“I’m not sure why you think you need to wear a tie,” I state.
“Look, I’m just trying to get them on my side. I know I fucked up before and they don’t trust me. It’s not like the party when Audrey pulled me aside and cuddled up on the sofa to learn all about me. I’ve hurt you and, by extension, them. I’m working to repair all of the broken fences I’ve created,” he reassured me as he smoothed the tie down his chest. He looked really handsome in the tie. I’m glad he decided to dress up a little. I put on a nice shirt, too. His look of a skinny black tie and white shirt with black pants, his boots, and his jacket really turned me on.
“This is why I first noticed you,” I recounted. “You’re so handsome with only minimal effort. Your style is so easy.”
“That’s Portland,” he answered. “Nothing is very difficult here.”
He snaked an arm around my waist and pulled us hip to hip. We rested our foreheads together. “It’s going to be ok. They love me and I love you and they’ll love you,” I confirmed.
“I’m not too worried. If I fixed it with you, I’m sure I can fix it with them, too,” he said quietly in my face. A quick kiss and we headed out the door. Henry opened the truck door for me and when he walked to his side to climb in, I leaned to unlock it. He opened his arm across the backrest of the seat and I moved closer to him. With the engine started, I rested my head on his shoulder and off we went.
When we pulled up outside of Casa de Bayer-Boatwright, I didn’t move from where I sat since we left the apartment.
“Thank you for doing this,” I whispered.
“No problem. I like your family, Ramon. I want them to like me. I know they are an extension of you and since I’m planning on being with you, I might as well make things right with them,” he stated matter-of-factly. “I want us all to get along. I don’t want conflict. I really like the mellow vibe I got from them before and I hope it feels like that again tonight.” I leaned in and kissed his heart through his clothes. He lifted my chin to his face and laid a deep, passionate kiss on me. I was glad to be sitting.
“I’ll make good on that later tonight,” he promised as he opened the door and pulled me along as he exited.
We held hands and I stuck close to him, breathing deeply as we climbed the stairs to the door. The doorbell barely sang it’s tune when my mother threw open the door with a “whoosh.” The vacuum nearly sucked us inside.
“Well, it’s about time!” Mom exclaimed as her petite form grasped her arms around my neck.
“It’s only been a few days, Mom,” I struggled to escape her clutches.
“I know but I missed you terribly each of those days. I was worried,” she proclaimed.
“Of course you were,” I said with a smile. There was an awkward pause as she stopped talking to me and didn’t start talking to Henry.
“Audrey?” Henry said with his warm smile and outstretched arms. She hugged him quickly saying, “this is going to take some time.”
“I know. I’m very appreciative of the invitation for tonight and the chance to make amends with your family,” Henry conveyed.
We moved into the living room and Henry took his jacket off. I hung it in the hall closet. Kristen came flitting down the staircase and jumped into my arms. “Rahm!” She cried out. I put her down and she immediately started talking about three different subjects. It’s so hard to keep up with her sometimes. She pulled me over to a quiet corner of the couch and started talking about all the interaction I missed with Mom and Dad over the last few days. Henry stood around, waiting, looking at family mementos. He seemed genuinely relieved when Ash and Malcolm came through the door.
“Hey, buddy,” Malcolm said extending his hand. “Glad to see we’re doing this again,” he said with a circular gesture of his hands.
“Oh..yeah..him,” Henry replied pointing in my direction with a sheepish smile. Mom came into the room and greeted Ash and Malcolm, then she asked Kristen to join her in the kitchen for last minute preparations. Malcolm and Henry continued talking. Ashley came over and hugged me.
“Where’s Daddy?” She asked.
“No idea. We’ve only been here a few minutes and I haven’t seen him,” I replied.
“Mom, where’s Daddy?” Ashley asked.
“Probably sulking in his office,” she called back.
“I’m going to find him,” Ashley declared and left us boys in the living room.
“So, I heard you guys were doing some camping,” Malcolm started.
“Yes, we just took off spontaneously and spent a few days on the outskirts of Tualatin. I love the outdoors,” he replied.
“That’s great! We should all go some time. You, Ramon, me, and Duc for a boys’ weekend. Duc and I enjoy competitive mountain biking and we can’t get back to nature nearly enough,” Malcolm explained excitedly.
“I’m sure Henry can teach you guys a thing or two about being out in the wild,” I predicted.
“Speak of the devil,” Malcolm gestured toward the door. Duc and Carmen made their way inside. Sweetly, he took her coat and hung it in the closet next to Henry’s. Their body language is much different this time than the first time we all hung out at Ash’s and Malcolm’s for dinner. They came into the room and he shook everyone’s hand, Duc-style.
“So formal,” Carmen critiqued with a smile. Just then, Ashley returned to the living room with Dad. Duc asked Carmen what she wanted to drink and escaped to the kitchen.
“Still tense between those two, huh?” I asked.
Malcolm leaned in, “they’ve been avoiding each other,” he said in a whisper.
Dad towered over all of us as we were now sitting. Carmen sat in a chair and Ashley sat on the coffee table in front of us.
“Is there anything you’d like to tell us before we all sit down to a dinner that’s awkward as hell with Mom?” Ashley provoked. Dad found a seat.
