"Plaquemines Parish" Part 19

By: Pee Jay



It was late April when Mom started calling with all kinds of details about the wedding. It was scheduled for May fifteenth, which was a Saturday. She was driving me nuts with her questions. I was happy for her and hoped everything would work out for the best. I didn't want to be in on the planning process though. I didn't have anything to offer; hell, I'd never been to a wedding in my life. What was I supposed to say, and furthermore, what did it matter? If she wanted something to be a certain way, then so be it, whatever made her happy. I did my best to be patient and indulge her, though, knowing it was important to her.

One Friday evening, I was sitting by the koi pond in my bathing suit reading one of Steve's spy novels while they sat in the spa. Mike was leaning against Steve while Steve held him in his arms. It was a little unusual to see Mike like that and I didn't think it was a big deal at the time.

"Hey, Sport," Mike hollered.

I looked up, pointed to my chest and said, "You mean me, Val?" I wondered if I'd ever shake that damn nickname. I needed to do some serious thinking to come up with a name for him.

Then he motioned for me to join them. I walked over and kicked my sandals off then sat with my legs dangling in the water. "What's up, Mike?"

"Now that you've been accepted to Tulane, were you planning to move out when school starts?"

"Sort of," I said eyeing him then Steve. It was as good a time as any to plant the seed.

"Sort of? What does that mean?" he asked skeptically. "You've got something up your sleeve. Let's have it."

I grinned at Steve who returned my smile because Mike, as usual, was correct. "Well, I've been thinking," I said. "I have, what seems to me, a very good idea, one I'm sure you'll agree with." Then I paused for emphasis before continuing.

Mike, ever the proactive one, took the opportunity to say, "That remains to be seen."

"Well, I have a proposition for you. Tulane is straight up St. Charles Avenue and the streetcar stops next to campus. Work is half way between Tulane and here. Sooo, it would make perfect sense if Mark and I stayed in the guesthouse come fall." Then, before he could respond, I quickly added, "We would pay rent, of course, and we would also take care of keeping the house clean; I mean the main house and the guesthouse, too. We could also take care of the yard and all the other things I do now as part of my room and board. That way, we could stay together. You know, still be a family." Then I drew the corners of my mouth toward my ears indicating the tentative nature of my proposal. When I looked at Steve, he was smiling while Mike shook his head with a grin. "What?" I asked. "It makes sense to me."

"I'm sure it does," Steve said. "You've obviously given that some thought."

"Yeah," Mike agreed. "So when did you hatch this one?"

"Does it matter, Mike? The important thing is that it's a great idea and very workable, too. What do you think? You guys will receive rent for something that's standing idle." I was hoping he would go for it so Mark and I could have our own place and still be with Mike and Steve. Mom already said she would go with whatever I wanted when we were in Natchez, so that hurdle had been cleared.

"We'll see, Sport," Mike said. "Steve and I want to talk it over before we decide. Are you going to be one of those kids that never leaves home?"

"I'm not a kid, Mike. Besides, if I don't stick around you won't have anyone to blame for that gray hair that's creeping in. And the rest of it sounds like you're trying to get rid of me." I didn't like the implication much. I certainly disliked the way it made me feel.

"Easy, young man," Mike said. "You're getting ahead of yourself again."

"Whatever," I said drawing my legs out of the spa to stand.

Mike stood up and took a step in my direction. He reached out and pulled me by the arm into the water. I landed on my feet then he drew me into a hug. I put my arms around him then he held my head to his chest squeezing me with this other hand. It felt really good. After a few silent moments, Mike said, "I didn't mean it that way, Sport. You'll always be welcome here. Always."

"That's right," Steve said.

I cleared my throat then said, "Thanks, you guys. That means a lot." And I wasn't kidding either. Steve and Mike were my family and the thought of being unwelcome was, well, I didn't want to think about it. As far as I was concerned, I was home and wasn't looking forward to a change anytime soon. Hell, I had enough change over the last few months. What I wanted was something I could count on and Mike and Steve were exactly that. They were my family.

I eased my hold on Mike then looked up to see him smiling. It was the nicest, most sincere smile he'd ever given me, and I couldn't resist a grin myself. He let me go then I punched him in the arm, affectionately.

He put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Sit with us a while. It's been a long time since we talked."

"Okay," I said. He positioned me between Steve and himself then we sat with our shoulders a little above water.

Mike said, "I don't have any gray hair, do I?" He looked at Steve for verification.

Steve and I both started giggling. He definitely had a few gray hairs, which were easy to spot since his hair was dark.

Steve said, "Mike, I don't see a problem with them renting the guesthouse. It's been nice not having to do house and yard work."

"I'll tell you what, Sport. If it's okay with Steve then it's okay with me. The first time you or Mark takes my parking spot in the garage, there's going to be hell to pay. Okay?"

I winced inwardly as I looked at his car in the driveway while mine was parked in the garage. All I could do was nod in agreement. The last thing I wanted was to make another lame excuse and endure his wrath.

We talked for quite some time until the lights around the koi pond and backyard came on making the environment calm and soothing. It was a beautiful spring evening, too early in the season for the cicadas to be out. The birds were beginning to quiet down while a full moon made its ascent in the eastern sky. Steam rose from the spa since the water was warmer than the cool evening air. There was a mystic quality about it making our conversation all the more meaningful.

Steve put his arm around me as a gesture of affection. I felt his armpit hair on my shoulder and got aroused. He was the kind of guy that oozed sex appeal and didn't know it ... if that were possible. I wanted to be like him but it seemed like a long shot. But how could I be like him? He was cool and I was ... well, me.

Steve squeezed me then let go saying, "Val, when is graduation? I have a place in mind for you at the firm but I need to know when to expect you."

"Graduation is June ninth, it's a Saturday. Then Mark and I are taking a week off since we worked over Spring break. We're going to Galveston. Hey, what are you guys getting me for graduation anyway?"

We weren't planning on going anywhere but I wanted to get Mike geared up, which wasn't hard to do.

"Would you care to re-phrase that, Sport?" Mike said as more of a statement than a question.

See what I mean?

"I thought I expressed myself rather well," I said suppressing a strong urge to grin.

Mike cleared his throat. That was his typical lead-in to a lecture so I decided to end my charade before I had to listen to another sermon.

