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  2. Reader1810

    Readers: Do you read Prologues?

    I don’t go to many movies at the theatre, but I usually watch some of the credits. This is one I stayed to the end. Nice reward for doing so, I’d say. 😛
  3. tabaqui

    ATGB X

    Good that i took the afternoon off, you made me cry again... But love their marriage day so far.
  4. dughlas

    ATGB X

    They did it in their own style and it was lovely. Great chapter.
  5. wenmale64

    ATGB X

    Outstanding chapter. Simple, charming and elegant. I also had to look up the flowers to see how they fit in. The little bit with using Lizs' scarf to make the ring cushion is just heart warming. Owens sister would definately approve and feel welcomed into this new family. Carlos, you have reached a new high in your writing.
  6. mollyhousemouse

    Word Association

  7. Ivor Slipper

    Word Association

  8. RadioOfLove


    I just found this, it seems to be very promising! Only thing that startled me was that he did not notify authorities, that would have been the first thing to do in my eyes. Or was that part of the instructions? 🤔 Can't wait to read on - and won't have to
  9. Rigby Taylor


    First the monastery, and now this! Frankie's logical brain refused to accept the coincidence so it shut down and concentrated on escape before the fire brigade arrived, people noticed him, asked questions, then blamed him for arson and murder. Fuck!!! This was not a nice thing to have happened. Ignoring cuts and scratches, Frankie scrambled over the fence, the stream and the neighbour’s fence, paused among the trees to rub off the worst of the leaves, mud, blood and other detritus, then put on shorts, shirt and sandals from his satchel. He crept closer to the neighbouring house. There was no sign of life so he risked walking boldly past the verandah, down their drive and out to the street. But which way? What direction was he facing? Should he go left or right? He’d cycled south from the city on a busy road for about fifteen kilometres to the first beach, then another say five kilometres past the other beaches, then with Inesh about a kilometre east, away from the beach to where he was now. He looked up at the sun, drew an imaginary clock on his palm and made the twelve face the sun. As it was around four-thirty he put his finger on where the number two would be. That was near enough due south. So he faced that way and thought. They hadn't crossed a busy road in Inesh’s car, so he’d better head east to where the road his bus had driven along two days before should be, and maybe there'd be a local bus. The poorly sealed road he was standing on was heading more or less north-east. That would have to do, so he set off. It was hot, his head ached, the cut in his ribs throbbed and mosquitoes came out to play. After several bends and two intersections he arrived at a two-storeyed concrete bunker of a building plastered with large, garish advertisements in Hindi. Upstairs seemed to be offices, but a wide doorway in the centre at street level offered a shady interior, and a giant banner across the front in violent red, purple and blue proclaimed it was the Al Ameen Super Bazar. Giant photos of a girl and boy ecstatic in delight at the idea of Lazza ice creams, argued with Fundae Carry-Homes and American Ice-cream. He was thirsty and hungry having purged himself of the dreadful lunch, so he entered the large dim supermarket throbbing with refrigeration units, selected a couple of bottles of drink and four cellophane-wrapped food items, then waited until three women in saris had been served before handing his items to the overweight man behind the counter. After scanning the purchases, the assistant said something in Hindi. Frankie smiled and nodded, handed over a note, accepted the change, smiled and nodded again, then asked if there was a bus nearby heading to the centre of the city. The man raised his eyebrows. ‘Ha! I thought you were Ahmed’s boy,’ he said in a fairly thick accent. ‘He’s just returned from Mumbai. Do you know him?’ ‘No, sorry. About that bus?’ ‘There’s one every half hour. Nearest stop is Theatre Junction.’ Frankie looked suitably lost. The man took him outside and pointed back the way Frankie had come. ‘Go down there, first turn right, keep going and you’ll get there. Ten minutes.’ ‘Thanks very much. You are very helpful.’ The man nodded and returned inside. As soon as he found a secluded spot, Frankie drank the liquid and ate the heavily spiced savoury rolls, then, nervously expecting to be smashed into by Inesh in his wagon, he hid his long hair by concealing it in his other shirt wound around his head, hoping it would look like the turban things worn by the fishermen. After passing dozens of bungalows and a hospital, the road became increasingly commercial and he arrived at the intersection of three roads. Opposite was a large pale blue and cerise curved building that, according to the sign in both Hindi and English, was the Sree Neelakanta Theatre. Giant posters on the wall facing the street showed large faces of angry men, a woman, and smaller scenes of chaos, suggesting it was a movie theatre, not a live entertainment centre. To the right was a large alamanda bush in full yellow