Before I knew it, we are all pulling into the carpark at the ‘The Yard,’ exceptBrady and me. We had to park out on the street curbside because of the trailers.It was Saturday early evening, the pub was packed to the rafters, according to the carpark anyway. Brady had parked directly behind me, he got out of his SUV, waiting for me on the path. Crap! I couldn’t very well be rude after giving him the speech about us being civil to each other because of the kids, as I approached him he fell into step beside me. We watched as our families left us behind, one-by-one disappearing into the back of the bar, my hope faded one person at a time, that, at least one soul would hang behind and save either of us this awkward, very silent, walk.
I sighed internally, oh well, a few drinks, and I can forget all about Mr. tall, dark, and handsome. There are plenty of us here. Hopefully, I can avoid Brady. My sunglasses were pushed up on my head, so I pulled them down to cover my eyes. I don’t know what possessed me, but without moving my head, I let my eyes wander to the left so I could check out the man walking next to me. Everything about him is messing with my head even his soft lips, eyes, his smell too… Shit!God damn it.As we got closer to the building, the aroma of the meals cooking in the bar kitchen hit my nose. My stomach let out a loud roar reminding me I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.
Brady chortled, then his whole head turned looking directly at my stomach, “You sound like your hungry for something!”
“Mhmm, I haven’t eaten since breakfast,” I ran my hand down the front of my body from my chest to the waist of my jeans. Brady’s eyes followed the path of my hand, his tongue poked though as he licked his bottom lip. He looked more like he wanted to eat me than get me something to eat, I could feel my fucking traitorous body reacting to him. “Ok, focus. Brady-bad, don’t go there Ember, just don’t…” I said over-and-over as a type of mantra in my head, closing the distance between us and the door.
Timothy or Kate must have called ahead, as there was a long table set, with a setting in the middle with two little-chequered flags placed up front, AJ and Novy sat down, with various family members, friends including Hawko complete with shiny twink, fanning out around them. Brady is on the opposite side of the table a few places to my right, and Kate his Mum is beside me. Brady and I shared the occasional sideways glances at each other, after a few I couldn’t help but let a little smile break out, so did he. This is too weird, I let out an uncomfortable chuckle, looking away, shaking my head.
Our champions were beaming, with us all getting caught up in their happiness. Hawko and his twink, he needs to introduce the kid, it doesn’t feel right to keep referring to him as a twink. They sat down across from me and next to Brady. Justin and Cameron are standing at the end of the table happily chatting with each other having a beer. If Justin can be man enough to put his prejudice aside, I’m sure I can start letting go. It is going to be really hard though, I’ve been holding onto this anger for a really long time. I had not done anything to his crowd at school to warrant their bullying. Brady seems to have changed, I will wait and see I guess and try to do my best not to make things uncomfortable.
Kate placed her hand on my arm, “November, you’re looking well, happy too, is there someone new in your life? Hmm? Whatever it is, it suits you, dear.” The woman barely paused to take a breath, “I hope Brady finds some happiness, he’s been so down in the dumps lately.”
“Oh, really,” I replied.
“Yes,” Kate looked at her son fondly, then she leaned closer and spoke quietly, “he finally came clean and was honest about himself, told his wife and kids that he was gay; then he signed everything over to Linda,” the woman sighed, I tried to school my reaction. What is with this family, don’t they know it is not cool to out a gay person. Kate continued, “Then Brady packed up a few things, clothes mostly, he was about to leave when my Grandson Novy, asked if he could come with Brady. Although Brady didn’t tell us any of this, Novy did,” she smiled affectionately at the memory, “Novy told us he was so proud of his Dad. The way he took responsibility for everything, didn’t argue with my daughter-in-law, just packed and left like she’d asked him to do.”
I gently placed my hand on Kate’s forearm, “Kate,” I said kindly, “Kate there’s no right way to say this, and I’m only telling you, so you’re aware. It’s not okay to out a gay person to others. Your son…”
“Oh Heavens,” Kate covered her mouth with her hand, “I didn’t realise,” she seemed upset now.
“Hey, it’s okay, I won’t tell anyone,” I squeezed her arm showing support, “I already knew because your Grandson told me, maybe it would be a good idea to have a quiet word with him later.”
“I d…definitely will,” she glanced at Brady, “he’ll be ever so upset with me. B…But I didn’t know.”
Giving her arm a quick rub and a warm smile, I leaned even closer, “It’ll be our little secret,” I winked at the woman next to me. “It’s up to Brady who and when he comes out to others. We’re cautious about who we choose to tell, some people aren’t as tolerant as others.”
Kate’s eye went big, “So you…You’re…”
I nodded, “As a three dollar bill,” I chuckled.
Her face changed from surprise to excited and softened, “Any chance you and Brady?”
“Absolutely not,” I answered curtly, pulling back, my body stiffened, Kate’s smile fell and turned to frown.
Aaron, placed a beer in front of me, “Thanks, mate.”
“Anytime,” Aaron said then found his wife and slid his arm around her waist and kissed her cheek, she leaned in with a smile, whispering something to my best friend. He smiled at his wife affectionately, then called his son AJ over.
I took a sip of my beer turning back to Kate, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude to you. It’s just…”
“By your reaction, my guess would be my Son and his friends weren’t very nice to you in high school,” Kate bit her lip.
I stared into my beer, twisting the glass around in place, “No, no Ma’am, they weren’t.”
“Brady’s a changed man now, back to the boy I knew before High School, and that damn Paul, that boy was at the centre of everything terrible, thankfully Brady won’t give him the time of day now,” Kate shook her head in disgust.
“Not a fan myself,” I answered to Kate.