“No.” Long pause as Dad gathered his thoughts. “Just know that we are trying to bring things back together,” he said.
“There’s a lot of healing happening in this family,” Henry mentioned.
Duc returned with a glass of wine for him and Carmen and Mom came to the door.
“Dinner is ready. We can all move into the dining room,” she directed.
Herding into the dining room, we started to gather around the table.
“Sit next to me, Rahm,” Kristen called out bopping around on her seat and patting the chair next to hers. Mom kept the expansion in the table. It’s not unusual for her to have a large party at dinner lately with the family coming over frequently. Dad and Mom took the ends of the table. Kristen, me, and Henry on one side. Ashley, Malcolm, Duc, and Carmen on the other side. It was less of a firing squad this time then the first time we at together. Still, Mom and Duc were critical and suspicious of Henry. Kristen and Ashley talked as we started passing all the dishes around and filling our plates. Henry poured wine in my glass and I realized there was no water on the table. I quietly got up, went to the kitchen, and retrieved a glass of water for him.
“I’m sorry, Henry. I forgot you don’t drink wine,” Mom said.
“It’s ok Audrey. I’m good with water. Thanks, Ramon.” He replied.
As everyone finished passing the dishes a strained silence fell over the room. We each took a few bites and then, to my surprise, Henry took a drink and cleared his throat.
“Ok, I guess I’ll start,” he wiped his mouth with his napkin. “I just want to thank everyone for being here today. To Audrey and Greg, thank you for opening your warm home to us and preparing this awesome meal. I know you all know that Ramon and I are back together after a rocky few months. I know that each of you cares for him very deeply. It’s not hard to tell that family is very important to Ramon, too. As we have worked to heal our relationship and understand our differences, Ramon has accepted me back into his life. For that, I’m grateful. I hope each of you will give me a chance to repair relations and build again. If I wasn’t serious about my feelings and commitment to him, I wouldn’t be here,” Henry stated.
“Thank you, Henry. We don’t know what all transpired between you two. We are concerned about Ramon’s ongoing physical and mental health. We want only the best for all of our children. But, we see how affected Ramon is with you in his life. He’s very happy and we can’t deny that,” Dad answered.
“Are you going to keep living off him?” Duc questioned.
“Duc! What the hell, man? That’s not your business,” I scolded. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. You have no idea what’s going on.”
“Duc, I don’t think it’s appropriate to pry into Ramon’s life like that unless he asks you for advice,” Dad explained.
“You’re so indignant to something you don’t even understand,” I fumed.
“Why don’t we all calm down. Duc, you wouldn’t enjoy Ramon questioning every detail of your personal life. How about if we let everyone just try to find their own way with the idea that each of us is here as a support network for each other. We are all willing to help with talking and advice as needed. All you have to do is ask. I don’t think it’s right to push opinions and unsolicited suggestions on to each other. That isn’t advantageous,” offered Mom.
Carmen worked to calm Duc talking quietly. Malcolm and Ashley looked fondly at each other. I put my arm around Henry and rubbed his back and in turn, he put his hand on my leg and squeeze it reassuringly.
We did find a way to move forward in that dinner as Ashley talked about her business venture, Carmen talked about her interest in study, and Duc talked about his book. I shared a little of my success with Realms and the video game company support of its development. We left the table after many courses, including dessert, and very full bellies resorting to our separate corners of the house deep in various conversations. I saw Henry and my dad talking for a long time. As the house clock struck ten, Ashley and Malcolm started to break away first saying they had to relieve the babysitter.
“Kiss and hug Haley for me,” I tell them as they make their way to the kitchen to say goodbye to mom.
“We should probably get going,” I say to Henry.
“Oh, yeah?” Henry replies surprised as he’s having such a good time engaging with my dad.
“Yeah, I have something I want to show you there,” I reply with a smile. Mom follows Ashley and Malcolm back into the living room. I get Henry’s jacket from the closet and hand it to him.
“Here, I’m giving you some leftovers,” she hands them to me. “I’m very glad to have you in my home, Henry,” she confesses and offers him a big hug. “We all make mistakes in life. You’re here trying to fix them and improve upon your history. I can see that.”
“Thank you, Audrey.” Dad wraps an arm around Henry’s shoulders and gives him a warm squeeze.
“Everyone deserves second chances,” he says looking at mom.
I give mom and dad an enthusiastic hug and say bye to everyone from the door as Henry has a last word with my dad. Stepping down to the truck, Henry opens the door and again I unlock his side. We sit separately from each other on the drive home so the leftovers don’t spill.
“Worked out pretty good, eh?” I asked for his take on the tone of the evening.
“Yes, it was fine. I hope they believe me. I think they do since your mom reassured me before we left,” he confirmed.
“She’s the one you have to convince. I think everyone else is on board. Duc is being an ass but, unfortunately, that’s just him. He’ll get over himself.”
We quickly arrived home and Henry wrapped his arms around me as we climbed the stairs to the door. I fumbled to unlock it as he kissed my neck and once inside I shrugged him off to put the food in the fridge. After that, we came together like magnets and as good as he looked in his clothes, he looked even better naked with them heaped on the floor around him. After a gritty and sweaty interlude, we fell asleep wrapped in each other’s arms.
I woke as the sun started peaking through the window at 0630. We began the next day of our lives together.