flower. He felt instantly, impossibly homesick. They had one of those beside the house at “85”. Telling himself not to be stupid, he looked around for the bus stop. There were two bakeries, two restaurants, a mini supermarket, an optician and an office block but no obvious bus stop. He asked a passing teenager who pointed to a post in front of the theatre. After ten minutes he’d just decided he was in the wrong place when two young men arrived and confirmed it was where the bus into the city picked up passengers. He relaxed. And then he saw Inesh’s vehicle driving slowly down the road he had recently walked. In blind panic, he squatted behind the two young men and pretended to adjust his sandal. They ignored him and Inesh’s Tata continued slowly along the road to the city, Frankie’s bicycle still strapped to the roof rack. The bus was packed, which was a blessing. Jammed into the centre aisle he’d not be seen from outside. It was a hot and sweaty ride, but with all the windows open not smelly, and half an hour later it stopped at the terminal where he had arrived. What to do now? It would be dark soon. He didn’t want to return to the hotel in case Inesh could somehow find he’d been there. He was still hungry. A table for one at the rear of a large popular restaurant nearby was a temporary refuge while he ate a spicy meal that made him thirsty, so he drank two bottles of water then went to the toilet and saw himself for the first time in a mirror. What a mess. Hair like a haystack, blood, grass and soil marks on his face and neck, clothes rumpled, hands filthy, eyes staring and chin in need of a shave. In Sydney he’d have been shunned as a homeless bum. Here, people had been as polite as ever. He remembered passing a men’s hairdresser, so after splashing water over his face and neck and washing his hands, he allowed himself the luxury of a shave and haircut in the style of other men his age. The result was startling. He looked neat and reliable. Pleasantly ordinary. Less conspicuous. He felt just a little bit safer. It was seven o'clock. Where to spend the night? Nineteen hours until his flight. Hide in a park? Find a different hotel? Go to the airport to confirm his ticket? But why would he do that? He had a whole day for that tomorrow. Eight hours to sleep, nine more hours to fill. He could buy a book and read for an hour. He shrugged. The problem seemed insurmountable. At any moment Inesh could see him and kill him. He had to hide. The portico of a temple beckoned. Outside, dozens of people were milling, but inside seemed dim and safer. He went in and stood in a corner to think. ‘Ok, Shiva,’ he whispered, hoping whichever god the temple was dedicated to wouldn’t mind, ‘Tell me what to do.’ As he expected, there was no little voice in his head giving instructions so he wandered out, checked the coast was clear and just started walking. Five minutes later he realised he was on the way to the airport. Impossible to miss being illuminated like a Christmas tree with hundreds of lights draped over the scaffolding-like portico. Inside the great barrel-vaulted concourse, hundreds, if not thousands of travellers and their welcomers or farewellers were milling like colourful sheep. He found the desk for his airline and joined a queue, for once not impatient as it moved slowly forward. The man at the desk scanned the ticket, consulted a screen and frowned. ‘That flight has been cancelled,’ he said, peering at the screen. ‘Union problems in Australia.’ ‘But what…’ The man held up his finger to stop the questions. ‘The next flight with Business Class seats available is with Air India in three days time.’ ‘I can’t wait that long. Is there no alternative?’ ‘There’s a Singapore Airlines flight leaving in two hours, but there are only first Class seats available, do you wish to upgrade?’ ‘Yes.’ Frankie handed over his Debit Card, was relieved when the purchase was approved, and clutched the boarding pass as if it was a life-raft. ‘Have you no luggage?’ ‘No, I sent it on earlier.’ The man nodded. Wondering why he had suddenly decided to go to the airport, would be the path to madness, Frankie decided. It was merely a coincidence. But that didn’t stop him whispering thanks to Shiva. A shower in the first class departure lounge brought him back to life. A steward found some disinfectant for his cut that was already looking infected. Tea and savouries in the lounge revived him, and two hours and twenty minutes later jet engines throbbed through the seat, he was thrust firmly back into welcoming cushions, and looked out the window with a shudder of relief as the lights of the city dropped away. ‘I have escaped,’ he whispered before falling asleep. Four and a half hours later at Changi he made three circuits of the giant concourse to stretch his muscles and restore circulation. Eight hours later he looked down at Sydney through thick smoke. It was a relief to undo seat belts and leave the metal canister, despite acrid smoke that made ten o'clock in the morning seem like ochreous dusk. The sun a red ball in the sky. No one knew he had arrived and he didn’t want to tell anyone. He needed time to process the last few days so he wouldn’t become hysterical at the telling. He wandered up to the observation area and watched an Air New