And they’re back! Here’s part 8 of Matt and Aaron’s journey to the altar. There are just two more chapters left in the short story. The next one will be posted next weekend! Enjoy!
Happy Reading! Lane xo
Better Than Wedding- Part 8
Aaron seemed calmer by the time we reached his parents’ street. Unfortunately, all of his angst transferred to me. Okay, that was an exaggeration. I wasn’t overly nervous but I wished I’d had more time to prepare my argument. Aaron and I had been a couple for a long time and the Mendez family had been welcoming from the beginning. Unlike my own family. Scratch that… my mom was the only Sullivan who’d occasionally struggled with my sexuality. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Aaron. She did. But she would have preferred that he wasn’t a man. Eventually she’d learned to accept that I loved him and that I wasn’t going to change my mind, but she’d caused some tension along the way. Through every bit of drama my mom introduced, I was grateful to Aaron’s parents for their steady support. But this was still our wedding and we were doing this our way.
I squeezed his hand when we paused at the bottom of the brick path leading to the two-story home where Aaron had grown up.
“Yes.” Aaron nodded then yanked me backward. “Wait—no. What are you going to say?”
“I don’t know exactly. It’ll come to me.”
“You can’t wing this, Matty. Practice on me first and I’ll tell you if it’ll fly.”
I furrowed my brow and let out an exasperated huff. “You’re going to have to trust me. I didn’t write a speech but—”
“I did and I memorized the whole thing. The original is in Spanish but here’s a synopsis… ‘Mama, Papa, gracias para—”
“That’s still Spanish,” I commented, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Oh. Right. Um… ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. We love you and appreciate you but we’ve decided to go a different route regarding our wedding service.’”
“Sounds like a resignation letter, babe.”
“Dammit. You’re right. It sounded better en español.” And he was off.
I let him recite his speech in his parents’ native tongue for a minute or so before setting my hand over his mouth and kissing his forehead. “Cool it, Aar. It’s going to be all right. I promise.”
“So you say, but… how will you start? Do you have an intro handy or an ice breaker?”
I pulled off my sunglasses then slipped my hand in his and headed for the front door. “You want me to tell a joke? Maybe you should tell one in Spanish and once you get them laughing, I’ll tell them our plans.”
“That’s actually a good idea. That way they’ll still like me and—”
“I was kidding, Aar. They love you and they always will.” I paused at the top step and straightened his collar. It was perfect, of course, but I needed to keep my hands busy because in spite of my encouraging words, I was nervous as hell. One of us had to fake it though. I took a deep breath and gave him a lopsided smile. “Hey, are you gonna love any of our children less if they don’t do things exactly the way you hoped?”
Aaron’s grin was automatic. “Of course not! Nice move, Matty. You know I love it when you talk about future kids. It makes me feel…bubbly.”
I snorted. “Bubbly?”
“Yeah, like silly happy. We’re gonna do it all, aren’t we?”
I nodded. “Yes. Everything we said when we first met. House, kids, dog.”
“Hmm. I think we said kids, dog, and an apartment in the city.”
“We did.” I caressed his cheek, loving the way his eyes twinkled merrily at the memory of a long-ago conversation.
And just like that I knew we were both remembering that Sunday morning when we’d first talked about ‘us’. We’d laid in my queen-sized bed in the bachelor pad I shared with Curt and our friend Dave and spent the morning sipping coffee and daydreaming. We’d painted a rough sketch of what we wanted in a relationship. We hadn’t dared to dream too far ahead. Calling each other ‘boyfriend’ had been as much as we were willing to commit to that day. What we had was thrilling and new and scary as hell, but somehow I think I knew Aaron was ‘the one’.
“Do you think we’ll ever move to New York City?” he asked, tilting his head to lean into my touch.
“Is that something you still want?”
“Maybe someday but not right away. I want to raise our kids here.”
“In this neighborhood?” I widened my gaze comically.
Aaron snickered and shook his head emphatically. “No, but someplace like this. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but… I want to live closer to my parents when we’re ready to start our own family. Would you be okay with that? ’Cause if you are, I know how to handle this chat.”
“What do you mean? Are you planning on bribing them with future grandkids if they back off?” I whispered, mimicking his low tone.
“Yes. Well, sort of.”
“I got this, Matty. They’re my parents. I should do the talking. Thank you.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Yes, you did. I love you. If I need you to jump in I’ll give you a secret sign… like this.” He wrinkled his nose and twitched it.
“Ha. You look like you’re gonna sneeze.” I cupped the back of his neck and brushed my nose against his then kissed him tenderly. “Just do me a favor and keep you speech in English so I know what’s going on.”
“And do it right away. Let’s not prolong this, okay?”
Aaron stepped backward and set his hand on the doorknob. “Okay. Are you ready?”
When I nodded, he opened the door and called out a greeting to his parents. His voice ricocheted off the tile floor and echoed around the high ceiling in the foyer. I glanced at the jumble of family photos lining the walls as we moved through the formal living room to the back of the house. I could have predicted before we walked into the great room that his dad would be lounging in his favorite easy chair watching football on the giant flat screen and his mom would be in the kitchen making more food than the four of us could possibly eat for lunch. There was always a chance that Aaron’s sisters or brother and their families would join us too but I figured Aaron would know.
The Mendez’ were a tight-knit clan. Whenever they gathered for family brunches or dinners, the decibel levels rose to ear-splitting highs. It wasn’t unusual to have the television blaring on one end of the great room and music on the other while a dozen or more people competed to be heard above the din in Spanglish. The atmosphere was chaotic but always welcoming, though today it seemed relatively quiet.
“Hola!” his mom called from the stove.
