Everyone agreed the ‘road trip to Philly,’ as Ethan called it, was one of the best nights of the summer. Peter and Anthony got over any angst they had once they all met. Jason decided if he and Peter looked as happy as Ethan and Anthony, people probably got nauseous around them. After they dropped Peter off, Ethan made as similar comment to Jason about him and Peter. They argued the rest of the way home over which pair was worse. When neither budged they called it a draw and decided both couples were equally sappy.
The rest of the summer flew by for Jason. After the day working on the stump, Reggie usually assigned the four of them to the same work team. Without knowing how, though they all suspected Reggie, the others working on the estate soon learned Jason and Dean were related to the Henrys. Some tried to cozy up to them without success, while others were as rude as they could be without jeopardizing their jobs.
Jason and the others either didn’t notice or didn’t care. The highlight of their summer came during Jason’s last week. Raymond Henry had the four of them spend two days washing, waxing and detailing his collection of antique cars. For Jason's last day, Raymond told the four to come to work dressed in shirt, pants and a tie; he did not elaborate.
When Aaron and Ethan showed up, Dean and Jason had no better idea what to expect than their friends. When Raymond appeared wearing his old touring cap, Jason’s face nearly split in two; they were going to an antique car auction.
Of the four, only Jason had spent any time learning about antique cars; it was the thing he and his grandfather did together every summer. Despite not going on a trip for a couple years, Jason kept up via emails on the various cars that caught his grandfather’s eye.
While the others walked about examining the various cars for sale, Jason and Raymond inspected two cars his grandfather was interested in buying. They discussed the rarity of the car, how well it fit with his collection and how much they would bid. To the amusement of his grandfather, Jason used his iPhone to search for details not readily available.
From the moment they arrived, Raymond Henry was given the royal treatment by the staff who knew him on sight. Some recognized Jason as the little boy they watched grow up, tagging along every summer beside the grandfather who delighted in showing him the smallest detail. Dean and the Miller brothers surrounded Raymond and Jason as they waited for the two cars they were interested in to come up for sale.
The first car offered was not the primary target. The 1931 Chennard & Walcker Tank was a beautiful car, but was a bit older than Raymond preferred. Chennard & Walcker was a French manufacturer whose car won the first 24 hours of Le Mans in 1923. This car was rare; Jason didn’t remember seeing one at auction before. In mint condition, it was the cache of owning one that piqued his grandfather’s interest.
When the bidding reached $90,000, his grandfather looked at him for advice. Jason shrugged. If they could only get one, he wanted his grandfather to buy the other one on their list. It wasn’t because he would get to drive it, he just knew his grandfather’s taste. When someone bid $95,000, Jason shook his head and his grandfather let them know he was out.
They had to wait for three more cars to be auctioned before their target was offered. Ethan and Jason went to get some drinks for everyone, stopping at the bathroom on the way.
“Did your grandfather really let you decide if he was going to bid $95,000?” He asked while they were at the urinals.
Jason noticed a few people stare at them, but didn’t really care. “I’m not sure if he just wanted to see if I knew the value of a car or if he really was letting me decide.”
Ethan zipped up and followed Jason to the sink. “Why didn’t you keep bidding? It’s not real money to you.”
Jason laughed at the expressions some of the serious collectors gave them. “IF Pop wanted a car, I don’t think anyone here could out bid him. The fun is to get the car you want at the right price.”
“Listen to your friend.” An older gentleman drying his hands next to them said. “Old Ray never over spends on a car.”
Jason recognized the man, but didn’t know him by name. He expended his hand, “I know we met when I was a kid, but I don’t recall your name sir. Jason Tellerman.”
When the older man grinned, it was clear he didn’t remember Jason either. “Nice seeing you again Jason. Been a long time. You sure have grown. Ernie Smith. Your granddad and I go way back.”
Jason remembered the man now. Holding back a frown he said, “Mr. Smith, this is my friend Ethan Miller.”
“Nice to meet you sir.” Ethan smiled. “Did you find anything of interest today?”
“Nice to meet you, too.” Ernie was polite, but brusque. Clearly only one of Ray’s grandsons warranted his full attention. “Who are those other two with you?”
“One is my brother Dean, the other is Ethan’s brother Aaron.” Unhappy at Ernie’s treatment of Ethan, Jason made it known they had to go. “Nice talking to you again Mr. Smith, we need to go get drinks for Pop and the others.”
He motioned for Ethan to follow without waiting for a reply.