Zealand flight land and disgorge its load. Unable to make himself leave the airport and take up his old life, he wandered down to the crowded arrivals court, watching people being met, hugging, laughing, kissing walking excitedly away. A young man remained standing alone in front of a large map of the city, peering at it through horn-rimmed glasses. A suitcase almost touching his leg. He removed his spectacles and peered even closer at some small print. Must be myopic, Frankie thought. Like a shadow, a figure in dark clothes passed between Frankie and the young man and suddenly the bag was gone. It took precious seconds for Frankie to realise what had happened and set off in pursuit. But it was hopeless. The thief simply disappeared among the milling throng; just another passenger lugging a suitcase. Frankie ran back to the young man who was staring around in shock. Eyes wide. Mouth open. Frankie ran up and took his arm. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I chased the fellow but he disappeared.’ ‘But what can I do?’ he looked angry rather than fearful. ‘Everything I own is in there.’ ‘Not your passport and money I hope?’ ‘I’ve still got my passport from going through customs, but most of my money was in there. I thought it'd be safe. It was practically touching my leg.’ ‘Tie it to yourself next time. Come on, we’ll report it to the Airport Police.’ ‘But… who are you?’ He looked suspicious. ‘I didn’t take your suitcase. I saw it happen and chased the guy who did, but didn’t get a good look at him. Could have been male or female. ‘The bastard, now I'm totally fucked.’ ‘Are you religious?’ ‘No.’ ‘Married?’ ‘No. ‘Healthy?’ ‘Yes. but what has all that to do with it?’ ‘It helps me decide what I want to do. Who’s your favourite living male singer.’ ‘Um… hang on…’ his face lit. ‘Bogdan Mihai.’ ‘Do you think I'm handsome?’ The young man sighed. ‘I don’t know you well enough to have an opinion yet, but I can’t help liking you.’ ‘Excellent. Let’s go to the cops.’ The police took names and addresses—Frankie gave “85” as both their addresses, they made a note of the contents of the bag, a description and what Frankie saw. They held out no hope of finding it, but promised to let them know if it was found abandoned. That sometimes happened. Frankie led his new acquaintance out to the main concourse and sat him on a seat. ‘What are…’ ‘Shhh…. I’m thinking,’ Frankie grinned. ‘Ok, now I'm ready. ‘If you told the cops the truth, your name is László Brooker, you come from New Zealand, you are twenty-two, you had nearly a thousand dollars in the bag along with your clothes and parting gifts from friends.’ ‘Yes. Who are you?’ ‘I’m Frankie Fey, Twenty, resident of the address we gave the cops. Unemployed. How'd you get the name László and that beautiful brown skin? ‘My father’s Maori and my mother’s the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. László is her father’s name.’ ‘Right, László, here’s what I suggest. It’s getting on for lunchtime, so let’s go into town and find something to eat, then we’ll sit in the park and tell each other what we want the other to know about ourselves, and then we’ll decide what happens next.’ ‘But I’m expected at my aunt’s place. I was going to stay there.’ ‘Do you like your aunt?’ ‘She’s alright.’ ‘Give her a ring and tell her something’s come up and you’ll be late.’ László frowned. ‘What exactly has come up?’ ‘I’ve decided I like you and want to get to know you.’ ‘That was quick.’ ‘He who hesitates is lost. So ring her.’ ‘How?’ Are you telling me you don’t have a little apparatus that snaps open and takes pictures and tells the world where you are and …’ ‘No way! Mum tried to make me have one but I knew she’d be forever checking up on me. They're invasions of privacy.’ ‘Careful, I'm in danger of falling in love with you.’ László grinned. ‘Aunt will just have to worry until I get there.’ ‘If you ever do.’ ‘Is that a threat or a promise?’ ‘Yes. But first I need some money.’ Frankie took a couple of thousand dollars from an automatic teller beside one of the Bank branches then they exited the vast concourse, found a taxi, and half an hour later were deposited in the centre of Sydney, having learned that the smoke was from bush fires burning in the mountains to the north-west of the city. After buying bread rolls, cheese, bottles of drink, two tomatoes, and two bananas, they found a shaded patch of grass under a tree in Hyde Park and tucked in. When both were satisfied, Frankie took fifteen, hundred-dollar notes from his pocket and glared at László. ‘Now, I don’t want a fight. I am giving you some money. If you argue, I will wrestle you to the ground and stuff the notes into your mouth until you choke.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because I like wrestling.’ ‘Why are you lending me the money?’ ‘Not lending—giving. Because I didn’t catch the thief and I want you to feel independent and secure and not make decisions because you think you owe me. I can afford it and will not notice its loss. Ok?’ ‘I feel a fraud.’ ‘Don’t we all.’ Frankie handed László the notes. He counted them and froze. ‘There’s five hundred more than was stolen!’ ‘Your clothes and bag need replacing. So… get comfortable and listen to a brief synopsis of my life.’
  10. tabaqui


