It was nearing that time again, and Tony asked me again where I wanted to go on vacation. We decided a ten to fourteen day cruise was the best way, now deciding where. I opted for the Caribbean. No time change involved there really.
I needed to put my vacation time request in with Alan, but I needed to be sure the time was okay before putting the paperwork in and I noticed he was very happy.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
“What do you mean?” Alan asked innocently.
I frowned. “Remember when you were complaining I was too happy and wanted to know why. Have you met someone?”
Alan smiled. “Well….yeah.” And the man blushed. “I did.” A man with a fair complexion couldn’t disguise it well. “But don’t jinx it!” He warned quickly.
I raised my hands in surrender. “I’m not asking a thing. How can I jinx it?”
But I saw Alan wanted to tell me or feared he would burst. You could see it! “His name is Kent Lewis. A detective.”
My eyes grew. “A detective? He’s a cop!? Here in Charleston?”
Alan nodded. “He came here on a case a few months back and well…” he shrugged. “He’s about fifty. He’s divorced and we just hit it off.”
I nodded. “That’s great!” I came around Alan’s desk. “You know me, Alan. I don’t pry. I won’t. When you bring him around, I’ll meet him.” I chuckled. “Tony’s always bugging me to get the dirt. That’s just not my style. I’d be glad to have you two over for dinner sometime, if you like.”
Alan nodded. “I need inviting.”
“You’re invited. How about next Friday night?”
Alan nodded. “I’ll ask Kent, but I’ll say yes for now.”
I told Tony about inviting Alan and Kent. He was fine with it.
“But who’s cooking?” Tony asked me with a smile.
I looked at him pleading. “Who can cook Italian meals better? You or me?”
Tony nodded with a chuckle. “Does Alan like eggplant parmesan?”
I shrugged. “I’ll ask. But it’s good. Because even if Kent’s vegetarian, it works. I’ll ask what Kent drinks and make sure we have some on hand when they get here.”
The time passed as it always does. Soon it was that Friday. Alan and Kent were coming over. I hoped it would be a good turn for Alan. Everyone needs love. Tony was cooking a great dinner, I could smell it. Complete with garlic bread and a salad. And of course wine. I would have helped, but he got this control thing going and you didn’t interfere. But I felt guilty doing nothing. I of course would clean up. That was only fair. I nearly jumped when the doorbell rang. Hey, I didn’t want to seem too anxious, so I did that lazy walk and answered the door. Opening it, was Alan looking very comfortable in pressed slacks and casual shirt of a coral color, he looked very nice. Then I saw the man with him. I liked him immediately. He wore jeans and a nice blue shirt, was a little thicker, but not fat, but he was middle aged! We should all look as good. He was about fifty and his hair was black, with grey streaking through it. But he was very nice looking.
“Hi, Alan.” I greeted my friend with a hug. Then turned to Kent. “Are you Kent?”
Kent nodded with a smile extending his hand. “I am. Kent Lewis.”
“And this of course, is Mitch McKenzie.” Alan said as Kent and I shook hands. We headed in the condo. “And that man over there is Mitch’s husband Tony.”
Kent walked in looking at our home. “Wow, this is big.”
Tony smiled, wiping his hands on a dish cloth. “Hi, guys.” He greeted. “Welcome to our home. Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes. Can I get you something to drink? Wine?”
Kent smiled. “A beer is better.” He grinned.
I nodded. “Alan told me what kind, we have some. I’ll get a glass.”
“The can or bottle is fine.” Kent said shrugging.
“Not in this house.” Tony almost growled.
I chuckled at Kent’s startled face. “He is what he is. His mother never had so much as a paper plate.”
“Never has and never will.” Tony stated. “And no bottles or cans!” He pointed at Kent with a smile.
Kent nodded grinning. “I see.” He again looked around. “What is it you do? This is very nice.”
We found out Kent was raised a Navy Brat until graduating from high school and then he joined the Navy. He served almost ten years before he chose to become a civilian police officer and worked his way up to detective.
And there it began, a beautiful friendship.
They were a delight to have as friends. Whatever you feel about couples of the same gender, I knew this was going to be the beginnings of a good friendship. The thing was very evident, that Alan was falling in love with Kent and Kent was also falling in love with Alan. Yea! They both deserved to be happy.
As our trip was being planned…well…I saw something about Tony I hadn’t expected.
“What about one of those all gay cruises?” I asked.
He shook his head immediately. “I did one. I vowed never to do another one.”
“Too many fags!” Tony growled. “I never want to be referred to as girlfriend again.” He frowned at the thought. Then he looked at me. “Do I look like anyone’s girlfriend? They all were practically wearing tiaras!!”