"I'm just kidding, Mike. I wanted to see what you would say. That's all. Oh, and you have another gray hair ... right here," I said plucking a hair from his head.

Mike jerked his head and pursed his lips while I looked at Steve who was grinning. Mike grabbed the back of my neck and pushed my head toward the water. He held my face a few inches above it then said, "Boy, this is tempting." Then he let me go.

"Mike, you messed my hair up," I said in protest. I had to object to something to halfway save face. Then he really did mess my hair. "Mike!"

The first of May rolled around placing Mom and Bill's wedding two weeks away. It seemed like I was going to use all the minutes on my cell phone for the first time that month. Every time my phone rang, it was Mom and it was ringing a lot. I asked her to send CK an invitation since she hadn't met him and didn't know we were friends. She said there was a table reserved for anyone I wanted to invite, which I thought was pretty cool. I called Dave and asked him if he were interested in attending. He said he was so I invited him and a guest. She sent Mark's mother and stepfather an invitation since she and Mark's mother had become close because of Mark and me.

In one of our many conversations, Mom said she invited all the people from her department at work including her boss. Somehow, she managed to talk Mike and Steve into ushering at the church ceremony. I liked that a lot, having them participate made it seem like a real family affair. Oh yeah, and I was proud to have my two handsome dads on display for everyone to see.

Mark needed a tuxedo because he was bearing the rings. That was Bill's idea and, I must say, a very good one that we both liked. Bill had taken a special interest in Mark and his future. Their relationship had steadily evolved to the extent that Mark confided in him regularly and they saw each other at the club nearly every day when Bill wasn't out of town. They got along well. Mark found it much easier talking to Bill rather than his stepfather. Besides, Frank was a redneck and couldn't give Mark much guidance where education and careers were concerned. I was more than happy for them.

Mark and I went with Bill, Steve, and Mike to be fitted for tuxedos. We made an afternoon of it then Bill treated us to dinner at the club. Over dinner, Bill said his best man was going to be his brother-in-law who he said was also his best friend. Mark asked Bill why he didn't go with us. According to Bill, he had to work. He was the sales manager at a Ford dealership in Chalmette.

Bill offered to adopt me after the wedding, which would make me legally his son, although Mark seemed to fit the role much better than I did. He told me to think about it and not to feel pressured into it. I had two great dads that I cared a lot for, so sharing Bill wasn't a problem. Before I decided anything, I wanted to talk it over with Mike and Steve. I didn't have a clue what issues were involved and I wasn't big on the idea of replacing them. I loved Mike, as tough as he was, and Steve, too. I admired everything about him.

The next week, things began to get hectic. Mark said Bill appeared wired and I wondered if it was self-induced or if it were Mom wearing him out. Either way, I was glad to have the distance between us to serve as a buffer.

That Friday, I was sitting with CK, Lorna, and Patrice in the cafeteria at school eating lunch.

"So are you going to the wedding?" Patrice asked CK.

He nodded because he was chewing. After he swallowed, he said, "Yeah, I'm going alone because I don't have anyone to go with."

Patrice raised her eyebrows as she looked at the ceiling. I wanted to say something but I looked away instead. Man, if CK didn't grow a set, and soon, he was going to be one lonely dude. I knew Patrice wouldn't let something like that go so I waited to see what she was going to say. Lorna sat there poised with a thinly veiled smile making me wonder what she was thinking.

"Well?" Patrice asked, staring at him.

"Well what?" CK replied.

"She isn't going to invite herself."

CK looked across the table at me. I raised my eyebrows and cocked my head in Lorna's direction as if to say, `Get `er going dude'.

CK flushed up then looked down at the tray in front of him. He raised his gaze sideways to look at Lorna. He was cute as hell and my heart went out to him for the embarrassment he was surely feeling. He moved his mouth but nothing came out. Patrice and I burst out laughing. We had to hang on to each other for support. I wanted to stop but I couldn't. It was too damn funny, actually hilarious.

Finally, we got control of ourselves in time to see Lorna put her hand on CK's shoulder and whisper in his ear. When she finished, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. The tenderness that Lorna showed was touching. Affection was definitely in the air.

The bell rang so we collected our things then rose to leave. Usually we went our separate ways. That day, CK said something to Lorna then followed me out of the cafeteria. After Lorna and Patrice disappeared in the hall, CK said, "She's going to the wedding."

"I didn't hear you ask her and I never heard her accept. Do you two share a common wavelength or what? How do you know?"

"While you and Patrice were acting like idiots, she leaned over and said she would love to go with me." Then he let a huge grin overtake his face.

"I think her kowalski's are bigger than yours," I said then chuckled and started walking away.

"Wait up, Val," he said then caught up with me. "We need a ride. Can you pick us up on the way to the church?"

"I don't know, CK. I have a lot to do tomorrow and I'll be going to the church at least a couple hours early. Then, we have to think about the reception, which is at the Yacht Club and how we're going to get the two of you home. Tell ya what. Ask Lorna if she can get the car. If she can't then we'll work something out. Okay?"

"That's going to be dorky as hell, having her drive me."

"It could be worse. You could be going with me."

"True, that," he said then veered off toward his next class. "Meet ya at your locker after school."

That meant I was driving the three of them home again when all I really wanted was to make a beeline to Mark's house for whatever I could coax out of him, if you catch my drift.

After school, we met the girls at the gate to the student lot then made our way to my car. On our way to Patrice's house, I invited her and a guest. I had a whole table to fill and there were only eight of us so far, including Mike and Steve. That left two seats unfilled if Patrice didn't go. I apologized for the short notice and hoped she could work it out. She was fun and always seemed to have something going on around her. Since Lorna was her best friend, I thought she would make every effort to attend. She was excited and thanked me for the invite.

I dropped them off one by one then drove to Mark's house. Our routine was to the point that I didn't knock anymore. I let myself in then hollered at him as soon as I closed the door. He was usually in his room as he was that day.

"Hi, sexy," he said as I entered his bedroom. He was sitting at his desk doing homework. "Come here," he said.

I approached him then bent over to kiss him. After our kiss, he took my hand and rubbed it over his crotch. I felt his hard dick on top of his jeans. It felt great. He stood up and pointed me at the bed then guided me toward it. I stopped at the edge then he bent me over and started rubbing his crotch against my butt. I began to get hard, too, and wiggled my butt against his crotch. Man, it felt good and the thought of his big boner inside me, well, it made my hard dick throb. He bent over and grabbed my crotch then whispered in my ear, "I've been thinking about this all day. Val, I want to make love to you."

