Here’s part 2 of Better Than Meeting the Family, featuring Matt and Aaron from Better Than Good. There will be one more installment in this short story, which most likely will be posted early next week. Enjoy!
“Hola, Papa. Come meet my boyfriend.”
I gulped. My palms went instantly sweaty. I was so damn nervous it wasn’t funny. I pasted a smile on my face and swallowed hard as Aaron’s father walked into the kitchen, setting a bag of groceries on the island. We gave each other a quick onceover. I had no idea how I measured up, but Aaron’s dad had a pleasant face with a ruddy complexion, piercing brown eyes, and thick dark hair liberally streaked with gray. He was roughly Aaron’s height, which meant I had a good five inches on him.
“Matty, this is my father, Roberto. Papa, this is Matt, my boyfriend,”
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Mendez,” I said extending my hand.
Aaron made a face at me behind his dad’s back. No doubt he was trying to get me to relax, I mused as he came to stand beside me, hooking his finger in my belt loop.
So…here’s the thing about Aaron. He was always very affectionate. Small public displays, like entwining his fingers with mine while we stood in line at the market or slipping his hand in my pocket while we walked in our neighborhood, were second nature to him. But I thought he might be more reserved around his traditional and religious father. He wasn’t. In fact, Aaron’s voice took on a higher more effeminate note when he introduced me to his dad. I was just Matt to his mom, but his boyfriend to his dad. And he said the ‘bf’ word twice. Like a subtly passive-aggressive affirmation that he was queer…in case anyone forgot.
“Sí, good to meet you, Matt,” Roberto replied. His accent was heavier than Rosa’s. I remembered Aaron telling me his dad had moved to the States from Puerto Rico when he was in his late teens or early twenties.
“Call him Roberto!” Rosa yelled from the kitchen. “Boys, come by me, so I can talk too. I have chopping to do. Aaron, wash your hands and help me.”
Aaron and I followed Roberto into the kitchen area. I sat on one of the barstools sipping water and idly observed Aaron and his mother. They worked side-by-side with a harmony that indicated they had an unspoken system down. I had a feeling Roberto wasn’t part of it. He offered me a beer and grabbed one for himself when I declined before taking the barstool beside me.
“What you do, Matt?”
“He’s a lawyer, Papa,” Aaron chirped as he chopped cilantro.
“Let him tell me himself.” Roberto said something else in Spanish to Aaron before turning his attention back to me. “Sorry. He talks a lot.”
I smiled then cleared my throat. “I just finished law school. I actually graduated just a couple of weeks ago. I’m busy studying for the bar exam, so I’m not actually a lawyer yet.”
“But you will be, Matty. The best lawyer in DC,” Aaron piped in.
“Where did you go to school?”
“He went to Georgetown, Papa,” Aaron said.
I chuckled when Rosa smacked his hand. “I did,” I confirmed before sipping my water.
“You Catholic? That’s a good Catholic school, yes?” He looked at Aaron, shaking an admonishing finger at him. “And you let him talk himself!”
“No, sir, I’m not Catholic. I was just very fortunate to get into Georgetown.”
“Fortunate. I don’t know about that. I think you must have brains too. I hear it’s a very difficult, yes?”
“He’s very smart, Papa.” Aaron interjected with a smile.
Roberto shook his finger at his son. “This one is like a monkey. He does the same trick over and over.”
He said something to Aaron in Spanish and they all laughed. I smiled, relieved in a sense, because I wasn’t sure what the dynamic was here.
“In case you’re curious, Matt likes baseball,” Aaron singsonged.
“Yeah? Who’s your team?” Roberto asked.
His dad frowned and shook his head in mock disbelief. “That’s too bad.”
I chuckled. “I’m from Pittsburgh. I gotta root for my hometown. Besides, it’s early in the season still. Anything can happen.”
“Including a miracle, eh?” he teased. “That’s all right then. Want to watch a game?”
“Sure. I think the Nationals are playing now.”
“They are. I was listening to the game in the car. We’ll keep it low, Rosa,” he said before heading into the adjoining living area.
Roberto sat in a battered recliner that had clearly seen better days. It was mismatched from the other updated furnishings in the room. Nonetheless, it had a “head of the household” vibe. I pushed aside one of the colorful pillows on the back cushion then perched on the corner of the sofa closest to the chair.