I chuckled. “I’d have to say no to you looking like anyone’s girlfriend. Certainly not mine.”
He gave me the see look. “And there you go.”
“So their flamboyant.” I shrugged. “So? What’s the big deal?”
He shrugged. “If you want to, but I don’t think they’re our kind.”
“They’re gay!” I said simply. “So are you.”
He nodded. “I’m gay, yes. They are fags. There’s a difference. A whole ship full of them…” he shook his head. “…I’d rather not.”
I shook my head. Then leaned toward him kissing him. “Just making sure you’re still gay.”
He chuckled. “Want to see if I am again?”
“In a minute.” I waved him off for the moment. “We need to plan. If we’re doing this we need reservations and tickets to fly…” I held a flyer up. “What about one of these RSVP Elite Cruises? They’re all gay.”
He took the flyer. “I’ve never been on one of these.” He looked at the flyer. “They look our age.” Then he grinned at me. “Or at least my age.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re not old, and why not the other cruise?”
He shook his head again. “All I remember were these young guys in their twenties…half naked, if not completely naked, by the pool. Rubbing body parts together and on me! It was chaos, believe me. We’ll look this RSVP Elite up online.”
I nodded. “It must have been Hell for you.” I chuckled. “Being surrounded by all those half naked and naked fags.”
He rolled his eyes. “You’ve no idea. But I insist on a balcony. They have it, maybe. If not, no.”
“Having never had a room….stateroom…I’ll go with what you say.” I grinned at him. “So am I a fag?”
He shook his head. “Not even close.” Then he grinned evilly. “However, that skirt you sometimes wear…”
“And you don’t?” I growled back. “That tunic you wear.” I reminded him. “Neither of us wear anything underneath.”
He brought me close to him on the sofa pushing me down with him on top of me. “Want to see that I am gay now?”
I smiled. “It might not hurt.” I said kissing him. “Faggot.” And he started kissing my neck and working down my chest. Oh, the agony! It was great!
I hummed as I walked into my office and got my request forms ready. I knocked on Alan’s office door.
“Enter!” Alan barked.
I opened the door. “I’m submitting my vacation forms, the dates are filled out, oh Ornery One.” I bowed in front of his desk, but grinned at him.
“Oh, shut up, Mitch.” Alan smiled holding his hands out for the forms. “I’m surprised you’re not going to Rome again.”
“We’ll go back.” I shook my head. “The Caribbean. For our anniversary.” I sat back in the chair as he read the request over. “So, how is Kent?”
Alan didn’t look up, but smiled. “He’s pretty good.” He opened his drawer, took a pen out and signed them as his smile grew to a wide grin. “We’re discussing moving in together.”
I nodded. I was truly happy for Alan. He might have found that one person to share his life with. “That’s good. So, it’s working.”
He nodded. “So far.” He sighed. “He’s a little gun-shy. He was married almost ten years while in the Navy. He has teenage children, so he’s being careful.”
“Three. Two daughters and a son.” Alan shook his head. “How did you and Nick get along at first?”
“Tony had been out a while and he told Nick he was gay before he met me.” I said. “But Nick was okay with it.” Then I remembered that first night at Pearlz. “He was very protective of his father. He wanted to be sure about me before we got in too deep. But once my intentions were known, he was fine.”
Alan nodded. “Kent’s eldest is a girl. She’s seventeen. She’s okay, I think. He son is the middle child, he’s being understandably reserved. His youngest is now thirteen and doesn’t like me. I can tell.”
“Is she thinking you broke up her home?” I asked.
Alan shrugged. “I don’t see how. Her father divorced her mother before he even met me.”
I shook my head. “That’s immaterial. You’re taking her mother’s place. She may see you as a threat preventing her parents from getting back together.”
“Her father’s gay! I’m not preventing anything!” Alan nodded sadly. “Should I speak with her, do you think?”
I held my hands up on that one. “I’m studying to manage a hotel. Not be a psychologist. I was there when Tony confronted Nick about it. And Tony obviously spoke truthfully and wanted truth from Nick. They laid it all out on the table. I don’t know about Kent’s family dynamics. But I’d advise you be honest, and have her be honest. Don’t be offended if she says something you don’t like. If you do become defensive, she won’t trust you again.”
Alan gave a shrugging nod. “Of course you’re right.” He sighed. “I just hope she’s willing to listen.”
I grinned. “She’s a teenager. Of course she won’t.”
Alan groaned. “Of course not.” He nodded. “But his marriage ended! He won’t even consider going back to his wife. Why is it so hard?”
“They just are.” I chuckled. “Relationships aren’t easy sometimes, but a good one is worth it.”