At that moment, Mark's stepfather, Frank, hollered, "Mark, Val, move that car in the driveway."

"Shit," Mark said. "What's he doing home?"

"It's almost five. He probably got off work for the day."

"Is it really? I'm going to be late for work."

With that, we kissed then I went to move my car and go home while Mark changed clothes for work. Driving down the freeway, I remembered I wanted to tell him about renting the guesthouse in the fall but he got me so hot I forgot all about it.

When I got home, Steve was in the kitchen getting dinner ready and watching the news. "Hi, Steve," I said coming up behind him. "How was your day?" I asked then hugged him.

"Hi, Sport," he said standing at the sink. "You're asking for trouble. Mike's not gonna like you parking in the garage. I'm not telling you what to do and don't say I didn't warn you."

"Yeah, okay," I said taking a seat at the kitchen table. "Steve?"


"There's something that's been bothering me," I said looking at him to see if he was listening.

He had moved to the cook top, stirring a pot. He turned around, looked at me directly, then asked, "What is it, Val?"

"Well," I said. "It's about sex." That was a big step for me because we never discussed it. We pretended as if it didn't exist thereby avoiding the subject. "Steve, this is hard for me but I have to ask you something."

He turned the burner down and the TV off then crossed the room taking a seat opposite me. After he sat down, he said, "I hope you feel comfortable enough to ask me anything."

I hesitated, looking around the room then said, "I do, Steve. This is embarrassing though. It's hard to say out loud."

"Take your time," he said. "We all struggled with it at some point; you're not the first."

"Steve, I'm not sure how to say it," then I paused for a moment before I began. "Mark likes to do things to me and I have to admit I like it," then I hesitated. "Here's what bothers me," then I fell silent. I wasn't sure how to phrase it but I wanted to tell him. When I composed my thoughts, I said, "Steve, I feel like a girl sometimes. He tells me I'm attractive, calls me beautiful and pretty boy, stuff like that. I know he means well and it's nice that he says those things. But I can't help thinking I'm the girl in our relationship. What I mean is ... I really like what we do in bed but it seems like I'm the woman and he's the man." My voice trailed off as I finished. It was embarrassing as hell and a little humiliating, too, but I managed to get it out.

"Well," he said clearing his throat. "At seventeen, you're a little on the young side to be having sex so it isn't surprising that you find some aspect of it troublesome. I'm also not so naive as to suggest you stop. The fact that you're having gay sex confounds the issue. I do, however, understand the nature of your dilemma." Then he stopped and grinned at me.

His smile seemed to ease the anxiety and discomfort of the moment. I exhaled then let a nervous laugh escape me. It was evident he understood and I was more than happy to avoid a graphic description. It was bad enough as it was.

"Val," he continued. "The way two people express their love for one another is their business and theirs alone. It doesn't matter if it's between a man and a woman, two women, or two men. What you're attempting to do is place a label on yourself so you fit into a role. That's unhealthy, especially for a young gay man. There are no roles in lovemaking. So don't try to create one for yourself. Express your love for Mark any way, any healthy way, you like and you'll both be justly rewarded. Think of it as an extension of your emotions because that's what it is, the way it should be. When you have sex, it's the ultimate expression of your affection so don't give that away freely. Val, the bottom line is this. If you love Mark, and it seems you do, then love him anyway it suits you. If you like what you guys do, then go with it. Love him for the reasons you do and don't scrutinize the way you do it." Then he paused for a moment. "Does that help?"

I nodded affirmatively as I pondered what he said. It was a lot to think about and it made perfect sense. His explanation went a long way to alleviate my concerns. In essence, Steve said anyway we chose to make love was okay. He was right when he said I was creating a role for myself. But hell, I had to try and figure it out, make sense of it one way or another and that was all I could come up with.

"Sport, are you okay?"

I looked at him. "Yeah, Steve, I was thinking."

"If there's anything further you want to discuss, don't hesitate to ask. Okay?" Then he stood, rubbed the back of my shoulder, and went back to cooking.

I rose to move my car so Mike wouldn't have a reason to pop his cork. I stopped behind Steve as he stood at the cook top stirring. I gave him a quick hug saying, "Thanks, Steve," then I made my way to the garage still contemplating his words.

After dinner, Mike and Steve went to the library to watch TV while I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. They were going to wait for me then we planned to watch a pay-per-view movie on cable.

When I rounded the corner to the library, I paused somewhat confused. Mike was nuzzled into Steve while Steve held him. It was a strange sight to wit. Mike looked like a little boy in his mother's arms. He looked away from the television, up to Steve, and said something. I couldn't hear what he said then Steve said something, kissed Mike on the head then hugged him tight.

It was strange because Mike was the take-charge type, the prime mover, and there Steve was comforting Mike. It was confusing as hell. Mike never seemed like the type that required nurturing; in fact, it always seemed like it should've been the other way around. Though Steve wasn't timid or needy, quite the opposite. He was definitely his own man. Still, it was a private exchange, the nature of which, I would've never expected. It was definitely an aspect of their relationship I had neither seen nor anticipated.

I walked in and took a seat in an upholstered chair to the side since they were sprawled across the sofa. Steve started the movie then dimmed the lamp. I watched them as much as the movie. I saw Mike screw Steve a while back, so I was trying to figure out this new slant on things. The more I thought about it, the more Steve's words rang true. I had placed them in roles and seeing them like that shattered my perception.

If I were like Steve in our relationship, then how were Mike and Mark alike? I couldn't see the likeness in the analogy because Mark was much softer, less direct in his approach. Then, I couldn't help thinking what else might be involved and if I were somehow overlooking something, if anything. It was numbing so I decided to accept things the way they were and let it go. I had wracked my brain enough searching for an explanation and Steve's advice went a long way to put things in perspective. I decided our relationship was the way it was, and that was that. I was tired of trying to analyze it.

It was getting late so I excused myself saying goodnight to Mike and Steve. I went upstairs to call CK and see if he arranged a ride with Lorna the next day. When I asked, he said he did and Patrice was going, too. She asked some guy she'd been eyeing on the football team. He said they were going to ride together then we said goodbye and hung up. I called Mark and left him a voice mail asking him to come over in the morning so the four of us could ride to the church together; then I went to bed.

