We could have people sign up for the various shifts."

"You know, that's not a bad plan," I said, "and it would beat the hell over having people sleep on the floor."

"And six solid hours in a real bed is a lot better than tossing and turning on a hard floor, too," my father added. "You're a pretty smart guy, Brian," he said as he wrapped an arm around my husband. "You make me proud, son." With that, Brian was grinning from ear to ear.

At the start of the reception a short time later, my dad explained the arrangements to all our guests.

"First of all, I want to welcome everyone to beautiful Burlington, Iowa, and to our home. We couldn't be more proud of our son, Will, and our new son-in-law, Brian. Aren't they a lovely couple?" Everyone cheered, which almost made me cry.

"Now you may have noticed that we've arranged for some cozy Iowa weather for the occasion. You know, `over the river and through the woods' kind of weather, but a bit on the extreme side. We've been in touch with the authorities, and the storm's expected to dump a minimum of two to three feet of snow on us, but with winds of up to a hundred miles an hour, we can expect snow drifts of up to six feet in places before the storm dies down later tonight.

"It's often been said that we're in the middle of nowhere, and that's pretty much true. When this town was built, the main transportation artery was the Mississippi, and little has changed since then. It'll take a few days before the airport runways are cleared, and a good week before the roads in and out of town are passable. Even to get from our house into town won't be possible for two or three days, so we're all stuck here for the time being.

"The good news is that although we've lost power, we have backup generators with enough diesel fuel to last us more than a week." Looking around at the tables, he added, "We have more than enough food on hand for the duration as well, and our water comes from a well, so potable water is no problem at all. The biggest issue is how we're all going to sleep until we can get you back to your hotels and guesthouses, and it was my wonderful genius of a son-in-law who came up with the solution.

"If we take advantage of every bed, hide-away and air mattress we have in this house, we can sleep up to about eighty folks at a time. Now those words are the key . . . `at at time'. Rather than having most of you sleep on the floor, the solution is to have you sleep in shifts, so everyone can sleep in a bed or at least on a mattress of some sort in comfort and in peace and quiet.

"What we're going to do is to have you all sign up for one of four six-hour shifts, the first one of which starts in just two hours. Those of you who sign up for the first shift will want to excuse yourselves in about an hour and a half, as we do insist that you shower before bed, since you'll be sharing a set of sheets with three other people. I know that almost no one has a change of clothing, here, but we've managed to scrounge up pajamas for everyone to sleep in, and we do ask that you wear them to bed, for the sake of those who'll share your bed.

"If you'll mark your underwear with a Sharpie, we'll wash your underwear along with the towels while you sleep. We also have toothbrushes for everyone. I know it sounds a bit like summer camp, but please bear with us, and you'll have quite a tale to tell your grandchildren some day?

"OK, I have four sign-up sheets in my hands here, with spaces to sign up for each available bed or mattress. These are first-come, first served. I'll set these up on four different tables, so the early risers will know to go to one table and the night owls to another, and everyone else to one of the tables in-between. Please make sure you sign up to sleep with someone who is compatible with you. I don't want any whining after the fact that someone made inappropriate sexual advances . . . these arrangements are for sleeping . . . not for dating.

"Now I'm setting these up in the four corners of the ballroom," he said as he pointed to each one. "First shift, second shift, third shift and last shift. If everyone will go to one of those corners and sign up in an orderly fashion, we can then let this wedding reception begin!"

It took nearly a half-hour for everyone to sign up. Brian and I took the last shift. We figured we'd tough it out and keep everyone company until the bitter end.

Dinner was amazing, and there was not an ounce of turkey in sight! I assumed we'd be seeing lots of turkey leftovers in the coming days, but thankfully, it was not on the menu for our wedding reception. We started off with an incredible corn chowder and gourmet coleslaw that was like nothing I'd ever tasted. These were accompanied by fried biscuits - a Midwestern delicacy that might not exactly be healthy for the heart, but boy, were they ever good. Next came a Cornish game hen that was way beyond my expectations. These caterers were amazing. Jeremy had no problem with eating poultry, but David was a vegetarian and although he would eat seafood, he wouldn't eat the game hen, so for him and a few other vegetarians, we had a vegetarian crepe that he said was outstanding.