“What was that about?” Ethan asked.
Jason put a finger to his mouth and nodded toward the bathroom. He mouthed the word wait. Getting in line, he scanned the bathroom to see if Ernie was following.
“Ernie clearly couldn’t be bothered to be polite to just a friend of Ray’s grandson, so why should we be nice to him.” Jason explained.
“Won’t he complain to Mr. Henry?” Ethan kept watch in case the subject of their discussion showed up.
“No.” Jason shook his head and ordered five bottles of water, two bags of M&Ms and three large cookies. “He isn’t friends with Pop. Ernie Smith is a pretender. He always puts in bids well below what the car will realistically fetch, then drops out acting as if the price is too high. Pop said he never buys, but likes to act like he can.”
Jason paid the cashier, waving Ethan’s money away. “My grandfather gave me money to take care of the four us. Said it was his treat to us for a summer of hard work.”
Collecting their snacks, they started back. “Once,” Jason scanned one last time for Ernie. “When I was fourteen or fifteen, Pop wanted this old Ferrari. Somehow Ernie found out and made sure to get a bid in before Pop, probably expecting my grandfather was going to bid soon once the price was close to the real value. Pop waited until just before the sale was final to put in his bid. Old Ernie nearly shit a brick being on the hook for $65,000 he didn’t have.”
Ethan started laughing so hard he nearly dropped what he was carrying. “What happens if you can’t pay for the car?”
“People like my granddad have credit.” Jason explained. “He can transfer funds the next business day. People like Ernie need to make good before they leave.”
“How?” Ethan followed him toward the row of seats. “I mean it’s Saturday, how can they settle up today?”
“You bring a letter of credit from a bank stating you have fund in escrow, I guess.” Jason shrugged. “I really don’t know since I always go with Pop. Anyway, to answer your question, if you welch on a bid, they won’t let you back. This is not exactly a big community. Once you get black listed from one auction, the others quickly follow. Sellers want their money, which is why they put it up for auction. If the high bidder backs out, I guess they can offer it to the next highest bidder, but most times those people bought something else.”
They moved through the row to the empty seats by Raymond and the others. Handing out the snacks, Jason asked his grandfather, “What happens if you can’t make good on your bid Pop?”
“It means your grandmother froze my account,” he joked.
Jason shook his head at the answer. “Not you Pop, I mean in general.”
“Saw old Ernie did you?” Ray’s eyes narrowed. Jason knew this was not a game to his grandfather. He enjoyed his cars and took the process serious. When people like Ernie tried to make a mockery of it, he was not pleased.
The four younger men gathered closer. “There are many options, but they all begin and end with being banned from future sales. The seller can sue; a fool’s errand if the high bidder is one of the Ernie Smiths of the world. They can offer it to the next highest bidder or they can offer it at a future auction.”
“Have you seen that happen often Mr. Henry?” Ethan’s interest made Jason smile; another thing they had in common.
“Often? No Ethan, I wouldn’t say it happens often. Less than once a year, I’d estimate.” Raymond looked up from his booklet. “I’ll give this to Ernie, he has been doing this far longer than anyone else I’ve seen. Most get banned because they get caught up in the moment. Or they misjudge the market for a car.
“Once, the most remarkable thing happened.” Ray’s smiled while his audience hung on his every word. “Jason and I were at an auction outside Harrisburg. You must have been 10 at most. A particularly brazen charlatan was there; bidding when cars got too close to the end. The car he bid on was worth at least $10,000 more than he offered, but no one offered to go higher. It was like the entire room was out to see him banned. As he scanned desperately for another bidder, imploring someone to speak up, the room when silent. No one wanted to disturb this most perfect of moments; Harry Neubler was about to be banned. Even the auctioneer realized what was happening and quickly ended the auction. The gavel hit,” Ray brought his hand down and said, “Sold.”
They all laughed at his antics. “You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone wanted to hear the sobs and squeals as the fraud in our midst was revealed. Now Harry was not a man without some means, he just couldn’t afford a $70,000 car without liquidating everything he owned. In short, he could be sued.”
His audience smiled at the way Raymond Henry changed his voice when he said, ‘sued.’ Jason remembered how as kids, ‘Pop’ would tell his stories just like this.
“What would old Harry do? Banishment was assured; but financial ruin could be averted if he could find someone to cover the cost. He needed to find someone who wanted the car, who would pay what he bid or at least something very close.”
“You!” Ethan pointed at his host.