The next morning, I lie in bed thinking about living in the guesthouse and waking up next to Mark. It would be a big step forward for us. We wouldn't be totally independent but darn close to it. I couldn't help thinking that maybe I was pushing for too much, too fast. And if I were, what would Mark's reaction be? I was sure we loved each other. Hell, I was damn sure of myself. I wondered if the doubt and second-guessing would ever go away. One thing I was sure of, I was going to do my best to be with him.

I already had a woody, so I proceeded to jerk off imagining Mark on top of me, having his way. It wasn't long until I squirted all over my stomach. It was so good it was bad! Then I collected myself and went downstairs to start the coffee. When I got there, Steve was pouring himself a cup.

"Your mother called," he said.

"Oh? What did she say?"

"She wants us at the church around two this afternoon. The ceremony commences at three. It's important to be prompt or the nuptial mass after the wedding may be cancelled. They start hearing confessions at four so things have to stay on schedule."

"Oh, okay. Mark is coming over so we can ride together."

"What time?" Mike asked entering the kitchen.

"Don't know," I answered. "Maybe he should sleep over since he'll be leaving his car here."

"Maybe you should leave the decisions to us since we're the adults here."

I rolled my eyes and my head at the same time for emphasis then shook it trying to feign disdain. When I finished, I looked at them to see Steve smiling and Mike with a serious look on his face.

"Don't give me that affected little act of yours," Mike said.

"It's not an act, Mike. I'm seriously concerned that you would make my boyfriend drive home alone at, God knows, what time of night."

"Don't push it, Sport." The tone of his voice meant he was getting worked up so I backed off.

"Okay, Mike," I said filling my coffee. "Will you, at least, think about it?"

"We'll see," was all he said.

"Thanks," I said then headed for the stairs.

After I left the room, I heard Mike say to Steve, "Why does that little fart always have to have the last word?" I couldn't help grinning.

I showered, removed the hair from my face, which was getting thicker and darker, then took some time to fix my hair. I had it cut two weeks earlier so it would grow out a little before the wedding. I hated the fresh cut look because it was too perfect. I preferred the unkempt appearance.

When I was pleased with the look, I posed in front of the mirror with my arms raised and biceps taut to check myself out. I raised my arms enough to see the hair in my armpits and puffed my chest out for the manliest profile I could manage. There were a few hairs growing around my nipples, which I was proud of. My dick was semi-erect and I liked what I saw. I could imagine Mark on top of me with his hard dick and big knob on the end, ready to enter me. I turned sideways to check out my legs and butt. It looked like my ass was protruding a lot so I relaxed my pose. Hell, the last thing I wanted was a big ass and it looked big to me.

Mark came over shortly after noon. He let himself in the back door then called my name. I opened my bedroom door and hollered, "Up here."

I heard him take the stairs two at a time. He pushed the bedroom door open and walked in.

"Wow," I said. "You look really hot in that tux." He really did, too. Man, it was tempting as hell to jump his bones or maybe I should say his boner. Whatever! The point was he looked damn good.

"You look sexy as hell in yours, too, Sport. What do I have to do to get in your pants? How about giving it up before we leave? I'll give you a ride you won't forget."

"You don't have to do much. In fact, I'm ready now."

He crossed the room then we had a wet kiss trying to outdo one another with our tongues. Even his tongue was strong. Not as strong as his hard dick grinding into me but then I had something else in mind for that.

We parted for a moment and all I could do was look into those big blue eyes that were twinkling with unspoken intent. I leaned forward and kissed his mouth as tenderly as I could. I pulled back and smiled at him. God he was good to look at, so doggone handsome and all. I gave him another quick peck on the mouth then went to put my jacket on. It was hanging from the chair at the desk. I lifted it from the back of the chair then felt a gentle yet firm push on my back. I slowly yielded bending over the chair, and then he wrapped his arms around my waist. He bent over and whispered in my ear, "I love you." Then he began rubbing his hard dick up and down in the crack of my ass. I was already hard but the thought of him screwing me made my dick pulse.

"Ahem," a voice came from the doorway.

Mark released me instantly then we straightened up. We turned around to see Steve standing in the doorway. I knew my face was red because it was warm. A quick glance at Mark revealed the same.

"Ah, hi, Steve," I said. It was embarrassing to the max.

Steve had a subtle smile on his face. That didn't make the situation any easier to swallow, in fact, the silence was commanding and I was too dumbstruck to know what to say.

"Are you guys ready?" Steve asked. "Well, I can see you're ready. I meant are you ready to go?"

"Yeah we are," Mark said. "Who's driving?"

"We're taking my car and one of you is driving. Let's get going."

"Where's Mike?" I asked.

"He's downstairs," Steve replied then left.

When he was out of earshot, Mark said, "That means Mike must have seen, too. I wonder why he didn't stick around to make things worse."

"Just `cause he isn't here doesn't mean it's forgotten. You know how he is."

"Yeah right," he said stepping toward me. He put his arms around my waist. "I meant it when I said I love you, Sport. You look awesome in your tux."

I put my arms around him saying, "I love you, too." Then we had a quick kiss and went downstairs.

On the way to the kitchen, it dawned on me that Mark called me Sport. I hadn't noticed at the time because I was so overcome with emotion. I think I actually liked it. And coming from him, well, it didn't matter because I knew he meant it in an endearing kind of way.

Downstairs, I asked Mike and Steve to take our picture in front of the bookcases in the library. After Steve snapped our picture, I asked Mike and Steve to pose. They made a stunning couple, my two dads, wearing dark suits, Mike looking distinguished as hell and Steve like an over-grown boy. Mike had his arm around Steve as they both smiled for the camera.

After that, Mark set the timer and we took a picture of the four of us. Mike and Steve were in the middle while Mark and I flanked them on either side. Mike had his arm around Mark while Steve rested his on my shoulder. I had my arm around Steve but it didn't show in the pic. We were all smiling, in good humor.

When Steve asked who was driving, I volunteered Mark. I wanted to scroll through the pictures to see how they came out. I especially wanted to see how the picture of the four of us looked. I wouldn't readily admit to it, but I thought how it would make a nice family portrait then smiled.

On the way to the church, Mark asked, "Where are your mother and Bill going for their honeymoon?"