The next course consisted of corn-fed genuine Iowan prime rib of beef, served with a twice-baked potato, string beans, and real baby carrots - not the fake kind. For the vegetarians, including Jeremy in this case, we had a choice of a salmon steak, which Jeremy chose, or eggplant parmesan, which was David's choice. They both said their entrées were excellent. The second meat course was followed in true European tradition with a plate of greens and cheeses. Finally, it was time for the wedding cake, which was appropriately topped with two grooms!

As Brian and I attempted to feed cake to each other, Trevor sang Cut the Cake . . . man, I didn't think Trevor had it in him to jive like that. After that, damned if Trevor didn't keep singing with the band. He sang the traditional, "Oh how we danced on the night we were wed," as Brian and I took our first dance out in the atrium, but then he just kept on singing song after song in every kind of style of music, from jazz, to pop, to classic rock. I couldn't believe he hadn't practiced with the band.

Finally, I went up to him and said, "Trevor, you don't have to entertain us. You're a guest. The band's being paid for this and you should be relaxing and enjoying the evening."

Trevor replied, "But I want to, Will. It gives me great pleasure to sing at your wedding. I'm enjoying it no end."

"As are we all, bud," I told him, "It's the best gift you could have given me."

"We do have a real gift for you, too," he countered.

"That may be," I said, "but this is something that I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Man, could Trevor ever play the guitar, and could he ever sing? Who knew?

Brian and I danced the night away as the storm raged outside. The first shift left us before the cake was even cut, but then returned to join us later that night for a little dancing and what I guess for them was . . . breakfast! By the time the third shift was getting ready to leave for bed, the storm was petering out and the sun was visible in the sky. My teenage friends stayed with us the whole time, waiting for the fourth and final shift.

Looking out across the barren landscape, Kurt said, "It's beautiful in a way . . . all that untouched, flawless white expanse. I just hope no one's trapped or in serious danger. As soon as the roads are cleared, I want to help check on people . . . the elderly and infirm who got caught unawares by this storm."

"You're a good man, Kurt," I commented as I patted my friend on the shoulder and handed him a steaming mug of coffee. "Trevor's lucky to have you."

"I'm lucky to have Trevor," he replied. "This is great coffee, by the way."

"It's from a local coffee roaster, prepared just the way you like it. And by the way, thanks for all you said at the ceremony yesterday," I added. "It was awesome."

"I expect to see you at my wedding this summer, now," he replied.

"Not even a blizzard in July could keep me away."

Just then, David and Jeremy came up and looked out the window with us. "It's very impressive," Jeremy said.

"So you think it'll take a week before the roads are clear enough for us to drive home?" David asked.

"Prolly," I replied, "and I don't need to tell you we're an hour away from Interstate 74 on secondary roads, even without the snow. Once they reopen Interstate 74, and probably Interstate 80, which I'm sure was also closed by the blizzard, and maybe Interstates 39, 55 and 57, not to mention 380, 180 and 155, maybe then they'll get around to clearing US 34. We'll have the airport cleared long before that."

"I thought we might volunteer to help out in the community," Kurt mentioned to his friends.

"Sounds good to me," Trevor said as he approached.

"Count us in," David added.

"Will sure hit the jackpot when he met you guys," Brian said as he joined us.

"You're our friend, too, Brian," David countered. "You've married into the family."

"I like that idea," Brian said with a smile on his face. "Will always spoke fondly of you guys from the very moment that we met."

"Really?" Jeremy exclaimed.

"You better believe it," Brian answered, "and he was right, too. You guys are special, and I'm glad I'm getting to know you."

"It looks like you're gonna get to know us even better during the coming week," Jeremy commented, "but I already know why Will fell in love with you at first sight. You're someone special, Brian, and we already love you the way we love Will."

"Thanks," Brian said. "I already feel a bond with you guys. It's hard to explain it, but I feel we'll all be friends for life."

"That, Brian," I said, "is something you can count on. Now let's go find someplace where we can be alone and . . ." I bounced my eyebrows with a smile, ". . . consummate our marriage?"

"In a house with three hundred guests . . . we'll be lucky to have any privacy," Brian grinned.

"Well . . . notwithstanding," David said, "How is this weather going to affect your plans for the honeymoon?"

"With classes resuming on Monday back in Chicago," I explained, we weren't planning to take our honeymoon until the winter break anyway, but with Brian at my side, every day's a honeymoon."

"That's so sweet, and the feeling's mutual," my husband said.

"Now speaking of privacy, Brian, did I ever mention there's a place up in the attic where I used to sneak away with boys now and then?" I asked. "Let me show it to you. . . ."

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Alastair in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting them.

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