Ta da! Here’s another installment in Matt & Aaron’s trip to the altar short story. There are approximately three more chapters left. I’ll be out of town next weekend so look for chapter 8 in two weeks.
Also… audiobook fans, be sure to look for Leaning Into Touch! It should be released sometime this week. I said that last week too, but Audible should have it together any day now. LOL.
And now, back to Matt & Aaron… Enjoy!
Happy Reading! Lane xo
Better Than Wedding– Part 7
Aaron’s parents loved me. I admit that probably had something to do with the fact I liked sports. Sure, they appreciated that I loved their son too but they also liked that I could watch endless baseball, football and hockey games with his dad while Aaron helped his mom in the kitchen. Maybe our interests were somewhat stereotypical, but it was just who we were. I liked sports and couldn’t boil water without making a mess. Aaron liked to cook and he still referred to ‘half-time’ as ‘intermission’ regardless of how many times I’d corrected him. His very traditional Puerto Rican parents didn’t fully understand the idea of two men in a committed relationship so they fixated on the stereotypical aspects they could relate to. According to Aaron, they hetero-normalized us, but at least they tried.
Most of the time Aaron was happy they made an effort but sometimes, it drove him crazy. He was torn between being grateful for their love and support and yet frustrated that they weren’t able to see his side. He made concessions where he could in an effort to honor his parents because underneath the light eyeliner and the faint touch of gloss on his full lips, he was a good Catholic boy who wanted to make his folks proud.
However, neither of us was willing to make any more major exceptions on our wedding day. And telling them wasn’t going to be easy.
Aaron was mostly quiet on the drive from DC to the Maryland suburb where he’d grown up. I didn’t press him and I didn’t complain about the techno pop dance music he insisted would help his nerves. I kept my left hand on the steering wheel and held his hand with the other in a show of solidarity. We were a team now. He wasn’t on his own.
I let go when we reached the turn off and gave him a sideways smile. “How are you?”
“Fine. Will you pull over?”
“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked, furrowing my brow.
“I’m gonna be sick.”
I turned into a residential section a couple of blocks away from his parents’ home and pulled over to the side of the road next to a high row of hedges. He took his seatbelt off when I stopped the car and bent over, resting his forehead on his knees.
“Aar?” I rubbed his back and then thread my fingers through his hair. “Baby, look at me.”
He sat up and obeyed. “Can we just elope?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Is it the money? ’Cause I don’t care about the money and I can try to get our deposits if—oh my God. I really am going to get sick.” He licked his lips and squeezed his eyes shut.
“No, you’re not. You’re fine. You’re just nervous, Aar. I get it but it’s going to be okay. Open your eyes,” I instructed firmly. I traced his jaw and ran my thumbs over his cheekbone soothingly. “I’m here too, you know. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”
“I’m not worried about them hurting me. It’s the other way around. I’m going to hurt them and I hate that. I feel so selfish. My mom has always been in my corner. Always. It kills me to think she’s going to be disappointed.”
“She’s going to be okay with it. Maybe not today but she’ll come around,” I said.
“What if she doesn’t? What if she won’t speak to me?”
I rolled my eyes and groaned. “That’s not gonna happen. You’re losing it, babe.”
“I am losing it! I’m seriously going nuts. I’m freaking out over the craziest shit and second guessing decisions like… Did I go overboard on the cake design? Did I choose too many orange flowers? Am I going to break my mom’s heart when I tell her we don’t want the deacon anywhere near our ceremony?” He took a ragged breath before adding with a sob, “And what happens if you change your mind and—”
He covered his face in his hands then looked up and sighed. “I had a nightmare last night that you left me at the altar. I woke up in a panic. I was sweaty and my heart was beating so fast I couldn’t breathe. It took a second before the fog cleared and I realized we were home in bed and that you hadn’t left me for your ex and you weren’t singing to her or—”
“Oh my God. Aar, you have to stop.” I held his chin and gave him a stern look before leaning across the console to kiss him. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“Right,” he scoffed. “Doesn’t everyone want to be woken up at four a.m. by their lunatic fiancé blabbering about a bad dream? Scratch that… any dream featuring my boss, my mother and your ex-girlfriend is a full-blown nightmare. I suppose I should just be grateful your mom wasn’t in it too.”
I bit my lip to hide my smile. “Wow. That does sound terrible. But you know I love you and I’m not going anywhere.”
“I know but it was horrible. And I don’t need a psychologist to tell me that it was a sign that I have too much stress in my life. I can’t even close my eyes without my brain coming up with more things to stress about. Last night, for example… I got demoted at work, my parents disowned me and you sang our song to your ex! I’m afraid to go to sleep,” he grumbled unhappily.