“Yea, yea.” Alan groused, but wasn’t too convinced right now.
I rose reaching over and putting my hand on his. “Trust me. Just talk if you choose to talk and then listen.”
It was a Friday and two weeks until our trip. When I got home from work Tony sprang up instantly.
“We’re going to New York. Tonight. Right now.” He said waving toward the door and two pieces of luggage by the door. “I packed for you. We’re leaving in ten minutes, so pee or whatever and then we go.”
I froze. “Okay. Why?”
“We’ll be in the Caribbean for ten days.” Tony said rushing me back to the door. “You and I need clothes.”
“Why?” I asked. “What’s wrong with the stores here if we need to get some? Why New York?”
“I’d prefer Milan or even Paris, but we can’t do that and have time, so quit asking and let’s go.” Tony urged. “My tell, remember? Don’t fight me on this.”
I laughed. “I only fight you when you want me to, for other reasons, but why are we getting new stuff?”
He looked incredibly at me, not understanding why I didn’t see why. “You saw those videos! These guys aren’t young twinks. They are not fags! These are doctors, lawyers, college professors…you and I are going to be the best dressed couple on that ship!” He grabbed a piece of luggage and handed me the other. “Our cab will be here any minute.”
I put my hand on Tony’s chest. “Okay, breath, Tony.”
He took a deep breath.
“Relax.” I said smiling. “In a lot of ways, you’re as bad as Aunt Mary!”
“Please.” Tony frowned. “She thought she’d out class us with that Cadillac last time!?”
I shrugged. “She’s a country girl that doesn’t want the world to see her as a country girl. She’s like that actress in that movie, Mrs. Winterbourne? When she gets in the back of the Rolls and it was the Cadillac of cars? She didn’t know any better. Neither does Aunt Mary. For her that was fancy!”
“Okay. Am I as bad as Mary?” Tony sighed. “Then I am. Fine, but we will be judged. I promise you.”
I shrugged. “So? We’re judged all the time for being gay.”
“That’s different. But if we prepare, we’ll be at the top.” Tony said. “Let’s go.”
I loved Tony, but you know that having heard it over and over. There were times I wasn’t sure why he wanted to compete with everyone. But I just went with it. If it made him happy, how could I refuse? I’d get to see Kathy, Al, Angelo, Kathleen, Melissa and David, so I’d be fine.
Shopping. I hated to do it. You’ve heard me say that over and over. But doing it all in one day! That was exhausting! And Tony never said I was getting a haircut. Oh…excuse me…never just a haircut, but styled. I was to be going on this cruise with my hair cut, but not arriving looking like I’d just had a haircut. What!? That’s what Tony said to explain it to me. He was so gay!! I ended up with two new suits, for formal nights. Three new swim suits, no speedos, and other casual clothes. And Tony got them too. They were shipping them to our home address, that’s why we came so early. It was late when we finally finished that Saturday night. I almost collapsed on the bed of our hotel suite.
Tony lay down beside me quietly. He saw what that day had done to me and was feeling a little guilty. “You’ve been great today.”
I smiled at Tony and my usual fingers went into his hair as he looked down at me. “I just wish I knew why you are so driven to be at the top.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know.” He sighed. “I guess I always have been. I had to have the best sneakers, the prettiest girlfriend…” he chuckled with me on the absurdity of that one. “…I just…” he shrugged. “…am. I’ve said to you it’s to prove to my parents I’m a success. I guess I’m telling everyone else I am, too.”
I pulled Tony closer, my arms moving to their comfortable places, pulling his body close to my own. “You are a success. No one can say otherwise. You know I’m happy with you. I don’t have to say I don’t need proof, you know I don’t.”
Tony nodded. “I do know that. But I feel I will be judged if you’re not dressed the best and happiest from what I give you. I will be judged, not you. I’ll be judged for what I don’t give you.”
I kissed him gently. “Fine.” Then I kissed him more passionately. Then looked him seriouisly in the eye. “But say one thing about to others about me, or to me…onboard or otherwise, I’ll call you on it.”
He nodded and saluted with his left hand. “Roger that.”
Angelo, Kathleen and the rest of the family had no idea we were in New York until we showed up at Angelo’s door. I knew they were surprised at the doorbell. No one comes over unexpected during Sunday dinners. They would never be welcomed back! This was a day for family!
Kathleen looked absolutely delighted to see us. She squealed throwing the door wider and hugging us. “Tony, Mitch... i miei ragazzi preferiti! Così bello vederti! Perche ' non ci hai detto che eri in città?” She crooned hugging us tight together saying it was good to see us and asked why we hadn’t told them we were in town.