    Loved it,
  11. mollyhousemouse

    Word Association

  12. Today
  13. R. Eric

    Chapter 15

    Yes, but Israel was recognized much later in history. The Jews I know identify all of their people as Jews or....Hebrew. I'm Scottish, but I don't speak the brogue. I am Clan MacQueen!! Maybe it's just the Southern Jews? Rabbi Wolffe said that. Like you said, what do I know? I ain't Jewish. Shalom Ya'll!!!!
  14. jwh6868

    ATGB X

    Happy tears this time! Carlos you have done it again, thank you for stimulating my brain cells - generally when I read a chapter there is always something I need to look up and learn, this time was kangaroo paws.
  15. droughtquake

    Chapter 15

    Hanukkah is Jewish counter programming. Outside the US, Hanukkah is a minor holiday. It’s not a big deal at all in Israel! ;–)
  16. droughtquake

    Chapter 15

    Absolutely not! And I don’t know anyone who identifies as Hebrew. They might speak the language Hebrew, but everyone I know describes themselves as Jewish, not Hebrew. Jew and Jewish refers to an ethnic group as well as a religion. (Israel is a country and Israeli is a nationality.) But what do I know? I’m not Jewish or Israeli and don’t speak Hebrew. I only have had friends who are Jewish, attended Jewish Temples, or immigrated from Israel.
  17. Sussins

    Chapter 30

    I love the way you write the characters are so relatable they feel like a part of ur family u want to cry with them laugh and celebrate anything they do as well there is one other writer like u one this site really enjoying it
  18. R. Eric

    Chapter 15

    Oh. come on, Buddy! Didn't you see the Santa Clause 1, 2 and 3? Bernard, Santa's head elf was Jewish! The dispute was about Jesus being Messiah. I have friends that are Reformed Hebrew. The more orthodox don't, but they loved Christmas. Hanukkah wouldn't be the holiday it is, I'm told, except for Christmas. Santa can come down the chimney of Jews just fine. No mangers have to be there.
  19. bubby1234


    I just love this story, it has to be your best so far, but i know you (sigh) i know the hammer is gonna fall on Artie and Dizzy, i pray that you keep them together all the way through the story as i am one hopeless romantic and a complete monogamist, i also want Kye to meet a dream boy of his own, i never have and i am 65 now so too late for me so i live my life through the storys i read, i realy do fall in love with the guys , daft i know but there it is, thank you for giving me a little happiness in my life.
  20. Sophie Walker