“That Paul showed up at the house the day after you’re reunion.” This oughta be good. “I’ve never heard Brady yell so much, sounded like he was in a bar fight. It ended with Brady throwing Paul out of the house, thundering behind him in colourful language. The wretched man slammed the front door so hard I thought it was going to come off the hinges.”
“Sounds about right,” I answered, that Paul is such an asshole.
“I’m so glad he came home, we weren’t very forgiving at first, I must say. But thanks to that Grandson of mine, my husband and I have started coming around.” Kate said wistfully, “I’m so glad Novy came along, he’s a sweet boy, he is the best of both his parents, his kindness, he gets from his father.” Not been my experience! “Well, the side of Brady we all knew was in there all along, but, I think him not being honest with himself, everyone really, must have been eating away at him.”
“It can do that, I thankfully didn’t have to go through that, but, I have watched many others. It can be cruel and very…”
“Please give him a chance, Ember, he needs to be able to start over,” Kate pleaded with me, I winked at her, “already taken care of. If you’ll excuse me, I have to take care of some business. Can I bring you back a drink?”
“I’ll have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, thank you Ember,” Kate smiled happily.
“Happy to,” I told her leaving the table to go to the restroom, I had to pass by the front doors, I watched as my folks came through the door with my niece Ember.
“Uncle Ember,” my niece called out running to me with open arms.
I picked her up, “Geez girly, you’re getting way to big to pick up anymore,” I chuckled as I laid kisses all over her face. She pulled back wiggling around trying to avoid my mouth. I put her on the ground as she wiped her face on her sleeve.
“Ew, yucky, you smell like beer!” Ember’s face was priceless.
I made my eyes go big, “Really? Ew… Sorry,” I feigned disgust.
I looked up to smiling faces, greeted my parents, giving Dad a hug then Mum, “Hi, Dad, Mum, the winners are out in the bistro area, I’m just popping to the loo.”
“We’ll see you in there,” Dad said guiding his two favourite ladies in the other direction.
I stopped via the bar on the way back to my seat, I set Kate’s wine down in front of her, who was now deep in conversation with my mother. I gave Hawko and what’s-his-twink a beer each, then called out to Aaron to come grab a beer and coke for April.
“About time, a man could die of thirst waiting on you to pay for a round,” Aaron said loudly, Hawko and… Jesus what is this kids name, laughed. I shot Aaron, the bird, he laughed and walked off, drinks in hand.
I reached my hand out across the table to what’s-his-twink, “Hi, I’m Ember,” I greeted him with a smile.
The kid bounced in his seat, “Oh, hi,” he said excitedly, “I’m Pix, thank you for the beer,” he answered shaking my hand like I was a celebrity and he was having a fanboy moment.
“You’re welcome, so what do you do for a living Pix?”
“I’m a pediatric nurse,” Pix answered proudly.
“Wow,” I chuckled, “I bet the kids love your upbeat personality,” the man nodded with a grin from ear-to-ear.
“Oh, I love the kids. They don’t care who I am, or that I’m flamboyant, they’re happy I make their stay fun while they’re in the hospital,” he said with a bit of attitude, and the shrug of a shoulder, then taking a gulp of his beer.
“I bet it’s rewarding,” I stated, there’s no need to address the concerns he has about his demeanor they are plain as day for everyone to see. If people don’t like it, they can go and…
“It is, kids are fantastic, they cut right through the bullshit, but at the same time have an innocence we sadly lose as adults. I love my job,” Pix sighed. I like this kid, he knows who he is, that’s all that matters. As amusing as I find his enthusiasm, he seems like an intelligent guy with an overly excitable personality. Hawko was watching Pix’s every move with affection, I’d never really seen him look at anyone that way. This guy must be special.
“So how’d you guys meet?” I waved my finger between Hawko and Pix.
Pix laughed bouncing in his seat, his eyes went to Hawko with a twinkle, “This big lug was about to tow my car out front of the hospital,” Pix said throwing his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of Hawko as he continued. It is easy to see Hawko fondly remembered the encounter as Pix told their story, his smile lighting up the young guy's face as spoke.
I felt my shirt being pulled, I looked to my left and my niece Ember is standing next to me. I sat back in my chair, she put her colouring book and pencil case down in front of me and climbed on to my lap, wiggling around until she was comfortable.
“Hi Hawko,” then she tilted her head and directed her question to the man next to him, “Who are you?”
“Hi Princess, this is my boyfriend, Pix,” Hawko greeted the little one, “and this is Ember, Ember’s niece.”
“Hi Pix, did you want to colour in with me?” Little Ember asked innocently while she got her pencils out of the case spreading them out.
Pix’s face lit up, “I’d love to, do you have,” he tapped his lips with his finger thinking, “Yellow?”
“Yep,” my niece picked up the yellow pencil and handed it to Pix, then turned her colouring book sideways so they could do a page each. Hawko watched on in amazement, his gaze wandered over to me, I winked at him knowing what he was thinking. We give him such a hard time about his taste in men that he doesn’t bring them around us very often. Pix seemed to fit in with all of us including the Douglass family without a blink of an eye, or a snide remark about the age difference or Pix’s enthusiasm for life in general.
The rest of the night went smoothly. When the food came out, Kate and my Mom fussed over all of us kids to make sure we ate whether we were grown or not. Everyone was having a great time, Aaron and Brady gave speeches about the boy'striumphant success and friendship. The two teenagers were understandably on a high for the rest of the night. It seemed everyone had a great time celebrating and getting to know each other for AJ and his new friend. I have to admit, I even enjoyed most of it.
Hi folks, we hope you enjoyed the after party for AJ and Novy's triumphant win. We'd love to know what you think of Pix, Hawko's shiny twink. Thank you for reading and the wonderful comments and feedback you give. We look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you to Glenn, Rick, Rob, and Tony for their guidance and help. Catch you next Friday.