Then the others were excited to see us too once they knew it was us. Angelo grinned as he saw us. “Benvenuti, benvenuti. Avanti! Mangiare!”
I chuckled as we sat after places were made at the table for us. “Tony, you weren’t kidding about we Italians conveying love by feeding us.”
“Mangiare! Eat!” Tony nodded grinning. “We do and we are. This just means we’re loved a lot!”
“So why no call?” Kathy asked as everyone settled to eat again.
“This was all Tony’s idea.” I said as I dished out the ever present macaroni and gravy. “I just get home from work, I haven’t even taken my jacket off and he’s rushing me out the door to catch the plane!”
Tony waved as questions were being asked by everyone, he held up his hands to stop the questions. “We’re going on a cruise. For our anniversary. That’s why.” Tony shrugged. “We had to get some clothes and where better than Manhattan? So here we are.”
Melissa smiled hearing about the cruise. “A cruise? I love cruises. I’ve been on five. Where are you going?”
“Yeah, Tony, where are we going?” I grinned looking at him.
“You know perfectly well.” He growled. “The Grand Caymans, Honduras, Cozumel, St. Kitts….all over the Caribbean.”
“Because none of those places mean a thing to me yet.” I explained. “They’re just places on a map!”
“What ship?” Kathy asked.
“It’s a ship in the New Holland America line. A new one.” Tony shrugged. “It has a name I can’t pronounce.”
“The Oosterdam. Is that so hard?” I asked Tony. “It’s only a couple of years old. Very pretty from the shots I saw.”
Angelo frowned. “I’ve never heard of them. Why that ship?”
Tony frowned. “Well, it is a cruise for men like Mitch and I are. They’re all gay like us.” He wasn’t sure how his parents would take this news, so his answer was hesitant.
Melissa nodded. “I’ve seen ads for gay cruises before!” She smiled wider.
“It’s not a regular gay cruise.” I said knowing how Tony felt about them. “These are older men, professionals…it’s not going to be a party ship.”
“Why not?” Melissa asked confused. “They look like fun.”
I poked Tony in the side lightly. “Tell them, Tony.”
Tony gave a grudging nod. “Okay, I refused to go on one of those because there were too many fags onboard.” Then Tony shivered in disgust.
They all looked surprised when they heard that. But David was the first to say something. “I don’t get it. Aren’t you two….well…fags?” He asked logically.
Tony glowered. “Absolutely not! We’re gay, but we are not fags!”
Even Kathy was having trouble with that one. “Is there a difference?”
I chuckled. “To Tony there is.” Loving what was going to come.
“You’re damned straight.” Tony said smiling.
I chuckled. “Which we are not.”
Tony just smiled back. “Mitch and I are not queens, fags are, they’re these little twinks calling each other girlfriend,” he said very effeminate and even dropping his wrist. “…we don’t wear women’s clothes and we don’t swish like a girl!! Those are fags. We not!”
I waved at Tony. “See? He doesn’t want to stand out against any guy at Walmart.”
Tony shook his head, holding his hand up and objecting. “Wrong. First, I’d never be caught dead in a Walmart and I don’t want to seem to others as other than who I am. I’m a guy that fell in love with another guy. I’m not a fag!! Is that so hard?”
Angelo laughed. “Grazie alla madre.” He said thanking the Blessed Mother of Jesus and crossed himself in gratitude.
I laughed at everyone’s reactions. I was satisfied, because I was now a real part of this family. I not only could hold my own with Tony’s family, but I could give it back. In English and Italian! Yea!! But I noticed Angelo wince. He touched his chest, but above where his heart was.
Kathleen was concerned a little as she broke with the fun and touched her husband. “The pain again?”
Angelo nodded and waved her off. “It’ll go away.”
The others in the family were concerned. Tony looked worried a minute. “Are you okay, Papa? Al’s a doctor.”
“I’m fine.” Angelo muttered. “I’m seventy-six, that’s what’s wrong. I’m old. What can be done about that?”
“You should be seen by a doctor, Papa.” Al said softly. “Even if is age related.”
“Your doctor son said so.” Kathleen nodded. “Monday, you’re calling the doctor. You make an appointment and you go!” She said firmly. “I’ll go with you to make sure you do.”
Angelo frowned. “Smettere di agitarsi su di me, donna.” He demanded Kathleen not fuss over him.
“I fuss because if I don’t you’ll do nothing.” Kathleen said.
“I’m old!” Angelo shouted again.
“So am I!! I want you to get older!!!” Kathleen shouted back. “You’re going!” She said not accepting anything but that he was to go! No arguments.
Italians also express love by shouting everything. A lot of love was being expressed.