    LGBT coming out novel

    Hi lovelies, I am so excited to announce that my first LGBT novel is finally available to buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unexpected-Lesson-1/dp/172092161X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529660028&sr=8-1&keywords=an+unexpected+lesson I came out an Uni and the feelings throughout the book are based on my own (The story itself is fictional!) April Fields is an awkward twenty year old, who, up until recently travelled the world with her mum. After the tragic death of her dad, the two fly back to England where they discover they've been left his entire estate. April's mum decides it's time for her daughter to have more stability and April is quickly thrown into the world of university - A foreign world filled with studying, alcohol and relationships. Here she meets her Biology tutor, Rachel Carter, and the two form a close friendship. After a drunk kiss between the two women, April struggles to come to terms with her sexuality, having never thought of women in that way. The two embark on a confusing journey to discover their feelings and try to find a way to be together. The book attempts to deal with discovering your sexuality and coming out to friends and family in an uplifting way. Pick up a copy and let me know what you think You can also follow the journey on Instagram. Post a pick of yourself with the book and i'll share it to my page https://www.instagram.com/theunexpectedseries/
  21. droughtquake

    The Pink Elephant

    So the shunned outsider moves to the Bay Area and becomes the highly sought-after prize for two wildly different guys! Why wouldn’t Artie have an extremely difficult time figuring out what he wants? He doesn’t have experience dealing with issues like this. How many days has he known the three friends? Everyone seems to want him to pick a side, any side, just make a choice! But it’d be foolish of Artie to choose so quickly! Why should Artie act more rashly than Ryder did? ;–)
  22. TalonRider

    Last Post Wins #46

    And back to the mighty raptor once again. Take Your Dog To Work today and I'll treat you to Chocolate Eclair and some Onion Rings.
  23. Carlos Hazday