"Mom said Bill wanted to go to Paris but she thought it was too extravagant. That's the last I heard and that was a couple weeks ago."

"They're going to Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta then take the train through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver, British Colombia, and fly home from there," Mike said. "They'll be gone two weeks."

"I guess Mom got her way then."

"Like mother, like daughter," Mike said. Then the three of them started laughing.

I was in the front passenger seat and raised my hand with my three middle fingers extended and said, "Read between the lines." Mike was behind me and clipped me on the back of the head with an open palm.

"Bite me and stop messing my hair up," I said.

In case no one noticed, I had the last word there.

We pulled into a public lot nearby, since the church didn't provide parking, then made our way inside. It was an awesome old church; actually, it was called The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France. People referred to it as either St. Louis Cathedral or Basilica of St. Louis King of France. So it wasn't out of the question to hear both designations in the name. Most people referred to it as St. Louis Cathedral since it was shorter. Louis IX, King of France, was canonized, meaning he was sainted in the eyes of the church, so that part of the name was self-explanatory. It was the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the States.

There was a limousine parked outside and I guessed it was for Mom and Bill. The only evidence of the previous wedding was two janitors carrying flowers out while new ones were being placed. Inside, the echo of footsteps and the soft organ music created a holy and solemn impression. The walls and floor were made of stone and it almost seemed like a sin to speak.

"I'm going to find Mom," I whispered to Steve.

"She should be in one of those rooms down that hallway. Take Mark with you. Mike and I can't leave. Guests will be arriving any time."

I nodded then Mark and I went to find Mom.

From the rehearsal, I knew which room she would be in. After I knocked, Mom said to come in.

"Hi, Honey. Hi, Mark. How are you boys?"

"Good, Mom. You look beautiful," I said walking toward her. I couldn't come up with the right word to describe her. The closest thing would have been stunning or elegant but neither seemed to fit the occasion. I kissed her on the cheek then gave her a big hug. When I finished, I said, "Mom, you look great."

"Thanks," she said.

Then Mark stepped forward and gave her a kiss and a hug. "You look fantastic," he said.

Mark's mother was there, too, so we both gave her a kiss and a hug, not wanting to play favorites, though I definitely had mine. Mom introduced us to her matron of honor; her name was Sharon. They were colleagues as well as friends at work.

The two of us talked with Mark's mother, Mom, and Sharon. I especially watched Mom and Mrs. Doucet interact. I wanted to know if their friendship was real or maybe born out of concern because of Mark and me. I wanted it to be for the right reasons and not the latter.

It wasn't long before Mike knocked on the door then opened it saying, "Get ready. Bill's on his way to the altar then the music will start. That's your cue."

"Thanks, Mike," Mom said. "Is everyone seated?"

"Seems like it. All the pews that aren't roped off are full."

A few minutes later, we were walking down the aisle toward the altar while the organist played Mendelssohn's Wedding March. Mom had her left arm hooked around my right as we progressed. My heart was beating like mad. The details from rehearsal were the last thing on my mind, this was the real deal. I was so nervous I was getting ahead of her and she kept pulling me back. I realized what I was doing then looked sideways and smiled. She smiled back then tears started leaking from my eyes. They were happy and sad tears all at the same time, for my Mom. I couldn't stop them if my life depended on it. They were happy tears because I always wanted the best for her and it seemed like she was finally getting it, what she wanted and deserved. And sad, because I felt like I was losing her. I was the uptight one while she radiated poise and composure like a monarch. As much as I tried, I couldn't help myself. All I could do was keep pace, trying to be worthy of Mom.

When we reached the altar, I escorted her to Bill's side then took a step back. I barely heard a word anyone said, I was so numb. I couldn't believe Mom was getting married; it was the strangest feeling. I knew it sounded crazy but I felt like I was losing a part of myself and I guess I was.

Mark was standing to the side, waiting for his cue, between Bill's brother-in-law and the priest. I looked at him and he broke into his world famous smile with the sides of his mouth curling up. I couldn't help thinking how darn good looking and sexy he was standing there in a tux. Bill's brother-in-law nudged Mark gently on the arm then whispered, "The rings."

Mark started fumbling through his pockets looking for the rings while all I could do was grin and think how cute he looked when he was embarrassed. He pulled his hand from his coat pocket revealing the rings. Bill took Mom's ring saying, "With this ring," then he paused and slid the ring on Mom's finger then finished saying, "I thee wed."

Then Mom took Bill's ring from Mark, she slid it on Bill's ring finger saying, "With this ring, I thee wed." The the priest pronounced them man and wife in the eyes of the church and God, blessed their union, and then said they could kiss. They smiled at each other then had a tender kiss.

The organ started playing again while Mom and Bill shook hands and thanked Father Francis. They turned together then began to walk. Sharon and Bill's brother-in-law were next, while Mark and I brought up the rear.

The first pew was reserved for the wedding party so it wasn't a long procession after the ceremony. We took our place then Father proceeded to say the nuptial mass. There was no homily because of the time spent on the wedding and the tight schedule they held us to.

After mass, we led the exodus from the church then queued up in Jackson Square so everyone could congratulate the happy newlyweds. It seemed like a long time but eventually the crowd began to disperse. After everyone left for the yacht club, Bill asked us to drive Mom's car to the club because the limo was leaving after they were dropped off there.

Mark and I left to find Mom's car. On the way, Mark said, "That was nice and your mother looked amazing."

"Yeah, she did. I don't know why but I feel kind of sad and I should be happy for her."

"She's still your mother," Mark said speaking from experience. "She isn't going anywhere. Look at it as if you gained something instead of losing your mom; now Bill's family, too. See? You both get something out of it. And you couldn't ask for a better stepfather. Bill's a great guy."

I knew Mark was right and what he said made sense but it didn't quell the sense of loss I was feeling. I guess it was selfish or maybe self-centered to think that way but how do you control feelings? They're things that come over you without announcing themselves and you're left to deal with them. Logic and reason is one thing, emotions are something altogether different. You can't rationalize them away.

Mark pointed to a car in the lot. "That's the only gold Taurus here," he said. "That has to be it."

We crossed the parking lot then I engaged the keyless entry system. Man, it was a fine car. It was rad! More than that, it was loaded with all the latest and greatest shit. We climbed in and closed the doors.

"I wonder how fast it goes," Mark said. "This fucking thing looks like a European sports car. Start it up, Val, so we can check out the sound system and computer."