Aaron greeted her in Spanish then shouted a quick hello to his father in the next room. I waved to his dad and then laughed when Aaron’s mom rounded the island and crushed him in a bear hug before giving me the same treatment.
“Where have you boys been? I was getting worried. Lunch is almost ready.”
“It smells muy bien,” I said.
Aaron and his mom exchanged an affectionate smile at my heavy American accent. It was easy to see that my man came by his good looks naturally. Aar was at least six inches taller than his petite mother but they shared the same light olive skin, dark hair, hazel eyes and symmetrical bone structure. Side by side, they were stunningly beautiful.
She pushed her bobbed hair behind her ear and gestured toward the family room. “You relax, Matthew. Watch the game. I’ll call you when the sopais ready.”
“Mama, wait. I have something to tell you,” Aaron blurted.
“Tell me while we cook. I need two minutes. Come help.” She pulled his elbow and then continued in a rapid fire Spanish I had no hope of understanding.
I mouthed “now?” when Aaron looked over his shoulder at me. He shrugged and took a deep breath then tried again.
“Mama, we need to talk. Por favor.”
“What is it? Are you calling off the wedding?” Aaron’s dad joked as he lumbered into the kitchen. He stopped to shake my hand before heading for the refrigerator. He grabbed beer and held it up for my inspection. “You want one?”
“Um… no gracias,” I replied.
He shrugged then raised his bottle in a toast before glancing expectantly at his son. “Well?”
“Of course we’re not calling off the wedding,” Aaron huffed. “But uh….
His dad was a heavier set man in his early sixties with white hair and dark twinkling eyes. Aaron described him as a typical macho Latino patriarch when we first met and maybe that was true to a degree but he was also a fiercely loyal family man who adored his wife and children. He could be a little gruff at times but he was a good guy who thankfully liked me. In a way, I understood his need to keep things simple between us. He didn’t know how to discuss my relationship with his son but he could talk sports all day and night. And he liked that I made the effort to keep up with him.
“What’s wrong?” his dad prodded. “Did you run out of money? You have fancy taste, son.”
Aaron rolled his eyes. “No. Money isn’t an issue.”
“Oh good. Then can you lend me ten bucks?” his father quipped with a hearty laugh.
“Very funny. I…um…” Aaron licked his lips and twitched his nose. But before I could take over he continued. “We’re not going to use the deacon from your church. We asked someone else to marry us. We hired her a few months ago. And yes, I know I should have told you sooner but I didn’t want to hurt you feelings or disappoint you and—”
“What are you saying?” his father asked, cocking his head curiously. “Who is the ‘she’? I don’t understand.”
Aaron gave me an apologetic look then repeated his speech in Spanish.
His mother gasped in distress and clutched her heart theatrically. “You need a blessing. A wedding isn’t just a party. You must have a connection to the church. It’s important.”
“We know this isn’t just a party, Mama. The ceremony is important to us. The words, the readings, the songs… they matter. This is the biggest day of our lives and I don’t want the deacon from your church to be part of it. I’m sorry, I’m just—not willing to negotiate on this.”
Aaron’s words came out in a rush. His parents stared at him then at each other but no one said a word for an excruciatingly long time. The air was thick with uncertainty. Someone had to break through it or we’d all choke.
I cleared my throat and paced to the far end of the island and back again like a lawyer preparing to grill an important witness on the stand. I stopped at Aaron’s side and wrapped my right arm around his shoulders then cast my gaze between his bewildered parents.
“I love him. He loves me. We know we’re lucky to have the support of our family and friends and we appreciate it. But we also know that not everyone wants us to be happy. They say marriage isn’t for two men. They say we can’t have what they have because God doesn’t condone our union and I’m sorry but that’s bullshit. It’s wrong and hateful and I refuse to stand in front of anyone who thinks he’s doing us a favor by bending his so-called rules to officiate our wedding.
“We aren’t coming at this with rainbow colored lenses. We’ve given a lot of thought and care to our decision. We know without a doubt we are worthy of love and happiness. We’re not second-class citizens. Our union isn’t less than any other couple because we’re men. You can’t tell me God doesn’t approve. I won’t believe it. Because if God is love, then we’ve already been blessed a million times over.”
I squeezed Aaron’s shoulder and swallowed hard before adding, “And just so you’re clear… I love your son. Aaron is my everything. He’s the most remarkable human being on the planet. I’m more thankful than I can ever say that he’s willing to spend the rest of his life with me.”
It felt like one of those mic drop moments that was incredibly therapeutic but came with less fanfare than one would think. My audience of three looked slightly stunned. Aaron’s folks were certainly taken aback. And Aaron was just… quiet.
I kissed his temple just as he snaked his arm around my waist and glanced up with a smile. “Te amo.”
Before I could respond, his mom launched herself between us and held on tight. She sobbed softly as she swayed back and forth.
“Sí, Matthew. El amor es el amor.” She patted my cheek and released me then turned to draw Aaron into her arms.
I sighed in relief and gave my father-in-law-to-be a hesitant smile. He held my gaze for a few scary seconds before raising his beer bottle in a toast.
“You’re a good man, Matt. I like you. Be good to him.”
“Always, sir. You don’t have to worry about that.”
He thumped my back and winked. “I’m not worried at all. I see love and that’s what matters. You want that beer now?”
I gave a half laugh and nodded effusively. “Yes. Definitely.”
I slipped my hands in my back pocket and stepped back to survey my fiancé and his family. It struck me out of the blue that this next step really was a leap of faith. There were no guarantees. Only a determination and the will to create a life together. Our way. I wanted the family photos on the walls. I wanted fingerprints on the windows and a dog or two in the yard.I couldn’t wait for that long-ago daydream about dogs and kids and an apartment in the city or a house in the suburbs to become a reality. With Aaron.
To be continued…