“It was a fetching car, and the price was right.” Ray told them amidst their laughter. “Watching Harry get banned for life AND having it cost him two thousand dollars was just icing on my cake.”
“Did you arrange that freeze out Pop?” Dean asked.
“No Dean,” Jason spoke up. “Didn’t you hear him say it was a spontaneous event?”
Raymond gave Jason a wink that only Ethan could see. Jason had been too young to understand what was happening, but now it all made sense. The buyers all talked up the car; inflating its estimated value. He remembered seeing Pop tip his hat to people all day, something he never did before or since. When the bidding started, he remembered the stares that came their way until his grandfather tipped his hat again. After that all the bidding stopped.
“One does not ‘fix’ an auction, Dean.” Raymond said with total sincerity. “That would not only be illegal, it would be ungentlemanly.”
“What else are you bidding on Mr. Henry?” Ethan was far more interested than Aaron or Dean.
“Shh.” Jason dramatically looked all around. “Never tip your hand. Otherwise word can get out who is bidding on what.”
“Fear not young Master Miller.” Raymond laughed. “We shall make a true car buyer out of you yet.”
When the next car came up for bid, Jason tapped his grandfather on the arm. “Can I see the booklet Pop?”
Keeping his eye on the front of the stage, Raymond handed his grandson the book. When Jason ignored it, Ethan gave him an odd look. Before he could speak, Jason gave him the barest shake of his head.
The 1964 Austin Healey 3000 MK III was the type of car Jason knew his grandfather really loved. Sure he had more of the large old touring cars in his collection, but secretly he loved the small, sporty British roadsters. Jason figured it was because he drove those himself instead of being driven by the chauffeur.
The bidding started slowly, but eventually hit $40,000. Raymond looked to his grandson and entered the bidding. When the price reached $50,000, Jason exchanged looks with his grandfather. With a small nod from Jason, the older man bid another $2,500.
Jason and his grandfather sat calmly, waiting to see if another bid materialized. Correction, Raymond Henry was calm, Jason was as nervous as the others acted. Only his prior times at the auction kept him from letting too much emotion show.
When the gavel tapped, the Henry entourage, as they took to calling themselves, erupted in a cheer. Jason’s was only slightly less exuberant than the others, managing to shake hands with his grandfather before Ethan practically pushed him from his seat. At first the crowd glanced over in annoyance. When they saw Ray congratulate his grandson, a murmur went around the room, with more than a few nods and smiles sent their way.
Of course Jason hadn’t bought the car for himself, but no one needed to know that. To most, this was Raymond Henry passing the torch to his grandson.
Once Raymond made arrangement to transfer money and have his car delivered, they made their way back to the car.
“Jase, this is so cool.” Dean was crowing. “Pop let you buy a car.”
“Correction, he just let me decide if HE was going to buy a car.”
“Tell me, Jason,” Raymond interrupt the brothers’ conversation. “Why did you go over our preset limit?”
Jason felt his throat tighten as everyone except his grandfather stared at him. “The car fits you Pop.”
“Many cars ‘fit’ me.” He turned toward his grandson. “Why this one?”
“When I was a kid, you had a car almost like this.” Jason smiled at the memory. “You took me to our first auction in that old Austin Healey. For years, we drove that silver convertible on our trips.”
A fond smile touched his grandfather’s face.
Jason remembered his Uncle taking the car for a drive without asking. The engine seized because the car was about to be refurbished and didn’t have enough oil. After it was towed back, it was determined the car was a total loss. He never saw his grandfather so angry over a possession as he was that day.
“It’s been years since we’ve seen one this nice come up for sale around here. When we were looking it over today, I could see you admiring it. And,” he swallowed once before giving the last reason. “It isn’t my money, so it doesn’t hurt me to spend it. I know that sounds terrible, but I really thought it would make you happy. We only went five percent over the agreed limit.”
Raymond stopped walking. “What about ‘find your price and stick to it?’ Didn’t I teach you that?”
“Yes, sir.” Jason nodded and looked away.
He was about to apologize when his grandfather spoke again. “But there are also times when price isn’t the main driver.”
“Yes, sir.” He repeated. When he looked back, his grandfather was smiling at him.
“This was one of those times.” He reached out to rub Jason head.
“Huh?” He had no idea what happened.
“Earlier I was thinking about that day I took you to our first auction. How you loved that Austin Healey, telling anyone who would listen that it was our car. One day, after a ride, you got very serious for a twelve year old and told me, ‘Pop, when I grow up, I’m going to buy this car from you.’” Raymond changed his voice again, evoking laughter from his ‘entourage.’
