We landed in Charleston late Sunday afternoon. Nick was there to greet us. He grinned as we came out of the departure area.
“You two certainly look happy.” Nick observed.
“Because we are.” Tony nodded. But he looked startled when Nick bypassed him and hugged me first. Then grinned.
“Hi, Pop.” Nick said hugging me hard. “I hope you had a good time.”
I hugged him back. “I did. Your father showed me a lot of Italy. Even the place in Rieti.”
Nick looked at his father. “You never offered to let me see that.”
Tony shrugged. “You never seemed interested.” Then smiled as Nick hugged him.
“I got the pictures.” Nick said. “How many did you take!? There were hundreds!”
“We saw a lot.” I explained. “I wanted everyone to see.”
“But we’re back.” Tony said. “Back to the grind.”
We got back to the condo and now the chore was unpacking. And we had a lot of unpacking.
“Next time.” I said to Tony. “We send everything back by mail. That includes all those new duds.”
The next morning I was still on Central European Time. We were up long before it was necessary, but I dressed. Tony was getting himself dressed to go into work.
“Next year, we go on a cruise.” Tony said absently.
I chuckled. “We’re not back a full day and you’re talking about our next vacation?”
Tony shrugged as he tied his tie. “Sure.”
“Do I get to say where?”
“Sure.” He nodded. “But we take fourteen days and cruise Alaska, or the Caribbean, or even one of those great ships to Europe again. See Rome again, Venice…” He grinned coming to me. “But you say where.” He kissed me. Then sighed. “But I won’t see you until tonight.” He almost pouted.
“We have to earn money to pay for the last trip.” I reminded. “But we’ll see each other tonight.” Then I sniffed him. “Good boy. You smell good, but not that other cologne.”
“That’s for later.” He chuckled. “Maybe I’ll even put that soldier’s uniform back on. If you put that kilt back on.” He kissed me as he smiled. “A Highlander and a Roman soldier. Make wild passionate love.”
I hugged him close, loving the way he always felt in my arms. “It’s a date.” Then I kissed him. “Now, I have to go to work.”
He nodded as I walked toward the door.
“Maybe we should have lunch!” Tony called to me.
“You know where I work!” I said happily as I headed out the door.
Coming back to the hotel, I smiled at people I worked with as they greeted me, the occasional “welcome back.” I began getting things ready to begin the day when Alan came up behind me.
“Tell me everything!”
I chuckled. “That’s not possible.” I shook my head at him. “I sent pictures.”
Alan groaned. “And they were nice, but how was it?”
I grinned more to myself than Alan. “It was…there aren’t words to describe it. Fantastic, amazing…stupendous.” I turned to my boss and friend. “Scotland was nice, but Rome! That was incredible!” Then I brightened. “I have something for you.” I walked back to my office. Alan right behind me. I took the wrapped package and handed it to him. “I know you’ll like it.”
Alan looked at it. “I’m sure. Unless it’s one of those hunky gladiators in here, then I will be ecstatic!” He unwrapped the package. “Espresso! And an espresso maker!”
“I know how you love coffee and all that…Tony lives on it. This is Italian Espresso. From Italy. Complete with one of those espresso thingys.”
Alan smiled at me broadly. “I love it!” He pulled my arm. “We’ll make some now.” Then he stopped. “Unless you’re tired of all that Italian stuff.”
I shook my head. “I’m not tired of all that Italian stuff. I’ve grown quite fond of Italy.”
He nodded looking at me with a leer. “I’ll bet you have.”
He began making the espresso as we talked.
“You know, Mitch.” Alan said sitting back in his chair. “You need a four year degree.”
My eyebrows rose. “I do?”
He nodded. “I promoted you because you know your stuff. But who knows? I could meet a hunky guy and get whipped off my feet. But that four year degree ensure you this position.” Then he grinned. “If you decide to stay, being married to that handsome Italian stallion you may decide to become a househusband.”
I chuckled. “I’m not going to become a househusband. I like working.”
He nodded inhaling the smell from the espresso. “You might consider it.” He waggled his eyebrows. “You’ve got a two year degree. Completing it at the College of Charleston will be easier.”
I chuckled. “Go to school with my stepson.” I nodded and then shrugged. “I’ll think about it.”
It was about one in the afternoon when Tony walked into the lobby. I looked up grinning at him, he was walking quickly holding something behind his back.
“Where’s the fire?” I asked laughing as he approached the front desk.
“I need my marital fix.” Tony said leaning over kissing me. “Hi, baby.” He said softly. I heard Sherry, at the front desk, sigh. “I missed you.” He rubbed his cheek on mine. Then he presented me with a rose. Then he looked over at Sherry, then back to me. “I’m not getting you in trouble, am I?” He whispered. “Kissing you out here.”
I shook my head. “Only if you do more.” I grinned. “Now’s a good time. Departing guests are gone, new arriving ones don’t usually come in till after three o’clock. You know that.” Then I sat up. “Does this mean no lunch?”
Tony sighed. “Yes, we can have lunch. But I’ll be ready tonight. I laid out my soldier’s uniform and your kilt.”
“I never knew you liked so much role play.” I grinned. “Any other roles you’re interested in?”
“Maybe.” He grinned, his eyebrows waggled. “We have a few decades. But I liked the kilt, and I loved the uniform.”
“I did, too.” Then I looked over at Sherry. “I’ll be at lunch.” To which she just nodded with a smile. I turned to the camera. “I know you’re listening, I’m at lunch! With my husband!”
I arrived home having seen Tony’s car, so I knew he was here.
“Tony?” I asked the air.
“Come in the bedroom.” Tony’s voice said.