I started the engine saying, "The speedometer goes up to a hundred and forty. There's no way that's gonna happen. We have to take Elysian Fields to Robert E. Lee Boulevard. Those are city streets."

"It would be a lot faster taking Interstate ten to Pontchartrain Boulevard."

"True. But I'm not going over the limit. Hell, this is Mom's new car and the last thing I want is an accident on her wedding day."

It was so quiet inside, Mark asked, "Is it on? You could hear a girl fart in here."

We both laughed then I backed out of the parking space and started driving toward the yacht club. Mark was fooling around with the computer and radio as I drove. On the way, I asked, "What do you think about us living in the guesthouse when school starts?" Then I glanced at him to get his reaction.

He stopped what he was doing and sat pensively for a moment. He broke into a smile then said, "Why wait till school starts? How did you manage to work that out?"

"Cool. It wasn't hard. There's a catch though," I said glancing at him then back to the road. "I've been doing all the work around the house since I moved in. I still have to do all that plus keep the guesthouse clean and we'll have to pay rent, too. Oh, and no parking in the garage either or Mike will come unglued."

"That's good news. I was going to ask if you wanted to room together but I never thought we'd have a whole house to ourselves and it's furnished. There's nothing to buy. Is there a washer and dryer in there?"

"Yeah, they're small though. I don't think they would say anything if I did our laundry with theirs."

As we entered the club's parking lot, the limo was leaving so Mom and Bill had to be inside. I pulled up to the valet station at the club and put the car in park. I never used the valet parking before but this was a special occasion and we were wearing tuxedos. Besides, Bill would have to pay the valet when they left so we were off the hook and got to look like big shots!

When we got out of the car, Mark said to the valet, "Hi, Andy. How's it going?"

"Okay," he said. "It's gonna be a busy night from the looks of it. How the hell did you get invited to Bill Cormier's wedding?"

"I have connections," he said. "C'mon, Sport. We don't want to miss anything." Then he put his arm around me, which very nearly made me pass out with embarrassment.

I pulled away from him and said, "What are you doing? The valet is going to see us if he hasn't already."

"It's okay. Andy's gay. He wants to date you when I get tired of you. And before you say anything, that's not gonna happen so don't even go there."

"Go there? You're the one that went there. And just so you know, that's nothing to kid around about. That could drive me mental for Christ sake. You never mentioned any gay guys working at the club. Is Andy new?"

"I told you about him when we visited your mother in Plaquemines. I never mentioned his name though. Don't you remember?"

I didn't remember and it didn't seem important. I had what was important to me. Neither Andy nor anyone else could change that, though I had to admit, Andy was cute as hell. Then I couldn't resist forming a mental picture of him naked.

"Val," Mark said then nudged me with his elbow. "You're thinking too much again."

"Yeah, well you gave me a lot to think about." I didn't mention that it was Andy's crotch I had in mind.

When we entered the reception, Mark spotted CK then said, "C'mon, CK's sitting over there with Lorna and Patrice. I wonder who Patrice's date is. Let's go say hi."

What Mark didn't know was that Dave and Greg were also seated at the table. We hadn't worked it out at Christmas for them to meet, like we discussed. I guess Mom thought everyone would get along since I extended the invites, which was a logical assumption.

Mark and I were supposed to sit with the wedding party for the meal so I thought it might be a good idea to introduce everyone. Mark said hello to CK and Lorna then kissed Lorna on the cheek. She looked pretty, emanating confidence and composure while CK appeared a little on edge. When Mark was done, I said hello to them then kissed Lorna on the cheek, too. She extended her neck a bit like Mom. I had to smile while I pecked her cheek.

I stood up and said, "Hi Dave, Greg. Glad so see you guys could make it." Then I stood between them and placed a hand on each of their shoulders. I introduced them to everyone indicating who was who. They all stood on cue to shake hands except Lorna and Patrice who nodded and smiled from their seats. Patrice introduced her date. His name was Patrick. When she finished, Patrick said, "Call me Pat," then shook hands around the table.

Mark was staring at Dave making him uncomfortable so I thought I should initiate conversation. CK knew our story but Lorna and Patrice didn't and I wasn't ready for them to know. I wanted to graduate before we said anything since Patrice would surely announce it to the world. If there was any tension or posturing between Mark and Dave, I wanted it to happen away from the table.

"I'm going to get something to drink. Would anyone like something from the bar?"

"I would," Greg said.

That wasn't surprising based on the last time I saw him. I took everyone's order then asked Mark and Dave to help me carry the drinks back. Mark knew everyone that worked at the club so he would be influential in getting us served.

Mark introduced us to the bartender. His name was Barry; then Dave and I shook his hand. Everyone at the club knew Bill was getting married but hardly anyone knew to whom, then Mark informed him I was Mom's kid.

Barry said to Mark, "I could get fired for serving you guys. You better get someone to order the drinks for you."

As we stood there, Mike and Steve approached the bar. "Hi, Dave," Mike said. "How are you?"

"Hi, Dave. Nice to see you," Steve said extending his hand.

Dave said hello to both of them and shook their hands.

"So what are you guys doing at the bar?" Mike asked.

"We were going to order drinks," Dave said.

"Tilt," Mike said. "Think again."

I said, "Mike, have a heart will ya? This is a special occasion. It's Mom's wedding day."

"The law doesn't provide for special occasions."

"Well it should."

"Well it doesn't," Mike said. "Something tells me the windows at home are going to be washed inside and out real soon."

"Probably," I said. "Steve can you talk to him?" I was hoping if Steve interceded on our behalf that Mike would relax the rules. It was worth a shot.

Steve said, "If you guys want permission to drink, ask elsewhere. Mike's right. Rules are rules." Then he gave me a wink, which didn't go very far in getting us served so we abandoned the idea.

We had a good time that night. For dinner, I sat next to Mom and was proud to be with her and very much proud of her, while Mark sat on the far side next to Bill. After the meal, we had a lot of fun. Mark and I abandoned the wedding party and hung out at CK's table. As predicted, Greg got drunk and Dave wasn't far behind. Apparently, they had some alcohol in the car and made several trips to the parking lot to imbibe. The rest of us respected the law, as per Mike.