    ATGB X

  24. Carlos Hazday

    ATGB X

    Some of the grooms’ relatives stayed at the Georgetown Inn on Wisconsin Avenue so they could be close to the townhouse, even though the wedding and reception were being held elsewhere. With the ceremony scheduled to begin at eleven, all guests were asked to be at the Watergate Hotel—where other out-of-towners were lodged—no later than ten o’clock. Buses would transport everyone to the National Mall and back to the famous Washington hostelry for the luncheon and party. CJ could not sleep as late as he wanted. Adrenaline flooded his bloodstream and he could not lay still. Leaving his slumbering fiancé in the apartment, he went for a run. On the way back, he stopped at Georgetown Cupcakes. Since the store was still closed, he walked around to the service entrance and knocked. He wanted to ensure everything was on track. Eschewing a traditional wedding cake, the grooms agreed on cupcakes instead. “Coming to check up on us?” The smirking baker who opened the door ran a hand through his beard leaving it flecked with flour. “Yep! How are you, Vaughn? I couldn’t sleep so I went for a run. Heading back home now to shower and figured I’d stop by to make sure everything was cool.” “We’re all ready. Come on in and take a look? The bosses are on their way and they’ll take the tower over to the hotel.” The man stood aside, allowing CJ to enter, and pointed towards a metal cart near the center of the room. CJ grinned seeing the tiered arrangement of cupcakes crowned with not one but two of them. “Wow! It looks fantastic. How many? I don’t have enough fingers to count.” The baker chuckled at the silly comment. “One hundred seventy on display. We have an extra three dozen or so we’ll keep boxed in case they’re needed.” “Perfect. Do me a favor? Let me take four of the extra ones with me now. Someone told me we’re supposed to freeze a piece of the cake to eat on our first anniversary. We’ll do it with two of these and Ozzie and I can have one each with breakfast. I’ve heard horror stories about grooms not getting a chance to eat at their own reception. I wanna make sure we at least get to have our cake and eat it too.” In high spirits, the one-liners poured out with ease. The shower was running when CJ returned to their place; he stripped and joined Owen in the glass-walled enclosure. They refrained from any long play since they had appointments downstairs. Although CJ knew his fathers would prefer him to be clean-shaven for the big event, after an initial comment they had not pursued the matter. It was a different story with his grandmothers. Both implored him to get rid of the facial hair. The nagging was relentless but he refused. Owen sided with him, approving the decision to pare the ever-present beard down to fashionable scruff. Neither one wanted to look at pictures in the future and see someone who shaved just for the occasion. They wanted to see themselves as they really were. “Good morning, habibi.” The Arabic term of endearment made both CJ and Owen smile. “Are you ready for the big day?” Ali Suliman owned The Polished Man with his father and after they leased one of the ground floor retail spots in the repurposed Georgetown Theatre, he began cutting the family’s hair. The establishment was an upscale, old-fashioned, full-service barbershop selling grooming products in front. In back, there were antique barber chairs at each station. “Ready as we’ll ever be. I just want to get on with it. The past few weeks have been crammed with prep and now I’m ready to enjoy the day.” Owen followed the proprietor as he headed towards the rear portion of the shop. “I remember how nervous I was the day I got married. Couldn’t wait ’til it was over. So which one of you goes first?” “Go ahead and do Ozzie. He’s the easy one since all you have to do’s scrape the blonde fuzz off his chin.” CJ reached for a magazine from the stack atop a high table in the middle of the room. “I’ll just sit in one of the empty chairs and wait.” An hour or so later, the grooms accompanied by Spencer Liston, who walked the two blocks from the Georgetown Inn to their place, boarded a large motor home carrying garment bags with their wedding attire. “Good morning, gentlemen.” The chauffer hired to ferry the wedding party around was a young man in his mid-twenties with a friendly rotund face and a pleasant smile. “Morning, mate. I’m Owen, one of the grooms.” “G’day. I’m Spencer, his brother.” “How the heck are you, Warren?” CJ, the last to climb aboard, had met the driver when he arranged for the vehicle’s rental. “And why the hell are you wearing a coat and tie? I told you to dress in something comfortable.” “Company policy, Mr. Abelló. I―” “Stop right there. It’s CJ. If you call me Mr. Abelló again I’ll kick your ass out of that seat and drive this thing myself. You got me?” The man chuckled. “I hear you loud and clear. CJ it is. After all, you are the one paying for my services. Where’s our first stop?” The motor home ambled north on Wisconsin, turned left twice, and headed towards the river. CJ directed Warren to stop in front of Georgetown University’s main entrance. Carson, alerted by a text message and wearing a tank top, gym shorts, and flip-flops, waited for them with his own garment bag slung over his shoulders. One more turn at the end of the street and Warren double-parked in front of CJ’s fathers’ house. Ritchie and Silas left the apartment while CJ was out for his morning run and he was glad to see his brother did not appear to suffer from a hangover. With Ritchie, Bradley, and Patrick aboard, they made a handful more stops to pick up the remainder of their group. Each time a new man climbed aboard, the motor home became more raucous. Harley brought out a joint. Warren drove around a bit as asked to, and by the time they arrived at the Watergate Hotel the smokers in the group were not quite stoned but were grinning. CJ planned for this. As soon as the chief stoner came aboard, he slid windows open and lit the Cire Trudon Enesto candles they received as presents even before his friend fired up the doobie. A few minutes after calling Adriano, he and Margarita knocked on the door and delivered Emmanuel and Gabriella to the grooms. By then, the fumes had dissipated and the interior of the vehicle smelled like leather