“We have too many pillows. Take some home. Rosa says they bring color. There is much color here,” he griped without heat.
“I heard you and I don’t care. I love my pillows,” Rosa yelled from the kitchen.
“I do too, Mama. Don’t listen,” Aaron said.
I laughed. Roberto seemed amused and then uncomfortable. He frowned as he focused on the game. Fine by me. Baseball was easy. After a couple of minutes he turned to me with an intense stare.
“Maybe I should say I’m sorry. You like all the pillows too, don’t you?”
Huh? What the fuck was he talking about?
“Um…pillows are cool,” I said.
“I mean, you like colorful things, yes? Like Aaron.”
Oh. Got it. This was code. I sucked at code, but I’d give my best shot.
“I like colorful things…sure. But to be honest, Mr. Mendez, I don’t really care about pillows. They’re nice I guess, but I’m not an expert.”
Poor guy. I think I confused him right back. He frowned so hard it had to hurt. Well, he sort of deserved it. No one should try to talk to me in code. I never got it on the first try. Thankfully, Aaron danced into the living room just then, singing something in Spanish. He sat on the ottoman between his dad’s chair and the sofa, resting his elbow on my knee.
“Is he putting you on the spot? Papa, I told you to be nice.”
“I said nothing. I just asked if he likes pillows. That’s it!”
“Oh.” Aaron turned his attention toward the television, which both his dad and I knew was of no interest to him. Then he twisted to face us and added softly, “Matt isn’t like me, Papa.”
His father cocked his head to the side in query, but no one said a word. Okay. This was uncomfortable. I took a sip of water and tried to think of something to break the silence.
“Did Aaron mention that we’re going to the Orioles game tonight? We have great seats. He got the tickets for me for a graduation party,” I blurted.
“You’re going to a baseball game?” Roberto asked Aaron, furrowing his brow.
“Yes! It’s going to be fabulous!” Aaron said in a campier than normal tone. “Do you think Mama will lend me her fuschia scarf in case I get cold later? I know I should be wearing orange ’cause those are the team colors. But black was all I could manage. Matt said it was fine, right honey?”
I glanced from him to his dad and back again. “Um, yeah.”
“Okay, now you have your outfit out of the way, what about the game? You know anything about baseball? Do you need pointers?” Roberto asked brusquely.
“I’ll be fine. Matty will give me the touchdown updates,” Aaron assured him, hopping to his feet. “I’m going to grab a drink. Can I bring you boys anything?”
“No thanks. I’m good with water,” I said.
Roberto waited until Aaron was out of earshot. Then he leaned forward and cocked his head. “You know he’s gay, right?”
I nodded slowly, unsure if this was still a test. “Yeah. He’s my boyfriend.”
“You seem like a good guy, but you don’t… seem very gay. And I don’t want him hurt if you decide you aren’t,” his father said in a firm but kind voice.
Okay. I wasn’t expecting that. I opened my mouth and closed it. Twice.
“I would never hurt him. I love him.”
Roberto narrowed his gaze. “Love? You just met a few months ago. How do you know you love him?”
I glanced at Aaron in the kitchen. His hair fell into his eyes when he smiled at something his mom said. I wasn’t in the room, but I knew him. I knew how to read him. The things he said, the things he kept to himself. I could listen to him all day. I could look at him all day. There was something so fucking beautiful about the curve of his neck, the proud set of his shoulders, and his twinkling eyes. He was lovely…inside and out and I was head over heels for him.
But I wasn’t sure how to translate the things I saw in him or the way he made me feel to his father. I pursed my lips and shrugged.
“Aaron is…my person. I don’t know how to explain it. We’re different, but we get each other. He’s incredibly special to me and I can promise you, I would never hurt him. Ever.”
Roberto inclined his head. “Be good to him. He is…único. One of a kind.”
“Yes, sir. I know.”
“Good.” He sighed heavily and gestured toward the television. “Too bad you’re not going to a Nationals game. The Orioles suck.”
I held his gaze and smiled. Maybe it wasn’t much, but it felt like a beginning.
To be continued…