“I wasn’t sure if you remembered.” Raymond kept his focus on Jason. “Buying this car because it reminded you of our trips makes it very special to me. What better reason to exceed our limit than to capture such a special memory.”
Feeling choked up, Jason reached out to hug his grandfather, something they rarely did. He wasn’t sure Raymond would be receptive, but he was pleasantly surprised when his grandfather hugged him back.
“Thank you, Jason, for this wonderful day,” Raymond said softly in his ear.
“You’re welcome Pop.”
Soccer practice started the second week of August, so Jason was the first to go back to school. Saying good bye to Ethan and Aaron was harder than he expected. Dean he knew he would miss, that was how it was every year. Ethan, however, surprised him. Because they did not hook up, but became friends instead. Ethan turned into Jason’s confident, his foil of sorts. When he returned to school, he did not have a gay friend who could assume that role. Sure he had Darryl and Wendy, but talking to Ethan left him free to say more than he did to his straight friends, particularly about sexual issues or romance. For those reasons, he would miss Ethan far more than he realized at first.
Darryl was already settled in by the time Jason returned. He came a week earlier, not having worked this summer. Unable to find a job, his parents lined up projects around the house and volunteer assignments to occupy his time. They also paid him for his work, so he did not go without spending money.
Unpacking wasn’t as hard as in years past; he left most of his stuff in the apartment other than his clothes and a few other essential items. The two talked while Jason unpacked, then went for a run where they discussed some of their training for the upcoming season. Once they got home, they put their thoughts to paper.
“Why don’t you just call him?” Darryl must have noticed how anxious Jason was, even after their run. “You’re dying to see him.”
Jason finished the sentence he was working on. “He’s at work until eight. Calling him will just get me his voice mail. I don’t need that.”
“Not when you have those sappy messages he left that you saved and listen to when you miss him.” Darryl darted away to avoid Jason’s punch.
“Dude that is so wrong of you to bust me on that.” Jason tried to look upset.
“Whoa, Jase,” Darryl held up his hands, joke over. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were so sensitive about that.”
“Yeah, well now you know.” He snatched the paper, heading for his room. “Oh and another thing . . .” When Darryl turned, he flashed him the biggest smile he could. “Gotcha!”
Jason made it to his room, slamming the door just before Darryl reached him. Opening the door, Darryl tackled Jason onto the bed. Unable to stop laughing, Jason could do little to get his best friend off him.
“Dude, your face was priceless.” Jason tried to make a serious face, which only infuriated Darryl more.
“You sneaky little doofus,” he repeated as he punched Jason on the side of the arm. Peter’s ring set Jason struggling to get his phone. Darryl, using his position to his advantage, snatched the phone without letting Jason up.
“C’mon D, give me the phone.” Jason pleaded between laughs.
“No way,” Darryl hopped off, sliding the bar over to answer the phone. “Jason Tellerman’s phone, this is Darryl Minger, how may I assist you?”
Jason couldn’t hear Peter’s side as he struggled half heartedly to get his phone.
“Peter who? Oh Gregory.” Darryl shifted hands to keep Jason from the phone. “No, he can’t come to the phone right now he’s too busy getting his ass kicked by his roommate for being a doofus.”
Darryl hung up the call, tossed Jason the phone and ran out. Caught between chasing his roommate and calling Peter back, he opted for the later.
“You’re a dead man Co-Captain Minger.” He shouted as he dialed Peter’s number. “A dead man, do you hear me? Dead Man!”
“Whose a dead man?” He heard Peter asked.
“Hey Pete!” Jason forgot about Darryl for the moment. “In case you missed it, I’m back.”
“Aside from getting your ass kicked by Darryl, what are you doing?” Peter sounded as happy as Jason felt.
“Waiting for a hot sexy man to finish work and come see me.”
“Hey!” Peter yelled. “I thought you were waiting for me?”
Jason let the self deprecating humor slide, he was in too good a mood. “You and the hot sexy man are one and the same, Mr. Gregory.”
“Oh. In that case, when am I allowed to come over?” Peter was definitely getting better about letting Jason compliment him.
“When can you get here?” Jason replied.
“How soon can you answer your front door?”
Jason froze, unsure what to say. Walking quickly, he made it to the door and swung it open. Peter stood in the hall with a yellow rose in one hand, his phone in the other.