and tobacco. The ten-year-olds’ attire echoed what the rest of the wedding party would be wearing: brown deck shoes, white shorts with black braces, and white shirts. The grooms had real bowties for the kids they knotted as the motor home made its way towards the National Mall. “You or Ozzie gotta do mine too, CJ.” Ritchie was first to amble towards the curtained rear section and change. He held his bowtie in hand and looked at his brother and brother-in-law. “Bro, you’ve been to enough black tie things you should be able to do this blindfolded. Get over here.” The driver slowed the motor home when they reached East Basin Drive, turning at the access road for the monument. The wedding party had a permit to park near the ceremony. To keep the kids entertained, CJ handed each a phone to play games while the rest of the men finished getting dressed. The grooms arranged for double-deck buses to collect guests outside the Watergate Hotel, and return them to the world-famous property for the reception afterward. Once the red behemoths arrived at the National Mall, and guests strolled towards the chairs set up on the lawn, CJ and Ozzie gave the signal. The wedding party readied to make their appearance. Bright morning sunlight had scorched the dew off the grass but the temperature had yet to climb enough to make guests uncomfortable. Wispy clouds floated above the Tidal Basin without obscuring the sun. The small, white-covered, raised platform in front of the expanse of seats stood empty but for a single folding chair and two microphone stands―one low and one almost twice as tall. Frank Lloyd Wright could have designed the Arts and Craft style columns on each corner crowned with tropical arrangements full of orchids, kangaroo paws, and ginger blooms. CJ jumped at the opportunity of using the latter when he first saw them in the catalogue. The delicate, white, butterfly ginger was the national flower of Cuba and grew profusely in South Florida. Their inclusion was a nod to CJ’s grandparents; both sets had the plant in their back yards while he was growing up. A soft breeze carried their exquisite perfume and the murmur of conversation from waiting guests. The moment Chipper walked down the aisle between the audience carrying an acoustic guitar, all chattering ended. CJ and Owen watched through the motor home’s front windshield as their friend turned his head around for a moment and winked at them. His smile was dazzling enough to blind those not wearing sunglasses. His attire was appropriate for a late spring day in Washington: a crisp, powder-blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, ironed, maize, linen walking shorts with black suspenders, brown deck shoes without socks, a yellow bow tie with white polka dots, and an ivory, straw Panama hat. He sat on the chair, looked over the crowd, and began to strum his instrument. Thiago followed Chipper wearing similar attire. Navy shorts topped with a muted pink shirt, the bow tie emulated the color of his shorts: dark blue with white polka dots. He bumped fists with his friend, stood next to him, and after mutual nods, the speakers in back of the cordoned-off area crackled alive. This day and age we're living in Gives cause for apprehension With speed and new invention And things like fourth dimension. Chipper strummed the guitar while Thiago sang the opening stanzas of “As Time Goes By.” The first time they played the song for the Squad during one of their frequent nights hanging out in the town house’s basement, they were surprised Owen sang along. The Aussie knew the lyrics by heart. They discovered the movie the song was featured in, Casablanca, was Pamela Liston’s favorite and her son had seen it countless times. Yet we get a trifle weary With Mr. Einstein's theory. So we must get down to earth at times Relax relieve the tension. Harley strolled towards the stage wearing pastel shades of mandarin orange while Chipper sang the following verse. CJ and Owen had approached their talented friend about singing the processional, recessional, and first dance at their wedding. While discussing choices for the processional, Chipper remembered Mrs. Liston’s affinity for the old Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman film. Later, during the ride to the reception, he would recall for his friends how happy he was when he glanced in her direction while singing and noticed the pleased surprise on her face. And no matter what the progress Or what may yet be proved The simple facts of life are such They cannot be removed. It became a duet as the two friends watched the remainder of the Squad strut in. Brad, in emerald, followed by his brother Patrick in chartreuse. These men were the original Squad members, having walked the halls of School Without Walls High School together. In quick succession, the remainder of the group followed; each wore a different color, all with the same shoes and their own distinctive sunglasses. Carson, Ethan, and Tank joined the others as they fanned out in front of the stage facing the crowd. You must remember this A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply As time goes by. Ritchie and Spencer were the last to walk in and took position in the center of the line-ups, leaving enough space in the middle for two more people to fit in. The men up front could not see the audience’s faces since most guests stared towards the back, awaiting the next person to approach. CJ and Owen bumped fists when they noticed the seated guests smiling as much as those standing by the stage. Their eyes tracked Emmanuel and Gabriella Tomassi. The children strolled side by side. She held a miniature bouquet of orchids, kangaroo paws, and white ginger, while her brother carried a tiny pillow with two rings on it. CJ choked up and Owen sobbed when the Australian’s parents spoke to them the day Geoff and Pamela arrived. Mrs. Liston returned the hand-painted, blue silk scarf CJ bought as a present for Liz while he traveled in Israel. However, it was not in the same condition as when purchased. Folded, cut, and sewn, it had become a small cushion. The wedding bands rested on it now. Gabriella walked towards Ritchie when she reached the front, tuned to face the audience, and stood with CJ’s brother’s hands gently resting on her shoulders. Emmanuel