We all took turns dancing with each other. Patrick wasn't much of a dancer so Mark danced with Patrice whenever she felt like it. She loved it and I kept a close eye on them to make sure she didn't get overly friendly with Mark. Eventually, all the girls wanted to dance with him because he was good and there was no doubt they all found him attractive.

I spotted Mike's parents, Theo and Mattie across the room. I waved at Theo who was looking our way. He waved back with a smile then Mattie looked and waved, too. They had been on the dance floor earlier and were taking it easy for a while.

After an hour or so of dancing, the waiters brought the cake in and placed it on the wedding party's table. That was the cue for Mark and me to go sit with them for the cutting of the cake. After Mom and Bill cut a piece for each other, they had a kiss then the waiters replaced the cake on a cart and began to cut and distribute pieces with ice cream.

Mark motioned for us to go so we both rose to sit with our friends. Mom grabbed me by the arm and asked if I would sit down for a minute so I did.

"What's up, Mom?"

"Just a minute, Honey. I have something for you." Then she opened her handbag and removed a pocket watch. "Here," she said. "This was given to my father, your grandfather, Valéry Poirier on his wedding day by his parents. It belonged to your great-grandfather and was made in 1893. It still works." Then she handed it to me.

I coddled the watch and chain in my hand as I inspected it. The weight alone was something to note, it was heavy as far as watches go. I opened the cover then twisted the winding mechanism. The numbers were written in Roman numerals and the name "Elgin National Watch, Co." was written below the numeral twelve in a fancy, old world script. The old relic began keeping time as I held it.

I looked on as the seconds ticked by. Man, it was so old I couldn't believe it. And to think my great-grandfather gave it to Mom's dad. If that weren't enough, Grandma gave it to Dad on their wedding day. It was truly a family heirloom. I could almost feel Dad's presence as I held it. I breathed on it then polished the crystal on my sleeve. I looked up to see Mom smiling.

"Thanks, Mom. I'll take good care of it. I'm going to keep it until I die."

She giggled then said, "Give me a kiss, young man."

I didn't have to be told twice. I leaned over and kissed her cheek then gave her a big hug. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I knew then and there, we would always be mother and son. Married or not, Mom would always be my mother, no matter that our last names were different now. She was the best. I stood up wanting to find Mark and show him my keepsake.

Mom said, "I want the last dance to be with you, Honey. It's going to be a waltz, `The Voices of Springtime' by Strauss. I want to remember this day with the two most important men in my life."

I turned and said, "Me, too, Mom. I would like nothing better."

On the way to our table, I stopped to show the watch to Theo."

"Hey, Theo, Mattie. Look what Mom gave me." Then I extended my hand to show them. "It belonged to my great-grandfather originally. It was made in 1893," I said proudly.

"Very nice," Theo said. "And sentimental, too. What do you plan to do with it?"

"Nothing. I'm going to keep it until I die."

"You aren't going to give it to one of your kids?" he said then grinned like an idiot. He knew damn well I wouldn't be having kids.

"No. I've written them out of my will. They're worthless," I said trying to act indignant. Then I turned around and left. I heard the old goat chuckling as I walked away. I was glad he couldn't see me smile. All I could feel was empathy for Mattie having spent all those years with Theo and Mike. They would probably call her Saint Mattie of Kenner in due time.

I sat down next to Dave with Greg on the other side of him. "Are you guys enjoying yourselves?"

"Yeah, it's okay. It's not like going to a party though."

"It's boring as hell," Greg said.

Dave gave him a dirty look then turned to me and said, "It's not that bad. He's pissed off because they won't serve us liquor. We have some in the car so it's no big deal."

"Oh, okay," I said. "Be careful not to let Mike or Steve catch you or they'll take it away."

"I'm so sick of that goody-two-shoes bullshit," Greg said slurring his words. "Let's get out of here, Dave." Then he stood up.

"I'm sorry, Val," Dave said as he rose. "I'll call you tomorrow."

"Why would you want to call that fag?" Greg said. "He's such a pussy."

"Get him out of here, Dave," I said. "I don't want any trouble on Mom's wedding day. Just go."

Dave put his hand on Greg's back, then they made their way toward the door. I watched them until they were out of the room. I turned to the table and exhaled.

"You handled that pretty good," Patrice said. "How do you know them? They don't go to our school. And that Dave, he's so good looking. Does he have a girlfriend?"

Patrick was in the bathroom with CK while Mark danced with Lorna. So it was Patrice and me at the table. Mike and Steve were sitting with Mike's parents. I wasn't sure how to respond so I said, "What about Patrick?" in an attempt to buy some time.

"He knows I like him but he has a girlfriend. Her school is having commencement practice tonight. He didn't have anything else to do so he agreed to come. I was still going to come even if he said no. Now tell me about Dave. Does he have a girlfriend?"

I had to smile at her persistence. It was easy to understand why she was interested. Dave was very good looking and better than most on the dance floor. He didn't dance nearly as well as Mark and as far as looks go, well, he was almost as attractive.

"No he doesn't have a girlfriend," I said. I couldn't help grinning. I wanted to tell her that he had a boyfriend instead but that didn't seem like my prerogative. I thought that should be something Dave would tell her if he chose to. Lord knows, I wouldn't want someone to out me behind my back.

"So how do I get to meet him?" she asked.

"You just did. He's been here all night. Didn't you talk to him?"

"Val, you know what I mean. Even though Patrick isn't my boyfriend, I didn't want to be rude. He was good enough to come tonight on short notice. You know it wouldn't be right to abandon him to hit on someone. So can you set something up?"

"He's going to call tomorrow. I'll ask him then let you know what he said on Monday. Okay?"

"Thanks, Val. You're a sweetheart."

"I know."

Mark was coming off the dance floor with Lorna. She sat down then Mark asked, "Do you want to get some fresh air?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Okay. I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be right back."

I sat with Lorna and Patrice waiting for him. "Mark is a great dancer," Lorna said. "I'm surprised he doesn't have a girlfriend."

CK and Patrick took their seats at the table. As they sat down, CK asked, "Who?"

"Mark," she said. "He's the best dancer I've ever danced with. I was wondering why he doesn't have a girlfriend."

"Ask him," CK told her.

Mark was approaching the table and motioned for me to meet him at the door. I excused myself and said I'd be back in a few. I told them we were going outside for a while then I left.