I walked in and there was the Roman soldier, with the shield, armor, helmet and sword. I chuckled.
Tony smiled. “Well, there’s the kilt, let’s go!’
We did have a great time. Dinner was almost forgotten. It was afterwards, during that afterglow part, I began thinking.
“Do you think Nick will like it if I’m in the same class?” I asked seriously thinking about it.
Tony rolled over looking at me surprised. “You want to go back to college? But you’re already a manager.”
I nodded. “It was something Alan told me today. He could leave. I would be next in line, but I need that four year degree. He promoted me because he said I knew what I was doing. But I won’t be able to take his place without that degree.”
Tony smiled at me. “That’s great!” Then he frowned. “But that means you’ll be gone more.”
I laughed at him, bringing him in for a kiss. “I’ll still be your Highlander. I swear.” Then I shrugged. “I need to look into it.”
Tony nodded. “Absolutely. Nick will love it if you’re on campus with him. He’s only got two more years.” Then he brightened. “You will be graduating the same year! I get to go for two graduations! My son and my husband!”
I ran my fingers in his hair. “I’m thinking about it.”
“Think more.” Tony urged. “We have the money.”
I rolled my eyes at him.
“Well, we do!”
The summer had begun and I did research the possibility of returning. I talked with an advisor and found with my two degrees, I could have my bachelor’s degree in ten months and get my master’s degree in fifteen more months! It was combination course load between the College of Charleston and Johnson and Wales here in Charleston. Me with a Master’s Degree!? Who knew? I could take courses on my schedule online. All I had to do was occasionally come to a class, usually once a week and take all exams on campus. It was at the July 4th Celebration at my parents I told them, including Nick as we sat to consume our cookout.
I grinned at Nick. “So, what classes are you taking this year?”
Nick looked curious, but told me what he was taking.
I shook my head. “None I have to take, but I’ll be seeing you on campus.”
My mother let out a little cry of surprise. Dad just looked stunned.
“No way.” Nick said smiling.
“But you have two degrees.” Dad said confused.
I nodded. “In Criminology/Law Enforcement and Hospitality. They took some of my requirements. But I need a few others to get my Bachelor’s Degree. And this way I’ll have my Master’s Degree as well.”
Grandmother smiled. “I knew he was smart.”
“Of course he is.” Granddad said smiling. “He takes after me!”
“How much more do you need to be a manager?” Dad asked.
“That’s what I’m going to find out.” I smiled as Nick came over beside me. “But there’s Human Resources, Financing, Management…a whole lot I have done, but I need the accreditation.”
“I’ll show you some wild times, Pop.” He grinned. “We’ll be college buds!” Then he looked at me seriously. “But don’t jinx me. I have the hots for a few campus babes.”
“Why would I jinx you?” I asked. “I’m not interested in any babes.”
“Yeah, but you’re a parent. You could cramp my style.” Nick smiled.
Tony swatted Nick lightly on the back of the head from the other side of me. “Watch it, Romeo.”
“I’m just saying, he’s kinda between you and me, Dad.” Nick said. “He’s a parent sometimes and a college chum the next. He could come off as parental.”
I put my hand on Nick’s arm. “Relax. I’m doing a few courses at the college. Most of my classes will be online. It’ll take me a little more than two years, but when I’m done, I’ll have my Master’s Degree.”
“That’s wonderful, son.” Mom said happily.
Then as the meal progressed. I looked at Dad. “How’s it going at church?”
Dad looked up surprised. “At church?”
“You have a son that married a man.” I said simply. “Legal or not, we did it. Not only that, but you and Mom gave me away.”
Mom smiled. “You’d be proud of your father.” She said confidently. “The last two sermons were about not judging others.”
I smiled at Mom, then looked at Dad. “Really?”
Dad shrugged. “I just told them what the Bible said, judge not less ye be judged. We aren’t God.”
Tony smiled. “But they aren’t giving you problems about the wedding?”
Dad frowned. “Whenever a group of people get together, there will always be problems. I can deal with it.” Dad smiled.
“And my aunts and uncles?” I asked. “Are they giving your problems? Uncle Thomas or Uncle Earl?”
Dad smiled. “Thomas is married to Juanita. She’s Latina, and Earl’s married to Hilda. They aren’t saying a word.” He grinned. “Not if they want peace in their homes.”
The summer was ending and then began the college studies. I’d take courses on the computer Tony used for work, when he wasn’t there. Even when he was if I needed to. But being there when he was home was the most important.
Things were working out pretty smoothly. I’d work in the day, do my courses at night and spend the evening with Tony. We gathered again at my grandparents for Thanksgiving. This time Aunt Mary was there with Uncle Norman. She didn’t forget about that like she did our wedding. Only this time they arrived in their new car. I just shook my head as they drove up in the new Cadillac. And she wore her best.
Inside later, she walked up. I was in jeans and my pullover. She looked at me. “Back to jeans and simple shirts, I see.”
I nodded. “I never left them.”
“I get our clothes at some private clothiers in Atlanta.” Mary said a little haughtily as Tony came by.
“I told him to put on the stuff we bought in Milan, but he wanted to wear his Levis and shirt.” Tony shrugged. “He’s a country boy.”
“They’re comfortable!” I argued. Tony grinned and kissed me and then went to help granddad. Mary’s eyes were cold and then she walked on.
The week of Christmas, we flew back to New York. Seeing all the Delveccios was fun. And to keep his promise. I got to see Wicked!
Tony grinned at me as it started. “My comfort here is, you don’t know the music. So, you won’t be singing along.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t with Cats! I knew those songs.”
Tony nodded. “But you hummed.”
“It’s my tell.” I grinned. “You said it yourself.”