Jason turned the phone off, pulling Peter into his apartment by the front of his shirt. He barely shut the door before he drew Peter closer for a kiss.
“Oh would you two please go to your room.” Darryl covered his eyes as he walked toward the kitchen. “You make us straight single people jealous.”
Jason couldn’t suppress a smile. He was still stunned at how easy D accepted his relationship with Peter. ‘You two go to your room.’ It was as if Peter lived there already. Lost in that thought, he barely heard Peter greet Darryl.
“Hey D.” Peter gave Darryl a wave with the hand holding the flower.
“A flower for me?” Darryl laughed. “You know, you’re not my type.”
“You aren’t mine either,” Peter played along. “I only chase gay men. You straight boys are no fun in the sack.” Turning to Jason he added in a loud whisper, “I hear straight guys give lousy head.”
Jason snickered until he saw Darryl standing, slack jawed, staring at them. While his best friend searched for something to say, Jason began laughing uncontrollably.
“Thanks Pete.” He gave him another kiss. “That’s better than killing him for what he did earlier.”
“What are boyfriends for if not to gang up on straight boys?” They both laughed harder.
Darryl covered his ears, closing his eyes tight. “Okay! Off to your room, both of you.”
Half kidding, he pushed the willing pair into Jason’s room. Behind the closed door, Peter gave Jason a real kiss; the kind that still made his knees weak when the blood rushed toward his groin.
“Wow.” He said breathlessly. “I waited two weeks for that.”
“Two long weeks.” Peter presented the flower in dramatic fashion, earning another kiss for his troubles.
Laying the flower on the dresser, he noticed the time. “What happened to working until eight?”
“If I told you I asked Master Lee to switch with me so I could surprise you, it would have ruined the surprise.” Peter sat down on the bed, grinning devilishly.
“So,” Jason plopped next to Peter, “what are we going to do with our evening?”
“Sadly not what you have in mind horn dog.” He grabbed Jason’s hand. “I have a favor to ask.”
“Favor? You came over to ask me a favor?” Jason flinched at the idea. “Why do you even need to ask?”
“Because it’s kind of important to me. I want you to come to dinner at my mom’s tonight. Erin’s coming too.”
“Tonight?” Jason repeated as if he didn’t understand the word. “You want me to meet your mom tonight?”
“Are you okay Jase?” Peter’s question was devoid of humor. “You sound confused.”
Trying to clear his head, Jason stood up. “Sure, let me shower. I would love to meet your mother.”
Hugging Jason from behind, Peter said, “Are you sure? You looked a bit freaked out there for a minute.”
Separating Peter’s hands, Jason turned to face his boyfriend. “Completely sure. It took me a minute to process what you said, that’s all. I was expecting . . .” He really didn’t know what ‘favor’ Peter needed. “I don’t know what I expected, but it was not ‘come have dinner with my mother and sister.’ You just took me by surprise.”
“But you’re cool with it?”
“Yeah, totally!” The more Jason thought about it, the more it excited him. “I know how much she means to you, so I want to finally meet her.”
This got a smile from Peter. “Nice!”
Thinking about it a moment longer, Jason said, “I can’t believe we waited this long, I mean it’s your mom, not mine, right?”
“Last semester was a bit crazy. Then you ran off this summer to make eyes at Ethan with your shirt off.”
Reminding him of what happened sent a pang of regret through Jason. Was Peter still worried about that? Did he still harbor doubts about how Jason felt? “Pete, I’m sorry I . . .”
“Whoa,” Peter cut him off, grabbing Jason’s face in both hands. “Bad joke, sorry. I like Ethan, really, and I’m not threatened by him.”
“You sure?” He felt better, but still worried he hurt Peter.
Peter pulled him closer for another kiss. “Positive.”
Satisfied things were good between them, Jason took a step back. “If you expect us to make it to dinner before nine, you better let me shower.”
“Hmmm. That’s a tough one.” He held out both hands moving them up and down. “Kiss Jason for three hours, or go have dinner with mom and Erin.”
Grabbing both hands, Jason pushed them together. “How about go have dinner with your family, THEN come back and kiss Jason for three hours?”
“Hmm, well if you insist.” Peter winked, then rolled onto the bed. Pushing the pillow up, he said, “Go shower. I want to watch you get naked.”
Peeling his off sweaty shirt, Jason shook his head. “If this is your mood, this is going to some dinner.”
First impressions are so important, especially when meeting your boyfriend's parent after dating for 9 months.