We made our way to the exit. There was a solid wall of glass on the Pontchartrain Lake side of the room with a door and a small foyer inside. We let ourselves out on the deck, which ran the length of the building. There were tables with umbrellas and chairs placed randomly around the expansive structure.

We walked toward the far corner. It was the best spot that afforded solitude with a reasonable measure of privacy. There was a cool spring breeze making gentle waves on the lake. The club's flag folded gently in the wind, as it stood tall above the wharf while the smell of brackish lake water permeated the air. As we approached the railing, a pair of pelicans took to the air startling us.

Mark flinched then said, "Shit, I didn't notice them there." Then he took my hand in his. We intertwined our fingers then I squeezed softly.

We stood at the railing with his arm over my shoulder and mine around his waist. Neither of us spoke for some time. We relished the view of the lake and the sounds of the night, the herons and egrets foraging, the occasional fish breaching the surface of the water. The sky was clear allowing the moonlight to cast shadows. It was one of those romantic moments, reminiscent of the evening in Natchez when we sat watching the Mississippi.

After a while, I had the urge to kiss him so I took my free arm and pulled us together. I kissed him on the mouth. It was a tender kiss. The kind that says, "I love you," and that I surely did with every thought and feeling I had.

When I withdrew, Mark said, "I love you."

"I love you, too."

He rested his chin on my shoulder with our heads touching. He started moving us slowly side-to-side in concert with the music. "Mmmm," he said. "I could stay like this all night."

I drew my head back, kissed him, then said, "Me, too."

We resumed our interlude for two complete and content, needing nothing more than what we had, each other. He rearranged his arms and I did the same drawing one another closer. It was perfect, the evening, the venue and most of all, the person I embraced. I never, in my wildest dream, thought life could be so rewarding, but it was.

Several moments later, a girl's voice shouted, "VAL."

It scared the shit out of both of us as we turned to see who was there. Then a flash went off blinding us. I held my hand between the camera and our faces but it was too late. All we saw was white lightening then waited for our eyes to adjust. We parted and stood there numbed by the flash and the unexpected intrusion.

Patrice was laughing her ass off as her silhouette came into focus. She was bent over trying to say, "Oh my God," but only getting one word at a time out before she lost it again. Mark and I stood looking at each other shell-shocked unable to move. That was all we could manage as we waited for the bitch to quiet down.

"Get the camera from her," I said to Mark.

Mark scrambled across the deck in an attempt to extract the camera from her hand. She turned around and stuffed it in her bra then laughed some more. She was leaning on a table when her sickening guffaws subsided. She turned around with a wicked smile on her face and said, "You guys make a nice couple," then she started laughing her ass off again.

`What a cunt," was the only thing that came to mind. I knew she was trouble from day one. I meant trouble with a capital `T'. I could have kicked myself for inviting her. That was it for me. I made my mind up then and there not to have anything to do with girls ever again. They were too dangerous.

"Give me the camera," Mark said. He held his hand out with a serious look on his face.

"I'm not going to show anyone," she said. "Your secret's safe with me. I mean it. I think you guys make a handsome couple and it's perfectly okay with me. It's not a big deal. I'll send you a copy. I suspected it anyway. Val slipped the first day I met him and he's never shown any interest in girls. They're fawning all over him at school and he, like, doesn't have a clue. Then when I saw you together tonight, I pretty much figured it out. I think you guys make a stunning couple. It's too bad you have to hide."

"Patrice," I said. "Delete that picture. It can only cause trouble."

"We'll talk later. Both your mother's are looking for you. They want the last dance." Then she turned and started walking toward the building.

"Patrice? Please?" I said.

She waved her hand as she walked away and said, "Not to worry. Hurry up boys. The whole place is waiting for you." With that, she let herself inside then Mark and I looked at each other.

"We're screwed," I said.

"Maybe not. It might turn out okay."

"For you, maybe," I said. "You don't go to our school. If she shows that picture, everyone will know about me the same day. My life will be miserable."

"C'mon, Sport. We promised the last dance to our mothers." Then he put his arm around me and we proceeded to the door. Before we let ourselves in, he gave me a quick kiss then lowered his arm.

We approached the wedding table where Mrs. Doucet was talking to Mom. She pointed at us then Mom looked. We stopped in front of the table then Mark's mother said, "There you are. We've been looking all over for you guys."

"We were on the deck," Mark said.

"I'm going to let the DJ know we're ready," Bill said.

"Who are you going to dance with?" I asked him.

"My sister," he said then turned to go.

That sounded good to me. I didn't want him to sit out the last dance on his wedding day. It seemed like he was okay with the arrangement so I set it aside. Mark and I went to the end of the stage to offer our hands to our mothers as they descended the stairs.

We escorted them to the dance floor and the guests took that as their cue to join in. While we waited for the music to begin, Mom said, "Watch Bill and try to imitate his moves. Waltzes are easy once you get the hang of it."

"Okay, Mom."

Bill made his way to the dance floor then took his sister's left hand in his right so I did the same with Mom. He placed his left hand on her waist so I followed then Mom placed her right hand on my shoulder. A few moments later and the music began. My instinct was to start moving with the music so I did but Mom held me back. When I looked at Bill, he was motionless, too. I felt kind of dumb for having jumped the gun so I stood there with my eye on him, waiting for him to make a move. It was awkward as hell. Obviously, Mom knew what she was doing. When Bill commenced dancing, I did, too.

The couples on the dance floor moved in a circular fashion as they twirled stepping backward, forwards, and sideways alternately. It took me a couple laps to get the hang of it and then I got into it. It was a little like being in a procession because it had a ritualistic or should I say a repetitious quality about it. It was fun. It was like dancing at the court of an old world regent. It wrought images of Ladies with hair piled high on their heads, faces whitened with powder, and fake birth marks on their cheeks. It was pretty cool.

The end of the waltz had a compelling impact. One that made you want to do something grand. I didn't have a clue but when it was over, I released Mom bending over at the waist as I gazed at the floor. When I straightened up, she was smiling. I embraced her again and said, "I love you, Mom." Then I kissed and hugged her. "I'm happy for you."

"Thanks, Honey," she said softly. Then she put her cheek next to mine as we held each other.

After a few seconds, she spoke low, "Are you going to be okay while we're gone?"

I kissed her cheek then said, "I'll be fine, Mom. I hope you have the world's best Honeymoon."


Thanks again to my two amigos, Chris and Wayne. Your help is invaluable.