“It was just a dream, babe,” I replied calmly. I turned off the engine and opened my door. “Come on. Let’s leave the car here and walk to your parent’s house.”
“What? No. We’re already late and—”
“We’re not late. And if we are, they’ll forgive us. You need some fresh air before you hyperventilate. Let’s go.”
Aaron joined me on the sidewalk and pushed his sunglasses on his nose. In spite of his fragile mental state, he looked sexy as fuck in his snug fitted light blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. I was dressed similarly in a black polo but I couldn’t quite pull off casual chic the way my man did. I put my arm over his shoulder and kissed his temple then laced my fingers in his.
“Are you sure you want to hold my hand?” he asked dubiously. I could tell from his tone he was pleased.
I kissed his knuckles and nodded. We walked down the sidewalk lost in our thoughts for a few minutes. I paused in front of the deserted park and inclined my head. “Five minutes on the swings. What do you say?”
Aaron grinned. “Okay.”
I was a little surprised he trudged through the sand without complaint. I made small talk about the warm weather, the blue skies and how quiet it seemed in the park to distract him. We sat side by side on the black rubber industrial swings, holding on to the thick chains while we swayed to and fro.
“Did you play here when you were a kid?”
“All the time. There’s a bigger park on the next block with new equipment but when I was little, this one was the only game in town. The woods just beyond are a great place to play tag or hide and seek,” he said, gesturing to the copse of tall trees nearby. “I’m a fast runner and an excellent hider and seeker so I was usually the first one to suggest a game. Life was so much easier back then. Being a grown up sucks.”
“Not always. Sometimes, it’s pretty cool. Like now. Well, minus the mini breakdown. Ow.” I chuckled lightly, twisting my swing out of reach when he smacked my arm playfully.
“I’m sorry I flipped out. I’ll be fine after I get this off my chest and tell my parents how we feel. Just… don’t give up on me, Matty,” he said with a lopsided smile.
“I never would,” I replied. “Listen, I know they’re your parents but I want you to let me handle this.”
He swiped at the stray hair in his eyes then cocked his head. “What do you mean? How?”
“I’ll do the talking. I’ll explain our decision and put a nice spin on it. I’m a lawyer. I’m good at that stuff. You can chime in whenever you want, of course, but I think it might be better coming from me. Less guilt and emotion, you know?”
“I’m trying not to be emotional but—”
“You can be as emotional as you want. It just means you care. But this is stressing you out and I can help. Will you trust me?”
Aaron pursed his lips and dabbed at the corner of his eyes. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me. Just take a deep breath and relax. Everything is under control. Work is going well, your parents love you, I love you and if you feel overwhelmed, talk to me. I don’t want you to get sick and worn down because of bad dreams and—”
“It was the worst dream. Marsha told me I should be the office coffee boy, my parents wouldn’t open their front door when I knocked and then…” He twisted the chains of his swing and pushed his glasses down his nose to give me an incredulous look. “We were at a party with a lot of people and then suddenly it was just me and you and your ex. And it was fine until you started singing to her. I couldn’t actually hear music or words but I knew you were giving her something that belonged to me and I screamed and… woke up sweating and shaking. It was awful.”
“But it didn’t happen and it never would,” I assured him patiently.
“I know.” His smile was sweet and sincere.
We entwined our feet and swayed together like two birds on a branch for a minute. Then I stood and moved behind him. I captured his head and pulled his glasses from his nose then kissed him upside down. “Wanna push?”
Aaron giggled. “Sure. Why not?”
“Hang on tight,” I warned. I hooked his glasses in my shirt then grabbed the chain links on either side of him then stepped back and let go.
“Ha. I don’t think I’ve ever been pushed on a swing by a boy I liked,” he said dreamily.
“You mean I’m your first?” I joked.
“Yes. You—whoa…Matt! That’s too high!”
I pushed the swing then ran underneath it and sent him flying. He howled with laughter as he soared skyward then back to earth. He was so pretty and vibrant and full of joy and ready to begin a new life with me. As husbands. My heart skipped a beat then did a somersault and cartwheel. And in that moment it felt like a really big deal that he wanted me forever. Like a gift of some kind. I wanted to tell him but I didn’t have words to match the sound of his laughter or the way his smile began in his eyes and poured out of him in waves.
My throat closed around the sappy sentiments. I knew better than to try to voice them in words. But I could sing to him instead.
“It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…”
Aaron locked eyes with me and dragged his feet in the sand until he slowed to a stop. I reached for his hand and linked our fingers, singing out the lyrics to Elton John’s “Your Song” just for him. His eyes shone bright with unshed tears and an intense look of adoration and affection. If it was possible, I swear I fell even deeper in love with him.
To be continued…