mirrored his sister and wound up in front of Owen’s best man. Few guests knew the story behind the pillow the boy held, but Spencer Liston did. The sunglasses he wore hid his eyes but the tilt of the head left no doubt where he was staring. Elizabeth Liston might have passed away but her spirit was with them, her scarf its physical representation. And when two lovers woo They still say, "I love you." On that you can rely No matter what the future brings The world will always welcome lovers As time goes by. The celebrant stepped on stage from the back while the wedding party entered. He took position between the two performers, facing the gathered relatives and friends of the grooms. The Jefferson Memorial glimmered in the background when CJ and Owen at last walked in holding hands. Whispered comments from audience members reached their ears as they neared the front while Chipper and Thiago finished the song. Chipper rested the guitar against the chair and with Thiago, joined the others on either side of the grooms. CJ and Owen had wireless mikes clipped below their bowties, the transmitters attached to the back of their shorts hidden by the untucked shirts’ tails. Both wore khaki shorts but no suspenders; in homage to what his dads had worn at their wedding, CJ convinced Owen to don shirts from the same designer he purchased from for César and Brett’s ceremony. The white tops had navy blue contrasting fabric inside the neck and cuffs emulating the color of their bow ties. While the wedding party’s neckwear was the same white polka dots on differing background colors, theirs were a swirling design of red, white, and blue. Owen explained to his parents he and CJ chose them because the colors were the same as on the American and Australian flags, adding they were also the ones on the Cuban standard. Faces beaming, the two men turned towards each other when they reached the front. CJ could not resist going off-script. “Hi, Ozzie. You look so damn handsome.” He glanced at their assembled guests, imminent mischief on his mind. “Screw tradition”―he said louder than before—“I wanna kiss you now.” Ignoring catcalls from the wedding party, and chuckles from most of the other guests, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Owen’s. Reverend Chance Highbottom tried to cover his mouth while discretely coughing. The attempt to distract the grooms amplified by the microphone attached below his clerical collar, sent ripples of laughter and applause coursing through those in attendance. The grooms separated but appeared reluctant to do so. “Luv ya too, mate.” Owen winked at his husband-to-be and then glanced at the priest. “Sorry, Father.” “That’s quite alright, but no more skipping ahead to the end.” The Episcopal priest raised his eyes and waited until the guests quieted. “Dear friends, we gather here today to celebrate the triumph of love. The love between these two young men ready to come together as one…” The welcome and opening prayer were followed by Father Chance turning to Emmanuel and asking him to raise the pillow with the rings. He untied them from the ribbons holding them and offered a blessing. CJ’s peripheral vision caught sight of several men wearing dark suits and sunglasses milling around behind the braided velvet cord enclosing the seating area. His initial concern disappeared when he noticed the former President and First Lady take seats in the last row. He motioned with his head for Owen to peek and was rewarded with a stunned expression on his fiancé’s face he was certain matched his own. Barack and Michelle Obama had sent their regrets, explaining they did not want their presence―along with that of their Secret Service’s security detail—to create a circus-like atmosphere. They apparently decided a sneak appearance would disrupt the proceedings less than if their presence became known in advance. “…do you, Owen Zachary Liston, accept this man as your husband?” Owen appeared startled when Chance used his name. CJ was surprised at seeing the new arrivals and the distraction caused him to miss some of what the priest said. It seemed his boyfriend was caught in the same conundrum. Taking the ring the priest offered, Owen’s eyes bored into the dark-haired man facing him, the blue orbs gleamed, and his smile reflected the bright sunshine. “I do. CJ, you’re my beginning and my end. My alpha and my omega. We’ve been here on these grounds so many times. Alone and with friends. This, our playground, will forever be part of us. We’ve enjoyed picnics amidst the cherry blossoms, their ephemeral nature reminding us how short our lives are. Reminding us to treasure each moment. That’s what I promise today. To cherish each day, each hour, each minute together. To always be at your side through whatever comes our way. For as long as I live.” Chirping birds and a few sobs from the audience cut through the muffled sound of civilization. The two men held hands. CJ felt as if they were alone. The blonde farm boy from the Hunter Valley was all he cared about at the moment. Pockets of tourists gathered around the roped stanchions encircling the stage and seats, watching the ceremony in silence but smiling. Some had their phones out, capturing the event they had stumbled upon. “And do you, César Marcos Abelló, Jr., accept this man as your husband?” “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi. Bloody right I do.” Australians amongst the guests erupted in cheers and Spencer Liston placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder as he bent over at the waist laughing with gusto. “Ooops, sorry. Got carried away there.” He did not think anyone would take his action as unscripted, but fuck them if they could not take a joke. It was his wedding and he was going to do it his way. “My dear, dear, Ozzie, I choose to be your friend. I choose to be your partner. I choose to be your husband. I choose so today, and I will choose so each and every day as time goes by. One thousand six hundred and forty-four days after we met, to you I pledge my wealth. To you, I pledge my soul. To you, I pledge my love. For as long as I live.” “Then, by the power vested in me, I declare you married. May love always be at your side in your journey together. Now, you may kiss each other.”
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